Caker Block

It has been over a year since my last blog post, I haven’t posted and I don’t really know why. Probably due to a number of reasons. Busy caking, busy procrastinating, busy thinking about blogging and never actually doing it, and partially because surprise surprise I’ve become completely burnt out and I have nothing left to say.

I wanted to start by saying I absolutely love cake decorating with a passion, it was and still is my dream, I am completely blessed to have the skills and knowledge to do this and turn it into a career as are so many other people. But it does not come without hard work, commitment, frustration, stress, lack of social interaction and loneliness. It’s an underrated career in the sense that people assume all cake makers are happy, joyful people who dance around a room full of pretty cakes, sprinkles and a house that smells like vanilla. That might be true, for some. But for the most part, it’s long nights, early mornings, high stress and pressure, lots of “sorry I can’t make it” and for me, this has turned into “I actually don’t want to go”. The lack of drive and motivation to even pull out my baking tins has become routine when this used to be my kind of bliss.

This is a hard job, it’s not one that comes with instructions either, we just throw ourselves in and hope for the best, hope that this crazy risk is going to work and we are going to be happy. That’s another thing we don’t talk about, the fact that everyone “expects” us to be happy. How many times have you heard “You must love your job!” “Your so lucky you get to do what you love” when all you want to do is scream and say “I quit! I want a job where they give you a christmas party!!!” Maybe with employees who can take some of the pressure off, AND SET WAGES! LOL But we nod, smile and say “yes I am very lucky, I love what I do, it’s lots of fun” Don’t get me wrong, it is! But sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES it can become a chore.

Like everything in life, balance is key and essential in this industry. We have to find time to maintain a business, update our skills and knowledge, follow but don’t follow trends, squash but also support competition, look after ourselves physically and mentally whilst also remembering we are HUMAN first and foremost. I think along the way I forgot that, and i forgot about the girl who was first just simply Nelle. I forgot to take care of the one person who makes this engine run. The good news is, you can actually help this situation, if YOU want to. Losing enjoyment and passion for something you once found solace in is heart breaking, it’s almost like you’re losing someone you really care about and not being able to control it. The mind works in mysterious ways, and for me my creative juices have stopped flowing (i actually hate that phrase). I find it hard to remain creative in a world full of “trends” and original but not originals. Being in a creative field is one of the hardest professions to be in, in my opinion, You have to stay creative and original at the same time, and if you’re running a business  by using your creativity, you also have to accept the fact that you can’t always be creative. Sometimes you have to be boring, you have to follow trends sometimes, and “copy” which is often seen as a dirty word amongst cake decorators but to me it’s a normal part of life. Everyone does it and you know it.

This brings me to another point, which is that cake decorating is PRESSURE! constant pressure to be perfect, post pretty pictures, post better cakes, be better than your last. Don’t you dare copy, because you’ll cop it from the the copycat police, and if you do be prepared for that. The constant pressure and stress has sucked the life out of me. I’m writing this for those who feel like me, or felt like me, those who forgot about their voice, those who want to scream and throw their cakes against a wall sometimes because it didn’t work like it did on that youtube video. Cake decorating is the biggest cat fish, it’s a joyous, beautiful, frustrating, stressful industry all rolled into one. People will undermine you, undersell you, overestimate you. but they will also support you, praise you and thank you when deserved. So thank you to those who do!

Today, by making this step by even having enough mental strength to write this blog just shows me my love for cakes is not lost, my passion is still there and the fire still burns strong. This is actually a normal phase, a healthy phase if you will. Everyone feels like this at some point, whether its a severe or mild case. When you love and care about  something this much it’s bound to send you a little crazy. The important thing is that it can get better, when we voice how we feel, relate to one another and support one another. If you’re reading this and you have felt anything like this at some point, chances are theres 100 more people who have also felt like this. You aren’t alone.

This is not a pity piece, not an outlet for a whinge, this is just simply a piece of raw writing that probably doesn’t make sense, but to someone it will. Don’t worry guys, I’m still a crazy cake lover, I’m still going strong, I just need a little time to let my mind do it’s thing.

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Oh, and heres my latest cake, it’s a re-creation of a cake I had made previously. I didn’t change a thing, my mind worked like a robot while making it. The fact that I didn’t have to think too much made me enjoy it that much more. She’s a beauty, not because of how she looks but because she didn’t drive me insane, and I genuinely smiled when she was finished.

Love Nelle x

Tips and tricks for the perfect bakes!

So, it’s been a while. No, it hasn’t been a while it’s been a million years! I have been so swamped lately and sadly I have neglected my blog. I absolutely love blogging and sharing with those who love to read along so to those few who do love this blog I apologise. But here I am with another blog, so get your cup of tea ready and enjoy!

Baking is definitely a science, one that takes time to master and perfect but if you have a few simple tricks that you pick up along the way it can help you keep consistent, organised and most importantly improve your baking skills.  I know what your thinking, Nelle, how can baking hacks and simple tricks IMPROVE your baking?! Well coming from a self-taught cake artist/baker I can safely say that practice, learning and developing new techniques, tips an tricks has literally saved me loads of time, improved my own cakes and made me a much better and smarter baker.

When I started my baking journey, I didn’t know very much about making cakes or what was really involved. I always thought it was “a piece of cake” but it really wasn’t, no pun intended. The first cake I ever baked from scratch on my own was an orange cake.  The first thing I ever learnt about baking was during high school during food tech classes. I learnt the method of “creaming” (combining butter and sugar until creamy). This technique is pretty important because it creates a fluffy cake. If my recipe calls for creaming, I always cream for roughly 8-10 minutes until the butter is whipped and pale.

I received a few questions, most were of a similar nature so I’ve tried to answer as best as I can.

Q: How do I avoid wonky edges? This will ultimately depend on your definition of wonky edges. If after your cake is baked you end up with the top of the cake caved inwards/uneven top layer/sinking this could mean your oven temp is too high or too low. For example if I am baking my chocolate mud cakes and it ends up sinking I am either baking too high or I have opened the door too soon into baking. My best advice is to bake at 150 degrees C and not open the door until its been 50-60% baked (usually an hour and half into bake time). This is obviously dependent on your recipe too.

Q: Butter cakes vs mud cakes? My cakes are mostly mud cakes, I personally don’t offer traditional sponge cakes because they don’t hold up well with Ganache an fondant because they’re both quite heavy. I personally like my butter cakes/sponge cakes as “naked” cakes, paired with jam, cream and light fillings. I don’t make sponge type cakes for decorating but I do love a slice at home with family.

Q: Simple syrup vs no simple syrup? Yes! I use simple syrup on all my cakes, it just adds an extra little layer of moisture.  If I’m making my coconut mud cake sometimes I use coconut water and sugar (boiled of course)
NOTE: Simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water 1:1 ratio (1 cup water: 1 cup sugar)

Q: Why does my cake sink in the middle? Sometimes the oven can be on the wrong setting or temperature. If you’re trying to bake a mud cake and you’re finding it’s sinking in the middle it could be that the oven is too hot! There could also be ingredient issues like too much rising agent or over worked eggs.

Q: How do I come up with new recipes and flavours? Short version PRACTICE. If you’re like me you probably love variety so it’s awesome to have at least 5-10 cake flavours on offer. I have 9 and all of these are tried and tested recipes and flavours that combine classics and personal favourites. My tips for coming up with new recipes are to start with the foundation. Learn about your ingredients and what flavours work best together. For example a classic flavour I offer on my menu is vanilla and raspberry. This is actually my most popular flavour. Slowly I started incorporating lemon and now I’ve got a lemon raspberry cake. It sounds simple and easy but coming u with a solid cake menu is tough.
I would say to keep it simple, don’t over thick it and try to have 20+ flavours on offer because then it becomes a little overwhelming. Find your signature flavours, ones that you can remember on the top of your head and bake consistently. Go for flavours you love and you notice people mostly lean towards.

In summary, here are my 5 top tips to achieving perfect bakes! (Maybe not perfect, but pretty damn good!)

1. All your ingredients should be room temperature. If your ingredients are inconsistent in temperature it will either be really hard to combine (butter), slosh around in the bowl and not combine properly, curdle or sometimes split. Having everything at an even temperature makes everything consistent from the start and having a consistent foundation always makes for a consistent bake, and with consistent baking comes consistent decorating.
2. Lumps of flour in your mud cakes? When making a mud cake whether it’s a chocolate mud, white chocolate mud, or caramel mud sometimes you get these nasty little lumps of flour in it, that you cant whisk or sift out! Its so heart breaking when you cut into your cake and all you see are LITTLE WHITE DOTS IN A DARK CHOCOLATE MUD ARGH! Here is a method I worked out and it has saved my muds! So this will obviously depend on your method, I personally use the stovetop method when I make my mud cakes. If you are also using the same method then keep reading! When incorporating the flour I always tip all my flour into a separate bowl, about a ¼ of the mixture from the stove and mix until all the flour and chocolate mix are combined and it becomes like a thick paste. Once that is incorporated well I add the rest of the stovetop mixture a little at a time until all incorporated. Some may already do this but for those who still have the clumpy flour issue this will definitely help!
3. Getting cracks and sinks in your cake after it has come out of the oven? Either your temperature is too low or too high ORRRRRR your cake is UNDERBAKED! I learnt this the hard way…. I had a beautiful chocolate mud come out of the oven only to find a massive sink in the middle 20 minutes later. When I cut it, it had a large gloopy unbaked section. Safe to say it was discarded and the safe areas were turned into cake pops (sigh). To ensure this doesn’t happen, always make sure your oven temp is on the correct temperature, consistent the whole bake. If you have a cheeky oven like I used to then some areas might be hotter than others. To check the temperature I sometimes used a thermometer. I usually bake my mud cakes on 140-150 degrees C fan forced, low and slow.
4. Beat your butter and sugar for a LONG TIME. When I fIrst started baking I would be so impatient and skip this step. Since then I have now seen such a difference in my bakes just by beating my butter and sugar for 8-10 minutes until it is a creamier, fluffier and much more paler consistency. It should look like a gritty buttercream. TOP TIP: In winter when butter just wont come to room temp, I pop mine in the microwave in 10 second bursts until it becomes a little softer and easier to work with (especially for my stand mixer). If it starts to firm up in the bowl I use a blowtorch on a low flame and just heat the bowl, this usually helps with melting the butter slightly so it’s easier to achieve the creamed stage.

5. Add flavourings to the CREAMING stage. I always add my vanilla, lemon, cinnamon to the butter and sugar mixture. Never at the end of the mix. Why? Because butter is a fatty ingredient and fat carries flavour, which ensures you’ll get maximum flavour out of your ingredients in comparison to added during later stages.

And a bonus one…

6. Don’t add SF (self raising flour) when it asks for plain. For example, I few weeks ago I had to make a bunch of caramel mud cakes. My recipe calls for half plain flour and half self-raising flour and silly me thought why don’t I just use all SF because I’m a cheater and I want to try out smart my own recipe. Well yeah, sinking in the middle. Too much raising agent in this recipe causes it to implode? It was a total mess. It still tasted delicious haha!

And lucky last. ALWAYS, always and yep I mean always add at least a teaspoon of salt to your mud cakes, especially caramel. Trust me. To wrap this up, I’m not a professionally trained baker, I didn’t go to a school but I’ve made a few cakes, so hopefully these will be helpful to the home baker who just needs a few tried and tested tips and tricks.

Here’s one reason why i’ve been so delayed with my blogging! 😉
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Happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox

Recipe: Caramel slice cake pops!

I posted a scrumptious picture of these “caramel slice cake pops” on my instagram story a few days ago and I asked if anyone was interested in a recipe so here it is! It’s probably the simplest recipe in the world and I don’t even know if you can call it a recipe. Nevertheless, it’s a simple, delicious treat that you can whip up and satisfy those caramel cravings!

I call them caramel slice pops because they tasted like caramel slice to me. It isn’t a thick gooey caramel it’s more like a caramel cake truffle consistency. So if you’re after a traditional caramel slice recipe this isn’t it. Sorry!

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Ingredients:
Caramel mud cake ( I had left over caramel mud cake from cutting the tops off my mud cakes)
Milk and dark chocolate
Golden gaytime crumbs (alternate option listed below)
White chocolate (1:3 ratio 100g chocolate: 33g cream)
Cream
Golden syrup (to taste)

NOTE: The amount of ingredients you need will depend on how many cake pops you want to make, how much cake you have etc I chose not to list quantities so that you could play with your own recipe and quantities that suit YOUR needs. I would recommend adding ganache to the cake in little bits so that you can have the consistency, texture and flavour you’re happy with.

Method:
Making the Ganache
Combine your cream and golden syrup until it comes to a boil, pour over the white chocolate and mix together.
Making the cake pop dough
Crumble up your cake and add the Ganache. I like my cake pops really fudgy and gooey so I add quite a lot of Ganache to ensure there are no dry bits of cake.
Once combined roll into balls or press into molds and chill in the fridge until firm but not frozen or too solid.
Chocolate 
I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate to dip them because I wanted the sweetness of milk chocolate and bitterness of dark chocolate to offset the sweetness. I want the best of both worlds, who doesn’t haha! Melt your chocolate (I use the microwave method) in 10 second bursts and stir in-between so the chocolate doesn’t burn.
Crumbs
Once dipped in chocolate I quickly sprinkled the cake pops with golden gaytime crumbs all over the chocolate coating. If you don’t have access to golden gaytime crumbs I would suggest crushed arrowroot biscuits or any plain vanilla biscuit.

I hope that you make these and share them with your loved ones! I made these for Mr Sprinkles as a end of the week treat. There aren’t any left so I’m assuming he enjoyed them haha!

Happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox

 

 

10 things I’ve learnt!

Hey all!

I have been so quiet lately when it comes to this blog and i’m sorry to those who do love reading my posts. This one is a bit emotional or at least it made me feel a little emotional. It has come to my attention that many people out there may be feeling the same. Everyone who knows me knows me by my cakes, not by who I am and I think that being a small business owner is 50% cakes, 50% me. For people to really love and appreciate my work, they should at least know a little about me and what goes on BTS. Making cakes is both a physical and emotional thing. For me, it puts a strain on me physically, emotionally and even with my own family and frienships. It’s hard but worth it because it’s something I love doing. I value my customers so much and I honestly feel so lucky that I’m chosen to be a part of their special events so it’s only fair that I share a little bit of me from time to time. Here is a blog dedicated to my fellow cakers, customers who want to grab some insight and to anyone who needs a bit of encouragement.

Here are the 10 things i’ve learnt along the way!

1. Not everyone will love your work, and that is ok. Some people will scrutinize, criticise, and pick at your work until you’re in tears. This is also ok to some extent. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s ok. This shows that you’re unique, your style isn’t loved by everyone, but then again not everyone wears Versace or shops at Kmart? But does that stop Versace or Kmart from selling their stuff? No! What’s important is that you love you, and I don’t mean that in a cheesy, your mum tells you you’re special kinda way I mean LOVE YOURSELF because you should and you deserve it.

2. You will fail. Probably more than once, maybe multiple times. However, through failure you will recognise your wins. It is only through failure that we can recognise when we have triumphed! I’ve failed more than once, stuffed up a cake, made the wrong flavour, underbaked a cake, had to make another one. But that’s the point, you just bake another, fix that cake, fix that problem! Not everything will be fixable but that’s life. You will be okay, you’ll fail and learn all at the same time. This is so important especially for cakers, our whole journey is a learning process, no one knows everything about cakes or everything there is to know about their profession. It’s important to learn and continue learning all throughout your life. Learning is the key to life!

3. Clap for yourself, recognise your wins and celebrate them. Maybe not with a bottle of champers everytime you get a sharp edge on fondant or bake the perfect cupcakes but definitely smile and tell yourself you’re doing great, because you are! Who am I kidding I happy dance and reward myself with ice cream when I feel like ive had a good day haha  I cannot stess this point enough, it’s important to celebrate yourself sometimes because at the end of the day you are your own worst critic and your biggest cheerleader! By celebrating your wins you are practicing self-love and that in itself is a beautiful thing.

4. Own your mistakes, don’t hide from the imperfections and play them off like they didn’t happen or that they aren’t there. OWN THEM. Embrace them and tackle them head on. Once you spot the imperfections and embrace them this will open the door towards fixing them. When I own my imperfections i’m also owning that part of me that is completely human. I’m not perfect and neither are my cakes and when I acknowledge that, then that’s when I can learn from them and make it better next time.

5. Write everything down. Every idea, every recipe, every design just write it down. Even if it’s a scribble in a note pad or a memo on your phone, write these ideas down because one day you’ll go back to it and thank the heavens you read my blog and that I told you to do it (haha, just kidding you’ll love yourself for it!) I can’t begin to tell you how many ideas I’ve scribbled something down and one day gone back to it and said oh thank goodness I wrote this down!

6. You will be your biggest critic. This is a blessing and a curse. I am probably unhealthily, my own worst nightmare. I will terrorize myself and beat myself up over my imperfections on my cakes. This is a great thing because that means I care, I want things to be beautiful for my clients and that im also acknowledging my faults. But, it is also a not so great thing because it can really play on your mind and drive you a bit nuts. Try not to hate on yourself so much.

7. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t let social media dictate your worth. This is so easy to do and everyone will go through this at least once throughout their life if they have active social media accounts. We do this with celebrities, fitness models and even cakers. We look at cake people who have thousands of followers and assume they’re better than us just because of the followers they have or likes they gain. Of course this in no way puts down those popular accounts! But to those who struggle to gain followers or likes and feel like this is a measure of their ability or skill or that their work isn’t worth it, you’re wrong. I’ve seen amazing cakes not get the acknowledgement they deserve and it’s not because they aren’t good enough it’s just simply social media. Like a test doesn’t measure intelligence, followers don’t measure cake skills.

8. Try again, don’t give up. If you had a tough week and you are ready to throw in the towel, don’t! Pick up that spactula and keep going. It may not work the first time but it will work eventually. Through practice, perseverance and passion you will succeed. Success isn’t bought, it’s earned. I do remember one of my favourite chefs Matt Moran said that when he first started out he would go home and practice his piping skills at the kitchen table with a tub of soft butter and a piping bag. Don’t ever give up. We all start somewhere.

9. Make friends, not everyone is your competitior there is room for everyone. This world is filled with competition, we thrive on competition and we always want to be better than the next person. Human nature. It’s normal to see someone else’s work and be envious and wish your work was the same but you shouldn’t. You should see them as someone who has a skill you would like to learn. Praise your fellow cakers for the skills they have! Chances are, you are also admired by other cakers around the world that you don’t even know. Making friends with other cake people has so many benefits, not only do you have a de briefing buddy for when you’re having a stressful cake day but you can ask for advice, give advice and help one another out. It’s often hard to communicate with people who don’t make cakes or understand the logistics of it, so when we have likeminded people around us it helps so much!

10. Give yourself a break. This is something i’ve learnt just recently actually. What I mean by giving yourself a break is not only taking time out for yourself and practicing self love but also allowing yourself to make errors. Give yourself a break, you are only human, you aren’t perfect, you aren’t a robot behind a computer screen who just works and doesn’t have feelings. You have feelings, and they matter. So you had a complaint? So what. You forgot to make a cake? So what. You baked the wrong flavour? So what. You wrote the wrong age and name? So what. I don’t mean don’t care about these things and tell your customers to shove it, don’t do that. Care, try to fix things but don’t dwell on it and cry about it for ages. It will burn a hole into your heart. In all honesty you should clap for youself now and say well at least I didn’t so something REALLY BAD. There are bad things happening in this world and if the worst thing you did this week was bake the wrong flavour or copped an earful from a client then you’re doing ok. I’ve started looking at the bigger picture and acknowledging that not everone will love you, not everyone is your friend and not everyone is your customer. I have had to come to terms with this and it’s hard but it also provides a sense of freedom. I don’t have to please everyone and neither do you. Not because we don’t want to but because we simply can’t.

And thats a wrap! Here are the 10 things I’ve learnt. I have had ups and downs but the ups make it so worth it!

Thank you all for reading and supporting me, I hope that this blog gave you some insight or resonated well with you on some level. Cakes are actually a lot of fun and I absolutely adore making them. However, it’s good to acknowledge the not so pretty side too. But then, I make a cake like this and everything seems okay again. This little girls reaction was so beautiful it made all the craziness of that week worth it!

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As always, happy baking!

Love Nelle xox

Everyday item or cake tool?

Cake tools and equipment can be so expensive and sometimes hard to find. Especially when it’s almost 2am and you cant find those overpriced scrapers you just bought!

I’m sure many of you can relate and if you can’t you may find these ideas interesting for the next time you dive into the cake-decorating world. Lets get started:

– Teaspoon: I use teaspoons almost all the time! I use it to create textures on my buttercream cakes as well as applying the Ganache drip!

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-Plastic tablespoons: Ever wanted to make perfect sugar rose petals but don’t have anything to hold them in? Well if you have plastic spoons break the long end and hot glue the scoop onto a cake board and voila, you now have a petal shaper. If I cant find my petal board I sometimes just grab every single tablespoon I have in the house… I have so many so this works well for me.

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– Wooden bamboo skewer: These can be used to create support when structuring tiered cakes (1 cake on top of each other), alternatively you could use bubble tea straws. Skewers can also be used to create patterns, textures.

– Sauce bottles: Plastic sauce bottles! You can find them at the dollar store or maybe around your house. This method can also be used to apply the Ganache drip. It can also be used to add simple syrup to your cakes.

– Water bottle: Now, if you’re familiar with Yolanda Gamp, then you definitely know who Sir Squeeze is, I really wanted one so I wanted to try making something similar (let’s all laugh lol) So I grabbed a water bottle, and poked holes into the lid and made roughly 5 holes. I filled it with cold simple syrup and it actually worked! Not as great as sir squeeze but it did the trick.

– Butter knife: The humble butter knife can be used as a scraper to smooth out your buttercream and spread it evenly between the layers, add patterns and textures to your cake.

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– Ruler: 30cm plastic rulers are a staple in my cake kitchen, I use it to check the height of my cakes, as well as smooth them out! You can also find cheap scrapers from Bunnings!

– Apple corer: Used traditionally for coring apples but they can also be used to take the centre of cupcakes out and add delicious fillings!

– Zip-lock bags: These are fantastic to pipe chocolate decorations, Ganache drip, and even piping buttercream, just be sure to double up as sometimes they can break.

– Floral foam: Using floral foam to stick your cake pop sticks in instead of a cake pop stand!

– Ice cream scoop: I always use an ice cream scoop when making cupcakes, this ensures I get the same amount of batter in each cupcake patty.

– Sponge: A dishwashing foam sponge is useful when handling fondant, if you don’t have a foam petal pad you can use the sponge method to round out the edges of your petals.

– Salad dressing containers: These are cute little mini containers you can find at Coles, Woolworths or your local grocery store. They are meant to be for salad dressing but I use it to mix my lustre dusts so that every time I need to mix up some gold I just open the little container, it also helps with lustre dust wastage.

– Tweezers: Now after you’ve plucked your eyebrows just wack this little tool in your tool box, you’re good to go! JOKES! I have a never used tweezers in my tool box simply because its so handy for applying tiny details that I just cant pick up with my fingers.

– Eyebrow scissors/mini scissors: I think this speaks for itself, these little baby scissors can be so handy, can be used to create textured fur onto animals and so much more!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun little segment and if you have any fun cake tools that you use as every day items comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear all about it!
Happy baking!

Love Nelle xox

The truth behind cake decorating.

Seeing as Khloe Kardashian named her new baby girl “True” it’s only fitting that we reveal the Truth behind cake decorating HA! I promise not to be that lame throughout the entire blog post…maybe.

I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, cake decorating is hard work, not as easy as it looks and that pretty pictures of cakes don’t tell you even half the story behind it. The list goes on. But the real truth is behind the person making them. Their truth is poured into every single cake. Their happy days, bad days, dreams and fears are poured into this little thing called ‘cake’. It is our way of expressing ourselves, and giving new meaning to art in the form of cake.

Last week I faced a few challenges. Now I can safely say I’m glad I faced these challenges, but of course when I was going through them I was ready to throw in the towel and call it quits!

I had just come back from a short holiday and threw myself back into caking, I was excited to be back. However, I felt myself getting overwhelmed which I feel regularly, but I just thought this was a normal kind of feeling, the pressure, the stress, essentially the calm before the storm (Serious Kardashian vibes with this blog haha).

The first challenge I faced was that I couldn’t fondant my cake like I normally do. I covered it, smoothed it out and tried to achieve the usual sharp edges. FAIL. It was a complete fail, it looked so strange, lumpy, bulging, uneven, everything just looked absolutely terrible. I instantly just thought ok how do I fix this, should I keep smoothing should I just throw it in the bin?

I decided to calm myself, and ask for advice. This is something that I value deeply, don’t be scared to ask for advice from people you feel comfortable talking to. I asked a fellow caker and friend, Jade from @ivyandstonecakedesign a complete cake goddess. After speaking to her I felt a lot more calm and level headed. I went ahead and started pulling it apart, taking the fondant off and starting again. I had to re Ganache some areas and let it set for a few hours before recovering…Thank god for the wrap method.

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That was just challenge 1, another challenge was BUTTERCREAM! I was literally a mess over this one, so much more stressed out and frantic. Compared to the fondant cake which I was strangely a lot cooler, dare I say, as cool as a cucumber. However, for the buttercream cake I was a complete chaotic cucumber. This was also something that had never happened to me before so I was speechless I didn’t know what exactly went wrong. The issue was that my SMBC was airy, with many bubbles and I just couldn’t smooth it.

I ended up removing majority of the buttercream, stepping back from it for half an hour or so and chilling it down. Sometimes its best to step away from something when it just isn’t gong right. Giving yourself and your project some chill time really clears your mind, allows you to think more logically and rationally. Becoming emotional over your work is something every caker feels whether it’s for the better or worst. This can often cloud the way we work.

After chilling out and gathering myself I added more buttercream, smoothed it out and it worked! Looks like we both just needed a breather.

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Although it was a tough week, I am actually grateful for these challenges.  It not only showed me what I’m made of and just how far I can push myself, but it showed me that it isn’t the end of the world. Things will get better and things will work out. I can do this, and I can get through anything. Although these may seem like small challenges, and I’m sure life has way more to thow at me these are my challenges right now and I’m proud of how I’m handling myself. Be proud of your accomplishments and your triumphs even if they are little. Sometimes the little triumphs are the biggest. Even the best of us can have bad days, things can go wrong and that doesn’t mean you are less than you were yesterday. One bad cake or one bad day does not measure your abilities as as a person, or in this case a cake maker. There is more to you than your failures. Our failures are so important because it allows you to truly appreciate your achievements!

So what is the truth behind cake decorating? Its us. The people behind the cake, where we come from, what we know, how we work, why we work, what motivate and drives us. The tuth is sometims we don’t know what we’re doing, we don’t know how to fix it, why bad things happen, but we feel it. We feel everything, the good the bad and the ugly. Often we just trial and error and hope for the best. Sometimes I want to sit and cry in the corner, give up and call it quits but I never do. But I don’t because it’s what I love, I get to do what I love and it’s something that I am so grateful for. Sure I want to make more time for myself, go to that birthday party, hang out more with my family, get that extra hour of sleep, but sometimes I just cant and if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes.

It all worked out in the end, I personally think these two cakes are some of my favourite ones, not only because they ended up looking pretty snazzy but they taught me so much. I guess my dramatic cakes decided they wanted more stage time, cakes can be diva’s too. These cakes had a mind of their own LOL!

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Happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox

How to make Cookie cakes!

Cookies have been taken up a whole other level with this new trend that has broken the internet and made cookie lovers dreams come true! All thanks to @adikosh123 who introduced us to this beautiful little creation.

Many talented bakers have made their mark on this new trend by putting their own spin on things, my favourite version has come from @christinascupcakes who made a mermaid inspired cookie cake! (Go Christina!)

Now for my take on things, The first time i made a cookie cake was around valentines day and nothing screams valentine day like sweets do! I decided to make the word LOVE because what better way to show someone you love them but tell them in cookie form?! IMG_4678 (1) copy.jpg
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I also recently made two large letter cookie cakes for two precious little girls, the colour scheme was peach, pink, ivory and gold.

Here are my tips for making a cookie cake:

I used a sugar cookie recipe, sorry, I can’t share my recipe! 😉 But any cookie you like should work! Gingerbread would be awesome especially around Christmas time!

To cut out my letters I just made a rough template on Microsoft word, made it the size I wanted and printed it out.

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Once I printed it out I laminated the letters individually and then cut around the laminate sheet to cut out the letters.
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Once you have cut out your letters you have your own template! This can be done with virtually any letters, numbers, and shapes. This could also work if you drew your own shape onto paper and laminated it. If you need something bigger than A4 and don’t have a printer that can print it I usually just go to my local Officeworks or any printing place and ask them to print it. I laminate the paper because if I wanted to use it more than once, paper would eventually disintegrate, have oil stains and become flimsy. By laminating it you are creating a stronger template that you can use multiple times.

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I have also tried to hand cut the letters but I can never achieve consistency, if I have a template it makes it super easy, quick and consistent!

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TIP: Freeze the dough after you have cut it out for at least 10 minutes so it doesn’t lose shape.

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I let my cookie dough cook until I get a golden brown (not burnt, but golden) to the dough, if your dough is too blonde in colour you run the risk of breakage. Once baked, allow the cookies to completely cool before decorating.

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Fillings:
You could use a range of fillings here but one thing to keep in mind is when you’re serving, if you are planning to serve right away then using a moist filling like a lemon curd would be fine. However, if you were planning on decorating and not eating right away your filling could create a soggy cookie! To prevent this you could add a thin layer of melted chocolate between the cookie and filling.

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Here are the fillings I would use:
SMBC: Light and fluffy frosting which flavours well, Puree some strawberries and add to your SMBC for a tangy and fresh hit! Some may find this a bit heavy for a delicate cookie so keep scrolling for some lighter alternatives.

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Mock cream: My other alterative is mock cream!
Mock cream is just a light-frosting alternative, used in many bakeries and is a safer alternative to fresh cream. Fresh cream may be too light to hold the weight of a cookie on top as well as toppings. It may also spoil if on display for too long.

Some other fillings that I’ve seen include meringue, mascarpone, and cream cheese filling. My advice is to go with what you enjoy eating and of course consider your toppings! If you are expecting a warm day outside and you want to display it outdoors, cream cheese won’t be a good idea as there is a risk of spoilage. You can also use a chocolate ganache, or a whipped chocolate ganache. This will hold up slightly better than a buttercream.

It is also good to remember the weight of your cookie, if your cookie is thick you may want to consider a denser filling as the weight of the top cookie can squish the filling, making it poke out of the sides.

Toppings: For my LOVE cake, I chose to keep it simple. I added fresh berries, mini meringue kisses fresh florals and gold leaf for an extravagant touch. Anything delicious that you would want to eat with the cookie and filling. You could of course add whatever toppings you like such as chopped up chocolates, popcorn, crushed oreos, lollies and candies whatever you like!

For the one I made recently I followed a colour scheme of peach, ivory, blush pink and gold. I decided to use fresh peach slices, peach and pink roses, ivory macarons and I made the cutest mini daisy cookies.

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I hope you all enjoyed this little pictorial, and if you do have any questions please comment and let me know, I would be more than happy to help!

Happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox

Marbled donuts!

Who DOESN’T love a donut/doughnut? I know I love them and I’m hoping that whoever is reading this is a donut fan! I’m actually craving one right now, while writing this, which is ridiculous because I spend all day making sweets I should be over them by now!!!

My top tip for this Tuesday is how to make a marbled glaze for dipping your donuts! I use ganache for my donuts because I love the taste and it’s the perfect consistency. The simplest way to achieve the prettiest marbled donuts whether you’re trying to achieve galaxy themed donuts, rainbow, or in this case unicorn themed donuts, is to add the colour straight in (i’ll explain in a moment). Either way, marbled donuts match so many different themes!

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I apologise in advance for my lack of pictures, I originally wanted to make this a pictorial however, I forgot to take photos of the process (SORRY!) so just bare with me while I use my words…

Firstly, start with white chocolate ganache. I use a 3:1 ratio of chocolate to cream and add in white gel food colouring by wilton. The white gel not only cuts through the natural yellow tinge of the ganache but it also allows your colours to remain separate which blends a lot nicer, in comparison to using un-bleached ganache (that sounded better in my head, it now sounds like its a cleaning tutorial).

After you have coloured your ganache:
Here’s the fun part, no need to separate your ganache into little bowls and colour them individually, just dot your food gel colouring right in the bowl! Use only a little dot of colouring at a time over the white chocolate ganache in the bowl.

After you have added gel colouring:
Take a skewer and run it through the colours to create a marbled look. If you dip your donut right in, you’ll get quite an intense colour so what I like to do is take a little spoon or mini spatula and slightly fold the ganache and colours together to cut through the intensity of the colours. Now get dipping! you’ll get different patterns each time and that’s the beauty of it! I used blue, purple and pink to achieve this marbled look. I finished them off wth some sprinkles and voila! Unicorn themed donuts.

The beauty of this technique is that you can add more and more colour to the ganache as you wish, but remember you can’t take it away so be very minimal with your colouring in the beginning.

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Happy baking! Ps the sprinkles are by @twinklesprinkles.au

Love, Nelle xox

Top tip Tuesday: Burgundy buttercream!

Burgundy is so on trend right now with it’s beautiful, purple-y, plum-like, eggplant, maroon colour! My initial thoughts were should I make it chocolate buttercream and then go from there? No it might be too dark or too “brown”. Should I just add a tonne of colouring and hope for the best? Should I mix a bunch of colours together and pray?

I came across a creative cakes food colouring “Ruby” it looked like it might give me that burgundy/plum colour I was looking for so I bought it and thought i’d give it a go. I ended up mixing ruby by creative cakes, burgundy, super red, and a few drops of regal purple and electric blue all from americolour. Now, after all of this it still wasn’t good enough. I initially wanted to make this buttercream the night before, let it sit but of course I ran out of time and couldn’t make it so I settled and made it the morning of and hoped for the best. It wasn’t working.

This leads me to my TOP TIP! I stuck about a quarter of the buttercream in the freezer and left it there for about 5 minutes, I stirred in between and for some weird reason, the magic of the freezer started to deepen the colour. MAGIC! So I kept doing this until all the buttercream was deepened in colour and voila I had a beautiful shade that was lipstick worthy!

For next time I will probably let it sit overnight and try to use wilton or sugar flaire colours as im finding lately that americolour gels aren’t doing well forme in some cases (SORRY!).

Here was the final result, lipstick worthy I think 😉 Perhaps i should contact M.A.C, “Sassy sprinkles lipstick range” Yes, i think this will take off! haha!

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Hopefully this top tip comes in handy for the next time you’re attempting any dark coloured buttercream!

Happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox

TOP TIP TUESDAY!

I’ve decided to start up a “top tip Tuesday” segment for my blog where I’ll share a clever little tip that i’ve learnt that week or throughout my cake journey. To kick start top tip Tuesday, i’m going to share these gorgeous bridesmaid cookies I made for a lovely girl to give to her maid of hour and bridesmaids. What better way to ask someone to be a part of your special day than with cookies?! I know i’d say yes haha!

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Now, these are my first hand piped cookies and first bridesmaid cookies and the brides only request was to have an engagement ring cookie in the box. I could not for the life of me find a cutter at any of my local cake stores, and online wasn’t an option as I left it too late and didn’t want to risk it not arriving (amateur mistake). BUT! I am so thankful that I didn’t find a cutter because I utilised what I had at home. I used a hexagon cutter set and a circle cutter set. This is actually a better way of making an engagement ring cookie because not only can you actually achieve that perfect shape but you can make whatever size you want! Big or small, the shape cutters gives you versatility in size. Of course using a cutter is also a bit easier but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!

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So here is what I did and how I achieved it. Enjoy!

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As always, happy baking!

Love, Nelle xox