Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christmas Pudding Pinata Cake

Please don't hate me, but I don't like Christmas pudding.

I'm just not that into it.

I guess you probably had a bit of an inkling a few years back when I confessed I didn't care for Christmas fruit cake and created the anti-fruit cake.

It's not the pudding, it's me, I love the idea of it.

So I've come up with a compromise and I think this pudding and I can agree to work together.

I've made a simple buttercream covered chocolate cake shaped like a pudding, covered with some simple fondant decorations and it's filled with chocolate and lollies (CANDY).

Oh yes I think me and this Christmas pudding pinata cake can get along just fine.

I've done up some quick instructions below, but I would recommend checking out my you tube tutorial here:

This cake was inspired by my dislike of pudding and this pinata cake on a subtle revelry.

Christmas Pudding Pinata Cake Instructions.
Although the cake will last for a few days, any coloured candy might bleed a little after a few hours. You can solve this by making as close to serving as possible or filling with wrapped lollies/candy (like the chocolate coins) or you can spread a thin layer of chocolate or ganache over the cut inside of the cake and let set before adding the candy.

I recommend watching the you tube tutorial CLICK HERE which shows me cutting the cake and hollowing it out.

Ingredients and Equipment

Chocolate cake baked in a bowl (mine was a mix that would normally make a 22cm chocolate buttercake)
Chocolate butter cream (I used Italian Meringue Buttercream as I had it handy but I would recommend a denser regular buttercream)
Large knife
Chocolate coins
Various lollies (candy)
small knife
White fondant, red fondant, green fondant
Corn flour/cornstarch
Large irregular cutter (Mine from an Ikea cookie cutter set)
holly cutter

*Note that blue cutter above is from a set of cutters from Ikea. I actually used the larger one. If you don't have one just cut out the shape you want by hand using a sharp knife.

Cut the top off the cake to make a flat base, then cut through the cake around 2 cm (just under an inch) from the bottom to get a flat base.

Using the sharp knife cut into the top domed cake to hollow out the top (see my you tube tutorial)

Place the base onto a cake stand or plate, pile up lollies and coins (candy) into the center.

Spread chocolate buttercream around the edge of the chocolate dome and stick it to the base ensuring the candy stays inside. Then cover the whole cake with chocolate buttercream. Chill if necessary.

Dust workbench with corn flour (cornstarch) and roll out the white fondant. Use cutter (or a knife) to cut out irregular shape to look like the sauce on top of a pudding (see picture). Carefully place onto the top of the buttercream covered cake.

Roll out green fondant onto workbench and cut out 3 holly leaves, use a knife to make indents to look like leaves. Place on top center of cake.

Roll a small piece of red fondant into a ball and place on the top center of the cake.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A modern shabby chic corner

It's been a year now since I put in my new creative space, so I thought I would show you a bit of an update on the corner I've been adding to lately.

I had some extra stuff sitting around - some Ikea chairs we got from the clearance corner for $15 around 20 years ago, a 10 year old Ikea mirror (there are pic's of it on the wall in the before photo's of the creative space) and a couple of pieces of furniture from Loot I picked up in the last few months.

As I'm going with a modern shabby chic look I thought I would give most of it a bit of a paint to match it in with the rest of the stuff I have.

Paint notes - Ikea chair Taubmans Melody Mint, sideboard Dulux seafoam

It's not so much that I must have Ikea furniture, 
it's more that they are 5 minutes down the road and have free child care. 
Other furniture shops take note what some mums will do to for a few minutes of quite.

I'm using the draws in the sideboard as ribbon storage at the moment until I come up with a better idea. I just cut up some pieces of wooden dowel to the size of the draw, stuck it through the middle of the ribbons and popped the whole lot into the draws. I stuck down the ends of each ribbon so they don't untangle, it's not perfect but it's working for now.

 small bowls from Greengate

Oh and check out this super cute bird topped twine spool and scissors I picked up at Holy Sheet Springwood. Oh my goodness - cuteness much???

If you did not see my original creative space transformation make sure you click here and check it out. Eeek the before photo's are totally embarrassing, but I feel comfortable with y'all so I'm ok with you taking a peek.

Oh and make sure you check out the latest issue of  Tickle the Imagination magazine. I have a marshmallow recipe on page 67. It only took me 8 goes until I was happy with it....phew, I never thought I might be tired of marshmallow but even I have limits to how much sweet soft billowy clouds of yumminess I can eat :)

CLICK HERE to link to the free online magazine and my recipe.

Rose marshmallow variation pictured

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.

Chocolate dipped mint variation link to recipe above

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Butter versus Oil a comparison using Betty Crocker Vanilla cake mix

I might not have mentioned this in the past but I like butter. I like the taste, I love how it whips up to make a delicious buttercream, how it makes my pancakes turn crisp and golden when I use it in my fry pan and the way it melts into my cheesy garlic bread. 

So now we've established I really (really) like butter, I have to admit I don't always use it, sometimes oil works out better. It depends on the recipe. Oil can result in a moister cake, it makes better salad dressing and works best in marinades.

Anyhoo, I noticed on the back of the new Betty Crocker cake mixes that there is an option to make them with oil and water, instead of the butter and milk. I thought it was interesting so I did a comparison using Betty Crocker Vanilla Butter Cake Mix.

I followed the easy directions on the packet exactly the same for both cakes - just replacing the butter with canola oil and the milk with water, popped the mix into 2 identical pans, greased and lined the same way and baked in the same oven.

So what happened?

Yup, definite difference right from go. The batter with butter and milk was light, thick and creamy. Instead of  pouring into the pan, I dolloped it out with a spatula.

The water and oil was a more fluid mixture that poured straight into the prepared pan. It was thinner and seemed a bit bubbly, so I gave the pan a few taps on the bench to try and loosen any air bubbles. The top was completely level.

Then I popped both pans into the oven using the fan forced option at the temperature recommended on the box and baked until a skewer inserted came out dry.

Visual Test

Bit of a surprise during baking. Although the top of the butter and milk cake was not level before baking the cake rose evenly. In fact I think if I had of lined the sides it would have been even more even. I decorate a lot of my cakes and a cake with an even top is a huge plus for me, I would barely need to trim the top of this one at all. The finished cake was a pretty uniform golden colour and sprang back nicely when touched with a dry feel. Once cut the texture inside the cake was pretty even without large air bubbles.

The water and oil cake cooked in exactly the same pan and same temperature peaked in the center when baking, it would be fine for serving the the kids looking like that but I would need to trim a heap off the middle to get an even finish if I wanted to decorate it. It required a little more cooking and was a darker colour when baked all the way through (tested with a skewer). The top of the cake felt a little sticky to touch. Once cut the cakes texture looked ok but there were a few air bubbles.

* Note I used a 22cm round spring form tin instead of the recommended loaf tin as I did not have 2 loaf tins exactly the same size.

Taste Test

I cut up samples of the cake unfrosted and we commenced a blind taste test.

Ok most of my testers were not completely reliable. My 9 year old, 7 year old and 5 year old asked how they were different, said they both tasted good and asked for more. I guess that is an answer in itself.

As for me, I could not tell a huge difference on the initial tasting, but there was a mild aftertaste of oil for the cake baked with canola oil and water. I think using a different type of oil could remedy this problem.


I preferred the cake made with butter and milk, it definitely won the visual test hands down and for me the taste was better, although I clearly stated my fondness towards butter at the start of this post which might make me a little bit biased towards the taste.

But the kids say any cake is a good cake, so if you prefer to use oil for taste, economy or whatever reason, who am I to tell you different.

Decorating the cake in shades of pink

I couldn't let all that yummy cake go to waste so I decided to decorate the cake, by trimming the tops and sides and frosting all over with vanilla ready to use frosting. I used an extra tub of Betty Crocker Creamy Deluxe Vanilla ready to spread frosting, divided it up and added a few drops of pink food colour to make 3 different shades. Then I spread the frosting on using a butter knife in stripes graduating darker towards the bottom.

A few sugar roses* on the top and in no time I had an easy sweet shabby chic cake made with 2 packets of Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake Mix, a tub of Creamy Deluxe Vanilla Frosting some pink food colour and a knife.

* Feel free to use fresh pesticide free roses in place of sugar roses.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author 

Disclosure: the ideas, words and opinions in this post are my own however this post was sponsored by General Mills.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

This ain't no plain vanilla Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I'm gonna let the pictures of these red velvet chocolate chip cookies speak for themselves.

Are you listening, 'cause they are saying delicious slightly chewy chocolate chip cookies with a twist.

Yup these ain't no plain vanilla cookie, Oh yeah, I've added a little raspberry to them which I know is not traditional, but sometimes I'm just crazy like that ;)

Feel free to omit the raspberry. Your choice.

Hope you love them as much as I do.

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes approx 20 cookies)

220g (7 and 3/4 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
40g (1 and 3/8oz) cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
115g (4oz) unsalted butter room temperature
100g  (3 and 1/2oz) white sugar (I used caster/ superfine sugar - use regular white if you can't find superfine)
100g  (3 and 1/2oz) brown sugar firmly packed
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp raspberry essence
1/4tsp red food colour
85g (3 oz) milk chocolate chips
85g (3 oz) white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 160 C. Line 2 trays with baking paper (parchment paper).

Sift together the flour, baking powder (soda), salt and cocoa.

In a large bowl cream together the butter, white and brown sugar at high speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy.

Reduce the speed to medium low and mix in the egg, vanilla, raspberry essence and food colour until combined.

Add the sifted flour mixture and mix at low speed until the mixture has just combined.

Using a spatula or large spoon mix in the white and milk chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Spoon dough onto the prepared trays about 1 1/2 Tbsp (2 US Tbsp) in size and flatten slightly.

Bake for around 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven allow to rest on trays for around 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

* I often add some extra white chips by removing the tray and gently pressing about 3 into the top of each cookie about 7 minutes into baking so they look good but don't over brown :)

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for at least 3 days.

Linda Vandermeer is a blogger, baker, maker and author of the cookbook ' Sweets on a Stick': More than 150 kid friendly recipes for cakes, candies, cookies and pies on the go!. Published in the US the book is available at most online book stores.

Original Ideas, photography and recipes by Linda Vandermeer do not reuse without permission.