Monday, 10 September 2012

Montreal Esprit Triathlon


Montreal Esprit Triathlon (2012)

The Lead-up to the race

Well, Here goes, my whole experience, as promised.  The week before the race I was watching the weather very carefully dreading what it was saying.  Hoping that every day it would change, and I guess it kind of did.  A week before the race, the forecast was for 22 C and rainy (20-30mm), later in the week that changed a bit to add in thunderstorms on that day (up until the day prior to the race actually).  Humidity was supposed to make it feel like about 28 C.  I wasn’t happy with rain, not having the greatest balance in the world I was worried about my bike tires slipping since they are old, and I really didn’t want to wipe out on the course, and worse, I didn’t want to take out anyone with me.  Friday was the registration and pre race pickup, but since I had the kids I couldn’t make it to that pick-up and the open water swim practice that they allowed.  I wasn’t too worried about that though, since we could also pick up our stuff the day of the race, 2 hours before.

 

Triathlon seminar for beginners

They offer a beginners seminar run by Anastasia Polito for first timers free of charge, which I signed up for early (I think in May) because it was a first come first serve basis thing.  This was held on the island Thursday afternoon.  Having seen Anastasia Polito in the Ford Ironman World Championship videos, it was pretty cool I thought that they were offering a seminar lead by such an inspiring person.  Thursday was a heck of a day.  Not living in Montreal, I had to bring my bike and my racing stuff with me into town, but to make everything that much more interesting it also coincided with my first day of classes.  My classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Concordia and I wasn’t going to miss my first classes, so I packed the bike and my stuff into the car at 6:30 am and dumped the responsibility of dropping the kids off at daycare on the hubby.  I then experienced the reason that I would be taking the train into town for the rest of the semester.  I pulled away from the house at 7:00 am after running around for about 20 minutes remembering stuff that I had forgotten, like my helmet, my class schedule and where the heck was my bike pump!  My first class started at 8:45 and I arrived at the university and parked at 8:35, made it into class 2 minutes before it started (whew).  I had classes run from 8:45-14:30 and I had forgotten one of the more important things (a lunch).  I was ravenous by the time my classes were over (I only had 15 minutes to go between classes, no time to run out). 

Classes ended and I rushed out to subway to grab a lunch/dinner sub and ate it at the student parent’s center while checking e-mail.  Headed off to the triathlon seminar and got there just in time (yay).  Took my bike out of the car, started pumping up my tires with my now broken bike pump (ya, I need a new one very badly, it keeps falling apart), clipped on my helmet and headed down to the bike racks they were setting up.  I found the seminar quite helpful with info I never would have though of (like counting the paces between the transition zone entry to where my bike was racked, because when there are hundreds of bikes it’s hard to find yours – more on that later), how to set up the gear for the transition (more on that later) and other helpful tips, along with a familiarization with the course and transition zone (very helpful).  At the close of the seminar I thanked Anastasia, asked her a few questions related to triathlon teams and the like and then headed back to the car with my gear.  The nerves subsided a bit, but not enough to cure me of the horrible indigestion that had been plaguing me for a few days – just glad it wasn’t the cold that all 3 kids and the hubby had though.  Let’s just say Immodium was my friend.  Home I went.  I was exhausted at that point haven woken up at 5:30 that morning and been go go go since then.  I got home just before 9:00 pm and went straight to bed when I got in.

 

Race day

As stated previously I had prepped all my gear on Friday night, but still felt the need to go over everything I had packed like 3-4 times anyways in the morning.  I was up before the kids and the hubby came to see me off at the door after my (what I thought sufficient) breakfast.  No longer plagued by indigestion (thanks Imodium), I got down to the island at 8:10.  My start time was 10:50 and I knew I needed to be there at 8:50 at the latest to pick up my race kit.  I probably looked like the biggest newbie there, I didn’t know where to go to pick up what and had general  non-itchy hives on my legs and arms because of nerves (ya, I kind of looked diseased) but at least they weren’t itching (thanks to a last minute Reactine taken that AM).  I got my race kit/t-shirt and swag bag and timing chip and got marked (thanks for writing my age on my right leg of course, so I can’t really hide it..).  I went to rack my bike and set up my spot as was shown in the seminar, made sure my tire pressure was right and generally sat there nervously.  45 minutes before my start I went down to the wetsuit rental tent and picked up my glorious wetsuit that was supposed to save the day for beginners.  It looked huge but I proved otherwise as I tried to put it on and proceeded to curse and struggle with it for about 10 minutes, much to the amusement of a few people around me.  All in good fun, I was starting to doubt my decision to rent a wetsuit.  I didn’t like the cold, I get hives in cold water and I was told it would help make me more buoyant during the swim portion, which is why I rented it.  After putting it on and having help doing it up in the back, I grabbed my fancy pants orange bathing cap and goggles, remembered the hint to put the goggles on before the cap just in case they came off they wouldn’t get lost.  Before I knew it they were briefing the women and we were given the go ahead to get into the water for a quick warm up before the starter buzzer.  HA!  Buoyant all right, I swam out in crawl a bit then turned back and attempted breaststroke, but couldn’t make my butt sink enough for that to work – way to go!  I’ve called myself bubble butt but that just took it a bit too far.  I was hoping for some photos of me exiting the water but that didn’t happen and nobody gets to witness the “XL sausage stuffed into a M sized casing” look of this wetsuit.  At this point I guess I should mention that weather, it was temperate about 25 degrees it felt like and pretty humid, NOT raining, greyish skies and VERY windy..  The weather reports said gusts up to 20 km/hr which is a lot but according to the guy running the briefing on the island they were gusting to the 50 km/hr range.  The rowing basin we were dong our swim in had white caps – waves – NOT cool.  All the women lined up at the start and before I knew it they were calling out 30 seconds to start, I wished a few women around me good luck (a lot of us were first/second timers) and then the buzzer went.

 

THE RACE

Swim

I had expected it to be hard, it being open water and then with the added challenge of white caps, but what I wasn’t expecting was the fact that the swim became a FULL contact sport.  No holds barred on that one, also being used to doing my swims in a pool with lane markers and a nice line on the bottom to follow I was disconcerted by the murky water where you couldn’t see a foot until it kicked you in the face and the icky lake weed all over (I guess I knew in principle that it would be there, but I still think it’s gross).  It must have been trimmed though, because it was out of reach for the most part except for one or two longer sprouts.  I was kicked in the face 3 times, kicked elsewhere too many times to count and pushed and scraped.  I couldn’t sight the buoys because of the wave sin the water so I was forced to follow blindly and hope the person in front of me was going the right way.  The few times I tried to sight I got a mouth full of water and ended up coughing a sputtering.  I found that as much as the wetsuit helped keep me nice and warm and helped me float it restricted my shoulder movement and found it harder to get my arm out of the water so I was using much more energy.  We turned at the first buoy and one of things that was mentioned in the seminar finally crystallized in my mind – they said NEVER use the turn to do breaststroke and that’s exactly what the person in front of me decided to do.  Because everyone crams together to take the corner tight, you piss off everybody behind you.  I finally got around her, after being kicked in the face once (because of course breaststroke means you open your legs even wider to kick that many more people in the face).  Swam across the basin and turned around the other buoy to head back to shore.  This is where of course the field has thinned out a bit, so there was really nobody to follow, and I slowed my pace a bit to catch my breath from the few times I got a mouthful of water trying to sight the buoys.   Now the waves were coming from behind us, so it SHOULD have been easier to swim and sight the buoys expect that because of the tightness of the wetsuit, I couldn’t get my head up enough in the waves to do this.  I ended up what I consider WAY off course, because at one point I stopped to sight (which I had to do in breaststroke to get my head high enough up) and I saw a dock in front of me, not the shore.  I wasn’t that far off the line, maybe about 50 m away from where I was supposed to be, but had to swim back before continuing in to the shore line, afraid of being DQ ed..  That was a waste of time of course, and a waste of energy.  I took to heart the suggestion that when you get to the end of the swim to stand up slowly (mentioned in the seminar) because your HR increases about 25 bpm in that moment and you can get pretty lightheaded if you stand up and dash out of the water right away.  I stood up, paused for maybe 5-7 seconds and started walking quickly towards the stairs, feeling a bit weak, not used to that transition.

Transition (swim to bike)

Having found my legs, I dragged my wet self out of the water and up and over the stairs towards the zone.  Not being used to not wearing glasses and my heart rate increasing, I was a bit unsure of depth and I was very careful on the stairs (they aren’t all even either, just to piss us off).  Even though I had counted the light jog paces from the entry of the transition zone to my bike rack, I was all off, my legs weren’t cooperating so I wasn’t taking strides like I was supposed to I guess and ended up standing 2 racks away from my bike saying to myself (crap – where’s my bike).  Luckily the woman beside me called me over, she happened to be there at that time prepping (thank goodness).  Got to my bike to find someone had moved my stuff over, causing everything I had carefully prepped to be lying everywhere.  Under the wetsuit I was wearing my sports bra and my running shorts, so I started to strip off the wetsuit beyond just the down to the waist I had gotten it off while running.  Dumped my cap and goggles on my towel and tried to take off the wetsuit as we were shown.  Got the arm off – great..  Got it past the center of my calves and then did what were shown, step on one leg of the suit and pull up with your leg.  BAD move.  I ended up with that pre-cramp Charlie horse twinge in my calf and swore like crazy, dropped down on the ground and started to stretch it out, ended up struggling with taking it off the slow way while massaging my calf and cursing like a sailor yet again (nice to not have the kids around for that of course).  My socks had fallen out of the shoes when the towel was moved and I couldn’t find one.  I took s a swig of Gatorade, dried my feet, put on my socks and shoes and headed off slowly to the bike portion of the run with my cycling gloves, helmet on and clipped (I remembered!) and my sunglasses on (wasn’t very sunny but I was worried the sun would breakthrough just to annoy me if I didn’t put them on) and rallied my legs to start moving.  Ran to the end of my row and over to the bike start line.  SLOWLY got on my bike (didn’t want to look like an idiot falling all over myself) and headed off (in the lowest gear of course – I remembered that too). 

The Bike

Quickly got up to speed and headed towards the course, perhaps a tad overzealous and over-excited at having avoided the calf cramp.  Turned onto the course and experienced the most dreadful feeling.  The same wind that was crating the “waves” and white caps I the swimming basin now became a 50km/hr headwind.  I couldn’t get out of 2-3rd gear, and if my heart hadn’t dropped enough, it dropped even further when I realised getting to the western end of the course that there was a slight uphill (I hate hills – hills hate me) and it was relatively long, which in my mind is even worse.  Pushed up the hill with the 50 km/hr headwind and breathed a sigh of relief when we came to the downhill portion.  This being a 5 km loop, I had to do it four times.  At the eastern end there is a nice hairpin turn which is awesome because we’d gained the speed from the downhill and that’s where everybody sits and cheers.  I complete my first lap, the lap counter beeps once, I do my hairpin turn (feeling like crap) and keep going.  Not even 1 km later, I’m pulling over to the side of the track and stopping.  That swig of Gatorade is NOT doing what it’s supposed to and feels like it’s about to come out,  and I’m feeling slightly dizzy.  A volunteer came over to ma, asked if I was okay, “fine” I say “just need a minute”.  It should be mentioned also that because of my balance issues, drinking on the bike is much harder for me, so I had serious hydration issues on the bike.  The time I had to stop was longer than a minute, about 10 if I had to guess (I had no watch) for the lightheaded/nauseous feeling to pass.  As I got back on my bike my body went through its internal battle of “STOP” “Hell no!  Keep going!”  That lasted the next 15 km of the bike course, though on the last loop at least I could say to my body “Shut up, it’s the last one..”  After the uphill (I’m sure most people could have walked it faster than I biked up it) I let my legs coast on the way down ins6tead of gaining speed, went around the hairpin and cut across (I signalled) to my exit point.  Cycled to the line where I had to get off my bike and stopped and SLOWLY got off my bike (thanks to my balance issues, that is pretty slow) and set off back to my bike rack.

 

Transition (bike to run)

Running was yet again not easy, it probably looked like a slightly pained saunter.  Not much changing was required here, since I don’t have fancy bike shoes or anything, just my running shoes so I racked my bike, took off my helmet, bike gloves and grabbed my running cap.  At the start as a part of the swag bag they had given us one of those energy gels and at this point I figured I could use all the help I could get and ripped open the packet and sucked it in preparing for a gross taste (I’d heard rumors) but nOTHING like I experienced.. I guess you are supposed to “shake” it first or massage the package or something because the sugar was still kind of crystallized and I probably got about 2/3 of the packet in my mouth, swallowed, followed it with a swig of Gatorade and surprisingly managed to keep it down.  Quick inventory of my body told me that my short were still wet, so was my bra and so heat wasn’t an issue and I headed off to the “run” portion.

Run

I got out of transition zone barely managing a light jog.  I knew I was done, I wasn’t expecting to have THAT hard of a time on the bike thanks to the stupid headwinds I had, and the cramp in my calf was periodically reminding me that it was still waiting to happen.  My tank was empty, I was hurting, I felt my sock chaffing against the back of my foot because I guess I hadn’t dried off as well as I should have.  I knew my race was “done”.  Knowing I was going into this as a newbie, I didn’t expect to place high or anything, but was let down from the get go at the beginning of the swim when it was so violent and my breathing was impacted by the waves.  I was thankful at this point I hadn’t had to break out my asthma inhaler at any point so far, and had it in my shirt pocket “just in case”.  My 5 km run was destined to be a walk/jog.  I missed my music a bit as motivation and was surprised at the amount of times that insidious “I’m sexy and I know it” song came into my head.  I kept saying “why the hell did I do this, this sucks..”  I never thought that this could be that hard – It didn’t sound it at the beginning.  I had experienced this a few times on the bike, but this is what rallied me and made my LOVE what I was doing.  The other racers, other age groupers like me (mostly the later male heats because I had been passed by most of the women at this point) and even a few of the Pros (you can tell by the Triathlon suits with CAN and their names posted on the back) shouting encouragement as they passed me on the track.  Periodic “Lachez-pas, t’est capable” (Don’t give up, you can do it) and “Go go go, t’est la meilleure!”(Go go go, you’re the best!)  warmed my heart.  One of the things I loved about the idea of triathlons is that everyone runs the same course, Pro or beginner and everyone is encouraging, there is no malicious intent (mostly) that I can tell.  I jogged less than half of that 5km, and it was barely what you’d call a jog (I can walk faster on a regular day), my quads were calling it quits and periodically sending the I’m about to cramp signal to my brain.  At one point on the home stretch I gave my legs a talking to and sped up a bit, but one of my quads sent the “what the hell are you doing” signal to my brain causing me to pull up on that leg, hop about two paces and limp for a few more.  The racer passing me turned around and yelled to me if I needed his to get me help.  Hell no, I was finishing this if it killed me.  Close to the finish line, there are LOTS of people waiting for their loved one/friend to come close, but the great thing is they cheer everybody on, and it pumped me a bit, got me moving a bit faster.  I saw the finish line in sight and a stupid grin plastered itself on my face (though in the photos it’s more like a wince) and I crossed, tried to slow down and my quad was like “what?” and almost sent me flying face first into the pavement.  Hopping yet again a bit, I stopped so they could take off my timing chip and headed off to find MY loved ones. 

The finish

I was sweaty, I had lake weed in my bra, my legs were barely listening to me, my face was beet red and I was hurting but I was so proud.  I spotted the hubby and 3 kids a way away from the finish (it was too crowded for him to get the stroller close to the finish line) and he greeted me with a huge smile and a “you did it” and all I could say was “I didn’t die!  I don’t think..”  Here is the funny thing.  Right about until the last 500m, I pretty much hated it, except for some really nice people that were encouraging and made me want to go faster.  If you had asked me at any point during the race except those last 500m I would have said there is NO way I’m doing that again, but after crossing the finish line, tired, hurting and sweating – I wanted to sign up for another one next week (well, I know it’s a bad idea, don’t plan on actually doing it).  The kids were happy to see me, but they have no idea what I just did, they don’t get it yet.  I came in last in my age category, but I don’t really care about that because I don’t feel like I measure up to other people in my category, after all, how many 25-29 year olds have 3 kids and are full time students are doing the race?  I guess none.  The baby wasn’t even 11 months old, I pushed my body really hard and got it to this point, now my quest is to improve on that.  I know what I need to work on now, I have a good idea of what it takes to do this, and respect anyone that does it.  Overall there were 4 people in all age groups that came in after me, but I’m still happy, because when I went into this all I wanted to do was finish..  It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, and plan on doing it again.

 

The day after

I went to bed the night of, exhausted.  I ate only a light dinner because I wasn’t hungry at all, was in bed before 9pm and slept until about 8 am (well, the baby was up every 2 hours, so that didn’t help) and woke up with only my calf hurting like hell.  I had issues straightening my leg, it took me a bit to get out of bed.  A hot bath was had before breakfast, so Advil was taken, and it felt better.  I figured I was pretty lucky to abuse my body that much and just end up with that as an ache forgetting it usually takes 24-30 hours for the pain to start.  Around midday, the muscles around my ribs and my lower abs were killing me, more advil was taken, a mid day nap was had with kids.  I’m SO tired now, I have a lot of energy to replenish from what I burned.  Overall no injuries, just aches and pains, the worst is the calf that takes me 30 seconds or so to straighten my leg when I stand up, but once I get going it’s fine.  I’m stretching it gently several times a day.  Laughing hurts thanks to the abs and muscles around my ribs.  I wore my event shirt all afternoon Saturday, Sunday and even this morning when I smelled it and tossed it in the wash.  I’ll probably be wearing it for a while.  I’m overall very happy with the experience, and will do it again, I’ll train for more next year, either more than 1 sprint or maybe an Olympic, but I WON’T underestimate how hard it is to just do the sprint.  After 3 kids, my body isn’t the same as it used to be, and not getting a full nights sleep doesn’t help, but it’s what I can do to encourage my kids to get up and be active WITH me, so I don’t have to sit by the sidelines eating a snickers bar.

 

Army run

Now this week I’m in recovery and next week I’m in prep for the Army Run in Ottawa, which should be fun.  It’s only a 5 km run, so I’m going to prove to my body that it CAN run that 5 km..  Even if it is slow, this season has been a good one, and only PBs have been set.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Keeping busy

Some really nice Cakes recently, which is nice, I like orders where I have some basic guidelines, but no very strict thing, so I can embellish a bit.  Not a huge post because school starts up again this week and my triathlon is on saturday, so i'm busy busy, but here are my recent cakes!

A busy weekend party called for 5 dozen cupcakes and 3 dozen of my fancy butterfly cookies!








On the same weekend for a little girls birthday party:




This is a cake that I accepted the order for by phone but was naive enough to not take a deposit.  Needless to say, a no show, which was really too bad because it was very nice..




Having learned my lesson and really pissed off about being screwed out of the money, I took it to the fire station with a flyer and got a call and an order for this cake.

 
 
Then next came the cake for a big Stephen King fan:
 






And last but not least, a flower pot cake for a woman who loves flowers:



And this is obviously what happens when I don't update my blog enough, they all come in in one shot.  If you are interested in staying up to date with my cakes AS I make them and for more information on how to contact me, please visit my facebook page and all my info is available there as well as periodic updates and promotions offered.  I promise a nice long post next week about the torture I am submitting to this weekend, and since it's supposed to rain, that makes the whole experience all that much more interesting and most likely hillarity will ensue. 

MY FACEBOOK PAGE ---> Three Beasts Baking

Thanks everybody for your continued support.  If I get the photos of me in the triathlon, I will certainly post a few of the more hillarious ones, since they will all most likely be hillarious with horrible grimaces of pain and discomfort on my face.  A good time will be had by all!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Exam time

It's beencrazy here recently with school, kids and work and the heat of summer.  I've been writing papers and trying to fit workouts in at every possible moment (not so easy).  Fallen behind on my triathlon training sadly, but trying my best to keep up.  I have been doing cakes, trying to get word out and expand my base a bit, so since I need to go do my paper, this will be brief.

After my first sweaty "wedding" cake with bad quilting on the base, I had to do it again to make sure I could do it.  Since I had learned some lessons, I got to a different one and tried some new techniques on it.  Worked well I think.

*****

Also, going on the trying something new theme, I wanted to try a buttercream exterior cake.  This cake is a "safe" cake, but the icing isn't (I used butter).  Since this cake was going out with me to a friends house while the kids were at daycare, I didn't have to worry about allergens in it, which was a nice change..  For one thing I missed real icing [insert feelings of guilt here] and also the "safe" buttercream isn't the greatest for the roses, which turned out okay for a first try on this cake.


*****

Finally, I was pretty nervous about this one because it was a special order cake for someone that wasn't friedn or family.  Good news is that it went over super well and shocked her.  The tricky part was all the detail on the side, since she wanted it to look like the company logo (for an employee of that company).  It was really small too, which meant that all the details were done by toothpick, because even a tiny paintbrush was too big (it was a 6 portion cake).




So those are my latest creations..  I'm pretty proud of them.  Since i'm trying to bring in some spare money to pay for supplies for my triathlon, if I get a few more cake orders, i'll be able to buy myself some of those nice bike shoes and pedals which would come in handy!

Now I drag myself reluctantly back to study Tennyson..

Monday, 9 July 2012

Wedding cake and cute consolation cupcakes

Getting started making cakes is a tricky thing.  Getting my name out there has proven to be more difficult than I thought.  With me in school full time and trying to keep a semblance of order in the house, I've really fallen behind on the "getting my name out there" thing.  One of the walls I'm running up against is that vegan cakes are kind of a niche market (along with allergy friendly cakes of course) and I'm having trouble marketing my "dairy-free, egg-free" cakes to the regular population because somehow people think that cakes without eggs and milk/cream taste like cardboard - which is untrue if they are done properly.

Another issue of course is that when I say I bake cakes, people like to see examples of cakes I have made, and it's hard for me to say - well, I've only made about 20 cakes, but I assure you I can do what you want from me.

In comes the wedding cake.  People REALLY want to see some examples of wedding cakes.  It is a very special day for people and I understand that they want it to be perfect, so they don't want to risk getting an ugly cake that tastes bad (my husband says he's been to his fair share of weddings where the cake looked amazing,but tasted horrible).  This brought me to a conclusion..  I had to make a wedding cake to show a bit of what I can do.  I'd done a tiered cake (2 tier) before (not this big though), so that wasn't new, but I'm using a new fondant and I was going to try the quilting technique along with my first gumpaste flower arrangement on the cake.  This meant of course that the cake would NOT be safe (gumpaste has egg-whites) and I wasn't going to risk just cutting a piece from the side without the flowers, so something had to be made to make the girls happy (I wasn't going to give cake to one and not the other, so they both got cupcakes).  Also I tried marble cake for the first time and was happy with the results.

So new things that I tried:
-New fondant
-Marble cake
-Larger 2 tier (5" round on an 8" round, both 4" high - 30 regular servings)
-Quilting
-Beading (where the quilting meets)
-Gumpaste flowers

Now the gumpaste flowers were FUN.  Some people hate doing it, but I had a blast, I just put in a movie and went at it, doing roses, cherry blossoms and some random flower I made up (looked a touch like a poppy I guess, but white).  The other fun thing about these was that they can be made WEEKS or even MONTHS in advance, as long as they are stored in a cool dry place in sealed containers.  I obviously didn't do them that far in advance, because I needed a specific colour scheme..


So that was the flowers, done..  Now for the cake.  The first Marble cake I ruined, mostly because I forgot it in the oven and it was overcooked..  Go me..  Second one was perfect (good thing, because I hate wasting food).  My huge issue was the day it was ready to be iced and decorated in fondant, it was almost 40 degrees with the humidity (which was very high) and fondant doesn't like heat OR humidity.  In retrospect I should have set up all my gear in our bedroom, the only room with AC, but alas, I thought I could get away with it.  It was not the case..  I learned lots of things doing this cake though,  I rolled out my fondant a bit too thin (probably a lot too thin depending on some peoples standards), I NEED A/C when working a larger cake with fondant.  This is of course because I iced it and it was gorgeous.  I rolled out my fondant and that was okay too but when it went on the cake, after working with it for a few minutes (and you never want to rush fondant) I noticed the icing underneath start to loosen up (get warmer) and it started melting a bit underneath the fondant, making my cake look droopy (BOO!)..  I was really disappointed..  Being somewhat of a perfectionist I have a hard time looking at these things and saying "It's okay - I learned a LOT doing this cake", I usually end up upset that it wasn't 100% what I wanted it to be.  The end result was okay, even after the icing melted under the fondant, it was just not as uniform as it should have been.  At least after going back in the fridge for the night, it looked better, it wasn't as shiny (what they call "sweaty").  I'd love to put it out there and say "look at this gorgeous wedding cake I made - I can do one for you too" but I cringe at the thought, because it wasn't perfect..  It was nice, but not perfect and I NEED it to be perfect.  Maybe in a few weeks I'll make another one, but I'll have to have people over to help me eat it because I brought it to my Dad's for dinner on Saturday (we were 4 eating it there), I left him 1/4 of the cake, gave a big slice to his neighbours, came home, gave a 1/4 of the bottom to my downstairs neighbours and a 1/4 to my next door neighbours (they'd better not blame me for getting fat), and we still had a ton to eat (we finished it last night, averaging 2 slices EACH per day).  That's a lot of cake.  This is one of those times I wish I had the capital to start a business, because I could do this all day - not practical though..

Okay, onto the conciliatory cupcakes.  I wanted something cute, and my oldest had being going on about duckies for a while (who knows why).  Since one of the batches I did for the big cake had leftover batter, I used it for 3 cupcakes, iced them with light blue icing and made little fondant duckies to go on them.  I loved it because they were pretty easy to make, appealed to kids and of course were 100% edible.  The duckies got eaten first, then the icing licked off, then the cupcake partially eaten, then of course we had 2 kids that were tired but on a sugar rush..  Great fun, but I still love watching them enjoy!  My oldest proclaimed today that the baby was hungry and wanted birthday cake..  Perhaps she is overhearing me wonder out loud frequently about what she will have for her birthday cake this year..  I haven't decided yet..  Here are the cupcakes:



Thursday, 28 June 2012

My first video

Since my chocolate cake recipe is a bit touchy (if it is undermixed it's no good, if it is overmixed, it's not good either) I decided to do a video of the whole process.  It's my first one, probably not great, but it'll have to do.  Took me a while to set it up, and since I was solo in the kitchen, getting my tiny camear to the right angle to take a shot of it was tricky since I didn't have a tripod or anythign that fit that camera. 

I'm editing the video now on youtube, going through the whole process of cutting out the long boring bits.  It is a rather long video, but I guess you can skip to the interesting part if you'd like.  If the video goes over well, I'll make more eventually.  The time is a serious factor.

Also, please keep in mind that if you are using my videos for allergy safe baking, it is imperative that you verify all the ingredients with the manufacturer to ensure they don't contain any of the allergens you are avoiding.  The lack of a "may contain" warning doesn't mean they are safe and I accept no liability for an allergic reaction (it is the reason I will not put brand names that I use on the site, because they may be safe in one country and not another due to packaging facilities). 

Even when I bake cakes from home, I cannot 100% guarantee that there will be no issue, because I DO have these allergens in my house, but I bake everything as if it were for my own daughter, and take the utmost precautions to ensure that no cross contamination occurs.

Here is the video on me making the batter..  The recipe is included in the video, I hope it helps!



Happy cake making!  Keep in mind that allergy safe baking is harder than it seems due to cross contamination, which is why my cupcakes and cakes are available to order from my allergy safe kitchen.  You can contact me for details any time.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Colour flow icing

Figured I should switch it up a little.  I don't only do cakes/cupcakes, I can do cookies too, and I have a nifty recipe for brown sugar cookies, so I whipped up a double batch on Saturday.  Now, I can make cookies, but I've never been really good at decorating them, so I wanted to challenge myself.  I'd heard about colour flow icing, but never tried it out myself until Saturday.  I started off by making the cookies (long process because the dough needs to refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling).  After the wait, the rolling out and cutting was done, they went in the oven.  While they cooled I made my icing.  That was the most unsure part of this process, because I'd made these cookies before and liked them, but the colour flow icing recipes I saw all used Wilton's color-flo icing mix, and there is meringue powder in that (egg whites) so I can't use it.  I found a recipe that looked good and tried it out.  On Saturday I made green, black and yellow icing.  The results were okay, though I think the icing was a touch too thick, the cookies looked okay, but kind of amateurish, so I'm glad I had saved a dozen for tonight.

Saturdays cookies :




So armed with lessons learned on Saturday I sat down today, mixed up some orange, yellow, black and white..  The icing recipe was a bit too thin this time, so a bit runnier than it should have been, but it worked out okay..  I had learned a few things from playing around the first time (the best way to learn a technique in my opinion) and put those lessons into practise..

Here are today's cookies:
This one is my favourite of them all I think..




So I had fun again, I learned more again and realised how much I really want to be able to open a bakery(allergy friendly/vegan bakery).  Just wish I had the means to do so..  *sigh*

Monday, 18 June 2012

I'm crazy - Updated goals

My original goal when I set out to do the triathlon training was to get moving.  I made the goal before I hopped onto a bike or swam a single lap.  I had only been running a bit using C25k.  I had a wonderful dream of crossing the finish line in glory (okay, I still have that goal).  I started my pool training 10 visits ago, and already a distance of 1500m much easier for me, and the sprint triathlon only requires 750m..  After all, I used to swim a lot, having been a lifeguard AGES ago..  The biking, well, I used to bike a lot, I don't foresee that as being very brutal, since the course is flat..  The first time I headed out on the bike around here with slight ups and downs, I did over 5km..  The sprint triathlon distance is 20km bike..  The running is going well, just finished the 4th week of the C25k training.  Today I ran 5 minutes non stop TWICE in the 30 minute workout, and what's even better is that my recovery time on my walk intervals was much faster, I caught my breath faster and didn't feel like dying at the end..

So the sprint distance triathlon goal is being updated.  I have confirmed with the race that my distance can be upped to the Olympic distance triathlon, because if only for just the name change - it sounds SOOO much more bad ass.  The distances are double that of the sprint, so 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.  I'm already training consistently at the pool doing the 1500m distance, and working on increasing my endurance by increasing resistance as opposed to distance to go beyond the 1500m eventually and to improve the endurance of my arm muscles so they are less tired at the end of the 1500m swim so the bike transition is smoother.

This week my training goes into block training.  That is when I train 2 of the events in one day.  For convenience factor only I've coupled the swim and run into a day, even though one wont follow the other during the event.  My week will look like this (unless something is up with the kids):

Monday (done this AM already) - 1500m swim, 30 minute run/walk
Tuesday - Bike (distance unknown - ride out till I get tired, take a stretch break, snack then head back), Zumba
Wednesday - 1500 m swim, 30 minute run
Thursday - Bike (same as Tuesday - try to go a bit farther)
Friday - (pool closed - cry) 30 minute run, Karate (pm)
Saturday - rest day
Sunday - Zumba

Now I consider the Zumba to be more of a social thing, my heart rate goes up a bit, but not much, so I barely count it..

It`s going to be a pretty crazy summer, with trying to train when it`s coolest out and school and the kids, but i`ll make it work.  I`m seeing results, and I LOVE that.  Now I need to go study, because I`m behind on my class.  That and I need a shower - it`s hot out and running in the heat is NO fun..


*****

For anyone interested, I'm raising funds for Soldier On and the Military Families Fund.  Donations can be made online.  Tax receipts are issued for donations over 10$ (I think).  Considering I have a cousin currently serving and my husband is former military, it's a cause that hits close to home (he will be running the race with me in September, which is 2 weeks after my triathlon).


Thanks to my readers!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An expensive startup

I was thinking the other day about how when I start something, I like to go at it 100% and give it my all.  This could be said to be true for both my favourite hobbies at the moment, baking cakes/cupcakes and triathlon training.  I've been very reserved with my triathlon training stuff so far and so here is what I've put out so far

Actual running shoes (clearance rack - lucky find) - 80$
Running pants (I started training in April - it was colder also clearance rack) - 35$
Shorts (clearance) - 25$
Good tank top (clearance) - 20$
Running bra (can't skimp here, because nature didn't either) - 85$
3/4 length cheap walking pants - 15$
3 tank tops, cheap and baggy - 28$ (all 3)
Bathing suit (on sale) - 55$
Goggles - 24$
Bike (over 20 years old) - 50$
Tune up for bike - 50$
Bike seat that doesn't make me feel violated in all new ways - 30$
Helmet - 35$
Sunglasses (gotta love my Oakeys - not a typo.. ) - 15$
5k Army run entry fee - 30$
Triathlon entry fee - 105$
Wetsuit rental (oh yes - open water swims get cold) - 40$

I'm sure I forgot a thing or two in this list - and there are still a few things I need to pick up before race day (running belt with water bottle, good socks for the triathlon etc...)  I can't believe I've already spent over 720$ on this..  At least most of this stuff will be good for a long time.  I could look at it as being expensive, but I could also look at it like this.  It's for my health, for my family, for my kids, so I can be around to watch them grow up, so I can run beside them as they pedal off on their bikes for the first time without huffing and puffing for air.  It's about being a positive role model for them and not a hypocrite saying exercise then sitting on the couch all day watching TV, sipping coke.  It's a tiny investment and it will reap some of the biggest rewards of anything, and thinking about it, the pride I feel when I cross the line at the triathlon in September - this will have payed for itself 100%.  I will buy the photos and remember it with pride, even if I never go back and do it again, I'll have an amazing sense of accomplishment.

After having 3 kids and being 250lbs at the end of my last pregnancy (220 ish when the baby was all gone and the water retention dissipated), I got fed up of feeling like a blimp.  I still have the loose belly skin that jiggles WAY too much when I run, and I don't know if it will ever go back to being as firm as it was, even if I work out a ton - doesn't matter to me anymore, it's a badge of pride for having carried my three kids, the problem I had is that though after 9 months you give birth, the cookies and cakes and ice cream don't quite come off the same way, and I have a killer sweet tooth.

I started back at karate in December 2011, just 6 weeks after the baby was born, and since then (most of it being since I took up the running training) I have managed to get down to the 193ish range.  I dont' work by weight though, the scale lies.  The changes that I see are in the mirror.  First, the maternity pants didn't fit anymore, even though they always fit me between the other kids.  The summer shorts I bought before getting pregnant this last time literally fall down if I don't have a belt on.  I only have 2 rolls in the front and they are going away quickly.  The extra skin on the underside of my arm is receding a bit and firming up, my shoulders look stronger.  I took 3 pairs of jeans out of the pre-pregnancy pants bag - and now they are even getting loose.  My face is regaining a shape, my pouch under my chin has almost gone away.  Most of all, I feel great, I wouldn't trade this feeling for the world.  I have about 25 lbs to go to my personal target, and it is within grasp.

Today for the first time, thanks to C25k, I ran 5 minutes without stopping.  It was hard.. damn hard, but I did it.  I didn't give up, I pushed through the pain and was proud of myself at the end of the 5 minutes (that wasn't the whole run, just one short part of the morning torture session).  I call it torture, because in reality, it hurts, it's hard and I stink at the end, but I've got a stupid smile plastered to my face when I hear "congratulations, you have completed your run today" come into my headset.

I think almost anyone could do it - and everyone should.  This is one of those times when complacency can kill, and I have more reasons I ever thought I would have to live for.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Vegan Cheesecake?

I've been intrigued.  Since my husband loves cheesecake, I've been delving into recipes of vegan cheesecake.  I'm not a fan of cheesecake, vegan or not, so I have a harder time with this of course, because taste testing is much harder.  I found a recipe that is supposed to be very good, so I went out to the store to buy what I thought I needed, and whipped up the recipe.  It was horrible.  This is when I learned there is a difference between regular tofu and silken tofu.  It's really hard to find silken tofu in Quebec, but managed to find a place that has both it and the vegan cream cheese, so that's a good thing.  Flash forward 3 weeks and I make the same recipe, this time with the right ingredients, and it is much better.  The texture is very similar to cheesecake, but the flavour is obviously not very cheesecake-y because there's not real cheese in it.  I'm going to give this recipe one more try, using all the right ingredients, but taking out the lemon zest and using instead..  flavour oil...   I'm really learning to love these things, because it lets me put flavours to things that I wouldn't be able to get to taste realistic in the first place.  I went back to my allergy information chart and lo and behold the cheesecake flavour is safe, so I'll be placing an order soon on line and will grab 2 flavours I can't find in stores around here - the cheesecake flavour and the "Irish creme" flavour, both of which are safe (mmm)..  I will post more details on how it turns out when I try it using the flavour oil.

Now those chocolate caramel cupcakes were really good, though the chocolate/caramel icing could have had a touch more caramel flavouring in it, because it was muted quite a bit by the cocoa powder added to the icing.  Overall though, it was delicious.



That was an experiment that went very well in my opinion, and I will certainly be doing it again.  IN fact, I can officially say that this is my favourite cupcake so far..  The drizzle of dark chocolate shavings on the top just makes it look deliciously decadent..  and it certainly is...

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Target heart rate and caramel cake

Finally got word back from the doctor that sent me for the chest/sinus x-rays last week and the reason I've been sick all month and hacking up a lung constantly is because I have sinusitis.  'Twas what I expected honestly, since my husband has the same symptoms as I do and was diagnosed with it in the office, I'm the unlucky asthmatic one that had to be sent for the x-rays to rule out a pneumonia.  Started antibiotics tonight, and should be feeling somewhat human by mid week next week.  At least I can swim.

In my exercise science class, we've been going over how to create a good workout plan and how to calculate your target heart rate.  Fun stuff, but important because I want to make sure I don't over train.  I know that they estimate fitness level partly based on the resting heart rate, so I used the heart rate reserve formula to calculate, because it gives a more accurate picture of the heart rate I'd want.  Figured I'd take advantage of being at the pharmacy to use their pressure cuff to get my resting heart rate and blood pressure.  Well, apparently even though I've got another 30 pounds to lose my body is in great shape, my resting heart rate (and even then not completely resting because I wasn't sitting 10 minutes before taking it, so this is a touch higher) is 65 bpm and my blood pressure is 107/68..  hmmm..  yay for good hearts?  It's going to be crazy when I actually lose the weight and build up my fitness level, there is lots of good potential there.

So I'm training and trying to maintain a 25-27 bpm 10 second count at the peak of workout.  Great, because all of last week after my swims I was doing my 10 second count to verify for when I finally figured out the calculation and I was training at a 27 bpm 10 second count, which is 85% of my max heart rate, meaning the top of my training zone.  Awesome.

I took my bike into the shop to get tuned up so I can start my cycling training and toss it into the mix.  The bike cost me 50$, the tune up will be 70$.  Kind of funny, but still cheaper than buying a new bike for sure.

So far my swim training is going very well, I do 1000m on a regular basis during the training session, and I am slowly increasing the intensity of those swims to improve my times..  On Wednesday, my workout looked like this:

100m breaststroke warm up
Arm and shoulder stretch
100m crawl, 100m breaststroke (X3)
150m crawl
150m cooldown breastroke easy pace

I was pleased, the workout set (the 750m distance) took me just under 20 minutes (19:49) which isn't bad considering almost half of it is breaststroke.  I'd almost argue I'm more fit now than when I was a lifeguard, but wait till 20 pounds more go away before I get that bold.

Right now I'm burning a lot of calories working out, because I'm doing Zumba, Karate (started back last night) running, swimming and soon cycling.  I'm making sure to listen to my body though, because today it said "hell no" and I'm okay with that, I have a good swim tomorrow morning.  My major weight loss issue right now is the food.  I need to develop a nutrition plan that takes everything into consideration with my goals and health issues in mind   I have to cut out snacks, I'm being so bad Tuesday/Thursday when I go into class I always end up stopping at timmies for timbits or something equally horrible, and I need to stop doing that, because they taste good but make me feel like crap, give me indigestion and give me horrible sugar crashes.  I'm going to make an effort to have fewer refined grains, more whole grain breads and switch out sugary jam for peanut butter for extra protein.  I'm not into all those fancy supplements, I prefer to simply eat healthier.

On the unhealthy note, my husband wanted me to make a small cake for one of his supervisors for his birthday.  Nothing fancy he said, so I didn't bother with fancy decorating, I didn't even use a real piping bag when I wrote happy birthday on it, just a Ziploc bag with the corner cutoff, but I did get to try out another flavour.  Caramel.  I made my delicious chocolate cake recipe just like normal and when I made my butter cream I omitted the vanilla and added about 2 drops of caramel flavour to the icing.  Now I really like these flavourings because the company I get them from has very clear allergy statements and dare I say it, most of them are 100% artificial, so I don't have to worry about allergens.  They sent me the whole chart so I checked the ones I want and will be trying them all out eventually.  Back to cake, put a bit of brown colouring in the icing to make it look more like caramel then iced the cake.  I saved about 1/4 cup if icing for the writing and mixed in a bit more brown then decided instead I would put cocoa powder in that to make it a truer chocolate brown.  That icing was GOOD!  I didn't take photos, mostly because it was a pretty simple cake, but I determined my next quest thanks to this adaptation..

***Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate caramel filling and a tiny swirl of regular caramel icing on top ***

Featured next time on my blog: Tofu cheesecake adventure!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Flavouring and a reaction

A touch late - but in the spirit of my blog it's because we spent most of yesterday in the hospital with our Daughter who thought it was nice when her little sister shared her milk with her so she took a sip, even after being told that it wasn't safe.  Hopefully she learned a lesson, because that was not a fun day.  I had just run out the door 5 minutes late for my Zumba class and not even 2 minutes down the road my husband calls me saying she drank the wrong milk, I made it back to the house in less than 1 minute, confirmed the reaction (wasn't hard) she had already thrown up, her voice was hoarse and she was blotchy and red, her nose was dripping and her upper lip was pretty swollen.  Epi-pen, stash them all in the car and head out to the hospital with the second one in hand just in case..  Took this photo in the car, the worst of the symptoms were gone by that point but the lip was still pretty big.









So that being said I've been getting pretty adventurous with flavouring icings and such.  Did a few trials recently which were pretty neat and worked pretty well.  I mentioned a large cupcake order (60 assorted cupcakes) and I did my classic vanilla with buttercream, chocolate with buttercream and vanilla with strawberry buttercream flavour..  AWESOME.  I got really excited and decided to try more combinations.


I now have a few more flavour oils to try.  I played with orange flavour oil this weekend.  I made one batch of my chocolate cake and split it in two..  With the first half I made a simple batch of chocolate cupcakes, with the second half of the batch I added orange flavour oil directly to the batter with some orange zest.  When the cupcakes were baked, I whipped up a half batch of buttercream icing and flavoured it with the orange oil.  Well, the results were good, but could have been better.  I forgot to half the flavouring, so in both instances, the orange flavour was a bit too strong, though the amount would have been perfect for a full batch.  Also, I thought the zest in the cake would work better than it did, and since it wasn't visible at all, I figure I'll skip it next time and just stick to the oil.  The cake was iced with my chocolate icing recipe and my cupcakes were filled with the buttercream.  So there are so many new things in there that I learned to do, it was a very neat weekend.  The cake tasted a lot like a Terrys chocolate orange, which are tasty..  mmm..  They weren't made fancy, because I didn't need to really, they were just to try.







I made 2 other cakes with the first cupcake order I did.  One for the persons birthday (the cake was for her to bring home, the cupcakes were for the employees) and the other one was a special order hockey rink cake for 25 people.  Kept me busy that weekend for sure, but I was reasonably pleased with the results, though had some issues with cracking fondant..  The flowers were pretty nice, and I added a bit of lustre dust to make it sparkly, which gave it a nice effect..



All in all I'm getting more confident about my abilities in doing this.  I'm not awesome yet, but it's coming along!  I'm still snacking on cupcakes and cake, good thing I'm working out like a crazy person for the triathlon, and the great news is that my Daughter is fine, she's back to her regular old self running around and driving me crazy!



Friday, 1 June 2012

Summer sickness/Triathlon training

I'm sick of being sick.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my sister had her first baby and I was looking forward to going to see the little one, and still haven't been healthy enough to go, and the baby was born on May 9th (I've been sick since about the 7th or so).  Heading to the clinic today to see what is causing it, because it's not normal in my opinion, and am worried it might shift to pneumonia because of my stupid asthmatic lungs.

Aside from the nasty cold or whatever, I've been doing a lot of reading on triathlon training, and I decided that as opposed to taking the plunge for summer 2013 that I'd do my first one this summer to give me a starting reference point, and to see if I like it.  I can tell you that I love the changes I'm noticing, like that post pregnancy belly firming up slightly again and the extra skin being reabsorbed.  Gives me hope.

So Wednesday I headed down to the municipal pool for my first lap swim in over 5 years (probably closer to 7 years...) and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to swim 1000m in my first session.  Mind you, that's 1000m that consisted mostly of breaststroke (150m front crawl in 50m sets).  Still encouraging that muscle memory is there.  I went again this morning and managed to pull of the exact same workout but I did a 750m non-stop set to mimic the triathlon sprint distance for swim.  Not bad, my time was slow, but obviously considering I was swimming breaststroke most of the way.  I'll create a training program that'll see me up the front crawl sets in the next few weeks, I'm going to have crazy training plans soon..  Brings me back to my swimming instructor days..

The cycling is going to be killer, my quads need a ton of work.  I only need to cycle 20km, but at this point, that could very well be 200km, because I find doing 3 pretty hard (I have to learn the gears on my new bike.. It's been a while I'm not sure how to use the lever gears to my advantage).

The running I'll work on more when my stupid sickness clears up, because my lungs are not up to it while I'm sick.  I figure that even if I haven't managed to up my total run distance to 5km by the race, they don't DQ you for walking, so I could do that.

Overall I'm pretty proud of myself.  During my brief sickness related hiatus from my blog, I had an order for a hockey rink cake to serve 25 and another order for 60 cupcakes with a 6" round fondant covered cake with gum paste flowers, so that was really fun to do while suppressing a fever, but I did it, even if I was up until 1 am both nights to finish the orders on time.  I figure I use the profits for those to invest in my training and equipment I'll need for both the triathlon and for the 5km race in Ottawa in September (I'd better be in shape by then!)

I'll post the cakes in another post and discuss my new experiments that I'll be doing today.  I'm having fun with some recipes, let's just leave it at that for now (hehehe).

The races I'm registered for -
Canada Army run 5km race on September 23, 2012 in Ottawa, ON
Esprit Montreal Triathlon Sprint distance (750m swim, 20 km bike, 5km run) September 8, 2012 in Montreal, QC

WISH ME LUCK!

***Totally off topic, but I find it hillarious when the spellcheck feature they use on a blog doesn't recognise the word "blog".  Just sayin'.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Mothers day

I don't think there's many of us out there, but I insisted on making myself my own cake for mothers day.  I really enjoy doing it, so why not.  I also convinced my husband to buy me my mothers day gift early so I could play with some new gum paste flowers.  My gum paste didn't work out very well, I think the substitutions I had to make made it not work so well, so I'll try it another way next time, but the flowers were nice, just a touch more fragile than they should have been.  I also decided to make a cake for my sister, who managed to have her first baby right before mothers day (on the 9th), so I had 2 cakes to make (YAY!).  I wanted to make them very different, and more mature than my past cakes that I made neat - just for fun.  I think they turned out okay, but I learned a few things in the process..  It's all a giant learning curve I guess.

For my sisters cake, since her baby was a boy, I chose white and blue as the main colours for the cake and decided on fondant to cover the cake because it gives it a much smoother texture.  I topped her tiered cake off with a large blue gerbera daisy and piped butter cream balls around the base of each tier to hide the slightly rough cuts of the fondant at the base of the cake (as I said, learning curve)..

This was the end result..  It looks enormous, but really it's only a 4" round on top of a 6" round (I actually found it harder to fondant the smaller cake, because there were more folds to deal with, but I didn't want to go too big).



So for my mothers day cake, I kept with the floral theme, because it's pretty.  I made a new batch of fondant because I was running low on the white I had, and decided to colour it while making it so I didn't have the 15-20 minute process of kneading the colour into the dough after the fact because it's pretty labour intensive.  On mine I had to be really careful because I forgot to sink in the dowels in the bottom layer to help support the top layer, so when I was cutting it it sank down a bit.. Oops, good thing I finished it the night before and also a good thing it wasn't full sized either.  Both cakes were made with my chocolate cake (mmmm).


On this one it's clear that I had a bit of an issue with the bottom layer and it wrinkled a bit when I put the fondant on - I think I was rushing it a bit too much, next time I will take my time.

Now I guess it's time to spill the beans on my chocolate cake recipe..




Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 F, grease 2 9" pans (or other size) and dust with flour.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix very well until it is uniform
3. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl (I use a large measuring cup - 4L instead of bowl)
4. Slowly pour wet into the dry ingredients and stir with  FORK (DO NOT BEAT) until smooth (don't over mix)
5. Pour into pans and bake about 35 minutes in centre of oven.  Cake is done when toothpick inserted in centre comes out smooth.

This recipe is also great for 24 large cupcakes or can be used to make smaller cakes, but cooking time will vary of course (my cupcakes take about 22 mins).

For this cake, I bought the good quality professional grade aluminium pans and found they cook much more evenly, but take a touch longer than the thinner store bought coated Wilton pans.  The edges when I took the cake out though were much more moist which impressed me immensely and now I'm saving up for a new set of pans.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pie-Cake

So far my greatest masterpiece!  I'm quite proud.  It turned out way better than I had thought.  I was still playing around with my vanilla cake recipe, so I decided to make the centre that cake.  I also decided to make cherry pie, because it looks nice and lumpy.  The first challenge was to carve the cake into the shape so it fits perfectly into the pie pan, but instead, I just figured I'd use the pie pan.  I used disposable 9" round pans.
The 9" pie pan took about half the batter, so the rest I used to make cupcakes and a rolled cake.  I could have cut the recipe in half in retrospect, but I didn't know how much I'd need, so I used full recipe.  It cooked pretty much just like my 8 1/2" round cake pans, which is nice because cook time was predictable.  When it was done I took it out and let it cool int he cake pan.


The next trick was getting it out of the pan.  The top of the cake was over the rim of the pan and it was kind of stuck, so I took a fork and gently pulled the cake in towards the centre of the cake to release it all the way around because I didn't want it to break.  Once it was loose all the way around I turned it upside down but it was pretty stuck so I did the next best thing.  Considering its a disposal pie pan I cut through the rim of it and peeled it off half at a time.



Next step was to roll out my fondant that I had coloured with "ivory" colouring (perfect choice).  I roll it out on wax paper because when I roll it nice and thin I find it hard to transfer without ripping.  I used a new 9" pie pan.  This is pretty much exactly like laying out pie pastry (which I was never good at).



The next step I didn't take a photo of, but with the cake portion upside down I smoothed on a thin layer of butter cream icing on the bottom and sides (to help the fondant stick), I then carefully flipped the cake right side up into the fondant pie crust in the pan.
Now the next part is where it starts to come together and look really neat.  I coloured some of my butter cream icing red using the red GEL food colouring.  I iced the top of the pie-cake with the red icing making sure not to get any onto the "crust".  When it was smoothed, I added some drained maraschino cherries (I dried them with a Scott towel first to get off the excess liquid).

Next I rolled out another piece of fondant to use for the top.  I made sure that it was at least 10" in diameter so it would cover the cake.  I then trimmed the excess fondant off the sides and pressed the 2 layers of fondant together.

I made the teardrop shapes I commonly see on pies (used as vents in actual baking of pies apparently).


Next I broke out the other food colouring gels I have along with water, a paintbrush, icing sugar and a clean Scott towel.  I put just a drop of chocolate brown colouring on a plate  and added some water and icing sugar (water to make it go farther and icing sugar to re thicken it so it wouldn't run).  I went around the edge of the crust brushing the colour lightly around the edge, went around a second time with a bit darker right on the very edge (because it bakes darker usually). 



After, I went over the main part of the pie with a damp Scott towel dipped in the colouring..  I used a scrap piece of the fondant I had cut off to test the colour before putting it on the pie, because I didn't want to mess it up.  Yet again, I made the little bumps over the cherries a bit darker, because they commonly bake darker as well (but not much, I tried to make it quite discreet).  Lastly, I noticed that the red icing wasn't quite as red as I would have liked and didn't look very cherry like, so I took the red food colouring gel and put a drop on the plate and painted it very carefully into the teardrop shapes on the cake to make it jump out more and it worked nicely, it gave it a much deeper colour..



Here is the cut cake when we served it.  To make it look more realistic when cut, I could have coloured the cake batter red so it looked more like cherries all the way through but I'm not a huge fan of excessive food colouring in my food, so I left it out.  The whole point is it looked awesome and tasted just as good, most people thought it was actually a pie.  Sadly my pies don't ever come close to looking this good.  Oh well..  That is the sage of pie-cake.  Now in the battle of pie and cake and people debating which is better, I have answered the question..  Pie-cake is best...




***I added the fondant recipe I use to the "icings" section found on the right tab.  Note I wrote out the recipe, then added some notes at the end.  I messed it up my first time doing it and it's not a quick task to make fondant..  Best made the night before unless you have a lot of spare time.