Moet and a Macaron Mythbusting Masterclass

A new month with new challenges! March has brought some really interesting new challenges – all of which seemed to start with the letter M!

Moet anyone?

I got a call from one of Mr Cakespeare’s bosses a few weeks back about a cake he wanted me to make for his wife. The brief? “Just a simple standing Moet & Chandon bottle with a box of chocolates that were actually made out of cake”…. Easy in concept, slightly trickier in execution!

I had to design the bottle for transportation and the boys both needed to transport the cake (Mr Cakespeare to work and his boss was taking the cake home).. Which meant 2 treacherous car trips and 2 very nervous men who were “not built to transport cakes”. So I decided in the end to make it a bottle lying down in a champagne box…

The box was originally designed to be a wooden box but I decided that was too boring and went instead for a pink gift box. We then decided to substitute the chocolates for chocolate cake pops wrapped in Lindt wrappers (Lindt was the birthday girl’s favourite chocolate) as a bit of a special extra something and gave it a more vintage girly feel which is very much Anna’s style.

Here’s the cake getting carved and shaped and the bottle rough ganached before hot knifing:

Carving the box with a 3cm rim was also a bit tricky and needed to be very precise because of the fragility of the structure. I managed to cover the whole top and rim in 1 piece of fondant and cut the edges freehand to make it look like a lid..

Believe it or not the part I actually struggled with the most was not the piping or the box or the bottle but what to put AROUND the bottle to make it look like the stuffing or straw you see in gift boxes… I made 3 different types of stuffing before I went for plain white to offset the pink and match the lace piping..

Now I have to confess that the box MAY have got slightly squashed at times because I was piping at around 1am at night…. and on occasion forgot about where I was resting my hand…. yikes. So the edges aren’t as beautifully straight as I would have liked.

The second hardest part was the label which would either make or break this design as it’s instantly recognisable and yet we also wanted to customise it with Anna’s birth year and a special message. I ended up designing it from scratch in powerpoint (yes in typical management consultant style) and then getting it custom printed by a cake decorating supplier. The message and writing were hand written which I’m pretty proud of!

Overall I thought it looked quite good… the humidity was a total killer and I think my airconditioning bill alone to keep the bottle from melting probably ate up whatever margin I may have made on this cake.

Macaron Mythbusting with Sensei JM

The next chapter of March was a fantastic macaron masterclass with Jean Michel Raynaud (also referred to as Sensei JM for his total mastery of all things sweet). Class was held on a sunny Sunday at Sydney’s Baroque Bistro and I rocked up with one of my best friend’s husband, Nav, who is a bit of a budding Zumbo (sorry JM I know you probably just shuddered reading that! :P). Being back in class with Sensei JM was great – mainly because he was in his usual hilarious form but also cos I got to hang out with my friend Michelle from Cake Craze in Newcastle again.

Class kicked off with intense theory and JM gave early warnings of potential moments of “blank faces” or “glassy eyes” because he likes to delve into technical stuff.  Personally this was the best part of the class for me!

Here are my top 5 Macaron Myths Busted from the masterclass!

Myth # 1 Busted: Drying time for Italian meringue macarons is necessary to achieve the perfect “foot”

Perhaps one of the biggest myths to JM dispelled for me was the “croutonage” concept which a lot of books say you need to do in order to form a “skin” on the macaron so it will rise in the oven to form the little foot at the bottom of the macaron. JM said this is a complete fallacy and proceeded proved to us was totally wrong in the class. For those who have read my previous “Macaron Madness” post, you’ll note that I too fell for this major myth!!

Note however drying the macarons after you pipe them isn’t COMPLETELY wrong. French macarons still require this time to dry because there is no cooked meringue mixture in the batter. However because of the cooked sugar used in the meringue for the Italian macarons, the longer you leave them to dry the more the sugar will crystallise and the quicker you lose the shine on the macarons. Major lightbulb moments happened for me when we covered this in our class.

Sensei JM puts the macarons immediately into this mammoth oven without drying and they still come out with perfect feet!


Myth # 2 Busted: Crystallisation in the pan is caused by not stirring the water and sugar together

“Water fiiirst people!” was JM’s mantra during the sugar syrup preparation process.

I once killed 3 batches of my sugar syrup with crystallisation. Each time I couldn’t work out why even though I googled the scientific basis behind crystallisation. Was it a dirty pan? Washed my pan and it happened again. Was it sugar on the side of my pan? Brushed down the sides with water and it still happened. Was it my thermometer? Cleaned it off and it STILL happened. This is by far my most feared downfall in macaron making.

Turns out all you need to do put the water in the pan first and NOT stir the sugar whilst it’s boiling. A simple trick is to also stir gently with your finger before putting to boil at a high heat. This is how you prevent the crazy growth of sugar crystals spreading like some unstoppable disease across your pan. Having a clean pan and brushing the sides down with water with your finger also helps. JM’s method hasn’t failed him for over 20 years so I think I’ll be doing this next time I make my macarons..


Myth # 3 Busted: Seized ganache cannot be saved

“Emulsion, emulsion, emulsion people…” When it comes to fillings ganache is by far the most popular in Australia. However there have been a number of times where I’ve thrown out seized ganache (where the chocolate and cream have separated). Now I’ve learned the way to rescue it! More water, less fat and then…. emulsion, emulsion, emulsion. To emulsify means to combine fat with water. It’s labour intensive but it’s also how most macaron fillings are made. Adding a little water and re-combining the ganache can help to save it… I’m definitely trying this next time!


Emulsion is also an important concept for achieving beautiful salted caramel which is what JM has become famous for. Lots of emulsion and a shedload of butter of course!!! Notice also how the colour of the caramel changes from quite a dark colour to a light brown colour with more emulsion. It’s a process that will definitely give you RSI but the taste is definitely worth it!!

Sensei JM adds the final touch of Fleur de Sel to the caramel after emulsion..

Myth # 4 Busted: Overworking the batter (macaronage) will cause the macarons to fail

The last major “aha!” moment was the process of working the batter and how to detect the right consistency. It’s a little hard to explain in words but essentially beating and mixing then folding until glossy is the way to go. The shinier your batter the more likely you’ll be to have shiny macarons. This is because the tant pour tant(TPT) mixture has been well combined and any lumps remaining will likely sink to the bottom. I had always avoided folding and beating the mixture too much because I was afraid of incorporating too much air but turns out that by mixing it a little more than I would have you get better results because you’re essentially breaking the albumin in the mixture down.

Here’s the progression of the macaron batter JM demonstrated:

TPT mixed with egg white and colour

Macaronage begins…until thick and glossy!


Myth #5 Busted: You have to watch your thermometer like a hawk to get to soft ball stage and overboiling kills the mixture

Not true! So this was the coolest part of the class. Watching JM dip his fingers in ice cold water then rapidly grabbing boiling sugar at well over 118C out of the pot to demonstrate what stage it was at. We observed all the stages of sugar from thread, soft ball, hard ball, soft crack and hard crack as JM dipped his fingers into the sugar over and over again playing with the little balls of sugar and throwing them onto the counter to demonstrate their consistency. Meanwhile I was freaking out wondering why his fingers weren’t burning!!!

Turns out that it really doesn’t matter what stage the sugar is at – you don’t need to watch the thermometer like a hawk until it reaches 118C (soft ball stage) – just adding ice water back into the sugar mixture will actually bring the temperature back down if you are under. So as long as you don’t pass into the “carbonised” (burned) stage your sugar syrup can always be saved! Hmmm… this could be a whole new area of interest for me….

Here’s Nav being the only soul brave enough to attempt the dipping of fingers in ice cold water then quickly grabbing sugar straight out of a very very hot pot of boiling sugar syrup (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME PLEASE!!)


The Verdict?

I highly recommend learning macarons with Sensei JM if you’ve never done it before – it saves you a whole lotta heartache and pain and you also take home a stack of macarons to enjoy and share with your family. And even if you have it’s still worth learning and observing all the tips and tricks that you can’t pick up through books or reading. They even give you your own apron and a funky little certificate to keep which was a nice touch!

Check out Baroque Bistro’s site for information and click here for more pics from the class that didn’t make the blog.

Stay tuned for some more March madness … some big developments in this little Cakespearare’s world are coming up soon!

Lace Piping & Sugar Flowers with Lorinda Seto

Lorinda Seto: a fantastic lady who is dedicated to the art of simply beautiful cakes. Definitely someone who has really redefined the term “self taught artist” and she is also a lovely, lovely person who exudes humility. Can’t say that about too many people these days can you! She’s also won a ton of prizes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which shows that this lady has guts!!

I first met Lorinda a while ago when I was a cake newbie and took her Tiffany Cupcakes class with a friend (which still cause ripples amongst my likers and friends who go “ooh” and “ahh” when they see those cupcakes). We chatted after the class and reflected on her experiences as an ex-corporate lawyer and how she wound up in cake decorating and I felt like we had a pretty intrinsic connection just off the back of that alone! We have kept in contact since and she’s always been so helpful with tips and advice in moments of cake-stress (that’s my version of cake distress btw) that I decided it was time to dedicate a post to her workshops.

So I managed to make it to Lorinda’s Lace Piping class a few weeks ago.. hurrah!! And more recently I also begin learning the fine art of The Rose and The Gardenia from her at her Sugar Flowers workshop… double hurrah! I capitalise those flowers because each of those flowers could warrant their own posts. Incidentally and on a complete tangent, I also recently enquired about a class with Maggie Austin who is a renown cake artist from Washington DC and her next class was entitled (quite grandiosely) “The Rose” – capitalised you’ll note – to give it the eminence that it so rightly deserves.

So back to Lace Piping. There are also myriad upon myriad of styles of lace piping like you would not believe. I didn’t know this but if you can imagine this: any piece of lace – no matter what pattern or style – can be converted into a royal icing piped version.  That is like a whole miniature world of cake decoration right there! We learned 4 patterns during Lorinda’s workshop – all very intricately traced and transferred onto a lustred square dummy. This was the demo cake:

Lace Piping is such a detailed, back-breaking and patience-fuelled art form it’s hard to describe in words the type of person you need to be to achieve this type of piping. I’d probably pick masochist as the top word but Hardcore with a capital H would be the second. But level of difficulty and patience required aside, the world of cake decorators is usually split into two: those that love to pipe and those that are too scared to pipe. Then there are lace pipers. Don’t even get me started on those who love to do extension work and collars (far too complex to even get into here)… All I can say is google Eddie Spence and you’ll start to get the idea.

A piping workshop is also mostly very very quiet.. lots of hunched backs, tense jaws and sore hands. I don’t mind any of these factors at all. Maybe it’s because I’m a masochist when it comes to piping but it might be also because piping is a weird kind of escape from the everyday hustle and bustle and go, go, go pace that we are all so used to. I was so intensely focused for the 4 hours piping that I didn’t actually take many photos but here are some samples of what I managed to produce…My favourite is the flower at the bottom which is a really enjoyable technique called Brush Embroidery. I learned it for the first time at TAFE and it’s such a true art form because it relies so much on your paintbrush work and the consistency of your royal icing:

I’ve managed to already apply my skills onto a real cake order where I made a vintage look champagne bottle box which I’m really pleased about! Just goes to show how learning with Lorinda can be applied so quickly!

Another recent workshop I did with Lorinda was her Sugar Flower workshop. I love this photograph which really captures the essence of her classes – these three students were complete beginners and in just total awe of Lorinda’s skills, watching as she demonstrated how to make the petals of a small gardenia.

Lorinda explains how we should make the petals curl up to resemble real life gardenias:

Here’s the base of the gardenia assembled in an overlapped fashion:

Adding a second layer of petals:

My finished gardenia on an all-white cupcake:

The second flower we spent some time on was the classic rose – deceptively simple looking but really an art to perfect. Here’s Lorinda demonstrating the outer layers of the rose petals being added on:

My rose on a cupcake:

Overall, two great experiences and I highly recommend learning with Lorinda if you’re interested in highly approachable introductory techniques to cake decorating. Be warned that the Lace Piping one is for intermediates or the adventurous but it’s also quite rewarding. These classes don’t have huge wow factor with what you bring home but you will leave with the most transferable and scalable techniques applicable to many many designs which for me have been hugely beneficial. The trick is to adapt them to your own sense of style and aesthetic. Oh and Lorinda’s also lovely which helps 🙂

To find out more about Lorinda’s Workshops – check out Cakes by Lorinda on Facebook or email her at info@cakesbylorinda.com.au.

Glamour Finishes with Faye Cahill

First of all, apologies for how long this post has taken to get out of the oven!! Not many people outside the cake world really know this but Faye Cahill was one of the original founders of Planet Cake in Balmain and an extremely successful decorator who’s pioneered a number of stunning techniques in the Australian market, she is a bit of a demi-goddess to most cake decorators.

My last blog post was about the brilliant Jean Michel Raynaud and this one is about someone who also delivers stunning results on a daily basis and is Australia’s queen of vintage glamour when it comes to wedding cakes. The first workshop I actually took on Day 1 of the Perth Cake Convention was with Faye.

To me, she was a lovely gentle soul with a softspoken demeanour and is someone who just radiates “artist” vibes. Throughout the class she had this very nurturing way about her which made her a really great teacher. I first met Faye when I was going to commission a cake from her for my wedding and we had been emailing the week before about materials to bring to the course. I also wanted to attend one of her workshops on how to create sugar phalaenopsis orchids and couldn’t make it because of other commitments. Faye is based in Marrickville in Sydney so it was slightly ironic that I had to travel to Perth to learn from her.

The class was “Glamour Finishes” where we covered the quintessential basic Faye Cahill techniques that give her cakes the really polished finish that she’s become so famous for and makes her undoubtedly one of the most popular wedding cake designers in Sydney. It was a great refresher of the basics and an excellent warm up to a more challenging workshops ahead of me. Because of the abbreviated workshop format, Faye started off with a demo of how to ganache a round cake and also covered her tips of how to achieve a smooth shape. Nothing too new here for me but it was still useful to just compare Faye’s technique to others I have learned from.

We then moved on to covering our styrofoam dummy rounds with sugarpaste. Recapping the technique of how to create sharp edges was also useful with Faye coming around to show us how best to achieve sharp edges with our own equipment.

Next came the fun part – lustre! It was interesting to compare Faye’s technique with a very large bristle paintbrush with another that I’ve learned from Lorinda Seto. I found Faye’s creates a more vintage look and I actually created quite a “brushed” finish whereas Lorinda uses Chinese calligraphy brushes followed by sponging down the lustre before it dries to create a streak-free finish which is very polished.

 


Lustreing Faye’s way was actually really fun but we created a huge mess!! I had lustre specks all over my table by the time I was done with mine and didn’t actually get a photo of my lustred cake because my hands were totally covered in dried lustre! The other thing I noticed was any kind of tears or tiniest of cuts in the icing are instantly highlighted by lustre so it’s quite an art to get a perfectly lustred cake with absolutely no flaws.

The next part was the most fun – piping a simple dot pattern around the cake. This was a really great drill in the basics of small dots with a tiny tip on a pre-traced pattern. It was also so therapeutic having a hush fall over the room as everyone piped their dots intensely for a good 1/2 an hour.  

Piping to me is like a retreat into a state of total blankness of the mind.. It’s a bit like the cake decorator’s form of meditation! Nothing else enters your brain when you pipe. Some decorators describe it as “entering the zone” where you’re just completely focused and there’s nothing more gratifying than stepping away from a piped cake, no matter how simple design and being able to say “yeah.. i really like that!”. Here’s my finished piping!

The last part of the class was focused on making some simple ribbon roses. These are deceptively hard when you miss just 1 step!

Edit note: I have taken down the mini-tutorial on the ribbon rose so as not to compromise Faye’s teaching and classes but if you need more information on Faye’s classes please feel free to contact her directly at cakes@fayecahill.com.au

So overall, a really great class and an excellent way to practice and polish up on the fundamentals. Here’s the class with our finished cakes (unfortunately with Faye’s eyes closed!).


On a final note…Faye was a fantastic teacher despite some of the recent strain of the loss of one of her best decorators – Imogen White. Whilst I never got to meet Imogen, she clearly made a huge impact on the cake world and I just want to thank you Faye for getting through the class and still giving us a great experience. It was a pleasure learning with you and maybe one day I’ll be good enough to work for you! ; )

Finally, on a cheerier note, here’s a pic of me with Faye after the class! A better photo of my finished cake can be found here.

If you’d like to find out more about Faye’s classes check out her website here: http://www.fayecahill.com.au/

Madhatter Lalique Piping with Jean Michel Raynaud

Learning with Jean Michel Raynaud was probably my most rewarding workshop at the Perth Cake Convention. This was a four hour workshop which can only be described as insanity – insanely good experience and insanely character-building piping work. But more on that soon.

Firstly, a bit on Jean Michel. I would describe JM as a guy who really knows his stuff. You can tell how much pastry experience he has had because his depth of knowledge is evident even when explaining small things like saturation of icing with alcohol. You may have also eaten some of his macarons at Baroque Bistro & Patisserie which is in Sydney’s Rocks area. In fact, at one stage I think JM may have stolen the limelight from Adriano Zumbo’s infamous shops in Rozelle and Balmain because of the quality of his macarons. As a Frenchman now in Sydney, he has also been featured on Food Safari on the SBS in the French episode and was also an instrumental member of the Planet Cake team who built a record setting Opera House cake and re-created Wiliam and Catherine’s 8 tier Royal Wedding cake for Womens Weekly Australia in a mere 48 hours. You can find out more about JM at his facebook page here.

In terms of cake decorating, JM’s worked at Sweet Art and Planet Cake so his background speaks for itself. He favours a cake decorating aesthetic which he calls “organic”. I interpreted this to mean that whilst you still decorate in a very clean and polished way, it tends to look more “organic” when it is done in a less structured manner which could involve freehand piping, more visible brush strokes when applying colour (but in a deliberate manner) and generally a very natural type of finish. I think this style tends to suit more floral cakes or cakes which take their inspiration from nature. Some decorators, particularly those who are more minimalistic and favour more contemporary looks tend to do the exact opposite – solid colours, minimal designs, heavy use of geometric shapes, use of block colour etc which have been carefully traced onto a cake or conceived down to the millimetre.

Now back to the workshop and little old me…..

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this workshop as we’d been given very sketchy details about what we’d learn (bit of feedback for the CAA team here!). But I signed up mainly because I was very interested in this technique called “lalique piping”. These were our materials for the class:

JM began with a demo of how to cover an asymmetrical tier and achieve sharp edges… nothing too new here for most people in the class but it was fun to watch JM at work. JM then showed us how to saturate and wash a pre-prepared madhatter shaped dummy cake with a pink airbrush colour mixed with decorating alcohol. The room smelled like a brewery after about 15min but we had fun practising how to achieve an “organic” look.


The design we were creating centred on piping the several trios of leaves of a lily flower on an asymmetrical madhatter cake. We weren’t given any guides or markings and were only shown the principles of how to pipe the right shapes. So for those that hadn’t piped much before there was a lot of apprehension and I daresay stress in the room!! JM also imparted the philosophy of creating “balance” on a cake and focused heavily on symmetry throughout the class, frequently giving us feedback on placement of our leaves and flowers so that we could achieve the intended effect.

We first piped the outlines of the flowers before creating extremely runny royal icing and flooding each leaf with water and icing.

Using a brush we then spread the icing around and just before it starts to set piped an extra “vein” down the centre of each leaf so it gave the impression of “melting” into the leaf. Here’s what it looks like when it’s still wet:


Piping on a bias on the side of a cake is super hard and I found it tough to connect everything evenly especially over the edge of a cake which is completely asymmetrical… the fatigue after 3 hours of piping also gets to you and lots of people in the class were complaining about how painful their hands were. I thankfully brought some chocolate and I also love piping so didn’t feel too bad… my apron was however covered in royal icing by the end of the class because of the number of mistakes I’d have to wipe off with my fingers clean on my apron…

We also got a chance to play with an airbrush at the end of class and sprayed some lustre onto the cake – so much fun!!! I’m already asking Mr Cakespeare if my next birthday present can be an airbrush gun.. teehee.

As the French say… et voila! Me with the master:

I then had to figure how on earth to take this cake home… some students from interstate had brought their own home made boxes. Luckily we all got a box to take home and I managed to get it home in one piece after using nearly a whole roll of sticky tape to secure the cake down.



Lalique piping is a really forgiving style and it gives you the freedom to make some mistakes so you can hide them later! Having said that, I really struggled with getting started. JM probably assisted just about every other student in their class to start their first leaf but me and I was happy that way as I believe the best way to learn is just to have the courage to dive right in and have a go. Even if that did mean I had to scrape mine off a few times before I got going…

Not amazing but given this was my first completely freehand piping attempt (no markers, no templates!) I’ve concluded that I really need to practice large swirls more but I’m really not too displeased with this final product!


Just want to finish up by saying thanks to Sensei JM – I know you weren’t too sure about being blogged about so hopefully I did you justice!

More workshop posts to come…

Encounters with the Cake Boss

Well dear readers it’s been a week-long recovery from a pretty huge caking weekend last week. The weekend of 5-6 February was the inaugural Everything Baking and Cake Convention which was a combination of local exhibitors showcasing their wares and a series of specialised workshops where you could learn from some of the most renown cake artists in Australia and from around the world.

My first reaction to the word “Convention” made me think of those Star Wars or Comic Book Conventions where a bunch of crazy loonies get together and indulge in a secret fantasy life or hobby that probably none of their friends or family really understand and usually just tolerate. I never thought that one day I’d be one of those people much less be blogging about the experience. Nor did I think it would be baking and cake-related.

This event was the first of its kind in Australia for so many reasons.

The biggest drawcard by far was the man at the centre of the infamous show, Cake Boss: Buddy Valastro.

The show airs on Lifestyle Food in Australia and The Lifestyle Channel (TLC) in the USA. It’s also shown in about 180 countries in the world and just started filming its 5th season. The following it has built is astonishing but if you stopped an average person on the street, chances are they may not have heard of this show. On the other hand, if you meet a fan they’ll generally say “Oh my god I love that show!” and are probably obsessed. Well imagine a few thousand “Oh my god I love that show” people gathered in one place on the other side of Australia and that was the atmosphere for about 2 days.

Day 1 of my trip was pretty amazing. I arrived the day before the Convention and actually kicked the trip off doing some real work (gasp) and made a presentation at work to our Perth team about a project I’m currently working which I spent the 5 hour flight preparing for. Presentation went great and it was my first time in Perth so I had this wide-eyed touristy look on my face even though I hadn’t even left my own country. I really was amazed at how green everything was and the laidback pace of the city.

I was staying at a hotel directly opposite the Convention Centre and in the cab on the way from work to the hotel I had one of those moments where my heart literally hit the floor. I had forgotten my tickets to the Cake Convention. “Amy, you idiot!” I hear you silently exclaiming.. yes, dear reader, in the crazy couple of days leading up to the trip, I managed to forget my tickets. So I’m in the cab trying to call the organisers and of course they’re not answering probably because they’re setting up for the convention the next day.

Pulling up to my hotel, I see a guy in a purple shirt with -lo and behold! a couple of the convention organisers pointing across to the convention centre (probably discussing his show the next day). Then I realised it was Mr Cake Boss himself. Mentally flipping out (outwardly very calm), I paid the cab driver and sauntered on over and said hello to the man. What must have been the first of about 1000 photo requests that weekend, he got one of his entourage people to take a photo of us on my phone and asked if I was going to show and where I’d come from. To which I replied I’d had a pretty early flight over from Sydney, feeling a bit jetlagged already and he said “You’re jetlagged?! how do you think I feel!” (the guy came from Hoboken New Jersey the day before).

Instead of capitalising on my 2 min conversation with Buddy and asking him for a job or something far more constructive, I was more focused on getting my ticketing issue sorted so to turned to the organisers and asked if they could help. They pointed me in the right direction but I did walk away thinking “hmm, probably could have used those 2 minutes a bit better. oh well”.

Now here’s where I need to thank Farrah who was one of the lovely event managers working for Cake Artists Australia – such a helpful lady who got me sorted in 5 minutes flat. We had a great chat about bringing the convention to the East Coast of Australia next year and I may try to help make this happen!!

Now contrary to popular belief, I had already bought my tickets to see Buddy Valastro live in Sydney before I heard about the convention so my primary reason for going all the way to the other side of the country was actually to learn from some amazing cake artists, not stalk Buddy Valastro.

To read more about my workshops, take a look at these links:

Madhatter Lalique Piping with Jean Michel Raynaud

Glamour Finishes with Faye Cahill

Baby Castle with Debbie Brown (coming soon)

For those of you who follow my Facebook page you would have seen that I also ended up on the flight back with Buddy Valastro.

So I’m minding my own business in the Virgin lounge, trying desperately to not fall asleep at what was the equivalent to 3am Sydney time before we boarded and Buddy rocks up again with his entourage of about 3 people. The funniest part is he went straight to buffet, didn’t see any food (it was 11:30pm) and walked straight back out to find a restaurant. I’d booked my flight home on Business so I could get some sleep before going back to work the next day (red eyes from Perth suck by the way) and the first thought I had was “oh crap there goes any sleep I was going to have”. As we boarded the plane, Buddy and crew rock up again! And we were literally the only 5 passengers in Business and boarded the plane first.There I was holding my two dummy cake boxes and a giant handbag and he’s all dressed up in a suit not looking like a working class baker at all.

I have to say they were a very noisy bunch, joking and laughing a lot for that time of night (it was midnight), and he did recognise me again (he must have a good memory for faces) and said “hey! we meet again!”. I think he was probably surprised that a lowly cake maker like me was boarding in Business. We chatted on the way to the plane and I may or may not have paid them out for talking so loudly (seriously if you didn’t know he was a famous TV personality you would have been like why are these people so loud!). This was one of those times I was secretly glad that I travelled so much for work as my Platinum status actually meant I was seated in front of Buddy. I never thought I would say this but the guy talked a lot. And Americans are LOUD. Sorry to my American friends reading this but maybe it’s just these Noo Joisey people. After eavesdropping on his conversation with Mauro (who btw is my FAVOURITE character/personality on Cake Boss) discussing the Superbowl, I finally plugged in my earphones to try and get some sleep… Landing in Sydney I decided I needed to try and get something to commemorate my plane trip with the Boss so he kindly signed my boarding pass and I charged off to meet my driver as I was already running late for work… a pretty fitting finale to a big caking weekend!

For my pics from his Sydney Cake Boss show at the Sydney Convention Centre, click the picture below.

So all in all, a pretty excellent trip. And my cakes got home safe and sound with only 1 broken flower on the madhatter and a slightly cracked tower on my baby castle cake to report… hoorah.

An invitation-inspired 1st Birthday Cake

Ok so I don’t know if this was trying to do too much… but 2 toppers, 12 cupcakes and a cutting tier in the same week my mum slipped at work, broke her wrist and got an operation as well as packing and preparing for a trip to Perth for was probably taking on just a little too much.

I made a resolution last year to keep things balanced and to only do 1 major project or “day out” each week so I wouldn’t overload myself. It’s only February and I’ve already broken this one in spades!!

Nevertheless, I still tried to make time to enjoy being in the moment while making this cake despite all the visits to the hospital to see mum and frantically running around like a madwoman getting supplies for my trip to Perth. I can describe this one as fun but tedious.. and I only really have myself to blame for the tedious part! This cake was for a friend who also happens to be my husband’s boss’s partner, Carolyn,…. so it had to be a good one. Carolyn wanted a 1st birthday cake for her gorgeous little girl, Grace, and the partygoers were the ladies in Carolyn’s mother’s group.

Carolyn is a pretty laidback lady and had no real restrictions on what she wanted in terms of design so this one was totally open to the imagination. I like to use things that mean something to the customer to design a cake and this case, so I asked what Grace’s favourite toy was. This cute little Snuggles Koala by Aussie company Britt was used as inspiration for a keepsake topper:

I also love using stationery as inspiration as the designs are often so interesting and easily translatable to cake designs. Little birthday girl Grace’s mum chose this “Castle Walls” invite from Tiny Prints.



So I sketched up this design and went all out with a top tier, cupcakes and a covered dummy tier to hold cake pops. In the end you can see that the design was adapted and scaled back to suit a 3 tier cake stand and I also added a touch more pink with the cupcake wrappers which were from Martha Stewart’s range.

The little castle topper which is colour matched to the invitation and a hand made number “1” is an extension of the bottom two thirds of the cake to give the cake a little more likeness to the original invitation castle and I also had to remove the base that the koala was sitting on to keep things a little more balanced on top of the cake.

Here’s a mini gallery that shows the evolution of the top tier – really simple but effective techniques of half covering a round and then individually pasting on each colour matched panel followed by applying polka dots cut out with a piping tube.


The cupcakes were fun but a little tedious. To achieve the polka dot effect I rolled lots of tiny coloured balls to create the polka dot effect on each cupcake. Strategically cutting the circles to get a variety of colours as well as placement of little balls of coloured sugarpaste were important steps in achieving this festive effect.


I have to thank my fantastic Mr Cakespeare (ie, my husband) in helping me to deliver this cake… he got it there in one piece whilst I was in Perth and was a total hero in the face of humidity, road bumps and a forgotten cake stand! “I was not built to transport cake” was his only response when I called him to ask him how it went…

On the bright side, the cake received 16 likes and about 10 comments after Carolyn posted it on her Facebook Wall ranging from “Not only did it look good but it tasted fantastic too!!!!!!” to “wow! amazing!” – all of which were just such a treat for me to read from the other side of the country 🙂

This was my last big order before I headed to the convention… coming up soon – a glamour finished cake with Faye Cahill, freehand “lalique” piping with Jean Michel Raynaud and a baby castle with Debbie Brown… stay tuned!!


Planet Cupcake and some Christmas Caking Cheer

I managed to do my bit for charity this month with a huge 2,000 cupcake making charity drive for the homeless at Planet Cake where I worked alongside numerous volunteers and talented artists like Anna Maria Roche (Right) and Naoko Irikura (Left) . That’s Planet Cake’s course director Lesley to the bottom right.

 

 

In between ganaching and decorating about 800+ cupcakes during my session, I got some wise words of cake business advice from brand-building genius (and now also a Logie nominee!) Paris Cutler.

* Please excuse my atrocious hair… bear in mind this was after a very long session of cupcaking!

The results

The last couple of little projects for 2011 were fun and quick little efforts to round out an pretty crazy month. This was a fruit cake with a winter theme and I used a method I read about online to create a Margie Carter designed Santa polar bear and penguin.

Christmas desserts at my Mum-in-Law’s (L-R):  Custard for pudding, Coconut jellies, Spanish Torron, Gingerbread Tree with Vanilla Cupcakes, Pineapple tarts (a childhood favourite!)

Click here for a better quality pic of the polar bear and penguin.

These Christmas Cupcakes were a fun little bunch that I made for a work christmas party and they went down a real treat!

 

Coming up next…

A fun Koala Bear and Castle polka dot birthday cake and one very very exciting Cake Convention. I’ll be learning from hugely talented cake artists including UK novelty and figurine extraordinaire Debbie Brown, Australian queen of wedding cakes and one of the original Planet Cake owners Faye Cahill, Jean Michel Raynaud of Baroque Bistro and … *drum roll*…. the Cake Boss himself: Buddy Valastro! Words cannot describe how excited I am to meet these guys!! Stay tuned for what promises to be an amazing month and some even bigger news coming soon….