Archive for June, 2009

Mad about Figure Modelling

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Twilight-Inspired Cake Topper

My path down this particular branch of cake decorating was brought on by two events - a wedding next year and a themed party hosted by the very lovely Lynn of Enchanté two weeks ago.

              Edward

My little sis is getting married next year and we’d talked very briefly about the possibility of me baking her wedding cake. Having never made a tiered cake and not having had much luck previously with fondant in this humid climate, I was a little hesitant. Hubby immediately veto-ed the idea, knowing full well that I’d be impossible to live with during the making of said wedding cake, given my nervous tendencies and completely ridiculous, but sadly irrepressible, need for anything I make to be absolutely perfect.

              Bella

Taking all the factors that were against the wedding cake project, I settled on the next best thing I could think of - a customed wedding cake topper. The idea was to custom the figures to match their wedding outfits. Since this wasn’t something that I’d done before, I went ahead and attempted to model a couple of figures last weekend.

       Wedding Cake Topper

I was satisfied with my 1st attempt (last 3 photographs of this post), but definitely felt that there was a lot of room for improvement - the eyes and noses, for example, were way too big and the gum paste I’d used had a tendency to develop annoying cracks when dried. The only question was what to model next; I wanted to improve the modelling of the heads and get more practice with modelling a suit, but didn’t want to make another wedding gown.

              Groom Cake Topper Closeup

This is where Lynn’s party features in this post. Being an ardent fan of the series, the party’s theme was Twilight and she’d made a themed cake, complete with fondant figures of Bella and Edward in the meadow scene. Lynn also managed to make converts out of almost everyone at the party - yours truly included. I’m currently reading the series of books, so the choice of what to model was pretty obvious to me.

              Bride Cake Topper Closeup

I went with the prom scene (1st 3 photographs of this post) since that’s the only one where I’d get to make a suit again. This time, I used fondant and as expected, the paste absorbed moisture and developed a glossy sheen the next day. But I was truly pleased with this second set of figures; I particularly like the ruffles on Bella’s dress.

I’m having so much fun that I might even consider accepting customed cake topper projects on the weekend, just so I’d have an excuse to model something!

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Strawberry Tart

I was feeling a little under the weather last week, but with Fathers’ Day coming up that weekend, I knew that I was going to have to put something together. It was certainly a case of the spirit being willing, but the flesh having to be dragged out of bed.

I decided to go with a very simple strawberry tart. The pâte sucrée was already sitting in the freezer and the crème d’amandes filling could be made in a jiffy.

Strawberry Tart

The only seemingly arduous task would be getting equal sized strawberries at the local supermarket since I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get decently red ones. Fortunately, the berries on the supermarket shelves were relatively decent and I ended up having to buy only 2 large boxes.

Dad liked the tarte aux fraises well enough and I’m sure I’ll be making this classic dessert again!

Tarte aux fraises recipe to follow shortly.

Mad about a Orange Hazelnut Praliné Bûche

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

              Orange Hazelnut Praline Bûche

Given that I hadn’t baked in a while, there was no way I was going to let a 3-day weekend go by without firing up my oven. A quick flip through a couple of newly acquired books and I settled on an orange hazelnut praliné bûche.

All right, so it’s not Christmas yet, but one shouldn’t need to wait till Christmas to bake a log cake, no? Especially not when said cake consists of orange compote and hazelnut praline, both made from scratch. I was sold just at the thought of these two components, although I did have some doubts about how the overall taste would be when eaten together in a cake.

Orange Hazelnut Praline Bûche

Orange Compote
The orange compote was made by simmering whole oranges (preferably organic, for obvious reasons) in water for 3 hours, cutting the boiled oranges in small pieces, sauteeing the orange pieces in butter and sugar and then reducing the entire concoction. The resulting compote was further chopped to achieve a chunky and thick jam consistency.

Hazelnut Praliné
The praliné looked simple enough to make: make a sugar syrup, pour toasted hazelnuts into the syrup and stir until hazelnuts are coated with crystallised sugar. Continue to cook hazelnuts and sugar until sugar melts and caramelizes to a dark brown colour. This deceptively simple process took me a good 45 minutes, so imagine my dismay when the caramelized nuts began to turn slightly sticky, courtesy of the lovely humid weather here in Singapore.

Fortunately, most of the praliné was to be ground and used as ingredients for the cake and buttercream. In the end, I was happy with how the bûche turned out (although I could have used a little less buttercream when covering the cake). Who’d have thought that hazelnuts and orange would go so well together?

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Tart with Cocoa Nib Croustillant

Tarts

Emboldened by my sucess, I went on to try another recipe from the same book - a raspberry chocolate dessert built on a sturdy sable breton base. It was actually the almond croustillant decoration in the recipe that I was more interested in than the tart itself. But since I didn’t have almond nibs on hand, I decided to go with an alternative cocoa nib croustillant recipe I’d found in another book.

The end result was not bad, but again, the humidity wasn’t very suitable for croustillant making; the decorative pieces which had set firm at room temperature quickly softened when taken out of the refrigerator. I might try cutting down on the amount of butter the next time or go with almond nibs instead. My poor Silpat did not take kindly to the copious amount of butter in the crousillant!