Last Minute Christmas Cake

I’m a bit of a floozy when it comes to christmas cake recipes and don’t have a favourite one!

I also never get round to making one early enough to let it mature in the traditional way, truth be told I don’t even really like eating it, but my family do  – So this weekend I finally got round to making one for us! Whether it actually gets decorated is anyones guess!

This is based on a Delia Smith recipe with a few changes. I love cinnamon and cardamom so rather than the all spice in Delias recipe I have used those spices, to compliment these flavours I soaked the fruit in chai tea rather than brandy and finally I swapped the brazils and mixed nuts for almonds and pistachios. It all gives the cake a more asian inspired flavour – it might even entice me to have a slice or two over the festive period!

This cake can be made the day before you need it but will happily last two or three weeks without drying out.

Ingredients

For the pre-soaking
150ml chai tea ( I make it using a chai teabag in 150ml boiled water, leave to infuse for 5 mins)
1 x 400g jar mincemeat
110g prunes, chopped
50g glace cherries quartered – I used Billingtons morello cherries for extra flavour
175g dried mixed fruit
50 mixed peel
2 tsp chopped stem ginger
For the cake
225g Self raising flour
30g plain flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
150g softened butter
150g soft dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
50g chopped blanched almonds
50g chopped pistachios
zest 1 large orange and 1 lemon
For the glaze
juice the orange and lemon
equal parts sugar ( approx 150g)
Method

Measure the fruits and mincemeat into a plastic or ceramic bowl and add the chai tea liquid , teabag and all! Combine well, cover with cling film and leave overnight.

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When you are ready to make the cake, pre-heat the oven to 160C.

Double line your 8 inch tin with greasproof paper and get a large doubled over piece of brown paper that will wrap round the outside of your tin.

Measure the flours, baking powder, salt and spices into a mixing bowl, the whisk together with a hand whisk.

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In another bowl beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy then add the eggs gradually until all combined.

Fold in the flour and give a quick beat to combine.

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Fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and the grated lemon and orange zests. Dont forget to remove the teabag!

Spoon it into the prepared tin, levelling the top with the back of the spoon. Wrap the tin with the brown paper and secure with a piece of string.

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Bake for 1 hour, then check the cake, if its browning quickly turn the oven down by 10 degrees and give it a little foil hat! Bake for another 1/2hr or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre.

While the cake is cooking make the glaze syrup, juice the orange and the lemon and add an equal amount of sugar to the juice, I used about 150g sugar. Place in a small thick bottomed pan and bring just to the boil dissolving all the sugar.

When the cake first comes out of the oven brush on some syrup to the top, cool the cake in the tin for 30 minutes, then remove it to a wire cooling tray place upside down to continue cooling. Brush the base of the cake with syrup too!

If you have time you can continue to brush the cake in syrup over the next few days.

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Once completely cool the cake is ready for cutting or decorating – its up to you!

I also made these as mini gift cakes which worked really well in my present Nordicware bundt tin. Just fill 2/3rds full and bake for half an hour.

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Viennese Whirl Mince Pies

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of mince pies, or anything with lots of dried fruit in it come to that! So I’m always looking for ways to jazz them up and these hit the mark for me, delicious crisp sweet crust pastry, a bit of extra something in the mincemeat and topped with a light crumbly viennese whirl! Almost palatably – not really my family and friends tell me they are delicious!

They take a little time as the key to any pastry and biscuit work is to rest and chill to get the best results, but the methods are quick and easy. The recipe is in three parts so check right through before you start.

Makes 12

Viennese whirl mince pies with a orange liqueur filling.

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Pastry

This makes double the amount you need but it freezes well so it won’t go to waste, its a very very easy all in the food processor recipe and is so forgiving when rolling and lining the tins you will want to use it for lots of other sweet recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium egg
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g unsalted butter cubed

Method

Put everything together in a food processor

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Whizz for a minute or so until it starts to form a ball of dough.

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Pop into a plastic bag and put in the fridge to chill for half an hour, don’t be tempted to skip this stage it really makes a big difference when you roll out the pastry later.

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After half an hour, roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick (I have a fancy rolling pin that helps me with that but about the the thickness just less than a pound coin is good.) Don’t try to roll all the pastry at once just do small batches at a time it makes it much easier, and use plenty of flour to stop it sticking to the work top.

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Using a 7cm circular pastry cutter cut out rounds and line a greased muffin tin (the deep ones not the jam tart ones)

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Ease the pastry gently into the tin making sure there are no air bubble and it is even round the edges.

Mincemeat filling

I don’t make my own! I use a standard supermarket own jar, a 400g jar will be plenty, and add some Grand Marnier ( about 1 or 2 dessert spoons) and extra orange zest to taste. But you can experiment with whatever you have in the back of your cupboard!

Add about 1 dessert spoon of filling to each pastry case, don’t be tempted to overfill or they will explode during cooking. Then pop these in the fridge until the topping is ready.

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Viennese Whirl topping

Ingredients

  • 150g Stork with Butter
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 30g cornflour
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method

I specify Stork with Butter for this recipe as I find it the perfect combination of buttery flavour and the consistency you need to pipe the whirls, which then hold their shape well, but if you are a purist you can use butter just make sure it is very very soft to cream with the icing sugar.

Cream the icing sugar and Stork with Butter together until very light and fluffy. Keep going until you think it looks pale enough then beat just a little while longer to be sure!

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Stir in the flours and vanilla extract, and combine briefly until a smooth consistency is reached, don’t over beat at this point.

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Prepare a piping bag with a closed star nozzle ( I used a wilton 2D) and pop into a tall cup to transfer the mixture into.

Put this mixture into the fridge for 15/20 minutes, no longer or it will be too solid to pipe.

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When the chilling time is up take everything out of the fridge. To pipe the rosettes start in the middle and spiral out to the edges.

Ok back in the fridge time! Give the tray at least another 20mins to chill.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan.

Bake for 25-30 mins turning the tray round after 20mins to ensure an even bake (everyones oven has that annoying hotspot right?).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins before carefully lifting out to get completely cold on a cooling tray.

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Dust with icing sugar to finish off!

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How I made a Poop Emoji cake!

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When I was asked recently to make a Poop emoji cake I thought ‘yeah I can do that how hard can it be?’ I’m sure there are loads of tutorials on You Tube! Well I didn’t find many for big cakes, only this one that was any where near useful but I had already said yes to I plunged right in there!

I must admit to having a vague plan in my head that I definitely adapted as I went along. Its really important to have a strong base to carved cakes for the outer covering to be supported on. I have made a spiral cake before for my husbands 50th and thought this would be a good place to start.

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But its not quite the same shape and certainly much taller so adaptation was already going to be needed! My other thoughts were that if I used modelling chocolate rather than fondant it would allow me to work on it for longer and get that lovely shine I was after. I also used chocolate ganache to cover the carved cake and allowed this to set over night meaning that I was able to retain the shape I had created once I covered it over. It also used my favourite chocolate cake recipe with white chocolate buttercream – I’m hoping the 8 year old boys I made it for were in chocolate heaven!

Ideally make the ganache and modelling chocolate the day before.

My favourite chocolate cake recipe.

Chocolate cake

  • 200g butter
  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 350g plain flour
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml buttermilk

Buttercream

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 225g softened butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • Heat oven to 150C. Grease and line the base and sides of  an 8 inch, one 6 inch and one 4 inch tin, you will also need a muffin case. img_4289
  • Boil the kettle.
  • Put the butter and chocolate in glass bowl put in microwave for 1 minute, stir and return for a further minute to fully melt.
  • Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarb with a pinch of salt in the mixer bowl put onto mixer with beater and turn on low to combine.
  • Whisk eggs and buttermilk together in a plastic jug.
  • Scrape the melted chocolate mixture and then egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat until combined.
  • Add 150ml boiling water slowly with the mixer running on slow and beat everything together until lump-free. You will have quite a runny mixture.
  • Fill all the tins to an even level and half fill the muffin case using up all the mixture.
  • Bake for 25mins, test the muffin if a cocktail stick comes out clean remove from the oven, give the other cakes 10 more mins, the 4 inch should now be baked, 5/10 mins more for the 6 inch, then about 10/15 mins for the 8 inch cake.
  • Allow to cool completely then pop in the fridge for a couple of hours, its much easier to carve a cold cake.

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To make the buttercream

  • Melt the white chocolate in microwave, in 1 minute bursts.
  • Beat the butter in big mixer, until pale.
  • Add the icing sugar and stir in by hand until sugar clouds all gone!
  • Beat in mixer until light and fluffy, add melted chocolate and combine.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 500g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

There are a couple of ways to make ganache but I tend to do mine in the microwave, the key is to not over heat the ingredients or it might split, so use a half power button if you have one. Ideally make this the day before. You can use the microwave defrost setting to gently melt it when you want to use it.

Heat the cream on half power in the microwave for 1 minute in a microwave proof bowl. Break in the chocolate and give it all a good swirl. Return to the microwave for 1 minute more, then gently stir to combine. Repeat for 30 seconds at a time until all the chocolate has melted into the cream. Refrigerate overnight.

Modelling Chocolate

This recipe is based on one from The Cake Decorating Bible by Juliette Sear. I opted for mainly milk chocolate as its a bit more child friendly, I also thought it would be a better colour for the cake. You can buy ready made modelling chocolate but I haven’t tried it myself so can’t vouch for a good one to try.

The recipe calls for glucose syrup which is readily available in the cake decorating section of major supermarkets, you can use golden syrup – again I haven’t tried it so can’t vouch for how well this works.

  • 600g milk chocolate
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 550g glucose syrup

Warm the glucose syrup on half power in the microwave, it needs to be about 40C.

Melt the chocolates together in a separate bowl again on half power in the microwave. don’t over heat. You are aiming to have both the chocolate and the syrup the same temperature.

Pour the syrup onto the chocolate and fold in gently to combine. The mixture will thicken, try not to over work it but make sure its thoroughly combined.

Pour into a large sealable plastic bag, seal and flatten out the mixture, allow to cool then put in the fridge over night.

To assemble the cake

I firstly split each of the layers and filled with buttercream. Crumb coat the 8 inch with a thin layer of buttercream, pop onto a thin cake card and refrigerate for half an hour.

Once the buttercream is set you can start to carve.

Using a cake card mark out where the 6 inch layer will sit in the centre of the cake, then use cocktail sticks to mark out where the first spiral will start it needs to lead from the base then about 1/3rd round the cake curving up the cake. Trim this layer out and keep for the continuation layer.

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I have to admit it all started to go a bit free style at this stage. I added the next layer and just used the cut off bits to make the spiral work, still using the cocktail stick method to cut the next spiral.

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I repeated with the next layer and finished off with the muffin, which I had trimmed to a conical shape. The spirals need to be slightly rounded at the edges so use the cut off pieces and buttercream to get the best shape, crumb coat lightly all over.

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It needs to go back in the fridge again for half an hour  (or freezer for 10 mins if you have room).

Then warm the ganache gently to a smooth malleable consistency. Cover the entire cake. at this point I added some extra details like the cross over point at the base of the cake and the dropped point on the top swirl. Use the Poop emoji picture as reference to get the little details as close as you can.

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I realised at this point that my swirls were swirling the wrong way ! But hey-ho I’m hoping no-one noticed! Right fridge time again this really needs to set hard so overnight if you can.

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Last step ! and no photos to help – sorry really hard to cover and take photos!

Firstly let the modelling chocolate come to room temperature for an hour or so. Knead in a teaspoon of CMC powder and 100g of sugarpaste/ fondant icing. The modelling chocolate is very sticky and this will help roll it out.  Roll out to 3/4mm thickness. I have these brilliant rolling mats from Iced Jems which I find really useful and particularly with super sticky modelling chocolate.

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Gently lay the rolled out paste over the cake, keep lifting the paste up and starting from the top ease it into place around the spirals and curves. Don’t rush the modelling chocolate stays malleable. Always lift the paste from the bottom and ease into the curves working slowly down the cake. You may lose the peak of the swirl, but can add a little extra modelling chocolate and smooth into place. Trim off the excess modelling chocolate and keep to one side, there should be enough to cover a board as well.

The final stage is simply to keep smooth with your hands, flexible fondant smoothers to get the shape you are after. Small persistent lumps or folds can be worked on with a metal ball tool in small short strokes then use the palms of your hands to continue smoothing and polishing. It might take a while but its worth persisting. My Poop was very lumpy and need lots of polishing (sorry couldn’t resist!). The more you polish the shinier and smoother it will be!!

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For the final touches, I cut out ovals from white modelling sugarpaste (half fondant / half flowerpaste) with smaller thinner black ovals in the middle, the mouth I use a large circle cutter then cut through a straight slice from the bottom. I let both harden for an hour or so on some drying foam so they didn’t collapse in to the curves on the cake too much. Just make sure to reference the emoji for placement of the eyes and mouth and make the eyes plenty big enough, I used a 7cm oval for the whites of the eyes.

Finally place onto a covered board, again popping it into the fridge for half an hour will firm up the chocolate so its easier to lift.

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To see more of my cakes why not check out my Facebook page or if you want to try more of my recipes and tutorials go to the home page

White Chocolate Cake and How to make a chocolate lace collar

This weekend I had the rewarding pleasure of making a wedding anniversary cake for the most wonderful couple. John and Bev have been married for 20 years and wanted to share their happiness with friends and family. I will let you read all about John and Bevs life challenges here and I hope you find the story and the people as inspirational as I do. My brief for the cake was lemon and white chocolate, sugar flowers  and chocolate shards – but I also asked for a little artistic leeway so they got drizzles and a lace collar too!

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Lace collars are a stunning but fairly simple effect to finish off a cake and combined with the need to perfect a white chocolate cake recipe I thought I would do you all a step by step!

White Chocolate Cake

  • 100g butter
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 175g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 25g malted milk powder (such as Horlicks)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml buttermilk

Buttercream

  • 200g white chocolate
  • 250g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Grease and line the base and side of a 3 inch deep 6 inch diameter tin.

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Put the white chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and melt on half heat 1 minute. Give it a good stir to combine, you can give it another 30 seconds if you need to and put to one side.

Put the flour, sugar, salt, malted milk powder & bicarb in a larger food mixer bowl then slowly combine on the lowest speed. Boil the kettle!

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Mix the buttermilk and egg together in a jug and combine with a whisk.

With the mixer on a slow speed add the melted chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients.

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Then add the buttermilk and egg mixture with the beater still running.

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Measure 75ml of boiled water into the jug and add this to the mixture with the beaters still running.

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The batter will be very runny – don’t panic it hasn’t gone wrong!

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Pour it into the cake tin and bake for about 1 hr, or until the sponge is firm and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Remove from the oven turn upside down on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before splitting and filling. Check out my post on Naked Cakes to see how to split and fill a cake.

To make the buttercream beat the butter for 5 minutes until really pale. Add the icing sugar and stir in gently with a spatula until just combined and the sugar clouds have gone!

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Beat again for 30 secs to 1 minute in the mixer to completely combine. Melt the white chocolate on half power in the microwave until just melted. Add to the buttercream and beat for a further minute. Its now ready to use!

When the cake is completely cool split the layers and trim off the top to level the cake (this should form the base). I like to split my cakes in three layers but that is entirely up to you. The cake should be covered in buttercream for the collar to stick to and form a nice background but it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth. It should however be upright and fairly even. I use a set square to get straight sides, you can get similar tools from cake decorating suppliers or just do it by eye with a palette knife. I also put my cake onto a cake card the same size which makes it easier to lift when you are finished.

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Level off the top and pop the cake into the freezer for 10 minutes or the fridge for half an hour to chill

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I decided to top my cake with dark chocolate shavings, so they didn’t go all over the cake I wrapped it in a sheet of non stick parchment and grated the chocolate straight onto the cake.

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Pop back in the fridge or freezer and you can brush off any excess shaving from the sides before you add the collar.

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To Make the Collar

  • Non Stick baking parchment
  • food grade cellophane (available from decorating suppliers)
  • 35g dark chocolate
  • 35g white chocolate
  • disposable piping bags

You firstly need to measure the cake, measure all the way round and the height of the collar – remember you want it to be slightly higher than the cake.

Cut the baking parchment in a bigger sheet than both these measurements, the cut the cellophane to the exact size of the cake collar.

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Melt the two kinds of chocolate separately on half heat in the microwave. Stir until it starts to thicken. Pop into piping bags and snip a couple of millimeters from the end of the bag.

Pipe overlapping swirls on the cellophane keeping the curves large inside the top edge of the sheet.

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Repeat with the white chocolate, then pop into the fridge for 5 minutes.

The chocolate needs to set but not be hard so it doesn’t come off on your finger when tested but is still flexible.

Lift the cellophane from the parchment and wrap around the chilled cake.

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The cellophane should just reach to join round the cake. Gently ease the collar onto the cake by lightly pressing, don’t rub too hard or you will melt the chocolate.

Put it all back into the fridge for 15 minutes to harden before removing the cellophane.

Gently ease the cellophane off the cake taking care at the seam.

Transfer to your serving plate and enjoy!

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How I make a naked cake

I often am asked do I have any tips for making a naked cake. As an avid baker of all kinds of cake these are my absolute favourite kind of cake to make and with fresh fruit or flowers they can be a spectacular centre piece at any celebration. They are quite simple to make but do have pitfalls, they can end up looking wonky and, particularly with a wedding cake that needs to stand out for a long time, can dry out making the cake really unpleasant to eat by the time you get to eat it.

A few examples of my naked and semi-naked cakes.

So the first tip is how to bake an even cake. My favourite recipe for a vanilla or lemon cake is Classic Birthday Madeira by She Who Bakes. I’m a bit old fashioned so I tend to cream the butter and sugar, add eggs slowly then gently fold in the flour instead of the all in one method she uses but I always follow her proportions. I like to bake one deep cake and split it rather that several individual layers, this means you have fewer risen tops to contend with and the edges of the cake are all in line with each other adding to a more uniform finish. For an 8 inch tin (3.5inch deep) I use 7 egg mixture and for the 6 inch tin (3inch deep) I use 4 eggs.

Firstly always grease and line the tin with non stick baking parchment. This makes sure you get all the cake out and it has a nice even form. Go to the trouble of cutting out a circle for the base and strips for the edges to prevent creases in the edges of the cake.

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So how so do you bake a cake that rises evenly? She Who Bakes has some great tips like a long low bake. I also place a dish of water in the base of the oven, the steam helps stop the tin get too hot which cooks the edges first and pushes the centre up and gives that unwanted dome in the middle of the cake.

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Finally on tin prep I use a damp strip of towel pinned around the outside of the tin, which further helps keep the tin temperature down in the early stages. Once your mixture is in the tin give it a sharp rap on the worktop to get rid of any big air bubbles.

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My 8 inch cake takes a good 1hr45mins and the 6 inch about 1hr30mins but its well worth the wait! You can see where I have tested my cake several times! You need to cool the cakes the right way up – I would normally invert my cakes and use the base as the top for a covered cake but naked cake should be the right way up – hope that makes sense. If you do get a bit more rise or a crack on the top don’t panic! Allow to cool for a short while upside down on a tea towel on the cooling rack this will help even out the top, but then turn over after about half an hour.

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I made lemon cakes this time so onto my next step which is to make a simple sugar syrup. Equal parts water (or lemon juice in this case) to sugar, dissolve and bring to the boil. If you are doing a vanilla sponge add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the syrup once boiled. I used 4 lemons (about 100ml of liquid) for two tiers. Allow to cool.

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So thats day one done, ideally you need to let the cakes cool completely and sit over night as they cut much better the next day.

Onto splitting the cake, its important to have an evenly split cake as this is all on show and looks much more professional if the layers are even and equal.

Firstly measure your cake height and work out how deep each layer needs to be. Then mark with cocktail sticks where each layer needs to be.

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I have a cake splitter tool but if you don’t you can use the cocktail stick method, this video I made a while back shows you how.

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When you have split all the layers keeping the cake together mark a straight line with cocktail sticks down the cake. This will help later to realign the cake so it goes back in the same place it started.

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Lay all the layers out and brush each one with the syrup.

For this cake I filled with buttercream and lemon curd. I use buttercream method by Juliet Sear. She uses half butter to icing sugar and adds a little hot boiled water to get the right consistency. I used 500g of butter and 1kg if icing sugar – I had some left but better than not quite enough. A completely naked cake will only need 250g butter and 500g icing sugar for these two tiers. You need it creamy enough to pipe but firm enough to hold.

You also need to clear a space in your fridge or freezer for the next step. Its important to get even layers that don’t collapse on each other and firming the buttercream helps do this.

Place the base layer onto a cake card the same size as the cake, sticking them together with a light scraping of buttercream. Using a disposable piping bag with a 1 cm hole cut in the bottom pipe and even layer of buttercream on the base of the first layer. Then smooth it out gently, taking the buttercream to the edges.

This then needs to go in the freezer for 10 mins or the fridge for half an hour. It makes the filling process long winded but is well worth the time.

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In the meantime I spread a layer of the lemon curd on the other side of the next layer.

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Once the buttercream has set place the next layer on top lining up those cocktail sticks. Make sure the cake is lined up vertically and repeat the buttercream process. Finally add the top layer again make sure the cake is level vertical and horizontally. A spirit level and set square are your friends here!

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Next step is to brush all over the stacked cake with the syrup again.

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You can now take out the cocktail sticks – their job is done!. If you are going for a naked cake you are almost there but its the final touches that help. Pop a 1/2 centimetre straight nozzle in a bag and pipe round the cake filling in those little gaps. You will be surprised at how much better the cake looks.

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You are now ready for stacking. I made this weeks cake in a semi naked style. The advantage of this is that it helps keep the cake moist and give a little more scope to stick on flowers and hide an imperfections however if you want to stick with naked and good twitter pal suggested Snow Sugar by Bakery Bits recently which will apparently not dissolve as quickly as ordinary icing sugar and gives a lovely dusting. I have yet to test it myself but trust her judgement, thank you @The_Cakery47.

To get the semi naked finish using a pallet knife ‘paddle’ on a thin layer of buttercream onto the sides of the cake.

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I then use a set square to scrape round the edges this helps show where the cake isn’t quite straight, the beauty of the semi naked style is that you want some cake to show and some to be hidden but still need a straight cake. I also use my metal smoother just to get a nice finish.

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Once your edges are straight do the top, you want a flat top. But don’t forget this a rustic style it doesn’t need to be perfect.

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Chill the cakes again in preparation for the next stage.

So onto stacking. I use jumbo straws to stack my cakes, they seem to be plenty strong enough to support up to 3 tiers and are easy to cut. Firstly mark out the position of the next tier with a spare cake card. Then insert on straw to get the correct height. Finally use that as a template to get all the other straws the same length.

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Keeping checking the levels at every stage a flat top will help keep the overall cake on track and give a final professional finished look.

I like to put even my naked cakes on to a covered cake drum, although I do also have a lovely choice of natural wooden boards which work really well. This one was finished with a cream coloured fondant paste to match the buttercream and a silver ribbon to go with the finished design. Mark the cake position with a cake card the same size as your base layer and place the cake on the board, a little buttercream will secure the cake if the fondant is very dry.

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Pop the next tier on top and check the levels again! Finally you need to hide the cake cards. I used a little of the buttercream topic ‘pearls’ round the cake but you could use a single fine line of buttercream or a ribbon if you prefer.

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You are now done all ready for any final decoration flourishes you might like!

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This weeks cake used a variety of decoration but the star of the show is edible organic flowers by Maddocks Farm Organics. I also added a few dried petals, a few sprigs of thyme, some buttercream rosettes, some edible jewels and a sugar paste number and ‘fabulous’ bopper to link in with the birthday party style of pink and silver with added glamour!

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Easter Rocky Road

This is a great no bake recipe to make with your kids for Easter – but be beware it has all the sweetness and chocolatyness in the world in it – not for the feint hearted

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 125g milk chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 300g ( yes really) candy covered eggs – I used Smarties Eggs
  • 50g mini marshmallows
  • 100g chocolate finger biscuits ( you could use rich tea or digestives but why not add a bit more chocolate!)
  • 25g white chocolate

You need to line a shallow tin 20x20cm-ish with cling film two ways! You will also need a microwave proof bowl and a spatula.

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Method

Put the milk and dark chocolate in the bowl with the butter.

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Pop in the microwave on half power for 1 minute. Take out, give it all a stir and return for another minute. Stir again and repeat in 30 second bursts until everything has melted together. Don’t be tempted to do this on full microwave power you may over heat the chocolate.

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Once melted smooth and glossy add the cocoa powder and golden syrup and stir well again. The mixture needs to cool down for a while now – 10 minutes should do the trick. Stir a little every so often whilst you are waiting making sure you scrape the mixture off the bottom of the bowl.

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Whilst the mixture is cooling break the chocolate fingers into smaller bite size pieces.

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Add the biscuit pieces and marshmallows to the chocolate mixture and give it another good stir.

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Stir in 200g of the candy eggs, keeping the final 100g for the top and pop into your lined tin.

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Use the spatula to spread the mixture out – hold onto the edges of the cling film to help do this.

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Press the mixture down to try to eliminate any holes hiding underneath.

Put the white chocolate into a disposable piping bag and melt gently on half heat in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Snip a fine hole at the end of the bag and drizzle a random squiggle all over the top of the mixture.

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Chop the remaining 100g of the eggs on half (best if a grown up does that bit) and the pop those on the top of the mixture.

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Put it all in the fridge for 1 hour to set hard then chop into small squares.

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Hidden Red Nose Cake for Comic Relief

With Red Nose Day coming up this cake will make a fabulous show stopping centre piece for your bake sale.

Its two simple basic recipes, you will need a cake pop mould for the ‘noses’ and some good quality colouring paste, but the recipe is a simple all in one sponge. The chocolate cake is made based on my absolutely favourite BBC good food recipe, but has a chocolate ganache filling. It does use a lot of maltesers – a bit like my christmas pud cake – but the overall effect is well worth it!

Recipe

Noses

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 50g SR Flour
  • 1/4tsp red food colouring paste ( I use Sugarflair red extra)

Bake your noses first as they should be cool when added to the chocolate cake batter.

Preheat the oven to 160C (fan) and brush the silicon mould with some melted butter.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and combine with a spatula, it saves the mixture flying everywhere when you use the electric mixer!

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Beat until throughly combined with an electric mixer (or beat with a wooden spoon for a good work out). Add the colouring and beat to get a really bright red colour.

img_1476Fill the solid half moulds to half way with the batter – I used a piping bag to make it less messy.

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Put the lid on and bake for 15-20 mins, the moulds have a little steam hole on the lid section so you can test when they are baked by poking a cocktail stick through the hole.

Remove from the mould and leave to cool while you make the chocolate mix.

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Chocolate Layers

  • 100g Butter
  • 50g plain chocolate
  • 175g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 75ml boiling water

Grease and line the base of 3 x 6inch round cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan)

Prepare all ingredients into separate bowls. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute on full power. Place the dry ingredients, flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarb in a stand mixer bowl and mix slowly with the beater attachment. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together in a jug and boil the kettle.

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Add the melted chocolate and buttermilk to the dry ingredients and combine on a slow speed. Measure 75ml boiling water into the jug then add slowly to the mixture, scrape round once to make sure you have all the ingredients incorporated and give it a final gentle whizz!

Using a large serving spoon put one spoon of mix into each tin and spread across the bottom, share the cooled noses between the tins and cover with the rest of the cake batter keeping it as even as possible between the tins. Using a spatula make sure the balls are covered and the mixture is evenly spread all over the tin. give each tin a light rap on the worktop to remove any big air bubbles and bake for 35/40 minutes, until a cocktail stick comes out clean, make sure you test just the chocolate cake not the noses!

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When baked leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin then remove and cool inverted on a cooling tray.

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Whilst the cakes are baking you need to make the ganache to give it time to set enough to use.

Ganache

  • 200ml double cream
  • 400g milk chocolate

Place the cream and chopped chocolate into a plastic microwave safe bowl.

Heat for 1 minute at half power. Remove and swirl in the bowl. Repeat the process until the chocolate starts to melt and colour the cream. Use a silicon spatula and stir gently, heating for 30 second bursts, stirring between,  until no lumps remain.

Place in the fridge and stir every half hour whilst the cake bakes and cools.

Constructing the cake

480g Maltesers – Sainsburys currently have small Maltesers boxes on special offer and are also donating to Comic Relief

50g Red candy melts or white chocolate and red colouring.

You need to colour 6 Maltesers red to make the nose, I used white chocolate coloured with red paste but needed to add a little oil to make the chocolate runny enough so all a bit of  a faff, you can buy red Candy melts instead, just melt the chocolate and dunk the Maltesers in leave to harden on a sheet of greasproof paper and cut away and excess chocolate.

To layer up the cake cover the sides of the cake with the noses sticking out with ganache to make a smooth surface and sandwich the layers together. Use the smooth cake sides as the base and top of the cake.

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Pop in the fridge to harden the ganache for 1/2 hr (or 10mins in the freezer if you have room)

Cover the outside of the cake in ganache, it doesn’t need to be perfect as its being covered in the Maletsers. Decorate by completely covering in the Maltesers, making a circle with the 6 red ones on the edge to make your “Red Nose”.

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When you cut the cake there will be a fab surprise inside – this will make a great bake sae centre piece for Red Nose day fundraising eventsalbumtemp

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Golden Spoon Winner – Burns Night Bakes

Rejuvenating an old post ! In 2015 I won a Golden Spoon from Sunday Bake Club for this recipe. I use this quick cheesecake recipe all the time so though I’d update this post for my own purpose and Lovely WordPress has decided to publish it as a new post! So updating again with a quick explanation !! 

Yay how exciting thank you voters hope you enjoy trying this recipe .

Burns Night Raspberry Shortbread Cheesecakes 

Set Cheesecake

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100g double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • fresh raspberries ( possibly a 200g packet)!

4 x 8/9cm deep ramekins greased and lined with cling film. Make sure you tuck the cling film right down inside the ramekin and hang the excess cling film over the edges.
Cut the raspberries in half from tip to base and make a circle of raspberries with the insides facing the outside edge of the ramekin ease them in so there are no gaps and they stand up on their own,
In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until well mixed.
In another bowl whisk the cream until forming soft peaks.
Fold the cream into the cream cheese until well combined.
Fill the ramekins with the mixture up to the level of the top of the raspberries.
Leave to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.
Shortbread

  • 300g plain flour
  • 200g unsalted butter at room temp
  • 100g golden caster sugar

Preheat oven to 150C
The easiest way to make this is in a food processor, just pop in all the ingredients and whizz until it starts to form a dough. By hand rub all the ingredients together with your fingertips and knead into a dough.
Roll out to a depth of 3-5mm. I cut one larger circle per dessert ( about 9 cm) and smaller ones for the top. (about 6cm), impress a design if you have a cookie press at this stage.
Place on a greased baking sheet refrigerate for 15/20mins then bake for 25/30mins until a light golden brown.
When you take them out of the oven you can be super picky and recut the circles whilst still warm to make them have a sharper shape and edge. This needs to be done very quickly as they become very brittle as they cool. Sprinkle with a little more caster sugar and leave to cool completely.

To construct take the cheesecakes out of the fridge, warm the dishes slightly by rubbing the outside with your hands. Gently ease out the cling film by pulling upwards and the whole thing should come out in one piece!

Place the larger biscuit on the serving plate, pop the cheesecake on top, the top with the smaller biscuit and a raspberry.
Serve with some raspberry coulis.

The Sunday Baking Club

Evening bakers!

We have another winner to announce *clears throat*

This time, we’re thrilled to announce that your Burns Night Bakes Golden Spoon winner was @becksbake with her stunning looking Raspberry Cheesecake Shortie – easy to see why this was the winning bake when it looks like this:

 Becks

If you want to have a crack at this recipe, Becky has shared her secret…

Set Cheesecake

250g cream cheese

100g double cream

50g icing sugar

1tsp vanilla essence

fresh raspberries ( possibly a 200g packet)!

4 x 8/9cm deep ramekins greased and lined with cling film. Make sure you tuck the cling film right down inside the ramekin and hang the excess cling film over the edges.

Cut the raspberries in half from tip to base and make a circle of raspberries with the insides facing the outside edge of the ramekin ease them in so there are no gaps…

View original post 312 more words

Happy New Year with Speculaas Macarons

Happy New Year everyone – did you have a special celebration this year?

There has been a lot of talk of how awful 2016 has been and there certainly seem to have been many high profile deaths, horrific plane crashes, dreadful wars and unfathomable political changes. For me on a personal level I turned 50 this year and was determined not to let a number envelop my special year. I had fun, I went on fabulous holidays, had amazing adventures shared with family and friends, took time for myself and wanted to make sure 2016 went out with a bang and that we welcomed 2017 wholeheartedly.

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So we hosted a dinner for 29 friends, everyone helped out with tables, chairs, crockery, cutlery, food and decorations and we had an amazing time. my job was to provide the central main course but naturally I couldn’t let the evening go by without a sweet centrepiece. My friends were bringing the main desserts, a delicious pecan pie and some poached pears, so I thought a mini macaron tower with flavours inspired by after dinner chocolates would be nice. I went for chocolate orange, mint chocolate, ginger with chocolate filling and finally speculaas with a caramel filling.

If you haven’t heard of speculaas spices its a spice blend I believe originating from Holland. You may have come across it in those little caramelised biscuits served with coffee, and there is also a spread version available in the supermarket now, however I have tried a more authentic version from The Speculaas Spice Company . I made a few of these flavour macarons a few weeks back and whilst delicious, the spices are so flavourful that I think I over did it a bit so this time I reduced the amount of spice and added a bit more caramel in the filling, I think I got the balance just right this time.

I always make macarons with the italian meringue method, I feel it gives a much more stable and reliable base to the mixture, giving me more consistent results. If you want to read my hints and tips on mac making check out my blog post on Macaron Mysteries. I also used Billingtons golden icing sugar for these ones as it has a more caramelly flavour than white icing sugar which compliments the spices well.

This recipe will yield about 40 macarons (80 shells).

Speculaas Macarons

Meringue Ingredients

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 60ml Water
  • 75g egg white at room temperature.

Macaronage Ingredients

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 200g Billingtons Golden icing sugar
  • 2 tsp Speculaas spice mix
  • 70g egg white room temperature

Filling

  • 75g dulce de leche – shop bought is fine!
  • 75g white chocolate

First thing with macarons, I find it is much better to have everything laid out ready, all the ingredients weighed, your piping bags ready and baking sheets lined with silicon sheets  (thin not thick ones) and ready to go. You will need 4 large baking sheets, and a piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle.

Secondly blitz the almonds in a processor, then sieve into a large bowl with the icing sugar, make sure you have the correct amount of each once sieved, finally sieve in your spices. img_0619

Hand whisk them all together to make sure they are thoroughly combined. Weigh out the macaronage egg white into a separate small bowl.

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Next make sure the equipment you are going to use for the meringue is completely grease free, the bowl, the whisk and the pan the sugar is heated up in to make the syrup. I wipe all mine over with some white wine vinegar to be doubley sure and the acidity also helps stabilise the meringue.

Warm the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pan , swirling gently until dissolved. whilst doing this whisk the meringue egg white in a stand mixer on a very slow speed just to loosen it up. Once the sugar is all dissolved turn up the heat and bring the syrup to a boil, at the same time turn up the stand mixer to whisk the egg white on a medium speed. Finally once at a rolling boil turn the mixer right up to get to a firmish peak, you want the syrup to reach soft ball stage, around 112C-114C.

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Once you are there remove the syrup from the heat, allow to stop bubbling then very slowly drizzle down the side of the mixing bowl whilst the whisk is still on high.

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Be very patient this will take a while, its worth moving around your bowl so one side doesn’t get too hot and if the syrup becomes too thick just warm it up again very slightly. Keep whisking all the time. Once you have added all the sugar syrup keep whisking for about another 7 or 8 minutes until the bowl has cooled to room temperature when you touch the outside. Your meringue should then be really firm and glossy.

img_0632Now time to add to the macaronage mixture. Add all of the meringue and the remaining loose egg white to the almond, sugar and spice mixture. Fold in with a spatula.

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Keep stirring and mixing until it is all incorporated. This is the trickiest part of macaron making, you need to reach the ribbon stage where the mixture just falls in a ribbon from your spatula, too much mixing and the mixture will be too loose to hold its shape, too little and its grainy and won’t form nice smooth tops. If I’m honest this mix was ever so slightly too stiff so I got some little peaks on mine, but over mixing can cause cracking and the a poor foot so I’d rather it was this way round.

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Transfer your mixture to the piping bag and pipe out small blobs evenly across your baking sheet. I use a template under my silicon sheet to help get them even sizes.

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Once you have piped a whole sheet you should give them a few sharp taps on the surface, this helps form a good foot and gets rid of the little central peaks too.

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Once piped and tapped out leave them to dry out, and turn on the oven to 140C mine is a fan oven.

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Drying out helps form the shell top to your macaron, it takes around half an hour depending on how warm and dry your kitchen is, but don’t be scared to leave them for an hour if need be. Test by touching gently with your finger tip, if they stick they aren’t ready!

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Once dry they wont stick to your finger, test a few as the outside ones dry before the middle ones!

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You are now ready to bake, you need an middle and lower shelf, put your first tray in on the middle shelf and time for 8 minutes. Once the timer is up, move the tray to the lower shelf, I usually turn my tray 180 degrees too. Put the next tray of macs on the middle shelf and time for another 8 minutes. When this time is up remove the lower tray and rotate the second tray down to the lower shelf, put in the next tray of uncooked macs and repeat 8 minutes. Repeat this process for the final tray of macs but put in an empty tray on the final rotation above the last tray to be moved down – does that all make sense?

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Your macs are done when they lift easily from the baking sheet, if you find they are a bit sticky pop them back in for a couple of minutes – everyones ovens are slightly different and humidity plays a huge part when cooking macarons.

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They cool really quickly, so once cool you can add the filling.

To make the filling simply melt the white chocolate gently in a microwave. I do mine on half power for 1 minute, then 30 second bursts until its all melted. Stir in the dulche de leche and mix well. Allow to cool to a piping consistency.

The secret I find with macs is to match them up so I always lay mine out in pairs that are of a similar size, as despite using a template they are invariably slightly different sizes but as long as they match each other I don’t think it really matters!

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Pipe swirls of filling on one half of each pair then gently sandwich together hold the shells by the out side edge and don’t try to press on the centre as its quite fragile, although a few broken ones are good ‘chefs perks’!

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I decorated mine with some copper coloured edible metallic paint and a a 2017 for good measure, all ready to add to the others on my tower!

Macs keep for about a week in the fridge but also freeze really well so you can make them ahead of time.

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So here is to 2107 – may you reach for your own stars and have fun along the way.

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