Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 10 Cakes of 2011

As we approach the last hours of 2011 I thought it would be a nice trip down memory lane if I looked back at all the cakes I did this year and picked out my top 10 favourite ones. Much like how the news channels will do the 'year in summary' segment, I present to you my cake year in summary...


Number 10 - This 3D bear was created for teaching... I wanted to make something challenging and all out of cake. I can't wait to teach this next year :)

Number 9 - I just love the colours on this topper, it was based off the invite and is such a fresh approach to the traditional Noah's Ark theme.

Number 8 - This is one of my favourite wedding cake toppers. It's so cute and personalised. The couple both met while studying dentistry and I can only assume the bunnies represent a personal sentiment. So, so sweet :)

Number 7 - One of the grandest wedding cakes I made this year. I'm personally not a fan of gold but when this cake came together I absolutely loved it!

Number 6 - This cake is one of my favourite wedding cakes. I loved it so much I have it blown up on a canvas :)

Number 5 - Because I can't have a puppy, I decided to make one for my first entry into the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was just a bonus that I got second prize... I was very flattered!

Number 4 - One of my favourite kids cakes this year. This was made to match the invite and although the design was simple, I just loved how cute it was.

Number 3 - I'm pretty proud of the piping on this cake... mainly because it took me a good 6 hours + to pipe all that detail through a 00 tip. Ouch! It really taught me a thing or two about perseverance.



Number 2 - This cake is just so sweet, cute and romantic! I also think it best represents my caking style. I made so many of those birds this year but somehow I think they work best on this cake.

Number 1 - And finally... The last cake of the year and my current love :) Hours and days went into just the creations and colouring of the flowers. A blog post about the challenge of this cake is coming up soon.

That's it, my top 10! I had so many more I loved but I had to cut them all out or else this list would have been 3 times as long.

Hope you all are enjoying the last hours of 2011 and are as excited about 2012 as I am. There is so much I want to do and share with all of you. So for now, thank you for your continued support and enjoy ringing in the new year with some bubbly and yummy food!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate Spiced Fruit Cake Parcels

I'm not a fan of the traditional fruit cake. I'm not exactly sure why but perhaps it's the fact that it contains so much fruit, has those glazed cherries or is usually soaked in alcohol. And when I was younger the alcohol burned when I ate it so I think that never gave me a good impression.


So for all of you out there who are not fans of the fruit cakes during Christmas time, I came up with something similar... but different. Chocolate Spiced Fruit Cake. It's a rich chocolate mud cake with dried fruits folded into it and because of the chocolate, it doesn't really have a strong fruit flavour.  If you are not a fan of the dried fruit, you can always leave them out and perhaps use nuts instead. Although it will then be a Chocolate Spiced Nut Cake :)

I initially made a batch to cut, wrap and give away as little presents to my friends and suppliers but the boyfriend liked it so much he devoured about a third of it so I now don't have enough and will have to spend this weekend baking more.

On the plus side, he did suggest that a cinnamon whipped cream would go really well with it and oh boy... it was SO yummy!

Ingredients

Chocolate Spiced Fruit Cake (approx 10 servings, will fit an 8in square tin)
- 150g Dried Fruit (You can use your favourite dried fruits but I used 50g of cranberries, 50g of figs and 50g of raisins)
- 40ml of Brandy (if you are not a fan of alcohol, you can always just soak the fruit in a syrup made from jam and some water)
- 110g Butter
- 110g Dark Chocolate
- 70g Flour
- 70g Self Raising Flour
- 30g Coco Powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Bi-Carb Soda
- 200g Caster Sugar
- 3 teaspoon Oil
- 2 eggs
- 40ml thickened cream (you can use milk but cream was all I had the day I made this)
- 1 Tablespoon Mixed Spice

For Brushing
- 40ml Brandy
- 1 teaspoon Mixed Spice

Topping (optional)
- 50g Milk Chocolate
- 50g White Chocolate

Cinnamon Vanilla Cream
- 300ml cream
- 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste (optional, you can use vanilla essence instead)

Instructions

Chocolate Spiced Fruit Cake
1. Soak the dried fruit with the brandy over night or for a couple of hours. Until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
2. Preheat oven to 160 degrees and line the tin with baking paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together.
3. Sift the flours, spice, bi-carb soda and coco powder into a large bowl and add the sugar. This forms the dry mix.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, cream and oil.
5. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix and pour in the chocolate mix and egg mix. Using a whisk or a wooden spoon slowly start mixing by staring from the middle and going outwards.
6. Once the mix is incorporated, fold in the fruits and any leftover liquid.
7. Once the mix is in the tin, tap it against the table a few times to even everything out.
8. Bake for approx an hour or until a inserted skewer comes out relatively clean. Note that the skewer will not come out absolutely clean due to all the fruit in the cake.

Brushing
1. While the cake is still warm, poke lots of holes on through the cake with a skewer or fork.
2. Combine the spices and brandy and brush generously over the cake.

Topping
When the cake is completely cooled, place on top of a newspaper (with baking paper still underneath, this helps to contain the mess) and drizzle melted white and milk chocolate over the top. Allow it to set before cutting and wrapping.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cream
Whip cream until soft peak stage and then mix in the cinnamon and vanilla. Serve on the side or on top of a slice of cake!

For a really decadent option microwave the cake for 10 - 15 seconds and then serve with cream... yummm! 

Gift Idea
As a cute little gift idea, you can cut up little slices, place in a plastic bag and wrap with paper and ribbon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Challenging Yourself

Last week I faced was one of the most challenging weeks I have ever had. I should not have taken on the number of orders I had but somehow the little voice in my head kept telling me I would be able to do it (maybe I am a sucker for self inflicted stress!). And on top of all that I ran a four day intensive class during the week and another class on Saturday.

 Cake by students from the intensive class. To put you in the festive mood :)

 Cake by students from the intensive class. I just love this design!

The Sunday before, as I prepared for the storm I really did worry how I would get it all done. It was not a matter of not finishing (I knew I would finish) but more the matter of the amount of sleep I would have to sacrifice to get there. Oh dear...


At one point, my studio was packed to the brim with cakes - created by students as well as those for my weekly orders. Cakes, cakes everywhere! Not to mention trying to schedule the deliveries. Three of the cakes all had to be delivered to venues all over town before 10am. It's at times like this I wished I had my own delivery driver.

But you know what? As I now sit here and reflect on last week, I think the pressure and challange was just the right amount of fire up my bum I needed to get myself to move faster and be better. I realised what I thought would take me a long time to do based on past experiences actually did not. I managed to really push myself and I guess when you have no other choice, something inside yourself snaps and you somehow just move, move, move!


This reminds me of a really inspirational speech I watched on You Tube a couple of years ago. Chef Johnny Iuzzini of Jean Georges in New York was addressing the graduating class of 2008 from the Culinary Institute of America. The advice that stood out to me the most was to always push yourself to be better than the day before... and there is always someone behind you that can do your job better and faster than you. You can watch the full the speech below.


Since then, with things that I do on a regular basis - like ganaching, I always have a quick look at the clock and aim to do each cake faster than the one before. In the past, what would usually take me half an hour to do now only takes me about 10+ minutes.


Everyday is a new challenge and especially when you work for yourself, if you don't care to constantly push yourself to be better, no one will.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Penguin Obsession

As Christmas gets closer, I imagine families snuggling up by the fire, setting up their trees, rushing around like mad to buy presents and catching up with friends and families before the year comes to an end. Here in Sydney, it just gets hotter. Christmas and New Years is associated with the beach and summer and even though I have not had a white Christmas in the last 10 years, all I can think about when the holiday season rolls around is snow and all things cold.

I've recently been inspired by the penguins in David Attenborough's Frozen Planet. I love how they huddle around in a big mass, the super cute way they waddle around and how their arms are so much smaller than their bodies... but most of all I just love their general silly nature. I really wanted to make one out of cake! So to continue with my new penguin obsession, I watched Happy Feet to better understand the movement of these cute little penguins so I could give my cake some sort of personality.

Made to look like Mumble :) I just want to give him a hug!

Look at his cute little tail!

Happy Holidays Everyone! 
Thank you for your continued support, kind words and encouragement this year. May you be filled with lots of cheer, happiness and yummy food this season :)


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