Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas Time.. Mistletoe and Wine... and CAKE!

'Swiss Roll' was always a popular choice to make in food-tech at school years ago, but before now I hadn't attempted it since!
I have briefly posted a couple step-by-step photos to show you how each stage should look!
The sponge should be very thin- about 7mm thick.
Make sure you remember to roll it up now- starting from the longest side, use the greaseproof paper to guide you.
Leave for a few minutes then unroll, and spread your filling-I used fresh double cream.
The cake was to be kept at my mum's house and her fridge tends to freeze so it made it taste like icecream!
Roll the cake up again once filled!
Don't worry if the sides crack- this can easily be covered with icing.
Decorate as you please!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Choc'mas!

Nothing says Christmas 2011 like home-made gifts.
And when they are made out of chocolate that's even better!
 I've made a selection of dark, milk, white,and, dark chocolate and orange flavoured chocolate shapes.  Put them in a festive gift bag, like below, and they make great gifts!
Or if you need something for the grown ups why not create a selection jar! 
I have filled my jar with all the home-made chocolates mentioned above, mini bite-size candy canes, and chocolate coins! This gives a real festive twist! 
Before I give the jars out I will wrap them in tissue paper with a festive red ribbon around and put into a nice gift bag.
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Mince Pie Mayhem!

Mince Pie Mayhem!
I had recently had requests for Mince Pies but as I had not made my own pastry in a while I thought I would try a test batch one night whilst babysitting my little brothers at my parents house.
This called for some inspiration:
- With no cookie cutters/ pastry cutters I used a soup can! 
Turned out to be the perfect size for my bun tin!
- As the lids had to be smaller, a baby's beaker turned out perfect!
Ingredients for Pastry:
- 200g sifted plain flour
-40g golden caster sugar
- 125g cold butter
- 1 large egg
Butter your bun tin or use foil cases
In a large bowl, sift the flour then add the sugar.
Cut the butter into small chunks.
Rub the butter and flour/sugar mix between your fingers lightly until it resembles bread crumbs.
Add in the egg and knead until dough-like.
Tightly wrap the dough into clingfilm and put in the fridge to chill for an hour
Once chilled, lightly flour a surface and roll out your dough
Using a cookie cutter, pastry cutter (or soup tin!) cut out your base circles.
Press each pastry circle into the bun tin.
Stir the mincemeat and then spoon into each pastry base in the bun tin.
Using a smaller pastry cutter (or child's beaker!) cut out smaller pastry circles to use as lids.
Put on top of the mincemeat and press lightly on the edges to seal.
Brush with an egg or milk to get a nice golden colour!

Bake for 20 minutes until golden at 200 C/ 400F.

Tip: Use a fluted pastry cutter to make pretty edges on your pies.
Make mini mince pies and put them on a tray to be nibbled on Christmas Eve with family and friends!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sticky Fruit Flapjack

Definitely a winter favourite!

This flapjack is really easy to make- and takes hardly any time at all! 
You probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboards too!
175g Butter
175g Golden Syrup
175g Soft Brown Sugar
300g Oats
1 tablespoon of Cinnamon
A small sprinkling of Lemon Juice

I added chopped sticky cherries and raisins. Try adding banana and chocolate chips for something different!
Set your oven to 150 (130 Fan assisted)
In a glass bowl, measure out the butter, syrup and sugar.
Put this mixture in the microwave for 4 minutes.

In the meantime, weigh the oats out into a large bowl.
Add the cinnamon and lemon juice to the oats.

When the sugar mix is done, take out of the microwave and stir.
Pour the wet mix into the large bowl of dry mix.
Mix together well!
Add your desired filling!

Pour your mixture into a lined rectangular cake tin or slightly deep baking tray.
Flatten the mixture slightly.

Put in the oven!
Bake for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes turn the oven up to its full heat and bake for another 5
(This gives a wonderfully crunchy top layer, whilst your flapjack remains soft and sticky inside)

Enjoy whilst warm!  (The smell wafting from your oven in the last 10 minutes will make it hard not to)
(The gannets living in my household meant there wasn't any left to cool!)
Top Tip:
For Christmas, why not try filling some small jars with homemade goods such as chocolate truffles (blog post to come soon), shortbread, gingerbread or flapjack!

*Wrap in tissue paper and add a festive bow*

Monday, 21 November 2011

'Crunchie Rocks' !

Ever fancied making your own Crunchie at home?
Here's how!
Honeycomb is surprisingly simple and cheap to make! It uses regular household ingredients and tastes fabulous!
4 tablespoons Golden Syrup
200g Caster Sugar
3 teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda
Line a baking tray or cake tin
In a large saucepan: heat the golden syrup and sugar together. 
Bring to the boil, and then simmer on a low heat for 5-10 mins.

To test when if your mix is ready, drop a small amount of the heated mix into a glass of water. If the mixture turns solid then it is ready! 

Remove the pan from the heat and add your bicarb.
Mix together quickly as your mixture will foam up instantly!
Pour your mixture immediately over a lined baking tray or into a lined cake tin.
Leave to set!
This is my honeycomb ready to go into the fridge!
Once the honeycomb is set, take it out of the fridge and break it into chunks!
I put my honeycomb into a freezer bag then hit it with a rolling pin to create lots of broken pieces in a range of sizes.
Ideally, if you use a baking tray, you can use a knife dipped in boiling water to slice through the honeycomb, creating bars.
Then drizzle over melted chocolate, or dip the bar fully into melted chocolate, and wa-la!
Note: This honeycomb is rather chewy: some of you may like that, some may not. Add a tablespoon of Vinegar to your sugar and syrup mix whilst its on the hob! This should make it 'crunchier'!

'Crunchie Rocks!'

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Golden Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies

Raisins= Fruit, and Fruit= Healthy- Result!
These cookies actually melt in your mouth straight out of the oven. And what better excuse to eat them straight away than to kid yourself anything with fruit in is healthy! Furthermore, seeing as it is practically just porridge oats and raisins you could certainly call it breakfast! 
Go on then.. have two!

110 g Butter
150 Light Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
100g Self Raising Flour
Pinch of Salt
200g Porridge Oats
100g Raisins
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarb

Melt butter, sugar, and syrup (over the hob or in the microwave!)
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl
Mix both bowls together and add the egg
Put some baking paper over your scales and weigh 75 of mixture out at a time and shape into a ball
Place the 75g balls on a lined baking sheet
Keep them as balls- they do not need to be flattened! They do the hard work themselves!
Bake for 10 minutes at 170 or 150 for Fan oven
Eat one as soon as it is cool enough! The rest? Hide from friends and family if you want to see them again!

Friday, 11 November 2011

"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much."

Or so George Harrison said.. but in this case- have as much as you like!
This is a dark chocolate cake with orange chocolate fudge icing inside, and orange chocolate ganache on the outside. This is the ultimate in chocolate heaven!
The drape is made of sugar paste with painted gold lustre dust stars. 
To replicate this, or to create your own design, first sketch out your templates on a piece of card. Use small scissors to cut the inside out, leaving you with a ready to use template.
Place this template over your rolled out sugar paste and, using a delicate paintbrush, paint inside the templates with lustre dust.
Alternatively: Use a stiff template (i.e. a bought one made of plastic or metal, or stiff cardboard will do). Place the template over your fondant. Paste soft royal icing over the entire template. Lift the template to reveal your pattern.
This is too good not to share:

Chocolate Ganache Recipe
- 200g Dark Chocolate
-200g Double Cream
*I added orange essence here- why not add peppermint for a fresh, sharp taste?

Melt both in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir continuously until thick and creamy with a glossy finish. 
Here you have two choices:
1. Use immediately. Pour over your cake to give a wonderfully rich, glossy, icing. Key tip: Place your cake on a cooling rack with a plate under. This catches any run-off icing and you can re use it!
2. Place your ganache in the fridge for up to two hours. This will allow the ganache to set, turning into a thick, rich, paste which you can then spread all over your cake using a palette knife.
This was the method used on the cake above. 
It was my sister's 18th birthday so this cake was topped off with a tiara and a purple sparkly decoration. The champagne bottle candles were stuck to the cake board with icing to prevent them falling over whilst lit in the restaurant.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Halloween Half Term Gingerbread Horrors!

It's autumn and everyone has the flu bug...
Even this gingerbread skeleton went to the doctors - because he was feeling crumby!
It's half term and Halloween on Monday so somehow I had to keep the kids entertained! Gingerbread is fab for this as they can help with making the dough and the decorating part (and the eating part of course...)
350g Plain Flour
175g Light Brown Sugar
100g Butter
1 Egg
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
1 tsp Bicarbonate Soda
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon
Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon and bicarb of soda in a bowl.
Cut the butter up into small pieces and add in slowly, rubbing in with the flour. This should make a bread crumb consistency.
Add the syrup and egg into the mix.
Then add your sugar.
Knead the mixture until it forms a dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out. Don't roll it too thin! About half a cm thick will do.
Cut out your shapes with cutters. - If you don't have any, dont worry!
Draw a template on paper, cut it out, place it over your dough, and use a sharp knife to cut around it. (Parents must do this for small children)
Place your shapes on a lined baking tray.
Bake for 10 minutes if you like them slightly soft and chewy, or 15 minutes if you like them crunchy!
Then comes the fun part.. decorate!
Make up some icing (icing sugar, dash of milk, water) until the right consistency is formed.
Use this to stick your decorations on!
You can use anything from sugar strands, to chocolate drops, to raisins, to smarties!

Simple, yet special, Shortbread

As winter closes in we are all beginning to reach for the kettle for a cup of tea!
And what better to go with it than homemade shortbread.
Remember: shortbread is baked on a low heat to avoid browning. Take them out of the oven when they are still light and springy to touch- they will harden as they cool.
You could always try dipping them in chocolate or putting raisins in!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Lemon Lilac Swirl Cupcakes

I've always thought home made gifts were the more meaningful ones; I'd much prefer a cupcake to soap set!
These cupcakes are a new take on the "Colour-Me-Cupcake" earlier in this blog.The sponge is plain vanilla, but rather than do a variety of colours for the icing, I picked two. I coloured half of my buttercream lilac and flavoured the other half lemon. My next idea will probably be to create two complimentary flavours of icing swirled together: chocolate and mint, or, banana and coffee, maybe.
Just to make it a bit more of a gift I bought some individual cupcake boxes:
Happy Birthday Auntie!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

All In Whirls for Gooey Cinnamon Twirls!

It was about this time a month ago I was sat in the California kitchen being treated to some cinnamon whirls from Cinnabon (an American baked goods company who's signature dish is the cinnamon bun). 
So in celebration (and commiseration for myself- I'm so ready to go back!) I thought I'd give my first sweet pastry ever a go!

It was actually surprisingly easy! The recipe I followed was from 'Joy of Baking' - click here to find the recipe!
Just a few things to note:
1. I found I needed a lot more flour than the recipe stated so that the original yeast dough was not sticky
2. Half-and-half cream is a bottled American product but is essentially a half cream half milk mixture. Double cream is 48% fat; Single cream is 18% fat; whole milk has just under 4% fat. Half and half cream is 12% so its best to go for 2/3 single cream with a dash of whole milk!
3. They only needed about 20 minutes cooking time: not 25-30!
4. They are done when a toothpick comes out with no dough on, just cinnamon paste if you want it gooey like these!
Always best warm out the oven, still gooey, and with icing drizzled over the top!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Colour Me Cupcake!

There's nothing like a bit of colour to cheer you up on an autumn day.. inside and out!
These fabulously coloured cupcakes have multi-coloured icing and multi coloured sponge!
It was interesting to see how when the cupcake rose in the oven it pulled some of the colour up too. Try experimenting with all different colours: for Halloween I think I'm going to attempt a black and orange striped cupcake with decoration that I'll reveal in a few weeks time!
To colour the inside of the cupcake, first divide your batter into four separate bowls. In each bowl at a different colour food colouring and mix well. Then layer each colour smoothly into the cupcake cases, one colour on top of the other. Try and keep similar colours away from each other, i.e. blue and green as depending on the shade they may blend. Break it up with an orange on pink!
I layered the cupcakes blue, then pink, then green, then purple.
The bottom row in the picture shows fully layered cupcakes. In the top row: the blue case has one layer, the pink cupcase has pink over blue, and the green cupcake has blue, then pink, then green- then just purple to add on top!

To make the multicoloured icing, first divide your plain buttercream icing into four bowls. Similarly to the batter, add different colour food gels to each bowls. Then layer each colour in your piping bag.
NOTE: Even when not piping multi-colours, always pipe a little out first on a plate just to get any air bubbles out and to avoid is splattering. It is important to do this with multi coloured icing as otherwise your first cupcake will be all one colour.
See the picture below for the first three pipes of the piping bag to notice how the colour change occurs:

The final product:

To decorate add multi-coloured sugar strands, or even white sugar strands to set off against the rainbow of colours!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

"If you know how to live in Vegas you can have the best time" [Tony Curtis]

Just spent a few days in Vegas at the Monte Carlo hotel and found a cupcake cafe at the bottom of it after I had checked in! It was obviously meant to be... They even sold tshirts!

The selections were amazing!! 
Even though I'm not home for another 2 weeks I think I may do some baking here...LA style! Quite fitting the last baking I did at home was commissioned 'Hollywood' themed cupcakes....
The cafe was called The Cupcakery

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A cake fit for a princess!

Everyone would like to be treated like royalty at least one time in the year.. so why not on their birthday!
Key ingredients for this cake: 2 sponge cakes baked in round tins, 1 sponge cake baked in a deep Pyrex bowl, a lot of butter and a lot of icing sugar, and... a Barbie!
Yup, you guessed it, there is a real Barbie inside this cake!

Key tip: wrap the doll tightly in cling film before you put her in the cake.. this way the birthday girl has a keep sake also! It also helps to wrap her whole head and hair in cling film too whilst you're icing as it can get everywhere!
The bodice is just pink butter cream icing applied with a spatula. I then used the back of a teaspoon to add the swirl effects. The doll had a purple glittery bodice but I wanted all pink so I used a piping bag and a very small nozzle to pipe little stars all over her bodice. I also gave her some straps too!
I added white flowers but you could add anything from sugar strands to silver balls - the possibilities are endless!

Every woman's dream: a bag and a cake for your birthday- in one!

A Paul's Boutique Bag Cake
This cake was a much planned surprise for one of my best friends older sister. It took hours- and I mean hours- partly because we ran out of icing and partly because of the intense structural planning it required!
The cake was based on a purple zebra striped Pauls Boutique bag that we had seen and knew the birthday girl was especially fond of!
The sponge is a rich chocolate and the icing is white royal icing with purple fondant. 
To make the lock look realistically gold I used gold lustre dust. It is very fine and needs to be painted on with a paintbrush but it gives a wonderful effect!
As it was a surprise cake for a friend I won't give too many more details away..

3 cheers for 3 tiers!

My first ever three tiered cake! 
I made this cake as a surprise for Mr D's mom who was celebrating a very special birthday. There was going to be a large number of guests so not only did I have to try and impress but it had to be big enough for everyone to have a slice!
The bottom sponge is marble cake, the middle tier is chocolate cake, and the top tier is marble cake- just for a bit of variation!
The icing is white royal icing and I coloured some of it pink and green which I later shaped into flowers, petals and vines.
The pink ribbon looks great, separates the tiers, and hides where each layer joins.
To make the leaves I used Veined Rose Leaf Plunge Cutter. You roll your icing flat, put the cutter over the icing, push down to cut the leaf out, and push a button to imprint a rose leaf vein and to release the icing from the cutter- genius!
To make the flowers I used a simple looking flower cutter which cuts the icing into almost cartoon shaped flowers. Then Mommy Young and I had to create layers of petals and gently fold each layer up, turn them out, and then pinch the bottom. We then left them to dry in the fridge for a few hours.
Tip: the easiest way to apply icing to icing? Use water and a paintbush- or Vodka! One of the alcoholic properties in Vodka dries out and holds things together like superglue. Whether you use Vodka or water, paint the back of your decoration lightly with water. Then, hold against your iced cake surface and wait for a few minutes, holding the item steadily in place. Slowly take your hands away and all should remain in place!

Get your sugar and caffeine fix in one go!

My first attempt at a coffee and walnut cake!
It was quite a risk choosing to do this cake as, simply put, I do not like coffee! So there was no way of me knowing if it was too strong, to weak, or just tasted damn awful.
Essentially, it is a coffee sponge with walnuts added in for extra crunch. The icing is made with real Bolivian single estate coffee beans which I freshly ground for this project.  I then added walnuts on the top layer for a bit of decoration.
Enjoy, you hard-nut coffee lovers!

Who needs alcohol when you've got cupcakes at parties?

It's  not often I need an excuse to get the girls over.. but the arrival of my new piping bag was exactly that!
Who would have thought a night of cupcakes and Wii 'Just Dance 2' would be such a great night!? We did!
The sponge is just a plain vanilla and the icing is coloured butter cream. I then used a medium sized star nozzle on my first piping bag which I filled with yellow icing. Always pipe from the inside out to get a neater finish. I then filled around the edges with my second piping bag, filled with green icing, and then sprinkled some sugar strands on.
Key tip: the little icing flower (shop bought this time) may look pretty but it also serves a technical role: it covers the join when the green icing starts and begins! Who would have known...

Its a 'rocky road' to a summer diet if you make these before your holiday!

Everyone knows the road to a summer beach body is a rocky one.
Especially once you have made these!
I made my first batch of Rocky Road for my second valentines day with Mr D as we agreed not to do shop bought presents. I made them in red heart shaped silicone cases which looked fab!
I now sell them at the bakery/cafe where I work! And they are very much in demand! Result!
125g Butter (not marg!)
300g good quality chocolate (I find dark makes it taste richest but Mr D doesn't like dark chocolate and it work perfectly well with milk chocolate instead)
A good dollop of Golden Syrup (roughly 2 tablespoons)
200g Rich Tea biscuits
120g Mini marshmallows

1. Heat the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a pan (or in the microwave). Take the mixture off the heat before all of the chocolate is fully melted and keep stirring- the heat of the mixture will melt the chocolate but not over do it. Put some of the mix into a different bowl and keep aside.
2. Put the biscuits into a sandwich bag and use a rolling-pin to break them up- you don't want crumbs, you want small pieces
3. Add the biscuits a bit at a time to the larger bowl of chocolate mix then pour in your mashmallows.
4. Line a deep baking tray (or you can use silicone moulds which don't need to be lined) and then pour in your biscuit mix.
5. With the remaining melted chocolate mix pour over the top and smooth with a spatula. 
6. Put in the fridge for a couple hours and wha-la!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Just how rich is chocolate?

Chocolate first arrived in Britain in the middle of the 17th Century. It was sold in places similar to coffee-houses where rich gentleman socialised, discussed business and ate chocolate. [What a life!!!] However, chocolate was seen as a luxury because all women and the men from the middle and lower classes did not have access to it.
Today, if your given a box of chocolates for your birthday its not on the same level as a Cartier watch (although part of me would go for chocolate anyway..). But when the chocolates are personally made its on a whole 'nother level!
The picture above is of strawberries dipped in melted chocolate. I put the strawberries on baking paper then waited for the milk chocolate to dry. In the meantime, I melted white chocolate. I then drizzled the melted white chocolate from quite a height off of the end of a teaspoon over all of the chocolate and baking paper below. It gives a wonderful effect when you lift each strawberry up in turn. (Wait until they're dry before trying to do this- finger prints are not a great look!).
Alternatively: buy silicon moulds in any shape you like. Paint the inside of these with a layer of melted chocolate. Wait for it to dry then repeat up to 10 times until a good thick layer is established. Then fill the rest of the mould with chocolate and leave to set in the fridge.
You can make these interesting by using different flavoured chocolate, or buy putting a large nut in the centre, or by half-dipping in another form of chocolate after!

Buy plastic gift bags and pop the chocolate in and tie with a ribbon- they make great personalised gifts and you can do them on any budget!

One way to impress your other half...

Its well known that men are hard to buy for - let alone make cakes for. This cake was for my fiance Mr D's 21st birthday a few years ago. He was, and still is, a 4x4 enthusiast. I aimed to make the style and colour a close replica of his Defender ( dents, scratches, mud and all ;] )
The basis of the cake is a chocolate sponge as Mr D is not really a fan of any other flavour! I initially used white royal icing as I don't like buying in pre-coloured icing. I then divided the icing up to keep some white and to turn the rest green or black.
NB: For dark or intense colours use food colour gel not liquid. Liquid colour ruins the consistency of the icing and this turned out quite sticky as I had to use a LOT of green colouring. If this does happen just add a dash of icing sugar to regain its old consistency.
I smeared melted chocolate up the side of the truck to imitate the mud that was on Mr D's Defender. I then grated chocolate and put it on a farmyard board to make it seem a bit more country-folk! To give the effect of windscreen washers I dipped a cocktail stick in black food colouring then pushed lightly on the icing 'window'.
I even made a black snorkel out of icing to go up the side! Ask your nearest 4x4 freak for a definition...

You might think he's quackers...

If a young boy aged 7 asked you to guess his favourite animal you might say shark, or tiger, or dragon... If you were to ask my youngest brother he would say 'a duck'. Not a monsterous duck with a beak the size of a double decker bus... not an evil duck with glowing red eyes... Just your average pond duck.
This was his 7th birthday cake. It is a lemon drizzle sponge covered with lemon butter cream icing. I coloured white royal icing with orange colouring to make the feet, eyes, hair and wings. I made the head by baking some of the cake mix in a large muffin tin. I then attached it to the body with icing and iced again so it looked as if it was all one piece!
All kids (and grown-ups!) love candles so I found these mini duckling candles on ebay and added a large no.7 candle for a bit of extra birthday oomph!

One of my first themed cakes- A Unicorn!

Considering it was my first ever attempt at a themed cake, when I was 17/18, and I only used ready coloured icing etc I don't think it went too badly! It was a lovely surprise for my little cousin!
It is chocolate sponge inside covered with white royal icing. I piped the mane, tail and name. The saddle is made of marshmallows with edible silver balls in either corner. Milk chocolate stars added to give it that magical touch!

The Sugar Strand Is Created!

Hi All!

Well this is my first attempt at bringing together all of my baking creations to share with people! I'm hoping to post pictures of my edible creations, the recipes I use, and some of the baking products and sources I recommend.

I purely do this for fun but if you have any suggestions do let me know by leaving a comment- feedback is much appreciated!