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Pinterest inspired Easter Treats

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Originally published April 2012

I don’t think I am alone in the craze that is pinning on Pinterest.  Most of what I have pinned/liked have been recipes.  I was inspired by two pins this Easter, mainly because I am addicted to Cadbury Mini Eggs and needed to use up the kilogram bag I had.  Also being a 4 day weekend for me, I actually had some time to bake.

First up was the easy recipe from The Happy Baker: Mini Egg Shortbread cookies.  I only had one problem with the recipe, it did not give  an idea of how much one batch would make, so I doubled the recipe.  75 cookies later…..

Everyone at work loved them, and because it is shortbread, I can easily freeze them to eat throughout the year. They were the right texture and the chocolate was a nice crunch without  overwhelming the cookie.

Next up was a picture I saw, and after some digging, found out it was from the Peeps website; a cake made to look like a sunflower.  I did a chocolate fudge double layer cake with chocolate buttercream (real butter!) and raspberries in the middle.  This did not turn out quite how I hoped as I thought that having the Peeps upside down would look better.  Unfortunately, I could not secure them and turned them right-side up (which is actually how they were supposed to be once I looked back at the website again). This made the end result messy, and being just a little bit of a perfectionist at times, did not make me feel that I had done a good job.

That being said,  there was just enough left at the end of the workday so that @WineGuyTO could have a slice 🙂

A Puppy Birthday

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Tawse lounging on the ottoman (Instagram filter)

My second dog turned 1 on the last day of February.  Already his first year has been chaotic.  We were able to see the litter 4 days after they were born.  Though we have another dog, we had not been around when he was first born (adopted at 4 months) so we approached our second dog very much like new parents.  We gushed.  We took waaaay too many pictures.  We visited the litter 2 more times before he chose us to come home with.  His name is Tawse Private Reserve (our favourite winery) and I must explain how we came up with his name; his older ‘brother’ is Sgt. Jager Bomb so we wanted to stay with an alcohol and a military ranking.  At 10 weeks old, my fearless pup bounced off the older dog and fell awkwardly.  A week later we were seeing a surgeon because he had torn his cruciate ligament.  I was in physical shock, it was heartbreaking to see this puppy want to play and not being able to walk.  12 weeks of crate rest, it has taken him much of the first year of his life to gain back the strength in his leg, all the time acting like nothing was wrong.

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Tawse and the unbaked cake.

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The baked cake.

Probably my worst icing attempt ever.

Probably my worst icing attempt ever.

And because Jager got a birthday cake and a party at daycare, so shall Tawse.  I made the cake this time around, using the recipe from here.  There were so many to choose from online, most using the same ingredients.  My only problem with the batter was that I had to add water to make it more liquid than dough.  I used chunky natural (no sugar, etc) peanut butter for some more crunch. Also the icing measurements seemed to be wrong as I ended up with a runny yet clumpy ‘icing’.  I was the only one who minded though, the pups were not as picky.

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Unbaked biscuits about to go into the oven.

No party is complete without party favours, so I also made cookies.  I took the recipe from here, mixed  1/2 cup peanut butter with 1.5 cups of unsweetened apple sauce and added a good handful of frozen blackberries.  It made about 2 dozen total of the two types of cutouts.  They were cut out into bones and labradors with cookie cutters I found in San Francisco last summer.  My boys, and the pups at daycare gobbled them up 🙂

Baked bones

Baked bones

Baked lab dogs

Baked lab dogs

 

 

Cake Decorating Class: Final Class

Please excuse the tardiness, because if you have been following, class ended 3 weeks ago.  I did not attend the final class as I was able to snag some Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leaf tickets with friends, and the way class was going, it was the better option.  So please find a guest post from my friend Jill who was taking the class with me.  At the end, I will have the breakdown of costs.

From Jill:

Without my partner in crime this week I sat with some of the other ladies taking the class. I quickly learned that there were far worse people in the class than us.

We were required to bring on pre iced cake. My cake did not turn out so well, infact it was a disaster. I decided to bring it to class anyways  and also bring along another store bought mini cake with just some basic icing on it. My theory was that I could practice my homemade disaster of a cake and then do a better job on my store bought mini cake. The teacher thought I was being quite resourceful, I feared she would have thought I was cheating by bringing a store bought cake.

This week’s class was the final class, so we were to learn how to make basket weaves using buttercream followed by applying this technique to our cakes and topping them off with out flowers from the previous classes.

We had to use our practice boards to learn how to make the weaves and then once we got the hang of it, we used the stands to prop up the boards.

After weeks of having horrible luck with my royal icing and techniques I was pleased by the fact I was actually quite good at the weaves even at the a 90 degree angle.

We were told to use quite a large star tip to create the design, this resulted in a very thick icing layer onto of the already iced cakes. We then were  told that the thinner tip is made for basket weaves, but it was not in our kits, but could also be used when one does not want such a thick layer.

For my mini store bought cake I used a smaller star tip as the large just would not work.

Since most of my flowers from the course were not up to par I used our fondant flowers to top off the cake.

The teacher also took this time to show use how to make a flower from the first course we did not learn. This time we had buttercream icing with us so it was much more feasible for us to try it out.

We then got our certificates and said our goodbyes.

Overall this was actually a productive class and I was happy to not have to fuss around with the royal icing and get back to working with buttercream with I seem much more talented with.

Thanks Jill! I think your cake looks great 🙂

Costs

So when Jill and I signed up for the course, the description stated $90 (approximately) in extra costs.  After the first 2 weeks, we were well above that and I tried to keep track so that people who were interested, would have a better idea.  I made a spreadsheet (which I won’t bore you with here) and divided my costs into mandatory and optional.  For the mandatory I spent approximately $275 (i.e. cake mixes, the instructional books/kits, icing, etc).  For the optional, I spent about $53.  This is $185 over the estimated $90.  I also think that they need to correct the course description to include the fact that you need to bring your own cakes and materials.  On top of the $120 course fee, this means that I spent almost $400 on a 9 week (18 hour) course, or $22 an hour.  Considering that I have taken some post-graduate university courses at $600-900, this is insane!  I don’t think I will be continuing to level 2 in a class environment.  It will be cheaper to buy the book and try on my own.  The other option is more Le Dolci classes, which are more cost-effective.

Cake Decorating Class: Week 5

This week we were asked to come to class with an un-iced character cake.  Jill to the rescue! She happened to have a 3-D rubber duck mould, so she made hers first and then passed the pan over to me.  I was also aware that I could have rented the pan from the Bulk Barn, which is cheaper than buying a lot of pans, and cuts down on storing issues.

I once again used a Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake mix, this time in chocolate.  Unfortunately it filled the bottom pan as per the directions, and rose, but not enough to make the duck 3-D.  Tasting some of what I took off for levelling, I prefer this cake over the GF golden.  It was a much more ‘normal’ cake taste, not as gritty as the golden.

Our whole class was dedicated to decorating the cake.  Everyone had a different cake; there were baby strollers, Hello Kitty, Cookie Monster and sunflowers.  As Jill and I did the same cake, and it was all one colour, we were done early.  The hardest part were the tight curve of the duck’s neck and keeping the stars tights.  The table height meant we were on our knees at points trying to keep the tip at a 90° angle. What do you think?

Please note: There will be no cakes for the next three weeks.  We will be learning fondant, gum paste and making flowers for our final cake in week 9, so I will still keep you updated with my progress on how the flower making goes.

 

Wilton Cake Decorating Class: Week 1&2

My friend Jill (@Jillojello) and I decided to take a cake decorating class together.  I am a huge cupcake fan but not a good decorator, so this would be good for me to try. **I have taken 2 great cupcake classes at Le Dolci and loved them, but wanted something more in-depth. There will be a blog post will be done about Le Dolci in the future 🙂

We signed up for a 9 week, 18 hour course through the Toronto District School Board‘s Continuing Education department.  The cost was reasonable, $122, and the night and class hours perfect for us (Tuesdays from 7-9pm).  There are additional cost, which I am going to total and include in my last post at the end of the course.

Week 1: We didn’t do anything hands on in the first class.  Our teacher, a 15 year veteran of teaching Wilton classes, demonstrated making buttercream (without any butter?!), icing a cake, and showing us the various tips and equipment we would be using.  We all went home with the student ‘manual’ ($10 additional) and signed up to buy the starter kit, meringue powder, gel, and turntables from the teacher, if we wanted.  Both of us decided on just the kit, opting to price check and buy the rest ourselves.

Week 2: This week we had to bring everything with us to ice and decorate our first cake.  Being a little lazy, I baked a box mix into 2 8″ round pans.  Good thing, as the woman to my left had her cake crumble apart and she appreciated my second cake.  We also had to bring 2 batches of buttercream, colouring, gel, pencils, paper towel and the Kit (i.e. icing tips, bags, coupler).  The teacher checked our buttercream consistency and we started by icing the cake, practicing a level, smooth finish.  Then we practiced specific piping: flowers  and squiggles (tip #18 ) and round circles (tip #12).

This part of the class went long.  The teacher is very thorough and checked everyone’s progress twice, offering suggestions or demonstrating the correct technique.  We only had about 20 minutes at the end to actually put a design on our cakes and fill it in. I do find the instructions in the book to not be specific enough as they only have a few directions.

The finished product, not bad but not great in my opinion.  I am hoping that next week (CUPCAKES!!) will show improvement.

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