Wednesday, 31 August 2011

This Week's Best Baking Buys

So I've been very good with my baking spending recently, but I'm afraid with The Great British Bake Off showcasing some seriously sexy items I have not been able to resist.

Of course the KitchenAid mixer is something that is always catching my eye, and if I could buy their little individual kitchens they all have then I'd even put one in my bedroom believe me. But both of those things are out of reach.

There were a couple of things within easy each though, I loved the look of the heavy duty baking sheet, I was saying only last week how I needed one without a lip, mainly for when I'm baking my giant cupcakes as sometimes I need to do two in one night and it would be handy to be able to put two in the oven at the same time. Luckily, Tesco has everything, of course, and I found this one there for £8.25 which I didn't think was too bad, sometimes you shouldn't always get the cheapest. It's also great because it was such a large surface area the baking possibilities will be endless!

I was also really intrigued by their piping bags, I go through so many it's actually a little ridiculous, I use them do much they end up splitting at the seams but find it hard to find one to fit my large icing nozzles and you can't exactly measure them first as none of the bags say what size they are. then ofcourse The Great British Bake Off contestants were using disposable blue ones, which fit for any nozzles as all you have to do it cut them to fit! Perfect, and they're biodegradable so you can use them guilt free. I my blue Savoy bags from eBay, but these are exactly the same from The Craft Company, 10 for £3.12. I'll do another post when I've given them a go, I'm always after the perfect swirls.

In October I have a weeding cupcake order for 150 cupcakes and a top tier with a pink and butterfly theme, which I love as it's my favourite theme to do! We're meeting up next week to discuss the details but I went ahead any ordered these butterfly plungers, I've wanted them for ages and saves me having to buy ready made butterflies in the future. These will be great for girly cakes and I can't wait to give them ago, I'm thinking pinks, glitter and shimmer! The plungers are veined too so they give off a bit more detail, I already have the leaf design one and they work great. They come in a pack of three, various sizes for £7.99 from The Cake Decorating Company.

I can't wait to give all of these a go at the weekend, I also have my eye on one of the loose bottomed pie dishes....I think I might be trying out some pastry at the weekend...and maybe some cupcakes! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Super Mario 5th Birthday Cake

So my little brother is a whole five years old, it only feels like a couple of years ago that he born a week after I moved down to Southampton for University.  And now he is five. Every year there is a new craze and obsession, we've had In The Night Garden, Peppa Pig, Toy Story and now Super Mario, in fact Mario was his favourite character from last year, but he loved that cake so much, and the games still that he wanted another cake like it for this year.

Last year he got a single tier cake with a Mario stencil on top and screenshots around the side as can be seen in my post here. Both that one and this year's one was for his bowling party (can you tell he likes the Wii?) And I'm not going to lie, but I do like having the best cake at the bowling alley as there usually is a couple of other parties going on. Last year my only competition was one of those caterpillar shaped cakes..this year someone too made a Mario cake....luckily (and not nastily.....maybe) they had a big fondant figure on top - but it was quite droopy looking although the birthday girl loved it. I am quite competitive and I like to have the best cakes....children's party or not - it's war!

So anyway, this year I thought I would up the game. I had to do better than last year. I decided to go for a two tiered cake, vanilla sponge and thick buttercream - I thought just buttercream rather than adding jam as with kids it can often get messy and the buttercream works as a kind of cement and give the outside a nice smooth surface for the fondant icing.  I liked the screenshot idea, so I wanted to do more of that and again better with a years experience on it.

Rather than a big Mario on top, I drafted in my brother Joe to help me, he's really good at illustration etc so I let/made him do Mario and I think he came out perfect! I did a lot of the outside decoration but again I made Joe add the finishing touches with the icing pen and help with the ideas and positioning of some of the detailing.

I covered the cake in blue fondant made with Baby Blue Sugarflair colouring paste, I then used a two different greens for the hills, Mint Green and Holly Green so try to show depth. Good plain old white made up the cloud, to get the cartoony 2D feel I used two or three circles rolled out and laid on top of eachother for a really billowy look. I didn't want it too look too busy, so I added a few of the block with question marks with coins above (which I then used the icing pen on to get some shading.) I also made the big bullet coloured with Liquorice colouring paste, and mixed this with some white to get the grey to make the shading.

I aslo made the flower coming out of the pipe, a shell and one of those brown mushrooms you have to jump on in the game (I don't know the technical gaming names! sorry!) We also added a big star in the sky as these feature a lot in the game, and I had a big patch of sky to fill! I got joe to draw faces on the clouds and star like they have on the game which really made the cartoon factor stand out.

I took about 8 hours all together to make the icings, ice the cake and then actually decorate! I obviously had to add the big number 5 on the front! His reaction was great when he saw it finished, considering he had actually seen it a bit earlier so there wasn't the big element of surprise. It came out a lot better than I imagined, he loved it, I'm happy I won the cake war at the bowling alley and now all I have to worry about it is.....what do I bake next year!?!
(bottom left picture is Joe, Josh and Me)

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Monday, 22 August 2011

Book Review - Kinky Cupcakes

posting will be a bit quiet for week as I have my little brother's birthday coming up and baking it and decorating it will take some time! So I thought I would tell you about a couple of my favourite books.

Both actually were given to me by my brother Joe, cupcake themed of cours. This one is called Kinky Cupcakes , by Joanna Farrow from Octopus Publishing Group - and it's beautiful!

You do need a bit of time on your hands for this one, but it will all be worth it. It's a pretty sexy book and these cupcakes will be great for a party with your friends, hen nights etc.

This is truly a book of indulgence, it's filled with beautiful cupcake cases, decoration exotic flavours. With great cupcake recipes such as Tutti Frutti, Exotic Spice, Red Velvet and even Chocolate Chilli. Think Victoria Sponge no longer and mix things up a bit for exciting cupcake inside and out.

I've taken some pictures of my favourite ones, I haven't gotten around to trying any for myself unfortunately as you need some modeling chocolate or gum paste, which isn't easy to get around here without going online. But I will try to find some cash for the starter kit in my baking wishlist so I can give these a go.

These look so great I think you could easily justify spending a whole day just on decorating, like this Maneater one(top right), they give you instructions on how to make the decoration yourself which actually makes these do-able, and not ridiculously difficult - bonus!

Some of these are quite saucy, it's easily the raciest book in my collection, just look at this Frills and thrills cupcake (left), saucy - but cute! And with the instructions again it isn't too hard to make some ruffles and a bottom, even men will like tucking in to these!

I have to say I love this Hey Suspender one (bottom right), the cut outs are really something I'm getting into at the moment, something 2D really cant make a cake stand, it also means you can use outline pen on them really easily with great effect, this one is again really simple but so effective.

This is by far one of the cutest books I have seen or even owned, and once I'm a whizz with the gum paste I'll happily test a few risque cakes out. I just need the perfect event to make them for, my brothers 5th birthday probably isn't the best time to show them off!

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Friday, 19 August 2011

Somerset Apple Cider Cake

Recently I've been doing a lot of Victoria Sponge cakes, or chocolate sponges etc, one thing I never bake is a cake that has fruit it in, I'm not usually a big fan. I think the fear comes from Christmas fruit cake which I cannot stand, I'm on of those people do that 'yuck face' whenever any time of fruit cake is mentioned.

So I thought it was time to change this, it was really cold yesterday when I got in from work and it actually felt a bit wintery, so naturally I needed to bake to fill the house with heat and a yummy smell. So to break my no-fruit baking streak I went through one of my favourite recipe books 'The Great British Book of Baking' that came out with last year's series of The Great British Bake Off (which I also love! and unfortunately failed to get passed the audition stage, but if someone is going to brutally kill your bread it may as well be Paul Hollywood!) anyway, I love this book! It features many from the series and lots other British classics with stunning photography, history and great techniques. This is where I found this Somerset Apple Cider Recipe, I changed it a little for preference when it came to apples and sugar but that's about it. I loved the idea of putting cider in a cake, this helped ease the thought process of putting fruit it in too!

This cake only took me 30 minutes to make before putting it in the oven, it also recommends you bake it for an hour as I did this too, came out perfect! I also nearly never have right right size actual tins so I often end up baking them in my biscuit/cake tins!

Ingredients: for a 23cm spring form tin (greased and lined)
  • 175 unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g light brown muscovado sugar (I used Tate & Lyle soft brown sugar- gorgeous!)
  • 3 free range eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 250g self raising flour (I always use plain and add baking powder)
  • 100ml Cider, choose a well flavoured apple one so the taste really comes through, I used Henry Westons 2010 Vintage
  • 500s tart eating apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used cooking apples for the stronger flavour, and kept them in segments rather than dicing)
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar to sprinkle with (again I used the soft brown sugar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius/325 Fahrenheit/gas mark.
  2. Beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each one.
  4. Sift the flour on to the mixure and gently fold in with a large metal spoon, when partially mixed in add the apples and cider before fully combining.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly into the tin, sprinkle with the sugar and bake for an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Eat warm for full nom!
While I would still say I would always choose chocolate or lemon over fruit, I did enjoy this cake, you could actually taste the cider and the apples weren't as mushy as I thought they would be. It was really moist and hasn't dried out despite being cut all day. The sugar on top once it has caramelised was simply gorgeous - it really made the cake I think! I will continue trying to convert myself into cakes like these....what to try next? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Old School Post Of The Month - Norwegian Krumkaker

OK so I have included these in a post before, talking about the seven kinds of christmas biscuits they make in Norway, but I thought now they deserved a post all to themselves. My grandmother always had these in her house, and I never realised she made them herself until I asked how they made them and she produced an amazing cast iron krumkake iron with a great floral pattern - I was in love.

So she got me my very own iron...weighing about a tenth of hers and no where near as gorgeous, but I did have to take it on the plane...and had to explain what is was at security, but I loved it all the same. So she taught me how to make them and shared her recipe with me (next pic on the right). I love it when we can do these things together, being in different countries I try to soak up as many baking tips I can when I see her, and raid her recipe file.  I do realise many of you don't have these I guess this may be more aimed at my Europeans readers! I have found one you can buy in the UK but it's a little pricey, here.

The recipe is very similar to a pancake recipe, with a secret ingredient, ground cardamom - which isn't that secret if you're from Norway but we went all over the country looking for the stuff and couldn't find it so had to grind it from the pods, that is how important the flavour is....grinding enough is brutal so I bought about 4 packs when I visited last. It always feels like I'm back in Norway when the house smells of baking and cardamom.

So here is the best recipe in the world.

3 eggs
150g caster sugar
150 melted and chilled butter
150 plain flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar/essence
1/2 ground cardamom
2-4 tbsp water

Mix eggs and sugar until big and fluffy like eggnog.  Then add the butter, flour, vanilla and cardamom. Leave batter to swell for 30 minutes (optional). I needed to add a few tablespoons of water, you don't want to batter to thick or they stay soft even when set. It usually takes about 5 tries to get the right'll just know. Turn on iron when ready to bake and butter plates for the first cone. Add a tablespoon of batter in the middle and press the lid of the iron down. Cook until golden brown, remove and wrap around the cone roller (krumkaker pinne), or around a self made one. Set for 20 seconds and leave to cool. I then had some chocolate left over so I melted it and drizzled it over the krumkaker to give them an extra bit of sweetness, and mixes up the traditional bake a bit. Store them in an airtight tin and they keep for a good while. They are often served with freshly whipped cream too and with some coffee. Eat! Nom! Pin It Now!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Cake Pops! Heaven On A Stick!

I first heard about cake pops about a year ago, thought they sounded interesting but never got round to researching them more. But now it seems they are everywhere, and some are seriously cute so I'm quite jealous. So of course I decided to give them a go, I didn't use anyone's recipe as they were all American that I could see, a tub of frosting etc....but I need actual measurements I'm really picky with that. So I kind of just made it up and luckily - it worked out!

First I crumbled one Victoria Sponge - medium sized (4 egg recipe) into a bowl so it looks like bashed up biscuits. They say chocolate cake holds together better but I thought I would keep it easy and stick to the classic one. There will be a few bigger lumps, but this just gives it a bit more texture, and don't trim away the golden egde, these were originally made from cake scraps so keep some of the history in there!

You then mix buttercream into the cake crumbs. I mixed together 35g butter and 75g icing sugar, I then coloured it with Pink Sugarflair Colouring Paste to look bright against the coating. Mix all of these together and well combined. Now start adding the buttercream to the cake crumbs, don't add it all at once as you may not need all of it, and once you add the buttercream and mix can't take it back, so just do it bit by bit. You want it to still be fairly crumbly, but that it can be formed into a ball and hold together.

I rolled them into balls (ping pong ball size) and stick them in to freezer for 30 minutes, some say not to as the covering will crack, mine didn't though so go for it. Using white lollipop sticks (eBay £3.20 for 50 ish) you gently twist them in about halfway, then I melted some white cake covering chocolate as it cools quick, dip them in, only once! and give them a brisk twizzle to get off the excess and swirl the pop slowly for 10 seconds or so until more set, I then placed them in a mug in the fridge to set properly.

It really wasn't that difficult, thankfully, I used a little too much buttercream in mine so they were bit rich but still gorgeous! If you want to add sprinkles etc then do that fairly soon after dipping (but not straight away!) or you can add icing or melted chocolate drizzles when cool. You can also accessorize with little bows or alternatively place them upside down in petite four cupcake cases for a posh look!

And eat!!! Nom! Pin It Now!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Choux Pastry - Chocolate Eclairs

I think we've firmly established that I love my pastry, love it. So I'm trying to push myself to make more and make it perfect. I'm really confident in my puff pastry but not so much choux pastry....I only made it once and I think I was about it doesn't count...all I remember is that there was some burnt cream involved, don't ask.

I found these could have been a bit sweeter for my liking, so a light dusting of icing sugar could just do the trick I think, I wouldn't recommend adding sugar to the mix on your first go as it can completely change how the mix comes out.
Choux pastry wasn't as scary as I imagined so it's definitely worth a bash!

So lets get to it.

Eclairs Recipe
  • 65g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150ml water
  • 50g butter
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g plain chocolate
  1. Sift the salt and the flour.
  2. Place the water and the butter in a saucepan, heat gently until the butter melts then bring to a brisk boil.
  3. Remove from the heat and til in all of the sifted flour and salt.
  4. Stir briskly and firmly until the mixture form a soft ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean.
  5. Remove from heath again and cool slightly, ass the egg mixture until it is smooth, shiny and firm enough to stand in soft peaks when lifted with a spoon.
  6. Use straight away or if you have to keep it then leave in saucepan and cover with a lid so it doesn't dry out.
  7. Fill a piping bag that has a 1cm round nozzle with the pastry and pipe 4inch/10cm sausages on a greased baking sheet. 
  8. Bake for ten minutes at 200 degrees (180 fan), then reduce to 180 (160 fan) and bake for a further 20-25 minutes.
  9. Take out eclairs, they used be lovely and golden,make a slit in each eclair and bake for a further five minutes to help dry out the middle a little.
  10. Leave these to cool completely.
  11. Melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a saucepan of gently boiling water.
  12. Cut the slits again to ensure enough room for cream.
  13. Whip the cream until light and fully whipped (odd sentence I know).
  14. Spread the chocolate onto top of eclairs.
  15. Chilld in the fridge until ready to eat.
  16. Nom!
  17. Pipe in the
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