Posts Tagged 'buttercream'

Cupcake decorating class @ my favorite store!

I am incredibly lucky. My parents hold a strong belief in education and its value in changing one’s life for the better. Regardless of what we wanted to do in life, my dad was always keen to support our further education. And unlike many of my uni mates, I came out of a degree with no debt thanks to my kind and long-suffering parents.

To this day, my brother and I continue to further our education. My brother has chosen the path of hard work and crazy hours to complete some incredible qualifications, while I have chosen the path of sugar and baked goods to get some better looking products coming out of the Pig Palace kitchen! As Mom says, whatever floats our boats…

When we first moved into the UK edition of the Pig Palace (Pig Mansions), I was keen to teach myself how to make things. When put to the test, I think we humans have the capability to learn anything. I managed to teach myself how to make sushi rolls, but there was one skill that continued to elude me: working with fondant/sugar paste/plastic icing. I came home one day with a packet of blue fondant and a manky old sponge cake, and told Frank that I was going to teach myself to cover sponge like a master. When looking at the disastrous result, Frank couldn’t keep the laughter out of his voice (and he is normally very good at keeping a straight face), it looked utterly ridiculous. We took a photo, and when I find it I will post it for you all to have a good chuckle over. I think sometimes we have to admit defeat and call for professional help.

My board, ready to go

And cue the Essential Ingredient!! As I spend many a free hour in this store, I noticed they had cupcake decorating classes. As the classes work with fondant, I thought I’d sign up and get rid of the mystery of fondant. As the class books up quickly I had to wait over a month to get stuck in! As yesterday dawned I eagerly packed my apron (not the fake Masterchef one, Boss-man said that might come across as slightly arrogant…) and my camera and hit the road.

leaves, shells and stars - practice run only!

Arriving at the store I was welcomed into the classroom by Sandra, the fondant guru. Our tables were layed out with three un-iced cupcakes, piping bags and lots of little tools. As I was early I whipped out the camera and started setting up so I wouldn’t miss a thing – until I realised I hadn’t put the card in the camera. And I had no spares. So all the photos on this post were taken with my new devil-phone (still getting used to the “smart” phone, I am resisting technology) and aren’t of the same quality as normal.

cupcake no. 1, buttercream swirl

Sandra showed us the way with buttercream, taught us how to cover cupcakes with fondant, how to colour fondant and how to pipe leaves and letters. For a 2-hour-long class I learned all the skills I was looking to master, and it left me wanting to learn more. Sandra was a fantastic teacher and made everything look simple.

cupcake no. 2, leaves

AND I came away with a mini piping set and three rather snazzy-looking cakes! (Which were promptly consumed by my defacto niece. She loved the flowers though, a girl after my own heart)

cupcake no. 3, the Sophie special!

Wanting advice on a cake I was making for Ferret’s birthday, I was guided by Sandra after the class to the decorating isle and given lots of good advice (and I spent lots of money on fun decorating thing). If you’re looking to learn the basics of buttercream and fondant, I would highly recommend this class. It is great for rookies and intermediates alike!

Details of all classes can be found and booked on their website.

The Essential Ingredient
731-735 Darling Street
NSW 2039

Tel: (02) 9555 8300


What’s this daaaal? Sponge cake…

Hi, my name is Loll, and I’m a foodaholic.

Whether cooking it or eating it, I think about food all the time. Even if I don’t get to eat the final product, I am happy to spend the entire evening in the kitchen baking or cooking something. I’ve gotten to the point where I respond to my boss asking how I am with “I made fresh pasta last night!” I brought in so many treats to work at one stage (as Frank gets bombarded with them and sometimes needs a break) that my colleagues asked me politely to no longer bring in sugary things! At first I thought I was normal, but when I realised that not everyone shares the love of food *shock*horror* I thought I’d jot down how bad my addition’s become. So here is my freshly penned list –

10 signs you are a foodaholic:

1. you read recipe books before bed
2. you have a big pile of recipe books next to your bed; along with in your kitchen, your lounge and your dining room
3. you spend 20 mins buying your winter clothes (including trying them on), but an hour and a half shopping for lemon curd jars in your local food store
4. you can’t wait to get a new fancy Google phone so you can read food blogs on the way to and from work
5. you plan meals in advance, for example planning Christmas lunch in June (oh yes!)
6. you can’t wait to see a new city as you get to sample new food stores and restaurants
7. you rate how good your weekend was by the amount of cooking/eating you managed to squeeze in
8. when you aren’t thinking about food you’re talking/writing about/eating it
9. you can’t have the same meal for more than one night, unless of course you want to spend more time baking and just heat up leftovers…
10. you go as crazy when you see a well-known chef as other people would when they see Brad Pitt

To point no. 10 Frank asks “what well-known chef have you seen?” First of all, I really should be seeing more well-known chefs. But for now I will bask in the glow of my beautiful friend Mrs Swede, who is not only the most incredible chef I have the joy of knowing, but really should be famous as at least one person aspires to cook like her (me of course!). Secondly, I have seen James Martin. From a distance. In a department store in London. I ran back to my office shouting “you’ll never guess who I saw? James Martin!” to have people ask “WHO?” in return…

It is Ferret’s birthday on a few Sundays time, and she has requested that I make her a sponge cake. As simple as it sounds, I have never made a sponge cake properly and I really want to get it right for her. Ferret and Pistol are great tasters as they always say lovely things about my food, so I want to make her something super delicious in return!
As it is Frank’s birthday next week, I decided that I’d test out the sponge recipe I found this week to avoid too many baked goods going out in one lot. Beets (my mum) always said that you put your mood into your food, so despite melting the butter while attempting to get it to room temperature, I was fairly chipper. Low and behold it worked! The sponges were fluffy and delicious, I didn’t drop either of them on the floor, and I managed to get the filling in with no drama. And what was the filling you ask? It’s a secret. I don’t want Ferret to read this and spoil the surprize, so I have given you the recipe with the regular filling, and will display Ferret’s cake when her special day arrives!

P.S. The colleagues loved it when I took it into work, it disappeared by mid-day…
Victoria Sandwich – recipe from BBC Good Food website, again…

200g castor sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs , beaten
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk

100g butter , softened
140g icing sugar , sifted
drop vanilla extract (optional)
340g jar good-quality strawberry jam

icing sugar , to decorate

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking paper. In a large bowl, beat all the cake ingredients together until you have a smooth, soft batter.

Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon, then bake for about 20 mins until golden and the cake springs back when pressed. Turn onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the filling, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in icing sugar. Beat in vanilla extract if you’re using it. Spread the butter cream (mine is blue, for fun!) over the bottom of one of the sponges, top it with jam and sandwich the second sponge on top. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving. Keep in an airtight container and eat within 2 days.

Seasonal cupcakes

On a good day I quite fancy myself as an accurate predictor of baby gender. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, Beets had a dream that she was having a girl, and therefore I told my sister-in-law throughout her pregnancy that she was having a girl. And what do you know, I was right! So, guessing correcting, I did the required “I told you so” dance. Of course I am in Sydney and they are in London, so it didn’t have the same effect.

Next up was LL. I was convinced that she was having a girl, despite what everyone else said. I was right before, so of course I was going to be right again! She had a boy, and I was wrong. I was running on a 50/50 tally, which didn’t stop me from believing I could predict genders. My latest prediction was for Frank’s sister: I said “girl” again, and when she went into labour this morning I decided I was going to make her cupcakes to have in the hospital. But what colour to ice the cakes? I wisely asked Frank if he wanted to change his prediction to a girl, and if he thought I should ice the cupcakes pink. His response was: “ice them pink, and if you’re right you get to gloat tomorrow when we go in, and if you’re wrong we get to laugh at you.” Just before I was due to make the icing this evening we received a call from Mama C telling us that TW has just had a baby boy. And as sad as I am that I was wrong AGAIN, I am very overjoyed that little JTW is here safely, and that I hadn’t iced the cupcakes pink!

As citrus fruit is in season at the moment, and I have an abundance of the little darlings in my dining room, I thought I would make some orange and lemon cupcakes.  I picked up some orange blossom water while on a shopping spree with Mama C, and was keen to try it. Proud Daddy MW loves any cupcakes I make, so I thought I’d give it a go and no matter what I would have an appreciative audience!

As a base, I used my ever-faithful vanilla cupcake recipe. I left out the vanilla, and added in the zest of two of Papa C’s navel oranges and a tablespoon of the juice.  Once baked and cooled, I used an apple-corer to take out a little bit of the centre of each cake. A knife is normally recommended to hollow out cakes for filling, but I didn’t want to add too much filling so I only made small hollows. Once hollowed, I filled each cupcake with a spoonful of freshly made lemon curd and popped the top back on. I then make some buttercream icing with orange juice and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water, and tinted it blue. Lastly I used a big star tip to ice buttercream swirls on top of the cakes.

I made 13 cupcakes, as I needed my honest-oppinion-giver to give it a taste test before I inflicted it on the family. I believe his response was: “mumble mumble mumble” *swallow mouthful of cake* “you done good.”

Seasonal cupcakes – adapted from basic cupcakes in “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
rind of two oranges
1 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk the rest of the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Hollow out with a knife, fill with lemon curd and put the tops back on.

Orange blossom buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1.5 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp orange juice

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used royal blue colouring)

Ladybugs and cupcakes

I think I might be slightly crazy. And with the amount of cursing and mumbling coming out of the Pig Palace kitchen today, Frank agrees. As I was humming “I am a woman, on a mission”, I began the ambitious task of making two chocolate gateaux cakes (one with buttercream icing, and one with ganache), one batch of muffin-sized cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes. All in a morning. And why, I hear you ask? It is birthday weekend of course!

In January I volunteered to make a cake for Frank’s beautiful niece for her 6th birthday. As D-day (or shall I say B-day… ;)) is tomorrow, I gave her the option two weeks ago of choosing what themed cake she would like. With dread in my stomach I suspected she’ll ask for a Barbie cake (as this is all I wanted as a kid), but much to my relief she has requested a ladybug cake. PHEW. As the cake is being baked for a party, I have added some cupcakes to go with the ladybug to feed all the hungry little mouths.

For some reason, I seemed to have forgotten to bring my baking mojo into the kitchen this morning. In the course of the day I dropped cakes on the floor, I threw icing on the walls, I shut a Tupperware container straight onto the buttercream swirls of the cupcakes, and I dropped my new piping set from a dizzy height so that all the new nozzles migrates to places I’ll only discover in a year. When I drop something else.

First up: the cupcakes and mini-cupcakes.

I used my favorite recipe that got me into loving cupcakes in the first place. I made 1.5 batches, and this amount made 12 chocolate-y cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes.

For some reason the cakes pulled away from their cases as soon as they were taken out the oven, so in a McGyver moment  I tied a little pink ribbon on each of them to hold them in place.

I iced the cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, stuck a slice of marshmallow on top, and iced letters on top of the marshmallow. With the mini-cupcakes I simply piped a buttercream swirl and added some sprinkles. Just in case you wondered, Frank’s niece loves pink!

cupcakes with lettering

mini-cupcakes with buttercream swirls

Next up: the gateaux cake. I needed to make it into the shape of a ladybug, but last time I used a normal round tin the ladybug looked a bit sad. After doing a bit of research I decided to use my metal mixing bowl instead, which turned out rather well if I may say so myself! (I also got some great advice from the staff at The Essential Ingredient to line my bowl so the cake actually comes out)

I iced the ladybug with the same vanilla buttercream, used slices of marshmallows for the eyes, and licorice laces for the legs and lines on it’s back. For the final touch I added some edible glitter, and now it’s the fanciest ladybug around!

Ta daaaah!

The ladybug doesn’t have its feelers or legs yet, those will come tomorrow when it’s set up at the party. The big challenge will be tomorrow, when Frank and I have to get across Sydney with a cake, 12 cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes on my lap!

And what happened to the cake with chocolate ganache icing? That is for Frank’s Mom’s birthday on Monday. I’ll be icing the cake tomorrow night so stay tuned for some more photos…

Chocolate Cupcakes – recipe from “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

3/4 cup self-raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour, cocoa powder and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk all the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Vanilla buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used rose pink and licorice colouring)

Chocolate gateaux cake – recipe from BBC Good Food website

200g good quality dark chocolate , about 60% cocoa solids
200g butter , cut in pieces
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp)
grated chocolate or curls, to decorate

Butter a 20cm round cake tin and line the base. Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Tip in the butter, then mix the coffee granules into 125ml/4fl oz cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted – don’t overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
While the chocolate is melting, mix the two flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.
Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes – if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin (don’t worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

P.S. Below is a photo of the finished Ladybug with her legs and feelers!

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