I thought I’d do something simple and fun this Halloween. Say hello to my chocolate bats! The process is fairly straightforward – pretty much the same method as the chocolate butterflies that I have made in the past with a different template and some flower wire. Also, the eyes of the bats are drawn in with toothpicks dipped in edible gold dust and vodka. If you’re desperate for a template – any template – to get started now, below is a scanned sheet of my roughly sketched bats and tree stump. I will eventually attempt to make a proper template but for now this will just have to do, internet people! I also tried out a new chocolate cake recipe which was amazing. The cake turned out extremely moist and dense with no grief in regards to technique or complex ingredients. Recipe from here. In terms of photography, I set up a black board on the dining table as below and took the photograph with a 60mm f2.8 lens. I hope you guys enjoyed this little project – I had fun making it. It’s been a while since I did anything fancy.
My current challenge is to clear out my pantry that’s bursting with ingredients that I have acquired over the years and the first item to go was almond meal.
I had a massive stockpile of almond meal because I went through a macaron phase at one point (from now on I’ll just buy them, thank you very much!)
Anyway, we had friends over for dinner a couple of weeks back and I decided to go for a flourless chocolate cake – recipe from here. The only difference is that I substituted the hazelnut meal with almond meal.
I am alive!
I am sorry I have not been posting – I went away to Europe (thoroughly enjoyed myself – I now want to move to Germany for 6 months if I have the chance!) and have just been so busy catching up with everything when I got back that I just did not have the time or energy to come up with any inspiration. Things have changed though and today I finally got round to making something.
To be honest, I am not the most talented when it comes to Swiss rolls – more often than not they become cake sandwiches. This was a slightly fancier version as well as I had decided to pipe holly leaves and cranberries as a motif.
Recipe as follows:
Christmas Swiss Roll
Ingredients and equipment
110g optima flour (an Asian sponge cake mix)
1 tsp vanilla essence
30g butter, melted
Food colouring of choice
20cm x 30cm baking pan
Silicone coated baking paper
Disposable piping bags
- Line tin with silicone coated baking paper.
- Whisk eggs, flour, water and vanilla together until light in colour and double in volume – this may take up to 5-10 minutes depending on the speed of your mixer.
- Add melted butter to the mixture and fold in until full incorporated.
- Remove a tablespoon of mixture and add colour as desired – in my case I made one tablespoon red and the other green. Place coloured mixture into piping bags.
- Pipe patterns as desired onto the baking paper in the tin. Place in freezer until fully set (1-2 hours).
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced).
- Pour remaining batter over frozen pattern and even out with spatula. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and roll. Fill with desired filling.
Tip: Roll the cake as soon as it is out of the oven to prevent cracks from forming and make sure the cake is not over baked.
Just a simple project – hopefully I get into more complex things in the near future but for now – that’s it! Glad to be back.
I’m sorry there was no post on Thursday. The cake in the photo above is the reason for the delay. I got a last minute call requesting for a pillow cake for 42 people and pretty much spent my week either at work being a dentist and managing a practice at the peak period of school holidays and coming home to work on this cake. To say that I am exhausted is an understatement. Truth be told, I don’t even know how I managed to get both jobs done. Adrenaline, I assume.
As a result of that experience, I have decided that I will only be posting once a week on Sunday instead of twice as I was doing previously. The reason is obvious – I just don’t have enough time and as my posts and projects increase in complexity it takes more and more time to complete as well.
Anyway, on to the cake! It was not my original idea as the client had this cake in mind, so the structure and colour scheme of the cake was already prescribed. However, the finishing touches were and my favourite part of it was definitely the tiara which I designed from scratch at 1am on Thursday in bed, trying not to fall asleep.
Zoe’s Pillow Cake
Ingredients and Materials
40g white chocolate, melted
Disposable piping bag
Tiara template (available for download here)
Watch the YouTube video below for full instructions:
Chocolate Cake Recipe
Ingredients (for 2 tiers, one 8 inch round and one 10 inch square)
750g dark chocolate, chopped
840g brown sugar
600g butter, room temperature
840g brown sugar
1080g self raising flour
60g cocoa powder
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan forced).
- Line all baking tins with baking paper.
- Combine all ingredients from List A in a microwave safe bowl and cook in 30 second intervals until ingredients are melted, stirring in between each interval. Mixture may look like it has split slightly but that is okay. Set aside.
- Working off the ingredients from List B, cream butter and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl down between each addition.
- Pour warm mixture prepared from List A into the bowl and mix. Add self-raising flour and cocoa powder and mix until well combined. Mixture will be fairly runny.
- Bake in baking tins – two 8-inch rounds and two 10-inch squares. Baking time will vary – about 50-75 minutes depending on the size of the cake. Cake is done when a skewer when inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Wrap cakes immediately in cling wrap after they are removed from the baking tins and freeze.
500g butter, softened
500g icing sugar
125g dark chocolate, melted (my favourite method for melting chocolate outlined here)
- Cream butter and sugar together in mixer until light and fluffy.
- Pour melted chocolate in and mix until well incorporated.
Ingredients and Materials
3.5kg fondant (I used Satin Ice)
Decorations as desired
6 inch round cardboard base
8 inch square cardboard base
13 inch square cake board
- Roll 1kg fondant into a 14 inch square and use that to cover the cake board. Leave to set for at least a day before placing the cake on top of it.
- Stack round cakes fill with buttercream. Cake should be sitting on a 6 inch round cardboard base with a punched hole at the center for dowel to go through
- Trim into a shape of a pillow using a serrated knife and cover with buttercream. Put into fridge to firm up. Roll 1kg of fondant into a 17 inch disc and cover the cake.
- Repeat with square cakes, rolling 1.4kg of fondant into a 19 inch square before covering.
- Place 4 dowels into the square cake to support the weight of the round cake above.
- Place square cake on cake board. Insert a taller dowel that spans both tiers into the cake and slide round cake down onto it to prevent movement of tiers.
- Decorate as desired.
And that’s it! Other decorations that I used included fondant flowers, quilting the fondant with a stitch tool and ropes for the tassels and trim of the white pillow. The pink pillow was trimmed with royal icing.
I apologize – the photography of this cake was not what it should have been. I had about 10 minutes to photograph it before delivering it thus the very substandard image!
It was quite an experience, but what is going to be an even more exciting experience is when I go to London in a couple of weeks! I will be attending a cake decorating course there so it’s going to be pretty exciting to learn more techniques and improve my skills. Can’t wait to go – I fully intend to check myself into a day spa for a couple of days to unwind. The last few months have been overwhelming.
Guess what? I finally bought myself a camera after years of sponging off my housemate!
To celebrate the fact that it can record HD videos, I decided to make a chocolate butterfly tutorial. I have actually made a template for it in a previous post (Butterfly Chocolate Tart) but I figured this time I’d actually do a tutorial on it as well! You can probably tell I am quite the amateur (half the video was out of focus… oops!) but hopefully they get better as I go along.
The chocolate cakes were tasty – soft on the inside with a slightly crunchy texture on the outside. The addition ganache made everything taste even better – it always does!
Recipe as follows:
Mini Butterfly Chocolate Cakes
Chocolate Sponge Cake
Ingredients (makes 6 small cakes)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced).
- Grease baking tin with cooking spray.
- Whisk egg and sugar together until light in colour and thickened in texture (3-5 minutes).
- Fold in flour and cocoa powder.
- Pour in butter and fold until incorporated.
- Place mixture into a piping bag and pipe into cupcake pan or mini bundt tins.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cakes spring back when pressed.
30g dark chocolate
- Place chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds.
- Remove from microwave and stir. Repeat step 1 until mixture is smooth and shiny.
For this project, you will need a Butterfly Template (click on link to acquire).
Tips on how to melt chocolate easily also available if required.
Video tutorial link at the top of this page.
- Pour ganache over chocolate cakes.
- Place completed butterfly on cake.
Above is my photography set up for this project. It was a frantic race against the sunset and I have to say the good news about that is that I’m forced to take a photograph – any photograph – instead of wasting half an hour rearranging various things. The background is a very well worn baking sheet, which you will all be familiar with by now. The light is coming in from the right hand side of the photograph.
Lens: 60mm 2.8f
Photo editing: Lightroom 4
I’m actually getting very sick of my props but I just have not had the time to go and acquire more!
Am hoping to make more video tutorials from now on so if you are interested in that sort of a thing, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m pretty excited about it all.
I used to bake 8 inch cakes. I then baked 6 inch cakes because we didn’t need so much cake. I took it a step further and decided to bake a 4 inch cake because let’s face it – two girls experiencing the sad slowdown of metabolism in their late 20s do not need to eat any more than what’s absolutely necessary.
Broke out my trusty chocolate cake recipe and decided to go with a coffee flavoured buttercream. I was extremely pleased with how the flavours turned out – a nice balance of chocolate and coffee with just the right amount of moistness.
Then came the decoration dilemma.
I tried to pipe swags and failed miserably – I’m still not quite talented enough for that sort of thing. I then tried to pipe cornelli lace and failed miserably on that front too!
Things were getting desperate. After more brainstorming I decided on a walnut border at the bottom. And then it hit me – I’ll have a squirrel holding a walnut as the cake topper!
Squirrel walnut silhouette
Once again, I apologise for my extremely non step-by-step series of photographs of this cake. I just can’t remember to stop at every step to take a photograph!
Squirrel Coffee Walnut Cake Recipe
The recipe used in this cake has been outlined in my previous post, Caramel Spiral Cupcakes. It makes 2 rounds of 6 inch cakes, enough to complete a layered 6 inch cake.
250g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 packet instant coffee
- Dissolve instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to come to room temperature.
- Cream butter and sugar together until pale in colour and increased in volume. Add instant coffee solution into batter slowly, mixing until well incorporated.
Squirrel template (click link to download)
Plastic piping bag
- Melt chocolate (my favourite technique explained here).
- Placed melted chocolate into piping bag and snip a very small hole at the top.
- Place squirrel template under waxed paper. Pipe squirrel outline and then flood entire area.
- Press a piece of walnut into the squirrel’s hands before the chocolate sets and leave until fully hardened. Peel off wax paper carefully and leave to set.
- Fill cake with buttercream and cover completely.
- Press walnuts into the bottom of the cake to form a border.
- Place squirrel on top of cake – squirrel should be able to stand on its own. If not, prop up with a walnut.
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did making it. I thought the cake turned out quite well and it’s a simple technique that can be applied by anyone.
P/S: I’m obsessed with Instagram at the moment, admittedly a little late to the bandwagon but better late than never, apparently! If you’re interested in random photos from my daily life as well as my projects click here.
So I got it into my head that I could carve carrots if I wanted to after watching this video on YouTube. Sure, I didn’t have the right knife (used my smallest utility knife that was still too large) and I’ve never had any experience carving carrots and it was rated as an Advanced Lesson. But hey, I can cut vegetables – surely I can carve a rose! It’s practically the same thing! Right?
As you can see from my rather indelicate roses, no – they are not quite the same thing. I actually tried to practice a little more and try to make a more respectable specimen but failed miserably. I would like to think they still echo the vague idea of a rose, but you can be the judge of that.
My first attempt. Very blocky result.
I nearly decided not to post these up but I decided that I should show my failures as well as my successes. After all, not everything I make is going to turn out the way I want them to. In this particular case, I really do think the knife was to blame (poor workwoman blaming her tools) because the blade on mine was just too thick and wide to make cuts that were as delicate and curved as they needed to be. I might have to try to bring home a surgical scalpel next and see if that helps.
I still had fun and I think I will try to acquire a Thai carving knife before pursuing any more carving projects in the future. However, the cupcakes tasted great so I guess it didn’t really matter. Recipe below:
Carrot Cupcake Recipe (makes 6 cupcakes)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup self raising flour
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 160 Celcius (fan forced)
- Combine all ingredients and divide into cupcake liners.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until skewer comes out clean after insertion.
- Leave to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
- Cream all ingredients together until light and fluffy.
- Transfer to piping bag with a large round tip and pipe a spiral on the cupcakes.
I had been lamenting that I would love to make more cakes but there would be nobody to eat them so there was no point in me doing it. As a result, one of my friends offered to purchase a cake from me for her sister’s birthday to help keep me occupied. After much thought, I decided that I would try my hand at chocolate cages. I loved the idea of a lattice sitting around the cake – it would be intricate and delicate at the same time. Well, in my mind it was intricate and delicate.
I decided on a 8 inch chocolate cake and covered it with chocolate buttercream. The design for the top of the cake was done with the now in vogue petal buttercream technique, which I have since made a video tutorial of on a different cake:
Recipes for the cake and buttercream available on my Caramel Spiral Cupcake post. I think from now they are going to be my go-to recipes – they work really well together. Rich flavours and soft crumb with moist texture with a very workable buttercream texture.
Then it was time to decide on how the cage was going to be. I wanted a lattice that was intricate, strong and at the same time easy to pipe. After much indecision I came up with this design. I have since made it into a PDF, available here – for download. Much neater and clearer, even if I do say so myself.
Chocolate is quite runny for piping, much more challenging than royal icing I feel – it would be near impossible to pipe it properly vertically. I decided to wrap my template and waxed paper around the only thing in the house that was 9 inch round – a pot – and hung it off the leg of one of the chairs in my house and rotate it as I went around the cake. I have tips on how to melt chocolate quickly and easily if you are interested.
Let me tell you it was no easy task – the pot would rock a little every time more chocolate was added on due to the weight. I guess my career as a dentist came in handy – I’m quite used to working on moving patients so was similar to working on a patient that was fidgeting in the chair.
Once it was all done I slid it off the pot and peeled the waxed paper away. The chocolate cage broke in a couple of spots in the process but that was okay. I carefully placed it around the cake, lined up the seams and piped more chocolate to make it whole again and voila – my project was complete.
If I could redo it again I’d probably make a 4 or 6 inch cake and make the cage 2 inches larger than the cake. I probably only had half a centimetre of gap in between the cake and the cage and I feel a little more would have been more elegant. I would make the cake slightly shorter too – I was caught off guard by how tall the tiers stacked up!
Overall, it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps the next time I’ll try a different pattern and do it in white chocolate instead.
As all of you know by now, in real life I am a dentist. I would love to take cake decorating and baking to the next level but I can’t bring myself to leave my stable job environment. There will be a lot of disappointed people, let’s put it that way. My friend has been encouraging me to try to take measured steps and to nudge me along he commissioned this cake for his girlfriend who adores Chanel.
I love it when nobody dictates what to do or how to do it. That meant that I could do whatever I wanted! After much thought, I decided to bring in a few elements of Chanel’s signature style and make it into a cake – quilting, pearls, black and white, flowers and ribbon.
I decided on a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream because let’s be honest here – who doesn’t like chocolate?
Here is the naked cake covered in buttercream. I apologize for my work in progress pictures – I cannot stop work and take out my DSLR and take perfect shots of my progress. Well, I can but I won’t. Plus, the lighting in my kitchen is non-ideal. You will just have to put up with these photos from my iPhone.
Quilting of fondant in progress. I used a stitch fondant roller tool to create the effect. The size of the diamonds is an exact copy of the Chanel Classic bag which I had handy. By the way, I have been using The Mat to roll my fondant and it has been a lifesaver!! I am not very strong and rolling fondant takes a lot out of me and I’m really slow at it. The Mat keeps the fondant from drying out and all in all just a great invention!
Step 1 of oriental stringwork – I started this at 1am in the morning. Everything all fine and dandy at this point when everything is still in one direction!
Here’s the exciting part – flipping the cake upside down! With a small 6 inch cake that I worked on it was not too difficult. Still a little heart stopping though.
Oriental stringwork piped the other way. Topped the intersections with edible pearls. Completed at 3am in the morning.
I made a fantasy flower out of black sugarpaste and used pearls as the heart. I also used the pearls (two sizes) to prop it up at an angle so it looked like there was a stack of pearls holding the flower up. I also wrapped a black ribbon around the bottom. And that’s it!
I would love to do tutorials for all the techniques used but to be honest there are comprehensive ones in YouTube and in books which I will just link below:
I spent a ridiculous amount of time on this project but it was worth it. The stringwork was extremely delicate – I absolutely adore royal icing work but I think in the future if the cake has to leave the house it probably shouldn’t have any free standing elements like that. If you accidentally break a couple of pieces don’t fret – what I did was I piped drop strings off the side of a silicone baking pan, waited for them to dry for a couple of hours, took them off very very carefully and attached them to the broken portions. Nobody will know.
Also, the receiver loved the cake so much I received a bouquet of flowers at work the next day! I broke it apart and did a ikebana arrangement out of it:
I have been watching a fair few videos describing how to get perfect edges for a flawless finish and sharp edges on round cakes. Decided to give it a go and here’s the result!
I decided to make a lemon buttercake and fill it with buttercream. I then dressed the cake up in sugar paste and yellow and grey triangles. I rather enjoyed making this cake and when I sliced it up for dinner it hurt a little, which was odd. I usually don’t have qualms about destroying my creations but this one seemed to hold a special place in my heart.
My friend gave me 6 limes. I guess that will part of my next project. Stay tuned!