Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas Cookies 2016

Last year there were some grumbles, (no names mentioned, ahem....Tara...!) about the lack of red in the Christmas cookie palette. I'd used a deep coral pink instead, but apparently that wasn't good enough ;o)

So this year there is red!
But no green.

About 4 years ago I did so many Christmas cookie classes that I couldn't bear to look at the combination of red, white and green afterwards.  I'll get over it eventually, I'm sure. (I do want to travel to Italy sometime, after all!).

Reindeer plaque inspired by Dolce Custom Cookies 
But for 2016, the colours are the same as I used for Christmas cupcakes 2 years ago. (That's how I'm measuring time, now ... in terms of class themes!)

 It feels a little odd making all these snowy creations in southern hemisphere's mid-summer, but it's a colour palette I love working with!

Snowman's scarf cookie inspired by SemiSweet Cookies 

Do you want to see a couple of work-in-progress shots? Heres the snow globe taking shape...

Flooding the background, but leaving a gap for the snowman and filling him in later, gives the cookie an interesting dimension, I think.  Just right for a snow globe... 

You'll find a post on reds here ... (and it just happens to be the last Christmas cookies I made with thattraditional trio of colours!) 

Happy Christmas decorating!


Friday, 25 November 2016

Kokeshi Figurines

If I'd thought ahead, I could have thrown myself a Kokeshi-themed birthday party this year: a garden full of paper lanterns; platters of sushi; these cookies, and these fondant figurines on a cake  - wouldn't it have been great?!

 But I didn't.
I should at least have made a cake, though. Maybe then my birthday wouldn't have been the non-event that it was!

Let me tell you about it (this was yesterday) - the morning was spent ferrying my son and some of his classmates to their end-of-year school outing; and the afternoon in the Xray dept. Not for my son, but for my daughter who'd fallen badly (with a little help from her brother), and cracked her collarbone.
It was a "special" day, but not for the right reasons! I was very grumpy. Not very Zen!

Today's been better. I've realised that spending the day with my children (despite the challenges and injuries) was a great privilege. So, there - my Zen is back. And besides - after 30 you only need to celebrate the decades, right?!
Kokeshi party 2024...

 Happy decorating!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Kokeshi Cookies

I've really loved the cookie classes we've done over the past few months. So many of them have been themes that I've been meaning to do for a while, and I finally scheduled them ... all of them, it seems!

Now I have to go back to the drawing board and think of what to do next year. Maybe it's time to go back and re-visit some of the early themes.
Re-visit, re-do, and re-move those old photos from the archives... pretend they never happened!

 I cringe when I go back and look at some of the cookies things  I decorated that I was so proud of 4 years ago! And I starting teaching classes while I was still learning myself! (I'm thinking of this kind of cookie... No, no - don't go and look!) Shudder!
 In my defense, there was no-one else around in this area doing it - so I was still offering an interesting experience! Anyway - we learn and grow.Thankfully!

This is the latest set:  Japanese Inspired Cookies. 
Sweetsugarbelle has a great post on how to decorate Kokeshi Dolls here; and for some inspiration on wet-on-wet cherry blossoms (as on the blue fan), watch Haniela's video here.  

Happy decorating!


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Black and White Ganache Birthday Cake.

So, what do you do when you've got to make a cake for your niece who is turning 18, and the weather is absolutely dismal - 99% relentless humidity. 99% impossible to work with sugar.
(I know...  I talk moan about the weather a lot in spring. And truly, I am grateful for the rain after the drought. But really - this mist could just contain itself a little, you know?!)

Anyway... Chloe's cake.
She's a lovely, easy-going young woman who had requested something yellow, black and white. "But really - whatever, I don't mind".

You'd think that an open invitation like that would make the creative juices flow, but really - it's impossible in this weather! 

So, I settled on a simple ganache'd cake, with yellow flowers and a drip element. (Hoping that the drip would not include the decorations slowly melting away down the sides of the cake!)

The C would never have set by itself (yes... the weather), so it's wired for support:

The flowers dried and then wilted and then dried again - left for a few hours in a room with the aircon on high.

The black ganache is made by adding black food colouring (powdered) to dark chocolate ganache.

The cake itself is layers of alternating dark chocolate and sour cream vanilla, sandwiched together with cookies and cream icing.
I was going to take a picture of a slice, but the monkeys got in and destroyed everything that was left over. Another spring problem... Oh, the joys!

Happy (spring) baking!


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Chocolate Cupcakes with Amarula Ganache Centres

One day I'll write an Ode to Ganache, like there's an Ode to a Grecian Urn.
Ok, so maybe not.
But ganache is always going to be one of my top choices for cakes and cupcakes.
Yes, because of the taste, (and we could just stop there because that would be enough, right?)  but also because it's just so simple to make.
I don't ever whip it though, I bear too many ganache-separating-on-me scars to go there again; besides I'm happy enough with what it does in spread-able form.

So, these cupcakes are not decked with whipped ganache. The ganache here is hidden inside. And also added to the frosting (which happens to be another top favourite - chocolate cream cheese icing)

Amarula ganache
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

180g white chocolate, broken up into small even-sized pieces.
60g Amarula**

**Yes - grams. Just weigh your chocolate, and pour the Amarula on top and keep pouring until you reach 60g.... or 1/3rd the weight of the chocolate.
It's a simple 3:1 ratio of white chocolate to Amarula, just like normal white chocolate ganache.

Microwave for 30 seconds.
Stir until smooth.
If some of the chocolate has not melted, microwave again for a few seconds only.
Allow to cool down and set slightly.
Stir occasionally to prevent a skin forming on the surface.

This is enough ganache for 12 cupcakes and some to spare, because you want to (you do, you do!) add any leftover Amarula ganache to the chocolate cream cheese icing.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing:
Recipe by Tea, Cake & Create

100g butter
80g sifted icing sugar
250g cream cheese (use a dense cream cheese, like Philadelphia, Lancewood or the Woolworths brand)
50g sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and icing sugar.
Beat in the cream cheese, followed by the cocoa powder and vanilla.
Mix until smooth.

How to assemble Amarula Ganache / Chocolate Cupcakes:

Bake your favourite chocolate cupcakes (this is a great recipe here, or here).

Allow them to cool, then use a piping bag fitted with a long plain round icing nozzle to squeeze the ganache into the centre of the cupcakes.

Follow with a swirl of Amarula ganache fortified chocolate cream cheese icing. What a (delicious!) mouthful!

If you like the combination of Amarula and chocolate here's another recipe -
and another one
and let's not forget this Amarula Mascarpone Icing! 

Happy baking!


Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween Finger Cookies

 Anyone for finger food?
*cackle cackle*

Halloween gets greeted with mixed emotions here in SA, for a variety of reasons, which I understand. But...
It's such a fun theme to decorate!
 And it's really the only time you can get away with a black, purple and orange combination... Which my inner rock-chick loves (once a year is probably enough of that, though!)

Despite wanting to, I wasn't planning on baking any Halloween treats this year because of time constraints. But then I got this idea from the Pick 'n Pay Fresh Living Magazine. And I just happened to have a little left-over cookie dough in my freezer that was perfect for the task.

Halloween Fingers

All you'll need is cookie dough and pumpkin seeds. (The Fresh Living Magazine suggested using almonds, which also make great nails: quite ogre-ish; these are more zombie or witch-like, perhaps?!). 
And some coloured chocolate if you want to make them bloody. 

Roll out a sausage of dough

Use your fingers (or your 6 year old baking assistant's if yours are busy taking photos) to roll indentations into the dough for knuckles

Place a pumpkin seed onto the tip of the finger for a nail. Push it in firmly. 

Use the blunt side of a knife to score creases on the knuckles. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 180'C (or until just starting to turn golden). 
Allow to cool. 
Optional - colour a small amount of white chocolate red (use red powdered food colouring), and drip over the severed ends of the fingers. 

And if you don't do Halloween, then maybe they'll work for your next Walking Dead party. But maybe you don't do Zombies either! 

Happy (Halloween) decorating! 


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Tropical Flower Cookies

My timing of classes over the past few months has been a little off.
I distinctly remember thinking that I should do a monster cookie class for halloween this year, and yet I scheduled it for August. (?!?)
And all these summery, holiday mood classes (Florida Fun Cookies, and More Florida Fun Cupcakes) have been taking place on decidedly un-summery days. I'd take a picture to prove it to you - but just look at a piece of soggy cotton wool, and you'll get an idea of the misty damp conditions outside my window. Nice weather for reading and hot chocolate. Not for sugar work. Grrr!

So, we'll just have to get our rays from a happy sun cookie instead!

Here's how I made those hibiscus flower cookies:

I don't have a tropical flower cutter, so I just used a normal 5-petal cutter and

a small leaf cutter to change the shape of the petals (any gently curved edge would do). 

Once the cookies were baked and cool, I outlined with royal icing,

then flooded them;

immediately piped a white splodge onto the still wet icing (wet-on-wet); 

added a bit of yellow (wet-on-wet, with flood-consistency icing) 

and used a cocktail stick / scribe tool to drag the white and yellow icing outwards 

Once that background layer was dry, I added another outline and a stamen, using detail-consistency royal icing.

Allow to dry completely before packaging. 

You'll find a recipe for royal icing, and details about consistency here

Happy baking!