Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cake Decorating Courses, Maths Degrees and Trips to Europe - What a life!

This week I achieved a major milestone. I completed the final exam in my maths major. Phew.
What an incredible(ly) long journey.
Apparently, when I was 8 years old we drove past the Maths and Physics building at UTAS and I said to my mother "I think while I'm deciding what I want to do as my career I'll get a maths degree." Proudest moment of her life, she says. Well, I did it. Why? Good question. It was incredibly painful and apart from the cringe of horror when I became aware that I was making up and laughing at maths jokes in regular conversation, provided little enjoyment to my university experience.

I've been taking part in a cake decorating course through Adult Education and it ended (thankfully) this week. It was.. not great. I learnt a few things - like how to make stunning modelling paste flowers - but it was terribly slow moving and after a full day of intense exam study, three hours of listening to a lady talk about her experiences with left over icing at decorating conferences whilst I watched her make royal icing wasn't really what I was in the mood for.

In the last class we had to leave with a completed cake and I had planned to make a birthday cake for my grandmother with maroon ribbons. Never plan to make anything with maroon fondant. Just don't.
After far too much time spent kneading not-maroon fondant I quit this challenge and brainstormed for another. MATHS!
The following day I had a maths tutorial for my final exam, something the last 8 years of my life had been building up to, and I decided a celebratory cake was in order!

The Maths and Physics Department of our university had the phrase 'Maths and Physics: A Bright Idea!'. I always think of this whenever I see "Maths and Physics" written around our university, but usually follow it with.. 'who's bright idea was this?'. So that was the theme of my cake!

 These photos were sent to one of my many thankful lecturers. The cake was a Coles brand fruit cake and apparently very nice (contained many allergens so I didn't sample). He quoted: Before, and after.

So that was the end of that. Good riddance bye mathematics! This new mathematician will hopefully see nothing of you for a very long time.

To say well done, my family congregated on the beautiful Salamanca Lawns to share ciders and fish and chips, play some music together and finally breathe for the first time in months. I took a moment to thank my family for the reliable dinners left out for me each night, putting up with my ranting, and to my poor brother for listening to me fly off the handle about things like eating my food and not washing up. Darling family that I have!
The responded by telling me.. I'm going to LONDON!
My beautiful family have organised a trip to England to celebrate the end of this long period of my life and I could not be more ecstatic. So what did I do to celebrate? I got baking!

I started with Caramel Slice, my boyfriend's favourite. I remembered my cousins birthday dinner was approaching and this happens to be one of his favourites, so made a doubled batch for him as well. This left some extra base as my pan wasn't quite the right size, so I whipped up some lemon curd and made some lemon slice!
My other cousin isn't much of a chocolate fan, but adores lemon so I figured I'd make two young boys happy! These were both packed with dairy and eggs so I couldn't taste as I went, but the willing tasters loitering in my kitchen assure me it is deeelish.
(Also made a failed vegan brownie and some vegan nutella, but they will come later when I've perfected them.) Cheers!

Caramel Slice, Matthew's Favourite
I always make this in triple.. it never lasts long (shhh)

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
125g butter, melted.

400g tin condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup
60g butter

125g dark chocolate.. and a little bit more

Preheat oven to 180C.
Whisk (replaces sifting) the dry base ingredients together, then add the butter.
Press into a 28 x 18cm lamington pan and bake for 15 minutes until sides begin to golden.
Leave to cool completely (once at room temperature, refrigerate).

Whisk condensed milk, golden syrup and butter over low heat in a saucepan until well combined and somewhat thicker (about 15 minutes). Leave to cool until base is ready - if the base is ready to go there is no need to let it cool!
Pour over cold base and bake in oven for about 15 minutes until set slightly. (Use your judgement).
Leave to cool completely - to room temperature, then in the fridge.

Melt chocolate and pour over chilled base. Get ready to slice it straight away with a HOT knife - once the chocolate has set it will break when cut.
Tip: clean the knife with wet paper towel after every cut to keep the chocolate clean.

Store in the fridge overnight, then in a cool place (fridge or room temperature) until everyone eats it all! (It won't be long, you have been warned).

Lemon Slice
Base: (as above)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
60g butter, melted

Lemon Curd Filling:
I'm told this tastes just like store bought Lemon Curd
4 lemons
4 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
125g butter

Preheat oven to 180C.
Whisk (replaces sifting) the dry base ingredients together, then add the butter.
Press into a 14 x 9cm lamington pan (I've just provided half the size needed for my Caramel Slice, pick and choose!) and bake for 15 minutes until sides begin to golden.
Leave to cool completely (once at room temperature, refrigerate).

Finely zest one lemon and juice all four. 
In a heatproof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until well combined, then add lemon, whisking until combined.
Whisk continuously over a bowl of simmering water for about 15 minutes, until custard-like consistency (it's ok to walk away from for a few seconds, but wouldn't for longer than that). You will see a definite change after about 10 minutes, whisk for a little longer. 
Remove from the heat and add butter, whisking to combine. 
Allow to cool completely, then spread over chilled base.

Refrigerate overnight, slice away! It will set to the consistency similar to soft jelly, firmer than it appears below.

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