Tuesday, 6 April 2010

New Toys!

          I didn't intend to bake tomorrow. The plan was to revise, quietly, and then go to training in the evening.
          BUT Gran has given me new toys :) (this excites me more than it should) I have been given a wedding cake stand, and a rolling cookie cutter.


Now, I think wedding cakes are a step too far at the moment. But I can do other big cakes instead :) I just really want to use the cookie cutter as I think it's a very clever idea.
Man, I love gadgets.

Sooo, tomorrow I am going to make sugar cookies, and then do some royal icing decorations :)
Revision can wait!

Pig Cake

          Today is my Gran's 74th birthday, so I decided to maker her a cake. My great-Grandad was apparantly a pig farmer..so the cake does fit...somehow.
          This one is just a basic Madeira cake, cooked in a 4 pint pudding basin. The cooking took FOREVER. But on the bright side, I could actually see when the cake was cooked, through the bowl.
          Now, I really should plan ahead when I make cakes, but I completely forgot to buy any jam for the cake. So, I looked around the kitchen and found this.

gran-made yumminess

          Gran is a super-chef, so she makes these special james/jellies and gives them to us. So, in a way, she contributed to her own cake. The jelly went really well with the buttercream.


           Then it was time to colour the fondant. I hate doing this. It just takes ages. Anyway, here are my favourite types of food colouring.

colourflair :)

          I used the Dusky Pink colour, as I don't think a flesh coloured pig would have been very appealing, really. Surprisingly, it didn't take too long, and I ended up with quite a nice piece of fondant, which draped over the cake WITHOUT CRACKING!!!

kinda looks like a pink hat.

          Then the easy part was just making the eyes, ears etc. (circles, triangles, etc) I stuck them on with water. To make the snout, I just cut a disk from the fondant, made nostrils with the end of a wooden spoon, then cut a happy little mouth. And here he is, in all his happiness.


          For the mud, I used the same method that I used for my Easter chocolate cake. The chocolate ganache recipe can be found here. I added dark chocolate chips, just so it didn't taste like the Easter cake.

i dont even like chocolate that much..

It turned out really thick (I may have beaten it too much), but otherwise, the cake was really nice. And it tasted good too :)

mr pigglesworth.


          I did this a while ago, for my friend Sam's birthday. I meant to bake a fairytale cottage, but unfortunately, the cake seeped out the bottom of the cake tin. I was not impressed. So, I cheated. James bought me a cake pan in the shape of a castle, so I did a quick fix in that.
         You'll notice that in most of my posts so far, I don't have any pictures of me actually baking & constructing the cake. I've thought about blogging ever since I started baking, but I didnt know if I was good enough. Instead I just took pictures of the final product and put them on facebook.
          But anyway. Say hello to Castle Cake.
ie castle nightmare

This was an absolute nightmare to fondant, as the cake pan included windows, doors, brick detail - all of which I wanted to cover up smoothly. In the end it wasn't took bad, but I did fill the inside with all the leftover sweets.

i think the middle is better than the actual cake..


I've never really cooked anything for Easter before. It's my Gran's birthday on the 6th, so my plan was to
1. Make an Easter cake.
2. Make Gran's cake.
Of course, me being me- I found interesting things on the internet to do. And put myself in a rush the whole weekend. I need to learn how to plan my time. Seriously.

Okay. Project #1. Easter cake.

I decided to make a double chocolate/coffee cake, with chocolate ganache, a chocolate shell, topped with a chocolate nest filled with chocolate eggs.
I don't even like chocolate that much.

I originally got the recipie from here, but it's a Martha Stewart one. I found the one I've linked to more helpful. I used milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate, because I really am not fond of dark chocolate. If I'm going to cook something, I had better like it.
So yeah - heres the recipie that I  used.

Ingredients Needed:

1/2 cup cocoa powder (plus a little extra for dusting)
1 cup of butter
1 Tbsp. of instant espresso powder
3/4 cup water
2 cups of sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of low fat buttermilk ( I use milk & lemon juice left for 15 minutes)
2 Tbsp. of pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Ganache whipped frosting (recipe below)
8 ounces of finely chopped milk chocolate
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Chocolate Outer Shell
2 Tbsp. of corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
8 ounces of milk chocolate

1 lb. bar of milk chocolate (for nest)

          Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two 7 inch round cake pans by spraying them with cooking spray and lining them with parchment paper also coated with cooking spray and then sprinkled with cocoa powder on top. Tap out any excess coca powder. Set aside pans.
           In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa, espresso, and water until dissolved. Then add the sugar and continue whisking until smooth. Remove from heat.
          Stir in the remaining cake ingredients - eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk until well combined.
           Pour the cake batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes or until the skewer (cake tester) comes out clean.
          Allow the cakes to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pans. Remove from pans and peel off the parchment paper then allow to completely cool.
          Trim the tops of the cakes so that they are level for stacking. Place the first layer (cut side up) and frost with 1/2 cup Ganache.

Ganache Recipe

           To make the Ganache frosting, place 8 ounces of chopped chocolate and 1/2 cup of heavy cream into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (double boiler). Stir together until smooth and then refrigerate it. Stir occasionally over the next 10-15 minutes until it stiffens up a bit (like cream cheese) and then whisk it until it's nice and fluffy and smooth.
          Then place the other layer on top (cut side down), and finish frosting it with the remaining Ganache. Refrigerate about 15 minutes until firm.
          Melt semisweet chocolate over a double boiler along with the cream and corn syrup and stir until smooth. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and then pour it over the cake and refrigerate about 15 minutes until nice and firm.

         Make the "nest" by scraping the milk chocolate bar with a sharp knife at a 90° angle ( i used a potato peeler) to form a nice pile of curls and shards (about 1 1/2 cups). Refrigerate to keep firm until ready to serve.
         Place cake on a nice cake plate and use the chocolate shavings to form the nest. Then fill the nest with chocolate eggs. You can make your own or used store-bought eggs.


Project 2. Easter Chicks

This was pretty simple. Just a normal cupcake recipe.

3 cups self raising flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

          Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated; scrape down sides of bowl, and beat in vanilla.
          Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
          Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.

           Okay, then you have to cover the cakes with buttercream. My cakes turned out disasterously small, so I had to sandwich 2 together to make a chick. Cover with buttercream, and roll in some toasted coconut. WARNING- if you have to toast the coconut yourself, do not toast for more than 2 minutes. I had no idea my grill was so powerful. After your chicks are looking more feathery, stick on some liquorice eyes, and strawberry lace combs. I even did liquorice feet, but it took so long.
            I felt bad when I had to eat them. I gave them names and everything. At least Harold tasted good.

sad little eyes

Project 3 - Macaroons

I'd always seen macaroons on the internet- the colourful ones, sandwiched together with buttercream. So when I found the recipe, I got very excited :) I made 6 different colours, and they all turned out really well.
Macaroons (makes 20)

175g icing sugar
125g ground almonds
3 large egg whites
75g caster sugar

For the filling
150g butter
75g icing sugar

         Preheat the oven to 160 degrees, grind icing sugar and ground almonds to make a fine mixture, then sift into a bowl. Sneaky hint: Use a coffee grinder.
          In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks, then gradually whisk in caster sugar until thick & glossy. For different colours - now if the time to divide the mixture.
          Fold half the almond and icing sugar mixture into the meringue and mix well. Fold until mixture has a thick, ribbon-like consistency as it falls from the spatuala.
          Line baking skeets with baking paper. Pipe small rounds onto the paper.  Sneaky hint: Use a circular cookie cutter to pipe into.
          Leave to stand for 15 minutes, until the macaroon has a skin. - you should be able to touch them without getting mixture on your hands. Don't touch them too hard. I left a fingerprint in one of mine.
         Bake for 15 mins.
        Meanwhile, beat butter until light and fluffy, and beat in icing sugar. Use to sandwich pairs of macaroons together.

lots of pretty colours!

longest blog. ever. happy easter.

Flowerpot Cake

 This was for my Grandad's 81st birthday. He's most definitely a gardening fan. This is just a small section of his garden.
as i said, he likes gardening.

Not only does he do that, he also grows vegetables for the family.

Okay, side story - often, Grandads carrots would not be perfectly formed, and would often look
like legs..or have other 'parts' growing. These are referred to as 'rude carrots'

          Back to the cake. I didn't want to have to carve a cake into a flowerpot shape, so I just cooked the cake in a flowerpot. Terracotta pots going back centuries in relation to cooking and all. In the end, I had a flowerpot cake. Fondant was a NIGHTMARE. It just ripped in all the wrong places, but I managed to patch it up. I then remembered something i'd heard on the 'Ace of Cakes' programme, about how when there is a flaw in the cake, they just cover it up with something else. Yeah. Thats why I put the leaves on the cake. I made little carrots and peas out of coloured marzipan (i didn't realise how sticky marzipan was. ugh)
spot the rude carrot?

         I arranged brown sugar around the base of the cake (dirt) and placed all my vegetables around it, before putting my leaves around the cake. The cracks in the fondant didnt really go all the way round the cake. I just got a little carried away trying to be artistic. I didn't make the flowers, but they were only £1, so I had to buy them, don't they look adorable?

the fondant grass border took about half an hour..

a top view, i really wish i did make those flowers...

Monday, 5 April 2010

Violin Cake

        This was the first cake that someone actually asked me to make, for them. EXCITING. I was asked to make a violin cake,  to feed lots of people. Seeing I had a violin upstairs, I decided to make a full size violin cake, using the real one as a template.
         It is at this point, that I'd like to make clear, that I pretty much make my cakes alone. My mum will help if asked, but I prefer to do the cake myself. I only need help when applying fondant, or doing something ridiculously difficult. (or washing up)
           So, I began with 2 victoria sponge cakes. I levelled them, using my super-neat cake leveller. (i love that thing), and then traced the real violin onto a piece of paper, then cut the cake into the right shape.

Hey, it actually looks like a violin?

          Now, actually putting fondant on this baby, was going to be a different story. I don't think I had any serious cracks in the fondant, but it did require a lot of smoothing, and there were some small surface tears in the fondant, but nothing major. I can deal with small cracks, etc. And it still looked like a violin, so everything was going well. Please keep in mind that I have a small kitchen with a rubbish light. Space & lighting issues.

the white violin of awesome

           Well, now it came to the woodgrain effect. Basically, i just got a lot (a lot) of vanilla essence, and mixed it with some brown food colouring paste. Theres the basic brown colour. This didn't give me the variation in colour I really wanted, so I ended up dipping my paintbrush directly into the colouring paste, Which worked a lot better, and actually looked (ish) like woodgrain!

i don't like it like this..

          Now, when I make a cake, I have to go out of the room, and come back to fully appreciate it. When I saw this the next day, I was not a happy bunny. The woodgrain looked all wrong (it just looked stripey :| ) and I thought I could have done a much better job. Unfortunately, I couldn't start over again, because I had a deadline (like, the next day) So, I had to press on with the fondant decorations, which were painted in the same way.
it looks like a violin again!

          This made me happy. All decorations are fondant. I don't know violin terminology, so i'll let you figure it out. Finally, as my 'client' was musical, I decided to make a fondant songsheet, with "Happy Birthday" written on it. (y'know. as in the musical note version) This is where mum comes in, as i'm useless with real music. Drummers don't 'do' real music. :)

the final product!

17th Birthday Cake

          Possibly the easiest cake I've made so far. I didn't want to make myself a birthday cake. I wanted a nice and simple, off-the-shelf cake. Once I had seen the nice and simple, off-the-shelf cakes, I realised I could do a lot better. So, what could be better than a 2-tier pink cake? Not bad for a 17th birthday.


          Okay, 2 basic victoria sponges. I fondanted the top smaller cake, and just decorated the bottom cake with the Betty Crocker vanilla tub stuff. I love pink food colouring. This was my first ever 2-tier, so I wasn't sure how to support the top cake. I ended up cutting a bit of card, the size of the top cake, covering it with foil, and putting supports (pink straws) through the bottom cake to hold it up. This worked suprisingly well.

pink smarties :)

          I did use shop-bought flowers, but I only had myself to impress, really. Cake is cake, so it was all good for me. If its pumped full of sugar, i'm a happy girl.
          I'd also never really piped words before. I thought I'd draw a template, lightly in pencil, just to make sure I did it right. BIG MISTAKE. The pencil came out way too dark, and I'd managed to mess it up anyway. I just piped over the top of it, and tried to hide it all. Never doing that again..

altogether, not too shabby!

Victoria Sponge

          I have always used Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery book. This particular book, is well over 30 years old, but I love the recipies and all the retro kitchenware in the pictures.
          I should point out now, that I always work in ounces. Grams just scare me. According to the internet, 1 oz = 28.3495 grams. I'm going to round that to 30 grams. Yes, i'm getting the calculator out.

Victoria Sponge.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees

4oz / 120 grams  Butter or Margarine
4oz / 120 grams Castor Sugar
4oz / 120 grams Self Raising Flour
2 eggs

        Cream fat & sugar very thoroughly. Add well-whisked eggs gradually, beating well between each addition. Stir flour lightly into the creamed fat and eggs. Mix to a soft dropping consistency, adding water/milk if necessary. Place mixture in a prepared 7-inch sandwich tin, and bake in a moderate oven.
          I also throw a bit of vanilla essence in as well. Can never have too much of that :)

The First Cake!

I had never decorated a cake before. However, it was my boyfriend's 22nd birthday, and I wanted to surprise him. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was really doing.

The cake was just 2 basic victoria sponges (I'll write down my recipies later)

 Okay. Here goes. I laid the cakes side by side, and cut out a vague 'road' shape, across them. With hindsight, I would have removed all of the cake crust, before carving it. (I said it was my first cake)
          It does, quite frankly look a mess. But I still had to carve a car out of a third cake.
          Just to get this straight, my boyfriend loves his car. Adores it. So, in my quest for perfection, I found exact measurements for his car, and scaled them down to cake size. ( Yeah, I really wanted to get it right.)

          Actually carving the cake was an absolute nightmare. I didn't want to completely ruin the car, but I had no idea how to realistically create a car from a lump of cake.
          Then I found this. A very helpful how-to on how to make a 3D car cake. A few hours later, and I was decorating it to look like the original.

Fairly similar, huh?

          I covered my original cakes in buttercream, and then with some store-bought green fondant. Unfortunately, it was so dry, I was left with huge crack marks down my lovely cake. I had never intended to cover the whole cake with icing, but there was no way that I would ever give my boyfriend a cake with cracks.
The road fondant, I coloured and rolled myself, so it was fine.

Poor cake.

          Then it came to actual piping. Never piped before in my life. I didn't even own a piping bag. So, I used the method from the Hello Cupcake book, which involves using a zip-lock bag to pipe. The icing was just the vanilla Betty Crocker icing you get in a tub. Like I said, this was my first cake.
And then there was grass

          To create the chevrons, and the road sign, I just rolled out some gumpaste and allowed it to dry. You'll notice that the chevrons are cracked. This is because I am impatient a fast worker, and I picked it up too early. The sign was held up by cocktail sticks, because no gumpaste supports could hold the weight of the icing. The sheep in the background was just rolled fondant and icing.

         Overall, this cake consumed my life for about 4 days, but I think it was all worth it in the end.

Who's a happy boy?