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!

Rainbow Cupcakes

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Baking is just a hobby for me, but I’ve been very lucky that friends and family have approached me to make cupcakes for special occassions. I’ve done birthdays, engagements and even a couple of weddings, and it blows my mind sometimes that a rookie like me gets requests for my cakes. Crazy! This time, a friend of mine asked me to make some cupcakes as a thank you gift for the doctors and nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital. Her son J has been very sick the last few months that involved him having to be revived twice and staying in the ICU for several weeks. It sounded like a very scary time and I can’t imagine the stress that she and her partner (and little J) went through!

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To that end, I wanted to make some bright and cheery cupcakes now that J is getting better. This is by no means a new idea, but I’ve always wanted to make these rainbow cupcakes. They’re so simple but so clever! And super cute! The cupcakes themselves are a simple vanilla with blue and white buttercream. The rainbow sour straps were a bonus for me, since as someone who doesn’t eat gelatine, I could eat the leftovers! Haha. I also topped the clouds with a fine silver glitter spray, and sprinkles. Yay!

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I made some extra for mum and dad, plus some to match my leggings😉

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Mudcake!

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I’ve been working really hard on my smooth cake frosting. I have a long way to go I think but I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to practice.

This is a mudcake I made for a friend’s birthday. The last mudcake I did was really dry and I’ve been trying to figure out why – I baked this one at a lower temp and it didn’t crack or dry out as much, so I’m thinking the oven temp must be off. I’ve also started doing this trick where you wrap a damp tea towel in alfoil and wrap that around the cake tin to keep the sides moist. I have a few charred tea towels as a result!

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I’m really enjoying sprinkles and looking into getting a few fancy mixes from somewhere like Sweetapolita! There are some really amazing colour combinations and I want all of them, but at $12-20 AUD they’re pretty expensive. Hopefully one day I can justify it.

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Also taking every opportunity I can to show off this new cake stand! I won it on Instagram from La Luna in Inglewood, here in Perth. It was a joint prize as part of the cake I won from Sugar and Nice. How pretty is it? Excited to now have a few different cake stands to play around with now!

Canada Day Cupcakes

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This week, my brother left for Canada. It’s only his second time overseas and he’ll be gone for about six months! To send him off, I made some vegan maple flavoured cupcakes for him and his friends to enjoy at his going away party last weekend.

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Unbeknownst to me, my local supermarket chain has discontinued my usual go-to brand of vegan fondant, so in a panic I decided to make my own using glucose syrup, corn flour, icing sugar and gel food colouring. Handmaking fondant was really messy and a bit tedious, so I hope to find a replacement fondant brand soon! It worked okay, just a bit soft. I think next time I will try and chill the fondant a little bit before cutting out any shapes from it, to avoid wilted looking maple leaf toppers.

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I’m not sure if he did it deliberately or if it was a coincidence, but my brother made it to Vancouver just in time for Canada Day! Happy Canada Day, Canadians!

Gingerbread Brownie Cereal Bowl

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I’d been planning something really special for my pal Ness for her birthday, but then we won a cake on Instagram from Sugar and Nice in Inglewood, so we ate that instead.

(Here it is. It’s so good. And all the better for being free. I love the internet).

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Even we can’t eat too much cake in one weekend, so we spread the birthday fun over two weeks. I had the idea of making a sweet cereal-inspired cake, since Ness is the most cereal-obsessed person I know. This idea went through heaps of evolutions – a custard, a white chocolate fudge with cereal bits, a panna cotta, until I finally decided on an edible cereal bowl.

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I went with gingerbread for the bowl, and moulded it around the only oven-proof bowls I have. Deciding what to fill the bowls with was a tough choice, but eventually I settled on brownie bits, because brownies are the best. Ness makes the best brownies in the whole wide world, and I’d never actually made brownies before, so there was a lot of pressure to make good brownies. I stuck to a recipe in a random cookbook and it paid off! Very tasty and dense and chewy.

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Figuring out what to do for the ‘milk’ part was hard. Gingerbread bowls aren’t exactly the most architecturally sound food vessels, after all. Eventually I came up with meringue fluff, since Ness (and I) loves that shit. The meringue came out runnier than I wanted, but at least in a semi-liquid state it looked like milk. Topped with the most colourful cereal (Froot Loops), plus sprinkles, made for a lot of good times.

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I met Ness at the park so we could watch the ducks and eat our feelings. The bowls kind of fell apart on the walk to the park, which was a bummer. Luckily I brought emergency wet wipes and napkins. I think the gingerbread was a bit soft and because it was a square bowl, not round, it wasn’t as structurally sound. But other than that it looked and tasted SO GOOD. Pretty stoked with how everything came together.

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Lise and Sam Engagement Cakes

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When your two life skills are baking and eating, you tend to try to use the former in a way that at least benefits people other than yourself. I like to surprise my friends with birthday cakes (and help eat them), and as gifts and for my partner and I’s anniversary every year (aw yiss). But it’s always a real pleasure when your mates ask to make something for a special event. I have done cakes for two of my friends’ weddings now, and for quite a few of my friends’ children’s birthdays. I love being able to be involved in special days and to be able to do nice things for people I care about! And I love planning things, doing things to a theme, and doing things I know my friends will really like.

(If someone figures out how my other skill of eating stuff could make the world a better place, let me know.)

When my buddy Lise asked me to make two vegan cakes for her and her partner Sam’s engagement party, it was no different. I got pretty excited – I mean I get pretty excited by cake in general, but anyway – like I said, I love planning, and I had all this inspiration and ideas for fancy cakes that I was kind of just waiting for the right occasion to use them. And engagements are exciting! The cakes were to be a part of a dessert table along with other treats, so I didn’t want to go too overboard and make them too big or overbearing.

They’re still fab af.

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The only criteria for the cakes was that they had to be vegan, and incorporate the colours Tiffany blue/teal and gold. So for the first cake, I made a vanilla layer cake with teal ‘buttercream’ frosting, topped with a cascade of vanilla roses and flecked with gold paint and detailing. I took a lot of inspiration from Unbirthday Bakery, one of my cake heroes. I was most nervous about this cake, as my smooth frosting skills are not the best, and neither are my layering skills. I also wasn’t sure if the flowers would stay put, or slide off into sloppy oblivion and make me cry forever. To avoid this drama, being patient is your friend, and taking the time to refrigerate the cake between crumb coat and final layer, and before applying the flowers makes a big difference. I think the cascade was a bit chunky and could’ve been a bit more intricate and delicate, but overall I’m pretty stoked with how this turned out.

The second cake was a single layer chai flavoured cake covered in vanilla ‘buttercream’ roses and gold dust and edible pearls. I did similar for my friends’ Hannah and Anthin’s wedding, and at a much larger scale, so I was pretty chill about this one. I’m glad I went with something relatively simple but still super pretty; I don’t think I could have handled two overly complicated and stressful cakes.

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All the photos in this post are from the engagement party and taken by Luke Baker Photography, by the way. The difference professional photography makes. Whoo! Thanks to Lise for sending me the pics to use for my blog, and congrats to you and Sam on your engagement!

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