Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Eurovida Paddington Review

There are so many eateries popping up in Brisbane, it's almost impossible to keep track. As a food blogger, this is obviously awesome as the food scene is exploding, but it also means there are more places to eat at than I can afford or manage.

When C wanted to head out for breakfast on Sunday morning he suggested an old favourite. I had to protest, I had been meaning to go to Wolloongabba to have brekky for some time, but after jumping on a couple of websites, it became apparent, the places I had been stalking weren't open. What a shame.

I still wasn't content with going somewhere familiar, and decided to head up the road to Given Terrace and try out the not-so-new, but as yet unvisited by G.G., Eurovida. Eurovida opened earlier in the year. Much earlier in the year. Could actually be more correct to say the start of the year. This place is very local for me, so it's actually a bit of a disgrace that I haven't made the effort to go and check it out before now. It's always good to support good local places, because if you don't, they can disappear before you get the chance.

Eurovida sits in a row next to some other pretty well known eateries, so they are competing with some really well established places. Granted, they didn't have the same lines as the ever popular Anouk, just up the road, but they definitely had some 'bums on seats.' We were seated straight away, in the breezy, quite lovely front courtyard area which has a busy but nice vibe.

The menu had a good array of options, and I ended up going with the Eurovida fill me up'  ($18.5) not because I was particularly hungry, but the big breakfast option often gives a good indication of the style of a place. That, and I wanted the hand cut wood smoked bacon. The breakfast specials really took C's fancy and he had trouble choosing between the 'bean bag' or the salmon. I suspect it was the tortilla wrap that he couldn't resist and ended up going with the bean bag option at $16. It was also nice to see they had some fresh special juices available like apple and kiwi for something a little different.

After our cranberry juice ($3.5) and C's usual flat white ($3.5) arrive, it didn't take long for our brekky's to follow suit.

Piled high, my 'Fill me up' contained two poached eggs, hand cut wood smoked bacon, parillero sausage, mushrooms, potato and pecorino cake, house made tomato relish and sourdough toast. Definitely not a light option. Biting into the hand cut bacon was unbelievable. The thickness of the cut was seriously credible and there was a fairly generous portion on my plate. The bacon could have been crispier, i.e. it was a little undercooked and still in the soggy phase, but the flavour was really good. Slicing my knife into one of the eggs resulted in a beautiful yolky pool on my toast- cooked to perfection.  The housemade tomato relish was complex and complimented the spicy sausage well. Sadly, the pecorino and potato cake had plenty of promise, but instead was rather bland with an unpleasing grainy texture.  Really disappointed because this could have been the new couture version of a hash brown. The spinach and dressing was a pleasant touch. 

I know this is totally bogan of me, and maybe it's because Gran used to always cook me eggs with homemade soft bread, but I just don't love the whole sourdough or ciabatta phase- I want something soft for my eggs to sit on. What are your thoughts? I say this, because I often find it too hard to put eggs on a harder bread and still enjoy. Moving right along......

There was far too much on the plate for me to finish, so 'Fill me up' really was an apt name. C managed to snag half the sausage, a bit of the potato cake, a little bit of bacon and an egg- so in effect, he also had a mini version of this dish too, as well as the bean bag.

Bean Bag. What an odd name for a breakfast item. Super impressed that Eurovida had breakfast specials. Not enough places do, and these sounded inventive and interesting, not just the run of the mill, 'we need to get rid of some eggs so make some scrambled eggs' type of deal. The 'beanbag was described as a tomato, bean and chorizo encased in a tortilla case, topped with sour cream, avocado and a little salsa. When it arrived, I was immediately jealous, knowing I should have also ordered the bean bag. Damn menu envy. Camb took one bite and was very smug. 

The rich tomato filling worked really well with the chorizo, the whole thing was quite mouth popping. The beans managed to ensure the dish still had a breakfasty element, and wasn't too overpowering for 9 a.m. on a Sunday. The topping were fresh and appreciated, finishing the dish perfectly. All in all, it was a damn good breakfast version of a chorizo burrito. 

Throughout the meal, service was prompt, polished and professional. When I was checking through the other menus, I realised that Eurovida also does lunch and dinner on some nights, and has a cocktail list and wine list that look tempting. The lunch and dinner options are very reasonable with nothing over $25. 

Eurovida has a great spot nestled between the boutiques and other restaurants on Given Tce. Our brekky was good, more reasonably priced than others around and  we were served some simple, rusitic, fresh fare. We were in and out without any waiting in line drama, but I suspect that won't be for long, especially if they keep serving their brill brekky bean bag!

When to go: On a sunny Sunday morning, or when you are shopping up a storm and need a little lunch break.

So tell me readers: What sort of bread would you prefer with your soft poached eggs?

1/208 Given Terrace
Paddington QLD 4064

07 3367 8816

Eurovida on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 25, 2010

24 years of Kim Thanh Restaurant

Being a food blogger is hard work, but it does have it's perks. Sometimes people are kind enough to invite us along to stuff. You know, events, tastings, openings an the like. It is always lovely to be asked to anything but on Monday night, I was lucky enough to be invited to a very special event- a celebration of 24 years in the business for a family owned and run Vietnamese Restaurant in West End. 

Chef Bao La, son of Chieu Lu and Cuong La organised and catered the event, along with help from other family members. And what a fabulous event it was.

Surrounded by loyal clientele, and many supportive friends and family, the night celebrated the achievements and good times at Kim Thanh restaurant. At the end of the evening, after a really beautiful, extravagant 5 course meal, it was revealed that next year, after 25 years, Chieu and Cuong will be closing their doors. Ok people, lets put this in perspective. 25 YEARS! Oh my gosh! Longer than my life time! And from what was said, it hasn't been easy- they have been through some tough years, 2 and a half fires and many other dramas that go with running a restaurant.

This was obviously an emotional announcement, but it was so incredibly heart warming to see the response from patrons who spoke about Chieu and Cuong (and their kids) as though they were family. They also received a standing ovation with several rounds of 'cheers'ing- really lovely!! It's obvious they have a strong following, and with the quality of the food that was served on Monday night, it's not hard to see why.

I want to thank Bao for inviting me to attend. I really enjoyed myself, the food was amazing and it was just so nice to see a family run restaurant that has done so well, obviously managing to capture the hearts of the fickle dining market.

Bao works at Kim Thanh, and after the closure, I'm not sure what his next move is, but can't wait to find out. I hope his talking about a Viet Street Style Restaurant (wooo hooo) wasn't idle twitter chitter! I know I, and many other Brisbane food lovers will hold him to this!

1st course: Nem Nuong Cuon Cham Tuong Hue 
Grilled pork rice paper rolls with dipping sauce

There were so fresh. The pork was tender and there was a fruity surprise wrapped up in the noodles that added a really nice element. 

2nd Course: Goi Ngo Sen Tom Thit
Pickled lotus stem salad with prawn and pork belly - served with prawn cracker chips.

Oh my gosh- I need to work on my Vietnamese pronunciations, because if I ever go to Vietnam, I want to order this. Without a doubt, my favourite dish of the night. The pickled lotus stem was a mixture of sweet and sour, heat from the chillis, elegance from the prawns and plump pork. Also, eating on the crackers was delicious. I will be learning how to cook this hopefully. One of the best Vietnamese dishes I have ever had!

3rd Course: Mi Vit Tiem
Master stock cooked duck with egg noodles in Chinese herb broth 

Loved the sumptuous duck, egg noodles, broth and greens. At first I wasn't so sure about the plums ( at least I think they were a version of plum)- I haven't had them served like this before and their texture and flavour took a bit of getting used to, but once I had tasted a couple, I could see they worked with the dish.

4th Course: Bo Luc Lac
Wok tossed black angus with dalat salad and tomato rice

This was a really lovely last course before dessert. The beef was tender, the rice and moreish and the salad was DELISH. Seriously, what is Dalat?  It sounds like a region in Vietnam? I have to find out what this simple salad was dressed with. So sweet and vinegary and incredibly fresh. I could have licked it off the lettuce. It's funny how simple things like salad dressing stick in your memory as outstanding.

5th Course: Dua Nuong Trai Vai Ca Rem
Roasted coconut and lychee ice cream

Couldn't have any of this one- you know- the whole allergic to ice cream thing?! I thought I wouldn't mind, because I am used to peeps consuming ice cream in front of me, but people around me were GROANing in delight. Mean thing to do to me tweeps! I believe it was amazing! Lucky I was already quite content, my belly filled with food.

Seriously, do yourself a favour and make sure you pop into Kim Thanh before they close and have some of the gorgeous Viet food on the menu. I'm hoping to even snare a few recipes from Bao to share with you.

Congratulations to Chieu and Cuong. What an amazing contribution to Brisbane's dining scene!

Tell me readers:  Do you know any awesome family run restaurants?

Kim Thanh
93 Hardgrave Road
West End QLD 4101
07 3225 1001

Kim Thanh on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Farm Girl- Veggie Gardens, Poddy Calves and the end of the year blues

Lately, everything has been falling in a heap. You know the saying that bad things happen in threes? Try 300's. It's true that these things usually wouldn't phase me on their own, but lately, a rather large pile of them have been getting me down and I have been feeling completely overwhelmed. I know there are a fair few other people around that are feeling the same. It seems of my friends lives are fairly chaotic at the moment too. What is the meaning of this Universe?! Can you please calm down!? I know it's the end of the year, so obviously that is contributing to the chaos, but this year seems particularly bad. I also haven't been home for a while, and I haven't seen my baby sister for even longer. I always wish I could see them much more often, but can't imagine moving back to the G'dah. Argh, so conflicted. 

So last weekend, I knew I needed to get out of the city and just have some time to do not much at all. We decided to visit C's farm, which is the ideal spot to relax and just 'potter' around all weekend. When we arrived at the farm quite late on Friday night, I almost felt relieved at my first breath of fresh air.It's probably true to say you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. Yee haa. 

I love going to the farm, especially when it is so beautiful and green. It's even better at the moment because heaps of the cows are calving and it's always lovely to see. Plus they usually pick up a poddy calf or two for the season as well. 

The property is a cattle property, but down near the house, there is so much food growing, it's really inspiring. Actually, It makes me totally jealous, because in my suburban little concreted backyard, not much grows, and when it does, the possums help themselves to all of it. Even the red hot chillis I planted to spite them. 

It rained all weekend but I went out anyway and snapped some photos to pop on here. There is nothing more satisfying than going outside, picking some ingredients straight from the vine/ground/under a chook's bum and then making them into something that appears on the table in less than an hour or two. Carbon footprint = 25 of my own steps around the garden. Good one. So this isn't going to be a usual post, It's going to be me, walking through the garden! Very calming!! 

It's raining here, but you can see the view across one of the paddocks. It's so green. I will never complain about the amount of rain!!

There are a couple of established pecan nut trees around the place, but they haven't been fruiting particularly well, so C's dad decided to plant another. Plus they are a really pretty tree.

Pretty sure this is a mandarin tree. Maybe they had to plant another because everytime we go there, I clean them out of mandarins!?

I wish I had a mango tree, in my back yard. 

Pawpaw tree. Hmmm.... not so sure about Paw Paws.... Anyone got any good recipes?

The peach tree kept on getting attacked by birds so S had to rig up some netting around to protect the fruit.

The fruit are quite small but really tasty- and they aren't squished at all because they haven't been carted in a box anywhere- only in my jumper pockets from the tree into the house. Yes, I said jumper! Aside from being wet, it was seriously cold there on the weekend! I packed my bikini thinking I could need a bit of cooling off, but instead ended up grabbing some old trackies out of C's cupboard to keep me warm!

The chooks are mostly free range, but at night have to be locked up because the foxes and snakes kept on getting them. The chooks lay pretty well and their eggs are really delish. The chickens are actually pretty funny. C's brother L also purchased some guniea fowl a while ago and bought them home too. The chickens and the guinea fowl are locked in a rather jason nevins vs run dmc type battle. Sorry for the reference to an obscure 90's pop song, but seriously, this is what I think of when I see the chooks clucking at the Guinea fowl who return a weird kaa kaa sort of noise. They are like a little gang and they hang out on the tennis court or under the pecan nut tree. Obviously high society. I can almost imagine them sipping on iced tea!

Check out the colour of fresh eggs in the pumpkin and spinach Frittata C's mum made for lunch. SO vibrant! The actual vege patch is a pretty serious thing- it is fully enclosed with wire because of the animals that getting in and eating everything. 

Chilli bush only has a few red chillis at the moment.

One of the many patches of parsley. There are also versions of flat leaf.

Zucchini plants- I was going to harvest all the zucchini flowers, but turns out there was only three so will try again when there are more!

Some freshly picked spinach and chives from the garden, ready to be made into lunch.

Same as the pumpkin which was picked from the garden about 3 minutes before I took this photo!

Cute mini pumpkin that won't be ready for a while! The pumpkin vine is seriously prolific. As you can see there is another mini pumpkin on the bottom left hand corner of the photo just waiting to grow too.

Some new lettuce plants that are just starting to grow. I think there are about 10 planted. I personally like those lettuce plants that you can pick a couple of leaves from the outside without using the whole lettuce- I'm thinking of getting C's dad some for Christmas, among other things.

The mandarin tree with the last of the fruit. It has to be covered with netting too because the birds are maniacs, who like getting wasted on rotting fruit.

This is the naughty poddy calf. His mum died during calfbirth or shortly afterwards. This guy is pretty naughty and has tried every way of escaping possible. He regularly gets his head stuck in the wire. He's also pretty cute, even if he is naughty.

Some of the beautiful flowers that are looking gorgeous because it is spring!

 Some of the puddles on the driveway. I didn't even care that it rained all weekend. In actual fact, it made the days so much more relaxing, and it was cold enough to curl up in bed and read a book- something I haven't had time to do for a long time. I did feel more at peace after the weekend, but really can't wait for a longer break. I was dreading the drive back on Sunday afternoon- back to normality.

As the end of the year comes to a close, I find myself willing it to hurry up so we can have a new year and start fresh! I try to remind myself that things aren't as bad as they feel at the moment, just with SO much happening, it's hard to find time to prioritise and just get a large list of things done. I think I will definitely be in bed at 8:00 a.m. tonight!! 

Maybe it's the birthday blues hitting earlier than usual? It's no secret that my own birthday is my least favourite day in the year, and it is coming up within the next month.. Usually it only starts a week or so beforehand but maybe as I'm getting older, it is getting worse hmmm.. 

On a less depressing note- Christmas is coming, and Christmas is my favourite time in the year (excluding the whole birthday thing). A much needed holiday and time to spend with my fams and friends, plus some time to rejuvenate will be much appreciated from this worn out little food blogger!!

So tell me readers, have you had enough of this year yet?!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Cake decorating at Cakes by Judy C

It's not often I want to rush home and write a blog post, but that's exactly what I'm sitting here doing on a Sunday night, because I had such a great time today, I just had to share it!!

As you all know, my baking abilities suck a little bit. There was the whole little sister's birthday cake that turned out sort of okish for an amateur first go, but really, this minor win falls among a lot more epic fails. This isn't to say that I'm not interested in making cakes, trust me, I am. In fact, I am a little obsessed with beautiful cakes. I have a folder on the comp where I save photos of any beautiful cakes that catch my eye. I'm not discriminatory- they can be any flavour and use any icing, just as long as they are beautiful. I guess I collect the cake photos because they are like works of art. Is it creepy that I keep all these photos- please someone else tell me you do weird things like this too?!

However beautiful I think they are, I didn't think I was capable of creating something so gorgeous. But.. this morning when I went to a cake decorating workshop at Cakes by Judy C, my cake making dreams came true!

Judy C is one of the baking icons in Brisbane. She has been in the business for 18 years and makes some fabulous creations. I have actually stalked her facebook page a number of times, so was really happy when I received an invitation to attend the Christmas cake decorating class.

I arrived a little early for the class, just in time to take a couple of photos of some of the cakes in the window display (above and below- you didn't actually think that I made something that beautiful, did you?!) For those of you who are wondering- the wedding cakes are usually dummies, but the gingerbread house is real. I always wonder if the cakes are real when I walk past cake shops!

The course started at 10:00 on a Sunday and ran for 3 and a half hours. Judy likes to have 6 or 7 people in each of her classes because she finds that she can spend quality time with each person, giving them a little help and direction as needed. I tend to agree- I have been in cooking classes with much larger groups and it tends to take away from the experience. I also think it's easy for 6 or 7 people to interact with each other, and we had a really great group.

Aside from myself, food blogger wise, Sassy Sarah from I ate Brisbane also attended the class. It was great that she could come too, because we had lots of fun and she captured lots of fab photos that I will link to once she posts.

Once everyone arrived, Judy gave us a demo of how she would decorate a Christmas cake. The Christmas cakes were already prepared (which Judy provides) so that gave a bit of a headstart. I think you would need to put aside the whole day if you wanted to make the cake and decorate it. Judy's super pro demo was over and done with within about 1/2 an hour. She had lots of great words of wisdom but you could tell her practised hands just were used to working with the medium, she made it look much easier than it actually was. Rather than being overwhelming, this was really good, because it gave us confidence to start off with!

After the demo, we split off and placed ourselves around her Ashgrove premises commercial kitchen. It was great to have lots of bench space and access to all sorts of fabulous tools in stark contrast to my tiny nook of a kitchen, that is not well equipped for decorating and the likes.

Judy told us that essentially, you need a cake with good structure. Something that has sunk in the middle or have other obvious flaws will be no good for decorating with fondant icing, because it will never look right. Of course, no cake is flawless so thats why she suggested filling the holes in, and blocking any gaps- not unlike what you would do with plastering before you paint. She also says it is important to work with products you trust, and Judy's pick of the icings is Pettinice, so that's what we were using for our cakes.

Just to let you know- some of the photos I have taken are when Judy was doing the demo. It was easier to take photos then, but not so much when I had sticky fingers, a black shirt that had turned white and needed to concentrate really really hard !

In my previous cake making experience, I had a little disaster with the icing sweating, so I asked Judy what the best ways to avoid this- she said make sure the cake isn't hot when you ice it, and make sure you don't put it into the fridge when you were finished.

 First things first, my cake wasn't exactly even, so I rolled some of the icing in a snake and placed on the bottom of the cake to fill the gap.

If you have a cake with fruit in it- it is important to just press the sultanas (or whatever else) firmly to see they have plumped during cooking. Mine had, so judy suggested pressing the fruit back in and filling those gaps with icing too, we well as any other craters on the cake. The best way to make sure  the icing is as flat as possible is to use a tiny bit of water on the back of a spoon, and spread as thinly as possible. Warning: don't use too much water, just enough to help spread the icing thingly.

Hmm... So as you can see in the photo below, I went a little crazy with 'puttying' up the holes in my cake.  I made the mistake of doing the top rim where the cake was starting to crumble, but started off the crumbling process even more. Silly me! Luckily Judy and her practised hands came over and worked some magic, getting the situation under control in a few minutes. I just needed to keep smoothing out the icing, and use a little bit more force and water, both things I was afraid of doing!

One of the mistakes I made when I 'created' my first fondant iced cake was to use icing sugar on the table. This is also a big no no because it helps to stiffen the icing, and that is the last thing you want to do. Instead, Judy uses cornflour, and although it feels revolting (does anyone else get serious goosebumbs all over when touching the stuff?!) it's the best stuff for the job. Judy also uses gluten free corn flour, because corn flour was traditionally gluten free before it was tampered with, and she can ensure cakes are completely gluten free if that is the request. We spread just enough on the bench to stop the icing from sticking.

Once we had finished this step, we brushed our cake back with sherry. You can use any alcohol that is fortified, so over 17% - this is for preservation purposes. 

Here is the point where Judy emphasised the importance of being fastidious and using a dry tea towel to make sure there was not a crumb in sight. If a crumb gets into the icing, it can turn up in the most unexpected and unwanted places, so the best way is to just get rid of them all together at every step to make sure they don't become a menace. Also, we used water to clean the surfaces but then made certain that they were wiped completely dry as we didn't want ANY water touching the top layer of icing, or disaster could seriously strike.

For those of you who haven't met me in real life, you may not know a personal fact that I am about to reveal. I will tell you as long as you promise not to tease me? ok... Promise? Pinky promise??? In C's words I am "quite small." Ha. Yep, vertically challenged, shortarse, midget etc etc. OK- so I'm not unnaturally small, but still on the scale of people, on the shorter end of normal. I am blaming my height issues for my kneading issues. I found kneading the icing until it was more pliable quite difficult. Sarah kindly suggested I needed a little step - Ha- thanks Sarah. I also think some extra muscles would help the situation, but whatever. We kneaded the dough until it was softer- but not too soft. You can feel the difference, between when you first start kneading and when you need to stop. The texture just changes without becoming floppy. My tip is, if you are a midget too, a step might be able to help you out a little- it's not such a silly idea!

Once the icing got to a workable texture, it's time to roll it out. We had to make sure there was enough corn flour on the table, sliding our hands under between the table and the icing occasionally to make sure it hadn't stuck.

I tried to be gentle so there would be no creases. When Judy demonstrated for us, I noticed that she picked the icing straight off the table and placed it onto the cake. I've often heard that rolling the icing around the rolling pin and then placing it on is easier, but Judy said she had never needed to use this method. As our cake was quite small, I didn't think I would need to use this method either, but if it was larger, I may have tried the rolling idea to stop the icing breaking mid air.

Once I was happy with the width, (you need it still quite thick), I grabbed the icing and placed it onto top of the cake, and smoothed around the edges with my hands. I cannot explain to you how this works, it is just something you have to do and try out for yourself! I can't believe that no folds occur, but somehow, they don't! Miraculous!!

We used a wooden tool for smoothing the surface which did a fab job. There are also plastic versions available that were on hand too, but the wooden ones were so smoothing and gentle on the icing. I know Judy had those made specifically to use and I can see why. The plastic ones did a good job of cutting the icing away from the cake when needed, but if I could only have one cake tool, it would definitely be a wooden smoother!

At this point, I must say I was pretty damn chuffed with myself- the cake was covered, quite well really and not a crumb or air bubble in sight. A couple of people had air bubbles which were taken care of by gently poking with a pin and then rubbing the smoother over the top- you really can't see it after this. Yay- time to start the decorations. As gorgeous as the holly around the edges look was, I decided to go with candles on top. Judy usually makes silver stars, but we didn't have that option as the silver colouring hadn't turned up on time. I'm all for traditional though, so candles it was! 

We started by rolling some icing into a snake, much like you do when you are a kid playing with play dough. When my worm was around about a good width, I cut three candles, all different lengths. I used the yellow 'baller' tool above to make little dents in the top of the candles, just like a real candle. Then, with a very fine paint brush, I very lightly painted water on the bottom side of the candle and placed it onto the cake.

I must admit I was a little pedantic and placed the candles on, then when I was happy, stuck them on!

Woo- this cake decorating business is tiring business. We had a little break and sampled some of Judy's delights. Rum balls are one of my all time favourite Christmas treats, so predictably went for one of those first. Wow- super smooth and amazing. Maybe I will cheat this year and come to Judy's and purchase some rum balls to give as gifts?! Just kidding, I'll be a good little food blogger and make my own, although these were seriously some of the best rum balls I've ever had. I'm not sure mine could live up to this standard...

The fruit mince tarts were to die for, and Judy is going to give the class attendees the recipe sometime this week!

Once we were all refreshed, it was time for Sarah and I to mix our royal icing. We sieved the icing sugar through a ridiculously fine sieve, and it really made a difference. We then added tablespoons full of the icing mixture to an egg white and added and mixed until it was the right consistency- a medium firm peak.

Then we put the icing into a piping bag, and used it to pip on some detailing onto the candles- the wax dripping down the side, and draw on the flame. Boy did I have problems with this. I don't know why, but I just couldn't pipe the flame successfully. Even though I practised on the bench beside, I just couldn't get it to look normal. 

I'm not a regular piper and it took a bit to get used to the pressure I needed to use, but after the first disaster I called Judy over for advice. She showed me how to draw it on the table just by using two simple movements, and then I was on my way. Ha, the first flame looks like a little rogue though, like it's about to catch light the Christmas table cloth I can imagine it sitting on. Ok, maybe my imagination is a little crazy.

Next, we used a little bit of illuminator stuff (ummmm - not sure what it was actually, but will have to get those deets for you) and a fine little paint brush and painted on the 'wax' dripping down the side, and the flame. The illuminator just made it sparkle, ever so slightly and added a real sheen to the candles! Argh--- Love all these cool little tricks that cake makers use. It's easy to see how cakes can add up in price when you purchase them comercially, because the effort that goes into making them, and the little details are so time consuming!

Next to create the holly leaves. We used some toothpicks dipped in a tiny amount of colouring to turn the icing green. Adding a tiny bit at a time works well, because then you need to make sure it is completely kneaded to ensure the colour is even, then if you want a darker colour, you can always add a little more.

I don't have photos, but we cut these out with holly leave shapped cutters, then lightly pressed the leaves onto a mould which had veins on it, to give them a realistic look.

I then placed the holly onto the icing and again, painted on the backs with a brush dipped in water to secure them to the cake. You could spend ages playing around with these, and by the time I had finished, I managed to make some of my leaves look like they had/have texture! This part was actually really fun, but I was nervous placing the leaves, because I didn't want them to end up looking like I was playing with play dough in year 2.

Luckily, they turned out quite well. Once again, I placed the leaves on and made sure I like their placement before I stuck them down.

You can't have a Christmas cake without holly balls! Judy bought these balls, which are of course, edible, from executive chef in Brisbane. They looked really good, and when we stuck them down(with royal icing this time) they didn't bleed any colour onto the cake.

For the finishing touch, we dusted some gold shimmer onto the cake, which you can sort of see in the photo below, but in the light, it really shines. Some of the others added some green painted leaves on, but I was happy with the way that mine worked out without. Plus I didn't trust myself with such a task, considering my cake looked pretty awesome to me, I knew, If I tried to do anything else, I would probably make a disaster of it!

Of course, we got to take our cakes home, and mine is sitting in the cardboard box waiting for Christmas. I know not to store it in the fridge, but I've read conflicting reports on whether you should store it in an airtight container, or whether it should be left in the cake box. Hmm, might have to drop Judy an email to ask. Do any of you guys know?? 

I may not have that problem for much longer anyway-  unless I hide the cake, I fear C may just devour it. He has been eyeing it off, asking every night - 'would you like some cake for dessert- I know I would! Have we got any cake in the house?' Cheeky bugger! He was a bit shocked when I told him I knew how many holly balls were on the cake, I have no doubt he would try to pick a couple off. Let this serve as a warning!! Bad boyfriends get no cake! I have to say, C was pretty impressed with the cake, wondering if I had any help? I.e. did Judy make this cake and give it to me?! Hah. No. I actually managed to do this all by myself, with a little bit of help and advice from Judy. Somehow it turned out looking reasonably professional- I will definitely be proud to show my fam at Christmas time.

Speaking of proud, Sarah mentioned that she felt a little bit of a sense of pride re her cake too, which I might add turned out spectacularly as well. Can you imagine how awesome Judy feels when she creates a wedding masterpiece?

I have to say, this was a seriously fun class. I came home on a high. The whole day was filled with lots of laugh, and I learnt so much. Suddenly dreams of being a cake decorator start popping into my head. Ha- I wouldn't worry too much Judy, I just don't think I have it in me!!

Admittedly, it is much easier to create a good end product when you have all the right tools on hand, and Judy there on hand to ask any questions or handle any emergency situations like a crumbling cake, or a crazy lady gone putty mad. BUT......I would be confident in trying to recreate something similar at home. In fact, when I got home, I wanted to run out and grab some icing to make another cake but C stopped me, thinking I had gone mad! Maybe a trip to executive chef is in order......

So tell me readers, have you had any decorating disasters or triumphs?

G.G attended the Christmas cake decorating class courtesy of Cakes by Judy C. Thanks for the invitation to come along. I really enjoyed myself!

Cakes by Judy C
Shop 1/227 Waterworks Road
Ashgrove QLD 4060
(07) 3366 9111

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