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When I travelled to New Zealand in August of 2006, I came across the amazing dessert Pavlova. It was everywhere I went. Curiously, it is New Zealand’s national dessert, and can be found at all manner of cultural events, in bakeries, and in many homes. And it’s no wonder why; it’s a very light, slightly sweet dessert that takes full advantage of seasonal fruits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year on my birthday, I make a Pavlova as my “birthday cake”. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much time. The flavours remind me of every amazing experience I had in New Zealand: the bungee jumps, the skydiving, the beaches, the glaciers, and especially, my first foray into kayaking.

To this day, my trip to New Zealand is consistently my favourite experience. It was a great country to visit, I met so many fascinating and fun people, and had the best time of my life. I miss it everyday, and find myself fantasising about the countryside constantly. So it’s no wonder that I try my best to remember all these good times through my sense of taste!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basic recipe is a meringue base, with whipped cream and fruit on top. I’ve altered the whipped cream to make a White Chocolate Orange Chantilly Cream, using orange flavoured white chocolate. The best (and most affordable) orange flavoured white chocolate is only available around Christmas time. It is Terry’s White Chocolate Orange.

Pavlova

4 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sliced strawberries

2 kiwis

2 passion fruits

1 cup whipped cream

6 oz orange flavoured white chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the egg whites and beat until stiff. Whisk together the cornstarch and powdered sugar. Add the mixture to the egg whites a tablesppon at a time, while beating on medium speed, until all is combined. The meringue should be shiny, white, and stiff. Fold in the vanilla extract.

Reduce the oven to 200 F, and mound the meringue on the pan so it is between 6-8″ in diameter. Bake for one hour. Turn off the oven, and leave the meringue to cool overnight.

Whip the cream until soft peaks. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, and pour into the whipped cream while beating on medium speed. Add the whipped cream on top of the meringue, then arrange the fruit (either artistically, or haphazardly, as I have done).

Now on to the photography:

I had some considerable difficulty with lighting. It was a cloudy day (on my birthday!), so I couldn’t get the best shots. I don’t know what the little blue flowers are, but I enjoy the contrast they bring. Any thoughts or suggestions?! I welcome your feedback! =)

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Since Spring is… er… springing, I thought it would be nice to show some cakes I’ve done with a variety of flowers. Now, these photos are old… maybe two years ago, when I was first learning to decorate cakes. That’s my disclaimer for anything wrong imperfect.

This lovely little pink cake, with indiscernible white flowers and a pearl border, was biscotti cake. No, the cake wasn’t hard and tough, it was just flavoured like traditional biscotti: a little bit of cocoa and some anise seeds. Surprisingly, it was pretty good!

This was my first attempt at a tiered cake. Obviously. I donated this to Equality Utah a long time ago. Each tier was a chocolate cake, but each tier had a different ffilling between the layers. The fillings were coconut cream, strawberries, and caramel. The multi-coloured daisies took FOREVER to make, so I’m glad I had help from two of my friends.

This was a quick little heart-shaped chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache and gumpaste flowers (not sure what kind!) that I made for Valentine’s Day (years ago).

Tiger lilies are some of the most interesting flowers. A friend of mine was turning 23, and she said her favourite colour was blue and she liked tiger lilies. I made 24 lilies out of royal icing, and all but 8 broke. They were an utter, dismal failure, and are the reason for my hatred of royal icing. The cake is blue vanilla buttercream, with a fondant bow. I really like the colour scheme of this cake, I just wish I could remember the flavours of cake!

Hopefully spring is… springing in your area, and you’re able to see some flowers soon! =)

Back in the day (waaaay back in the day), I had the dream of opening a recording studio in my homeland of Coal Creek Canyon, Colorado. I wanted to name the recording studio “All the C’s”. Incidentally, I also had a cat named C. Seriously, just the letter “C”. And no, it didn’t stand for “cat”. I’m far more creative than that.

Since that dream has faded (and because it’s an illogical notion to open a recording studio in a remote canyon), I’ve forgotten about “All the C’s”. But now, the name can be reborn–in cupcake form!

YUM!

So, these are your basic chocolate cupcakes. No, I’m not giving you my chocolate cake recipe. It’s something I’ve spent 3 years perfecting. However, I will discuss my frosting and ganache filling!

Coffee Ganache filling:

1 part cream

2 parts coarsely chopped chocolate

2 tbsp kahlua

1 tbsp fresh finely ground coffee

Heat the cream until boiling. Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then slowly stir in ground coffee and kahlua. Stir until the mixture thickens. You can refrigerate this and whip it, if you so desire. Alternatively, replace the fresh coffee grinds with instant espresso powder. With a pastry bag and a bismarck tip (or a star tip), fill each cupcake until it is about to burst. You really can’t have too much filling, so don’t be shy!

Chocolate frosting:

1 scant cup coffee chocolate ganache (from above recipe), melted until pourable (but not hot)

2 tbsp kahlua

8 tbsp room temperature butter (NOT margarine or shortening)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 tbsp fresh finely ground coffee

Cream butter and sugar together. Add coffee grounds and kahlua. Continue to mix while slowly adding coffee ganache. Add more powdered sugar to make the mixture as thick as you would like. With a pastry bag and tip (I used some kind of star tip, but I don’t remember which), create swirls on top of your cupcakes.

The freshly ground coffee gives just a hint of coffee flavour, as does the kahlua. For a stronger coffee flavour, use instant espresso powder or good quality coffee extract.

I’m also a big fan of the photograph. I think I’ve come a long way with my photography skills, don’t you?! =)

Here’s a cake I did just before the weekend. It was a rush order. I made the filling (raspberry), the fondant, the frosting, and the cake (white), and put the whole thing together in one night. Quite a feat, I would say! And the result? You be the judge!

My final post on Knoxville-based bakeries and cupcake shops is because of The Cupcakery.

The Cupcakery is great in many ways. First, the cupcakes are slightly larger than normal. That’s pretty awesome. For real. =)

Also, the flavours are JAM-PACKED! Not necessarily packed with jam, I’m just saying they are very flavourful. For instance, get a gander at these beauties:

Your eyes are now feasting on the mocha cupcake, and the peanut butter cupcake. Clearly, my photograph only gives you the great look of these cupcakes, not the flavour. Both cupcakes were made with a dense, rich, moist, and beautiful chocolate cake. The mocha was topped with (duh), coffee flavoured buttercream that was silky, bright, and had a very fresh and clean coffee taste. And the coffee bean added just a bit of crunch (I could have gone for more coffee beans, but one will do!). The peanut butter buttercream was rich and decadent, slightly gooey in that perfect peanut buttery way, and again, the chocolate chunk on top added for a bit of texture change.

Man… these are some phenomenal cupcakes. Go get some. NOW! Well, ok, get to Knoxville first, if you’re not already there….

Continuing in the vein of Knoxville, TN-based bakeries, I proudly present Magpies:

I visited Magpies when I was in Knoxville of the holiday break. It was an easy-to-find location, and apparently is a new location for the bakery that has been around for a number of years. I actually expected to see more than cupcakes on display. I’d heard of Magpies before, but thought it was more of a traditional bakery. When I arrived expecting some great pastry action for breakfast, I’ll admit that I was mildly disappointed. Cupcakes are great, but not exactly what I want for breakfast (I know some people’s opinions differ on the matter, but… my blog).

After chatting with the owner about the bakery, the new location, and her love of Salt Lake City (WHOO!), she hooked me up with some free carrot cupcakes! YES! Sometimes I really love a good carrot cake. And magpies is goooooooooood! =) See for yourself:

Carrot cake

Carrot cake

I would like to point out the nearly flawless cream cheese frosting, which completely covers the cupcake. I’m a big fan of that. And the walnut pieces just hanging in the balance really finishes off the whole effect. And the cupcake was dense, the cream cheese frosting lightly tangy…. yum!

I bought a sampler package; an assortment of mini-cupcakes. The total cost was around $10, which isn’t too bad, but isn’t too great, either. What can I say? I’m cheap…

From top left to right, going down:

Vanilla – pretty classic, and pretty good.

Mango – not for me. Too weird and fake tasting. But, I don’t really like mango anyways.

Chocolate – tasty. Rich. Good times! But, nothing spectacularly out of this world, either.

Strawberry – very sweet. Definitely not “real”. Again, not for me, even though I like strawberries.

Mocha – the same chocolate cake as before, but with EXCELLENT coffee flavoured buttercream. Unfortunately, the “coffee bean” on top was not a coffee bean at all, more of a chocolate nib. A bit disappointing, really!

Red velvet – beautiful, but mine are better!

So, Magpies is pretty great, I’m not gonna lie. Some flavours weren’t for me, and that’s just the simple fact of that. Some people wouldn’t dig the mocha, or the red velvet (though I don’t know why).

Still, have a look at their website, and if you’re ever in Knoxville, get up there! Maybe you’ll even get a few freebies like me!

There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than with nudity cake.

That being said, the following post has photos that are MILDLY objectionable. Avert your eyes, close your browser, or… whatever, if you are easily offended. I’m not responsible for your sensibilities. Besides, these are PHOTOS OF CAKES! It’s not real nudity, so get over it!

For whatever reason, people like cakes of an erotic nature. I guess that’s why there are so many erotic bakeries out there in the world. Well, here’s my contributions to this mildly respectable niche market (I say mildly respectable because pulling off life-like anatomy does take some skill!)

=)

Yea….. umm… the best is that the black dye used for the…. er…. hairs…. well, temporarily stains lips, teeth, and tongue. So, for all those eatin’ pubes… WE ALL KNOW!

I’m quite proud of the lace-work on this one. See! Totally respectful and (slightly) elegant!

Those are definitely two of my favourites. Again, tasteful, right? Some nice lace-work, a seductively placed rose… rose petals… chocolate everywhere. YUM!

I’m not going to lie… I enjoy doing cakes with some lace-work/bra action. Why? Well, because then I don’t have to worry about the nipples being asymmetrical, off-centre, or just plain wrong. Case in point:

And this happy fellow? Well, I know it’s not exactly naked/nude/exposed, whatever, but it is funny. A friend of mine had a porn and pasta party. So… I did what I could to come up with clever-ish titles for his porn tapes. I welcome any other suggestions, in case I do future porn tape cakes!

More cakes for the holidays! This time, the cupcakes were for a holiday party I was actually invited to! WHOO!

I had a lot of fun at the party (it was for an office at the University of Utah that I work with). Good times. Lots of wine, great food, awesome company, and a surprisingly good White Elephant Gift Exchange (I scored a bag of hot chocolate-filled Hershey kisses… yum!)

Here’s photos of the cupcakes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cupcakes were Creme Brulee flavoured. No, I didn’t torch the sugar to form a nice caramel crunch, I simply added some extra vanilla extract and some yummy, thick caramel syrup to the batter just before baking. Once they baked, I infused them with a special syrup (the ingredients are a secret!), topped them with a bit of vanilla meringue buttercream, then some fondant. Each cupcake is handpainted (yes, that’s right!) with luster dust, then decorated with royal icing designs. The little bell-hook things were made out of gumpaste, and painted with gold luster dust.

These were some REALLY GREAT cupcakes! I’m very proud. All in all, it took about 6 hours to decorate 24 of them. Whew!!!

They were completely devoured in 20 minutes. =)

It seems the holidays never end. I think that’s a pretty popular sentiment this time of year. I recently had another holiday party to go to, so of course, I took a cake! The top tier of the cake below is maple walnut cake with maple buttercream frosting, while the bottom tier is chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream frosting. Yes, that’s exactly the same as the cupcakes I made for another holiday party. Yes, the two parties were just a day apart. And no, I can’t think of any flavours more holiday/season specific than maple and chocolate with peppermint. Don’t judge me!

This took quite a bit of time to concoct, but it was worth it. I struggled a lot with the quilt design, since I’ve never done one before. And I sort of ran out of bows for the topper. Lesson learned. Always make twice as many as you think you need. And my royal icing was a bit runny, so my border looked… interesting. And no, I don’t know what prompted me to paint my cake base with gold luster dust. Again, don’t judge me!

For whatever reason, I’m not too interested in the holidays. Maybe it’s the economy, and the fact that I have no money to partake in the typical capitalistic gift exchange (sorry, friends of mine, but you’re all getting cheesy home-made gifts… enjoy!)

So, now that the obligatory holiday parties are coming up, it seems only fitting that I get excited for the holidays the only way I know how: BAKING! More importantly, DECORATING!

The cupcakes were made for a holiday party I didn’t even go to. Still, it was a good chance to make some adorable penguins, snowmen, and presents for the tops of the cupcakes. The cupcakes were maple walnut cake with maple buttercream frosting, and chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream frosting.

I had a lot of fun practising making these little figures, but it certainly was stressful, because I didn’t allow myself enough time to make everything. I felt like I was rushing.

One curious thing to note is the above photo. The penguin on the far right looks especially shifty (if not a bit cross-eyed). Everytime I look at this photo I can’t help but think:

“the little guy is plotting something… I just know it!”