Sunday, June 27, 2010

Elephant cupcakes for Baz's birthday

How do you know if an elephant has been hiding in your fridge?

..There are footprints in the butter! 

How do you know if an elephant has been messing with your cupcakes?

..There are footprints in the buttercream! 

Oh, I am hilarious! Somebody stop me! Seriously, stop me.

Baz, my father-in-law, loves elephants. He collects them. Not real ones. I'm pretty sure that's illegal without the correct accreditation. We all went to Taronga Zoo recently to see the baby elephant. Too much frickin' cute for one day. So this year for his birthday I made him elephant cupcakes (last year it was billiard balls). 

Here is what you'll need to make your own elephant cupcakes..

Fondant - grey and colour of your choice for circles.
Circle cutter 
Piping tips (two sizes for cutting)
Black gel food colouring
Small paint brush and some water
Balling tool (optional)

First you wanna cut out some fondant circles for your elephants to sit on. I use a 2 1/2 inch circle cutter. Set aside to dry and harden.

For the face and ears we need three circles, one large and two smaller. I use my piping tips to cut these circles. Press the smaller circles gently with your fingertips to thin out and shape the ears. You can also use a balling tool for this.

Attach the ears to your fondant circle by brushing a little bit of water on the back. Then position the face and also attach with some water.
Next we're making the trunk. Take a small amount of grey fondant and roll it into a ball (see the top left image for the size required). Then with your pointer and thumb, pinch the ball and roll into a trunk shape, one end thicker than the other. Finally, flatten the trunk. You can curve the trunk or leave straight.

Attach the trunk with some water, and use a toothpick and some black food colouring to give your elephants eyes. You could easily add tusks with some white fondant. Then pop these bad boys on your cupcakes with a bit of buttercream or icing. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pancake Sunday - have you ever eaten a giraffe?

My best friend Moon is awesome. She makes me awesome mixed tapes. She shows me awesome things. She takes me awesome places. She also introduced me to the awesome blog, Jim's Pancakes

Basically, Jim makes really amazing pancakes for his gorgeous daughter, Allison. And by amazing I don't mean taste wise (although I'm sure they also taste fantastic), I mean they are amazingly designed!

Moon and I were inspired. We had to try this ourselves, surely it can't be that hard?

It's all about the preparation. Draw your design on some paper first, because fry pans don't come with a rubber for mistakes. Then get your best friend to shake the pancake batter. Then you also better shake the batter. The grab your sweet chilli sauce for.. wait, no, that isn't right! First wash out your 'squeeze' bottle throughly. This will be your drawing tool! Fill the bottle full of batter and go to town.

And here is what we came up with.. First cab off the ranks, Mr Giraffe. He tasted great in my belly.

First 'squeeze' bottle the outline.
Then fill in the blanks with coloured pancake batter (you can just spoon this in). 
Then flip it over. This may take two people, or at least two egg flips and some skill.
Or how about a Lion? RAAAAHHH!

Or a shark.. CHOP CHOP CHOP.

I think this is my favourite.. PAC MAN!

And last but not.. well yes, actually, last BUT least is Moon's final creation. If you can correctly guess what she was aiming to create then you win the satisfaction of being a winner. Hurray! What a fabulous prize.

Mmmmmm yum, strange looking pancake. Is it Sunday yet? I'm ready for more pancakes!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Puppy Cupcakes & The Pedigree Adoption Drive. Help us help dogs.

Last week I received an email. I receive lots of emails, but this one grabbed my attention.  Subject line “Did you know you had the power to help a homeless dog?
I currently have three gorgeous pups. And the thought of these beautiful creatures without a roof over their heads and without a loving family just breaks my heart. 
As I’m writing this, my eldest girl is circling around my feet. There’s a storm outside and she is (ironically) a scaredy cat! 
The email continues “Can you help spread the word in support of homeless dogs? PEDIGREE is inviting dog loving bloggers across Australia to help The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive”. I’m ashamed to say that the thought of using my blog to help support such a worthy cause has never even crossed my mind. How totally self absorbed of me.
Currently in its third year, Pedigree has again teamed with Pet Rescue for the annual Pedigree Adoption Drive, aimed at raising funds to help improve the lives of homeless dogs by seeking out new homes for those who desperately need one (in saying that, don’t all homeless dogs desperately need a home?).

Here are my babies. My pride and joy (Clockwise from Top Left). 
Lee-Roy Brown. He's such a Mummies boy. Wouldn't hurt a fly and is a total poser (obviously). 
Roxy. Very shy, but very vocal. Both Lee-Roy and Roxy were rescues from the RSPCA.
Kaiser. Only recently we had to put him to sleep. I miss him everyday. Kaiser came to our family via my late Uncle. He knew his 'master' wasn't coming home and since that horrible day his eyes were filled with an overwhelming sadness. But the joy and affection he brought us after my Uncle died is unmeasurable and indescribable. A broken heart can't always be fixed, but a face like his will help ease the pain.
Finally, Miss LuckyB. My princess. She's getting on in years, but still has the attitude of a snooty teenager. I think that's because I spoil her. She has one eye and a squashed face. I think she is the most beautiful creature I've ever laid eyes on.

You don’t need to adopt a dog to help this worthy cause (although, that would be fantastic!). You can donate money, or simply join The Pedigree Adoption Drive facebook page. For every person that ‘likes’ the facebook page, Pedigree will donate a bowl of food to a dog shelter. And there are so many hungry mouths to feed. 
And now, the tough part. It’s easy for me to give you all this information, leave you to go about your business, and cross my fingers hoping you might join in. But will you? Will you act on it? Will you help?
I’m going to inspire you. With the only way I know how. Through cakes. Puppy cakes. 
I wouldn’t suggest you share these with your pooch, but there are plenty of dog friendly cake recipes out there. Or make up your own with things like rolled oats, apple sauce, frozen veggies or wholemeal four. 
Puppy Dog Cupcake Decorations

What you will need
Fondant, in 3 colours. Yellow, brown and white is most suitable.
Round cookie cutter (I used a 2 1/4 inch cutter)
Black paste food colouring or piping gel (gel can be bought from all major supermarkets)
2 (different sized) small circle cutters - I used my piping tips.
Toothpicks, or thin tip brush
Rolling pin
Sprinkle your bench with cornflower. Also coat your rolling pin in cornflower. This will stop it sticking and wont stain the fondant like icing sugar will.

Take your base colour (yellow) and roll out to just a few millimeters thick. Cut out circles with the round cookie cutter and set aside to dry and harden.

Next roll out your brown fondant, nice and thin. Cut out two brown circles using the larger of your two circle cutters. These two circles will be your puppy’s ears.

Slightly pinch one end of the circle between your thumb and your index finger to creat a teardrop shape. Repeat with the second circle.
Using the smaller circle cutter, cut out another brown circle. This will be the patch on the puppy’s eye.
Next, roll out the white fondant, again nice and thin. Cut out one circle using the larger of the two circle cutters. This circle will become the base for the puppy’s mouth.

Using the same circle cutter, cut two small sections out of the top half of your circle. Make sure you leave a thin gap between the cuts, so you create the outline of the mouth (and keep the off cuts).

To finish the mouth paint on a smile with your black food colouring and toothpick/brush. Leave aside to dry.

Grab your white off cuts from the base of the mouth. Cut one of the off cuts in half, roll into small balls and flatten with your index finger. These are now the puppy’s eyes.
Take the second off cut and roll into another ball and paint it black. This is now the puppy’s nose.

Grab your paint brush and a cup of water. Arrange all the parts of the puppy’s face first, so you have them in the correct position. Now glue them onto the large yellow circle with a little bit of water (the water dissolves the sugar in the fondant and makes the two surfaces stick together). Paint on any extra details, like black dots for the eyes.

Once your puppy has dried, smother your cupcakes in some buttercream or frosting and stick the puppy on top. Enjoy. Again (and I can’t stress enough) please ensure any cupcakes you make are pet friendly before feeding them to your dog (absolutely no chocolate!). And remove the fondant puppy, all that sugar will cause an upset stomach! 
Realistically, some of us can’t house a dog. A small apartment with no balcony isn’t always a suitable option for a puppy. But you can easily bring a dozen or so of these cupcake puppies into your home without any complaints about barking from the neighbours. 

I will admit though, they are not quite as fun as the real thing. You can't cuddle on the lounge with them. Or take them out for walkies. They also won't fetch when you throw a tennis ball down the backyard. Or jump up and down and do a cute little dance when they know its almost dinner time. And they definitely wont try to climb up into your top pocket when you are sad and need cheering up. Real puppies have a knack for sensing when you need a good cuddle. 
I’ve shown you my gorgeous puppies. I’ve shown you how to make cute puppy cupcakes. But is that enough to get your support? Well, how about this. The cold, hard fact is that over 100,000 dogs are put down each year in Australia, because they don’t have a home. It's heartbreaking. But I can attest, based on my own experience, that the love and affection you receive from a pet will go a long way in helping to mend that broken heart.

At the time of publishing this post, The Pedigree Adoption Drive has found homes for 907 dogs. I only hope this number continues to steadily increase over the next few weeks, and that you all jump online and do what you can to help support this worthy cause.

For more information about The Pedigree Adoption Drive and how you can help, please go to 

You can also support via their Facebook page

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bankstown - Part Three. Gia Hoi Vietnamese and my secret desire to swim in a vat of Pho soup!

If I died tomorrow I’d want the last thing I ate to be Bun Bo Xao. No, not a cake. Vietnamese food. I am addicted. My idea of the perfect meal is a big bowl of beefy lemon grass, fish sauce goodness, followed by a taro pearl milk tea from Easy Way (Yes, I’m also addicted to Easy Way. I’ve passed this addiction onto The Boy. Stop judging me).

(I'm always oddly entertained by the cutlery and condiments on tables at Asian restaurants. Orange chopsticks to match the decor, and three different types of chilli sauce, for the not-so-easily pleased)

I’m lucky enough to have an amazing Vietnamese restaurant just around the corner from my workplace. It’s bright orange and makes great Bun Bo Xao. My dear friend, Cat, is my tutor is everything Vietnamese. One day while eating at the orange restaurant Cat mentions to me “You realise this place also has a branch in Bankstown?”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! 
This revelation is very dangerous. Prior to this exact moment I had been traveling to Hurstville to get my fix, now it was a measly 5 to 10 minutes from my front door (depending on traffic). 
So off went The Boy and I one raining Sunday night. Turn the corner and just up ahead I see the bright orange exterior shinning like a beacon of delicious hope! It does have an actual name - Gia Hoi. But everyone knows it as the orange restaurant. 

(Fresh rice paper rolls with shredded pork. 4 pieces, $7)

Super hungry, we order an entree and main each. Fresh rice paper rolls with shredded pork to start. Personally I don’t think they have enough pork and the texture is a bit gritty for my liking, but The Boy is sold, gobbling up my share. 

(Braised beef rice vermicelli salad - Bun Bo Xao. $9)

Of course I ordered the braised beef rice vermicelli salad. This comes with a fabulous fish sauce dressing called Nuoc Cham. It’s a common dipping sauce accompanying many vietnamese dishes. It consists of one part lemon/lime, one part fish sauce, one part sugar, two parts water, chilli and garlic. When served with Bun, shredded carrot is added.
It’s not normally spicy or hot, but the Bankstown branch seems to serve theirs with a little bit more chilli, which is fine by me particularly on this cold, dreary night.  

(Crispy skin chicken)

The Boys crispy skin chicken egg noodle soup arrives without the chicken. I assure him the chicken is served separately and it will arrive shortly,  but he is very hungry so he starts slurping down soup and noodles by itself. 

(Crispy skin chicken with egg noodle soup. $8)

He enjoys the chicken, but maintains that the soup is a little tasteless. I did suggest on arrival that he get the pho -  a beef broth soup that is so tasty I wouldn't mind swimming in a giant vat of it. 

In contrast to Haymarket, the Bankstown branch is a little bit cheaper, but just as tasty. The sizes are super generous, so we roll ourselves out of the orange haze and head off for coffee with friends. Perfect Sunday night.

Gia Hoi Vietnamese

299 Chapel Rd St
Bankstown 2200 NSW
Phone: (02) 9796 3388

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bankstown - Part two. Sindbad Bakery

We all do it. And we all love it. If you haven’t managed to suck down all of that greasy pizza for dinner, you’re gonna pop it in the fridge and save it for breakfast tomorrow. Because it tastes better the next day. I once heard a rumour that Pizza Hut were going to bring out a line of cold pizza, just for the not-so-niche market of breakfast pizza lovers.

And because Pizza Hut won’t give you a breakfast option, I’m going to show you one (and the ‘cold pizza’ is yet to be release by the fast food giant).

When in Bankstown, get yourself to a Lebanese Bakery for some Lebanese Pizza. I don’t care which one. Anyone. Just get there. Soon. Got it? Good.

Here is my favourite, Sindbad Bakery. The Boy introduced me to the Lebanese pizza, traditionally called Man'oushe or Mankoushe. It is eaten for breakfast accompanied by strong Lebanese coffee. Basically it is a Lebanese flatbread, cooked at extremely high temperatures with a variety of toppings including ground beef, cheese and za’atar or oregano. And it is super cheap. And tastes amazing.

On this cold, raining Sydney morning The Boy and I opt for a variety of take away pizzas to share.
(Clockwise from top left) This is how you are supposed to eat the pizza. No slices here, just folded over to hold in all the tasty-ness. Get ready, steady aaaannnnnd.. EAT IT! But that’s no fun for photos so let’s pull ‘em apart! First off the rank is the simply named Meat (Lrg $4), this is ground beef, tomato, onion and a variety of herbs and spices. Then we have the Cheese (Lrg $4), we’re told this is haloumi but I don’t find it as salty and chewy. We think it could be a mix as the cheese is stringy like mozzarella. Last is the Oregano (Lrg $1.50), also known as za’atar. This is a herb mix made up of dried herbs including oregano and thyme, with a smattering of sumac. The Sumac is a dried berry which adds a very tangy lemon flavour to the mix. Must eat this one with coffee. 

For the grand total of $9.50 we have breakfast for two people. Now we fold ‘em back up and whack ‘em in your gob, wash it down with a coffee or tea. Breakfast of champions. Or will you be sticking to your ‘cold pizza’?

Sindbad Bakery

Shop 4, 2-10 Restwell Street
Bankstown NSW 2200
(02) 9796 3165