Friday, 16 May 2014

[I Can't Believe It's So Easy] Fun with Fondant Art - Floral Edition

I have much to learn. That's generally the conclusion of any PhD student, and while I don't have the stomach for such a qualification, I'm beginning to feel that way about the world of cake decorating. Thankfully, learning is rarely achieved alone, and I'm grateful to have lovely friends and inspirers to teach and encourage me along the way! This post is one of a series (of two, at least...) where I will share my recent 'I can't believe it's so easy that I can do it myself' baking discoveries. This first one details my introduction to fondant art.

Let me introduce D - she's a great gal with a lot more experience than me (zero experience prior to this post) with fondant decorations, in particular flowers. So while all I generally want to do is smear buttercream everywhere, I realised her skills would be super-handy to add appeal to any baked item!

Baking chat - the best kind! Spot the sweet rations sustaining us :)
D and I scheduled in an afternoon of fondant-garden fun for me to learn the ropes of the craft. See for yourself how it went... photo credits to the j-amazing James :D

We picked bold red, pastel yellow and green for our tiny s-petal-acular creations (har har!). D showed me how to add a few drops of gel colour to a lump of plain icing and knead it until the colour evened out. We then rolled our icing into the thinnest sheets possible, pressed in the dainty cutters, and the little shapes would fall out onto our palms.

So cute and tiny!
Poor Sad Flower - it didn't make it past the flower press...
Shaping and moulding flowers happened in the palms of our hands with some clever tools, then we plopped the little guys onto a bed of clingwrap spread over specially designed plastic trays (or ice cube trays if you've got them) to dry them out in semi-up-turned positions.

I recently learned that melted chocolate is an excellent adhesive to use for attaching fondant flowers to cakes, although you might not need one if you're sticking them to freshly-piped buttercream. Here's a rough ingredients list and a more detailed description for replicating the fondant flora that we made.

Fondant Shapes (flowers, leaves, etc)
  • 50 grams of white royal icing per colour that you wish to make (we used pre-made Pettinice)
  • A selection of gel colours (water-based food colourings make the fondant take longer to dry)
  • Icing sugar - preferably in a shaker/sieve
  • a range of flower and leaf-shaped cutters in different sizes
  • a smooth rolling pin
  • a smooth plastic chopping board
  • toothpicks
  • fondant shaping tools (especially one with rounded/ball ends)
  • a palette knife (optional, for scraping fondant shapes off of surfaces)
  • a fine-tipped paint brush
  • ice cube trays covered loosely with cling wrap
For each lump of icing that you would like in a different colour: add a few drops of gel food colouring to the lump of  royal icing and knead together until all the icing is a uniform colour (you may want to add more gel colouring for a bolder colour; and yes, it will get all over your hands...!). 

Sprinkle icing sugar onto your plastic chopping board. Using your smooth rolling pin, roll out the icing on the board until it is approximately 2mm thick. Position a fondant cutter over the icing and press it into the board. 

If you're using a leaf (or other decorative cutter) with an indentation pattern, press to indent. Drop the fondant leaf onto the cling wrap-covered ice cube tray, so that it sits above the centre of one cube hollow - it should curl slightly upwards from its centre.

If you're using a flower cutter, sprinkle icing sugar onto your palm before sliding the cutter off the board (hopefully with the fondant shape inside it!) and dropping the fondant shape onto your palm. Use the rounded end of a fondant shaping tool to smooth the petals, moving from the centre of each petal to the edge. This will take some practice until you know what sort of shape you'd like to create. 

Tools of the trade: shaping tools, fine-tipped paintbrushes and a selection of cutters.
Drop the shaped flower onto the centre of one cube hollow of the cling wrap-covered ice cube - try to ensure that the petals curl upwards. Using a paintbrush, apply a tiny amount (less than a drop) of water to the centre of the flower. Roll some of another colour of icing into tiny balls (each approximately half the size of a pin head) and drop them into the centre of the flower.

Using a toothpick, you can prick the centre of a solid-coloured centre to add texture.
The fondant shapes will dry naturally, uncovered, however they will dry faster if left in front of a fan or in an area with good ventilation. The less food colouring and water added, the faster they will dry. When dry and hardened, store in an airtight container and keep in a cool place. 

It all comes together!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Two Cupcakes For The Price of One: Chocolate Berry Cupcakes x 2

After a bit of time off work over the Easter break (largely spent without my computer!) I'm now tidying up some blogging ideas that didn't quite get polished off before the holiday. 

At one point recently I made around 200 cupcakes within one week - in fact, it felt like I did little else in that week... So here are some of the recipe ideas that inspired me for these tasty treats!

Two types of chocolate plus two types of berries equal two delicious varieties of cupcake: (Dark) Chocolate Mixed Berry Cupcakes and (White) Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

The dark choc/mixed berry type were the basis for the Easter cupcakes below that I made for an after-church morning tea.

Jacquot jelly eggs and some pastel-coloured hundreds and thousands make the perfect Easter decorations
This is Annabel Langbein's recipe for One Pot Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcakes which is both delicious and easy, and has a decent cupcakes-per-egg ratio (my personal test for money's-worth-iness!). For variations in the past, I've added half a cup of jam to the batter, used mixed berries instead of only raspberries, and used coconut milk to make up some of the yoghurt/buttermilk. It's quite important to let the mixture stand for a few minutes before filling the paper cases if it's runny, as this helps it to thicken. The cream cheese in the icing MUST be full-fat (see Baking flail post to demonstrate why...) and doesn't set particularly well so make sure you can keep them refrigerated and transport them in trays without stacking. 

The white choc/raspberry cupcakes were the personal favourite of a bride-to-be friend, and served as birthday cake at her combined hen's do and birthday party. White choc ganache swirls on top look and taste great!

The recipe for the white choc/raspberry cupcakes was Cravin Cake's recipe for White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache. It's actually a white choc mud cake recipe - soooooo decadent but sooooo good!!! You have to fill the paper cases quite full because the cupcakes don't rise very much while cooking. You might see that I mixed the berries into the batter so that they were berry nice... ;-)

Two types of choc, two types of berry, two delicious cupcakes - tried and tested by yours truly! 

And that's your inspiration-station for a cupcake nation ;-) 

(don't worry, I'll stick to my day job and NOT become a poet!)

Delicious girly brunching fun!