Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Shortbread baubles!

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients
of a truly merry Christmas"
- Peg Bracken

As a small gift for my neighbours this year, I decided to make personalised shortbread baubles... With a new bauble shaped cookie cutter, I made then decorated the biscuits with coloured royal icing, silver cachous, and personalised them by writing names on them...

And wrapped them up in cellophane, ready to be delivered:

Merry Christmas everyone! :)

Friday, 21 December 2012

90th birthday!

Continuing on from fondant fun, this is the post about what the actual cake and cupcakes looked like!

I was asked, and honoured to be asked, to make a cake and matching cupcakes for a friend's mother's 90th birthday this month. This request marks two new accomplishments for me, as the this was the first time I'd:

a) Made red velvet cake/cupcakes; and
b) Worked with fondant!

I used this recipe for the Red Velvet mixture.

My trial version of this was a bit of a disaster, as I followed the recipe sooo carefully, sifted the flour, put it aside, mixed everything else into the bowl, divided the mixture between the cake tin and cupcake patties, put them in the oven, and felt so proud of myself for doing such a great job!

... Until I turned around, and found sitting on the bench (in a bowl of course) the sifted flour that I had forgot to even put into the mixture! Ahh.

Since then, I've been a lot more careful and aware of where I put everything! And this one turned out much better (funny that). This is before and after going into the oven with all the ingredients:

With red flower moulding paste and a flower cutter, I made flowers just like I had practiced in the post about me practicing using fondant. This time, to make the flowers a bit more special, I still placed a silver cachous in the centre, but also painted on some Wilton sparkle gel onto them all... With little letter cutters (and more sparkle gel), I cut out the letters to spell what needed to go onto the cake once it was iced.

Taking my son's advice from my trial leaves last month, I made small indents into them to make them 'look more real'...

Practicing with some cupcake cases, I tried to work out how they would all fit onto the cake stand (which I didn't end up using, because the cupcakes were a little smaller than what would have fitted into the cases anyway, unfortunately), but you get the idea of what I was doing with my time:

As well as practicing of how the letters would be arranged on top of the cake:

But now, with everything iced and ready to go*:

* I added 'th' to the 90, and slightly rearranged the big leaves on the cake upwards a bit, so that they looked less like a moustache, and a little more like leaves! :)
Happy birthday Joan!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Teacher presents!

And so it has arrived... The last day of school for 2012! Incredible, and also a little bit sad, and scary, and exciting, because the countdown until Christmas is getting lower and lower!

In my last post, I mentioned that this year I was going to paint wine glasses for my children's teachers. Well, here is what I painted for them! Flowers are generally winners for ladies, and I got my children to choose which flower and what colour they thought their teachers would like... One for Ben's teacher, one for Tamara's teacher, and one for the principle of the school:

I often chat to the site manager of the school, but in a sneaky question a couple of weeks ago (not really, I plainly asked him if he drank wine or not), found out that he doesn't drink wine. From previous conversations, however, I did know that he drank spirits (and played bass in a band most weekends - sometimes simultaneously), so I painted a shot glass for him, with a bass clef and some notes! I should let him know that I expect him to memorise and be able to play what I composed over the holidays :)

For the rest of the staff, I couldn't help myself,
and made Christmas cupcakes with fondant holly leaves,
red 'sugar pearls', and red & green M 'n' Ms:

Happy Last Day Of School!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Festive drinking!

Earlier this month, Ropes Crossing Church held another ladies craft event! The first one this year was a baking afternoon, where I taught ladies how to decorate cupcakes to look like Sesame Street characters. This time, with the lead up to Christmas, we had a glass painting morning! Ladies painted wine glasses and tumblers with the festive image of Holly. To see some photos of the day, please click here.

A small cheat that I use when painting wine glasses, is by printing out the image that I want to paint onto the glasses (this time I also printed out 'Merry Christmas'), and tape/blu-tac it to the inside of the glass and 'colour in' with paint. You can work out where you want the images to go before starting as well (if you are a symmetrical and perfectionist painter like myself). And any small bits that go out of the lines can be covered up with a black outlining paint pen anyway - Phew!

In the lead up to Christmas last year, my children and I painted wine glasses for some family members. It was such a fun thing to do (though I forgot how time consuming it was). This year, with the inspiration and motivation that came from the creativity seen at the ladies craft morning (and the fact that a couple of family members were at the craft morning), I've decided to paint some glasses for my children's class teachers.

The outlining paint pen also gives definition to things you are painting, and made a huge difference to the Hollies that were painted onto these wine glasses.

Less than two weeks to go - Yikes!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Looking more and more like Christmas!

In a recent post about getting creative for Christmas, I ended with a potential idea for using baubles as place settings...

Well, I've now made* them:

And as they dried, they sat nicely in a cupcake baking tray!

* I still need to work out how to get them to sit upright on the table, though. But if I run out of time, bluTac will come to the rescue once again.

Hmm... What other table decorations should I make for Christmas this year?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Christmas Trees!

Looking for dessert inspiration for Christmas at our house (and because I may be going slightly cupcake mad), I came across these beauties -and many similar- on one of my many random Google searches:

I thought they looked awesome, and wanted to re-create them in my own way...

I made little stars with leftover yellow fondant used for the stars I made for Aiden's space cupcakes, to go on top of these cupcakes. I had thought of the decorations on our own Christmas tree (baubles and tinsel), and ways I could creatively (and edibly) put those onto the cupcakes... I decided that mini M 'n' Ms should work well... I got some chocolate fudge frosting to 'link' the baubles (or lights) to one another, and had some silver cachous on hand in case the mini M 'n' M theory didn't work...

And, well, because I suffer from slight impatience... Instead of waiting until Christmas day to make these, I made them for one of my play group's Christmas parties 2.5 weeks prior to Christmas! And I thought both the mini M 'n' Ms, and the cachous looked great on them:

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas! :)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dinosaur cupcakes!

Another boy's birthday has come, and another round of cupcakes were made for the occasion! ... Because 5 year old boys are into cars, trucks, fire engines, dogs, and dinosaurs, I chose a dinosaur theme to make T-Rex and dinosaur egg cupcakes for his birthday.

I coloured my fondant green, and used an 'egg' shaped cookie cutter for a T-Rex head.

I rolled out white fondant and cut triangles to use for the mouths... I trimmed them with the egg shaped cutter to get the right curve (and to hopefully save time with trimming them all later). With a paintbrush and a bit of water, I 'glued' them on.

Next I added an eye (again, with fondant), a nostril, and teeth.

I started using melted chocolate for the eyes and teeth, but for some reason today, my chocolate wasn't melting properly, so I instead finished them off (and fixed up the dodgy chocolate parts) by using chocolate fudge frosting.

My original plan for the dinosaur eggs was going to be to make them with fondant... But upon researching what dinosaur eggs actually looked like (more brown and spotty than white and smooth), I decided that chocolate chip cookie dough would look more realistic! I made a 'nest' out of chocolate sprinkles, then put the egg shaped ball of cookie dough on top :)

For the T-Rex cupcakes, I piped chocolate icing onto the cakes, and placed the T-Rex heads on top. Then on the eggs, I sprinkled a little bit of icing sugar, and voila.
Dinosaur themed cupcakes!

Happy birthday Fletcher! ROAAAR!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A journey to space!

So my friend's son has just turned 7, and I was asked to make some cupcakes for him to take to school to share with his friends. Excited about doing this, I asked her what kinds of things he likes. She told me that he is currently obsessed with all things in space. I wanted to make something extra special for my friend, so thought of all the potential Space themed fondant shapes I could do!

Here's what I made for Aiden to take into school for his 'Space' birthday!

I started with nice and simple yellow stars, but added sanding sugar to (hopefully) make them appear to be twinkling:

Rockets and planets came to mind... Earth was the trickiest of the three (but I hoped it would be the most recognisable). However, when I showed my own kids after they were ready, they thought that my little Antarctica's and Arctic Ocean's looked like great clouds!! ... Oh well.

I was hoping that on a positive side, his teacher would instantly be able to recognise what each of my green 'continents' were! Not sure if that happened, though. They weren't exactly shaped right!

The rockets were a bit tough... I used a rectangular cookie cutter to cut the red fondant, and then trimmed the top into a point. For the 'fire' at the bottom of the rockets, I used my little leaf cutter, and joined two orange leaves together with a bit of water :)

And, of course, the rockets posing for photographic purposes:

From what I heard, the cupcakes were presented to the birthday boy's class at school, and were met with many impressive "Oooh"s and "Aaah"s!! I am really glad he liked them :)

Happy birthday Aiden!

... To infinity, and beyond!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Fondant Fun!

So I was asked (a little while ago) to make some cupcakes for a friend's mother's milestone birthday, which is now coming up next month (how time flies!). I am both excited and nervous about this, as her request involves a few things I haven't tried to do/make before:

1. Red Velvet cupcakes - both the mixture; and the complementary cream cheese icing.
2. A cake (sounds silly, but I prefer cupcakes over a cake and generally steer clear!) - which will be going on top of a cake stand with the red velvet cupcakes below...
3. (This one is probably self-inflicted) Use Fondant.

Wanting to do the best I possibly can for my friend, I decided that I needed to practice making these things first, just to make sure I actually can make Red Velvet cupcakes, along with the icing, and ice an entire cake using fondant...

I walked into a nearby cake shop and upon looking intently at the thousands of items related to baking, icing, and fondant, looking clearly perplexed and in need of assistance, a lady came up to me and offered some. I said, "Hi! I'm looking to start working with fondant, but have no equipment or fondant. I have this in mind. What do you think?" To which I explained as best as I could my intentions for the cake/cupcake order...

I left the shop feeling positive, with red fondant, white fondant, a couple of cutters, a cake board, and a head full of information about what I needed to do next.

I will admit, that YouTube has become my best friend for the moment. There are so many videos on cake decorating and using fondant! I probably spent far too much time researching techniques, and looking up different Red Velvet recipes, but I now feel confident that I can do this, and I can do this well.

With cornflour, I dusted my kitchen bench ready to start making some flowers!

This is (or something similar to) what I had in mind for the cupcakes:

Pretty. Simple. Elegant, and Red.

Probably without the hearts, though... But maybe with leaves instead!

This is  *drum roll*  my first fondant experiment:

I rolled the red fondant out onto my cornflour'd bench top, and began pressing my new flower mould press into it. Once I had them all cut out and on baking paper to dry, I used a pastry brush (I know, not the most elegant thing to use, but it still worked alright) to brush off the excess cornflour :)

To make them slightly rounded, I put them into the container of a packet of 12 plastic ping pong balls that I bought at a $2 shop on my way back from the cake shop...

Which I thought worked brilliantly!

Then with a damp cotton tip, I moistened the middles of the flowers,
and pressed a silver cachous into each of them.

Meanwhile, in my new red silicone cupcake moulds, I had a batch of vanilla cupcakes (experimenting with Red Velvet cupcakes will come later - it's fondant day today) baking.

Using 'Apple Green' colouring paste, leftover from a green and blue #1 cake I made earlier this year for church, I coloured some white fondant so that I could add leaves to my flowers.

Using the littlest of my 3 leaf cutters, I cut out so many leaves! It occurred to me that even a little bit of fondant can go a very long way! I had more than enough.

Later in the day, when the cupcakes had cooled down, and the fondant flowers were dry enough to start decorating (or I was just impatient by then), icing had just been mixed and piped onto the cupcakes, and I began to create the flowers on top!

I am so glad these turned out as well as they did for my first time using fondant! I couldn't decide whether I should use no leaves, two leaves, or three leaves on the cupcakes (still deciding, really, but leaning towards either three leaves or no leaves). My son has informed me that all I needed to do different was add a little 'line' on the leaves to make them 'look more real'. Good to know!

This little experiment has certainly given me a boost of cake-decorating confidence, and I am even more excited about recreating these next month!

... Except with more red, velvet, cream, and cheese of course ;)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Surf's up!

On our way back from our week off, visiting family in Jindabyne last week, we made our regular stop-off at 'Cathy's Lolly Shack' in Cooma. There, I spotted some cute little penguin gummy lollies! I couldn't help but imagine potential cupcake icings I could make with them when we got home...

This movie immediately came to mind:

I started by icing the cupcakes with yellow buttercream icing. Using some of the left over yellow 'sanding sugar' from when I made magic cupcakes for church a couple of months ago, I then (funnily enough) made 'sand' for a cupcake 'beach'...

Then with blue buttercream icing, I attempted to make a 'wave' (in my mind it looked better, but for a first attempt I was pretty happy)... Cutting a chocolate melt in half, I placed it towards the 'end' of the wave to be a 'surfboard', which I squeezed fudge frosting on top of, and hoped for the best that it helped the little penguin lollies stay in place!

A bit of fiddling, but, ta-da! Surfing penguin cupcakes!

Makes me want to go to the beach! ... Or just watch the movie :)