Friday, July 1, 2011

blog amnesty post: recent cakelicious adventures of Martha*

OK so it's been a while since either of us updated this blog, and while I wouldn't say we've kept powering through the cakes, we haven't exactly stopped.

So, here are some recent cakes from The Book:

Lion (a twist on the theme - he's savoury! made from cheese, corn and chive muffin baked into a square, with a mane of sausage rolls)

Next on the list is Olly Elephant, a vanilla butter cake with vienna cream frosting. He was meant to be pink but I liked the purpley-grey better:

Next comes the kitteh, as our way of saying goodbye to Jeff:

And finally, a couple of shots of my WIP, vegan green tea cupcakes from Post Punk Kitchen:

That's all...

Martha XO

Update: final product

*amnesty idea shamelessly stolen from Melbourne Gastronome

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quarter of a centrury

Milestones are by nature a cause for celebration, and for sister Betty, 25 years was cause for a par-tay!
Now I have noticed that the numbers have been unaccounted for to date, so I thought I’d knock out two cakes at once (three if you count the fact the decoration is from the number 10 cake) and go with a 2 and a 5.
Being a wonderful sister, I totally forgot I had offered to bake until the afternoon of the party, so something simple was in order. ‘A simple chocolate cake, even a child can make’ was the obvious choice, for its simplicity in recipe, in method and in crowd-pleasing deliciousness.
The only tricky thing was making the right shapes. I actually wound up ignoring the suggested multiple loaves and bunts (as I didn’t have the right tins) and went with one rectangle one square and one round cake. Trouble was, my oven didn’t quite fit all three at once. Not being one to wait, I jammed them all in and the door closed – problem solved! – until I got them out – and the round and square cakes had tipped up on an angle and all the mixture had tipped to the side. Small disaster.
With my baking reputation was on the line, defeat was not an option. As they weren’t quite cooked yet, I gave them a bit of a shake and stuffed them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, there was no masking what came out of the over. The cakes were completely uneven. The square cake was ok on the thick end and burnt on the thin end. The round cake had waves of different heights and differently cooked mixture. Not a pretty site. Luckily, decoration was in order.
With only hours until the party, I blasted the cakes cool in the freezer while I prepared the icing. The number 10 cake called for a lamington type icing, with whipped cream on top. This was my first time working with lamingtons and it was pretty damn tasty! The icing was super chocolately and super runny, with apricot jam as the secret ingredient that just pulled everything together – beautiful taste and glaze.
Meanwhile, creating the shapes was a salvage operation. The number 2 was cut out of the rectangle luckily I was able to cut the burnt corner right off. The number 5 was a little more tricky – only half the square cake was useable – this became the top, the highest three quarters of the round cake was selected (with the middle cut out – no need for a bunt tin!) and some off-cut number 2 managed to fill the missing piece. Phew!
What I didn’t think through was how I would dip a whole cake into the icing. Lets just say the cakes stayed together for the most part and thank god there was coconut to cover the cracks.
And I am pleased to say that the finished version tuned out all right, in fact it looked pretty good – Sister Betty loved it! And it got eaten – always a good sign!

Betty xx

In celebration of our nation

In the last few years, Australia Day has been growing, but this year, it seems to have reached a whole new level. Little flags were flying on utes and micro cars everywhere. (Apparently a freebie in the Herald Sun goes a long way.)
On a side note, it’s interesting how strong our attachment to a symbol from our past. Which is probably going to get new again with the royal wedding this year – a cause for celebration to reunite the colonies…
Anyway, back to our Australia Day celebrations, and we all know that every good celebration requires cake. So of course I jumped on the symbolic bandwagon to make an aussie flag cake.
The recipe was largely determined by ingredients around the kitchen, and two very ripe bananas that were begging to be cooked. Due to previous popularity, the honey yoghurt banana cake recipe was selected, and with only one small hitch (only two instead of four bananas – worked out fine anyway) I had a cake to decorate.
The great thing about making a flag cake is that all you need is a rectangle – for once, so simple. What wasn’t so great was the fact that I still couldn’t find my piping bag – so the union jack came out pretty demented. With my Aussie flag to model off, the stars all made it to the right position – even if they didn’t all have the right number of points (that really wreaked of effort!).
As is tradition, our BBQ had more than enough food on offer, and following way too many snags, lamb, burgers and delightful salads it was time for dessert. While the pavs were the traditional favourite, the banana cake was certainly the photo favourite – and nobody turned down a serving of both!
Betty xx

Friday, February 25, 2011

Professional Courtesy

Happy Birthday Dan - the shark was billed as "smiley" in The Book, but my version (not unusually) turned out angry. However, who's ever seen a shark with eyelashes? Not me.

The prototype:

(sorry about the reflection)

The work in progress:

And, finally, the end product:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Off with her head!

This latest installment comes from "something for everyone" and is called the Cake of Hearts. I decided to make this for Gma Martha's 92nd birthday, and the subsequent cakeslide was just a taster for the whole evening.

Being lazy and also incapable of making a successful sponge, I should admit upfront that not only did I not have the dexterity to carve the round sponge into a heart shape as per the book, I also cheated. Big time.

However, it tasted fine and it meant that I only needed the oven on briefly while I dried out the meringue hearts.

Anyway, the idea of the cake is it's filled with jam and cream in two layers, then iced with whipped cream and decorated with heart-shaped meringues that were coated with 100s & 1000s before baking. They were the easy part (although I tried out the recommended method - tracing hearts on baking papers and spreading the meringue mixture around with a teaspoon - did not work. I turned to my trusty piping bag and that hit the spot).

So far, so good. Then to assembly, and that too goes smoothly and we end up with the final product (next to the prototype for comparison):

So, what then is the problem?

Well, a hot day and soft cream and some inattentive packing for transport. Behold:

Yeah. Happy Birthday, Gma.

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
    All on a summer's day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
    And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
    And beat the knave full sore;
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
    And vowed he'd steal no more.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

the telephone game

How is this for an embarrassing admission... back in the day, I went to a few "Girls' Brigade" meetings *blush*. Even more embarrassing - it was just now when I looked up where the apostrophe goes in that organisation's name that I realised it is Christian.

Anyway, one of the games we played, apart from "Who stole the cookie..." was the telephone game. Which involved pretty much the same thing as the cookie one, but you had to handball a call to someone else around the circle. Looking back, it taught pretty bad telephone habits because the response was always "If it isn't [insert name here] then I'm not home". These days, caller ID and mobs have pretty much taken care of the need to screen.

Back to the point. I've sadly neglected my candy supplies recently and when I remembered that it was Debilitator's birthday during the first week back at work, my choice of cakes was limited by the availability of decorations. So, the old fashioned telephone got the gig.

 I made two cakes - a simple vanilla cake in a loaf tin for the handle, and a chocolate cake for the base of the phone. The icing was easy as and the decorations were not demanding - my only fault was forgetting the licorice cord, but I remedied that quickly before I took the cake in. No pics, though.

Happy (very belated) birthday, Debilitator.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Timothy Tiger

For Timothy Tiger’s namesake’s birthday, it was time to pounce!

One small problem however – I had no eggs. Cakes need eggs. Multiple eggs. Even packet mixes.

Google to the rescue: chocolate cake no eggs. Millions of results. So I chose the first one.

Which turned out to be great (despite questionable vinegar ingredient); moist and soooooooo yummy!

Only catch to the tasteful texture was that it was also quite crumbly – making cutting it to shape a very careful operation. With this in mind, I prepared about double the amont of icing I normally would, so I could be very liberal with it and catch all the crumbs. I also learned form the honey icing that whipping it up with beater gave it a much lighter texture – way to go from now on!

With icing applied, Timothy Tiger had taken on a striking shade of orange (he would have been a real hero back in November in that colour) and it was time for the licorice stripes.

I didn’t have crinkle-cut scissors, so I improvised with the edge of a crinkle-cut scone cutter. It didn’t quite come up the same as the one in the book, but it was close enough.

Tim’s verdict – yum!