Thomas the train chiffon cake 🎂 

It’s always a privilege to bake for others and especially so when your good friend asked you to do so. Just last week, an ex-colleague whom I’m really fond of asked if I could bake a cake for her youngest. Why, of course!

I couldn’t bake a fondant cake in my current capacity. I know it will not turn out well. Dan requires a lot of my attention and if I want to do a good job for the cake, I need to devote time to it. And it absolutely saddens me if I can’t do it well.

So, the kind of cake I could do currently is chiffon cake, the creative type. I only have Suzanne Ng of Loving Creations For You to thank because her works inspire me to want to bake beyond a basic chiffon cake. I bought both her books so that I could learn a thing or two and so I thought I should practise baking a few if possible.

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As usual, a design needs to be thought of and the colours noted. I get forgetful easily these days and penning what I need for the cake really helps.

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I’ve baked a similar-themed cake before using fondant and decided to recycle the design. This is a 7″ chiffon cake because I have only this pan but it feeds 20 pax all right with no wastage, according to my friend.

It is much easier and faster making such a cake as compared to the fondant-covered ones. However, I encountered one problem with regard to the marshmallow cream . It’s really a pain using it and I wonder if I could stick the various pieces using royal icing?

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So yea, I made this boy happy and there is nothing more joyful than seeing smiles on children.

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Kids grow up too fast. They were both just babies a while ago. How did they grow up so fast? Am I missing anything?

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So, there you go. My first cake for November. Could I bake some more? Am I able to go back to baking for others again?

Anyway, the next cake is going to be for Faith who will turn 4 this month. What would that look like? Hmm..

P.S. Thank you, ZM, for sending the pics over and assuring me that the cake is well-received. 😉

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August bakes

I didn’t expect to bake, for others, because I was really tied down by the kids. However, one fine day, a friend asked me if I could bake her daughter a birthday cake since the baker she wanted to engage was not available. It was a chiffon creative cake, one of those cakes that I don’t often bake. I like challenges once in a while and I thought why not try?

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Chiffon cakes turn out to be easier to bake and once you have the right tools, decorating it can be fuss-free too. This is my first nicer creation because I have the available tools and cutters.

You do need to plan the colours that you need beforehand and bake them. After that, it’s really just cut and paste.

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This is an Elmo lychee chiffon cake. Again, once you have the cutters, it’s an easy job.

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This is the cake requested by her. It took a while to complete this cake because the decorations are 3D in nature and that means I would have to sculpt them. There was also some problem with the recipe and in the end, I had to rebake the pandan chiffon base. Just look at the different colours that you need for this cake!

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With the first request came other similar requests for Chiffon creative cakes and I had one new order for this Mickey Mouse cake. Again, I have the cutters so it made life a tad easier for me.

Get the idea?

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One of those days, I baked the charcoal chiffon cake to munch.

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The last cake has to be this rainbow buttercream cake with the fondant Care Bears figurines. It’s back to doing what I like (figurines) but I seem to have lost the touch for making buttercream cakes. Anyway, this cake makes the recipient very happy and that’s good enough.

That’s it. That’s the round up for my August cakes!

To bake or not to bake?

A few days ago, I received a WA message from a customer-turned-friend for whom I’ve baked a cake last year. “Are you still baking? I need a cake!”

And I asked myself if it is time for me to revive this passion of mine. Could I do a good enough job for others? With two kids now, it can be rather challenging in terms of the workflow and I want to make sure that the cake pleases more than it frustrates.

So, based on what she wanted, I got down to working on a simple chiffon cake, just for me to know if i could still do a decent job out of it.

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It’s an orange marmalade chiffon cake and I thought I could dress it up as a lion using a piping tip to make its mane. I have used a normal cake pan instead of the tube pan that is used for chiffon cakes.

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To make the eyes and nose, I used a portion of the chiffon batter and added charcoal powder to it.

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Tip 898 – nose
Wilton tip no. 2 – eyes

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And I used a chocolate pen to do up the finishing touches.

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Made a batch of swiss meringue buttercream because it’s less work than the Italian method. Now with two kids, I really ought to make things easier for myself.

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Add some orange colouring to the buttercream to create the type of lion that is often illustrated in storybooks.

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There you have it. Can he pass off as the king of the jungle?

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Moist and light! Perhaps I should start baking for others now and revive #twenty12byjann, just for interest’s sake?

 

Christmas cheer for the kids

It started off with a simple plan of getting a few kids to learn baking since a friend’s daughter wanted to learn how to bake a cupcake. I didn’t want to mess up my own kitchen and asked her to book a function room in her condo. Then we thought we should just extend the invitation to the rest of the kids in our CG and in the end, from three girls, we had 12 children and 2 babies.

It’s highly ambitious to get the children to do hands-on baking and in the end, I decided that I should just do the demonstration and get them to decorate the cupcakes themselves, with the help of their mothers. The cupcakes were baked and the Italian Meringue Buttercream made the night before. I probably could use the cupcakes baked on the spot but since I have not tested the oven, I decided not to risk and bring along the cupcakes as a form of a back-up plan.

For this post, I will list some of the things to look out for when planning such a programme for the children.

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:: If possible, check that the oven is in working condition and get familiarised with it before the actual day.

:: Choose a recipe that is straight-forward and easy to follow, for the sake of the kids.

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:: Randomly pick the kids to help in the various stages, especially the ones who look bored. Since they can’t do the hands-on themselves, just getting them to help a bit here and there would sustain their interest.

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Before the kids decorated their cupcakes, I did a demo with one cupcake so that they would know exactly what was expected of them.

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:: If it helps in classroom management, rearrange the kids in their seating positions. Familiarity with each other (for the kids) may not be good for the facilitator. Get the older kid to sit with the younger one so that the former could render assistance.

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So pleased with their work!

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I had wanted to go on with decorating the gingerbread cookies which I had baked the day before but in the end, I abandoned that idea. I was getting tired! In the end, I just hand out the cookies to them so that they could bring home and eat. And yes, they devoured the cupcakes on the spot.

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We went on to get the children to work on craft using styrofoam cones and pipe cleaners and pom pom balls, all sponsored by a fellow mom.

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You would have thought that the children were tired after the cupcake decorating session but nope, they were more energetic than ever. Thankfully, this backup plan worked! Look at how motivated they were in completing their Christmas trees.

:: Always plan backup activities apart from the main one.

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What an expression! This girl doesn’t like to be posing in front of the camera anymore!

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After the craft, our lunch had not arrived yet. The kids were getting restless and thankfully, I had a book with me and fished it out and read to the kids. It’s the nativity story.

:: Always bring along a book for it will always come to be of good use. Reading is fun!

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Lunch came just as I finished reading the book. Thank God! The kids went for a short waterplay session at the kids’ pool outside after lunch and then headed home after that.

I felt so refreshed after hosting this gathering with my CG-mate. In a way, I want to return the favour to all the mothers present because they have blessed me in one form or another.

It is really more blessed to give than to receive.

 

The past week

The past week has been a busy one. It’s the one-week school holiday and that means F was home all the time. I guess if I wasn’t pregnant, we would be going places and having loads of fun. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Thankfully, the dear husband took a few days off to look after the toddler while I busied myself with baking and decorating cakes. That week, I took on 3 cake orders that were due on the same day and till now, I have no clue why I did that in the first place. ;p

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This is a cake that is requested by my ex-boss for her 82YO mom. What a privilege to bake for her. I admit I wasn’t that ecstatic about making sugar flowers because I feel that isn’t my forte. I much prefer to make figurines of cartoon characters but I guess I should challenge myself so that I could improve. I did have fun!

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Nowadays, I update more on my Dayre account since it’s faster and is a good platform for my family to know what goes on in our lives. These sugar flowers and figurines had to be made in advance and they could take a long time to make.

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I normally bake the sponge cakes at least a day in advance and would frost them before the delivery day as I want the flavours to blend.

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That Saturday was an awesome day for covering the cake with fondant in a non air-conditioned place. It was hazy no doubt but it wasn’t humid and that is perfect! This cake took me a whole morning to cover and decorate (at a steady pace) and I was pleased at how it turned out. It looks exactly like the sketch I made for this customer.

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This Peppa cake theme was requested by a friend for his younger daughter. I have not done Peppa pig before but certainly do not mind working on it. He showed me the pictures whose figurines I had to recreate and it was fun. This cake was simple to decorate. Within an hour!

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This is for his elder daughter and an Angry Bird theme was requested.

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This is always the point when I feel absolutely relieved. The cakes were boxed up and ready to be collected/ delivered.

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The two adorable sisters. It’s such a privilege to bake for them!

That day when the cakes were due was our 6th wedding anniversary. We didn’t plan for anything fanciful (how could he since I had cake orders. Oops!) but we had a good dinner as a family.

I’m thankful to da man who puts the family before himself and that one of his aims in life is to make me happy (in his own words). Being able to pursue this little dream (baking and cake decorating) is a gift. At certain junctures, the course of your life meanders and you wonder what’s next. There have been a lot of changes in my life since I’ve become a mom but it has been really exciting. Not knowing what’s next can be unsettling yet I’ve come to realize that the good Lord knows what is good for me.

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Thank you for always rendering your help when I need it. You obviously are tired from work and yet there is no complaint when I ask you to take over to play with the little one or to help out with the household chores. I’m blessed. I’m soooo thankful to the Lord for you!

And with these cakes, I have to say’ Goodbye’ to baking for sale for a while as we prepare to welcome our second child. Thank you for all your support, dear friends. You have brightened my life with your orders and I hope to bake again for you!

Wordless Wednesday: Owl Cupcakes

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A good friend has just given birth and I thought of making these cupcakes for her, just for her to take a look. Yes, I’m cruel, I know. ;p

I’m entering into the third trimester and my energy level has dipped. I’m mindful that I cannot control life and all I can do is to pray that the baby in my womb will grow to full term and that he will be a normal and healthy one.

Yes, I worry but I need to learn to trust in the Lord because He is the one who gives life and He definitely is in control, no matter what the circumstance is.

You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. -Isaiah 26:3

And I will always bear the following scripture verses in mind.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139:13-14

Linking up with

The 3rd month that marched past us

I know it is April now but there were memories in March which I would want to record.

It was not an easy month. I was overwhelmed with tiredness and needed much rest because well, I am pregnant. This time round, I meet with morning sickness (unlike my first pregnancy) and need an afternoon nap or else I would have headache at the end of the day. I’m getting old, I know. Sigh! Things got done really slowly. Replies to emails were delayed and that applied to certain text messages. At times, I even forgot to reply. I didn’t have the appetite to eat and became unmotivated to cook. In a nutshell, I became inefficient. How terrible.

Life still goes on. That’s for sure.

The first school term for Faith ended and thus far, she has been enjoying herself. Each time when I picked her up from school, she would exclaim that she liked school. Special mention was made about her principal and her Chinese teacher and she looked forward to school each day. What a great relief!

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Since she started school, I found that I have less time to teach her at home basically because she needs to nap after lunch and by the time she wakes up, it would be mid-afternoon and we would be going out to enjoy some activities. There is really a need to create a time-table so that some home-learning gets done! #kiasumama

The one-week school holiday was a difficult period. The hubs was away on a week-long work trip and my mom went on a holiday to Japan during that week too. Bummer, really! Why must they go away at a time when I needed them most? Faith was with me 24/7 and I think she was bored. My energy was at an all-time low and most of the morning, I had to rest in bed. Poor girl. She didn’t really complain but came up to me, patted and comforted me. When I puked, she would ask if I was okay. I didn’t realise that this girl can be so understanding at such a young age. There was little to no tantrum and I could only thank the Lord for that. That he made that period bearable and joyful (in a way) when I had little strength.

Of course, I couldn’t have made it without the help of my in-laws. My FIL came over on that Friday and Saturday afternoon to spend some time with Faith while I rested. My SIL prepared lunch on one of those days for us and my aunt-in-law volunteered to buy breakfast for me. I am thankful to have wonderful in-laws!

Some of the stuff we did over that one week:

Playground time at the reservoir

Playground time at the reservoir

Waterplay party at a friend's house!

Waterplay party at a friend’s house!

Attending a trial Gymboree lesson

Attending a trial Gymboree lesson

Building her town using Lego (with mama's help, of course)

Building her town using Lego (with mama’s help, of course)

Skate-scooting fun at the beach

Skate-scooting fun at the beach

Our playdate ended in March. It’s a pity, these kids who grew up together since last year. It is, however, an unanimous decision because the timing is simply not ideal for the kids. By 4pm, the children were restless and the mummies found that their concentration level was low. Sometimes, they were cranky and acted up. Two of them could not have sufficient nap time since their school ended just one or two hours before the playdate. Of the mummies, three were pregnant and we found that we were exhausted too. On that note, we decided to call it quits. Sobs.

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I didn’t manage to work on a lot of cakes in March and turned down a few requests simply because I believe I couldn’t do a good job. I needed time to rest and more importantly, time to experiment with recipes. One will do and this is one which I like.

ABM_1427539034Towards the end of March, our nation went into mourning, for a great person in the history of Singapore. He is the founding father of modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Many of us were hoping that he would live to witness the 50th year of our independence but it was not to be. Most of the Singaporeans were emotionally affected and our understanding of him came to an all-time high because documentaries and articles were broadcasted and shared throughout that one week of mourning. My brother who has been stationed overseas for more than a decade came back to pay his last respect. It’s the least he could do, he said.

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So I guess March isn’t a fantastic month, eh? April’s now and I certainly hope things will get better. At the very least, I hope to regain my energy so that I could brisk-walk, go for my [Prenatal] Pilates lessons and swim a little. I need to get busy in the kitchen again, not just for the sake of my health but for my family too. Home-cooked food is always better, no?

April, please be good?

Superman cake

Do you have a superhero in your life?

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For one family, the superhero is the dad and I was asked to make a simple vanilla-lemon sponge cake with the Superman logo on it.

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A few days before the cake was baked, I sourced for the logo and resized it to fit the pan which I’m going to use.

imageCut out the shape of the logo and trace it onto a cardboard and you would need to cut it (the cardboard) again before using it as a guide to cut out the shape from yellow fondant. I added tylose powder to the fondant as I need it to harden. You would need to use your sugarcraft tools to cut out the shape from the fondant.

imageUsing the cardboard as a guide again, cut out the finer details from the red fondant (with tylose powder) and very carefully put the red piece on the yellow one and leave to dry.

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After the logo has dried (which takes a few hours), I used the black food coloring and paint the outline. This has to be done really carefully as you want the border to be neat!

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Once that is done, you would need to let it dry again. The paint will take a while to dry up. To quicken it, you may add extract or alcohol to the coloring so that it will help in the drying process.

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Remember the cardboard that you have in the beginning, that is useful when you carve the shape of the cake. Assemble as you would for other cakes. I used Italian meringue buttercream in between the layers.

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I piped scallops for the bottom of the cake using Wilton tip #21 or any small star tip. Lastly, you would need to place the fondant logo very very carefully and precisely on top of the cake and that’s it!

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🙂

Pororo cake that went ;(

Recently, my cousin asked me to bake a Pororo cake for my nephew and I went, “What is Pororo?”

Okay, I know I am really ignorant but pardon this busy mother, all right? When she showed me a picture, I know for certain that I have seen this character before. He’s so cute!

Nothing much was asked for the cake except that it has to have the Pororo figurine somewhere. My cousin is easy on the cake, just a simple vanilla and a non-fondant one will do.

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A few days before the actual cake collection, I set out to do the centre-piece, which is Pororo itself. It isn’t difficult to do the body. In fact, you just need two big round mass for the body and head respectively. The difficult part lies in the finer details like the pilot’s hat and the specs. I took quite a while to figure out the proportion of the hat while using two different sizes of the piping tip to make the spectacle rims.

IMG_20150103_2257130.7179084798424332The decoration pieces were made two days in advance.

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I used Wilton’s food writer pens to draw in the details of the hat and the eyes itself on the actual day of the cake collection.

IMG_20150104_1718340.2740290181284296So, I used a super soft vanilla sponge cake for this cake order. I took a risk by laying a piece of fondant on the top so that I could stick the figurines and other decor pieces on it. The Pororo figurine proved to be too heavy for the sponge cake and I had to insert a dowel/ lollipop stick to sustain the weight.

IMG_20150104_1719460.5715718599551294Originally, I had wanted to put some trees as part of the decoration but the sponge cake is really not suitable to withstand the weight. In the end, they had to be placed on the cake board. I think I should just stick to my regular vanilla sponge cake recipe.

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But you know what? The cake didn’t impress. Granted that the Pororo character is cute (I find that it is adorable!) but the sponge cake itself is a flop. My dear cousin gave me an honest feedback about the cake and I do believe I have to go back to testing the recipes again. I’m just angry with myself that the sponge cake has escape my QC during the assembling stage! Arghh…Perhaps something went wrong during the mixing part but oh well… need to really make improvement!

I’m thankful that folks gave me feedback regardless whether it is good or bad review. We all need it for improvement, don’t we?

😉

WMI instructor training seminar

For the past week, I have been learning a lot from some awesome cake decorators. It was tiring having to go through the seminar from 9am to 6pm but we made it. I’m thankful to the hubs who travelled together with me, as well as F, to this place, Shenzhen, to be precise. I would have missed them both a lot if they didn’t come along!

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We spent the first day at Window of the World, a replica park that is within walking distance from our hotel. The entrance fee is hefty, in my opinion. At 160Y, it is a bit pricey for the locals. We thought that we won’t be touring much for this trip and decided to visit this theme park on the day we arrived. It was a nice walk and we spent about 80 minutes ‘visiting’ the famous landmarks in the world.

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The next day, I plunged into training seminar mode and reported at 8am sharp at the meeting room. There were about 45 of us from the Asian region and it was quite an experience learning from the experts as well as one another.

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Cake decorating is something that I venture into after I gave birth to Faith. It was really out of boredom, foremost, that I took up the Wilton cake decorating courses. Thankfully, the courses are really fun and addictive and it spurs me on to hone my skills in cake decorating.  It’s such a privilege to be able to to go through the training seminar (and eventually be an instructor) although I must always remind myself that my full time job is still to bring Faith up!

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The instructors came from the United States, Canada, Dubai, Japan and Korea and as they introduced themselves, it is heartening to learn that they started off cake decorating because they wanted to bake cakes for their children. Of course, they went on to be really excellent in their skills and are now international instructors now.

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I seriously love the Wilton method of cake decorating because it is so systematic and one can be introduced to a whole spectrum of skills. I have gone through other types of cake decorating instructor’s training courses but this ought to be the one that is the most fun and engaging. It really helps that the instructors themselves were so confident and know exactly what to do and could guide us step-by-step.

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Because there were so many of us, each time the instructor called us up to view the demonstration, there would be a real rush to be at the front. Asians! We are just very enthusiastic people! Hah!

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This is our Japanese instructor whose words are few but skills are great!

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Throughout the five days, we were given equipment to use and we could bring them back home after the seminar. We are expected to continue to practise those skills so that we can be really good when we teach prospective participants. This is really the highlight of each day (nah!).

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Day four and you can see a really messy table and a very tired-looking me. Ganbatte ne!

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I love it that the instructors would go around to give feedback on our work and many times, they also gave invaluable tips. Awesome!

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On the last day, we were expected to do up a cake with whatever sugar flowers we had and to apply the skills that we have acquired. It is interesting to see so many different kinds of design even though we were given similar sets of things to work with, thus reflecting our individual style.

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This is mine and truly not my style. I’m not a sugar flower person since I’m more into figurines but I can always work on flowers!

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So that night, we received our instructor’s aprons and we could teach the Wilton courses now! How exciting! I’m looking forward to my first class already!

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I’m thankful to have the family with me throughout this week and really felt blessed that the hubs supports this hobby of mine. I reckon it wasn’t easy for him to take care of the little one when I was in the seminar but he made it!

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Whatever time I had after the seminar was used to spend some much needed time with the little one. Shenzhen provides little entertainment for F but thankfully she could be satisfied by just being in this trolley when we went to the supermarket.

So, what’s next, I wonder?

Baking madness!

The past week or so, I have been really busy with making cakes, all thanks to friends who support me in my hobby! It is tiring, no doubt. The washing part is most dreaded and that includes the cleaning of the countertop and the floor since I don’t want ants to occupy my kitchen. Nope, they cannot even enter!

The cakes baked thus far:

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This is a simple 7 inch vanilla sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and peach between the layers. The mummy has requested that the design fit the theme of a magic show and thus I came up with this design.

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Christmas came early! A friend browsed my pinterest account, saw this cake and asked me to do it for her. It’s a cranberry infused sponge cake with cranberry sauce in between. I took a long time to source for the cranberries and finally found frozen ones at Marketplace at I12. My friend requested for a 1/2kg cake but you know, I don’t work by weight but by size. So, the cake came up to be about 1.5kg. Hah!

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Frozen cake #1. A hit among my friends when I posted it on FB. The design is simple but the figurines make it look awesome. My friend wants it really simple and she didn’t want blue-coloured layers because she felt the colour look weird on a cake. Agree too so I just did a simple cake for her daughter.

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Rainbow cake. Still a hit and this is for the last day of school party for a preschooler. Her class is called Rainbow 5 and it’s absolutely apt to bake such a cake for her! Naked cake can look really pretty! Love the colourful sprinkles too!

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A last-minute order from a friend. This is for her daughter who turns 22! I used to teach her when she was in primary school and now she’s a young adult! I feel so old! Rainbow cake inside and Nat was surprised as she cut the cake, she told me.

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The wheels on the bus go round and round…. this is an order from the hubs’ friend. Her son wanted the bus on the cake along with some animal figurines. A rainbow cake was requested and I found that when I bake about 200g of the batter in the 6″ pan, the cake came out even and I didn’t need to slice the top of the cake. Will go with this method the next time a rainbow cake is requested. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s ok. It’s just for my reference. ;p

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Frozen cake #2. This is a tad more complicated than #1 in the sense that my friend wanted a blue side and a white top that acts as snow. I prefer this design.

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60 Hello Kitty Chocolate cupcakes. I was more stressed and tired over them than all other cakes. It’s definitely more tedious to come up with these toppers and could get really mundane. But the labour was worth it when the girl received them with joy. I make kids happy. I love my job.

😉

‘Caking’ my way through November

Oh, you mean it’s November already? So soon?

The beginning of the 11th month saw me working real hard in kitchen. I have started taking cake orders again after a two-month break. And November is a popular month and there are orders every week! Thank God! Faith’s birthday also falls on this month and I’m still thinking if I should bake her a cake. ;p

Rainbow cake continues to be a popular choice and when it comes to young children, you won’t go wrong with animal figurines. Each day, when Faith saw the figurines on the dining table, she would climb up the chair and admire them and at the same time, practising her counting. 😉

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So, I’m thankful that the hubs didn’t complain about the messy dining table. He also gave up a bit of rest to spend more time with Faith while I work in the kitchen. Thank you so much!

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I love animal figurines such as these because they help make a simple cake look adorable (I think!). And I so love the colourful sprinkles!

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Both the cakes happened to be for two-year-olds. 6-inch for both but oh, how tall the cakes are!

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The third cake for the first week is for a good friend of both the hubs and mine. She is our ex-colleague and we had so many wonderful memories working with her. She is also very wise and is a mom to three beautiful children and this cake is for her youngest. I finally have the privilege of baking for her! I’m elated that she told me that her folks love the cake. I was actually afraid that the cake might be too bland since I have reduced the amount of sweetness based on her request. But yay, love the positive review. I’m so encouraged!

Besides the baking adventures, November is off to a good start as our church celebrated her 28th year and I’m thankful that we are placed in this community of believers. I felt belonged and know that there will always be brothers and sisters-in-Christ who will be there to help and encourage us in this journey.

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It’s definitely a bonus that Faith has found herself friends to grow up with in church. I’m praying that they will grow into youth and adults together! 😉

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This is what happens when she stays with us during service – beautifying chairs.

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The week came to a close as we celebrated the birthday of Faith’s uncle. She had such a wonderful time with my in-laws which brings me great joy too. I’m thankful that she feels loved by the people around her. *Blessed*

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Looking forward to a busy but fulfilling November! And definitely more cakes!

*Photos of Faith courtesy of Mummy Trisa and Auntie Eunice!

How do you price your cakes?

This is not a parenting post but one about my other love – baking and cake decorating.

If you are a home baker who bakes at the request of friends, how do you determine your pricing?

I find it really tough to answer this question. Sure I did my rounds of checking out the cakes at the bakeries but I can’t do a direct comparison because what I’m doing is customised cakes. These cakes will inevitably cost more than what are available in the usual bakeries simply because they are made upon specific request. Where sugar art is involved, the cake will definitely be priced higher because of the time invested in creating and beautifying the figurine(s). The ingredients themselves already cost more, what’s with artwork?

I pen down this post because this is a question that is often posed to me when I’m teaching cake-decorating classes. I have no definite answer but what I am certain is that we must cover the cost price of the cake which includes the ingredients used, electricity bills, transportation cost to purchase the ingredients and materials. Cakes that involve sugar art like fondant-covered cakes need a cool environment and that is when most bakers would switch on the air-conditioner just for the cakes. Do we need to take that cost into consideration? I definitely think so!

What is commonly overlooked are labour cost and the time taken to design the cake. How would you pay yourself as you spend time creating the cakes? But sadly, these are often overlooked by those who order cakes.

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I have been teaching cake decorating lessons for almost a year now and each time after the class (especially so for sugarart lessons), the participants will always tell me that it is so time consuming and involves so much work that they now understand why such cakes cost a bomb. More recently, one participant started to bake cakes that require sugarart for others and she would often utter, “It’s not worth it. I spent so much time and effort in creating those cakes but the customer doesn’t want to pay that kind of price.”

My advice to them? Don’t accept such orders. I mean unless you are okay with it, you are better off not accepting the order. In the end, you have to be happy doing what you love and not grudgingly.

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Recently, I made this 6-inch x 3.5-inch Devil’s Food Cake using Valrhona chocolates. How much would you have priced it?

I guess for me, I want baking for friends to be a passion and not a business venture. Baking for {much} profit kills my love for baking but yet at the same time, I do have to cover the cost and maybe get a little bit of return so that I can continue to practise my craft and to buy those materials (hah!). Then again, I think I have underpriced most of the time. Maybe I should look into my pricing again?

If you find yourself at a loss when it comes to pricing, here are some helpful links that were searched by the dear hubs:

– http://www.cakeboss.com/Cake-Stuff/Articles/How-Much-Should-I-Charge

– http://www.veenaartofcakes.com/pricing-your-cakes-a-beginners-guide/

– http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2013/09/pricing-cakes-like-a-pro/

– http://www.celebrate-with-cake.com/p/price-guide.html

Hope this helps.

WW: Enjoyable class

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Conducted this class for the first time today and thankfully I had very eager and teachable participants who made my day. They were so attentive and followed the instructions well and I must say they sculpted very well and covered the cakes wonderfully neat for first-timers! I’m impressed!

I’m getting so encouraged by them. Well done!

 

Thankful Tuesday: It’s more blessed to give than to receive

It first started out as teaching cake decorating to a teenager.

Turns out a whole group of girls with ages ranging from 9 years old to 15 years old were expecting to learn. Thankfully, I arrived at my friend’s place with sufficient fondant and equipment. It almost feels like conducting a holiday baking and cake decorating class for the kids. How exciting!

This is the group of sisters whom I grew up with in church and now I have the privilege of sharing some skills with them and their girls.

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Thank God for FY who opened her house who has air-conditioners installed in the living room! So perfect for a big group of cake decorators!

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After showing them the basics of using sugarpaste, they were eager to work on it themselves. Meanwhile, Pagon, who is an excellent baker got down to baking more cupcakes because the ones I brought were obviously not enough!

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Meanwhile, I stepped aside to watch the kids do the job while I resumed my mommy duties. The host also prepared lunch for us and the whole group of girls took a break before going back to decorating their cupcakes, this time round, using the buttercream that Pagon prepared.

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Pagon also showed us how to make marshmallow fondant. Rather easy to do!

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I had an awesome time teaching the kids who are so well-behaved! And definitely love spending some time with the very experienced mummies. How I missed them!

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I’m thankful for this opportunity to give because in the end, I realised I received more. Thank you, dear Lord!

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😉

Cakes made this week

The last week of May saw me making two fondant cakes for my friends. Just a month or two ago, I declared that I would not work with fondant in this type of humid condition but my heart turned soft when my friends asked me to bake for their niece and nephew respectively.

This first cake was a chocolate cake for a 10-year-old girl. I was told she was a precocious girl and after browsing some pictures on my FB, she decided to go for a simple design – one with bow and stripes on the surface. V (the birthday girl) likes the combination of turquoise, pink and white and it shall be done for her!

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There were problems along the way. Due to the hot weather, my whipped chocolate ganache didn’t stay whipped. In fact, it soon turned watery which was a great cause of concern for me as I need to cover the cake with fondant. As a backup, I made a batch of buttercream (wilton method) and applied it on the ganache (crumb coat and first layer) in the hope that it will help to crust. To ensure that the fondant will not turn soft and thus destroy the cake, I put double layer of fondant on the cake.

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The bow never materialised as it cracked as I was about to put on the cake. I should have stuck to the same brand of fondant that I have been using all along. The current one that I’m using doesn’t really do well in terms of drying and can be rather fragile. Thankfully I took a picture before it cracked.

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Panic set in of course. I had a few more hours before delivery and I had to think of an alternative design and fabric roses came to mind. Along with some blossom flowers, there were 10 flowers on top, signifying her age. And I thought it turned out better in appearance (or am I trying to console myself?). I thought this cake was rather mature looking, good for a grown-up in fact. ;p

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The 1.9kg chocolate cake decorated with fondant.

The second cake was a rainbow cake with chocolate ganache. My friend was easy about this. There was no need for much decoration except for some animal figurines for his 3YO nephew. I love making figurines and spent each night working on one since it is rather difficult to do so when the kiddo is awake. I had better do a good job for the figurines since they take the centrestage. The rainbow cake was baked and then put together on the day itself. Again, the chocolate ganache posed a problem since it got watery again in this weather although I have used the proportion of 1.5:1. Sigh! I should have just insisted on using buttercream since the 6-inch cake can get mighty tall and I need each colour of the cake to ‘stick’ well to the other.

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I actually had problem with the frosting and I panicked again. In the end, I decided to pipe some green leaves using buttercream to hide the ugliness and as usual, I place fondant on top so that the figurines could sit on it. The white fondant covering was intended to have a natural look in case you would think that I have made a mistake by placing it a little slant. I love the colourful letterings which was a last-minute idea that popped into my mind. At the 11th hour, I did the colourful bunting to complete the look.

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I actually like the finished product! My friend was happy and said that her nephew loved the animals and kept admiring them even after the birthday and this absolutely made my day! All the effort was worth it! Together with the figurines, this 6″ cake weighs 2.1kg.

20140526_192322Rainbow cake seems to be well-liked by many these days eh? A fad?

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My garden theme cupcakes. I certainly hope to do more to complete the whole series.

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 And the last cake for the week: Yuzu-vanilla lychee cake with whipped cream. I much prefer to use buttercream if you ask me since it won’t melt that easily in our climate. I did that for the lychee cake a few months back for a friend and received good review about it. I’ll post the recipe once I’m satisfied with the result. 😉

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Lychee cake with buttercream

Loving buttercream cakes

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It has been raining rather often these days and this is no good news for decorating a cake with fondant at my place. So, whenever friends asked me to bake for them, I will promote buttercream cakes, for sure!

Over the weekend, I did one rainbow vanilla sponge cake for an 8-year-old boy. 6 inch and I love the size. It’s definitely more cumbersome to bake a rainbow cake since you need to colour the different layers for the batter before baking them. A weighing scale will help if you are into precision. 😉

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My usual proportion for the swiss meringue buttercream will not be sufficient to cover the cake. So I decided to add one more egg white with the same amount of sugar and butter. Works well but I guess we can do with more. So I guess I’ll need to experiment more with the recipe. For this batch, the measurement is:

130g egg white (4 large eggs)
135g sugar
227g unsalted butter, soft but still cold, cut into small equal size of cubes

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More recently, I find myself loving the use of ribbons to cover the base. The collection is growing at quite a steady rate, I must say. Since I would be using a toy superman figurine on the cake, I put a layer of fondant on top before placing another layer just for the decorations. It’s suppose to mean that superman emerge from the clouds… Hmm, did any one of you get it?

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All the wordings were done a day before since I need them to harden a little. Tylose powder is added to the fondant.

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Building this cake in stages takes the stress away. I must say I quite enjoy making this cake!

PME teacher seminar

Last week, for four full days, I was working real hard at the PME teacher seminar in HK. This is the first time that such a seminar is conducted in HK and I’m thankful that I was nominated to attend.

It was truly stressful as we had to recreate what the instructors had shown us within a short time frame. Everyone was on their toes. No one had the time to chit chat or to have a break. The only real break was for lunch. Other than that, we were all working fast and furiously.

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It was great learning from the very experienced instructors though. The techniques were somewhat different from what I have learnt previously and it’s certainly enlightening. I’m truly humbled by the whole experience. Everyone around me was skillful and passionate about this craft and it can really be overwhelming.

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And at last, at the end of the 4th day, we could finally relax because it signaled the end of the seminar. You could immediately sense the relief among the participants and smiles returned on the faces.

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My fellow baking instructors with the experts.

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Fun shot. We are the only group who asked for that kind of shot.

Would I be an approved PME instructor? I’m not sure but what I’m certain is that I need to keep working at it and be good in what I’m doing. And if I want to make sugar flowers look real, I need to study them closely. There’s so much to learn!

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WW | A hobby takes flight

“When God closes a door, He opens another.”

And that really happens to me. If you have been following this blog, you would know that I resigned from my teaching job to look after the little one (LO) full-time because both the hubs and I felt that this is the best arrangement for her, at least for the first few years of her life. I love teaching, everything about it, and to leave this vocation is a blow to me.

Being a SAHM has its perks and pain and I find it crucial to get away from the LO at times, just to maintain sanity. I turn to baking and further hone my skills in cake decorating by going for courses. And one fine day, I was offered a freelance job at a cake decorating school. This is an awesome arrangement because I get to teach again, on stuff I love to do and I can choose when I want to teach (times when I need some ME time!).

I didn’t really share this publicly because I don’t know how far this will take me but now I’m ready.

In February, together with a group of lovely ladies, I attended a training on creating really huge and beautiful cakes from an instructor from Planet Cake. We would all be assessed on our skills and cakes because if we pass, we get to teach the similar stuff!

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And I’m pleased to share this piece of good news with you: I passed!

These are the cakes we made.

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It’s really fun as I learnt quite a fair bit of techniques in creating these cakes, which includes drilling and airbrushing.

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[
credits]

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At the end of the day, the family is the beneficiary of the cakes and they got so tired of them that they asked me to give them away. Arghhh!

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I’m thankful that the hubs gives me total support in my hobby and my parents who helped to take care of the LO while I was busy during that period. My hobby is really taking flight and quite literally, I am flying off to somewhere soon to learn more about cake decorating.

Life has taken a turn, and this is really quite unexpected. I’m thankful for all these opportunities!

Linking up with:

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Heroes in town

How’s your Saturday been thus far?

Mine turned out awesome. You see, I’ve encountered a few heroes today.

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Yesterday, the car could not start and we contacted a mechanic whose name card was given by my sis. I contacted him and he replied that he would try to come as early as possible the next day, thinking that I would need the car for work. Indeed, this morning, he came at the agreed time, examined my car battery and other parts and told me that the fault was with the starter. The problem was solved after he used a rod to give a few knocks on the starter. He told me honestly that it could still last a few months though it would be good to change it.

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He shrugged his shoulder and said it was ok and drove off.

I was filled with thanksgiving. I’m not trying to be cynical but the uncle could have charged me for travelling to my place or even gave me a wrong diagnosis so that he could earn a bit but he didn’t. Such honesty. Such kindness. There are indeed awesome people like them around!

My spirit was lifted and I was in a happy mood to complete the cake that my ex-colleague/ friend has ordered for his son’s 7th birthday. The theme was on Superman and I was thinking of Superman emerging from the ground to save the people. I told my friend that I would rather that we get a toy as the topper as compared to doing one. Thankfully, he was okay with that idea.

The chocolate cakes were baked a day before so that on the actual day, I could fully concentrate on decorating it. For the last few cakes, I had used various types of coating but found it unsuitable for our humid tropical climate.  This time round, I used a 2:1 proportion for the chocolate ganache. And I think it works!

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The cake was well covered by the ganache and after putting a layer of brown fondant on top, I covered it with blue fondant as the sky. I had wanted a darker blue but just couldn’t get it! #notenoughbluefoodcolour
After that, I cut out the top layer of the fondant in the middle of the cake to ‘allow Superman to emerge from the ground’. Before that, I had to wrap the bottom of the topper with some brown fondant before placing it into the cake to ensure food safety. The ‘peeling’ of the ground is made of two rectangles of brown and blue and then cut into triangles before placing it in the middle for it to attach and dry.

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I thought the chocolate balls added some spice to the ‘damaged’ ground. ;p

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Can you guess which city is decorated on the cake? You’ve guessed it right. It is Singapore all right. I was able to have a good and uninterrupted time decorating this cake because the hubs took the little one down for a long walk and took over the duty from me. Grateful. In the afternoon, I was also able to have my first real run because my father-in-law came and played with Faith. Oh, these heroes! I am definitely grateful to these men!

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Hope your Saturday’s been awesome.

Bicycle on my cake

I used to cycle, and quite frequent at one stage. I love the wind that caresses your face as you cruise but dislike the climbing of hills. But it’s all good and I met a whole group of awesome cyclists.

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While training for an event, I met a wonderful lady through a swim class and a few days ago, she asked me if I could bake a cake for her boyfriend who is an avid and really superb cyclist. It is my pleasure of course. Little did I realise that it is rather difficult to make the bicycle figurine since it can be so delicate.

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I got inspired from this blog but I must say I could not use the same technique as hers. For the bike frame, I covered a toothpick with fondant + tylose as I really need the frame to be sturdy. As for the wheels, I used circle cutters and spaghetti for the spokes before painting the spokes with metallic food paint. The different parts of the bike had to be done in stages and in the end, pieced them all up with glue (edible one, of course) and pray very hard that it will stay in one piece.

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Thankfully, the weather was good to make figurine. It was relatively non-humid and the parts could dry by the following day. I had great fun with this but know that there is really much much room for improvement. M asked for a chocolate cake with caramel and walnut and she gets her cake done this way!

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M’s boyfriend likes the bike so much that he asked how to preserve it. I think anything that the girlfriend gives will make him super happy. Moreover this is a bike, modeled very closely to his (can’t do the fine details though). Thankfully, there was also good feedback for the chocolate cake. I’m happy!

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WW | #ilovewhatido

“When God closes a door, He opens another…”

I’ve been a SAHM for a year now and though it was a big adjustment initially, I’ve grown to appreciate the moments that I could spend with Faith and to witness her many milestones.

A year later, it’s time to shed this title. I consider myself blessed to have found something that I love to do and which gives me the flexibility in terms of time to commit to it. After all, I still need to take care of Faith who is my priority.

Here’s what…

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Linking with

Cake decorating basics

If you ask me, I’ll reply you in true honesty that I don’t like to work with sugarpaste/fondant or gumpaste. Fact is, these sugary stuff hates humidity and I happen to live in a tropical climate with high humidity so playing with them is a difficult, if not troublesome affair. The one way to counteract such difficulty is to work with them in an air-conditioned place but my humble home has only fans. So…

Despite that, I find myself more and more interested in making those beautiful cakes out of fondant. Each time when I browse the web for ideas, they never fail to attract me and I guess I will work against the odds to make fondant cakes.

To equip myself on using these materials on cakes, I enrolled myself into Wilton and PME courses and these are some of the take-aways (better to record them somewhere in case I forget!).

On colour wheel

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Complementary colours are colours directly across from each other. Example : Yellow and Purple,  Orange and Green. Complementary colours make each other look good even though they are complete opposites.

Neighbouring colours are a group of three to four colours sitting next to each other on the colour wheel. Example : Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Monochromatic colours refers to a colour choice but using either less or more gel paste to make a bolder or lighter colour. Example: Light pink, Medium pink, and Dark pink.

Triad colours are three colours spaced equally apart on the colour wheel. Example: Green, Orange and Purple.

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One of my coursemates has the above chart, and commented that she found it useful especially since she is into craftwork as well. Her designs are always beautiful and has the most desirable set of colours on her cakes. I must hunt this down!

On fondant and gumpaste

The term used in UK is sugarpaste while in US, fondant is used. Gum paste is mainly used for flowers or figurines (in my opinion and especially so in our climate!), while Fondant is used for covering the cakes.

To store them, mould them into logs and coat with a layer of vegetable shortening, clingfilm and then ziplock them before storing in air-tight containers.

In general, the lifespan for both is 18 months if unopened or refer to the expiry date found on the packaging. If it is used and stored well (the remaining amount), it can last 6 months. However, if it is opened and used, it can only last 1 month.

To make the ‘glue’ to paste the differnt parts of flowers or models together, break about 1/4 teaspoon of Ready- To-Use- Gum paste into very small pieces in about 1 tablespoon of hot water.

For the past few weeks, we worked on these:

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Fabric roses
Embossing and painting of plaques

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Making of fruit basket
The cloth is made entirely from fondant. Reccommded colours to dust on fruits are sage, lime and cinnamon.

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Ribbons and drapes

IMG_8283A Christening cake for a girl

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A ballerina

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My finale cake – The Very Hungry Caterpillar – and with this I receive the Professional Diploma Certificate in sugarpaste from PME. I enjoyed the whole process of learning how to decorate cakes and my instructor makes every lesson really relaxing and fun indeed. I’ll miss her and my wacky coursemates!

Fondant needs to be dried so the best way to do so in our humid climate is to leave it in the air-conditioned place while I use the fan. Imagine the electricity bills! I thought this post is useful.

Will be posting The Very Hungry Caterpillar cake next!

Bows and ribbons

We are on bows and ribbons today and I thought I should just let the pictures narrate the steps for this cake.

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What are we going to do today?

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Using a template, prepare the parts of the bow/ ribbons.

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Assembling the parts of the bow.

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W.I.P for the drape.

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Leaving it to dry. Use needles dedicated for cake decorating purposes.

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The outcome for this bow. Loving the turnout of this colour – AmeriColor’s Super Red (120)

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Fabric effects

There you have it.

I’m loving this class with all the quirky coursemates and a very patient instructor.

 

A custom-made cake : hits and misses

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When a friend asked me if I would take up the challenge to bake a cake for his 5-year-old boy, I agreed rather readily. His request: A cake in the form of Captain America’s shield. No fondant. At least 2kg. To feed about 20 people.

Captain America? Who on earth is that?

And, thanks to google, I got the idea and came up with a draft.

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The actual work started a few days before the birthday celebration. I would be using 2 cake boards – one for the cake, the other as a background. The square board is to be covered with fondant with the wordings in blue. And then, the drying process begins.

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I had originally wanted to do a vanilla sponge cake with various colours (red, blue, white) but the daddy thought that the kids would not appreciate such an effort and so I stuck with the original. I thought the cake slicer and the lifter are of great use. It certainly makes life easier for me!

Another thing that I found out is that my mixer cannot do a good job in making a 10-inch cake batter; it overflows! So, now I know. The cake batter has to be divided to be baked in the oven as it certainly will overflow due to the rising agent.

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So, a fondant cake is NOT welcome and the better choice would be buttercream. I do not want to use royal icing as it will be too sweet for the kids. Of the 3 types of buttercream, I chose to do Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) as it is the most stable and can withstand our tropical humid weather. Thankfully, I had learnt this method during my baking course at CSCA so it wasn’t that foreign. Having said that, I still did it with much trepidation. Thankfully, it was a success and the next step is to moisten the cake with sugar syrup.

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It’s a breeze covering the cake with IMBC. To make things easier for me, I use a special big tip to help me with the sides of the cake. Definitely easier. Reminder to self though: don’t be stingy with the buttercream. I had the tendency to ration the use of it and then in the end, realised that I had so much left. Spread more!

Crumb coat was done!

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Next is the design. So I do not own a compass to draw circles and have to rely on whatever circular stuff that I could get hold of. After that, piping gel was used to trace the design and to transfer it onto the cake. Please don’t ask me why I used a dark colour. I really do not know what had gotten to me to use such a colour. I SHOULDN’T!

After that, it was all about piping – stars and circles. Testing of skills.

If I am to bake another cake again, I’ll make sure that I will make myself free the day before collection. As I had a family outing, I had to place the cake in the refrigerator but when I took it out , there was condensation and it doesn’t really look too good on a cake with IMBC.

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I learnt and hope that you won’t make the same mistake as I.

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😉

Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes

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These days, I would consider it a luxury if I could squeeze in some time to bake. Faith is more needy than before and wants me to carry her or be beside her while she is playing. My arms are sore since she is no longer light and I really need her to be independent!

Ok, complaints aside, she is still my precious girl. It’s random but I have the mood to bake some cupcakes and decided on Earl Grey Lavender Tea Cupcakes.

The recipe that I used is originally from Hummingbird Bakery but I have adapted it by adjusting the sugar level and also using a different tea flavour. After giving some to my cake designing coursemates, they stated that they would prefer a less sweet version of the frosting. So, it’s back to experimenting!

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Makes about 12 standard cupcakes

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey Lavender teabags ( I used Gryphon)
3tbsp just-boiled water
80g unsalted butter, softened
260g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200ml whole milk
2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml whole milk
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter, softened

Two 6-hole muffin tins

Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes. I used Gryphon tea. 🙂

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Preheat the oven to 190°C and line 2 muffin tins with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk or freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.

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Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.

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While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.

Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.

Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife or like me, using a piping tip!