Updates from a life beyond cakes

Jun 19, 2013 by

Updates from a life beyond cakes

I’m still finishing up existing client commitments from my cake business, so for the last 7 weeks I have worked almost every single day across two jobs. It’s no surprise then that I’m currently writing this from the couch where I have planted my sick, tired body in front of the TV for the day.

Bonus note: Thanks work, for giving me a day off to rest!

I thought I’d update with how things are going in the world of food since my last post. I am definitely winding up the cake business, but I still enjoy making cakes and making my friends happy so this blog will live on!

A couple of weeks ago I took some mini cupcakes in for my new work friends to enjoy, I think I won some hearts that day!

About the same time, my awesome housemate Neena sent this to me as a surprise while she was away seeing her family. She is currently travelling around Europe, lucky girl!

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At first I thought I bought it in my sleep, because I mentioned it to a few people days earlier..

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Harry my rabbit was helping me open the box.. He’s so cute!

 

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Burch and Purchese Salted Caramel!! It is so delicious. If you’re in Melbourne, go there.

I set up a wedding cupcake tower in a library (which was REALLY cool!)

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And finally, last week was probably the busiest week since I started my new job. I had a big order for 400 cupcakes and two client bookings for the weekend as well as working all around that. It topped off the end of working 21 days in a row across both of my jobs, and when it finally got to the end of Sunday, I was so relieved. And now I am unwell of course – that’s what happens when you stop after going for so long!

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(two of the sixteen boxes of cupcakes)

That’s what has been happening since I wrote last. Of course there’s lots of other little bits and pieces in there, including getting on my feet in my new job, but it’s been a fun ride so far!

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Changes and Confessions

May 12, 2013 by

Nearly four years ago, I started this blog, and I started my love affair for all things baking and pastry.

While I was in Sydney recently I got hit with a big case of reality. I was there visiting friends and attending their wedding (and making their cake!) and just being able to spend time with friends and have an enjoyable weekend with them made something click. I was done baking for work.

I started my business on the 1st of December, 2009. Six months later, I went to pastry school, and then another six months later I was working full time on cakes, cupcakes, and decorating parties. I left my other job and started teaching cake classes. Another year later and I went to study a business diploma… and then it started to weigh me down.

I was working 60+ hours some weekends, from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon, and I missed a lot of things in my life which made me feel very angry, sad and isolated.

Last Sunday I turned 25, and the following day I was starting my new job back in the land of the living. I am slowly making my withdrawal from the cake business. I’ve spent my 20′s so far doing cakes for work. It’s time for a change.

It doesn’t mean I have given up cakes completely or this job. I still love the art and design behind putting together a dozen cupcakes or an awesome looking dessert table (as I made one for my birthday) but I just can’t manage it as a job anymore. I would love to just do this for the fun of it again.

I didn’t spend too much time in that stage of my love affair with cake decorating as I launched straight into work, so I didn’t have time to build things up before it became a fully fledged career.

Since starting my new job on Monday, a lot of my colleagues (and now friends) have been surprised I’ve come from that career, where others have transitioned from another section of retail. Is the surprise about giving it up to come do what I’m doing now? Or awe?

These changes mean I have plenty of time to love cake decorating again for what it was and what it always will be – my beloved hobby.

(and if you haven’t figured it out MORE TIME FOR RECIPES!)

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Caramel Tartlets

Apr 27, 2013 by

caramel-tartlets

I make a lot of little tartlets for dessert tables and this weekend I have a request for caramel ones, so I thought I would share the recipe with you!

You can make your own pastry, but I’m a big believer in the fact if something can be made a little easier for yourself to produce an excellent looking product, then take that avenue.

Also pastry is annoying.

Monnie’s Caramel Tartlets
Makes 12

  • 12 Pampas Sweet Tartlets (Freezer section)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup (you can find this at a lot of places now here in Australia, in SA most Foodlands now stock this)
  • 113g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 1 pinch of coarse salt
  1. Prebake the tartlets at 180C for 10 minutes and set aside ready for the caramel filling.
  2. Add the sugar, corn syrup and water together and cook over a medium heat until it becomes an amber caramel colour.  This will take about 10-15 minutes. Swirl the pan occasionally so it heats evenly.
  3. When you have the colour you desire (don’t go too dark or you’ll see the colour change very quickly) then take it off the heat and you whisk in the cream, butter, creme fraiche, and salt. The caramel is going to bubble right up at this point, just add everything in and whisk until it settles down. Add back to the heat and whisk until smooth. Done!
  4. Transfer the caramel to a glass measuring jug (carefully, caramel is misleadingly hot, don’t put your finger in it!) and divide among the shells while still warm.
  5. Let the tartlets sit for about 45 minutes – 1 hour until the caramel is set. I did mine and left them to set overnight so I had plenty of time.

You can make the caramel up to five days ahead and store in a refrigerated container. This recipe will leave some caramel left over after your 12 tartlets, which you could use in a buttercream to make filling for macarons (which is what I’ll be doing this afternoon!)

Enjoy :)

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Lemonade Scones

Mar 30, 2013 by

During the school terms when I don’t have any other commitments for work, I volunteer as a cookery teacher at my old primary school. Each week we make something different, and it’s normally the usual cookies and cupcakes.. This week, we made scones.

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Lemonade Scones

  • 300g Self Raising Flour
  • 55g Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125ml thickened cream
  • 125ml lemonade
  • Milk for glazing

1) Preheat the oven to 220C. Line a flat baking tray with baking paper.

2) Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl.

3) Add lemonade and cream and mix through. It will start to get harder to mix towards the end, turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead the final bit together to form a soft dough.

4) Press out the dough with your hands or a rolling pin to 2-3cm thickness, and cut out scones. We used a glass to cut ours, this way you can adjust the sizes because usually you will have two different sizes of glasses/mugs if you want to mix it up a bit. If you have a pastry cutter then all is well!

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Space them out on the tray and brush the tops with milk.

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Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with jam and cream! Best served warm too. Yummm.

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We made 5 batches on Wednesday and got 84 scones out of it – we were using a smaller glass so that the students all had more scones to take home and eat.
The funny thing was, before we started none of them knew what scones were, and afterwards EVERYONE and their friends knew what scones were, and the following day were asking me for the recipe!

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Baking Photography Hints & Tips

Jan 18, 2013 by

Baking Photography Hints & Tips

Hi to all my new readers! I have started a Facebook page for the Monniecakes blog now, which you can find at http://www.facebook.com/monniecakes! It will have a post link up for every post (so you don’t miss out on new updates if you don’t have an RSS reader), and also discussion about tips, tutorials and lots of awesome baking photos. Come and join the community! I’d also love to see your photos too.

I thought I’d do a bit of a write up about how to get better photos of your creations if you are struggling  Photos are your record of the delicious items you’ve made, and also great to share on Facebook to impress your friends and family… And then they’ll ask you to make them some ;)

I have a Nikon D70, which is a DSLR, and a Canon IXUS80IS, which is a point and shoot handheld camera. I take photos with both of those plus my iPhone. The tips below help me get the best out of the equipment I’m using.

- You don’t need a super fancy DSLR camera to take good photos! I promise! A compact digital camera will be more than fine.

- Learn how to switch off your camera flash or reflect the flash to the ceiling. If you have a small hand held camera, the flash will be facing forward and wash out all the detail in your subject. Either turn it off or you can make your own little reflector with some cardboard (I will do this in a tutorial next week)

- Want to get close and personal? Most cameras have a “flower” setting – this is the macro option! It will let you focus a little closer, so you can get those lovely details. Usually it makes the background all blurry (this is called depth of field) and makes it look like it’s from a expensive DSLR.

- Diffused (not direct) natural light is amazing for highlighting the right details on your subject. Photographers swear by morning and late afternoon light. I think it’s because it seems so soft and cuddly! Hehe. If you’re unsure about how to get diffused light, open your blinds and hold up a white sheet in front of the window. It blocks out the harsh light, which would wash out all the details on your photo subject if it wasn’t diffused through the sheet.

- Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great basic photo editor so you can adjust colour, tone, contrast and brightness. It’s now FREE along with Photoshop CS2 for Mac and PC. There are thousands and thousands of tutorials for working with these programs but Photoshop Elements is the easier of the two. To download applications from the CS2 suite, visit the Adobe website.

I hope these basic tips help you a little to get the best photos! I tried to write this as simply as possible as I know cameras these days are a minefield! Post any questions you might have and I’ll try to answer them for you :)

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Choc Chip Cookies

Jan 7, 2013 by

Choc Chip Cookies

On the weekend, I had my brother and sister stay with me (they’re 6 years old and twins!) and Miss 6 brought along an activity book that had a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. We had to change a couple of ingredients to suit what we had at the time, so this has been adapted!

Choc-Chip Cookies

  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 75g chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Prepare a flat baking tray with baking paper ready for cookies!
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, brown sugar, baking powder). Add the eggs, golden syrup and butter, and work together with a spatula. At the end, add in the chocolate chips and make sure they are evenly distributed in the dough.
  4. Scoop up teaspoons of the dough and place them evenly spaced on the tray. The dough is a bit sticky, but then again it is mid 30′s here.. Just as an indicator, we made a half recipe of this and we had tablespoon sized spoons and they were huge. Oops!
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until almost firm, but not hard. They will firm up more on cooling. If you like them crunchy, bake them longer, otherwise take them out now and they will be soft and delicious.

Makes about 24-30 cookies depending on the cookie size. They wont last long! Yummo.

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Testing your oven for hot spots

Jan 4, 2013 by

Testing your oven for hot spots

In my Cupcakes 101 class I tell my students about oven hotspots. They’re just areas of the oven that produce more heat than others. This could be the bottom, the top, or a back corner. I’ve always offered tips on how to overcome this issue, but today while browsing some favourite recipe websites I have come across the best way to test your oven for hot spots without sacrificing your delicious cakes.

In a perfect world an oven that has been set to 180C will measure as 180C, but the thing is it’s rare to find an oven that measures exactly to the dial. This is why I always stress to students, get an oven thermometer! It’s only $10 and can save you a world of baking heartache.

If you already own one and you’re still having problems, it might be time to check where the problems are coming from. The hotspot test!

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. On a large flat tray, arrange pieces of bread (as above) and set the oven rack to the middle of the oven.
  3. Place the tray into the oven. After a few minutes you will see which slices are darker than others – and where the problems are.

The best way to overcome hot spots is to turn your trays halfway through the baking time. This is also an excellent tip for fan forced ovens that don’t have an option to turn this off, so it will help to prevent cakes and cupcakes rising on an angle away from the heat, and even them out again.

Do you have a dodgy oven? What tips and tricks do you use to get by with baking?

Source: Cooking Light

 

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