Tag Archives: show-off posts

Recipe: Fierce Strawberries (and tentacle cake)

A while back, one of my Professors welcomed me back from long service leave with a copy of Deceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide to Baking Bad, by Christine McConnell.  I was particularly taken by her recipe for Screamberries, and my brother and I originally had evil plans to make this as a birthday cake for Elisabeth’s first birthday (just think of the photos!), but for some reason (possibly because my mother was appalled?) we decided to make the orange and banana cakes instead.

Well, this year, what with one thing and another, it became practical to have my brother’s birthday party and my niece’s both on the same day.  Obviously, this necessitated two cakes, and when I asked my brother what he wanted for this cake, the answer was ‘tentacles’.

So that was easy, then.

I made a few modifications to McConnell’s recipe.  Vanilla mousse seemed boring, so I filled the waffle cups half with vegan chocolate mousse and half with berry mousse.  Stabilised whipped cream seemed like way too much like hard work for a relatively small result, so I didn’t do that.  And my first batch of waffle cones weren’t great, so I had to make another double batch in the hour between getting back from cantoring in Middle Park and leaving for birthday shenanigans in Canterbury.  So I signally failed to follow the instructions and just dumped everything in together.  I can’t claim that they were brilliant waffle cups, but they were fresh and they did the job.

And really, who cared about the waffle cups?  The mousse was delicious, and really, we were all here for the strawberries and the tentacles, right?

Incidentally, you can make this recipe in advance and take the components in separate boxes to wherever you are going, at which point it takes about ten minutes to put together.

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Cake for a rainbow wedding

Hello!  It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it?  There were several reasons for this – I got interested in fiction writing, which meant that I had less time to spare for food writing; my wrist kept getting worse, which made baking and typing both painful; I discovered Indian cooking, which meant that I was using recipe books a lot, and not creating many new recipes.  Also… I’ve had kind of a bad patch in the last year or so where I haven’t felt like doing anything creative at all, but this seems to be getting better.

Anyway.  None of this is important compared to the much more exciting fact that I got to make my first ever cake for a same-sex wedding yesterday!

(I’ve been calling it my first Big Gay Wedding Cake, but since I do not, in point of fact, know what the cake’s personal preferences are, I should probably stop calling it that.)

Much has been made in the media (ooh, alliteration!) of gay weddings and Christian bakers and how it’s terrible, awful, so bad, that we might be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings.

But I have to say, I was so incredibly thrilled when the sister of one of my dearest friends was finally able to get engaged to her long-time partner, and immediately asked my friend to relay the message that I’d love to bake their wedding cake, please, pretty please…

I mean, those of you who have met me in the flesh know how I feel about bright colours.  I have rainbow glasses.  I have rainbow ear-rings.  I have rainbow tops and rainbow skirts.  My wedding dress had rainbow chiffon on it.  Let’s just say that when I went to a marriage equality rally last year, I really had no difficulty whatsoever in finding something appropriate to wear, and indeed, at the rally I looked around me and thought, now, THIS is my aesthetic.  I want to go to more rallies like this one.

Anyway, to my great delight, they said yes, and that they would love a cupcake tower, with a cuttable cake on top.

At which point I got super nervous because what if the cake wasn’t PERFECT enough for this very special wedding, and warned them that while I could guarantee cakes that were pretty and delicious and catering to all allergies, I couldn’t promise something that looked, you know, like a perfectly smooth, white, professional wedding cake.

But that was OK, because they wanted rainbows too.  In fact, I was specifically told to make the cakes as bright and colourful as possible.  OK, then. I could do that.

The saturation adjuster on photoshop (or, as I like to think of it, the oversaturation button) was made for occasions like this one…

(And I have to note in passing that while I’m sure there are Christian bakers out there who don’t want to do gay wedding cakes, I suspect that they are in the minority.  Every single cake decorating place I spoke to, without exception, was as excited at the idea of gay wedding cakes as I was.  A couple of people told me that they absolutely couldn’t wait to do their first gay wedding cake – all those colours!  So I think that even if you wanted a proper, professional looking cake, you wouldn’t have trouble finding one.)

One of the brides can’t eat gluten, and we had the usual array of vegan guests and guests with egg allergies, nut allergies, etc.  But that’s what cake towers are for – you can have a different flavour on each layer, and make each one cater to a different set of dietary requirements!

(When I first asked one of the brides what flavours they had in mind, she seemed taken aback and said… “Vanilla…?”  To which my response was equally taken aback.  “Well, I could do that, of course.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever done a plain vanilla cake…”  I then brainstormed a list of flavours.  Needless to say, we did not go with vanilla…)

With at least six colours in the rainbow and only four layers in the tower, some doubling up was required.  I decided on red and pink for the bottom layer, orange and yellow for the next, green and blue for the next, and purple for the layer below the cuttable cake.

Ready to start baking…

This necessitated a remarkable amount of sourcing of cupcake holders – anywhere that stocked orange did not stock purple, and if they had purple, they didn’t have green.  It was bizarre.  I also spent way too much time at Spotlight looking for the right coloured ribbons with which to decorate the cake boards, and then half an afternoon carefully glueing the ribbons to each other to get a two-coloured effect, and then to the board.

I wanted to make sure that at least half of the cakes were gluten free, so the bottom layer was raspberry, pistachio and rose cupcakes.

I made roses out of marbled red, pink and white fondant in fondant molds, and a pale green lemon icing to hold them in place.

The second layer was lemon meringue cupcakes, which I made gluten-free with my standard gluten-free flour mix.  I have made these cupcakes many, many times before, so while I was a little concerned about their structural integrity with the gluten-free flour, I was pretty confident that the rest would be easy.

Ha. The day started well – I successfully separated twelve eggs in a row, which is practically a miracle, and the lemon curd and cupcakes came out beautifully.  And then the meringue failed.  Repeatedly.  It took me an hour and five bowls to successfully make my meringues, and I ended up with meringue all over the walls and myself.

But they were done, so that was good.  I thought.

Then the weather changed overnight and when I got up on the morning of the wedding, all my meringues were weeping.  I had been planning to decorate them with little rainbows, with the meringues representing clouds.  I momentarily considered pretending that the weeping meringue represented entirely intentional raindrops, but I couldn’t do it.  I scraped all the meringues off and started again.

There aren’t a lot of photos of these cakes. This is because they were very naughty cakes and did not deserve to be photographed.

Suffice it to say, this made my nice, relaxed cake baking plan for the morning of the wedding a little bit less relaxed – in the end, by the time I’d got everything done or re-done, got to the venue, assembled everything on the table, and hidden away the rest of the cupcakes, I was just squeezing out from behind the table when the first guests walked in.  (And this is why I always add two hours of contingency time into my planning for events like this – I needed every second of them!)

See that box on the side of the table? Yeah. I basically heard the guests coming and chucked it off the table right after taking this photo. This was really, really down to the wire. Never trust a meringue, that’s my advice.

Layer three was my vegan sachertorte recipe, which I’ll share on this blog next week.  This, thankfully, is a tried-and-true, nearly failproof recipe, and it worked just fine.

I topped these cakes with vegan chocolate ganache, and little buttons that I’d made out of bright blue and green gum paste.

The gum paste was a bit of a surprise – I hadn’t used it before, and when it arrived in the post, I realised that it contained egg-white, which wasn’t going to be great for my vegans and egg allergies.

So, since I had four people who couldn’t eat eggs and 48 cupcakes, I decided to keep the green and blue buttons for 36 cakes, and make twelve lots of buttons out of pure white fondant, which I painted with gold lustre dust.  That way the vegans would have something that was clearly identifiable, but in a way that looked extra special rather than sad…

When I’d been throwing out ideas for flavours, one of the brides had been very interested in the lavender and blackberry cupcake idea.  I was initially planning to just make lavender butterfly cakes with blackberry jam and whipped cream, but when I was at the Ruby Chocolate demonstration at Savour a couple of weeks ago, one recipe that was demonstrated was a whipped ganache – a whipped cream enriched by white chocolate, which made it a little heavier and more stable.

So I decided to see if I could make a blackberry and lavender-infused whipped ganache for these cakes, and it worked really beautifully.  (Recipe here!)

For the cuttable cake, I was a bit anxious on several counts.  For one thing, I have done precisely one white wedding cake in my life, and it was the first wedding cake I did, and frankly, it wasn’t very good.  I had a lot of trouble rolling out the icing, and it showed.  But I really did want a proper wedding-cake looking cake if I could manage it.  Fortunately, while I haven’t rolled out icing in the last eighteen years, I’ve somehow improved in the interim – just more cooking experience generally, I suppose, plus the magic of YouTube videos, and it covered the cake beautifully.

I also wanted to make figurines out of fondant, something else I hadn’t done before.  Alas, my first attempt was not auspicious.  The brides started off tall and elegant, but sank, slowly and inevitably, into themselves, and then began tilting drunkenly to the side and backwards.  And their lips protruded like fish lips.  And their arms kept falling off.  It wasn’t a good look.

(Nope, you’re not getting photos of those ones.)

I decided that I could get away with a perfect white cake with rainbow ribbon, and would have another crack at the figurines on Friday and see how that went.  My second try at the brides was informed by the first attempt – I made each batch of colour before I started, and made the bodies short and sturdy, like pawns from a chess set.  I then refrigerated them after each step, to make them get more solid.  The faces still weren’t quite right, and I accidentally switched the heads so that the wrong bride had the wrong dress, but the arms stayed on almost entirely – I had to re-attach one at the venue, and then reattach it again after we removed the brides from the cake for cutting.

But this was a rainbow wedding, and it had been a very long time coming, so I really wanted to make sure that when the brides cut the cake, they got something really special.

This was rather nervewracking, because as you can see, the rainbow is baked into the cake, and I had no way of knowing until they cut it whether it had actually worked.

But it had, and it was a great hit, both with the brides and with everybody under the age of five.  I made this cake pretty plain – and gluten-free – and flavoured with with orange flower water, since orange flowers are traditional for a wedding.

I have to say, I am very, very proud of this cake.  I do think it’s the most beautiful wedding cake I’ve done yet, and one of the tastiest, too.  And I am so extraordinarily happy to have been part of this wedding – I missed the ceremony due to the meringue disaster, but when they got us all lined up to form a living rainbow based on our outfits, and the brides came dancing in to the reception hall the strains of ‘I do, I do, I do, I do, I do’ with their son running ahead of them trailing a rainbow ribbon, I had tears in my eyes.  I have tears in my eyes again writing this.

I mean, this is a food blog, so this post has been all about the cake and how delighted I am with it.  But I am so very thrilled that my LGBTQIA friends can finally have the weddings they’ve been waiting for, that their relationships are recognised by the government (and even by the Uniting Church!), and that we can all come together and celebrate that.

It really was the most joyful gathering I’ve ever been a part of, and it was such a privilege to be there.  Congratulations, Kathryn and Rachel!  May your years together be many, and as full of joy as yesterday was.

P.S. – I don’t know if I’m going to be back here regularly at this stage.  A lot of the factors above still apply, in addition to the fact that dealing with photos on my computer is becoming increasingly time consuming and annoying – and you can’t really have a food blog without photos.  But there will definitely be recipes up for various bits of this wedding cake over the next few weeks, as well as some recipes for the things I did with the leftovers.  After that?  Who knows.  We’ll just wait and see what happens…

Wedding cake without a top layer, representing the uncertainty of the blogging existence…

 

Show Off Post: Hamlet!

Squeezing in one last post before I go, in between madly writing about tiny political parties and finishing my last Paris story before I actually go there…

As I think I mentioned earlier, I recently turned 40, and also Shakespeare recently turned 400 years of deceased, and since these events were a mere week apart, I thought I would take the opportunity to get our reading group together again after a long hiatus and read the last Shakespeare play left to us – Hamlet!

I apologise in advance for these photos – the timing meant that we did our reading in the late afternoon / early evening, and so the light was not auspicious for recording all the food.  But I do want to keep some record of the event, so here goes…

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Brief update, with Eurovision and Blogiversary

Hello!  I’m not really back, but since Eurovision was this morning (so early this morning), and Eurovision has always counted as a Food Blog Anniversary for me, it seemed timely to give you an update.

I’m actually feeling a lot less depressed about cooking since I last wrote here.  This is mostly because my wrist is behaving a lot better, and baking is more feasible.  But I’m still run off my feet – I’m heading to Europe in nine days, and an Election has been called for three days after I get back, so I’m currently trying to madly update my politics blog before I go, with profiles of all the new parties.  And after that, I’ll be overseas, so realistically, you aren’t likely to hear a lot from me before July.  I’ll see how I’m feeling about regular blog posts then – it’s actually rather relaxing to cook without photographing everything and writing it down…

I do plan one more update between now and then, because we finally finished the Shakespeare project on April 23rd (the 400th anniversary of his death), which means I have cooked up my last Shakespeare feast, at least for the foreseeable future, and this must be recorded for posterity.

But this is Eurovision Sunday, so it’s time for a brief Eurovision post – along with a photograph or two of The Eurovision Biscuits That Took All Day.

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Kitchen Adventures: Making the MasterChef Lolly Bag Cake

Let’s just start by saying that yes, it’s sweet.  Outrageously sweet.  Ridiculously sweet.  For my palate, it’s pretty much too sweet.  But having said that… it’s astonishing how well the flavours go together, because I really wouldn’t think you could combine the flavours of spearmint leaf lollies, jaffas, banana lollies, freckles, redskins and musk sticks and get anything other than a stomach ache.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  We should really start by travelling back in time to that episode a month or two back when Bernard Chu of Lux Bite (a patisserie that I *clearly* need to visit) brought his Lolly Bag Cake in to MasterChef for the contestants to make.

The original cake

The original cake

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Recipe: How to make a Cross-Dressing Ken Cake, plus the Gallery of Ken!

Here, for the delectation and delight of those who have far too much time on their hands, is the full and complete recipe for how to make a Cross-Dressing Eurovision Ken Cake, with costume reveal marbled insides and alcoholic agar jellies for the outside.  Read it, and be appalled at the sheer amount of sugar in this recipe.  Or just marvel at the insanity of making your own sweets just to put on a cake, Womens’ Weekly style…

Alternatively, you could just scroll down to the bottom of the post to view the Gallery Of Ken in all his glory – the complete collection of every Cross-Dressing Ken Cake that I’ve ever made and managed to get a photograph of.  Enjoy!

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