Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wedding Cakes for Hayley

My youngest sister got married in early January. About six months before the wedding she asked if I would like to make the wedding cakes. Yes, that’s right, the wedding cakes. Instead of having one cake, they had a smaller cake on each table which served as pudding as well as the centrepiece on each table.

I said yes, kind of tentatively, not sure where I would find the time and not at all confident that what I would create would be very good. I did some recipe testing and a little bit of practising – but not really enough to make sure that my cakes would be perfect. I also wasn’t sure how I would bake twelve wedding cakes so that they would be fresh and also, be able to transport them from Auckland to Christchurch. I am fortunate that I have two ovens, so could get three cakes baking at a time, but I wasn’t sure about carrying 12 cakes down on the plane. We were also going to Christchurch for Christmas, two weeks before the date of the wedding, so freezing my cake recipe was also part of the testing.

In the end, I came up with a plan. I would make six cakes the night before we flew to Christchurch. I was sure that I would be able to manage six cakes, a nappy bag, handbag and an almost two year old on the plane with the help of my husband. I would then make the other six cakes at Mum and Dad’s, perhaps three on the day before Christmas and three on boxing day. I would then wrap the cakes and freeze them in another sister’s freezer, take them out the day before the wedding early in the morning, and then decorate them at my sister’s friend’s house which was close to the wedding venue.

My plan worked. The only real hiccup was when we were flying to Christchurch on the afternoon of December 23, we were about to start flying over the south island, when the captain came across the loud speaker regretting to inform us that there had been another major earthquake in Christchurch. At that point safe transport of the cakes was the last thing on my mind. But thankfully after a five hour diversion in Wellington airport, the earthquake, while huge, wasn’t as deadly as the 4 September and 22 February ones and we did make it to Christchurch that evening. The cakes made it too. All in one piece.

The cakes were chocolate cake – a fabulous recipe which freezes well and stays incredibly moist. Even though every wedding cake had been frozen, defrosted the day before the wedding, three days after the wedding the leftover cake was still moist. The icing was cream cheese icing. The combination served with whipped cream and fresh berries was stunning.

And lastly, a photo of Harry giving the bride a horseshoe 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Catching up with Dorie

Every morning Harry has a slice of toast, cut into three soldiers. On one he has just peanut butter, on one vegemite and the third, peanut butter and jam. The jam of choice lately has been cherry jam. I decided to bake some biscuits that he would love, which incorporate two of his favourite toast spreads – peanut butter and jam.

For those of you who were regular readers of my blog in my Before Harry days, you will remember the weekly “Tuesdays with Dorie” where I joined a group of other bloggers baking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s “from my home to yours”. There are about 20 recipes in that book that I have yet to complete and the Kid’s Thumbprint cookies were one of these. These are peanut butter cookies, rolled into balls, and then an indent is made with your thumb. The indent is filled after the cookies are baked. I knew Harry would love these, and he did, so I can see these will become a regular in our house.

I did mine a little differently. I indented the cookies with the end of a wooden spoon (dip it in flour after every few indents to make sure it doesn’t stick to the cookie dough). I also put the jam in before I baked the cookies, as I didn’t want the jam to slide out of the cookies. I wasn’t very generous with the jam, as jam can bubble up in the baking process and make the cookies look untidy. I made half the cookies peanut butter and jam and with the other half, I pushed a dark chocolate melt into each cookie as they came out of the oven and then popped them back in the oven for a minute to let the chocolate set. These ones were my favourite and I bet they would taste even nicer with a milk chocolate melt pushed in. The other thing I didn’t do that the recipe says to, is roll the cookies in chopped peanuts before baking. I thought that may be a bit much for a two year old.

These cookies were a success and you can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Crafty Gifts

In the weekend we went down to Hawkes Bay for my sister's partner's 40th birthday. My parents and one of my other sisters and her husband were up from Christchurch as well, so it was nice to have some family time a well as spend some time in the lovely Hawkes Bay.

I made these little "40" shortbread cookies for the birthday boy. I use the recipe for Paula's shortbread from "ladies, a plate" when I am making shortbread which I want to decorate. The icing sugar version of shortbread works really well when you want the cookies to hold their shape. I use royal icing as my icing to stick the sprinkles too, as it sets lovely and hard and also has a slight shine to it which comes through in the cookies.

The little Donald Duck tag is one that I made myself. My latest hobby is making little gift tags and books from old books which are past their best. I couldn't bring myself to cut up a book which is still readable, but there are a fair amount around when you start looking that have ripped pages, children's scribbles in them, etc. I've been collecting old golden books for some time and love making my little tags. I have even put some on Felt for sale, but I really just love making them to use and also give away to my friends and family. They are perfect for putting on a little home made gift.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A book club Treat

Book club was at my house this week. I love my book club. We've got a fantastic group of girls, we have lots of fun and read some great books. The latest book I read was "still alice" by Lisa Genova. What a fabulous book! I thoroughly recommend it if you haven't read it.

We have our book club at a different member's house every 6 or 8 weeks, and one of the highlights (other than the great company and great books) is supper. We have a book club of fabulous cooks, so supper is always a treat. This time I turned to Julie le Clerc's cake book. If you haven't seen this book, you should track it down. It's a wonderful collection of delicious cakes and all the recipes I have tried so far have worked perfectly (fingers crossed!). For book club I chose the rhubarb and coconut citrus syrup cake. I hadn't made it before, but it looked like a nice, easy recipe that I would be able to make quickly after work, while getting Harry his dinner.

This was the perfect cake in all regards. Super easy to make, sliced like a dream and absolutely delicious with a dollop of whipped cream. I imagine it would keep well - I didn't get the opportunity to find out as the next day my husband ate what wasn't eaten at book club.

The trick with syrup cakes is to pour a hot syrup over a cold cake or a cold syrup over a hot cake. I knew my cake was going to be warm when I poured the syrup over it, so I just made my syrup warm and decided to make it more of a drizzle than a syrup. I actually heated it in the microwave while my cake was cooking, warming it enough to dissolve the sugar, but not enough to make it really syrupy. I also didn't add as much water to the drizzle as the recipe said.

I will definitely make this cake again. You could use other fruits if you didn't like rhubarb - blueberries or raspberries would be great, as would plums.

Rhubarb and coconut cake with citrus drizzle (from Julie le Clerc's favourite cakes)

200g butter
1 c castor sugar
4 eggs
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 C coconut
350g rhubarb, sliced into 2cm pieces

- cream butter and sugar then add eggs, one at a time
- stir in flour and baking powder, then coconut and rhubarb
- spoon into a lined 22cm round cake tin and bake at 180c for 60-70 minutes
- when cold pour over the following hot syrup

Shredded zest and juice of two lemons and three limes
1 c sugar
1/2 c water

- combine ingredients in a small pot, stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved and then turn up heat and simmer for fine minutes until syrupy.