Wedding Cakes, Sesame Street and more!

Well, I did say it could be a while. However, I am back, and back with lots of photos of cake! The last month has been absolutely flat out with cakes for me, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be slowing down any time soon! Which is not a bad thing, it is nice to busy making cake, than busy writing essays! Anyway, lets get to the important stuff – this cake below was made for a very special family wedding in late November, and I was super happy with how they turned out:

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The top cake was a 4” vanilla bean layer cake, filled with lemon curd. All of the cupcakes were a nice simple vanilla bean, with fondant flowers to match the bride’s beautiful dress. I love making vanilla bean cake, because it’s so simple, but has such a lovely flavour (providing you use good quality paste or beans). I am definitely a chocolate girl at heart, but vanilla bean brings a nice change and is so underrated.

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I used the trusty vanilla bean cupcake recipe by Taste.com, which I have been using for years, for both cakes. The recipe is so versatile – the result is always great with cupcakes, and small and large layer cakes.

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These cupcakes below have to be the most fun I have ever had making cakes! I was a little nervous to make these because I have never done anything like it before, but I was very happy with the results! As you probably know from my previous work, I am not a fan of fondant at all, but I had to make a slight exception for these cuties 🙂

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It was only the second time I have attempted bright red buttercream, because the first time, it was a nightmare! Red is such a difficult colour to get right, because you have to use sooooo much colour for it to be deep enough. However, if you add too much gel to the buttercream, it splits due to the amount of liquid = disaster. It took me two times to get it right, and the trick for me was to start with a deep pink, and then add the red to deepen the colour. If anyone has any tips for red buttercream – please let me know!! 🙂

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Below are some other Birthday and Christmas cupcake orders I have been lucky enough to make 🙂

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Happy Christmas baking to you all, stay tuned for a delicious festive dessert soon! x

P.S. For more regular photos and updates, follow me on Instagram – @whiskitforabiscuit

 

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Halloween Spooky Spider Chocolate Oreos

Can you believe it’s Halloween already?! I’m a little bit excited about this, as it means it’s getting nice and close to the best time of year – Christmas! Halloween is not really a huge deal in Australia, although it seems to have become more popular in recent years. This is only the second post I’ve ever done on Halloween, and I’m definitely looking forward to doing more. There are some pretty cool baking ideas I found on Pinterest for Halloween. People are so creative. These Oreos, however, are probably not the most creative. They are, in fact, very easy to make and insanely delicious.

 

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I am a little bit obsessed with chocolate covered Oreos at the moment. I see stacks of them on Instagram, and some people make them look  like the most amazing little morsels of sparkly treasure, and you would never know that a humble Oreo biscuit was nestled inside. I have officially been inspired. Yum.

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So, why not cover an Oreo with a totally justifiable amount of chocolate, and then whack another Oreo on top? Just as well I could turn them into spiders, and that it’s coincidentally the week of Halloween!

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My chocolate piping skills are very obviously flawed! I can’t say I have really ever piped melted chocolate before, and it’s really not the easiest thing to do. The designs on these Oreos definitely could have been cleaner, but I don’t mind too much as the taste totally makes up for it! There is no recipe for these Oreos, it’s pretty self explanatory. A little bit of chocolate in the mould, the Oreo, and more chocolate. You just have to have the right moulds (I got mine from Baking Pleasures).

These Oreos are awesome. They are quick and easy to make, a great idea for cooking with kids and super versatiile – you can make them any colour and design them however you wish, and best of all, they are super delicious.

Happy Halloweeeeeeeeeeen!

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Coming Up Carrot Cupcakes with Chocolate Cinnamon Soil

How is Easter almost here already?! It scares me how fast time flies these days, but hey, any excuse to bake, really. I found the idea for these awesome coming up carrot cupcakes on the ever-inspiring Pinterest. Unfortunately, I only saw them once and couldn’t find them again, so I don’t know whose idea they originally were, but they are pretty awesome.

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I first thought of crushing up dark chocolate biscuits for the soil, but I found this recipe to make your own by making a sugar syrup and adding dark chocolate. I was a little sceptical, but it worked really well, tasted great and added a nice crunchy texture to the cake. This was the first time I had ever make carrot cake, and I can’t really say I am a huge fan, but the cream cheese icing makes it all worthwhile!

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Carrot Cupcakes: (from Taste.com)

Makes approximately 20 cupcakes

  •  160g butter, softened, not melted
  • 2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 cup grated carrot (I used 2 medium sized carrots)
  • 75g crushed pecans (original recipe calls for walnuts, but I am allergic, and I like pecans better anyway)

Preheat oven to 180c, and line cupcake tins. Beat the butter, sugar and nutmeg until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time until well combined. Stir in self-raising flour until well combined, and then stir in the buttermilk until well combined, and then the plain flour until well combined. Stir in the carrot and the nuts. Spoon batter into cupcake cases, and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted, and comes out clean. Leave in tins to cool for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto wire rack.

Chocolate Soil:

I really love this recipe. It’s so clever – I never even thought of this combination actually working. The recipe is from The Lone Baker, and I would really recommend you try it, especially if you are familiar with making sugar syrups. Chocolate soil is so versatile, and could be used for a variety of novelty cakes and desserts.

  • 100g caster (white) sugar
  • 75g 70% dark chocolate, chopped (ensure you use dark chocolate, because you need that little bit of bitterness when combined with all that sugar!)
  • – 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper. Place sugar with 2 tbs cold water in a small-medium saucepan, and heat on low-medium until the sugar dissolves, and starts to go slightly yellow around the edges – this can take a while, it took me about  8 minutes to get to this point. Once the sugar begins to go yellow, take it straight off the heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate and cinnamon with a balloon whisk. The consistency of soil will appear very quickly, and some of the mixture will stick to the sides of the pan. You can just scrape this off with a butter knife. Pour soil out onto prepared oven tray.

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Cream Cheese Icing: (see Parisian Red Velvet Cupcakes)

  • 225g butter, chopped and softened, not melted
  • 340g cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • Orange colouring gel/liquid

Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together until pale and creamy, approximately 3 minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar. I use 2 cups, as I think that is sweet enough, but you can add more or less if you want to. Place 5 tablespoons of icing in a separate bowl, and colour with orange colouring gel/liquid.

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Assembly:

With a small sharp knife, carefully carve out a small circle in the top of the cupcakes, leaving a hole to pipe in the carrots. Place the icing in a piping bag fitted with a wide round nozzle, and pipe circles around the hole made in the cupcake. Dip iced cake in the chocolate soil. You can add more soil to the cupcake with your hands if dipping it doesn’t cover the icing enough. Once all the cupcakes have soil on them, place the orange icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle. Pipe ‘carrots’ into the holes in the cupcakes, piping up so that the icing is approximately 1-2cm above the top of the cupcake. For the tops of the carrots, I used the green part of a sour strap, cutting them with scissors, with an incision of the middle of the strap. Place it in the carrot, far enough that it will not fall over.

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You can find my previous Easter posts here. Happy Baking!

 

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Cupcakes

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day to you all, and top of the morning to ya! 😉 I have seen these super cute cupcakes many times on Pinterest, so I thought it was time to give them a go. They’re so adorable 🙂

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I used my trusted vanilla cupcake recipe for these, and once again, they worked a treat as always. To get the rainbow effect throughout your cake, you just need to divide your batter into separate bowls, colour them, and spoon them separately into the cupcake cases before baking.

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I also loved the sour strap rainbow. As cute as it looked, it also gave the cupcake a nice sour tang and cut through the buttercream. Deeeeeeelicious.

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These little gems are really easy to make, too, and would be fun for kids to have a go at. You obviously don’t have to colour the batter, either. And you don’t have to pipe grass on the cupcakes, which I discovered is quite time consuming to get right!

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Happy Baking, Guinness drinking and potato eating! Hope you all have a great weekend 🙂

Lamington Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Jam

Happy Australia Day to all you Aussies! I hope everyone is having a relaxing long weekend 🙂 As a country, Australia does not really have a defined cuisine of its own. I guess it has something to do with being derived from Britain, and not really having a whole lot of history of our own. However, there is one sweet that we do claim do be our own (aside from the humble Pav, of course!). It is the delicious Lamington. If you do not know what a Lamington is, you are missing out, big time! They are slices of sponge-y cake, filled with jam, and covered in chocolate icing and coconut. Yum! I had actually never made a Lamington before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I decided on a cake version for my Mum’s birthday, and I must say, it was delicious, and a big hit.

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I was going to use the recipe from the ‘BAKE’ book, from the Australian’s Women’s Weekly (AWW are the go-to’s for great recipes for many Aussies), for normal Lamington’s. However, I just had to look on my favourite site, Taste, of course, to see if they may have had a recipe for a cake. Luckily, I found the perfect one with great reviews, so I went with that, with a few of my own additions. I guess I could be more sure of the measurements this way, instead of having to adapt a slice into a cake. Anyhoo, the recipe was great – easy to follow and not ridiculously time consuming, either. Winner 🙂

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Lamington Cake: (recipe from Taste.com)

  • Cooking oil spray, to grease
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 2 cups coconut
  • 250ml thickened cream
  • 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract

Preheat your oven to 180c/356f. Grease two 20cm round springform baking tins with cooking oil spray, and line with non-stick baking paper. Set aside.

Sift all three flours into one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat all of the eggs, and the sugar, for approximately ten minutes, or until the mixture is thick, pale and creamy. Then, sift half of the flour mixture into egg mixture, and  gently fold it in with a metal spoon until well combined. Repeat with the remaining flour. Make sure the flour is all combined as it can be difficult to see in a large bowl – the flour will just sink to the bottom. And remember to be gentle as you don’t want to knock too much air out of the sponge.

Divide the mixture evenly into the 2 prepared tins. Smooth the surfaces with a metal spoon to ensure the mixture is even. Bake for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14, but ensure you check at 12). Insert a skewer to ensure cake is cooked – the skewer will come out clean. Leave in tins to cool, then place on a wire rack.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 2 cups icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup water

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl together, and add the water. Mix well until combined and smooth. Pour the icing into a large, shallow dish. Pour the coconut out onto a large baking tray.

Place one side of the sponge cake into the icing, cover the sides, then dip the other side of the sponge in the icing. Cover in coconut and place on a large cake stand. Repeat with remaining sponge cake, except place this one on a plate or another baking tray. I found this process super messy and it took me a while, but I got there in the end!

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Balsamic Strawberry Jam:

  • 1 medium punnet of strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste/natural extract
  • 1 cup caster (white) sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Splash of water

Place strawberries and water (I literally used a splash, just to moisten the strawberries) in a medium sized saucepan. Cook on a medium heat until the berries begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Add the vanilla and sugar, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until strawberries have broken down. Add balsamic vinegar, and continue cooking on low until mixture becomes a sticky, jam like consistency. Pour into a bowl, and leave to cool. If you are not using the jam on the day of making it, cover with cling wrap and place it in the fridge. I made my jam two days beforehand.

Lamington Cake

Assembly:

Whip up 250ml thickened cream, with 1/3 cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste/natural extract. With one sponge cake already on the cake stand, cover with whipped cream, ensuring you spread the cream right to the edges of the cake (if you want to decorate it like my cake, leave a little bit of cream behind to pipe on top). Then, spread over the strawberry jam – although this time don’t spread it right to the edges, leave about 1cm. Place the other sponge on top of the cream and jam. Decorate as desired 🙂 EAT!

Messy goodness

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY! (check out my past Australia Day posts here.)

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Pork Belly with Apple Cider Vinegar Gravy and Roasted Apples

I can’t believe Christmas is over already! 😦 This makes me a bit sad, because it is, by far, my favourite time of the year. My favourite time from this Christmas was probably eating this pork belly. It was that good, even if I do say so myself. Pork Belly is hands down, one of my favourite foods in general. If the piece of tender meat along with the layer of juicy fat isn’t enough to whet your appetite, then the thick slab of crispy, salty crackling (that should always be there) surely must!

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The recipe that I used was awesome to say the least, and it will certainly be making a regular enough appearance on my kitchen table. I searched for awhile to find a recipe I was happy with, and that didn’t seem too hard, because pork belly is definitely not the easiest thing to cook. I really loved the roasted apples that went with the pork, because they were all lovely and caramelised from the butter and brown sugar I put with them in the oven, and it was a welcome change from the standard super sweet store bought apple sauce! Plus, the whole apples look much nicer on the plate, too.

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I’m not going to worry about writing the recipe out for you, because I followed it word for word from Taste.com, my go to site for awesome recipes. You can find it here. If you are going to try cooking pork belly yourself, I have a couple of tips for you. Not that I am an expert on the subject, but they certainly helped me out. Firstly, ask your butcher to score the pork rind for you, it makes preparing the meat a lot easier. Second, do not be afraid of salt! Salt will draw moisture out of the pork, and create crispy, crackly goodness. I put three layers of coarse sea salt on my rind, along with the fennel seeds called for in the recipe. Lastly, if your pork is not as crispy in the middle as it is on the edges, it is okay to leave it in the oven for longer, just turn down the temperature a little, and it is unlikely that the meat will dry out.There is a lotttttttttttt of fat in pork belly, it will keep the meat moist.

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And, of course, enjoy every moment of eating that pork. I am not often happier than I am when eating freshly roasted pork crackling, as silly as it sounds. I love it!

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy bringing in 2014! Thanks very much for reading whiskitforabiscuit’s adventures this year 🙂 See you next year. Happy Baking!

Poached Pear and Salted Caramel Macarons

After four months of no baking, it feels good to be back! I can’t believe it’s been THAT long, nearly half a year of no butter and sugar action, which is a just a bit wrong, really. When I stepped back into the kitchen and begun measuring my ingredients out, it all came flooding back. It was reassuring to know that I hadn’t completely lost my touch, and the macaron recipe I use has remained engraved in my brain – it’s the only recipe I know off by heart, no surprise. I had been planning  these macarons for about a week to mark the beginning of my Christmas baking schedule, which is very hectic – again, no surprise, as I always become over ambitious with these things, trying to do waaaaay too much in so little time. Whilst this flavour is not quintessentially Christmass-y, it is extremely delicious. Anything involving salted caramel is. I poached the pears in vanilla and cinnamon, so I guess that means I can claim it as a Christmas flavour?

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I loved the fresh hit of the pear in the midst of the creamy caramel, however I think it made the shells  bit soggy unfortunately. Next time, I would maybe try making my own pear jelly and have little cubes in the middle. They were delicious nonetheless. The green Christmas trees on the shells were incidental actually. I just thought it would be nice to add a little green touch to represent the pear, but I’m happy with the result!

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Macarons:

This recipe is Adriano Zumbo’s, and was published a couple of years ago in the Herald Sun. You will definitely need kitchen scales to make macarons.

  • 135g almond meal
  • 135g icing sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 45g egg whites
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • Colouring gel, green

Spray four oven trays with cooking oil spray around the edges, and line with baking paper and set aside. Place almond meal and icing sugar in a large bowl, and sift together 3 times. Set aside, along with the 45g egg whites. Put 50g egg whites in a separate bowl. Heat caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, over a low-medium heat, until the sugar completely dissolves (if it slightly burns my tongue, it’s done!). If you do not want to burn your tongue, Zumbo suggests investing in a candy thermometer and heating the syrup until it reaches 118 degrees C (244 degrees F). If the syrup becomes thick and powdery in appearance, you will need to start again. This is because the sugar has been heated too much, too quickly, and instead of dissolving, it has cooked.

Begin beating the 50g egg whites with one hand, and with the other, stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl to create an italian meringue. Beat until stiff peaks form, the meringue should be thick and very glossy. If you want to add flavouring/colouring, now’s your moment. So add the colouring now. Just lightly beat them into the meringue. Pour meringue into the almond meal, icing sugar and 45g egg whites mixture and mix roughly to combine. When combined, fold mixture together (one single stroke) until there are no air bubbles left. Make a spread across the top of the mixture, and it should disappear in about 20 seconds. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. (If you don’t have a piping bag set, most supermarkets sell plastic ones, they are Multix brand, in an orange box and contain 5 piping bags with a few different nozzles, plus they’re only about $3. You should be able to find them in the baking aisle). Dip a skewer into green colouring gel, and wipe up one side of the piping bag, creating a straight line. Lock the bag by spinning the top around 4 times. Pipe 3-4cm rounds on the oven trays prepared earlier. Tap the bottom of the trays on the kitchen bench and let them sit for about half an hour, or until mixture is dry to the touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 145c (135c fan forced).

Place in oven and bake for 16-20 minutes. Check macarons at 16 minutes, and to test if they are cooked, pull a macaron off the baking paper. If it is stuck, keep cooking and checking regularly. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then peel off and place on a wire rack. The mixture should make about 12 -15 large macarons, and about 25 smaller macarons. Macarons keep really well (about 5 days in the fridge) and some say that the longer they are refrigerated, the more the flavour is likely to develop. Macarons taste best when they are stored in the fridge, then brought down to room temperature to eat.

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Caramel Maison: (from p. 242 of Adriano Zumbo’s book, Zumbo):

•220g pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)
•1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
•120g water (this is just under 1 cup)
•300g caster (white) sugar
•60g liquid glucose (available at most supermarkets)

Place the cream and vanilla in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Then, remove from the heat, and remove the vanilla bean if you are using one. In the meantime, place the water, sugar and glucose in a larger saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook until the glucose and sugar are fully dissolved, stirring occasionally. Zumbo’s says to use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to clean the sides of the saucepan in order to avoid crystalisation, however you can also just place the saucepan in really hot water with suds just after use and the sugar will melt off really easily. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the sugar mixture until it reaches a dark amber colour. This does take quite a while, and I was getting worried that mine would not work, but persistence is key here, it will eventually darken after 6-7 minutes. Very carefully stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture slowly – be very careful because it spits and releases lot of heat. I found the best way to do this was with a spoon with a very long handle, as you want to keep your face as far away from the saucepan whilst it is spitting. If you don’t have a spoon with a super long handle, just add the cream really slowly and try to stir as best you can! Keep stirring as much as you can until the caramel settles down, then stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, let it cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

Caramel Buttercream: (this recipe is on page 42 of Zumbo’s cookbook)

•150g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
•300g caramel maison
•4.5g sea salt flakes

Place the butter in a bowl, and beat until light and fluffy. Warm the caramel maison in the microwave until it reaches a pouring consistency (mine needed 1 min, 20 seconds on high as it was in the fridge overnight), however, just warm it in stages to prevent burning the caramel. With the beater running slowly, add the caramel maison to the butter and continue mixing until thick. Once I had added about half of my caramel, I got a bit worried because it looked like it was curdling, however as I kept adding the caramel, it began to thicken up. So don’t freak out until you have added all of the caramel to the butter. Once you have added all of the caramel, fold in the salt. I did not measure my salt, as I used a shaker. So if you too are using a shaker, just salt to taste.

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Poached Pears: (recipe adapted from Taste.com.au)

  •         2 packham pears
  •        3 cups cold water
  •        1 cup caster (white) sugar
  •         ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or ½ vanilla bean with seeds scraped
  •        1 cinnamon stick
  •        Lemon juice

Peel pears from the stem down, and coat in lemon juice. Place all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and simmer over a medium heat for around 20 minutes, or until pear is soft. You can test the pear with a fork, however do not make too many holes as they can become waterlogged. Once pear is cooked through, place in fridge for approximately 30 minutes to cool completely. Once cooled, cut into small bite sized pieces.

Assembly:

Pair up likely macaron shells. Scoop caramel into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe a small circle on one shell, place a piece of pear on the caramel, and pipe another small circle over the top of the pear. Sandwich together, and place in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to eat, bring macarons down to room temperature.

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