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1st October 2016 // 1 Comments

5 Essential Tips For Perfect Macarons

Juniper Cakery's tips for perfect macarons

Tips for perfect macarons vary between vague aloof answers (some blogs don’t want to share secrets, but they want the traffic) to heavy weekend ready material (which will make you stressed and frustrated). Sometimes all you need to do is simplify the situation. Find out what you’re doing or using and be logical about how it could be hindering your macarons. Think about it… rough looking macarons just need the dry mix refining a little, wonky shapes need to be controlled more when piping, rock hard macarons need less bake time. Sometimes, in all the excitement, a step or ingredient may be getting looked over on the recipe meaning flat and unappetising treats. Check out our quick and simple top 5 essential tips for perfect macarons below for a little nudge in the right direction!

5 Essential Tips For Perfect Macarons

Tips for perfect macarons by Juniper Cakery

01: Read the recipe 

This tip might sound crazy and obvious, but it’s the one most people get insanely wrong. We’ve had people think that whipping your egg whites means adding in whipped cream. Seriously. When you’ve found a recipe that you want to try print it out, sit down, READ it, make notes even, make sure you understand it and then plan when you can give it a try. The last thing you want is for a recipe to fail because you’ve gotten really excited and just rushed into making it. It’s pretty easy to do, but it’s also easy to avoid too.

Once you mess up a recipe it starts to feel like a chore so slow it down. If we find a recipe that’s got our taste buds a-tingling we print it out, discuss it between us, maybe tweak it a little (but we’ve worked as recipe developers so we’re used to this bit), sometimes put a twist on the flavour and schedule in some free time to give it a try.

Some good books on macarons…

Macaron by Pierre Hermé

Macarons – The Recipes by Ladurée

Blackberry and pistachio macaron by Juniper Cakery

02: Blitz and sieve 

The amount of macarons we’ve spotted that have looked like baked versions of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is ridiculous. One of our tips for perfect macarons is to invest in a good food processor and blitz your ground almonds down to a fine powder. Also, sieve your icing / powdered / confectioner’s sugar. Even though icing sugar contains a little anti-caking agent to stop it from clumping it’s still going to have lumps and bumps in it. You’ll know you’ve got your dry ingredients to a lovely fine feel when you’ve piped out your macarons and they ‘settle’ and show as fabulous glossy discs with minimal bumps!

One handy tip (especially for anyone who hates sifting) is to layer your dry ingredients (half of the icing sugar then ground almonds and then the rest of the icing sugar) in your food processor before blitzing. This grinds down your icing sugar even further taking out the sieve step as well as keeping those ground almonds blitzed yet cool (once they heat too much they produce oil which isn’t good for macarons).

KitchenAid food processor / chopper in white

Stainless steel sieve by KitchenCraft

Tip tips for perfect macarons

03: Use scales

Another one of our top tips for perfect macarons. Accuracy with macarons is beyond essential so cups just are not going to cut it. If you don’t have any scales then we’d strongly recommend buying some. Cups are never going to be accurate and cup amounts can vary depending on what you’re measuring… e.g. solids and liquids. When it comes to weighing, however, grams (for powders and solids) is the same as millilitres (liquids). So 100g of flour weighs the exact same as 100ml of water. Easy.

Your scales will also come in damn handy for weighing out equal balls for cake pops and even equal amounts of buttercream to layer between cakes. Keep it simple if you’re not used to scales, however, buying a set of beautiful Victorian style scales is not going to serve you well in the long run.

White digital scales by Morphy Richards

Easy tips for perfect macarons

04: Use a template

All macarons should be fairly uniform. It’s a fairly runny mixture so this is hard to do at times, but by using a template underneath your baking sheet OR by getting hold of a baking mat specifically for macarons you get more consistent results. It also takes away quite a bit of stress that comes with piping them AND gives you a good idea of how many shells you’re going to get out of a sheet.

Silpat baking mat with macaron template

Blue ombre macarons by Juniper Cakery

05: Test, test, test

Macarons are tricky. A few things can hinder their development both in the oven and out. Never think your macarons will turn out perfect every time (until maybe you’ve been testing them frustratingly for 2 years) or you’re destined to tempt fate. If your first or 50th batch comes out of the oven all wrong don’t feel bad. You probably need to try making batches and batches with slight variations of the recipe to find what works for you. Sorry, but it’s pretty true. For almost 2 years we baked macarons at least once or twice a week until we were happy. We’d try some with cream of tartar and some without. Some with a certain brand of food colorant. Some would be made with a stiff meringue whipped for 5 minutes and some whipped a little less. Even baking times and placements in the oven changed. We nerdy catalogued a few from each batch and wrote down pros, cons and what we did/used. Sometimes it just takes time and practice.

Sometimes it’s just a little problem solving work. One of the most essential tips for perfect macarons is to think logically… if your macaron shells are hard and crunchy they are either over baked because they’ve been in the oven too long or they’re on too high a temperature. If they’re browning then check if you left the oven light on or if there are heating bars inside (they glow red when hot) that could be caramelising the tops. Try switching the light off, lowering your tray or block the red bars with a baking try slid underneath but above the macarons and upping the bake time a little.

Edible pen

Gold dot notepad

17th September 2016 // 0 Comments

Cake Delivery Survival Kit!

When it comes to working as a cake designer and artist you’re going to find that all sorts of things will help you manage the long hours on your feet, ridiculously painful claw hands from taping petals together, or the heart-stopping deliveries you’ll find yourself subject to. Being super prepared will always help reduce stress. Right now we are going to deal with the stress-fest that is (dum dum DUMMMM)… deliveries. Deliveries are insanely daunting. Afterwards, you may want to reach for the prosecco, take your stress out on fondant offcuts or even shoot zombies on the Wii (we have gold guns for this activity). However you want to unwind we’re pretty sure that having a go-to survival kit ready to help make deliveries relatively stress-free is going to be handy. Over the years we’ve adjusted and refined how we work and what we use so that there are always the following staples in our kit for deliveries and set-ups.

Cake delivery survival kit

Cake delivery survival kit!

01: Toolbox

We swap between our toolbox and a very reliable Longchamp Le Pliage tote bag and some airtight containers. The simple reasoning behind this is if we have an end of week lunch meeting booked (it’s better to have a handbag ready then rock in with a tool box) or if we’re going from one delivery to another. There’s also the actual design of the cake. Funnily enough naked cakes require bags of chilled flowers and a huge toolbox filled with floral picks, royal icing, acetate sheets etc. Huge fondant cakes with sugar flowers generally just need a small Tupperware box with smoothers, gloves, spirit level etc.

Craft Tool Box by Lunar Box

02: Cake smoother

Always pack two cake smoothers in your tool box. One is OK, but it’s a good idea to keep two to hand so that one can steady the cake at the side or top as you work with the other smoother. When it comes to smoothers we have a ridiculous amount. Two in our studio, two in the kitchen and two in our tool box. They are literally an item you can’t have too much of.

Cake smoother by Guardini

03: Scissors

We LOVE the huge gold scissors that we use as they can pretty much cut through anything, plus they’re obviously very stylish too. You’ll need them to snip down fresh florals or herbs for naked cakes, cut ribbon trimmings and even for opening packaging too. Make sure you keep them clean and if you think you may need them for multiple uses in a delivery then invest in some anti-bacterial wipes that are perfect for food prep surfaces like these Dettol wipes.

Gold scissors

04: Edible glue pot with brush

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Cake design involves a lot of things that are near impossible or just plain finicky so there will be times you’ll need to touch up a decorative element if it’s slipped, needs fixing or if something like edible sugar pearls or jewels need replacing. Having an edible glue pot with a built in brush is too handy for words. You can also make your own! If you whip up homemade edible glue all you need to do is invest in some never-been-used nail polish bottles to store your glue in. Add a label with the date you made the glue and it’s use by and you’re ready!

Edible glue with brush by Culpitt

Empty unused nail polish bottles

05: Water bottle

Delivering and setting up a huge and heavy wedding cake sure is thirsty work especially during the sweltering Summer months of wedding season. We’ve been caught in the middle of deliveries absolutely parched, but these days we always make sure to have a filled water bottle that’s been chilling in the fridge all night. It feels like an absolute life saver when it’s the middle of July and you’re dressing a 4 tier naked cake in the middle of marquee in the countryside trust us!

Gold water bottle

06: Long nose pliers

There’s always that annoying place you can’t tweak or reach. You know what helps… long nose pliers! When it comes to placing fresh and sugar flowers into a cake you’re definitely going to need a pair of these. They grip really well and they’re long and slender so in 90% of cases you’ll easily be able to reach in and re-arrange pieces. They also come in pretty handy for replacing sugar gems, pearls or mouldings that need to be replaced and sit nestled underneath floral work.

Long nose pliers by SYZE

07: Paint brushes

A few spare paint brushes come in useful for cake deliveries. There’s always something you may have missed (pesky slip of gold paint on the cake or a little blossom dust that found itself on a sugar leaf etc). We like to use brand new nail art brushes because they were super slender and fine. You can use one of these babies to gently reach into tricky spots in order to tidy up any lose petal dust, edible paint or the odd bit of fondant that had lightly chipped off a sugar blossom.

Fine nail art paint brush set

08: Anti-bacterial hand gel

Remember that on a delivery you’re still handling cake. Call us high maintenance, but we not only wear brand new food safe gloves if we’re tweaking designs on location we also make sure we rub our hands down with some good anti-bacterial hand gel too. There are lots of good products out there, but you can get some in fun ‘flavours’ like vanilla sugar or pumpkin pie!

Vanilla sugar scented anti-bacterial get by Bath and Body Works

09: Angled palette knife

If you’re stacking the cake at the venue you’ll need either an angled palette knife or a small sharp knife to free the cake from it’s board in order to lift and build each tier. Palette knives also come in pretty handy for a variety of reasons… smoothing royal icing or piping gel onto the tiers to adhere the next in place, smoothing over a patch of buttercream on a semi-naked cake or even nudging some buttercream florals a millimetre to the left or right (for those finicky cake designers).

Angled palette knife by Ateco

10: Hand cream

Let’s face it if you’re a cake designer then the likelihood is that your hands are going to suck. Constantly working with sugar (fondant, buttercream etc) dries out your skin. Also, constantly working with your hands to carve, whisk, sculpt and ice each design is going to take its toll. Between deliveries, before bed or on days off treat your hands! One of our favourite brands of hand cream are Crabtree & Evelyn. They’re such gorgeous natural scents and they are super moisturising. For more intense treatment you should really give their 60 Second Repair Kit a try!

Rosewater hand cream by Crabtree & Evelyn

Pear & Magnolia hand cream by Crabtree & Evelyn

La Source 60 Second Hand Repair by Crabtree & Evelyn

2nd July 2016 // 0 Comments

5 Tips for Working with Fondant / Sugar Paste!

Tips for Working with Fondant or Sugar Paste

It’s OK to be scared of fondant. A lot of people are. It’s a strange and magical material that somehow has to roll out flat and then cover a 3d edible object! Whilst it can be a source of fear it doesn’t have to be…honest. We work with fondant every day and we’ve gathered a few tips and tricks over the years that help make icing our cakes smoother (pun intended by the way). Our top 5 tips for working with fondant are quick, easy to remember and small, but they’ll help make all the difference when covering cakes!

5 tips for working with fondant or sugar paste!

Floral crown cake by Juniper Cakery

01: Don’t buy cheap!

One of our first and top tips for working with fondant is… never ever scoff at pricey buckets of fondant. There’s a reason they’re in a different price bracket than the rest. Better taste. Better coverage. Better elasticity. Better colour. Better consistency. A few extra coins can mean a whole lot less stress! You should test out the top brands to find out what works best for you and why. Personally, we’d highly recommend Satin Ice (we think it tastes and smells divine) and Massa Ticino Tropic. Both brands are a little more expensive than your run-of-the-mill fondant / sugar paste brands, but we won’t cover a cake or create edible decorations without them. Satin Ice is perfect for flawlessly smooth and quick setting sugar flowers, figures and cupcakes. Massa Ticino Tropic is great for covering deep tiers in high humidity!

02: Protect!

Fondant / sugar paste dries out quick and will be super prone to unsightly cracks and loses any elasticity once it does. Make sure that you’re storing it right. If you purchased it in buckets then check there are no cracks, holes and that the lids are fastened properly. If the fondant inside was in a bag make sure this is tied up properly too. Otherwise cling film your fondant… a lot and store in airtight containers!

If you’re working with it to make figures or sugar flowers make sure that you don’t leave it out in the open air. We seal ours up in zip lock bags or in an airtight container.

03: Work fast!

When it comes to covering cakes with fondant / sugar paste you need to work fast to limit over stretching, cracks, dried out patches and stiffness. Practice makes perfect with this tip so as you get more used to working with the material you’ll find your pace picks up. In the meantime, try not to dawdle or get distracted.

Vintage lace wedding cake by Juniper Cakery

04: Say no to pre-coloured!

Make your work unique and extra customised by colouring your fondant from scratch. It’ll hurt, but it’s worth it. The only pre-coloured fondant you should be OK with purchasing is white (duh), cream, red and black (the last two because they are ridiculously hard to colour!). Learn your colour mixes, theory and wheel too – it’ll be invaluable!

We recommend…

Peony Ruffle Wedding Cake by Juniper Cakery

05: More is more!

Pleats around the base of otherwise perfectly iced cakes are a nightmare. You can easily get rid of these just by using and rolling out more fondant than you need. Pleats generally happen when you don’t have enough fondant to stretch, pull out or work with once you’ve reached the base of the cake.  Use extra and make sure that you work and cover the cake all the way to the bottom before cutting off any excess!

12th March 2016 //

Our Top 10 Tools and Tips for Easy Easter Cakes & Cupcakes!

Top Tools and Tips for Easter Cakes and Cupcakes

Easter is coming and of course it pretty much marks the arrival of Spring! All those fresh blooms, adorable baby animals and pastel sweets will be finding their way around the shops and café windows nearby. As Easter tends to be a family centred holiday it’s pretty easy to run out of time to whip up flurries of tastebud tingling desserts and snacks. There’s no need to stress out though as baking and decorating pretty Easter inspired sweets can be made easy with a few essential tools, tips and quick decorative ideas.

01: Novelty cupcake cases!

Using printed or colour themed cupcake cases is definitely one of the easiest and quickest ways to make home baked treats look instantly seasonal and fun! All you need to do is dollop your batter evenly between the cases and bake before swirling with pretty buttercream and topping with cute edible fondant animals or sprinkles. We recommend that you use 65gsm cases as they tend to be thicker and keep shape a lot better than most!

Pink Polka Dot Cupcake Cases

02: Cute cupcake toppers!

If you’re pressed for time or a complete novice at cake decorating than any form of ready-made topper is going to be a life saver. You can purchase icing sheet decorations, cake picks or even fun food safe cupcake rings that’ll make your home made cupcakes stand out. We love these adorable little bunny rabbit toppers. They’d look a treat nestled into green tinted frosting dotted with miniature easter eggs or sugar sprinkles.

Easter Cupcake and Cake Toppers 

03: Perfect mixing bowls!

Good sturdy mixing bowls (in gorgeous colours of course) are a staple in home baking. Buy cheap and you’ll get cheap should become a tool buying mantra. Mason Cash have a beautiful range of ceramic bowls in various sizes that are perfect for hand mixing scones, cookie dough and buttercream amongst a million other things. We also love the larger sizes for the arduous  macaronage part of macaron making (combining the dry and wet ingredients)! The choice of lovely soft pastel colours is obviously going to contribute to that Easter baking feeling too!

Pink Ceramic Hearts Mixing Bowl

04: Good food colouring!

Good food gel or paste colouring is the only way to go. Liquid is just going to end up being an absolute pain. We use Rainbow Dust’s range of Pro Gel colours for anything from fondant to batter. Our favourite colours by Rainbow Dust include…  Strawberry (which creates a more subtle and natural pink), Grey (amazing… no strange green, purple or blue tinted grey at all), Black (again… no blue, green or purple tints), PurpleClaret (a beautiful red/pink shade), EucalyptusCreamOlive GreenMint GreenPeach and Navy Blue.

Rainbow Dust ProGel Professional Food Colouring Set – Summer Colours

05: Fun cupcake kits!

To make quick cupcakes even easier and pain free cupcake kits are readily available everywhere and in incredibly cute designs too! We love this colourful little set by Wilton with it’s bright stripe cupcake cases and illustrated bunny and chick toppers.

Wilton Hop N Tweet Party Pack Combo [Kitchen]

06: Delicious extracts, essences and pastes!

Obviously flavour matters. Decorating beautiful cupcakes and cakes that taste lacklustre is going to be a huge let down at the dinner table so make sure to invest in good quality natural extracts, essences and pastes! We love adding some damn good Madagascan vanilla bean paste to a lot of our recipes. Adding to chocolate can really up the creamy taste and when paired with more tangy flavours like a lemon curd filling it adds another dimension of flavour as well as softens the tang!

Nielsen Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste, 118ml

07: Adorable cupcake and cake boxes!

If you’re thinking of packing up your treats for guests to take away from an Easter dinner party or if you’d just like to drop them off as season gifts then fun Spring themed boxes are going to be a must! Whether you’re opting for plain pastel cupcake boxes or super cute bunny patterned cookie bags you’re going to want to compliment your works of culinary art. Our top tip is to balance out the designs… if you’ve made a cupcakes with lots of intricate detailing try to stick to a plainer design box and if you’ve whipped up a simple buttercream cake you can afford to go crazy on an illustrated cake box!

Easter Funny Bunny Cupcake Boxes – Pack of 4

08: Seasonal ribbon!

Add some extra seasonal sweetness to those boxed (or bagged up) treats with a hand-tied bow! Easter themed ribbon featuring pastel eggs, baby chicks and cheeky bunnies is a great way to go, but you could always use plain pale coloured bows or even fun pastel rainbow ribbons adorning every packaged sweet!

‘Happy Easter’ 5M Cotton Ribbon

09: Sprinkles!

Sprinkles are super fun. Not only can you simply sprinkle them on top of freshly buttercreamed cakes and cupcakes you can also set up an amazing ‘cupcake bar’! Bake and frost plain cupcakes before setting them onto small round paint palettes (that are brand new) and fill the paint sections in with lots of bright sprinkles and candies. When it’s party time invite your guests to pick a cupcake palette and get sprinkling!

You can also easily make edible grass to pile on top of your cakes and cupcakes using sprinkles! One way involves using bright green sugar strand sprinkles (or jimmies as they’re called in the US). Add these on top of tasty chocolate buttercream smothered treats before nestling eggs and sweets on top! You can also create edible grass from desiccated coconut. To tint the coconut pieces green add them to a zip-lock or freezer bag along with edible green petal dust and shake until covered!

50g Assorted Coloured Sugar Strands

10: Pastel spatulas!

Perfect to use with those ceramic mixing bowls we mentioned at number 03 on the list. An array of colour themed spatulas can not only be handy (no pun intended) for colour coding your work, but they’re great for getting into any festive spirit. For Easter use soft pinks, teals and lilacs or for winter-y Christmas baking use deep greens and jolly reds!

Kitchen Craft Colourworks Silicone Mini Spoon Spatula, 20 cm – Pastel Green

5th March 2016 // 0 Comments

5 Tips for Perfect Buttercream!

5 Tips for Perfect Buttercream

Buttercream is one of those things that seems oh so simple until it comes to making it. It’s too easy to mess up and get the balance of ingredients terribly wrong. Too much butter can create a runny mess in the summer and taste a little too savoury. Too much sugar means stiff and gritty buttercream that looks unappealing. For silky smooth frosting follow our top 5 tips for perfect buttercream that’ll make your cakes the cream of the crop!

5 tips for perfect buttercream!

Pink vanilla cupcakes by Juniper Cakery

01: Softened butter only!

Make sure to use room temperature / softened butter to make your buttercream. It makes sense. Chilled butter just won’t cream or mix to a lovely silky texture. Room temperature translates at around 20 degrees C (that’s 68 degrees in F) for those of us in a chilly or insanely hot climate. If you live in the Yukon and your actual room temperature is 8 degrees C still aim for 20 degrees C butter!

02: Don’t over whip!

Mixing or whipping your buttercream way too much can mean lots of unsightly bubbles. Not only are these not so nice on an otherwise pretty bakery style cake, but they’re a nightmare when it comes to piping on top of cupcakes. Imagine bagging up all that buttercream and piping all your cupcakes only for those swirls to get messy and interrupted just because of massive air bubbles in the frosting. Tsk. Tsk. Two essential tools for whipping up perfect buttercream that we couldn’t live without are *drumroll*… a KitchenAid Stand-Up Mixer and our Mason Cash spatula!

Pink lemonade macarons by Juniper Cakery

03: Avoid artificial flavourings!

Not only are artificial flavourings quite icky and chemical in taste (seriously, they’re called artificial so they’re going to taste pretty fake compared to the real deal), but they just don’t help with buttercream texture. You want to use a flavourant that does help cultivate a silky look and feel to your frosting. Extracts are generally oil based which adds a little extra lubricant to your buttercream; perfect for smoothness! Things like vanilla bean paste can really help too as the paste is generally the texture of runny honey; also perfect for adding some smooth factor (plus those tiny flecks of pure vanilla just scream luxury). Essences, if they’re good quality, can also help keep your buttercream silky!

Some of our ultimate favourites include Uncle Roy’s Toffee Caramel, Uncle Roy’s Passion FruitUncle Roy’s Raspberry Extract, Nielsen Massey Lemon Oil Extract, and Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste!

04: Test different butters!

Don’t buy whatever is on offer just to save money. Not only will you not understand the butter you’re working with, but you’ll end up changing brands and being insanely inconsistent all the time. Test lots of butters or buttermilk based spreads (steer clear of low fat as they contain higher ratios of water which is a definite no for buttercream as water takes away stability when means floppy and curdled looking frosting) to find the perfect butter for you.

Tips for perfect buttercream by Juniper Cakery

05: Less sugar!

The last of our 5 tips for perfect buttercream is simple. You can tell bad and overly sweet frosting by just looking at it. It’s stiff as a rock and the edges aren’t smooth they’re ragged. Adding way to much sugar into your buttercream not only makes it sickly sweet and almost inedible it also makes it hard to pipe and just plain ugly. Cut back on your icing sugar. Taste test it too. We generally add in around 1 part icing sugar to 2 parts butter for our silky buttercream. To keep a track on all the ingredients you’re using in your buttercream we’d strongly recommend investing in a good pair of digital scales!

 

 


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