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It’s been a while … hope this cake was worth the wait

I’ve been very slack lately and my blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside… tut tut, bad blogger!

I haven’t been as slack with the cake-baking though, so I’ve got some catching up to do on here.

So I’ll start with the latest one as it’s my biggest achievement so far – a two-tiered cake for my best friend’s baby shower this weekend.

It was chocolate cake – I used buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda for the first time in this one.  And the recipe also had boiling water in it…very strange, but worked very well and they were the tallest cakes I’d ever made.

I forgot to take a picture before the icing went on, but there was a heck of a lot of butter cream between the 7 layers (there were meant to be 8 layers but the top cake was so tall I left one off!).

Here’s the bottom section:

 

I am still not very good at getting the icing to go straight at the bottom – I always end up with creases, lumps and bumps.  Also the cake is never perfectly smooth, as you’ll see when I put the lines on the bottom, they are a bit ‘in and out’!

The next layer’s on and the stripes are going on too…

 

I tried to cover up the creases at the bottom with thick stripes!

I used colours to match the paper plates/napkins I’d bought for the shower – and turquoise is my best friend’s favourite colour so I just had to use this of course!

Here’s the finished article with a pretty bow on top, and my best friend’s name imprinted too:

and on the back, another imprint just to finish it off…

 

My friend loved the cake – as did the guests.  It was maybe a bit too rich for the hottest day of the year so far in the UK!!  I think strawberries and cream might have been a better option, but it was delicious nevertheless!

I’ll post more cakes again soon…sooner than it’s been since my last post that’s for sure 🙂

 

 

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For my nephew who loves farms

My nephew is quite a live wire and has certain things he really loves with a passion – fire engines for one, and farms (mainly pigs!) are another.  

For his 4th birthday we went up to Braintree, Essex, to Boydells Dairy Farm for a thoroughly entertaining tour with some of his little friends, around this well-loved and very much working farm.  The family who own it use the milk and eggs themselves and eat the poultry too.  The owner gave us the tour and really got the children involved in every aspect – feeding the sheep and goats, bottle feeding the lambs, milking the cow, collecting the eggs, petting the chicks, goslings and ducklings, finishing with a pony-and-cart ride.  My daughter, being half my nephew’s age, was not so keen on the pony cart ride – in the photo we have of her on board, she is desperately reaching to my husband for him to carry her off!!

Being a little boy, I knew my nephew would like chocolate cake, so I made a chocolate victoria sponge with chocolate butter icing.  I then covered the cake in light green regal icing for a ‘field’ effect.  I did this part of the cake at home (we live 2 hours from my brother’s family), and I carried this very protectively on my lap on the journey.

Once we arrived at my parents’ (where we were staying the night before the farm trip – they live close by my brother), I set to work on making the farm animals.  I had found a picture on google of fondant animals so I copied these.  I am no good at working from my imagination – I need to copy something I am afraid!  I’m not bad at copying cartoon images so I hoped I would be ok at copying something 3D.

I was using the 99p food colouring you get from the supermarkets, which didn’t help!  To make black (rather than grey) I ended up with a liquid!  So I had to paint the black onto the cow and the eyes onto the other animals.  I have now bought some gel paste colouring which is soooooo much easier – you only use a small amount.

I loved making the sheep – took a while rolling all the little white balls, but I think he’s very cute!

Here is the whole gang of farm animals on the cake:

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I tested my skills on my daughter by asking her to name the different animals – she got them all right.  So I figured if a 2 year old can tell what they are then they can’t be too bad at all!

My nephew and his brother and parents loved it – and I’m very pleased I showed them the cake before we went into the farm!

When we came out, the sun had been shining on our car where the cake had been waiting, but it looked fine so that was a lrelief.  However, we completely forgot to put it on my husband’s lap while we drove back into town to get some lunch and do the whole “Happy birthday” sing-song with candles.  As you can imagine, coming from a country farm the roads were very winding with lots of sharp turns.  By the time we remembered the cake was on the back seat, brown molten chocolate was seeping through the lovely light green grassy regal icing, the cling film had been pulled so the cow and pig’s ears were squished against their heads 😦

I managed to make it look marginally better, but my 4 year old nephew didn’t mind at all – all he cared about was blowing the candles!!

It tasted lovely by all accounts and they appreciated my efforts – which made me happy!

I now need some more little people to have birthdays so I can make some more little creatures as I really enjoyed it 🙂

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A cake fit for the Queen

Following on from my jubilee cupcakes which weren’t as royal a blue as I’d hoped for … I had a lot more success with my union jack lemon cake.

A friend at work is obsessed with everything ‘British’ at the moment – he is a volunteer to help at the Olympics over the next few months, wears union jack t-shirts most days and is having a union jack birthday party in July also.  As he knows I am on a cake baking mission in 2012 he asked me if I’d make him a union jack cake for his party.  I jumped at the chance!  

So with it being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at the beginning of this month I decided to take the opportunity to make a trial run for our Jubilee BBQ (as mentioned in my previous post).  It was lemon cake (as per my colleague’s request) and Asda had a brilliant promotion on jubilee icing – the perfect amount of red white and blue for the cake.

Here is the trial run:

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There are a few changes I’ll make when I make the birthday cake next month.  I don’t think I’ll tuck the icing under the cake – I will bring it straight down onto the board for a cleaner edge.  And I won’t lay one white stripe over the other, but cut them so they line up next to each other where they meet.  But overall I was pretty pleased and it was good fun to make.  Especially as I was in a very jubilee-ish mood!

I’ll be in a Team GB Olympic mood in July so will enjoy making this again then 🙂

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What cake do you make for a 2 year old who loves ‘puss cats’?

A cat cake of course!

It was my daughter’s 2nd birthday last month and she LOVES cats.  Only from afar – when she gets close enough to touch them she’s not so sure about them!

I really wanted to make a realistic looking cat cake rather than a ‘Hello Kitty’ style flat cake.  So I had a good look online but still couldn’t find anything that didn’t look a little bit freaky or unrealistic.

Then I remembered I had a lovely book where I found last year’s cake idea.  It’s called ’50 Easy Party Cakes’ by Debbie Brown and has so many great designs – I wouldn’t exactly say they are ‘easy’ so the title is a little misleading, but then again I am a novice at this apart from a one day course!

The cat cake in this book was a cute black cat sitting on top of a huge ball of wool.  This is why I used the pyrex bowl for my last cake – in practice for creating this ball shape.  I made 2 ball shapes then cut them down to have 2 flat edges together with butter icing between to form the large ball.  I also covered the whole ball in butter icing.  In hindsight I think I put too much butter icing between the shapes as the ball kept sliding, and I ended up with a not so ball shape once the weight of the icing was brought into the equation!! Oh well!  As my husband said – a ball of wool isn’t perfectly round anyway!  Here it is:

I covered the ball shape with a layer of pink regal icing, then created lots of spaghetti strings with the same icing to form the wool.  This part took HOURS!!! I had to glue each string onto the cake.

The cat itself was quite simple to make after the wool – and I found I really enjoyed creating him – it felt like he had a character all of his own!  My daughter and her little friends really enjoyed eating him so he didn’t last long!

Look out fore more animals made from icing coming soon …

 

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Cake making 2012 challenge continues…

Juggling cake baking and looking after a toddler has left me with very little time to blog lately, so I’m sorry for my disappearing act!  However, I now hope to update you on what creations I’ve been working on … during my lunch break at work!

My 2012 challenge of making cakes for every family member/friend’s birthday or special occasion has kept me busy these past few weeks.

First, it was my husband’s cousin’s birthday (who is also a good friend) so I wanted to try out the skills I learnt at the course (see last post) as well as preparation for my daughter’s 2nd birthday cake.  So, I baked my first ball-shaped cake in a pyrex 1 litre glass bowl.  It felt very strange not using a tin for the first time!  And the first time I made a madeira cake.

Then I used butter icing for the centre and to create a coating all over the cake ready to drape the regal icing over the ‘ball’ shape.  I put the bow on top.

The night before I had made butterflies and flowers from regal icing and they were nice and solid ready to glue (edible glue!) onto the cake.

Here is the finished cake:

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The recipient was very pleased, and her family liked it so much that her son asked: “Do you think Leanne knows it’s my birthday in July?”!!!  Well I do now and already have a plan of what to make for his birthday!

Keep an eye out for more cakes soon as I’ve made quite a lot recently.  I really should have called this blog ‘leanne baking for the family’ rather than ‘cooking’ as I’ve not done much creative cookery lately.  Ah well.  There’s always time for that when I’m bored of cakes!

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I learned to make a pretty parcel cake

For my birthday back in March my lovely husband and daughter bought me a voucher for a cake decorating course at Sweetie Darling.  

With my 2012 mission of baking all close friends and family cakes this year for every occasion, I feel I can bake fairly tasty cakes so now it’s time to step things up a level and learn how to confidently use the many different types of icing there is out there!  So the Pretty Parcel course looked a great way to do this.  My glamourous friend Michelle (who made our wedding cake) also came along so we had a great day learning brilliant skills!

Here we are with our finished masterpieces:

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We learned how to slice a large madeira cake using a snazzy device like a cheese cutter, then filled it with jam and butter icing.

Then covered the whole cake (apart from the bottom) with a thin layer of butter icing to stop the crumbs from escaping and ruining the lovely regal icing we were to drape over the top.

The cake board was also covered in regal icing in a contrasting colour – and we used a rolling pin with a decorative stencil embossed all over which gave the bubble effect (got to get myself one of those!!).

We learned how to knead and roll regal icing with so many little tips – it was brilliant!   The draping over the top of the large cake and positioning over the cube shaped cakewas quite hard to get right – I kept getting folds and creases and air bubbles but got there in the end.

We used modelling paste to make the bow and ribbons, and royal icing for the label and stars.  

We just added C2C powder to the regal icing to make it into modelling paste – which I never knew existed before!  This makes it set really hard quite fast so we had to keep the icing moving in our hands until we needed it to set.  But it made the bow stay looking like it was made of silk rather than hard icing, a beautiful effect.  Sugar glue kept everything in place – whoever invented that deserves a medal 🙂  It’s like superglue but edible!

The stars were white and we painted them with edible sparkly powder mixed with alcohol.  That part was fun but messy for my fingers.

Here’s a close up of my cake:

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I wrote ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ in royal icing as my daughter loves singing that nursery rhyme!

Here is the back of the cake to prove I didn’t just make the front look pretty and forget about the rest!

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The course has given me so much confidence to use the 3 different types of icing.  I can’t wait to start trying it out by myself at home!!

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Heart shaped carrot cake

This week is birthday central for me!!  It is 2 of my best friends’ birthdays and my brother’s birthday.  My brother doesn’t live in ‘baking distance’ so I am not baking him a cake, but that left 2 lots to make this week 🙂

The first was my friend Hannah.  I had it on good authority (from her husband) that she likes carrot cake best, so that’s what I made.

I used trusty Mary Berry again.  Here is the recipe:

225g (8oz) self raising flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

100g (4oz) grated carrots

2 ripe bananas (mashed)

2 large eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

Topping

175g (6oz) full fat soft cheese

50g (2oz) softened butter

100g (4oz) icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

walnuts to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4.  Grease a 20cm (8in) cake tin.  Line base with baking parchment.

2) Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended and smooth.  Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

3) Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 50-60 mins until the cake is well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

4) For the topping measure all the ingredients except the walnuts, into a bowl or in food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Spread over the top of the cake, swirling the top with the spatula for a decorative effect.  Decorate the top with the walnuts.  Store in the fridge as the topping is soft.

I made a smaller cake so was able to fill the centre and make some bonus cakes in addition!

Here is the cake (with some bonus cupcakes!) without the walnuts:

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And here they are decorated with chopped walnuts:

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As carrot cake is also my husband’s favourite I made him some small cakes.  I included the vanilla extract bottle so you can see the proportions – such diddy little tins, I love them :

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I’m off to the second friend, Sasha’s, fancy dress birthday party tonight but don’t want to ruin the surprise of the American themed cupcakes so will post these later this weekend!  I may even include a picture of me dressed up – but the outfit is a bit unforgiving so we’ll see!!   Wish me luck!

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Is it a cake, is it a crumble…?

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to come up with dessert ideas for the family.  My daughter doesn’t like drinking milk so I’m always looking for ways to get rice pudding, custard or yoghurt into her.  But with a dairy intolerant husband, that tends to leave poor S with no dessert!

My husband loves raspberries and we had a lonely-looking cooking apple in the cupboard so I put those ingredients into google and found this link:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1585637/raspberry-and-apple-crumble-squares

I used soya milk and dairy free margarine instead of milk and butter, of course.  I don’t have a square or rectangular cake tin so had to go for the traditional round cake tin so mine didn’t look quite like the one on the BBC website!  I also had to cook it for about 20-30 minutes longer as my tin was quite deep.  The cake at the bottom was nice and stodgy, and the crumble was lovely and … crumbly!!  The flavours of the apples and raspberries really complimented each other.  Most importantly, my husband loved it – and so did I.  As I can eat milk more than S can, I had ice cream with my slice, which melted beautifully and went perfectly with this dessert.

Here is a picture of my (very different to the above!) crumble cake:

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I hope to buy a square/rectangular cake tin soon so I can try this recipe as it was intended, but in the meantime I will continue to make my lovely stodgy version!

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“Happy Birthday to me, lots of cakes for me”

As I wrote in a previous post, I was a bit concerned about cake over-load this birthday as I’ve been baking cakes for all my close friends and family for every occasion in 2012.  I thought they might all repay the favour at once!!  Luckily 4 lovely friends/family members bought or baked for me 🙂  This was still quite a lot to get through, but we managed of course and they were delicious.  Here they are half way through:

There’s a Victoria sponge my mother-in-law and daughter made, carrot cake and cherry/date squares two of my friends made and a Forever Friends cake my best friend bought.

As I am sure is the case in most places of work, if it’s your birthday you are expected to provide cakes for your work colleagues.  Our team at work has grown significantly in the last couple of years, so I was looking at a total of 20 people to bake for!  I did a poll on favourite flavours and they came up with lemon and chocolate as the main two.

So I went for chocolate cup cakes, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate chip cookies to cater for all tastes.  Here is a picture of my desk today:

My manager claimed she was floating on a ‘chocolate cloud’ after eating the cupcakes.  They are crazily rich and chocolatey!  They’re the same recipe as in my previous post https://leannecookingforthefamily.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/party-cupcake-time/  from the Hummingbird recipe.  These are such a fail safe recipe, everyone loves them.

The lemon drizzle cake is from Mary Berry’s baking bible – you can’t go wrong with good old Mary’s recipes!  Half the cake was gone by the end of the day – some people had 2 slices 🙂

Crunchy Top Lemon Drizzle Cake

100g/4oz softened butter

175g/6oz caster sugar

175g/6oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

4 tbsp milk

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

For the topping:

juice of 1 lemon

100g/4oz caster or granulated sugar

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4.  Grease an 18cm (7inch) deep round cake tin then line base with greaseproof paper.

2) Measure all ingredients into large bowl and beat for 2 mins until smooth.  Place mixture into the tin and level the surface.

3) Bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and springs back when lightly pressed.

4) For the topping, measure the lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and stir until blended.  When the cake comes out of the oven, spike the cake all over with cocktail sticks (this is my own adaptation to ensure the drizzle soaks into the cake) then spread the lemon paste over the top of the cake while the cake is still hot.

I doubled this recipe and put plain butter icing in the middle.

I’ll save the cookie recipe for another time 🙂

I wonder how much cake will be left tomorrow at the end of my working week (yes I only work 2 days a week – but I am a mum the rest of the week!).

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One month of tasty blogging

I just realised its been exactly one month since my friend Zoe (www.mummykins.co.uk) introduced me to the world of blogging. And I am well and truly hooked!

I’ve been reading so many blogs written by so many interesting people all over the world. I still find it amazing when I get an alert saying a new person is following mine. I think, “really, that person wants to read what I write!”. It’s such a great community to belong to!

It’s a week for marking important milestones this week as it’s also my birthday this Sunday.

I have been wondering if anyone will be making me a cake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am some sort of high maintenance, ‘it’s all about me’ diva who expects this kind of thing from friends and family. It’s just that as my 2012 mission is to bake cakes for all my close family and friends for their birthdays, I’m somewhat worried they might all take it upon themselves to return the favour and I’ll have a dozen cakes to eat!!

Mind you, would that be so bad!? I can hear the scales shouting at me already, “don’t do it”!! If anyone has a great low fat cake recipe please let me know 🙂

I have a feeling my second month of blogging may be dedicated to salad recipes …

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