Friday, August 31, 2012

Ask Me Anything - Post 11 - A Baking Special

Ask me anything is a series of posts where I answer any questions you may have about me. Cake decorating related or not :)

I've had a few baking related questions lately and this week I thought I'd round them up and ask an expert. The lovely Joanne who is a pastry chef by trade and works for me part time, has answered some of your questions below

Do you find that cakes baked with cake flour tend to be drier than those made with flour (or am I doing something wrong?) 

The main difference between cake flour and plain flour is their protein content. Cake flour has protein content between 7-9% while plain flour usually has protein content between 9-11%. The lower protein level in cake flour helps to produce more tender products with a denser texture, and it is usually milled to fine particle size to improve moisture absorbing properties. But different brands of cake flour have different quality in their moisture carrying ability. In general, cakes baked with cake flour will not be drier, considering a proper balance of quality ingredients, correct oven temperature and proper mixing methods are applied.

I find that my chocolate mud cake sinks in the middle after baking, why is that? Is it the recipe I am using or my oven? 

When a dense cake, like chocolate mud cake, sinks in the middle after baking, it is usually because the centre of the cake is not cooked through, so it will collapse when it cools. It usually requires a long baking time at a lower temperature, 150-160ÂșC, but everyone’s ovens are not the same so you will need to find out the optimum baking time with your oven. Also test the cake to see if it is completely cooked through – gently pressed the surface of the cake with fingers to test if it ‘springs back’, or insert a fine skewer into the centre of the cake and test if it is clean and dry when slowly withdrawn. If it does not come out completely clean, bake it a little longer than your recipe suggested. Also avoid incorporating too much air in the batter when mixing ingredients together. When your cake is removed from the oven, leave to cool in cake tin for 5-10 minutes, as a considerable amount of residual heat will continue the baking process, so baking is finished as the product cools for slightly under-baked cake (when removed from the oven).

When I bake my cupcakes…the cupcake wrapper comes off after its cooled down. I do grease it before baking, and have tried to let the cupcakes rest for 5 mins in the tray before taking them out. I have also tried to take them out straight away. Can you suggest what might be going wrong here? 

In general, cake tins/pans are greased before baking paper is lined so that the baked items are easily removed from the pans/tins. Greasing it before baking will usually make it harder for the cake to stick with the paper. I find cupcake wrapper will usually come off after it is cooled when cupcake batter is too greasy or wet. Also batter should be spread evenly, ensuring that it is fully extended to the bottom and into the corners of the cupcake wrappers. I always tap the cupcake pans on the kitchen table to let the batter settle in any spaces that are not filled properly so no air pockets are formed.

A little bit about Joanne...
Joanne graduated in 2010 from University of New South Wales with a combined degree in Bachelors of Commerce and Arts, and decided to follow her dream and passion for patisserie and sugar art instead of joining the corporate world. She completed Diplome de Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney while attending various sugar art workshops and working at various patisseries. Upon successful completion of Superior Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, she started to work as a junior pastry chef at The Restaurant Art Gallery of NSW. She eventually found her ultimate passion in sugar art. With her family and friends’ encouragement, she has recently set up an online business, Simple Ingredients and currently is very privileged to have such great opportunity to work at Sharon Wee Creations.

If you’d like to ask a question feel free to email me ( or send me a message through Facebook. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ask Me Anything - Post 10

Ask me anything is a series of posts where I answer any questions you may have about me. Cake decorating related or not :) 

I'm planning on making a fondant cake but I dont want to bake the cake itself. This is because I'm planning on making a cake for my son's baptism and with 3 kids I dont have the luxury of time to bake the cake. Is it possible to just use a store bought ready made cake at a grocery store or bakery and just cover it myself with fondant? If so what type of cake is best? Ganache covered or buttercream covered? 

In my humble opinion, if you don't have the time to bake there is nothing wrong with buying a pre-made cake from a grocery store or bakery and decorating it yourself. If you are using ganache, you'll want a cake that is slightly denser. If it's your first time doing this then I would suggest getting a cake similar to a butter cake density. If you are more confident you can get a lighter sponge cake. I personally would use ganache but you can also use buttercream if you prefer.

Could you please share some tips to deal with bubbles underneath and inside the fondant? sometimes i pop them after i've placed the fondant on the cake, but when the bubble deflates it leaves a dent mark which i can't smooth out very well. 

I use an acupuncture needle to remove any air bubbles from my cake. I find these don't leave a pin hole mark like normal needles do. If there is a dent mark after the bubble in gone, just use a piece of acetate (or clear plastic binding cover) and buff it away :)

Do you have some tips for inserting flowers (real and sugar) into cakes? i always worry the weight of my sugar flower will drag the wire down the side of the cake unless i rest the flower on the tier below, but i've seen some cakes where a big flower has been inserted about halfway up the tier and it seems fine just resting on nothing. Should the wire be straight or particularly long when you stick it in? 

With real flowers, you will need to make sure the florist has wrapped and prepared them for you correctly because you don't want any part of the stem or any sap to come in contact with the cake. Personally, I hardly have flowers floating between the tiers but if I do, I will make the wire a little longer or even thicker (by taping it with a skewer) before inserting it into the cake.

All my cakes are set up with ganache so they are pretty sturdy and are able to hold any wires or skewers inserted into it at any angle. But if you are dealing with softer cakes and butter cream, the safest way would be to assemble the flowers on site after the cake is set up.

Am just wondering exactly how your 3-4 tiered cakes can be so stable to be able to transport to specific venue?

My tiers are just stacked on top of each other with dowels and some royal icing to stick them together. Occasionally, if the cake is going a very long distance, I also set it up with a centre pole in the middle which acts like a spine for the cake. This should also be coupled with careful driving too!

If you’d like to ask a question feel free to email me ( or send me a message through Facebook. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The End of Holidays - I'm Back :)

They say you don't know what you've got until it's gone and I think it's true... don't we always want more? And when we have it, do we then crave for less?

Wayfarers Chapel in LA

I just got back from my holidays a couple of days ago and I must admit, although I love my job, it was extremely hard getting back into things, I was dragging my feet and day dreaming about still being in Barcelona where our biggest dilemma of the day was what to have for dinner.


Pork buns at Momofuku in New York.

The warm sun seems like a million years away and even though while I was burning to death in Barcelona and cursing the hot, humid weather and craving the cold winter in Sydney, I now am yearning for the hot sun again. Will I never be happy with with I have? It seems not.

We were away for a total of three and a half weeks and as you'd imagine the phrase 'time flies when you are having fun' was true too. It seemed to go by way too fast and although I miss the serene atmosphere of Yellowstone, the abundant chocolateries in Paris and the fresh orange juice in Barcelona, there is really no place like home. Excuse the clichĂ©!

The last time I was in Paris was nearly six years ago. My dessert taste buds were quite non-existent, meaning that I was quite happy eating cake from regular cafes, the grocery store, frozen desserts and even the occasional boxed cake mix. They were yummy! Paris seemed like a magical dessert land to me and the smells and colours sent me on a lovely sugar induced coma.

Now, six years later, I know my tastes have changed and I am fussier with the desserts I eat. I'd happily travel to my favourite patisseries for my sweet fix rather than just heading down to the grocery store. I no longer order anything with the word 'ganache' in it because I am surrounded by it on a weekly basis and don't have an appetite for it anymore (sad, I know). And I know the difference between compound and couverture chocolate and creme anglaise and creme patissiere.

I was so excited about heading back to Paris and was already dreaming of all the wonderful pastries and chocolates I was going to indulge on. Plus lots of my Facebook likers were also kind enough to recommend places to go.

Best ice cream in the whole world - Berthillon

I tried most of them, with the exception of the ones that were closed for their summer break (yes they close for 3 weeks!) or too far away. And I have come to realise that although they were extremely yummy and decadent, they were very much comparable to what can be found at some of my favourite places in Sydney (in my humble opinion!).

The macarons at Pierre Herme were the best I've had but Baroque at The Rocks comes really close. The cakes were works of art and delicious but if I dare say this, the ones at Patisse and Baroque were just the same if not better :)

I've realised that what we have in Sydney is really good too and it's only now that I truly appreciate it.

So what was the favourite part of my trip? Without a doubt - the inside of the Sagrada Familia. It was peaceful and an amazing work of architecture and use of vibrant colours. I won't tell you all about it because you can easily read the story behind it here.

Whether you are a believer or not, there is no doubt that when you walk in you'll feel like you're on top of the world.

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