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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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Perfecting cupcakes – it’s all in the nozzle!

Over the last few weeks I’ve made many a cupcake.  I love making them (and eating them!).

My daughter’s birthday ones were a fail in regards to the swirls, as the weather was too hot and the butter cream too runny.  As I use dairy free margarine it just doesn’t work as well as full blown butter sometimes! And I didn’t have the correct nozzle   I still believe it’s just as tasty though.  Luckily I rescued the cupcakes with some pretty butterfly, flower and edible crystal decorations.  The rescue must have been good because one of my (male – therefore won’t lie to save my feelings!) friends thought we’d bought them from a shop.  Ultimate praise I thought 🙂  Here they are:

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Next it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee so I decided to make some blue coloured cupcakes.  This time, my friend at Canterbury Cakes had advised me to buy a Wilton 1M nozzle for the optimum swirl, so I was all set!  Now, I wanted a real ‘royal’ blue as it was for the jubilee BBQ we were having – I’m guessing it’s given that name for a reason.  However, I couldn’t get my blue colouring to get anywhere near a dark blue, so I was left with some very lovely looking turquoise cupcakes!!

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They tasted lovely and the children at the BBQ all had turquoise faces by the end!  I hope you’ll agree the swirls worked really well this time – how I love the Wilton 1M nozzle 🙂

I made some gluten and dairy free chocolate cupcakes to take to my team meeting for work as one of my colleagues has a strict diet – however I could not make the meeting in the end so took them to a Pampered Chef event instead.  They were very well received and no one could tell they were free of so many things!

My husband was keen to take some cakes into work this week for his colleagues, so I also made chocolate cupcakes for him – just dairy free this time.  He took them in today and there are only 2 left (out of 18) for a friend who was off today and another one for himself tomorrow!  Cheeky!  The recipe for these was the Hummingbird recipe from a previous post: Party Cupcakes.  It’s a very dense cupcake with lovely smooth butter icing.  And of course my new best friend Mr Wilton 1M was close at hand!

I’m going on another cake decorating course in July to learn other cupcake swirl techniques at Sweetie Darling near Canterbury.  I wish I could afford to do every course there!

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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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Mother’s Day Cupcakes

As I continue my 2012 mission of baking cakes for all my close family and friend’s birthdays, baby showers, special events, etc. I mustn’t forget my lovely mum and lovely mum-in-law for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes lately, I just love decorating them and practising my piping skills!  So I’ve made two very different types of cupcake to cater for each mum’s taste.

As we were seeing my husband’s mum today, I made her cupcakes first.  I used a Mary Berry recipe, but adapted it to put chocolate chips in the cake mix and used dairy free spread instead of butter and soya milk.

Ingredients:

100g softened butter

150g self raising flour

150g caster sugar

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

half tsp vanilla extract

2 handfuls of milk chocolate chips

For the icing:

100g softened butter

200g sifted icing sugar

25g cocoa powder

chocolate chips/other swirls etc to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180°C.  Put muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin.

2) Measure all cupcake ingredients into large bowl and beat until blended and smooth.  Spoon evenly between paper cases.

3) Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins.  Make sure completely cold before icing.

4) For butter icing, beat together all ingredients for thick, creamy icing.  Pipe or smooth over cupcakes and add decorations.

Here are my finished articles!

The chocolate chips made the cake really indulgent with all the chocolate butter icing too – just what my mother-in-law loves!

I used the free cake stand you get with this lovely new magazine – I wish I could afford to subscribe to receive this each week but will just stick to buying it once a month or so!

The next cakes I made today are ready for my mum tomorrow.  They are apple crumble cupcakes.  I saw this recipe on a friend’s blog and thought they looked delicious.  My mum loves apple crumble so I thought these would be perfect.

You can find a brilliant step by step guide of how to make this on my friend’s blog here which I found really clear and easy to follow.  I used non-dairy butter and milk, and had to add a bit more flour to the crumble topping due to the slightly wetter consistency of sunflower spread.

Here they are:

They’re so delicious with the fruity texture inside and the crumble topping.

It’s a bit unfair that I won’t be getting cakes made for me on Mother’s Day (unless my 22 month old daughter suddenly becomes a baking prodigy!) but I’ve already eaten one of each kind I made – just to check they tasted ok, so that will have to do!

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Party cupcake time

My best friend and her husband often have parties/gatherings/soirees at their house and always provide lots of delicious nibbles for us all. So instead of ‘bringing a bottle’ I decided to bring some cakes. I dipped into my new Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and found these indulgent looking chocolate cupcakes too tempting to ignore.

These are very rich and went down very well at the party! In fact, my best friend is coming over this weekend so we can make them together as she liked them so much 🙂

Ingredients for the sponge:

80g unsalted butter

280g caster sugar

200g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

1tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

240ml whole milk

2 large eggs

Ingredients for the frosting:

400g icing sugar

100g cocoa powder (I only used 50g as thought 100g was a bit excessive!)

160g unsalted butter

50ml whole milk

Chocolate stars, sprinkles, shavings etc to decorate

Instructions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 190° C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases

2) Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

3) Whisk the milk and eggs together in a bowl then slowly pour 3/4 of this mixture into the flour mixture, beat on medium speed to combine, and add the remaining liquid mixture in continuing to beat at medium speed to get rid of any lumps but do not over-mix.
4) Spoon the batter into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5) To make the chocolate frosting, whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and butter on low speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency. Pour in the milk, then increase to high speed until soft and fluffy.
6) When the cupcakes are cold, pipe or spoon the chocolate frosting on top and decorate with sprinkles.
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Let him eat cake!

As I follow my 2012 mission to bake for all my family and friends (within reason) for every occasion, I couldn’t miss out on making a treat for my lovely husband to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

To make a change from the round sponge cakes I’ve made so far (1 coffee and 2 chocolate so far), I bought some heart shaped silicone moulds to create these beauties:

I forgot to add baking powder (that’ll teach me to read the recipe rather than think I can remember it by heart – sorry about the pun!), but I was pleased I did forget as the cakes rose so much I had to flatten the top one down with the tin lid over night to make it practical to be iced!  The cakes were a little more dense than usual with the lack of baking powder but still a delicious texture and flavour (according to my husband).

I iced it with butter icing in the middle and on top – then added some ferrero rocher as they’re his favourites!

Here is the finished article:

and here is the recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible:

Cake ingredients

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons boiling water

225g softened butter

225g caster sugar

4 large eggs

225g self-raising flour

(2 level teaspoons baking powder)

Filling and topping

50g softened butter

175g icing sugar

1 tablespoon milk

(ferrero rocher x 4!)

1) Pre-heat oven to 180°, grease 2 x 20cm (8in) sandwich tins / heart shaped tins, line the base with greaseproof paper (if you use silicone moulds you don’t need greaseproof paper).

2) Blend cocoa and water together in a cup.  Leave to cool slightly.  Measure all remaining ingredients into a separate bowl, then add blended cocoa/water mixture and beat until thoroughly blended (I use an electric hand-held whisk to make it more light and fluffy).  Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and level out.

3) Bake in pre-heated oven for about 25 mins or until well risen and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.  Leave to cool in the tins a while, then place onto wire rack to finish cooling.

4) To make butter cream filling and topping, blend together the butter, icing sugar and milk until smooth.  When cakes are completely cold, use half the butter cream to sandwich the cakes together, then spread the remaining butter cream on top and decorate as you wish.

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