My food philosophy:
Passion is my main ingredient so make sure you add an extra dose of it to your recipes, then combine it with a little fun.
My most cherished food memory:
Baking scones with my nana. She was such a biscuit tin and cake tin home baker.
The can’t-live-without ingredients in my fridge:
Milk, butter, cheese, eggs and apricot jam – and of course flour, but it won’t be in the fridge unless baking croissants.
My last supper would be:
My sourdough bread and butter, spaghetti bolognese, a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne and a tarte au citron.
My biggest food indulgence:
Crêpe Suzette made ‘old school’, in front of you at the table.
The one food I really don’t like eating:
Brussels sprouts; I have childhood memories of them boiled to death.
My biggest cooking/baking disaster:
Many disasters can be turned into something good, but once I used salt instead of sugar in a large batch of sweet bread dough and it taught me a valuable lesson. It killed the yeast and it all had to be thrown out.
1 BAKE THREE RECTANGLE CAKES at least a day before you plan to decorate. PLEASE NOTE The quantities shown and instructions are for baking ONE cake.
• Preheat the oven to 180°C on standard bake (160°C on fan bake, but avoid using fan bake as it causes excessive peaking during baking). Prepare cake tin by spraying liberally with oil spray.
• Place milk and cream of tartar in a small glass, stir and set aside for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, place oil, eggs and vanilla extract, and stir to combine.
• Into a large mixing bowl, sift flour, cocoa, caster sugar, baking soda and baking powder.
• Scrape all of the milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir, then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Using a hand mixer, mix to combine, then slowly add hot water and mix well until you have a smooth batter.
• Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 10 minutes,
checking regularly during the last quarter of cooking time, or until a cake skewer comes out clean when inserted into cake.
• Cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Once fully cool, wrap the cake in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container if you plan to decorate it the following day, or wrap it in tinfoil, followed by plastic wrap and then freeze it.
NOTE If you know your baking isn’t cooked through but it’s looking crusty on top, carefully place a sheet of tinfoil on top of the cake. This will stop it from getting any darker on top but will allow the cake to continue cooking until it’s fully done.
2 MAKE THE ROYAL ICING
Beat egg white in an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, on a slow speed until bubbles start to appear.
• Add sifted icing sugar a little at a time, beating on a higher speed until it forms firm peaks.
• Add lemon juice and mix in gently. Tightly cover the icing with plastic wrap as soon as it is made so it doesn’t dry out.
NOTE Royal icing will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days. Remove from the fridge, bring to room temperature and stir well before using.
3 Colour royal icing orange by adding a few drops of yellow and a toothpick tip of red colouring. Mix well and continue adding colour proportionately until desired shade is reached.
4 TO MAKE THE ANTENNAE Use the tip of a sharp knife to carefully ‘drill’ a small hole in each giant Jaffa, then push the sharp end of a skewer into each hole. Holding the skewers, dip each Jaffa into the orange royal icing until completely coated, then set the antennae aside in a glass to dry.
5 TO MAKE THE CONTROL PANEL Cut the liquorice sheet into a rectangle about 7cm x 11cm. Separate the layers of 2 giant liquorice allsorts, gently and briefly washing the layers in water if necessary, then setting them aside on a paper towel to dry. You will have 6 black squares, 4 orange squares and 4 white squares. Cut a circle out of 1 orange square and then a triangle out of the middle of that circle. Place 2 white squares side by side and cut out 1 semicircle. Cut 2 white strips from the leftover white squares. Cut 3 narrow slices from the sherbet liquorice log. Cut 3 jelly beans in half. From a black liquorice allsort square, cut a small arrow that is 2cm long. Using the picture as a guide, arrange all these lollies on the liquorice rectangle and attach them with royal icing. Set the control panel aside to dry.
6 TO MAKE THE ARMS Stack 2 giant liquorice allsorts on top of each other and hold them together by pushing a toothpick through the centre of them, leaving 5mm of toothpick sticking out below. From the leftover orange squares, cut out 2 rings (make circles and cut out their centres). Attach the ring shapes to the end of each arm by pushing the tip of the toothpick into the edge of the orange ring. Make a cut through the bottom half of each ring to create pincers.
7 MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM Beat butter in an electric mixer, using a paddle attachment, until the butter lightens in colour. Slowly add icing sugar in small batches (so it doesn’t fly out of the bowl), beating in between until combined. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time. NOTE Start with room-temperature butter (not melted) and beat with an electric mixer until the butter turns from a yellow to a white tone before adding icing sugar. If necessary, make buttercream in two batches, mixing together at colouring stage to ensure consistent colour. • Buttercream can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, but bring it back to room temperature and beat again before using so it is as light, fluffy and soft as possible.
8 Colour buttercream dusty blue by adding a drop of blue colouring and a toothpick tip of black colouring, mixing well then continuing to add colour proportionately until desired tone is reached.
9 TO MAKE THE BODY AND HEAD Level the cakes with a cake leveler if possible. Turn cakes over.
10 Cut the cakes into 4 squares measuring 15cm x 15cm each.
11 Take the first cake for the stack and fill by evenly spreading buttercream over the top surface, then place the next layer on top. Repeat to make a four-cake stack.
• From the leftover cake, cut 3 squares measuring 10cm x 10cm. Fill and stack the cakes with buttercream to make a three-cake stack. Stick this 10cm stack onto a 10cm x 10cm cake board with a little buttercream.
12 Crumb-coat both cake stacks by applying a thin layer of buttercream with a palette knife or offset spatula to achieve a very thin, smooth finish (you should be able to see the cake through the icing). Never wipe excess crumb-coat icing back into the main bowl of icing as it will be full of crumbs and spoil the rest of the icing.
13 Refrigerate cake until dry to the touch. 14 Place the large cake on a serving plate and cover it with buttercream to a smooth finish.
15 TO MAKE THE NECK In the centre of the top of the large cake arrange 9 small orange liquorice allsorts into a square 3 x 3 lollies wide. Push a skewer through the middle of each corner orange liquorice allsort, right down into the large stacked cake. Cut the top of the 4 skewers flush with the top of the liquorice allsorts. Spread buttercream on top of the liquorice allsort square and place the small square cake on top. Cover this cake with buttercream to a smooth finish.
16 TO MAKE THE LEGS Stack 3 giant liquorice allsorts together and push them onto the end of a skewer. Repeat this process for the second leg. Insert the leg skewers into the front of the large cake, as shown.
17 TO ATTACH CONTROL PANEL Use royal icing to stick the control panel to the front of the robot, holding it in place for a moment until it sticks. 18 TO ATTACH THE ARMS Push a toothpick sideways into the top liquorice allsort, then push the other end of the toothpick into the side of the large cake, ring pincer facing downwards. Repeat this process with the other arm on the other side of the cake.
19 TO MAKE THE EYES Twist apart 2 Oreos, discarding the side of each biscuit that has no icing on it. Cut 2 thin slices off the black liquorice log and stick 1 to the icing side of each Oreo, using royal icing. The specific placement of the liquorice slices gives the eyes personality, so practise on paper first if you like. Attach the eyes to the head with royal icing.
20 TO MAKE THE TEETH AND LIPS Cut a thin slice off each of the green, pink and yellow liquorice allsorts. Attach them to the head in a line, using royal icing. Cut slices from the leftover black liquorice sheet for lips and press them into the buttercream around the teeth, as shown.
21 TO ASSEMBLE THE ANTENNAE Bend the floral wire into random zigzags until the wire is approximately 9cm in length. Wrap the ends of the wire around the top of the skewers directly under the orange-coloured giant Jaffas. Cut the straws down to 6cm and slip them over the Jaffa skewers. Push the ends of the skewers into the robot’s head.
Recipe from: The Great New Zealand Birthday Cake Book, $39.95, PQ Blackwell Limited.