Friday, 26 August 2016

Coffee and Chocolate Drip Cake

Coffee and chocolate.
There's really not much more one needs to say.

Ok, no - there's plenty to say on the subject.
If anyone ever suggested a detox program to me, the short answer would be no. The long answer: coffee and chocolate. I rest my case.
I'm no chocoholic. I could live without it. (But I wouldn't want to.)
Coffee, though, I'm a full-blown addict. And if you put the two together - happy place!

So, this cake is a homage to coffee and chocolate....

It's alternating layers of coffee cake and chocolate cake, sandwiched together with caramel and Nutella. It is covered with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, drizzled with dark chocolate ganache and more caramel.

And then topped with the kinds of treats you could imagine indulging in while you enjoy your cappuccino. 

I used this recipe for the chocolate layers. And then for the coffee layers, well... I'm still working on that recipe. When I'm happy with it, I'll share it with you. Promise. (It's a coffee-promise; which is one that you just don't break!)  

Happy baking!


Chocolate Not-Quite-a-Pound Cake

You have this idea, don't you, that baking with your children is a wholesome kind of experience?
But the reality is a flour-flinging, egg-dripping, sugar-spilling mess, isn't it?    

I mean, I bake with my children all the time. I do. But I don't enjoy it. They love it, though, so I put on a grin and grit my teeth while I watch them scoop eggshell out of the batter with their fingers (did you wash your hands before you started?) and lick the spoon mid-stir (did you wash your... oh, never mind.) I can deal with all of that. (The powdery floor after a baking session is a little harder for me. I have an obsession a thing for clean floors.)  
And, anyway - it's quickly over. 
We have a little routine: they each get a bowl and spoon, and I line up the cupfuls of ingredients. 
No recipes, just basic ratios. 
Which is how I came up with this not-quite-a-pound-cake chocolate cake. It was my son's production (my daughter always does a pink cake... with sprinkles, icing and candles...). And it was really very good - a lovely fine crumb, moist, and dense enough for stacking in a tall cake. Just what I needed for his birthday cake. (I normally use a chocolate mud-cake recipe for that kind of thing, but this batter is so much easier.) 

Chocolate Not-Quite-a-Pound Cake Recipe
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

Pre-heat oven to 180'C
Grease and line 3 x 6inch round cake pans or 2x 8inch round cake pans
(I made two batches for this tall cake - 4 layers.)

320g cake flour, sifted
60g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
400g caster sugar
4 XL eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml sour cream
250ml vegetable oil (canola)
100ml boiling water

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy.
Mix in the vanilla extract, followed by the oil.

With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half the sour cream.
Repeat;  end with the last third of the dry ingredients.

Pour in the water, and beat just until the batter consistency is uniform.
Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans.
Bake at 180'C for 35-40minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
(Baking time also depends on how many tins you've divided your batter into.)

Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Happy baking!


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Working with Modelling Chocolate

A couple of years ago I was really reluctant to introduce modelling chocolate into my (cake decorating) life.
 I was just starting to get the hang of working with fondant, and making modelling chocolate sounded tricky. And fiddly. And like more work.
B-u-t I kept on hearing about how great it was to work with and knew that I'd have to capitulate and give it a try eventually.
And oh, boy am I glad that I did!
Now, I don't know how to work with plain fondant anymore. I have expectations based on the results that I get from a modelling chocolate/ fondant blend, that plain fondant just cannot match.
We don't have a great selection of good quality fondant icing available to us here in Durban. And that used to bug me. But it doesn't anymore. Because I've moved on, and the there's no looking back!

Everything on this birdhouse cake is a modelling chocolate / fondant blend. 

What do I like love about it?
It's ability to set fast and firm - like the roof of this birdhouse cake; placed flat on a cool surface, it firmed up in minutes but was still flexible enough to bend over the apex of the house.
The way it cuts - no snagging and feathering along the edges like fondant would.
It's versatility - paneling cakes (like the one above), modelling creatures, making delicate flowers, use in moulds; it does it all.
And then, of course there's it's taste.
 Chocolate does make everything better!

But, as you know - chocolate is not without its issues. So, let's look at one of those now:

In the process of making your modelling chocolate, you may land up with a crumbling mess.
Don't throw it away!

Here's how to rescue crumbling modelling chocolate:
Let it set for a few hours or overnight.
Then heat it briefly in the microwave to soften.
Knead it into a equal mass of fondant.

It may look like this ... !

Don't discard it!
Carry on kneading the crumbly modelling chocolate mess and the fondant together, mop up all the stray crumbs, and heat again briefly in the microwave.

Carry on kneading and it'll look like this - a perfect blend!

That transformation only took about 2 minutes to achieve. An extreme modelling chocolate make-over! How can you not love it?!

Happy decorating!


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Shark Cookies & Shark Cupcakes

And of course there were shark cookies...

Shark attack cookies!

 ...and shark cupcakes...

The cookies were the biggest hit. Usually at kids parties, there are bits of half-bitten eats scattered around, right?!
 Well, for a change the look was deliberate! And then they got properly devoured (the only boy who left a half-eaten one was my son...)
 The bite mark was created using the edge of a small hedgehog cutter. Which was just weird (hedgehog vs shark...?!)
The "jaws" design and shark-attacked surfboards were both inspired by Sweetsugarbelle.
And every boy went home with his own reef shark to nibble on.

The cupcakes were buttercream-covered red velvet, with a blackcurrent jam secret centre, just to hint at a bit of gore lurking in the depths. It was an 8 year old boy's party, ok! 

Shark-infested cupcakes!

I'll share the chocolate cake recipe that I used for the cake  with you soon.

Happy baking!


Sunday, 7 August 2016

Shark-Themed Birthday Cake

Ok, I'm just going to come right out and say it - I don't like sharks. Not one bit.
It's not that I'm afraid of them.
Ok, maybe I am, but my risk of encountering one is pretty low.  (I don't go into their space much.)
They hit my creep button, even from a distance, though. Big time.

 My son however, is fascinated by them; and knows all the different types. (Thanks largely to the game Hungry Sharks. Dreadful admission!).
So, I had little choice when he decided on a shark themed birthday party this year...

I took my time circling the idea though, before I had to finally take the plunge.
 (Did you get the way I made that a sharky/watery metaphor?!)

None of the shark cakes that I looked at for inspiration appealed, though. I just didn't see anything attractive in them, no matter how well executed they were. But then I found a couple of cartoon images that didn't completely freak me out, and began modelling the shark topper.

Those pink shark gums, though ... No way. I couldn't bring myself to add that feature to this guy.
 So he got a black mouth and a pink tongue.
 Do sharks have tongues?!
 Well, this one has a sneer, and a tongue. But no pink gums.

To cut out the teeth, I rolled a long thin sausage of paste (a modelling chocolate / fondant blend) and sliced it into small triangles. (I tried using a flat piece of paste first, but the teeth lacked dimension. Sharks teeth need to have dimension!)

The 2D sharks were cut out using printed templates (Google search "shark silhouettes").
 I placed the templates onto rolled-out paste, and used a pointed tool to outline the shape, then cut that out using a sharp craft knife.

As it happens,  I lost some of my antipathy towards sharks while I was cutting these out - they have a beautifully streamlined angular shape.  Very sugar-craft friendly..! 

The cake was covered with a modelling chocolate/ fondant blend that was marbled using a technique similar to this

So, do you think I can legitimately say it?  I survived a shark attack!

Happy decorating!