Cake Bake and Sweets Show 2014

Disclaimer: I’m getting a media pass to visit this show. I’m fairly sure it’s because they saw my burger cake.

So I never used to be a baker. I always considered myself more of a cook. I was, and am, of the opinion that while cooking is something of an art, baking is much more of a science. Not to say that you can’t bake with flair – many people do it every day – but baking appears to deal with a much greater level of precision when it comes to the chemistry that underpins sweet deliciousness.

That all changed when I started my previous job, and there was a cultural norm in the team that everyone baked. It got to the point that we’d half-joke about asking questions when interviewing for new team members about their baking prowess. Half-joke.

Over the past three years, I’ve developed a set of precision skills, almost out of professional necessity, and now baking is something that doesn’t seem particularly daunting to me. In fact, it’s something I really enjoy, and I’m angling for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer – cobalt blue, if you’re offering – for Christmas.

But Christmas is so far away, and there are many, many baked treats and sweets to be had in the meantime. Coming up next weekend (21-23 March 2014) is Sydney’s inaugural Cake Bake and Sweets Show.

cake bake and sweets show

There are a bunch of celebrities who will be there doing demonstrations and no doubt signing books – I’ll have to remember to bring my Eric Lanlard book along – including Adriano Zumbo, Eric Lanlard, Duff Goldman, and a long list of reality TV show cooks. Speaking of reality TV cooks, I ran into a former masterchef contestant at work the other day, and rather embarrassingly insisted that she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t pinpoint where we’d met before. I’m sure she gets it all the time, but I felt rather silly when my colleague told me she was on masterchef last year. Oops.

Anyway, the good PR folks at the Cake Bake and Sweets show have given me a double pass to the show to give away to my blog readers (those of you who have stuck around through the arid desert that has been my posting activity of late).

So to win, just leave a comment below telling me  your favourite baked treat. The tickets are physical, and they’ve been mailed to me (oldskool) so you’ll have to put an entry in by 5pm Wednesday 19 March to ensure I can get the tickets to you.

 

Baking the cover

I changed jobs about three months ago, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with my working conditions. I’ve got a stupidly large desk in front of a window adjacent to a tree where various native birds have turf wars with crows, presumably for nesting spots, I find the work I’m doing is actually engaging, and my team is full of bright, fun people. Who are obsessed with cake.

Whenever anyone asks, it’s a reflex action for me to deny having any particular skill in baking. It’s not that I can’t bake, I just feel that I’m more of a cook than a baker. To me, baking feels like a science, all about precise measurement and timing, whereas cooking involves creativity and a certain amount of flair. I’ve never been very good at following precise instructions. But as you’ll see, I’m getting better at it.

One afternoon a couple of weeks ago, my boss playfully suggested that she had a new project for me. I thought she was going to ask me to re-write some content for a website or something, but instead she held up the current issue of Delicious magazine and said with a huge smile on her face, “I think you should make this.”

I’m fairly sure she was just joking, but always up for a challenge, I decided to call her bluff. Thus I embarked on a two day process that pretty much rivalled the burger cake in terms of difficulty.

First of all, the cake wasn’t a single cake at all. It was a tower of four cakes, each of which were made up of two tiers: a shell of dacquoise and a ‘filling’ of a cake with buttermilk and shredded coconut. Then there was the fact that the measurements weren’t so much in cups and tablespoons, but in grams and millilitres; that made me a little anxious.

So let’s get to the making of. First up was beating the dacquoise, which is basically a meringue with almond meal folded through it.

imageIt ends up pretty thick, so to get an even covering of each of the four cake pans, you have to pipe it in. As you’ll see, I got better at this piping thing as I went along.

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imageThen came the ‘cradle cake’, which was more meringue, with plain flour, butter, buttermilk, baking powder and shredded coconut.
imageAgain, this was piped into the cake tin, and I guess its called the cradle cake because it’s cradled by the dacquoise.
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imageThey go into the oven for 50 minutes, and then cool in the tins. At this point, I went out to the last roller derby bout of the year, had my face painted, got a little boozy, and then stopped off for laksa on the way home.
imageSo by the time I got home, the cakes were well and truly cool. Then the sandwiching began. Cake, whipped cream, sliced mango, more whipped cream, then cake. Repeat.
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imageThis then gets covered in cling wrap, and sits in the fridge overnight. The next morning, it’s time to make it look pretty. Which is a process of piping – yes, more piping – meringue around the cake stack. Now for some reason, the instructions called for the sugar to be boiled into a hot syrup before it’s added to the egg whites. I’m not sure exactly why that is – I’m sure there will be more experienced bakers out there who know – but my best guess is that it forms a harder crust when you brulee it and then let it cool.
imageOh yeah, there’s bruleeing involved. Which is awesome, because I’ve been a bit of a pyromaniac since I was a kid. Big thanks to Agnes of Off the Spork for the loan of her blowtorch for this step. I was almost going to use this cake as an excuse to buy one for myself like that time when I organised a margarita night as an excuse to buy a blender, but inexplicably, this time I showed some uncharacteristic restraint.
imageAt this point, I started to get a little excited. I thought, “Hey wow! I might actually pull this off!” Of course, there was going to be the issue of transporting the cake to work, and because I didn’t own a cake container large enough to fit the completed cake, I decided to top it once I got into the office. I was a little nervous as I boarded first the train, and then a bus to get to work. Turns out I didn’t really need to worry, because the height of the cake meant it was perfectly wedged in the container, preventing it from moving.
imageFirst, I topped the cake with what I believe Nigella would call ‘lashings’ of whipped cream, then arranged thin slices of mango on top of that.
imageAdd some halved blueberries to that…
imageAnd some little teensy young mint leaves. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any jasmine flowers, which the recipe called for, so this was my voila! moment.
imageAll in all, I think I did pretty well.
imageSo here’s what the cake looked like inside. It was an interesting cake; the dacquoise adds a nice chewy texture, and the coconut and mango are a pretty no-brainer flavour combination. The mint and blueberries gave a nice lift to the flavour too, but overall, I still felt the cake was a little too sweet. I think perhaps it would have been better if the mangoes had been less ripe, and a little more tart. Also, the cake came out a little dry. I think I’d add more cream if I were ever to attempt this again.
imageFinally, thanks to my workmate Eric for taking a proper photo with a proper camera of the cake. 😉

Nothing says “I love you, #fatty” like a burger cake

It’s @eatnik‘s birthday today. Happy birthday #fatty!!

For a few weeks, @jeroxie and I had been scheming and planning a birthday cake for her, as she’d been the kind purveyor of awesome birthday cakes for us both (a crazily rich milo cake upon my request, and an impressive Words with Friends cake for Penny) as well as a team effort with @meatnik to make a croquembouche – that shat all over any masterchef contestant’s – for @th0i3‘s 30th.

So whatever we came up with, it was going to have to be plucked from the clouds of awesome. Initially, we’d toyed with the idea of a rainbow cake. They seem to be a little en vogue of late, and the flavour possibilities seemed exciting. Then we though something a little more personalised might be a better idea. I floated the idea of a ‘pork belly’ cake, with layers of strawberry sponge meat and white chocolate mousse fat, topped with a bruleed layer of ‘crackling’. I still think I’ll get around to that one day. But when @eatnik announce last week that her birthday celebrations were going to be “burgers and beers” at Thousand Pound Bend, it was time for a cake rethink.

With a little research, and some very helpful advice given by professional cake decorator @sweet_libertine, the burger cake seemed feasible, and actually easier than the pork belly monstrosity we’d been dreaming up.

Now I didn’t take photos of the cake making process, but in essence, this is what the cake was composed of:

  • an orange chiffon cake (for the top of the bun) – from Poh’s recipe, with extra orange essence for a super-charged zing)
  • a chocolate pound cake (for the patty) – from a recipe sourced from @essjayeff, with added cocoa and Hershey’s chocolate syrup – props to @th0i3 for co-baking this with me!
  • another variation on Poh’s chiffon cake, without the orange, but with hazelnut meal added (for the base of the bun).

This was also my first attempt at working with – and making my own – fondant icing. It’s kind of fun, but gets a little messy! I used this recipe, but found I needed to add a lot more icing sugar than they had suggested, partly because I was using liquid food colouring instead of gel colour.

Anyway, to assemble it, I created a skirt of fondant icing for the burger base. Given the amount of icing I was going to be using for everything else, I only wanted it around the edges, for presentation. There’s only so much sugar in a cake that even I can stand! That gooey stuff seeping out is a sour cream frosting that I was using as glue for the fondant.imageA thicker layer of the sour cream frosting went over that, to form the mayo, and then some ruffled green fondant for the lettuce.imageOnce the lettuce layer was done, I added some atomic red fondant tomato slices. See that chocolate pound cake waiting patiently in the background? It’s up next!imageI shaved the top and parts of the edges off, so it woud be more of a patty shape.imageThen, following @sweet_libertine’s advice, I covered it all with ganache – made with Lindt dark Chilli Intense chocolate and sour cream – and glued bits of crumbled pound cake on top, to give it that rough burger mince look.imageThe patty goes on, and I start getting excited about how well it’s all turning out.imageOf course, there’s a reason ‘I can haz cheezburger’ is a meme, and ‘I can haz burger’ is not. I made the fondant cheese Swiss because, well, it looked more obviously like cheese. There’s nothing subtle about a novelty burger cake OK, people?imageThe trickiest part with the fondant was probably laying a huge sheet of it over the top of the bun. To do this, I rolled it out on a sheet of baking paper, then flipped it over onto the cake. Ad thankfully, it came off without a hitch! I don’t think I could really have tried it a second time without making more icing, because once it hits the frosting, the icing can’t really be moved or re-used. And yes, for those continuity geeks playing at home, yes, I did this bit before assembling the rest of the cake. It just seemed more logical to show you the process from bottom to top.imageThen I shaped some novelty sesame seeds out of white fondant, and glued them on using the sour cream frosting.
imagePlace the top on, and voila! Novelty burger cake success!
imageHere’s a shot of how the cake looked on the inside. Try as I might, I couldn’t make it look like anything other than the mess you dread to clean up, with a hangover, the next morning after a big party.imageHappy birthday #fatty!