Christmas Baking 2016

I was a little bit ambitious for Christmas this year, and wanted to showcase a variety of cakey snack things for my friends. I like to give cake because it’s relatively cheap while still being something people can appreciate and not be some tacky knick-knack that will eventually contribute to landfill. With that in mind, everything I made I packaged either in takeaway containers that I’d washed and reused, or paper bags that could be recycled. It really bums me out that candy canes have to be individually wrapped in plastic, but I’m hoping since Coles supermarkets recycle soft plastics, they can recycle tiny bits of candy cane wrappers.

I think if I had more time or thought about it a bit sooner, I’d look into pretty jars/Tupperware to put treats in. 

Anyway, this year I made a few things for my family and friends that have really looked out for me this year. Everything was vegan since I have many vegan friends/friends allergic to dairy. I made blondies using a recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra, and topped with peppermint candy canes and Sweet William white chocolate.

I also made chocolate truffles dipped in dark chocolate. They were originally going to be rum balls, until I remembered a lot of my friends are parents. Haha.

Finally, I also made some gingerbread, using a recipe from the same Isa Chandra book. I think of all the cookbooks I have, I use hers the most! I did my baking over a couple of days rather than all at once. Well worth the effort! This is probably the last baking I’ll do for the year, so looking forward to more baking in 2017!

Halloween Harry Potter Cakes

It’s Christmas Eve, so I thought I better post what I did for Halloween, haha. My friend Jordan asked me to make cakes for her Harry Potter themed 25th. I had a blast coming up with different cake ideas! Everything was vegan which added that extra level of challenging, but it was worth it. Sorry for the dark photos, I took a lot of them at night time. Many thanks to my friend Gerry for lightening them up so they were somewhat usable!

The centrepiece cake was vanilla with a coconut caramel sauce layer. The icing was a bit sloppy but it kind of works on this cake. I topped with popcorn, pretzels, Oreos, and shards of chocolate bark I made from dark and vegan white chocolate.

I also made sorting hat cakes, and filled with vegan hard candy, so when you bit into the cake coloured candy would spill out, revealing your house! I used fondant for the sorting hats. Really chuffed with how these turned out!

Last but not least, I made pumpkin spice cupcakes, topped with a glace cherry painted in orange dust to look like a miniature pumpkin. I wanted to use glitter but orange glitter was not available. Still, pretty pleased with the result.

I had a blast making these for Jordan and I can’t wait to make more magical cakes in the future!

Rolo Tomassi // Cosmology Cupcakes

Anyone who knows me semi-vaguely knows that I generally prioritise two things in my life: music and baked goods. Being in a position where I can combine the two often gives me a sense of pure joy! I’ve done a couple music-themed cupcakes now, including Blink 182 cupcakes for my friend’s 23rd birthday, and these cupcakes that I baked for one of my favourite bands, The Dillinger Escape Plan. I think most people can identify with having music that resonates with them, and taking the opportunity to thank/feed my favourite musicians and give something back to them is one of the things that make me honestly happy.

When I heard that Rolo Tomassi were coming back to Australia, I knew I wanted to bake them treats, and I wanted them to be unique to the band. I’ve been a fan of these guys for about seven years now, and they’re not only on my favourite UK label Holy Roar Records, but their US distributor for their latest album is another favourite of mine, Ipecac Records. They’re one of the most hard-working yet super chill bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The cupcakes are based on their band logo from their 2015 release Grievances, and one of their earlier records Cosmology. I’d been wanting to try make galaxy cupcakes for awhile, so this was a good chance to give it a go! It took a bit of planning to get the effect I wanted, but I think I’ve got it – tutorial will be posted below.


Since some of the members are vegan, I made the cupcakes completely vegan-friendly. I used a basic vanilla recipe for the cakes and frosting, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, a book that Eva had given me for Christmas a few years ago. It is one of my most used cookbooks (if you could tell from going back through my blog), and is just super versatile. I did a bit of a hunt around for black fondant, and found Fondtastic brand (who confirmed through Facebook message that their products are vegan).

To make the logo cupcake toppers, I rolled out the black fondant, cut out circles using a round cookie cutter, and painted the logo on by hand using silver edible paint. The galaxy ones were a bit trickier. To do those, start off with some black fondant, then colour small amounts white fondant using vegan food colouring (I used Wilton gel colouring). Make them the galaxy colour of your choice (I used white, pink and purple).

Tack random small blobs of colour onto your large black fondant ball, then press them in gently. You don’t want to mix the colours too much though, or you’ll just get a grey blobby mess. Then grab a rolling pin and roll it out to get a rough marbled paint effect.

Cut out circles using a round cutter. At this point, I added extra effects by painting blobs of colour using metallic purple paint, spraying and adding various types of glitter, and finally using a brush to fleck white drops of Wilton colouring to make ‘stars’.

The effect is pretty cool, if I do say so myself! I think overall including baking time this took maybe an hour and a half of my time. It’s actually pretty simple, but super impressive if you do it right!

FYI I wouldn’t normally recommend carting cupcakes around to pubs on a rainy night in Melbourne, but I managed to lug these ones around safely! Or safe enough to get into everyone’s bellies, heh heh.

Cookies and Cream Cake Bars

About a month ago it was my friend Jess’s birthday. Jess has recently had her second child, and needless to say with two boys under the age of three it has sounded like a very sleepless experience! I’d been meaning to drop off some meals and stuff to help her out but hadn’t gotten around to it, so by the time her birthday came around I thought it’d be a good idea then to make her and her partner some dinner and cake so they could relax for the night (or as best as you can under those sorts of circumstances).

Lately I’ve been really admiring cake decorating styles that use multiple textures and interesting ways of topping cakes. I recently bought some silicone cake moulds in the shape of bars from Kmart, so decided to try them out and see how they went (also a low-key way of reducing paper waste from cupcake wrappers!). Since Jess is allergic to dairy, I decided to make these completely vegan. I used a vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and added some crushed Oreo biscuits (I scraped off the icing from the Oreos and used it in the frosting for the cakes – no wastage!). 

Getting the cakes bars out of the moulds was an interesting experience – I have now learnt that you should let them cool a bit before getting them out so they don’t completely break apart, haha. The frosting is a combination of Nuttelex and icing sugar – I put about a quarter of the mix in a separate bowl and dyed it pink, and mixed crushed Oreo biscuit in the remaining frosting. I then experimented with a couple different piping nozzles to get the different textures, then dusted leftover Oreo dust over the icing, and topped with a mini Oreo (be careful as apparently not all the different Oreo flavours are vegan – I checked the ingredients of the mini ones and they seemed to be okay).

Myself, our friend Ness had afternoon tea with Jess for her birthday and enjoyed scoffing these down – although I think Jess’s two year old may have enjoyed his share of sugar a little too much! Probably a good thing I also dropped off a healthy chickpea tahini salad for dinner, haha.

 

Aquafaba Meringues

I’ve been super intrigued by aquafaba for over a year now, but always been too chicken to try it out. I just couldn’t translate salty chickpea brine into a sweet dessert. But after I had a friend request some cheap and easy vegan and gluten free desserts for a party, I agreed to give them a try! 

The recipe I used was by Meringue Girls. I’ve also heard that a ratio of 1:1 aquafaba to caster sugar works as well, but I’ve not tried it. The trick is to find a brand of chickpeas that has a thick brine – I used Annalisa brand.

I stayed away from food colouring since I’m unsure which are gluten free, plus I wasn’t sure about how it would affect the consistency or how these would turn out. Obviously they turned out really well! I’m really pleased at the shape since I wasn’t sure that the rose would hold.

The only thing I found is that they’re a bit salty – obviously since they’re made from a brine! I think the only way to avoid that is to try and make your own aquafaba from soaking dried chickpeas, rather than use brine from a can. Otherwise I think if you paired them with a sweet dessert or a rich chocolate, or even a tart citrus flavour, I think that would be enough to mask the taste.

Now that I’ve tried it, I’m very excited to be able to make vegan lemon meringue pies for my friends!

Poppy’s Under the Sea Cake

(Photo by Danni Chau)

I still have glitter and icing sugar stuck in my carpet, but I’m not even mad, because I got to live vicariously through a three year-old and make the cake of my dreams. Yes it’s true, The Little Mermaid is still my favourite movie. Yes, I am nearly 28 years old. Is this a problem? Is a singing Jamaican crab not the best character Disney ever came up with? Well?!

(Although I have to admit, the line “darling, it’s better, down where it’s wetter” takes on quite a different meaning when you’re an adult. Dat Sebastian, smooth operator).

So anyhow, Poppy, being the deadset legend of a three year old that she is, wanted to be a mermaid and have an under the sea party. And who are we to say no? Especially with my predisposition for all things aquatic. And shiny. And cake. As usual, Poppy’s mum Danni had a vision (i.e. scrolled through some cool pics on Instagram), and it was up to me to execute the idea (or fail, failure was a distinct possibility). And make it vegan, if possible. This took a bit of planning, including emailing to make sure food colouring etc. was vegan (Wilton food colouring is entirely vegan, FYI. Also, they’re really nice and really prompt with email replies. 10/10 service).

Next was deciding how to decorate. Danni and I threw around a whole bunch of ideas, including chocolate coral, and elaborate chocolate seahorses and other sea creatures. Eventually, due to budget and time restraints, we settled with fondant shells made with silicone moulds and store-bought vegan fondant. Turns out vegan fondant is super soft, so I had to add a lot of icing sugar so it would pop out the mould smoothly. Another pro tip is to dust the inside of the mould with icing sugar as well so it’s less sticky (but not too much as it makes the outside look kinda chalky – fine for seashells, not so much other things I imagine).

(Photo by Stacey Blood)

The inspiration for the decoration style was from Unbirthday Bakery, who you need to look up on Instagram. Right now. Then drool forever. Their piping is so clever, and some of it makes me think of little barnacles, which I tried to emulate here. I should also take a moment here to give a big shout out to Cake Tinz n Thingz in Balcatta. Their staff are SUPER friendly and went out of their way not only to Google E-numbers on food colouring and fondant to see if they were vegan, but also to find me the right piping nozzles I needed to pull this cake off. Seriously, the best. Go see them and spend all your monies there (and buy me stuff while you’re at it. Cheers).

Here’s a close-up of the detail. I can post pictures of this cake forever. I am that stoked on it.

Oh, and the inside?

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (Photo by Stacey Blood).

The cake flavour is a vanilla number (recipe here). I was a bit hesitant to use olive oil in a vanilla cake, since the flavour can be quite strong, but the icing masked it most of the time and even complemented it quite well (if you got the ratio of icing to cake right. Which is to say, lots of cake with even more icing). The icing is just margarine (I used Nuttelex) with icing sugar and vanilla essence (and a bit of soy milk to thin it out when needed). Nuttelex has a BUTTERY version now which is A+ delish and imitates buttercream pretty closely when used in this manner. SO GOOD.

(Photo by Stacey Blood)

The birthday mermaid was super stoked. Who wouldn’t be impressed with a cake twice the flippin’ size of their face?! I should mention that I didn’t intend to make the cake this big originally. It just kind of happened. Basically I accidentally made a gigantic cake, because a smaller cake did not meet my stringent Under the Sea criteria. I sent a pic to Danni being like “…so this happened” and she was like “wtf, man”.

Have I mentioned that Under the Sea theme is very important to me?

Look, I even dressed up at this thing (photo by Jesse Roberts). Actually no, what am I saying, this is like my everyday fucking wear. Just call me Ocean Girl. Ironically, totally crap swimmer. Not to mention I’m a FRESHwater biologist. Whatever, close enough. There’s freshwater mermaids, right?

This kid is the real star though. Look at her! Her Bà Ngôai made the entire costume from scratch (except her headband, which I made)! This shit is so lit I can’t even deal. I’m so grateful to be able to do awesome cake-related favours for my friends. And also being able to live out my mermaid dreams. Thanks for the party Poppy! Until next year!

(We have aready agreed on a smaller cake for her 4th birthday).

Vegan Vanilla and Peach Curd Cupcakes

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My friend’s daughter Peach turned 4 this week, so I made cupcakes to take to her birthday party! I wanted to play on her name and make peach flavoured cakes, but of course with it being winter here in Australia, peaches aren’t actually in season. I settled for some tinned Australian-grown peaches to make a peach curd 🙂 I also used some peach liqueur made from Balingup here in WA, using local produce. Then I remembered this was supposed to be a children’s party haha, so I also made some plain vanilla cupcakes without the curd.

Making a vegan curd sounds difficult, but it actually is easier to make than regular curd! Without eggs you don’t have to worry about cooking weird fruit-flavoured scrambled eggs! And even though it’s not as rich, without egg or butter to mask the fruit it packs a stronger fruit flavour. It’s basically a semi-solid fruit juice. 🙂 

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Vegan Peach Curd (makes enough curd for 12 cupcakes):

3/4 tin of peaches in juice (with the juice)
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine (I used Nuttelex)
1-2 tbsp super fine cornflour (corn starch/cornmeal)
1 dash peach liqueur (optional)

1. Puree peaches and put over low-medium heat until simmering (don’t let it burn). Add caster sugar until dissolved. Add margarine and and stir until melted and incorporated. Add peach liqueur (if using).
2. Mix some water into cornflour until it makes a liquid, then add cornflour while stirring the peach mix. The liquid peach should firm up and become a consistency similar to regular fruit curd (this will become firmer as well as it cools).

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I baked vanilla cupcakes, took out the centre and filled it with the cooled curd, then topped with vanilla frosting made with margarine, icing sugar, and peach coloured food dye. Overall I’m really happy with the result and especially with the peach curd, gonna do it with a lot of different other fruits I think!

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Squishy curd! Hehe!