Thursday, January 31, 2013

Birthday Cake Slice - Part 3 (Roll Cake Version)

On Tuesday, I posted about one of the two felt birthday cake slices I have recently made. As I mentioned before, the original cake was for a student with a younger sister. The younger sister turned 7 last week, so I had to get crackin' on a piece of cake for her. The problem was that I couldn't be bothered trying to work out how big the original was. I also didn't want to start a fight between the sisters if one piece was bigger than the other. (That being said, both girls are lovely and I can't imagine them fighting, but you never know.)

So I worked up a new cake idea - a slice of "roll cake." Roll cake is immensely popular here, so I figured it would be fine.

I started with the two main circular pieces, with a bit of a straight edge on one part so the cake could actually stand. Then I cut a strip for the bottom, and one to run across the top and sides of the circles.

I didn't have enough for the long strip, so I had to Frankenstein it a bit.

And finally a spiral of "cream" for each end.

Once all the pieces were ready for assembly, I started with the cream spirals. Once attached, I moved on to the sides and finally the bottom.

It looked cute, but it was lacking something. So I whipped up a few fruits - a kiwi slice, a strawberry, and a slice of mandarin orange - as well as a little cookie for the top.

It was all really simple to do. For the kiwi, I cut two green circle-ish pieces, as well as one tiny white oblong shape for the center. I sewed the center to one green circle and then sewed tiny black seeds around. Then I sewed the two green circles together, added a bit of stuffing and done.

For the strawberry, I started with a red semi-circle and sewed seeds on, all pointing towards the center on the straight edge.

Then I sewed up the sides.

Finally sewed around the top, added a bit of stuffing, and cinched it up.

The mandarin was the easiest. Cut two orange mandarin-slice shapes, sew a few orange lines on one side, sew the two together and stuff a bit.

For the cookie, I cut a rectangle, rolled it up, and wrapped a thread around it, tying really tight knots at either end.

Then I sewed all of those to the top of the cake and was ready for the candle. I just used Velcro and hot glue to deal with this, as per usual.

Finally the cake was done. I think it turned out really cute. In fact, I think it's happier than the original cake slice. My 7-year old loved it too!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birthday Cake Slice - Part 2

Back in August, I made a little felt birthday cake slice for one of my English students. Another student (the Leo's friend) turned 9 a few weeks ago, and the Leo's sister turned 7 last week. A few cake slices were due - today will be the 9-year old's. (A bit of a disclaimer: I was really rushed making this and forgot to take many photos - including one of the finished product. What a nerd.)

I forgot the size of the original slice and couldn't be bothered to go look for it, so I just made a new one. I had brown and pink felt, so chocolate cake with pink frosting it was!

I started by cutting out all of my cake and frosting pieces.

I sewed the long, skinny pink rectangles to the big brown rectangles to make a layered cake.

Next I sewed these side pieces to the bottom triangle. Then I sewed on the pink back and the top pink triangle. Finally I stuffed the cake and sewed it shut in the front.

Next I made the pink frosting detail for the edge of the cake. I started with a rectangle, sewed the short edge shut with a lot of little stitches along the edge and then pulled tight to shut it. Then I sewed the long edges shut a bit and sewed a few stitches along the short edge again. Next I added a bit of filling and pulled the thread so it closed off that section. I continued this a few times until the frosting detail was the length of the outside of the cake, and then fastened off. (That really sounds way more complicated than it was.)

I sewed that on to the edge of the cake and hot-glued a candle together, then added a bit of Velcro to both the cake and the bottom of the candle.

Finally I gave the cake and candle to a very happy 9-year old.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Raspberry Macarons

In my last baby shower post, I've decided to focus on my favorite item I made - Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Macarons. B has always had a fondness for raspberry, so I thought it'd be nice to somehow work some berries in to the mix. What better way than macarons?

I thought to be extra cute (and double the workload), I would do the top and bottom in different colors - green for the tops, pinkish for the bottoms - to kind of look like raspberries themselves.

I started with the pink bottoms. My little brother was around, so I told him he should watch me make the macarons since they are not that difficult, but have a bit of technique to them. We got about five steps in and said, "Yeah, I'm never going to make these." As a quick note, I use the book/recipe by Cecile Cannone and swear by it.

Anyway, step one is to mix your almond flour and powdered sugar.

Then you make a meringue and add your food coloring.

Then add the meringue to the dry and mix it up by hand. This is the part that requires a bit of technique. It's not at all difficult to do, but it may take a couple of tries to get the perfect consistency. Without the right consistency, the macarons can turn out to be a mess - they'll crack, they won't have the famous "pied" or they'll be flat little discs. That being said, they are still 100% edible, just not as beautiful. Once you get the consistency down, however, they are pretty foolproof. (That being said, I hadn't made them in 10 months and was a bit out of practice. Mine ended up just fine, but not perfect.) It's worth ruining a few batches to get it right.

Once they are mixed, you put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large tip and pipe out a few circles. Since they are sandwich cookies, you want to have them all roughly the same size. I use a little circle pattern under my parchment.

Once they are piped, you have to slam the tray on the ground a few times (this got a laugh out of my brother), and let them dry out for about fifteen minutes. You should be able to lightly touch the surface without it pulling up onto your finger.

After they are nice and dried, you bake them for 14 minutes, let them cool on the sheet and (usually) they are ready for filling.

This time, however, I washed and dried all my bowls and got started on round 2 - the green tops.

Once all of those were done as well, I paired then up, put them in a Tupperware, and went to bed.

The next night, while my chocolate cake was baking, I whipped up the first batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I started with just vanilla and followed the usual steps - put egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, whisk until the eggs reach 160F, pull them off the heat and whip until the most delicious meringue you can imagine is ready and cooled. Then slowly add in your butter. Once it looks like frosting, add in the vanilla and mix until it's all combined.

Then I put a bunch of raspberries into the "cup" of my handmixer and mixed it into a puree. I added the puree to the buttercream little by little, worried that I would add too much, but I ended up adding all of it to get a really raspberry taste.

All of it went into a piping bag with a large tip and I piped and sandwiched away.

I was super tempted to eat one, but I held off.

I only made 20, and with eight people coming to the party I figured I only had a few to spare.

The night before the party, after dinner I thought each of the four of us could have one as dessert - it still left two per person at the party. As soon as I got the Tupperware out, K came running up to me, yelling out, "Ahhh!!! K want that!!!" I got four macarons out and put them on a plate to bring them to room temperature. It about killed K. I kept telling him that they were too cold and not delicious yet, but every three minutes he'd run to me and say, "mama, they're warm now. Let's eat!" I held him off for about 30 minutes, but I started to feel bad for him and put them in the microwave for 5 seconds.

I got the plate out and we counted the cookies, then the people - four and four. I told him that means one cookie for each person.

"How many cookies for mama?" "One!" "How many cookies for toto?" "One!"

"How many cookies for T (my brother)?" "One!"

"How many cookies for K?" "Two!!" "Uhhh, no."

These four were devoured in seconds. They didn't last too long on the day of the party either, but luckly there were a few leftovers for the boys to much on when they got home. They were all stoked, particularly given that Y tried to convince me not to even serve them at the party. I promised him a second batch sometime soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream - Version 2.0

Ages ago, I made a chocolate cake with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream. It was delicious.

B had asked me to make one for our next "girls' lunch," where all of us foreign girlfriends get together for, you guessed it, lunch. The problem is that we haven't had a girls' lunch in ages, so I never made the cake again.

While most of the foods at B's baby shower were related to cravings, I figured there could be a few exceptions - chocolate cake with salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream coming in towards the top of the list (tomorrow's post will show my number one exception!!).

I used the exact same recipe as last time for the cake and buttercream. As we had so much food, including a couple of sweets, I decided to keep the cake to just two layers, instead of my standard three or four.

Just as before, it was delicious. The cake itself was a rich, dark, moist chocolate cake, while the caramel buttercream was soft, fluffy, and dotted with salt.

Fortunately everybody liked the cake. Unfortunately that means there were very few leftovers. Y, my little brother, and I split the leftovers the following day and it was like the cake never existed.

Apologies for the complete lack of photos - it was too delicious to stop and think to take any. I just wanted to eat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Monthly Onesies

The Baby Shower wasn't all food, although there are a few more food posts still in the works. We also did a few activities, including baby play-doh-ing and a lovely baby quiz. The main activity, however, was for each person to decorate a onesie for the little guy. I thought it would be nice to do a set of the monthly ones. Each one has a number 1 to 12 on it and then you put the "1" shirt on the baby on their one-month birthday. At the end of the year, you have a clear shot of the baby at each month marker.

The main problem was that only nine people were going to come to the party. This meant that I'd have to come up with three designs before the party, plus one for my shirt during the party.

I decided I'd do months 3, 6 and 11 (for no real reason) prior to the party. One of our good friends, who is hysterical and unfortunately moved back to the UK about a year ago, helped me come up with games and general ideas for the party. As she helped out quite a bit, and is one of B's best friends, I asked her for a shirt suggestion. She came back with, "a sparkly motorbike." Uhhhh, thanks?!? It took me a while to work out how I would pull this off, but then it came to me! As a note, the dad-to-be rides a motorcycle and the mom-to-be is quite glam - a sparkly motorbike is clearly a wonderful intersection.

I found a motorcycle iron-on patch and bought some red sequins. I glued a few sequins on to the metal bits on top of the wheels.

Then I used the sequins to make a number 11. I love how this turned out. So did our British friend, as well as the mom- and dad-to be.

The next one I had an idea for was the 3. Ages ago I decorated a shirt for one of Kan's friends. Her name is Niina, the kanji for which means "rainbow comes," as she was born during rainy season. For her shirt, I used embroidery floss to make an "n" into a rainbow. For this shirt, I did the same idea, using the floss to make a "3."

I actually did this one on a Shinkansen on our way out to a small town, Hida Takayama. Luckily it was a long ride.

The final shirt I made before the party is my favorite. In August, the baby will be 6 months old. In August it is ridiculously hot here. I went with that theme and made a bowl of mint-chocolate chip ice-cream with a cherry on top.

Eeeek! I think it's adorable.

My final challenge was to make a shirt during the party. I figured I'd let B pick her month first; then the others picked. I ended up with month 1 and was stoked! In January, the year of the snake began. So in March when this little guy turns one-month old, he'll be sporting a little snake shirt. (For some reason, I didn't get this photo in focus and didn't even notice.)

As part of the party decor, I had my brother string up a piece of yarn and hang the shirts from it. In the beginning, it looked pretty bland, but once they were all decorated, it was adorable.

Once all the shirts were hung up, I gave a blank paper and envelope to each guest. Each of us wrote a letter to the baby to be opened up on the corresponding month's birthday (my letter will be opened on his 1-month birthday). I also had the British friend, another friend, and the dad-to-be write letters to make up for the extra three months.

Everyone seemed to enjoy making the shirts. Some were super creative, and others were really simple.

Regardless, each one is made with love by someone who is awaiting this little boy's arrival. I, for one, cannot wait!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Cups

Post two of the Baby Shower!

Ages ago, B wrote a post about the "interesting" stuff people had said to her. The post ended with B deciding it might be a good idea to cut back on peanut butter - after eating the last of her Reese's.

Reese's are somewhat of a luxury for us North Americans, as we all love them, yet can't buy them here. So I decided to make them!

I found a recipe on Epicurious and it seemed delish. It's peanut butter and chocolate...what could go wrong? Nothing!! These are delicious.

I couldn't find any big wrappers, so I used mini ones. As a result, I halved the recipe from the start. You start by making the peanut butter filling. I assumed it would get hard enough to make little balls out of, but it doesn't. It's obviously not a big deal, but just so that you know.

While the filling is cooling, I melted about 1/3 of the chocolate, put just a bit in the bottoms of each cup and gave it a bit of a swirl. Then I cooled the cups.

Once those were cooled, I added a tiny bit of the peanut butter mixture. Then decided they could be filled a bit more and went back and added as much as possible.

After that, I melted the rest of the chocolate, filled the cups up, chilled them and we were ready to go!

These ended up really good. The filling is a bit creamier than what I am used to, so while they aren't replicas, they were still really nice. And certainly hit the spot. Luckily, the guests at the baby shower didn't end up eating all of them (the recipe made a whole heap), so Y, K and my younger brother had some once they got home. There are still a few left. Hmmm...maybe I need a PB and chocolate fix?!?