Author: Amy

Macaron Madness!!

The same friend who requested the camera cake also asked for 2 dozen macarons amongst a bunch of other requests for macarons plus I had to make a heap for the obligatory family Christmas gatherings. Making a normal batch of about 40 macaron shells is usually pretty challenging. But getting the results consistently for over 100 macaron shells is where the real fun begins and your sanity just about ends.

I could probably write tomes about macarons and others certainly have (a quick search on google will turn up hundreds of results and several blogs dedicated solely to the art of the perfect macaron). I’m self-taught when it comes to these fickle little delicacies of almondy delight and I have tried and tested about 4 different recipes. What I’ve realised is that there is no one foolproof method – it’s a matter of trial and error until you get the right recipe, bake time and drying time that fits the conditions in your own kitchen.

The two books I rely on the most are: Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal for a good recipe and I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita for excellent interesting flavours. I have also tried Adrian Zumbo’s recipe however it asks for powdered egg whites which can be hard to come by and in my oven, it doesn’t seem to quite produce the same results.

Amy’s Top 4 Macaron Making Tips (I didn’t do a top 5 as I couldn’t think of a noteworthy 5th..)

Note that these are for the Italian meringue method, not the French method. I now only use the Italian method as I found my French macarons were too brittle and fragile for handling. The Italian method also gives you more reliable results and tastes a lot more moist and spongy when you bite into it. I’m not sure you can really see the difference but here are the two types:

 

French Macaron

 

Italian Macaron 

#1 Grind, Sift, Sift. Processing the icing sugar and almond meal together in a food processor can be time consuming and laborious but it’s absolutely essential. Sifting it twice through a fine sieve is even more so if you want nice smooth shells. This is my least favourite part of the recipe but a completely necessary evil. Doing large batches is especially heinous because it’s so laborious but I’ve never once compromised this part of the recipe.

# 2 Pipe everything and pipe the right amount. This is unavoidable if you covet a round shell that will rise evenly.  I use a 12 inch plastic piping bag and Loyal plastic 1cm piping tip. A handy trick is to stand the bag in a tall beer glass before you fill it so it doesn’t get too messy. The size of the piping relative to batter consistency also makes a difference. These are two experimental batches piped to different sizes using the same batter – look at how differently it rises.

The batch to the left were piped to 1 inch wide, the batch to the right were 3/4inch wide. 

Piping the filling is also necessary if you want a nice finish when you sandwich the shells together. I also use hand made baking paper cones to pipe the ganache / filling onto the shells. I was surprised at how much filling even a medium-sized shell requires to get the ganache all the way to the edge when you sandwich. In these photos, there is about 1 inch high mound of ganache for a standard 1.5 inch macaron:

Piped Chocolate Mint ganache filling and how much filling you need relative to shell size.

 

# 3 Croutonage is essential – for French Meringue macarons. This is also known as the drying time. And it really does vary depending on conditions. Some books say 10min, others say up to half an hour. Mine usually take 20-30min and if it takes longer, I usually know that I’ve messed up the proportions. The cardinal rule is if it leaves even the tiniest amount of residue when you touch one, it’s not ready. And don’t bung it in the oven thinking it’ll be fine… it generally won’t be and the 2 times I tried this both times the macaron didn’t rise evenly and the highly coveted little “feet” (also known as the crimpy part at the bottom of a perfect macaron which makes it a macaron as opposed to an almond biscuit or meringue) didn’t form. To top it all off they usually crack all over and end up looking more like cracked almond biscuits..

The perfect “feet” forming in the oven

# 4 Colouring the almond paste is more reliable than colouring the sugar syrup. I’ve tried adding colouring to the sugar syrup as is the method called for by Adriano Zumbo however this can be pretty risky depending on the colour. The main reason why I now avoid this method is because you can’t tell if your sugar is burning if your thermometer isn’t accurate. Usually by the time you smell it burning, that’ll be the time to chuck the sugar syrup out and face a hefty clean up of a sugar coated saucepan!! Also – if you are trying to achieve dark colours, use more colouring than you think you’d need.

To get to this shade of green and red…

…I needed about 1 bottle of Green & Red Spectrum brand gel paste food colouring which originally looked like this in almond paste form (note this varies by brand):

 Coloured almond paste

The funny thing is, people always wonder why macarons cost so much. If you’ve ever looked at a macaron recipe you can probably guess why. It’s an intensive process and so many things can go wrong at any point in time – not to mention almond meal is extremely expensive!!! So next time you think $2.50 for a macaron is hefty, have a go at making them in one colour and flavour then you’ll probably appreciate much more all the different flavours and work that goes into what seems like a high price.

Click here for my new facebook album dedicated to my macaron efforts!

Lights, camera cake… action!

I don’t think words can really adequately describe the fear I faced with this cake. There is nothing quite like the prospect of making a challenging cake you have never made before. Google is usually a bad place to start because you see some perfect creations and think “Mine is never gonna look that good!”. Then I reminded myself to have fun and that I was comparing myself to people who were sculptors or engineers by background and that I was neither of these. It took me a good 24 hours to muster up the courage to carve the body of this cake but I took the plunge late on a Tuesday evening after I’d got myself in the right mood over a couple of episodes of Modern Family. Keep in mind I was also baking 100 macaron shells the same week just in case you think I’m sounding a bit neurotic here..

The brief was a 70th cake for a friend’s father-in-law who is photography enthusiast and the only information I’d been given was that his name was Alan and he had a Nikon camera. So the process started with some good old fashioned googling to find out exactly what a Nikon cake looked like. Investing in my iPad was probably the best thing I’ve ever done – I had it in front of me nearly the whole time I was making this cake.

First step was the body. I did this in 3 layers and built up a small mound of cake on top where the flash would normally slot in. I also realised that using a filleting knife was a fantastic way to do the very fine carving required to get nice rounded edges. The lens was simple – a mini double barrel cake which I cut out using a large circle cutter in 4 layers. Ganaching was very easy except in the very deep parts of the handheld section of the body but because the carve was quite accurate, this didn’t take too long at all.

Here’s the cake in its ganached state before it got hot-knifed:

Then came the really really daunting part which I was fearing all along: covering the cake. Because I’d cut such deep recesses into the handheld part, I knew it was going to be tough to cover without tearing the sugarpaste. Worse still, it need to be clean because white cornflour stains on black icing are so hard to get rid of. It took 2 attempts but here is the first stage of covering the cake and the board:

Covering the lens was easy as it was the same process as normal round cake. Getting the textured part of the lens was also really simple – I just cut out a rectangular shape that would adequately wrap around the body of the lens and used a small quilting tool to mark out the borders. I then used the back of a very long knife to make the grid patterns by hand. In the absence of any embossing equipment, this was (I thought) a decent hand-crafted job!

Other details added including buttons, Nikon and the hallmark red V shape on all Nikon cameras:

I loved that this was really starting to come to life now. As you can see the white cornflour marks were not very pretty… so I ended up using my old piping gel trick to get rid of them:

And here’s where the amateur skill level starts to show a little… A bit of humidity again was my worse enemy with lumps and air bubbles forming around the handle. I also wanted to put a photograph of the birthday boy on edible rice paper to transfer onto the screen however the client never quite got there in sending me one!

So here it is in its finished form, I am pretty pleased with how it turned out and sure there were lots of things I would have liked to have fixed and changed but for my first complex novelty shape, I was pretty darn happy with the result!


For more pics of this cake, click here.

Behind the Scenes of December 2011 – Part I

Wow, I thought November was a big month but December 2011 proved to be even bigger! The first of a 2-part post kicks off with a couple of really fun cakes. I loved that these weren’t just pure novelty cakes but also allowed me to express some artistic freedom too.

Bows & Blossoms: the Corset Cake

First up: A corset cake. This was a really interesting brief as the person who asked for it gave me full artistic freedom in designing and creating this cake for a bridal shower – her only requirements were that it had to match a pink and black colour scheme. I actually didn’t know what a bridal shower was until I did this cake. For those who (like me) have no idea what a bridal shower is, this is the definition according to trusty Wikipedia: “The custom of the bridal shower is said to have grown out of earlier dowry practices, when a poor woman’s family might not have the money to provide a dowry for her, or when a father refused to give his daughter her dowry because he did not approve of the marriage. In such situations, friends of the woman would gather together and bring gifts that would compensate for the dowry and allow her to marry the man of her choice..”

Somehow I don’t think that the above rationale for a bridal shower still applies today. In my mind, it’s probably more of an excuse to have a bit of a party and get some bridal gifts before the real wedding! And Bridal Showers are not to be confused with a Hens either I’ve been told.

So back to the cake.. my only design constraints were that it had to look like a corset and be pink and black. Now I’ll confess that when I first got the order, I was a bit nervous about the structure. The first question that I was asking myself was: “Boobs or no boobs??”. A corset is quite a sexy piece of undergarment and all the pictures I’d seen online were 2D cakes with a couple of well-shaped mounds which can actually be quite hard to carve 3D.

In the end I settled for an hourglass shape that was a little more PG and little less R-rated. As with all my cakes, I sketched up a drawing for the client first.

The next part was baking 3 super high mud cakes which could be stacked to make a 9-10inch high hourglass shape. This is two of the 3 cakes stacked on top of each other to test the height:

I trimmed the tops off each of the baked cakes (which my husband always enjoys snacking on) and ganached the three layers together. Then came the hard part: carving. Most people don’t realise that 30-40% of the effort in creating a cake is actually in the early stages doing the carving and ganaching so that you lay the right foundations for the icing.

It took me around ½ an hour to carve this cake properly and I had to turn it constantly on a cake turntable to ensure it was as symmetrical as possible. The structure during carving is also quite unstable as there isn’t a lot of ganache holding the layers together. This is the cake after carving in all its symmetrical glory:

I then inserted a wooden dowel rod through all three layers of cake to give it some support and ganached the whole thing before putting it in the fridge to set.

   
Corset Cake setting in the fridge

Then came the hot-knifing process which I really love. This is where you get to smooth out all the little uneven parts and give the ganache nice polished finish before you apply the icing.

 


Final shape after ‘hot-knifing’ process

The most dreaded step for pretty much any cake I’ve ever made is putting on the sugarpaste icing. This is the most daunting and exhausting part because you have to make sure the icing is rolled out wide enough to cover the entire structure. If you’re even a few centimetres short you have may have to start the whole process again.  God forbid you think “stuff it, I’ll give it a go and see if I can make it” – bad, bad idea.

One of two things can happen: the icing tears or forms a dreaded ‘elephant skin’. Elephant skin is usually one of the most feared parts of cake decorating mainly because it is extremely hard to repair) or worse, you give up trying to repair, hate how it looks and can’t cover it with decoration and end up ripping it off to start over. This generally results in stained icing from the muddy ganache and what is by now a very frustrated decorator having to re-colour and re-knead a whole batch of icing. An exhausting process to say the very least.

This cake was very complex to cover because of the curves. It took me three attempts to cover this baby and I ended up having to do it in 2 sections. VERY hard. Ironically, much harder than a tall wedding cake tier because the curves have to be covered without any air bubbles forming under the icing and requires much more lifting and “fluffing” of the skirt of the icing to accommodate all the curves without air bubbles forming…

Anyway after much consternation, I finally got there and I’d also pre-made some sugar blossoms which I started arranging on the body of the corset to give an optical illusion of a skinnier waist:

To get the boning effect on the corset, I simply rolled out black sugarpaste with a fondant smoother, measured each length out and attached to the body with royal icing. I also piped black royal icing into the centre of each blossom to give them a stylised look.

Black icing is also very hard to work with as it gets stained really easily by cornflour and is hard to remove without leaving dusty white marks. This is where Piping Gel came in to save the day. I used piping gel to give the top and bottom of the corset some gloss and also get rid of any cornflour marks.

For more pictures of the the finished corset on my facebook page, click here.

The Chubby Buggy

Next order in queue was a ladybug cake for a very, very cute 3 year old called Hannah. I nicknamed it the chubby buggy cos it, well, looked like a chubby bug. Not surprisingly, the selected flavours were the ver popular chocolate mud and chocolate ganache. This was  30 person cake and the chosen colour theme instead of a traditional black and red scheme was pink and white which I personally loved as it was so much cuter.

This was a relatively simple cake to carve and ganache – 1 large hemisphere which I baked in a hemisphere tin and a smaller but very fudgey, gooey ball for the head which I used a cake pop recipe to give the cake a couple of different textures.  It also made rolling the head to a giant ball shape much much easier than baking two hemispheres.


Chubby Buggy in its half rough ganached form.
Chubby Buggy setting in the fridge.

Whilst easy to cover, the Chubby Buggy was actually time consuming in decoration as I decided that a plain old ladybug just would not do. Some of the finer details included piping a simple grass-like border around the ladybug body and sourcing the cutest pink toadstool candles which matched the colour scheme perfectly from a local party shop. I also made some miniature daisies and a pink and white spotted border.

This was probably my favourite cake of the month because of the birthday girl’s reaction when I delivered the cake. Totally priceless and I wish I could have bottled it for you to experience – the squeals of delight, little outstretched hands wanting to touch her colourful cake (much to my silent horror) and unstoppable wonder made all the hours of kneading, mixing, sticking, cutting, pressing and piping so worthwhile.  Feedback from her mum about the taste of the cake and the ‘thinness’ of the sugarpaste was also really rewarding.  It’s definitely a skill to not overload a cake with too much sugarpaste and 2-3mm is the holy grail of sugarpaste thickness so you dont wind up with a slice that’s just a mouthful of icing.  She is not a fan of sugarpaste at the best of times and I was delighted that she was so impressed by how thin the sugarpaste was on the cake. For full pics of the buggy on facebook and the birthday girl’s reactions, click here

Coming up next… Christmas, Camera Cake and Macaron Craziness!

The run up to Christmas was a challenging one with quite a few different macaron orders and …. *drum roll* ……a camera cake!! Yes you read that correctly. It’s was a toughie but a goodie!! I’ll write all about the Christmas caking frivolity in Part II of this post which I’ll post in the next couple of days.

Until then, Happy New Year to everyone who has taken the time out to read about this little Cake Venturist!! I know I’m a few days late but best wishes to all and your families and thank you to all my friends and family who have supported me to date, xoxo!

A month of cake venturing madness..

Phew what a month it’s been! I think November 2011 will go down as one of the biggest cake months in my personal Cake Venturing history..

It was also crazy because of the number of international visitors who were in Sydney this month. One of my best mates was in town from London, an ex-colleague was visiting from Amsterdam, old friends and colleagues were also in town for a mid-week wedding. To top it all off there’s been 4 birthdays in the family including my husband, my grandfather-in-law, my father-in-law and my brother.

So needless to say the month so far has been totally nuts and this Venture Cakerist is quite tired (even as I am typing this my eyes keep wanting to shut on me).

Those reading this who have tons of experience might think 4 cakes in 3 weeks is a walk in the park. But with a full time job, it’s been quite full on! Many late nights of work meant I’ve also started to develop a “He-Man”  right arm from the endless beating, stirring, kneading, rolling and ganaching work..

First on the list was a Star Wars Death Star birthday cake.  The cake was a caramel mud cake with dark chocolate ganache… yum. It was a birthday gift for my brother who is a big Star Wars fan. For those of you have no idea what this is, it’s Darth Vader’s spaceship in Star Wars…If you’re a Star Wars geek, don’t look too closely at the detail, you may get disappointed!!

This is how it started out in its perfectly shaped and ganached state:

What was supposed to be a very easy cake (aside from a spherical structure) turned out to be more complex than I thought. The baking, shaping and ganaching was all going very well… Then I had to manage my first “Cake Kryptonite” moment: humidity and heat.

After covering the cake with grey sugarpaste, the little concave part collapsed slightly because of the heat and you can see how the ganache started seeping through the bottom of the concave part…I had to do some emergency repair work and re-piping the day the cake was due to be delivered.

Hand painting each of the piped details with royal icing and silver lustre dust was also super time consuming. A couple of 2am nights and a bit of patchwork later this was the final cake:

The birthday boy’s reaction when he saw the cake:

If you’re wondering what the green thing is, it’s apparently some kind of ‘death ray’ but in my mind it was a useful way to hold up a side of the cake that was not liking the heat!!

Before cutting:
 
After devouring:

For my first spherical cake, I was pretty happy with the effort!!

The next cake for the month was a jungle/baby animal themed Baby Shower cake with 30 cupcakes for one of my closest girlfriends, Hayley. The process started with the animal toppers first which I made from coloured sugarpaste.

They were quite fiddly little things and again the heat ended up making the animals look a little pregnant… but I figured that was pretty appropriate for a baby shower anyway!

I made a last minute decision to create a dummy tier for the animals so that the mum-to-be could box it up as a keepsake. This is finished cutting tier and the assembled tower:

I ended up making a few carrot flavoured cupcakes for the Hayley’s Mum as she didn’t eat chocolate. These were decorated with some simple buttercream swirls and miniature sugarpaste roses.

My latest (and brightest!) cake for the month is a giant pair of “funky psychedelic” flip flops for a beach themed 60th birthday. This was requested by a friend from work for her mum Libby and the brief was “the brighter the better and if possible get the colours clashing!!” I couldn’t quite manage to make the colours clash and ended up making it actually look quite rainbow…

I ended up tinting 8 colours of sugarpaste for the stripes which was a big effort for someone who hates tinting sugarpaste!!

The flip flops with sides covered before the stripes went on.. Covering the carrot cake with white ganache was especially challenging in the heat and whilst you can’t tell in this picture, the inside of the left flip flop also melted and crumbled a little I ended up having to crumb coat the left one and do some major ganache reinforcement..

And voila.. The finished cake! The straps of the flip flops were held up with acetate strips – a neat little trick I picked up from the Planet Cake book.

Click here for a pic of the birthday girl’s reaction! I love seeing feedback like this – makes all the late nights caking so worthwhile and rewarding!!

In between all the cakes I managed to finally perfect my macarons. These are time consuming little things – on average 2 hours per batch because of the amount of processing of the almond/hazelnut meal and sifting required, not to mention the drying time (also known as croutonage) and huge amount of washing up afterwards. I made these for my husband’s grandfather as his birthday present and as a welcome home present for my best friend – glad to say i think they went down quite a treat!

Here’s a peek into my oven during baking:
Left to Right: Plain almond macarons, Hazelnut meal macarons (really yummy)

I’m so proud of those little feet on the macarons!! I actually did a little dance around my kitchen when they formed perfectly. Here are the finished “vintemporary” macarons:

 

All in all a month of some great baking and caking.

What I’ve realised is that flexibility in my job has been paramount to managing the caking madness. It’s been really challenging but so much fun at the same time. There really is nothing more therapeutic for me than creating a sugary delight…

And the fun’s not over yet..

I have one more cake planned for November – a Corset Cake for a bridal shower, should be really fun to make! With Christmas around the corner, I’m also looking forward to doing some really cool Christmas cakes so stay tuned!

As one chapter closes, another begins…

So I finished my final Cake Decorating class at TAFE last Saturday and boy has it been an epic couple of months! To sum up the experience in a sentence: tiring but rewarding, at times frustrating, other times manic but overall fantastic. Quite a few people have asked me to write about my experiences in the class so I thought I’d recount some of my cake ventures for you.

On Day 1, imagine my excitement when these were the first things I saw when I walked into class:

It was like the KitchenAid heavens had opened up and these gleaming machines had descended upon us…

After I introduced myself as a beginner cake decorator who was doing something totally different to her day job, the teacher of the class, Lynn, had me pegged as “the corporate girl”. I still remember her shouting out that I would never make any money and be able to leave my day job if I didn’t pipe my buttercream stars faster… Scary but true!!

This is Lynn doing her thing and the kitchen we worked in:

So to commemorate a 2 month long journey I thought I would try and represent my TAFE experience through some selected photos. Our first class was a teddy bear shaped vanilla sponge we baked from scratch and covered with buttercream icing (yum!):

Note the numerous baking paper piping bags in the background – Lynn drilled us on making these during Day 1 – I made nearly 20 in the first class! The first time I made these little bags it was like crazy origami and now I can do them in my sleep!! And they are a huge money saver.. a bit tougher to use than plastic piping bags but a great skill to have in times of piping need!

The first class is still the one I remember the most vividly even though it was over 2 months ago… it felt like I was in Masterchef, frantically mixing different colours of royal icing and madly piping buttercream stars onto my Teddy Bear cake for 1.5 hours working against the clock, frequently looking at my neighbouring students to check my progress and wondering how their stars were so much neater than mine!

This is the finished bear…(my brother says it looks like he’s having a smoke, I prefer to think of it as a purple tongue sticking out in a cheeky fashion as it was intended!)

I only ate 1 very small slice (mainly cos piping the buttercream was still giving me nightmares)

I also remember getting hugely frustrated with the first time I had to use No.1 piping tip. For those not in the know, a 1 tip is a piping tip size larger than the professional tips used for piping very very fine lines… One sugar crystal and your perfectly beautiful straight line of icing becomes a noodly mess and extremely frustrating to use. That’s when you find out if you were born to pipe or not. The diligent pipers will get their little cocktail stick, scrape away the sugar crystal and keep persevering… The less diligent ones will either a) give up or b) throw the whole thing out and try to start again. I’m glad to say don’t do either and I still love to pipe.

A couple of classes later we covered Brush Embroidery… a really beautiful technique for creating fantastic vintage looks.. One of my favourite classes cos it was truly a artistic experience with no real time pressure and total freedom to create something from our imaginations. This is the piece I started in class:

In one of our later classes we learned how to use pastillage which is a really hard drying form of sugar intended to build 3D structures you’re not meant to be able to eat (well you could .. but it would crack your teeth). It dries super fast to a texture similar to fine china and is basically impossible to work with unless you are extremely prepared and have all your templates ready. We used this to build simple chocolate gift boxes during class:

The pieces were a bit of a rush job but hey, for my first pastillage attempt I wasn’t too displeased with them! We were also only mean to make 2 heart shaped boxes but I got adventurous and decided to try and assemble my own rectangular box without any templates…. living life on the cake edge!!!

Anyway, in our final class we learned how to do some basic sugar flowers and covering fruit cakes with marzipan and sugarpaste. I was really bummed that I missed out of most of the sugar flower component cos I had to leave early to get to a wedding… in the end I only managed to get some basic frangipanis done and cover this cake which in itself was a trial as the sugarpaste was so soft from the humidity it was a total nightmare to work with:

Before…
…After!

I’m saving this fruit cake for Christmas to eat with the family and I’m still working on a second fruit cake from final class which I’ll cover with the frangipanis so I’ll post that up next time I update this blog. I’m thinking the theme will be “winter wonderland”… so stay tuned!

So in the space of about 9 weeks I think it’s fair to say I learned a lot. Scary Lynn also taught me a huge deal about the commercial realities of the cake decorating business.  For instance, wastage of the slightest scrap of material is considered a total sin – or as she put it “throwing money in the bin”. So I’ve learned to be very efficient about weighing my materials and being as precise as possible about estimating quantities. The downside is I also have about 10 tubs of different leftover coloured royal icing in the fridge which I feel too guilty to throw out and am slowly working my way through when I practice my piping!

All in all, I’ve progressed from being the corporate girl who pipes slowly to “absolutely fearless”(I think this was in reference to me always wandering off-syllabus and trying to do my own thing!). So I’m pretty pleased with how I went and I’ve got a great bunch of new skills which I’m already applying.

So look out cake world, Amy’s Cakes is TAFE qualified and venturing on…!!

Let’s start at the very beginning..

After much persuasion from family and friends who are much more experienced than I am in the art of le bloggage, I’ve decided to start my own blog about my “life after five” which over the last few months has revolved pretty squarely around 3 things:

1. Cake
2. Sugar
3. Covering cakes with sugar

It amazed me how much support I’ve received in the last few weeks from friends, family and mentors to start up my very own facebook page. I’ve even managed to get a few paid jobs to practice an amazing craft (and start recouping the many dollars spent on cake decorating equipment and storage!).

So here is my very own little space on the world wide scary web where I plan to diarise my cake adventures properly in written prose rather than random facebook status updates and selective photos on my facebook profile. Hurray for all you (un)lucky readers out there!

So who am I and why exactly am I writing about my after 5 hobby?

I joined the corporate world when I left high school and have never really looked back since. Being creative is something I love but tend to de-prioritise because it’s really not very lucrative if you’re not any good. Outside of piano practice growing up, academics, work, sport and getting my degree were my main priorities. Throw a close knit Chinese family and a loving boyfriend (now husband) to the mix and you can imagine why I really never had much time for anything else. Today, I’m a qualified accountant and a management consultant and I still love what I do – being a Consultant is about as creative as the corporate world gets and there are aspects I still enjoy. However it brings a totally different type of fulfilment to my life than CAKE does.

Why Cake???

I’ve always loved being “artsy fartsy” but never really gave myself much time or freedom to indulge (and yes I use the word indulge) in something as “fanciful” as cake decoration.

I still remember my very first (very bad) attempt** at trying to decorate a giant “R” shaped cake for one of my closest friends when I was still at uni…a total chocolatey piped ugliness .. looking back now I can’t believe I thought it was the best cake I’d ever done! Probably because at the time it was..(I really didn’t have a benchmark to compare it to in total management consultant speak). BUT the real “icing on the cake” was that it tasted god awful (I had accidentally substituted peanut oil for vegetable oil! Ew!). Here it is in all its amateur wonder:

** atrocious photography included free of charge

Then came the second major attempt when I thought I was on a roll…. I actually used maltose to make the sugar ribbons – so wrongtown!!! The chocolate teddy bears were a decent attempt in chocolate moulding though, I’ll give myself that 🙂

That was back in 2008 and it was intended to be a tiffany box. This was definitely a case of a concept not being executed in real life – it ended up being a very hard ganached chocolate box with tiffany coloured ribbon. Oops. And yes gross too – the ribbon melted in the Sydney summer heat a few hours later and was a big goopy mess.

So 3 years, 2 workshops and 1 nearly finished TAFE course later … here I am bumbling away on my self-taught journey of sugary goodness! After my first proper cake class I managed to produce this little monkey… and then it all began!

In the past few months, I’ve discovered sugarpaste, modelling paste, gumpaste – more pastes than you can poke a stick at really.

And even more new terms like pastillage, brush embroidery, tylose, silpat, acetate… it’s like a whole new language and I’m not sure a dictionary would cover all the words in a cake artist’s vocabulary. There’s a technique to this crart which can only be mastered with practice and those who love it, love it with a huge passion. In fact, I’ve never met a dispassionate cake decorator and I’m pretty sure I never will!

Many of my friends have suggested starting a proper business.. but somehow a big part of me still cannot let go of the security of a pretty great corporate career so far. Never mind the constant waves of self-doubt when I see the bajillions of other amazing cakes out there in an increasingly competitive market. I think I’m still working out my point of differentiation as I develop my own style and continue to practice the techniques I’ve learned.

But hey – there is one thing I am good at when it comes to cakes, I am “totally fearless” according to my TAFE teacher – and I’ll try anything once! The best thing about sugar is you can eat your mistakes, so no boundaries or limits – ever!!

So maybe give it a few months and let’s see where this Venture Cakerist called Amy goes. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the ride and thanks for getting this far in my first post!