Mad about a 3rd Birthday Cake

March 30th, 2013

            Completed Cake

I hadn’t actually planned on making a cake for Ashley’s 3rd birthday this year. H was vehemently against the idea, wanting me to get as much rest as possible, given my far from stellar state of health in the last months.

But as her birthday drew closer, I knew that I really wanted to do it. Mostly for myself, if I were being truthful. I had been feeling really down as the month of March approached and needed to do something that would bring all of us some joy.

            Close up of cake

It wasn’t difficult to settle on a theme for the cake; I picked one of Ashley’s favourite TV shows. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I knew what “Team Umizoomi” was, I would have gone, “Huh? Team what?”

I’m glad to say that I’m now better informed (about children’s TV programs, that is) and can tell you confidently that Team Umizoomi is a mathematics themed cartoon series, created by the Nickelodeon channel, featuring concepts like counting, shapes and patterns. You know, the kind of things that typical Asian parents want their progenies to excel in. :D

Gumpaste Team Umizoomi

Coincidentally, there are 3 main characters (Milli, Geo and Bot) in the show, which I thought was pretty appropriate for a 3rd birthday, no?

I started off with a tentative sketch of the cake and then searched for images of Milli, Geo and Bot. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any images of the characters in a suitable pose, so I drew all 3 by hand. Each character took about 3 hours to make since every piece of gumpaste had to be drawn and cut by hand.

            Pastel Rainbow Cake - Top tier

For the cake I wanted to try a something different from the dark chocolate cake I normally use for fondant cakes. I had been particularly drawn to the idea of a rainbow cake in pastels after seeing WL and C’s gorgeously vibrant version, even though baking each layer individually would obviously take more time and effort than a single cake. I also hesitated, knowing how certain family members would balk at consuming cake with food colouring, no matter how tiny an amount, but I figured since I had already spent all that time just on the external decorations, I might as well go all out on the inside as well. Besides, this cake was about making Ashley (and me) happy, so who cares what anyone else thinks about food colouring!

The look of sheer delight on Ashley’s face (her eyes literally widened in surprise) when she came home from school and saw the stack of freshly baked cake layers arranged on the cake rack was worth every minute (and every bit of food colouring) I had spent.

9" bottom tier

I had initially considered going with the obvious numbers and shapes theme on the cake itself, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how utterly boring and un-girly that would make the cake.

Ashley enjoys her trips to the aquarium (as well as Bubble Guppies, another Nick Jr. channel program and Finding Nemo), so for the bottom tier, I went with an underwater theme with waves in various shades of blue and bright orange fishes, complete with bubbles.

            Rainbow cross-section

The theme for the top tier was more or less random, I have to admit. I chose it for the contrast that shades of green and purple would give against the pretty canary yellow background and to bring in colour that would match Milli’s dress.

            Slice

I’m utterly pleased with how delightfully pretty and colourful the cake turned out and how the entire process, while time consuming (because I had cut every single piece of gumpaste and fondant on the cake by hand without the use of cutters), gave me a sense of accomplishment. I can’t wait for the next occasion to make another fondant cake!

Macarons

October 12th, 2012

Just a collection of macaron photos for now.

              Salted Caramel Macaron

              Coffee Macaron

Frivolité and Caffé-Caffé Macarons

Insides

Mad about a Baking Session and More Classes

July 4th, 2012

              Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate Macarons

K and I first “met” when she sent me an enquiry about my extra copy of the french version of the PH book. After some email correspondence, we agreed to find a time to bake macarons together, but never got around to it. After reading my blog entry about macaron classes, K contacted me again and we finally set a date for our long overdue baking session. She requested that we make the Mogador (milk chocolate and passion fruit) and bitter chocolate macarons, flavours that her hubby and her kids had picked from the PH book.

I didn’t think that passion fruits were in season and they weren’t. I found a few miserably greenish ones at Marketplace; their skins were still smooth, nowhere near the wrinkled ripened state I needed them to be. I placed the fruits in a brown paper bag with a ripe apple and banana and hoped that they would ripen in time. They weren’t nearly as ripe as I’d hoped when the time came to cut them open, but the juice we got from them was sufficient for our purpose.

              Macaron Insides

The bitter chocolate ganache was made with 100% cacao pate. I didn’t follow the instructions in the book to the T for this ganache and it broke. Oh, how I hate wasting time fixing broken ganaches! Lesson learnt, we read the instructions for the Modgador one more carefully and the ganache was smooth.

I hadn’t made the Modgador macarons in a long time and was pleasantly surprised to find that his recipe did not result in macarons that turned soft very quickly. In fact, the bitter chocolate ones turned out softer.

Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Macarons

Some other flavours I’d like to try from the PH book include the Frivolité, Caffé-Caffé, Sarah and Arabesque macarons. Apricots are in season now, so I’ll have to make the Arabesque ones soon.

Incidentally, I’ve meet some really kind and generous people through my macaron classes. Thank you! I had such an enjoyable time teaching classes that I’ve decided to offer more slots until the end of August. Email me at csauleng[at]yahoo[dot]com for details!