Monday, October 16, 2017

Super duper easy Moana Te Fiti cake...

The Disney movie 'Moana', is taking up where it's predecessors Frozen, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and The Beast, have left off. If you haven't seen or heard of it, you've probably, like me, been living under a rock.
So when my almost 4 year old granddaughter started asking for a Moana cake for her upcoming birthday, I actually had to go away and watch the movie to have any clue of what she was on about!
Here is the story of how I turned 3 $4 mud cakes, some Betty Crocker frosting, dessicated coconut, green food colouring, and purchased sugar flowers into the pretty cake you see above. Apparently a HUGE hit with the 4 year old set :)
You need:
3 purchased cakes, any flavour. Or of course you can bake your own.
2 tubs prepared buttercream frosting or again, about 3-4 cups of your own recipe.
Green food colouring
About 200-300gms of Dessicated Coconut
A small quantity of Green fondant
Sugar flowers, small light and dark pink and yellow, and medium frangipani and hydrangea blossoms or any other you like
Cake board
Bamboo skewers
Start by tinting the coconut green. This is not difficult but it is a bit tedious. I was adding about a teaspoon of green food colouring at a time, and just smooshing it around to break it up and mixing it through. It took about 5 minutes to add enough, and distribute it evenly, to achieve the depth of green I was after.
Take the first cake, and turn it upside down onto the cake board. Because mine were already iced with Glace` icing, there was no need to fix them in place with fondant or buttercream. The icing just grabbed onto the cakeboard.
You can see the icing reflected in the cake board here!
Empty a tub and a half of the frosting (about 2-3 cups) into a medium mixing bowl. Add 2-4 teaspoons of green food colouring.
This sounds a lot, but I was surprised at how much I needed to get the depth of green I was after.

Cover the entire cake with the green buttercream. No need to get fussy with smoothing because this will soon be completely covered in coconut and you won't see it.
...You don't even need a crumb coat with this cake, as the coconut will hide all ills...
Now start applying the green coconut. Sprinkle it liberally over the top...
...and spoon it into your cupped hand...
Pressing it gently on to the sides with your palm. You will lose a lot to the bench at this stage, so be prepared for a clean up later!
Keep going until the cake is covered, then gently angle the cake and the board over the bowl of green coconut and use your fingers or a pastry brush, to brush the excess coconut from the board and the base of the cake, back into the bowl.
Take your other two cakes...
...and trim about 5-7 cms (2-3 inches) from the outer edge to make 2 slightly smaller cakes. I was fortunate to have a cake tin just the right size to use as a template...
Just trim roughly. Again, it will all be covered with buttercream and coconut, so you won't see any irregularities.

 Sit the next cake, upside down again, on the first layer, top with buttercream, and sit the third cake, upside down on that one.
Fix the cakes in place with the three bamboo skewers, and trim the to the surface of the cake with a pair of scissors. Remember to remind anyone cutting the cake, that the skewers are there.
Completely cover the two top layers with your green buttercream.
Apply the green coconut to the two top layers, the same way you did with the first layer.
Take a piece of green fondant about the size of two thumbs, and roll it into a rough snake shape.
Press the shape of the Heart of Te Fiti into the front of the twin layers of your cake. Remember, it's not actually a swirl. Starting from the bottom, it's sort of a rough wave shape, with a curve over the top of it. If that seems too hard (and really it's easier than a swirl), do whatever works for you. There seems no limit on the variations of this idea, really. If it looks right to you, then it will look right to your child.

Us a piece of silicone baking paper and a fondant smoother to flatten the swirl out a bit if you wish.
Smooth the buttercream with the baking paper and smoother as well if you like, but it's not necessary.
Start applying your light and dark pink flowers, using mostly dark as far as you can to replicate Te Fiti in the movie.
Again, the flowers are going to hide any imperfections, like this dent you see in the right side of this photo. That was just from applying the swirl, and without scooping the icing off, I couldn't make it smooth for the life of me. It didn't matter at all. Te Fiti actually morphs into a hilly island, so islands have hills and valleys, right?
I just kept applying flowers until the dent was basically unnoticeable.
These little hydrangea blooms were wired (and were only 95c each!), making it easy to fix them wherever I wanted them.
Frangipani flowers were added to the top, and I was done.
This ingredients for this cake were as follows. Prices are approximate:
3 x premade mud cakes $4 each = $12
2 tubs frosting $5 each = $10
Supermarket small sugar flowers $3 each pack with lots in them = $12
Green food colouring $2
Green prepared fondant $3
Coconut $2
Fancy sugar flowers from a cake decorating store $17
Cake board $2
Total outlay : $60
BUT, I have plenty of ingredients left for another identical cake (my daughter wants one for her 18th in January!), including re-using the larger sugar flowers, so the next Te Fiti cake I make will only require an outlay for the cakes, frosting and a cake board, which will total $24.
So I could realistically make two Te Fiti cakes for $84, or just $42 each.
Try getting a professional cake decorator to make this cake for you for that price!
Other ways of reducing the costs might be:
Bake the cakes yourself
Make the buttercream yourself
Make your own cake board or just use a serving platter or dinner plate
Make marshmallow frangipani flowers for the top
Make pineapple flowers for the top and the base
If you used all of these ideas, you could reduce the costs of making this cake to around $20-$25, and THAT is overestimating.
I could have done any or all of these BUT, I had limited time as I'd already had three fails for another cake idea I'd had, AND my new range hood was being installed that day, and I could not get to my oven!
Things we do for our grandchildren, honestly ;-)
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful.
Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A New You....Progress through the year


 My year of finding a New Me has been an interesting one.
I started by investing in the French Chic Academy, and all I can say is, it's been a total game changer for me.
Seen above left, is a skirt I liked very much, worn at the start of the year, with a black t-shirt and patent ballet flats. I actually thought this looked okay, and it wasn't too awful. But using the very lovely Carolina Herrera (top right) as my inspiration, and the advice of Marie-Anne Lecouer of The French Chic Academy, I have found a more flattering length for this very same skirt, including peeptoe heels, a button down shirt, a hat and a strand of pearls to lend height and length.
Gone are my shapeless shifts, three-quarter ripped jeans, and flat shoes...
...which I had previously felt entirely comfortable in. What I didn't see was that these items were totally unsuitable for my height and shape, and that I really wasn't doing myself any favours by continuing to wear them.
I stopped shopping at the nearby upmarket thrift store. I was previously a weekly, if not twice weekly visitor, justifying my spend-ups by comforting myself with the idea that if I only wore the items once, it didn't matter. Meanwhile by wardrobe was bulging with clothing, and I still had 'nothing to wear'. The savings of $50+ per week, were channelled into paying for my French Chic Academy course, and investing in some genuine Baroque pearls, an item I'd longed for since my honeymoon twenty years ago.
A sleek hat was procured for those days when I might require a little shade on my nose, which here, is most days. This was far more flattering than the tennis style visor I'd previously worn, and has served me well, from beach to lunch events for many months.
Learning from Marie-Anne Lecouer and The French Chic Academy, I've become a student of 'what suits me'. Not what is fashionable, or what looks good on someone I pass in the street or see in a glossy brochure. Me. Just me.
I've learned to use prints and optical illusion to magic myself taller and slimmer...

 I've reassessed my ideas on what is 'dressy casual'. Previously the aforementioned shapeless shift had been a key item in my wardrobe. Again, not entirely terrible, but not fabulous either.
Now it's more likely to be skirts and pearls and heels. I've learned that I really can wear a small heel most days, and it was more a case of getting out of the habit of wearing them, that made them uncomfortable.
Little button down shirts have found their way into my wardrobe too, and I am enjoying showing off my silhouette, in preference to hiding it under swathes of fabric.
My passion for black is slowly being tempered with quite a few items in Navy blue, and I am finding that yet again, Marie-annes advice is sound. It's softer and more flattering for certain.

Those pearls have been one of the best purchases of my year. I try to wear them daily if I can, and feel wonderful no matter what I pair them with.
I even learned that switching accessories with this single outfit, can make a difference
The look here with nude heels and pearls,
is different to the same skirt with a long scarf and cardigan,
and that even the cardigan over the shoulder, with pearls, is better sometimes exchanged for the cardigan worn properly with a longer glass bead necklace to add length to the torso. A subtle difference in the accessorising, but a dramatic one in the wearing!

My latest purchase, having enjoyed success with my skirt and shirt combo, is this dress. Not something I would have looked at twice a year ago, but which now I am confident, I can carry off successfully.

 And likewise this one here as well.
These both need a little tweaking and adjusting in length and neckline, but again, I've learned this year, that if the silhouette is right, I can adjust things like length, and width easily with my trusty sewing machine.
For now, I am thrilled with the progress I've made. I continue to learn and grow, and am forever thankful for Marie-Anne Lecouers support.
I truly am, A New Me.

How have you changed or grown this year?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Insourcing....Food Porn and Rewards...

For me, insourcing has always meant a kind of freedom. Freedom to have my life the way I like it. Freedom to choose when we have a holiday, where we go, how we eat, how we dress, how we socialise.
 Some see food preparation, cleaning, decluttering, ironing, gardening and cooking as some sort of terrible punishment to be endured. Not me. I love that I have the opportunity to be a Homebody. To nurture my family, my home, and my garden and to know that I am making a difference. I love the rhythm of my week, and relish the sunny days and the rainy ones, the busy times and the quiet breaks, and the financial gains I am able to contribute to the family budget through our simple life.
 We've just been through a bit of a busy time. In addition to home renovations and insurance claims on our weekender, we've had Daughters final year of school, her recent Appendectomy, grandchildren's birthdays and other celebrations, and Daughters University Auditions. It would have been easy to throw caution to the wind and indulge in all sorts of expensive takeaways, treats and indulgences, even if only to cheer ourselves up sometimes! Midnight trips to the Emergency Room are not fun :/
Thankfully though, due to wise shopping practices, a bountiful garden, and a bit of insourcing, our pains were fatigue and a sense of relief, rather than overwhelming financial despair.
Five minutes spent dicing some pumpkin, halving a couple of carrots and throwing in walnuts and baby capsicum, meant a Mediterranean style feast on the fly one night, and delicious it was too. See pic above.
Another night, when we were all a bit weary and the weather had blown hot and cold for two days, leaving us wondering whether it would ever be Spring, led to delicious platters, called Salagumundi in some cultures, but just called a nibbles plate in our household. A different one for each of us, just an assemblage of things we enjoy eating. For me, Smoked Salmon, lots of veges and nuts, hard boiled eggs and roasted baby capsicum, and I was happy. 
Daughter too, has learned the lesson of Feed Thyself, and Who Needs Cafes, and conjured up this delectable looking breakfast one morning. That's peanut butter and granola on her toast. I take no responsibility, and make no judgement. I'm just happy to see her embrace the idea of INsourcing!

It's Beetroot season here. I do not liked tinned beets, but adore the fresh ones, simply roasted. Cubes of beet, and a bit of this and that, served me well for lunch for several days. Beets are so easy to grow too, even in pots.

It's Cauliflower season too here, and Roasted Cauliflower, tossed with lemon juice and Moroccan spices was a treat above and beyond simple, tacky potato chips. Yummy, crunchy, and tangy.

Husband brought home a rib roast on the bone one night. He saw it in the butchers window and thought it looked good. Therein is the reason I do not allow him to do the grocery shopping. Goodness knows what he'd come home with! I'd never cooked a Rib Eye on the bone before, but slow roasting it seemed a good idea. A bit of port wine, some stock, bay leaves, and finely diced garlic and onion, and we were off and running. 4 hours in the pot on 100C, and out it came, mouth-wateringly tender and completely restaurant worthy!

Oven baked veges, a treat style lunch for me. I do love my veg.

And one day when shock-horror, we ran out of strawberries for The Man of the House for his breakfast, our mulberry tree yielded these little morsels as a very lovely substitute. I look forward to a year or two from now when these trees will supply us with all the 'berries' we need for breakfasts, jams, desserts and snacks!
So life is not all about deprivation and budget. I couldn't possibly hope to replicate this mini éclair, filled with vanilla cream, and topped with edible gold and freeze dried raspberry 'dust'. Not gluten free, but in small doses, okay for a treat. Very pretty too!
The $6.50 price tag left me reeling a little though, so the next day it was back to home baking, and these little peaches and cream cakes, the result.

Manicures were done, always saving significantly...what do people see in those stinky nail salons??
And the reward for all the chopping and dicing, and growing, and baking, and roasting?
Pretty flowers (although I'm hoping to grow these too soon!)....

...roses, which I don't think will ever grow successfully where I live... in a lush new café near where we live...

...and a weekend away, somewhere peaceful, tranquil and restorative....

I estimate my Insourcing savings last month to be well into the hundreds. A simple roasted vegetable salad hovers around the $8 mark for a single serve, a rib roast in a restaurant is about $40 a serve, café breakfasts top around $30 a head with juices and coffees, manicures $35, a deli tub of roasted pumpkin and capsicum $10-$12, and so on. It's not hard to see that all of those little savings add up.
I'm calling it a $900 month EASILY. Realistically, if we had just given up and bought meals and treats all month cause things were a bit tough with hospital visits and whatnot, we'd be out of pocket at least that much. Throw in parking, petrol, and doctors visits and it could have been a disaster for the budget.
Thank goodness for our insourcing ways.
How was your September?