Newcastle, NSW, Australia
I’m a former industrial chemist, and after deciding on a career change while at home with my two young children, I’m now a qualified pastry chef. In 2009 I started taking some classes in cake decorating and other pastry-related cookery, and taught myself many more decorating techniques from books and internet resources. In 2010 I started a pastry apprenticeship, studying Retail Baking (Cake & Pastry) Certificate III at TAFE, which I completed with Distinction in 2012. I completed my apprenticeship in December 2013, and am now working as a full time Pastry chef and Cake Decorator at 'Exquisite Cakes by Lennert' in Cessnock, NSW.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bunny Bling!

Playboy Bunny cake, for my sister-in-law's birthday party last Saturday.


Friday, November 27, 2009

First "Christmas & More" Class

Oops... slacking off again.  I still haven't written up the post about my finished Christmas cake, I went to the Cake Decorators Association Christmas party last Saturday, I've been working on two cakes this week, and I started another course on Tuesday night.  Maybe that's why I haven't been blogging, just too darned busy!  Still thinking about making myself a birthday cake next week, but I don't have any more cakes on the horizon after that, so I may get back to doing some writing soon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fourth & Final Christmas Cake Class

Last Tuesday evening was the final session of the Novelty Christmas Cake class, although I was one of very few that actually had a finished cake at the end of the night. This course wasn’t as “structured” as the beginner class, where everyone took home a completed cake at the end of the last session. Many of the others were at various stages of modelling and still needing to cover cakes, but after putting in quite a bit of work at home to get all of my modelling done, all I had left to do in class was put my cake together.



So here it is, my finished Santa Sleigh! I used royal icing to glue on the sleigh sides and position Santa on the front of the cake and sack on the top part. I then arranged the presents around him and glued them in place, and scattered the candy canes on top of them. Unfortunately, I left a few bits of royal icing visible where I didn’t get the position quite right the first time, and I didn’t realise it was there until it was dry.



The only other hiccup for the night was that I snapped off one of Rudolph’s antlers. The modelling paste still wasn’t dry and his hooves had stuck to the bottom of the container I’d used to take him to class… I was trying to ease him out as gently as I could, but when it gave way I bumped his head against the side of the container, and SNAP!!! I was so devastated, after all that work… I had a bit of a melt-down, but managed to fix it. It took a bit of time, but I just used my craft knife to dig the busted-off end out of his head and carve the slot a little bigger so I could glue the main part back in. So if Rudolph’s antlers look a little uneven, that would be why!



I glued Rudolph to the board and attached the ribbon reins to Santa’s hands with a little more royal icing, and my cake was finished. As with the beginner class, Marilyn was very impressed with my effort and asked me if I’d made it for someone, but it was only ever going to be my family’s Christmas cake and another photo for my portfolio. I was just having fun with the modelling and wanted to see how impressive a cake I could come up with… and I must say, I’m quite happy with the result!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cake & Board

Phew... I've just finished covering and icing my cake and board, and I finally have everything ready so I can put my Christmas cake together in class tonight.  I didn't mean to cut it this fine, but at least it's all done now.  I made a six inch square cake using the "light fruit cake" recipe in my book, but have a bad feeling that there may have been a misprint.  The quantity for one tin size smaller had 2 eggs,  the one I made had 4 eggs, and the next size up only had 4 eggs too.  I know fruit cakes are meant to be moist, but this one seems TOO moist, especially since I've made this recipe in the eight inch round size for my Beginner Class cake and it wasn't soggy like this one seems to be.  I'm wondering if the one I made was only supposed to have 3 eggs... anyway, what's done is done, and I sure as hell don't have time to make another one now!



Yesterday I trimmed a slice off each side and used those pieces to shape the "step" the back of the sleigh.  I covered the cake with marzipan, which was a bit tricky with the odd-shaped cake (especially the high part at the back, where it kept tearing at the edges under its own weight), so it was basically matter of "get it on there any way you can."  The fondant, which was freshly made and still had all its "spring" and elasticity, went on quite a bit easier.  It's not perfectly smooth, but not too bad a job for an odd-shaped cake, and most of it will be covered with models and decorations anyway.

For the snow effect, I covered the board with white fondant and then went over the top of it with royal icing.  I spread the icing on roughly, then dabbed all over it with the spatula to make rough peaks.  Finally, while the icing was still wet, I sprinkled the board fairly heavily with ordinary white sugar to give it a bit of a sparkly "ice crystal" effect.  So all that's left to do now is to pack up my models and gear, and pray that it doesn't rain tonight!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Santa & Rudolph

Poor Rudolph... he was the first model I started working on, and the last one finished.  He's been all-but-finished for ages, waiting patiently for me to get off my butt and go down the street to get some ribbon to use for the sleigh reigns.  All I had to do last night was glue on the ribbon and stick on some holly cut-outs to cover the join, and Rudolph is ready for action.  Santa has been finished for a while too, and for my first attempt at modelling a person, I'm really happy with how well he turned out.



All-in-all, I've really enjoyed the modelling, which is pretty much what this class was all about learning.  I just need to bake my cake now.  Speaking of needing to get off my butt, I really have to get the cake done this afternoon to give myself time to cover it in marzipan and fondant.  I also went to the hardware shop yesterday and got some MDF cut for my board, which I need to cover with contact and fondant as well.  I've finished all the modelling, but I still have a busy few days coming up to have everything ready to put together on Tuesday night!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Christmas Cupcakes

This morning I did another one-off three hour class, a Christmas Cupcake workshop.  These were fun to make!  Santa and the Snowman were made by sticking a marshmallow on top of a cupcake with ganache and then covering the whole lot with fondant.  We then used more fondant to model hats and facial features.  We did the snowman first... Marilyn happened to pick up my red-cased cupcake to demonstrate putting on the marshmallow, and half the class had done the same before she remembered that the red ones were supposed to be for Santa.  D'oh!  Ah well... it looks like he's decided to break the mould and wear green pants this year.



We also had a small cake baked in a tartlet case and a bigger muffin that we could decorate any way we liked.  I went for good old-fashioned holly on the small cake, which actually turned out looking a bit like a miniature Christmas pudding.  To make the Christmas tree I used a marshmallow again, this time with a sausage of fondant around the join between muffin and marshmallow and a little peak on top of the marshmallow to build up more of a cone shape.  I covered the whole thing with green fondant, and put on silver cashous and little balls of red and white fondant for decorations, and cut out a star with a small cutter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sack & Presents

Last night I added ribbons and bows to the presents I made in class this week, and I painted the trimmings today.  I didn't end up putting bows on all of them as they were quite fiddly, and I'm running out of time to get my models done, so I decided to just spend one night on it and whatever I got done was a bonus.  Later on I actually thought of a good reason to not have bows on all of them... they would get in the way if I need to stack the presents on the cake.



I also made Santa's sack today.  I started with a ball of brown paste, then pinched and stretched it out at the top.  Last project was to make a few little candy canes by twisting together thin sausages of red and white paste.  That's pretty much it for the modelling!  I was going to make some toys to sit in amongst the presents, but when I did a quick mock-up of the cake to measure up and work out what size board I need, I realised that there wouldn't even be room for them in the sleigh!  It's actually going to be quite a small cake, just heavily decorated with models.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sleigh Sides

I made good use of the pasta maker again to do the sleigh runners (I did actually make fettucine once, but the pasta maker has certainly had far more use as a cake decorating tool!).  I marbled three slightly different browns, rolled out the marbled paste, and put it through the spaghetti cutter.  Then I took six strands at a time and rolled, twisted and squashed them back together to make a rough wood grain effect.  Unfortunately the marbling blended back together more than I was expecting, so you wouldn't really notice the different shades much unless you looked at it closely.

I was going to do a similar thing with yellow paste to do the gold rope trim, twisting a few strands evenly rather than crushing them together.  It didn't quite go according to plan... the paste may have been a bit sticky, as the strands were coming out very roughly cut and I couldn't make a long enough neat rope.  After a bit of experimenting I ended up hand-modelling the rope trim by stretching the paste into a thin sausage, twisting it as I went.  I'd already cut out the holly leaves and berries from rolled out flower paste, so they just had to be glued on.



Next came the painting.  I did the brown wash on the bottom section before the trimmings went on, as I thought it might need something to break up all the white.  I painted the rope with gold lustre dust, and the holly with gel colours mixed in alcohol.  The gold lustre actually darkened the rope trim quite a bit, and it ended up a similar depth of colour to the sleigh runners.  So now the sleigh runners had to be painted too... as usual, making things up as I go along.  I mixed a bit of black with the chestnut to make a darker brown.  It worked really well!  The colour pooled in the grooves between spaghetti strands which enhaced the wood grain effect, and the darker wash over the marbling helped give it the mottled look that I'd originally wanted.  Yeah... dark wash over light marbling... I'll pretend that's what I meant to do all along!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Third Christmas Cake Class

Marilyn didn't actually have a picture to show us of the cake we're making in this class, so we've really been flying blind the whole time.  I've had a picture in my mind of how I thought it would look based on the shape of the sleigh sides... but when I listened to Marilyn describe how to cut and arrange the cake, her description didn't seem to match my vision, and I could never quite get a handle on how she wanted us to do it.  We were supposed to cover our cakes last night, but because of the uncertainty, I decided to just observe.  Not to mention that as I discovered in the beginner class, that classroom and white fondant don't mix... damn dust!

The cut-out sides for the sleigh are low at the front and high at the back, so I've been picturing Santa sitting on the low front part of the cake and putting his sack on the higher "step" at the back, then stacking presents and toys around him.  But the way Marilyn showed us last night is to have the high part at the front (so the cake is sticking up above the cut-outs) with Santa perched on top, and the low part at the back creates a hollow to fill up with presents.  To me it looked back-to-front and horribly wrong... sorry Marilyn, no offence, but I'm sticking with my own plan.

So we were supposed to be covering cakes and making Santas last night, but I didn't want to cover my cake in class and I've already made my Santa.  I just took my gel colours with me and made little presents to go in the sleigh... something nice and simple!  I had the hassles with my paste, which need a quick zap in the microwave if I had to knead a big piece, so I figured it would be easier for me to make my Santa at home.  Plus I like the Santa picture and instructions in my own cake decorating book, and I felt I could do a better job at home where I could take my time and let pieces dry between stages.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Modelling

After the 'useless paste' disaster in my class, I've finally managed to get some modelling done in the last few days. The paste still took a bit more modification, but at least now I've made some decent progress.  I tried warming it in the microwave to make it easier to knead, and then I added some glycerine, which I'd hoped would soften it.  It seems to have worked, but if I'm starting with a large piece of paste, I still need to warm it in the microwave again to make it workable.

Rudolph was first cab off the rank.  I had a picture of a fairly caricaturish reindeer that I found somewhere-or-other on the net that I was trying to sort-of copy, at least for the basic body shape, anyway.  He's turned out to be a fairly crudely modelled, generic looking animal with a red nose, but at least the pre-made antlers worked well.  I cut them out of rolled-our flower paste and let them dry so I could just make slots in his head and poke them in.  The antlers are about the only feature distinctive enough to make it actually look like he's supposed to be a reindeer!

I had a much happier time making my Santa than I'd thought I would.  For my first modelled person, I think I've done a pretty good job!  The only thing I really got wrong is that I made the head too small in proportion to the hands and body, but thankfully it's Santa, so I figured I can pad out the head with his hair, beard and hat.  He just needs a hat now and he'll be finished, and Rudolph only needs to have his harness painted with gold lustre and another couple of trimmings and he'll be ready for action too.  I'll hold off with the photos until they're finished.

I've also adapted the sketch I made of Marilyn's chocolate mould to suit the shape of my sleigh cut-outs, which I hope to start working on tonight.  I still need to make a sack, some presents, and hopefully some toys and candy canes if I get time.  Oh, and cover a board... and bake, cut, shape and cover a cake.  Still so much to do, less than two weeks until I need to have everything ready to put together!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Second Christmas Cake Class

Once again, I didn't have a very productive night at my class last night. No headaches this week, at least not in the literal sense... my biggest headache was that my modelling paste was barely workable. I made up modelling paste according to the recipe in my book, but Marilyn thought it seemed way too stiff. I added copha to it, I kneaded more fondant into it, I added 'slip' (a sugar paste conditioner that I got from Cupid's), but still couldn't get it soft and/or smooth enough to work with. I don't think the weather helped either... it was a very hot day and I think that having the ceiling fans on in the classroom kept drying out the surface of the paste too quickly. I was trying to make a reindeer, but by the end of the night, all I had to show for two hours' work was a blob of too-stiff chestnut brown paste. Looks like I'll be doing some some heavy-duty modelling at home this week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Children's Birthday Cakes

Last Saturday I did a Children's Birthday Cakes class, a single three hour workshop like the cupcakes and chocolate ones I did last term.  We had a choice of making a butterfly or a snake, both of which could be easily made by cutting and rearranging a round cake.  We had to take our own lollies and whatever bits and pieces we wanted for decorating, but once again, the joy of classes... it's bit hard to know what to take when you don't know exactly what you're going to be doing.

I went with the butterfly, and while I was fairly happy with the shape, I could have done a better job with the design.  I usually spend hours planning any given cake, and more often than not, the design goes through several incarnations before I settle on a final design.  Coming up with something on the spot is definitely not one of my strengths!  Anyhow, the best tip I picked up was how to do a smooth finish on frosting or buttercream (I was wondering about this WAY back when I made Cameron's Bob the Builder cake)... use a hot spatula to smooth it over!  It didn't really work in the class because the taps didn't run hot enough, but I'll definitely try it next time I use buttercream at home.