Sweet Leaf

Finding Beauty through Baking ~by Susan Baxter-Peace

T-Rex Cake February 3, 2016

Well, here it is, as promised. There was great excitement at the birthday party over the weekend as the much-anticipated T-Rex was unveiled. It took awhile to think through just how I was going to do it, but as the brainwaves circulated, one idea led to another, and I think what I ended up doing worked really well.

After doing some image searches for T-Rex cakes I was originally going to try making a head and claws coming out of the top of a cake, but as I narrowed down my method I decided to do a whole dino.

After considering a few options, I went for a cake pop style. You remember cake pops? (click here for a refresher) Crumbled cake mixed with frosting, shaped into balls and dipped in candy coating. But instead of shaping it into balls, I molded it into a T-Rex; and instead of candy coating, I made fondant. I formed the dino on top of parchment paper so that it would be easy to get off when I needed to transfer it onto the cake. I put it in the fridge to chill so that it wouldn’t get squished when I put the fondant overtop. It all worked really well, although the fondant looked a bit rough around the bottom edges where it had to get tucked into tight places (mouth, arms and legs).

 

I made a regular cake for the base, frosted it with chocolate frosting, laid the finished T-Rex on top, and surrounded it with those little chocolate stones. There was A LOT of chocolate in this cake! I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and I think the birthday boy was too!

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Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year January 28, 2016

20151230_132333Well, once again I have let things slide with the blog. I do think about it often, but day to day life just gets the better of me. It’s not that I’m not baking, I just don’t get around to posting.

So, instead of one specific item/topic today I have decided to give a photo gallery of some of the things I baked over the last few months.

Gingerbread Cookies – A Seasonal Favourite

 

Empire Cookies – My baked good of choice for this year’s holidays

 

Homemade Hotdog Buns – So much better than store bought

 

Personal Pizzas – The kids love them!

 

Now that I’ve got your attention again, keep an eye out, there will be an exciting cake coming up soon. Remember the blue racecar cake from last year? This year my little buddy wants a T-Rex!

 

Halloween Treats November 8, 2015

This year we did quite a few treats in addition to the door-to-door trick-or-treating. I know, why would you intentionally add more treats to an event based around getting treats? But it’s just so fun, and the kids get so excited!

First, with the daycare kids, I made some ghost sugar cookies. I kept it pretty simple, using only ghosts so I could just use white royal icing, and then I got a bunch of Halloween themed sprinkles that they could use for decorating. With this crew I found it easiest to set a little container of sprinkles in front of each of them around the table, then I would ice a cookie and pass it to each child to decorate. It worked out well, and they even did a good job at decorating a few before diving in for the sample! Well, all except my youngest; he ate the cookie without even putting sprinkles on, then proceeded to eat the sprinkles straight from the container!

Our next treat was just for us. My daughter had brought a library book home from school a few weeks ago all about Halloween. One of the pages described the different treats you might find at a Halloween party, which included candy apples. I love candy apples, and I can remember my mom making them with me when i was a kid, so we decided to give it a go this year. I chose to make caramel covered ones rather than the hard candy coating, with the kids being the age they are I thought it would work better. They were very excited, and needed lots patience to wait while the caramel cooked to the right temperature, and also lots of reminders to stay back as it got really hot. They may have been a bit young to help with it this year, but it will get easier as they get older and understand the consequences of heat a little better! And none of it mattered once we got to have them for dessert that night! So yummy!

And although this wasn’t a treat to eat, I have a little tip to pass on that I discovered this year. As I was scooping out the innards for our jack-o-lanterns, I was thinking about what might make it easier. I discovered that my little bowl scraper does an amazing job at scraping out all those straggly bits of pumpkin, so I suggest investing in one for next year’s pumpkins, it made it so much easier!

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Jelly Season October 27, 2015

It’s been a while since I made a good old-fashioned homemade jelly. I went through a phase a few years ago when we had a quince tree in our backyard and were also getting a lot of apples in our CSA box. I made a lot of jams and jellies with an apple base so I didn’t have to use pectin.

I have a friend here in London with a crabapple tree on her front lawn and she said I could come pick them when they were ready. Well, they didn’t grow quite as well this year as in years past, and when the kids and I went to pick we didn’t get a very good crop. So we said ‘better luck next year’ and left it at that.

A couple weeks later I was taking my daughter to her swimming lesson and as I went around the car to get her out I saw that we were parked right beside a big crabapple tree that was FULL of bright red crabapples. Cue the lightbulb. When we came out of the community centre I grabbed a bag from our trunk and we started picking. Since it was a community space I figured it would be okay. I noticed a few people in the parking lot who were probably wondering what the heck we were doing, but nobody came over to question it so we filled the bag and set off.

It ended up being the perfect amount for a batch of jelly. It was really fun to go through the jelly making process again, trying to get it into the jars at just the right point. My daughter has been very excited to have this pink jelly on her toast every morning, and she helped me take a jar to our friends as well. I hope we’ll still have better luck next year with our friends’ tree, but if we don’t we know where to find some!

Homemade crabapple jelly, courtesy of our local community centre parking lot.

Homemade crabapple jelly, courtesy of our local community centre parking lot.

 

October Birthdays – Double Feature October 19, 2015

October is a very busy month for birthdays in our family, two of which are my son and my husband within a week of each other. Although we celebrated them both with family over the Thanksgiving weekend, I made one cake for my son for that celebration, and I made one for my husband on his actual birthday at home.

My son is really into trains right now (are you surprised??), and of course, particularly Thomas – it’s like an inborn addiction that all little boys seem to have no matter how much or how little exposure they actually have to Thomas. Anyway, I wanted to make him a cake with Thomas on it, but with all the other preparations for Thanksgiving (we were travelling as well) I just didn’t have the time to create a Thomas. However, as he was only turning two, I figured I would probably still be safe with any kind of train, so I made a simpler train out of fondant for the top of his cake. I didn’t hear any complaints, especially since he got to eat parts of the train!

For my husband’s birthday the next week I decided to do an ice cream cake. My husband isn’t into sweet things, like cake, as much. But he does like ice cream. How many of you remember when Dairy Queen had a Nerds blizzard? You know those crunchy little candies that are oh so tangy and yummy? My husband LOVES Nerds candies, and often talks about those Nerds blizzards and how you can’t get them anymore. Well, I decided to make him a Nerds ice cream cake. Pretty straightforward, I got some vanilla ice cream, some Nerds, put them together with a crust and chocolate layer, and voila, a Nerds ice cream cake. It was a pretty big hit; my daughter even put in a request for the same cake for her birthday – next June! We’ll see if she remembers 🙂

The Nerds ice cream cake.

The Nerds ice cream cake.

 

Leaving ‘Baker’ Status August 21, 2015

Filed under: Baking - Breads — sweetleafsusie @ 3:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Is your mind racing? Haha! It’s not what you think. It’s true, I lag on the posting front, but I do still bake a lot. My title refers to the categorization of people as either bakers or cooks. Bakers follow the recipe – as they should, it’s been chemically formulated that way for a reason – to make things great; and cooks tend to throw in a bit of this and a bit of that in varying amounts to make something great.

Okay, I’m not totally leaving baker status. I have always been a baker-type, and will continue to be. However, I am getting more comfortable with it. For the longest time, no matter how many times I had made a recipe I would still always have to have the recipe right in front of me. But I’m starting to get wild and crazy – or maybe just a bit more confident – and leaving my recipe book behind. Not with everything, but with the basics.

Now, for some of you this may seem unextraordinary. But I would say this is actually a big step for me. I am a perfectionist, and as such I always need the recipe in front of me to make sure it comes out perfectly. Not using the recipe is a BIG RISK for me, because I may forget something and it would not come out perfectly.

Homemade garlic bread, adapted from pizza dough.

Homemade garlic bread, adapted from pizza dough.

This year I started a daycare and I have a two week menu plan that I follow, so every other Friday I make pizza from scratch. That’s a lot of pizza dough over and over and over. With all that repetition I’ve got a pretty good grasp of my pizza dough recipe, so haven’t had the book in front of me for quite some time. It was great on vacation, we were with some friends at a cottage and I made dough for five large pizzas, and they all came out perfectly. And as I become more comfortable doing it, I’ve started expanding it to make various flatbreads or foccacia. I made a nice garlic bread the other night, simmering the garlic in fresh, warm potato water before making the dough, and it came out so lovely, soft and aromatic.

It may sound silly, but it feels very freeing to feel so comfortable with a recipe, that I can just do it on the fly and don’t need to take my recipe book everywhere with me. That may not happen with everything I bake, some things are still pretty complicated and don’t get made very often, but even just to have a base recipe that can be varied to suit different occasions is nice. Perfectionism is good for a lot of things, but so is self-confidence!

 

4th Birthday Party! July 10, 2015

My daughter recently celebrated her 4th birthday, how time flies! You may remember back in February I made a blue race car cake for a friend of ours (check it out here). Well, ever since then my daughter has been saying that she also wanted a race car cake for her birthday, except she wanted it to be pink…5 months of her asking about this pink race car cake! And her biggest emphasis was on the cookie wheels. I think she really just wanted the cake for the wheels. I probably could have just made a whole bunch of fondant covered Oreos and she would have been satisfied. But I digress.

So I brought out the race car design, changed the lightening bolts to flowers, and voila, little girl’s 4th birthday pink race car cake was created. It was kind of nice to do a design I’d already made, a lot less legwork. And I also knew how to improve it. For example, tripling the cake recipe instead of just doubling it, so that the car wouldn’t be quite so squat! It still took a while to make, but definitely went faster the second time around.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, you can read that on the blue race car cake post, but I will post some pictures of the pink race car cake, including the cookie wheels!

You can check out her previous birthday cakes here:

1st Birthday

2nd birthday

3rd Birthday

 

 
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