Sunday, 24 December 2017

Rudolph Macarons

 I have a window of calm right now to get this post written and published while the kids are busy completing Christmas word-searches (winner gets a chocolate).

I don't know about you, but I find it quite a challenge to keep from going rip-roaring mad keep my equilibrium at this time of year: juggling work, Christmas prep, and kids at home for the holiday. (Thankfully Christmas is at my sister's house this year.  Can I hear a  chorus of Hallelujahs?! )

And the very last thing I want to do is go out to the shopping centres.
So while I could probably have found some cute candies to use for Rudolph's nose, I'd forgotten to look for them on my last outing, and settled for piping noses out of chocolate instead - white chocolate coloured with red powdered food colouring.

The antlers are also piped chocolate, but you could use pretzels as an alternative. (As used here on a Rudolph cupcake.) 
The eyes are drawn on with an edible marker. 

The macarons are chocolate and coffee flavoured, and filled with dark chocolate ganache
You can make the separate components ahead of time (macarons freeze well; chocolate keeps well), and assemble the day before your function. 

And it sounds like that is all I have time for... the word search has deteriorated into a fierce competition; I'll have to intercede before there's tears.
Oops - too late....

Aaah, Christmas!

Have a great one!


Sunday, 17 December 2017

Cinnamon & Chocolate Roll-Up Cookies

"Happiness is home-made"...

Happiness is also finding these cute jars again this year!

I used similar ones in 2015 for teacher gifts, laden with Russian teacake cookies.

Time was in shorter supply this year, so I filled these ones with a variety of mini-cookies using cookie dough I already had on hand.

The chocolate dipped mini Christmas trees are a dark-chocolate and ginger flavour, and the cinnamon & chocolate roll-up biscuits are an adaptation of my lightly spiced gingerbread cookies. 

Here's how: 

Cinnamon & Chocolate Roll-up Cookies:

Light Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Recipe by Tea, Cake and Create

125g butter, at room temp. 
150g light brown sugar 
1-2 tsp ground ginger (depending on how "light" gingery you like it!)
1 tsp  ground cinnamon
1 tbs golden syrup
1 XL eggs 
310g flour
1 tsp vanilla extract  
1/4 tsp salt

For sprinkling , mix together the following:
1/2 cup light brown sugar + extra
2 tbs ground cinnamon
1/3 cup finely grated dark chocolate 
1 tsp orange zest (optional) 


Cream together the butter, sugar, spices and golden syrup. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
Add the vanilla. 
Sift in the flour and salt. Mix until just clumping, then form into a ball by hand. 
Place in cling-wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 

Remove from the fridge, and thaw for approximately 1 hour (depending on ambient temperature), until the dough has softened enough to roll out. 
Use half of the dough at a time to make it easier. 
Roll out the dough and trim into a neat rectangle  (approx 3mm thick).

Sprinkle with the sprinkling mix. 

Working from a long edge, carefully roll the dough into a long cylinder. 

Roll the outside of this cylinder in some extra brown sugar. 

Cover with cling-wrap and refrigerate for an hour. 
Slice the chilled dough along the length of the cylinder, into 5-7mm thick rounds. 

Lay the individual cookies flat on a baking tray and bake at 180'C for approx 8-10min or until just starting to turn golden brown.  

Allow to cool before moving off the baking tray.
Cool completely before packing away into jars or containers.  

Of course you will have to sample a few before they all go into the jars! 

Happy baking! 


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Wet-on-Wet Snowflake Cookies

Are you ready for another marbled Christmas cookie tutorial? Two in one week?!
Well, I could keep this one until next year, but I'm sure I'll have something else to share by then, so it's now or never!

This idea crept into my mind that I should do an end-of-year cookie for all the kids in my son and daughter's classes at school.
And despite being overwhelmingly pretty busy this past week, once the idea took hold it was impossible to shake.
So I decided on a simple snowflake cookie:

Inspired by a Wilton design

Once they were baked, I thought - uh, oh ... not so simple.
But actually, in the end they were.

The beauty of a scallop-edged snowflake is that outlining them is quite free-form and doesn't need to be precise. (A perfectly round circle is much harder!)

Once outlined, I flooded and did some simple colour-flow / wet-on-wet techniques to finish them off.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

Wet-on-Wet Snowflake Cookies

  1. Outline with detail-consistency royal icing. 
  2. Flood a thick outline with flood-consistency royal icing in white.
  3. Repeat with a thick outline of pale blue. 
  4. Then with a deeper blue / aqua.
  5. Finish with more white flood-consistency icing in the centre. 
  6. Use a cocktail stick or scribe-tool to drag the icing outwards from the centre of the snowflake to the tips of the spokes of the snowflake. 
  7. Then pull the icing inwards from the V in between the spokes. 
  8. Then end result will be a delicate star-like shape in the centre of the snowflake. 
  9. Experiment with different arrangements of colours and different directions of pull.  

They're not perfect, but they do have a natural-looking appeal... and were perfectly-well received!

The cookie dough used was this chocolate and ginger recipe.

Happy decorating!


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Marbled Christmas Bauble Cookie

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a marbled bauble cookie!
While I was taking pictures for this tutorial, it crossed my mind that it was possibly a bit repetitious of a post I did a year or so ago. But when I looked it up, it was actually a post from back in 2013!
(Find it here: marbled cookie tutorial. ) Four whole years -  high time for another one!
And anyway, this marbled bauble has a slightly different look, inspired by a cookie that caught my eye in a DeAgostini Cake Decorating magazine.

Marbled Bauble Cookie, (Christmas 2017!)

  • Outline then flood your ball bauble cookie with red royal icing.
  • Pipe lines of white and green in flood-consistency icing. 
  • Use a cocktail stick or a scribe tool to drag through the icing in alternating directions - first up, then down as in the pictures below. Try make it symmetrical so that you start and end on an upward pull. 
  • Add a few gold dragees while the icing is still wet. 
  • (Don't forget to ice that little cap on top!)  
  • Leave the cookie to dry completely before packaging. 

My favourite cookie cutter of this set? The Father Christmas face. Don't see it there? That's because I turned it into an owl! 

And of course a plaque - always love a plague for all that versatility it offers. 

Happy decorating!


Saturday, 25 November 2017

Monster Cupcakes - Royal Icing Eyes

Silly season... 
It's busy, isn't it?! 
But it's not just all the countdown-to-Christmas stuff; it's the squeeze-everything-into-the-year-that-hasn't-yet-been-done stuff, too. 

And it would also be when my daughter's teacher and the intern both have their birthdays! 
So this is what I made for the class to celebrate the intern's birthday:

I did reassure the moms that the fact that they were monster cupcakes was no reflection on our children. (Probably more a reflection on my state of mind at this time of year...)

I wasn't up to the task of rolling 24 pairs of googly fondant eyes, so made these out of royal icing instead:

Royal icing eyes:

Pipe rounds of white with just-thicker than flood-consistency royal icing, followed immediately by a smaller round of black on top, and a dot of white for the flash of light in the eye.

Allow to dry completely before removing from the baking parchment and placing onto the monsters.

The buttercream on the cupcakes is piped with the grass nozzle - Ateco 133, and the little bows are made from a modelling chocolate / fondant blend.

For the teacher's birthday I made them chocolate-glazed mini donuts. You can see those here on Instagram. 

Ok, so a couple more things done for the year  ✓✓ 

Happy decorating!


Saturday, 18 November 2017

Antique Green Buttercream

Am I reluctant to leave these cupcakes from our Roses and Succulents class behind? 
Oh, yes.
 Because the only classes left for the year are Christmas themes. Christmas, Christmas, and more Christmas! 
Which I am actually really looking forward to... But really, Christmas?! 🙈

So, before we move onto all things Christmas, a final bit about these cupcakes...

To get "succulent" green for the pastes (see the previous post for pictures) I did my usual trick of adding a touch (just a tiny touch) of black to antique the shade.
 But I was wary of doing that with the buttercream, so I used a bit of purple instead. 
If you've ever washed black gel colour off anything, you'd have seen how much purple there is in black. So I knew that it would take me in the colour direction I wanted without making the buttercream look too flat and grey (and inedible!). 
Also, purple minimises yellow tones, which is helpful with buttercream because of its inherent warm undertones. 

This buttercream is coloured with leaf green, turquoise and a little regal purple (all Cake Flora or Americolor gel colours).

To get the subtle two-tone effect, smear just the inside of the piping bag with light purple buttercream, and then fill the bag with the green.

 Pretty huh?

Happy decorating!


Thursday, 16 November 2017

Roses & Succulents Cupcakes

I made cupcakes similar to these back in June for a private class. And thought then that I should include them in the general schedule for later in the year. And now later has arrived. A lot sooner than anticipated!

Are you also asking yourself - Where has this last half of the year gone?!
Do we say that every year, or is each one speeding up exponentially (until we'll be baking our Easter cupcakes at the same time as our Christmas cookies?!)

So, let's just pause and smell the roses for a minute.
Or better, make a sugar succulent to go with those roses... 😉

For this mini succulent, the paste used is CMC or Tylose paste, coloured with mint green, turquoise and black (just a drop of each!)

  • Roll the paste out thin. (Yes, succulents are fleshly, but still - make it a thin, ok?!) 
  • Cut out 2 of the largest blossoms, and one each of the medium and small. 
  • Use a bone or ball tool and a foam pad to cup the petals. 
  • Pinch the tip of each petal with your fingers. 
  • Place a large blossom in a flower former/ egg tray with a dab of tylose / CMC glue in the centre. 
  • Stack the next large one on top, positioned so that the petals (are they petals or leaves?) are in the gaps created by the previous layer's petals.  
  • Repeat with the medium blossom. (Remember the glue in the centre). 
  • Pinch the smallest blossom at its base so that it resembles the tight centre of a succulent.  Glue it in place. 
  • If you need to create a bit of space between layers of petals, use small rolled up pieces of paper towel to support them as they dry. 
  • Once completely dry, dust the edges of the petals with purple dusting colour. 
  •  Place onto a fondant disc, or directly onto a swirl of buttercream 

Happy decorating!


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Buttercream Halloween Pumpkin

One of my favourite Halloween cupcake of 2017? That purple monster. 
So very simple using a "grass nozzle" (Ateco no. 133) and popping on two eyes made from a  modelling chocolate/ fondant blend. 

Apart from pretty swirls and grassy tufts, though, buttercream is not my favourite medium.
But because most people find it more palatable than fondant, it's great if you can use it as the primary decor on a cupcake.  

So here goes:
Piped Buttercream Pumpkin

(It's probably not a good sign to start with excuses, but...
These tutorial photos were done quickly as an afterthought at the end of a class, with the real dregs of the icing... 😅)

Buttercream Pumpkin Picture Tutorial :

The stripes of buttercream are piped using a closed star nozzle (Ateco 852). Make sure to align a gap in the nozzle's tines with the centre of the cupcake to create that central ridge.
The leaves are piped with an leaf tip (Ateco 67) and the squiggles with a plain tip (Ateco 03).

The eyes, nose and mouth are cut out of a modelling chocolate / fondant blend. I used a diamond cutter for the triangles - cut the diamonds in half; and used a small square cutter to cut out the toothy bits from the mouth.

And I think that's really all I have to say for Halloween 2017!

Happy decorating & happy Halloween! 


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Cat-in-Pumpkin Halloween Cookie

While I may have been elbow deep in orange, purple and black icing these past couple of weeks, Halloween isn't a day we really get to celebrate... 
I'd gladly take the kids trick-or-treating, but as there's not much buy-in for this (American) holiday from our (South African) neighbourhood, they'd come home with pretty empty bags.   

So, when my son told me (months ago) what he'd like to dress up as for Halloween, I responded with  "Great idea" and didn't think much more about it. 
 Now though, a few days before the 31st, he's still fixed on this idea. And it dawned on me that he's probably expecting mom (i.e. me!) to get the costume together for him ... him being nine and not yet able to drive himself to the store...  EEEK! 

Ok, so I'm not on-top of the costume situation, but at least the cookies (which no trick-or-treaters are going to coming knocking for) are done...

Mike, from SemiSweet Designs, has got a great tutorial on how to add a ghost to a pumpkin cookie (find it here). So I used that concept for both a ghost and a cat in a pumpkin (top row in the photo above).
Visit Mike's tutorial to see  how to make the ghost; but here are a couple of progress shots of how I made the cat version....

Outline the cat's head with detail-consistency royal icing,

then flood with flood-consistency icing, and allow to dry before adding the pumpkin, and rest of the details. (See Mike's tutorial - link above). 

The recipe that I use for royal icing is here, along with a description of the consistencies I've mentioned. 

Now excuse me while I dash to the mall to do some last minute Halloween-costume shopping!

Happy decorating!


Monday, 23 October 2017

Chocolate and Coffee Layer Cake

As requested...

Alternating layers of chocolate and coffee-flavoured cake, filled with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream, chocolate cream cheese icing and salted caramel.
And of course a dark chocolate ganache drip. Yum!

Now you're just going to have to take my word for it that those are the layers.
I don't have any photos of the sliced cake.  
Although I'm sure my nephew wouldn't have minded if I'd taken a slice out of his birthday cake before giving it to him, I didn't! 

Because it's made from two whole cake recipes (see below), there were a couple of layers of each flavour to spare.  I used them to make a small cake for tea and planned to show you that sliced.
Bu-u-t the monkeys found the last slice that I was saving to photograph... 
Life in the suburbs of Durban. 😅

For the chocolate layers I used this recipe.
And for the coffee layers, this cream cheese pound cake with coffee added -  one tablespoon of freeze dried instant coffee granules dissolved in 30ml boiling water.

Find a swiss meringue buttercream recipe here.
Chocolate cream cheese icing here.
Salted caramel here.
Dark chocolate ganache here. (You'll only need 120g dark chocolate and 60ml cream for the drip, though.)

If you happen to make this, take some photo's and send then through, won't you?

Happy baking!


Monday, 9 October 2017

Chewy Sunflower & Sesame Seed Bars

I do 99% of the grocery shopping in our home.  So I can only blame myself if I run out of a baking supplies.
Every now and then I'll remark to my husband how amazing it is that when we run low on something it'll just miraculously re-appear on the pantry shelves... joking but with a little barb attached!
Ha ha, clever witty me ... until it doesn't miraculously re-appear. And it comes as such a shock... How can I not have any of that item?! Oops!

So, I ran out of oats. I've been making a lot of these rusks lately, and that's where they've gone.
There was only half a cup left, and I needed a whole cupful for the granola bar recipe I was trying.

It sounded like a very versatile recipe, though, so I just upped the amount of seeds, and made these very more-ish sunflower and sesame bars instead:

Chewy Sunflower & Sesame Seed Bars (No -bake!) 
Recipe adapted from

Line a small square baking pan, 16x16cm or 18x18cm, with parchment paper.
(Make a cross of paper - two sheets at as in the photo, leaving the sides long, extending above the sides of the pan to make lifting out easier).

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup oats (traditional rolled oats, not instant oats)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flaked almonds
2 tbs chia seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the honey and coconut oil together in a saucepan over medium heat.
When the mixture begins to bubble, turn down the heat and stir in the other ingredients.
Cook on low for 2 minutes. Stirring frequently.

Remove from the stove and spread and flatten the mixture into the prepared baking pan.

NB: Take time to really compress and compact it into the pan - fold down the parchment on top of the mixture, and use your hands, or the flat base of a glass, or another square pan to pre-e-e-ss it in.

Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely (4 hours, or overnight).
Remove from the pan, and cut into bars.

Store in the fridge.
The bars can get a little sticky if left at room temperature, so wrap in cling-wrap if they're going to be added to a lunchbox.

Have a look at the original recipe and suggested variations here. 



Sunday, 1 October 2017

Funfetti Cake with Rainbow Buttercream

Are all things rainbow still trending? Well, sure!
So how about a funfetti cake with rainbow icing? 


This is a great alternative to a rainbow layer cake, and it's a cake walk to make. 😉 
Like most things baking / decorating, it's all in the prep work... 

For the funfetti cake, I used this recipe (again!) and added a cupful of cake confetti.  
(Depending on how large your cake pans are, and how tall you want the cake, you may need to double the recipe.)

For the rainbow icing, make a batch of your favourite buttercream (recipe here) or swiss meringue buttercream (recipe here). Make a double batch for a large cake.
Divide it into 5 bowls, and add gel food colours.
I generally use the electric colours (electric blue, pink, etc) because they have a cool undertone, and don't accentuate the butter's inherent yellow.

Put the icing into 5 disposable icing bags with the tips cut off, and pipe concentric rings of the different colours between each layer of sponge. 

If you have any icing leftover, tie the ends of the bags off with rubber bands and freeze until you have use for it.  (Now, isn't that a good tip?!)

I covered the outside of the cake in plain buttercream, with a pink drip, because I wanted the rainbow effect to be a surprise-inside. Such a sweet surprise 😋

Happy baking!