I don’t know about you guys, but I have a weakness for chocolate brownies…that’s a bit redundant isn’t it? Aren’t all brownies chocolate?! 🤷🏻♀️ Brownies seem to be the quintessential North American treat so growing up in South Africa, we never really had Brownies. I grew up with Chocolate Crunchies (an Oats and golden syrup type concoction) which are to DIE FOR… *making a mental note to add these to my list of postables* Coconut Ice, Sugary Tablet, Stormjaers (fried doughnuts with raisins, rolled in sugar), oh hell, now I’m having an oil flashback from my youth and I’m gonna share with y’all.
The past few weeks have been emotionally taxing to say the least. Kyle has been working down south and coming up to see the babies as much as he can…but because life can get in the way, and he’s trying his best to take care of us, he’s had to stay down for a couple of weeks at a time. And they’re missing him. And I know he’s missing them. I just want to stop right now and say a little shout out to ALL those single mamas. Doing this parenting stuff alone for weeks on end is NOT for the faint hearted. It’s crazy! And working from home doesn’t make it any easier. Right now, because we’re having such AMAZING weather (I’m NOT complaining, I swear!) they’ve been soaking up the sun shine….A LOT..and as fabulous as that sounds, it’s taking its toll on all of us.
This particular blog has very little, actually NOTHING to do with cake…or charms, or candles…I just feel quite passionate about this subject 😆 Today we woke up to GLORIOUS weather. I mean, warm from the get go, a very mild breeze and in the north of Scotland…that’s definitely something to blog about. So, I have a wedding cake to do this weekend, and I was planning on starting my buttercream flowers but then remembered it was sports day…and I’m not gonna lie…sports day for me, has got to be HANDS DOWN the WORST school event ever. It’s mind numbingly boring to be watching hours and hours worth of kids you don’t know even know running from one end of the field to another whether it be egg and spoon, three legged or some sort of obstacle course. And guys I KNOW how much effort the teachers put in and I TOTALLY appreciate their efforts, I do. But just no. Nope, it’s not my cup of tea.
Hey my loves, this is kinda a tough blog to write. Tough in that what I came here to say is more than likely going to have quite a few opinions. And y’all are entitled to your opinions, of course. But to be SO SO respectful and in the kindest way possible… I don’t really want to know them. Because what I’m here to say isn’t to create drama or obtain sympathy. I think it’s important. Important because I…WE need to show other couples going through similar situations….that divorce and separation is TOTALLY doable in a non toxic, beautiful, loving and respectful manner. Not just for the kids…but for EVERYONE involved. Do you guys remember when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin went through what they called a ‘conscious uncoupling’? I do. And I remember thinking ‘what the HECK is that all about?!’ Turns out, I’m just as hippy ish and New Age as I thought I was 😬😅
It’s been ages my friends, and I apologise…my life has been very crazy with the move from Thurso to little old Kingussie….you’re gonna have to google it. It’s quaint and just gorgeous…. so so beautiful. It’s been quite a big transformation for my babies as well. They’re settling in with new friends, new surroundings and they’re doing alright….a few hiccups here and there, but that’s to be expected and I’m just so proud of them. While myself and husband are settling in I’m feeling a little lost. Don’t get me wrong, my extended family is amazing! I’m enjoying the frivolous coffee mornings and not having to be any place at a given time….as long as I’m there to collect the kids from school but also, I’m not one to remain idle for too long. I’m a born dreamer, I’m curious and I’m always learning. So this break, as chaotic as it started, is giving me the chance to hone my skills as a Cake decorator.
Those of you who know me well enough….know I like simple. I was always that girl who had to do everything by the book, follow all the rules, the people pleaser. Even if it meant sacrificing my own happiness. Alllll my recipes were made from scratch, god forbid I ever used a cake mix from a box and every bit of lemon curd, caramel or even jam was made fresh.
Gone are those days. Because I’m a mom, because I’m older and dare I say wiser. And also. It doesn’t matter! What matters is that I create a cake that tastes spectacular and my clients keep coming back for more. Am I right? Now as a rule, I don’t generally use cake mixes, only because in my humble opinion….they taste a tad too chemical-ey to me. But if you’re a cake mix kinda baker…you’ve got to choose the RIGHT buttercream. It will make or break your cake! (Wooop, I just rhymed!) I only make Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Yes, it’s more time consuming, yes, you have to mix over a hot stove….I’m all out of cons…see?! Now the pro’s!
It’s an incredibly tasty buttercream. It’s smooth, it melts in your mouth in a way no other buttercream can, it’s very stable when it comes to stacking wedding cakes as well as carving cakes. It’s not as sweet as your typical buttercream, and it’s just so more-ish (I guess that could be seen as a con)….Anyway
This recipe came in to my life about 8 years ago. The only time I use any other frosting or filling is when a) a client requests it or b) a client is vegan or cannot have dairy.
It’s just so incredibly versatile and suits ANY cake. It’s so light that it’s perfect for red velvet, and carrot cake…MINUS the cream cheese. I use it for cupcakes, piping flowers, writing on cakes. I flavour it with jam, extracts, curds, chocolate, fresh fruit, freeze dried fruit. The options are endless. (More pro’s)
Do you remember the scene in Willy Wonka (the old version) where Mr. Wonka is discussing with Charlie about inventing an ice cream that would never melt?! Well I think this is as close to that unmeltable ice cream that we’ll get. It literally tastes like vanilla ice-cream.
I have never tried making Swiss Meringue Buttercream with a butter substitute. So if anyone has, I would love to hear your thoughts.
So here goes
10oz egg whites (8 large eggs)
21oz granulated or caster sugar (you can even substitute brown sugar for a more caramel flavour. This WILL affect the colour of your Buttercream)
625g unsalted butter (2 1/2 British blocks)
1tbsp vanilla extract or flavouring of your choice
pinch of salt
Boil some water in a saucepan in order to make a Bain Marie.
Combine your egg whites and Sugar in a heatproof bowl and give it a good mix. I use my trusty rubber spatula for this. Be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl. You don’t want ANY Sugar clinging to the sides.
Set the bowl over your boiling water and continue to mix being sure to scrape down the sides regularly.
At this point you really want to watch the mixture as you don’t want your eggs to curdle. This will start at the sides of the bowl. If it does start to curdle continue mixing in and remove any clumps that you may have. This won’t affect the outcome of your buttercream but it can be a pain when piping and you get the cooked eggs clogging the piping tip 🙄
You can absolutely use a thermometer here….I don’t. I just dip 2 fingers in the mixture, rub them together and if the mixture is very smooth I take it off the heat. If I can still feel any granules of sugar keep mixing until all the sugar is dissolved.
Take the mixture off the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes. I do this so that when I add my butter later it’s not all going to melt at once which will just take longer to get to the whipped stage.
Using a stand mixer (whisk attachment) or even a hand held, whip the meringue until medium peaks form. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
Add your chunks of butter, vanilla and salt. Technically you’re supposed to add your butter slowly, incorporating each bit by bit. But y’all I DO NOT have time for such nonsense.
If you’re using your stand mixer, change to your paddle attachment. Whip your mixture until all the butter is incorporated. At this point it might look a bit soupy. The secret to Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Just keep mixing! (Dory’s ‘just keep swimming’ totally went through your mind didn’t it?)
Your mixture will start to look like it’s curdling. Yay!! That’s normal. Then all of a sudden, right before your eyes, it will all start coming together and start looking like whipped cream. PERFECT! And that, my loves, is how you make Easy Fool Proof Swiss Meringue Buttercream 👌❤️
This makes enough to fill and cover 2 8inch cakes. You can absolutely half the recipe or even better, freeze what you don’t need. All you do to reconstitute it is to throw it in the microwave until it starts to melt slightly or if you don’t have a microwave, simply heat it over a bain marie. Don’t melt ALL the buttercream, because then you’ll have to cool it down again in order to whisk it up.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Banana bread was always a staple in my house growing up. Whenever there was a ripe banana in sight my mom would make her gorgeous banana bread. Over the years she’s changed her recipe, but it still tastes the same. Beautifully moist, dense and extremely moreish. We’d eat it with lashings of butter and it always, always tasted better when it was a few days old wrapped in tin foil to let the flavours develop.
My husband also loves banana bread and when we first met I used to make it at every opportunity. He complains now that I never make it any more, but there is a reason for this. Our 4 year old has a huge love of bananas and along with his dad…they must go through at least 15 bananas a week! If and when I remember to hide them, there will be a noticeable shortage of banana bread in the house.
Every so often, we do get a few bananas going a little ripe. When this happens I quickly freeze them, so as to have then on hand when the need arises. Here’s a take on my mom’s delicious banana bread. Check out her other recipes on her Facebook page. You’ll find more home comforts and traditional South African recipes. 🇿🇦 ❤️
3 very ripe bananas, mashed (the ripe the better!!!)
100mls vegetable oil
200g brown sugar (the recipe calls for white, but brown sugar gives the banana bread a denser more flavourful loaf….sorry mama)
175g all purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Using a mixer, wooden spoon or simply a fork, mix together the brown sugar and oil.
Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Throw in the flour, bicarb. Give it a mix until there are no lumps, then add the mashed banana.
Pour into a lined loaf pan (I use a silicon mould, no greasing required) and bake at 180 degrees C for an hour.
Let cool, unmold and serve with butter….my husband enjoys it slathered with peanut butter too x
This week was one of those week’s that I had to mentally prep for on Sunday night. I checked my diary….then checked my emails…then checked my diary again. Just in case! Because this week was a busy one. One of those busy ones that the panic doesn’t set in just yet, only because the excitement of actually being organised overcomes all that. Yeah I’m weird like that..and I LOVE lists. They excite me. I love writing down every little thing that’s needing done, and then checking them off one by one. There’s something so satisfying about it. And if I’ve done something that wasn’t on the list, you bet your butt I’m gonna write it down only to cross it off…that’s not just me right?!
So the week started off with my Monday shop….20lbs of butter, 15kgs of sugar and about 8 dozen eggs..at least. I made my list of what to bake. 12 cakes…and about 70 shortbread. So I’ve totally got this right?! ermm…not so much. I should have started baking but I was tired…so I left it. I’m the best at procrastinated, and work very well under pressure. So I baked on Tuesday….and no, baking on Tuesday doesn’t mean you’re going to have a stale cake on Saturday. I tend to back, slice and freeze. Freezing my friends, is THE best thing you can do for your cake, especially if you do it as soon as you’ve let the cake cool a bit, tightly wrap in cling film/Saran wrap and bam, Bob’s your uncle. Freezing your cake when it’s still warm will keep all that moisture in your cake and once thawed will be even better and much less dry (do you notice how I’m trying not to use the word ‘moist’ here) than a cake that’s not been frozen at all….True story. This whole frozen cake stigma has GOT to go. Just don’t leave them in the freezer for months on end. No one likes freezer flavoured cake..and yes, that’s a thing.
Anyway, once the cakes were baked it’s really a matter of getting all fillings made up, decorations done and children enterained, And cleaning as you go is a HUGE must…looking at my kitchen mid week you’d probably think I don’t actually heed my own advice.
Anyway, first cake to go out the door…this sweet little washing machine cake. I LOVED making it, even though I despise square cakes and I avoid them where I can. And getting them perfectly square, I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it. Anyway its a double tall 6 inch vanilla cake filled with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. To make the folded towels I rolled out a bit of gumpaste, cut it into squares and used a clean an fluffy dishtowel and made an impression on to the paste to give it some texture. I scored the edges with my knife folded each square.
Next was this adorable Wall-E cake. The design was sent to me by my customer. I changed it up just a teeny bit and made all my figures with modelling chocolate. The figures take some time, so I usually make them a week or 2 before on my ‘days off’, thus trying to avoid the monster that emerges within when I’m panicking about time. Its extremely unfair on my family , especially my unsuspecting children. Kyle just lurks in the shadows and stays out of my way except to thrust hot cups of coffee into my hands every so often to tame the beast.
After Wall-e there were bout 5 dozen cupcakes to go out, which at this point I didn’t even bother about taking photo’s. After awhile priorites are just making sure to get the kids fed and the cakes done. Did I mention that the element in my oven blew? Yep, so now I’m using the top oven…tiny, and no fan. So I can only use the one rack at a time and constantly rotate my cakes to ensure even heat distribution! So 70 shortbread took 3 times longer to bake. But I made it work….
Next up was Saturday’s wedding cake for the beautiful Heather and her groom John. They opted for a 3 tier rustic cake adorned with fresh flowers arranged by Isabel Ross of B’Izzy L’izzy’s. Isabel kinda sorta took over the cake decorating and I just watched. I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda nice after a hectic week…..and I totally trust her so I had nothing to worry about.
So now the weeks coming to a close….did I mention my son has croup?! I didn’t initially realise what it was until I heard it had been going around, and despite me being known to be a total symptom checker on Google….this time it really was for real! So he’s being awfully clingy and what can you do but just drop everything for kisses and cuddles and 2am wakeups. I was just really thankful that Kyle’ s days off coincided with my hectic enough week already…I digress. My last 2 cakes of the week are probably my 2 favourites. They were made for twin girls celebrating their 8th birthday’s. When I finished these (after a 6am wakeup to decorate a smash cake and put finishing touches on these babies) Jaxon decided that he wanted these for his birthday. And if my children love it, and I get a ‘wow mom!! You’re the best cake maker EVER’, I feel pretty confident that the child receiving the cake will be pretty pleased too 😀
Oh and did I mention the complaint during all this?! 🙈🙊…Yeah I usually don’t disclose this information to those who could be potential clients…but guys. I’m human. I have my off days, don’t we all? Complaints don’t happen often, thankfully, but now if and when they do happen, I handle them without letting it negatively affect my day. Or week….or month. I was really proud of myself when handling this particular complaint. Because the old me would’ve cried for days, thrown a fit and threatened to throw in the towel because im just not good enough. I would’ve allowed somebody to bring be down with the sharp end of their words to the point of breaking me. But I’m at a hugely spiritual point in my life that when people are just mean and disrespectful I just shower them with more love and empathy. Because they need it. We all need it. And kindness gets you everywhere. And it takes no huge effort on my part, and I get taught a lesson in humility as well. We all screw up. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing a specific job. It happens to us all. And we can all use a lesson in humility once in a while 😉 And before you ask, I’m not going to show you pictures. Not because I’m embarrassed. I fixed my mistake… And I know we can’t please everyone…But I’m not here to bring anyone down. I’m just here to love ❤
Y’all must be wondering how my house gets cleaned through all this…..it doesn’t. that’s what mondays were invented for. Yesterday I cleaned the house from top to bottom. 5 loads of laundry, 2 loads in the dishwasher, toilets cleaned, house hoovered, floors mopped, dusting done, clothes put away, beds made, counters bleached, dinner and gin and tonics to relax. And wow! A clean and organised home is the answer to a clear mind. Early bed and meditation and I’m ready for the next week!
On that note, I’m off to work on this week’s wedding cake…and with that will come a new product I’m working on for my Donut Eat Bakery business. Watch this space…..
I would love to hear from you guys so please feel free to leave a comment! I always try to respond in a timely fashion 🙂 xx