Hidden Heart Cupcakes


Hidden Heart Cupcakes for my Wedding Day

I saw a picture on Pinterest showing hidden heart cupcakes and I fell in love with the idea. My mum and I catered my wedding on Saturday, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test this technique out.

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I tried two batches. The first batch I flavoured the heart cake batter with rose water and the cupcake batter with vanilla bean. Individually both cakes tasted great, but I found the rose flavour was lost in the vanilla. I tried this again and added more rose water and it worked out much better.

What you will need:

Cupcake recipe (flavour and recipe of your choice)
Food colouring (of your choice)

Heart shaped cookie cutters (It is important that you pick a heart shaped cookie cutter that will fit inside the patty liner)

Method:

1. Bake the cake batter you will use to make the hearts from. I used a square tin and cut into slices. I also used a rectangular pan on the second batch. Either works fine… Just work out how to you get the most hearts from each tin.
2. Once the cake is cooled, use your cookie cutter to cut out hearts. NOTE: I put the hearts into a Tupperware container and put them in the freezer overnight (a few hours will work to). I found this helped to keep the heart shape and prevented them from crumbling) – much easier to handle.
3. Line your cupcake pans with patty liners and place two tablespoons of cupcake batter into each liner.
4. Place a heart into each liner (pointy end down), and push to the bottom of the liner.
5. Put an additional tablespoon of batter over the top and bake for required time.
6. Allow to cool and decorate as you wish.

I did some sample cupcakes… Didn’t want to waste a whole batch and get it wrong. So tried out two ideas and wanted to share this with you so you can see the difference.
The cupcake on the left shows you how the cupcake would turn out if you put a tablespoon of batter over the heart… The cupcake on the right is how it would turn out if you didn’t put the extra batter over the top.

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Here’s a YouTube tutorial I found. This video includes a vanilla bean cake recipe you could use, but like I said, if using your own recipe, you can skip the beginning of this video.

Hope you have as much fun as I did with this! Let me know how you go.
Happy Baking!

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Here are some additional sites you can visit that demonstrate this technique
http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/537431/hidden-heart-cupcakes

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DIY Worm Tower


How to make your own Worm Tower

When Matt and I started to put ideas together on how to re-landscape our back and front yards, we both agreed we wanted a practical, semi-low maintenance garden that was still gorgeous to look out on. What does this mean exactly?… we wanted to keep growing our own fruit, vegetables and herbs (or at least attempt to), add vibrant colours with suitable companion plants and plants that would attract bees, but most importantly… keep the cost of watering and fertilising to manage and cost effective levels. When we first purchased our property and added two raised gardens beds, along with the current retaining wall garden beds, we didn’t realise how much extra water would be required (in the heat of Summer) to maintain the plants. Well, that’s not to say we didn’t realise that the plants needed watering, more that we were shocked at how much water we actually ended up using when we received our quarterly water bill. So, with the house being renovated, this was our opportunity to create a more self-sustaining garden environment.

Since we couldn’t alter the front retaining walls, we decided to simply add several in-ground composting systems with worms. We wanted to try to modify a wicking bed system, but since the fruit trees are well established, we decided to leave this for the meantime and just stick with composting. We are still researching ways to minimise water usage… keep you posted.

We had been to a home show earlier this year and I recall seeing a lady selling in-ground composting systems. I tried googling this, but I could find what I was looking for. Instead, I stumbled across this website about Worm Towers and thought it was cheap to try, so if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t have spent a lot of money on it. I told Matt about my idea and that we would require some PVC piping to start the project. Well… my very resourceful hubby informed me that our local Leagues Club is under-going a renovation itself and he would speak with the site manager to see if they had any building materials they were discarding that we could use. We were in luck. They had metres of 100mm PVC piping. Perfect for our Worm Tower project.

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The Benefits of Worm Towers

Improves soil
Encourages earthworms
Takes kitchen scraps
Easy to make

What You Will Need

PVC Pipe about 100mm in diameter and 50-60cms in length
A drill to make holes in the pipe – at least 1/4 to 1/2 inches
Composting worms – recommended minimum 50 worms/tower
Shredded newspaper, aged manure, straw or other carbon rich organic materials
PVC Pipe Cover – same diameter as your pipe

I used 100mm piping at 60cm lengths. Matt did the handy work as I was very slow operating the drill and digging deep enough holes to bury the piping. I read a few posts on Worm Towers, and incorporated them together. You can find the links to these websites below.

We purchased our composting worms from Bunnings. They had two choices available and we ended up getting the
Dr Worms 1200 Essential Kit. Basically, we got 1200 live composting worms for $54.80.

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What To Do

Drill a bunch of small holes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter in the lower part of the pipe (lower 30cms). Dig holes to 30-40cm deep and bury the pipe (the end with the holes) in the garden bed, leaving the remaining amount above ground. Fill about one third of the tower with damp, shredded newspaper or other organic materials and add your worms. Add a few more inches of newspaper to bed the worms down, and cover with the lid. Let the worms settle in for a few days, then start adding handfuls of organic material to the tower.

The amount of organic matter the worms can handle at once will vary a little depending on the season and the temperature. If you consistently produce more organic waste than your worm tower can handle at one time, add another! Matt and I made six towers and placed them near each fruit tree in the retaining wall.

I haven’t been quite sure how much food waste to add to each tower, so I have been checking on them regularly to see how quickly the waste is being broken down and topping up bits at a time on a weekly basis. Seems to be going well so far! I’ve included a quick reference guide on what you should and should not be feeding your worms!

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I found this YouTube video posted by ‘Frank Gapinski’. This video features Leonnie Shanahan explaining how to build your own Worm Tower and keep your garden fertilised with worm castings the natural way. I found this extremely helpful when deciding how to add composting to our garden.

Hopefully this post helps you or at least points you in the right direction!

Sources:
http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/Build-a-Worm-Tower
http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/waste_services/documents/Worm%20Tower%20Guide.pdf
http://shaunsbackyard.com/535/worm-towers/

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Restoring casement windows


House Renovation Continuation…

Matt and I decided to change the current windows (which are aluminium, sliding frames) and keep with the Queenslander look of the home. We started looking for casement windows and ended up purchasing a few different styles, ranging in price from $2 to $50 each. We ended up purchasing around 10-15, all requiring some serious TLC! We thought to put these windows in the second bathroom, main bedroom, garage and potentially in the current bedrooms. But honestly, we have I think, 4 different styles of windows, so it’s a matter of figuring out how many we can restore and reuse, to determine where we actually end up putting them. So here’s hoping it works out!

Now, as usual… We have fabulous ideas and no idea how to actually make it happen, so I YouTube some videos on how to restore casement windows. I’ve compiled a few videos I thought were the most helpful in terms of order of restoration, tools required, and how to reassemble. Hopefully you find these helpful with your project!

This YouTube video by ‘Garden Fork’ shows how to remove the old putty and refill.

This video by ‘Marc Bagala’ shows a full restoration from start to finish, however, there’s no talking so you really need to watch what he does. I thought this video was helpful in terms of showing me what needed to be done.

Now, this PDF is a couple of pages but lists the general tools you need to complete this project and a step-by-step written tutorial. Handy for those who can’t access YouTube or want to take some information away with them when they shop for the tools needed, et cetra.

http://www.familyhandyman.com/windows/repair/how-to-glaze-a-window-single-pane

My attempts at window restoration!

Now, before I watched all these YouTube tutorials, I thought, how hard could this really be. Matt and I knew what roughly needed to be done, so we went out and bought a heat-gun (how ironic that my first ‘power tool’ should turn out to be an industrial hair-dryer! lol). I got my work area setup and started to strip the paint. It was all going well until I had to strip the fiddly bits around the glass. Unsurprisingly, I ended up cracking 2 window panes. So… Matt and I re-evaluated our method and I jumped on YouTube.

Here’s my second attempt. 10-August-2013. I removed all the old putty and took the glass panes out. I only cracked 1 piece of glass and that was due to the putty being extreme resilient and I ended up putting too much pressure on the glass in my attempts to remove the putty. Needless to say… I was very proud of my efforts.

I then used the heat gun and started to strip the paint. Much easier when you’re not worrying about glass. And I used an orbitol sander to start finishing the prep. I still have to use a fine sand paper on the frame and hand sand the detailing around the glass panes. But… I’m getting there, that’s the most important thing!

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I’ll keep you posted with my progress and take pictures as I go… So looking forward to the finished product! It might take me a few months though…

Cake Decorating Basics #14


Cupcake Frosting Techniques

I came across these 2 cute blogs by ‘Glorious Treats‘ and ‘Niner Bakes‘. They have a page all about frosting techniques and a few different frosting recipes you could try! I’ve added their photos to show you what each tip can create.

Link to Niner Bakes

Here’s the link to Glorious Treats (these are her pictures below)

Cupcakes wtih tips

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Cake Decorating Basics #9


Cupcake Frosting Techniques

These YouTube video’s by ‘CupcakeCentralAU’ show you several techniques on how to decorate cupcakes with butter cream frosting. These are fantastic techniques if you’re a beginner or just want new ideas. Enjoy! x

The first video demonstrates the Wilton 1M Open Star and Petal Tip 127.

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The second video demonstrates the Wilton 11 plain round tip, a french tip and a plain star tip. These come in different sizes as per the picture below.

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What do you think of these technique? Any other suggestions?

Renovation Update – May 2013


Interior Timber Floors

When we originally decided to renovate, we thought we would save money by using a laminate click flooring.  The more research we did, the more we came to the conclusion to use a timber flooring instead. More durable and we can give it a make over (i.e. sanding and re-varnish) when it starts to look ratty. You can’t do that with laminate, plus you need to be careful which rooms you use the laminate in.  I wanted to do the kitchen with the laminate, but Matt was hesitant as the water could damage the boards if they weren’t sealed properly, so he wanted to tile the kitchen. That wasn’t going to happen (tiling), so timber floors it was!

Our current house has timber flooring in. The boards are 85mm width in varying lengths.

We thought we would go for a wide board on the new level 130mm width in varying lengths. We just preferred the look of it. We went to a few home shows and spoke with different vendors, and the wide board always came out on top for us.

The next issue was colour. I didn’t want a light wooden floor board, I was hoping to achieve a very dark brown look.

INSPIRATION

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We’ve chosen a NSW Spotted Gum for our new floors. We purchased some Select (or Classic) grade (top end) from a guy who had some boards left over from his renovation, and I’ve got a quote on a Standard (or Natural) grade (more knots and grain). The Standard is cheaper than the Select, and I think the Standard boards will give the house more character with all its imperfections. So we will either mix the Select in with the Standard, or use the Select in a specific area. Haven’t decided yet, and I don’t think we will until it comes to laying the floor down so we can see how it would look.

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I’m pretty sure that the floor boards we’re getting are sourced from Boral. It’s the strip flooring range with tongue and groove. This is what the Spotted Gum looks like:

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Once it’s installed, it’ll be sanded back (I’m going to try my hand at that) and then stain them with Feast Watson’s Black Japan.

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We bought a sample pot from Bunnings and we had some short lengths (900mm) of the Spotted Gum which I used as a test board. 2 coats look stunning! The only thing now is to buy a sample pot of varnish and put that over the top. I want to know if that will make the colour darker as I might to stick one coat depending. But I think that dark floors with white walls is a classic look.

I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to sand, stain and varnish timber floors. I’m really keen to give the sand and staining a go, but I’m hesitant to do the varnish. So might get someone in to finish it off. See how we go closer to the actual project. I’ll post some videos and pictures at that time.

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Verjuice


What is Verjuice?

Gluten Free Product

It’s made from the juice of unfermented, unripened grapes. Its name derives from the French ‘vert’ (green) ‘jus’ (juice). As verjuice has traditionally been made from white and red grapes, leaving the juice on the skins long enough to colour it, the ‘vert’ refers to youth (unripe), rather than colour.

Think of verjuice as a gentle acidulant. It tastes tart, a bit like lemon juice or vinegar but not as harsh.

How to use Verjuice?

You can use verjuice in any recipe as a substitute for lemon juice, vinegar or any other compound which is used as a cooking acidifier (i.e. pomegranate juice, bitter orange juice and wine).

Examples:
Instead of vinegar or lemon juice in salad dressings;
Instead of white wine or brandy when deglazing pans;
Poaching fresh fruit or reconstituting dried fruit;
Drizzle over grilled fish or barbecued baby octopus;
Cutting the richness of sauces or meat dishes, especially with pork;
Instead of balsamic vinegar when caramelising onions;
Heavily reduced as a topping for ice cream;
In the preparation of mustards.

Where to buy verjuice?

You can find verjuice in your local supermarket in the vinegar section. The most common brand you will find at Coles or Woolies is Anchor (or at least that’s the only one I have come across). You can also purchase it from Maggie Beer online.

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Here’s a YouTube video by Maggie Beer talking about verjuice

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