Animals on my cake

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A friend asked me to bake a cake for her son, Matthias’ 5th birthday. Since he likes zoo animals, she requested for the rainbow cake to be decorated around that theme. No specific design given. That’s it.

I was excited and a book that Faith always reads came to mind. I wanted to create a few 20140310-141340.jpgfigurine made of fondant + tylose powder. There are also a lot of resources to tap on in the Internet. But I also respect the works of the cake decorator and thus hope to come up with my own version. That being said, I find it difficult to really come up with a personal design since you can only alter the body and face in just a few ways (That’s the amateur me talking). I could only spare a few hours each day to do the figurines and so, it’s one animal each night after Faith went to bed. The lion was the first to be completed, followed by the zebra, giraffe and the monkey. By the time I did the last animal, I was already losing steam. Hah!

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I guess you would understand if I disclose that this 10″ round rainbow cake took a whole week to complete. 😉

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The day before the delivery, the cake was baked. It’s a nice feeling seeing the layers of colours on top of one another. I wanted the design to be simple, not too complicated, and decided that swiss meringue buttercream without any added colour would suffice.

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So, there you have it. When I passed the box of cake to my friend, I was filled with relief and a sense of accomplishment. Hah. Hope the boy likes the cake.

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Have a blessed birthday, Matthias!

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Thomas the train cake

Last Saturday, a friend, QX, asked if I could make a Thomas the train cake for her son’s birthday. She wanted a rainbow vanilla sponge cake.

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QX gave me a few designs for ideas but the fickle-minded me changed my designs a few times until I finally settled on one.

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I wish I had the time to do the train figurine but I was too busy that week which was a pity. On the day of the delivery, I made the rainbow cake. This time round, I changed the flour to cake flour which resulted in a lighter texture. I also doubled the portion and my cake ended up really tall! It turned out to be 5-inch tall!

20140125-094614.jpgContainers such as these are very useful for making rainbow cake. After weighing the batter and dividing the portions, the various colours – red, orange, yellow, green and blue – were added.

Each layer took about 20 minutes to be baked. Having many cake pans would help when you bake a rainbow cake. If not, laying the base and side of the pan with parchment paper helps too!

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Cheery colours!

While giving time for the cake layers to cool, the next step was to make the swiss meringue buttercream which is a lot easier than the IMBC. Thankfully the portion was just enough for this cake. No leftover! Yay!

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Note to self: Initially after adding the butter, it will curdle and looks a tad runny but just let it beat more and it will soon become creamy.

For the past few cakes, I had used IMBC and chocolate ganache as the coat before the fondant. However, there were air bubbles and this wouldn’t look nice on a cake. This time round, I used Wilton’s buttercream and the result was rather satisfactory! Perhaps, the breezy weather helped that day. Humidity was lower than usual too. I just wish that the buttercream isn’t that sweet. Well, I guess I can always counteract the sweetness with the addition of lemon or salt.

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The decorating part is always the most fun. I added the embellishment and hid any imperfections with them.

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That’s it. I had a good time with this cake. I certainly hope to have the opportunity to make the train figurine in future!

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Toot! Toot!

Happy 1st birthday, Faith

Your birthday was yesterday but Mama was too busy to blog!

Anyway, we didn’t intend to have a birthday bash for you as we want you to spend time with your loved ones, our family who have lent their helping hands throughout this one year. Perhaps next year, we will have a small party for you and you can celebrate and have fun with your friends?

It’s a pity that your cousins are still overseas, otherwise they would be celebrating with you.

20131121-115859.jpgHere you are celebrating with Gong Gong. He has helped Papa and Mama very much when we are both busy and Gong Gong adores you!

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It’s a family affair when it comes to birthday celebration. We also celebrated your Ko Po’s birthday too. She even cooked you Mee Sua as is the family tradition to have this on his/her birthday.

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The older folks really love you!

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Mama baked you a rainbow cake covered with macarons. May your life be filled with vibrancy!

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We had initially wanted to be decked in pink (Mama’s favourite colour) but grey seems fine too! May you grow up with the right values and the wisdom to discern what is right in situations where there are gray areas.

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Here’s a little about the rainbow cake. I had initially designed a two tiered cake since we are celebrating Koko’s birthday too. It would be a fruit cake for the adult and the rainbow cake for the kiddo. However, by the time I finished baking and ready to assemble, my energy level has dropped and decided to forgo the fruit cake.

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A day before, the father-in-law came over as he suspected that I would be baking a cake. How thoughtful! I used the vanilla cake recipe but reduced the sugar to 1 cup. After dividing the batter into 5 portions, I added the various colours.

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Then, they are cling-wrapped and placed in the fridge before the assembling the following day.

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To be honest, I had wanted to bake the macarons but since so many colours are involved, I forgo it and bought them instead. Unless there are folks who can help me finish the shells, I wouldn’t bake them. Too much trouble!

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I made a mistake of placing the finished product in the fridge, thinking that I could preserve the crispiness of the macarons but in so doing, the cake has become hard even though it was brought out of the fridge 3 hours after. The next day, when I consumed the remaining cake, it was softer and tastier. Hmm… lesson learnt. Another thing to improve is to add in more buttercream in each layer.

A dino cake for a 1YO

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Some weeks ago, I received a FB message from a mom asking me if  I could bake her son a cake for his one-year-old 20131110-142901.jpgcelebration. According to her, she would gladly support a SAHM for the effort as compared to purchasing one from a bakery. I was obviously happy that someone (a stranger!) would trust me enough to perform this task. Originally, a simple vanilla cake with buttercream was asked for and since the son loves this dinosaur that he often plays with, I came up with the first design.

Subsequently, the mom asked if it was possible to do a cake covered with fondant + a figurine and gave me a budget. Another draft was then made.

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Draft 1 | Buttercream cake

Second draft | Fondant cake

Draft 2 | Fondant cake

Thankfully, the mom was rather easy-going and accepted the proposed design very quickly. Love working with such people!

One week before the actual delivery, the figurine was made since it takes time to dry the material. I used full gumpaste for the dinosaur and tried to sculpt it based on the picture I received.

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To create the desired colour, I combine orange and red. Divide the gumpaste into the various parts of the dinosaur.

IMG_8692This is the first dino that I made which is quite ugly in my opinion due to the cracks.

IMG_8693The second dino. Much smoother and I painted it with the relevant {food} colours.

After the figurine is done, it is left to dry. Since I have no air-con and I do fear that it will not dry in time, I dried it using the fan and it was switched on 24 hours for 2 days! I also wrapped the dino with clingflim as I’m afraid the hands will not stay intact. Thankfully after 2 days, I could safely say it was okay!

Next, a day before the collection, the vanilla cake was baked and sandwiched using IMBC. Since the mom had requested for a less sweet cake, I reduced the amount of sugar and hoped that it would be to her liking. The cake has to be completely cooled before covering with fondant and that’s the reason why I baked it a day before.

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Something went wrong after I’ve covered the cake with fondant the first time. The air pockets expanded and they made the cake rather grotesque. Thankfully, I covered the cake the night before and I could redo the whole act on the day of delivery. A few reasons could contribute to the air bubbles but I believe the main reason is that my place is warm and this results.

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Thankfully, there is still sufficient time and I re-covered the entire cake using another type of buttercream and this time round, I made sure that I covered well so that air bubbles could be minimised.

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Roll out fondant to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Since this is a 8″ by 3″ cake, I rolled to a circle of diameter 14cm.

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Sometimes, when we cover the cake, it may not be a perfect job but no worries, borders can always cover up the imperfection. This is meant to be the grass on the sides of the cake and then I covered another stripe of chocolate fondant over it as the mud/ ground. The fondant is chocolate-flavoured and tastes not bad!

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Once these are done, the rest can be quickly assembled.

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These should be made beforehand so that they are a tad dry during assembling.

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This cake will only be consumed the next day and I certainly hope there will not be any major problem!
Dear cake, please do your part to satisfy the family and the birthday boy.

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Clingwrapped and off to be delivered.

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Complimentary cupcakes for the boy to play with. Hah!

Lessons learnt and changes to be made in future:

1) Cover the cake with chocolate ganache to ensure smooth covering and prevent air bubbles
http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

2) Cake should be covered, assembled, delivered and consumed within the same day, if possible.

3) Press down the layers of cake after sandwiching with buttercream to prevent any trapped air

4) Consider installing air-conditioner?

About air bulging after covering cake fondant

http://cakecentral.com/t/686940/fondant-and-buttercream-bulges-air-bubbles

http://www.deliciouscakedesign.com/blog/?tag=air-bubbles-under-fondant

http://www.artandappetite.com/2009/11/ganache-instead-of-buttercream/

For Vanilla Cake (Yields an 8 x 2″ cake)
I made 2 portions for this cake

2 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. I used 2 8-inch tins. Line the tins with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together.

3. In a standmixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter for about 1 minute. Gradually add the castor sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has almost dissolved.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each addition is incorporated.IMG_8723

5. Add the vanilla extra and beat until combined.

6. With mixer on low speed, add a third of the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add half of the milk and beat. Repeat and then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until combined.

6. Spoon mixture into baking tins. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted comes out clean.

For Italian Meringue Buttercream

You will need:
190g caster sugar
38g water
75g egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature, in cubes
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Make sure the sugar is dissolve in the water and cook the mixture until it reaches 120C. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes. After the sugar is dissolved (while continue boiling), I would wet a pastry brush and wet the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from crystalising.

2. While boiling the sugar  syrup, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 115C degrees, start to whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until soft peaks are formed. The sugar syrup is still being boiled at this time. When it reaches 120C, remove from the heat source. reduce the standmixer speed to low and drizzle in the sugar syrup from the side so that the hot syrup doesn’t splatter.  Raise the speed to high when all the syrup is poured in and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature (or when you can touch the steel bowl , 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_8786

3. Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin to add the butter. I gauge using my sense of touch. If I can hold on to the sides of the steel bowl of the standmixer comfortably, it’s at the right temperature. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tbsp or cube at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Just raise the speed to high and continue to add tbsp-size pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Feedback from customer: Thankfully the air bubbles did not show up! They were happy with the workmanship though they find that the cake is firm ( not much of a choice, I’m afraid!) and a bit too sweet. So, that means I still have to reduce the amount of sugar!

November, a month of celebration

I’m welcoming November with wide open arms, simply because there are too many birthdays to celebrate and we are awaiting the arrival of a dear friend’s baby boy!

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Can’t do without cakes on birthdays eh? It’s thus a good opportunity for me to practise my craft!

First up. I did my first figurine – mother and child birds. Haha. I added tylose powder to fondant so that they will harden and leave them overnight facing the fan. By the second day, they are almost ready but I thought I should continue to let them firm up.

Covered the cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream as the crumb coat and used Satin Ice. However, the fondant is way too soft for me to manage and I find it too sweet for my liking. I think I should just stick to my usual brand.

After some trial and error, this is the product. Simple eh?

I think I might have come up  with my own IMB recipe!

I think I might have come up with my own IMB recipe!

The tools I use to cover the cake with fondant. Alas, I applied too much buttercream!

The tools I use to cover the cake with fondant. Alas, I applied too much buttercream!

Condensation taking place

Condensation taking place

Another attempt on another cake

Another attempt on another cake. Crumb coat. Just a thin layer will do.

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Mother & child

It’s a good start to November!

Lemon cake | Italian meringue buttercream

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I think I’m really falling in love with lemon, anything lemon and in particular, lemon curd. IMG_8224 The other day, I wanted to experiment with Miette’s lemon curd and found that it is equally delightful as compared to Dorie Greenspan’s. After filling the pate sucree tarts with them, I still had a good amount of it and went out to bake a lemon cake for a lady in our small group who has just completed her part-time studies. Thankfully, I had the hot milk cake sitting in the freezer; it did save a lot of work. All I needed to do was to make the Italian meringue buttercream, my all-time favourite frosting.

So I did one batch of vanilla buttercream, good enough to cover a 6-inch cake and with excess.

You will need:
210g caster sugar ( I would reduce this amount for future’s bake)
38g water
75g egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature, in cubes
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Make sure the sugar is dissolve in the water and cook the mixture until it reaches 120C. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes. After the sugar is dissolved (while continue boiling), I would wet a pastry brush and wet the sides of the pan to prevent sugar from crystalising.

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2. While boiling the sugar  syrup, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 115C degrees, start to whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until soft peaks are formed. The sugar syrup is still being boiled at this time. When it reaches 120C, remove from the heat source. reduce the standmixer speed to low and drizzle in the sugar syrup from the side so that the hot syrup doesn’t splatter.  Raise the speed to high when all the syrup is poured in and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature (or when you can touch the steel bowl , 5 to 10 minutes.

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3. Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin to add the butter. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tbsp or cube at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdled. Just raise the speed to high and continue to add tbsp-size pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

For this cake, I add 3 tbsp of lemon curd to 1 cup of buttercream to achieve the tangy result.

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Storage: In ziplock bag for up to 1 week in the fridge or up to 2 months in the freezer. To use them again, bring to room temperature. Transfer to mixer with paddle attachment and beat until soft and spreadable.

The assembly process in pics:

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All these with a baby strapped in...

All these with a baby strapped in…

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For the lemon curd (adapted from Miette’s)
1 cup sugar (I would reduce in future)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
7 large egg yolks
113g unsalted butter, cubed

1. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water to make a bain-marie. Whisk occasionally and cook the mixture until it thickens considerably (78C)

2. Remove form the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Let the curd cool slightly to about 60C.

3. Using a whisk, mix the butter into the curd until the butter is completely incorporated. Strain again to remove any lumps. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until well chilled before using. Can keep for up to 7 days tightly covered in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 3 months.

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Thinking of the next cake to bake now!