The Most Unprofessional Professional Cake Ever (or: how Nicole totally overestimated her skills)

So at my old workplace I was known for the birthday cakes I made for colleagues at least a couple of times a month. So when the company's 60th anniversary rolled around, they asked me whether I'd feel up to making the cake for the anniversary party - with 350+ guests, even though I don't even work there anymore. And totally floored by the honor of being asked I was like "Sure, no problem at all. Cake for 350 people? Coming right up."

(c) Nina Stiller (edited by me)

To give you a bit of a frame of reference here: until last Wednesday, I had worked with fondant exactly twice. Both times on cakes smaller than an average spring pan. I had never made a tiered cake. And the biggest cake I had ever made was probably my former boss's birthday cake, which had 4 layers, but was still the size of a normal spring pan.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

The party was Friday night, so I went shopping on Tuesday (and seriously, the looks you get at the grocery store when you buy 150 eggs and 8kg of butter - I mean, it's not that uncommon), was planning to bake on Wednesday and fill and decorate the cakes Thursday and Friday. I was totally convinced I had bought way too much stuff for the cake.

First mistake.

(c) Nina Stiller

Wednesday night I had my first mini-breakdown, because of course I had way too little cake for the size I had planned for. Plus, my go-to-chocolate cake recipe that even has "perfect for layer cakes!" scribbled in the margins of my recipe book failed me for the first time ever. Seriously, "Murphy" should be my middle name. So around midnight I finally had a plan worked out on how to rescue the cake...which I discarded again around 7am the next morning. I finally decided on losing a tier and just making the bottom tier out of two different cakes to give it some height. Then I got my ganaches out of the fridge to start filling the first cakes.

Any my white ganache had totally curdled. Again. (This always happens!! What am I doing wrong?!) So two hours of chopping chocolate all for nothing and no plan B in sight. About 5 pounds of emergency buttercream and 6 hours later I had finally filled all the cakes and crumbcoated them. Of course since all my cakes were totally falling apart, I had to completely scale back on my cream fillings and up the buttercream/ganache portion in the hopes that that stuff would basically glue them together.By this point, everything non-cake-essential (meaning: all my normal groceries) had to leave the fridge because there wasn't any space left.

So sometime that afternoon I started covering the first cakes in fondant and - as I had pretty much expected by that point - that didn't go as smoothly as I had planned either. I was using Satin Ice instead of Wilton fondant for the first time and first found it very sticky only for it to completely crack when I covered the cake with it. I'm pretty sure it was me doing something wrong, I just have no idea what it was. Did I knead too long? Not long enough? Should I have used some GumTex to make it more pliable? No idea.

Anyway. Since my crumbcoating skills leave something to be desired as well, the fondant was anything but smooth, but by that point I honestly didn't care anymore (okay, that's a total lie, but I couldn't do anything about it, so I had to move on). After I had covered three of the layers, I wanted to color a bit of fondant green for the decoration and let me tell you, I used almost an entire bottle of gel coloring, but do you think the silly stuff turned the green I wanted? Of course not. It stayed a minty pastel instead of turning a nice dark green. I could have lived with that, but when I started rolling the fondant out and cutting strips to cover the cake with, suddenly the fondant wasn't all cracking and sticky anymore - noooo, now it had the consistency of chewing gum. So instead of a nice even strip of green around the cake, I had a completely uneven...something. I attached the fondant paper anyway and just hoped everyone would be drunk enough at the party so they wouldn't actually see it.

(c) Nina Stiller

When I got up Friday morning, I felt like someone had run me over. Holy sh..., I've never been this sore from baking a cake. It felt like I'd built a house, not a cake. I still had to cover the bottom layer with fondant and finish my decorations, though, so I had to get up anyway....only to realize that I had no space anywhere to roll out the fondant as big as I needed to cover the whole layer (not too mention: how do you roll out fondant to that size (about 100x80cm) while keeping it even? And how do you move it after you've managed to roll it out?) In the end I decided to cover the two cakes separately, also because they would fit back into the fridge until the caterer picked them up that way, which was a plus considering the temparatures (but also looked very, very amateurish).

Shortly before the caterer came by to pick up the cake I arranged the bottom layer on the cake board we had made - only to realize when we wanted to bring the cake outside that the board didn't fit through my kitchen door. Let me tell you, I was dying inside when we had to start tilting the board to get it through the door, but alas, we made it without the cake ending on the floor.

I will spare you the story of how the caterer transported my poor cake. Let me just say, I refused to be left behind and insisted on him taking me with him, because I didn't trust him with the cake after I'd seen the vehicle it was transported in (not to mention that he ripped of half of my specially printed fondant paper while putting the cake in the car - thank you very much). I'll also spare you the story of what happened when we got to the party. Let's just say I was pretty close to a complete meltdown before the cake was finally assembled and found it's rightful place on the dessert buffet.

In the end, I was happy the cake arrived (mostly) safe and sound and people seem to have liked it (it even ended up being featured in the trade press as part of the anniversary coverage), so all's good. I still think I should have done a lot better, though, and I'm still kind of embarrassed by all the flaws the cake had.

So the next time someone asks me to make a cake for 300+ people and I'm tempted to say yes? Please someone whack me with a baking tray.

♥ Nicole


The best carrot cake ever

I admit it, the longer I've been finding my recipes online, the more I started totally discriminating against food blogs that don't have pretty pictures. If I see a recipe that sounds good at first glance, but is accompanied by crappy pictures, I immediately assume the food tastes crappy as well. Which is kind of ironic, considering. Maybe even a bit hypocritical. But anyway.

Thank god I wasn't always like that, because once upon a time when I didn't care how a picture looked (meaning: when I hadn't really seen any great food blogs yet), I stumbled upon this carrot cake recipe. It came with a pretty crappy picture (seriously, could have been one of my own), but I gave it a try nonetheless.

Best decision ever. This has become my go-to recipe; I've even thrown away all other carrot cake recipes I had, because this is the only one I will need for the rest of my life. I've made it countless times now and it has never failed me. Nor has it ever disappointed anyone who's eaten it. It's delicious. And easy to make, too! What more could you want?

This one I made for a colleague's birthday. The sprinkles turned out tasting horrible, but thankfully their taste was totally overpowered by the awesomeness that was the rest of the cake. I had hoped it would turn out a bit prettier, but well, guess I can't have everything.

I've adjusted the original recipe somewhat, because (as always it seems), it had waaaay too much sugar for my taste and I usually add in an extra carrot or two. The original also has pecans in it, but as it's practically impossible to find pecans here and for some reason they get this really burned taste when I use them in this cake, I usually just leave them out. Around Christmas, I like to crumble up some speculoos and put it in the batter, though. The cake tastes best the first couple of days after baking, but I've eaten it for up to 5 days after I baked it and it still tasted great and didn't go bad, so that's always a plus.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:
4 eggs
300ml vegetable oil
300g sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
about 5 big carrots

For the frosting
200g cream cheese
200g Creme fraîche or sour cream
100g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
50g powdered sugar


1. Grease a 28cm spring pan and line the bottom with baking paper. If you have two spring pans, use both and divide the batter between them. Saves you from having to cut the cake later.

2. Preheat your oven to 175°C.

3. Mix the flour, cinammon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Finely grate your carrots.

5. Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar together in a big bowl.

6. Add the flour mix and mix until just incorporated.

7. Fold in the grated carrots.

8. Pour the batter into your spring pan (if you got 2 pans, divide it evenly between the pans).

9. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Don't test too early if the cake's done, though! If you stick in your toothpick too early, the whole cake will deflate!

10. Let it cool. If you only used one pan, cut the cake in the middle so you get two layers.


1. Make sure your cream cheese, creme fraîche and butter are room temperature.

2. Mix all the frosting ingredients together in a bowl and beat until you get a smooth mixture.


1. Generously frost one of the cake layers, then put the second layer on top and frost the outside of the cake.

2. Decorate however you want!

Bon appetit!

♥ Nicole


Two Simple Summer Skirts

When I think about the sewing projects I hope to start in the hopefully not-so-distant future, I've realized I'm all about the grand designs nowadays. I've started an "inspiration folder" that's mostly filled with dresses I'm just dying to make - basically disregarding the fact that a) about 90% will look completely stupid on me, b) I have nowhere near the skill level needed to actually finish one of them and c) oh, right. No patterns for them. Nevertheless, since I can finally sew an almost straight line, I have these visions of grandeur. I can do anything! The world is my oyster! Or, you know, whatever. Not that I actually can do anything, but it feels nice to think I can.

I'm especially in love with these three dresses right now:

Which just confirms that I have a weird obsession with backless dresses and lace. And apparently, everything Lily Collins wears. Don't know what that says about me.

Anyway. When I started sewing a few months ago, though, I sang a completely different tune. I was all about simplicity. Considering my skill level was at about zero (as opposed to the 0.5 it's at now) and the fact that I did pretty much everything wrong that one could do wrong, I was always happy to find instructions for something quick and easy that made me feel like I could actually sew instead of making me weep into my pillow every night (well, not literally, but...you know what I mean).

That's when these two skirts came into play. They both were touted all over the internet as "the easiest skirts ever". And they probably are, you know, for people with a smidge of talent. Ok, the green one kinda was, but holy moley, who would've thought it would be so frakking hard to sew an elastic to a piece of fabric? Stretching the elastic while sewing was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Let's just say my straight lines went mostly out the window on that one (thank god nobody will ever look that closely at my seams), at least everywhere the elastic was involved.

I still kinda like them, though, especially the elastic skirt (even though I should probably start ironing stuff before I take pictures of it). It's not the most flattering skirt I own, but it's light and airy and was perfect when it was really hot a few weeks back, plus it has the added bonus of still fitting even after I gained an insane amount of a few pounds. So there you go. And I really like the fabric (which was actually supposed to become a pair of pyjama pants, but I accidentally bought too little of it).

Basically, for both skirts, all you need is a rectangle of fabric that's about 1 1/4 (green) to 1 1/2 (grey) times your hip cirumference wide and as long as you want your skirt to be (I always want mine knee-long, so I measure from a little below my waist to my knees), plus seam allowance, and a piece of elastic (four inches wide for the grey skirt, 1 1/2 inches for the green one). There's a million instructions out there for these types of skirts, so I'm not gonna write any down now since I assume you all know what to do much better than I did, but if you'd like the instructions anyway let me know and I'll type them down.

So if you're luckier than I am and you still actually have summer wherever you live (apparently, 3 weeks was enough for us. We're back to gray and rainy and bleh.) - give them a try. They're only gonna take you a couple of hours!

♥ Nicole


A short public service announcement

Wow. Three months "on air" and I'm already slacking off. Two weeks without a post. Huh. It's not that I don't have anything to post, I do, in fact, have several things I haven't shown you yet, sewing- and baking-wise, I've just been incredibly.....lazy.

Yeah, no two ways about it. I'm not too busy, I wasn't on vacation, I'm simply lazy. It's summer and I'd much rather lie outside in the sun and read a book or nap or...basically do things that involve doing as little as possible instead of taking pictures and blogging. I'm sorry.

That being said: my vacation's coming up, I have a really exciting baking project during my vacation that I'm hoping to tell you all about as soon as it's done and I promise to sit down and just schedule a lot of posts soon so when the laziness hits again, at least you guys have something to look at.

♥ Nicole