Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pink Party Cakes

Pink Love Heart Chocolate Cupcakes
So I went a bit mad in Tesco one day buying lots of pink cake decorations. I made these yummy buns with chocolate fudge icing, pink sugar balls and pink love hearts. I just loved them. I also found an entire large tube of pink smarties! I thought oh these must be for breast cancer awareness but no it was just a big tube of pink smarties because Nestle know how awesome that is. 

So I gathered up various pink items, marshmallows sugar balls, Barbie Sprinkles etc. and invited my mates over for some messy cupcake decorating! We created an absolute mess and all felt sick afterwards but it was great fun! Be warned some of the cupcakes are a bit naughty looking! 

Messy Pink and Chocolate Cupcakes
Messy Chocolate Cupcakes
We also attempted to make fudge and decorated it with the left over smarties etc. It was nice but not really fudge.

Attempt at Fudge

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Glittery Cupcakes

Glittery Cupcakes
My housemate who co-creates most of our novelty cakes was having her 21st birthday at her parents house so I knew they'd be getting her a cake. So as not to interfere we decided to make cupcakes instead.  I had recently just got a cupcake stand as a present and some gorgeous black foil cupcake cases so we were ready to roll. We knew she was wearing a black dress with red shoes so we thought about making red and black cupcakes. We mixed the icing up but for some reason the colours wouldn't work. The black was too grey and the red was too bright. 

So after we threw out an obscene amount of icing we decided to do something simple as we did not have time to pipe any icing. So we mixed up normal icing i.e. water and icing sugar and poured it onto the cupcakes. I had some green/pink edible glitter so we just sprinkled it on top of the cupcakes and voila! We had created simple tasty and pretty cupcakes. It certainly was a change from our usual creations. My other housemate created the top cupcake using edible gold stars and silver sugar balls. 

Mini Glitter Cupcakes
Another example of using the glitter was for another friends 21st in their house where once again I knew the parents would be providing the cake. This time we made mini cupcakes using silicon moulds which meant they had no cases but that didn't matter as they were bitesize. This time we did pipe un-coloured buttercream icing and then decorated the buns with the glitter and balls etc. Making and decorating mini cupcakes is quite time consuming so I invited some friends over to help decorate them. It is great fun and you can have a chat while doing it. The guys are particularly good at it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chocolate Rose!

Bouquet of Chocolate Roses Wrappers
I had a great idea to dress up as a sweet like the purple one for a box of Quality Street for Halloween 2009. But despite finding coloured cellophane in a local florist and wrapping myself in it, the costume was a complete fail! I started to panic at this point because it lunchtime and I was having a Halloween party that night but no awesome costume. However I had a plan! 

Close-up of Costume
I rushed off to the local shop and bought 4 tins of Cadbury's Chocolate Roses! I knew I'd never get it done on my own so I roped a few of my male friends in with the promise of dinner. So while I cooked a load of spagetti bolognese the guys started unwrapping the chocolates and organising the wrappers. By the time I had served the dinner you'd think they'd be stuffed with all the chocolates they'd been sneaking but no they gobbled it up. Fortunately my housemates turned up to help with the finer details of making an outfit aka sellotaping me into it.

What was left of the 4 Tins of Roses..
We began sellotaping the wrappers together and then made them into a top and a skirt. I combined my outfit with a few silver accessories including a tiara and a sash that said 'Chocolate Rose' and off I went with my bouquet of Rose wrappers as the Chocolate Rose of Tralee. The Rose of Tralee is a beauty pageant held in Ireland each year where the contestants are known as say the Dublin Rose or the Sydney Rose. I was the Chocolate Rose in my shiny dress. I was happy! Not my best costume but my far my most colourful well maybe my Pokemon costume was more colourful but it is debatable. Least I didn't make my boyfriend wear a matching vest: Starburst Wrapper Prom Dress!

Chocolate Rose of Tralee Costume

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I ♥ Macarons!

Homemade Rose Macarons
Yes I did! They weren't perfect but way better than I expected considering all the hype about them! I first came across Macarons when my French mate brought some over for my housemate as a present and I just happened to be at the table at the time and it would of just been rude of me not to try one. They were from Ladureé. At first we were like did you bring these from Paris! But no Ladureé have a counter in Brown Thomas in Dublin. So I tried a rose flavoured one and it was devine! I was hooked and armed witha a voucher for Brown Thomas I had, I bought a big box of Macarons from Ladureé. One of every flavour. Nom Nom.

The Perfect Macaron after
A friend of mine who is an excellent cook told me she had got a book on macarons but said she was disapointed as the language wasn't great and it resulted in a not so perfect macaron. Now I think she might of been talking about I ♥ Macarons the must have book on macarons but it is translated from Japanese and supposedly mainly just pretty pictures. So after alot of reading of blogs and so forth I decided to give rose macarons a go, following the advice of this guy, David Lebovitz, who seems to be the dude when it comes to pastries or something like that. He refers to a 'foot' which is the bubbly looking bit on the bottom of the macarons. See the photo above. I didn't achieve this but heres hoping I will next time!

Pencil Marks for the Macarons

Powdered Almond, Powdered Sugar, Granulated Sugar and Egg Whites
Anyway I started off by drawing circles that were about an inch in diameter on some baking paper to act as a guide when I piped the mixture out. I drew 30 of these circles, 15 on for each baking tray. I had ground almonds already but I ground them some more so they were more powdery. However this made the almond clump together. This meant I had to roast the almond on a baking tray to dry it out. I put it in the oven for 10mins and hoped for the best. In the meantime I powdered some sugar in the blender. You could use icing sugar but sometimes this has added cornflour which supposedly causes the macarons to crack. 

Mixing the Colour into the Egg Whites
I whisked the sugar and egg whites up and added the colour (half a cap of red colouring) and a cap of rose water to the mixture at this point as I was folding the rest of the ingredients in later and wouldn't be able to mix the colour at this point. I also made it slightly redder than I wanted as I knew the almonds and powdered sugar would dilute the mix. The almonds were still clumped together after roasting and it required alot of effort to sieve them into the egg whites with the icing sugar as they kept clogging up the sieve. I eventually got there. 

Piped Macarons Ready for Baking
My Syringe with a Plain Cap
So the mixture was easy to but into my syringe piper unlike butter icing which is a nightmare! Runny enough to flow out easy, thick enough to control and pipe into nice domes. I'm sure a skilled hand could spoon them out neatly if no piping bag was available. Once I'd piped them all out I had to rap the baking tray against the counter a few times to flatten the top of the macarons as they are meant to have flat tops not domes. Popped them in the oven at gas mark 1 for 15mins. They looked great. Maybe starting to golden a little which I didn't want as it would ruin the colour. I let them cool and then things went down hill a bit. 

Macarons Fresh Out of the Oven
When I tried to lift the macarons off the baking paper they started to crumble! Perfect shells had formed but there was mainly just a big void of air in the centre with a bit of gooey macaron STUCK to the baking paper! Then I realised I'd used greaseproof paper not baking paper, hence the sticking problem but not why the centre was nothing but air, my Mom thinks I should of left them in for longer. Oh well I'll know next time. Never the less out of the 30 shells as I'm now calling them I managed to salvage maybe 18 or so of them i.e. 9 Macarons. :( I was not a happy bunny but I was still excited as they looked awesome!

Homemade Rose Macarons
I mixed a bit of butter, icing sugar and some rose water up and using my syringe piped it in a circle around the outside of the bottom of the macarons. Ideally I should of filled them but they were so fragile they were cracking under the weight of the filling. It was a very rich filling anyway so it didn't matter. I didn't add any colour to the the filling as the pink and white contrast is quite pretty. I was thinking of flavouring it something different. Maybe vanilla but I was too lazy to go get some from the cupboard (Does anyone else think its strange seeing cupboard written down as everyone glosses over the p?)

Homemade Rose Macarons
Homemade Rose Macarons
So there was a lot of wastage, not a lot of sticky centre, no foot but who cares. They were delicious! I am however going to lay off the rose flavoured stuff for awhile! If you are going to make them I'd read up on it first as there are loads of tips such as leaving over night to develop in flavour. Yea about that.... Anyway if you wanna read more about my tasty adventures check out my Chocolate Fondant or if you want to see some of the costume parties I've been at try the Stretcher Race

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chocolate Fondant!

One of My Many Chocolate Fondants

I love chocolate fondant. I first came across it on a wonderful trip to West Cork with my sister and her husband. We tasted lots of wonderful desserts on this trip but the fondant was by far the best. We found the restaurant by chance up a little lane in Baltimore. It is now called The Mews but I don't remember what it was called when we visited it in 2008. Since I don't have any pretty ramekins or cups I make my fondants in a plastic cases that M&S chocolate fondants come in. (Yes I love it so much I've a collection of cases from M&S) Just grease the cases and dust them with cocoa and the fondant would pop right out onto a plate but they do look much nicer in cappuccino cups. 

My Sister and I Enjoying our Dessert in Baltimore
For those of you that don't know chocolate fondants are like chocolate pudding but much more fluid in the inside and crispy on the outside. Therefore cooking them at a low heat and keeping an eye on them is essential. Nothing worse than cooking them through. The whole point is to break them open and let the chocolate flow out. I find this recipe by Gordon Ramsay  excellent and wouldn't change a thing. To add to the chocolate indulgence some people suggest putting a square of un melted chocolate in the middle of each fondant but I haven't noticed much difference and therefore don't bother. However I do like putting truffles in the centre especially white chocolate ones as this is an extra surprise when you open it up. I've varied the flavour with some essence every now and then but plain old dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream is simply the best. Even better than Biscuit Cake!

Another Tasty Dessert from Co. Cork

You Can't Beat Apple Pie, Co. Cork

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Marshmallows

Scary Coloured Marshmallows
So I attempted the marshmallows again. Tad obsessive but I want to get them perfect! This time I opted for some flavours! I split the mixture into 3 bowls and added a cap of food colouring and a cap of essence to each bowl. The green ones are peppermint, the yellow ones are lemon and and the pink ones are rose. A cap of colour was far too much and it produced gaudy colours to say the least. Also extra lemon essence wouldn't of gone astray and alot less mint! I love mint but this was just too much. The mint ones have to be stored separately as the mint started seeping into the other ones. The rose flavoured ones were perfect! 

Mmm Rose Petal Jelly aka Jam
Now rose essence is probably quite difficult to get your hands on so instead I use rose water which is more dilute and available in most pharmacies because it has many beneficial properties. It is often used as a cleanser by people with dry or sensitive skin. It can also be added to your shampoo to prevent hair loss. Just make sure it is pure rose water not rose water and glycerin as I've no idea if it tastes nice. If you are feeling very adventurous you could try distill your own rose petals. My Mom did this about a month ago and made lovely rose petal jam which is great on bread or as the filler in a cake. 

Back to the marshmallows. They were still not as fluffy as I'd like and I think this is partly to do with the whole not having a sugar thermometer and hence not reaching 130 degrees Celsius and the fact that when I separated the mixture in the 3 bowls it cooled down alot and began to set. This made it extremely difficult to pour it into the tins to let it set. Therefore I think alot of the air was squeezed out of it while scraping it out of the bowl. Also I greased the cling film with oil this time instead of butter and I had no trouble at all getting the cling film off. I enjoyed some of the mint mallows in a cup of hot chocolate last night while watching some Harry Potter in preparation for the final movie! 

So another not so perfect attempt at marshmallows as they still look rubbish but I'll get there eventually! It was alot easier this time as I'd an extra set of hands to help manage the mess and so forth. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Marshmallow Madness!

Cover of the April Edition of 'Delicious'
So after my Mom showed me a recipe in a magazine called 'Delicious'  by BEA VO for marshmallows I've been dying to try them. Unfortunately the recipe is not on the magazine's website so you will have to make do with my instructions if you'd like to try make them yourself. The magazine suggests using strong flavours such as spices, coffee, chocolate, nuts, vanilla, liquers, berry fruits and citrus fruits and not flavours such as apple or peach. One my first attempt I used lemon juice but as I'll explain later the attempt was a complete failure. One my second attempt I was less adventurous and simply went with vanilla.

The Gelatine Sponging 
Firstly, I sprinkled some gelatine into water and allowed it to soak it up in a process called sponging..... It is not very exciting. While that was going on I put some caster sugar and golden syrup and a tiny bit of water in a saucepan. I thought I'd made quite the mess simply measuring out the golden syrup but the worst was yet to come! Now my greatest downfall has been this step. On my first attempt a couple of weeks ago a number of things went wrong. Firstly, I bought Maple flavoured golden syrup by accident. I was furious!   Grrr. Then the recipe said to cover the syrup and sugar in the saucepan with water. Me being an eijet just lashed the water into the pot which led to my mixture being too runny and not mixing properly. This resulted in a separated mess that just tasted like maple syrup and not lemon flavoured marshmallows. Straight to the bin which is saying something because my family are not ones to throw away food!

Measuring out the Golden Syrup... Messy
The tricky bit about heating the golden syrup and sugar is that you are suppose to heat it to between 130 and 140 degrees Celsius. Any less and the marshmallows won't be very fluffy. Any more and the mixture will burn. The sensible thing would be to go out an buy a sugar thermometer or whatever they are called but oh no I was like I'll totally be fine.... Yea I burnt it. I blame my boyfriend for phoning me at that exact moment but really it's my own fault. My Mom managed to do it without a thermometer so why couldn't I? What was worse that wasting time and ingredients is cleaning the pot! Basically I had made burnt toffee and it made an awful mess. I was hoping that my Mom wouldn't come into the kitchen and see what an absolute mess I'd made! A couple of boiled kettles later and no one will ever know.

Mmm Burnt Toffee
Absolute Nightmare!
So after I destroyed all the evidence of my previous mess I started again and nailed it! I brought the mixture to the boil. Then I boiled it for only 3 minutes and took it off the heat. While the mixture was cooling down I whisked the gelatine 'sponge' and then added the syrup and sugar and whisked it all up. Added a cap of vanilla essence and a cap of red food colouring and kept whisking away for ages yet it didn't seem to be getting any thicker. Supposedly, it will form a consistency like bubble gum...

Attempt Number 3: Success!
It may look nice but gelatine stinks!
So I got fed up whisking and decided to line a tin with cling film, which was greased and coated in cornflour but when I returned I noticed a sticky drip hanging off the whisk like an icicle. So I started whisking again and it finally began to thicken up and look very tasty! Poured it into the tin, covered it and put it in the fridge for two hours to set. I went off for a run to keep myself distracted and make room for lots of Marshmallows! 

Is that like Bubblegum?
Mmm Tasty Tasty
A Little Runny for My Liking
So after two agonising hours I could not wait anymore but I had plenty more work to do. Unfortunately I hadn't greased the cling film enough and it just wouldn't come off! The marshmallow was incredibly sticky! I had to douse  the place in cornflour to stop the marshmallow sticking to everything! No point trying to cut it with a knife as it just sticks to it so out comes the scissors my favourite cutting device. So once I'd cut a square I painstakingly removed the cling film from it while covering it in cornflour the whole time. This resulted in not very square marshmallows and lots of cornflour. 

Cutting up the Marshmallow into Squares
Painstakingly Removing the Cling Film
So after all the effort and mess I'd made some oddly shaped tasty marshmallows! They we still very sticky and not as fluffy as I'd like. According to the magazine the lack of fluff is probably due to not reaching 130 degrees. Although they definitely became less sticky and  more tastier the next day. The day after that I don't know as we'd eaten them all by then! Next time I make them I hope to get them even better! I'm thinking maybe rose flavoured ones. I posted the recipe here: Homemade Marshmallow Recipe or if you just want to look at more of my creations have a look at Summer Time Treats, or Yummy Biscuit Cake!

Nom Nom Nom Homemade Marshmallows

I Wanna Make Marshmallows!

My Homemade Marshmallows

Adapted from Delicious Magazine April, 2011 Edition

April 2011 Edition of Delicious

  • 120ml liquid, cool
  • 23g powdered gelatine (2 sachets of Dr. Oketer Gelatine Powder)
  • 440g Caster Sugar
  • 160ml Golden Syrup
  • Oil for Greasing
  • Corn flour for coating or icing sugar
  • A sugar thermometer

Delicious suggest using strong flavours that the sugar won't overpower; spices, coffee, chocolate, nuts, vanilla, liqueurs, berry fruit, and citrus. Not so good flavours would be apple and pear and other more subtle flavours. For fruit flavoured marshmallows use a puree or even a smoothie as the liquid in step 1. Likewise if using spices they need to be heated gently in water for 20mins to form a infusion which can also be used as the liquid in step 1 but don't forget to strain it and let it cool down first. For fatty flavours such as nuts, cocoa, or coffee and alcohol based drinks or extracts such as Baileys, or vanilla extract reduce the volume of the mixture and therefore shouldn't be added until step 5 and just use water in step 1. 

  1. Pour the liquid into a bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine and set aside to allow the liquid to soak up the gelatine
  2. Heat the golden syrup, sugar and enough water to cover in a saucepan on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Wait for the mixture to reach 130 degrees Celsius and then take it off the heat and allow it to cool for a minute. (I found 4 minutes after the mixture begins to boil is about 130 degrees. Above 140 degrees it begins to burn)
  4. Whisk the gelatine and liquid on a medium speed and then start to gently add the syrup down the sides of the mixing bowl. The mixture should grow in volume like a stiff meringue. (This took a long time to happen)
  5. Once all the syrup has being added continue whisking until the mixture becomes really thick and cools down a bit. A bubblegum texture should form on the surface. Add any flavours now and whisk briefly.
  6. Line a tin with cling film and grease well with oil and pour the mixture in. Cover and allow to cool for at least 2 hours in a cool place. 
  7. When firm remove the cling film and coat in corn flour, and then chop up using a greased scissors and greased hands! The marshmallows can be eaten straightway or kept in an airtight container for upto 2 weeks. (I found they improved overnight) 
To read more about my attempt at marshmallows and to see photos of the recipe in action view my post  Marshmallow Madness or have a look at some other treats, Biscuit Cake and Summer Treats!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pin the Tail on Pikachu!

Pin the Tail on Pikachu!
I'm not the only one who threw a Pokemon Party. I love this pin the tail on Pikachu from Pam's Party Planning Pokemon Party.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Poker Face or Poker Fail?

My Lady Gaga Costume and my Friend's
So for my birthday I decided to have a Lady Gaga/Military fancy dress party. So that both the girls and guys would be happy. Most of the guys just came in army outfits. Some were a little be more adventurist but I have a few photos of some of the costumes from the night. Nothing crazy just a bit of fun. I thought I'd combine the theme but made a bags of it really. I wanted an angular military jacket with pointy shoulders combined with a jump suit and lace tights. I made the 'jacket' out of a green bin bag with a lace pattern spray painted on in gold.

Lady Gaga and her Granny Costumes
I made the lace stencil by printing out a lace pattern and cutting the 'holes' in the lace using a knife. Very tedious and to be honest not very successful. I also made a headpiece by bunching some lace together and pinning it to my wig. The jumpsuit, the lace tights and the wig were great though! The most successful element of the costume was by my the false eyelashes. It was my first time wearing false eyelashes so it took a bit of effort to get them on but they stayed on all night and didn't annoy me. It is worth buying a good pair instead of the cheap ones. Overall the costume didn't really capture Lady Gaga but I had fun anyway.

Lady Gaga Costume complete with Poker Face Mask and Coke Can Rollers
One of my friends decided to combine a couple of ideas Lady Gaga is known for using. Firstly, she got some corrugated card and formed a angular piece to attached to the front of her dress. She spray painted it gold and attached it with double sided tape. Then she rolled her hair up using coke cans and lots of hair spray like Gaga had while in prison at the opening of the Telephone video! They looked great and would make a simple Gaga costume on their own. Then lastly she stuck playing cards to a mask as a homage to the song Poker Face.

Lady Gaga Costumes early on it the night.
Another simple costume was the red one above which was a more classy version of Gaga's original crazy outfit: the red hooded leotard. Instead, my friend made a simple hood out of fabric and combined it with a red dress and a lightning bolt on her face. The lightning bolt could simply be drawn on with eyeliner and eye shadow. Also note the daring leopard print leotard in the background. Finally, some of the guys thought they'd give the combined costume a go too.

A Male Lady Gaga Costume
Overall no one really looked like Lady Gaga but we all had a good time dressing up and coming up with ideas before tossing aside are costumes so as to enjoy the party in comfort. Our costumes vastly improved for our Pokemon Party

A Camouflage Gilly Suit combined with Shades and a Blonde Wig Lady Gaga Military Costume 

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