#birthdaycakegoals & My Baking Inspiration

I intended to do this as a Mother’s Day tribute… then to post it around my Birthday… but this year has got away from me, and it has only been this weekend while sorting through old photos that this post has been able to become a reality.

A lot of people ask me where I get my motivation to bake from and how I can be bothered to take the time necessary to make my creations look good. Well, the answer is simple: my Mum is my biggest baking inspiration, and I attribute much of my motivation to her exquisite birthday cake creations over the years which are a feast for the eyes as much as for the tastebuds.

While I agree that it’s the taste of the food that counts the most, I think we “eat with our eyes” (to borrow an old MasterChef cliché) and how food is presented really does matter, as it can enhance or detract from the whole experience. I also really enjoy the challenge and creativity involved in making my food look as good as I can and find it as, if not more, fulfilling than eating the end product!

Without further ado, I present to you a small selection of Mum’s finest cakes from my childhood, the very creations that inspired my love of baking (please excuse the 90s-00s photo quality):

Hand made figurines for my Peter Rabbit themed 4th Birthday party.

thumb_img_4064_1024Bananas in Pyjamas cakes for my sister Laura’s 2nd Birthday

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My gorgeous 1st Birthday cake 

thumb_img_4073_1024A beautiful fairytale castle cake for Laura’s 4th Birthday 

thumb_img_4062_1024An Ariel cake for my mermaid-themed 5th Birthday party

thumb_img_4068_1024A sleeping dragon cake for my magical 7th Birthday party 

thumb_img_4038_1024A Johnson cake (from Johnson and Friends) for my 3rd birthday 

thumb_img_4075_1024A ‘Forever Friends’ cake for Laura’s 5th Birthday

thumb_img_4106_1024The cake for my 10th Birthday ten-pin bowling party

thumb_img_4104_1024A Shirley Barber inspired fairy cake for my 6th Birthday party

thumb_img_4096_1024A ‘Spot the Dog’ cake for Laura’s 1st Birthday 

thumb_img_4101_1024My 2nd Birthday cake 

thumb_img_4082_1024Laura’s 7th Birthday ballerina cake 

Mum, you’re a superstar! Thank you for the all the incredible memories from my childhood and for putting so much effort in to make each and every birthday feel so special. You’re the very definition of #Mumgoals – I love you so so much xx

Honey Joys

Also known as honey jumbles or honey crackles, these delicious sweet treats were a staple birthday party food of my childhood. They always bring back wonderful memories and I really should make them more often as they require incredibly little effort & take about 10 minutes to make from start to finish.

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Ingredients (Makes approximately 40 small or 16-20 large)
1 heaped tablespoon of good quality honey
60g butter
90g sugar
125g cornflakes

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Method
Preheat oven to 150°C.

Melt butter, sugar & honey in a small saucepan over a medium heat.

Pour gradually over cornflakes in a large bowl, and stir until well mixed.

Place dessert spoonfuls of mixture into small paper patties, and bake for 6 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Recipe from my amazing Mum, Anne Bills

Giant Vanilla Cupcake

I haven’t made a giant cupcake for about 18 months but I’m so glad I found my giant cupcake cases again because they’re so much fun to make (and eat!) They’re also really easily adaptable as you can make them any flavour you like and decorate them in a million different ways. This time I’ve used buttercream roses but you could ice it as simply (or complexly) as you like – there’s a link to my fondant ‘soft serve’ icing instructions at the bottom of the page.image1-16

Ingredients (serves 10-12):
Cake
375g butter, softened
375g caster sugar
6 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
375g self-raising flour
3 tablespoons milk

Cupcake Case
375g white chocolate melts or Wilton candy melts

Buttercream icing
250g butter, softened
800g icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons of milk
Food colouring

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Method
Spray silicone giant cupcake pan liberally with canola oil and preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced.

Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and then eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add in half of the flour followed by two tablespoons of the milk, and then add remaining flour and milk. Mix until just combined.

Fill the giant cupcake pans, starting with the cupcake top. Fill until approximately 2cm shy of the top of the pan. Then fill the bottom pan with the remaining batter.

Bake in the oven for between 40-70 minutes, checking regularly. Note: the cupcake top will bake faster than the bottom so take it out before the bottom is done. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave cakes in their pans for at least 20 minutes before gently peeling the silicone off and allowing the cakes to cool completely on a cooling rack.

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Image credit: The Pink Whisk

While the cakes are cooling, wash and dry the bottom cupcake pan ready to make the cupcake case. Melt half the chocolate/candy melts and pour into the bottom cupcake pan. Spread evenly up the sides using a pastry brush. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and then repeat with the remaining melts. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and then gently peel off the silicone mould.

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Image credit: She Who Bakes
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Image credit: She Who Bakes
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Image credit: She Who Bakes

Using a serrated bread knife, trim around bottom cake so all crunchy edges are removed. Level top (of base) and then cut base in half. Cut off bottom layer off top piece. Level base (of top).

Make buttercream by beating all ingredients but the food colouring until light and fluffy. Set half aside for the crumb coat, and then add the food colouring to the remaining buttercream.

Put a 1cm thick coating of the uncoloured buttercream between 2 bottom layers of cake and then between the base and top (ensure level – cut if necessary). Then put a thin layer of buttercream on the inside of the chocolate case and gently ease cake into it. Cover top of cake liberally with buttercream to form a protective barrier against crumbs.

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Put the coloured buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 2D nozzle (to make roses) or equivalent, and pipe icing in a rose swirl pattern, starting from the bottom of the cake and working your way up.

Decorate with icing flowers, sprinkles, silver cachous, glitter… basically whatever you like!

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Alternatively, if you’d prefer a soft-serve, fondant look. Halve the buttercream recipe to only make the crumb coat & then follow these directions: https://bakerholicsanonymous.wordpress.com/recipes-2/cakes/giant-cupcake/

Recipe adapted from ‘Vanilla Giant Cupcake Recipe’ by The Pink Whisk

Gingerbread House

Every Christmas I construct a gingerbread house for the holiday season. They look so cute, taste delicious, can be decorated however you like and everyone is always so impressed when they find out you made it from scratch. The baking itself is very simple with this recipe, but the construction work is a little more difficult so I would definitely advise that you have an extra pair of hands to help stabilise it during the early stages.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

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Ingredients
Gingerbread :
90g butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup honey
2 tspns finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 cups flour
1 cup self raising flour
1 tspn bicarb soda
2 tspns ground ginger
1 ½ tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground  cloves
½ tspn ground nutmeg
1 tspn mixed spice
Assorted lollies (to decorate)

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
4 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
½ tspn lemon juice

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Method
Combine butter, sugar & honey in a medium pan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cool for 10mins. Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in rind, eggs & sifted dry ingredients. Turn dough onto floured surface, knead gently until no longer sticky & refrigerate, covered for 1 hour.

Cut paper patterns for gingerbread house: one rectangle 20cm by 15cm for the roof panels, a rectangle 15cm by 10cm for the 2 sides & one rectangle 16cm wide by 19cm high for the front/back. Then from this final rectangle, mark 10cm high & draw a line across. Then rule from the middle of the top of the rectangle, down to edges of the 10cm rectangle part (these diagonal lines should be approximately 12cm long). Cut out shapes.

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface until 1cm thick. Cut out shapes carefully around the patterns, using a serrated knife. Place shapes on lined baking trays and bake for 15mins or until firm & golden brown. Stand gingerbread on trays for 5mins and then transfer onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the royal icing, beat egg whites in a small bowl with electric mixer until just frothy; gradually beat in enough sifted icing sugar for mixture to form very stiff peaks then stir in lemon juice. Keep the surface of the icing covered with a damp tea-towel to prevent it from drying out.

Using a cake board as the base and a helper to hold the pieces in place, pipe a thick line of icing on the bottom of the two side pieces and the front/back pieces. Hold in place until icing has hardened and it stands without assistance. Pipe icing between sides and front/back pieces both inside and out to strengthen. Leave for 10-15mins.

Pipe icing onto the tops of the sides and front/back pieces. Hold on roof pieces and pipe between them (hold them in place for at least 10mins). Add more icing around the edges of the roof panels to look like snow/icicles and decorate as desired.

Enjoy!

ImageBased on the ‘Gingerbread House’ recipe in Australian Women’s Weekly ‘The Christmas Book’

Giant Chocolate Cupcake

I love giant cupcakes. They’re so much fun to make, decorate and, more importantly, to eat. This recipe is for quite an intricate giant cupcake but it is easily adaptable – if you don’t want the bother of working with fondant you can just double the buttercream and ice the cake with that. The cupcake case is also optional (but I think makes the end product look so much more professional). Of course, you could also make the cake batter from scratch but do keep in mind that it is quite a time-consuming process already and the box mixes are relatively stable and so good for cutting and shaping.

The cupcake easily serves 10 adults and would be perfect for a kid’s party serving up to 20 children who have eaten other party food.

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Equipment
Silicone giant cupcake kit
Turntable
Serving plate
Pastry brush

Ingredients
Wilton candy melts
2 boxes chocolate mud cake mix

400g sifted icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
2 tspns vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter

White fondant icing
Blue food colouring
Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Large sprinkles (pre-made using fondant)
1 red gumboil

Method
Make cupcake case by pouring a small amount of melted melts into the silicone bottom case and, using a pastry brush, spreading it until the entire inside of the case is thinly coated. Refrigerate for 20mins and repeat. To remove from silicone once completely set, loosen by pulling  & pinching edges away from the chocolate & then gently peel down the sides of the mould.

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Make cake according to packet instructions and fill greased (spray oil) cases 2/3 full. Bake in moderate oven (175°C) for 40-70 mins (bottom will need longer than top) or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in silicone moulds for at least half an hour or until cool. Then carefully peel off silicone, ensuring the cake is supported at all times.

Using a serrated bread knife, trim around bottom cake so all crunchy edges are removed. Level top (of base) and then cut base in half. Cut off bottom layer off top piece. Level base (of top).

Make buttercream by beating ingredients until light and fluffy.

Put a 1cm thick coating of buttercream between 2 bottom layers of cake and then between the base and top (ensure level – cut if necessary). Then put a thin layer of buttercream on the inside of the chocolate case and gently ease cake into it.

Cover top of cake liberally with buttercream to form a protective barrier against crumbs.

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Transfer cake onto a cake board on a turntable. Make a thin sausage out of white fondant (or a thick one for a really cartoon-ish soft serve effect) and put on cake in a spiral manner to achieve a ‘soft serve effect’ in the end.

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Roll out fondant until thin & large enough to cover top of cake and gently place on the cake. Gently massage fondant onto cake, hugging the curves & taking particular care not to pleat the fondant. Cut off excess if necessary and tuck the bottom up so all buttercream is concealed. Decorate with giant “sprinkles” made from red, yellow & blue fondant icing and place the gumball as a cherry on top.

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Pigs in Mud Cake

I’ve admired this cake on Pinterest for a while now and so when I was asked to make a cake for my Aunt’s birthday a few weeks back, it seemed the perfect choice. It’s very easy to make (and could be made even easier by using a packet cake) but is memorable and super cute so is excellent if you’re short of time (or patience) like I am. It would also be very popular at a children’s birthday party or as a present for a friend with a sense of humour!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10)
Cake
1 cup water
1 ½ cups caster sugar
125g butter, chopped
20g cocoa powder
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 ½ cups self-raising flour
2 eggs

Frosting
90g butter, chopped
⅓ cup water
½ cup caster sugar
1 ½ cups icing sugar
⅓ cup cocoa powder

Chocolate Ganache
400g dark chocolate
200ml cream

Decorations
4 large blocks of Kit-Kats
Pink ribbon
White fondant icing
Flesh/coral food colouring
Green buttercream (if desired)
Sugar flowers (if desired)

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Method
To make the cake: preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan.

Combine the water, sugar, butter & sifted cocoa and soda in a small saucepan; stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; cool to room temperature.

Add flour and eggs to bowl; beat with electric mixer until smooth and pale in colour. Pour into pan and bake about 25-30mins (check regularly from 15 mins as ovens vary considerably).

Stand cake in pan 10 mins before turning, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.

To make frosting: combine butter, water and caster sugar in a small saucepan; stir over low heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Sift icing sugar and cocoa in small bowls then gradually stir in hot butter mixture. Cover, refrigerate until frosting thickens. Beat with a wooden spoon until spreadable.

Break Kit-Kats into pairs (be careful as they can break easily) and get out serving dish/cake board.

Once cake is completely cool, cut carefully in half and level the top. “Glue” bottom of cake to serving dish/cake board with a little bit of frosting. Sandwich cakes with a generous amount of frosting and then coat the sides and top with the remaining frosting.

Working quickly, place the Kit Kats around the edge of the cake until the cake is completely surrounded. This will act as the “fence” of the pig pen. Tie the ribbon around it to fasten.

To make the ganache, gently heat chocolate and cream in a saucepan and stir until melted and combined. Put in fridge to cool.

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Meanwhile, colour modelling fondant (I use Orchard) with coral/flesh colour until desired pig colour reached. First I made the three little bottoms by making little balls, making the butt crack using a skewer and making a little hole to place a tail. To make the tails, make a thin worm shape, twist it so it looks like a corkscrew and attach using a tiny bit of water.  Then make two bellies with holes for belly buttons and two faces which are made by one ball with a smaller ball on top for a snout, holes for eyes and nostrils, and little triangles for ears. Faces which are one ball with a smaller ball for a snout and little triangles for ears. Finally, make four little trotters for the floating pig and arms ending in trotters for the sitting pig (it’s really a trial and error process, keep trying until you’re happy with the shapes and proportions).

Remove the ribbon from the Kit Kats once they are firmly attached to the sides of the cake (so it doesn’t get dirty in this process), and carefully pour ganache onto the top of the cake to make the mud. While still soft, position pigs as desired and make ‘ripples’ using the back of a teaspoon.

Refrigerate until ganache is firm. Then return ribbon to place, add buttercream “grass” and sugar flowers if desired, and serve. Enjoy!

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Cake recipe from Women’s Weekly Classic Cakes (as Family Chocolate Cake), inspiration from various pinterest posts.