A few weeks ago I was chatting to my sister about cake, as we do. We were discussing previous cake orders and I mentioned how every toddlers birthday cake I’ve been commissioned to do was for a little boy. I kinda missed pink. Pink and frills and all those other things customers will say they absolutely do not want on a cake for a boy. Not half an hour later, my cousin messaged me asking if I could make a cake that ticked all those boxes.
Her niece’s birthday was approaching and she wanted something Minnie Mouse. I was so excited! These are the kinds of cakes I can’t make for customers because of copyright law, so when someone in the family wants one we can go nuts with ideas.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve played around with a joconde. I have a terrible habit of getting stuck on one idea: I’ll bake almost nothing but that for weeks, and then forget it ever existed for a year. So when my birthday rolled around and I had the opportunity to make whatever I wanted with no restrictions, I decided it was time to return to this awesome cakey medium.
So far I’ve mostly used decorating combs for making patterns in the joconde paste. I’ve been wanting to use the sponge as more of a canvas for unusual designs. You always see them with uniform designs on the sides, but I wanted something a bit more picturesque. I had a number of food stencils, but all were a bit bland for what I was thinking. I hit up my favourite cake decorating store and started rummaging through the stencils until I finally found something that was more ‘me’.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday. I spent mine with my partner and his family, eating way too much food and trying not to eat all the chocolate too. His brother and sister-in-law hosted us all on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday his parents did. Both his mother and sister-in-law put on an amazing spread of food that we all ate too much of, and that was before we even thought about dessert.
I bought along a couple of baked goods for the occasion, baking most of it vegan so everyone could eat some. I made a batch of hot cross buns to bring because they’re lots of fun to make, but also because it’s next to impossible to find any here that don’t contain palm oil, especially not vegan ones. And then there was this Easter-themed cake.
Making chocolate cake vegan is so easy. There’s so many recipes that are already incidentally vegan or an easy substitute away from it. This time I decided to spice things up a little with a Mexican chocolate cake.
This last month has been pretty cake crazy, and with a number of family events around the corner it’s about to get crazier. Every time I finish a cake project, another one appears. When I finished the owl cake I was relieved to have a break from impending deadlines, but then the next Link’s Blacklist Project round opened for sign ups. Oops. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to my own giant list of fan art projects that’s steadily growing my the moment.
Last month I got the opportunity to step away from all that and make a birthday cake for an occasion, rather than an art project. This family had been at the birthday party of another family who commissioned a cake from me. They liked what they saw enough to want me to make a cake for their son’s birthday, too. That’s always an incredibly flattering way to receive a commission, knowing the person has seen and tasted your work and wants more of it.
The idea was as simple enough: they wanted a colourful, two tiered cake adorned with all their son’s favourite toys.
Over on deviantART I joined an art project called Losing Altitude. The project is a collaborate art book both celebrating the beauty of, and raising awareness about the plight of, endangered birds. You can hear more about it and see some of the work by contributing artists by peeking at the Kickstarter.
Over 50 artists from varying backgrounds were involved in this project. As with most art collabs I’ve been involved in, that majority of the art was drawn, though there were a few of us repping the artisan crafts community. Given that I’m an absolute novice at digital art, I of course turned to my strengths. I contributed two pieces to the project, both of them endangered native species. The first was a papercraft of the Helmeted Honeyeater. The second was this cake.
Raptorial birds have always been amongst my favourite critters. I seem to have a fierce love of top order predators in general, but there’s so much to love about them. I’ll spend some time telling you all about these guys, why they’re endangered and how you can help. Then I’ll talk about how I made the cake.
Earlier this month it was my boyfriend’s 31st birthday. As the recipient of practically all the goodies I bake, it can be hard to come up with something special for his birthday dinner and dessert and/or cake. This is exacerbated by the fact that his idea of special and mine exist on opposite sides of the planet. I like busy and complex multi-layered cakes of ridiculousness with fancy decorations, he likes chessecake. I started quizzing him on things he’d like me to make for him and got nothing except requests to make cakes I’d made for previous birthdays. Unsatisfied with that answer I sent him to rummage through my recipe books for ideas.
He returned with an A4 list of cakes. He’s about as decisive as I am.
They were almost all cheesecakes and tea cakes, save for the bread and butter pudding he’d very subtly circled. I resigned to banishing any idea of spectacular gateaux from my mind and baking him a cheesecake instead (whose birthday is it anyway, right?).
I took a basic baked cheesecake recipe and decided to load it with a few of his favourite things.
If you’re a fellow Aussie, or have been paying attention to our lil’ continent of late, you’ll be aware of how scorching this summer is turning out to be. Off the back of our hottest year for over 100 years, we’ve delved into a 2014 that doesn’t look much better. In three weeks we’ve already had two major heatwaves. It’s not a huge deal if you have air con. I don’t, which makes the heatwaves much harder to cope through. Last week the room temperature of my house didn’t sink below 30°C at night, and that was in the room we were dedicating all our cooling efforts into. It led to a lot of sleepless nights and exclaiming at 5am, “How is it still 35°C!?”
Needless to say, cooking and baking have been so far out of the question. My diet has largely consisted of watermelon, ice and anything that can be quickly cooked on the stovetop, which is also why the blog has stayed quiet for longer than planned. Too hot to make food, or eat food, or open a curtain to photograph food, or to sit in front of my computer talking about food.
So when my cousin asked me to make a Mike Wazowski cake for her son’s 3rd birthday, I said I’d keep an eye on the forecast and let her know. We were blessed with a relatively cool week the week she needed it, so I said it would be no problem. I baked the cake, carved it, covered it in ganache and let it set overnight, ready to be fondant-ed up the next day. That’s when the forecast changed.
This is the last cake from the month of cake madness. This is Grug cake requested for a kids birthday party.
I doubt anyone not from Australia will have any clue who Grug is, and even a lot of the Australians amongst you may not remember him. I’d, admittedly, forgotten all about him until I was asked to do the cake. Grug is a character from a series of illustrated children’s books written by Ted Prior. Though there have been no new books published since I was a little kid, you can still find them amongst the kids book section of most any book store or supermarket.
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.