Friday, July 06, 2012

Fairy Cake

Even before I did the "Lia" wedding cake last week, I had great fun creating this fairy themed cake for a friend's little girl. I love it when people give me a very loose brief because it means I can let my imagination run wild. For this cake, I was asked to make it fairy theme. I knew straight away it had to have a toad stool on it - the white dots against the red top are always striking. Then I knew there had to be a fairy and of course some green tendrils and loads of flowers.

So I assembled all the pieces I needed, covered the cake in fondant, and began adding bits on. As I completed each new addition, I stepped back, took and look, and then decided if anything more was needed. In my opinion, cakes like this reveal themselves - you just have to be prepared to go with with the flow. Right up until I added the ribbon, I felt the cake wasn't quite done. But once the ribbon went on, ta-dah! It's cakes like this that make decorating so much fun. In a couple of weeks I'm going to make a duck themed cake for my little boy. Despite his love of cars and robots he is adamant he wants a duck cake. Who knows - maybe I'll venture into the realm of square cakes for that one!

Monday, July 02, 2012

The "Lia" Wedding Cake

I'm almost at the point now where I can make any big cake I can dream of and it will turn out pretty much as I planned. Last week I made this big cake for a wedding, and I am naming it "The Lia" after the bride. She asked for a chocolate cake, white on the outside with red flowers, but pretty much left the rest up to me. The wedding reception only had 30 guests, so there was no need for a multi-tiered construction. But I didn't want the cake to be a flat thing on a table for the photo with the bride and groom, so I made a stacked chocolate cake - two eight inch cakes both 4 inches high, covered in chocolate ganache then covered in fondant.

All the flowers are edible, and again, I made them all myself. It's the first time I've ever put sugar flowers on a wire and I must say there is a trick to it, which I don't think I'm privy to. If you are every wondering why wedding cakes like this cost so much, it's because the handmade sugar flowers take many many hours to make. They can't actually be made in one go either - they need to be created layer upon layer, sometimes with a days drying time in between each. I spent a lot of time talking to my mum about making these flowers. I used pre-prepped flower moulding paste, and I really think it is a poor replacement for the pastillage my mum and Aunty used on the flowers they made for my birthday cake (when I was five!). Those flowers "clinked" like china. These ones just never dried to that point. But all in all, I am very pleased with this result.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Black Forest Cherry Cake

When we moved to Penrith in 1980, the housing estate we lived in was brand new. We had lived in Newcastle all of my life until then, and we knew everyone in the neighbourhood. But in Penrith, everyone and everything was new.

My sister made friends with a German girl in her school, who happened to live in a house kind of over our back fence. We had never met anybody from Germany before, and we were very lucky to be invited to afternoon tea, where Mum, my sister and I were served hot butter cake cut in thick rectangular slabs.

Not long after, my sister was given a piece of her school mate's birthday cake. She said it was called Schwartzwalder Kirsch Torte - Black Forest Cherry Cake. This type of cake was unknown in Australia at the time. Now it is a staple of any cafe cake selection. We loved it, and I requested it for my birthday that year. In fact it became the standard birthday cake in our home for the rest of my childhood. And of course, I made sure I learned how to cook it.

I was delighted recently when a good friend recently asked me to make a Black Forest Cherry Cake for her friend's birthday. I can make that cake with my eyes shut. She said she wanted the cake to be chocolate sponge, not chocolate cake. We were taught by the Germans to make a dense chocolate cake, but hey - I'm flexible! So chocolate sponge cake it was!

6 large eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup corn flour
3 tblsp fine cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Grease and line a 10 inch round cake tin.
2. Crack all the eggs into the bowl of your Kitchenaid and beat them with the whisk attachment on 10th gear until they are foamy.
3. Gradually add the sugar, then continue to beat for a further 10 minutes.
4. Sift the three flours and the cocoa together. Stir to combine then add to the egg mixture one third at a time, gently folding the dry ingredients through until they are fully combined. Take your time with this step - gently folding will produce a fluffier sponge.
5. Pour the sponge mix into the cake tin and bake in the oven for about one hour - or until the sponge springs back at the touch. If you are unsure if the sponge is cooked, insert a skewer through the middle. If it comes out clean the sponge is cooked.
6. Cool for five minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Filling & Assembly
200g high quality cooking chocolate
1.2L thickened cream
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp sugar
2x 400g tins pitted black cherries
60ml Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
16 fresh black cherries

1. Melt the chocolate carefully in the microwave - about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn it! Try 30 second bursts then stirring until its ready.
2. Spread the chocolate along a sheet of baking paper that is about 15cm high and 1.2m long. Using a pen or the handle of a wooden spoon, carefully roll the paper up into a tube. Yes - the chocolate will be touching the paper as you roll. Trust me - this is a good trick.
3. Place in the fridge for an hour or until the chocolate is solid.
4. With the chocolate roll sitting on a tray, hold the leading edge of the paper and carefully unroll the chocolate. Shards will break into the tray as you go. Set chocolate shards aside.
5. Split the cake into three layers. Be very careful not to break the cake.
6. Pour all the cream into the bowl of your Kitchenaid. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat with the whisk attachment until the cream is whipped. Do not over mix or the cream will look buttery. I stop and check over and over as it approaches completion to make sure all the cream is whipped to the same consistency.
7. Drain all the cherries and retain the juice in a glass jug.
4. Add the Kirsch to the cherry juice.
8. Position the bottom layer of the sponge on a cake board or presentation plate. Spoon the cherry juice over the cake until it appears adequately soaked - about one third of the juice should do it.
9. Arrange half the cherries over the sponge and then cover them with about a quarter of the cream.
10. Place the second layer of sponge over the first and repeat the juice, cherry and cream steps.
11. Place the final layer of sponge over the second. Gently press down on the top to seal all the layers. Make sure the top is level.
12. Use a dinner knife to smooth any cream that bulges out around the sides. Continue to cover the sides with cream. Cover the top with cream, being careful to make a nice smooth top. Don't let any cake show through the cream.
13. Position chocolate curls around the sides of the cake. Arrange the fresh cherries on the top of the cake so that they are evenly spaced out around the edges. Pile any remaing chocolate flakes in the centre of the top of the cake.
14. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Makes 16-20 serves.