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Wednesday
Apr022014

Magic in the Airheads: Magical Rainbow Candy Bowls

Rainbow candy baskets

April showers bring May flowers. But let's not get all doom and gloom and April-is-the-cruelest month, OK? Because where there are rain showers, there is bound to be a rainbow or two. Or ten!

To celebrate this magical rainbow-filled month, I would like to present a project sponsored by Airheads candy which has attained this site's highest status as unicorn-approved: rainbow candy dessert bowls. 

Rainbow candy baskets

These confections are woven from candy, and are a perfectly magical setting for all of your favorite desserts. You could fill them with whipped cream or marshmallow fluff for a light and sweet cloud-like treat, or you could place an entire cupcake inside. They could even be used as decorative candy bowls at parties for a sweet table setting. 

Rainbow candy baskets

I should tell you too that this project was inspired by my time in Bali. Perhaps not for the reason you think, though! 

You see, I had agreed to come up with a project for Airheads before I left, and I figured "meh, I'll find someone's oven to bake in.". Well, as it turns out, they don't have ovens in Bali! So I had to revise my plans and figure out a no-bake treat. I thought back to my friend Not Martha's bacon bowls and an idea was born--a sweet idea, indeed.

Rainbow candy baskets

I have to say, I was rather pleased with my experimentation. It took a little figuring out, because once I wove the rainbows I had trouble getting them to stay together while I shaped the baskets. By employing regular Airheads candy, I melted them down and then used them as a sort of sealant for the inside of the baskets. It helped keep the candy together, and as an added bonus, sealed the inside so that if eating ice cream or something of the like, it would stay contained in the basket. 

You could go for a plain, cloud-like look with the finished baskets, or include additional rainbows. Definitely not excessive.

Rainbow candy baskets

Anyhow, I know that you're probably keen to make this magic happen in the comfort of your own home, so here's how I did it. I realize it seems like a long process based on my writing, but it's really not; I just wanted to be thorough in my explanations. You're welcome!

Rainbow candy baskets

You'll need:

  • 1 cupcake tin
  • double boiler
  • a spatula for stirring, a spoon, and a knife

Rainbow candy baskets

Ingredients

(Per basket)

  • 10 strips Airheads XTremes Sweetly sour candy, in berry rainbow
  • 3 small Airheads candies, unwrapped (choose similar colors for best results)
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 3 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Procedure

Grab a work surface and let's get weaving. First, grab yourself 10 strips of the rainbow colored Airheads Extreme candy. Line five strips side by side, so that the ends are facing you. 

Leaving an inch of space on the top, begin to weave one of the remaining strips of candy horizontally, over and under the vertical rows.

Grab your next piece, and weave it directly below the previous one, weaving under-and-over so that it forms a basketweave pattern.

Continue alternating with the remaining strips. 

Here's a photo-collage of the process if that all seems confusing:

Weaving a rainbow

OK, set this woven piece of rainbow art to the side for the moment. 

Now, set up your double boiler. Place three Airheads candies (the regular kind) in the top, along with the water and confectioners' sugar. 

Heat on medium, stirring every few minutes. While at first the sugar, water, and candy will remain quite separate, as it melts, the mixture will become thick. You'll see now why it was a good idea to use candy in the same color scheme--the color melts together. It might be ugly if you use different colored candies (like I did the first time) but it will taste fine. Promise. But even so, this won't be the prettiest part of the process.

Rainbow candy baskets

Once the mixture is lightly bubbly, remove from heat. You'll want to work without hesitating at this point as the candy is easier to use while still quite liquid. Gently spoon the candy in the center of your basketweave square. Use a spoon or knife to spread it to cover the woven portion as thoroughly as possible. 

At this point, I decided that rather than slice off the extra bits, I would fold over the non-woven portions. This is easier to do if you start with the pieces which are "under". They will adhere easily to the still sticky candy.

The four corners, I sliced off.

Give it about five minutes for the candy to set slightly, and transfer the candy bundle to your cupcake tin. Gently place it, centered, on top of one of the cups. Using your fingers, gently finesse it into a bowl shape.

Once again, here it all is in pictures. My apologies again for the weird melted candy color. Folding basket

Rainbow candy baskets

Repeat, making as many bowls as you'd like.

To help the bowls "set", I put them in the freezer (right in the cupcake pan) for about 5 to 10 minutes. They easily popped out of the cupcake tin at this point.

Rainbow candy baskets

Fill the bowls with whatever toppings you'd like. If you're not using them immediately, keep them in the cupcake tin so that they will retain their shape.

What would you put in a rainbow bowl?

Tuesday
Apr012014

How to Make Perfect Flan

I don't even like flan, and I like this flan. Here's how to make it.

Sunday
Mar302014

Bali Diary: This is Not a Nanaimo Bar

This is not a Nanaimo bar. I’m not messing with you. It’s really not.

It’s part of a strange phenomenon which has haunted me in Bali: I keep on finding Nanaimo bar lookalikes which are not actually Nanaimo bars.

These lookalikes are three layer bars with a crust, soft and custardy midsection, and a chocolate topping. But in spite of these compelling attributes, they are not Nanaimo bars. 

I realize that I probably sound crazy, or at least you think that I am having a mirage of sorts because I’ve been in Bali too long and all of the coconut juice is going to my head. But this is seriously happening. 

To illustrate with an example, take a look at this. Looks like tray of Nanaimo bars, right?

 

BUT THEY ARE NOT NANAIMO BARS. They are actually a raw food sweet, made with cashew and honey, coconut butter, cacao, coconut oil, and dates. You can get them at the hyper-stylish health food cafe Clear Cafe in Ubud.

Raw chocolate bliss bar

Weirdest of all? They taste nothing like Nanaimo bars. Not a nanaimo bar

This made for a very strange experience. I mean, imagine biting into what looked like a bar of chocolate and it tasting like an apple. That would be weird, right? Well, it was weird biting into something that looked so much like a Nanaimo bar that tasted nothing like it. 

Not a nanaimo bar

Initially, it tasted "wrong" to me--but not because it was not a well made treat. It was more a matter of shock, which made it difficult to determine at first if it was actually good. But don’t worry, I rallied. And a few bites in, once I had talked myself out of expecting the taste of Nanaimo bars, I realized that it was actually quite good. The dates and cashew coconut flavors came together in a naturally sweet treat with just a bit of bitterness (good bitterness) from the cacao to cut through the sweet and rich flavors.

But, you know, not a Nanaimo bar. 

Mint chocolate spirulina slice

The second one somewhat resembled a top heavy chocolate mint Nanaimo bar. But once again...it wasn’t a Nanaimo bar. 

It was a raw chocolate mint spiralina slice from Kafe, another healthy restaurant. Yup. Once again, hippie food. The crust was not as firm as a Nanaimo bar, and the fillings were quite soft. The chocolate in particular was mousse-like. It was a lovely dessert, and raw to boot. It was a highly pleasant dessert… 

Mint chocolate spirulina slice

but NOT a Nanaimo bar!

I don't know quite what to make of this phenomenon, my sweet friends. What can I say other than traveling is weird and wonderful? I can say resoundingly, though that it was an overall delightful and wonderful experience to encounter a whole new world of Nanaimo bar lookalikes so far away from home.

Love from Bali,
CakeSpy
- - -
Places mentioned:
Clear Cafe, Hanoman Street, Ubud.
Kafe, Hanoman Street, Ubud.
Saturday
Mar292014

Make This: Tropical Fruit Medley Eclairs

I know, I know.

After I tortured you, absolutely tortured you, with a great interview with Ruth Clemens, baker extraordinaire who blogs at The Pink Whisk, and now author of Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations.

But I didn't give you even a hint of a recipe, I just talked about how great they were. 

Well, I am going to remedy that, sweet readers, because Ruth has been kind enough to share a recipe from the book, for Tropical Fruit Medley Eclairs. It being that I am in Bali at the moment, it seemed like an appropriate recipe to share. Enjoy!

This is part 2 of my entry as part of the book tour blog hop; to see the other entries, click here

Tropical Fruit Medley Eclairs

Makes 10–12 x 15cm (6in) éclairs

Ingredients

1 x quantity choux pastry (recipe here)

1 x quantity vanilla or tropical crème patissière (recipes follow) 

  • 60g (21/4oz) fresh pineapple, sliced
  • 70g (21/2oz) fresh kiwi, sliced
  • 50g (21/4oz) fresh mango, sliced
  • 1 x quantity regular or orange fondant glaze (recipes follow)

Decorations

  • Yellow and lime green sugarpaste (rolled fondant/ready-to-roll icing) (see Sugarcraft Techniques)
  • Small and medium pointed blossom cutters
  • Small pearl dragées (sugar balls)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Fill a piping (pastry) bag fitted with an 18mm (3/4in) nozzle (tip) with the chilled choux pastry. Pipe 15cm (6in) éclairs onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking (parchment) paper or a silicone liner (bake-o-glide). Spray the éclairs lightly with vegetable or sunflower oil and bake in the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  2. Roll out the yellow sugarpaste and cut out two medium-pointed five-petal blossoms for each éclair. Roll out the lime green and cut one small blossom for each. Using a cocktail stick (toothpick), imprint lines along each petal. Set the yellow blossoms on top of each other, slightly offsetting the petals, and place the green blossom in the centre. Carefully pick up the pieces and pinch together gently from the back to ruffle the petals. Set aside to dry in the recesses of an egg box.
  3. Assembly: Whisk the prepared tropical crème patissière with an electric hand mixer until smooth.
  4. Split each éclair with a sharp serrated knife (see Filling, Dipping & Splitting) and spoon the tropical crème patissière into the base of each.
  5. Top the crème patissière with a mix of sliced tropical fruits.
  6. Warm the orange fondant glaze gently until of a dipping consistency and place in an open shallow bowl. Dip the top of each éclair in the fondant to coat and place on top of the fruit filling.
  7. Apply a dab of water to the centres of the flowers and sprinkle on the dragées. Add a tropical flower to the top of each éclair and serve.

Vanilla Crème Patissière

Ingredients

  • 600ml (20fl oz) whole milk
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod, 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste or 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 100g (3½oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 50g (1¾oz) cornflour (cornstarch)

Equipment

  • Large jug
  • Whisk
  • Medium-sized pan
  • Cling film (plastic wrap)
  • Large bowl
  • Electric hand mixer

How to make it tropical

Omit the vanilla and replace with the grated zest of 1 lime, half an orange and half a lemon. Before transferring to a bowl to cool, whisk in 15ml (1 tbsp) coconut liqueur.

Method

  1. In a large jug whisk together the egg yolks and caster (superfine) sugar until the mixture is light and foamy. Add the cornflour and whisk again until of an even consistency. Set to one side.
  2. Place the milk and vanilla in a medium pan and heat gently until just below boiling point. Whilst whisking the egg mixture continuously, add the warmed vanilla-infused milk a little at a time until both mixtures have been fully worked together. TIP: Make sure you whisk together the egg yolks as soon as the caster (superfine) sugar is added to them. This will prevent the sugar from pulling the moisture out of the yolks, which could result in ‘egg burn’, where you would have yellow flecks in your finished crème patissière.
  3. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and over a medium heat, whisking continuously, bring to the boil. Continue to cook the crème patissière for 2 minutes until thick and glossy.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Contact-cover the top of the crème patissière with cling film (plastic wrap) to prevent a skin from forming, and allow to cool. Refrigerate once cooled.
  5. When you are ready to use it, transfer the chilled crème patissière to a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until it is a smooth and even consistency.

Fondant Glaze

Ingredients

  • 300g (101/2oz) white sugarpaste (fondant/ready-to-roll icing)
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) water

Equipment

  • Heatproof bowl
  • Small pan or microwave
  • Electric hand mixer

Method

  1. Break the fondant into small pieces and place in heatproof bowl with the water.
  2. Heat gently in the microwave in short bursts, or over a pan of steaming water, stirring frequently, until the fondant melts.
  3. Mix with an electric mixer until the consistency is smooth and even and no lumps remain. The glaze will begin to set while it cools, so use while it is still warm. It can easily be reheated to pouring consistency if it cools too quickly for use.

TIP: Fondant glaze can be coloured with food gel pastes and easily flavoured with a wide range of extracts. Simply add a small amount of gel paste colour in the required shade to warmed fondant that is ready to be used. Make sure that it is evenly mixed to avoid any streaks before using to coat the tops of éclairs.

TIP: The temptation is to add more water to keep the fondant in a liquid state but if you do this the fondant will not set once the éclairs are coated. Gently warming the fondant before use is the best method.

Make it orange:

Add the grated zest of 1 orange  in 30ml (2 tbsp) hot water before adding to the fondant and heating together.

Enjoy!

 

Thursday
Mar272014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Rainbow! Cake! A wonderful one.

Traditional Balinese sweets? A nice view for beginners.

In Detroit, they're baking up success in shared kitchens.

Sun Bakeries: an interesting way of enabling people.

I am intrigued by this Craftsy course in making edible wafer paper cake designs.

I googled "cupcakes with narwhals". I ended up finding a snowman cake. Still, cute!

Bread pudding from New Orleans. Yum.

Pink frosted cookies. You know you love them.

Need an idea for how to use your Pop-Tarts creatively? I love the recipe section on their site.

A nice roundup of Italian cookies.

Doughnut statistics and trends. Who knew?

This cake is amazing.

Buy my first book, because I am sure that you can think of someone who would love it. CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life

Tuesday
Mar252014

Bali Diary: Seniman Coffee is Amazing

Seniman coffee, Bali

I really need to tell you about this experience I had in Bali. I mean, I've had a lot of experiences that have been great here, but one of my favorite things day to day has been the fact that they give you cookies with your lattes. It starts every day out right.

Of course, that was until now. Seniman Coffee has raised the bar, and I don't know if cookies will be enough anymore. Because they give you the thing pictured above with your coffee. Please, allow me to explain.

Seniman coffee, Bali

So, I go to Seniman Coffee, a popular spot with expats and a place that every person in Portland would probably faint from happiness if they saw it, and order a latte.

A few minutes later, a little tray is delivered to me with three separate segments. One contains a latte (duh). One contains a cup of water (nice touch). The third contains what looks like a cigar or thin, mini burrito. I'm intrigued.

Seniman coffee, Bali

What's this? I wonder.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I take a bite.

Seniman coffee, Bali

Holy crap! It's delicious! It's like a pancake, wrapped burrito style, and it contains a coconutty mixture. Oh my god! I love this thing. I actually had the willpower to put it back on its tray so that I could take a photo to show you all.

Seniman coffee, Bali

I grab the closest server. "What is this?" I ask.

As it turns out, it's a traditional sweet called jaje dadar, which is said to be frequently doled out with coffee (though this was the first I'd ever seen it).

It's simply a crepe-like pancake prettily wrapped around a mix of coconut and palm sugar. But it is so, so good. I want this experience to happen every time I order coffee. Also every time I visit an ATM. Actually, I would like someone to follow me around and dole these out at regular intervals.

Seniman coffee, Bali

It's a fantastic two-bite treat, and I am so delighted that I've had it. This is definitely the best coffee accessory sweet that has been delivered to me in Bali. 

Seniman coffee, Bali

Oh, and the latte was pretty good, too. The theme at Seniman is "Imagine you know what you are doing", and when I'm there, I don't imagine, I know--I'm eating something awesome.

Love from Bali,

CakeSpy

Mentioned: Seniman Coffee, Ubud. Online here.

 

Sunday
Mar232014

Bali Diary: Black Rice Pudding is a Thing Here

Black rice pudding

I'll be straight up with you: I'm not really a cereal person. On a restaurant menu, I totally glaze over the cereal or grain section in favor of more exciting choices such as pancakes or eggs or French toast. Or a vanilla kreme filled donut. You know.

But I have discovered a treat in Bali that really revs my engine in the morning (yes, I just said that), and its name is Black Rice Pudding. It's wonderful, sweet, and provides me with ample energy for doing tons of yoga. This is actually me:

Yoga in bali

 

I know, I totally rule, right??

But back to the rice pudding. Actually, it doesn’t have to be a beginning of the day treat. The pudding can be eaten as a porridge-like morning food, or as a more rice pudding-y dessert. Black rice sweetened with palm sugar and wrapped in banana leaves can also be found at the markets for a traditional treat.

But to keep things fairly simple, I'm going to stick with the breakfast version, because it's my favorite time to enjoy this sweet treat. Plus, if it's technically breakfast, then it's ok to order dessert, too.

Black rice pudding

So what should you expect when you order black rice pudding?

The black rice is lightly boiled and then served in any number of slight variations on this basic method: with palm sugar-soaked coconut milk and bananas on top. I don't know how these fairly virtuous ingredients do it, but when they come together, they will make you want to keep eating until you burst open in some sort of carbohydratey explosion.

Black rice pudding

One of my favorites so far was from famed restaurant Casa Luna (home of a literary festival and a bakery--I felt very at home), where they serve it in a big bowl, made in the exact way detailed above. The rice itself is sort of al dente textured, but it softens as you eat it--almost like how Grape Nuts start out gravelly but then turn nice and soft in the milk. As the rice became soaked with the sweet coconut sugar mixture, each kernel became a vessel for transporting a mini burst of awesome in my mouth. There were just enough bananas to keep things interesting, but not too many so as to be distracting. This was a thoroughly happy food to eat. 

But you don't have to limit yourself to Casa Luna for consuming this delicious treat. It's a common item on menus, and can typically be made any time of day. 

Black rice pudding

I found a good-looking black rice pudding recipe in case you're intrigued. And I found another one that is like a tricked out version. It sounds about right to me, and I am going to give it a try when I am back home. Although more and more, Bali is starting to seem like home!

Love from Bali,

CakeSpy

Mentioned: Casa Luna, Jalan Raya Ubud, Bali. Online here.

Friday
Mar212014

Batter Chatter with Ruth Clemens, Author of Creative Eclairs

As a blogger who has made the jump to published author, I am always happy to welcome others to the club. So I was super excited to hear that Ruth Clemens, baker extraordinaire who blogs at The Pink Whisk, had published a book. And oh, what a book: entitled Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations, this is a necessary volume for eclair lovers. Everyone loves eclairs, therefore you must buy the book. See? Science.

I interviewed Ruth as part of her book tour blog hop; to see the other entries, click here

And now, on to the interview. Let's get some clarity on the world of an eclair book writer! This interview may be of great interest to bloggers who are interested in writing a book, too!

Why are eclairs better than doughnuts?

I can’t tell you that they are (especially as I know your love for doughnuts!) but they are just as good. They share the same good traits in that treating yourself to one or two (or 3, or 4 - who am I kidding?) is thoroughly utterly lovely. You can dress them up to the nines with sprinkles, decorations or glitz, you can keep them simple and understated but they are always packed with mind blowing flavours, filling combinations and textures. There is something for everyone and every occasion, I’ll have one of each please!

Writing a cookbook is a serious process. Here is a two part question regarding that.

a. What was the most difficult part of the process for you?

The hardest part I find is to decide what makes it into the book and what gets cut out – which recipes to develop from an idea into reality. I still go over in my mind the recipes that I didn’t put in and wonder if I made the right decision. I always try to cover recipes for lots of different tastes and not just my own preference so that there’s something to tempt everyone.

b. What was the most fun part of the process for you and why?

The most fun part has got to be getting in the kitchen and turning the ideas on paper into a reality. I love the creativity of playing around with something until it’s just the way you want it. Of course I get frustrated when things won’t do what I want but I tend to park an idea and then come back to it again later. I lose whole days when I get to play in the kitchen, no email, no phone and I just thoroughly enjoy creating a mountain of washing up, before I know it it’s school pick up time, I’ve got flour in my hair and I have to fly to the playground in a mad dash to meet the kids!

What happened to the eclairs after the photo shoots?

Everyone at the shoot was sent home with treat boxes full of all sorts of flavours. The rest (and we were probably dealing with over 100 eclairs each day of the shoot) were boxed up and taken to my boys lacrosse training groups – they soon disappeared and none of them went to waste!

Which recipe from your book would you suggest for the beginning French pastry-maker and why?

It has to be Classic Chocolate Eclairs as a first foray into choux pastry. A simple choux, crème patissiere and a ganache and you have something utterly wonderful. It’s a confidence builder and from there on in EVERYTHING else is achievable.

Not everybody knows that choux is for more than just making eclair shells. What is one of your favorite non-eclair items from the book which uses choux pastry and why?

I love the Pecan Streusel Buns and I have to admit I fear for those buns! They are plain and simple looking and for that I worry that they’ll be overlooked. They are however one of the loveliest tasting buns I’ve ever had and have to admit I make them here time and time again. Now you’re probably thinking that I’m a little bit mad worrying about buns and going over the poor recipes that didn’t make the cut, actually it’s most likely true but I do put my heart and soul into the recipes and my books and can only hope when they make it onto book shelves in bakers homes that they enjoy the recipes and put them to good use. The ultimate accolade is for books to be so well used that the pages are sticking together.

Tell me three things about you that we might not expect if all we knew of you was this book.

1. I’m a normal Mum, running round after the kids, nagging them to do homework/spellings/chores, walking the dog, doing the washing (or getting behind with it more like), shopping, nattering at the school gates all the usual Mum and family stuff with a bit of baking thrown in for good measure.

2. I get things wrong in the kitchen all the time. It’s only through practice and ten tons of it, doing the same thing over and over that I I’ve taught myself to get better and more successful in my baking.

3. You might not expect that in fact my kitchen at home, where all the recipes come to life is in fact the size of a miniature peanut. The longest length of continuous worksurface I have is approx. 60cm long and I share that working space with the kettle, tea, coffee and sugar. I am the master at balancing and impromptu resting spots, creative baking (and juggling) at its finest!

Did you have to go on an eclair diet after writing the book?

Strangely no! I have subjected my family to overdose on various different bakes throughout the past couple of years cake and bread included, just through the repetition that’s required when writing a book. Eclairs they will still hoover up instantly without any complaint and only the odd physical fight over the last one left. When there’s choux being made no-one runs to hide. I was also pretty well organised at squirrelling the testers out to friends and family quick sharp so there was never enough to overface my boys! Fortunately eclairs are now interspersed with other treats otherwise we’d all be ending up the sizes of houses here.

What's next?

For me it’s back to my blog, The Pink Whisk (and the cooking, cleaning washing), writing recipes to share with the baking mad masses and beyond that really who knows! I’d love to get to work on a new book and have some ideas in the pipeline but in the meantime I’m off to make some more washing up…

Buy the book here: Creative Eclairs: Over 30 Fabulous Flavours and Easy Cake Decorating Ideas for Eclairs and Other Choux Pastry Creations. We'll share a recipe from the book next week, too!

Friday
Mar212014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Remember this Easter candy dessert taco plate I made?

How to make sugar flowers. Helpful!

The history of Peeps.

I made something savory: how to make Scotch eggs.

Scented cupcake warmer. Cute.

Chocolate cake with creamy caramel frosting. YES!

How a tattooed, bodybuilding ex soldier became a cupcake baker.

Cheesecake brownies.

The history of jelly beans.

Unicorn pops!

An awful and terrible Easter Candy pie.

I want to make these Spring flower sugar cookies.

I'm ready for March to be over, and to go out like a lamb-ington!

Wednesday
Mar192014

How to Make Almond Croissants

How could you not love the French? After all, they're the ones who took the concept of the croissant and made it an International Thing. 

Take your croissants a step further by almond-ifying them. You'll love it, I guarantee it. Well, unless you don't like almond. In that case, go to another website. Here's the recipe.

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