Friday, 31 October 2014

A tissue, a tissue!!

This year for Halloween, considering a busy day and a wedding cake to make the very next day, I was told by Husband not to bake anything. I know he had my best interests at heart when he said that we were going to do it really simple this year - to buy a few packets of lollies or chocolates, and hand them out as they are. No fancy shmancy, time-consuming, insanity-provoking Halloween biscuits like last year!

So, I did what he asked. I went to the shops, and bought some lollipops to hand out to this year's Trick or Treaters. I was prepared a whole week in advance, which is unusually organised for me, and something you can't really do with baked goods.

But, lollipops by themselves are a bit boring... ;)

I wanted to be creative!

As one does for inspiration, I looked up what I could do with lollipops on the internet, and found a really cheap way of transforming them all into something cute and memorable.

I made ghost pops!

I did this all last weekend, so that it was all sorted and Husband wouldn't get all "I told you not to go crazy!" I promise I didn't! All I needed were the lollipops, a box of tissues, some rubber bands, and a texta.

When he had seen what I'd done, he suddenly claimed that he said that he didn't want me making anything. Um, hello?! That's not fair!! Plus, it had already been done, and it would be more work taking them all apart to be back to boring lollipops, anyway :p

Who 'ya gonna call?

Maybe next time I'll try adding arms, as "The Scream" artwork by Edvard Munch was all I was envisioning after drawing eyes and mouths on so many lollipops!

And I've never really been one to decorate my house for Halloween (heck, we don't even decorate it for Christmas!), but since it was a last minute decision <cough-idea-I-found-on-the-internet-cough> I didn't go too crazy... Just a few orange balloons, some green curly ribbon, and that texta again, to make pumpkins to hang up outside :)

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A carton of roses.

Roses can be red, or white, or yellow, or blue.
These ones are me practicing for when they say "I do."
Last weekend, I wanted to start practicing making fondant roses for an upcoming wedding cake. The bride assured me that she did not mind whether the roses on top of the cake she asked me to make were edible or fake, but I really wanted to give real ones a shot!

As I usually do, I went straight to YouTube to search some tutorials on how to make these. And I was surprised at how easy they were!

I found two that I really liked (though, after watching them both, I didn't feel I needed to watch any more!). They were both very well explained, but the technique I used for my very first practice roses, was taken from the video I've added below, of a guy who uses only his hands, (i.e. no cutters, rolling pins, or fancy tools!) to make them:

As I mentioned at the top of this post, I was so surprised at how easy they were! I'd been delaying and delaying attempting to make real flowers out of fondant, because I wasn't sure how I'd cope with the crushing reality of failure.

But, since I was happy with how well they worked out, I am sharing them with you, along with where I learnt how to make them :)

Why not try making them yourself?
If you don't have fondant, I'm sure play dough
or maybe even blu tac would work!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Go. Gather. Give. Grow!

At our church, we've started an annual tradition: Whenever church celebrates a birthday, I make a cake. The 'birthday' of church is recognised by the month we launched in a new building.

As with any that I make, each year, the church birthday cake is thought out with much strategy and planning, and occasional craziness.

The first birthday cake was a number #1 (for obvious reasons), marbled with blue and green cake inside, and decorated with chocolate & white icing, and blue & green M 'n' Ms. Heads up: blue, green, black/chocolate and white are recurring colours in this post!

The second birthday cake was actually two cakes. One blue inside, one green inside, and both having the church logo on top (made with M 'n' Ms) and coloured fondant 'ribbon' around the bases. These were the first big cakes I'd attempted to cover in fondant! A great excuse to try and learn new things.

Earlier this year in May, Ropes Crossing Church celebrated it's 3rd birthday. Over the years, my baking and cake decorating skills may have developed and improved, but I still wanted to use this opportunity to practice new techniques (and what better time to do that, right?).

Well, in my planning for this cake, it also turned into multiple cakes! I wanted to do something that I've missed on the previous two birthdays - include the mission statement, which is to:
Go with the good news of Jesus.
(Matthew 28:18-20)

Gather people to Jesus by the Word of God.
(Luke 8:19-21)

See people give their lives to Jesus in worship and service.
(Titus 2:11-14)

Grow God's kingdom locally to maturity in Jesus.
(Colossians 1:28)

Husband suggested that I have 4 cakes, with each part of the mission statement on each cake. But that wouldn't work, because that would mean four cakes!! And that does not match. There needed to be just three cakes for a third birthday! (a good idea for next year's cakes, though!)

Since the RCC logo is square, the cakes were going to be square. That much was sorted. I then decided that on one of the tiers, each part of the mission statement would wrap around each side of the cake.

One thing I did want to try and learn, was ruffles. Except, I wanted to learn them the lazy way - so when I found a tutorial for ruffles using buttercream, I was so happy! Hehe. The rest I just made up as I went along - some ribbon here, some royal icing there, and the buttercream everywhere else...

The cakes, as they were stacked, also (in my mind) symbolised the growth of the church, with each tier (and each year of church) getting bigger and bigger :)

And here it is all set up on the table at the birthday party, ready to be cut and eaten. This time, though, I did go with Husband's suggestion of making it chocolate, his favourite.

So I know it's late, but...


Saturday, 25 October 2014

A shagadelic mistake!

When someone asks if I can make them a cake, I assume they aren't expecting the long list of questions that I immediately line up in my head. Questions about size, colour, flavour, theme, etc, that help give me direction of what they want.

It sometimes feels weird to ask so many questions, but I assure you... If it feels like I am interrogating you about cake, it's because I want to make sure I make it exactly the way you want. There's the occasional crazy person who has no expectations and allows creative freedom to make whatever I want, but generally, the more specific the information I can get is, then the closer I can be to making it right.

So far, I haven't yet had a cake make it to the hall of fame on "cake fails", but this one I'm about to show you would probably be the closest (in regards to appropriateness, I suppose). Because, for a boy's first birthday... I accidentally made... a shag mobile.

Basically, the lady who wanted a cake [my friend's neighbour - my friend being the back and forth messenger of the equation] said that she wanted a car cake, but when I asked the 'colour' question... I was told "Oh... Colourful"... Which isn't really specific enough!

Along with the car cake, I was asked to make a few cupcakes, too. Perhaps I'll start with those. I'd made car toppers which were simple white flowers, cut in half and trimmed to resemble (I hoped) a VW bug, as that's what the shape of the big car was going to be like. Since the toppers were white, I made the buttercream "colourful" to match that theme.

Which brings me to the cake part.

Basically, I wanted to try a new technique that I'd seen online somewhere, of polka dot fondant, as I figured that polka dot would be the easiest way to get a lot of colours into one piece of fondant (and because the cupcakes were round - and I'm weird like that).

However, the polka dots didn't blend with the fondant (like, at all), so when I picked it up to put onto the cake, the circle colours fell right out! A bit upset that it failed so badly, I squished it all up and moulded it all into a giant ball, wondering how else I would make the car colourful.

In walks Husband and sees me crankily kneading this mound of failed fondant and said "Hey, that's a cool effect"

Wait, what... Really?

So I went along with this new plan, rolled out some more 'colourful' and 'marbled' fondant, trimmed it, and put it onto the cake. I didn't have time to try and make the polka dot idea again, anyway...

I was unsure of it's potential to actually look like a car, until I added a windscreen and headlights. There were some parts that I needed to cover up, which I did with more marbled fondant - one of which accidentally looked like a slice of watermelon... You'll see.

Sadly, despite my attempts to make it look like a normal car, it was already resembling a prop taken straight out of an Austin Powers movie. Perhaps it will make a "Pimp my ride" hall of fame instead.

I put the birthday boy's name on the number plate, not "0-BHVE" or "SHG-U-L8R", because that would be purposely going beyond what's appropriate for a first birthday party!

And, since the cupcakes all had "1" on them, I added the same thing to the sides of the car cake, too. The final pieces were wagon wheels for the wheels :)

Happy birthday Riley!

I hope that your parents either didn't recognise/connect what I thought the cake looked like; or, don't bring this up in 20 years on your 21st that someone accidentally made you a shag mobile for your very first birthday cake.

Because it would be really awkward explaining what that is, and who Austin Powers is, to someone who doesn't know who he is!

And who throws a cupcake? ... Honestly.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Cruisin' away...

Following on from my last post, our family have recently been on a cruise! It was an interesting experience, and I think the only thing that could have made it more relaxing... is not taking the kids with us.

It was Tamara's birthday while we were away cruising, and even though we had a little cake as dessert that night, we celebrated properly with family over the weekend after returning from our cruise, and, as per my tradition (and many other parents'), I like to make life harder for myself, so asked her what kind of baked treats she'd like me to make for her to take into her class on Monday to share with them for her birthday.

Of course, as we'd just been on a cruise, she asked for cruise biscuits.

After calling around and visiting the local cake shops I knew of, I came home concluding that cruise ship cookie cutters are not as popular as cars, eiffel towers and monkeys, so I needed to improvise with what I had at home!

I rummaged through the cutters that I already had, and found one that would work! It was my cupcake cutter, and this was how I did it:

To decorate them all, I used melted chocolate and royal icing.

If you look closely enough, it says "Carnival Legend" on them all. It takes time to become fluent in  the language of melted chocolate, so you'll just have to believe me ;)

Once you cut, bake, and decorate 30+ of these, the font does become slightly more squiggled, but it still says Carnival Legend, I promise. They're a fair bit less realistic than the cake I'd made for Tamara's birthday, that's for sure!

I placed them neatly onto a tray for easy transport to school. Tamara said that her class loved them, and the office staff asked where theirs were!

I didn't want to admit that I accidentally, uh, had them for breakfast... :o

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The day we all ate sand!

It's been a little while (again) since I've blogged. You know how it is, though... Life happens, kids happen, occasionally some cleaning happens, and then suddenly like a cloud of fog in the middle of an illusion show, days and weeks have disappeared and you sit there, staring in shock, wondering how the heck that possibly happened.

Last week, my family and I got back from a wonderful 10 day family cruise holiday to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. It was great to be away and experience new things, and it was also nice to come back home and be in familiar environments again, with enough space to misplace items in an entire house, instead of just one room.

We came back and charged like an angry cow headfirst into a busy weekend, though, without much time spare to do things like reminisce over photos, and sleep in until 9:30am. By the end of the weekend, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, we realised how much we had appreciated the calm pace of life, everything being done for us, and not having to race from one commitment to the next (or cook, or clean, or remember to get bread and milk from the shop).

While we were away, our daughter had her 10th birthday! So also when we got back, I did what I always do whenever there's a birthday...

I made a cake!

Tamara wanted a beach/island themed cake, so I made a simple (trust me, it could have been difficult!) cake, with a blue base (to represent the water), and an island on top. I also made some frangipani flowers with fondant (to see if I could), which only as I was decorating the cake, I decided where they would go.

This is what it looked like!

For the sand (as many people have asked), I used brown sugar mixed with caster sugar (to make it lighter and more realistic). Once the cake was covered in the blue fondant, I piped a mound of buttercream on top of the cake, and then patted the sugar mix onto it. Using a chopstick, I drew a heart on the top.

The palm tree was just printed out, taped onto wire, and stuck in - the easiest part of the cake! Lastly, I arranged the 10 frangipanis 'around' the 'island' :)

It was encouraging that I needed to assure my family that I did not use real sand, and that this 'sand' could be eaten!! Perhaps it was a bit too realistic after all... But it was loved and enjoyed, and that makes me smile.

Happy 10th birthday Tamara!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


I remember a surprise party that was thrown for my mum's 50th (about 10 years ago). It was at my aunty's house, but I can't remember if my mother guessed the plan for it or not. I remember her at least looking surprised as we walked through my aunt's house, and into her backyard to see it full of family and friends, with one of those foil "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" signs along the fence, and a few balloons tied to the washing line and trees... Saying that, my dad was pretty good at looking surprised when he was given more socks and undies for Christmas each year.

Thinking about it now, it was clearly a party thrown before Pinterest devoured attention spans and before the internet flooded our minds with amazing party decorations, themed set-ups, and cakes that weren't fruit flans, pavlova, or made of ice cream.

But it was a party, and there was cake (at least I think/hope there was cake)!

A few weeks ago, my neighbour was busy organising a surprise party for her mum's 50th! Plans were falling into place, and items were being checked off the to-do list. It was three days before the party, though, when she realised that she hadn't ordered the cake!!

In a panic, she came to me asking if I was back from my break from baking (which she referred to as a "strike"). I said that I was, and that I was happy to help! With a huge sigh of relief, she asked for a "50" cake, decorated in a similar way to the way I decorated this rainbow cake earlier in the year.

So not only was I thrilled to be able to help out a friend in her desperate need to have a cake in time for her mum's party, I could finally re-attempt this style of cake and practice my technique! Brilliant :)

It was a cake that I did not stress about. At all! It was so strange - obviously time away from baking allowed me to regain a sense of calm again. I did my planning, bought my ingredients, and began to make the cake.

First, it needed to be baked. A big "5", and a big "0". I had purchased a big cake board for the cakes to go onto, but will admit that I spent more time staring at the board wondering how I was going to transfer two cakes onto it, than I actually doing something with it...

The cake shop lady suggested that I covered both cakes while they were on the board, but I'm not very good at listening to advice when I already have an idea in mind. Instead, I covered what I thought to be the trickiest cake to cover (the "5") on the board, and then transferred an uncovered "0" onto the board, and covered it on the board.

The "0" was so much harder, by the way! As you might be able to see, I covered the 5 in sections, because thankfully, the style of cake allowed for mistakes in the fondant to be covered with royal icing, and I purposefully attended to those parts first.

With Husband's help guiding the cake, I basically slid it off the baking paper that it was on (with a chopping board or something similarly firm underneath, onto where it needed to be on the big cake board.

Now you're then going to have to imagine that I'm not a forgetful person, and that I did actually take photos of the un-iced 5 and 0 together, along with each colour of royal icing.

Suddenly and accidentally, here's what it looked like:

As I didn't cover the board in glad wrap (I even thought of foil at one stage), I took a few minutes after each colour to wipe away the excess icing that dropped onto the board (a chopstick came in handy for the hard-to-reach places!)... I also allowed the royal icing to 'set' a bit before adding the next colour, so that the colours didn't mix into one another - something that I'd learned from the previous rainbow cake, and that made a huge difference having a chance to try it again.

After adding each colour at a time, and cleaning up after myself as I went, the cake was looking pretty colourful! Once I was happy with the amount of icing, I added the remaining touches, which were birthday wishes (in rainbow colours, of course), stars (in matching colours), and ribbons around the base of each number, which were colours chosen by my neighbour.

Happy birthday Janet!!
I hope your daughter surprised you successfully :)