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.
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.
It was about a year ago that I tried making macarons for the first time. Intimidated by the horror stories, I kept putting it off. I learned then that they’re not as crazy difficult as they seem, and since then I virtually haven’t stopped. I’ve made macarons probably more than anything else this past year, and everyone here sure isn’t complaining. We absolutely love them. I love trying new flavour combinations, and everyone else loves devouring the spoils.
Christmas baking is getting into gear and I’ve made hundreds of the bite-sized treats already. but while I was making standard macarons, I wanted to make some a little extra festive.
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.
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.
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve never tried pumpkin in a sweet dish before. With Halloween around the corner I decided it was a good change to change all that. I bought a stack of pumpkins on the weekend and started having some fun.
My first stop was incorporating pumpkin into cake. I absolutely love all the spices that make up pumpkin pie spice, so I just knew I was going to love these. But I also wanted to incorporate some of Halloween into them as well. Here’s where the ghosts come in.
Last week I blogged all about the footy and mentioned that it was finals time. Last Saturday was the biggest event on Melbourne’s calendar (in most of our potentially biased books): the AFL Grand Final. On the Friday I had to travel through the city to get to work and walked past the massive crowds of brown, gold and purple buzzing with excitement during all the pre-final celebrations. It’s one of those moments that make me swell with pride and want to just hug Melbourne in general. I love our game and I love everyone who loves our game. Whether my team has made it or not, I just love footy finals fever.
Despite my attempts to persuade him otherwise, my partner is not a Carlton supporter. While he’s now a Carlton member and is gradually falling in love with my team, and while I keep telling him he really should switch teams, there’s no luring him away from his. Melbournians, and loyal footy fans elsewhere across Australia, are more likely to part with a limb than their life-long team, and so it is with Cameron. He comes from a family of almost all Hawthorn supporters, a family that had a lot to celebrate this year as their team made the grand final. Getting tickets to the AFL grand final also usually requires losing a few limbs. He, his uncle and brother are all Hawks members but still missed out, so we all headed to his place to watch it on telly together.
Cam asked me if I was going to make something for our gathering, and if I’d make him something Hawthorn. I always said I’d never bring myself to make anything opposition-team themed until I’d at least first made something Carlton. With the Carlton cupcakes made for our last final a few weeks ago, I had to oblige. Coming up with the what was effortless once I factored in everyone’s likes and requirements. Cam’s brother and sister-in-law are vegan, so I wanted to make it accessible for everyone. Which, honestly, didn’t require many adjustments at all.