Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Ohh back to school, back to school...

Well, it's the time of the year that always feels so surreal to me... Where did the last 6 weeks go? Is it really time to go back to school? Surreal that I've waited and counted down until this day with so much anticipation, but now that it's here, I'm nervous about having to get back into that 'routine' of getting up earlier, get dressed earlier, having a quick breakfast (not a leisurely pancake/waffle breakfast at 10am anymore), and being somewhere at the same time every day!

Then that's mixed with the surreal feeling realising that my children (which must also mean me) are getting older, are going to be learning more complex things this year, and now there's less years until they go to high school, and then graduate from high school, then move out of home - ..... Okay maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself on that one :)

But, as I usually do, I felt that the best way to get through the first day of school and cope with this change (again), is to make cupcakes!

Inspired by various apple cupcakes I've seen, I wondered why apples were associated with teachers and education... So I did a bit of research and found out that in the 18th century in European countries such as Sweeden and Denmark, apples were given to teachers both as gifts, and as payment for education.

Back to School Cupcakes!

I made these with coloured caster sugar, butter cream icing, and a vanilla bean cut up... And you know what they say... "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away!" ... I wonder if a teacher came up with that slogan :)


... And now all I can think about is Billy Madison.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Happy 'Straya Day!

Australia Day: A legal holiday in Australia commemorating
the landing of the British in 1788.

Lamington - n.
An Australian dessert made from a cube of sponge cake
covered in chocolate icing and dried coconut.

So what I've done for Australia Day this year, is combine this Australian dessert with my own passion, and so I made lamington cupcakes!

Inspired by the presentation of these White Wings Lamington Cupcakes, I decided that I would aim to create mine similarly, but make them from scratch. So using this recipe, I did just that.

I used some union jack patty cases that I found while searching the cake shop for things I needed for an upcoming birthday order - perfect!

I was all set to make these when my oven stopped working! The grill and the fan still worked, strangely, but the element to heat the oven apparently needs replacing... Devastated, but still determined to make these, I fiddled with the oven dials, hoping to get a good temperature, and managed to bake some lamington cupcakes successfully! :)

Icing them with the chocolate icing, and dipping them in coconut, I present you with lamington cupcakes:

Then I topped them with cream and jam:

And they just wouldn't be completely Australian, unless they had been branded with our flag!

Happy 'Straya Day everyone! :)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

My first wedding gig!

A few months ago, I had the honour and privilege of being asked to make cupcakes for the upcoming wedding of two friends of ours... I was excited and nervous, as this would be the biggest and most public cupcake display so far*...

Maybe it would be the most formal and elegant cupcake request so far! ... During the first meeting, the bride told me she wanted about 70 cupcakes - 1/2 chocolate and 1/2 vanilla.

'Piece of cake' I thought... So to speak.

My husband then hands her a cupcake recipe booklet that I'd (at the time) been making different flavours of cupcakes out of... You know, just to flip through and see if they wanted something a bit more 'fancy'. The chocolate was then changed to 'Cookies & Cream' (minus the cream) - a cupcake with Oreo biscuits crushed into it that I'd tried making before**.

The bride specified to me what colours of buttercream icing she wanted: ivory & pale green.

Well, the day had arrived, and I was about to make the cupcakes for the wedding! My new Breville Mixer Pro*** had never worked so hard in it's life! It was running almost non-stop for 8 hours to get these cupcakes made.

The first batch of Oreo cupcakes, ready to be baked:

A mixture of un-iced Oreo & vanilla cupcakes to send to the bride so she knew the progress of the cupcakes was under control:

Throughout the afternoon, as I kept the bride and organiser of the wedding informed of how things were going with the cupcakes, I sent through the next picture - a batch of Oreo cupcakes, iced with ivory buttercream frosting, just as the bride has specified to me that she wanted:

3 more giant batches of buttercream frosting later, and my new mixer didn't explode (well, if you don't include exploding icing sugar all over my bench top)! ... It was feeling a bit hot, though, so I gave it a small break to recover from the trauma I had put it through during the day...

Once the Oreo cupcakes were all iced with ivory buttercream, it was time to make the green icing and ice the vanilla cupcakes... I relied heavily on the photo the bride had sent to me (constantly comparing the colour of the icing to the colour on the computer screen), to make sure I got the colour exact (or as possibly close to exact as I could)! - There was no way I wanted to botch this up the day before the wedding!

And here they are - 78 cupcakes boxed and ready to be delivered to the reception venue!

I didn't see them again until the reception, where I got to look at their display on an acrylic tier, and at the cake topper that was placed on top... It was lovely, and I was especially impressed with the cake topper!

Here's a picture of the bride & groom cutting the cake:

I was thrilled to be involved with the wedding, and I wish our friends Marley & Brendan all the best as they enter both the challenging and rewarding journey through married life.

* Except, now that I think about it, the bluRopes cupcakes were pretty public...

** And thankfully succeeded!

*** The Christmas present from my husband that I had seen, wanted, chosen, & requested :)

Monday, 14 January 2013

" I'm on vacation "

So for the last two weeks, we've had a couple of overseas friends stay with us... For a stay-at-home mother such as myself, it's been lovely having adult conversations daily again (and someone to watch the kids if I only needed one thing from the supermarket)!

It's also meant that " I'm on vacation " became a well-known phrase in our house, excusing crazy and uncommon behaviours such as sleeping in, playing the Xbox all morning, drinking wine/beer at lunch time, playing cards all afternoon, staying up until midnight, and doing it all again the next day...

Seriously - who would want to go back to work after that anyway!

Well, sadly they did have to leave to go back to work, but because of this 'vacation' (and perhaps because I took an unplanned/unexpected vacation from baking due to having friends stay with us), I thought it would only be right to farewell them with some cupcakes!

When I think of 'vacation', I think of the beach... Or an island... So that's what I had in mind and made some palm trees with melted chocolate. On some I even added a chocolate piece to represent a coconut... Then with yellow sanding sugar and blue buttercream icing, I aimed to create the appearance of an island.

As I was icing the cupcakes, our friend from England wanted to decorate one as well. And because he was 'on vacation', I allowed him to step into my baking arena and ice some cupcakes...

I came back to see he'd added a shark fin!

I'm really looking forward to our next vacation!

... And also seeing our friends again so we can humorously excuse
certain behaviours due to being " on vacation " ;)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Fireworks Cupcakes!

As per usual, the arrival of a new year involves fireworks. What better way to celebrate the arrival into a new year than with bright lights, big flashes, loud noises, and beautiful colours (and smoke) covering the midnight sky...

And a glass or three of wine.

My (delayed) celebration of the new year involved cupcakes
(like that's really a surprise) that were inspired by fireworks:

This idea came to me while driving back to Sydney on New Year's Eve, from our holiday in the Snowy Mountains. I imagined stars and a sparkler... That was about as far as I had gotten before the making and baking process began. With the help of a friend, the colours of the fondant stars were chosen, rolled out and cut, to then put onto toothpicks to eventually (and symmetrically) place into the cupcakes...

I mixed warm buttercream icing colours into a piping bag (to match the stars), to pipe onto the chocolate chip cupcakes (because my husband tells me that normal cupcakes are a bit boring), and then arranged the various 'firework' decorations:

All set up and ready to light!

I snipped the sparklers in half so they didn't completely tower over the cupcakes, but it meant that with one lighter, they took longer to catch, and were half out by the time the next one was lit - but it was lots of fun, and I can still see properly, so all ended well, and they tasted pretty good, too.

Welcome to 2013! :)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

What a year!

2012 has seen many creative adventures for me (including the start of this blog), trials & errors, and new experiences as I aimed to improve skills, expand knowledge, and be creative in new & different ways...

I thought that it would be right, then, to end the year with a small video I created, looking back through the year of some of the things that have been created creatively :)

Big things are planned to happen in 2013, starting with the launch of a new home business where I'll be making cupcakes for birthdays and events, with the potential to expand into children's parties and mini-demonstrations.

I hope you enjoy this little video!

Thanks for your support - Happy New Year :)