This final instalment of the 12 Days blog series is another creation I make most years. I usually make many different kinds of truffles for Christmas and put a few aside to dress up as mini puddings. This year I'm not making a truffle tree, so rather than grabbing a few choice spares, I chose a cake recipe especially for the occasion.
We don't really like the traditional steamed puddings in our household. One we do like, however, is the untraditional chocolate and raspberry version. These truffles are made from chocolate and strawberry cupcakes to represent our ideal steamed pudding.
Lots more under the cut…
The single most exciting part of Christmas for me is decorating the tree. Most of November consists of me waiting for any sign that's it's appropriate to bring the tree out. This year our neighbours put up their Christmas lights really early, and that was all I needed. I eagrly grabbed the tree and set about my favourite task.
No one else in my family is really into any artistic hobbies or creatively inclined, so even when I was quite young they were more than happy to let me decorate the tree. To everyone else, it seemed like a chore. It eventually became my 'thing' at Christmas. As a kid I'd become easily bothered if people tried to 'help', because it would inevitably result in them putting decorations in places that were just aesthetically horrible. These days, my boyfriend always helps me decorate the tree. While he jokes about how pedantic I am about it and teases me about my decorating 'rules', he shares the same creativity and an eye for detail that comes with his love for artistic hobbies. He's just a pedantic as me, and the only person I trust to help me with this onerous task. It was really evident this year when we were finding places for the last handful of baubles. My sister suggested a place for him to put the one in his hand and he replied with, "No, you can't put it there. There's another bauble of the same size and colour right there." That's my boy!
As I grew up, every year I'd have a different theme. Out decorations were a haphazard collection of brand new assortments of baubles alongside ratty old ones from the 80s. I'd pick and choose colours every year, with one of my favourites being red and gold. These days, my tree is always blue and silver. I've built up quite the collection of blue and silver decorations now, a collection large enough to fit the ridiculously over-sized Christmas tree. While blue and silver is my chosen poison these days, I miss the red and gold a little. I almost have no red and gold baubles left any more, so it was with immense joy that I returned to one of my favourite colour schemes with these edible versions.
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…
During my thesis-induced baking hiatus, I did have a moment of weakness. I was missing baking a little too much, and so I returned to the kitchen to bake a quick treat. I told my desk buddies I’d bring in some cupcakes to help them through the last moments of Masters. Stress levels were so high in the office during those last few weeks that the tinest of morale boosts were received with thrice the usual enthusiasm, so really, it was for a good cause. It was also a good excuse to get away from the computer chair that was numbing my limbs and the computer screen that was ruining my eyes.
Excuses, excuses. A baking hiatus was never really going to last anyway…
Recipe +3 …
Croquembouche is a word that conjures fear in the hearts of many. I've never understood why. Choux pastry is the easiest pastry to make, and toffee is not exactly the most challenging thing to make. Spun sugar can take some getting used to, but it's definitely achievable.
It seems to have stemmed from that MasterChef episode in Series 1 where Adriano Zumbo brought one for the pressure test. Everyone freaked out and it's since been viewed as the penultimate challenge. Many challenges since have been much more difficult, but still everyone dreads the mighty croquembouche.
It's really quite simple. If you've never tried one before, here's a mini version to help you ease your way into it.
Step-by-step after the jump…
I had a little extra time for baking last week, so I decided to hit up the next couple of items on my to-bake list. These three cupcakes are the next in the Majora's Mask set I'm doing.
"4, 5, 6… Whaa! … You startled me. Do not disrupt my training!"
This Saturday is the big day!
Fans of the series will probably know already, but this Saturday The Hunger Games comes out in DVD. I am so excited. Beyond excited. Now we can all stop watching the crappy cinema cam version we've all been clinging to after emptying our pockets at the cinema. We can relive the experience without people walking past the screen or laughing or whooping at inappropriate times. So good.
The DVD release coincides with my very first weekend off in a long time, so I will be spending it sobbing into my popcorn over The Hunger Games and the loss of favourite characters.
I was so excited I decided to celebrate – with cupcakes!
I wasn't really happy with how the mockingjay pin cupcake come out on my first attempt when I made the Hunger Games cupcakes, so any excuse to give this another go was a welcome one.
This post is gonna be really pic heavy, you guys. I spent so long making these that I can't resist showing you all every little detail.
They just want a good show, that's all they want…
There are some things you never get too old to enjoy. The Cookie Monster is definitely pretty high up on that list. Be it nostalgia or just a love for the kooky blue guy, everyone seems to love him.
These cupcakes were a commission from my sister for her friend's birthday. My sister had been almost begging me for months to make these for her friend, but I kept saying it would depend on my research commitments as to whether I would have time. When my trapping schedule got delayed by a week, I found the time to fill the order, much to my sister's excitement.
There are a thousand versions of this guy in cupcake form. This is mine.
C is for Cookie…
I mentioned when I posted the Majora's Mask Cake that I really wanted to do the entire set of masks from the game. Though these will be in cupcake form rather than whole cakes because whoa time and whoa wastage of cake.
I got some time last week to churn out a few of them, so here are the first three.
I figured it was only natural to begin with the three transformation masks. These are the three main transformation masks acquired throughout the game (there's one more final mask, but it's at the end of the game and optional): the Deku mask, Goron mask and Zora mask. Link acquires these in various ways, but the end game is that you get to transform into these races at will. It's amazing fun. And I guess useful, too, if you can stop swimming around as a Zora and shouting "Look, ma! I can leap like a dolphin!" for long enough to actually do some quests and save the world.
The face under the mask… Is that… your true face?
Have you guys met my son? He's fluffy, has 4 legs and is often seen hovering in the back of my dessert photos desperately trying to guilt me into sharing with him. He's a Siberian husky and his name is Tobias.
This is what he looked like when he became mine 22 months ago:
I've always been a bit of an animal person. Animals are my life, more than anything else in this world. My love for them is why I'm now a Zoologist. I love the wild critters, but I have a great fondness of the domesticated ones, too. I've not lived a second of my life without having a pet of one kind or another. I'd feel lost without their company. For most of it, I've lived with a virtual menagerie of them, thanks to all the rescue cases we've inherited. But right now, it's just me and Tobias. And the aquarium.
Today is his second birthday.
He's quite a lot bigger…
Cake commissions are one of my most loved and most hated things. I love making something inspired by the ideas of someone else, of taking a concept and running with it. But it's also terrifying. I'm the worst decision maker in the world and want to double-check every tiny aspect with the person, which is difficult as half the time the person wanting the cake doesn't even know what fondant is. I spend the whole time fretting about doing it wrong.
This cupcake tier was commissioned for a 21st birthday party. The brief was for fondant covered mudcake cupcakes, coloured hot pink and white with 21s and playboy bunnies.
Follow the white rabbit…