23 February 2014

The red velvet story.

Have you ever jumped on a bandwagon of a craze so late that were kicking yourself for having dismissed it so easily?

This was me with red velvet cupcakes.

Red velvet has been such an insanely popular flavour for quite a while now and I just never quite understood it. I'd tried a few from local cupcake places and they just tasted like a normal chocolate cupcake to me with a slight chemical flavour from the obvious huge amounts of red colouring involved.

One of my best girl friends worked at a cupcake store in Melbourne and she assured me, once I tried one of their red velvet cupcakes I'd be sold. I hoped she was right and was incredibly excited when she flew over with a box for me to try, only to end up bitterly disappointed once again. They were better but I still wasn't convinced.

I was probably being a bit 'too cool for school' thinking that it was just another craze that would hopefully go away, like cake pops (have they disappeared yet? No? Damn...). Alas, the craze continued for much longer than I expected and the flavour continued to baffle me.

Baffled by red velvet. That's the way I remained until I went to California last year. I was staying in Palo Alto and while I was there I visited both Sprinkles Cupcakes and Kara's Cupcakes. Oh my golly gosh...

Sprinkles Cupcakes, Palo Alto

It all suddenly made sense! The flavour! The texture! The cream cheese frosting! Goodness gracious me!

The cupcakes from these two stores were both phenomenal. Both had incredible red velvet cupcakes, although I think I was leaning slightly more towards Sprinkles - but Kara's won me over with their Vanilla so I think all in all they're even! Either way, both red velvet's were a million times better than any I'd tried back home so my search began to recreate the flavour.

It's been eight months since then and I have tried a dozen different recipes, and then alterations to said recipes. I'm still yet to settle on one that I'm 100% happy with.

One of many red velvet recipes that was trialled, and just didn't cut it.

This past weekend I thought I would try one more recipe, however I did not have enough red food colouring. Apparently liquid food colouring could not be substituted with gel food colouring. I rarely keep liquid food colouring in the house so that was problem #1. Result: way too red for my liking. Oops!

Problem #2 resulted from me accidentally picking up the wrong type of vinegar. Note to self: never ever do this again. EVER! (Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever!)

Perhaps my memory of the Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcakes has made them feel better than they actually were. Perhaps cupcakes simply taste better on holidays. Perhaps I should go back and try some more...

Yes... I think I'll do just that. And perhaps I'll learn the secrets of the perfect red velvet while I'm there!

Only 35 days to go, but who's counting? (Hint: it's me!)

19 February 2014

Post Valentines Day Blues

Most blogs did their Valentines Day posts prior to the day, or on the day itself, but here I am feeling the post Valentines blues.

I know this particular holiday gets a lot of negative feedback, especially here in Australia. It's highly commercialised and known as 'Hallmark Day', and most people argue that you should show your love every day. This is all true.

However, I can't find myself disliking a holiday that just reminds us of the importance of showing our love. Sometimes in our day to day lives we get so busy that we forget to remind our loved ones how much we care. We might say 'I love you' daily, but are we remembering to show it?

I love Valentines Day for this reason! I also love making gifts, rather than buying them. Take that, Hallmark! Not only is it more personal for your sweetheart (or friend, or yourself!), it also shows that you took the time to put some creativity in. Of course, I understand that not everyone has the time or the confidence to try to make something (but I assure you, you could if you tried!) so in that situation I recommend purchasing an inexpensive home made gift from a local business. Supporting the little people is basically a gift for two!

Obviously, some sort of baked goods are always going to be my present of choice but alas, my Valentine lives 8000 miles away! So, what's a girl to do?

Firstly, I shared the love and kept my creative streak happy by making cupcake gift boxes - and discounted them too! I basically made the present that I would have given my own Valentine, if he were closer. My lovely clients snapped them up and the vintage puns that were on top of each cupcake had me giggling throughout the day!

'Vintage Valentine' Cupcake Gift Box from Sugar Push Cakes

 Secondly, I ordered home made, personalised sugar cookies for my valentine. One of the benefits of being a cake decorator is making friends with fellow cake decorators all over the world! These gorgeous cookies came from a friend of mine who runs Layde Cakes in Northern California. Her cookies look incredible, and from the feedback I received they tasted delicious too! Her Facebook page is definitely worth a like!

Long Distance Love Cookies (Australia to California) by Layde Cakes

So that was my Valentines Day. Now I'm simply sad that I don't have an excuse anymore to make all sorts of fun heart themed DIY projects!

Do you think starting on gifts and decorations for next year would be a bit too soon?

Also, I do apologise for the quality of the cupcake photo. Valentines Day in Adelaide turned out to be mighty miserable and pouring with rain so I got stuck with old iPhone photos in artificial light. Not exactly ideal!

10 February 2014

"Just a girl who decided to go for it"

The other day Gemma Vendetta, the ever so lovely vintage hair and makeup artist, posted the above quote on her Facebook page. So simple, yet so perfect.

One day later whilst emailing a regular contact at my day job, I let them know that I was soon leaving to pursue my passion for cake decorating.

Her response was the usual 'Wow! You go girl!' but then followed by 'I often wonder what it would be like to have the guts to chase your real dream job…'

For some reason, this struck a chord with me. How many of us out there are sitting in 9 to 5 jobs just to pay the bills, when we know we should be doing something else? Something more?

How many of you reading this have a passion that you've never considered doing full time because you didn't think it was realistic?

This is something I've always been terrified of. In high school when my teachers were pressuring me to go to University, I argued that I didn't care if I was penniless in a shoe box apartment for my whole life, as long as I could do what I loved. Of course, at the time I didn't know what it was that I loved.

It took me a number of years to figure it out, and even longer to gain the confidence to apply for an overseas college and quit my job. I am so very lucky to have a supportive family behind me, and most of all a best friend (and partner in crime) who believes in me and always encourages me to strive for greatness and chase my dreams. Without their support, I wouldn't be able to do this.

So to the young lady emailing me from her desk job.
To those who are too scared to chase their dream job.
To you if you have never even considered pursuing your passion.

Why the heck not?!

Take the risk. It might not pay off. It might be scary. You might end up back home with your parents with no money left, like I probably will after my trip... but gee whiz, you'll have one hell of a story to tell!

On that note, I'll leave you with a quote from the 1997 animated film 'Cat's Don't Dance'.

"Why are you so determined to make a fool of yourself?" 
"I just want to do the thing that I love. Doesn't everyone?"

4 February 2014

The suitcase has left the closet

It happened.

It was inevitable really...

It was only a matter of time before I got so overwhelmingly excited for my trip that I pulled out my suitcase and started packing way too soon.

It's strange to think that your whole life can pack up into one bag. At least, that's my goal anyway. I've been working to cut back on all the 'stuff' I have accumulated over the years, with not one but three large bags heading to the local op shop this week - and that's just clothes!

I'm trying to work to the rule that if I haven't looked at something or used something within the past 12 months, I don't need it. If only it were so simple to part with things! I could totally become one of those people you see on 'Hoarders', and you would never ever be able to find me amongst all the things I keep for sentimental reasons. It takes some effort to avoid that.

So, step 1. Clean out junk. This is a work in progress.

Step 2. Only pack things that I use regularly.

As a result of step 2, starting to pack now (oh, just a casual 54 days before I leave but who's counting?) is almost impossible. If I'm only taking things I use regularly, I can't exactly pack them.

Here is what I've packed so far...

  • Stationery. My big sister spoilt me with some beautiful notebooks (and cupcake sticky notes!) for Christmas and I'm saving them for my trip. Also a new pack of envelopes so I can send lots of letters. Friends, prepare your letterboxes!
  • Cupcake beanie. It's far too hot to wear it here at the moment, but it's basically my favourite thing ever so I can't risk forgetting it. 
  • Perfume. My amazing bosses at my day job gave me a bottle of Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume to celebrate my 4 year anniversary of working with them. Again, I'm saving it for my trip.
  • Socks. I bought some new ones with a Christmas voucher. I'm saving them.
  • Bikini. I know we're in the middle of summer but the likelihood of me actually wearing this and going out in public before March is slim to none. 
  • Hair curling wand. I bought this last time I was in the US for approx. $20 at Walmart. It is a budget alternative to my usual hair straightener & hot rollers. It's in the bag.

    You'll notice that I have a few things that I'm keeping aside to spoil myself with on my trip. I've been saving so much money to be able to afford this that I haven't really been able to treat myself a whole lot. By putting things like these aside I hope that it will feel even more worth the sacrifice once I'm finally there! 

    I've only been overseas once before and I well and truly over packed for just 2 weeks, which I guess is pretty normal for a first time traveller. Hopefully this time I can pack more wisely.

    Do you have any tips for packing? I'd love to hear them!

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