Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Super easy, super tasty peppermint slice

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 10:01 PM 1 comments

Since I've been a naughty non-blogging blogger I thought I'd better share a recipe with you.

I first tasted this slice at a friend's post-wedding BBQ a couple of years ago. I shamefully kept reaching for the slice plate, and my friend's aunty took pity on me and sent me the recipe. Being the disorganised person I am, I inevitably lost the recipe and have been itching to have a crack at the slice myself.

Recently I went to a lunch at my friend Yvette's house, and I wanted to bring something quick and tasty for dessert. I managed to throw this together a couple of hours before leaving for Yvette's - a true testament to how simple this slice is!

Here's how you make it:

1 packet Arnott's Marie biscuits
1 tin condensed milk
1 family block Cadbury peppermint chocolate (you can easily substitute any of the 'filled' blocks - caramel or turkish delight for example)
20g milk or dark chocolate, optional

Blitz the biscuits in the food processor. Since I was making this at my inlaws' house and they were all still in bed, I opted for the trusty rolling pin on the chopping board trick).

Break the peppermint chocolate up and give it a quick burst in the microwave for about 20 secs (you don't want it completely melted). Stir the chocolate and condensed milk in to the biscuit crumbs.

Line a small slice tray or loaf pan with baking paper (leave some paper hanging over the sides for easy removal) and spoon the mixture in. Press in to place with your fingers or the back of a spoon.

Melt the extra chocolate in the microwave (should only take a minute) and drizzle over the slice. I used a quick piping bag I made out of baking paper, but you could also use a zip-lock bag with the corner cut.

Chill the slice in the fridge for an hour or two, remove from tray and cut into squares. Enjoy!

I'm possibly the worst blogger in the world!

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 9:24 PM 0 comments
It's true. I fail miserably at blogging these days.

Truth be told, I rarely spend a lot of time on a computer. A few years ago I would spend countless hours on the computer every night, and thankfully I have broken that habit. Time on my iPhone, however? Let's not talk about that...

If the Blogger app wasn't so woeful you might hear from me more often. Oh well, them's the breaks!

So what have I been doing the last few months since we last spoke? I have an update for you!

Last time I wrote about our plans for building a classroom/studio for my cake decorating and the launch of my business, Treat Bakeshop. I am pleased to announce these plans are currently on hold indefinitely.

"Pleased?" I hear you ask?

Yep. Because I scored myself a full time gig decorating cakes for a cake factory, that's why! I look after their custom orders and wedding cakes, and when I'm not doing those I'm working with pastry chefs, producing cakes for cafes and the like. I'm learning heaps from the chefs and I feel really blessed to have been offered such an amazing opportunity.

I am still updating the Treat Bakeshop Facebook page with photos of cakes I do for my family and friends, so if you haven't already 'liked' the page I suggest you head over to www.facebook.com/treatbakeshop.au immediately! You'll see stuff like this...
...and this!

Hope to see you there soon.

Kel :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A new chapter

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 8:54 PM 4 comments
We are currently in the planning permit stage of building a classroom at our property so I can teach cake classes from home. Woohoo! It will be a little while until this is completed, but in light of this exciting development I have created a Facebook page to get the word out there about my cake creations and classes.

To be the first to receive updates on cakes and classes, please visit www.facebook.com/treatbakeshop.au

Thanks to all my loyal readers who have been following my blog over the last few years - your encouragement and support has given me the drive to make my cake dreams a reality!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A musical themed cake

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 8:08 PM 0 comments
Jo's sister Kazz recently ordered a cake from me (remember Marvin the Martian?) and Jo wanted me to make her daughter's 16th birthday cake. Her daughter was having a karaoke themed birthday party so Jo wanted me to tie music in to the cake.

This small two-tiered cake was comprised of one chocolate tier and one vanilla raspberry tier. The bottom tier resembled a keyboard, while the top tier was transformed in to a drum. A fondant microphone sat on the cake board and a musical note became part of the '16' topper the adorned the top tier.

Happy 16th birthday!

Our South Australian road trip...and Maggie Beer

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 7:47 PM 3 comments
Chris and I recently drove over to South Australia to visit my mum's family and to have a well-earned break. We spent a couple of days visiting my family in Adelaide's southern suburbs before heading north to the famous Barossa and Clare Valleys for some wine, wine and more wine.

Jacobs Creek vines
We had driven over in Chris' car, which I'm not permitted to drive (it's a V8 and I'm still on my probationary licence...sigh!) so I was automatically deemed the designated drinker. Happy days!

Penfolds Winery, Nuriootpa SA
We stopped in at various cellar doors, including Wolf Blass, Jacobs Creek, Penfolds, Knappstein Brewery and The Little Red Door, just to name a few. 

Vines at Maggie Beer's
While we were in the Barossa Valley we ventured over to Maggie Beer's Farm Store, in Nuriootpa. For those who aren't aware of who Maggie is, she co-hosted a TV show named The Cook and the Chef with Simon Bryant. Her and her husband have had the land at Nuriootpa for several decades, and during that time it has morphed from a pheasant farm to a thriving restaurant to its present form, which is a cafe/providore/function centre. I had read online that there is a cooking demonstration every day at 2pm, so we ensured we were there with plenty of time to nab a good seat. Thankfully Chris accepts my bizarre foodie ways and was only too happy to stroll around the picturesque dam with me until it was almost time for the demo.

The woman doing the demonstration was cooking butter mushrooms, roasted sweet potato with verjuice (a Maggie Beer specialty) and onions with vino cotto (a cooked wine blend reminiscent of balsamic).

Mid-way through the demonstration we heard a booming female voice say "something's burning!" We all turned around, and there was Maggie. A very welcome surprise considering her and her husband only visit the Farm Store on some weekends, and this was a Tuesday.

The picturesque dam at Maggie Beer's
Maggie stayed and finished off the cooking demonstration, and then I brushed past her in the store later. I attempted to say hello to her but she was far too busy swanning around to talk to anyone. Big fail in my eyes. Anyone who knows me knows I've never been a huge fan of Maggie's as I had heard via a friend of a friend that she was less than pleasant to work for. Her appearances on MasterChef swayed me a little as she seemed like someone you'd love to be your grandma; however I was disappointed that she didn't take the time to speak to any of us who had driven out to the Store.

Needless to say, we stocked up on verjuice, vino cotto and some delicious raspberry & pomegranate jam at the Farm Store and went up to the Clare Valley for the night.

Maggie Beer

Pheasant and quail eggs at the Farm Store

Maggie Beer's crockery and preserves collection

From the Clare Valley we drove a few hours down South to Victor Harbour. I hadn't been there since I was a kid, so it was nice to revisit and see it as an adult. A note to anyone heading to Victor Harbour - do NOT stay at the Comfort Inn in Victoria Street. The owner ripped us off, and the towels looked 30 years old (seriously, they were frayed and had holes in them). After overcharging us, the owner even had the audacity to make smart comments to Chris about me (to which Chris replied that the reason he was checking out was because I was ropable). Rant over. Boo, hiss.

Anyway, most of the reason I wanted to go to Victor Harbour was because of Granite Island. There is a bridge that stretches between Victor Harbour and Granite Island, which is home to some little penguins. I love penguins. We even got to see the first mating of the season. Woohoo for us!

The laws at Granite Island
Sunset at Granite Island, SA

From Victor Harbour we went across to Tailem Bend, where we spent a couple of hours at Tailem Town, a pioneer village. Yawn. Got some good pics but the place lacked atmosphere and excitement. I suppose I'm biased, being from Ballarat and having Sovereign Hill at my doorstep.

Tailem Town at Tailem Bend, SA

Robe Obelisk, SA

After Tailem Bend we headed down to Robe, which is on the South Australian coast. It is a place I would definitely go back to; it had some really striking views and a relaxed, non-touristy vibe. The highlight was being able to drive on the beach - what a strange yet exhilarating experience it was.
Driving on the beach at Robe, SA

From Robe we began our return back to Victoria. We decided to stay at Warrnambool, and by this stage we were so tired we stayed in our hotel the entire time we were in Warrnambool. Yes, the entire time. Room service for dinner and breakfast. The laziness was uncannily empowering.

When we were leaving Warrnambool we detoured through Tower Hill, an old volcanic crater filled with a myriad of amazing wildlife. I'd highly recommend it for a picnic. While we were there we had heaps of emus in front of the car (we'd seen a lot of wild ones over in SA so this wasn't unusual) and a cute little wallaby. We have a lot of wallabies at home so it was nice to see something familiar after being away from home for a while.

Some of the many emus who strolled in front of our car
We went home via the Great Ocean Road, and of course stopped at all the regular tourist lookouts - Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and the famous Twelve Apostles.
Bay of Islands, VIC
We got home to find a bunch of police down the road from our house...and then the Special Operations Group landed in a helicopter...but that's a story for another day!

So tell me...what's new in your world?

A cake order that sent me back in time

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 5:18 PM 0 comments
It has been a couple of years since I've been asked to make cupcakes; unfortunately over time they seem to have become second fiddle to the macaron trend.

Cupcakes have a special place in my heart as they are where my caking adventures began about six years ago. One afternoon I had a (then-unusual) craving to bake something. Anything. The first thing that popped into my head was cupcakes. I took them to work and they were devoured in about five minutes flat. So I made some more. And more again. And then someone offered me money to make them some. Me? A pro-cupcake maker? I had never entertained the idea. And there it began; my baking obsession.

This anecdote brings me to present day, when my work colleague Stacey asked me to provide cakey goodness for her 21st birthday party. She requested a chocolate mud cake and 21 cupcakes. The design for this mud cake is not my regular style nowadays; ganache with piped borders is something I started out doing all those years ago. Most of the cakes I do are fondant-covered, so it was a breath of fresh air to do something I hadn't done in years. Stacey asked for white and milk chocolate shavings on top, along with a plaque saying 'happy birthday'.

For the cupcakes, Stacey requested chocolate and vanilla marble with vanilla buttercream. I piped the pink, yellow & blue buttercream with a 1M tip and decorated them with varying sized cachous and fondant cutouts.

Happy birthday Stace!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The day I met Adriano Zumbo

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 8:30 AM 0 comments
I've always been super jealous of Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella as she and Adriano appear to be good buddies. She often hangs at his house, candidly interviewing him, while he perfects new dessert flavours. As a professional blogger, she has my dream job - and my dream interviewee.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine visited Adriano's store at The Star in Sydney (where we headed for dessert straight after we got engaged) and she saw him through the window. I was, of course, insanely jealous and I told my man that one way or another, I was going to meet Adriano.

Little did I know, he had arranged for us to attend the Mount Buller Summer School to take a masterclass with the man himself. Chris knew that I had been a bit down lately due to my dad moving overseas (amongst other things) so he knew this would be a perfect pick-me-up.

Yesterday we travelled the four hours from our house to Mount Buller to attend our session with Adriano. We were to arrive at the venue no earlier than 1.30pm but when we arrived at 1.10pm we were already about 15th in the line. By the time 2pm (start time) rolled around the line stretched right down to the road. I excitedly poked Chris in the ribs while squealing "there he is!" I appeared to be the only psycho staring through the window for a glance of the man we were all there to see.

When we were finally allowed inside we were handed bags containing recipes, along with a much-appreciated glass of champers. I quickly downed my champagne as trying to juggle a camera, a phone, a pen and my notes proved somewhat impossible.

After Adriano was introduced, he set about demonstrating how to make some Easter eggs. These, naturally, were not your run-of-the-mill eggs - they involved splattering some coloured cocoa butter and lustre dust on the moulds before carefully tempering some 64% dark chocolate, which he used for the shells.

Adriano briefly explained the tempering process, and demonstrated the seeded method that he prefers to use. He added some salted caramel to the prepared shells and showed us how to finish off the backs of the egg halves, ready for assembly. We were fortunate enough to taste some eggs he'd flown down from Sydney, which were filled with the same salted caramel as well as a blackberry gel. They were the shiniest Easter eggs I've ever seen - a sign they had been beautifully tempered.
Ohmygodohmygod. Get in my belly.

Adriano also made some strawberry-vanilla macarons for us while we looked on. It was so interesting to watch him make these fragile beauties; particularly as I struggle to make the damn things. I learnt a lot about making macarons from watching him; I think a lot of my problem is that I treat the mixture far too carefully. Adriano explained that egg whites must always be whipped on medium speed as whites that are whipped too quickly fall too quickly. Now, while making macarons it is the aim to knock quite a bit of air out of the mixture; however whites that are whipped too quickly don't have time to full develop the strength of their protein. He also explained that folding the mixture is unnecessary (another thing I've been doing wrong!) and that you should continue to work the mixture until it resembled a mixture that only just falls back into itself. Adriano also taps the shells vigourously after piping, and double-trays them in the oven.

He also explained that a fan forced oven is a necessity, as are flat trays with no sides. Unfortunately my current oven is not fan forced (I have my beautiful new oven sitting there taunting me, waiting to be installed!) so I will have to persevere regardless. When Adriano removed the shells from the oven I couldn't help but coo, "they're so perfect". Because they were. Each shell had an amazing frilly 'foot', they were perfectly flat on top and were perfectly sized. I suppose the fact that his staff make 25,000 shells a week would mean he's had a little practice. He encouraged all of us not to give up as they are notoriously difficult to perfect.
At one point I asked Adriano if he was appearing in the next season of MasterChef, due to air in the next few weeks (not that I'm counting down or anything...!) He cryptically said "I have not appeared on this season of MasterChef". Hmmm...curiouser and curiouser. They have not yet finished filming, but Adriano is off to New York today so I wonder if he will film when he returns. He is probably embargoed (as all of us in the TV game are from time to time) so I was happy to leave it at that. It wouldn't be Australian MasterChef without at least one appearance from the dessert king, now would it?

Adriano also spoke about the type of people he employs - he prefers to hire young people with passion and drive, over people who have worked at a lot of top notch restaurants. He finds those people harder to work with, and much prefers to surround himself with those who are willing to learn and get on with the job.

Adriano got a few laughs when he revealed his favourite dessert; rather than something high-brow, he opts for custard in a carton from the supermarket. True story. "You can even drink it straight out of the carton!" he excitedly added. Err yes!

Adriano is quite obviously a naturally shy person and appears embarrassed by all the attention he receives. After the demonstration I waited in line for him to sign my book (trying not to crumble from nerves and excitement!) and thought of all the things I wanted to say to him. I wanted to thank him for sharing his passion with us; I wanted to tell him how I almost got engaged at his Balmain store but couldn't due to a lack of V8 cake; I wanted to tell him he constantly inspires me and is my idol; I wanted to tell him about my macaron-filled engagement cake. Finally it was my turn to meet Adriano. He looked up at me, but I was thrown because he seemed so shy. He couldn't be shy! I am the shy one! So all of my thoughts went out the window and I awkwardly said "Um...it's for Kellie...with an 'ie'...K, E, L, L, I, E..." And that was it. I stammered "thank you" before moving over to the line of people queuing for a photo with him.

I was so disappointed with myself for being so starstruck in front of him. I had expected him to be used to weird fan girls such as myself, so I was really thrown when he was too quiet and shy to say hi to me. It's not his fault; he didn't ask for all this attention that his desserts have caused. I'm not annoyed with him in the slightest; I'm annoyed with myself for freezing and not being able to connect my brain to my mouth in the most important moment.

After the signing and photos we moved to the rear of the room and were treated to a delicious afternoon tea consisting of macarons, the famous croquembouche, and a tart topped with watermelon. My stomach was full of butterflies from just meeting Adriano so I shoved my treats into a cup and we left the ski lodge.

That croquembouche...ohhhh yum. Vanilla bean studded creme patissier encased in soft choux pastry. Tasty, tasty toffee running down the sides. Perfect in every way.

So...there you have it. Have you ever met your idol? Did you freeze like I did?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Michelle and Jason's engagement cake

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 3:20 PM 0 comments
Michelle is a friend of my sister's, and I met her and her fiance Jason at my sister's engagement party in February. Coincidentally Jason and I used to work together about 10 years ago, so it was a surprise to see him again!

Michelle's original cake maker pulled out with a couple of weeks' notice so I stepped in to create a sweet to mark the occasion. Michelle is so laid back that she said the words I love to hear - "you have free reign". Oh yes, I love it when I get told that!

While scouring the internet for wedding ideas for my own wedding next March, I came across this colour scheme that I love: yellow, grey & ivory. If I was having a garden wedding I would most certainly consider this theme for my own wedding; however our ceremony and reception venues are historic buildings that don't lend themselves to the modernity of these colours.

So...I used them for Michelle & Jason's engagement cake.

I made the flower using a five-petal cutter meant for roses, and the inner petals were made using a small five-petal dogwood rose cutter. I frilled the edges a little using a foam pad and balling tool, and made the centre by indenting the yellow with the small end of my balling tool.

The flavours were white chocolate mud and dark chocolate mud, and both tiers were filled with vanilla buttercream.

Congrats Michelle & Jason!

You have the right to eat cake

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 1:06 PM 0 comments
I went to high school with Steph's sister and was only too delighted to make a cake for her wedding. Steph recently graduated from the Police Academy and wanted this to be incorporated in to her cake design. Steph was happy to limit the design to a classic white two tiered cake, accented with black satin ribbon at the base of each tier.

I sculpted a little female cop and a suited-up groom to adorn the top of this cake.

I was a little nervous as the cake was being picked up fully assembled and transported to the wedding in Melbourne. Thankfully, Steph's sister let me know that the cake made it to its destination safe & sound.

Congrats Steph & Luke!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Engagement Party

Posted by kel @ sweet treats at 7:08 PM 2 comments
Last night was our long-awaited engagement party! Though we got engaged back in December we waited until now to have our celebration to give my sister and her fiance time to enjoy their engagement festivities as they were engaged three weeks before us.
We held our party at the local community hall and had approximately 80 friends and family members come to celebrate with us.
The night flew by and I feel like I barely had a conversation longer than five minutes with anyone, but it felt so lovely having our dearest friends there to celebrate with us.
I had a ball doing a lot of DIY decor (practice for the wedding!) so I thought I'd share some pictures with you. I love to save a buck and I love crafty stuff, so it was only natural I'd go the DIY route!
1. The cute chalkboard I had fun decorating with a handmade pom pom and some gorgeous flowers I got from the flower market
2. Our gift table complete with birdcage wishing well
3. I picked up some cheap frames on clearance from Target and made little signs instructing our guests to have a damn good time. Another one said 'Let them eat cake' and it was on the cake table. Teehee.
4. Our guest 'book' - a little scrapbooking paper stack + some cute gel pens + a board from a discount store = our DIY guest book station. I plan to make a guest book by using scrapbooking paper and sticking the cards and some photos in it
5. I made the pom poms out of tissue paper - each one cost me $1 to make, compared to $7 if I bought them online (save!)
6. I made the bunting that ran the whole way around the hall out of kitchen twine and scrapbooking paper. Chris was recently away for work for a month so I was lonely - the bunting project kept me occupied!
So anyway...I know you're here for the cake...
This cake was one of my most complicated ever. It's only two tiers but holy moly, it was time consuming. If you've followed my blog for a while you'd know that macarons and I have a love/hate relationship, in that I love them, and they hate me. I piped these at about a centimetre in size and I think that the fact they were so tiny was what made them fail miserably. Half of the macarons I made rose like volcanoes and EXPLODED. It was wretched. I lowered the temperature, I added extra baking trays underneath, I tried everything. Thank goodness I'm mental and made double the amount I needed, so I had enough smooth, flat ones to use on my cake. My hat goes off to anyone that can make macarons because I surely can't. And it makes me very, very sad.
Anyway, I digress...
It was a last-minute decision to make the bunting for the top of the cake - I thought it needed some extra cuteness (because it didn't have enough already!) I made it by cutting some freehand triangles out of scrapbooking paper (I have an addiction to the stuff) and writing our initials on them with a black fineliner. Grabbed some kitchen string and a couple of small wooden skewers, and hey presto! Cake topper.
The top tier was white chocolate mud with vanilla buttercream. It had a sneaky surprise inside - honeycomb! I added it to the buttercream between the layers. The bottom tier was dark chocolate mud with crushed Peppermint Crisps inside. Mmmm.
A lot of my guests had heard about the macaron craze but had never tried them, so I made sure everyone got a handful (there were sooooo many on that cake!) By all reports the party-goers loved them!
I felt like I had the paparazzi with us when we cut the cake - I've never had to smile at so many cameras simultaneously before! Eek!
I adore this pic of the cake. We found this dodgy old table in the hall when we got there and I desperately wanted to include it in the party. It's so old and decrepit but beautiful all the same.
Thanks again to everyone who made our night so special. We were so spoilt with the gifts we received and we've been reading and re-reading our cards all day. We are truly blessed to have such amazing friends and family <3

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