Tag Archives: party food

Willakaville: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness by Bald Guy (Mathew Heinecke)

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willakavilleBWillakaville: Baffling Ballads of Boisterous Braveness by Bald Guy (Mathew Heinecke), short stories, 124 pages, published in 2015.

Be chased by quicksand in Mexico, go on a quest in Snobbleland or eat candy in the sewer in this odd, yet funny collection of short stories. This is the second book of stories from Willakaville, where the weird and wacky happen often.

Overall I did enjoy this collection, the stranger the story, the better it was. There were gentle lessons through these stories, such as an anti-bullying message and believing in yourself. While all of the stories are unique and imaginative, there were a couple that stood out for me. “Souper Duper” was about a boy who gains superpowers by eating soup, and battles a supervillain, The Mad Milker. He used special milk from his cow as a weapon, which made me laugh. Another story saw a small girl go adventuring with a friendly snow monster that she created. This one really captured the imaginative ability of children. The exploration of the caves in Mexico was very exciting, and somewhat Indiana Jones-esque. I’d like to see more adventures like that in the future books.

The poems in this collection were good. There is one about scary things in the night, and another about making a big sandwich. These simple and fun poems are great for getting kids interested in poetry.

There were some spelling and syntax errors, nothing serious though. Except, in the middle of “Robot Insects”, when the main character Jerry is suddenly referred to as Jimmy for a few paragraphs.

These self-contained and easy to read stories are suitable for lower to middle primary school children. However, anyone can enjoy the humour of these stories. A third volume will be available from Willakaville soon.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

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Digger Cake

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IMG_5941Digger! Digger! Digger! is all I hear as we drive past a building site in town. Both boys are completely obsessed with diggers at the moment, with trucks running a close second. T2 is having trouble with the ‘d’ sound, so he actually says Gigger! Gigger! which is super cute.

To make our toddler boys extra happy on the weekend, we made an excavation cake with little plastic digger toys on it. When I brought it to the table after dinner, they both started yelling excitedly and bouncing in their chairs!

Cake cut and ready for decorating.

Cake cut and ready for decorating.

This is a super easy cake to make, and really doesn’t take very long to decorate at all. Cooking the cake is the most time consuming part of this cake. I used two Betty Crocker Devil’s Food cake mixes because this is the boys’ favourite type of cake. We cooked the two mixes together in one rectangular baking pan. Once it was cool, I cut part of the cake out to form the space for the excavation. I re-used some of the spare cake to create a ramp and road along one side of the cake.

Frosting the cake.

Frosting the cake.

The cake mixes came with ready to spread chocolate frosting, which made icing the cake even quicker. I covered the whole cake with the frosting. L helped me to crush up several bars of Flake chocolate to create the dust and rocks at the excavation. We mixed this with some Coco Pops and spread it around the hole in the cake. We also used some finely crushed Flake chocolate along the path and ramp under the vehicles.

Cake from above.

Cake from above.

Then it was time to place the vehicles on top of the cake. The excavation toys I bought as a pack from Toys’R’Us. There were five CAT vehicles, including some diggers, dump truck and bulldozer. We put the diggers into the hole, added the bulldozer to the path, and had the excavator dumping its load into the dump truck. We placed some of the Flake and Coco Pops into the scoops and the back of the truck as if they were actually moving the dirt around.

Excavator dumping 'rocks' and 'dirt' into the dump truck.

Excavator dumping ‘rocks’ and ‘dirt’ into the dump truck.

Diggers digging out the ground.

Diggers digging out the ground.

 

Beach Cake

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The hardest part of making this cake was the figure on the beach. I made the girl, her towel and the tree from fondant the day before I needed them. The rest of the cake was decorated on the morning I needed it.

Fondant snakes before rolling out.

Fondant snakes before rolling out.

Finished beach towel.

Finished beach towel.

To make the girl’s towel, I started with two lumps of white fondant, one I coloured red, the other blue. I made little snakes in each colour, and carefully lined them up side by side, alternating colours. I sprinkled some icing sugar over the top and then carefully used my rolling pin to flatten the snakes. The two colour stripes joined together as they were rolled out. I then cut off the uneven ends, forming a rectangle to use as the beach towel.

Girl on towel.

Girl on towel.

I used a very small amount of pink food colouring added to the white fondant to make the girl. I shaped this into a basic body shape, with the arms folded under the head. I added some green coloured fondant to the body for her swimmers, and for her hat. Where required, I used a little bit of jam to stick the separate fondant pieces together.

Palm leaves.

Palm leaves.

Palm trunk.

Palm trunk.

The one palm tree was fairly easy to make, though I needed to use skewers and toothpicks to prevent it from drooping or falling over. First I coloured some fondant green, rolled it out flat and cut out some leaf shapes using a sharp knife. I used the side of a toothpick to make the marks on the leaves. For the trunk, I used Nutella to create a nice brown colour, which I then shaped into a trunk shape. I stuck a skewer longitudinally through the trunk to keep it upright on the cake, and two toothpicks perpendicularly through the top to support the leaves. I draped the leaves over the toothpicks, using a little bit of jam at the top of the trunk to stick them together.

Cake cut and ready for icing.

Cake cut and ready for icing.

The actual cake was two large rectangular cakes made in my baking pans (each takes a double cake mix). I placed the cakes side by side then used a sharp knife to cut out the ocean section. I left part of the cake for an island, and the edges prevent the jelly from falling off the cake. I skimmed some of the cake off from the island to create a sloping beach area.

Island and beach iced.

Island and beach iced.

Waiting for the jelly ocean.

Waiting for the jelly ocean.

I used a basic butter cream mixture colouring a portion of it green, and a portion of it yellow. I covered the island area with the green butter cream, and the beach area with the yellow butter cream. I made up another lot of butter cream and coloured it blue, which I used over the rest of the cake, down the sides and onto the cake board for the ocean. On top of the green butter cream I added green coloured desiccated coconut for grass. The beach was made using finely crushed plain sweet biscuits (I used Arnotts Nice), and the ocean was filled with blue jelly (berry flavoured, yum yum!). I added a little bit of blue butter cream to the top of the jelly for the waves.

Island grassed, beach sanded, ocean jellied.

Island grassed, beach sanded, ocean jellied.

Once all the icing was done and the jelly added, A helped me place the towel and girl onto the beach, and then the tree up on the grass. The skewer through the tree went right through to the base of the cake. As a final touch, A added a cocktail umbrella to shade the girl.

This is quite a large cake, but it could be made to a smaller scale. It went down very well with all the kids!

Girl lying on the beach.

Girl lying on the beach.

Island Cupcake Tower

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IMG_5701Recently we held a birthday party with a beach theme. As the centrepiece of the food table, I made cupcakes to place on my cupcake stand. My stand has three levels for holding cupcakes, plus a place for one right at the top. I used this design to make the cupcake stand into an island cupcake tower.

Freshly baked cupcakes.

Freshly baked cupcakes.

First, we baked the cupcakes using a basic butter cake mix. A helped me set out the paper cases (she chose ones with Disney Fairies on them!), and spoon the mixture into the cases. We only filled each one about half way so that they didn’t rise too much.

Once the cupcakes were completely cool, A and I divided the cupcakes into piles for each level on the stand. The lowest level held the most cupcakes, and was to represent the water of our island. A helped me mix up the butter (vienna) cream to ice them. I like to use a simple recipe for butter cream that I found on Taste.com. We added some blue food colouring to the butter cream until it was the blue we wanted, and then we generously covered the cupcakes with it. We used the flat edge of a knife to create the “waves” by tapping the top of each iced cupcake, pulling some of the butter cream up in peaks.

A sea cupcake.

A sea cupcake.

Adding coconut to the top of the cupcake.

Adding coconut to the top of the cupcake.

We made a second batch of butter cream, this time colouring it yellow for our layer of sand cupcakes. We had previously coloured coconut to use as the sand on these cupcakes. We covered each cupcake with butter cream, and then dipped them into the yellow coconut until the tops were completely covered. I made the butter cream thick on these cupcakes to help hold the plastic toy palm trees we then placed on each one.

Beach cupcake.

Beach cupcake.

Grassy cupcake.

Grassy cupcake.

The final layer of cupcakes was to be the heart of the island, with green butter cream and green coconut for the grass. Again, we applied the butter cream generously to help secure the plastic ferns we added for foliage. These cupcakes were the pinnacle of the cupcake stand. The cupcake on the very top was the centre of the island, which sloped down to the sea at the bottom. I think it looked quite effective on the table!

Island cupcakes.

Island cupcakes.

Colouring Coconut

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Ingredients.

Ingredients.

Desiccated coconut can be used in many different cooking dishes, but lately we have been using it to decorate cakes. I once made a rabbit cake that I covered with plain white coconut for the rabbit’s fur, but sometimes I want to use coconut for something that isn’t white, so I have to colour it.

Coconut and food colouring in the bag.

Coconut and food colouring in the bag.

Post mixing.

Post mixing.

Colouring desiccated coconut is a very easy process and only takes a few minutes. I prefer to use a zip-lock sandwich bag to mix the coconut and the food colouring together. I add some coconut, just roughly how much I think I will need, and then the food colouring to the bag. I make sure that the bag is securely shut prior to shaking it up to move the colour around. Usually I worked the colour around the bag with my fingers to make sure all of the coconut is exposed to the food colouring.

Ready to decorate with.

Ready to decorate with.

Because I wanted to use the coconut for grass, I coloured it green. The kids also helped me colour some yellow to be used as sand. They like to shake the bags up and squeeze it all over to spread the colour.

Minion Cake

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IMG_5554After watching Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 many, many times, when the Minion Movie came out, my kids were keen to see it. They loved it, and have been a little minion crazy ever since. This minion love has even extended to cakes now!

Cake base.

Cake base.

The cake base was made from two butter cakes, one square and one round. I cut the round one in half to make the head of the minion. I also leveled the top of the cakes to make it easier to decorate.

I used a basic butter cream recipe to make the yellow icing, which I applied to the entire cake. This provided me with a base on which to stick the fondant icing I used for making the cake into a minion. To make sure I was making the cake look like an actual minion, I kept a picture of a minion nearby to check on throughout the decoration process.

Grey snake ready to make the goggles edges.

Grey snake ready to make the goggles edges.

The rest of the decoration was done using fondant icing. I started with the eye, rolling out some white fondant until a few millimetres thick. I used a cup to make a neat circle, and then lifted this carefully onto the cake. I coloured the white fondant with a little bit of black food colouring to make the silver edge of the goggles. I rolled out a thin snake of the grey fondant, and shaped it around the edge of the eye, carefully smoothing it down to cover the white edge. I used a little bit of the left-over butter cream to stick the grey fondant down to the white fondant.

Working on the eye.

Working on the eye.

To get fondant that was really black, I used a pre-coloured fondant. From this, I made the goggles straps and the pupil of the eye. To make the goggles more realistic, I used the back of a knife to press a line down the centre of the straps, and I fashioned a hinge on one side from some of the left over grey fondant.

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Adding the overalls, section by section.

To make the minion’s overalls, I coloured the white fondant with blue gel food colouring. I prefer the gels to liquid, as I’ve found them to produce a more vibrant colour in the fondant. Once I was happy with the colour for the overalls, I rolled out the blue fondant. I made the overalls in sections, first the centre piece, using a rectangle of blue fondant, then the sides of the overalls, and finally the straps. Each piece was then fitted carefully against each other and then trimmed at the base of the cake. I added little black fondant buttons to the straps, and an extra blue patch for the centre pocket. The side pockets were created by pressing a line into the fondant using the back of a knife. Again, I used left-over butter cream to stick the fondant pieces down.

Minion arms.

Minion arms.

The arms and legs were pure fondant. Fondant is easy to use and shape, a lot like plasticine. I just made the shapes I wanted and added them to the rest of the cake.

The mouth is a thin line of black fondant, while the minion’s hair is pieces of cut up black pipe cleaners (chenille sticks). The symbol on the front of the overalls I made using cake decorating writing fudge.

This cake took me a couple of hours to make, but I was very happy with the results. My kids thought it was pretty awesome too!

Chocolate Shop Cake

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We wanted to make Big L a special cake for his birthday this year, but none of us had any good ideas. I remembered seeing a cake with lots of different chocolates on it ages back on Facebook, so I went looking for it online. I’m not sure that I found the exact one, as there were quite a number, but the one on BakingMad.com was pretty close. It said to use chocolate cake, but I thought that would be a bit over-the-top chocolate, so we used butter cake instead.

Cakes with the tops cut off.

Cakes with the tops cut off.

The stacked cake ready for icing.

The stacked cake ready for icing.

I baked two round butter cakes and let them cool. Then I cut the tops off each cake to make them flat. I spread some plain frosting over the top of the first cake, and then up-ended the second cake onto the first. This provided a flat top to work with, without the crumbiness of the cut surface. I covered the whole cake in plain frosting, and then it was time to decorate!

Placing the chocolate finger biscuits around the edge.

Placing the chocolate finger biscuits around the edge.

The divided top.

The divided top.

Adding Maltesers to the top of the cake.

Adding Maltesers to the top of the cake.

I started by pressing the chocolate finger biscuits carefully around the edge of the cake, as if I was making a fence. On the top, we divided the space into sixths using the chocolate finger biscuits as dividers. The biscuits didn’t meet at the centre, so we placed a single Ferrero Rocher chocolate in the middle of the biscuit spokes. Then the kids filled each section with a different type of chocolate. We used Mini M&Ms, mini caramel milkshake eggs, Freddo faces, M&Ms, Cadbury Flake pieces, and Maltesers. Any kind of little chocolates or lollies could have worked for this part.

We added a special birthday candle and it was ready!

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Octonauts Cake

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All my kids are Octonauts crazy and have been for ages, so when T’s birthday came around, it made sense for us to make an Octonauts cake. L suggested that I somehow sculpt a whole 3D octopod, she even drew me some plans! I thought this would be way too difficult and time consuming to manage, so I attempted something rather more simple using Octonaut figures (which I bought from Toys’r’Us)

This cake was still a little time consuming, but it was fairly easy to make. The cake base used a double quantity of butter cake mix (I had some Greens mixes in the cupboard that I used). The ocean used two packets of blue Aeroplane Jelly (berry flavoured, yum!), and the rest was butter cream and crushed Nice biscuits for the beach sand.

The cut-out section of the cake.

The cut-out section of the cake.

The cake was baked in a rectangular baking dish. Once it was cool, I cut out a section on the top where I wanted the ocean to be. I cut into the cake to a depth of roughly 1-2cm, leaving an edge to contain the jelly. At one corner, I left a larger section to make into a beach.

Nice biscuits.

Nice biscuits.

I made up the butter cream, keeping some of it white to use on the beach. I spread the white butter cream over the beach section and down the sides of the cake, then I made the ‘sand’. For this I used three Nice biscuits (any sweet light coloured biscuits could work), and laid them on some baking paper. I folded the baking paper over the biscuits, and then used my rolling pin to crush them. Once I was happy with the consistency of the ‘sand’ I transferred it from the baking paper to a bowl, and began spreading it over the white butter cream, gently pressing it down across the top of the beach and down the sides of the cake.

Crushed biscuit.

Crushed biscuit.

The sandy beach.

The sandy beach.

The rest of the butter cream, I coloured using blue food colouring with a dash of green to make it closer to the colour of the jelly. The colour was quite intense, and did stain my fingers a little while I was icing the cake. I covered the edges of the cake in blue butter cream, down the sides and around the edge of the cake directly onto the foiled cake board. I iced the blue part of the cake roughly to make it appear more like waves.

I smooshed the jelly with a spoon and added it to the cut-out section in the centre of the cake. I spread it out carefully to the edges, making sure that the cake was covered, but not overflowing. Then it was time to add the figures.

The cake ready for the figures.

The cake ready for the figures.

A and L helped me to place the figures onto the cake. Captain Barnacles went in the Gup E in the water with the fish rescuing net and some fish. Peso went directly into the water, while Professor Inkling was up on the beach. We raided our stash of animal figurines and found a palm tree and some funny flat bushes that A thought looked like seaweed. The palm tree went onto the beach, and A placed the seaweed around the edge of the cake on the icing on the cake board. All the figures were washed before and after use on the cake.

Just before the seaweed was added.

Just before the seaweed was added.

I was happy with how the cake looked, and it tasted delicious. T was also thrilled to get the Octonaut figures to play with afterwards. He asked to blow out the candles three times too!

 

When the cake fails…

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I don’t normally wait until the day of the party to make a birthday cake, but due to a number of circumstances, both in and out of my control, that is what happened. Big L helped out by making up the cake mix ready to cook. Usually this works well, in that he cooks the cake(s) and leaves it to me to decorate, which, depending on what the kids have asked for, can sometimes take hours.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

The crumbled mess of chocolate cake.

Except this time, the cooking of the cakes didn’t exactly go to plan. When I went to tip them onto the cooling racks, the cakes didn’t come out easily. With a bit of a shake, I got the square cake out, except that the base and the middle of the cake were still stuck in the bottom of the tin! Big L had a go at removing the second cake, which was in a loaf pan. After a bit of effort, this cake  slid out of the tin, also leaving behind its bottom half, and broke in two. I sat at the table and stared at the crumbled pieces of rich chocolate cake. With only hours until our guests arrived, I had to think of a solution fast!

Big L told me to go out and buy a cake from somewhere, anywhere! But I couldn’t just waste all this chocolate cake. Luckily inspiration struck and I rushed to the store to obtain some extra ingredients, to create a dessert which I was thinking of as a chocolate trifle, but I think really deserves the name ‘chocolate heaven’! I might even make this again on purpose next time 🙂

'Chocolate Heaven' - a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

‘Chocolate Heaven’ – a bowl of chocolatey, creamy yumminess.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

Hastily gathered ingredients.

First I placed further crumbled pieces of the cake into the bottom of a clear bowl. Then I layered thick chocolate custard over the cake. This was followed by another layer of crumbled cake, and a second layer of chocolate custard. This filled the bowl I was using about three quarters of the way up. If I’d been using a deeper bowl, I would have made more layers. Over the last layer of custard I spread a thick layer of freshly whipped cream, smoothing it out with a spoon. To finish, I carefully grated some Toblerone chocolate (which I happened to have in the fridge) over the top of the cream. I refrigerated the dessert until we were ready to serve it.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Crumbled cake in the bottom of the bowl.

Covered in chocolate custard.

Covered in chocolate custard.

As to the birthday cake, while I was out collecting the chocolate custard and thickened cream, I also grabbed some slabs of plain sponge cake. We placed these side by side and iced them in green butter cream, with silver cachous sprinkled all over the top. It was a very simple, practical and plain cake, but it held the candles for L to blow out, and the kids didn’t mind.

However, the real taste sensation was the ‘chocolate heaven’ dessert! It was soooo good!

So, if you’re like me and have the occasional cake disaster, don’t dismay, throw some custard, cream and chocolate at it and all will be fixed! Please share some of your cake or food disasters and fixes. It always makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one that sometimes has less than stellar moments in the kitchen 😉

(PS. Never, ever, lean over the open grill with a tea-towel slung over your shoulder, it just might catch alight!)

Star Biscuits

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A starry biscuit.

A starry biscuit.

I recently bought a set of star cookie cutters, containing stars in five different sizes. I was very eager to try them out.

 

 

 

Cutting the cookie dough.

Cutting the cookie dough.

I used a basic cookie recipe from The Organised Housewife, it is the best cookie recipe ever! I rolled it out and then used one of the larger star cookie cutters to cut out the biscuits. I found it a little difficult to move the cookie dough in its star shape onto the baking tray without damaging it. To solve this, I carefully used an egg flip to lift each shape and slide it onto the baking tray. I cooked them until the were golden.

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Coles ready-to-roll icing.

Making the biscuits plain allowed me to decorate the top of them without going overboard with the flavours. From Coles I had purchased some pre-coloured ready-to-roll icing (fondant), which I used to make smaller stars to decorate the top of the biscuits. I used green, yellow and red, and made stars in three sizes using the smallest of the cookie cutters. To attach the fondant stars, I used a basic white icing mix (made with icing sugar mixture and milk). I iced each biscuit, and then carefully added some of the fondant stars to each one before the white icing could set.

It was a little fiddly working with the icing shapes as I hadn’t done much like that before, but I really liked the finished biscuits. They looked just how I had envisioned them.

Some of the finished biscuits.

Some of the finished biscuits.