Saturday, January 14, 2012

Whimsical Cakehouse Cupcake Course

I’m sure you have all seen the numerous cake courses that are now being offered on deals such as ‘Jump on It’ and ‘Spreets’. It is becoming a very popular way to promote a business and it certainly worked for Whimsical Cakehouse!   

A few months before Christmas I saw the deal Whimsical Cakehouse were promoting on Jump on It for a 2 hour cupcake decorating class worth only $49 which normally retailed for $160.  I literally jumped on it and asked my fiancé Dave if I could have it as an early Christmas present. (Great ploy early Xmas presents - they feel guilty that you don’t have much to open on the day and get you more – score!)

I only managed to go last weekend and I was VERY impressed. Set up in Linda’s house in Dolans Bay the kitchen where she gives her classes has floor to ceiling windows with views of the water. It boasts a modern kitchen with all the coolest gadgets and tools. Linda previously worked with Planet Cake but found the travel to work too much so decided to open her own cake school no further than the downstairs of their own house – genius! It is purely about cake decorating and not baking. It is very hard nowadays to set up a commercial kitchen as Council set such strict regulations and fees that it’s just not worth it. So she orders her cakes from Mundo’s Kitchen in Alexandria and they can deliver straight to your door and I must say they were very yummy! 

When I arrived I was given a stool at a table with 5 others and in front of me were 6 perfectly cooked vanilla cupcakes. There was a bowl of white chocolate ganache and a box full of cake tools – I was in heaven!
First Linda showed us how to trim away a little of the top of the cakes to form a small dome and to allow enough room for the ganache. She advised that we could put a little ganache between layers of the cut off cake to make a ganache sandwich – I was already on to that one and even made a little cake pop!

We then hot knifed the cupcakes to give a smooth surface for the fondant. As the main focus of the class was to decorate Linda rolled out the fondant and cut circles for us and we were shown how to put these on the cupcakes to give a smooth finish.

In the photo - top middle was my first cake and this was done by scoring lines with a knife and then using a tiny jagged pizza wheel to create the grooves. I then make slight holes with the end of a paint brush and placed a silver ball in there. Easy and it looked great! 

The cake top left was meant to be a star made out of the silver balls but a heart shaped would have been best – the balls did not seem to want to stay in the straight lines so the definition of the star was lost.

Bottom middle was 2 hearts cut out of fondant – the bottom was from purple fondant and the top white and we painted it with edible glitter! The two bow cupcakes were my favourite – I’ve made bows before so was confident with them but found the fondant a little dry from being left out for too long so they looked slightly cracked. But I was shown how to pipe with royal icing and I was very proud of my dots! They were so small that no squeezing was needed, just a slight pressure and release and they were done though it took a while before I realised I needed to place my elbow on the table to prevent the shakes!

The flower cupcake I love too. Linda showed us how to make the flowers from fondant. I am aware that I have a big cake tool shopping list and I hope to get some of these once the cost of our wedding has subsided! But all that is needed to make the flowers is a little flower cutter, a foam pad and a balling tool. You then let the flowers dry out over night or else handling them will damage or break them. And the dot is piped on with royal icing! Since Linda was short for time she had a mixture or store brought and homemade flowers. The white and pink flowers were store brought and you can taste the difference, they are a lot harder since they are made well in advance – you can still eat them after a year! The blue flowers Linda made and I piped the dot in the middle which I was proud of since they look just like the store brought flowers!

I learnt so much from the course and feel that my passion for cake decorating has been re-ignited! I am glad that I have a hobby that I am excited about to come back to after the wedding in April as I have heard that some brides get the post-wedding blues. However I am quite looking forward to learning new skills and trying the techniques used in this class at home and I hope that soon I can attempted the 2 tiered square cake course at Whimsical Cakehouse.

Although they look too pretty to eat they only lasted 2 days in my house and they tasted YUMMY!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wedding Cupcake Disaster!

Finally. 2 months off uni for me to get back into baking and in that time I have to perfect how I am going to make my wedding cupcakes! The more prepared I am the less stressed I’ll be about making them a couple days before the big day in my mothers kitchen with an oven I’m not used to…

But my first trial did NOT go to plan.  The cakes looked so promising whilst in the oven, rising to a good height just above the paper case. But then they kept on rising and spilled over the edge.  After pulling them out to check if they were done they then collapsed in the middle.  So I was left with 18 pathetic, unpresentable white chocolate mud cupcakes.

Of course I didn’t waste these, I mashed them up with some raspberry jam and covered them in milk chocolate for an unhealthy treat.

But I still feel panicked about getting a good sponge – I love the white choc with lemon icing combination but they just don’t seem to be working for me! What if the same thing happens when I bake them in the oven in my mothers kitchen? I can’t give the wedding guests mashed up cake and jam!

The recipe I tried this time I obtained from a fellow cake baker on a forum – it was the Crabapple White chocolate mud cake recipe but she said that substituting half the plain flour with self-raising flour would produce a taller, lighter sponge. Well I shan’t be doing that again! The other flaw was that she forgot to mention how long the cupcakes should stay in the oven for. So I googled and found the recipe on one of my fave blogs Not Quite Nigella at

Here the recipe stated 30mins in the oven, had no self-raising flour, AND 1 cup less sugar which is a lot! So I will have to try that variation next time….

Meanwhile it was not a complete wedding cupcake planning disaster.  I got out my new piping bag and nozzle and had a couple attempts at piping a swirl. The picture attached to this post was my 3rd attempt and took no more than 3 seconds! So I will be ditching the handmade swirls with a pallet knife and going for this soft serve look instead. Much more time efficient!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My very 1st 2 tiered cake!

I have not blogged in a while as I had my mother and father staying with me for the month of April, I was made redundant at work and then had 10 uni assignments due last month!

What I did do cake wise since my last blog was my very first 2 tiered cake for my engagement party! I was so proud of it – it took 10 hours and I did bite my mother’s head off a bit and it isn’t perfect but the I was so chuffed that I managed it without paying $100s on a cake course!

The imperfections that I could see were that the fondant was a little wrinkly if you looked up close. That was because I worked it too hard. It took me 5 goes to get the circumference of the fondant large enough to cover the bottom tier, meanwhile drying out each time. The ribbons are also a little cracked as I wasn’t working at a professional speed. The bottom tier must have been a little wonky as there is a slight gap between the tiers but I tried to hide it with some ribbon. Also the rip isn’t quite as good as in the Planet Cake book but better then my last 2 attempts!

The bottom tier is carrot cake with white chocolate ganache – the cake was perfect and moist – no shrinkage at all making it very hard to ganache! The top is chocolate mud with dark chocolate ganache. Both tiers were a great hit at the party. As my fiancé and I were cutting it I remember saying we should keep the top tier to eat later as that would be too much cake but it all went – in minutes! 10 hours of work in about 10 mins!

But it was worth it.

I am looking forward to the time in my life when I have no uni or a full time job and can practice lots and let our kids and school friends be the tasters!

After this I didn’t make a cake for 2 months due to the stressful time of the redundancy and uni, but then I had a baby shower with the theme ‘Cupcakes & Champagne’ and I thought I MUST make some cakes!

I tested the waters again with the white chocolate mud cupcakes with lemon butter cream which I hope to use for my wedding favours (more on this woe later...) and I tried 2 new ones – raspberry cake with white chocolate butter cream and a chocolate sponge. I had planned to make a chocolate icing for these but it was 10.30pm at night and there was plenty of white BC left so on that went!

So that night after work I made and iced 34 cupcakes – the icing wasn’t my best as I gave up trying that late at night so I took no photos. However, they were all a hit and now all I have to do is work out what will be best for the wedding!

Oh AND.... I did all this in my swanky new pale pink Kitchen Aid which I was very lucky enough to have been given on my 27th birthday thanks to my very thoughtful fiancé and lovely family!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tim Tam Baby Booties

Just wanted to share this blog with you:

I've made Tim Tam pops before as seen in my earlier posts but these look adorable! And I bet they are delicious!

I will HAVE to try them sometime - maybe one of my friends needs to have another baby so i can try this design!:-)

Baby Girl Chocolate Mudcakes

There are so many different chocolate cake recipes out there it can become so mind boggling. Mud cakes are good as they last longer but some find them to rich and dense. If you go for a lighter sponge then there is a higher chance that they will dry out so not suitable for large orders such as weddings that need to be decorated ahead of time.

I have found this recipe to be a winner - it isn't as dense as a mud cake but still tastes amazing after 5 days. they freeze well too. My only concern is that they don't rise very much. I fill 3/4 full and they reach the top of the paper case and then stay flat. I think the reason they don't go dry is that there isn't much air in there and that is what helps the rising process. I am to experiment with substituting some self-raising flour and see what effect that has on the rising and shelf life of the cake.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 32 small cupcakes or 24 large
- 1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
- 2/3 cup chopped unsweetened chocolate (about 4 oz/125 g)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup milk

1. Combine the cocoa and unsweetened chocolate in a bowl. Pour boiling water over chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Cool.

2. In a large bowl or bowl of electric mixer, cream butter with both sugars until very light. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour to butter mixture alternately with milk in three or four additions, beginning and ending with flour.

4. Fill 24 well-buttered or paper-lined muffin cups. (Fill muffin cups three quarters full; cupcakes will not rise as much as muffins.) Bake in a preheated 350ºF (180ºC) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack before icing.

My mother suggested I try this recipe. It reminds me of a gluten free cake - lots of eggs and butter.

Chocolate cupcakes
Makes 18
300g butter
300g plain choc (70% cocoa solids)
5 eggs
125g caster sugar
110g self raising flour

- Heat oven to 160C
- Melt choc & butter.
- Whisk eggs and sugar in large bowl until pale and thick (quadruples in volume and took about 10 mins).
- Fold in sifted flour gently.
- Stir in melted choc until well blended.
- Spoon mixture into cases and bake for 15 mins until toothpick in centre comes out clean.
- May well still look gooey
- Remove from oven and cool.
- Decorate as you wish.

These cake rose beautifully - must have been all the air in that whisking! I must have left them in too long which was a shame as they were a little dry. I will try these again and check more frequently. These wouldn't be so good for a longer shelf lift due to all the air but a great chocolate cake for decorating.

I made these Baby Girl cupcakes for a friend who recently gave birth to a baby girl called Hannah. Her older sister loves pink so I thought they would enjoy eating these.

I love the sprinkles - they are from a Barbie mix from Sainsbury's in the UK and my mother is bringing lots over for me!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Frangelico Cupcakes

Last weekend I made some Frangelico cupcakes for my fiancé's sisters birthday lunch (for those of you that don't know Frangelico is a hazelnut liquor - great with coke or on it's own!) I was inspired by Natalia's recipe: and I will HAVE to try her Jaffa cupcakes one day soon!

This recipe was so quick and easy and I found the texture of the batter to be quite different from other chocolate cakes. It had a mouse like consistency and I was eager to see how they tasted.

As there were 5 of us for lunch I made one for each of us in a large purple baking cup and with the remaining batter filled pink paper cases.

In the oven they rose beautifully and I iced with Nigella's nutella buttercream frosting:

Nutella Buttercream
125g butter, room temp
75g dark chocolate, melted
2 tbsp Nutella
2 cups sifted icing sugar
Cold milk

- Cream the butter until fluffy, slowly add the melted chocolate (in a thin stream to make sure the butter doesn’t melt).
- Add the Nutella
- Slowly beat in the icing sugar, ½ cup at a time until the buttercream is fluffy and not too thick – if it thickens too much add 1 tablespoon of cold milk at a time and beat.

(Instead of milk I added Frangelico!)

I had some mini chocolate 'cigarettes' which I cut in half and stuck in the cake for decoration to resemble a chocolate sundae!

On tasting these cupcakes I think those cooked in the baking cups were a little dry - perhaps because the moisture was not trapped during cooking by a patty tin but was free to escape. But the icing was so delicious one hardly noticed the dry sponge if you got a load of icing in the bite!:-)

When I make these again I will check more frequently as I may have slightly overcooked them. And I will add an extra tbsp of Frangelico to the batter mixture to give an extra kick!:-)

Tip - add the cigarette's at the last minute as if stored in an airtight container they go soggy!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The headache of cake decorating

Ganaching is a pain in the arse. I still haven't got the hang of it. I've discovered a new technique where one places a board, the same size as the supporting cake board, on top of the ganache and then the sides are slowly filled with ganache. The theory is that the cake shrinks in cooking by about 0.5-1cm, therefore, giving you plenty of room for adding ganache to give it structural support, even sides and sharp edges.

However, when ganaching my 6" cake last weekend, I noticed that it was only a fraction smaller then my 6" board. How was I meant to get my ganache in there?!

Actually in this case I was using buttercream. I was experimenting with Belgian White Chocolate paste - similar to fondant but made mainly of chocolate which tastes delicious, but chocolate paste and chocolate ganache is definitely a chocolate overload!

I used Toby Garret's decorators buttercream recipe which is 250g butter, 250g copha, 750g icing sugar sifted, 1.5tbsp pavlova magic, 1/4 water. The copha means it is very stable in the heat and the pavlova magic lends a stiffness which is good for setting on the cake.

I've now learnt from asking on the Planet Cake forum that it is advisable to trim away the cake to get that 0.5cm gap between the cake and the board and I will do this for next time (compensating with an extra layer of cake and more height). But this time, as it was just for FH and I to enjoy, I whacked it on another board and went ahead with the icing.

I tried and tried to get the straight edges without using a board (as the 6" was too small) and in doing so developed a rather thick layer of buttercream icing. I also found it went inwards towards the top of the cake. But here is a picture of the iced cake before the chocolate paste - I am proud of this as it's the best I've done so far. Maybe a hot knife would have been good? But I have only done this with ganache and didn't want to ruin the buttercream.

The chocolate paste was very difficult to handle, most likely due to the heat, so I haven't attached a picture as it looked very dimpled but the combination of chocolate mud cake, butter cream and white chocolate paste was sensational!

Next time - more cake then icing! It's a cake with icing, not icing with a bit of cake!:-) But each attempt I'm getting better and better - so I will just have to keep practicing!

Cake anyone?