Friday, March 28, 2014

One Direction Cookies

I've said it before, I'll say it again: the human capacity for creativity and inventiveness never ceases to amaze me. And I'm so very grateful to live in a time where ideas can be exchanged instantly, and inspiration is just a click away. Like it was in the case of these cookies.

One Direction Cookie Set
This set was requested by a friend for her niece, who is a huge fan of the band. My immediate response when she asked me was pure bafflement: how on earth do you convert real people into cookies? She assured me that she'd checked online and it had been done. I then looked up 'One Direction cookies' and one of the first image hits was this incredibly cute set by Sweet Sugarbelle.

Now I stumbled across Sugarbelle's blog a couple of years ago when I first began decorating, and since then I've been in awe of her work. She possesses a unique knack of creating dramatic designs out of the simplest cutters, and sometimes combination of cutters. See, there's that relentless creativity at work. So she designed this brilliant template of the band members and very generously shared it for free on her blog, along with a tutorial.

One Direction Band Cookies

Sugarbelle uses something called a Kopykake projector, which is designed for use on cakes and other sweets. It projects the design to be piped directly onto the sweet, which makes it very easy to pipe complex patterns. Again, there's that inventiveness: a projector to simplify decorating. Who thinks of all these things?! Sadly, I don't own such a projector so I did it the old-fashioned way: cut out the easier part of the template (which was the face and ears), traced around them with an edible ink marker, and freehanded all those fussy hairstyles in. 

One Direction Cookies with Template

I did not want to replicate Sugarbelle's platter in its entirety, so I added some different designs with the music notes and stars. I took a quick shot of the stars as I worked on them. Cookie decorating doesn't have to be difficult; something as simple as piping dots along the border can also make a big difference.

1D Stars Hearts Music Notes

This set was a first for me in a couple of ways. It's the first set of my cookies to travel; they went from Sydney to Bangalore and survived intact, thank you God! The other 'first' is making cookies based on real people. And of all the people in the world to cookiefy, I'd have never gone in this direction (yes, I absolutely had to say that :D), except for being asked. So a big thank you to my friend for trusting me with this, and a big thank you to Sugarbelle for sharing that super-creative template! I've got to say, despite my personal feelings (or lack thereof!) for the band, I love these little guys :D

One Direction Cookies

Monday, March 10, 2014

Milestones and a Macaron-Covered Cake

I think '30' started getting hyped up a few years ago. Or is it that I only started paying attention to the hype the closer I got to 30? Anyway, the closer I got, the more I started thinking about it and I guess I was mostly neutral; I never flipped out, but neither did I go, yaaay I'm going to be 30. Till some tragedies occurred close to home and shocked me into thinking straight: every day you're here, is a day to be glad for.

Chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream filling, fudge frosting and macaron shells

So I thought turning 30 deserved a special effort, when usually I just buy a couple of slices from my favourite bakery. And I hoped that if it turned out alright, I might be able to share recipes and ideas here. The cake itself came out great, though my macarons, while tasty enough, have a long way to go before they're technically proper.

The cake is the same Devil's Food Cake I made for my daughter's birthday last year, and the recipe is at the end of this post. This time, I used a third of the measurements to make three 6" layers each, that were sandwiched with buttercream (recipe over here). I used half this buttercream recipe and flavoured it with peppermint extract instead of vanilla. I divided the buttercream into two batches, dyed to match the two macaron colours. The frosting is a dark chocolate fudge, that I tried for the first time, and came out superbly. I had wanted to put a big flower on top, but honestly was a bit intimidated by them, till I found this easy technique.

I wanted to use macarons somehow, as they are my daughter's favourite dessert at the moment. However, they are notoriously tricky to get just right, and even on my fourth attempt I am far from getting the perfect texture. Should you want to give them a shot, here's a good video to get you started. I placed some unfilled macaron shells on the cake, and later kept some filled macarons around it. For the filling, I used the same peppermint buttercream as in the cake.

Chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream filling, fudge frosting and peppermint macarons

Now on a personal note, I had wondered if I should share some .... thoughts, on turning 30, but then I er, thought about it, and didn't feel like I had many :), except that sense of inexpressible gratitude. Even after reading this touching post by my friend Neelu, I didn't feel like I had much to say, as I thought she said it all, and said it brilliantly.

But then my birthday arrived. Start to finish it was beautiful, by God's grace. I received some wonderful, unexpected surprises. Wishes flowed in from friends and most of my family .... except for one person. My daughter :). She refused to wish me all day, right up to when we were about to cut the cake later that night, at which point her dad said enough was enough: wish mum now! She did, with a sheepish grin, and sang happy birthday as well.

The reason for all the drama? She's anti-birthdays at the moment. All you folks out there freaking about turning 30, 40, whatever, my little girl's got you beat. She's worried about turning five! Why? Because she doesn't want to leave preschool and the teachers she loves, doesn't want to go to 'big school' and doesn't want to grow up :) So for her right now, birthdays (mum's and her own included) are silly.

Then, the next day I received this incredible gift from my family. All my dad had told me before, was to expect a couple of DVDs in the mail. I sat to watch the first without a clue as to the contents. Words can't express the sheer joy I felt when I saw what it was: the recordings of mine and my sister's first birthdays!

Video recording had just taken off in India when I was a baby, and my first birthday was the first recorded event in my family. We had these on the old VHS tapes (remember those?), and over time they started gathering mildew and couldn't be viewed properly. So with a great deal of sadness, we all wrote them off as lost causes. I don't think any of us watched them in at least a decade. But on a recent trip back to our house in India, my dad found the tapes and got the salvageable portions converted to DVD format.

It's a priceless gift for all of us, something we thought we'd never see again, carefully restored. Even more priceless, because they include people we loved, like my grandfathers, who are not with us anymore. Precious memories in a tangible form that I can now share with my child, and show her at least some part of her history, and where she comes from. And yes, also help her to understand that she is not the only one who's had to deal with growing up; I too was a child like she is now, and I too had to grow up and go to big school and so on :)

All of these things made me realise that I actually do have a few thoughts that I'd like to share, so here goes:

  • Embrace your age wholeheartedly, and be thankful for it. If you ever start feeling otherwise, spare a thought for all those who weren't lucky to make it to whatever age you are now.
  • No matter where you reach, never forget where you've come from and the people who've been a part of your journey; more importantly, those that have helped you on that journey.
  • Change is inevitable, and seldom easy. But you do your best to deal and go on trusting He knows your way forward.
  • This is an echo of what Neelu said in her post, that I feel more strongly about now, having seen those DVDs again: document your life story! I am so grateful to my parents for choosing to record our birthdays; and so grateful to God for every moment from those first milestones to this one.
Chocolate cake and a glass of red!