Monday, 2 May 2016

The Big Butterfly Birthday Fail Cake

Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, you f*ck it up.

Such is the case of the Big Butterfly Birthday Fail Cake.

Oh the cake itself was fantastic, if I do say so myself. Look at that replication! It was slightly wonky on the big round wing, I obviously cut a little too sharply there when it should have been a smooth delicious curve. It's a bit pointier than it should be. But I'm very pleased that I got the sweets just right, even down to the olde schoole fat pink jelly beans that I specially sourced.

So where did I go wrong, if the execution was fine?

I made this cake for a colleague of mine. Let's call her Colleague #1. She had told me about her birthday MONTHS before, and mentioned how she liked butterflies.

I carefully noted this down. I kept the secret hugged tightly to my chest, knowing that I would make this cake and bring it in to the office and blow her mind.

The day came. I'd made the cake carefully over the weekend. I sneaked it into the office, past her desk so that she wouldn't see it until she went into the kitchen. I wrote up the happy birthday sign and placed it all 'just so' on the kitchen table.

As I was doing all of this, congratulating myself for having executed the plan so fantastically, Colleague #2 came in and exclaimed at the wondrous beauty of the cake - which as you can see, I even arranged on a special red background to match the picture in the book. I told this colleague the details of the story.

And then Colleague #2 informed me that Colleague #1 WAS HAVING THE DAY OFF.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Best Book Ever Written In This Country

There's a news story online today about The Book - they've called it The Best Book Ever Written In This Country, and they are absolutely right!

You can read the story here: click this link.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Play it again, Sam

My version, for Jessie
The original from The Book 

And so it is with only the tiniest bit of fanfare and flourish, that I return to this blog and I recommence my cake project.

It's been a while, hasn't it? Almost two years - can you believe that? For me it seems like yesterday. 

But in those two years, I moved halfway across the world to Qatar, and that's what brought the project to a complete stop. The Middle East is a strange and wonderful part of the world at the best of times, but it is a complete shambles when it comes to cake making. Amongst other things.

I couldn't get the right sweets to decorate the cakes. The only stuff on the shelves was that horrible Haribo jelly candy stuff, ugh. And there was no way to get hold of all the cute little toys and other accoutrements that are such an important part of recreating these cakes right down to the last tiny detail. More to the point, my new workplace was not cake-obsessed like my last one. It was so frustrating! 

I did try to keep going. I thought, Maybe I can just make some of the easy cakes that don't have the complex bits and pieces. Maybe friends can ship me the lollies in the post? 

But then I discovered that cake baking of any kind was going to be a disaster. When the recipe calls for butter at room temperature, and the room temperature is around 48 degrees Celsius, that's not what they mean. 

So I put cake making on hold. But ALWAYS with the thought of recommencing.

And then guess what? Five weeks ago I moved to Switzerland. Here I am in Geneva, surrounded by the most amazing sweets and chocolate, and a postage system that can bring me toys from eBay around the world without them getting stuck in Customs for months on end. Seriously. And butter that does not melt if you look at it! Indeed, butter that often does not melt at all, and that's a different kind of problem, but at least it's the kind of problem that can be overcome.

I confess that the picture of this piano cake is an old one. I made this cake for my friend Jessie's birthday, and I kept the picture on hold until I found the right moment. This is the right moment. And I love this cake! 

I am especially proud of the tiny little candelabra, although it's not *exactly* the same as the one in the original. I spent hours on eBay looking for one that was as close to the original as possible. And I feel very smug about photocopying a picture of the cake from The Book and then cutting out the tiny little bit of music so that it is a) exactly the same music and b) exactly the right size. 

So there you have it, dear readers. The project has recommenced. 

The question is: which cake will I choose to officially reanimate the project? It has to be something impressive, don't you think? Something sufficiently difficult and inspiring to look at? Something appropriately up to the task?

You'll have to check back here to find out!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

AAAAAAaaaaarrr, me hearties!

My pirate
AAAAAaaaaarr, me hearties!

Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, so....buckets of blood! Where's me doubloons? Who took me treasure map? This wooden leg hurts and my polly wants a cracker.

Yeah, I'm not a very good pirate. I don't think I have the dashing rakery that it requires. Or Johnny Depp. I don't have Johnny Depp either, more's the pity. I'm sure I'd be a better pirate if Johnny Depp was around.

Pirate from The Book
My very first recurring nightmare was about pirates. I was about three years old, and it was a very strange two-dimensional nightmare that was basically a re-enactment of whichever Captain Pugwash episode I'd watched recently, right down to the cardboard cut-outs they used for the animation.

Do you remember Captain Pugwash - and Cut-Throat Jake? Boy, children's tv used to be so much more terrifying . Perhaps my fragile infant mind picked up on the undercurrent, despite the cardboard cut-outs they used, because I used to find myself crawling into bed with my daddy in the wee hours of the morning, panicked and sobbing with fright.

However, I am quite good at drawing treasure maps. I used to spend hours drawing myself imaginary treasure maps and then acting them out. Which sounds a bit redundant, because, you know, I'd drawn the map so I always knew where the treasure was. But such is the power of a childhood imagination - it can overcome petty things like reality, and knowledge, and truth; and instead just have a whacking good time crawling around the garden and into cupboards and up trees.

And then of course there's this cake from The Book, which I must say I am VERY happy with. Although the pirate himself looks like he's been down on his knees, swabbing the decks or something. What gives with that expression? It is not a very happy cake for a children's book!

And apart from some errors of proportion on the chocolate biscuit eye patch, I'd say it's pretty darn close to the original. Right down to the picture on the earring! Although the earring itself is a silver button from my sewing collection, because I couldn't find the right gold one.

It's an incidental detail, but .... I'm sure if I presented this to Captain Pugwash, he'd have made me walk the plank. And then I'd have had nightmares about it forever.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How much can a Koala Bear?

How much can a Koala Bear?

When I was younger I really didn't understand that joke. I was a very literal child and I always thought the sentence was wrong.

But now that I am older and I have grown a sense of irony, I get it.

Have you ever been in a situation where you've had to ask yourself the question: what is my capacity for endurance? How long can I hang onto this tree for?

I am hanging onto a tree right now. I'm up there in mid-air, and I'm starting to feel like I've had my arms wrapped around it for too long. The blood is pooling in my limbs, my shoulders are stiff, and I'm starting to lose sensation in my fingertips.

Sometime I think about what it would be like to just .... let .... go ........

Monday, 14 January 2013

Echidna cake: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

My echidna, who has a very long nose

the original from The Book

Ta da!  Ladies and gentlemen, here is the first cake of 2013.

And the twist to the story is that it's not a cake per se, it's actually ice cream cleverly disguised as cake. So not only is it the first cake of 2013, it's my first ice cream cake EVER.

I was hoping for a scorcher of a day today so that we could all really enjoy the cold creamy goodness of the cake here in my office, but to be honest it doesn't matter that it's only 19 degrees. This baby was out of the freezer for all of around six minutes before not a skerrick was left to be seen. And that's really what you want  for a cake, isn't it?

I made this for a colleague's birthday, so there were some logistic difficulties to overcome. Because how would I get the cake from my house to the office without a disaster? And not just that, but how would it ever survive an hour in the boot of my car while I run around and jump up and down during my exercise class before work? I mean, I'm clever, but even my epic cake making skillz (and yes that "z" indicates my tongue is firmly in my cheek) cannot prevent an ice cream cake from melting. I am many things, but I am not God.

So I came into the office yesterday and made it here. Voila, problem solved.

If you'd like to replicate my experience, here are the steps you need to follow.

  1. Go to Coles at 730am on a Sunday and buy lots of chocolate chip icecream, ice magic, malt biscuits, smarties, a chocolate swiss roll, and camphor balls.
  2. Receive strange look from the checkout chap. Was it because I was buying ice cream at 730am, or the camphor balls? We may never know.
  3. Zoom down Hoddle St and arrive at work ten minutes later. This is some kind of record. Normally it takes half an hour at the minimum. Congratulate yourself.
  4. Plonk everything on the kitchen counter and wait for your icecream to soften. 
  5. Settle down to hand stitch the binding on your latest quilt, while ice cream is softening. Curse when you realise you've forgotten the thread you need. Sew the button eyes onto your owl softies instead. 
  6. Five minutes later when all eyes are sewn on, curse again. Search in vain for something to read.
  7. One hour and many website visits later, spoon all your icecream into a pudding steamer lined with gladwrap. Return to freezer.
  8. Curse when you realise you've forgotten the baking paper and aluminium foil needed for the next step.
  9. Head up the road to the shop. Buy baking paper and deodorant and oooh look, raspberries on special.
  10. Traipse back to the office and remember THE BLOODY ALUMINIUM FOIL. 
  11. Skip that step.
  12. After another hour, get the icecream out of the freezer and flip it out of the pudding steamer. Working quickly, jam in lots of biscuits to make the spikes.
  13. Trim your chocolate swiss roll to look like a nose, position it on the icecream body, and then douse in ice magic. Ice magic! When was the last time you had ice magic?
  14. Return to freezer.
  15. One hour later, check for firmness and realise it's still soft because the freezer is at its highest temperature setting. Sweat a few bullets worrying. Then  turn the temperature down.
  16. Leave the office, crossing your arms, legs, fingers, and eyes in the hope that it sets well and does not turn into a big melty puddle in the freezer.
And there you have it - one ice cream echidna. 

Oh, the camphor balls? Totally unrelated. You don't need to buy them after all. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Let the 2013 cake baking commence!

image from here

Well, readers - happy Christmas and Merry New Year!

I hope that wherever you are, you managed to have a great break over the holiday season. I hope you lay around and ate a lot of Christmas cake. I love Christmas cake in all its fruity alcoholic glory, and I especially love that thick, sweet marzipan icing. Mmmm, marzipan icing.

I also hope you're ready to read all about cake in 2013. I had a baking break over the holidays but that is over now and the project is ON again.

The nicest thing happened to me before the year was out though. It was at the office Christmas party, during the formalities. I won a cake-related award!
I was given half a dozen bottles of beautiful champagne as a thank you for all the cake I have brought into the office over the past nine months. Everyone said how the cake brings them together and helps build team spirit. I swear, I was so touched I nearly cried.

So I'm very glad that I also decided to put cake into my 2012 performance review document. Along with the other dot points about what I achieved at work over the year, I wrote this:

" I am a strong contributor to organisational culture and I have single-handedly raised expectations about what it is possible to achieve with icing and coloured coconut."

It's true. There was a lot of coloured coconut in 2012.

And that brings me to 2013, where I will attempt some or all of the following:
  • the Cake Of Kisses made from meringues, 
  • the Sweet Shop, using the sweet little Bo Peep lollies that reader Sue so kindly picked up for me when Darrell Lea went bust
  • the Fairy Castle, for a male colleague who picked it out for his birthday months ago
  • and of course the SWIMMING POOL!!!!!!!!!!! for my very own birthday in April.
2013, I'm ready for you.

Let the cake baking commence!