Hello my lovelies! It’s been so long since I’ve blogged about my baking! This is one of the difficulties with baking part time while also being a student – sometimes school just has to be the priority. I just finished my master’s thesis at the end of September and have been taking a bit of a break after handing it in, but I am so excited to get back to baking on a regular basis (and, more importantly, talking to all of you about my baking on a regular basis).
Luckily, I did continue my baking endeavors while finishing my thesis (procrastinating, or to use my preferred term, procrastibaking). I thought I’d do a bit of a review post on what I’ve been up to during August and September. I have a few Thanksgiving projects that I just completed this month, but I’ll save those for their own post (coming soon!).
1. Elephant Cookies!
I bought a new elephant cookie cutter, so this project was just to test out the cookie cutter and see what designs looked cute. I recently got a Pinterest account at this point, and I saw so many adorable polka dot elephants that I loved. Although I didn’t try this, I think my favourite is the grey elephants with pink polka dots (or hearts) and a pink ear.
I went for bright colours for my elephants, so I used green, turquoise, and a pale yellow. For the most part, I tried polka dots (shown below in the middle row). Just for fun, I made a striped elephant with alternating blue and white stripes. To go with the nautical look, I added an anchor on the elephant’s hip. I think my favourite elephant is the one in the bottom right corner. For this one, I added a big button eye, and a border of dashed lines to look like stitches.
I’m hoping someone needs baby shower cookies soon so I have an excuse to make more adorable elephants. I’m convinced that my cookies taste better when they are this cute.
2. A House and a Home
I was asked to do a birthday cake in the middle of August. The requested design was modeled after the family home (I actually looked up the house on google maps to make sure I was getting the details right). I started out with this concept sketch for the cake:
I was a little nervous when I made this sketch because I wasn’t sure if I could get quite that much detail in a cake, but the end result was so much closer than I’d imagined it would be:
The small purple flowers (to the right of the house) were made by placing buds of culinary lavender. I thought it would be fun to have some edible flowers made of something other than buttercream to add a little extra dimension and variety to the cake.
3. Happy Birthday to Me
It was my birthday in August, and I actually asked my parents if they minded if I made my own birthday cake, because I had an idea I wanted to try and I hadn’t had another opportunity to make this cake. I don’t think I’ll ask this again next year; I’ve been taking over so much family baking in this past year, and I think my family does enjoy baking. Plus, it’s fun to let someone else take over sometimes!
Last year, my dad made me these delicious cheesecake cupcakes (basically a chocolate cupcake with blobs of cheesecake batter all baked together – it was so amazingly good). I wanted to play off this by doing a cake with a layer of cheesecake inside of it.
My family are 100% chocolate lovers, and I’m pretty sure every single birthday cake in the past five years has been chocolate with orange buttercream. I decided to mix it up this year by making a vanilla cake and filling it with lemon cheesecake:
That’s one bottom layer of cake with a hollowed-out layer that I’ve filled with cheesecake. I then popped on a third layer and covered the entire thing in a lemon buttercream.
For the design, I’d seen a really nice painted cake look, where the buttercream is painted on (like a thick oil paint) using a food-safe paintbrush. I’m not entirely happy with how the final design looks, but I’m glad I gave this a try, because I see a lot of potential in the buttercream-as-paint approach.
However I felt about the design, this cake was delicious, and it was nice to have a mix of textures inside the cake. I didn’t even feel like it needed ice cream to accompany it because the cheesecake paired so nicely with the cake.
1. Another birthday cake? A brother birthday cake!
My brother’s birthday is just 11 days after mine, so we get lots of cake in a short period of time. This year, my brother also chose to do away with the usual chocolate/orange combination, and he asked for something really interesting: a grean tea tiramisu cake.
Now, because of my allergies, I don’t think I’ve ever had tiramisu before (at least not to my memory), so I’m not sure how the green tea version compares to the original. But now that I’ve tried the green tea version, I really want to try a normal tiramisu. I figure if the green tea version is good, the traditional coffee must be amazing.
This cake actually represents a few firsts. I’ve never made tiramisu before, I’ve never tried this style of naked cake, and I’ve never made a sponge cake before. The sponge cake is actually very interesting – you’d think the name would be a dead giveaway, but I didn’t realize how much the texture actually resembles a sponge. It has a very different feel to a regular cake, but it works so well for this recipe because – like a sponge – it soaks up liquid very well.
I usually brush my cakes with a sugar syrup, but in this case I made a green tea syrup (a mix of matcha – green tea powder – with water and honey for sweetness). I gave the cake layers a fairly liberal dousing with the green tea syrup. I then had two fillings for the cake. The first was a buttercream, which I made in vanilla and green tea flavours. I used these as a border around each layer; the green tea buttercream was piped on with a star tip, and the vanilla buttercream was piped on with a round tip, alternating each flavour around the outside of the cake:
This left a bit of a gap at the center of the cake, which I filled with my matcha “mascarpone” cream (I didn’t have mascarpone and substituted with cream cheese). The recipe for this mascarpone cream is found here, and I highly recommend it. I had some left over, so I set it in the fridge and ate it on its own like a pudding. So sweet and flavourful!
The cream is quite runny at first, which is why I needed the buttercream border. I think next time I would pipe a dollop of buttercream in the centre of the layer as well, because the middle sank slightly and the cake didn’t have great structural integrity.
I did a third layer the same way, then covered the top layer in a white chocolate ganache, with a drip running down the sides of the cake. If you haven’t tried the green tea + white chocolate combination yet, I highly recommend it.
My brother asked for a spirograph pattern, so I achieved this with a bit of white chocolate ganache dyed green with the matcha powder. I was hoping I could do this by just rotating my cake stand, but it turns out it’s very hard to rotate one hand while having the other draw a straight line (I think this is the baking version of patting your head and rubbing your stomach). That method may have been faster, but I think the brute-force approach (drawing each “leaf” shape in the pattern one at a time) still worked well.
I’ll give a better view of the spirograph:
The inside looks pretty great too!
2. Red and Blue Cookies
I made some cookies for the registration date at my dance school. Our school colours are red and blue, so I started by flooding the cookies in red and blue:
I just bought some new flavourings, so I tried out raspberry flavoured royal icing for these cookies.
I wanted to take the opportunity to work on my writing skills. I usually get compliments on my hand writing for being clear and legible, but I’ve been struggling a little with finding a good way of writing on cakes and cookies with something other than a standard block letter or cursive. I tried out 5 different styles of text on these cookies (they say ‘KRSHD’ because those are the initials of my dance school):
I actually quite like how the straight block letters and cursive look on the cookies, but my favourite style is the font shown below:
It’s a more stylized font, so this probably doesn’t have as much wide appeal for cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, but I really like it for this kind of application in a plain cookie.
So there you have it, that’s my August and September baking projects! I’ll be following up with some Thanksgiving cookies, cakes, and cupcakes later this week.