Whether the kids are begging to lick the beaters, you’re making cupcakes for their birthday or you’re working with treasured heirloom recipes from your grandmother’s vault, precious memories created in the kitchen are priceless.
Former primary school teacher and one of Perth’s most loved cake decorators, Kate Gnanapragasam, knows all too well the value of profound and heartwarming memories related to food and cooking.
Kate, AKA Blonde Baking Mama, is a social media hit, gathering a huge following of people who can’t resist scrolling through her feed which is packed with an endless array of swoon-worthy cakes. And apparently, they taste incredible too, because she has built a thriving business around supplying her sweet treats for celebrations of all kinds.
In the Genes
“I come from a foodie family,” Kate says. “We all love to cook and eat.”
They say it’s important to choose a job you love, so when it came time to reconsider her career after the birth of her second baby, following her heart to the kitchen seemed an obvious choice.
”After having my second baby, my husband and I decided it was too much of a juggle to return to primary school teaching with two young children,” she says.
“I decided to give cake decorating a go as I could work from home, around the needs of the kids. My mum is also a self-taught cake decorator and she provided me with lots of encouragement and guidance.”
Kate says she loves the challenge of making things taste as beautiful as they look.
“Well first and foremost I love all things sweet and combining delicious flavours,” she says.
“Things must taste as good as they look. I also love the creativity of working with colour and being able to incorporate fresh florals into my designs.”
She says there is nothing better than seeing people’s reactions when they see their cake for the first time.
Mother to Lucy aged 7, James aged 5, and Greta aged 8 months, Kate says life is busy but when it comes to preparing meals for the family, she loves that her children are keen to get involved.
“The kids love to bake and cook,” she says.
“My son would actually love to be a chef, and a doughnut maker, when he grows up. But they love to chop vegetables, weigh out ingredients, mix muffin batter and knead the dough.”
She says cooking and learning to appreciate food is a fantastic life skill.
“Reading and following recipes also is a great learning tool,” she says.
It’s little wonder Kate sees the value in spending family time in the kitchen. It’s a tradition that has been passed down the generations in her family.
“All the women in my family are incredible cooks and bakers,” she says.
“I have fond memories of making from-scratch homemade party pies with my great-grandmother and making pumpkin scones and yoyos with my Nan.
“As a child, my mum used to bake the most incredible hampers full of baked treats for my teachers. Now as a mother, I love continuing the tradition and creating new baking memories with my babies.”
Kate says when she bakes she relies a lot on intuition and she’s always learning new things and perfecting her art.
“I am very much a sensory cook and I am not very good at the technical side of baking. I’m terrible at following a new recipe! I would really love to make the perfect macaron and choux pastry, I would also love to upskill in the use of fondant and sugar flowers – classic cake decorating skills that will never go out of fashion.”
This mum’s day, she shares with us her cake decorating recipes and tips to put up a special cake for the special women in your life.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Vanilla Buttercream Recipe
- 500g salted butter, softened
- 1kg icing sugar mixture
- Vanilla bean paste/essence
- Place butter in an electric mixer and, using the paddle attachment, beat together until pale and fluffy.
- Slowly add icing sugar and vanilla.
- Whip until combined and light and fluffy. Add a splash of water if needed.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 400g caster sugar
- 180g salted butter (small cubes)
- 240ml thickened cream
- 1 tsp of salt
- ½ cup white chocolate melts
- Place sugar in a pot and stir over medium heat. Stir the sugar and as it melts will start to look like wet sand. Continue until all melted and there are no lumps. Take care not to burn the sugar.
- Turn off the heat and immediately add butter. Stir until melted.
- Once melted, add the cream straight away and stir vigorously. Be careful as the mixture will bubble up and boil.
- Add salt and the white chocolate.
- Turn on a low heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is melted. Whilst the caramel will thicken as it cools, the chocolate will help with this and ensure it doesn’t ooze out of the cake. It is also great for a caramel ‘drip’ on the side of a cake.
Rice Paper Sails
- Rice paper used for Vietnamese rice paper rolls
- Gel food colouring (peach/pink)
- Boiling water
- Place boiling water in a shallow dish.
- Use a toothpick to colour the water to the desired shade.
- Place rice paper into water and let it soften and absorb the coloured water.
- Once softened, take out of the water and gently squeeze out the excess water. Place the rice paper on a silicon mat or baking paper. Use pegs to shape the silicon/paper. This is the shape the rice paper will dry in.
- Allow drying for 24 hours.
Icing the Cake
- 2-3 spatulas
- Cranked spatula
- Large (20-30cm) metal cake scraper
- Pointed tip vegetable knife
- Cake turntable
- Additional bowl for mixing buttercream colours
- Piping bag
- Piping medium/small star tip
- Floral tape
- 20cm cake board
- 12cm thin cake board
- When assembling your cake, ensure it is as cold as possible.
- Ensure the caramel is completely cool (room temperature) before placing on your cake layers. If it is even slightly warm, it will melt your buttercream.
- Decorate your cake in stages allowing for each element to set in the fridge before doing the next part.
- Food colouring in the buttercream will develop with time. It will not develop in the rice paper.
- If short of time, rice paper sails can be dried in a low temp oven or dehydrator.
- Bring your cake to room temperature before serving.
- Have fun!