Sunday, 20 March 2011

Gluten- and dairy-free babies with dummies

Babies with dummies – for no reason other than I thought they were cute :-)

This design is courtesy of Paris Cutler of Planet Cake.
 I guess they would be good for a new birth or a baby shower but you’d have to check whether the mother to be was cool with sinking her teeth into a cakey baby... personally it wouldn’t bother me but some are more sensitive about cannibalism :-)

This weekend I wanted to experiment with some new recipes for friends and colleagues who are gluten- and dairy- free. 

I ended up with gluten-free/dairy-free two ways: an original Dr Cupcake recipe of a cherry ripe cupcake, made with the juice from stewed cherries, and a Jaffa cupcake, made with orange marmalade. 

Both have a topping of 70% dark chocolate to give them a nice even surface and make them extra yummy!  

Recipes below, first to the decorating: 

First you need to cut large circles from flesh-coloured fondant for the top of the cupcake.
To get a lovely ‘flesh’ tone, mix a small drop of ivory colouring and a small drop of red colouring into a tennis-ball-sized piece of fondant icing.

When you place the large circle on top of the cupcake, use a ‘smoother’ like this rectangular piece of hard plastic to gently smooth and burnish using a circular motion. You can make your own smoother by cutting a rectangle of plastic from the packaging of toys, kitchen equipment, foodstuffs, etc. 

Then you need some small blue circles for the base of the dummy.

 Place the blue circle slightly more than halfway down the ‘face’, securing with a drop of water.

Make two small indentations above the blue circle for the eyes. I used the end of a small paintbrush. 

Then roll two tiny balls of white fondant for eyeballs and press into the indentations, fixing with a tiny drop of water. Indent two smaller circles into the eyeballs and roll black fondant into balls and fix in place – these are the pupils.

Make an indentation on either side of the face, about 7mm from the edge of the cupcake, to indicate where the ears should go. Roll two pea-sized balls of flesh coloured fondant for the ears, fasten into place with a drop of water each, and use an indenting tool to hollow out one side of the ‘ear’. 

Twist some small cones of yellow, brown, red or black fondant for the lock of hair, and fix to the top of the face with a drop of water. Then roll and cut a strip of pastel pink or blue fondant about 5mm wide and 10mm long. Place a dot of water in the centre of the strip and fold both edges in to the middle so they just touch. Wrap another strip of the same width but only 5mm long around the join and fasten it underneath. Push the ‘bow’ inwards from the sides to make it stand up a bit, and leave this assembly to dry for a few minutes. Then indent a hole in the top of the bow and fix a cachou in it with a drop of water. Place the finished bow just beneath the lock of hair, and fix with a drop of water. 

Finally, fashion a dummy handle from a pink fondant ball. First roll a thick short cylinder, stand it on end and narrow out a ‘waist’. Then press the top (above the waist) between thumb and forefinger to flatten into a circular disc, and piece this with an indenting tool. Leave to harden for a few minutes and fix to the blue base with a drop of water. 

A word on the cake recipes used:

Cooking gluten and dairy free cakes can be a bit tricky, because most flours contain gluten, and most cake recipes contain flour and often milk as well. I am not an expert on gluten but I understand that it is linked, or bound, to the starch component of grain flours (wheat, rye, barley, maize).

If you don’t often cook for food intolerances and allergies it is worth knowing that there are some traps for young players. Who would have thought for instance, that icing sugar could contain gluten? And yet, if you buy ‘soft icing mixture’ instead of pure icing sugar, you’ll see that it lists ‘wheat starch’ as an additive. THIS IS GLUTEN!! 


Also, if you are a fondant icing user, have you rolled out your fondant with cornflour – and if so, have you checked that your cornflour is gluten-free? Some are, some aren’t – and remember that even if you buy a lovely gluten-free cornflour today to use for your gluten-free cookery,  if you have used a gluten-containing cornflour to roll out fondant in the past and you are using fondant mixed or rolled previously, it will be contaminated with gluten. So be very careful because you don’t want to poison your friends :-)

The first recipe is a Dr Cupcake original. I adapted it from a standard gluten-free, rice flour cake. The texture of the rice flour is very fine and makes for a fine, crumbly and rather dry cupcake. This does not keep well – I recommend refrigerating or freezing if you are not eating them the same day (don’t refrigerate when they are fondant iced though because it will make the icing go tacky – you must just eat them straight away).  

The second recipe is one that my mum gave me years ago, you can make this as a loaf cake as well – it does sink in the middle, but you can fill up the dip with fruit (if making a loaf cake) or chocolate (if cupcakes, see below). These have much better keeping qualities, they should be okay for about five days, longer if refrigerated. The marmalade is really good in this cake, even if you don’t usually like marmalade – it stops the cake from being too sweet but keeps it very moist, almost syrupy, and a bit tangy. Yum!

Red Cherry Cupcakes
*Gluten-free / *Dairy-free

Makes 10 cupcakes

2 eggs
1 cup castor sugar
1 ½ cups rice flour
1 ½ tsp gluten-free baking powder (check packet)
Pinch of salt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup cherry juice (from stewed, tinned or fresh cherries)
Red food colouring
50 g dark chocolate 70% cacao (check packet to ensure there are no milk products)

Preheat oven to 180C. Beat eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Stir in the rice flour, baking powder and salt until combined, then add the vegetable oil and cherry juice. Adjust the colour by adding the food colouring until you have a dark pink mixture. Spoon into cupcake papers and bake. Check after 20 minutes – the cupcakes are ready when the top springs back lightly when touched.
Wait for the cupcakes to cool, then heat some water in a small saucepan. Place a clean dry heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan and chop or break the chocolate into small pieces, placing these in the bowl. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Using a teaspoon, drizzle chocolate over the top of each cupcake and spread evenly with a spatula. Finish with rolled fondant (if using rolled fondant, be careful to use a gluten-free cornflour or pure icing sugar with no wheat starch added to roll the fondant out). 

Orange and almond cupcakes
*Gluten-free / *Dairy-free

Makes 12 cupcakes

3 eggs
100g ground almonds
50g castor sugar
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (check packet)
175g orange marmalade
100g dark chocolate 70% cacao (check packet to ensure there are no milk products)

Preheat oven to 180C. Beat the eggs with an electric beater so that they are very thick, creamy and form a ‘ribbon’ – this will take between 5 and 10 mins at full speed. Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them carefully into the egg mixture, being as careful as possible not to lose the air from the eggs. Then add the marmalade and fold in. As soon as the mixture is evenly combined, spoon into cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes. Check cakes with a skewer – if it comes out clean, the cakes are ready. These cakes will rise, then fall in the middle quite deeply – this is normal. 
When cakes are cool, heat some water in a small saucepan. Place a clean dry heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan and chop or break the chocolate into small pieces, placing these in the bowl. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Using a teaspoon, drizzle chocolate into the centre of each cupcake, filling the dip entirely so that the top of the cupcake is a level ‘lake’ of chocolate. Leave in fridge to harden.
Finish with rolled fondant (if using rolled fondant, be careful to use a gluten-free cornflour or pure icing sugar with no wheat starch added to roll the fondant out).


Monday, 14 March 2011

Shirt and Tie Cupcakes for Parliament Week

As Parliament is sitting this week, it seemed appropriate to dress up a little!
Our pollies are quite fashion conscious and the choice of tie can be crucial. So I did these 'stuffed shirt' cupcakes to take in to work today.

First I ganached the cupcakes. You start off with a cooled cupcake, and brush it with a little apricot jam diluted with water.

Then you spread it evenly with ganache (a mixture of cream and chocolate, made by pouring boiling cream onto small pieces of chocolate and stirring until it dissolves and becomes a thick, glossy mixture). The ganache needs to 'set' overnight after it is made to make sure it is the right consistency.

Finally, you dip a small metal spatula in boiling water and smooth the top so that no creases, dips or bumps remain. This gives you a completely flat surface to work with.

 For the shirts, I mixed up some pastel coloured RTR fondant using gel colouring (no one wears really bright business shirts).

Each shirt required one large circle, one wide strip, one little square and one tiny strip the same length as the square. This picture shows the quantities for two shirts.

You also need a contrasting fondant colour for the tie, and from this contrasting colour you need to hand cut a tie about 1cm wide at its widest point, and about 6cm long. You also need two small triangles, one .5 cm wide and one 1cm wide. These are not shown in the pic.

Use the big circle to cover the top of the cupcake. Adhere it with a few drops of water and burnish the top with a piece of flexible plastic, or a small cake smoother, to make the surface absolutely smooth and even.

Fold the wider strip in half lengthways and shape it into a horseshoe, or open-ended circle. This will be the collar of the shirt.

Using a little water on its base, stick the collar onto the top of the shirt.

Then stick the square piece of fondant onto the right side of the cupcake with a tiny drop of water, and stick the little strip across its top with an even smaller amount of water. This will be the shirt pocket.

Using a large needle or a small pointed working tool, prick tiny holes around the edges of the square to imitate stitching on the pocket.

Make the tie from a contrasting colour. You will need to hand-cut the ties, using a tapering oval shape as the base. Make them a little longer than the space between the bottom of the collar and the edge of the cupcake, and when positioning them, bend or fold them up a little so that they are more three dimensional.

For the knot in the tie, cut a tiny triangle out of rolled fondant in the same colour as the tie. Stick this over the top of the tie.

Try to tuck the little corners into the edges of the collar for extra realism :-)

Then cut another triangle, slightly bigger, to make a handkerchief for the shirt pocket. Stick this in place.

Stripey ties are really effective!

For stripes, roll out one colour as your base, to about 4mm thick (slightly thicker than you want it to end up). Lay this aside and cover it with plastic to stop it drying out.

Then take a second colour and roll it out slightly thinner. Cut long thin strips (2mm) from this, using a ruler and a sharp knife. 

Lay the strips across the base colour, making sure they are parallel. Then position your rolling pin and roll firmly in the direction of the strips.

You can then use your new 'stripey' colour to create fashionable ties for your stuffed shirts!

 Happy parliament week!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Hazelnut and coffee crescents on a sunny Sunday

So at three o'clock on Sunday I thought, "I NEED a biscuity something."

I was in a contrary mood. Couldn't be bothered to make macaroons, always my first choice. Didn't feel like melting moments. Could have gone a cupcake but (as you can see) that can be a long process in my house. So these crescents were invented to fill the gap.

They took 20 minutes to make and 10 to bake. They are moist and dense rather than crunchy, a bit like ricciarelli or amaretti morbidi (soft amaretti) but instead of an almond/marzipan flavour they are strongly hazelnutty with a coffee undertone - a rich mix of flavours.

They smelled rather nice when in the oven so even Jade (Mr Cupcake) had his eye on them as soon as they came out, and he's not much of a sweet tooth.

This is an original Dr Cupcake recipe!

200g ground hazelnuts
100g chopped hazelnuts
200g icing sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp apricot jam
1 tsp coffee flavoring (I used cafe trablit)
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp milk

 Preheat the oven to 160C. Mix the icing sugar and ground hazelnuts together. Make a well in the centre and add the jam and one beaten egg, stirring to combine, then add the coffee flavoring. You should have a fairly moist mixture that you can ball up and shape with your hands. If your mixture is too sloppy, add more nuts and sugar; if it's too stiff, add a little more beaten egg.

 Break off walnut-sized pieces of the dough and roll them into sausages, using a little sugar to stop them sticking to your hands. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of each sausage with the reserved beaten egg and roll it in the chopped hazelnuts to coat. Bend the roll into a crescent shape and place on a buttered baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, the biscuits should be soft but firm and starting to brown at the edges when they're cooked.

As they are cooling, heat the milk and stir the caster sugar in to dissolve.
Paint this mixture on the tops of the crescents to make them develop a slight shine.

Be careful not to move them until they are cool because they need to firm up while cooling.

Store in an airtight container between layers of baking paper.


Monday, 7 March 2011

A penguin birthday cake for Mr Cupcake

As Mr Cupcake's birthday approached I asked him, predictably, what he would like in the way of a cake.
Not being as obsessed as I am with cakes, Mr Cupcake did not know what he wanted.

"Anything," he said. He then specified that he would like a Sacher torte as the kind of actual cakey substance but that he wouldn't mind if I paired that with a fondant icing rather than the normal glossy chocolate icing of true Sacher tortes.
The weather in Tasmania has turned very cold so suddenly that a icy penguin tableau seemed quite apt for a March birthday. I decided to try something I had seen in Planet Cake Cupcakes.

This was only the second time that I have decorated a full size cake with fondant icing. Planet Cake definitely wouldn't give me a job based on the end result, but as a beginner I was reasonably happy with it.

After I had baked the Sacher torte, I split it horizontally and filled the centre with blackcurrant jam. Then it was time to ganache and hot knife for a smooth finish.

It took an awful lot of ganache to cover all the top and sides, because it needs to sit in every little uneven crevice and be built out to an even edge. This is the ganache finish.

 For some reason Mr Plums was fascinated with the whole decorative process and every time I got up from my chair he took a front seat to watch the proceedings.

I measured the cake (top and sides) so that I would know how large a piece of rolled fondant I would need to cover it. Then I rolled the fondant to about half a centimetre thickness and draped it evenly over the cake. I smoothed it by hand from the middle to the top edges and then down the sides, and trimmed around the base. 

The penguin took a while. I modelled him from a single large ball of fondant, but had to lie him down to dry out because his head kept drooping forward. He looked crushed and sad. However, he hardened up nicely while lying down with his little head supported by a foam pillow to keep his back hunched.

His flippers were rolled and hand cut, then left to dry completely before moving them. I cut deep slots in penguin's sides to stick the flippers in.

Penguin had to be painted. I used a black gel food colour and a fine brush to do his head, back and one side of his flippers, leaving his tummy white.

The white side of one flipper got a bit of black on it - I thought this was terminal but managed to remove the stain by wiping with a damp cloth - good to know for future reference.

When penguin was dry, I stuck tiny white fondant balls on for eyes and dotted a black pupil in each with a paint brush. I stuck his flippers into their slots and put him on the cake, then placed his feet in front of him.

It was time to cut a hole in the 'ice'-ing to go fishing! I made the hole with a small circle cutter, going right down to the ganache layer.

Then I peeled the fondant away, but replaced it with a very very thin layer of white fondant, just so that the blue gel would really shine.

I squirted a thin layer of blue gel into the hole using Wilton's cake decorating gel - it comes in a range of colours, very useful for water effects.

Then I modelled a fishy from white fondant (actually, I only needed half a fishy), and painted him using 'ivory' gel colour (it looks light brown when concentrated), decorating him with green dots and black ridge along his fins. I stuck white balls of fondant on for his eyes and dotted black paint for the pupils, as with penguin. Then I placed fishy in his icy pond and piped another layer of blue gel around him.

In photographing the cake I thought this pic which was taken in direct sunlight seemed to make the 'icy' setting more realistic. The sun gleams off the water beautifully!
I finished up with Happy Birthday candles in green and orange to go with the fishy and a matching green ribbon at the base of the cake, which apart from providing a bit of colour to what was a very pale cake, also served to hide some little imperfections at the base.
Mr Cupcake was somewhat bemused by the choice of decoration. This is his bemused look.
Happy birthday Mr Cupcake... just like the penguin's successful fishing expedition,  may this year present you with many delicious surprises!