What Australia Means To Me

Happy 2015!

I hope everyone had great Christmas and New Year celebrations, and heading into the new year with lots of great plans for the year!

I wanna share with you my excitement – my first sugar artist/cake decorators’ collaboration ever!!!

I couldn’t be more happier with the opportunity to work with some fantastic veteran cake decorators in the business from Australian Cake Decorating Network to showcase our creations for Australia Day today! Our theme for this showcase was “What Australia means to me”, and we could not wait to share our different interpretations of our own Aussie experiences in sugar art.

I’ve been in Melbourne for ten years now, and I asked myself what was the common theme in my so-called developmental years of my life living on my own in a foreign land and becoming myself. And it was always food… then there was wine… and then coffee. Before I came to Melbourne, I did not touch a glass of wine or coffee as I didn’t know how to appreciate them. But in recent years, I’ve come to learn how to taste it and appreciate it, and now I have a better understanding for it I seem to enjoy it a little more now. And so my mind was set on having these elements part of my cake design.

I wanted a challenge, and I came up with an idea of a bottle of wine pouring into a cup of coffee (I would never know what coffee and wine tastes like, it may be an acquired taste but who knows?). The cup of coffee will sit above a chef’s hat, and I’ll have something next to the chef’s hat. Easy!

How wrong I was!

When cake designs don’t fit the mould of standard cakes or stacked cakes, the challenge comes in creating a strong and stable structure inside the cake so everything pretty much stays the way it is! I usually get nervous because it means having to work out what kind of tools are required that I will have to go to Bunnings to buy them. I get intimidated in Bunnings – something about hardware and power tools just doesn’t sit well with me. And so I looked up as many novelty/gravity defying tutorials to understand and construct a structure that I find best suits this piece, and headed to Bunnings.

On to the details of the cake.

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I’m somewhat a foodie, and as much as I love just having two-minute noodles, it’s interesting to know of upcoming restaurants and fantasise of the restaurants that are on my bucket list. My chef’s hat is representative of that – fine dining is vogue these days, with food styling and #foodporn going off in social media. It is also a tribute to all the great Aussie chefs – what great culinary talent we have in this beautiful country, showcased by television shows such as Masterchef. I could go on, but we have Jacques Reymond, Shannon Bennett, Luke Nguyen, Christine Mansfield, Maggie Beer, Kylie Kwong, Peter Gilmore… et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I really can go on. Lastly, the chef’s hat is symbolic of the logo that is on The Good Food Guide that many foodies refer to to find out the ratings on the go-to restaurants not only in Melbourne, but in other states too.

DSC_0348A little cup of coffee ended up in this piece because I think it is a personal habit of mine that I order when I go to a good cafe for breakfast or brunch. I’ve been hooked to coffee in the last two years or so. My favourite is mocha (in case you have a trivia competition about me), and not everyone makes a great mocha. My housemate Lynn made a remark about “brunching” – it was something that I observed many people do these days as a main meal on a weekend morning and myself, and having a cup of coffee seems to just make it all better. I can share one of my New Year resolutions, and that is to sign myself up for a barista course this year. After all, it is something that I intend to pick up to fulfil my dreams of having a cafe, isn’t it?

I had to chuckle 🙂

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The wine bottle is very Australian in my opinion – it is something that I notice from my days in university, people bringing a bottle to a restaurant or ordering with their meals. I never fancied it, and to date I probably don’t really drink that much. Something about pairing the right notes of a wine with the food that you eat is such an art, I think my taste buds have not acquired that talent yet. But I do enjoy a good little sip of a good bottle, and it would be blasphemy to not include wine into my piece.

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The last element on my showcase is the cheese platter. This idea was thrown to me to create the cheese platter like a map of Australia. Boom! Why didn’t I think of it?! I had a great time creating it, and having brie cheeses and green olives with some crackers is like an indulgence after a good meal.

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I hope you liked my piece, and do look out for the other pieces on the Australian Cake Decorating Network page to look at some more awesome creations from the other decorators!

x Vincent

Cakeriffic Competition

Once again, I’ve entered a cake competition. But this time, I’m glad that I didn’t have to carry this piece onto a plane and worry about it being destroyed in transit. All I had to do was to transport it into my car and take a forty minute drive to Caulfield Racecourse, where the Cakeriffic expo will be held for the second time, drop my cake and make any last-minute fixes, and head home.

The Cakeriffic Contemporary Cake Decorating Competition for the beginner’s category had a theme of “100 Years of Red Cross”. I instantly shied away from the theme because I had no idea on how to approach the theme. But I warmed up to it and realised that I needed a creative challenge, and so I decided to sign up for the competition, to which they changed the conditions afterwards that it does not have to be true to the theme.

Where do I start?

I needed “Pinspiration” – Pinterest was not of great source to me, in fact I still don’t quite know how to fully utilise Pinterest properly, so any suggestions welcomed! I used Uncle Google to search for images and ideas. The Australian Red Cross had a website celebrating their centenary, and it provided a history of their past achievements since World War I. After a few hours and weeks of browsing through, I have my mood board if you would call it that!

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My mood board, or inspiration board. I loved this!

And the result? Ta-daa!

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The Four Walls of Red Cross History

The Australian Red Cross has so much to tell over the last 100 years that I wanted to include as much as I can. I knew immediately that I could not possibly achieve it with a round cake, and a square cake would allow me to provide me with more surface area to work with.

As if four inches of height isn’t a nightmare to cover for a square cake usually, I opted for an eight inch tall cake, which made matters worse. As a general rule for covering cakes with fondant, you would roll out fondant to the exact width and length of the cake so you know you have enough covering the whole cake. In this case, I was very extremely  silly enough to bother trying when I knew it would have been a monumental task and the fondant will rip. And it did, twice. I ended up cursing in my head, having a oh-my-god-why-did-I-even-think-of-doing-such-an-impossible-task moment. With minimal resistance, I covered the cake with fondant panels where I cover the cakes with panels cut to size. Much easier, less stressful, and I get my sharp edges.

I wanted two side panels of the cake to have lettering. One of them would be titled 100 years of the Australian Red Cross, and the other opposite side of the cake would have the seven principles that Red Cross operates by. If I thought Clixstix alphabet cutters were a nightmare, I have yet to meet my worst enemy.  I had trouble with my new FMM Tappit alphabet cutters because I broke off the letter “n” from the strip (my brute force did not help at all!), and that meant trying to get “n” out was not easy. And it’s not even a week old!!! I could not use “u” and have invert it because it didn’t look right.  But I’ve come to learn that the fondant must be rolled out thinly, and when I mean thin, I mean reeeeeeeeaaal thin. And the acupuncture needle is your best friend. Next was to attach the letters onto the cake which meant that I had to make sure they are arranged on a straight line. In doing so, a lot of masking tape was used and rulers were used.

As for the other two, I changed a lot of the design over the weeks. As much as I wanted to use the airbrush to draw and create a lot of designs, I chose to have more words, but hand-painted onto the cake to give it a more organic look. I included a few other decorative themes like the First Aid Kit logo, the blood shaped like a tear drop for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and the membership pin that was once used for the recruitment of new members in the 50’s I believe. One panel was to document the first 50 years of Red Cross, and the opposite panel was the 50 years thereafter.

To tie all the panels together, I found this design by Anthony Grima, from Anthony Grima Designs who came up with this really modern and graphic design as part of Red Cross’s Workplace Giving Program. I loved the idea of leaves on branches intertwined to form a network, which I thought would work well in connecting all the panels together. I drew inspiration with the colour scheme,  and some leaves were painted.

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As for the toppers? That was from a photo of volunteers who formed a giant red cross and red crescent at the Sydney Opera House – grand idea, and I replaced it with little blossoms instead. The effect came out beautiful, but I would have attached the blossoms before they became rock hard in hindsight.

Lastly, what cake will be without a teddy bear? This teddy bear was based on Trauma Teddies that I learned were given to little kiddies during traumatic events, and I had a colleague bring a collection of her children’s teddies for me to look at. This was made based on one of them, and would you imagine that a teddy bear should be the easiest to execute – uh uh. I struggled trying to make it cute. But I do think my little bear is very cute too, do you agree?

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Trauma Teddy – “cute” version

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Trauma Teddy – the real, Red Cross-endorsed version

It was such a journey and it made me appreciate all the hard work and effort the Red Cross has brought to this country. And I had a drive to capture all that history onto a cake as such, I hope everyone liked it at the show. And I hope the Australian Red Cross notices this cake too!