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!