Saturday, 24 March 2012

Easter Cupcakes

Luckily for me, I've been off work this week so I've had time to relax and do things I love that I may not have time to do normally.  This isn't at all cake related (and I like to gush about things I love in general) but I have watched four cycles of America's Next Top Model and loved it.  It always raises my spirits and I like the process of witnessing the models improve and blossom. It's interesting to watch if you have a love of fashion photography as you see how to move/place your body and play with the light to achieve the best results.  I do have the biggest girl crush on Tyra Banks though, she's inspirational and absolutely stunning and I think it's important to have positive role models.

Anyway, back to cake... ! I've had time to really sit down and play with the cake toys I've accumulated and found it very therapeutic.  I have OCD (obsessive cupcake disorder!) so I typically buy a lot of cake tools, some of which will take a lot of practise to master, but I like to aim high! My confidence has grown since starting the cake decorating and sugar craft course, so I dip my toe in the water that bit more as it grows. America's Next Top Model and Bruce Springsteen's new album Wrecking Ball have been my soundtrack this week whilst baking and creating my Easter cupcakes.  I think it's made me more creative!  I ended up making three different designs.
Design 1:
The rabbit family
I think these are incredibly sweet and capture the essence of how I characterise Easter - spring time, flowers, Easter bunnies, family.
I embossed the letters with the typewriter effect set from Pretty Witty Cakes.

Design 2:
 Chocolate nests

 The humble Shredded Wheat nest! - a staple to all Easter baking.  
Nestled on top of a french swirl achieved by the Wilton 8B nozzle

 Design 3:
Easter egg hunt
 I adore the idea of an Easter egg hunt out in the country and the eternal child in me would love to take part in one - I tried to embody this by creating a garden, with a mystical toadstool, daisies and the beautifully domineering petunias.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Cake decorating and sugar craft course

Anyone else find that the weeks are just absolutely flying by now? Only feels like yesterday since Valentines Day. It’s been my boyfriend’s birthday since then, I’ve seen Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express at the Railway Museum in York, had hummingbird cake (which was a taste sensation and I can’t believe I haven’t had it before now!) been to a casino for the first time and the nights and mornings are getting a lot lighter.  Which means getting to the gym in a morning and burning off my cupcakes is easier!

That's me posing with the Hogwart's Express

Joe's birthday lemon cupcakes

I thought I'd give you an update on what I've been doing in my cake decorating and sugar craft class. I’ve completed four classes thus far and I’m really enjoying it! The first week we made this basic tortoise which was very cute (the body was already provided ready to be iced) and covered in sugar paste. I've never covered a cake with sugar paste before and found it rather hard as you have to tease the icing down, rather than pull it down and then smooth it out, whereas I can be quite heavy handed. We also made his feet, head and the hat which was easy enough for me luckily! The main skill acquired from that week was how to make frills in flower paste, which you can see as the other layer to his shell. I was impressed with how simple it was – unfortunately I’m not sure I can explain how we did it, but it involved a cocktail stick, both index fingers with a small rubbing motion on the cocktail stick – sorry, that's really vague isn't it? It’s a very DIY and self sufficient technique as Bridget (my teacher) would often prefer to use little things around the home to create effects, rather than buying the specific cake tool. I'm sure you can buy a tool exclusively for frilling from PME though.  

Here is the finished tortoise
In week two and three we focussed on piping with royal icing, making small roses out of royal icing and piping leaves. I wasn’t sold on this type of icing at first as it seemed old fashioned, not to mention really hard to pipe tiny rose petals on the tip of a cocktail stick out of it! I felt very disheartened to see my big ‘rose’ blobs on the top of a tiny stick, but I'm sure I would get better with practise, especially since I'm a big believer in having the correct tools, e.g. a flower nail! 

So, the royal icing was piped onto a stencil to make the sides of the cradle, then flower paste to make the bottom. Once dried in an open, damp free environment we stuck the bottom to the sides with, you guessed it, more royal icing! We then placed a blob of sugar paste to sit in the cradle and made a little duvet and blanket to cover the cradle. Finally, we piped leaves (with a proper leaf nozzle) and attached the rose blobs on.  We made this cradle over two weeks and is great for a traditional christening cake, after many more attempts to perfect of course...!

Here is the finished cradle   

In week four we made this lovely Mother's Day inspired small cake. Like the tortoise, the ball cake was already provided. Bridget said she uses a Wilton tin and you just buttercream two 'half balls' together. We covered it in basic sugar paste and smoothed it out. I used two layers as the first layer looked too bumpy and brain like on the cake - not a great look! We then cut out flowers, the white set made out of flower paste and the pink flowers out of mexican paste (I had no idea what mexican paste was and Bridget clarified that it's a mixture of sugar paste and flower paste). We made the centre of the flowers with tiny blobs of sugar paste and flattened them out with a small sieve. You achieve a small criss cross effect on the blobs, which I think gave them a child like, funky and surreal quality. Then we simply let the flowers dry and stuck them to the cake with royal icing along with the bow. 

 Here is the finished cake

 Flower making next week and I'm already nervous!