Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - Top Five

Blogging has taken a backseat recently with all the Christmas stress festivities, but I'm back now with a clear Google reader and ready for 2012!

I've really enjoyed 2011 baking and blog-wise, I have been on a couple of brilliant baking courses, tried lots of new recipes and discovered lots of yummy and lovely blogs and bloggers.

Just to round off the year, with an idea stolen from the Hungry Hinny, here are my top 5 most popular posts of 2011:

5. Marbled Mocha Cake:

4. Spiced Toffee Apple Cake:

3. Toblerone Cupcakes:

2. Sausage Dog Cake (I would have pitched a fit if this hadn't been in the list given the blood, sweat and tears that went into it!):

1. Bakewell Tart Cupcakes:

Hope you all have a fab New Year's Eve whatever you're up to, and wishing you all lots of love, luck and happiness for 2012!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged

Woo hooo! I was recently tagged for Food Bloggers Unplugged by the Hungry Hinny and Jo from What do you make of my cake? - thanks ladies, I was seeing more and more entries popping up and hoping to be able to join in!

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
When I started baking I was taking pictures of the stuff I'd made anyway, and had started a Baking album on Facebook already to keep a record. I'd dabbled with blogging a bit in the past and after I finished uni I was out of work for a while and had the idea to start up a blog about it just to pass some time really and keep a more detailed record, then it just kind of grew from there!

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
I'm not sure - I don't even know what kickstarted my desire to learn to bake (although I suspect 3rd year procrastination)! I'm still building up my collection of cookbooks and trying new things so there isn't anybody in particular I can pinpoint (other than BBC Good Food!). I love reading other blogs so in terms of inspiration at the moment a lot of it comes from other bloggers as it's probably through blogs that I find the most things I want to try.

3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?
I don't really have one! I do have a recipe binder though that is getting very splattered, it's full of magazine clippings, printed off and scribbled down recipes from a whole variety of places. I've yet to find any one particular book that I use a lot.

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
I'm notoriously bad when it comes to eating abroad as I'm quite fussy and paranoid - I like to know what I'm eating! So I'm never very adventurous, but a pizza I had at a place called Le Collier in Antibes sticks out in my mind - it was mahoosive (literally I could have draped it over my head, cut out some eye holes and it could have been a balaclava) and at the time was just the best thing ever because I could devour it without worrying what was in/on it! Also, Scotland is technically another country and the fish and chips we had at Anstruther a few months ago were the best fish and chips I've ever had.

5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?
Some of the most stunning and fun looking cakes I've seen are from Butter Hearts Sugar and the Buttercream Bakery although a lot of it just looks too perfect to eat! I am a bit of a Pink Whisk girl aswell. All the blogs I read have such droolworthy stuff, I want to sample them all!

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
I am notoriously bad with gadgets; many cannot believe I will beat cakes by hand rather than using my shiny Kitchenaid. If money is no object I would have to get a whole new house/kitchen of my own (I currently rent) with loads and loads of cupboards and worktop space, a giant fridge/freezer and a larder and one of the those island things in the middle. And cake tins and baking trays of every possible measurements so I would never have to stress about them again!

7. Who taught you how to cook?
Nobody really! I used to bake with my Mum and Grandma when I was little, but the recent baking frenzy is just recipe following. But every time I add in eggs to the mixture I hear my Grandma's voice in my head saying "make a well for the eggs"!

8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?
My signature baking dish is probably really dull and I would have to say just plain old vanilla cupcakes or victoria sponge. They are the only thing I've made time and again as I always want to try new stuff, so they are the only thing I can make with any sort of confidence! Cooking wise my favourite thing to cook is chicken, potato and green bean curry.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure? 
Baked beans out of the tin, or even better... out of the fridge! I looooove extra cold baked beans. I don't think I have ever met anybody who wasn't sickened by this. On a more socially acceptable level, beetroot out of the jar! Or just CRISPS. Lots of CRISPS.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
My all time favourite bands include The Ataris, The Offspring, Alkaline Trio, Blink 182, Green Day... some people seem to think my main musical tastes are at odds with the tea dress wearing, cake baking person I often am today.

Finally...tag 5 other food bloggers with these a hot baked potato...pass it on!

1. Maria at Goddess' Kitchen

2. Astral at The Art of Being Perfect

3. Kara at Butter Hearts Sugar

4. Natasha at Cooks Cakes and Bakes
5. Anne at Anne's Kitchen

If any of you lovely ladies want to take up my tagging, you can link your entry here and through #foodbloggersunplugged on Twitter

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ice cream cupcakes

OK so I know these are completely unseasonal, but I wanted to make something for Mike's sister Louise's birthday that was a little bit different to your standard cake or cupcake. I had seen ice cream cupcakes on a few blogs in the past and thought it was a really good effect so decided to try them out. For some reason I had it in my head that I would have to bake them normally then just place the cupcakes in the cornets... but after a quick google I found a recipe that was actually in a book that was sitting on my bookshelf - the WI Celebration Cupcake book. Turns out you can just bake them in the cones!

I followed the recipe given in the book and have to say it wasn't one of the best tasting cupcakes (but whether or not that was because it was in a cornet, I don't know!) - so I think next time I will try it with my usual cupcake recipe. It was pretty difficult getting the mixture into the cornets as they were quite tight - I used a teaspoon, which took a lot of patience (something I am not known for having!). So I won't post the recipe and would just say follow your go-to cupcake recipe - they didn't take any longer to bake. I was pleased with how they came out, as I was worried about them not rising enough or rising too much, but there were only a couple I had to lop a bit off from.

Now for the fun part! A batch of buttercream was whipped up and piped on for the ice cream effect. 

 4 Flake bars were cut into 3's and used for the Flake - sticking them in was tricky as I wasn't sure if they would hold as the buttercream wasn't that deep - but they stayed up.

I used strawberry ice cream sauce for the topping and then sprinkles.

These were actually the test batch that I made up so here are the ones we actually gave to Louise.

Nice use of kitchen towel for the presentation I know... can't believe I didn't actually think how we would get them to her, since they are too tall and unstable to be put into any tubs/tins, so had to get a cupcake box with kitchen towel to try to hold them in place. They were still wobbling about all over the place though, so it was a bit of a stressful journey (especially when we had to pick up pizzas on the way too!). They arrived intact though and went down well.

I'll definitely be busting these out again in the summer, I loved the ice cream effect although it did mess with your mind a little bit to eat them - I was so expecting the ice cream flavour even though I had baked the things myself! Next time I'll try out my cupcake recipe instead of the one in the book - but even if you might lose a little bit on taste, I think it's worth it for how cute they look.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sugarpaste and my new Wilton 1M

Ever since my courses in cake and cupcake decorating I have been slowly building up an arsenal of cake decorating weaponry (this could be an expensive hobby!) and a few weeks ago I was finally ready to try out some of my newly acquired skills.

I had to keep it simple as I had the bare minimum of equipment! So I coloured some white sugarpaste pink and then stamped out some flowers. After a few head-scratching moments I remembered how to make roses and made some of them too. I was the most excited about using my new piping nozzle, the Wilton 1M that we had used on the cupcake course, and was even more excited that I actually remembered how to pipe properly - especially the rose swirl as I love the effect.

I know that cupcakes like these are as basic as you get, but I'm so proud of them and making them felt like a huge achievement. When I started baking I didn't really think I'd be able to make anything beyond some runny icing slopped onto a fairy cake! Art and creativity have never been (and never will be!) my strong suits, so I'm pleased that I can make something I'm happy with, even if it is basic!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Apple & Walnut Cake: The Pink Whisk's October Baking Challenge

I've been going apple crazy this month and so when I read about The Pink Whisk's October baking challenge it was great to have another excuse to try out an apple based recipe! I thought about making something involving chunky apples but then thought I would have a stab at an actual appley cake - I don't have the best track record with fruit in cakes so this was a bit of a risk!

I found a recipe for Apple & Walnut cake with treacle icing on the BBC Good Food website (where else?!) and thought it sounded interesting - I wasn't sure how I felt about treacle/cream cheese frosting but decided to give it a whirl.

The cake....
300g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g dark brown soft sugar
50g golden caster sugar
250ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
4 eggs
3 apples
100g walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 150c / gas mark 2, and grease/line two 20cm cake tins.
2. Put the flour, cinnamon, bicarb, and sugars into a bowl, and stir together.
3. Grate the apples (unpeeled) and add in along with the oil and eggs.
4. Beat together, and then fold in the walnuts.
5. Spoon into the tins then bake for 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
6. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The icing...
100g butter - softened
50g dark soft brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
200g tub full fat soft cheese

1. Beat all the ingredients together, and then chill in the fridge until spreadable.
2. Use half the mixture to sandwich the cakes together, then the rest to top.
3. I sprinkled some cinnamon and some left over walnuts on the top to decorate.

This cake was hailed a hit, Mike enjoyed it (but of course!) and I deposited slabs of it with my best friend, my Mum, and Mike's parents - all of whom said it was yummy! I wasn't sure how the treacle would taste in the topping but it really gave the cake a different twist and a bit of a tang. It was lovely and moist aswell.

Next time, I will have to let the butter soften more as I was left with little lumps in the icing that I just couldn't shift, which didn't make for a good look... also I would add a more hefty dose of cinnamon, as you couldn't really taste it in the cake so I would have liked a bit more of a spiced flavour to it. My one other whinge was that my icing wasn't as light as the one in the original recipe... not sure if it was the butter I used or if I just didn't beat it enough, but I just didn't think it looked as appetising somehow!

There's still almost a week left to get your apples out and whip something up for The Pink Whisk's challenge - check out the details here, there are some great prizes up for grabs!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Spiced Toffee Apple Cake: What Kate Baked Autumnal Baking Challenge and Giveaway

As soon as I saw the Autumnal Baking Challenge & Giveaway at What Kate Baked's new bloggy home I knew I had to enter! Autumn and winter are my favourite times to bake, because of the weather and also because the bakes and flavours of these seasons are what I like to eat the most!

I sort of ended up baking two different things for this challenge... both of which I will include in this post but the second one is the real entry! I will explain... I started to get my thinking cap on and thought of what a truly autumnal bake would be to me. I thought of apples, toffee, and warming spices like cinnamon. I thought of something chunky to get stuck into while curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea. So this recipe on BBC Good Food for Caramel Apple Loaf Cake seemed perfect and I set about making it. Everything was going to plan and I was so smug and confident that I had found the perfect Autumnal bake that I took it into the back yard in the drizzle and took some photos of it with the leaves! Doesn't it look pretty?

And then I cut into it, and sadly it was not the lovely fluffy delicate cake studded with bits of nuts and apples that you see on the Good Food Website. It was a sticky, foamy mess, and I was devastated. According to Mike, the brave daring cake tester, it was actually quite nice, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong with these kind of cakes as every time I make a cake with chunks/slices of fruit in, the same thing happens! However, it wasn't good enough for a challenge of this magnitude and so here is my real entry....

For any readers of Good Food magazine this will be no stranger as it is this month's cover recipe. As soon as I saw it I knew I was going to make it anyway (and to be honest I don't know why I faffed about with bloody loaf cakes to begin with!).

Spiced Toffee Apple Cake (from BBC Good Food magazine, November 2011)

200g dates
200ml milk
250g butter
280g self raising flour
200g light brown soft sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 small red apples
squeeze of lemon juice
handful of toffees
icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 180c / gas 4 / 160c fan over, and grease and line a 20x30cm baking tray.
2. Put the dates and milk into a pan, and bring to a simmer. Leave for about 15 mins to cool, then put into a blender or food processor and blend to a paste.
3. Put the date/milk paste into a mixing bowl then add the butter, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, eggs, mixed spice and vanilla. Set aside.
4. Quarter and core the apples and slice thinly, adding the lemon juice.
5. Then beat together the cake ingredients until smooth, and tip into a baking tray.
6. Put the apple slices in rows overlapping on the top of the cake - you should fit 2 or 3 rows lengthways.
7. Bake for 45-50 mins - test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is ready. Cool in the tin.
8. Melt the toffees gently in a pan with a splash of milk, stirring, until runny. Dust the cake lightly with icing sugar then drizzle the toffee sauce over the cake.
9. Make a cup of tea, slice the cake into squares, and devour! Mmmmm Autumnal goodness.

This is probably one of my favourite recipes I've made, it tasted a bit like cakey gingerbread and had a definitely kick to it with the spice. Definitely best eaten warm from the oven, but I also think it would also have been yummy with a big dollop of custard. I took most of it into work and one person said, "Mmmm this is just the thing now the weather's turned" - so a definite Autumnal baking win I think!

Thanks Kate for a great challenge, can't wait to see all the other Autumny bakes!

Friday, 30 September 2011

September Bake It! - Jam Roly Poly

September sees a welcome return of the Bake It! Club - hosted by Amy over at Cooking, Cakes and Children

This month there was a theme of school dinners, but as soon as I saw the suggested recipe I knew I had to make it! It was 'proper' jam roly poly as my Mum would call it - her all-time favourite! (School dinners must have gone down the pan since she was at school, we never had anything so advanced, it was tray baked sponges and congealed custard for us... although weirdly I did quite enjoy it).

Due to an innate fear of making a roulade I was a bit apprehensive about the rolling element, plus I've not really done must in the way of pastry yet so this was a definite challenge! However I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to make. I had a few jam issues - when I spread it out I thought it looked stingy but then when I rolled it up it was spilling out and I had to mop some of it up. Looking back at Amy's now I think mine is definitely lacking in jam, maybe I was rolling it too tight?

Anyway, despite me skimping on the jam, it was quite nice and I'd definitely make this again to tweak the bits I didn't get quite right. Most importantly though, Mum enjoyed it and took the rest home to have the next day. Apologies for the slightly rubbishy pictures, the light wasn't great and in most of the ones we took there was the lovely backdrop of junk on the kitchen table! We were rushing though as we wanted to eat it while it was still warm!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Double chocolate loaf cake

I'm a bit obsessed with loaf cakes at the moment, since I finally got a loaf tin I just seem to see lots of lovely recipes, even though this is actually only the second one I've done.

 I made this because Mike was having to go to a work meeting that he was dreading and I thought I would make him something insanely chocolately to cheer him up for when he got back. After a quick peruse on the trusty BBC Good Food website I found a recipe for a Double Chocolate Loaf Cake that I thought would fit the bill perfectly.

It was pretty simple to make - yes yes, despite the recipe commanding me to use an electric mixer I shunned this and went for the usual wooden spoon! This took what seemed like hours to bake (although hours is probably actually accurate) - after the allotted time it seemed barely cooked and I was thinking it was just going to be Brownie Gate all over again, but after leaving it in for an age the skewer test seemed acceptable.

Unfortunately, due to all this I was too annoyed to faff about with drizzling melted chocolate on it like the recipe picture, so I just melted some milk chocolate, smeared it all over the top and sprinkled with chocolate drops.

Couldn't wait for the chocolate to melt!

Well, it was insanely chocolatey I was after and this certainly delivered! It's more like quadruple chocolate cake and very heavy going! However if it's a simple chocolate loaf you need this is a safe bet, just make sure you have got the time and patience to put your life on hold while it bakes!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Toblerone Cupcakes

Huge thanks to everyone who shared their brownie tips/recipes with me in response to my last post (please keep 'em coming!) - I will definitely give them another go at some point, and now I have lots more recipes to try.

This is another bake that I have the blogosphere to thank for. I saw this recipe for Toblerone Cupcakes on the Caked Crusader's blog a few months ago and immediately earmarked it for Mike's Dad's birthday as he is a Toblerone fiend!

These little cakes went down a storm with Mike's Dad, and I would definitely recommend the ganache in particular for other cupcakes aswell! It took a fair bit of whisking (I very nearly gave up) but it was well worth the wait - it was so light, but at the same time full of that rich chocolately goodness.

Thank you Caked Crusader! Be sure to check out the Caked Crusader for yourself for this recipe and other beauts - the recent cheesecake spectacular will probably be making it's way onto this blog in future too!

I'm actually doubly proud of these because they are the first things I have made solely using my mixture! I was given the lovely present of an all-singing, all-dancing Kenwood food processor for Christmas but it's been an increasing source of amusement/annoyance to some that I am still beating my cakes by hand... to be honest I will probably still do most of them by hand, it's probably one of the parts of baking I love the most! Somehow it doesn't feel the same just shoving everything into a bowl and twisting a dial. I definitely couldn't be without it now though as there are so many recipes I couldn't do otherwise (plus I'm planning on going soup crazy this winter so the blender is going to have its work cut out!).

So am I alone in my retro kitchen habits, or is there anybody else out there who enjoys a good bit of beating?!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Best ever brownies....?

I have decided that brownies are my nemesis. For a start, I don't even really like them that much! But also, I'm just not really comfortable baking things that I can't use the trusty skewer test on. Undercooked food is one of my issues - I'm sure that nobody wants to eat things that aren't cooked properly, but I can get a bit unhinged about it. I think most of my cakes end up being overdone because I have to blast them a bit longer "just to be safe..."

So you can see why something containing eggs that is actually meant to be a bit squidgy could be a bit of a problem for me. But I had some eggs that needed using and my cousin coming to stay and I thought that brownies would be the perfect thing to have in a tin to be offered alongside cups of tea.

I picked a 'best ever brownies' recipe from a BBC Good Food book, thinking, well they're the best ever, so they've got to be good right?

200g butter
200g plain chocolate
175g dark muscovado sugar
140g caster sugar
4 eggs
50g ground almonds
50g plain flour

1. Preheat oven to 180c, and grease/line a 20cm/8in square tin.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a pan and then stir in the sugar.
3. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then stir in the eggs until even. Stir in the almonds and flour then pour into the tin.
4. Bake for 30-35 mins or until just cooked through in the middle.

Erm, I'm sorry, but no. Just cooked through in the middle? What does that even mean? How are you meant to know? After 30-35 mins, it was still wobbling all over the place and so I hurled it back in, red mist descending, still none the wiser about how long I was meant to give it. After a very long while I just annoyed and just took them out, thinking they weren't going to get eaten anyway so I might aswell just save myself the electric bill. I left them to cool and then tried to cut them into nice perfect squares like the picture in the book, but they were just so squidgy I thought all hope must be lost. Along with my temper.

So I let my anger loose on the brownies and had a bit of a stab away at them, venting my frustrations and thinking I might aswell get something out of it at least...

...until Mike dared to try a bit (with me half cringing at the thought of him being ill and half in awe at his bravery) and declared them "actually quite nice". And then I felt a bit stupid, so we managed to salvage some half decent looking ones from around the edges.

They didn't look great, so we made brownie sundae desserts out of them with ice cream, marshmallows and chocolate sauce and they actually were quite nice! They were quite squidgy and fudgy in the middle and stuck to your teeth a bit, but they were OK. And nobody died from food poisoning, which is always a good thing.

So I'm not sure if I'll be making brownies again because I don't think I can handle the stress. So can anyone tell me, what a perfectly cooked brownie is meant to look like? And if you have a failsafe brownie recipe, I would love to hear it, try and tempt me out of brownie retirement!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cupcake Decorating!

Way back when in July, I headed up to Liverpool with Nicola and Bec to learn how to decorate cupcakes. This was through a bargain Groupon offer with Create, which was another birthday present from my lovely boyfriend (although I am sure he has some ulterior motive for sending me on all these cake courses... hmm wonder what it could be?!).

After a brief panic, we found the Cupcake Workshop tucked away among the back streets of Liverpool, a little bit of cake heaven beautifully decorated with gorgeous crockery, bunting and lots of PINK! Our instructor, Gill was friendly and approachable and not to mention knowledgeable about all things cupcakes! She shared her expertise on how to bake the perfect cupcake before some tutorials on sugarpaste including stamping out decorations, making bows and flowers, and then let us loose with her equipment. Everything was provided for us including all the tools, cutters, and colours of sugarpaste and glitter that you could possible need.

After a quick break for a cup of tea and a yummy homemade cake, we were shown various different techniques on icing cupcakes with buttercream. This was the bit I was most looking forward to as I am not the best at this (and am known for throwing a strop when Mike wafts in and effortlessly pipes a perfect buttercream swirl!). Sounds really obvious but I hadn't even thought to pipe a mini swirl in the middle as a base to get the height on the main swirl.

Rose style piping

Then came the really fun part! We were given 12 cupcakes of our own to decorate using our new piping skills and sugarpaste creations, all boxed up in pretty cupcake boxes. We were also given some fillings and shown how to get these into the middle of the cakes. Again Gill and her sidekick Rachel were so accommodating, making sure that everyone got the colours and equipment they wanted so we could be as creative as we wanted. I stuck with the plain buttercream and felt very boring once I saw what everyone else had done! My whole box of creations is at the top of the post, but I think these were my favourite ones:

I really would recommend this course to anyone interested in baking and cake decorating - even if you already know what you're doing, it's great to spend an afternoon playing around with sugarpaste and creating your cupcakes and I'd love to do another one myself. Check out Nicola's blog about the day aswell which includes lots of photos of the venue itself, and if you're interested, visit the Create website to find out more about Gill's courses.

Since the course I've felt a lot more confident with decorating my cakes, here are a couple of batches I've done recently:
Cupcakes for Mike to take to work

Cupcakes for Mike's Mum's birthday buffet

Can't wait to get my hands on some sugarpaste and practice more of my new skills! Thanks Gill!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

July Baking

Where on earth is the summer going? I was just thinking the other day it feels like it hasn't even got started yet, and then realised it's almost August Bank Holiday, which means that it's actually nearly over! I've been rather quiet on the blogging front lately, because I've been doing some overtime at work to pay off some of the car that I just bought. But I've still had time for baking, and so I'm just going to round up July in one fell swoop!

I think these were actually all done in the space of a week, when I went on a bit of a baking frenzy. I ended up taking most of them to work to palm off, along with the last of the fruit cake from my Pink Whisk cake decorating course.

1. Chocolate Orange Muffins

I've had this recipe kicking around for a while, I LOVE orange chocolate and it had felt like a while since I'd make anything a bit simpler as I'd been wrestling with birthday cakes and cake decorating, so it was nice to go back to basics. The recipe is online here, I saw it in Good to Know magazine. I used Terry's Chocolate Orange, of course (although that always feels really naughty when it isn't Christmas). I wasn't really sure about the recipe because it didn't contain any butter, and used sunflower oil, but it made for quite a firm texture and they weren't crumbly at all. They were lovely and orangey, too - definitely keeping this recipe for something quick to whip up, maybe in January to use up all the left over choc oranges (not that there's usually many left over, mind). Also, I really need to invest in an ice cream scoop to get the cake mix in the cases, as I ALWAYS get it stuck on the sides especially with these kind of cases.

2. Strawberry & Polenta cupcakes

Ever since I saw these in one of the little BBC 101 recipes books I've been dying to try them as I thought they looked just gorgeous. But I have to admit being a bit scared of polenta, I had never heard of it before. I must have covered every aisle in Tesco as I tried to hunt it down, having no idea what it was or where it would be (probably should have googled before I left the house) but I eventually tracked it down with the pasta. I've no idea whether it was in the right form (I was expecting it to be floury) but the cakes turned out lovely. The icing was absolutely gorgeous and I will definitely be using that again on other cakes and bakes I think. Mine didn't rise as well as the ones in the book which was the only disappointment - and there is also a great excuse to have to eat them all within a day or so as the icing went a bit weird after that (kind of disappeared!). I wish I'd taken more piccies of these, but it was late and we wanted to EAT THEM!

3. Coconut & Lime Drizzle cake

I've had a loaf tin for a while now and this was the recipe I'd had earmarked to try. I've never made a drizzle cake before and I love lemon drizzle, but thought this sounded a bit different so would give it a whirl. We were not disappointed! The cake itself was dead easy to make, basically just bung it in a bowl and beat. The icing was a bit more faffy, but definitely worth it. Also, it just me that thinks coconut milk smells completely disgusting? It was turning me as I was making it! But in the end it tasted delicious, tasted lovely and light and summery, with a zingy shot of lime. I made this again last week but I think I overdid the lime a bit, it made my face crumple up when I ate it! The limey sugary sprinkling is the best bit, Mike was eating the leftovers out of the cup with his fingers!

The recipe isn't online, so here it is:

100g butter, softened 175g SR flour 1tsp baking powder 175g golden caster sugar 2 eggs Half a 400ml can coconut milk finely grated zest of 2 limes

1. Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin. Beat all the ingredients together until combined, tip into the tin and smooth the top.
2. Bake at 180c for 40 mins until golden and firm to the touch.

For the icing and to decorate:
The other half of the can of coconut milk 200g golden caster sugar finely grated zest of 1 lime juice of 3 limes

1. Tip the coconut milk and 150g of the sugar into a pan. Boil for 5 mins or until syrupy (so you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir).
2. Stir in the lime juice and set aside.
3. Mix the remaining sugar and lime zest to a paste, then set aside.
4. Leave the cooked loaf in the tin while you pour over the icing a little at a time - let the cake absorb it before adding more (I stuck holes in mine with a skewer).
5. Cool, then carefully remove from the tin, sprinkle with lime sugar and serve.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Cake Decorating course

One of my birthday presents from my lovely boyfriend was a cake decorating course. I've been wanting to learn how to do this properly for ages now but I was really nervous as the decorating part is always something I've struggled with, so clearly some expert tuition was needed!

On 29th June Nicola and I spent the day being taught by Ruth Clemens of Great British Bake Off fame and author of one of my favourite baking blogs, The Pink Whisk! The course was run by Seasoned and was in a beautiful farmhouse where we were fed lots of tea and brownies and a very yummy lunch too.

We took our own cakes to decorate and even though I hate fruit cake with a fiery passion I thought it would be a good opportunity to try one out and would also stop me from stuffing my face too! I made this Easy Apple Fruit Cake from BBC Good Food. It was indeed easy and I am told it was very nice, although a few people were disappointed that the fruit was not alcohol soaked! They were reassured that the Christmas cake most definitely will be!

Anyway, we were taught everything we needed to know - marzipanning, covering the cake and board with sugarpaste, smoothing, crimping, piping - and also repairing disasters, as my sugarpaste tore around one side when I laid it on, Ruth showed me how to patch it up good as new.

Crimping and piping and ribbon

We were also shown crimping and piping and the bit we were probably all looking forward to the most: colouring sugarpaste and making flowers and decorations! I made some rolled up pink flowers, some purple roses and stamped out some green leaves. I didn't end up using the pink flowers as I thought I would keep it simple with my roses in the centre of the cake.

I was so amazed by the decorations that everybody else made and felt a bit embarrassed when all our cakes were on the table at the end - I was really proud of my cake until I saw everybody else's! The icing wasn't as smooth as I'd have liked, and I know my sugarpaste wasn't anywhere near thin enough for the flowers. However it was my first attempt and so I know I just need to practice, practice, practice myself now.

It was such a lovely day - you can also read about it and see photies on Nicola's blog here. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn how to decorate cakes, and even those who already know - I'm sure there would still be lots of tips to pick up, plus it was lovely to just be able to sit and play with the sugarpaste without having to worry about the phone ringing, or what time you had to be making tea, or the pile of washing growing in the basket... it was very therapeutic. You can find details of this and other courses on the Seasoned website.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Chocolate & Caramel Layer Cake (minus a layer)

After the Sausage Dog Cake I felt like I didn't want to bake again for about 6 months! But the week after it was Mike's birthday and so I couldn't not make him a birthday cake, and I had already selected this Chocolate & Caramel Layer Cake from BBC Good Food ages ago to make for his birthday - at just over 1,000 calories a slice I thought it really could only be justified on a special occasion! So I was doomed to spend another Friday night immersed in the sickly sweet smell of chocolate cake.

I had high hopes for this, and although I was happy with how it looked all assembled, but really, it just went a bit wrong. I was a bit skeptical about the recipe as I have tried cakes before that include yoghurt and somehow they just never seem to come out normal. Sadly this was no exception, after almost double the time in the oven the vanilla layer was burnt on the outside and wobbly in the middle, and in any case, collapsed completely when I tried to take it out of the tin! So that was one layer down and a quarter of the calories gone! I had a bit more luck with the caramel/caramel choc layers but I still wasn't completely convinced they were done properly even though they were on their way to burning, but with no time to make anything else I decided to assemble the cake so at least the birthday boy could blow out some candles and make a wish!

After much scrutiny and debate we did eat the cake although I only managed half a slice as I just couldn't really face any more chocolate cake! Everyone else seemed to enjoy it so I don't think it was as much of a disaster as I had feared, plus the chocolate icing was yummy and despite being one layer short it was still pretty big and pretty messy!

The recipe is here. Does anyone have any similar experiences with yoghurty recipes? I would love to hear any tips or ideas of things to do differently, as I see quite a few recipes including yoghurt and am quite put off trying them again. Looking at the reviews of this cake on the BBC Good Food website nobody else seems to have had a problem, and I'd love to try this again but as it's not a quick and easy bake I'm a bit apprehensive... and at 1,000 calories a slice it's difficult to justify making it for no reason!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

A visit from the Fairy Hobmother!

I've watched green eyed with envy over the past couple of months as I've seen various bloggers have their kitchen-related wishes granted by the Fairy Hobmother from Appliances Online, and I'm pleased to say that after recently making a wish on The Glutton's blog, I've now had a visit, too!

I wished for a griddle pan, because it's something I've been after for a while now because I've been wanting to make some nice steaks - and if I've got money to spend on kitchen stuff, it normally goes on baking paraphernalia so I had a feeling this griddle pan was never going to get bought. My wish was granted and my griddle pan arrived today!

Thank you Fairy Hobmother for granting my wish!

I am told that if you leave a comment on this post and make a wish, that you might be lucky enough to get a visit too! Also, I would love to hear any of your griddle pan recipe ideas, as so far I haven't thought beyond steaks...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sausage Dog Cake

It's well known by now among friends and family that I love to bake, and so when my step-brother asked me a few months ago to make the cake for his daughter Franchesca's 5th birthday, I was really chuffed. That is, until when asked what sort of cake she wanted, she said 'a dog cake'. ARGH! Novelty cakes are not something I've ever done before and I have absolutely no confidence when it comes to decoration anyway (although I'm not sure what I was expecting her to say; I doubt that pineapple upside down cakes or victoria sponges are really the thing for 5 year olds!)

After much deliberation I decided to try a cake in the shape of a sausage dog, with the idea that I could make it comically large to hopefully detract from the fact that it would have to be iced quite simply. Also my step-brother used to have a sausage dog that he doted on, so that was quite a nice link too!

Everything started off well - I used a simple choc sponge recipe, baking 3 large square cakes, and 2 in round sandwich tins. Two of the square cakes were cut in half and sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream to make the body, and then I cut out head shapes from the round cakes and sandwiched them together. The off cuts from the round cakes made a tail and a neck, and the legs were made out of the last square cake. I used some ready rolled icing to make a coat, with the leftovers making a collar and an eye (Mike really helped me out there with his precision measurements, I was all for randomly guessing sizes but he held me back!)

Then it was time to coat the rest of the cake in chocolate buttercream, and that's where it all started to go wrong. I made up a big batch of the stuff, but for some reason, it just went really watery and was impossible to use. I really don't know what went wrong; although I had tripled the recipe so perhaps it wasn't as straight forward as that? So I hunted out another recipe I had for chocolate fudge frosting and that didn't let me down, but I was too frightened to mess with the measurements so ended up having to make 4 separate batches! Unfortunately, as the frosting was so thick, it was really difficult to ice and kept falling off the cake and even making the cake crumble a bit around the edges. Argh! I have to admit Mike had to step in and ice the last half of the cake as I was seriously starting to lose my temper and almost ready to sling it in the bin and go to Asda, or give poor Chesca a half iced cake!

I should point out that it was probably the hottest day of the year so far, which may have contributed to the rising stress levels in the kitchen! The cake ended up being almost 30 inches long, and Mike had to make a board for it out of MDF, with 2 cake boards glued on to it! The weather also caused a bit of a problem when getting it to the pub, as the car was like an oven, and we had to drive really slowly because I was worried about it getting rattled around. By the time we got there I was almost too scared to lift the lid in case it had started to melt or got bashed! In the end, I was really proud of the cake - it was so nice to see Chesca's face when it was presented to her (and also the faces of all of the other diners when they saw someone staggering out of the kitchen carrying it!); it definitely made all the blood, sweat and tears worth it. I'm not sure that novelty cakes are going to be my thing, but I'm so glad I did it and grateful to Matt for trusting me to make such an important cake!

This is where she said, 'I want the eye' and just ripped it right off! That was difficult to watch...

Most of his head has gone here!
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