Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last treat of 2011

For Christmas, I was fortunate to receive many baking, confectionary and decorating supplies such as The Art of Cake by Mich Turner, gum paste molds, spacers, ribbon cutters, petal cutters, a candy thermometer and Sugar Baby by Gesine Bullock-Prado.

Since I already mentioned in my last post that the Mater cake was my last cake of the year and it's already the evening of New Year's Eve, I decided to make something quick and delicious from Sugar Baby using my new candy thermometer (I hate my old one).

I don't have very much experience with making candy/cooking with sugar. I have made vanilla bean marshmallows and fleur-de-sel caramels, but that's about it. In my new book, I jumped right to the hottest recipes (300ºF-310ºF) also known as the "Hard-Crack Stage". This chapter includes recipes for confections such as rock candy, peanut brittle, butter almond toffee, cotton candy, lollipops, and the recipe for my last treat of the year: sponge toffee! The deliciously unique part about the sponge toffee recipe in Sugar Baby is the use of maple syrup (Vermont, where the author is from, has a large maple syrup industry) rather than corn syrup. Two things that my husband loves 1) maple, 2) sponge toffee. I am the wife of the year!

Unlike caramels that you have to constantly stir (for a really long time), once the sugar is dissolved, you just wait and watch until the candy thermometer reads 300ºF. I clipped my old and new thermometer to the sides of the pan just to compare the two and my new thermometer reached 300ºF much quicker! Once it's at the right temperature, you then carefully sprinkle and stir in baking soda, and pour into your pan. Mine was already quite spongey in the pot so I scooped it out rather than poured it and spread it out with a spatula. Easy! I think next time I may not spread it as thinly. It does cool down fairly quickly, making this a great last minute treat.

I may have flattened some of the airy pockets when spreading it with my spatula, but the texture is great and the flavour is delightful.

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that you have a healthy 2012 with room for a sweet treat here and there!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Mater of celebration!

Last cake of the year!

Amongst the holiday baking for family dinners (two gingerbread cakes with cream cheese frosting, a pecan tart and a lemon meringue tart), I made a cake for my nephew's 2nd birthday party which was today. The theme of the party was Pixar's Cars. After deliberating with my sister, I decided to make a Mater cake. 

My cake sculpting experience is rather limited. I typically do regular shaped cakes (round, square, sheet) and make gumpaste/modeling paste figurines and details. I've done one sculpted cake before - it was a baby grand piano to celebrate the refurbishing of a 100 year-old family piano. I will blog about that another time when I'm on a baking break. Sculpting a cake to resemble a car takes a lot of planning and measuring. I borrowed two little Mater toys from my nephew to help with figuring out proportions of the truck and the little details.

It is much easier to carve a cold cake then a room temperature cake. A cake chilled in the freezer is best, however I did not have room in my freezer for that much cake so I did my chilling in the fridge. Once I cut the sheet cakes down to size, I filled my cake and chilled it again before carving out the front, back and the cab. 

The least favourite part of cake decorating for me is crumb coating and masking cakes. I am getting faster but I still find it tedious. After masking this sculpted cake, I promise that I will never ever complain about masking a round cake again. I used a 4" offset spatula but some smaller special shaped trowel ones would have been more ideal.

Covering a sculpted cake in fondant is a bit stressful as you need to work very quickly to smooth the fondant into all of the creases and crevices. 

Because it was such a large cake and I used about 6 pounds of fondant to cover it, I also had to work quickly to cut off any excess fondant from the bottom to relieve the weight on the corners of the cake and avoid tears (both kinds!). 

The tow rig is made with gum paste and the details are painted/brushed on using gel paste, and coloured dusting sugars. 

The cake is vanilla, filled and masked with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. The board is covered with royal icing and brown sugar to look like desert dirt.

I was happy with my second attempt at a sculpted cake and I think that the birthday boy was too!  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One good drink deserves another...

Good morning Guinness! (and Jameson Irish Whiskey...and Bailey's Irish Cream...)

For the next potluck I decided to make cupcakes that I've done before and have been quite well-received. They are chocolate Guinness cupcakes with a whiskey chocolate ganache filling and Bailey's Irish Cream frosting. The original recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and was adapted slightly by the Curious Domestic.  

I prefer to ice my cupcakes with a generous swirl of frosting for an optimal icing to cake ratio, however this frosting is very sweet and a smaller swirl goes a long way. 

Now the beauty of this recipe is that it leaves you with a few extra goodies to make another treat. The Curious Domestic uses the leftover cake from making the holes in the cupcakes for filling, and leftover ganache to make little 'truffles'. The leftover ingredients screamed 'cake balls!' to me. There has to be a more appealing name for these little confections of cake, frosting and chocolate. Henceforth in this post, they shall be referred to as 'cake sphere-lets', uh.. 'cake globes'...hmm...'cake crumblettes''cute spherical cakelets'....cake balls it is! I made cake balls once after a little cupcake project hiccup - they aren't my favourite thing to make with all the fuss of dipping things in melted chocolate (unless they are peppermint patties - have to stick that in so that my husband can sigh in relief) and I don't think I would ever bake a cake with the sole intention of crumbling it up and mashing it with icing, but they are a tasty use of cake scraps and leftover icing. 

For these cake balls I had about 1 1/4 cup of cake crumbs and I mixed this with 2 tablespoons each of leftover chocolate ganache and Bailey's frosting. Now normally I would put this mixture into the fridge before rolling them into perfectly shaped little balls, but I had to get to a potluck so I made them into shapes loosely resembling balls before I left and placed them in the fridge to harden. To coat the cake balls, I melted 5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate in a small bowl over a pot of boiling water. I probably could have used more chocolate to make the dipping a bit easier but I did not want to use up that much chocolate for a leftovers treat. You want to dip quickly as the chocolate heats up the cake ball and the longer you roll the ball around in there, the higher the chance you may end up with cake crumb escapees ruining the smoothness of your chocolate. I decorated the cake balls (a little haphazardly) with some leftover frosting and voila! Chocolate, Guinness, whiskey and Bailey's cake balls! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nothing says the holidays like liquor-infused baked goods!

So much for a baking break. 'Tis the season of potlucks. I always struggle with whether to bring something cooked and savoury rather than a sweet treat, but the struggle is always short lived and out comes the butter, milk, eggs, sugar and flour.

This week: 2 potlucks in 3 days. With all of the business of the season and planning desserts and cakes for family Christmas dinners and an upcoming birthday, there isn't a lot of time for making anything elaborately decorated. I decided to compensate with alcohol.

Hello amaretto.

For my first potluck, I decided to make the Chocolate Amaretto Bundt Cake from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. I haven't done a lot of baking of desserts that don't end up being covered in icing or fondant. How you make a bundt cake pretty? I used the Heritage Bundt Cake pan from Williams Sonoma. The pan creates a beautiful swirl design. I've made one bundt cake before - it was the recipe that came with the pan. I found it on the dry side and it needed to be a la mode to improve the moistness and palatability. This chocolate amaretto cake promised to be delightfully moist.

I've read about dusting a lightly greased pan for a chocolate cake with cocoa powder rather than flour in order to avoid remnants of white flour on a dark cake. I attempted this with little success - the cocoa powder stuck in clumps to the greased pan and it dissolved slightly. I brushed the excess cocoa powder out with a pastry brush and dusted the pan (easily) with flour. I had no issues with white residue on the cake, despite using flour. I (not so) lightly dusted the cake with icing sugar - just like a light dusting of snow. 

The cake was, as promised, quite moist with a nice, strong amaretto flavour which comes from using good amounts of both almond extract and amaretto liqueur. I still think the cake might be improved with some sort of chocolate glaze although I would use a different pan in that case because I feel that a glaze would detract from the simple beauty of the swirl design. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Humble Beginnings - January 2010

So while most bakers are ramping up their baking for the holidays, I've decided to take a little bit a of baking break. It might have something to do with the string of cakes I've done lately while working full time and doing my masters. Whew! I have to admit, I did a little baking today...just a touch. I made a quick batch of chocolate peppermint macarons - so quick that I barely waited for them to cool prior to filling them with peppermint buttercream.

While I'm on a bit of a break, I thought it might be a good time to reminisce about the early days!

I took my first intro to cake decorating course in November 2009. In this course I learned royal icing and buttercream basics - stars, rosettes, shells, rose buds, daisies, roses, leaves, etc., and how to level, fill, mask and ice a cake in buttercream.

The end result was a good foundation of piping basics, however I really wanted to get into decorating cakes with fondant.

My first fondant-covered cake was done in January 2010 for my nephew's 1 month old celebration. I did some 'research' using Google and found some videos on YouTube in order to learn how to cover a cake in fondant and also how to do some basic animal figure modelling.

My nephew was born in the year of the Ox, so my first fondant figure was a very chubby ox.

I attempted to make modelling paste by adding tylose powder to fondant (which is still how I do it now), but at that time, I did not know about letting the fondant set for a few hours to a day prior to modelling with it, so the fondant was still quite soft. The result was a Chinese ox that became obese by the next morning. I also had not known about letting the body set before putting a large head on the body, hence the head had sunk back a bit so that he was looking up a little. I attempted to fix this by sticking a piece of fondant at the back of his neck to hold his head up properly - enter neck fat on my already obese ox. 

I was really anxious about covering my first cake in fondant as I had read about all of these terrible things that could happen, such as lumps, air bubbles, tearing, cracks, etc.

It was simpler than I thought! Beginner's luck I guess. The cake was a butter cake filled and masked in vanilla frosting. I covered the little 5-inch cake with fondant first. It was perfectly smooth - I was so happy! The perfection did not last long. I moved my cake over to roll out the fondant to cover the 8-inch cake. While rolling out the fondant, I put the end of the rolling pin into the 5-inch cake. I smoothed it the best that I could. I've said it before -  there is always a back of the cake. Lesson learned: move your covered cakes away from your workspace for safety! 

So, this cake was my first fondant-covered cake. Although I received a good foundation in my intro to cake decorating course, I think that it's important to know that you can learn so much with reading various free resources on the internet. It is helpful to look at several different resources on the same topic (there are many different opinions out there!) and then decide what makes sense for you. This cake was an encouraging start and the beginning of a wonderful new hobby. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We three penguins...

are wishing a 2-year old girl a very happy birthday!

This cake began with a request for a snowflake-themed birthday cake. I had a few thoughts about little winter characters that could make it cute but consistent with a winter theme. I thought about little snowmen (snowpeople?), a little girl in winter garb, and then while shopping for cake supplies (which lately, seems to be a weekly adventure), I came across an older winter issue of Cake Craft and Decoration hiding underneath new issues with an adorable penguin on the front cover. I just had to make penguins!

I feel like each penguin has its own distinct personality...

As a trio, they look as if they are singing 'Happy Birthday' or carolling!

The cake itself was vanilla, filled with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream, and masked in vanilla. This week I rolled my fondant just under 1/4" thick as planned. I probably wasted a bit more fondant than I needed too but was happy with the smooth results - at some point I will figure out what fondant amounts work best for me - for now I prefer to overestimate the amount of fondant I need to cover a cake. Since I wrote on the challenge of air bubbles last week, I thought I should mention that I did get an evil air bubble on this cake. Just so you know, the simple pin pricking and smoothing out with your hand/fondant smoother works like a charm when you've masked your cake in buttercream rather than frosting. Not to worry for frosting-lovers, I have a plan for adhering fondant to frosting with better results.

And to end this post, a little penguin carolling in front of the fireplace with stockings...

I'm going to be taking a little decorating break for the holidays to spend some time with the family - a perfect time to write about some of my older cake adventures...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Say hello to my little friends!

This week I made a birthday cake featuring things of significance to the birthday girl - her family, her teaching job, reading and art. My experience with figure modelling has been limited to animals primarily and my dad. Most of my figures tend to look a bit on the chubby side which I wanted to avoid for this cake, so I took to searching on the internet for pictures and tips when it comes to making fondant/gumpaste figures.

One of the reasons that I have had some difficulty with my figures sagging and subsequently looking a bit hefty is that in the past I have not allowed enough time for pieces of the figure to set before adding other components - I have typically done the whole figure in one shot. This is not really a problem if you are doing small animals but is a good idea if you are doing larger animals or people figures. There are a few different options for what type of sugar product you use for figure modelling. Fondant alone will likely be too soft and will take too long to set. You can use gumpaste which dries super hard but is quite expensive and I find is better for smaller details, modelling paste which can also be referred to as 50/50 which is half fondant and half gumpaste, or you can making your own modelling paste by adding tylose powder to fondant (about 1/2 teaspoon to 8 oz of fondant). I tend to use the latter.

For this family, I made all of the bodies first and allowed them to set for a day. I secured the bodies with a piece of spaghetti as I don't like to use non-edible items on my cakes if I can avoid it. I placed sponge behind the bodies to prevent them from leaning backwards as they dried. I made the heads next and allowed them to set for about 4 hours before adding the hair to avoid the weight of the hair from squishing the head.

The requested cake flavour was chocolate with chocolate buttercream. I seem to be on a bit of a devil's food kick - I paired it with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and masked it with vanilla since I was covering it in light-coloured fondant. I rolled the fondant a bit too thin so it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. I like to roll my fondant a minimum of 3/8" thick. The brand of fondant I use tends to stretch quite a bit so next time I may even roll it to 1/4" thick.

To support the weight of the family, I covered a small, thin cake board in lime green fondant and finished it off as a rug. This way the family could simply be lifted off the cake before cutting. I seated the family on the rug around a mini fondant chocolate birthday cake. The front of the cake was finished with a blackboard with 'Happy Birthday' piped on with royal icing, fondant apples, a little book and a painter's palette.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm holding out for a hero...


This cute, little 5-inch birthday cake was for a superman fan. The cake is chocolate with peppermint frosting. 

One of the things that can happen when covering cakes in fondant is air bubbles underneath the fondant. This can be due to humidity, changes in temperature, and the fondant not adhering to the buttercream. 

I used a peppermint frosting vs buttercream. This type of icing tends to 'crust' or get hard and dry. In the past, when covering a frosting-covered cake I've crumb coated the cake, allowed it to set and then put a thin coat of fresh icing on the cake for the fondant to adhere to. For large cakes, I've used a water spritzer to re-moisten the frosting prior to placing the fondant on. I used the latter method this time however I must have missed a spot on the cake as the next morning, a large air bubble had formed between the fondant and the cake. The remedy for this is supposed to be simple - puncture the air bubble with a thin pin and smooth the fondant out with your hand or a fondant smoother. The bubble on this Superman cake was a super bubble! I poked numerous holes in the cake to push the air out. The air re-accumulated at super speed and seemed to be getting worse. The more I tried to fix it, the more the bubble seemed to grow. It got to a point where the fondant above the air bubble started to crack, so I left it alone. 

There is always a back of the cake - this definitely became the back of the cake as I had to put lettering on the front. In retrospect, I could have covered this spot with some red fondant rolled out thinly as a cape draped over the back. Sometimes the ideas just don't flow freely when you are in a panic.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

We are having a holiday bake sale at work, so I decided to bake something festive. Enter chocolate cupcakes with peppermint frosting topped with crushed candy canes.

The chocolate cupcake is devils food chocolate. For the frosting I used peppermint extract with little bit of vanilla as well. I piped the swirl using a large french star tip.

The crushed candy cane was a little bit of an expedition. Note to self - not all peppermint candy canes are created equally. Paired with the peppermint icing, the first candy canes I bought did not end up tasting like mint. This necessitated a last minute trip to the store to buy better quality candy canes. I beat the candy canes into crushed submission by placing them in a ziplock bag covered by a tea towel and smacking them with my heavy duty All-Clad 1 cup measure. My husband felt that this was both too loud (we live in a condo) and ineffective. He crushed them by rolling a glass mason jar over them. In retrospect, I should have pulsed them in my mini food processor. I will keep this in mind for next time!

Coming up next, modelling paste figurines!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Venturing outside my comfort zone of baking cakes and cupcakes, I decided to try to make French Macarons since I had a small amount of leftover swiss meringue buttercream and quite a few leftover frozen egg whites from making pate sucree tart shells and pastry cream.

I have wanted to try these for a while but after reading various recipes, blog posts and articles, I have to admit that I was feeling a little intimidated! 

French macarons are made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated or caster sugar (superfine), and ground almonds. The ideal macaron has a smooth domed top, and a round base (also called the foot). The popularity of the macaron has soared in the last few years (although they have been around in France since 791) and you can find a number of books dedicated solely to these chewy, melt-in-your-mouth confections. 

There are so many possible macaron flavour combinations out there and they can be filled with buttercream, jam or ganache. 

I settled on a Maple-Cocoa recipe from a blog called Delicious Delicious Delicious. With a blog title like that, how can you go wrong? The yield of this recipe was also modest and perfect for a small amount of leftover buttercream.

For the ground almonds, I processed whole almonds (including skins) using a coffee grinder with a few almonds and a little of the powdered sugar at 5-second intervals to achieve a powdery texture. I then sifted each 'batch' of almonds and powdered sugar to catch any almond chunks that weren't sufficiently ground. I threw these back in the grinder and repeated the process until all the almonds were ground to a fine enough powder. 

I then sifted the ground almonds, remaining powdered sugar and cocoa powder into a small bowl. 

The recipe calls for caster sugar which is also known as 'superfine' in North America. I don't know if the Redpath 'Special Fine' granulated is 'fine' enough so for good measure, I ground it in my mini food processor. 

Now for the egg whites. There are some firm believers that you must used aged egg whites to make macarons. From a food safety perspective, I am really not a fan of leaving egg whites at room temperature for several days. I have several jars of egg whites in my freezer from various baking expeditions. They can be safely stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. I label each jar with the number of egg whites and the date. For this recipe I used 2 frozen egg whites that I thawed in my refrigerator overnight and let them come to room temperature prior to making the macarons. 

I piped the meringue mixture onto a Silpat liner instead of parchment paper for super easy removal! This recipe suggested leaving them to sit for 30 minutes prior to baking them. I have also read that you should leave them for at least 2 hours in order to get the right texture and adequate development of the 'foot'. I was in a hurry and let them sit for 30 minutes and the 'feet' developed just fine in the oven. I baked them for about 12 minutes but I think they could have used an extra minute or two. 

I was able to easily lift them off the liner with my hands - no need for a palette knife.

They have a little texture on the inside because I used the wrong side of the Silpat mat, ha ha!

For the filling, I had leftover vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. I beat the buttercream with a small amount of maple extract. I was not satisfied with the flavour - it tasted like an artificial extract. To remedy this, I added a little pure maple syrup at a time until I was satisfied with the taste. I also had my husband approve the flavour balance as he is a maple fanatic. 

I was extremely happy with the results of my first attempt. They are not perfectly smooth - I suppose I could have avoided the little piping 'knobs' on the top by gently tapping my pan before putting them in the oven. It is recommended that you refrigerate them for 24-48 hours to achieve the proper texture and then bring them to room temperature before enjoying them. We ate them almost right away and I had no problems with the texture! Now the only question is, what flavour do I try next?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Berries, bows, and chocolate, oh my!

What do bows, berries and chocolate have in common? This weekend's cake!

This weekend I took a class at Bonnie Gordon College, taught by the very talented Susan Trianos. The cake used a number of techniques, some that I was familiar with and some that I wasn't. We learned to make a gingham ribbon, which is similar to creating mosaic with sugar. We also learned to make two different styles of gumpaste bows - I love bows. I may just have to stick them on all of my cakes. One of the techniques that I was not familiar with was painting combined with royal icing brush embroidery. I definitely need to work on brush embroidery! My painted flowers looked lovely from afar but were not photo-worthy close up.

The little miniature strawberries had to be my favourite - they were so simple but so cute! 

So where does the chocolate enter the picture? For this class, we had to prepare an 8-inch cake masked in swiss meringue buttercream. I recently treated myself to a bag of Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder and Barry Callebaut bittersweet chocolate callets, so I decided to make a devils foods cake filled with chocolate swiss meringue buttercream and masked in vanilla. The cocoa powder has an amazing silky texture. I don't think I can bake with anything else now. My husband wondered if we should try making hot cocoa with it. I told him that we have to use up our other regular powder first because I am certain it will be a point of no return. The cake was beautifully dark and moist. 

For the chocolate swiss meringue buttercream I used about 60 g chocolate per cup of buttercream. I used half semisweet and half bittersweet. The results were delicious. It tasted like a smooth and creamy chocolate milkshake! 

This might be a good time to mention the status of my KitchenAid stand mixer since swiss meringue buttercream is very 'mixer-intense'. A few tightened screws and it is running beautifully! Just for good measure though, my dad is going to be replacing a few parts and refreshing the food-grade grease. The mixer shall live on!

Next up...cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes! ...and maybe a few macarons. 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A pink winter wonderland

So what do you do for a baby shower where the mom-to-be doesn't want anything too cutesy? As this baby girl is expected to arrive in January, the baby shower had an elegant snowflake theme including these cupcakes. 

Originally I thought about piping the snowflakes with royal icing on parchment for topping the cupcakes, but I thought that it might be a bit too finicky and may result in a lot of broken snowflakes and one frustrated baker. I ended up buying a snowflake plunger by PME Arts and Crafts and I was very happy with the results. I used fondant with a little tylose powder added in to make a modelling paste as it sets harder.

The cupcakes are a devils chocolate with vanilla frosting. The cupcakes are extremely light and fluffy in texture and deliciously chocolatey. I used regular Dutch-processed cocoa but would love to try using an extra dark cocoa to get an even darker/richer brown. I haven't made frosting for a while and my last baking expedition was using swiss meringue buttercream (SMB). I must say, I may be switching camps here when it comes to icing (don't tell my husband). The flavour of a sugary frosting on a cupcake is delightful and nostalgic, however for those whose palates have an equal appreciation for lovely textures, you cannot beat the SMB. The frosting ends up having a bit of a gritty texture from the icing sugar which is reduced slightly after it sits for a bit but is still detectable. I topped each pink-frosted cupcake with some course icing sugar for a snow-like effect as well as a fondant snowflake.

Now while making these 3 batches of cupcakes and 4 batches of frosting, I noticed that my KitchenAid Professional 6-quart mixer was showing signs of being on the fritz i.e. shaking more than it should at a speed of 2 and motor oil dribbling down the back. I choose not to panic. My husband and I have an agreement that if anything should ever happen to the stand mixer, we would promptly replace it. Whew. After a telephone consultation with my father (he seems to be able to fix absolutely anything), it sounds like something may be loose in the motor. I am now anxiously awaiting his arrival to see if this can be fixed before my next baking project.

Now to display these pink winter wonderland cupcakes, we (my sister-in-law and I) made a cupcake stand using three cake drums and two 4-inch high styrofoam dummies. We covered the drums in a white polk-a-dot wrapping paper, covered the edges in pink ribbon (just a smidgen too narrow for these drums unfortunately) and wrapped the dummies in pretty pink and brown paper that was also used for the invitations. I was quite happy with the overall display.

Stay tuned for an update on my KitchenAid and whether it will survive my next baking project...

Friday, November 04, 2011

A little leftover lemon goes a long way...

When life gives you lemons (leftover lemon swiss meringue buttercream to be exact), whip up a dozen lemon cupcakes! 

So I know that I said my next post was going to be snowflake cupcakes and I'm working on those tomorrow, but having some leftover buttercream necessitated some impromptu baking of lemon cupcakes. This is the same lemon layer cake recipe from Magnolia that I love. 

Just in case you ever wondered how much zest really does add to the overall flavour of baked goods, let me just tell you that it really is key in enhancing your citrus flavour. I was busy chatting with my sister-in-law while whipping up these cupcakes and noticed after I had filled my cupcake pan, that I forgot to put in the grated lemon zest. I decided to try to evenly distribute the teaspoonful of zest among the 12 cupcakes and stir the cupcake batter carefully in the cupcake tin. The pairing of the cake and lemon swiss meringue buttercream was perfect in flavour. The cake alone without the buttercream was a little lacking in the lemon intensity that I so love compared to when I have remembered to put the zest in! 

This was my first time using swiss meringue buttercream rather than icing sugar-based frosting on cupcakes. I used a 1M tip for the swirl. It seemed to give a very pretty, ruffled effect versus my usual swirl with frosting - it may be due to using more pressure than was needed for a fluffy buttercream but I liked the results. 

Next up...snowflake cupcakes...really.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dim Sum Anyone?

This weekend I made a dim sum themed cake for my mother's birthday. I had originally planned to make a pretty buttercream cake with meringue flowers but my brother had a great idea for a cake featuring dim sum. 

The cake itself is the Lemon Layer Cake from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I initially tried to make a lemon chiffon cake from the Culinary Institute of America for something different. A chiffon cake is supposed to have a strong structure like sponge cake except that it is more moist with more flavour. It involves making an egg yolk mixture and separately whipping the egg whites with sugar and then carefully folding the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. I found the yolk mixture to be a very odd, gooey texture. My egg whites whipped up just fine but I found it very difficult to fold the egg whites in. I must have not folded them in carefully enough as the results were very thin layers of cake that somehow baked in half the recommended time. I also found that the lemon flavour was not as prominent as the butter based cake from Magnolia, so back to my tried and true Magnolia recipe. 

I filled it with a lemon swiss meringue buttercream. I must admit that I tend to favour good old butter and icing sugar frosting (call me juvenile or unsophisticated perhaps). I decided to try a swiss meringue buttercream due to the lower sugar content (although a whole lot more butter!) This was my second time making swiss meringue buttercream. There are two potential tricky points - getting the egg white and sugar mixture nice and hot but being careful not to cook the egg whites, and adding in the butter. Apparently your buttercream can separate into a soupy mess when adding the butter. I have not had these problems yet. Apparently the soupy mess can be fixed by placing it in the fridge until cool and beating it at high speed until it comes together. I did have the problem of not paying attention and initially using my flat beater instead of my wire whip. After 10 minutes and still only getting soft peaks with my meringue, I realized my Kitchenaid attachment error. Ten more minutes with the whip attachment and it was fine! The results were very pleasant in flavour but I think I still like pairing the cake with frosting. 

The cake is covered in fondant and painted with gel paste colouring and vodka for the bamboo steamer basket. 

The har gow, siu mai and cha siu bao are all made from fondant and accented with gel paste and dusting sugar. 

Up next... Snowflake cupcakes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Welcome to Sweet-D Cakes!

Welcome to Sweet-D Cakes! I am Denise and I love to bake and decorate!

I am a full-time health care professional and I am currently completing an MSc part-time. I also sing with an opera chorus. I decided that with all my spare time, I should blog about my baking hobby!

I am relatively new to baking and decorating...well mostly the decorating part, having taken my first intro cake decorating course in November 2009. The rest of my 'training' has been from a melange of resources such as Youtube, general Google searches, and a few trusty (and pretty) books.

I hope you will join me as I turn to baking and decorating for fun, stress relief (most of the time!) and for pure, delicious indulgence.