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

Colouring meringue buttercream

Trying to colour your meringue-based buttercream but finding it doesn’t take on colour that well? It’s easy enough to achieve pastels, but when it comes time to trying to achieve a deep, vibrant colour, I’ve been frazzled by how much gel colour I’ve added and still not getting the results I was looking for.

One approach is to colour your meringue before you add your butter. Butter being high in fat, it does not take on gel colours well (water based colour + fat = no go). So, if you colour your meringue first, before emulsifying in the butter, you will have better success with it. But, when wanting to save on time, you may want to make a big batch of buttercream, then split it up to colour separately.

And I honestly thought that it was impossible. I’d tried using flo-coat mixed with gel colours (fail), and used oil based colours as well (another fail) . I had all but given up – that is, until I learnt about the “blooming” method – and let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer.

Coloured meringue buttercream

Coloured meringue buttercream

Sorry for the terrible quality of this picture, but I took this picture at night time – and purposely did not enhance the image in any way, just to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve deep, vibrate colours with your meringue buttercream, using gel colours (in my case, I use Americolor colours). Here is a run down on what product and approach I used for each of the above colours:

  • Red – Start off with Deep Pink until deep pink is achieved, then tone to red using Super Red. Pink seems to colour easier than red, so overall you would be using less colouring.
  • Yellow – Lemon yellow.
  • Blue – Start off with Electric Blue until a deep blue, then tone using Royal Blue.
  • Black – Start off by adding cocoa powder and/or melted dark chocolate to get a chocolate buttercream colour (it’s better to start with a darker base, that way less colouring is used), then tone to black using Super Black.

So, what is the blooming method? Here is a rundown:

Prepare your buttercream as usual, and set aside whatever portion you want to colour. From the portion you want to colour, scoop out 1/4 cup of it into a microwave safe cup/bowl. Add several drops of gel color and stir well. Microwave it until it is melted (usually about 10 seconds) – you will find that the colour will have darkened significantly. Then mix this “bloomed” colour into the rest of the batch in the mixer, bit by bit, until you like the color. If you need to darken further, repeat the process and add more colour. (Try to avoid repeating too often, or you may compromise the texture of your buttercream. If it does start going too soft, you’ll have to fridge it for, say, 15 minutes at a time and remix, until it becomes firmer again).

Be mindful – colours darken with time! I tend to leave the coloured buttercream to develop at least 4 hours (overnight is best). The colours above, for example, I stopped adding to the red when it was at a coral red colour; the black was more of a dark charcoal colour when I stopped adding colour. The colour then further developed overnight to achieve those pictured results.

I hope this is helpful and makes sense to everyone – happy buttercreaming! 🙂

Achieving Rose Gold

So I have had a few tries at achieving Rose Gold painting onto fondant – and could never quite achieve the finish I was going for. It was actually driving me crazy. Until over the weekend I managed to achieve this:

To me, this resonated the closest to Rose Gold that I have been trying to achieve all this time. The metallic sheen typical of a Rose Gold, and the pink tone.

Prior to this attempt, I had tried the Rolkem Special Rose Gold luster dust mixed with alcohol to form a paint. While I loved the metallic sheen, I found the resulting colour was more bronze than I was expecting. It’s definitely still a form of Rose Gold, but it wasn’t what the Rose Gold I was looking for.

After reading another cakemaker’s suggestion to try the Rolkem Super Champagne luster dust, I did so. While I loved the colour with the pink undertone – I felt it missed the metallic sheen you would expect to find with a gold.

On this attempt, I did a 50/50 mix of the two different Rolkem dusts, and mixed with alcohol to form a paint, and Bam!, I feel like I’ve finally struck gold. *Ahem* I mean, rose gold 😉

Classes with Anita

Exciting news happens so often and I usually forget to blog about it (not intentional – just time-poor 🙁 ). But I must write about this one – I will be teaching classes at the new and upcoming cake decorating supply shop in Tuggeranong – Across The Board Cake Decorating Supplies!

The current line-up includes the following courses:

  • 30 June 2018 @ 10am – Unicorn cake
  • 8 September @ 10am – Mermaid drip cake
  • 29 September @ 10am – Semi-naked cake with gumpaste succulents

If you’re interested in enrolling into one of the classes and learning some of the techniques I use in creating cakes, you can book via the Classes page on the website.

Let’s go shopping!

So I haven’t done an official launch of my website’s shopfront, but I am excited about it unfolding live and in a more organic nature.

In the meantime, I am going to write a more technical post about how I managed to accomplish the shop up to this point. Probably the majority of people reading this blog are here for the cake posts, I know, but you just never know who may be more interested in the technical aspect of it (especially considering its unusual complexity of requiring multiple shipping origins).

Overview of technologies

There are a number of decent ones available, just find one that meets your needs. I am currently with a business package on Hosting Australia who provide excellent pricing and brilliant service, even on weekends.

You can either get this bundled with your web hosting package, or you can pay for one separately to have installed along with your website manually. Be sure to choose which one suits your needs. Please don’t disregard this step if you are intending to do online sale transactions to protect your customers’ data!

 Why reinvent the wheel? There is a myriad of wonderful WordPress plugins that are absolutely free, so why not make the most of it? What’s great about WooCommerce are the number of additional plugin extensions you can get for it! Here is a list of the ones that I am (at this point in time) using to provide a seamless online shopping experience on my website. And best of all, these are all (at the time of writing this article) ABSOLUTELY FREE! 🙂

WooCommerce Extension NameExtension Description
Multiple Packages for WooCommerceA simple UI to take advantage of multiple shipping packages without PHP knowledge
Payment Gateway Based Fees and Discounts for WooCommerceWooCommerce Payment Gateways Fees and Discounts.
Smart Send Shipping for WooCommerceAdd Smart Send Australian shipping calculations to Woo Commerce.
** REQUIRES VIP ACCOUNT **
Woo Checkout Field Editor ProCustomize WooCommerce checkout fields(Add, Edit, Delete and re-arrange fields).
WooCommerce Print Invoice & Delivery NotePrint Invoices & Delivery Notes for WooCommerce Orders.
WooCommerce SquareAdds ability to sync inventory between WooCommerce and Square POS. In addition, you can also make purchases through the Square payment gateway.

Now, before you go and just install everything willy-nilly, I will point out that WooCommerce on its own is a powerful plugin and I would probably say most people don’t necessarily need to add anything else on. But, in my case, I had some small things that I needed to tweak, and these extensions worked beautifully.

Customisations

Now wouldn’t it be lovely if every single thing worked straight outta the box?! While I would say 99% did, the complication I faced was that not everything I intended to sell would be shipped from the one origin address. Something that I thought there would be a plugin readily available for, but apparently not quite.

So what I did was divide and conquer the problem. I first installed the extension “Multiple Packages for WooCommerce” (mentioned in table above). This could then handle the splitting of packages via use of the product shipping class, so each package has its own set shipping fee. (This incidentally handles the issue of products that need to be limited to pick up only, ie fresh baked goods, fragile goods, or in the other industries, larger items).

The next stage was to then apply that same stream of logic (ie using the product shipping class) to then differentiate shipping origin address in the SmartSend plugin (I happened to be using SmartSend as my courier option, however I am sure there are equivalent courier plugins for other services in other countries). Now, as far as I am aware, I could have requested assistance for this issue directly with SmartSend and the developers probably could have created a solution for me. However, what kind of software programmer would I be if I had not at least attempted to resolve this for myself?

Overview of existing wordpress plugin Development

What you’ll need to develop an existing WordPress plugin:

  • FTP client, such as FileZilla client
  • Your FTP credentials to log onto your website’s hosting files
  • A PHP editor, such as Notepad++
  • AgentRansack (optional) – a fast and efficient way to search through folders, based on search terms “filename” and “containing text”.

Once you’ve logged into your website’s FTP, you can then locate the plugin you want to develop under directory (in this particular example, we are going to develop on the SmartSend plugin, located under public_html/wp-content/plugins/woocommerce-smart-send-australian-shipping).

I tend to download the entire directory to my local drive, and then make a copy under a BACKUP folder. Just in case I mess something up, I can then roll back hehe

Now, the development that I did, all happened to be contained in one file: smartsend-plugin.php.

I won’t delve into specific details at this stage of what I changed, however here is an overview.

Problem: Need to assign a different shipping origin for Bakels products

Solution:

  1. Create new Shipping Class “Bakels” as part of Multiple Packages plugin use, which splits the cart items by Shipping Class
    WooCommerce Shipping Classes

    WooCommerce Shipping Classes

  2. In the product itself, you’ll need to select “Bakels” shipping class so that they correlate
    Assign shipping class to product

    Assign shipping class to product

  3. Edit smartsend-plugin.php file, add new fields in init_form_fields method
    Updated SmartSend plugin settings page

    Updated SmartSend plugin settings page

    • Add new “Select” element: drop down list of all the registered Shipping Classes – will be Bakels
    • Add new form fields: secondary Origin Address details which correlates to that specific Shipping Class – where the Bakels shipping class items will be shipped from
  4. Edit smartsend-plugin.php file, where in the code it calls the setFrom method, insert code such that pseudocode is
    For each item in shopping cart
       If item has shipping class "Bakels"
          Call setFrom method using Secondary Origin Address
          break;
       Else
          Call setFrom method using Primary Origin Address

I think that covers it – not bad eh? Then when in use, you’ll see:

Cart split

Cart split

A useful tip – when developing PHP on WordPress, it’s hard to debug. Learnt this nifty little piece of code that you can insert into PHP that will dump to the output anything you need, example:

var_dump($shopping_cart)

Happy coding everyone! 🙂

Custom coloured cachous (sugar pearls)

Ever had a cake that you wanted a very specific colour for cachous/sugar pearls and couldn’t find it? I’ve just landed in that very situation (and I really wouldn’t have thought purple was a tricky one to get, but there you go).

So in that situation – what do you do? I looked online for some ideas.. airbrush them, shake them in luster dust, paint them.. so many options really. But being short on time (as most people are these days) I wanted something quick n easy.

I got a small container, dumped in regular white cachous, put in a quarter teaspoon or so of purple luster dust and gave it a shake. Opened the lid and was disappointed at what I was looking at.. very dull purple. I was hoping for something a tad more vibrant.

And that’s when it hit me, just like with gold, you add alcohol/spirit to make it a paint and suddenly it coats whatever you’re painting really well. So in that spirit, I added a teeny amount of alcohol and gave it another shake. Voila! The colour became vibrant and there was no doubt that the sugar pearls were now purple in colour ^_^

I spread them out onto some baking paper and allowed to dry. Very happy with the results and look forward to using them for this weekend’s cake 🙂

Purple coloured cachous

Purple coloured cachous

 

Latest updates

Hi guys! Thought I’d drop a quick post to let everyone know that I’ve done a some updates to the site (never-ending, isn’t it?)

Firstly, I have now got integration between the date selector widget on my enquiry page and my Google calendar. If you are not able to select a particular date on the enquiry form due to it being unavailable, this is not an error – it is because I have already blocked it as busy in my Google orders calendar and cannot take on another cake for that date. Hopefully this will aid in people knowing even prior to submitting an enquiry whether I am available or not (alternatively, you can confirm my availability on the availability page).

Secondly, I have now introduced a flavours menu. Take a look if you have a minute and let me know what you think 🙂 Remember, these are merely suggestions – this is a custom cake and it  is definitely not limited to what is seen on the menu. I’ve just received a lot of feedback that there is a lot of options and I suspect it all gets  a bit overwhelming. I have currently got 14 flavour profiles on there, I hope it’s not too many.

And thirdly, I have launched a Valentines Day promo. This will include an assortment of goodies intended to be shared with a loved one (or loved ones – I think there will be enough there to share with kids too 😉 ). If you’re keen, simply contact me and place an order 🙂