The renovations at my rental are finally coming toward an end. I’ve spent much of it being without a kitchen or a computer or much of any of my belongings really. Half of my house is still in boxes, and with full time work spare time is definitely at a minimum. Which has meant I’ve been doing little to no cooking most nights, let alone anything fancy. I’ve definitely been missing it, and missing having usable space. But we’re slowly reclaiming the house and getting everything into some semblance of order. I have some usable spaces now, and no more yellow benches and green walls — massive yay! I’m definitely going to try to spend more time in my [new — more yay!] kitchen and in turn make more time for sharing it with you guys.
Speaking of work, though, over the last few months we’ve had a number of people being shifted to new locations or moving on to other things. We’ve celebrated last days with sadness and, of course, with cake. I’m fairly sure I’m getting a ‘the cake lady’ reputation now. A few weeks ago I made a ferrero rocher cake and had a pile of biscuit crumbs and hazelnuts that needed to be used up. The easiest thing to use a pile of biscuit crumbs on is definitely cheesecake (if not truffles), and the hazelnut definitely leant itself to another favourite: nutella.
The fact that it’s endlessly simple definitely helped in the decision making process. You don’t even need to bother with gelatine for this one!
Christmas baking is definitely my favourite kind of baking. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m a Christmas-a-holic (though it undoubtedly fuels the fire). There’s just something about the whimsical nature of treats, and the sheer quantity of excuses to create them that’s so exciting. The recipients always seem that little bit extra excited to eat the treats when they’re Christmas-themed, too.
I’m kicking it off early this year by bringing you a how to for one of the first cakes I did. Over the last year I’ve received a number of requests for a tutorial on it, so I decided to make a little version of this old thing to show you how it’s done (also wow, how horrible were my fondant skills back then?) Here’s the mini version for the tute:
It’s all achieved by carving, so you can use any cake recipe and make it as big or small as you like. I’ve used two of my favourite mud cake recipes to achieve this, but do feel free to use your own if you prefer. Here’s how to do it:
A few weeks ago my dad turned 60. Many would view this as an excuse to party and celebrate, but my dad loathes being the centre of attention. Knowing he would hate a surprise party, we decided to opt for a simpler affair and took him out to lunch instead. Behind his thinly veiled protests that he didn’t want to do anything lay an actual excitement at getting to spend time out with his immediate family. If there was any doubt as to his desire to mark the occasion, his incessant talking since about how much he enjoyed it enough to put that to rest.
Amidst all his protestations, I did manage to get him to decide on a cake. In fact, the cake was the one thing he agreed to with no hesitation. His cake choices are usually fairly predictable: either sponge or mudcake, but mostly mudcake. I couldn’t even feign surprise then when he asked for a mudcake.
The recipe I used is one I reserve for special occasions as it’s a comparatively expensive cake to make. I made it for an order once: the 35cm version has a whopping 2 and a half kilos of chocolate in it. So when I say this cake is chocolate heavy, I really mean it. But the result is completely worth it.
Every so often I’ll invite Cameron’s parents over to my place for dinner, wherein I unleash a three coarse feat upon them. Aside from just enjoying their company, it’s also a little way of saying thanks for everything they do for me in the best way I know how. I also just love cooking for Cam’s immediate family in general because they love such a wide variety of cuisine and will try just about everything, quite unlike my family. This time we moved the dinner to lunch time, as it’s the middle of winter here and the long drive between my place and theirs is less appealing of a night time. So when it came to planning the dessert portion, I started hunting for something that would feel more on the refreshing side. Dessert-induced food comas are just less fun at lunch time.
I immediately decided on something citrus-ey. The rest of the dessert followed from there and focussed largely on taking quite sweet things and balancing them to make them feel much less so.
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.