My first ever cake course at TAFE (The rambling begining)

Prequel to my first cake course.

Cake decorating has always been one of my hobbies. In my early 20’s I thought, why not get serious, pursue some real training, get qualified and look into doing this as my grownup job? The issue… I live in a big industrial city. This means, if you are interested in mining, smelting aluminium, working for a gas pipeline, engineering or something similar then you can get training up the wazoo. If you are looking to gain your qualifications in something more creative like cake decorating… good luck. 😦  I was left with 2 options. Move or find a way to bring the training to me. Now, here is where I admit… I am not good with change (something that I am trying to improve). But in saying that, the idea of moving was a big deal. I still live in the city I was born. My family are here. My friends are here. And I just didn’t know if the risk would really lead to my future happiness (I’m not a big gambler either 🙂 ).

So I stayed, and I searched.  I called the local TAFE and at that point there was nothing. I looked through the phone books. I trawled the internet for accredited distance education courses. I even contacted the cake firm I most admired in Sydney and asked what steps & courses I should take to become a cake decorator. Their only answer was fly to Sydney and do there courses. Which is all good and well, but I just didn’t have the disposable thousands of dollars to do it. Thankfully the internet is a wonderful, wonderful source of information & inspiration! As well as the local library, and just plain experimentation. I didn’t give up, I just got over the idea of doing any form of course.

Well this brings me to now. Towards the end of last year I was looking for a horticulture course for my partner, and wouldn’t you know it… I stumbled upon a cake course. It was a short course, being held at TAFE in the next town over, every Friday night for 6 weeks. I was so excited I think I may have blanked out for a second. 🙂 With all the popularity of shows like Master Chef, there had been enough interest generated for the hospitality faculty to run a series of special interest short courses! In a heartbeat I had all of the course registration sorted out. And as a birthday present to me, as well as to help boost my confidence, my partner enrolled with me. (I am truly blessed to have the most wonderful man in my life).

So over a few rambling posts (which I will space out so they aren’t too tedious), I will cover the experience I had attending “Cakes in Bloom”. What I expected, what the reality was. What was engaging, and what was not. What I learnt from the class, and what I learnt about myself. 🙂 The first post will be up soon.

Thanks for stopping by! … aww, I’m at the end of this post and I haven’t added any pictures! I love pictures… Quick… 😀

Quick Pic! Cupcake design ideas 😀

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A special birthday cake for my dad!

Howdy! Its been a busy week, but I really wanted to find a moment to share this cake.  A little bit ago it was my dads birthday. Now, usually in our family we just do a very basic cake, nothing fancy. Seems we save the big decorations for other people. But since this year I’m trying to learn more, I took the opportunity to try and make something a bit special.

A special birthday cake for my Papa. 🙂

The greatest things in life that my dad loves are his garden, going fishing & his family. I can’t remember a time when he didn’t have fresh vegetables growing in the modest size backyard of my family home.  It is filled with fruit trees, herbs & vegetable patches, making every inch of dirt productive. When he isn’t tinkering in the garden, he loves to go fishing.  He was born in a little fishing village in Sicily, so it will always be a part of his blood. As a child, I remember my brother and I racing to the kitchen to crowd him when he would get home from a day out, to see what he had caught for dinner! If you can’t tell, my dad is very special to me! 😉

So to decorate this cake I wanted to try and make a few of the things that he loves.  It was a toss up… a garden cake, or a fishing cake?

My kind of garden!

Well I just couldn’t decide, so I went with a little bit of both!

Cute little vege patch ~ complete with pumpkins, lettuce, beans & beetroots.

So this is my little garden.  Choc crumble soil, and gum paste vegetables. I generally love things in miniature anyway, so making tiny little lettuces & pumpkins was a hoot! Each little piece made me giggle and smile.  If I had a little more time, I would have done a few things differently, made tomatoes instead of beans… dusted the lettuce with purple around the edges. But over all I was really happy with the way it came out. My absolute favorite part of the garden was the little wooden plank edge. I just rolled out some light brown sugar paste, cut out my planks, then textured them up with a coconut print. After they had dried, I painted over the texture with dark brown coloring to give a stained wood finish. Funny how you can be completely rapt and happy with such a small detail.

Sugar paste model kinda like my dad.. with a little fishy!

Unfortunately I didn’t get a good pic of the fishing rod & the little fish that I made.  Behind the figurine is a gum paste fishing rod.. a simple stick with a round reel, which I added detail to with a black decorating pen.  And I made a stack of little multi-coloured fish, which were super simple, and brushed with silver to finish them off.

To frame the back of the cake, I used simple green chocolate mud cakepops for trees… and the blue curly things… well, that’s ment to say “Papa”. Bit of a fail there. I guess this is what happens when I don’t get a precise look of the font down on paper first. Instead I just thought I would work it out as I went along. Not the greatest idea because as I was struggling to make something that looked like a P… the paste was drying… giving me a cracked finish. To try to fix my messy lettering I glazed them and sprinkled green and blue glitter over them. It created a cool looking background. But most of the family thought it was ment to be snails?? Then an “Ohhh, I see it now!” moment 😛 Well, combined with the trees and the rest of the decs, I still liked them!

And lastly I made a little sugar model of my dad… kind of. This is the 3rd figurine I have attempted. Lots of room for improvement here. But each time I try, it does get a bit easier and less daunting.

The big things I’m disappointed with on this cake are the fondant cover and the writing.  I tried to create a marbled effect with the fondant, using green and blue. What I wanted to achieve was a really distinctive swirly pattern over the whole cake as a base, bringing together the garden/fishing concept. But I over worked the colours and ended up blending it to an aqua colour. The swirls were still there, but very subtle.  And the writing… well I just ran out of time, and piped it on as quickly as possible. I wish I had just taken a moment to stop, take a breath & concentrate. But this cake was finished a minute before we walked out the door, so I smashed on the writing and off we went to lunch.

Overall, I’m so happy with the way this cake turned out. And most importantly, my dad was absolutely wrapped when he saw it. He could not believe it, and the look on his face was worth more to me than the price of any elaborate special occasion cake. His only criticism  was that I should have made the figurine look younger 😛

Well, that’s enough of my babble for now. Hope your all having a lovely weekend! Thanks for stopping by 😀

My Great Aussie Gingerbread Bar!

A breakdown of my first ever gingerbread house bar! 😀

Its a beautiful rainy weekend, so I thought I would take this opportunity to post a bit of a breakdown of the bar from my Australia Day post.

My ideas for the bar... yep, I have really limited sketching skills ! 😉

When I’m putting together something that I haven’t done before, I always try and get my ideas onto paper.  My sketches are pretty crude, but by scribbling it down, I get all my ideas out & start to work out the individual aspects of the project.  I try and put as much detail into my plans as possible, even though it may not be physically possible to achieve the things I imagine.  I won’t post pics of these cringe worthy sketches generally, but for this project I was doing something completely new to me, so I wanted to show what I was thinking, and how close I got to creating it.

Instead of making a cake or cupcakes this year, I thought I would do something a bit different. I took this opportunity to work with gingerbread for the first time. Knowing my own limitations, I decided on a basic design for the structure, and took a general gingerbread house template, adjusting it to suit an outdoor bar shape.

The basic bar on the board, starting to get decorated....

In hindsight I stuffed up the thickness of the gingerbread. It was a bit too thick and bulky, so the finish wasn’t as nice as I wanted. In saying that, it was super easy to work with. I got it all stuck together with royal icing without any dramas. Once it had dried, I melted some dark chocolate and painted the walls, trying to give it the texture and look of very rough wood. The roof I covered with a thin layer of grey royal icing, which I then scrapped off with a little zester, creating great tin roof looking ridges. Once that had dried I roughly painted over the top of the ridges with silver paint, to finish.

A side view of the bar, with the completed windmill... mounted on a pin so that I could spin it (very very gently), YAY!

There was a week spent  making decorations out of gum paste to bring this together. I previously posted the frustration of trying to create a windmill. I also made up some little crabs,  a water tank, some bunting for the sides of the roof, a radio (necessary for listening to the hottest 100), the bartender & his dog, and some other little bits and pieces to bring it together.

Rusty the cattle dog!

To cover the cake board, I really wanted to get a red dirt look.  Its one of those spectacular things about the outback, although I have to admit, the most I have seen it is in Childers. Its such a gorgeous colour! To replicate this I covered the board in fondant coloured with red & purple to a really dark hue. I then dusted the whole board with cocoa powder & crumbled some extra gingerbread over it.

With the bar done & the board ready, it was just time for assembly. 😀

Bazza the bartender welcomes you to the outdoor bar!

This was a  wonderfully challenging project. With heaps of little things to make that were all new to me, and fiddly in there own right. I had so much fun figuring out the little pieces. And in the end, I was pretty happy with the result. I wonder what kind of theme I can use for my next gingerbread creation? But that’s enough of my rambling for now.

 Thanks for stopping by, I’m off to pick mangos in the rain ~ fun, fun!! Hope your enjoying your weekend too!

A view from the back of the bar.

Happy Australia Day – Hottest 100!!

Just a quick post to celebrate Australia Day! In our home celebrating means tuning into Triple J and listening to the Hottest 100. Its been a great day, listening to some awesome tunes, and working on something special just for today. Instead of an Australia Day Cake, I thought I would do something a little different. Here are a few pictures of my Great Aussie Ginger Bread Bar! Its been a huge day and I’m just about ready for bed. Here are a few pics of the bar. I will go into a bit more detail in another post. 🙂

Aussie Ginger Bread Bar

Not what I had in mind….

Just a short frustrated post… Here is a  pic of what happens when I have an idea of what I want to make in my mind, which does not translate to what I’m realistically able to create.

This is not the windmill in my mind... 😦

What I am trying to do is make an aussie windmill for a little project (will post more on that later).  I thought I had worked out how to make it. I had sketched out my idea, and broken it down into smaller steps. But this is one of those times that I just don’t know enough to achieve what I want.

The first stages were so promising!

Suffice to say, it has been a frustrating afternoon. But this is the point of practicing & trying new things I guess.  I started so organised today, with all my painted dried pieces of gum paste & some fresh royal icing.  I piped onto my base to mark where I wanted the blades positioned, then started gently putting it together. First the blades didn’t sit up angled enough, then they slid out of place… soon I had royal all over my workbench, all over my pieces, all over me… and just when I started to really lose my cool… the blades started breaking. Back to the drawing board for this little idea. Usually I would pack it up at this point. Because the more I try to do, the more mistakes I make in my frazzled state. But today, I put it aside, and worked on another little part of my project.

Meet Mr Pinchy, Bruce & Dave.. my little crabbie friends! 🙂

So I will leave tonight on a happier note.  For my first go at crabs, I am pretty happy with these little guys. Now to cut my losses, clean up & start fresh tomorrow. Hope you enjoyed the pics & story. Thanks for dropping by! 😀

First cake of the year!

Starting January with a bang!

Eager to start on my journey to becoming a better cake decorator, I started the year with a cake well outside my skill level!

Fondant you say? Topsy turvy you say? Panic you say???!

You see, one of the biggest problems I face when I decorate, is self inflicted. I have no idea why, but for some reason when faced with a request for a complicated cake I have never ever attempted, I say….

“Sure! I can do that! :)”

I skip merrily away, and hours later realize that I have most probably bitten off more than I can chew.  My experience runs to light sponge cakes, with soft piped decorations (and for a while in my youth – generic ice cream cakes for the local Baskins).  Fondant is the great unknown for me. It scares me. I don’t really get how it behaves, or how to work with it. I’m much more at home with meringue and soft icings. In my head though, I can work out how to do things. In theory, I know how. I can see it in my mind, and break it down, so whatever it is that I haven’t done before seems very achievable.  But theory doesn’t always translate to reality.  The cake doesn’t always do what my brain thought it would.

So when asked by a co-worker if I could do a 30th Birthday cake for him & his wife, I happily said “Sure!”….. His lovely wife emailed me a couple of pictures of exactly what she wanted… A topsy turvy mudcake, covered with fondant, with ribbon decorations, in bright colours matching her party invitations. I was still confident… but somewhere, at the very back of my brain, I started thinking… “oh gawd… I am so totally boned”

The finished cake. A 30th celebration cake for a lovely couple!

In this case, I was really happy with the final result.  I got super organised, and planned, planned, planned! I did not want to get to the day of the party, and have a topsy turvy train wreck on my hands! I researched a gorgeous moist mudcake recipe, and went through my kit to make sure I had all the right tools on hand.

The cake toppers - Modelling paste 30 & twisty ribbons.

A quick breakdown of the cake:

  • Base: 3  x 10″ Dark Chocolate Mudcakes
  • Top Tier: 2  x 6″ Vanilla & Jam Cakes
  • Covered & filled with vanilla bean buttercream.
  • Rolled fondant with sugar decorations.

The finished cake weighed close to 10kgs. It was an absolute monster. I have to mention that on the really big cakes, I am lucky enough to enlist the help of my long suffering boyfriend.  Lucky for me, he is a retired chef, so his help is always invaluable.  It is so great to be able to get someone to do the grunt work when trying to carve an angle on 4kgs of mudcake. 😉

As you can see, there is a pic of the final cake above, and some pics of the details. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pics of the steps involved or the assembly. I was too wrapped up in getting it right.  At the end of the day, it was a huge learning curve! But I did fill the request of the birthday girl, and she was so happy with it!

So it seems that I have set the bar high for myself for the first cake of the year. Good thing I’m a pretty laid back chick, and wont be trying to outdo myself for the next one. Though I will be having fun trying out something new!

Until the next post, thanks for dropping by! 🙂

Wrapping it up with a lime green bow!

Hello!

Chiffon cake, Filipino styled frosting, multi coloured Flower Wedding Cake - By my mother & me.

Hello! I would like to introduce my new blog, a kitty & her cakes.

For as long as I can remember I have had an interest in cake decorating. From the time I was old enough to see over the kitchen table top, I watched my mother decorating cakes. She would make traditional Filipino cakes for friends, creating pretty, fluffy masterpieces, that fascinated me. She learnt from her mother, who learnt from hers,  relying on cakes to make money to share with the family – growing up in the Philippines. When mum moved to Australia she kept on cooking. So for as long as I can remember there has been cakes. I guess any little girl would fall in love with sweet fluffy frosting, feather light ruffles & rainbow colored, delicate sugary flowers.

So I watched and I learnt, and I grew older.

Chiffon Cake, with fluffy frosting & fantasy sugar flowers - A garden wedding cake by my mother & me.

For 20 years now, I have decorated as a hobby. Tinkering with decorations for cakes with my mum, doing the odd cake for a friend.  Its something I always go back to, a gift passed from mother to daughter.

I’m 31 now, and this year I have made the commitment to myself to learn more. I have never called myself a cake decorator. I don’t have the confidence.  But I want to get better, I want to practice & learn.  I’m going to push myself to create something new each month, to learn a new technique, to move away from my comfort zones. This blog will document my projects, my successes & my failures.  I’m excited to start, because even the most stressful flop will teach me something I didn’t know before.

A blue themed anniversary cake. Chiffon cake, fluffy icing & sugar flowers - By my mother & me.

Well, that’s a little about me. I look forward to the rest of the year, and the projects to come.

Thanks for dropping by!

Miss Cat 🙂