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

The Japanese BFG

Remember my Chanel bag cake for my friend last year? This year, I had to make something better, and I had no idea what she wanted. What better way to know than to ask her myself. Her response? “I want a Totoro Cake” and she provided a few photos of a mini figurine she had.

Who is Totoro?

My head goes into drive as to how I would make it. I only know the existence of this animated character but have never watched the movie. I think he’s like a BFG from the Roald Dahl book, just fluffier, and it is an animal. After looking at some images, character cakes like Totoro don’t scare me as much as it did a year ago, simply because I know it does not require a complicated internal structure.

I, have never, ever, watched this movie before. I knew of its existence, but it never grabbed me. Not until now! He does look like a more adorable BFG I think 🙂

In order to create his shape, I would make him as I did with my Minion months ago – a double barrel cake, and then carve to create this almost oval shape. And the rest will be to create detail on his face and body, and I think I’m he’ll look perfect.

I usually search on Google for any cake project if it was made into a cake, and I did the same for this Totoro project. There were a few that I found to be my source of inspiration, but the one that grabbed me the most was the one from Mike McCarey from Mike’s Amazing Cakes which I referred to often because Google did not have a lot of photos of Totoro in the movie which was rather inconvenient (if you looked up Totoro on Google, there is a lot of images that are not from the film, and I struggled to make sure there is some resemblance to the character in the film.

Looks like the animated character I think! Cake by Mike McCarey of Mike’s Amazing Cakes

My friend requested that the cake needs to be packed with flavour as well, and so I went with my white chocolate and banana mud cake which I wrote about in a previous blog post. Without going into much detail, I’ll post some photos for you to look at and you can see the progress of this edible Totoro goodness!

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The cake was stacked to double-barrel height – I used the white chocolate banana mud cake with peanut butter ganache as in the previous post 🙂

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All ganached and ready to be dressed in grey fondant

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Cake scraps!

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Cake carving time – I needed this photo to know what I’m doing with this cake, plus I had my housemate cast her eyes over to see if I got the right shape

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Fondant is on! And I’ve textured the cake board with some scrunched up foil.

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Totoro’ leaf hat – I placed it on a sheet of aluminium foil that has been scrunched and not laying flat on the bench. This gives the leaf some movement

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I added some colour to the leaf with some petal dust – This gives it some texture and doesn’t look so flat

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Making the umbrella – to be honest, I should have measured each point of the umbrella correctly to make it look uniform. But I can assure you the final effect looks great!

 

After a week’s worth of work, I finally got to present this to my friend at her birthday dinner.  She was in awe, and surprisingly some other guests at the restaurant caught a glimpse of the cake as it was brought out they had to sneak a few photos. Hehe!

PicMonkey totoro night

 

It’s an amazing process as a cake decorator that you know what you’re doing is leading towards a really awesome masterpiece. Character cakes are really fun to make, and the challenge is always to replicate how to really look. Did she recognise it? Indeed she did, and I hope you think it looks the same too!

 

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Totoro – I liken it to the anime version of the BFG, mild and caring 🙂