Sweet, sugar and gingerbread from Prague

26 Nov


Today I have the privilege of interviewing one of my friends and colleagues, Hana Rawlings. Hana is a Czech lady who found the love of her life in Australia and then brought him home to Prague. Along with her husband she brought her wonderful talent of decorative cake baking. Hana’s cakes are much in demand and if you have had the chance to check out her blog during the month you will know why! Welcome Hana and thank you for being my guest today.
So Hana have you always loved baking?
I think I was playing with royal icing even before I could read. Both my Mum and Gran love baking and you know how it is in a household with kids. You bake and bake and then run out of time to decorate everything you’ve baked so I was always eagerly waiting to help with that. Decorating cakes, cookies and gingerbread used to be my most favourite when I was little. I guess that’s how I came to love this amazing craft.

When did you first start these lovely creations?

Well, it wasn’t until we moved to Australia that I started discovering the world of cake decorating and cake design. And when I discovered Peggy Porschen, Debbie Brown and Paris Cutler just to name the few, I never looked back. I enrolled in cake decorating classes and started collecting cake decorating tools. I have had the privilege of attending cake decorating courses at the one and only Planet Cake, Sydney and even one of Debbie Brown’s workshops. That’s where I discovered that cake decorating is a form of art. From there I started baking for family, friends and colleagues. It was really their encouragement and reactions to my cakes that made me pursue this passion. Without them I would never have got this far.
Are they difficult to learn or do you have an aptitude for them?
It’s all about passion but steady hands and patience are helpful. Plus, it’s always easier to cover a cake on a dry or cool day. I’m not big friends with humidity.
Where does your inspiration come from?
From architecture, interior design, kids’ books, fashion, the world around us…
It’s a lot of work, to do these designs. What motivates you?
The moment I present the cake to the person I was making it for. I love to see their eyes and their first reaction. That’s very special and nothing can ever beat that. I always remember that during the hours and hours of work, especially when I come up with a challenging design. For example, this summer, I decided to make a 3D cake for my Dad in the shape of our weekend house. I’d finished the whole house apart from the balconies and railing, it was getting late and I still didn’t know how to solve the technical problem of attaching fragile railings to the cake and then packing it all in a box and driving it in one piece to the party. But then I imagined giving the cake to Dad and at that moment I stopped panicking and had a great idea, which worked a treat. The cake made it to the party in one piece and Dad absolutely loved it.
Do you have a favourite design?
I have never done a single design twice, however, cakes for kids are truly gorgeous. I love making them for my nieces. My wedding cupcakes have been a great hit that even one of the local food magazines, Gurmet, asked me to make them for their summer wedding special. That was a huge honour for me. More designs for Gurmet are coming soon
I hear there may be a book in your future sharing your beautiful designs with the world. Is this true?
This is a big dream of mine. The exposure in the magazine connected amazingly creative people to my blog who wanted me to teach them. And as I am a teacher with a passion for cake decorating, I couldn’t have imagined a better combination. So this summer, I ran several cake decorating workshops, which thanks to all the amazing participants were a huge success and so there are more workshops to come. But there are also people who live too far to come to Prague and would still like me to teach them, so that’s why I started thinking about a book (unless I set off on a cake decorating tour – imagine that, ha ha haaaaa, just kidding but love the idea though).
I would like to start working on the book soon, I have already started collecting ideas. I absolutely love thinking about the designs, colour scheme and techniques.
Hana, thank you so much for sharing with us today. I wish you all the best and hope you will allow me to interview you again once the book is published :).As a special treat Hana is going to share with us a special Czech recipe of hers for the festive season. See below.
Czech “Gingerbread”
You might ask why the inverted commas? Well, Gingerbread is perník in Czech and as you’ll soon find out (I’m going to share our family recipe with you), there is no ginger in our perník. We use mixed spices and honey to give it that irresistable taste. The best thing about perník is the whole process of making it. The whole kitchen smells divine and it is rather easy to make. The tricky, but most fun, part comes with the decorating. That’s my most favourite as you can imagine ?
So here it is and hope you’ll like it. One thing I should tell you about it though is that Czech perník is too hard and crunchy for eating after baking. We always make it at least four weeks before Christmas and store it on our balcony in cold temperature (fridge will do 🙂 as it helps it soften.
To make your own mixed spices for Czech perník you need a mixture of ground cinnamon, ground coriander, ground clove, ground star anise, ground fennel, ground aniseed, ground orange zest, ground allspice, and ground nutmeg. You can buy packets of perník spice mix online or make your own if you want to be adventurous, but please bear in mind that you only need a teaspoon of the mixed spices for this recipe. The rest is easy.
500g plain flour (divide 400g and 100g)
1 teaspoon of the mixed spices
1 teaspoon of Bi-soda
1 extra teaspoon ground cinnamon
grated lemon zest of ˝ lemon
1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa
250g icing sugar
2 medium eggs
150g honey
Glaze
1 egg yolk beaten with a dash of milk
1. Place 400g of flour, spices, cinnamon, soda, zest, cocoa and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well.
2. Make a well in the centre and add eggs and honey and use a bread knife to mix well.
3. If the dough is too sticky use the extra 100g of flour adding a small amount at a time. You don’t want the dough to be too dry.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic cling film and leave to rest in the fridge till the next day.
5. Roll out the dough, cut out desired shapes and place them on a tray covered with baking paper.
6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C (160°C fan-forced) for about 10 mins depending on the size of the shapes.
7. Once baked and still very hot, brush over with egg yolk beaten with a dash of milk to glaze. This gives them a beautiful shine.
8. Decorate with royal icing and sugar pearls.
Happy baking and decorating!

Her blog which is in Czech and English is at :>http://hanascakes.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html

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20 Responses to “Sweet, sugar and gingerbread from Prague”

  1. Cathy Bowden November 26, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I’m sure lots of armchair bakers would buy your book, Hana. Your designs are so pretty. Am half-inspired to try making pernik, we’ll see if I actually manage it.

    • Hana R November 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      Thank you very much, Cathy 🙂 Go for it, it isn’t that hard 🙂 Hana

  2. Charlotte Holley November 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    Yum! Sounds wonderful, adn looks so pretty!

    • Hana R November 29, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      Thank you very much, Charlotte 🙂

  3. Foster Romanick November 27, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Highly descriptive post, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

    • Hana R November 29, 2011 at 12:02 am #

      I’m up for it 🙂

      • annepetzer November 29, 2011 at 7:16 am #

        I would certainly love to have you back Hana :). Maybe you share some Czech Easter treats with us? 😉

  4. Colin Acland November 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Having had a very good life cooking profesionally for more years than i care to mention I have always managed to stay away from the pastry department but have always had a secret admiration for the art of the cake maker so found this interview very interesting Gingerbread yes i reckon i can manage that Keep making those lovely cakes Hana

    • Hana R November 29, 2011 at 12:07 am #

      Many thanks, Colin, for your kind words. Have fun with the recipe, I’m sure you’ll blitz it 🙂

  5. Clementine Linda November 29, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Every year around this time I get excited about making a gingerbread house. I love when the cooking channel has the world gingerbread house making contest. It is amazing what some “cookies” can be made into. I am no artist but making the houses makes me feel so artisty and creative. No one is to old to make a gingerbread house!!!

  6. Richard November 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    I never knew there was so much involved in cake-making and decorating until I met Hana; I have a real admiration for people who are creative and can cook, two attributes I mostly lack! But, maybe with Hana’s recipe for pernik I could be tempted to try…thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Hana!

    • Hana R December 1, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

      Thank you very much Richard, how sweet of you 🙂

  7. klokanomil December 3, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    You are awesome Hana. I totally admire your baking skills and creative talents. I think we should change your job description at IH to ‘official staff pernik feeder’ and get R to give you a pay rise 🙂 All for staff morale 😉

    • Anne December 3, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Amen to that Kylie 🙂

    • Hana R December 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      hahahaaaaa 🙂 thanks Kylie 🙂

  8. Anne December 3, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I would be so interested to hear if any of you tried Hana’s recipe and how it went. Please come back share if you did. Am sure Hana would like to hear about your experience as well 🙂

  9. Kathy December 21, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I won’t be able to thank you fully for the articles on your web-site. I know you’d put a lot of time and energy into all of them and hope you know how much I appreciate it. I hope I could do the same for someone else sometime.
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  10. spamslitterature May 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Great article, Anne! We have many shows about cake and cupcake decorating on the cable channels now. One of them should go international and interview Hana.

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