I always feel ambivalent about the last few days of holidays. On the one hand, i’m dreading going back to work and all the last minute prep that I should have done earlier but didn’t. On the other, I know i’ll be reinvigorated by the students that I teach and seeing my creative and passionate colleagues again. But, there is one thing about the beginning of the new school year that always cheers me up (and I know, it is a little bit lame). I love organising my back to school kit. Being all prepared with my shiny new pens and notebooks makes me feel more capable of tackling the year ahead. So my Friday Favourites today focuses on a few things i’ve bought in the sales to prepare me to go back to school/work next week. Also, everything I bought I snapped up during the sales so i’m feeling pretty thrifty! In the aftermath of The Wedding, thrifty is the name of the game.
The sales at Kikki K are always pretty good and now that they’re expanded into home wares it’s taken all my strength to stick with just stationary. Of course, I bought all the pink note books as well as the cute little phone case which is super smooth and pretty. Hubs bought me the little leather pencil case for my birthday last year and, while I wont use it for work I will definitely use it for uni as I don’t want to lug my huge work pencil case full of stamps and whiteboard markers all the way to uni and back a few nights a week.
While I absolutely love to bake and decorate cakes I am the first to admit that I am still only an amateur. Which is why i’m always surprised and alarmed when people ask me to cook something for them for a party or occasion. I normally dirty ice fondant covered cakes with buttercream but earlier in the year decided to experiment with using ganache. I had incredible trouble creating a smooth base for the fondant so the first cake I tried was bumpy bumpy on top and just generally not that great (i’m definitely my own worst critic!). In an effort to curb my ever expanding waistline I brought it into work where the pink/yellow combination caught the eye of the lovely Maryanne who said he daughter would love something similar for her birthday.
This is what I came up with
I was a bit apprehensive about making a proper cake for people I didn’t really know. I couldn’t think of anything worse than disappointing a beautiful little girl on her birthday! In fact, I will admit that I had several cake related nightmares in the lead up to creating and delivering this cake. One involved trying to bake a cake but finding that when I opened the carton of eggs, each egg that I picked up had either a massive crack in the shell or a hairline fracture that made the egg unusable. This picking up and discarding of eggs must have gone on for hours in my dream because I woke up terribly frustrated and upset and needed to go to the fridge and check all my eggs again. I also had dreams of dropping the cake, having to swerve violently when driving and ending up with a smooshed cake.
I should have had faith after seeing the batter. How yummy does it look!
Three layers with chocolate fudge filling
Then dirty iced with chocolate ganache. I know its not super smooth but it is a whole lot smoother than my last cake!
Under a layer of pink fondant
Then finished of with pink and blue hearts as requested by the birthday girl.
From all accounts the cake arrived at the party in tact and was swiftly demolished. The birthday girl was pleased with her pink and blue vanilla and chocolate and everyone was happy. Phew! No cake wrecks for me… yet!
So, my lovelies, can you remember having a delicious/good looking cake for your birthday? I remember my mum making me an amazing pink princess castle for my birthday (good old AWW childrens birthday cake cookbook!). Or did you have a cake wreck? Spill the beans!
One of these days I think my kitchen bench is going to collapse under the weight of all my cook books. Truly. I love flipping through the glossy pages of perfectly styled pictures. I love coming across unexpected gems. I love the wonderful prose that accompanies so many cookbooks these days. Granted, Im not sure I need twenty different recipes for white sauce. But you can never have too many chocolate cake recipes! The quest for perfection never ends.
Whenever I feel guilty about how many cookbooks I have I always like to console myself with the fact that I have cooked at least something from every cookbook in my collect. At least I thought I had…
Last year my sister bought me the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Hooray! After my excitement wore off I was quickly put out by the complete lack of understandable measurements included in the book. Does anyone outside of America know how many grams one stick of butter is? Ok, so I can google it but how would you interpret “one package of instant pudding mix”? Which packet? Much much should it make? What kind of pudding? ARGH! Everything is also in cup measurements without being accompanied by gram or ounce equivalents. This would be fine, except that the measurement for American cups are different to Australian ones… uh oh.
So there it sat. Lonely and unloved on my bookshelf. Until it was called upon, one courageous wednesday afternoon, to create a truly amazing Vanilla Layer Cake.
I decided to take the plunge and do my best with the equipment and knowledge I had. The mix looked pretty good before it went into the oven, and when it came out, it looked even better!
The mixture produced two flat but pretty tall cakes. I promptly cut their tops off to even them up, and cut them each in half. Cruel? Maybe. Thats just how I roll.
So far, so good.
The next decision was what to use for a filling. After careful consideration I went with the very original choice of vanilla buttercream. Can you blame me? It was pink!
I used my new cutters and super sweet rolling pin to cut out some fondant flowers
Then went to town!
I felt like there was still something missing from the decoration but as it was only a practice, I figured it would still be ok! And yes, my cake it a little slanty. But it was… erm… intentional?
In the end I was left with a pretty pink four layer vanilla cake! It tasted pretty good too!
And it cuts pretty stable pieces.
It also has a curious knack for disappearing incredibly quickly…
I have a theory. All food tastes better if its pink. Now, my lovelies, would you agree?
Traditional Vanilla Birthday Cake Recipe – From The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
2. Cream the butter until smooth
3. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (about 3 mins)
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
5. combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk. Beat well after each addition
6. Add vanilla extract and mix in well
7. Divide batter between two 9 inch round cake pans (the recipe said 3 but I only had two and it worked out pretty damn well) and bake for 20-25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean
8. Let the cakes cool in the pans for ten minutes then remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack
9. cut into however many layers you wish and fill with your choice of filling!
Traditional Vanilla Buttercream – From The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
8 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl with four cups of icing sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy.
2. Add the remaining sugar one cup at a time, until the icing is the consistency you require (you might not need to add all the sugar, its all up to you)
They broke the mould when the made my grandpa. He was a man who was intensely loving and my moral compass for most of my adolescent and adult life. My grandpa was also the sharpest dressed man i’ve ever known. He was a man who always had several suits already hung up in his wardrobe along with matching shirt, tie and pocket hankie. He had a stack of hats up to my waist (a different one for every possible occasion) and he even changed his shoelaces according to the seasons. According to my Great Auntie, when he had one of his strokes many many years ago, he wouldn’t let my grandma call the ambulance until he had put his shoes on. Of course, you couldn’t go to emergency with bare feet!
He was the strongest person i’ve ever known, serving in World War Two, living through several strokes and caring for himself for the past ten years despite being paralysed down one side of his body and suffering from macular degeneration. All through this, he never left his house without first donning a clean suit with freshly polished shoes and a carefully chosen tie, hankie and hat combination. Even people at the bank and the post office remarked to me about what a gentleman he was and how he never came in without being immaculately dressed. He died last year, and although I remember him every day, I wanted to do something special to remember him. I know he would have loved these.
Some well dressed cupcakes!
He was man enough to wear pink!
Every man looks good in blue
Every man needs a black tie for special occasions.
So thats a little piece of my heart sent out into the universe. These are just a small tribute to a man who genuinely brightened up so many people’s lives.