Thursday, January 23, 2014

My 2013 in cakes and other baked goodies

      Around this time last year I did one epic recap of all the cakes and baked goods I had produced throughout the previous year and a bit. Well, the rest of my 2013 was an even busier year which meant my poor little blog received even less love and attention from me because all my time and energy was spent in the kitchen or I would be passed out on my bed with the little down time that I did get. This blog post doesn't even cover absolutely everything that I have baked in the last year, but I'll show you all the main events. You may have already seen some if not all of these if you have been following me on instagram or facebook. If you are new to the blog - I have been making cakes as a hobby on top of my full time job as an admin assistant/PA for the last couple of years. A hobby which has managed to consume a lot of my free time. I also do wedding flowers on the side, continuing on from my previous career as a florist.
      So my busy 2013 continues with some corny themed gingerbread that I baked just for fun, just in time for Valentines Day. These are 'painted' in white chocolate and coloured candy melts. I do love the taste of white chocolate and gingerbread.

      A good family friend of Ryan's had a baby shower and I couldn't turn up empty handed so made these cute baby jumpsuit gingerbread with white chocolate piping to take along.

      I decided to bake a belated birthday cake for a work colleague instead of ordering one from our on site caterers - Jaffa mudcake with redskin macarons.

      April 2013 saw Ryan and I launch our first ever dessert degustation pop up event for our friends at his parents place which we called 'The DESSERTed Dinner Party'. We were quite pleased with the outcome and the demand and interest from our friends meant that we went ahead and hosted two more for the year. The last one is to be blogged about soon.

      Birthday cake for blogger friend Gastronomous Anonymous' little dragon baby. My brief for this cake was 'she likes balls!' And her dad calls her his little monkey and she loves playing with his soccer ball. I thought the woman was a little mad at first, all I had in my mind was 'she likes balls'. How the heck do you make a cake to reflect that? After some brainstorming between the two of us, this is what we came up with. A dark chocolate mudcake soccer ball cake with small mudcake cake balls around it. I personally delivered this cake to the birthday girl and I must say, her reaction to the balls was absolutely priceless! As soon as she saw the cake she just reached out both her hands and screamed. It was hard to tear her away from her balls.

      And last year I kept baking more and more chiffon cakes. Never got sick of these things :) Always turning back to the Asian favourite of pandan coconut though. I've got to say I can almost make these cakes blindfolded now, after much practice I have my technique down packed.

      A last minute black forest birthday cake for one of my cousins as it's her favourite cake. I was experimenting with a chocolate sponge cake recipe - yet to master it. There was also a plate of purple red skin flavoured macarons served up with this for a family feast.

Mother's Day baking, rosewater cupcakes with lemon butter cream, recipe here.

      Mother's Day cake for Ryan's mum. My 'Victorian Black Forest'. A much better chocolate sponge baked but definitely need more practice with sponge cakes.

      I had an order for a wedding cake with a sugar flower for later in the year so when the opportunity came, I went and booked myself into a sugar flowers course at Planet Cake in Balmain.

      Dessert table that I made all on my own for my cousin's baby shower late May. Read all about it and see what I made here.

      A last minute order for a wedding cake from blogger friend Jen of Jenius/I Ate My Way Through, which turned out to be one of my best looking cakes ever. The bride did not want a traditional wedding cake, and flavour was to be Asian inspired. After a round of cake tasting we decided on a lychee cake with rose buttercream. The inside was pink ombre at the bride's request.

      Unfortunately the bride forgot to tell the photographer to take money shots of the inside of the wedding cake so the crazy baker and crazy bride went and recreated everything just for the photo above.

      My parents celebrated 30 years of marriage last year and we had a big bbq at our place and tagged my birthday on to the whole thing as my birthday was only a few days after their anniversary. Technically I did not bake my own birthday cake. I made a small lime and coconut cake for my parents and and tiers of lime and coconut cupcakes, profiteroles with vanilla bean creme patissier and popcorn caramel macarons. We had lots and lots of food leftover but most of my desserts had disappeared.

      Cousin's 25th birthday Tiffany box cake. Vanilla bean white chocolate mud cake with a lime and white chocolate ganache.

      No, I didn't bake my own birthday cake! It was a week or two long celebration in June with lots of feasting as usual.

In late June, I participated in 'The Sweet Swap' and made turkish delight.

      This was a very last minute request from a colleague at work and I only had a few days notice but luckily I had everything I needed on hand. A giant cappuccino for a cappuccino loving mother made of lemon and coconut cake with a lemon and white chocolate ganache filling and 'froth' made of lemon marshmallow.

      Samples for a blogger friend but the request fell through. Lots of baby cakes left to be shared around so effort was not wasted.

      My cousin had her baby and he had reached his 1 month milestone which is something that is celebrated in most Asian cultures. A rainbow cake is what she wanted and a rainbow cake is what she got! She sent me a whole heap of inspiration photos and I came up with this. Inspired by the movie 'Up'. That's a home made fairy floss cloud which didn't quite survive the heat of the day.

Money shot. Layers of rainbow coconut cake with white chocolate ganache.

      **Edit** I almost forgot about this bizarro piece that I threw together for Nathaniel's uncle whose birthday was the same weekend as his one month celebration. Talk about stealing the limelight, I was too busy making Nathaniel's cake that I didn't have much time to make a cake for his uncle. I can whip together a batch of profiteroles quite easily now and my plan was to make a croquembouche. Then a whacky idea came to me and I thought I could try and turn this croquembouche into a funky shape instead.
       I don't know how effective the end result was but I was short on time as I had to assemble everything after work before running off to the birthday dinner. If you look really closely this should resemble a Nike Air Jordan shoe... I could have made some laces and added a bit more detail but ran out of time. A choux pastry shoe... get it? ;)

      Ms Jenius loved her wedding cake so much she pre-booked me in to make her hubby's 30th cake. We originally wanted to make an actual 3D F1 car cake to surprise the F1 fanatic but due to budget restraints this was the alternative. When I told Ryan about the project, being an F1 fan himself he was pretty interested to see how it would turn out. The cake topper is hand made out of fondant and thanks to Ryan for helping me with all the details, and putting it all together. He helped me hand cut the Pirelli logo for the top of the tyre cake, and all that detail which you can see under the car is hand cut too.

      As a surprise to the newly married couple I made the inside of the cake 'rainbow' to match the Red Bull team colours. They certainly got a pleasant surprise :) They really liked the ginger & palm sugar cake with lime butter cream that I made when we were doing the wedding cake sampling so I recreated it for the birthday cake. Unfortunately though I think the flavours were a bit on the weak side this time so didn't really come through as much as I had wanted them too. I also had to substitute the buttercream for ganache instead as it was quite a warm August and even then I was worried the cake would not hold up under the heat.

      You may have seen this crazy project's progress on instagram or facebook last year. Somehow I can rarely say no to my own mother. When I said yes to a baking request from mum on behalf of the church for Father's Day I don't think I quite comprehended what I had gotten myself into. She originally asked me to bake 'about 100 cakes' for church and I said 'sure mum!' In Vietnamese we have a general term used for baked goods and or cakes, 'banh' can mean anything without context and I assumed mum just meant some little cup cakes or something.
      We don't have a word for macarons and mum wouldn't even know that that's what they are called so when she started describing them I knew it was not going to be an easy task... I explained to her that 100 macarons meant I would have to bake 200 shells. And the fact that these things are so temperamental they might not even turn out. 'About 100' soon creeped up to 'about 150' and I ended up delivering about 200 macarons. I had to make a lot more than that too get my 200 perfect macarons though considering there were a lot of rejects. I was in the kitchen straight after a long day at work every day the week leading up to Father's Day and wouldn't finish until about midnight. It was quite the experience but never again!
      As these were for an Asian audience I decided to play with Asian flavours and ended up with jasmine tea, Vietnamese coffee, pandan coconut, and ginger & palm sugar (inspired by the sweet syrup that mum makes for the popular tofu dessert 'tofu fa').

      Christening cake and cupcake tower for a special little baby. You may remember all the cakes I made last year for a boy named Isaac, well Isabel is his baby sister and their mother is my number one fan. The cake was booked in before their photographer uncle even knew about the event ;) This was also my first time creating a sugar flower outside of a classroom, giving me practice before the wedding cake I had to make later in the year. The small cake was a vanilla bean white chocolate mud cake with vanilla bean white chocolate ganache and the cupcakes were lemon and coconut with a coconut buttercream and lychee with rose buttercream.

      A birthday gift for one of Ryan's work mates. The year before, I came to the party with a box of red velvet babycakes. This year's theme was 'drag' so I thought some bright and loud cupcakes would be fitting to bring to the party. I tried an orange flavoured funfetti cupcake (the funfetti didn't come out as bright as I had hoped though once the hundreds and thousands were mixed through the cake batter) and the frosting was a swirl of lemon, orange and rose flavoured buttercreams in purple, pink and orange. Sprinkled with lots of disco dust of course.

      I wasn't sure if Isaac was getting a custom cake this year as it was 'only' his third birthday but his mum emailed me last minute with the request (compared to the months ahead that she booked me for previous years). He was currently into Thomas the Tank Engine and we originally toyed with the idea of a 3D Thomas cake but in the end we had a dozen Thomas cup cakes for him to share with his little friends and a small cake to celebrate with his family. The cake topper is hand made out of fondant and and I put a jaffa twist on the family favourite chocolate mudcake.
      The one thing I love about making these cakes is watching/hearing the reactions from the recipients. It gives me joy, to bring joy to other people. Isaac was still awake when I arrived with the cakes and was very very excited when he saw all the Thomas cupcakes. He did ask where the James cakes were... oops! He wanted to eat one then and there and couldn't quite comprehend that he had to go to sleep first before he could have one. I felt bad that I didn't wait until he was asleep to deliver the cakes. Mum and dad must have had a hard time putting him to bed that night.

      The 'Fancy Schmancy Dinner Party' club still continued throughout 2013. We managed another 3 dinners with the last one being in October. Numbers had dwindled a bit but we wanted to keep it going and we had a very good one to start off the year this year. A recap of our dinners will be up on the blog soon.

      Birthday cake for Ryan's mum. Every year I seem to be caught off guard when her birthday comes around. This time I only found out the day before so with what I had on hand I made her a pandan coconut chiffon cake with a pandan flavoured chantilly cream. I was a bit short of cream so couldn't even pipe rosettes on the top of the cake. Ryan was working that night so I delivered the cake myself and ended up coming in and having a slice of cake with her over some tea.

      A birthday cake for another cousin. One of my favourite cakes that I've made! Usually I don't get a lot of notice when it comes to birthdays in the family so I don't really have time to make anything fancy. This time I had some time up my sleeves so decided I would make something a bit different to my usual. And to think, most of this cake was based around things I had to use up! A jaffa marble mudcake (jaffa white chocolate mud swirled with dark chocolate mud), filled with jaffa dark chocolate ganache and decorated in ganache rosettes. To top it all off I had some sad looking strawberries in the fridge so decided to fancy them up with some white chocolate and made some peanut butter pop rock macarons. I love how the colours on top are a contrast to the dark cake. I also found out that the birthday girl loves jaffa! What a happy coincident.

      Wedding cake for my brother's manager in November. Last Christmas (2012) I sent in some peanut butter chocolate mudcake cake pops to my brother's work as I had made a surplus and that first bite is what hooked in his manager. I then made that burger cake for his birthday where he took the leftovers in and she was very keen for me to make her wedding cake. I originally said no but a few months later I received an email to say that her cake maker had to pull out and that she really really liked the taste of my cakes and was very keen for me to make her wedding cake. I agreed and the cake was booked in and paid for - about 8 months before the wedding. Gee I love organised brides!
      Now don't be fooled by it's simplicity, the most simple looking cakes are the hardest to do! There is nowhere to hide any mistakes or imperfections. The bride requested a white chocolate mudcake with a large sugar flower. The birds were provided. The wedding was all the way in Palm Beach and it was a hot Spring day which made the drive up there all the more nerve wrecking. It arrived at the Boat House safe and sound (and intact) and I let out a big sigh of relief when that delivery was done. My last major cake project for the year, and I think I managed to pull off a very stunning cake.

      Cake off cuts are never wasted now. All off cuts are turned into cake pops and I always keep cake balls in the freezer now for emergencies. I sent my 'leftovers' in with Ryan to his new work place and they deemed me a baking goddess.

      Apart from all the major baking projects, I do bake 'just because', or 'for fun'. Yes, this is my kind of fun and relaxation - not all the time of course. Whipped up a batch of 48 cup cakes just because. They all went to good homes of course :)

      December means the start of crazy Christmas baking! Started off with green lime flavoured macarons and red Christmas pudding flavoured macarons..

Christmas themed cupcakes.

Some non Christmassy cupcakes in amongst it all.

My annual Christmas goodies sweat shop/production kitchen.

      For my managers and admin ladies I work with I made a mix of chocolate crackle cookies or parmesan paprika twists and popped them in these gorgeous jars that I found at Myer.

      For Christmas with the family I actually didn't bake anything (though bbq ribs in the oven probably counts as baking?). I made mangomisu cups for lunch with the family. Recipe is from the Taste website. I decorated them with some white chocolate dipped cherries and some redcurrants I saw which I thought were perfect for a festive looking dessert.

      I made a large mangomisu 'cake' and decided to give this to Ryan's family as my Christmas present to them.

      And 2014 starts with more baking 'just because'. I have formed quite a reputation with these brownies which I only started making recently - chocolate brownies with hazelnuts and caramel chips and a hint of chilli. The chilli only comes through as a slight buzzing sensation at the end - people are loving it! Ryan's boss was very upset that he was away when I made these for his colleagues so I had to whip up a batch just for him. I've made this a few times for my workplace too.

      Last week was my brother's girlfriend's birthday. It was a last minute decision to make these chocolate mudcake cupcakes but I was already baking for something else anyway. No Chanel handbag cake this year ;)

      Engagement cake for a lovely and talented couple. A couple of our friends got engaged and my number one fan wanted me to make the engagement cake for her brother and sister in law-to-be as a gift to them for their engagement party/tea ceremony. At the time she made the request I wasn't sure if I'd have a kitchen to bake in but luckily the start of our renovations are a little further delayed so I was able to make this cake in familiar surroundings.
      The couple wanted a non traditional cake, they wanted to incorporate their love of food and love of smelling flowers. I love that this cake also gave me a chance to combine my two loves of cakes and flowers together too. The end result was a two tiered cake, first tier was a dark chocolate mudcake (because they love my mudcake) filled with a dark chocolate ganache. The second tier was to be something a bit less rich and they ended up choosing a pandan coconut cake which was filled with a coconut white chocolate ganache (I didn't want to gamble with a buttercream filling in the middle of a hot summer). The two tiers were stacked and then covered in a Swiss meringue buttercream as it was supposed to be more stable than regular buttercream and then decorated with fresh flowers. But with the extreme heat that hit Sydney last weekend even I would have melted, let alone cake!
      There were a few small dramas during transportation with the heat, as I had to take it to the groom to be's place where it was then transported again by them to the bride to be's home. I should have insisted on delivering the cake directly to her place but the groom's family wanted to take the cake as part of the procession of gifts involved in the traditional tea ceremony. Any other time of the year it probably would have been ok but it was about 38+ degrees out in the western suburbs that day. The happy couple didn't seem too fussed I was told and everyone loved the taste of the cake and there was none leftover which is a good sign I suppose. I was just very glad when that was all over.

      Red Velvet Babycakes. Just Because. Leftover Swiss meringue buttercream and buttermilk that needed to be used so I decided to make use of the oven while we still have it. The kitchen is due to be ripped out in the next week or two so we've packed everything up. Baking is like a game of hide and seek as I've packed everything away in different boxes and crates which are stored all over the house whever we can fit them. Not sure what I am going to do with myself without a working kitchen in the house! Mum will have a little make shift kitchen out in the backyard for basic stuff but there won't be any gourmet meals or baked goods from me for a while. Can't wait for the new and improved kitchen to play in!

      And of course I have been kept extra busy with all the wedding flowers I've been doing in the past few years and it's just another busy year on that front with a wedding this weekend. A lot of people ask me how do I do it... the baking and the flowers all on top of a full time job. To be honest I don't know either but I am well and truly exhausted at the moment and I think it's a love for it that has kept me going all this time. I will probably use the renovations as a chance to take  abit of a break from it all, though I know there are some other big projects in the pipeline coming up later in the year which might mean that all my cakes will have to take a back seat but we'll see what happens...

      Thank you to all my family, friends and readers/followers/likers for all your support throughout 2013, here's to a bigger and even more exciting 2014! I turn the big 30 this year too so keep an eye out on my plans for that celebration - lots of food involved of course ;)


Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Wheee so many rainbow cakes! So bright! So vivid! And your chiffon cakes are always awesome :)

Richard Elliot said...

What a year of cakes!

Your creations are becoming ever more impressive. I'm looking forward to seeing what you produce in 2014!

Jen @ I Ate My Way Through said...

What an amazing year! Glad to have featured in your highlights! Thanks for the best wedding cake I could've ever dreamed of! And for having the patience to fix Zen's F1 car, LOL!

penny aka jeroxie said...

You are amazing girl! can't wait to see and check out your new kitchen

calvin kelly said...

Leche Flan and Miso Caramel Macarons and Cassava Cake were some of my favorite foods..

calvin kelly said...

Impressive.. You're really fantastic.