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!

xxM

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!

xxM

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 152). 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! 

xxM 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Cat-in-Pumpkin Halloween Cookie

EEEK!
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!

xxM

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?
Thanks!
😆

Happy baking!

xxM

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 bowlofdelicious.com

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).

Ingredients:
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

Method:
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. 

Enjoy!

xxM

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! 

xxM 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Blueberry and Lemon Yoghurt Panna Cotta

Before I'd made panna cotta, I used to wonder why it was so frequently chosen as a dessert by Top Chef contestants.
Then I made it and discovered: it's easy, delicious and impressive... what better competition entry could you think of?
(Well, personally,  if I was on Top Chef or Master Chef, I'd go with this chocolate tart; paired with coconut sorbet, perhaps...
But I digress! And I certainly don't plan on adding Master Chef stress to my list of things to tackle!)

So, back to panna cotta... 😉

This recipe is from Lorraine Pascale, Saturday Kitchen.  
Part of it's attraction, though, is that it's a Friday kitchen activity - you can make panna cotta the day before your dinner party. How convenient!


You'll make 2 batches of panna cotta for this dessert - one for the blueberry layer, and one for the lemon layer. But it's so straight forward that that really isn't a problem.
Alternatively, use the base recipe in any way you choose, and get creative with the flavour additions.


Blueberry and Lemon Layered Yoghurt Panna Cotta 
Recipe adapted from Lorraine Pascale, Saturday Kitchen 

Prepare 6-8 small glasses/ jars on a tray that will fit easily into the fridge.

Ingredients:
3 gelatine sheets
Cold water - enough to cover the sheets of gelatine
100ml cream (double/ whipping cream - 35% fat content)
100ml full cream milk
100g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod - seeds only
300g double thick Greek yoghurt (you can substitute with medium or low fat yoghurt)

100g blueberries - pureed
  or
zest of 2 lemons (for the second batch)

Method:
Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes.

While it is soaking, place the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla seeds in a small saucepan.
Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has all dissolved.

Mix the pureed blueberries into the yogurt.

Once the gelatine is soft, lift the sheets from the bowl and squeeze out the excess water.
Stir softened gelatine into the warmed milk / cream mixture until it has dissolved.
Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then pour this into the yoghurt/ blueberry mixture.
Stir gently until well combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the glasses / jars; pour carefully to avoid spilling on the sides of the glass.
(If you want a completely smooth panna cotta, pour the mixture through a strainer/ sieve.)

Refridgerate.



Once the blueberry panna cotta has started to set, continue with the second layer - repeat the process above but replace blueberries with lemon zest.

Carefully pour the lemon panna cotta into the glasses, on top of the set blueberry layer.

Chill for a few hours, or overnight.
Top with a blueberry, lemon blossom or curl of lemon zest before serving.



These will keep for a few days in the fridge - if you can resist them that long!

Happy dessert-making!

xxM

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Vanilla Cake with Creamy Rose Water Icing

I'm going through an add-rose-water-to-everything phase.
 Ok, almost everything, I guess. Chocolate cupcakes are exempt; as are rusks, and coffee cheesecake, and carrot muffins... So, maybe not even close to everything I've baked recently.
 But a lot a few things, ok?!

Sometimes I call these treats "turkish-delight-flavoured", but essentially it's just a splash of rose water...

The impulse is partially to do with the flavour (it's the taste of spring!), but also because it's an excuse to fling some rose petals around for the photos - it's just so darn pretty decorating with rose petals 💕





This sponge cake is the recipe I use very often for cakes and cupcakes. Most recently in these pastel-coloured mini cakes... which actually were rose-water flavoured!



The icing is a blend of normal buttercream and cream cheese icing ... and rose water flavoured, of course.


Creamy Rose Water Icing:

250g butter, at room temperature
500g icing sugar, sifted
250g medium fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2-3tsps rose water (to taste)
Pink gel food colour


Beat the butter until smooth, light and creamy (This step takes a while, but is well worth it for the final texture of the icing).
Add the sifted icing sugar. Beat again until light and creamy.
Gently beat in the cream cheese, gel colour and rose water.


When you assemble the layers of sponge and icing, sprinkle some crushed pistachios on top of the icing for extra flavour and colour (and crunch!) or chop up squares of turkish delight and add those to the icing. Then we can truly call it turkish delight icing, right?!



Happy baking!

xxM


Monday, 11 September 2017

Gorjuss Doll Cake Toppers


You don't have to be a little girl to love Gorjuss dolls! 
In fact I think they're appreciated more by adults than children (who get a little unsettled by the lack of facial features!) 



I've been admiring Santoro's whimsical works of art for a while, and what a pleasure it's been to  reproduce them in cake form. 

Mine are made from a modelling chocolate / fondant blend, except for the legs, which needed to have the stockings painted on, so I added tylose/CMC paste into that mix. 

My ratios are a 1:1 ratio of modelling chocolate to fondant, and then if I add tylose/CMC paste, it'll be 1/4 of that weight... 
50g modelling chocolate + 50g fondant = 100g paste, then I'll add 25g tylose/CMC paste. 

And it has to be the paste - don't use tylose powder in a modelling chocolate blend; it isn't as effective as it is when added to pure fondant. 



Why do I add the tylose paste? It results in a quicker drying time and firmer finish, especially when working in heat and humidity. 
Just make sure, though, if you make your own tylose paste, that it is dry and not tacky. 
It's not going to help combat the challenges of humidity if your paste itself is too damp!  



The beauty of modelling these figurines is the simplicity of their faces. 
And yet they're still so full of character, aren't they?  


Happy decorating!

xxM 


Friday, 1 September 2017

Spring Themed Mini-Cakes

It's Spring Day!
That announcement should be followed by some sort of tra-la-la, shouldn't it?! Picture Julie Andrews singing on the foothills of the Alps...The hills are alive...
etc...

Yes, well...
The Alps are very very far away so we'll just celebrate with cake instead.  
       
I made this sponge cake in three different colours, planning on 3-layered mini cakes. But while that would have been visually appealing, they'd have been too much of a mouthful. And considering they were for real-life tea, not Instagram or Facebook-life tea,  I settled on two layers. 


I still need to try the three layered look sometime (for sharing on IG and FB, of course), but in the meantime...

To get the colours true, without yellow undertones coming through, I used an oil-based sponge recipe, and replaced whole eggs with egg whites only. 


Spring-Coloured Vanilla Sponge Cake

Ingredients:
200g egg whites (or 4 whole eggs if you're not colouring the batter) 
400g caster sugar
320g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250ml milk
100ml vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract 
Gel colours - pink, blue, purple

Method:
Set the oven temp to 175'C
Grease and line 3 x 8 inch round cake pans 

Mix the milk and oil together in a jug, and heat in microwave for 2 min on high. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Place the sugar, vanilla extract and eggs in a mixer, and beat on medium-high for 6 minutes, until pale and fluffy.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together. 

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the egg mix, then half the milk mix; gently blending in between.  
Repeat; ending with the dry ingredients. 
Mix until just combined. 

Divide the batter evenly between 3 bowls. Add colour to each bowl, stir until uniformly mixed.

Pour the batter into 3 x 8 inch cake pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when touched. 

Cool in the pans. 

When completely cool, use a scone cutter / round cookie cutter to cut out circles of cake (trim the tops flat, if necessary). 






Pipe swirls of icing on top of half of the rounds, and top with a different-coloured circle of cake. 





Pipe another rose swirl on top, and add some "leaves". 

The icing used here is swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with rose water, which pairs beautifully with this light sponge.  



Happy baking, and happy (Southern Hemisphere) Spring Day!

xxM

Friday, 25 August 2017

Unicorn Cookies: Pinwheels

When I scheduled these classes a few months ago, I was pretty sure that the craze would be dying down by now, but it seems I underestimated the magical power of unicorns!

I'm ready to move on though... Unicorn toppers, unicorn cupcakes, unicorn cakes and unicorn cookies - that's it. Ping, I'm done.

I have really enjoyed making them, though - it's always a pleasure decorating with pastels. And it also gave me the excuse to decorate pinwheel cookies, which I've been wanting to do for a while.
 Ok, so it's a bit of a stretch - unicorns, rainbows, pinwheels...
But aren't they lovely and whimsical, too?




Here's an approach to a pinwheel cookie:
Draw your crosses, shade the smaller triangles, then outline and flood those.
Once the smaller triangles have dried, outline and flood the larger ones.
(Find a recipe for royal icing and a description of consistencies here).


 I think we can happily retire our unicorns, now. Don't you? 



No, you're right - probably not!

Happy decorating! 

xxM 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Unicorn Cookies: Gold Lustre

Ever have those days when you're just not in the zone; when your cookie decorating is anything but magical?! 

The day I made this set of unicorn cookies I had to navigate leaking icing bags, breaking biscuits, and an oven temperature that was accidentally bumped up 100'C.  
All that, and about a dozen interruptions. *Sigh!*






So, I wasn't exactly feeling the magic that day.

I had to do some cosmetic surgery on the unicorns the following day.  

But my mood improved considerably when, for the first time,  I tried using lustre dust mixed with coconut oil. What a brilliant sheen!
We don't have a wide selection of edible lustres available to us here, and generally the effect once a lustre dust is mixed with alcohol or water and painted onto royal icing isn't as smooth or as solid as I'd like.
The mixture with coconut oil, though, is beautiful


On the cookie in the picture, the top stripe is the lustre dust mixed with water; followed by vodka in the middle, and the bottom stripe is with coconut oil: a lovely solid sheen.  

So that's what I used on the unicorns horns and hooves - only one coat necessary.

One downside is that the coconut oil isn't a liquid at room temperature. 
You have to heat it to get it to liquify initially, then keep it in a little hot water bath to stop it solidifying one you've mixed in the lustre. 

And the coconut oil mixture doesn't sink into the icing the way the other two solutions do, so it rubs off a little.
If your cookies need to be packaged and shipped off, rather use another solvent. But if they're for a display platter, give the coconut oil mixture a try.

Because it's oil-based, it'll be an good mixture to use on modelling chocolate and modelling chocolate / fondant blends, too. 




Happy decorating!

xxM