Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flower cake

My daughter Annie volunteered me (without asking me first!) to make a cake for her teacher's birthday! It has been quite a while since I made a decorated cake, so I agreed anyway.

I used the Wilton gumpaste I had made previously, to create some flowers. I just cut a simple five petal flower and veined the petals and stuck on some pretty-coloured non pareils which I had just bought. Then I wired them and stuck them into the cake which I covered in white fondant and green and yellow stripes.

The cake is two layers of 6" round "Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake", only I used Van Houten cocoa powder as opposed to Hershey's cocoa powder, because you just can't find that in my part of the world.

I decided to make chocolate cake because it's usually safest with kids. I chose the Hershey's recipe because it uses cooking oil instead of butter. I realized, last minute, that I was all out of butter! (I only had half a stick left which was just enough for the buttercream).

For the frosting, I just dumped together butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Just adjust the quantities until you get the taste and texture which you like.

Voila! A cake for teacher!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wilton Gumpaste

I tried making gumpaste using the Wilton gumpaste recipe. Previously, I have just been using store bought soft fondant, and adding gum tragacanth to make it more pliable and to dry hard. The recipe looked simple enough, and I wanted to try and save some money by making my own because ready-made fondant is quite pricey here. I've been spending way too much money on this hobby of mine! :)

*Sigh*, how I wish we could get affordable soft fondant and even better, pre-dyed fondant here! Man, it would make my life soooo much easier!

So anyway, I used Wilton's gum tragacanth, called Gum Tex. The resulting gumpaste is indeed pliable and dries hard. It is similar to adding gum tragacanth to store bought fondant. I think it can be better though. If I were to make delicate flowers which require the gumpaste to be rolled out very thinly, I think I would need even softer, more pliable gumpaste. This batch would do for my modelling needs. However, I do intend to try gumpaste flowers soon, so I'll be looking around for more gumpaste recipes.

Here's the Wilton gumpaste recipe:


1 lb icing sugar
1 tbsp Gum Tex
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp glucose water


Sift the 3/4 of the sugar into mixing bowl.
Add Gum Tex and mix well.
Put water and glucose water into saucepan and warm until dissolved and well mixed.

Make a well in the centre of mixing bowl and pour in liquid.
Mix well.

Scrape mixture into plastic bag, seal and place in airtight container.
Leave for 8 hours or more.
The dough will be hard.
Knead dough and add remaining sugar gradually.
The dough will become white, soft and pliable.

Gumpaste can be kept for 2 weeks. If keeping for longer, place in refrigerator.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brownie Muffins

Here are the brownie muffins, as I promised in my last post. The recipe also comes from the book "Brownies" by Linda Collister. I thought muffins would be easier for the kids to bring to school, and also not having any nuts in them might score extra points with the kids.

These muffins are dreamy! They're rich and dense and packed with chocolate chips! I personally prefer brownie bars with nuts in them, but as far as muffins and cupcakes go, you can't get them 'brownie'er/ 'fudgy'er than these!!

The original recipe calls for 25g of plain chocolate chips and 25g of white chocolate chips. Since I didn't have any white chocolate chips at hand, I used all plain chocolate chips instead and also decided to double the amount required, cos I figured a little more chocolate never killed anyone! :) I'm a chocoholic, if you don't already know...

So anyway, here's the recipe:

Brownie Muffins

2 large eggs
125g light brown sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted
230ml milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
225g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g plain chocolate chips,
plus extra to decorate
a 12-cup muffin tray, lined with 12 papar cases

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Beat in the melted butter, followed by the milk and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder onto the mixture and mix in.
Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
Divide the mixture equally between the paper cases and sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on the top of each muffin to decorate.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until just firm to the touch.
The brownies will only rise slightly and won't resemble peaked muffins.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire cooling tray.
Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days. (not a problem)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pecan Brownies

I haven't baked for weeks, so last night, to get rid of the baking bug(and also because I didn't have anything for the kids to bring to school in the morning), I baked some pecan brownies as well as batch of brownie cupcakes (I'll put those in the next post).

I love my Linda Collister book, simply entitled, "Brownies". The ingredients and methods used are simple and straight-forward, yet yield glorious results! Besides, yummy, dense, fudgy brownies are a sure hit with just about anybody!

I had a packet of pecans which had been sitting around for a while, so I decided to make the 'Old-fashioned brownies' and replace the walnuts with pecans instead. Unfortunately, when I toasted my pecans in the oven, I managed to burn them (one of the many hazards of multi-tasking). Luckily I had some extra left, but it was less than the required amount, so my brownies turned out a little too sweet, because there were not enough nuts to balance out the sweetness.

The overall texture however was simply divine. When baking brownies and checking for doneness, it's always better to err on the undercooked side. Under-baked 'fudgy'ness is much preferred to over-baked dryness.

So, anyway, this is the recipe below, with the walnuts being replaced by pecans in the right amount (i.e.: not the amount I used!) :)

Oh yes, they are called old-fashioned because they use only cocoa powder, instead of plain chocolate and cocoa powder. That is how is was done, traditionally; only cocoa powder was used, to balance out the large amount of sugar required to produce the fudgy texture.

Old-fashioned Brownies

100g pecan pieces
4 large free-range eggs
300g castor sugar
140g unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
140g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
a 20.5cm x 25.5cm brownie tin, greased and base-lined (I just used a 9"x9" shallow tin)

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F).
Put the pecan pieces in tray and lightly toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes. (I strongly recommend you keep and eye on them!)
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Don't turn off the oven!

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a mixing bowl.
Whisk until frothy, then whisk in the sugar.
Whisk for a minute, then still whisking continuously, add the melted butter in a steady stream.
Whisk for another minute, then whisk in the vanilla.

Sieve the flour and cocoa into the bowl and stir in with a wooden spoon.
When thoroughly combined, stir in the nuts.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread evenly.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes until a skewer inserted halfway between the sides and the centre comes out just clean.
Remove the tin from the oven.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting into 16 pieces.
Store in an airtight container and eat within 5 days. (They won't last that long, trust me...)
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