Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gingerbread house

I love gingerbread houses. There's something magical about an edible house covered in a myriad of colourful, enticing candies. It's like something out of your childhood dreams! Wouldn't a life-sized one be amazing? Just like Hansel and Gretel! :)

So anyway, I've never made a gingerbread house before this, only gingerbread men and Christmas trees and such. This year, I decided to try a whole house instead of just wee little men and trees. It's actually not hard to do at all!

First, I decided on the shape and size of  the house and made some templates from cardboard. A pentagonal shape for the front and back, a rectangle for the walls and another rectangle for the roofs. There were 3 pieces altogether.

Then I made the gingerbread dough following the recipe below.

After rolling out the dough, I used the templates to cut out the shapes. I made two of each shape, so I ended up with 6 pieces. For the front of the house (pentagonal shape), I used a round cutter to cut a hole near the top. I thought it looked cute, like a birdhouse, and the kids could also peep into it.

Then I baked the pieces and let them cool completely. Then, I basically glued them together using royal icing. Royal icing can be made using egg whites or meringue powder. I had some meringue powder, so I used that, because with raw egg whites, there is always the risk of salmonella.

Anyway, I wanted the royal icing to be stiffer, so it would dry faster. I reduced the water, and it was so stiff that my hand-held mixer broke!! I had to continue whisking by hand!

After gluing the structure together, we get to the fun part; sticking on the candies! This is where you can let your imagination run wild and design the candy house of your dreams! :) Just pipe royal icing onto where you want your candies to go and stick on the sweets before the icing dries.

This is definitely a great pre-Christmas activity for the kids. Next year I hope to put in more effort and make some gumpaste decor like candy canes, which will make the houses even more gorgeous!

Anyway, here is the recipe for the gingerbread and also royal icing:


350g plain flour
1-2 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
175g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup or honey (use molasses if you want a darker, chewier gingerbread)

Sift and mix flour, ground ginger and cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl.

Rub in butter.

Add sugar and mix well.

Stir in syrup and egg.

Mix well to form a firm dough.
Roll to 5mm thickness and cut.
Bake on a greased and floured tray at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-25 minutes or until golden brown.


Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
2 large egg whites
2tsp lemon juice
3 cups (330g) icing sugar, sifted

Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:
4 cups (440g) icing sugar
3 tbsp (30g) meringue powder
1/2tsp vanilla/ lemon/ almond extract
1/2-3/4 cup (120-180ml) warm water

Beat everything in a mixing bowl until stiff and spreadable.
Use more water if you want a runny icing and  less for stiffer icing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Music note cake

A friend ordered a cake from me, for the12th anniversary of her music society. She wanted a grand three tier cake with a large music note on top and the name of their society written in Chinese characters and also the number 12. She also requested that the colours of her society; pale green, blue and yellow be incorporated into the design.

I made the music note by first cutting out the shape from styrofoam. Then I covered the styrofoam note in black fondant and left that out to dry. The top tier was also made from styrofoam. That I covered in white fondant and put a pale blue number12 on it.

The middle tier is American chocolate cake. This tier I covered in pale yellow and wrote out the Chinese characters using black fondant. I can't write in Chinese, so my characters were not that great! :)

The bottom tier is butter cake. I covered it in white fondant and stuck on pale green stripes.

The event was covered by a Chinese newspaper, so my cake made it to the local papers! *hooray*

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bible and rosary

A friend of mine ordered a cake which was to be given to a nun for her anniversary (of becoming a nun). His aunt wanted this cake and she's an interior decorator, so she was very specific with the details.

She wanted an open bible, with pale blue roses and a brown rosary. Wordings were to be turquoise. I'm not too sure of the exact shade of turquoise, but I hope I got the greenish-blue correct! :)

So, I started off with a square cake and carved it into the shape of an open book Then I covered it in white fondant and put a brown rope of fondant around the base. I flattened this rope a bit so it could resemble the cover of the bible.

I made the roses free hand, cause I think for small ones, it's easier to do free hand than to use the cutters. I still need practice at that, but I think my roses came out pretty okay for a first timer.

The rosary was the most time consuming. I had to roll out all the small balls and connect them one by one. As for the small cross at the end, I used a real, clean rosary to indent Jesus on the cross. I was sure He wouldn't mind, since this cake was for a sister who devoted her life to Him. :)

On hindsight, I think the 'pages' are too white. I should have used a bit of brown petal dust to create some shading. However, I unfortunately do not own any brown petal dust... next time I shall try using cocoa powder for dusting... I wonder if that would work or would it ruin the whole cake?!!

So anyway, I do like how this cake turned out. But, if you ask me, I still prefer cute and pretty as opposed to realistic. I love cartoony cakes a la Debbie Brown. I think that's my style.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hornbill wedding

Here's another wedding cake I made for an old friend. After my very first wedding cake, I kinda promised myself not to take on anymore wedding cakes, as it is really a lot of work and extremely stressful. Since it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, the pressure is really on you to achieve perfection!

Well, anyway, I still found myself saying yes, when my friend asked me to do her cake! :) What can I say? I think I thrive on stress... no stress makes for a boring life no? I love a challenge too anyway, and when I saw her artwork for her wedding invitation, I was hooked!

They chose to go with a really cool 'tribal chic' theme, and the daring colour combination of red and black! I love the design and knew right away that I wanted to hand craft the hornbills. I initially made a prototype, black pair which were too big and too black, and also they did not harden right. Then, after some consultation with the bride, I made another pair which were smaller and more delicate and also red in colour.

These guys are made of gumpaste and are edible, except for the toothpick at the bottom, necessary for anchoring the topper to the cake. It was meticulous work, making them. First I made stencils by tracing the pattern onto a transparency sheet. Then I cut out the pattern, removing the curls inside the wing as well. This then became my stencil. Using this stencil, I cut out two hornbills from gumpaste. I initially wanted to make an extra one just in case one broke or something, but was too lazy in the end! :)

After that, I made the curly pattern in the wings using small ropes of gumpaste. I did think of using royal icing, but was not sure I could get the same shade of red. I was also too lazy to whip up a batch just for this purpose!

Anyway, the cake is American chocolate. The top tier is a styrofoam dummy, because I did not want it to be too heavy, lest the whole structure cave in!! I think the black and  white cake tiers worked very well to set off the red hornbill topper. It was a good contrast.

The bride incorporated a lot of red roses into her wedding and she liked the idea of rose petals around the cake. It helped brighten up the predominantly monochrome cake.

I am so proud to have completed a second wedding cake, but I seriously do think they're not worth all the strife and nerves! So much work goes into the masterpiece which gets displayed for an hour or so only to get demolished! Thus, I will once again try my best to not get tempted to attempt another one!! :) Good luck to me...

Fairy and flowers

So I've kinda started making cakes for sale now. I'm taking it slow, as I'm still not sure if I can handle the workload with the limited free time I have. Now it's mostly just orders from friends, so it's not as daunting... friends are more forgiving!! :)

Well, anyhow, a friend wanted a fairy cake, like the last one I made, except with lots of spring flowers. She also wanted the cake to be in soft pastel shades. It was for her little girl who would also be dressed up in fairy wings for her big day! How adorable...

I'm trying to make my models more refined and less chunky. Thus, I'm adding more gum into my gumpaste so I can make slimmer limbs and torsos.

 The flowers were pretty easy to make, I used the blossom cutter/ ejector thingy. I had to make a whole bunch of them though, to cover the cake. I didn't count, but there were definitely more than a hundred... maybe two?

For her skirt, again I used the large daisy cutter, but this time I made it two layers, so it could be two-toned which is so much nicer, in my opinion.

I'm also very happy that I've learned how to use my FMM lower case alphabet cutters. The last time I tried using them, the fondant kept getting stuck, and I got really frustrated. This time I used plenty of cornstarch to make sure it wouldn't stick, and it turned out to be quite easy to use! I love the letters produced using these cutters!

So here's the fairy and flowers cake...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Elmo's Face

I made another Elmo cake for a friend's daughter's second birthday. I got the design from a photo I found on the internet. It was on someone's blog but the baker was not credited.

A few days beforehand, I made colourful gumpaste curliques and also covered a 12" cake board in yellow gumpaste. By the time I needed them, they had dried nice and hard.

Then the day before, I made an 8" round chocolate cake and carved it into the oval, Elmo shape. From the cake scraps, I made cake ball mixture using melted butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. I then used the cake ball mixture to make two small round balls and an oval ball for Elmo's eyes and nose. I refrigerated the balls so that they could harden up. After crumb coating the cake with cream, I also refrigerated it for a while for it to form a crust.

That night, I covered the two small round balls with white fondant for Elmo's eyes and covered the oval ball with orange fondant for his nose. Then I covered the whole face with red fondant and also made his hand entirely out of fondant. I then scratched plenty of lines into the fondant for Elmo's fur.

The eyes and nose were then put into place and two small circles of black fondant were added to his eyes. I then worked on the other details like the party hat, mouth and the green banner. The confetti were sprinkles which I stuck onto the board with icing. I also used icing to write the wordings on the green banner.

I do love this Elmo, and I hear the kids loved it too! My friend sent me a photo of poor Elmo, after being attacked!

The poor guy survived a whole two minutes after being introduced to the kids! :)

The only thing that bugs me is that I made his eyes and nose a little too big. But he's still cute all the same!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dessert tables

I recently discovered the website of "Sweet & Saucy", a wonderful bakery situated at Long Beach, California. They do weddings and parties for the rich and famous, like Tori Spelling and John Stamos! Besides having marvelous cakes, they also do mini desserts which are set up on gorgeous dessert tables! Go and have a look at the pictures on their website, it's really dreamy!

So I was totally inspired and wanted to try making small matching treats to go with my niece's "Fairy" cake. As usual, time was a factor for me, i.e. something I'm always short of! So, aside from the cake, I only managed to make some sugar cookies, cake balls and cupcakes.

Here are the pics:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fairy Cake

Last Saturday we celebrated my niece Annalisa's 2nd birthday. She so small and adorable and sweet, I figured a fairy cake would be just the thing for her!

The cake is a chocolate cake as usual, two 6" rounds stacked on top of each other. They're filled and crumb coated with chocolate buttercream. I covered the cake with white fondant and added circles of pink, pale pink and yellow fondant. For the border, I made fondant balls of the same colours.

I handcrafted the fairy a few days ahead so that it would have time to set. I love how the hair curls turned out. I was going for a cute pixie cut. Her skirt was made using the large daisy cutter.

Here are her teensy wings at the back. I used an ivy leaf cutter to cut some white gumpaste and cropped off the top part. Then I folded it a bit and when it dried, stuck it on upside down.

I made some other desserts to go with this cake which I'll detail on my next post!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Peonie-like kinda flower... 'ish'??!

So I'm trying to make gumpaste flowers now and it's not as easy as it looks on YouTube!! They're so fragile I'm beginning to think they're not worth all the time and effort at all! The smarter solution would be to use fresh flowers, is what methinks!

I tried making this peonie-like flower. I had no idea what cutter to use so I tried heart shape ones. I cut out the petals and veined them, then frilled the edges with a balling tool. I thought of using a deep, rich colour, like dark purple, but it came out more like a brown. Then, when I pieced all the parts together, guess what it looked like? Wood ear fungus!! :)

See for yourself:


I didn't have much free time, so the flower was still wet cause I brushed it with a damp brush to get rid of the cornstarch. I didn't have time to do the underside (I was already running late for dinner), so the two tones made it resemble the fungus even more!

It was for my sister's birthday cake. I had baked a cheesecake beforehand and covered it with fresh cream. I was afraid the cheesecake was too soft to hold the weight of a full fondant covering. It was rather plain with just the cream, so I stuck a green ribbon around the base of the cake.

Luckily the cheesecake turned out quite yummy, so the 'wood ear fungus flower' could be forgiven! :)

So now, I do not know if I want to waste anymore time with gumpaste flowers, at this rate, I'm gonna need one-on-one classes with Ron Ben-Israel before I can create anything decent!! I really don't think I can afford to allocate so much time to flowers, especially when there are so many gorgeous real flowers which one can use eh??!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Colourful Gift

A friend requested I make an anniversary cake for her Aunt and Uncle. Initially, I declined, as I was busy that same weekend with the Kitty cake. However, the night before, as I baked the cake and cuppies for the Kitty project, I overestimated, doubled the recipe and ended up with too many cuppies and an extra cake!

The extra cuppies I froze so that the kids could bring them to school over the week and I thought I had better not keep the extra cake as well, as I do not want my kids to feed on too much sweet stuff!

So, I asked my friend if she still needed that cake and she did. Since I had a gumpaste bow I had made ahead of time, I turned the cake into a colourful gift.

The cake is the usual American Chocolate. There are two 6" rounds, leveled, torted and crumb-coated with chocolate buttercream. I covered the cake with orange fondant and stuck on two strips of yellow fondant for the ribbon. Then I placed circles of green fondant for the wrapping paper and placed the bow and gift tag. The "Happy Anniversary" is written with a red edible ink marker. I'm still not crazy about my penmanship...

Anyway, I do love the colour combination here. Really funky and cheerful! Hope they liked it!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Retro Chic

I made this cake for myself, Sis no.2 and another 2 friends. It was for a lunch where we were celebrating our birthdays, cause the four of us are all October babies.

I'd been wanting to try out the circles design for a while, because I think it looks so classy and retro chic. So, a birthday lunch for four women was just the right occasion, in my opinion!

Anyhoo... I covered the cake in pink fondant and stuck white circles all around the sides. Then I made a small rope from chocolate fondant and wrapped it around the base of the cake. For the top of the cake, I placed a scalloped circle of brown fondant and on top of that, positioned three simple 5-petaled flowers which I had made ahead of time from gumpaste. I love the decadent look of the final product. This is truly one of my favourite designs.

The cake was a gorgeously delicious Mississippi Chocolate mud cake. I think this is the best mud cake I've tasted yet. It is dense and rich, yet not too wet or muddy and contains whiskey (I stole some of Hubby's Chivas!) so it tastes better after a few days.

 It's also so easy to make. The thing I like best about mud cakes it that you have to melt the butter, so it's not necessary to wait hours for it to come to room temperature after fishing it out of the refrigerator. I usually bake on impulse, so without planning ahead, my butter is usually still rock-solid sitting in the fridge when I'm itching to bake a cake!

I found this recipe in an Australian Woman's Weekly magazine. It is one of their top ten all-time reader's favourite recipe. It is definitely a must-try. Here it goes:

Can be made 3 days ahead. 
Storage: Covered, in refrigerator. 
Freeze: Suitable. 
Microwave: Chocolate mixture suitable.


250g cold unsalted butter, chopped
150g dark chocolate, chopped
440g (2 cups) caster sugar
250ml (1 cup) hot water
80ml (1/3 cup) whisky
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
225g (1½ cups) plain flour
35g (¼ cup) self-raising flour
25g (¼ cup) cocoa powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten


Grease 23cm square slab pan, line base with baking paper. Combine butter, chocolate, sugar, water, whisky and coffee powder in medium pan; stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Transfer mixture to large bowl; cool. Stir in sifted flours and cocoa, then eggs; pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake at 160°C for 1¼ hours. Stand cake 30 minutes; turn onto wire rack to cool. Serve dusted with sifted icing sugar.

Doesn't it sound way too simple?? Simple ingredients and simple method, to produce a mind-blowing cake! What are you waiting for? Go raid your liquor cupboard!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chocolate cupcakes

So a while ago, I was browsing through this book my sis gave me. It is loaded with cupcake recipes and I really wanted to try making a good chocolate cupcake. However, they all sounded yummy, so how was I to know which recipe was the best? There are no pictures and no descriptions of the end product, so the only thing to do, was to try them all!!

I picked out four recipes:
1. Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
2. Fudge Cupcakes
3. Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes
4. Luxury Chocolate Cupcakes

I was rather disappointed with the recipes, except for one, no.3; Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes. All the other cupcakes were not chocolate-y enough, though no.4 did have very good texture. As a self-confessed chocoholic, one rule always prevails: "the more chocolate the better"!

Clockwise from bottom left: No.1, 2, 3 then 4.

As you can see, no.3 is the darkest one, simply because it has the most chocolate content. In fact, it's just plenty of melted milk chocolate with eggs and just a bit of flour. It is actually more like a self-saucing chocolate pudding and would do better in ramekins (individual oven-proof ceramic bowls) rather than paper cases. It is deliciously dense, sticky and gooey and seriously super-chocolate-y (just look at it's liquid centre!!)... any 'chocolate-ier' and you might as well just eat the chocolate bar!

So anyway here's the recipe if you want to give it a shot;

Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes (24 cupcakes)

28 oz (800g) milk chocolate
12 eggs
55gg (1/2 cup) + 2 tbsp flour

1. Preheat oven to 160C and line cupcake baking tray with paper liners.

2. Break chocolate into a bowl and place over small saucepan of simmering water until chocolate has melted. Remove from heat.

3. Stir in the flour and eggs and whisk well. Fill paper cases to about 3/4 full.

4. Bake for 10-12 mins until the sides of the cupcakes are set, but the insides are still liquid.

5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 mins. Remove the cupcakes from baking tray and allow to cool.
(I prefer them hot and gooey though...)

My ever-willing taste testers...
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