Friday, 31 May 2013

Same same... But different!

So, today I'm feeling a slight bit repetitive since making lady beetle cupcakes last weekend, because today I finished making...

< pretend there's a drumroll and that you're waiting in eager anticipation
because can't see the photo that's posted right below >

Another lady beetle!

But, but, but! This one is totally different, because it's a giant lady beetle! :)

About a week ago, almost right after I planned out the lady beetle cupcakes, I funnily enough had a request from a friend to make a lady beetle cake for her daughter's party! I was so excited about this, because I'd already seen some ideas while I was searching the inter-webs for lady beetle cupcakes inspiration, and now I get to make one...

None had instructions, though, but as per usual, I took those ideas, visualised what the end result of my own version would look like, and then made it!

First I got a 9" vanilla cake and trimmed it to appear round. I covered it with an easy (but thicker than normal) buttercream icing, and then placed rolled red fondant on top:

I trimmed a smaller vanilla cake, (made in a ramekin), so that it was round as well, and so that it fit nicely when placed next to the bigger one.

The 'head' was tricky to both ice and spread fondant onto, but I managed somehow! Then once it was placed next to the body, I made an indent with the back of a knife along the middle of the lady beetle's body... With black fondant, a piping tip as my 'cutter', and some sugar glue, I made the spots and stuck them onto the beetle. She was almost completed, and I was already feeling very proud of my work.

With the same piping tip, I used each end to cut out the eyes, and stuck them on; and with a strip of white fondant, I made a smiling mouth:

With two small balls of black fondant, and some wire that I also used for the exploding star cake for my birthday, I made the lady beetle's antennae :)

I was almost done! It just needed a little bit more colour (and something to cover up the semi-dodgy job I did of the base of the body because I either hadn't rolled out the fondant wide enough, or because I didn't smooth it out properly and folded on top of itself... Green leaves it was!

To try and get the leaves to 'curl', I let them dry overnight inside a bowl, then in the morning, trimmed the bottoms so they would be flat against the cake board.

The leaves went on. I started at the back and worked my way to the front of the lady beetle... As the leaves were still a bit unset, I found various items to hold the leaves in place so they wouldn't droop down.

Once I was confident that the leaves were set in place, I sat and marvelled at the cake I had just made. I was super proud of how it turned out, considering it was the first time I had ever made one! I hope the birthday girl is just as impressed with it :)

Happy Birthday Maya!

I got worms...

Over the weekend, I mentioned that this term, a play group I attend is learning about bugs! ... Well, I volunteered for morning tea this week, and the 'bug' we're learning about is:


Slippery, slimy, wriggly worms.

I'd seen this online, probably via Pinterest, where you make up a jelly mixture and put it into straws to make worms... Well, I tried it and it totally failed! I tied the straws together, made the jelly mixture, even taped the bottom of the straws closed to try and keep the jelly inside the straws... But, it all came out the bottom, into the glass and the procedure ended up as a sticky, icky mess! So, what I did instead was pour the whole jelly mixture into a tall glass, in the hopes that possibly I would be able to stick straws into it (once it's set) and pull out some worms one by one...

In the meantime, I stuck with what I knew would work: CUPCAKES.

I figured that worms crawl through the dirt, so obviously I would start with dirt coloured (chocolate) cupcakes. I then got some sour worms, cut at various lengths, and poked them into the cupcakes that I had iced and dipped in crushed Oreo biscuits :)

After making these, I had a new idea for the jelly worms, on the probable cause that the jelly-in-the-glass idea wasn't going to work as I imagine... I made the jelly as per usual, placed straws into a baking tray, and covered them with the jelly, making sure the straws were filled... I used Strawberries & Cream flavoured jelly this time, figuring that it's more 'worm' coloured than 'tropical', and because I hadn't seen it before and thought "what a cool flavour!" :)

Be warned if you want to try them this way: It can be messy. Straws float, so you need to push them under the jelly, slide your finger along to get the air bubbles out, and then let go while they are still submerged to fill them up with jelly... Prepare for jelly to be over your fingers and perhaps even over your bench top.

Once the jelly was set, I took the straws out and gave them a rinse... Now I was just one step away from having edible jelly worms!!

But then it occurred to me:
I have no idea how to get them out of the straws!

I Google'd some ideas - one of which was to use a rolling pin over them to squeeze the jelly out... Cool, sure, so I tried that with a few straws, but it just smooshed over the jelly... Next I tried just using my fingertips to slide them out - which worked! But... I must have done something wrong in the process, because the jelly worms, that should have looked all nice and sealed, having the consistency and texture of a real worm, looked like this:

I concluded this to be a Pinterest failure, however I'd definitely love to hear from someone who has been successful in their jelly-straw-worm making!!

At least the cupcakes looked and tasted great.

I couldn't help but add this scene from Dumb & Dumber.
... Purely for the worm reference, and maybe also for a laugh :)

Did you know that:

- Worms produce approximately 4.5 kilos of "organic material" each year ;)
- Worms are the staple diet for many types of birds, snakes, hedgehogs & beetles, and are also eaten by mammals such as foxes & bears.
- Worms breathe through their skin.
- Worms have both male & female sex organs, and both worms produce children when they mate.
For more interesting worm facts, click here :)

Time to get a wriggle on and clean up my worm making mess! :)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Red Undies Week!

Did you know that 1 in 3 Australians over the age of 25 have an increased risk of kidney disease? Undetected, and untreated, kidney disease is a silent killer and kills more people each year than breast and prostate cancers do...

May 26th - 1st June is Kidney Health Week.

Well how about that... That's this week! :)

It is only from recent researching that I have become aware of kidney disease, and Kidney Health Week! A cheeky and fun way that has raised awareness, is by wearing red undies!

Naturally, because it is Kidney Health Week, I wanted to creatively share my new-found awareness by making something a little cheeky (and edible) myself... So, I made some shortbread people, wearing little (or as they say in Scotland: 'wee') red undies!

I dissected a kidney in my high school biology class once... Which is a pretty random and useless fact, unlike the Kidney & Urinary facts found on this page. It doesn't matter if you're a full brief, low rise, g-string or boxer kind of person - Kidney health is important! Learn and share this information to help raise awareness for kidney disease :)

Monday, 27 May 2013

H is for Hangry!

Hangry (han-gree) adj.
1. A state of anger caused by lack of food;
hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.

I'm not sure about you, but there have certainly been times in my life (just ask my husband!), when I am ridiculously hangry! So hangry, that I would easily eat in a similar fashion to this Sesame Street character, who is infamous for chomping down cookies like, well, a monster!

Thinking of Cookie Monster, and the state of being 'hangry', I thought I'd share with you the basic cookie recipe that I use quite often in my house. It is super simple, and will quickly cure any case of hangriness with a delicious bite... If you are so hangry that you simply cannot wait the 12 minutes for them to be cooked - that's alright! I've taste tested this recipe multiple times, and can happily inform you that it also tastes great straight out of the mixing bowl!


125g margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 3/4 cup self raising flour

Plus 1/2 - 1 cup of whatever you want to add to it!

1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees, and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, and vanilla essence.
3. Add the egg, and mix it thoroughly.
4. With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour until you have a nice, moist cookie dough consistency.
5. Add what you've chosen to add, and mix it in with the wooden spoon.
6. Place small round spoonfuls a few centimetres apart onto the baking tray, and bake for 12-15 minutes.
    - AND / OR -
Place those spoonfuls into your mouth.

Stuck for ideas of what to add to your cookie mixture? You could try:

- Chocolate chips (milk, dark, white, or a combination)
     Don't have chocolate chips handy? Why not crush up an Easter egg :)
- M 'n' Ms or Smarties
- Diced chocolate bars (e.g. Cherry Ripe, Mars, Kit Kat, etc.)
- Diced blocks of chocolate (e.g. Cadbury Black Forest, Rocky Road, Caramello, Crunchie, Turkish Delight etc.)

You can almost put in anything! Though, in my opinion, the best ones have some form of chocolate in them!

Happy Cookiiiee-ng :)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Lady bug-a-boo...

What is on the ground and 100 feet in the air??
A centipede on it's back !

What flies but tastes good on toast??
A butterfly !

If you're wondering why I've started with bug jokes, it's because at one of my play groups this term, we're learning about bugs! After a wave of creative ideas for lady beetles (which was coming up the next week), I rushed to volunteer to bring morning tea for it... I wanted / needed to practice making roses with buttercream icing, and thought I could easily make little fondant lady beetles to go on top of them for lady beetle day.

I was impressed that by simply changing my piping tip, making the roses was so easy! I used both ends of a round piping tip to make two different sized 'lady beetles' in red fondant, and a leaf cutter on green fondant to make the leaves. To decorate them, I used chocolate fudge frosting:


As these were made on the weekend of my birthday, I took the opportunity to photograph them on a pearly mirrored cake tier; and in front of a bunch of flowers - both of which I received for my birthday:

Where does a bee go to relieve itself?
A BP station !

Joke is on me, though, as I had read the play group calendar wrong, and we don't actually learn about lady beetles until a few weeks time!

But, I haven't really been one to put creative ideas on hold for even the smallest amount of time... So I made them as soon as I realised
I'd read the calendar wrong!

Which opens up more opportunities to be creative! Stay tuned :)

Friday, 24 May 2013

It's my birthday and I'll bake if I want to!

Today is my birthday :)

The loving man that my husband is made it quite clear the day before my birthday: I was not to bake a cake for it. He had plans to bake something special for me, and he's a pretty good baker (even if he doesn't then make cakes adequately pretty after baking them). He said that on my birthday, surely a husband was allowed to show love and consideration and make something for me, for a change...

But secretly I figured that he probably just wanted his cake on my blog.

Well, I was onto his game, and there'll be none of that.

If you've stalked my blog as extensively as, well, I have, then you'd not be surprised at what followed... One time he absolutely forbade me to bake cupcakes for a gig that he played at last year, so I baked over 200 just to show him that he doesn't own me! ... Or something like that ;)

Now, to be fair on myself - when he told me not to bake for my birthday, I'd already baked the two bottom halves and had the entire cake planned out in my head... It would have pink. It would have silver. It would have stars bursting forth like one of those aliens from those movies where the aliens burst out from people's stomachs. It would be the cake equivalent to the Fourth of July, even though we don't do that in Australia; and near where I live- if it's not fireworks in the middle of the night, it's people setting fire to cars...

Sometimes when I make cakes or cupcakes for people, and they don't know exactly what they want, I ask myself: "What would I want if I were them?" I asked myself this same question when making my cake, and though the answer in my head was "something awesome", I figured that my birthday was a good excuse (not that I need one anymore) to try new things and further develop the skills that I'd already been teaching myself...

Upon arriving home and seeing what I'd spent the day making, my husband concluded that however delicious his proposed flourless chocolate cake was going to be (and it is very delicious because I've had it before), it would have lacked the Nyan-cat star-background quality of...

"Exploding Cake 2013"

Here's a step-by-step of the exploding star cake-decorating process:

I had two 7" sized chocolate with pink swirl cakes put on top of each other with jam, and then cut out a 7" pink fondant circle and spread it on top.

After covering the cake with white fondant, I used my biggest star cookie cutter as a guide to cutting five sections that would curl upward and outward to show the pink that was underneath.

I cut out stars, stars, and more stars of all different sizes. Some were pink, some were white, and some more were white that I knew in advance I was going to paint silver. I separated ones that I would be putting on sticks to be part of the explosion... And cut out my age to be part of that as well - you only turn 28 once, after all :)

I carefully pulled back the five parts of the open star, and with some rolled up glad wrap and sugar glue, stuck the corners down over the glad wrap so that the fondant would keep its shape overnight. I then started attaching the pink stars to the outside of the cake.

After painting some white stars with (looks like nail polish, but isn't) silver edible paint, I attached them around the cake as well, including one in the middle of the top of the cake for the sticks to stick into to (hopefully) not look as messy as sticks out of just the pink... But, because I didn't try the latter, I have no idea how they compare!

Once the glad wrap was no longer needed, I cut the sticks to various lengths, and poked them into the silver star on top of the cake!

Ka-Boom! Exploding Star Cake:

Funnily enough, my beautiful friends surprised me with a birthday cake, cards, flowers, and singing, so I haven't had a chance to cut this one yet!

And as it sits waiting to be cut, I had an idea for some cupcakes, planned out in my head, and started measuring and mixing ingredients to make them...

My husband, bewildered by what he was seeing me do, right next to a <quote> 18 foot exploding cake that we haven't cut and eaten yet <un-quote> asked me: "Nat... Are you baking again!??"



To be continued...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I love, you love WATERMELON!

After arriving back from our holiday in America, we went to our family's farm in Jindabyne for a few days to recover from jet lag before starting real life again back at home and work. Within a day or two, we were reminded how lovely two weeks away from not having to worry about getting to school on time, making sure clothes are clean, rooms are tidy, arguing with those who refuse to eat their dinner but still insist they deserve dessert, and refereeing sibling quarrels was!

It was nice to be back, though, and as per usual, the drive back to Sydney included a stop off at the Lolly Shack in Cooma. It is at this very place that I had found my absolute new favourite lolly!! Each time we go there, I get these lollies, and each time, I have the intention to save them for cupcakes... But, each time they always rapidly disappear in the car before we make it home, and I don't get the chance!

Well, this time, I made sure they didn't all get eaten (perhaps buying twice the amount I usually do was the key), and made these watermelon cupcakes!

Pink cake batter sprinkled with chocolate chips*:

Covered with a layer of uncoloured buttercream icing:

Then green buttercream icing piped on top:

And a watermelon lolly to garnish!

Sliced in half, this is what they looked like :)

* Depending on how big/heavy they are, some chocolate chips just sink to the bottom of the cupcake as they bake... While these ones were light-ish, I still sprinkled them just to make sure.

Just needed to remind my children that this didn't count
as a serving of fruit! :)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

I like being a mum.

Mother's Day: A day that celebrates mothers and motherhood.

For some, it may be a sad day as they remember the loss of their own mother, or even the loss of a child... For many others, it is the one day of the year that makes this incredibly hard, tiring, stressful, repetitive, and constant job of raising children all worth it... Those 5-10 minutes in the morning of being appreciated for all that they do for their families!

I find it a great privilege to be a mother, but also an overwhelming responsibility, because not only do I need to be confident that my children are healthy, safe, and well looked after - but their future is almost completely in parents' hands! The opportunities we allow them to have, the ones we can't afford to give them; the education we try to make sure they get; the amount of technology they are or aren't exposed to; the way we talk to them; the way we discipline; the habits we allow or don't realise actually come from the parents; the routines we do or don't set up; the way we do or don't encourage them, etc, are all factors in who they will grow up to become... It is sometimes a scary thing!

As a stay-at-home mum, I am obviously the main carer for my children. I do honestly love having this role! It means, though, that my kids see a lot of me - which includes both the good, and the bad. There are so many things that I still need to work on in myself, even before children are thrown in to challenge me and keep me awake at night... The pressure to remain calm, consistent, rested, fair, loving, available, nurturing, encouraging, and to stay on top of the housework... Is a target that I don't just miss - I barely make it to the board!

The confrontation of my daughter screaming at her younger brother exactly the way that I would is just one example that reminds me that we are not perfect; our children are not perfect; the world is not perfect; and our own parents were not perfect, either...

In a generally thankless and assumed role of being a mother or housewife, it often takes just a simple "thank you" or "I love you" to brighten a day and feel appreciated for all that you do when it seems to go un-noticed... It is with this (simplicity) in mind, that I made some simple, -packet mix- chocolate mud cakes to share with my own mum this Mother's Day.

I also found a use for leftover Easter eggs (that didn't involve eating them)! I used them to curl up the sides of some pink & purple fondant flowers. When they were dry, I simply added a silver cachous to the middle of them:

Placed on top of the mini chocolate mud cakes (made in ramekins), I thought they brought out just the right amount of colour that was not too overwhelming... They were simply simple.

I'd like to thank my mum for the amazing gift for Mother's Day she gave me this year - one she may not have realised was so important to me and has actually been on top of my wish list for a while:

A sleep in.

I want to urge other mums out there to enjoy your children! They are such a blessing, and there are so many women who would love to have this huge, overwhelming, exhausting, thankless, but incredibly rewarding role of being a mother... Saying that, you are also you - and I may be generalising, but as mothers we don't often allow our own needs to be met before our family's... Rest is important, and so is having hobbies and some time out now and then to recharge, or to just get through a bad day!

On that note, I'm going to go and do some more baking! :p

Thursday, 9 May 2013

You know those times when...

1. You miss that prime opportunity to shower and do your hair in the morning because the kids woke up earlier than usual and / or because you spent the morning making icing and decorating cupcakes.

2. You get your toes and the bottom of your pants wet from walking through the grass in thongs on the way to drop your kids at school... Which means you needed to change (again!) when you got home.

4. Your 3-year-old refuses to change out of his dirty Ben 10 t-shirt, that he has on backwards, and that he's been wearing since yesterday afternoon...

5. You arrive at play group with the cupcakes you managed to ice earlier in the morning, to find out someone had already volunteered to provide morning tea... And brought cupcakes.

6. You get out your keys to open the front door, realising that you were meant to go to the shops on the way home, and if you went now, you'd miss that prime opportunity for your 3-year-old to have a 'rest'.

7. On the way home from school, the librarian chases you from the school gate, because you've left your 3-year-old behind while you started to walk home without him.

8. You go to the bedroom in order to calm down from being cranky at your children during the madness of 5-6pm... You download and start playing Candy Crush Saga to see what the big deal is with everyone getting so frustrated on Facebook about it. You find it actually pretty fun, and not as bad as you'd believed to think.

9. Until you fail a level 3 times, and are told that you now have to wait 20 minutes until you can retry the damn thing.

10. You realise that you hadn't taken any meat out for dinner, so had to come up with a quick plan that doesn't involve going to the shops with the kids that you may still be cranky with...

11. You are so relieved when your husband comes home, offers to cooks the made-up dinner you didn't have time to make because you got carried away playing the candy game, and gets the kids ready for bed while you write a blog post...

12. You imagine yourself the lucky winner for Mother of the Year, purely for leaving your youngest child at school while you started walking home.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

So I got a little bored / impatient / creative today...

This morning I was asked if I'd be able to make a two tiered wonky cake for a friend's 30th in a couple of months! Wow. What a great pleasure that will be. Not only was I a bit chuffed that she thought of me to make it, but I was also a bit nervous, because cupcakes are the main things I make! The cakes I made over the weekend for church were seriously the first big cakes that I'd made and covered with fondant! ... Like ever!

I googled and YouTube'd a few things relating to what she wanted, and became really excited about making this big cake for my friend (what it is will stay a secret until that post)!! I could visualise me making it, and, of course, it turns out perfectly without any flaws :)

But just to be on the safe side, I should probably get some practice in making a tiered cake first! I decided that I would attempt one for my birthday which is later this month... Which will give me time to shop for ingredients, and try a design or two with fondant, and still time to tweak

Then, I looked through some more pictures, and instantly forgot that I was supposed to wait! ... And I made a cake.

I got out a small round tin, and a ramekin and baked a chocolate cake! Using strawberry jam (as another friend suggested I do with the church cakes over the weekend), I attached the white fondant and spread it on. In my mind, I had warm coloured fondant flowers all around the cake, and the same coloured M 'n' Ms to go in between the tiers... Which worked out well, because I had plenty of them left over! (or was that the reason I chose those colours?)

With the cakes covered, I made royal icing to attach the M 'n' Ms, and to also cover the rough gaps where the cake tiers joined (I think covering the cakes before they're attached might be a better way to try next time). I was still happy with the way that it looked so far, and I knew that I'd be able to cover up at least most of the flaws!

With the line of royal icing, I placed the M 'n' Ms around, one by one, in pattern... Which then didn't leave that much room to have flowers all around as I'd imagined, so I decided to just put one flower (made with all the colours) on top:

I thought this was a nice, simple cake, without being too busy
with colours or patterns.
A good start to practicing with tiers!

Then in walked my husband home from work, confused, and wondering why I had randomly made this cake as he believed I was waiting until my birthday to make a 'trial'! ... Oops. Got a bit carried away!

He then suggested he could take it into work tomorrow for his colleagues... Phew! I really hadn't thought of what would happen with it once I'd finished.

Just another reason why I love him :)