Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Hippo of a wedding cake

A different wedding cake. i was quite surprised when i recieved the call for this cake and thought i mistranslated the voice on the other side saying we want a hippo themed wedding cake. i said " hippo like hippopotamus the animal" she said "Yes! we love hippos!" and i love making fun cakes, so off we went!

another new thing for me was the inside. they wanted a Pan di spagna- typical italian sponge cake (like victoria sponge cake) and chocolate pastry cream inside. see both recipes below. both of which i had never made in my life, oh well, i know you can learn everything on the internet but i was quite scared of the pastry cream because i tried to make it on my last cake and overcooked it into rubber. thanks to my french patisserie book which is obviously for experts. so as we were going to visit Francescos family in the south, i asked his Granny who is the queen of cakes if she could show me how to make the cream! so i got a private lesson from a cream making expert.

The customer was one of Francescos work colleagues, he is so great at marketing and showing people my blog and its all thanks to him that i got this comission. written on the label it says Fatina and Stregone (this i found out later means fairy and a male fairy, do we have a word for a male fairy in english?) anyway they were quite interesting customers. i tried marbling the fondant for the first time by not completely mixing different lumps of blue fondant together

the red and yellow fish represent the red and yellow colours of the 2 cities that they come from. i made a mass production of fish all the same, as fast as i could make them and francesco decided to give me a hand. he sat and crafted this piranha for about 30 minutes, completely engrossed

so i gave it some prey to chase! the cake was for 35 people but i made it for what i thought was 40. turned out  there were about 55 people and still cake left over! either i seriously overestimated or.. people avoided the cake...
it looks small but it was 34cm wide and about 19cm high. it weighed a ton!! inside the sponge was seperated into 9 layers with perfect chocolate pastry cream inside.  i made the cake  over the period of a week, starting with all the decorations working up to the cake itself. id say about 15 hours in total, it'd be nice to have someone make the cake and i just do the decorating.. any volunteers? you have to face your fears of making pastry cream! but if you have a super granny on your side im sure i can do it, like i did- see the recipe and super-gran below
PASTRY CREAM- Crema Pasticceria
makes 1/2 litre of cream

ingredients: 150 white sugar
500ml full cream milk
3 egg yolks
50gr flour
150gr dark chocolate and 75ml cream (if making chocolate pastry cream)

This is Aldina, Francescos grandmother and she still commands the room, no doubt about it
STEP 1: mix egg yolks and sugar  in a thick bottomed pot with electric mixer until mixture is pale yellow (longer than you think)
STEP 2: add flour by the spoon. here she is telling me that depending on if you want the cream  thicker or thinner for what you need it for, you add more or less flour. i dont really like feeling recipes, the ones you have to go on instinct. so i put all the flour in mine

STEP 3: put milk in a small pot and heat until starts to boil.

STEP 4: take milk off heat and mix slowly into the eggs and sugar mixture

STEP 5: put the pot on low heat and stir until your arm falls off. DO NOT STOP STIRRING. YOUR CREAM WILL BURN AND GET LUMPS IN. when it starts to boil take it off the heat and allow to cool.
* i confess i used a mini sieve to catch the lumps floating on the top in the beginning and squash them into submission to make sure my cream was perfect.

STEP 6: if youre making vanilla pastry cream, add a tsp of vanilla esscence.
if making chocolate pastry cream. cut up your chocolate. heat cream in a pot on stove, when it starts to boil take it off and pour over chocolate. wait for a min, now stir until mixture is smooth. stir into cream when cream has cooled

*to keep cream if youre not using it immediately, put a piece of clingfilm on the surface of the cream, otherwise it gets a skin, like custard
* i made my cream in 1 litre batches and it came out ridiculously perfect
*also good to eat with a spoon at midnight

here we made half chocolate and half vanilla cream poured over budior biscuits soaked in liquer
and everyone got involved

PAN DI SPAGNA- old fashioned vanilla sponge
italian sponge cake made in the old fashioned way by beating the eggs for so long that they become the volume of your cake and not using a rising agent.

Ingredients for a 28cm x 6cm cake:
8 eggs
240gr sugar
240gr sifted flour
a sachet of vanilla flavouring (im sure you can use 2 teaspoons of vanilla esscence instead) 

i chose the easiest recipe for Pan di spagna because there are quite a few variations, beating different parts of the eggs separetly, using different types of flours bla bla blah. when youre making a 28cm cake 3 times in a 30cm oven, time is of the esscence
STEP 1: beat eggs and sugar for exactly 20 min. not kidding. take a seat.
my marvelous Bosch beater didnt even break a sweat
can you see how much my mixture grew from being beaten! so use a big bowl!
STEP 2: carefully fold in sifted flour, 1 table spoon at a time. with a large spatula . try  mixing as little as possible, folding mixture from the bottom onto the top. make sure you dont have lumps

STEP 3: line 28cm round tin with butter and baking paper cut to size. bake at 180'c for about 30 min or until cake pick comes out clean
after assembling my sponge and cream layers i coated the cake in dark chocolate ganache. in the middle i also put a thin cake board on supports to stop the cake squashing itself.
then i put it in the fridge overnight to set.
please remember that once you cover your cake in fondant DONT put it in the fridge! fondant melts on contact with water or humidity

the next cake coming in june, is a french themed birthday cake for a gorgeous 1 year old baby girl! cant wait!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines biscuits

Happy Valentines day to everyone! hope you are spreading the love in every way you can. if you live in rome most public museums and galleries are 2 for the price of one today so take advantage! finally i got round to using my winnie the pooh cookie cutters and say happy valentines day at the same time. have a great day everyone xxx
to all those i love around the world, i would have loved to give you each a biscuit but it will have to be a digital one. im afraid it doesnt take quite the same xxx

my valentine

little pig little pig

and to my dear family. you are always in my heart. i wanted to mail these to you but then i worked out that it takes 3 weeks or 40euros to get to you and they would either be very expensive or very stale biscuits when they reached you and i couldnt justify either of those options so i ate them in your honour like you ate my birthday cake for me! xxx

Friday, February 1, 2013

Birthday cakes all round, cowboy and leaf pattern

Francesco's birthday cake
also my first time painting on fondant with gel food colours and pure alcohol  for dillution, works like watercolours, definately going to practice this cool technique
my icing skills are not completely portrait-like yet but i tried. this is the sweet face of Clint Eastwood
this is royal icing in 2 layers. first you  take a long time to  draw your picture into the shades of icing you want to use, here black, grey and white. then you position this image under baking paper and pipe the colours ontop, its like paint by numbers. when this has dried, maybe in a day, you take thick royal icing and a thin nozzle and pipe the details ontop

inside the cake was chocolate sponge and a new cream i tried making pastry cream which was like a custard from scratch. i over cooked  it a tad, have to practice

i didnt cover this cake in fondant because he doesnt like fondant, he likes chocolate. so its covered in dark chocolate ganache with some fondant details

and a few days later it was my birthday! i have never made my own birthday cake before and after some hitches with experimenting with creams inside it turned out okay
i made what i wanted for a cake for once so i made a madiera vanilla sponge  filled with lemon curd and black cherry cream layers and covered in white ganache buttercream. very delish

im fixated with this leaf pattern at the moment, i cant stop drawing it everywhere

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sunflower cupcakes

i always seem to have some thing to appologise for at the beginning of a post and now my reason is semi justified because google wouldnt let me upload anymore photos onto my blog!!! how about that for fine print. so i had to hassle through creating and adding a whole new account to this blog just so i can continue posting! seems ridiculous to me

anyway, sunflowers. yes im in love with sunflowers at the moment and growing my own has only made me love them more (see photos at end of post)

used royal icing for the flowers and a leaf stamp for the leaves made out of fondant. this wussy italian fondant that went soggy after a day of sitting on the cupcake!

i used the black magic cake recipe but i think in the near future (when i have access to an oven, there is no oven in my new house and its stressing me out quite a bit. i keep having this craving for the smell of warm ginger biscuits or urge to ice something or buy some radical baking gadget when i realise i have no oven)

im not sure what flower this is but its definately a christmas flowers over here in italy. they are everywhere and quite beautiful with deep red velvety petals.
christmassy cupcake
these are my own sunflowers that up until a few days ago were growing on my balcony. now they are still growing, but it is no longer my balcony as when i moved houses i forgot to take them with me!! i know, im a bad mother

im in somewhat of a sunflower craze at the moment.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Polcino pio

Polcino Pio birthday cake for Denni. if you dont know who this character is then educate yourself in this young italian trend:  here . Denni's first birthday cake and  the first time i made a cake like this in someone elses kitchen!

i know this blog has been pretty dead for months, i havent been baking as much as i should have and definately not blogging about it. also ive been moving around countries and houses so havent had a solid base for a while with all my goodies in one kitchen! i moved into my new house on monday and am trying to settle down here so that i hopefully dont have to move for  while

there he is! such a heart stopper, he is really cute. cant they stay that size forever?  until my next  baking session adieu. it should be soon because i have to try out the oven in my new house... only testing can tell.