MOANA

Disneys new film “Moana” has taken over households all over the world and I’m sure most can agree it’s a total hit with the kids and parents! When I watched the film I fell in love with all of the beautiful colours, nature and of course the MUSIC! So for this week I had a challenge on my hands which was given to me by one of my dear friends who NEVER colours within the lines! She has a unique soul and is always up for creating something bigger and better. The challenge was to create a Moana themed dessert table for Nyla’s 3rd birthday with Moana themed desserts, tropical styling and just a giant life size 3D Tamatoa cake!? So I have never created a 3D novelty cake like this but when she showed me the cake she wanted how could I say no?! Secretly I was excited as hell and so ready to take this on! As a caker, cakes can sometimes be a little repetitive and it can often put a hold on creativity, so this was definitely something i was excited about as i got to spread my wings and let the creativity flow!

The purpose of this blog post is to sum up some of the highlights of the dessert table, some tips and ideas for creating your own Moana themed table and some of my fails and triumphs. I’ll also be posting some tips for the desserts if you’re thinking of going all out Moana style! Here we go!

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The first thing about styling these kind of tables is TIME! YOU NEED TIME! Of course the desserts and cake can wait till the week of, but my biggest tip of all is to start early! Buying things online can be troublesome so always try to buy things early to leave room for mistakes (buying online has its moments).

Have a plan! What route do you want to go with? Are you focusing on “ocean” vibes or are we staying on the sand? Or both? My biggest issue is wanting to do too much! But sometimes the K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid) rule applies heavily here! With such a beautiful theme like Moana its easy to get carried away with flowers, greenery, fruit, shells etc But be warned, sometimes your “plan” changes, like me, changes were made right before the guests arrived (talk about indecisive).

For me, I had to work around the CAKE as it was pretty large and took up about 40% of the table. The cake had to be the centre of attention so it was a matter of “trial and error” but it worked out in the end! Now, not everything was all unorganised, messy chaos, there was LOADS of planning. But my other tip is to let it flow! Being a tropical laid back movie, it’s important to create that organic, natural feel that adds authenticity.

So for my table, i decided to have some kind of “flow” to it by adding fabric to the table that wasn’t completely smooth to create the illusion of movement. I was lucky enough to find these gorgeous shells that were brought by my grandparents from Cyprus over 30 years ago. These huge shells added to the authentic touch that is needed, and helped stay true to the theme. I stuck to a “rustic” wooden feel with the use of crates, cake stands, wooden stumps and palettes that added to the natural look which were collected over time from previous prop sales and garage sales. Buying tropical fresh fruits and florals that will add to your colour scheme can also really make everything pop and make it authentic!

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A cool tip is to use a pineapple as a flower vase! Carefully cut the top of the pineapple head and then scoop out the flesh the day before using a knife and spoon. Cut a circle at the top as a guide and then scoop away, making sure to leave a slightly thick skin on it so it doesn’t become flimsy (make sure not to scrape all the way down the bottom and leave a decent foot). I spray painted it gold and added the florals in on the day as well as fresh monstera leaves at the back to give it more height. I also matched the colours to the macarons which were made by “Macarons by Maree” as well as matched the colours to the fruit.

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What I loved most about the table was that so many characters were highlighted, from the GIANT Tamatoa cake, to the gourmet caramel apples which were inspired by Te Fiti. I handmade sugar frangipanis and dusted the middle with yellow petal dust and the mini pink ones with a fuchsia petal dust. As Te Fiti has a green moss texture to her in the film, i also wanted to create the look of “moss” on the outside of the apples. I’ll be posting up a tutorial/blog about how i achieve this look so stay tuned!

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Additionally, Maui and Moana were highlighted on the background as well as her adorable little pets.

Even the crazy Kakamora pirates were at the party!  I actually found fresh coconuts and painted their little faces on using acrylic paint. I actally cheated and ran out of time and used fondant to add to their faces, and it worked a treat! (TIP: If youre using fondant add it when the paint is dry).

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Now just because the table had so much going on, and the cake was the centrepiece the desserts didn’t lack any details! The mini tarts were beach themed with white chocolate ganache inside tinted a pale shade of blue, with pearly sugar shells and biscuit crumbs to resemble sand.

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The jelly cups were inspired by my latest trip to Hawaii where i had an amazing encounter with some GIANT turtles where we got to interact with them on the shore! Such an amazing experience had to be recreated in a little dessert cup. I also made cute little chocolate turtles and had them just pulling up onto the shore! The turtles were made with milk chocolate and i used a silicone mould (TIP: if you’re planning on making a lot of these turtles buy a few moulds to save time).

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I just had to add some tropical fever to these desserts so I had to make a silky smooth mango panacotta with a glittery pineapple and glittery palm tree made by “Have it Made by Leanne Marie” to just add that extra sparkle!

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Not to mention those awesome volcano pyramid chocolates with a caramel interior, that oozes out just like lava!

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And lastly, the cake. This cake was inspired by Ashlee Marie, with a few changes! What a cake it ended up being! I have to say the worst part was transporting this cake as it weighed over 30kgs and was roughly 24 inches in length not including the legs! The shells and treasures on his back took about 2 days to make and all in all was a great experience. I used rolkem super gold to paint his shell to give him his “shiny” look. On the areas where his claws are there is an orange and purple blended look to it and i actually used fuchsia petal dust to achieve this. You can also use an airbrush but using the dust gave me more control and a concentrated colour. I also handmade Maui’s hook because well it is the main reason for this scene! His hook was created using gum paste and i used a clay extruder to give me those thin brown strings around the hook. I used a range of interesting piping tips to give me a pattern on the hook, to which i painted these sections in an ivory food colouring to create more depth and authenticity.

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Oh there are so many things you could do with this theme and this is just the tip of the ice berg! GO NUTS! COCONUTS IN FACT!

Ok, i couldn’t resist, Nyla’s mum asked me to dress as Moana so i just had too! HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY TO NYLA! We hope you enjoyed your Moana themed party!

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More blog posts to follow about the cake and possibly some tutorials about how to make some of the desserts.

As always, I hope you are having a great week!

Love always, Nelle or Moana xox

L O V E

Happy Valentine’s day to all the love birds out there, whether you’re celebrating with your loved one or not take this day to tell someone you love, that you absolutely, positively adore them. Where do I begin? Some wise love writers and poets before me may describe love as having no boundaries, a feeling with no end, a true expression of gratitude. But that’s not me HA! To me, love means SUGAR, CAKE AND CHOCOLATE! What better way to show someone you love them but with food GLORIOUS food! Now other than sweet bakes I’m a savoury gal myself, so if someone cooks me a home cooked meal I’m in instant love. I thought I would note down some of my perfect valentine’s day ideas both cake related and let’s say “date” related just incase you’re stuck on ideas or not much of a romantic but still want to do something absolutely sweet!

If you’re a guy or girl and you’re reading this and you want to buy something for your significant other here is what I think.

Sure, roses, chocolates a simple card and a teddy are cute and definitely a great gift, chances are once the roses are dead, chocolates are eaten and teddy are consumed by dust it won’t be remembered. Here’s what I think, if you’re a baker like me a customised gift is awesome even though yes they are eaten your partner will get a kick out of all the effort you go to as well as find your customisation a nice touch. Another great gift idea is something i find super super cute and a little out of the box. It’s cost effective and thoughtful and something i actually have done in the past (do not judge my level of cheesiness) I grabbed a deck of cards and wrote a “reasons why i love you” mini book. Yep, sugar and spice and everything CHEESY! HAHA

Another idea is to do something fun together as a team because well today is the day you guys can celebrate your love and possibly show the world (I mean Facebook) about how awesome your little A team is (ha-ha just kidding, I love you all). I would recommend definitely cooking each other a meal or if you’re the one who does all the cooking, id hint to your partner that perhaps they better get their MasterChef on. But anyway I’m not a love guru so what do I know. Either way, enjoy doing something fun together!

Anyhow, this is what I did for valentine’s day. Of course I resorted to baking because it’s in my blood, sugar is officially running through my veins. I made customised cookies inspired by sweetheart candies that I purchased throughout my recent travels to Hawaii. I’ve always had a soft spot for these pastel little sweet hearts however has anyone actually read their conversations? WOW, here are what some say:

  • LOL
  • TXT ME
  • LOVE BUG
  • XOXO
  • CUTIE PIE
  • PUPPY LOVE
  • YOU ROCK

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So as you can see its pretty dull, but hey it has a certain sweetness to it 😉 Instead of those messages I decided to make mine completely, utterly personal and relate them back to our trip in Hawaii.

Now Mr Sprinkles had an obsession with the fried chicken over there, so I decided to write the words FRIED CHICKEN. Yep he got a cookie shaped as a love heart with the words fried chicken. Perhaps next time ill make it fried chicken flavoured as an April fools joke 😉

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As well as you had me at ALOHA because HAWAII DUH?!

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I also had to include some fruit puns so I included “I’m coconuts for you” and “you’re a fine-apple” because he’s a pretty fine- apple, occasionally.

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The last one I included was I LOVE SNORKELLING. This one is really hilarious to me because over in Hawaii we both experienced snorkelling for the first time and after our first snorkelling encounter he would not shut up about snorkelling. Of course I made fun of it as I do and said he would start snorkelling in the bath tub when he got home HAHA! And so, bae had to have a cookie with his one true love on it SNORKELLING!

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I also sandwiched them together with more cookies and caramel because bae loves caramel! Giggles aside, he loved them.

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Happy valentine’s day to all you lovers out there, and to all my single pringles I hope your day is as magical as ever because the only person in the world who actually NEEDS to love you is YOU so love yourself first!

Love always, your baking cupid, Nelle

Xoxo

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Ps, if anyone wants to be my valentines date you know the drill. FOOD.

Strawberry Milkshake Panacotta!

During high school until now I have had a strawberry milk obsession, when I say obsession I mean I use to drink it almost every single day! So I had to do what any normal person would do, make a dessert inspired by strawberry milk! The one thing that I make almost  every week is panacotta, which is a light milk based custard. Milk + strawberries = Strawberry milk! But I also wanted to make something pretty, easy to make and something I also always loved as a child growing up was STRAWBERRY NESQUIK! Voila! I bring you the winning dessert, my strawberry milkshake panacotta! I say winning because…

A few months ago I entered this recipe into a competition called The Yellow Pages’ search for Sydney’s Undiscovered Baking Legend and it WON! YAY! *throws confetti* The prize was that I got to be featured on the front cover of the yellow pages for 2017, as well as have my recipe printed in the book. This is definitely a dream come true and I am beyond honoured and blessed to have this opportunity. This competition is such an honour to be a part of because it highlights Australia’s greatest love, FOOD! In saying this, the competition also partnered with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) which is an organisation based on helping women and children in both regional and rural Australia, by empowering one another through baking and a love for food. More information about the organisation can be found in the 2017 edition of the yellow pages. I think it’s very important to understand how much food has grown in the last decade and how much it is still growing! Desserts and sweets especially, have begun to take over the nation. Food is a universal language and brings us together so share this recipe with your friends and family and enjoy!

You’ll find a hard copy of the strawberry milkshake panacotta recipe in the yellow pages 2017, and if you get the chance to get a copy of the local newspapers (Canterbury express and the Torch) You’ll be able to read a bit more about my journey. But for now, I’ll share the recipe here, a few tips and tricks and my TOP TIP for baking that I use absolutely every time.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/the-express/janelle-halil-to-feature-on-yellow-pages-cover-after-winning-sydneys-undiscovered-baking-legend-with-strawberry-panna-cotta-recipe/news-story/c676a69f3f96000f3ffb37bee877ced7

Strawberry Milkshake Panacotta

Ingredients

200ml milk
200ml cream
¼ cup strawberry Nesquik
2 tablespoons of white sugar (optional if the Nesquik doesn’t make it sweet enough)
5g powdered gelatine
water to soak the gelatine

Method

  1. Weigh out your gelatine and add some water to soak until and leave to bloom for about 5 minutes
  2. Add the milk, cream and Nesquik into a low-heat saucepan and dissolve (DO NOT BOIL)
  3. Once all dissolved take off the heat and add in the mass of gelatine (I say mass because your gelatine should be all in one big mass)
  4. Once the gelatine is dissolved, put your mix through a strainer and serve into glasses or dessert cups

TIPS:

  1. Always strain your mix to catch any little clumps of gelatine
  2. Taste test your recipe to make sure it isn’t too sweet or not sweet enough
  3. Add your mix into the fridge when it has cooled, if you put your dessert in the fridge hot it will form a skin
  4. SMILE and have a great attitude when baking, believe it or not, it will affect your end result 🙂

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@YellowAustralia

Love Nelle, xox

CUPCAKES!

Want to know the ins and outs of making cupcakes?

So firstly what are “CUP” cakes, they are little cakes made in cupcake liners or patty papers and cooked in individual cupcake/muffin trays. Although cupcakes have evolved from the simple butterfly cakes into little decorative works of art with intricate fondant designs, lashings of fluffy buttercream and even cupcake towers. I’ve probably made well over 1,000 cupcakes in my time (I’m not that old HAHA), and I have definitely had my fair share of damaged, burnt and sunken cupcakes, which I actually don’t regret. Why? Because it taught me so much about how to achieve the perfect cupcake!

So here are a few of my tips to achieve the perfect cupcakes.

  1. Use an ice cream scoop to get even and consistent cupcakes
  2. Make sure your oven temp is on the perfect temperature and you put your cupcakes in the middle of the oven to achieve an even bake (yes some people put them in at the bottom but it depends on your oven) I’ve found that in a sensitive oven putting in the middle always works!
  3. Don’t over bake them, a tray of 12 should only take around 15 minutes depending on the recipe.
  4. Your ingredients should be room temp, including eggs, butter and even milk, you know that curdling you see once you start adding milk? Well I’ve found that if your milk is cold it starts to shock your batter.
  5. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT put your cupcakes in any kind of air tight container and put the lid on if any of the cupcakes are warm. Even if you put 1 hot cupcake in a container full of cold cupcakes the liners will start to detach from the cupcake.
  6. Always tip your cupcakes from the cupcake tray when they come out of the oven to avoid any burnt/overcooked bottoms.
  7. Buttermilk or yoghurt is a great addition to achieve that fluffy moist texture!

Decorating cupcakes:

So what’s your favourite way to decorate cupcakes? Are you a buttercream lover or a fondant lover? Do you prefer jam and cream? Or do you just want them completely plain?

I personally prefer the taste of IMBC or SMBC (Italian/Swiss meringue buttercream) or jam and cream BUT I prefer the look of fondant. So what I normally do if I’m decorating cupcakes for an event is to put SMBC underneath a fondant topper. To further explain, the fondant tipper is made prior to baking the cupcakes where they go hard and form a domed shape that covers the cupcake and frosting. The domed cupcake toppers I made can be made using either cupcake dome foam or you can do what I do and make it using a sphere silicone mould. I use a round cookie cutter that fits about ½ an inch over the actual cupcake size the one I usually use is 78mm in width. Cut them out one by one as you work with them and I also use a foam ball to shape these rounds before placing them on the silicone mould to harden. To turn them into “couture” cupcakes add various ornate looking mould shapes and details to add to that polished and prestigious look! You can literally go nuts with design.

Once your cupcakes are baked, cooled and your toppers are hardened, add some frosting to the bottom of the topper and put on top of the cupcake, don’t add too much TRUST ME I’ve made this mistake and its literally squished out the sides (FAIL).

Because I’ve been so MIA with these posts I thought I’d explain for those who are demanding answers (no one HAHA), I have been extremely busy trying to finish off university and thankfully I am completely finished! So now its caking time! This will be my last post until January 2017…Something exciting and special is coming so please stay tuned and subscribe to this blog because it is where I’ll be announcing it!

Thank you for your patience and support for everyone who read, shared and commented on my blogs I have lots of love and respect for you all. Here is an awesome cupcake recipe that I go to EVERY SINGLE TIME! As well as some pictures of couture cupcakes I’ve made to serve as inspiration for your next cupcake adventure.

Makes 24 cupcakes
Ingredients:

2 ½ cups SF flour
¼ teaspoon Salt
113g Butter
2 Eggs
1 Vanilla bean
1 Milk
¼ cup Buttermilk
1 ¾ cup Sugar

Method:

  1. Cream your butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy
  2. Add eggs one at a time and scrape in between
  3. Sift flour and weigh out your milk and buttermilk
  4. Add flour and milk alternatively
  5. Beat for 20 seconds until pale
  6. Scoop into your cupcake liners and bake at 130-50 degrees for 15 minutes

 

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Love Nelle, xox

DRIP CAKES!

So last week I touched on a popular cake trend which was naked cakes, this week it’s the DRIP CAKE! Everything you ever wanted to know will hopefully be highlighted in this blog and if it isn’t comment below and let me know! Let’s get started, shall we?! So the original drip cake, to my knowledge was created by the amazing Katherine Sabbath! Her tall sky scraping style cakes with fun and funky bright colours and decadent ice cream melting drips have taken over the nation! This style is so versatile and can be suited to almost any theme! Some more than others, some of my favourite themes that I think a drip cake goes perfectly with are:

  • Ice cream theme
  • Candy land
  • GAME OF THRONES! Yes, I mean a bloody drip…
  • HALLOWEEN! Yep more blood…
  • And many more!

But of course any theme and crazy colours and candies are just as good if not better! Drips are predominantly made using a ganache (1:1 ratio of chocolate and cream), the amount of ganache needed will vary according to how big (wide and tall) your cake is, how many tiers you have etc. I would recommend using a small amount and not an entire batch of ganache. You can even use royal icing and use at a semi runny consistency (15 second icing). Here are a few issues you may run into:

  • Your drip didn’t DRIP. You added the drip on and it was too thick, you tried to spread it but not it is a BIG mess!
  • Your ganache was too runny, it ran right down the cake and the drips didn’t have variation in height across the cake
  • Your buttercream wasn’t smooth to begin with and lacked sharp edges so your drip didn’t “sit right”
  • You coloured your chocolate and it seized
  • You added water, milk, butter, oil to the chocolate INSTEAD of cream…
  • The ganache was too hot when added (resulting in a melted mess)
  • The ganache was too cold when added (resulting in thickness)
  • You used liquid food colouring and it seized
  • Using chocolate or candy melts without cream

Here are a few of my tips that I’ve picked up along the way that will help you get started!

To achieve the perfect drip cake you need to start with a perfect foundation, what I mean is make sure your cake is covered and iced evenly, smoothly and free of bumps and ridges. Here is one of my favourite handy tricks to achieving this… It’s no secret but the LID METHOD!

For example, if you have an 8-inch cake use an 8-inch board on the bottom of your first layer and use an additional 8-inch board on top of your last layer so you have two boards on the bottom and top of your cake. firstly you should trim down the sides of your cakes using a serrated edge knife and make sure you leave a small gap between your cake layers and the bottom 8-inch board (this little gap is filled with buttercream so we don’t see your cake layers coming through).

  1. Cover the top board in a product called “go-between” or you can even use cling wrap. Make sur you securely attach this to the board without any spaces or gaps or it won’t work.
  2. I would secure the bottom board to the cake with a layer of buttercream and also add a layer of buttercream to the top board and flip it over to meet your cake.
  3. Place your hand firmly but gently on top of the cake and apply your buttercream GENEROUSLY, (you’ll scrape this off later).
  4. Now the fun part, grab a scraper of your choice that is as high as your cake (if it is not as high don’t worry you’ll just have to even it out as you go), if you cant find any decently priced scrapers head on over to Bunnings! My first scraper was from there, works a treat!
  5. Once you have completely scraped your buttercream back until your scraper meets the with the top and bottom board, pop it into the fridge to set completely. You should be able to touch the cake gently without any buttercream marks.

Note: Always make sure your cake is properly chilled to the touch, DO NOT FREEZE THEM! The drip will attach too quickly and won’t get to drip naturally. If your cake comes out of the fridge and it’s got little moisture bubbles, be cautious as the ganache drips it will start to try escape the cake and fall off, I am not sure why I’m assuming the moisture of the cake and ganache are just not friends. You can try pat it down with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture. It shouldn’t happen to you but if it does don’t panic just let it sit for 5 minutes it will be ok.

These are the best things to use for a drip:

  • Ganache (1:1 ratio of cream and chocolate), your consistency should be the same as pouring custard but a TAD thicker. Remember you can always adjust your ganache with a little warm cream. You also don’t want the ganache to be too runny or else it will just run down the cake and be a messy translucent mess.
  • Royal icing
  • Caramel! Although, you can’t colour it or paint it. My top tip for using caramel especially If you don’t want it to completely fall over the cake and lose its “drip” look, add some white chocolate into it or milk chocolate to thicken it up a little bit, it will give it a bit more body.

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Best cakes and fillings to use for a drip cake:

  • Anything! As long as it is a sturdy and delicious filling you should use it! although if you are using a soft filling I would recommend adding a thick buttercream layer as a dam to prevent seeping (use a round piping tip for this step).
  • You can use sponge cakes however keep in mind they will be softer than a mud cake and will dry out quicker.
  • In my opinion, mud cakes are easier to use as they are sturdy and stable but both will work! You can opt for a vanilla mud cake or a vanilla cake.

Remember, you can always use ganache to cover your cakes, you don’t have to use buttercream. You can even use fondant if you wanted to add a drip. Here is a cake I made using fondant covered in edible silver leaf and a black dark chocolate ganache drip.

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Colouring your drip:

  • It is best to use candy colours or any OIL based colours, these are really compatible with chocolate and won’t leave behind speckles or granules in your chocolate
  • Gel colours are great to use, however they may sometimes leave a speckled look behind
  • Powdered colours! I have used powder petal dust in a fuchsia pink to achieve a bubble-gum pink colour. However, I added it to the COLD chocolate and cream, mixed it all up in a bowl and added it into the microwave 30 seconds at a time. The colour was so vibrant!
  • To achieve a baby pink, you can use powders or gels but you may be left with a translucent colour that looks watered down, add a bit of white gel colouring or titanium powder to give it a more pastel feel.
  • To achieve a bright white drip, I recommend titanium powder first and then you can also try adding white food gel colouring.
  • If you wanted to achieve a black drip, definitely use dark chocolate and use black colouring (see above image).

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Painting your drip

  • If you wanted to paint your drip gold, silver or copper I recommend chilling your cake and allowing your drip to set, before you paint.
  • Use a mixture of rose spirit and lustre dust and make sure it isn’t too runny or too thick.
  • Paint it on using a brush that is not as wide as your drip as you want to ensure It doesn’t smear on to the cake

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Applying the drip

  • I often use a teaspoon to control the drip, use a small amount at a time depending on where you want your drip to go and then add it to the top of the cake and push it over the side gently controlling how far down the drip will go. I then add a thin layer of ganache to the top of my cake and smooth it out quickly and gently using an offset palette knife. You usually don’t see much of the top if you are adding décor to it.
  • You can also just pour about ½ a cup of ganache into the centre of your cake, smear it over with a spatula and hope that the drip cake gods give you a pretty drip all the way around (this is a bit unpredictable but it works too)
  • You can use a squeeze bottle used for sauces and can be found in majority of dollar stores, this is a great and easy method!
  • A disposable piping bag also works wonders if you want to control your drip

Note: I wouldn’t place my drips too closely together, space them out a little bit, if you want longer drips add more ganache, if you want shorter drips only use minimal amounts. It’s all about control with these babies!

My top tips for achieving a melted ice cream look:

  • Firstly, add your cake pop mix to an ice cream cone and attach it using chocolate to ensure it won’t fall off.
  • Now, you can do this two ways, the first would be to add your drip to your cake and then add your cake pop ice cream cone to the cake (un-ganached) and add ganache over the top of it.
  • Or you can add your drip to your cake and then dip your cake pop ice cream cone into ganache and apply it to the cake (this is how I do it).

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And here is my ultimate favourite drip cake inspired by Un-birthday bakery! This was actually my first drip cake I had ever made and so I was proud of it and enjoyed making this so much! I loved the contrast of the dark chocolate ganache drip and sunshine yellow buttercream. The bright colours of this cake were just beautiful, you can’t go wrong!

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Get DRIPPING! Oh and listen to this song while you’re making one 😉

 

 

Love Nelle, xox

Naked Cakes

One of the best cake trends of all time the NAKED CAKE! Considered to be an easy alternative to buttercream and fondant cakes, but are they?  The naked cake trend became popular let’s say 3-4 years ago and is still just as popular today! It is often preferred because of its natural look and minimalistic sugary taste in regards to the lack of fondant etc. The naked cake began as humble layers of cake sandwiched between a frosting of some sort and left as is without any additional smear of icing around the outer edge. BUT! Yet again, cakers have found a way to make the humble naked cake BIGGER, BETTER AND SUGARIER! But who’s complaining…Not me! These days you will see naked cakes adorned with fresh or sugar florals, covered in buttercream or ganache, layered with ganache or caramel drips and even the LOADED naked cake full of chocolates, chocolate shards, fairy floss, you name it! So what about assembly? Are these cakes as easy as just layering cakes and frosting? Of course not! What part of cakes is EASY? My philosophy is that if it’s too easy it isn’t enough! In my opinion, the challenge of new techniques and perfecting them is what drives me to continue, and even though naked cakes seem simple they are still nothing short of perfection, especially when someone says “I want a 4 tier naked cake for my wedding…IN SUMMER” um…ok NO PRESSURE. I agree they are easier and take less time but there are still a few tweaks and issues you may run into. Here’s a few…

  • You’ve stacked it up, and it’s on an angle.
  • The cakes dried out
  • Your buttercream on the outside isn’t smooth
  • You used a dark filling and a white frosting on the outside
  • You forgot to dam your edges…The caramel seeped out!
  • You added fresh florals…WITHOUT FLORAL TAPE AND SAFETY EQUIPMENT

There are a range of unique issues, however I’m going to share my tips and tricks to achieving a clean looking naked cake which I hope you enjoy and they help you with your next naked cake creation!

Tips

  • When making a naked cake ensure that you aren’t assembling them 4 days prior…for fondant cakes It’s a process, you bake, layer, ganache etc but for naked cakes they don’t have the same protective seal and so you should assemble them the day/night before and if you have time, do it the day of. Add your florals on the day of as well as other perishables like fairy floss. Lollipops should also stay wrapped until the day of.
  • If you have the fear of dry cakes, add simple syrup to your layers, naked cakes really benefit from this.
  • The best type of frosting to use is…whatever you like! If you like ganache, American, Italian, swiss buttercream, use it! I would however recommend adding a dam layer (layer of thick frosting like an American buttercream around the edges) around the edge of your layers if you are using filling layers like mousse, lemon curd, caramel… (See previous buttercream blog for more).
  • If you are wanting to create a semi naked cake, you would need to ensure your cakes are the same size in diameter and of course smooth around the edges, you can also trim your cakes a bit around the edges if you want to ensure this. I would highly recommend using a metal scraper or an acrylic, something with a sharp edge and preferably something that is the same height as your cake.
  • If you want to have a NAKED cake without the semi frosted look, but you still want to achieve a neat trim and not a squished frosting seeping out of the sides, create an even dam layer around the edges using a round piping tip of your choice, add your filling layer but do not scrape the dam layer into the filling layer. Refrigerate your cake and once refrigerated and set go around the edges with a little sharp knife and trim the frosting so it is flush with the cake!
  • To ensure your cake results in an even level and aren’t lop sided and on an angle, trim your cakes to size, what I like to do is use a soft tape measure and make sure each level of cake is perfectly level with each other so that each level of cake is the same in height, use a piping bag to pipe your filling layers and give it a quick smooth with a scraper, to smooth it off if you aren’t confident enough to use a spatula (no shame! I use a piping bag too!) get down to eye level, it always helps. I also use a leveller, bought from my local hardware store, they are the best!

Now adding fresh florals can be a bit of a nightmare, you have to make sure your flowers match the theme, are fresh, properly secured and attached to the cake using appropriate safety techniques such as floral tape, wire and floral picks. I have also used bubble straws and added the flowers into it (after floral tape had been added).

Some cake makers refuse to add fresh florals and leave it to the professionals to add them on which is also a great alternative! You can also add sugar flowers.

Here are a few variations made by me…

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Get in your kitchen and get NAKED! No, not that kind haha! Feel free to message or comment with any questions you may have!

Love, Nelle xox

Arabian Nights!

What did you do for your 21st? did you have a party? Travel? Quiet dinner? Go out? Get drunk? I think these days the options are limitless. But me personally, I had to have a themed extravaganza of a party! Styling other people’s events are always stressful and I mean stressful! You are literally in charge of the centrepieces of their party and being a cake/dessert maker, this double trouble combo is always even HARDER. Not only do you want everything to LOOK beautiful with complimentary props and details but you need the sweet stuff to look and taste nice! Even though other people’s events are stressful and hard I absolutely adore doing theirs a whole lot more than my own, it was 100x harder and more stressful! I initially didn’t want to celebrate it in a traditional fashion, however by the force of my overinvolved family (kidding guys I do love you all), we decided to throw a party. Not just a party but an Arabian Nights themed party. Cliché I know, but being half Turkish, I really wanted to showcase all the beauty of the theme. Now, I planned this for about 6 months. I had about a million and 1 ideas but I knew that I had to be realistic and think about things realistically and financially, let’s face it any type of event costs money, BIG money. I wanted something different, I had seen 100’s and 1000’s of Arabian events and I wanted mine to have my own special touch, personal details and showcase authenticity as well as a modern twist. The essence of the event was to capture the colourful and magical aspects of the Arabian world, from rose petals to spices and nuts, and GOLD, tonnes and tonnes of GOLD! But the look wasn’t the only thing I wanted, I wanted things to have a level of sophistication to it as if it was slightly planned but still organic. The vision I had was to create a spice market feel, where the entire place was filled made to look and feel like you were in an actual Arabian setting. The pillows were all handmade by my beautiful mother who is so patient and talented (one art I do not possess). They were all patterned and colourful with gold pillows thrown in. The ceiling was adorned with satin fabrics in different colours as I wanted everything bright, flowing and giving it that full effect! The food that was served was canapes and also food made by some of my family. I wanted specific foods which would also highlight the Arabian theme, and I had my nene (grandmother) make handmade vine leaves and my aunty made my favourite Turkish cheese bread (to die for guys!!!).

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We also had an array of other delicious things, there was just so much I couldn’t list. This was significantly important to me as I wanted to capture the generosity and lavishness of having an Arabian theme. Now to the really good sweet stuff all handmade and thought out by me. I wrote down a bunch of Arabian inspired desserts that I thought would be delicious and fit the theme beautifully, I also wanted to make things that people would enjoy. Here is the dessert menu from the night:
– Rose and raspberry panacotta
– Vanilla and rose Mahalepi (Turkish custard)
– Pina colada cheesecakes topped with dried pineapple flowers, non alcoholic 😉
– Vanilla cupcakes with Arabian decorated cupcake toppers
– Cinnamon cookies with Arabian decoration
– Lychee and raspberry jelly
– Tim tam mousse pops (not so Arabian, but Australian!)
– Coconut, apricot and date truffles
– Baklava
– Sutlu berek (Turkish custard pastries)
– Raspberry and rose mousse
– Turkish inspired rocky road filled with Turkish delight, pistachios, coconut, marshmallows
– Caramel filled chocolate pyramids
– Meringue kisses

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I also have to highlight a delicious crunchy creamy addition made by one of my dear friends Linda from Pretty Little Bouquets, she made me these delicious knafeh cups, fitted with rose scented sugar syrup syringes A MUST HAVE at any Arabian themed party!

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As you can see I went NUTS! The reason behind this was because I obviously wanted to feed my guests and make sure they all got to experience different flavours and textures but I also wanted to give them a generous spread that really added to the atmosphere and captured the essence of a hospitable Arabian dessert table. I also had customized chocolate bars and rock candy lollipops which were a must because of those gorgeous colours! The table itself was centred around a giant 5 tier cake all made by me and designed literally 2 weeks before the party (whoops!). I wanted something grand and still elegant so I made each tier have a different bold colour to match the party décor, each tier had Moroccan/Arabian inspired patterns in gold. The bottom tier was elevated to look create the illusion of a royal Arabian chest. The cake was topped with a hand carved pillow and a beautiful topper by Alaroch toppers.

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The table itself was easy to put together, I made sure everything was matching so I used gold props to highlight the desserts, and the show stopper had to be the canopy that enclosed the desserts. It was made by my partner and decorated by handmade drapery by my mother. I wanted it to resemble an Arabian market stall. I couldn’t just have one table but I had TWO! Both covered in gold sequins. I loved the addition of the Moroccan lamps and lanterns against the table and on the table it really did give it some authenticity. The special part of the dessert table was that the trays used on the second table were from my nene, it was so special to me to have her precious collectables featured on my dessert table.

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I also had a golden peacock chair that was adorned with fresh florals that were professionally arranged by my nana who also arranged my 2 other floral arrangements which had the most beautiful colours to match the theme!

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One of my favourite parts of the party was the Arabian tray of goodies I put together, it sat next to my golden peacock chair and had a lantern in the middle. It was sectioned off into areas filled with nuts, dried fruits, apricot truffles, rose petals, spices and Turkish delights.

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I think my guests enjoyed their sweets because I do know of a few who took them home!

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I also made these cute little Moroccan inspired lanterns which were made from recycled jars, I literally just collected about 30 jars and decorated them. Heres how I did it…

So after thoroughly washing them and making sure all their sticky labels were removed I purchased some glass paint from spotlight, which im sure you can find at any craft store and I poured a generous amount into the jar, used a spongy brush and painted it all throughout the inside of the jar. Then, I flipped it over and let it set it only took about a day to set. Afterwards I used a gold puffy paint pen also purchased from spotlight, and made organic free-hand patterns on them and voila! I had custom made DIY Moroccan lanterns! My step-by-step is a bit off so ill post a simple link…

diy project: katie’s glass-jar moroccan lanterns

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We placed the handmade pillows on custom seats made from recycled palettes made by my partner, cousin and dad which were absolutely amazing and actually were made for comfort as well as the overall presentation (yes dad, you thought of the bright idea of making them into recliners).12698355_10206907267454382_99271413536496466_o.jpg

I also had to have an authentic Arabian carpet for the dance floor because well Princess jasmine got to fly on one, so why couldn’t I dance on one?!

 

The entire event was lit up with candles and I was exceptionally thrilled with how everything turned out and I’m glad that my vision came to life. As you can see this was a family affair so I have to just add in a special thanks. If you have a passion and a vision for something, you CAN make it happen if you want it badly enough.

 

Special thanks to my Nanabelle who allowed me to have my party at her home, cousin Chris for helping make the chairs, cousins Veronica and Paul for helping on the day, Nana Gloria for flying to Sydney and making my floral arrangements, my partners parents for always running around for me and helping it come together, my partner of course for helping with absolutely evetything and putting up with me (haha), as well as his parents for helping me get all those palettes and setting up my marquee! Thanks to my step-mum for running around like crazy and putting up all those drapes, my sisters for just being my sisters and helping when they could (love you girls), friends who helped me get it together, my beautiful aunty Naj and uncle Johnny for absolutely everything including my photobooth, my beria nene  for making my beautiful skirt, and aunty narin and cousin beria for helping with food, as well as my own nene who is just so amazing and I’m so thankful for, my dad for the MASSIVE clean-up and helping the party come together and lastly my beautiful mother who did more for me than a mother should. I love you all and thank you so much.

 

Special thanks to my vendors!

Knafeh cups: Pretty Little Bouquets
Photography: Seray Niyazi Photography
Props: Prop My Party/Mary Ronis events
Custom stationary: Anders ruff
Food/catering: sweetest kitchen
Gold Spoons: Royal High Tea
Cake topper: alaroch
Special thanks to the girls at M events sydney! You girls are gems.

 

Leave a comment below and let me know what you did for your 21st!

 

Love Nelle, xox

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All about buttercream!

Ah the great debate, buttercream. American buttercream, Italian/Swiss meringue buttercream, French buttercream, fondant, ganache, modelling chocolate or a bit of everything? Many of you reading may be thinking what are all these types? Well in short form, buttercream is typically a mixture of icing sugar and butter, the Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams are usually based from a stiff fluffy meringue and butter or shortening added. Fondant is a cake decorators dream for decorating, well maybe just me personally, but it is the extremely sweet sugar paste (not the tastiest but it does give you that polished look). Ganache is probably my favourite, it’s a two ingredient mix of cream and chocolate, different ratios for different types of chocolate for e.g. dark chocolate is usually a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio depending on the weather, milk chocolate and white chocolate are usually 2:1 or 3:1 ratio for me, in warmer seasons I would go for a 4:1 ratio! Modelling chocolate is an interesting one, it tastes better than fondant and perfect to decorate your cupcakes, cookies and even décor your cake pops! Now the great debate…What do YOU prefer? Are you traditional and LOVE buttercream? Or are you a little more modern and prefer salty with your sweet and go for less sweetness in your desserts? Now I might get a bit ranty here, (yes I know ranty isn’t a word) desserts are SWEET and contain SUGAR! I know over the years’ desserts have evolved which is AWESOME! But also a little misleading in my opinion, truth be told I’m not much of a sweet tooth, I prefer savoury, but I also believe in traditional sweets. Anyway let’s leave that rant for another time, back to buttercream! Now the biggest issues I’ve faced with buttercream are 1) too sweet sometimes, 2) can leave a funny fatty after taste, and my BIGGEST issue is staying YELLOW! I know its butter and butter is yellow but when someone requests a white buttercream cake I go into panic mode, how am I supposed to tint buttercream, BUTTERcream white whilst retaining that delicious butter taste?! Well many cakers will tell you that you need different products such as titanium dioxide powder, white gel colourings, violet food colouring, beating your butter for 10-15 minutes, adding your icing sugar slowly, adding cream, white flavouring extracts, using shortening instead of butter, using vegan butters etc

Now here’s a funny story…When I first started I actually didn’t know what buttercream was HA! I literally typed into google “what is the icing that stands up on a cupcake” and what came up was “American buttercream” my initial thought was YUCK who wants to eat chunks of butter?! Well here we are 5 years later and we are making American/Swiss/Italian buttercream all the time! Might I add, I actually don’t mind it, yes its butter but it’s not just butter its whipped into a frenzy, reaching maximum fluffiness and flavoured, so its special butter OK! Now I have had the issue of the ‘whitening’ because I don’t want to use shortening to achieve the white, but I really want to achieve WHITE! Argh the frustration, however what has to be done has to be done. I have tried titanium dioxide powder, and NO it isn’t as white when you’re using real butter. I’ve tried white gels; it works but doesn’t achieve an ultra-bright white. However, I have tried the violet food colouring gel and IT WORKS! It does give you a ‘white’ but it isn’t an extremely bright white but it’s as white as can be with real butter! However, a tip, when using this method beat your butter for about 10 minutes, adding your sugar in little at a time and use it straight away! If you let it sit it starts to go yellow-ish. Now I also tried shortening, I first tried a full shortening batch and WOW was i blinded by that mesmerising bright white! I didn’t mind the taste, it wasn’t my favourite but it would be perfect to coat the outside of your naked cakes, butter creamed cakes (my suggestion for your naked cakes/buttercream cakes would be to fill your cakes with whatever filling you like and then use the 100% shortening buttercream to cover it if someone wants to have ULTRA WHITE). I then tried the 50/50 batch of shortening and butter and it was a lot whiter but still had that tinge (due to the butter), to my surprise, it wasn’t bad tasting, it was actually quite similar to an all butter buttercream, i did beat this for minimum 15 minutes. Now my favourite is the meringue based buttercreams, they are silky, smooth, less sweet and pipe nicely. They take a little longer to make but are delicious! You can also use shortening in your Swiss meringue/Italian meringue buttercreams to maintain that bright white, I guess we should call it shortening-cream. In my opinion, the Italian meringue is whiter and tastes better but Swiss is still delicious and white also! What I think will be best personally is filling your cakes with buttercream using real butter, and then icing your cake in an all shortening made buttercream if the ultra-white colour is requested. The number one thing to remember is to tell your guests or customers what they are eating! Don’t be misleading, make sure you tell them about what they are getting and understand the reason for what ingredients you’re using.  If you are interested here are a few of my go to buttercream recipes. If you have any questions, please just leave a comment below or shoot me an email!

American buttercream

To ice 24 cupcakes
500g butter or margarine

2-3 cups of icing sugar, if I’m being honest here’s my secret, I don’t measure my icing sugar! I go by taste and fluffiness! Just start with 1 cup and add ½ a cup until you achieve the sweetness and texture you like (SORRY). If i ever come up with a “non-instinctual” buttercream recipe ill post it up!

All butter buttercream cupcakes!

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Buttercream using ALL shortening (to achieve bright white)

500g shortening

*same rules apply!

Buttercream using shortening and butter

250g butter or margarine 250g shortening

*same rules apply!

50/50 ratio of shortening and butter cake!

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Note: if you halve these recipes they will ice 12 cupcakes perfectly!

Italian meringue buttercream

(My personal favourite and go to, but for people who want eggless frostings stick to your traditional buttercreams)

Perfect amount to frost 12 standard sized cupcakes!

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

227g softened butter or shortening

1 cup caster sugar (granulated white sugar is fine)

½ cup of water

Vanilla or flavouring of your choice

Method:

  1. Add the sugar and water into a pot and allow the sugar to come to 230 degrees Celsius
  2. Whilst our sugar is coming up to temperature, whip your egg whites to soft peaks (you may also add a ½ tsp of cream of tartar to help stabilise your egg whites)
  3. After your sugar syrup has come to temperature, and your egg whites have frothed up to soft peaks, slowly but consistently pour your sugar syrup carefully in a stream into the egg mixture
  4. Once all the sugar mixture has incorporated into your meringue scrape down the bowl and beat for about 10 minutes until the bowl is cool to the touch
  5. Once cooled, you may add your butter or shortening small amounts at a time and beating well before incorporating more
  6. It may become soupy, do not panic, continue whisking/beating for an additional 10 minutes

Here are my delicious vanilla Italian meringue buttercream frosted moist chocolate cupcakes (what a mouthful!) ps. If you are trying to achieve baby blue, Italian meringue buttercream is perfect for this as its often hard to achieve a decent BLUE with ALL butter as yellow and blue make … GREEN.

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TOP TIP: if your Italian meringue buttercream decides to ruin your life and split you can bring it back to life! Nope, not with the philosopher stone but if you heat about a ¼ cup of the mixture in the microwave NOT HOT, but slightly warm and melty, and add it back and whip it should come back!

These are just my tips that I’ve picked up along the way throughout my experiences I understand that all cakers have unique experiences, and subjective opinions on this particular topic.

 

Happy buttercream-ing! Love, Nelle xox

 

 

 

 

 

T R A C Y

This cake was especially dear to my heart because it was made for someone who is also dear to me, Tracy! I had a great time designing, planning and executing this lovely blushing pink beauty as I made sure it was head to toe adorned with deliciousness! Now, who doesn’t love the combo of raspberry and white chocolate? Maybe a bit of rose thrown in? Before this cake I had never made a raspberry vanilla cake (weird, I know) but I just hadn’t because I was always scared and didn’t want to use artificial raspberry flavouring. I made this cake using fresh raspberries but here’s a tip when using fresh or frozen fruit, DO NOT add them right into your batter and fold, add some flour to your berries and mix and then add, that way they don’t sink to the bottom. I also used a raspberry coulis to swirl through the batter. I layered the cake like this…

Cake

Simple syrup

Swiss-meringue buttercream

Raspberry compote

Coconut flakes

Before this cake, I had never made a Swiss-meringue buttercream frosting before and so I was nervous about whether it would work due to the use of eggs and whether I would have enough. Thankfully, by the will of the baking gods (and the use of a double batch recipe) we had enough for a 7-inch cake with 4 thickly sliced cake layers. I tinted my buttercream with Ameri-colour fuchsia pink (only a TINY bit), this is a great gel colour to use if you are trying to achieve a baby pink. Ok so, after I stacked and filled the cake, PS, SAVE THOSE CAKE HUMPS! I then covered it in a crumb coat of Swiss-meringue buttercream and chilled it to set. I then added another layer of frosting and left it at a semi-naked cake stage. Now, I was tossing up between a torched meringue (channelling Andy Bowdy) or adding a drippy drip (Katherine Sabbath vibes). I went with a mixture of both because why not?! I added a white chocolate ganache drip using a 1:1 ratio of white chocolate and cream, BUT I wanted it WHITE so I added titanium powder to it and WOAH, yellow be gone! I then drizzled that white chocolate, snowy drip all over this butter creamed beauty and let it semi set before I started adding my bits and pieces. Before you let it ‘set’ add some coconut flakes to the bottom edge of the cake if you want to give it a bit of PIZZAZ. Ok, I can’t believe that was a word.

Now for the fun part…DÉCOR! Remember how I mentioned, better yet screamed (through the computer screen) that you should keep those cake humps, unless you are a crazy baker who achieves perfectly straight cakes straight out of the oven, that don’t need levelling (if so, bake another cake WE WANT CAKE SCRAPS!) anyway, take those humps and chop them up in whatever shapes, tear it up, scrunch it up just don’t cake pop crumble this. Now add it to your cake on top to create a mountain high pile of vanilla raspberry goodness. Now I added white chocolate coconut Raffaello’s, white chocolate Tim Tams and added them in halves, right angle cuts and added them all around in an ‘organic’ fashion. I also added these realllllllly cool kit kats which are actually…wait for it… crème brulee kit kats! I also added a faux flower with a bright pink to give the cake that extra bit of colour it needed. I had some left over raspberry coulis and who’s going to say no to some extra tangy sweetness, scoop it up in a couple of syringes, you’re good to go! Last minute details! Now I added some dried rose petals and buds to create a floral aroma around the cake. I also threw on (liberally) some white nonpareils, DETAILS matter!

Happy 21st birthday Tracy!

Swiss-meringue buttercream (SMBC) recipe

Ingredients:
6 egg whites
517.5g caster sugar
675g butter
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Method:
1. Heat the sugar and egg whites over a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved
2. Whip your heated sugar mixture with an electric hand mixer or whatever you prefer
3. Slowly add your butter or shortening in cubes (ensure your butter is room temp)
4. It may split and become soupy, DON’T STOP! Don’t give up my little cake fairies, keep going i promise it will work.

*For a 7-inch cake, you would need 1 ½ batches of this recipe, this exact recipe is perfect for that!

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Love, Nelle xox

Edible Makeup!

Calling all make-up lovers, artists, cake decorators and anyone interested in edible makeup!  Now I’m not makeup savvy, I don’t know all the tips and tricks that ladies of my generation are so blessed with, so I make cakes. I can paint the face of a cake but not my own?! How unfair right? Complaining about my lack of makeup skills aside, like cake decorating, make up is an art form and similarly, they have about 100 different sets of brushes that 90% of the population have no idea what they are used for (but trust me guys, there is a single purpose for each and every one of those brushes). Likewise, cake decorators have 100000 brushes, tiny ones, bigger ones, fluffy ones, fanned out ones just heaps OK! I actually still own my first ever proper cake decorating paint brush that I ever bought, surprisingly It’s still in good condition. Anyhow, this is an incredibly special blog because…. We are collaborating with an amazing make-up artist “Make up by Elle”, we have teamed up and I’ve put her up to the challenge of using luster dust in her next filmed make up tutorial! I’ll post up the link to her video as well as her Facebook page for those who are in the same category as me and just can’t do make-up…Let’s face it it’s just as much an art as caking and I’ll stick to cakes 😉 The latest trend on the make-up scene is highlighting, you sort of highlight your upper cheek or something and give it a shiny effect, to obviously blind people and make yourself be noticed amongst dark places, totally kidding HAHA! It looks super cool and I’ve even seen rainbow highlighter, you know to match my unicorn cheesecake, obviously?! Now this discovery is revolutionary, I recently saw a few of my friends on my Facebook list post about where to buy decently priced highlighters and I cheekily thought to myself well you might as well use luster dust! This stuff is extremely SHINY! I mean extremely! I can already picture make-up artists either reading hastily or clicking exit…Let me explain. Luster dust is an edible shimmer dust that we cake decorators use on our cakes to add shine, pretty up our work and “highlight”. If I could use a tonne on every cake I would, sadly I don’t think the Warriors and Dragon Ball Z cake would have looked great glittered up! With this idea I obviously had to test it so I remembered I had bought 2 new ones (because I use that stuff like its running out of fashion), I opened up a new one and put some on my face to ‘highlight’ and it WORKED! Maybe it wasn’t applied properly or with one of the million brushes but it made my face shiny! As I don’t know much about make-up and brands, I do know my luster dust. If you wanted to purchase an affordable ‘highlighter’ that’s edible, then head on over to your nearest cake decorating store and pick up some luster dust in white shimmer! Cheaper and you get more out of it win win right?!

Ps, do not eat this right out of the little tub, I don’t think it would harm you but please, we don’t want you to look like Voldemort when he was caught drinking unicorn blood!

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Here are some pearly shined cake pops which were dry brushed by this mesmerising shimmer! Perfect pearly pops!

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Special thanks to “Makeup by elle” here is the link!

https://www.facebook.com/makeupbyelle1/?fref=ts

Love, Nelle xox