Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Finally today it felt like summer might be winning and the nine month winter might, just might, be coming to an end. One hopeful Bristol resident even thought that the balmy 12 degrees and the two days of no rain warranted turning their sprinkler on and watering the garden. I think that may be taking it a little too far but the sunshine and the happy faces made me want to eat ice cream. Not just any ice cream but a Mr Whippy. Alas there wasn't a van in sight so instead I had to settle for one of these lime meringue cupcakes instead. Not a bad second choice at all even if I do say so myself!
The best part of these little gems is my take on the the gooey Italian meringue. Every time I bake these I like to watch people eat them, this may sound a bit odd but it's true, there is nothing more funny than someone trying to eat one without getting it all around their chops, over their hands and in their eyebrows (that actually happened, I kid you not) The best story was when my best friend Duncan was too embarrassed to eat one in public so went and sat in the work toilet. Unfortunately for him someone walked in just as he was stepping out of the cubicle, this would have been ok but the whippy meringue all over his face looked slightly suspect.
The secret ingredient in the meringue (which I won't reveal, you'll just have to order some!) compliments the tangy lime centre of the vanilla cupcake. It also provides another hurdle while trying to eat them delicately. I believe everyone should just take a leaf out of my book, embrace the goo and go for a second one while you're still a bit sticky.
Sunday, 28 April 2013
I love weekends. If only weekends would last five days and work days only two. The 9 month winter seems to be coming to an end though which means, shock horror, I was able to walk Biscuit without wearing five layers, a ridiculous bobble hat and some fleece lined wellies (which Bob and I have matching pairs of, obviously) Biscuit is styling his own foot wear at the moment, a rather fetching and somewhat adorable camouflage bandage. The poor doof was having far too much fun with a Cockerpoo and managed to cut his paw. Cue a quick dash across town to the vets, one injection and £66 later Biscuit is hobbling around looking very street.
Anyway back to why I love weekends (apart from the obviously lack of work), take Saturday for instance, by 11am I had already baked and had cooling 36 french toast cupcakes. I had the craving to bake them so I did, not for anyone or anything in particular but just because I can. On the same day I also ordered a Stoves range cooker, one with no less than FOUR ovens. Oh lordy, imagine how much baking I can when this bad boy arrives?
So back to cupcakes (I keep getting distracted) this dark chocolate one, baked in a souffle cup, has a heart shaped raspberry buttercream filling. It's pretty, elegant and perfect for any occasion (Valentines days, wedding days, just because I love you days) The filling would work brilliantly in different flavours; mint, orange, vanilla, chocolate, the possibilities are endless. Just drop me an e mail and I can rustle you up a batch of these beauties.
Thursday, 25 April 2013
So today was a good work day. I actually got paid to sit in the sunshine outside a swanky Clifton Cafe, eat cake and chat to my very lovely friend Sara. The only catch was that at the same time we were being filmed for a top secret project (which will be revealed soon but not quite yet) The cakes were amazing, tangy marmalade sponge, rose bud slice (a bit flowery tasting for my liking but looked so pretty) and a little pistachio number. Before we started filming we had lunch at the Primrose Cafe (love, love, LOVE) and then discovered a little boutique cake shop which I didn't even know existed. Oh the competition, they had to be checked out but in true Sara style it wasn't just walk in and have a look around it was walk in and pretend I'm getting married and get the DL on every cake in there. Obviously Sara with her beautiful Irish twang won the owner round and before long we were getting the whole story. Luckily for me her prices were the same as mine and our buttercream equally as whippy. Phew, I could breathe again. We had to walk out with at least one cup cake each which means in grand total I have eaten five cakes today. Oh dear, that seems so much worse when I write it down. It's all in the name of market research though right?
Ok so to distract from the shame of the amount of cake I have eaten I would like to introduce my latest wedding cupcake. This little fellow is vanilla with a buttercream middle and beautiful fondant icing. I love working with fondant because you can shape it into anything you like. I used a silicone mould for the rose and then cut around some mint leaves from my mint plant for the foliage. I pushed down on the icing to make sure all the pretty veins showed through to give the cake more detail. I used pearls on lace for the case decoration to give it a vintage style and Bobs your Uncle there you have a cake I would be proud to have at my wedding.
Monday, 22 April 2013
I haven't posted anything for a few days, not because I've been being lazy but quite the opposite, I have spent the entire weekend baking wedding cupcakes. Not just some of the weekend but the ENTIRE weekend. The thing is I've been having so much fun I feel I have neglected my everyday life, Bob, Biscuit, the cleaning (I'm not so bothered about that last one). Sometimes cake really does take over. It even intercepts my normals dreams of Ryan Gosling, winning the lottery and being able to fly. Saturday night I woke up at 3am with a master plan for icing using vintage colours, by 6.45 I had got myself in such a tiz I just had to get up. Come 9am my dream was a reality and my pyjamas were covered in icing sugar.
All because wedding season is coming up and I wanted a portfolio of beautiful cakes to show off at fairs. My favourite was this raspberry and coconut beauty, I wanted a larger cupcake so used souffle cups instead of normal cases and mixed thawed frozen raspberries and desiccated coconut into my normal vanilla batter. I kept back some of the raspberry juice for the butter cream which gave it this natural pink colour. I love vintage styling so wanted to use lace and pearls around the case to make this cake extra special, the result (if I do say so myself) was stunning. Who wouldn't want 100 of these delights displayed on their dessert table at a wedding? The great thing is that vintage is in so there are loads of amazing wedding accessories that can be tied into your wedding cake. My go to company and one I recommend all the time is Slater-Sparke, they do the most beautiful wedding stationary which match my cakes perfectly. You can find them at:
Over the next few weeks I'll add more photos from my wedding collection but in the mean time I'll leave you wanting more...
Thursday, 18 April 2013
This blog goes out to Mamma Lee, my cake mentor, baking Jedi and all round super amazing lady. It is 100% down to my mum and the ridiculously good birthday cakes I had growing up to why I love baking so much. From watching the master at work I learnt from any early age that room temperature butter is a must, that you don't have to cream your butter and sugar before adding the eggs and that sifting your flour from a height will get lots of lovely air into it. Of course I could have learnt this from Delia but why would I need to when the best baker in town was on speed dial?
I made these mini heart shaped victoria sponges for Mums birthday last year and she loved them. I started by making my normal vanilla sponge recipe, I always use half eggs to fat, old school I know but as I say, I learnt from the master (although now a days I have converted Mums ounces into my grams). So in went 4 eggs, 225g self raising flour, 225g castor sugar, 225g butter, a teaspoon of baking powder and a drop of vanilla extract. I whisked all the ingredients together using an electric hand whisk (this was before my Kitchen Aid or as I like to call it BKA) until all was well combined. I then greased and lined a 7 inch round tin and poured in the mixture. I always set my oven a little lower than it should be, my motto is 'slow and low' so I popped the batter in at 170ºC for around 45 minutes (or until a skewer came out clean) I then let the cake cool on a rack. Once cooled I cut the cake in half and using a cookie cutter cut out heart shapes into each layer of sponge. I sandwiched them together using freshly whipped cream with a hint of icing sugar and some lovely strawberry jam then topped them off with a sprinkling of sugar. I took them round to Mums on this lovely vintage plate I found in a charity shop and every one dove in straight away. Such a cute alternative to a round victoria sponge and a great centre piece for a tea party. So bring on the summer when I will make them again and invite all my girls around for a right British high tea in the garden.
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Cake Pops. Everyone loves a cake pop and that most definitely includes me. I only discovered these balls of joy last year when I baked some cup cakes that I didn't very much like the look of. I Googled what to do with the sad looking sponge and out popped these beasts, my Bonfire Night party cake was saved. I'd planned elaborate cupcakes with handmade chocolate fireworks flying out the top of them (melted chocolate piped onto grease proof paper and covered in hundreds and thousands). The fire works turned out great but I got distracted while the cakes were in the oven and they, shock horror, went dry. I am a stickler for a moist sponge so this would most definitely not do, especially as I had friends coming round and I would rather serve up limp celery sticks and a questionable dip than a dry cake.
The sponge was vanilla choc chip so I crumbled up the cakes and mixed them with a little bit of butter cream, just enough to get them moist and sticky. I made sure the slightly crispy tops of the cake were shaved off first, balled them up and popped them in the fridge for 30 minutes. I then melted the white chocolate over a bain marie stirring continuously, you have to be careful with white chocolate because it has a higher sugar content that dark or milk so it can burn more easily. Once melted I took the chilled balls out of the fridge, dipped a lolly pop stick in the chocolate (which I randomly had a pack of already in my cupboard, why wouldn't I?) and stuck it in the cake pop. The chocolate then cools and glues the cake to the stick. There is nothing worse than forgetting to do this and have the cake fall to the floor within one bite. C'est Tragique! I poured the melted chocolate into a long thin jug to make it easier to dip, and dunked the balls in all the way up to the stick. I shook off some of the excess chocolate, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and left to dry by pocking the stick in some flower oasis. When it came to display them I popped them in a vintage glass and left them on the food table and voila, it was like nothing had ever gone wrong...
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Earlier on my neighbour came round to let me know that his house was burgled last night. Oh lordy, what had they taken? Nothing it seems however they had pulled down his net curtains (probably fallen over one of his many piles of books) and started the ascent upstairs only to find Vernon at the top asking very politely 'Can I help you?' Wow, maybe he could have offered them a cup of tea, some cake and a sit down while they discussed where said burglar had taking the wrong path in life. It seems said burglar didn't need any help and fell over a mop on the way out making an awful bang (this bang was heard from my bedroom and I promptly asked Bob if he thought someone was trying to break in. He said no. Biscuit didn't even stir)
If I were to sit down with a burglar and offer cake I might go with these little gems, how can anyone stay bad while clutching a moist vanilla cupcake, topped with lilac frosting, icing doves and tiny pearls? They can't, it's a fact of life. I made these little dove cakes last year for a function and I was overwhelmed by how many people (who I had never met) had to congratulate me on how lovely they were. Shop bought you ask? Well no but I am flattered that you think so. Even now it always ceases to amaze me when people like my cakes, I've never trained professionally, I've never even been on a course, all these little creations come from growing up watching Mamma Lee making the most wonderful cakes and then a lot of trial and error. Isn't it great when you find something that you love so much is something that you're actually not bad at? Yes. Yes it is.
Monday, 15 April 2013
Well these little fellows went down pretty well in the office today let me tell you. The idea started off when I saw a pink lemonade cupcake on Pinterest (sometimes I'll start looking on Pinterest and the next thing I know it's two hours later and Biscuit's looking at me like 'Hello, remember me, i'm your dog, I need attention'). My thought process went... I like cake, I like lemons, I have that pack of Ikea straws that have gone unopened in the cupboard for the last 2 years, this could work. The only problem was the majority of the recipes I found were all American which would have been fine if my local Tesco stocked sweetened pink lemonade powder but on further inspection it would seem they did not. So let the free styling begin. To be honest this is when I do my best work, so fast forward to Sunday afternoon, Biscuit asleep on the sofa, Bob playing computer games so loudly I actually thought there was World War III happening in the living room and me in the kitchen with the door shut listening to Britney Spears' Circus album (It accidentally came on, on Spotify. Honest)
I started with my basic vanilla sponge mix, I wanted to have a lovely surprise lemon curd filling and lemon sherbet icing so went against a lemon sponge as this would be too much. I nearly made the mistake of putting the curd in before baking but remembered last time I did that my cakes came out with what could only be described as a sink hole that could swallow up a small community in the centre. I held back and inserted the curd once they had cooled. While in the oven I whipped up some of my famous buttercream, I added lemon curd, lemon sherbet from a Dib Dab and even a hint of lemon flavouring to the mix. I don't really go on measurements, I use the taste test instead (by this I mean Bob, lover of all things made with butter and icing sugar). The result was buttercream which had a good tartness to it to counteract the sweetness. Once the cakes had cooled I iced them using a large star nozzle, decorated with coarse sugar (to imitate the bubbles) and popped in a straw. And there you have it people, one way to make your work colleagues happy.