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


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.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A bad day

Thursday was a bad day for me.  My student loans didn't come in so i'm incredibly short on cash.  What I usually do when I've had a bad day was bake, but I said I wouldn't..  Yeah, that went right out the window.

I used to comfort eat when i'd had a bad day because it made mee feel better (albeit briefly).  Since starting this cake decorating stuff, i've found that what works even better to make me feel better is to decorate cakes and try out nerw tricks and such, but sadly the end result is the same, I end up with a 2 layer cake or 24 cupcakes sitting around looking pretty and calling to me.

I made my vanilla cake but in cupcake form and I changed the recipe from last time.  I lowered slightly the amount of vegetable oil in the recipie and incresed slightly the baking soda/vinegar ratio to make it lighter.  I think it worked pretty well, so I will update the vanilla recipe to reflect the changes I made.

To save my waistline the hit (yeah right) I dropped half of the cupcakes at the daycare for the staff, considering my 3 beasts had been there a week and they weren't begging me to take them home yet.  The other half of them were sacrificed to..  well, us..

That's my latest decorating technique that I practiced..  I was going to make something fancy for tommorow, but i'm not too sure now that I just finished these.. 


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Bad Weather Blues

Whenever the weather is borderline like this (kind of chilly, rainy and grey) it makes me want to bake, which does not help my waistline.  I need to keep busy and think of other things, which is currently much easier consider 2 of the kids are at daycare and the other one is pretty sick so she's confined herself to her bed (poor thing).  She hasn't eaten in almost 3 days now, gotta love Gastro.

I really need to find more excuses to make cakes or cupcakes, I'm going stir crazy resisting temptation to whip up a new cake every "blah" day.  As promised, I will avoid speaking of cake and go on more about my fitness regime.

Having given birth 3 times in less than 3 year, my body went through hell.  I went from a relatively fit 165 pound me before I got pregnant to a 250 pound me near the end of my last pregnancy, mostly baby, water and the fact I'd eaten WAY too many treats in my 3 pregnancies and didn't really have time to recover my form between babies.  I vowed I wouldn't live my life as an overweight person blaming the fact I became a busy mom for my excess weight.  I knew it wouldn't be an easy journey.  Once the baby was born, I shrunk to about 220 pounds once the water weight left, and felt overwhelmed. 

Baby steps.  We moved 6 weeks after the baby was born, which made my life pretty busy for a while packing and such with 3 kids, but I was happy we were moving back into the area near where my Karate school from 5-6 years back was.  When I moved away from the school, I was an orange belt and I loved doing it.  I figured going back to the same area was a sign that I should go back, and I did.  A lot had changed in 5-6 years and all the faces I recognised were all black belts or higher now.  No matter - I was motivated!  I relearned everything I had forgotten and have since passed my test to purple belt, and have my green belt test in May.  Not too shabby, but I wasn't getting the full benefit of the weight loss in the workout.  Muscular strength - sure - I was improving that, and I did shed about 15 pounds, but seemed to stall there.  I needed to do more than 2 hours of Karate a week. 

I set a CRAZY goal for myself - and I put it out there for the whole world to see on facebook and twitter (well, at least my family).  I vowed that by summer 2013, I would run a triathlon.  I looked into it, it didn't seem that far fetched considering a "sprint level" triathlon is a 750m swim (I USED to be a lifeguard) followed by a 20km bike ride (I did a 250 km bike trip in 4 days once) and finally a 5 km run (okay - never run that far in my life).  I was motivated!  I only had one thing to work on, this is going to be a snap!  Alas - it was not so.  I started the training with a wonderful ap I found called C25K which helps map my runs and work me up to running the 5 km slowly.  Considering that this is the first time I'd ever really run, I went out a got actual running shoes (not cross trainers) and a pair of those evil spandex looking running pants (to prevent chaffing) and an awesome sports bra - because I certainly do NOT have the typical runners physique, I'm kind of..  "top heavy".

I started the 9 week training program about 6 weeks ago..  and am only on week 3.  I keep getting sick!  I also bought a new (old) bike to replace my second hand walmart special from last year that had essentially fallen apart on me.  I figured getting on the bike would be easy, having done that bike trip back in..  wait..  2002?  Oh man, 10 years ago..  This ISN'T going to be easy.  And it's not.  My legs feel like they are going to fall off after 2 km, but maybe next week it's be after 2.5 km and then 3 km..  I'll work up to it.

Swimming, well, I'll start that in the winter most likely and then start block training (two sports back to back) by April or so.  Ideally, I'll be ready, only time will tell, but either way I WILL do the triathlon, even if I keep up the rear the whole time, just to prove to myself that I can.

So right now my fitness routine looks something like this:
Sunday: Zumba (am), Bike ride (pm)
Monday: Jog (pm)
Tuesday: Zumba (pm)
Wednesday: Bike (am), Karate (pm)
Thursday: Jog (pm)
Friday: Karate (pm)
Saturday: Jog, bike ride

Most weeks I end up not doing the outdoor stuff due to rain, but that's pretty much been my last 2 weeks.  It is supposed to clear up tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get out there for a long awaited jog.  My goal is ultimately 170 lbs..  More would be great.  I've got 25 pounds to go, and it's never easy, but in the long run I figure I'm doing it for my family and also for myself (I feel SO much better not carrying around the extra weight).  Considering all the cakes I've made recently, I'm surprised I don't look pregnant again because of all the sweets, but that's the exercise doing its thing.

And now I'll reminisce about tasty cakes of the past, because I can..

Easter cake

My 27th Birthday cake 

"Buttercream" flower on chocolate cupcake

Caterpillar in the grass (on cupcake)

My 2nd daughters birthday cake - Elmo