Before I introduce you all to Celeste, can we just take a moment for these cupcakes you guys? Have you EVER seen anything as beautiful?? They are tiny little works of art that are (almost) too beautiful too eat.
Okay guys, meet Celeste. She is an incredibly talented illustrator/books maker/photographer/crafter. Check out her blog and portfolio to see the what I'm talking about. I know, some people just get all the talent.
On top of this (stop it) Celeste is also a baker extraordinaire. I saw these cupcakes on her blog and asked her to make them (not realising that they were actually from Black Star Pastry) and she took on the challenge to recreate them! And, honestly, I think they can learn a couple of things from her. I'm just going to munch on a million of them while you guys chat. And play with her puppy.
// Orange you glad you made these cupcakes?
Totally! I'm also glad I licked the bowl and spoons, yum.
// Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I always have to do quite a bit of talking when someone asks me this question, because I do quite a lot, all at once. I'm a photographer, designer and an illustrator. I spend three days a week designing children's books at a small publishing house on the northern beaches. Two days illustrating children's books that I've either written myself (see Edward and the Great Discovery that I co-wrote and then illustrated last year) or that I've been commissioned to illustrate. Finally, my weekends and all my evenings are spent on my photography business, Blue Finch Photography and it's associated blog. Together with my hubby, I shoot weddings, engagements, newborns, families and food.
// Your dad used to be a chocolatier. A. We're jealous, B. Can you tell us ALL about this please C. Did you learn anything useful from him about chocolate (ie. handling/baking with chocolate etc)?
When I was a kid my dad worked for Springer Chocolates in Namibia and later Cadbury in Swaziland and South Africa. On Sunday afternoons the machinery had to be switched on for the week's work. We were allowed to run around the factory stuffing our faces and pockets with as much chocolate as we could while my dad switched on the refining, conching and moulding machines.
He taught me how to make truffles, to temper and mould chocolate (a lot of mess and banging is involved) and used to get reeeeally irritated when I melted chocolate in the microwave. No, rather burn your hands on steam while the chocolate takes it's sweet time melting in a bowl over boiling water.
// How did you get into designing and illustrating books and is this as amazing as it sounds?
I graduated from uni with an Honours degree in Visual Communication and Design and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At the same time I moved continents and ended up in Sydney, slightly strapped for cash. A nerve racking month of interviews for jobs I REALLY wasn't interested in followed. Then I landed a job at a publishing house, which specialised in cook books, as a book designer, and later food photographer. After a gruelling year of working 9am - 5pm as a designer and 7pm - 1pm as a freelance children's book illustrator I realised I'd have to chose between full-time work and freelance. Then, somehow, I found the perfect job - 3 days a week as a children's book designer working with illustrators from all over the world. This left heaps of time for all my other shenanigans.
// You are so multi talented. What's your favourite thing to work on and what would your dream job/collaboration be?
Ooooh, I have no idea! I have bursts of passion for different directions all the time. At the moment I'm a little bit obsessed with doing bridal inspiration shoots since we've just launched a videography arm of Blue Finch Photography and we need to showcase our skillzzzz. If anyone felt like collaborating with me on these (even if you just felt like modelling) I'd be super happy :)
// When you’re not working what do you do?
When I'm not totally swamped with work I hold friday crafternoons where we sew or bake or decorate. I dream up crazy things to make, like wedding dresses and fabric sculptures, and then make them with a lot of trial, error and despair. Or I take my two puppies, Myla and Oyster, on long walks where we often get lost and have to use doggy senses to backtrack (who knew Sydney's parks and reserves were so big?). Plan future trips to distant lands or write books for 3-6 year olds.
// Tell us a secret.
I once accidentally shoplifted a marble. I was five. I was racked with guilt for years.
Persian Orange Cupcakes
For the Cupcakes
315g caster sugar
300g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
For the Orange Syrup
zest and juice from 1 orange
100g caster sugar
1 tsp orange blossom water
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
225g cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 160℃.
In a large saucepan, place oranges and cover with cold water. Boil for 15 minutes then drain and repeat. The water should be much clearer and the oranges tender. Chop roughly and discard any pips then put into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale, then fold in orange, almond meal, spices and baking powder.
Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes.
For the syrup, place juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes until slightly thickened then add zest and orange blossom water.
Drizzle syrup over warm cupcakes then set aside to let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, add cream cheese and butter together into the bowl of an electric mixer and cream until pale then gradually add icing sugar until smooth.
Dollop frosting onto cooled cakes and top with pistachios, figs, oranges and rose petals.