The Millennium Falcon Cake

OK, so let’s start with – if you haven’t seen Star Wars, then you may not truly understand this cake. If you’re a fan of Star Wars (like me) – then I know you’ll appreciate the details that have gone into the overall design and construction of this one. It is the Millennium Falcon flying over Tatooine – the desert planet where the Star Wars movies first began. I felt like this cake deserved a post of its own – so you can see the amount of work and effort that went into it. A cake sometimes goes beyond just a cake. This is one such creation.

This isn’t a step-by-step tutorial on how to make one of these.  It is just an overview of some of the tools/hardware that went into it. I had to put on my tradie hat for this one and design the structure myself. I started by first getting the blueprints for the MF. This helped me figure out the size of the cakeboard that I would need and I went from there in tracing the shape and cutting out the cakeboard. In my case, the cake was a 10″ round for the main part of the body. Other components were built up using Rice Krispie Treats and cake offcuts mixed with buttercream.

The tools I used to complete the project:

  • Jigsaw – with blades suitable for wood and metal
  • Electric drill – with drill bits suitable for wood and metal (2mm & 8mm bit sizes)
  • Spanner set
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hacksaw – with blade suitable for metal
  • Airbrush
  • General cake modeling tools

The hardware/packaging that went into it:

  • 16″ x 12″ masonite cake board
  • 20″ x 16″ masonite cake board
  • 2x 10″ cake cardboard rounds
  • 20″ x 16″ cake box
  • 3x 6″ x 6″ squares of 1.55mm galvanised steel sheet
  • 8mm stainless steel threaded rod (length is determined by how high you want the MF to fly off the ground – I went with about 40cm)
  • 4x 8mm stainless steel lock nuts
  • 1x 8mm stainless steel flat washer
  • 12x 25mm round self-adhesive felt floor pads – stacked in 3s and hot glued to the underside of the cakeboard to raise it high enough so the threaded rod doesn’t touch the table.
  • String of Blue LED fairy lights, button battery powered (I went with 40 lights/4m) – I adhered them onto a cut strip of cakebox cardboard using sticky tape.

The cake itself was a 10″ round red velvet, filled with vanilla bean cheesecake flavoured buttercream. Covered with white chocolate ganache and fondant.  I used a mix of crushed Scotch Finger and Gingernut biscuits to create the dessert sand (that wasn’t a typo, I mean to type dessert 😉 ).

Chocolate Macarons

Thought I would share a recipe for chocolate macaron shells. I asked the All Things Macarons facebook group for advice on how to convert a regular mac recipe to chocolate – I was advised to try reducing the almond meal/flour by 5%, and to reduce the icing/powdered sugar by 5%, and then replace that 10% total with cocoa powder. This approach was successful for this recipe.

Chocolate Macarons (Shells)

A chocolate adaptation of the classic macaron shell
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time14 mins
Resting time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: French
Keyword: chocolate, cookie, macaron
Servings: 12 pairs

Equipment

  • Electric scales
  • 2x Mixing bowls
  • Food processor/grinder
  • Sieve
  • Small saucepan
  • Glass bowl
  • Whisk
  • Electric hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Cookie tray/s
  • Baking paper, printed macaron template (5cm diameter)
  • 12" piping bag fitted with 9mm round tip

Ingredients

  • 45 grams Almond meal/flour
  • 36 grams Icing/powdered sugar
  • 9 grams Cocoa powder Dutch processed
  • 40 grams Egg whites Aged
  • 40 grams Caster sugar

Instructions

  • Follow the method in YouTube video https://youtu.be/n-BS0u3Kqsc - except use measurements in this recipe to get chocolate shells.
  • For additional tips, check out my other blog post http://www.anitaofcake.com.au/macaron-mania/

Notes

Additional notes:
For one batch I subbed out 10% aged egg whites for carton/pasteurised egg whites. The feet came out a bit smaller but were still full and successful
This recipe can be doubled to make 24 macarons (verified)

Macaron Mania

Macarons. You either love making them, hate making them – or you pull your hair out over and over again while trying to find the perfect recipe. Sad news – there is no perfect recipe. You just need to keep trying until you find the one that works best for you and your equipment.

You may recall my previous mac-post boasting about adapting to the Swiss method – as I had never been able to achieve full macarons  with French or Italian recipes. The only issue I had with the recipe I was using: I could only successfully cook about 10 shells onto a tray lol The outer ring of macs would crack if I  filled the whole tray.

That’s OK if you’re only needing a few – but for bigger lots, it’s just impractical and takes too long… So I banked up egg whites in the freezer over a couple months, and when I had a order-free weeks I went back to looking for another suitable Swiss-method mac recipe.

I’d tried a few recipes recommended on the All Things Macarons group on Facebook – but none were working no matter the tweaks I made. So I was running low on egg whites and time; I turned to YouTube. I managed to find a recipe that worked for me and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief as I needed them for an order a week away.

Macarons

Macarons success!

I did take notes on slight adjustments/techniques that I used to get absolute success with these cookies:

  • I didn’t monitor the sugar/egg temperature while on double boiler (#lazycook). I only periodically checked to see if the sugar had dissolved – once it had, it came straight off the heat and I started whipping with my el-cheapo 5-speed hand mixer
  • I did: 2 minutes @ speed 1, 2 minutes @ speed 2, 2 minutes @ speed 3, scrape down sides (can add gel colouring at this stage), then 1 minute @ speed 2
  • Macaronaged as per YouTube video; takes me 3 scrape rotations to get the right consistency
  • Used Loyal plastic tube size 9 (9mm round tip) in 12″ bag (the recipe yields a small batch of approx 12-14 cookies, you don’t need a bigger bag)
  • Piped perpendicular onto Glad baking paper with printed mac template underneath (5cm diameter). Firmly rapped tray onto bench 4x, then used a toothpick to smooth out tops.
  • I set my oven to Fan Bake mode (it is an electric oven – top and bottom elements are on plus rear fan to circulate air around) – looking to get a 175°C reading on my oven thermometer that I have sitting on the middle rack
  • Let rest until matte finish and dry to touch. (In my area it is about 20-30 minutes)
  • Double trayed and put into oven, immediately reduce temp to 140°C setting (I find that my  oven doesn’t start heating again during the 14-minute total cooktime). I place a sheet of baking paper on top of the macarons at the 8-minute mark to help prevent any browning (while the oven elements don’t turn back on, the fan is still going around)
  • After the 14 minutes cooktime, I check that I can remove one cookie without any sticking issues – if so, I pull the tray out. If not, I leave for an extra minute and recheck
  • Once they’re out, I increase the oven temp again to 175°C to ready for the next batch to go in
  • Straight from the oven I tend to crack open a cookie to check that it’s full (om noms). Once they’re cool enough to touch, I match up pairs and place into an air-tight container.

Now here is the funny thing about doing the cookies this way – they look like a macaron (smooth tops and ruffled feet); they taste like a macaron (yummm), and they’re full (#winning). But (there’s always a but isn’t there..) – I find that they are a little on the crunchy side. So I turned to Dr Google lol And here is what I found – this is actually a common practice for some pro mac bakers! (Refs 1, and 2 who themselves reference the expertise of Pierre Hermé).

They tend to slightly overbake their macs (to ensure their macs remain full) but then apply moisture back into the bottom of the cookie by way of simple syrup, milk or sweetened condensed milk! So, I have chosen to use simple syrup (1 part water to 1 part sugar, boiled until the sugar has just dissolved, with a dash of vanilla extract). I quickly dunk and then lay them bottom-side up on a cooling rack and watch the cookie absorb the syrup before piping the filling (using Loyal plastic tube size 11 (11mm round tip)). Maturation took two days (using white chocolate ganache filling). It was perfect – crunch on outside, soft filling that just melts away – divine <3

Brides Choice Award Finalist 2019

Early last month I received an email advising that I am a Brides Choice Award finalist for the Canberra region in 2019. It came as quite a surprise as I don’t do many wedding cakes. But for anyone out there that may have nominated/voted for me for this, I just wanted to say thank you.

 

 

Can you go to the shops for me please?

So a very good friend of mine has asked me to create her birthday cake for this weekend, and she has kindly offered to help me pay for ingredients/supplies. Without giving away the design, the cake will be a white chocolate mudcake, filled with coconut flavoured buttercream and homemade pineapple curd. Covered with white chocolate ganache and fondant. The cake will feed approx 38.

I thought this might be a fun challenge for you to participate from home (if there’s anyone out there reading this blog lol). Can you (hypothetically) do the shopping for me please? I have broken the lists down into 2 for you – one list is for stuff you’d find at the local supermarket.  The other list is for the stuff you’d find at a cake specialty store. Can you work out how much everything is going to cost? You might like to undertake this exercise if you’re intending to make a cake from scratch yourself and thinking how much it’d cost just for ingredients/supplies.

Stop 1 – The supermarket

  • 2428g white chocolate
  • 1209g butter
  • 898ml milk
  • 693g caster sugar
  • 35ml vanilla extract
  • 11 large eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 359g self-raising flour
  • 539g plain flour
  • 449g icing sugar
  • 20ml coconut extract
  • 120ml canned pineapple juice
  • 2 tbspn cornstarch
  • Baking paper

Now I bet you’re wondering: surely you get these supplies from your wholesaler? Well – no, I don’t. Because while I do have an ABN and do have a wholesale account, I find that because I work my day job everyday, I am not at home and so unable to receive deliveries from my wholesaler. Bummer yeah? Mind you, I do buy in bulk when things are on sale (where possible) and I know where these ingredients are the cheapest so buy things when I just happen to be at a particular store.

Why don’t you open up a new tab and figure out the cost for me for those ingredients – at your supermarket/s of choice. If you find some things cheaper at one over the other – you could take the extra time/fuel to travel between those two or three and get the cheapest options available. But please don’t charge me for that – surely I shouldn’t have to pay you for time/fuel as I am not passing those kinds of costs onto my customers. After all, I’m sure you’re already going to the shops anyway, this is just a few extra things 😉

Stop 2 – The Specialty Cake Shop

  • 1500g fondant
  • 250g gumpaste
  • 20 floral wires
  • Safety Seal (let’s say 50c for this one as I don’t need to use much)
  • 8 bubble tea straws
  • 1 centre dowel
  • 20g gold lustre dust
  • Rose spirite (alcohol)
  • 9″ cardboard round
  • 12″ marble masonite cakeboard
  • 12x12x12 cake box

I’m located in Canberra – so your major options are going to be either Cake Decorating Solutions (Fyshwick), La Torta (Majura Park) and/or Across The Board Cake Decorating Supplies (Greenway). You’re welcome to buy things online – but bear in mind, this stuff would need to be ordered at least a week or two in advance to allow enough time for delivery. Also, postage and handling fees.. surely they can deliver for free so I don’t have to pay for that, right? 😉 haha Oh and again – for the local options, if you could not charge me for the time/fuel for that, that would be grrrreeeeaaat (if you haven’t seen Office Space, I highly recommend you do lol). Again – these are the kinds of costs I don’t pass onto my customers, so I cannot afford to pay you for that.

So – have you got your price?

I came to $92.47. How does yours compare?

DIY Enchanted Rose Feature

Growing up a 90s kid, I was absolutely in love with the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. Loved the characters, loved the songs, loved the magic. I was so excited when recently a Beauty and the Beast themed cake order fell in my lap – and I was offered the chance to design it however I liked!

I did some rummaging through Google images and Instagram for inspiration. And I’d come across others who had incorporated the Enchanted Rose – and so I thought I would too. With the magical lights and all 🙂

Since posting this cake online yesterday, there have been a few asking how did I make the feature on top, so I thought I would do this blog post as a brief overview on what I used and what I did in order to make it:

Materials/Tools required:

* BEGÅVNING Glass dome with base from Ikea (AU$9.99) – FYI, in this picture it is sitting on top of a 5″ cake. So you would want to be placing it onto the top of at least 5-6″ cake.
* 20M (20 LEDs) warm white battery powered copper wire fairy lights (AU$3.51)
* Wired sugar rose with sugar leaves
* Drill
* Hot glue gun

Steps:

  1. Construct sugar rose with leaves. Use floral tape to cover stem wire.
  2. Drill hole into centre of base, large enough to fit rose stem & fair lights wire through.
  3. Feed the lights through the drilled hole from underneath the base. Apply some hot glue to the hole, and place the rose stem through. This will hold the rose and the lights in place. (I added a couple extra dots of hot glue in places to secure the LED wire to the base in a couple places).
  4. Play with the fairy lights wiring until they are arranged how you like them. I decided to keep the lights below the rose so they did not pose an obstruction to viewing the rose itself.
  5. Dollop of hot glue onto the base behind view of the rose, to secure the glass dome in place.

Hope this is helpful for people out there wanting to have a go at making one for yourself. As you can see, it’s something that is very effective but doesn’t break the bank to make if you have the time to spare.

Why are my custom cakes so expensive?

I’ve come across a number of articles giving a high-level explanation as to why custom cakes are so expensive. But if you’re a bit like me – you kind of want to see where your money is going exactly, right? I mean, how can a custom cake from a home baker really come with a $200 price tag when you can head down to the Cheesecake shop and get a party cake for less than $50?

I think the best approach to explain this, is to do a bit of a comparison. So let’s take the ever-popular unicorn cake as a sample-case – so we can see like-for-like, between other establishments and myself.

  • Cheesecake shop – $140 – double barrel 7″ mudcake decorated with truffle (I’m guessing this ready-made truffle white chocolate ganache product) – serves 20-25.
  • Coles – $25 – doesn’t state what it’s made of or serving size, only that it’s made in the United Kingdom (generally, cakes from Coles/Woolies are 7″) – estimated serves 12-18.
  • Anita of Cake – $170 – 6″ extended height mudcake decorated with vanilla buttercream – serves approx 18.

So of course, you can see there are already differences in the pricing. So let’s get into why my cake costs more:

My cakes are fully customisable: you’re not always going to find the cake you’re looking for readily available at every established bakery (such as this unicorn cake). And even if you do happen to find it, you are probably going to be limited as to what customisations you can do. With me, you are in complete control as to what you want changed – your cake is bespoke. Would you expect a bespoke wedding dress to cost the same as one off the rack? You’re paying to know that you’re going to get exactly what you want – from changing the dietary requirements, to choosing the colour scheme. I even include candles (if it’s a birthday cake) and fondant lettering for the recipient’s name on the board – even the finer details are taken care of 🙂

All cakes are made from scratch: I make everything from scratch (only exception is fondant/gumpaste) – this include all cakes, fillings and buttercreams using quality ingredients. No artificial flavours or preservatives! Using the unicorn cake as an example: $10.70 for cake ingredients, $11.19 for buttercream ingredients, $1.97 for fondant. $23.86 total for ingredients only. Now let’s look at the other considerations:

  • I would need to first go shopping to buy the ingredients (I am a bespoke cakemaker, preferring to bake things fresh and do not bake in bulk) – that’s time and fuel.
  • It would take me about an hour to prepare the mudcake batter and tins, and then a further 1.5 hours of cooking time (electricity isn’t free for me unfortunately). It would take about half an hour to make the buttercream.
  • Like the look of the rainbow rosettes on the unicorn cake? That’s splitting and colouring 6 bowls of buttercream (oh yes, I forgot to include the cost of the 6 colours! Americolor is my fave 🙂 ).
  • Gold accents – making up the gold paint and handpainting the horn, ears and eyes (all of which I have hand-made)
  • For cleanup, you’d be looking at 2 large bowls, 2 medium bowls, a large pot, 7 smaller bowls, 6 spoons, 2 spatulas, a wooden spoon, piping tip, 3x 6″ cake tins, measuring cup and measuring spoons. Anything that can go into the dishwasher does (running it takes water, electricity and detergent), but you’ll find half of those items are not dishwasher safe so I’m cleaning those items by hand.
  • And I’ve just remembered that I’ve forgotten to include cost of baking paper and oil spray (to line the 3 tins), cling wrap (to cover the 3 cakes as well as for the rainbow piping ‘sausage’) and a disposable piping bag (to pipe the rosette mane).

As you can appreciate, we’re talking hours of work, costly supply and utilities (water, electricity & gas) even before the decorating part has even started. I would say, in total, you would be looking at about 6 hours of labour for this unicorn cake. How much do you get paid an hour? Don’t I deserve at least minimum wage? When you order a cake from me, I am like your personal chef, buying the ingredients/supplies just for your cake, and baking/decorating just for you 🙂

Appropriate packaging:  I don’t buy bulk packaging, because I don’t have the throughput (only taking on 1 order a week, if that), and I don’t have the space to store it all. For this unicorn cake, I would be using a tall box ($3.95 exc p&h) and would probably use a white or marbled-look masonite cakeboard ($4.85). Being a tall cake, I would be adding in extra support in the way of dowels (50c) and a middle cakeboard (23c). Naturally, I would be adding my brand label onto the box as well (19c). You’re looking at approximately $10 for packaging.

Overheads: This portion of every cake order helps pay for ongoing business expenses, such as home food business registration, insurance, website costs, mobile phone & internet costs, vehicle upkeep (maintenance & registration), background utilities (example running the fridge storing the ingredients/cakes), and new cake decorating tools/equipment when required. At the core of it, if I did not pass on those expenses to the customers, then I would be running my business at a loss. As mentioned previously, I limit orders to 1 a week, meaning that those costs are not able to be spread as thinly across more orders.

External additional costs: There are certain prices out of my control where I outsource elements, and I generally include these separately onto the invoice. Florals, edible images, toppers, etc. Did you know a small bouquet of florals sets me back $40? Did you know I needed 3x A4 custom edible images to complete this cake? And my driving out to those shops to collect those items – that’s ~40 minutes of driving time only, and fuel to drive ~39km.

That pretty much covers the big factors as to why my cakes are more expensive than others. This by no means is meant to suggest that the other offerings are inferior, or that my cakes are better than theirs – it is only meant to give an indication as to why the pricing is different, and why my products are different. I am not able to offer the bulk-produced pricing – I wish I could, so that my offerings were more affordable for everyone. But what I can offer, is a gourmet home-made bespoke cake for your special occasion, customised exactly how you want it.

Ordering from me, it is never just a cake – it is an experience.

All In The Font Family

I came across this lovely family of fonts recently that I thought I would make some use of, as it is being offered free, even for commercial use: https://befonts.com/playlist-script-font.html

Now as you can see, there are a few fonts included, all under the one family set. I thought this was brilliant – a bundle of gorgeous fonts that work well together. That was – until I tried installing the family of fonts and discovered that my computer (running Windows 10) only recognised the first font of the family.

What is a girl to do? Well, I researched the issue and came up with a solution. I thought I would share this on my blog, as this appears to be a common issue faced out there in the computing/graphics design community – how do you get computer applications to recognise the family of fonts as individual fonts?

Well – you separate them lol Here’s a quick step-by-step rundown of what I did to separate the fonts so they no longer were named the same and relying on the “font-style” attribute to differentiate them (as my applications were not recognising them!)

  1. You’ll find in the downloaded zip bundle your family of *.otf files. Extract those into a new folder. (In the case of Playlist, there will be 3).
  2. Head over to http://www.glyphrstudio.com/online/ and choose Load option to load a file. Click “Browse for a file” and locate one of the fonts you just extracted in step 1.
  3. After it has imported, click on the top-left menu button (the one with the 3 horizontal stripes). Choose Font Settings.
  4. Under Font Name, choose a new font for it (for example, PlaylistOrnament). Scroll down to the Font Metadata section, and for font-style, change to “regular”.
  5. Back to the left-hand menu, click “export font”. I choose to “Export OTF Font” and save it locally.
  6. As you normally would, right-click on the *.otf file to install.

Now I am not sure whether it was the “regular” font-style that caused the issue, or if it was simply because they were named the same. I figured I would change both attributes as a guarantee that the system/applications would be sorted in one go, rather than messing around. And thankfully – it worked ^_^

Launching my YouTube channel

So I ventured out and bought myself a tripod off eBay last week, just for a bit of fun. I have just uploaded my very first video – showing me piping buttercream and decorating some yummy chocolate cupcakes. I don’t particularly like hearing the sound of my voice, so opted to do some text subtitles to explain what I am doing 🙂

I am now taking on fewer cake orders to free up time to spend with my family, and this has  opened up the possibility of doing some other cakey/baked treat things, as well as sharing some of the little tips I’ve learnt along the way. If you have any requests for future videos, leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can do! ^_^

Music by: https://www.bensounds.com

Macaron Madness

When I was approached earlier in the year and asked whether I would donate to the Sweet Charitea high tea charity event this year, I immediately agreed and blocked the week from availability for other orders. I wanted to be able to focus all my energies into being creative – doing something for me (selfishly), as well as being able to provide something unique for this incredible cause.

Pink Lemonade Macarons

Pink Lemonade Macarons

I initially thought I would provide mini tarts – but as the year went on, I started to explore more with making macarons, and thought this would be a fabulous time to play with making more, while doing something good for the cause. Seemed like a win-win decision – so I contacted the organiser and said I would change to donate 100 macarons (for reference – regular macarons go for $3/each here, and mine would be worth $3.50-$4 each being decorated and gourmet. So I felt like I was being generous with this one 🙂 ).

Bubblegum Macarons

Bubblegum Macarons

So I started brainstorming with a friend of mine about what possible design/flavours I would do. The theme for the high tea was “At The Movies”. I immediately thought I would either go with appropriately-themed designs – or I run with appropriately-themed flavours. Me being all about flavours, I ran with that. My shortlist was narrowed down to five:

Malteser Macarons

Malteser Macarons

The week began just like any other week really. Me preparing my list of to-dos into my diary – and I allocated time each night after work for me to create a batch or two, thinking by the time I got to Friday I should have the 200 shells at the ready to fill and decorate before my son got home from school. Afterall, macarons are best matured for 24-48 hours prior to consumption – so it sounded like a good plan to me. And I had a million other commitments going on for the weekend, so I really needed to have these done by Friday evening. Should be a piece of cake, right?

Choc Top Ice Cream Sundae Macarons

Choc Top Ice Cream Sundae Macarons

Well, if you’ve ever attempted making macarons, you’ll know that these finicky cookies are anything but predictable. You need to pray and sacrifice your first born to the Mac Gods for them to play nice. Anything from the almond meal/flour being oily, to egg whites not being aged the right amount of time, or even if there’s extra humidity in the environment can all wreak havoc on your otherwise perfect recipe and method. And I’m not sure what happened – but this was not my mac week. My ol’ reliable French method recipe had failed me. Twice. And I was disheartened (OK, not quite this bad lol).

So back to the drawing board I went. Hunting on the All Things Macarons group I’m part of for alternative recipes that I could try to make these bastards *ahem* delightful cookies, work. By this stage it was late Wednesday night and I decided to give the Broma Bakery recipe a go, which uses the Swiss method. I’d made Swiss Meringue buttercream before, so the concept wasn’t completely foreign to me. I followed the recipe as best as I could. I even did a Macaron dance (which I would later dub the Macarona). And could not believe the result…

Full, fluffy macarons!

Full, fluffy macarons!

I’ve never been able to get macarons this full and fluffy before – I was on cloud 9. I have tried both French and Italian methods, and got most success with French method, but still hit minor hollows and just accepted them. This was just absolutely amazing, and I decided there and then, I was converted. The texture still had the slight crunch on outside but chewy centre. It was absolute heaven <3

Butter Popcorn Macarons

Butter Popcorn Macarons

Now, just so it doesn’t appear as though this was the miracle cure for everything, I will admit that there were still a few hiccups. Hiccups because every environment is different, and every oven is different. And I’m sure everyone uses different trays, too. Just like usual, these cookies would need to be perfected, by trial and error, based on the symptom. So here is a list of slight changes that I made to the recipe, to make it work for me. With every batch that I made, it got better and better.

  • Hollow macs – you’re probably giggling at this, because how did I end up with hollow macs, when the first lot I’d made were full? Well I didn’t pay close enough attention to the temperature of the recipe the first time round and cooked them at about 160 degrees Celsius (fan-forced). The second time I attempted the recipe I followed the instruction of 150 degrees and ended up with hollows. D’oh! Batches thereafter were done by preheating the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, then reducing the temperature dial to 150 degrees when I put the tray in. I would then cook for 7 minutes, rotate the tray and cover the macs with baking paper, and cook for a further 8 minutes (on average the cooking temperature would be about 155-157 degrees, according to my oven thermometer).
  • Cracked tops/small or no feetI managed to hit a snag with this happening to me on my third batch haha I did because I rushed (all the time pressure by this stage!), and the recipe said you didn’t need to rest. Well, in my case, I obviously had to. Because they all exploded and had no feet. Disaster. So back I went to my usual resting practice, about 20 minutes, until a skin has formed.
  • Cracked tops on single back row – WTAF I thought I’d sorted the cracked tops thing, but to my dismay I saw that I was still getting cracked tops along the back row while cooking at the 160 degrees temp. And then sitting there, drinking my Earl Grey with a few tears and beads of stress-sweat, I figured it out – fan-forced has its heating element at the rear of my oven. Right where the macarons were cooking and exploding. Uh ohs… so all I could come up with was to use a smaller tray, one that could be brought forward enough and away from the rear element (well either that, or just don’t pipe out the back row of macarons). In my rush to ensure I troubleshoot this issue quickly, I also decided to go with a smaller tray that also had a rim to further protect it from direct heat, start using baking paper so I could save time not having to clean my silicon mats, and just in case it would help at all with reducing the heat factor, I even double trayed it (ie nested it into another tray of same size).
  • Smooth tops – I finally had the method down and they were cooking beautifully – but they still didn’t have the perfectly smooth tops that I would be seeing with the French method. After some research, I discovered that this was quite common with the Swiss method. Because it develops a firm, stable meringue (pro: no hollows woo!), the batter itself doesn’t completely meld into itself when it’s piped (con 🙁 ). The solution is to rap the trays. Hard. Multiple times. Yes, if I’d bang the tray this hard with French macaron batter, they would be pancakes and completely misshapen. But this is NOT. THE. SAME! I kept telling myself that as I rapped the tray 3x on each edge, so hard my poor corgi leapt from her bed in utter fear (note to self: get Pep to leave room before rapping tray in future lol). The action gets the tops to smooth down, and you can continue with the toothpick trick of smoothing the popped air bubbles on the surface.

What I’ve now ended up with is what I would perceive as the perfect macaron. Slight crunch on the outside, chewy middle – and full and fluffy shells. But don’t be mistaking me for a mac-snob. Nope. I’ll still be going down to the local fancy bakery, paying $3 a macaron that comes with a slight hollow, and happily enjoying my guilty little pleasure ^_^

Full and fluffy Bubblegum macaron

Full and fluffy Bubblegum macaron