Saturday, October 27, 2012

Poured Fondant Cupcakes: A Tea Party Treat

Have you ever wondered how some cupcakes get that smooth glossy icing that looks exactly like this?

Photo credit:

The answer is poured fondant. Unlike rolled fondant, which is generally used to cover large cakes and also cupcakes, poured fondant is quick, relatively easy and if done properly looks lovely. When icing cupcakes with poured fondant it is best to ice them the day you intend to use them as you can't refrigerate them or keep them airtight otherwise the fondant will melt or turn rock hard. Until you use them just store them safely in a container like a cardboard cake box.

To make poured fondant cupcakes you will need a few things to get you started:

  • A packet of white icing, which is also called ready to roll fondant. You can buy it in the supermarket next to icing sugar or from cake supply stores
  • Some cupcakes - you should cover 20-24 with 500g of fondant if you do a double dip, less if you triple dip.
  • A heatproof bowl for microwaving. As my cupcakes are gluten free they don't have a very rounded top, you should use a bowl that will comfortably accommodate your cupcake's top half.
  • Some boiling water and a tea spoon of jam, apricot works best. Dissolve the jam in the boiling water. Mine is in the little chinese tea cup, you don't need much.
  • A pastry brush
  • Food colouring if desired. My cupcakes have some mango in them so I'm going with a yellow icing to match.
What to do:
  1. Place your fondant in to your heatproof bowl and microwave on high for approximately one minute. If you use less  than the whole packet of fondant you may only need 45 seconds initially. Take it out and give it a really good stir around with a metal spoon. At this point you may like to add one or two table spoons of water to thin your icing out a little. Keep stirring and if you find that if you still have some lumps simply pop it back in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Once you have reached your desired consistency, runny but still with substance, a little like warm honey you may like to stir in a few drops of food colouring. It should look like this:

2. Using your pastry brush, dip it into the jam and hot water mixture and glide it across the top of your cupcakes. The reason for this is that the cupcakes very quickly dry out under the fondant. This helps to keep your cupcakes moist 

3: By now your fondant should have cooled a little bit and thickened slightly to a consistency much like room temperature honey, this is good! Just give it a good stir using your metal spoon. Grab one of your cupcakes by the patty pan and hold it upside down. Slowly lower it into your fondant icing just to the edges of your patty pan or cupcake wrapper. Bring it out slowly while giving it a bit of twist while you allow the excess icing to drip off. This is important to do otherwise it will drip down the sides, which doesn't always look that bad but it dependent on how you want to present your cupcakes. Quickly pop any air bubbles with a sharp toothpick.

You will need to double dip your cupcakes for a more opaque finish. I would recommend dipping all your cupcakes once, coming back around 5-10 minutes later and dipping them again. If your fondant has become too hard, simply pop it back in the microwave for 5-10 seconds. Once it has set, around 30-45 minutes later you can push some adornments such as flowers etc into the top or even pipe some decorations with royal icing.

Here are my finished products. Keep in mind that my cupcakes started with flat tops. If yours have round tops they will look different and hopefully a little better. Practice makes perfect and you will find that you perfect your technique with each cake.

Place a dozen of these beautiful cupcakes on a cake stand or cake plate when friends come over for tea and they will be a real hit. Not only are they relatively quick and easy to ice, they look good too.

Play around with colours flavours and adornments to create truly unique cupcakes! Most of all, enjoy devouring them with a lovely cup of tea!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Twinings' Blueberry, Apple and Rosehip: A Tea Review

Twinings have been on a bit of an advertising spree lately promoting their fruit and herbal blends. As the weather warms up we do tend to favour fruit and herbal teas more so today I have road tested just for you their Blueberry, Apple and Rosehip fruit infusion. I should probably add that fruit teas also make great iced tea drinks and are just as nice blended with some sparkling water if you want something a little bit fancier.

The blueberry blend, like the majority of Twinings fruit infusions incorporates hibiscus as a key ingredient. On its own hibiscus tea has a rather tart flavour but is nice when sweetened, similar to cranberries. If you are pregnant you should avoid teas containing hibiscus as it is not a pregnancy friendly food!

With sweetener this tea is delightful, on its own its a little tart. As soon as the water hits the tea bag a beautiful fragrance is released that kind of reminds me of freshly baked apple and berry pie. My tea place for this cup of tea is a pretty garden on a spring day with said pie, of course!

The best thing, in my opinion, about the range of Twinings fruit infusions is that they come in very affordable boxes of 10 teabags. This is great because you can try a few flavours to find your favourite or have a range of teas for yourself depending on how you are feeling. Another added bonus for me, maybe not so for others, is that these teas are caffeine free. So if, like me, you are trying to lower your caffeine intake, this is a great place to start.

The Verdict

Tea: Twinings' Blueberry, Apple and Rosehip Fruit Infusion
Store: Most supermarkets
Rating: 4/5
Comment: A little tart for my sweet tastes however this is remedied with a little sweetener. Caffeine free, refreshing and with the option of being a nice iced tea. A nice spring blend.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Aviary Dessert Kitchen: A Tea Place Review

Over the last 12-18 months the popularity of dessert cafes has risen steadily, probably in direct correlation to the supply. These usually cute, quirky places seem to pop up over night and develop cult like followings. Some are better that others though and The Aviary on Norwood Parade, Adelaide is now high on my list of places to go for a sweet treat and a delightful cup of tea.

First, lets talk about the tea. One of the things I love about this place is the fact they use teas by Australian company Tea Tonic. Tea Tonic produce divine herbal, fruit and green teas. Stay tuned for future tea reviews of Tea Tonic teas. These teas are predominantly organic to suit the ever growing demand for organics in this country and are actually blended by a naturopath. They claim to be Australia's healthiest teas.

My dining buddy and I ordered and shared a pot of Apple Tree Tea. This refreshing fruity blend is predominantly apple pieces. So keen to try to deliciously scented brew was my buddy, the tea was poured before it had been given enough time to brew. Fruits and herbal teas need a little longer than black and green teas for the flavours to truly shine. Regardless, this was still such a refreshing treat. I loved that they presented our tea in a green pot with green cups.

In addition to Tea Tonic they also stock a selection of Marriage Fr`eres teas, boutique teas imported from France. This covers you more than well if you are searching for a nice black tea or a premium green tea.

The Aviary, like most dessert cafes has a seasonal menu and they introduce new items on a regular basis. What appealed to me most was the fact that they also clearly indicate which of their items are gluten friendly (GF) or diary free, and there were plenty of choices. Now I know GF means gluten free but like most places as they have gluten containing products in their kitchen they can't guarantee there won't be cross contamination but they try their best. This is why I use the term gluten friendly! They are happy to have gluten intolerant diners and accommodate them! Their current menu can be found on their website.

I ordered the 'a-lychee in wonderland'. The floral lychee, raspberry and vanilla jelly, macaron ‘mushroom’ and turkish delight were served with a tangy but refreshing mangosteen sorbet and tufts of persian fairy floss. It was to die for. No photo I could take of this adorable presentation would do it justice. The flavours all came together so well. This was the first time I had eaten pashmak, persian fairy floss, and it really was nice. It had a soft, melt in your mouth texture, unlike the grainy clumps you get with regular fairy floss. A special touch was the inclusion of a sprinkle of popping candy through the pieces of meringue and turkish delight. Trust me, it tasted even better than it looked, a perfect balance of textures and flavours.

My dessert buddy ordered the Chocolate Pecking Plate which was a tasting plate of flour-less chocolate cake, fresh belgian waffle with chocolate sauce and a chocolate raspberry mousse pot. There is no photo of this one because it was gone before the camera was ready! The signature dessert here is the Macaron Flower Pot and although we didn't try one, they certainly looked delicious.

This is such a popular place and it's easy to see why. Not only is the food to die for, the surroundings are cute and the service is friendly, efficient and attentive - that is something that is unfortunately becoming less common these days. If you want to visit I strongly recommend giving them a call and booking a table, the phone number is on the website.

The Verdict

Tea Place: The Aviary Dessert Kitchen. Norwood Parade, Adelaide, Australia
Rating: 5/5
Comment: A great range of teas to complement every delicious menu item. Great service and a great atmosphere. Check the website for the latest menu and make sure you call to book a table.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gorgeous Geisha: A Tea Review

I strongly believe that every cup of tea you savour should take you on a journey. With each sip, as you close your eyes, you should be transported somewhere, albeit momentarily, so you can relax and escape.

Gorgeous Geisha, a green tea blend from T2, has me on a plane and plonked at a hanami faster than imaginably possible.  And a hanami is a cherry blossom viewing party.

My fantasy place kind of looks like this...

Gorgeous Geisha is a blend of sencha, a Japanese green tea where the leaves are not ground. If you look into the tea bag you can see the little leaves in there all curled up and then you can watch them unfurl when you add water. I’m a big fan of being able to see what I’m drinking. What makes this tea special is its combination of the sencha with freeze dried strawberry pieces. When the hot water hits those strawberries the aroma is incredible. The last ingredient is ‘cream flavouring’ and we don’t get much more info than that apart from that the tea may contain traces of lactose. T2’s Stawberry and Cream blend contains little yoghurt pieces, which makes me wonder if that’s what is in this one.

There’s no denying that this is a sweet green tea and is a perfect blend for spring and summer as it also makes a great iced tea. It’s delightful aroma and harmonious, not subtle but not too strong, blend of flavours make for a ‘gorgeous’ cup.

I buy my Geisha in tea bags, which are fantastic triangular infuser pods, however you can buy it loose leaf. T2 has an online store or you can visit the real thing by checking locations on their website but be warned, you will spend far more than you intend!

The Verdict

Tea: Gorgeous Geisha: Green Tea with Strawberries and Cream
Shop: T2
Rating: 5/5 if brewed correctly.
Comment: Perfect light, fruity and fragrant blend for the warmer months. Leave it brewing for too long and your sweet blend turns into a bitter punnet of squashed sour berries. To avoid this brew at 75-85 degrees celsius for 2-3 minutes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

High Tea for Habitat

September was High Tea for Habitat month. A whole month dedicated to the art of high tea and fundraising for Habitat for Humanity in the Australian and Asia-Pacific region. Naturally I held my very own afternoon tea where friends tasted a range of teas and nibbled on some of the delicious treats I had prepared. Before we get into that, how much do you know about the origins of afternoon tea?

Anna Maria Russell, aka the Duchess of Bedford, is credited with having been the inventor of the afternoon tea. In the early 1800’s she decided she simply couldn’t wait for dinner and needed a snack. It was around this time that tea had gained some popularity and was a little more common. She had a snack prepared for her of some sandwiches and cakes with a cup of tea. She enjoyed this so much she started to invite her friends for afternoon tea and of course if it was popular among the noble classes, it was also popular among the upper classes and the middle classes. But what’s this got to do with high tea you ask? Good question, I say! It all has to do with the height of the table. Taken at a dining table it is a high tea. Taken at the coffee table etc it is a low tea. These days the term ‘high tea’ tends to be given to any tea party with tea, cake and sandwiches that is a little more classy than your average afternoon tea. So popular is high tea that most lovely hotels host them regularly on weekends and some on weekdays. If you are lucky enough to live near a beautiful old fashioned tea room, well you can have high tea anytime!

Now, back to my high tea. Over the course of the month a grand total of $505 was raised for Habitat for Humanity. The day itself was a lovely success. We had several games, some of which you might like to try if you ever host a tea party.

The first was a word game where participants had 30 seconds to compile a list of as many words as they could that ended in the sound ‘tea’. For example; quality, equity and tasty. The winner took away a gorgeous little Maxwell and Williams infuser teapot.

The second game was a tea guessing game where four little Chinese teacups had been filled with different varieties of tea. One point was awarded for every correct ingredient guessed. This game went down to the wire in a Mastechef-esque elimination with a fifth tea. The first to guess an incorrect tea ingredient was eliminated. This nail biting round went down to the wire. A tea with close to a dozen ingredients was chosen and with just two ingredients left (blackberry leaf and red thistle flower) we had a winner who took with them a gorgeous Maxwell and Williams infuser teapot and mug.

One of the most popular treats on the day was the Apple and Caramel Baked Cheesecake. The recipe for this divine desert comes courtesy of fellow blogger and soon to be published author, Not Quite Nigella. You can access the recipe here.

A great afternoon was had by all and more importantly lots of money was raised for a very worthwhile cause.

Check out some beautiful photos of the day taken by the lovely Jen of jen hostetler photography

Thank you to everyone who made it such a special day!

Chocolate Cake Pops

Elderflower, lemon and mint cordial

Chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate and salted caramel frosting
Vanilla cupcakes with boysenberry swirl icing

Monday, October 1, 2012

About Tea

We know that tea has been around for thousands of years but what we probably don’t know about is its evolution from pure plant to the way we enjoy our tea today. There are several stories regarding the origins of tea, most linked to Buddhism and some a little bizarre. Some state a Chinese emperor was drinking boiled water when a breeze came through and floated leaves into his bowl, he liked the taste and so tea was born. Another, regarding the origins of the tea bush itself, tells the tale of Bodhidarma who was so disgusted when he awoke from a nine year meditation that he cut his eyelids off. They fell to the ground and from them grew the tea bush. Hmmm… Lets stick to the first story.

Tea, which early on was described as ‘the elixir of life’ can be traced back first to the Yunnan Province of China in the 10th Century BC where it was widely used for its medicinal properties. In 59BC the first book was produced instructing people how to prepare and drink tea. Originally tea leaves were plucked from the bush and steamed. The resulting liquid was a little different from what we know as tea today.  During the 1200’s tea preparation practices changed and the leaves were roasted and crumbled which led to the brewing of tea and began the origins of modern tea. This also made the export of tea more viable.

Tea as we know it was first introduced to Great Britain in the late 1600’s where it was mainly used for medicinal purposes and consumed for pleasure by the upper classes and aristocracy. Fast forward 100 years and thanks to trading and The British East India Company, tea had become the national drink of Britain. Thanks to the importation of sugar, people now enjoyed their tea sweetened.

I’m not an expert in tea history but I find it rather interesting to know a little more about what I consume.

You can now find multiple varieties of tea just about everywhere you go. It is still the most popular beverage in the UK.

Join me on some tea adventures where I will visit different establishments, discuss tea etiquette, sample a huge array of teas and tell you all about it! Hopefully we will learn something interesting along the way!