Monday, December 27, 2010

Sacher Torte and kitchen disasters

 Christmas 2010 has come and gone with all the stress and sleepless nights that preceded it.  Yet all of that was worth it when I reflect on how lovely and happy Christmas actually was.  Many have bemoaned the chaos that all this snow has brought upon our lives, but come on, admit it; there's nothing like a white christmas!!!!  Granted when one has a 4 wheel drive Volvo tank, it's easy to dismiss icy conditions and unexpected snow drifts.  Those with  compact, 2 wheel drive cars really were in trouble and we did our fair share pushing our neighbours' cars when they got stuck.

Despite being extremely pressed for time, I did find time to bake cupcakes for the neighbours and a sacher torte for a friend of mine.  This was my first attempt at a Sacher torte and I probably spent more time researching the best recipe than was spent actually baking!  What surprised me was the range and variety of chocolate glazes that were used to cover the cake.  In the end I chose two different recipes; one for the actual cake and apricot glaze and the other for the chocolate glaze.  The cake recipe was Austrian, and I used a ganache-like glaze that had a higher proportion of chocolate to cream and incorporated butter as well.
All in all the cake came out very well, although I suspect the ganache had cooled a little too much by the time I got it on the cake.  At any rate I would have wished for a smoother finish on the cake!  Being a little tired of snowflakes I opted for christmas roses and holly for the decorations.  I discovered that by mixing burgundy and Christmas red, I was able to achieve that rich, deep red that holly berries really are.  A bit of gloss spray made leaves and berries look more authentic too.  At the last minute I added a red fondant band around the base to hide the slight irregularities.
Now I am on a forced baking hiatus for a week or so as our kitchen suffered several disasters over the holidays.  Namely on the evening of the 23rd, right after business hours, our dishwasher broke down.  That in itself is not an unsurmountable problem, merely annoying as heck!  On Christmas morning I managed to wreak havoc in the kitchen by omitting to remove the ceramic stove covers before heating up some mulled wine to take with us to the stables.  Sure enough the covers exploded, leaving the kitchen filled with acrid smoke, and the stove covered in shattered glass and melted plastic.  Again, once the glass had been cleaned up, the kitchen aired out and the plastic scraped off the stove, no apparent damage to the stove itself. Phew!

The crowning glory of all disasters occurred during Christmas dinner in the evening.  The oven had been left on low to keep the desserts warm.  No sooner had my daughter removed the  desserts and closed the oven door when the door, which was glass (of course!) literally shattered for no apparent reason.  My daughter got a fright but no one was hurt.  It will be well in to the first week of January before we can get that repaired.  In the meantime there will be no turkey pie, sausage rolls or cakes prepared in this house.  An awful prospect indeed!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Variations on a theme

 These are some of the christmas cakes that were ordered from me this year.  Knowing I would be swamped with work for the "Dickens by Candlelight" production, I tried to keep the design simple yet elegant.  None of my customers had any specific requests vis a vis design, so this is what I came up with.  I sprayed all the snowflakes with pearl glitter, but unfortunately my camera doesn't show that.  
This blue cake is a toned-down version of my original turquoise Christmas cake; and admittedly one of my favourites.  I can't help having a thing for anything blue!

I also liked the effect of these two-toned snowflakes.  This cake was for a male customer to be devoured in purely male company, so my intent was to make a more masculine cake.
Finally this snow-white cake pictured below was made for a customer who wanted as little artificial colouring as possible.  At first I was inclined to think that this one was a little too wedding cakeish, but on reflection it works well for christmas.  The customer was pleased, which is after all the most important issue!

All of these cakes have now gone to their new homes and after weeks of being surrounded by cakes of all sizes and shapes in various stages of assembly, I feel like I'm suffering from empty nest syndrome.  Surely there must be SOMETHING I can decorate!  So I have decided to try my hand at baking a Sacher Torte as a present for a dear friend of mine.  She hates fruit cake, so I have never considered giving one to her in the past.  See my next post for pictures!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dickens by Candlelight cake

Last Sunday TLS had a little cast party for the cast and crew of "Dickens by Candlelight" and I was asked to provide the cake.  Since it was to be a carrot cake, I couldn't make the cake far in advance to save time, so last weekend was truly an incredibly busy weekend.  I baked the cake on Saturday and on Sunday I got to work decorating it.  Considering that I also had to bake cupcakes for the evening's performance, and that it took no less than 2 hours to get the right shade of maroon for the tablecloth I was understandably pressed for time.  In the end I had to take the unfinished cake with me to the theatre, and during the first act I managed to finish the decorations and put the whole thing together.

During act 2 I photographed the cake, using the materials that were being used on the foyer tables.  I do admit to having had much grander plans for the design of the cake, but as time went on and I realised how overworked I was, the design got simpler and simpler.  In the end it was probably a good thing, as there is definitely something to be said for simple elegance.   The cake ended up just as I had imagined it would, and Abigail was delighted.

However, what put the biggest smile on my face was the fact that the cake was big enough to feed 50 people at least, yet not a crumb was left after only 17 people had had their fill.  I guess they like my carrot cake!!!!  To me that is the biggest complement of all.

Piglets and flowers

Just a very short blog to show off my little piglets that I made for a rush order last Friday.  Originally I was just going to cover the cupcakes with fondant discs made to look like pig faces, but I couldn't resist making these little pigs.  They were a lot easier than I thought they would be and they do look cute, don't they?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Jimmy Choo and Chanukkah

It was with a satisfied sigh of relief that I put the final touches on a Jimmy Choo shoe cake late last night.  This creation was for my daughter's birthday today and I had been slightly worried that I wouldn't have time to finish it in time.  Luckily she had said that she didn't actually want a birthday cake since she was a) "caked out" with all my recent baking, and b) she was desperate to have pumpkin pie.  So pumpkin pie it is for tonight's celebrations.  Nevertheless, I needed something to make the shoebox, so I cut off a wedge off one of my mega Christmas cakes I have been serving at the theatre, re- marzipanned it and covered it with fresh fondant.  The whole shoebox is only 12 x 7 x 4cm.  The shoe is not perfect, but overall I was pretty pleased with the result. A great many hours, and countless failures along the way were all made worthwhile when I saw her smile this morning as she was presented with her little cake.

Last week I decorated this fruit cake as a Chanukkah cake for a wonderful lady to whom I am much indebted to.  Encouraged by my turquoise Christmas cake I had decorated earlier and knowing this lady also loves turquoise,  I experimented with turquoise, blue and silver for this cake.  I daresay I like it better than my original!!!!  Maybe I'll remove the silver border and change it to blue rope with silver balls as well......:D

"Dickens by Candlelight" has kept me inordinately busy with cupcakes and Christmas cake, but it has been an invaluable launch pad for me.  Much praise has been received for my cakes and my business cards have been snatched up eagerly.  Sales have been brisk, albeit the few times when the audience has been small, so there weren't many potential buyers to begin with.  Lessons have been learned, methods streamlined and this week it is already becoming routine work for me.  The first week I massively overestimated sales, or rather, was paranoid of running out and sadly had to throw a great many cupcakes away.  Last week I was left with less than a dozen extras on my hands.

Best of all, I now have four cake reservations for the coming year!  I also have a cupcake order for a teenage birthday this Friday.  Originally the client did want me to make a cake, but with so much going on there was no way I could foresee that I could fit in another cake.  So piggy cupcakes it is.

I am overworked and tired these days, but also very happy.  Decorating cakes and baking in general gives me great pleasure; especially when a new experiment is successful.  Watching people enjoy my cupcakes or christmas cake at the theatre fills me with a sense of satisfaction.  And who could resist the pleasure incurred from all the lavish praise!

Now it is time to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the TLS "Dickens by Candlelight" cast party cake for Sunday...............