Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

What in the world is Banting?

Banting is a lifestyle dieting technique developed by William Banting and suggested by his doctor, Dr. William Harvey in the mid-1800’s. The lifestyle consisted of avoiding refined sugar, starch, beer, milk and butter. The diet soon became popular, as did the question: do you bant?

The popular Paleo diet (developed by Dr. Loren Cordain) also makes use of the principles of Banting and avoids the consumption of cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods and refined vegetable oils.

This lifestyle diet has been popularised in South Africa by Professor Tim Noakes, which has taken the nutritional world by storm, and turned it on its head. The ‚ÄúNoakes‚ÄĚ diet does however allow the consumption of dairy. The ‚ÄúNoakes‚ÄĚ diet is based on a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate diet.

So what does that mean for us lovers of baking; who use flour and sugar as our main ingredients? A whole plethora of ‚ÄėPaleo‚Äô/ Banting-baking recipes have been developed to satisfy our¬†collective “sweet tooth”, and allow those of us following this diet a respite from the world of savoury! The internet is a great source of already-developed ‚ÄėPaleo‚Äô recipes, however the ingredients used are quite different from what we‚Äôre used to, but can fulfil the role of wheat flour or¬†sugar in most recipes. Note: Many ‚ÄėPaleo‚Äô/ Banting-baking recipes¬†are not free from or even low in carbohydrates – it seems¬†the main incentive is to enjoy a sweet treat without the guilt of¬†eating grains or refined sugar.

Grain Flour Substitutes

‘Root’¬†flours or¬†nut flours¬†can be used in the¬†place of grain based flours. These alternative flours do not contain the stretchy ‚Äėgluten‚Äô protein, and will not yield the same texture as when using a flour containing gluten (such as wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats). Coconut and almond flour are fibre and protein¬†based flours and will not yield a crisp bake; while tapioca and arrowroot flour are starch based flours (high in carbohydrates), and can be used¬†sparingly to¬†thicken or add a gummier or fluffier texture to bakes.

Banting-baking makes use of raising agents and eggs to give structure and texture to baked goods. Vegetables, fruit, nut butters and healthful oils are also used to create recipes that are tasty and satisfying. These recipes can sometimes produce a denser bake than wheat based recipes, so recipe development is a little trickier.

Grain-Free flours Coconut flour Tapioca/ cassava flour Almond/ Hazelnut flour Arrowroot flour Flaxseed meal Psyllium husk

Coconut flour

Coconut flour is made by grinding dehydrated coconut flakes into a fine flour. Coconut flour is dehydrated and therefore will absorb much of the liquid in a batter. Coconut flour can typically replace wheat flour as¬†1 cup wheat flour¬†: ¬ľ cup of coconut flour. In addition, 1 egg is used for every 30g of coconut flour.

Nut Flour

Blanched almond flour is produced by milling almonds into a fine texture. Almond flour may be used to replace wheat flour at almost a 1:1 ratio. Some adjustments of the liquids/fat may be necessary.

Arrowroot Flour

Arrowroot is made from the dehydrated arrowroot tuber and can easily replace corn starch at a 1:1 ratio.

Tapioca Flour

Tapioca flour comes from the cassava tuber, which is a sticky root vegetable. It can be used in baking to add a gummy texture.

Flax Seed Meal

Flax seed meal has a nutty ‚Äúwhole wheat‚ÄĚ flavour and exhibits binding properties when mixed with water. Approximately 3 tablespoons of water¬†mixed with¬†1 tablespoon of flax seed meal can (almost) replace an egg in most recipes.

Psyllium husk

Although not a flour, psyllium husks are seed husks and can be used to bind ingredients together and provide structure in a bake. Psyllium husks are an indigestible soluble fibre, and can be used as an egg substitute, by replacing 1 egg with 1 tablespoon psyllium husk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water.

Sugar Substitutes

The following sugar-substitutes¬†syrups are usually¬†found in ‘Paleo’ baking recipes; as they are less refined than sugar and contain remnants of vitamins and¬†minerals¬†that highly refined sugar does not; they also have a lower GI than sugar,¬†meaning they exhibit a lower glycaemic response. Xylitol and Erythritol are¬†polyols and¬†do not contain glucose/ fructose as the syrups listed do; they do however¬†contain calories, although less than that of sugar, and have a low GI rating. We like to use Sweet Nothings xylitol 1:1 in place of sugar. Other common polyols not listed include maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, isomalt¬†(used in candy making).

Refined Sugar Substitutes Honey Xylitol (preferred choice) Maple Syrup Erythritol (preferred choice) Agave Syrup Molasses/ Treacle (cane sugar syrup) Coconut sugar Stevia (preferred choice)

Unsweetened Cocoa powders

Make use of cocoa powders that do not include sugar in the ingredients. We love the Organic Dutch Process Cocoa from CocoáFair (who can be found at the Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town).

Healthful Oils

A variety of good oils can be used in baking to replace the use of canola/ sunflower oil; such as coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil and olive oil. We love to use Mount Cedar’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil. We also make use of butter in our baking, as we don’t avoid dairy.

Raising Agents

Often ‚ÄėPaleo‚Äô recipes will call for gluten-free baking powder. This is because baking powders typically contain a starch as an ‘anticaking agent’. However the active ingredients in baking powder are usually baking soda and cream of tartar. To make your own baking powder: 1 tsp. = ¬ľ tsp. baking soda + ¬Ĺ tsp. cream of tartar.

Sweet Treats

When it comes to sweetness, we have a weakness (and that rhymed). Consider a word of caution when consuming the bakes from these recipes that contain grain/ sugar free alternatives Рthese recipes will not be calorie-free / carb-free (since fruit and nuts contain proportions of sugars/starches). Also consider that an excessive consumption of polyols may elicit a laxative effect.

Remember that following this diet is a lifestyle choice as opposed to the strict D-Word (‚Äúdiet‚ÄĚ). So give yourself a little wiggle-room, while you alter your favourite desserts and recipes to become a more healthful indulgence.

This frosting recipe is a cooked meringue (no Salmonella here thanks!). There are three techniques to making meringue (French/Swiss/Italian), and each can be used to create the perfect meringue for its purpose.

French Meringue Рis an uncooked meringue, and the least stable of the three. Granular sugar is gradually added to the soft-peak-beaten egg whites, the result is a smooth, fluffy and light meringue, which is perfect for soufflés and pie toppings.

Swiss Meringue Рis made by whipping sugar and egg whites vigorously over a pot of simmering water (the sugar and egg whites should be very warm to the touch before whipping them). This method creates a more dense, firm and fine texture, perfect for baking crisp meringues.

Italian Meringue –¬† this is made with a sugar syrup that has been heated to the soft-ball stage (112¬įC). The syrup is poured slowly into¬†soft-peak-beaten egg whites to create¬†voluminous, firm and¬†glossy peaks. It is the most stable of meringues and makes great icings and mousses.

This mixture will happily adorn 24 cupcakes:

1 cup sugar 1/2 cup water 4 egg whites

Place the sugar and water in a heavy based pan. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes, or until reaching “soft ball” stage. If you are using a sugar thermometer this will be at a temperature of 112¬įC. Beat the egg whites until foamy, remove the sugar syrup from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin consistent stream over the beaten egg whites while beating. Continue beating the mixture until the icing is thick and glossy. Get ready to ice/ pipe this as a topping to cupcakes, baked Alaska or meringue pie.

We topped our meringue iced cupcakes with Nicoletta marzipan fruits and fondant fruits (made using Ready to Roll Fondant).

Check out our tips and tricks to making the perfect meringues. Here is a handy guide to heating sugar, whether you use a thermometer or the droplet method.

Sugar Stages


Characteristics¬†of Sugar syrup dropped into a¬†glass of cool water – Thread stage 102 Forms a liquid thread that will not ball up. Soft Ball stage 112 Forms a soft, flexible ball. Firm ball stage 118 Forms a firm ball. Hard ball stage 121 Forms thick, “ropy” threads as it drips from the spoon, forms a hard ball in water. Soft crack stage 129 Forms solid threads that, when removed from the water, are flexible, not brittle. Hard crack stage 143 Forms hard, brittle threads that break when bent Clear liquid 160 At this temperature all the water has boiled away. The remaining sugar is liquid and light amber in colour. Brown liquid 170 At this stage the liquefied sugar turns brown in colour due to caramelisation Burnt sugar 176 The sugar begins to burn and develops a bitter, burnt taste.


Soggy, discoloured, collapsed, grainy, sweating meringue? We address some worries and let you in on some secret weapons for dealing with meringues.

Meringue (egg white and sugar) is a fussy animal. Creating a stable, fluffy, glossy and white meringue is all about incorporating air and keeping the bubbles intact.As egg proteins denature during the whipping/ heating process, and form a protective film around the incorporated air bubbles.

Certain techniques and ingredients can work to destabilise the protective film/ enhance the formation of a stable texture.





Here are 14 tips to make the perfect, no-flop meringues.

One of the most important rules of meringue making is that all of your equipment must be squeaky clean, without any water or oil present. (Metal or glass mixing bowls are best for yielding voluminous beaten egg whites as plastic can retain fat and grease.) Cream of tartar/vinegar/ lemon juice ‚Äď work to stabilise egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume; as well as prevent sugar syrups from crystallising; they also help the meringue to be white & crisp but remain fluffy and sticky on the inside. Use an automatic mixer, unless you want to do it by hand (in which case you will have 1 arm of steel, and your new nickname will be ‚Äúthe claw‚ÄĚ). Use caster sugar as the small grains dissolve easily in the foamy mixture. Add the sugar in a painfully slow manner – tablespoon by tablespoon at the soft-peak stage. (When you have added all the sugar, spoon a little meringue onto your finger and rub to feel any undissolved sugar crystals). ¬†Undissolved sugar will weigh down the meringue and attract moisture¬† to form beading, the formation of water droplets on the surface. Do not make meringues that have less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. If you use any less, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink. ¬†Soft, chewy meringues are usually made with equal parts sugar and egg white, while hard meringues uses 2 parts sugar for every egg white. Cold eggs separate easily, but eggs whip to a higher volume when at room temperature. The solution is to separate the cold eggs, and then set them aside for 10 or 15 minutes. Be careful not to drop any yolk into your whites. If you lose any bits of shell, scoop them out with a clean spoon rather than your fingers. Even a small amount of yolk can deflate the egg whites, so be careful. Don‚Äôt under-whip as the meringue will weep and become soggy, similarly, don‚Äôt over-whip as the meringue will collapse. Soft peaks are fine for a pie topping, but for a dessert base such as a pavlova, you need stiff, glossy peaks. Wedge open the oven door during cooking to develop crisp dry meringues and prevent overheating; use a low temperature and long baking time. Allow the meringues to remain in the oven after baking. This helps dry them out. Try and avoid making meringues on a humid day. The sugar in the meringue attracts moisture and makes it chewy. It may take longer for the meringue to bake and dry out in the oven. Don‚Äôt undercook your meringue as it may weep (water-loss), similarly, don‚Äôt overcook your meringue as this causes syrup beading. Meringues are finished baking when they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Once ready to bake, add other ingredients. Fold through cocoa/spices /flavourings, or roll the meringues in nuts/ sprinkles.

In light of current research on gluten and its effects on the body (outside of the coeliac aversion to gluten), we have put together some information on gluten-reduced baking techniques.

Firstly, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale (cross between wheat and rye), kamut and spelt (ancient forms of wheat). Oats are usually put in this category because they may contain cross contamination with wheat. The gluten protein is responsible for the glue-like elasticity that is present in batters and doughs.

Why are people choosing to avoid gluten?

People suffering from wheat allergies, coeliac disease, gluten intolerance / sensitivity are affected by the protein in a way that stimulates an allergic response, causing uncomfortable symptoms and reduced optimal health.

Wheat allergy ‚Äď is¬†one of the rarer common food¬†allergies, whose symptoms include exercise / aspirin induced anaphylaxis as well as skin rashes.

Coeliac disease ‚Äď is a genetic autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, and progressively destroys the nutrient-absorbing villi in your small intestine. Gluten exacerbates this response in coeliac patients. This chronic digestive disorder leads to the malabsorption of minerals and nutrients. Coeliac disease has wide-ranging effects across all organs and joints.

Gluten intolerance/ sensitivity ‚Äď is reactivity to consuming gluten. Although it poses less severe symptoms when compared to coeliac disease; these symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhoea, muscular disturbances and bone or joint pain.

“Gluten sensitivity” represents a completely different condition from coeliac disease, and most of the people who suffer from gluten sensitivity will never develop coeliac. Research into gluten sensitivity is evolving rapidly and the¬†differences between these two conditions stems from differing immune system responses.

It has been noted that gluten is not only responsible for allergic reactions, but has¬†been known¬†to “provoke” a number of diseases (according to a review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine), such as osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anaemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten has also been linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). ¬†It has also been linked to autism.

Gluten free baking techniques

Gluten free grains include rice, maize/corn (polenta /maizina), quinoa, millet, buckwheat, oats, and sorghum. These grains can be made into flour and are useful to replace gluten flour in baking. Many people who struggle to process wheat find that spelt is acceptable. Also, there is trend toward using almond meal/ nut flours and coconut flours as well as bean/ legume flours in baking (as grain alternatives).

Gluten free Grain flours Other Gluten free Flours Gluten free Starches Corn flour Coconut flour Tapioca/ cassava flour Rice flour Almond/ Hazelnut flour Potato starch (not flour!) Millet flour Chickpea flour Arrowroot flour Sorghum flour Buckwheat flour Corn starch Oat flour Bean (garbanzo/ flava) flour

Often the final baked product (when using gluten free flour) may have a denser texture due to the reduced presence of elastic proteins that stretch to allow aeration of the baked goods. ¬†The texture may be gummier and the mixture may require more cooking time/ added moisture and fibre. Gluten free baking seems to be about trial and error –¬†whether the chosen flour is right for your recipe –¬†one will have to find out?

If baking with gluten free flours (rather than altering a current recipe), look for gluten-free recipe alternatives (at least these recipes have been tried and tested)! There are also recipes for Gluten-Free Flour blends that can be found online, this blend can be used to substitute gluten flour in a favourite recipe. Alternatively look out for gluten free pancake or muffin mixes, and then use these as a flour substitute, since they have already been blended to give a good baked texture.

Once your gluten-free goodies are baked, try our range of Non-Wheat/ Non-Gluten¬†cake decorations¬†(Ready to Roll Fondant, Cake Confetti, and Cake Crystals, Stationery for Cakes, Heavenly Hearts, Chocolate Popping Candy, Chocolate Hearts and Buttons, Shimmer, Writing icing, Soft centred pearls, Soft silver ‚Äúbling‚ÄĚ balls).


With Father’s Day around the corner, we thought we would craft¬†a few¬†cake pops inspired by our Dads.

The¬†first batch was too wet and didn’t form balls properly,¬†so we discarded it¬†– what a waste of good cake and icing. The second batch was delicious but messy and had tempers flaring in frustration. Then, we had our experienced friend Yolandi Heyneke of Love Life Cupcakes (a cake pop baking whizz) show us how to make cake pops the fool-proof way.¬† Yolandi made some awesome suit¬†& tie cake pops, moustache shaped cake pops and original chocolate cake pops dipped in white¬†or milk chocolate.

Yolandi’s top tips:

Use any type of cake (even shop bought sponge) and cream cheese instead of frosting.¬†It makes them smoother! Crumble the cake with a grater or food processor. The¬†amount of cream cheese to add is not an exact science, Yolandi knows it’s right¬†when the¬†consistency is the same as play dough. For the professional touch – weigh the balls of mixture to make perfectly sized pops (perfect size is 25 ‚Äď 27g).

¬†The balls are then¬†cooled (not frozen) –¬†just pop them¬†in the freezer (for 15min) or¬†fridge (for 1 ‚Äď 2 hrs) to firm up.¬† If they are frozen, the dipped chocolate will¬†crack once they start defrosting. When¬†melting the chocolate in the microwave keep the microwave on low/defrost (or melt chocolate in a double-boiler to prevent burning).¬†Stir the chocolate frequently to prevent overheating.¬†The chocolate should be melted but not hot. Add a few pieces of¬†extra un-melted chocolate¬†if it’s too hot in order to cool it down. When the balls are firm and you have your chocolate ready, dip the tip of the Cake Pop Stick in the chocolate¬†and insert it into the balls. Dip the balls in chocolate; they should be¬†completely covered, and then roll the stick around in your hand to let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. You will note when it starts to firm up and you can¬†then¬†push the stick into a¬†polystyrene block¬†or empty egg box to dry¬†completely. When using sprinkles, let the excess chocolate drip off¬†and just before putting them in the¬†polystyrene block, sprinkle the balls. (Don‚Äôt let any sprinkles fall into your choc dipping bowl). We used our Blue and Green Nicoletta¬†Cake Crystals¬†as well as¬†Nicoletta Pearl Drops ¬†and Blue & White Ready to Roll Fondant to make the shirts and ties.

Once you get the hang of doing the balls, you can also make different shapes by using cookie cutters or moulds. These moustache cake pops are fun, not fuzzy!

Cake Pops¬†require patience and practice. Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. Your dad will appreciate the taste more than the look anyway!

Although the thought of vegan baking can boggle the mind, there are many recipes have been designed to avoid the use of eggs, butter, milk and other animal derived ingredients.

Here is how vegans replace animal by-product ingredients in their favourite recipes:

Eggs are used as a binding agent, to keep in moisture, and give¬†texture. Use ¬ľ cup of soya yogurt/ mashed banana (note:¬†leaves a¬†banana flavour)/ apple sauce, or alternatively 1 Tbs. ground flaxseed in 3 Tbs. water, to replace one egg.

Exchanges can be made from cow’s milk to soya milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and almond/hazelnut milk. In place of buttermilk use 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar to curdle 1 cup of soya milk.

Oils and fats are used to bind, and add moisture and flavour to baked goods. Vegetable oils/ vegetarian margarine/ coconut oil can replace butter.

In place of honey as a sweetener, try maple syrup, agave nectar/ golden syrup.

Avoid colourings or decorations that contain cochineal or shellac (insect derived ingredients). This list below contains our retail range of packaged products that are suitable for Vegans (as seen on the header).

Vegan Products Sea¬†Theme Cake Confetti Yellow¬†Fondant Food¬†Colouring Markers Butterflies Cake Confetti Green¬†Fondant Flower¬†Power Icing Shapes Flowers¬†Cake Confetti White¬†Fondant Primary Writing Icing Alphabet¬†Cake Confetti Black¬†Fondant Silver¬†Shimmer Dinosaur¬†Cake Confetti Heavenly¬†Hearts Wafers Gold¬†Shimmer Stack¬†O’ Hearts Wafers Love¬†Notes Wafers Stack¬†O’ Discs Wafers Handbag icing shape Daisy icing shapes Blossom icing shapes

8 colours just won’t do?!

Feel free to mix the colours in any combination. Play around; squish it like playdough until you reach the colour you desire. We played around with the 8 basic colours of Nicoletta fondants in different combinations.

The colour chart we created contains the colour mixture of two fondants in equal quantities:

Our fondants are vanilla flavoured, but you can certainly add some of your own flavour to the fondant, by kneading it in, be sure to use very small amounts to ensure that the end result is not overpowering! Try using a good quality almond, orange or peppermint extract.

How to use Nicoletta fondant

Start by dusting your surface with a little corn flour (corn starch). Do not use too much corn flour as this may cause the fondant to dry and crack. Using a smooth rolling pin roll the fondant out to a thickness of about ¬Ĺ cm. In order to lift the rolled fondant off the surface and place over your cake, use the rolling pin as a support. Place your rolling pin at the one end of the rolled fondant and gently lift or roll the fondant onto it.

Before placing the rolled fondant over the cake, ensure that you have applied a butter-cream frosting or smooth apricot jam and ‚Äúdirty‚ÄĚ iced the cake. This will ensure that the cake surface is perfectly smooth and even, just right for the rolled fondant to be draped over the cake. It is also forgiving enough to allow for final adjustments to the fondant position once covering the cake.

Position the fondant over the cake and start smoothing it from the centre to the sides, and down to the base of the cake. Cut off any excess fondant around the base. Prick any air bubbles with a pin, and patch up any cracks that may occur by rubbing your finger over the crack with a small amount of corn flour.

To attach decorations to a fondant cake ‚Äď create a “glue” by¬†mixing¬†a little piece of fondant in a small amount of water; the fondant will dissolve and¬†leave you with a sticky paste which can be used to secure your decorations to¬†the cake.

Ta Daa, a professional cake is made! Now stand back and admire the finished product, take pictures and send to Nicoletta so we can make you famous (for a little while) on our Facebook page!

This very helpful chart tells you how much fondant you need to cover your cake. Each fondant block is 250g, and could be used in these quantities when rolling out your fondant to a ¬Ĺ cm thick.

Pan (1 layer)



Fondant (250g)

Square/ round



+-  150g

Square/   round



+-  180g

Square/   round



+-  200g

Square/   round



+-  150g

Square/   round



+-  250g

Square/   round



+-  280g

Square/   round



+-  300g