Thursday, February 14, 2013

My year in cakes (and other baked goodies)

     I did start off the year promising that I would blog more but so far I'm not doing a very good job of it. The reason why my blog has taken a back seat is that I've actually been pretty busy baking. No I haven't opened up a cake shop (yet...), I've just developed a hobby of baking and decorating cakes which has actually taken off the ground and kept me busy with requests and orders from friends and family for all sorts of occasions. Sometimes I don't even get a request, I just tell them that I'm going to 'bake something' for the special occasion. I think someone has a bit of a baking obsession...

     This cake above is what started it all. I was never an avid cake decorator until I had a request from my cousin's wife (my cousin in law), asking me if I was willing to make a macaron tower for her cousin's wedding. Well it turned out not to be a macaron tower but a tiered wedding cake with a cascade of macarons down the side, all to feed about 220 people. It's not really an original design but an adaption of a cake that she found online. The wedding was actually in October 2011 but well, for the past year and a bit I've suddenly found myself churning out cakes left right and centre. I've been baking cakes almost every week, and most definately every month.

     At the time I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I was no prefessional cake maker, heck I'd only decorated with fondant a couple of times so I'm not sure what possessed me to take on the job. And the other daunting task was baking macarons good enough to top a wedding cake. My macarons were still quite hit and miss a year and a bit ago (and still can be even now) so it was all fingers and toes crossed that they would turn out. There were a few hiccups along the way but everything worked out in the end and the cake was delivered safely to the reception venue for the wedding and everyone loved it *phew*. Ryan rewarded me with a bottle of sparkling wine for my huge achievement.

     Of course I didn't go blindly into the task of making my first ever wedding cake though I don't think there was much I could do to prepare myself. I had to brush up on my cake/macaron baking and decorating skills so had made a few cakes beforehand, including the two tiered Christening cake with a little tiger which you may remember me blogging about here. After completing the wedding cake I said that I was done with fancy schmancy celebration cakes and didn't want to do it again... little did I know what was coming at me in the months ahead... And this is not even everything below, just the major baking projects and a few odd other smaller ones thrown in.

     A week after the wedding cake I actually had another cake to make.  The 'practice' two tiered Christening cake I made for little Isaac impressed his mum so much that she was willing to put her trust in me and order a cake for his first birthday. The request came through about a month or so before hand and the date originally clashed with the wedding so I had to decline it. A couple of weeks before the birthday, the date changed so I was able to take on the cake for little Zac. 
     This cake is also an adaption of another design. The party was jungle themed and the cake that they originally wanted had some pretty fancy fondant animals climbing all over a jungle number one shaped cake. The only fondant animal I'd made was the tiger on top of Zac's Christening cake. I said I would do my best to make a number 1 cake with some 3d jungle animals, but if I failed I would go and buy a toy set to stick on the cake and Zac's mum was fine with that. I was totally stoked at my first ever fondant lion and giraffe. And my second fondant tiger was pretty nifty too.

     December 2011. I was a pretty proud amatuer cake decorator so was showing off my creations to some close family friends of Ryan's. Low and behold, I received a request for a graduation cake from the mother. I googled images of graduation cakes and combined with my knowledge that the graduate loved Harry Potter, I came up with this design. The sister mentioned that the colours of the uni were red, gold and blue hence the colours of the stripes on the cake. After my successful play on the fondant animals I thought I would try and make a person. As Ryan and I had a prior engagement we missed out on the graduation dinner but I was given very positive feedback from everyone there. They didn't want to cut the cake!

     Christmas 2011. These were just simple chocolate mud cupcakes with cut out fondant shapes. I brought these along to a Christmas dinner at my cousin's place along with some lime macarons.

     January 2012. Just some simple red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese roses. I made these 'just because' but have made many batches of these for various occasions because they seem to be a favourite (totally one of my favourites too).

     Ryan called me up one evening from work with a request for a cake from one of his colleagues for a farewell. I seem to have a following of this blog from his work place and have even sent a few of my creations into work with him which are always very well received. I was pretty stoked that someone I didn't know wanted to order a cake from me. Ryan is quite the salesman, he suggested that they order a hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting, which he absolutely loves. His commission will be cake ;)

     February 2012. Family dinner at home for my brother's birthday. Just a simple chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, Lindt hot chocolate shards and some 'M's for Michael.

     March 2012. Of course I had to bake Ryan's birthday cake. He's tried so many of my cakes that I had to think of something different to make. Absolutely LOVE the strawberry and watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry so I recreated it (recipe from Gourmet Traveller). A bit 'rustic' in presentation here but totally delicious.

     I felt bad that I hadn't been bringing any baked goods into the office so baked this flourless chocolate hazelnut cake 'just because' one day. Topped it with dark chocolate ganache and roasted hazelnuts. Tasted like Nutella!

     April 2012. A good girlfriend's birthday and I just had to make a cake as a present to her. This one was an original Angie designer handbag cake with inspiration from Mimco as it's her favourite brand. I was pretty impressed and wanted to keep the handbag to myself because it looked so good (and it was pink!)
     Funny story here. While I was sitting in the kitchen helping to prep food for the party the birthday girl's mum comes along and said she wanted to move the handbag. In my mind I am wondering 'what handbag?' when suddenly I am watching in horror as the mother grabs the handles and tries to move the handbag cake. One of the handles snaps into pieces right before my eyes. We had it sitting on the table on top of the cake box and she thought it was a real bag! I was in too much shock to say anything. Her brothers thought it was pretty amusing and said that it's a compliment if the handbag cake looked real enough to fool their mum.

      May 2012. Planet Cake had a massive discount for alumni students so I booked myself into the basics 102 course to learn how to properly cover a square cake. As I missed out on a farewell/birthday picnic of good blogger friend Richard, I decided that I would give the cake to him as a parting/birthday gift. Part of the course was to make a bride and groom koala couple to top the cake but I thought I would leave off those details and leave the koalas plain. A very Australian cake to farewell a friend who was moving back home to the UK after living here for a few years.

     I thought I would share this new found hobby of mine and emailed some photos of my creations to some colleagues at work and signed off 'Angie's bakery is open for business' but wasn't expecting to actually get any business. I had a request for an elmo cake come through and who would have thought it would be so tricky! Getting the right shade of red is really hard and you have to be careful that the colouring does not taint the taste of your frosting.
      I was in tears that evening I was decorating the cake as the colour and taste of the buttercream was just wrong. I ended up dumping the first batch and then having to remake it and used gel colouring instead of the powder which I though would have been more vibrant. Powdered colouring and buttercream just don't work together I discovered that night.

     These sticky date cupcakes were made especially for a friend as she was craving for my sticky date puddings I made years ago. She didn't feel well and cancelled on our date so I ended up giving them away to other people.

      June 2012. Ryan called me excitedly about this cake. One of his work colleagues asked if I could make a cake for her husband's 40th birthday. He is a big West Tiger's fan, going way back to when they were the Balmain Tigers. Ryan suggested that the cake was to be a classic Balmain Tiger's jersery cake rather than the current West Tiger's design. There was some controversy from rival NRL fans when I showed off this creation at work ;).

      I was referred for this job by the talented Mr Dexter via twitter. It was actually for the same week as the jerysey cake which means I was baking and decorating back to back every night. It was for one of his good friends who requested was a a red velvet and cream cheese cake in the shape of a number one with a Miffy theme. 

     I tried to make a 3d standing Miffy from fondant but the rain and humidty meant it just would not set properly. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to do it before hand to let it set and it was not quoted as part of the cake but I thought I would try and do a little extra for them. 

     As I had quite a bit of off cuts from the cakes above, I decided to try my hand at making some cake pops. Boy are they time consuming to make. I'd never be able to justify baking a whole cake for the sole purpose of making cake pops. Which is why off cuts of cake in the freezer are perfect for this.

      Who in their right mind would bake their own birthday cake? Yeah, this idiot here. Well to be fair, it was a combined birthday cake with my cousin, and I just like baking that much! This was just a vanilla buttercake with vanilla buttercream though it was a bit of a disaster as the butter didn't cream properly making the cake a bit dense (I hate baking in the middle of winter).

     July 2012. My cousin's hens night. Burlesque costumes, cocktails, food, topless waiters ;) Of course I'm going to bake too! Made some cocktail themed macarons - Champagne and strawberries, pina colada, vodka cranberry, and mojito.

    Our director at work was leaving for greener pastures overseas so I thought I would bake him a hummingbird cake as a parting gift. I think it was one of the first cakes of mine which he tasted and loved and I felt bad that I had not made it again in a long time.

      Extra cake batter means extra little cupcakes for everyone else in the office ;)

     I made these 'just because' and my uncle loved them so much (especially the simplicity and elegance in the design) he really wanted me to make 700 of these to give to the guests at my cousin's wedding. Um a big fat no thanks uncle. I was already doing all the wedding flowers and there was just no capacity for me to pump out that many cupcakes in our little domestic oven.

     Another Planet Cake course, this time learning how to make a bride and groom figurine couple. What I ended up with at the end of the day looked pretty shocking but having a hands on class let me have an insight to the little technical stuff I wouldn't have thought of when teaching myself. Everyone's bride and grooms looked so good and mine just looked... scary! Lots of practice needed.

     July seemed to be a busy month already. A good friend contacts me to make some cute little elmo and cookie monster cupcakes for her nephews first birthday. It was heaps fun doing this one. I even made the little complementing sesame street sign to go with the cupcakes.

     My second order through work colleagues. This was for a four year old little girl who's request was a 'sparkly, princess, Dora, chocolate cake'. After a bit of brainstorming and googling we came up with the idea above which pretty much ticked all the boxes. Her mumma also wanted to see what edible diamonds were like so I used some to put in the middle of the flowers. Miss Mia absolutely loved it and didn't even realise it was her birthday cake, wanting to lift up Princess Dora's cake to look at her shoes!

     August 2012. I've always wanted to bake a chiffon cake and have always feared it. I finally took the plunge and thanks to some tips and tricks from twitter friend Mr Dexter I was able to produce a pretty good pandan chiffon cake. Since my first one, I've baked so many more, each time improving as I go. I think the more I used my cake tin the more conditioned it became, helping to turn out some gorgeous chiffon cakes.

      It's a few weeks out before my cousin's wedding and we have family from all over the place coming. Our house turns into an instant restaurant as my mum is in charge of cooking dinner for most days. Of course I also use this opportunity to bake some treats too. They absolutely loved my chiffon and I also made some white chocolate and lemon baby cakes. Along with my winning profiteroles too.

      My major role in my cousin's wedding was to look after the wedding flowers. I really wanted to see what I could do (and practice doing) in terms of fondant figurines so a few weeks before, I started working on a bride and groom for the top of the cake. After studying some photos of them at a pre-wedding photo shoot I started making the figurines. We had some major dramas with the cake at the reception with the suppliers firstly supplying the wrong cake and then when the replacement came it wasn't even close to what my cousin had ordered. The cake was meant to have a gorgeous large deep pink sugar rose but they turned up with these dodgy looking sugar flowers that didn't quite resemble anything at all. I plucked them off and popped my toppers on top. The two roses were pinched from one of my arrangements by the cake maker. I am so glad I decided to make the cake toppers as they completed the cake and averted what was an almost disaster.

Close ups of the bride and groom.

      September 2012. Aunty turns the big 5-0. This was a bit of an experiment to try something different. A mocha cake with chocolate maltester mouse filling and a mocha buttercream. Decorated in chocolate corinthian wafers, maltesers, and Lindt hot chocolate flakes. It wasn't quite as successful as I had hoped. Very dense and rich. Should have made a smaller cake.

      October 2012. Well, it's a year on from my first wedding cake. I heard that the bride and groom never got to eat their wedding cake as it all disappeared and they didn't factor in keeping the top tier so I wanted to recreate the top tier for them to enjoy on their anniversary. It was meant to be my gift to them but the bride showed up with a gift voucher for me from Catalina on Rose Bay when she came to pick up the cake. They were very excited to finally have a slice of their wedding cake and share the moment with their family. Thank you again for letting me make your wedding cake and anniversary cake :).

      So on the weekend of my first wedding cake anniversary I happen to also have an order for my second wedding cake. This was booked in well in advanced by a friend I actually met online whom I've known for yonks now. She had seen my creations coming to life and wanted me to make her wedding cake. It was for a four tiered chocolate mud cake to feed around 300 odd people. There were a few changes along the way from the original design idea that the bride came to me with and it was only a week out from the wedding that we finalised exactly what it was going to look like. I was kicking myself for taking this on as it was my biggest project ever but when I delivered it to the reception and stood back to look at it I was very proud at what I had accomplished. And I can't believe I also managed to complete the anniversary cake too on the same day. A lot of late nights that week.
       I don't think I want to take on another wedding cake again though. The pressure is just HUGE and of course you want to make sure that everything is absolutely perfect. And when the designs are so simple like this one here there's no where to hide the imperfections. None the less a huge thank you to the bride and groom for trusting in me to deliver this gorgeous cake :)

      Ahhh little Isaac. Isaac's mum commented on my Princess Dora cake a few months back saying that she had better think about placing an order soon so then and there we secured the date just in case I got booked out for his birthday. This was the third cake that I made for him. About a month before I started thinking about designs and started talking to Isaac's mum about themes for his birthday. I originally suggested The Wiggles but am so glad when she came back with a Disney Car's theme. Again, I told her that if I failed at the cake toppers, I was going to use toys on top of the cake. I was pretty miffed at my little fondant Lightning McQueen racing car. The design here is inspired by all the different photos I saw when I googled some images for ideas on a 'Cars' themed cake.

      Lightning McQueen, complete with race track, skid marks and smoke. Ryan suggested the idea of using some Persian fairy floss to create the smoke which was pretty awesome.

      October means it's Breast Cancer awareness month and our great pink fundraising bake or donate event at work. My contribution this year was just some red velvet, pink covered cake pops. I really should have made my pink boobie macarons like I did last time. I missed the judging due to confusion of different session start times but I don't think mine would have won anything this year anyway.

      Didn't take any photos either but here's a snapshot that I took on my phone.

      It's the future mother in law's birthday and this year I decided to make an ube maccapuno cake for her. Ube is a purple yam (similar to taro) that is generally used in making Filipino desserts. I bought some frozen grated ube from a local Filipino grocer and made an ube chiffon cake which I filled and frosted with some ube flavoured cream cheese frosting and pieces of maccapuno, which is a young coconut sport also used in Filipino desserts. The outside is dusted in some dessicated coconut. Everyone really liked it and she even said that my version was so good it was even better than the Filipino versions that she has had.

      Princess Dora caused quite a stir at work that she was requested to make an encore appearance by another colleague. It was also for another little girl who was turning four. This time it was a vanilla buttercake with a pink vanilla buttercream filling.

      My cousin's birthday and I did another 'experiment' for the family. This time it's a flourless choc hazelnut cake, with a chocolate hazelnut praline mousse filling, 'glazed' with dark chocolate ganache. Again, absolutely rich and decadent but my cousin did request chocolate!

      November 2012. I get a text from my cousin saying that he is organising a 'surprise' anniversary party for his wife and kids. Of course I offered to make a cake for them. Well a 'surprise' was only half a surprise and my cousin's wife knew I was making the cake for them so when I asked her what kind of cake she wanted she requested my red velvet cake. I originally had some crazy ideas (think a mansion with a yard and a Lamborghini, my cousin's dream car) but my partner in crime and fellow talented home cake decorator (who is also my cousin in law's cousin) was busy with prac and uni so I was on my own and had to simplify my ideas. I knew that I wanted to make a figurine family of them but wasn't quite sure on the rest of the design. A little birdie told me that my cousin in law was thinking something along the lines of 'love and family' so I was half way there.
      Anyway, long story short the party was for about 100 people and the 'surprise' was a bit of a fail but my cake sure did receive a lot of attention from everyone. Everytime I looked at the cake there was someone in front of it taking a photo. It didn't look like how I had imagined it to be though with the design being changed very last minute due to me trying out a new technique without practicing beforehand. But I was pretty happy with what I produced on the whim.

      Uncle's big 5-0 (husband of aunty who turned the big 5-0 and also dad to my cousin who got married in August). I thought I would avoid going down the path of another rich chocolate cake and decided to bake a pandan chiffon cake with a coconut buttercream and hazelnut praline (leftover from a previous cake). I really liked the taste of this one.

       Christmas 2012. It's the great festive baking season and I decided to make some gingerbread to give out to fellow colleagues. I baked about 60 snowflakes in total and dipped them all in white chocolate and individually wrapped them all up. For my managers and fellow PA/EA ladies I made jars of savoury rosemary, parmesan, lime and chilli shortbread. All were very well received.

        For home and for friends I made some ginger ninjas and some gingerbread bites (mini cookies).

      I can't help but bake some Christmas macarons too. The red ones are Christmas pudding flavoured and the green ones are my very popular lime macarons.

Ryan's family had a Christmas gathering at their place so I baked a hummingbird cake to contribute. 

       And for our family Christmas BBQ, along with my sticky bbq beef ribs, I made some choc mud peanut butter cake pops (frozen mixture leftover from a previous event I made them for) and also brought along some of my gingerbread. And that was the end of baking for 2012. What a year!

      Which brings me to my very first cake for 2013. It was my brother's girlfriend's 21st in January and he had put in a request since last year for a Chanel handbag cake for her. I wasn't quite sure I could pull it off but I did and was so stoked at how real it looked. There were a couple of hiccups making the chain but I think I did well recreating a designer handbag with cake and fondant.

        At the boyfriend's request - Strawberry macarons with a peanut butter milk chocolate ganache and a bowl of red skins macarons. Wasn't until now (yep, after 13 years) that I learned of his two favourite things, peanut butter and red skins lollies. 

      Of course being Lunar New Year was another excuse to bake. My instagram feed was flooded with photos of peanut cookies and pineapple tarts which arn't really a Vietnamese thing, and since we don't really have any baked specialties for New Year's I decided to bake some pineapple macarons. Mum had some caramelised pineapple in the freezer which I used to mix with some white chocolate ganache and I coloured my macaron shells red since it's the lucky colour. As they turned out a bit lighter (more pink) than what I wanted I decided to paint them red and gold to inject them with some festive cheer.

      My brother's birthday was this week and on Sunday he went out with some friends to celebrate a combined birthday with them. He ended up requesting a tiramisu cake as they really liked the tiramisu I made for them on new year's eve. I did use a different recipe though for the frosting and decided to bake a sponge cake instead of using sponge finger biscuits so it probably wasn't as good as the original. I made some almond praline to decorate the outside of the cake and popped some of my red pineapple macarons on top. Oh and I added + Crystal after I took the photo, for the other birthday celebrant.

      You may have seen this popping up in your instagram and facebook feeds in the last couple of days. This was the birthday cake I made for my brother to have at home with the family. I had a crazy idea a while ago (since last year actually) that I wanted to attempt to make a hamburger cake. As a budding cake decorator I originally didn't think I could pull it off but this year was the year to try it. It wasn't as hard as I originally thought it would be though I did come across some hurdles when it came to ganaching and covering and assembling the layers. And yes, everything on this plate is edible (except the plate) though I can't imagine eating fondant fries would be very pleasant. You'd probably be on a massive sugar high.
      The cake itself was an almost disaster too as my digital kitchen scale battery had died and I used a different set of scales that were not very accurate which resulted in a mix that didn't seem to be the right consistency. It cooked fine though but ended up being a very sweet cake as it probably had more sugar than what was supposed to be in the recipe. All in all, I think this is the most awesome/fun cake I've made so far, but I think my favourite would be the Lightning McQueen cake and the anniversary cake with the figurines of my cousins and nieces.

      And that pretty much sums up my year and a bit in cakes and baked goodies. Now you know why this blog has taken such a back seat in my life. I do really appreciate all those who do pop by this blog and also those who follow me on the social media networks. I really have no idea what will be coming my way this year but I really really hope that I can blog more often (as long as I'm not busy baking!). In the mean time continue to stalk me on instagram, facebook and twitter for my daily food adventures. Who knows, I may be opening the doors to my very own store sometime in the not too distant future ;)


Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

AMAZING - no other words.

OohLookBel said...

You're so clever to turn a hobby into a such skill. And the range of cakes you've churned out is incredible. Congratulations! PS: Been loving your Instagram peeks as well.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you've been busy developing some serious skills! Congratulations! I specially like the looks of the chocolate/hazelnut (aka Nutella) cake, the "just because" chocolate cupcakes, your cousin's wedding cake and the burger cake. Awesome!

Shanshan Lam said...

This is CRAZY GIRL!! Superb job on all these cakes!

ana pedic said...

Your cakes are AMAZING. I have two questions: did you do the Planet Cake course, and would you mind sharing your recipes for macarons? They look spectacular and I would love to have a go. Love the blog.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Gorgeous cakes Angie! And you've been SO busy! I have to say the Chanel bag is one of my favourites although it would be hard to pic one :)

Richard Elliot said...

What a year in cakes! You're definitely on the way to opening your own bakery / cake shop.

Thank you so much for my birthday cake last year. We all loved it in the office and marvelled at how perfectly square the edges of the icing was. Mmmmmm

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Wow Angie, what an amazing and productive year you had with cakes. Seriously awesome.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Wow look how far you've come! I think my favourites would still be the ginger ninjas though. lol

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Amazing stuff and so good to see your "little" hobby taking on a life of its own! Love seeing all your creations on Instagram =)

betty said...

wow angie u are an amazing baker

milkteaxx said...

omg talented much? love your creations esp the macaron wedding cake! i had a go at cake pop making too this year and boy were they time consuming and messy! i found 100's and 1000's everywhere for a week after!