Puh….

I’ve scanned through the last ten blog entries and noticed that I said a few times I would blog more… and I didn’t. I guess my life is busier than I thought or I am lazier than I thought.

I have been baking though… quite a bit. I baked my first ever Christmas cake in November last year… even though I don’t like raisins and sultanas. I used dried apricots instead. And morello cherries. And dried cranberries. I added glace lemon and orange peel and candied ginger. I soaked all the dried fruits together with orange and lemon zest in brandy and the juice of the citrus fruits for about three days before I finally made my cake batter. I also added nuts to my cake but I cannot remember which ones… Hazelnuts? Almonds? Walnuts? No idea.

The cake took about three hours to bake and when it came out the entire kitchen smelled of mixed spice and cinnamon. Just wonderful!

I read that I had to feed the cake once a week with brandy and I must have gotten carried away with the feed… when we cut the cake on Christmas Day it was more gooey than cakelike but my saving grace was that it tasted delicious. Especially with ice cream.

xmas cake

Nutella Star Bread

I’ve made this a couple of times now because it tastes good and looks amazing. And it’s quite easy to make. Really!  I took the recipe from a website called Handimania which has a very nice video showing you how to make the bread. I added chopped hazelnuts to mine in addition and the second time I baked it I also added cinnamon to it.  

Dark Chocolate and Ginger Cake

Ginger and chocolate cakeI  wanted to try out a new baking tin I recently bought (Alan Silverwood loose base tin) and was going through my larder trying to figure out what kind of cake to bake. I saw a bag of candied ginger that had been there since last year before Christmas and I never got round to doing anything with it so I thought something with ginger…. trusty google gave me thousands of recipes. But I didn’t want just ginger, I wanted something with it. Why not chocolate? I found several different recipes with ginger and chocolate, but I didn’t have all of the required ingredients at home (ground almonds? No, only flaked. Fresh chilli? No, only dried. Fresh ginger? Used the last bit up for dinner! And so on!).

So this cake is really based on a concoction of recipes I saw online and I mentally filed the cake under “experimental cakes that might need improvement!”, but it turned out better than I thought.

Here’s what I used on ingredients:

50g dark brown sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

75g golden sirup

85g unsalted butter

100ml milk

75g chopped candied ginger

1 large free-range egg, beaten

225g plain flour

¼ tsp sea salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

80g of dark chocolate

20g of milk chocolate

Heat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Put the sugar, treacle, honey, milk and ginger into a saucepan and slowly melt it all together. Let it cool down to room temperature while you measure out the dry ingredients. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add the beaten egg to the saucepan and stir it in. Then add the dry ingredients. Lastly add the chocolate pieces and fold them in. Don’t overbeat the batter.

Spoon it into either a loaf tin (450g) or into a 7inch round cake tin and put it in the oven for approx. 40 minutes.

I wanted to make a buttercream with it and by searching for “fluffiest vanilla buttercream ever” I came across this blog and reading “believe me when I say this is the lightest, fluffiest buttercream frosting you will ever make” convinced me to give it a go.

The frosting is very unusual as it contains flour. Here are the ingredients from the website:

1/2 cup whole milk (I used semi-skimmed because that’s all I had)

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla paste)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used caster sugar)

Here’s how I made it:

I added the flour to the milk and whisked it in while over a low heat. Once it had thickened I took it off the stove to let it cool. Then I whisked the butter with the sugar in my trusty kitchenmixer until it had a soft creamy consistence. I added the vanilla paste to my cooled down milk and added it to the sugar/butter mixture. Turn your mixer up to high speed. And as the original blog post says, it’s true, you will look at this buttercream mixing in the bowl and think “that’s not going to work out” and then “how much longer does it need whipping?” That’s when you need to step away from it. Make yourself a cup of tea (or in my case, I opened a bottle of wine, seeing that it was evening!) and set my timer to ten minutes. When I came back I had this wonderfully creamy, merengue like, shiny, fluffy and light buttercream in the bowl.

It may take more than ten minutes to beat the hell out of this buttercream and you may also see it split/curdle… don’t despair, just whisk it longer and it will be alright in the end.

For the ginger and chocolate cake I added half a teaspoon of Sicilian Orange flavour to the buttercream.

Cakes galore

Yes, shame on me, I have neglected this blog. Life got in the way. And work. Which is part of life. Then Christmas. And then a few cakes.

Update 18.03.2013 … for some reason none of the pictures made it when I published the post! Here they are!

German Christmas Biscuits

My mother’s German Christmas Biscuits. Which she sends over every year! She makes about 20 different kinds … and some of them she makes twice because my dad eats them when he thinks nobody is watching!

IMG_2785

This is a four layer Victoria Sponge with raspberry jam.

Cricket

As small as the ball is, I am particularly proud of the stitching on it. I am not proud of the cricket bat. It looks wrong.

Make Up Cake 2

And lastly, here was the cake a 9 year old requested for her birthday party. This was a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge, the rest is simply sugarpaste.

Make Up cake

Olympic cakes

This year has been a great year for bakers. First the Diamond Jubilee… a great subject for cakes, cupcakes, cookies and all sorts of edible goods and now London 2012! From Olympic themed cupcake cases to sugar medals as toppers to giant Olympic cakes… I think there is something for everyone out there!

I had a quick browse through the internet and I noticed the following cakes (a click on the picture itself will bring you to the original blog post and the recipe in some cases)!:

I love this cake. I think it’s simple yet impressive!

London 2012 Olympics. Exactly!

How cool is this velodrome? And so easy to make really!

Someone actually made the Olympic Stadium! Complete with scenes from the Opening Ceremony. I bet a lot of work went into this cake.

And look at these medal cookies! They look fabulous!

The circus came to town…

I was invited to a party with the theme Circus, Cabaret and Carnival and as a birthday present my friend asked me for a red velvet cake. Nothing easier than that! Of course, it had to go with the theme of the evening… so first I baked three red velvet cakes. I was anxious they might not turn out red enough so I used quite a bit of my “Extra Red” colour.

This one came out perfect. The other two unfortunately decided to cave in. But not to worry, I only needed four layers and some cake to make the dome of my circus tent. I cut the perfect cake into two layers and made sure that I got two even layers out of the other two cakes.

I made a cream cheese frosting and layered my cake. Then I combined the cake crumbs with the frosting (like you would do if you made cake pops) and made the dome.

I crumb coated the cake (twice) and chilled it in the fridge until everything had set so I could cover it in white fondant. Next was the roof.

And two hours later the cake was finished. I finally had the chance to use my grass nozzle!

I added red glitter to the yellow ribbons on the side as the cake was for a girl and girls like glitter. (Ok, it was a grown woman my age who the cake was for but a bit of glitter has never harmed anyone!)

And we cut the cake later that night. It tasted great (even if I say so myself). It looks like the white fondant was quite thick on the top but it’s deciving… I put a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on the top!

I must apologise for the bad picture quality. These pictures were taken with my mobile phone, which was covered in flour, icing sugar and had several buttery finger prints on them. Looks like one of them was on the lens!

Father’s Day Cake

I was asked to make a cake for Father’s Day and the requested subject was garden. I image googled “Father’s Day Cake” and found hundreds of garden themed cakes, which made me laugh.

Anyway, it was a short turnaround, I got the call Saturday lunch time and agreed to have it ready by 11am the following day. Living in a rural area meant I couldn’t just nip to the shop and get some cake supplies… I had to think outside the box! I knew I still had some sugar carrots leftover from Easter and I remembered seeing some “nature” sugar decorations in one of the supermarkets… indeed, it was a small box with three mushrooms, three bees, three butterflies and three rabbits. I checked every single box and unfortunately none of them came with all sugar decorations intact so I only had two mushrooms instead of three.

I wanted to make some kind of fence… the chocolate fingers were too fat for my liking so I opted for Mikado sticks. They turned out to be perfect!

Grass nozzle? Nope. I had ordered a whole box of nozzles only the day before but of course they hadn’t been delivered yet.

What else is in a garden? Flowers. I had lots of different sugar flowers, so that wasn’t going to be a problem.

I baked my chocolate cake and thanks to the addition of extra baking powder it rose high enough to be cut into two and I didn’t have to bake a second cake layer.

I filled the cake with fresh raspberries mixed with half a jar of raspberry jam and some gelatine.

I buttercreamed it all around (melt chocolate, add 1/2 tsp of instant coffee, add butter, add icing sugar and vanilla and some milk depending on the consistency). Once it was completely covered (I did a crumb coat as well) I started decorating. First came the fences… the horizontal beam was held in place with some buttercream. Then I started on the grass. I had a choice between a big piping bag or some tiny paper ones (I only use them for writing on cakes) but I couldn’t find a nozzle with a small enough hole in it for the big piping bag so it had to be the paper bag. I made green buttercream (I use sugarflair colours) and filled a bag, cut off the tip and started “making grass”. Problem with the small paper bags are that the warmth of your hand makes the buttercream melt so you have to work fast. Hundreds of grass strands later I had reached the garden path… made out of chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Then I got started on the pebbles. I brought big pebbles back from the beach in Portugal, they are smooth and have a black/grey/white pattern, they are ever so pretty. So I made several big ones and even more little ones out of white and black sugar paste.

The carrots went in and nearby a couple of rabbits. Flowers started to bloom and a butterfly came by. A bit of fire wood (broken Mikados) close to the pebbles didn’t look out of place. Some mushrooms near the fence and of course there were also some animals on the back of the fence… a bee and a butterfly and I made a snail out of brown fondant. Every garden has at least one snail (my garden seems to have thousands!).

The last thing I made was the watering can. I took my own as an example. The snout got lots of small holes courtesy of a sowing needle (where are the pins when you need them?) and then I signed my cake along a fence post and took pictures.

I apologise for the quality of the pictures… they were only taken with an iPhone.

But here is one the customer sent to his son later (who kindly forwarded me the email) with the words: “The Cake was Frantastic and your friend should be very proud of her efforts. Everything about the cake is out of this world: Taste, Design, Texture, Craftsmanship and soooo moooooorish.”

I’m so happy with this cake… mainly because I know I made someone else happy!

Beach cake

I was asked to make a beach themed cake for the girlfriend of a friend of mine and this is the outcome:

For the sand I used soft brown sugar, yellow sugar sprinkles and some ordinary white sugar and blitzed it for a few times in my little blender.

I used ivory sugar paste for the shell moulds and once they were dry I painted them.

I meant to do a goldfish on the side…. but it turned into an octopus for some reason.

Everything apart from the deckchair, the sunbrella and the candles was edible. And it all got eaten according to my friend!

Double Chocolate Loaf

I came across this double chocolate loaf via foodgawker the other day (have you been on foodgawker yet? OH MY GOD, this is such a cool website, you HAVE to have a look… it’s foodporn, honestly!), anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to make some kind of chocolate cake and while I have some trusted recipes that always work out and always taste delicious I wanted something different…. So I stumbled across the recipe for a Double chocolate loaf by Mehan’s kitchen.

I had all the ingredients at home and followed the recipe exactly (even though I thought there was a lot of chocolate going in) and while I know that every oven is different I was a bit surprised that after an hour the cake was still liquid in the middle but the rest was baked all around. I added ten more minutes to it and then I took it out. I made a simple sour cream frosting and once it was all set I cut into my cake. The first slice was, mhm, a bit dry. Very chocolaty no less. The next few slices were fine, slightly over baked around the outsides and the chocolate pieces had melted into the batter but in some places it had gone hard. After the forth slice I encountered a big hole right in the middle.

I don’t know what went wrong. Oven temperature too high? Too low? Left it in too long?

The cake tasted delicious, dark and chocolaty and not too sweet and the sour cream frosting added a nice taste to it.

I think I will make this recipe again but this time I will blitz the chocolate to a coarse powder instead of cutting it in small chunks. Maybe I should have used chocolate chips? But I don’t like the chocolate chips you can buy in this country, I rather use a bar of Green & Black’s cooks chocolate bar and chop it up!

It’s bugging me when a cake goes wrong.

This was so much fun to make…

A few months ago I saw a Lego cake in my baking group on Facebook and it looked fabulous. If only I knew someone I could make that cake for, I thought. Fast forward a couple of weeks and Jim’s birthday was looming on the horizon. I asked his girlfriend what Jim likes (hoping she’s give me an idea for a present for him) and all she said was “Lego”. Me: “But he doesn’t eat cake, does he?”. Julie: “Oh, he loves chocolate cake”. Me: “Oh My God, yesssss, I can finally make this cake I’ve been wanting to make for months”.

The Lego cake looks more difficult to make than it actually is. I baked two chocolate cakes (Recipe from Barefoot Contessa) Friday afternoon and on Saturday I made the chocolate butter cream and started on assembling the cake. The butter cream frosting was seriously adult material though, dark and only slightly sweet and containing rum. For serious chocolate cake lovers! Using my trusty mat I rolled out the Royal Icing and covered the cake with it. I learnt from previous cakes not to roll out the icing too thin as otherwise you’ll get cracks in it after a while. I made the top bricks using an ice cube tray and the side bricks were simply rolled out coloured sugar paste. Yes, a plasterer would be appalled by how wonky some of the bricks are and they are not uniformly sized but who cares? It’s a cake! A homemade cake! It’s supposed to look homemade and not factory made!

I was very happy with the end result and so was Jim when I gave him the cake later that day.