26 May 2014

Week 3 at Bonnie Gordon College

This past week was a short week at Bonnie Gordon College after a public holiday on Monday.

What was it for? Umm... something called Victoria Day to celebrate Queen Victoria and her birthday? Maybe? All I know for sure was that it was an extra day off! Yippee!

The week began on a less than fun note for me - fruit filled cakes. Yuck!

I know, you're all thinking "Whaaaaaat?! What's wrong with fruit filled cakes?" and I'll tell you what. Nothing, except me and my dislike of fruit in cake.

I'm one of those weird people who doesn't like cooked fruit at all. I'm also one of those weird people who don't like to mix certain flavours. In my mind, cake goes well with chocolate. Oh, yes it does. Cake can also go with fresh strawberries and cream. Mmm-mmm. But cake filled with raisins? Blurgh! Just like how I don't think Nutella should go on bread. Yes, you may all recoil in horror and flee from this blog. Haters gonna hate.

Surprisingly, the class didn't start out too bad. Carrot cake - yum! What could go wrong with that?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting - and raisins, argh!

See those black spots? Those are raisins. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

It was okay though, because up next was Banana Cake. You can't go wrong with banana cake - or so I thought. 

The cake itself was fine. But then we filled it with a fruit compote flavoured buttercream. A blueberry buttercream to be exact. Blueberries and bananas? No. Just no. Another cake ruined.

The day wasn't a total waste however, as we did get to finish baking the last batch of cookies from the prior weeks International Cookies day. Helloooo checkerboard cookies. Don't they look cute?

Checkerboard Cookies
They were a little bland, but I think if they were sandwiched together with a yummy filling like a Pastry Cream, Buttercream or Ganache they would be divine!

Wednesday to Friday brought us Intermediate Cake Decorating. Ahh, my love! Decorating days make me so much happier than baking days. I immediately focus more and relax at the same time. Decorating days feel like home.

We went over some new techniques, and built up to our final day of decorating on Friday where our goal was to use as many of the techniques as we could. This was quite a challenge for me, since if you are familiar with my style of cakes, they are generally quite clean and simple. I'm not the type to make a cake too 'fussy'.

Considering a lot of my decorating experience has been with novelty cakes, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to focus on a 'pretty' cake. Ruffles, roses, crimping, pearls, lustre - I tried to fit in as much as I could without making the cake look cluttered!

I had originally planned to add some piping to the cake as well, since it was another technique I wanted to practise, but as I got to the end I knew that it would take the nice, clean cake much closer to the borderline of 'tackiness'.

I am still having a mighty struggle with my ganache training and obsession with getting sharp edges on my fondant, to now working with buttercream and trying not to squish it. I still remain unconvinced on using buttercream under fondant, and I cannot see myself ever enjoying the process.

I find myself regularly thinking "Why haven't they invented a better frosting to use under fondant? Oh wait, they have!" and longing for my ganache scrapers.

It is all a learning experience though I suppose, and this journey in buttercream will make me a more versatile decorator. Next weekend I am acting as a Teachers Assistant for Bonnie Gordon College's new 'Buttercream Cakes' class and I am very much looking forward to what I can observe.

24 May 2014

Australia's Sweetest Morning Tea 2014

Did you miss it?

Australia's Sweetest Morning Tea was this past Thursday 22nd May from 8am to 9pm AEST!

It was such an incredible day, although sadly due to the time difference I was asleep for most of the excitement.

I've talked about ASMT in previous posts, but if you are new to the blog and have no idea what I'm rambling on about, basically it is an E-vent that showcases the talents of Australia. The entire E-vent was published online via Australia's Sweetest Morning Tea Blog and Facebook page, as well as on each contributors page.

Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, dessert tables - all sorts of beautiful events photographed and published online and in a magazine, raising awareness and funds for cancer research.

Just like last years e-vent, 2014 was incredible! The talent was very impressive and the amount of effort obviously put into each shoot was enormous.

If you did miss it, make sure you check out all the photos, and even better - the magazine is now available to view online here!

Here's a look at the photoshoot put together by myself, the talented Kate from Vanilla Rose Cakery, and the creative Natalia from Natalia Chippillo Photographer...

Sugar Push, Vanilla Rose Cakery & Natalia Chippillo Photographer teamed up for ASMT 2014

You can view our full photo shoot on the Sugar Push Facebook page here.

ASMT is brought to us by four big forces being The Cupcake Lady, Blissfully Sweet, Darling Details and Pretty & Print. I'd just like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to these wonderful ladies who put so much time and effort into making this E-vent a reality. They really do not get enough credit for the work they put in.

While I'm on the topic of thank you's, two big ones have to go out to my team. Kate - you are so wonderful and talented and thank you for joining me on this adventure! Natalia - we could not have done this without you! You took our crazy ideas and made them something beautiful.

Sugar Push, Vanilla Rose Cakery & Natalia Chippillo Photographer teamed up for ASMT 2014

The magazine will soon be available to purchase in hard copy where you can keep it forever and indulge whenever you choose. We are pleased to say that $5 from the sale of every magazine goes directly to The Cancer Council. Please note that the sale is a not-for-profit sale and all monies collected are for the publishing of the book as well as the donation.

Of course, the whole point of this event is to raise funds for cancer research, so if you have enjoyed viewing Australia's Sweetest Morning Tea, please click here to visit the Biggest Morning Tea charity fund if you would like to donate to this wonderful cause.

Thank you!

20 May 2014

Week 2 at Bonnie Gordon College

I can't believe I'm about to start my third week at Bonnie Gordon College. The time is just flying by - only 14 weeks left!

The past week was incredibly fun with a lot of variety.

Monday kicked off with our 'Intro to Piping', with the entire day practising basic piping techniques. While I had already been taught some basic piping skills two years ago at Planet Cake, this class definitely extended my knowledge and of course, everything gets better with practise!

Tuesday brought us a class on 'Creaming Method Cakes' and we baked the most delicious lemon cupcakes with Italian Meringue Buttercream, along with a marble cake, which I masked in Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream.

Oh, Italian Meringue Buttercream - you are my new love. I will talk more about Buttercream in a separate post very soon - I could talk about the topic for hours! For now, just know that Italian Meringue Buttercream is rocking my world big time.

Wednesday was all about Cupcakes & Jam! We made orange cupcakes & mixed spice cupcakes, along with candied orange and apple slices, orange curd as well as jam and marmalade.

Orange Cupcake filled with Orange Curd, topped with Cream Cheese Icing & Candied Orange

Well... we were meant to make marmalade. Apparently my baking partner and I are not very good at multi tasking and burnt out marmalade terribly. Oh, the smell was awful! So too was spending the rest of the day cleaning that damn pot.

Tip: Adding water with baking soda to pot and bringing to a simmer really helps to get it clean. Also scrubbing with baking soda afterwards helps get those final bits off. I got the very black pot back to shiny silver again. Success!

Our mixed spice cupcakes were set aside for Thursday, which was the most exciting day of the week because we made...

Cupcake Bouquets!!!

Cupcake Bouquet Class at Bonnie Gordon College - created by Miss Sugar Push

This is probably my favourite thing made so far in the course. It was just so beautiful! I find piping rather relaxing, and piping cupcakes is much less stressful than piping on a cake. I could pipe these babies all day!

Except roses... do not talk to me about roses. Last week was incredibly humid here in Toronto, especially on the day we made these bouquets. The rose petals were really insistent on melting into one another and making a hot mess! Arrrgggghhhhhh!

Friday introduced us to 'International Cookies'. We ran out of time to finish baking all of them (checkerboard & pinwheel cookies coming soon) but we did finish off two very cute types.

Firstly, these Pesche cookies were my favourite because they were just too cute! Look at those little sugary-bum-like peaches! Aww!

Pesche Cookies
They were filled with Pastry Cream which was sooooo yummy!

Second on the menu for International Cookies were these Linzer Cookies. Apparently they smelt like Christmas with all the Cinnamon, but coming from Australia it didn't smell like any Christmas I've witnessed! For me, salt water, cold meats and fresh seafood smells like Christmas... mmmm summer.

Linzer Cookies filled with Raspberry & Strawberry Jam
The rest of the cookies will be baked tomorrow, while we also look at Fruit Filled Cakes! The rest of the week will be spent on Intermediate Cake Decorating, which I am beyond excited for.

Coming to this Diploma Programme, I wanted to keep an open mind in terms of Confectionary Art and what my speciality may be in the future. While so far my focus has been on cake decorating, I really wanted to see if maybe I'd enjoy cookies more, or pastries, or maybe chocolates. I still have a lot more to experience, but I must admit that so far I am just feeling more and more in love with the art of cake decorating.

Let's see what this week will bring!

12 May 2014

Week 1 at Bonnie Gordon College

Last Friday 2nd May, I attended my orientation session at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Art (BGC).

I officially began my classes this past Monday and have now completed the first week of my Diploma of Confectionary Art. The strange thing is it feels like I've been there forever!

BGC Orientation Day - Uniform, Tool Kit, Text Book & Work Folder!

Our instructor for this week has been the fabulous Julie Montgomery who is incredibly talented and knowledgable. It's incredible to be learning from such talented decorators! We kicked off Monday with health & safety and our first of many tests throughout the programme. Talk about a stressful first day!

Day 2 let us delve into 'intro to baking' where we whipped up two 'one bowl' cakes. First a chocolate cake which we later masked in Swiss Meringue Buttercream, followed by vanilla cupcakes. The baking was enjoyable, so too was learning how to make the Buttercream. We talked about the science of baking and the ingredients in terms of what they do and how they react with each other.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Masking the cake in buttercream was painful to say the least. While I have done a few buttercream cakes recently, I have never worked with Swiss Meringue, nor have I covered buttercream in fondant or had to make it perfectly smooth with sharp edges. Yikes!

Things started off well, but my perfectionist side got the better of me and the more I tried to improve on something good, the worse it got. In the end, I was the last person still trying to get my buttercream right and had to end up putting it away in the fridge to come back to another day. I'm sure most cake decorators would agree that when you're frustrated, sometimes it's just better to walk away and come back to it later.

Day 3 took us into our 'intro to decorating' - hallelujah! Something I'm good at!

First cake at BGC, practising covering in fondant, crimping and embossing

We learnt about fondant and gum paste, and how to make our own if we wanted. We practised covering dummy cakes in fondant and I am happy to say that this went much smoother than my buttercream adventures the day before. Despite the fact that I didn't have the necessary tools to get perfect 'sharp edges', and I wasn't used to the type of fondant, which is much softer than I'm used to (Bonnie Gordon brand fondant, available to purchase from the college. Very different to Bakels, but I think I like it almost as much!), my coverings were great and my edges were sharper than most.

The rest of our time over days 3-5 were spent learning decorating techniques such as crimping, embossing, ruffles, bows, and some basic flowers. Finally, we finished up our buttercream cakes by levelling the buttercream (and fixing for those which needed it, like mine - desperately!), covering in fondant (my first time at covering buttercream in fondant EVER), and decorating using techniques we'd learnt that week.

First Buttercream Cake I have EVER covered in Fondant - Yippee!

I really wanted to include as many techniques as I possibly could into my cake design, without making it too 'fussy' as I am one who likes designs to be neat and simple, yet effective. I crimped the edge, embossed a fondant ribbon around the bottom, and created a pinch rose for the top. I expanded my pinch rose out with ruffles to turn it into a sort of 'pinch-rose-ruffle-heart'!


The final technique I'd planned to use was a bow to finish off the fondant ribbon, however we quickly ran out of time. Maybe next time!

So that was Monday to Friday - you'd think after such an intensive week I would look forward to sleeping in on a Saturday, right? Well, being the nerd that I am, I decided to volunteer as a Teachers Assistant for the one day 'Intro to Decorating' class that BGC runs on weekends.

I spent another whole day reviewing everything I'd learnt over the past 3 days, plus picking up some extra tips from the amazing Sally Bratt, of House of the Rising Cake!

What a week! I am feeling so comfortable at the college, it's starting to feel like a second home already - and the smell of cookies baking from other classrooms is an added bonus!

6 May 2014

Macarons with Mardi Michels

Last Friday night - after my orientation at Bonnie Gordon College - I did not rest! I jumped on the subway and headed a few stops down to Nella Cucina on Bathurst Street. Being the impatient person that I am, I didn't want to wait until July to learn how to make macarons in my Diploma Programme - I wanted to learn how to make them now - with Mardi Michels of the wonderful blog, eat. live. travel write.

This was probably the only time I've gone somewhere new in Toronto where I haven't gotten lost along the way - high five for me!

Of course, due to the fact that I allowed time for getting lost I ended up arriving wayyy too early. Being far too cold to wander around, I ventured into the store anyway and began browsing. I ended up chatting to a guy (perhaps the owner? A manager?) about KitchenAid prices and how they vary so much. Eg. normal prices are around $300 in the US, $350 in Canada and $750 in Australia. Sigh.

The staff at Nella Cucina were all very friendly and happy to help with any questions. After I'd looked at every item in the store, and looked at them again, and a third time for luck (I was really, really early), I decided to venture upstairs to where the kitchen was.

A bar was set up with soft drinks and later, Nella Cucina's Sommelier (at least, I think that's who it was - I was talking too much to hear the introduction. Oops!) turned up to share some Prosecco with us. Again, I missed this as I was too busy talking. Gosh darn it!

Mardi started us off with a demo and my constant talking ceased (... mostly) as I took in what was happening. Ingredients, techniques, piping, yumminess, etc!

Mardi Michels getting her 'pipe' on at Nella Cucina

Sadly I was too busy watching, chatting, doing a tiny bit of piping (apparently piping macarons is quite easy after piping on cakes!) and just generally enjoying myself too much to take any more photos.

After our macarons were out of the oven we all got to work matching up the 'shells' and
filling them with deliciousness! White chocolate, cream cheese, marshmallow and a dark chocolate & raspberry ganache. Mmm-mmm!

There were a few dramas throughout the night with oven problems and some macarons not looking quite as perfect as we'd liked - but hey, that's all part of the learning process!

By the time we were all done, we each went home with a container of 6 macarons. We also got some time to browse in Nella Cucina with a bit of a discount! Having spent so much time browsing earlier, I already had my eye on a maple leaf cookie cutter. Not being one for tacky souvenirs, I've decided to start collecting cookie cutters to represent places I've travelled. This is my first!

Maple Leaf Cookie Cutter from Nella Cucina - collecting cookie cutters from my travels

What a great night! I met some wonderful people, had a whole lot of fun, and went home with some super yummy macarons!

I was even nice and shared them with my housemates! Well... half of them (the macarons I mean, not the housemates). I just had to try a marshmallow one, and the two white chocolate ones were mine - no sharing of those! Nooo way!

Yummy white chocolate macaron!

Thank you to Mardi for a wonderful class, and to Nella Cucina for hosting!

5 May 2014

Winter, you big jerk!

When I left home, I left with an envelope in my suitcase.

This envelope came from my very best girl friend. On the front it read "For use on 28/4. You can open any date before then but not 'till you leave." I wasn't told what was inside.

I had known about this planned envelope for a while before I left and I gathered some clues which led me to one conclusion. The clues were as follows...

  1. It was a day trip. 
  2. It was taking place on Monday the 28th of April.
  3. I needed to be ready by 8am in flat shoes. 
  4. I was given a plastic poncho.
My conclusion: Niagara Falls.

Was I right? Yes, but it was still terribly exciting when I opened that envelope the evening before. We were booked on a day trip run by King Tours. We would be picked up that morning from my apartment and be taken to the tour bus. The tour would take us to a winery, then on to Niagara on the Lake before finally reaching the Falls. 

Could we be any more spoilt? I think not!

The day got off to an amusing start with me accidentally leaving my iPhone in the fancy taxi that picked us up in the morning (Don't worry, it was handed to the tour company and I picked it up that evening. Darn it, no new iPhone for me!) and we were on our way through the city and then around Lake Ontario

First stop was Diamond Estates Winery where I was most interested in these teeny, tiny pinecones! I've never seen a pinecone so small!

Teeny tiny pinecone at Diamond Estates Winery

Then we headed onto Niagara on the Lake for some lunch. It was a very charming town. Curiosity resulted in a purchase of a red velvet cookie, however I was slightly disappointed. It wasn't bad as such... it just wasn't great either. At least it looked pretty!

Red Velvet Cookie at Niagara on the Lake

The town was full of beautiful flowers though, and these tulips were my absolute favourite. Swooooon.

Tulips at Niagara on the Lake

My favourite part of Niagara on the Lake though? The public toilets. I quickly rushed to them just before our tour departed, expecting nothing special - oh, how I was surprised! These toilets were in their own building. You entered through an automatic sliding glass door into a foyer featuring a drink vending machine. Once I entered the actual 'washroom' as they call it here, I found the entire place practically brand new, all automatic and entirely spotless! Ah-maaaaaaaa-zing! Surely I'm not the only one who appreciates a nice, clean toilet? Right? 

Then on to the Falls we went! Oh my goodness, how they were beautiful. The power of the water was incredible!

Niagara Falls!

We were booked to go on the 'Maid of the Mist' boat (actually it's "The Hornblower" from the Canadian side) however, due to this exceptionally long winter that Canada is having, there was still ice in the water! At the end of April - whaaaat?! Thanks a lot winter - you big jerk! So unfortunately the boat couldn't run, but instead we got to 'Journey behind the Falls' down into tunnels that let us view the power of the water up close. It was amazing!

Ice at Niagara at the end of April - man, it must have been a harsh winter!

There was also a viewing platform at the bottom as part of the 'Journey behind the Falls' experience that allowed us to get a bit closer, and check out the ice!

A few hours were spent admiring the Falls, checking out the normal touristy gift shops, and buying postcards for our loved ones, and candy for ourselves (naturally). 

The bus home was a quiet one as the group was very tired from the day. Snoring was heard from all directions, and I must admit that even I dozed off for a few moments. Ahh, the benefits of not driving!

It was the most incredible day and all I can say is thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the lovely Tamika for giving me this opportunity! 

Here's one more photo of the Falls, just because they're so beautiful.

Niagara Falls and Rainbow Bridge in the background - the US/Canadian border.

4 May 2014

O Canada!

Holy guacamole, gosh gee whiz!

So much has happened since my last proper blog post that I don't even know where to begin.

First things first; I have been in Toronto for over a week now. Whoaaaaaaaaaa!

I'm finally starting to get an understanding of where things are and how the public transport system works. It's pretty simple, although I have caught the incorrect train a few more times than I would like to admit. You'd think it would be pretty simple - just east or west - but alas, with my sense of direction (or lack thereof) there were a number of 'oops' moments.

The apartment I'm staying at is in the perfect location, close to the subway with a bus stop 2 doors down and just a 20 - 30 minute trip to downtown Toronto. More importantly, just around the corner is Galaxy Donuts which have these babies for 90 cents. Thank you donut gods!

Hawaiian Donut from Galaxy Donuts on Keele Street, Toronto - yum!

The apartment itself is wonderful and homely (the washing machine even sings the same song as the one back home when it's done - ahhh how comforting!) but more on that in a later post. Also more later on the cat who is currently snoring on my lap as I type this.

Over my first weekend in Toronto we explored a bit of the downtown area. Our group consisted of a mix of Canadians, Americans & Australians, which was interesting to say the least. Many sights were seen, places explored, and fun was had.

So two Americans, a Canadian and an Australian walked into a bar...
I won't say yet that I've figured out my way around the city - oh gosh no! I will say however, that I am getting used to the subway and places are starting to look familiar as I wander around. Not familiar enough that I don't need to rely on google maps though... and I still manage to get lost with that! Oh, why wasn't I born with a sense of direction? Whyyyy?

While I took some time to warm to San Francisco, I have fallen in love with Toronto instantly. From first impressions the city seems like a lovely mix between the good parts of San Francisco and the good parts of Australian cities. I am not constantly fearful for my safety like I was in the US and that is very reassuring.

I am even getting used to the cold, although everyone tells me that very soon the heat will hit and I will die from the humidity. Or... you know, at least have crazy hair. Which is practically the same thing, right?

If you have any recommendations for places I should visit during my time here in Toronto (cheap, preferably! I am on a budget you know - geesh!) , please let me know!

1 May 2014

Montage: April 2014

April - wow! What a month!

This past months video is so jam-packed - it was practically impossible to fit everything in!

April's video montage is very exciting as it tracks my first month away from home, with my (almost) 4 week holiday in California. So much fun! Towards the end it also shows a bit of my arrival here in Toronto - that's right, I'm in Canada!!!

I've been here for almost a week now, and my orientation at Bonnie Gordon College is tomorrow!

More on that later. For now, here's April!

Phew! I feel like I need a whole festival of naps after all that, but there's just no time! 

So much to do, so much to learn!

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