A few weeks ago I was commissioned to make this cake for a birthday party. The cake itself is nothing new. It’s my triple ripple joconde: a choc peppermint ripple cake, encased in chocolate mousse, wrapped in a joconde sponge and topped with chocolate ganache. It’s something I came up with for my sister’s birthday and has been labelled a favourite since.
I was making a bunch of hemispheres to adorn the cake with and thought it would be a good opportunity to show you guys how to get a metallic effect when chocolate making. I’ve seen lots of stuff around that involves painting the chocolate with lustre dust after it’s set, buts it’s messy and falls off any time you touch it. You can also use gold leaf, or the imitation stuff, but this is cheaper, easier, and is set right into the chocolate.
A few months ago, a friend of mine asked if she could commission me to make a cake for her birthday. I was, of course, incredibly excited to be given the task and promised to save the date. Little did I know at the time how insane November was going to be for commissions, but I was fortunate that they all fell on different weeks and I didn’t have to turn anyone down.
I know this friend through Uni. We did our Zoology undergraduate degrees together, and we also started our Zoology Masters degree at the same time. When she first asked me, I had no idea what sort of cake she was going to ask for. But when she later approached me with the idea, I figured I should have known. While all of us Masters kids have a passion for every animal, great and small, we all have our groups of fauna we navigate towards. We tend to think of ourselves as being in two groups: the terrestrial and the marine halves. Her passion, and her research, is marine biology, so I perhaps should have guessed that her cake would be along those lines.
As soon as she asked me for not only an octopus, but a blue-ringed octopus cake, I was practically bouncing with excitement. Given that I was on a tram on my way home from work it probably wasn’t the most appropriate time to become hyper, but I was thrilled at the chance to try it.
Once the excitement wore off, though, I had to work out how the hell I was gonna make this thing. Realism presents an exciting challenge, but it also terrifies the living daylights out of me. To the point I tend to actively avoid it in most forms of art I try. When you’re going for a stylised or cartoon version of something, you can get away with a lot. But when you’re aiming for realism, it becomes so much easier to miss the mark, and so much easier to pick out every fault.
This cake is another of the commissions I was working on last month. I was contacted by the family of a little boy for who I made his first birthday cake. I actually couldn’t believe an entire year has passed since then. I still think we’re in April most days.
After a bit of back and forth we worked out a design that would suit the occasion and I got to work.
I love making tiny desserts. No matter what it is, making it into tiny, single serves always makes it better in my opinion. I also love making lots of desserts, so making them tiny means more people can have more variety. Whenever I have people around for a party or just for dinner I usually crack out as many teeny desserts as I can.
Recently, I bought a set of teeny tart pans and just could not wait for the chance to use them. So when I invited Cam’s parents around for dinner one night I leapt at the chance to bake these.
Depending on which corner of the world you call home, Catching Fire is either out or about to be out. Here in Aus, it came out today. I have to wait until tomorrow night to see it. If you’re wondering if I am going moderately insane having to wait an extra day, then yes. Yes I am. I am so excited I am quite literally bouncing. A lot.
To celebrate, I decided to make some Catching Fire themed cupcakes. Not that I need more sugar in by vicinity right now, but I couldn’t resist.
Having only seen the trailer (more times than I am going to admit) I thought I’d go for cupcakes that were symbolic of certain characters, rather than trying to depict actual objects from the movies as I’ve done in the past. I also wanted to do it in the least spoiler-ey way possible for those of you who haven’t read the books. So all these cupcakes mostly depict things we’ve seen in the trailers already.
Whenever we’re having a gathering with Cam’s family, I always try to bring along a treat everyone can eat. With some of his family members being vegan, this means cutting out all the animal content. So far I’ve been turning to recipes that already have next to no animal products in them. But I wanted to try making desserts that are not far off what I would usually make.
I’ve tried a number of veganised recipes along the way with varying success. For this dessert I tried two different vegan pastry recipes and had them fail before I decided to do things my own way. The best way out of it was sticking with recipes I knew and just substituting the ingredients where necessary. The more I play with vegan recipes, the more I’m getting the hang of what substitutes work where. It’s really not as intimidating as it seemed at first. The substitutions come pretty easily once you familiarise yourself with the alternatives available.
The saying ‘it never rain, but it pours’ has never felt so appropriate for me as it has this last month. While I’m more often approached for quotes, it is actually quite rare that someone (outside my family, at least) commissions me to make a cake for them. But this last month has been nothing but commissions. I’ve spent all my spare time in the kitchen staring at cake and icing, crafting things of someone elses imagination. It’s most of the reason I’ve been so terrible at getting back to all your lovely comments and emails lately, something I keep promising myself every morning I will catch up on.
I’ve had to set aside my list of fan art cakes and such I have planned, but it’s been a fun change. It’s wonderful when someone entrusts you with the task of bringing to life the cake that exists in their minds eye, something that it for an important occasion, something to share with all the people they hold dear. It’s equal parts nerveracking and I never quite stop stressing until I see their overjoyed expressions, and even then I still panic. I’ve got a heap of cakes to show you guys over the coming weeks, alongside the usual recipe posts, so here’s the first one.
The family this cake is for is one I’ve made cakes for before. They were one of the first people to ever commission a cake for me. For their son’s first birthday I made them this jungle cake for their private celebration and this one for the larger birthday party. This year he was turning three and they approached me about making another cake for him. This time he was old enough that they were able to ask him what he wanted, and he answered straight away: a race car.