Sparkly heart cupcake toppers

Here is a quick and easy way to add a little sparkle to your cakes or cupcakes…and who doesn’t like sparkle?!

I made these white chocolate heart cake toppers to go on some white chocolate brownies (a.k.a. ‘blondies’) I need to make for another project (more on that later). The blondies were a disaster but the toppers were a success and the method could be used with milk and dark chocolate and with different shapes. Perhaps festive shapes for Christmas or letters if you wanted to make, say, a ‘Happy Birthday’.

You will need:

Cling film

500gm white chocolate buttons or pieces (500gm will make around 20 heart shapes)

100gm 2mm silver cashous or similar (I get mine from The Raspberry Butterfly)

Small heart biscuit cutter (or any shape you like)

Marble slab, large smooth chopping board or bench top

Pallet knife or rubber spatula (cake scraper)

Lay the cling film over your chosen surface as perfectly as you can. If you have wrinkles or folds, the melted chocolate will seep in and your shapes may get stuck.

Melt your chocolate.

I have the best results melting chocolate in the microwave and the trick is not to let any water get in so don’t cover the bowl with cling film or the condensation will fall back into the chocolate and it will split and go grainy. Put your chocolate pieces in a clean, dry microwave safe ceramic bowl and into the microwave for 1 minute. Remove with over mitt and stir until all the chocolate is melted, smooth and there are no lumps. When you take it out there will still be unmelted chocolate but I find the bowl heats up enough that the chocolate will continue to melt while I stir. If it needs more microwave time, pop it back in for 30 seconds at a time and keep stirring.

Using a spatula or palette knife, smooth the melted chocolate over your plastic covered surface about 3-4mm thick. Work quickly and try to get the chocolate as smooth and even as possible but don’t overwork it as it will start to cool immediately and you need to get the cashous on before it hardens up! Note that if you are using marble like I did, it will harden even more quickly as the marble will be cold (or is it just my cold house?).

Sprinkle the cashous over the entire chocolate surface and then straight away start cutting out your shapes, starting from the outside and working your way in to try to get as many shapes as possible. Then eat all the leftover edges – yum!

If you don’t have biscuit cutters you could cut the chocolate into small squares or diamonds.

I tried taking photos but I was working  too quickly and they were terrible so unfortunately there are no step-by-step pictures but I did include one of the chocolate covered with cashous.

I think they look pretty sweet on my DIY cupcake stand too!

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How to make a cute cupcake stand

What do you get if you cross two plates and a candlestick?

A cupcake stand! Or possibly a romantic dinner. In my case, I chose to make a stand. This is one of those brilliant ‘why didn’t I think of that’ ideas.

I first came across the idea of a tiered stand made from plates and candlesticks on this lovely blog and I’ve seen it in several places since. The idea is great because who wants to spend a fortune on a ready-made rarely-used item? Plus, by making it yourself you can choose the style and colours you like, use other things such as glasses or vases for the stand and make use of odd plates. You can leave them as they are, paint them or, like me, Mod Podge them!

This was my first experience with Mod Podge and can I just say: I am in love! For those unfamiliar with it (I have only really seen it on US blogs, hardly ever in Australia) Mod Podge is a glue, sealer and finish all in one little tub. And its really fun to use (find more awesome Mod Podge projects at Mod Podge Rocks).

I found the plates and candlestick in The Reject Shop which is the Australian version of a Dollar Store (find more awesome dollar store projects at Dollar Store Crafts). While I was trying to decide if I would paint them or leave them as they were I found some lovely old paper I had once found stuffed inside some new shoes. It’s thin, but thicker than tissue paper. I would say about a newspaper thickness. I really like the pattern on that paper so I decided to Mod Podge it onto my plates. It worked really well and took 3 coats plus the first coat I used to glue the paper onto the plate. It kind of reminds me of the willow pattern.

Once it was dry all that was left to do was glue the candlestick to the plates. (I actually haven’t glued mine yet because I wanted to show you how it looks as a single tiered cake stand too).

Materials you will need for this project:

2 x plates (one small, one large)

1 x candlestick

Strong glue for ceramics and glass

Patterned paper

Mod Podge (I used gloss)

Paint brush (I used my pastry brush!)

Scissors

Wash and dry your plates and candlestick.

Cut out your paper shapes and glue them onto the plate using the Mod Podge. Be gentle but try to eliminate any air bubbles. Mod Podge over the plate surface and leave to dry. Once dry, add another coat and leave to dry. Continue until you have 3 top coats.

Then just glue the bottom of the candlestick to the centre of the large plate and glue the small plate onto the candlestick. And there you have it – one pretty cup cake stand for next to nothing. This isn’t dishwasher safe so once used, just wipe clean with a damp cloth.

I think it also looks nice with fruit if you want to go with the healthy option!

P.S. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking ‘where did Maddy get those white chocolate heart-shaped cake toppers? I have to have them!‘ Well stay tuned and I might just tell you!

UPDATE: here is the tutorial for the delicious heart-shaped cake toppers.

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Let them eat pear & almond cake

When it comes to family gatherings on my Mum’s side, it seems the responsibility of cake-baker/dessert bringer has become solely mine.  This is great in some ways – it satisfies my baking urges and lets me put all those recipes I’ve been gathering into practice but it means my Grandma no longer does the baking. And boy can she bake! I’ve never seen her produce anything that wasn’t absolutely lovely (sometimes several different cakes and slices for the one occasion) and it all just has that Grandma style that I love. She likes to try different recipes too and if she thinks it is a recipe worth keeping she will say “put a big tick next to that one!”

I am happy to announce this pear and almond cake with almond crunch topping I made for Mother’s day got the Grandma Tick of Approval.  With juicy slices of sweet pear and a delicious butterscotch almond topping this is a cake that will satisfy everyone.

I also learned something. Whenever I decide to bake, I take the butter from the fridge and realise I need softened butter and mine is rock hard. When I’m really desperate to cream cold butter and sugar I put both in a stainless steel mixing bowl and into the hot oven for 10 seconds. The bowl heats up as well as the butter so while it works, there is a bit of melting and finger burning going on and it’s not ideal at all. After poking around the internet at a few different options (like pounding the butter between 2 sheets of baking paper…sounds messy right?) I found one handy hint that I like: place butter in a snaplock bag and put in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes. It works. It’s not as even as leaving it to soften at room temperature but if you’re like me and never remember to do that, this will save you time and burnt fingers.

Here is the recipe for pear and almond cake with almond crunch topping as found on www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk

Cake Ingredients

175g softened butter

150g Golden Caster Sugar (I used regular caster sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 medium eggs

220g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp grated nutmeg

140ml sour cream

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

50g ground almonds

2 firm pears, such as Comice (I used brown Bosc)

A little lemon juice

Topping Ingredients

50g butter

50g Light Muscovado Sugar (I used dark brown sugar)

2 tbsp double cream

75g flaked or slivered almonds

Method

Line a 20cm springform tin with non-stick baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with the second egg. Sift the remaining flour, a pinch of salt, bicarbonate of soda and the nutmeg together in a seperate bowl. Fold half the flour into the creamed mixture. Fold in the sour cream, zest and almonds, then the remaining flour.

Peel, core and slice the pears into eighths. Toss with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Spread half of the cake mixture over the base of the tin (it will be quite thick ) cover with the pears (I laid mine in a pin-wheel shape), then spread the  remaining cake mixture over the top (I had some left over pear slices that I placed on the top for an extra layer). Bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the almond topping. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the sugar and cream, then stir in the almonds and remove from heat.

Remove the cake from the oven and pour the almond mixture evenly over the top (be careful as the top of the cake will be fragile). Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is toffee-coloured and a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. Try to aim right for the centre when skewering as it’s hard to tell if the cake is cooked when you’re skewering right through juicy pear slices! Remove and serve warm or cold. I served mine with vanilla ice-cream and the leftover double cream – delicious!

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