A Class with Mademoiselle Macaron

In April I found my self in full cake swing again, after an illness and tonsilectomy filled start to the year.  Thankfully, someone else was doing the planning, and tidying, when I went to a class with Mademoiselle Macaron. The class takes place at her little shop, and it is a lovely place. We did get a coffee break half way through, so we had a chance to enjoy the cafe part, not just the kitchen part – which was also fun, being filled with decorations, flavouring and gadgets that I could covet.

Macaron display

With a brief history of the macaron, and how her shop came into being, we got started. She demonstrated making the rose flavoured ones, then we got on with making our own. Working in pairs (with just 8 people in total), we had our own work station – and mine was the pistachio flavoured one. It’s unfortunate I don’t actually like pistachios, but everyone made a different flavour, then you got a mixed box at the end so it didn’t matter too much.

After a lot of beating of egg whites and debating how much green was enough, we had two trays ready to sit and skin over, before baking. You can see the other flavours too – vanilla, orange and chocolate.

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After a demonstration on making ganache, we then made our pistachio filling, which had a lot of ground up pistachios in it.

filling

It was then coffee time – I had a tasty hot chocolate, but we also had some oreo mouse pie, and a kouign amann (familiar from the Great British Bake Off), which were both super delicious.

Hot chocolate

When we went back through, the macarons were all ready and cooled – and thankfully, pretty impressive looking. They were also a good even size, so putting them into pairs went pretty well too.

macaron

They were then carefully filled, and that was them. The key word is carefully – squeeze them, and they do not fare well!

Filled macaron

With the macarons finished, we filled our gift boxes, and headed for home. Sadly not to eat them, as you are supposed to leave them 24 hours before eating, so the filling can kind of merge with the shell. I did at least manage to leave them til lunch time the next day, and they were lovely – although the chocolate was my favourite, unsurprisingly.

Macarons

A Pig Birthday Cake

I have awanted to make a pig cake for years now, mainly as they are just so cute, but also pretty simple to make. I used a bowl to bake a chocolate chip sponge, before covering it with vanilla buttercream.

Naked bowl cake

I covered it with the pink sugarpaste, and the board with chocolate glace icing as the mud.

Pink bowl

The trotters and snout were just shaped balls of sugarpaste, with a little sausage rolled up for the tail.

Pig cake

At this point I was confused as to why it did not look cute, or particuarly pig like, before remembering that aside from needing eyes, it also needed ears!

Pig cake

The pig needed to be a bit muddy as well, so had some blobs of glace icing added to his trotters and arround his sides. And hey presto, he was cute!

Cute pig cake

Gluten Free Doughnuts

If you follow A Kimbo Cake on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen my home baking exploits, as well as the decorated cakes I have done recently. And you may have noticed a gluten free turn in things, as one of my friends is gluten and dairy free, and I think it would be unfair for her to miss out on all the cakey goodness that so often finds its way in to my work place.

On the whole, my gluten free baking has gone well, although often not quite as expected. Being dairy free, with block stork and trex easy replacements is not quite as difficult, while getting used to the different texture of gluten free baking, and using xantham gum to try and avoid crumbling, and the range of different flours available is not as straight forward. Although tempted by many recipes and blogs to start buying fancier flour blends, I have stuck with Doves, which so far has worked really well (their recipe section is worth a look as well).

So while my friend gets by with cooking and baking herself, and the odd trip to gluten free friendly places like Loudens or Mimis, (phone them and they will make sure something gluten free is available) the one thing you apparently cannot buy in a gluten free form is doughnuts. Having been over a year since my friend had eaten a doughnut, we swiftly decided that we should attempt to bake them ourselves. Partly because it is fun, partly because with yeasted dough and deep fat frying, there was more potential for disaster, both baking and burning, so a second person seemed like a wise idea.

We followed a recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoe String – in part because the ingredients were mostly things we had. The dough came together pretty easily, although next time we would heat up, and cool, the milk in advance – we suspect we killed off some of the yeast by leaving it sitting in the mix of dry ingredients. They did still rise fairly well though, so we were reasonably hopeful for the frying stage.

Risen doughtnuts

However, neither of us has deep fried anything before – and the idea of hot scalding oil is pretty scary. However, with the thermometer, at least we knew the right temperature, and the fact it didn’t spit and sizzle as much as I thought it might was good too.

Hot oil

As advised we fried some bread first to dirty the oil – I think like making pancakes, the first one will be a dud, so the bread made the sacrifice. They cooked very quickly, so we managed to get through our selection of ring doughnuts, doughnut holes and to-be-filled doughnuts in good time.

We made the glaze, although decided that double dipping was the way to go, as the glaze is a really tasty part of a doughnut. For the filled doughnuts, they had a glace icing on top, and were filled with seedless raspberry jam. We had seen doughnuts being filled on TV and it actually is as easy as it looks -stick in piping nozzle and squeeze. I guess the filling will always find a way in.

Finished gluten free doughnuts

And the verdict? Delicious doughnuts! They did have a typical doughnut texture, and I don’t think you would have guessed they were gluten (or dairy) free – but I think the best judgement was that my friends doughnut craving was well and truly satisfied. We did eat quite a lot, which turned out to be a good move despite the sugar crash – the second day doughnuts definitely suffered for it, so maybe freezing any extras would be a good move.

 

 

Iron Man in Smarties

For this cake, I wanted to do something really fun. The recipient loves Smarties, so that was my starting point – maybe a pattern based on the colours, covering the side with Kit Kats like a candy barrel cake. The recipient also loves Smarties, so I decided to try and make iron man out of Smarties. I also decided to fit even more Smarties in to the cake, doing a ‘surprise in side’ cake.

Starting off with a filled and buttercreamed cake, I marked out the middle to cut away.

Measuring the middle

…Which I then cut away…

Cake hole

…And filled with Smarties…

Smartie hole

… And topped it off with a disc of cake to get a level finish.

Cake

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I made ribbons of red and yellow sugarpaste to cover the sides. I used some CMC in the top band to give it extra strength, as it was mostly standing free of the cake.

Rad and yellow

I had found a template on line, which I sized to fit the cake. I marked of the outline in Smarties, and started to fill in the colour.

Iron Man outline

Iron Man Smarties

I filled in the background with Minstrels. I had forgotten how tasty they were!

Iron man in smarties

I loved the finished cake, but of course, the real surprise is in the middle!

Inside surprise cake

I’m glad I did this one for fun – there were a few lessons to be learnt. Mainly, it needs to be done really close to eating. The Smarties shell goes soft with the moisture from the cake – and the colour leeches in to the cake too. However, it is also awesome – Smarties inside a cake is a lot of fun!

A Yorkshire Wedding Cake

This weekend saw the completion of my third wedding cake. It had an excellent and unique theme – Yorkshire. The couple came to me with their ideas, and after a few sketches we confirmed which design to go with, along with the sizes and flavours wanted. In case anyone ever needs to know, rhubarb and vanilla jam can only be found in Waitrose, unlike rhubarb and ginger jam which can be found in every shop in Edinburgh (and an assortment of places off the A9 too).

The base tier (vanilla) was to be the Yorkshire country side, complete with rough fell sheep. The middle tier (chocolate) was to have a representation of the Yorkshire flag. The top tier was a Yorkshire pudding, complete with bride and groom figure.

I like a blog post with photos to show the making of pictures, but time tends to get away from me and having to wash my hands before I cover the camera in cake/ icing is a fiddle. So at Lewis’ suggestion, we set up the Gopro, which can be used to make time lapse videos. It worked really well – apart from the battery recharging while I actually covered the cakes. You can see the bottom and middle tiers being iced, then the decorations being applied.

The Yorkshire pudding doesn’t really feature in the video, but that was air bushed yellow, then with a mix of yellow and brown, a bit more brown on top. I then filled it with ‘gravy’ aka piping gel, which was surprisingly easy to make!

Here is a shot of the finished cake once it is all in place at their venue, Surgeons Hall in Edinburgh.

Yorkshire wedding cake

The groom did not quite make it to the very end of the night – I guess he could not resist a swim in the gravy! (it was taken on my phone)

Gravy groom

My Rice Krispie Birthday Cake

February 7th marks my birthday! As I was away on holiday, I just wanted something tasty, easy, and quick – and also not requiring a lot of equipment! 

I love the cupcake pan, so decided chocolate krispies in the shape of a giant cupcake was the way to go.

It took a while for the mixture to set up in the pans, which gave me time to eat the left over mixture.

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They turned put pretty successfully,  you can see the indentations from the pans.

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Then came the decorations. First up was a ring of marshmallows, cut in half and dipped in white chocolate.

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I made ribbon roses using fudge, by rolling it into a sausage and flattening it out before rolling it in to a rose shape.

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And once they were stuck on, along with some giant chocolate buttons, I had he finished rice krispie cupcake.

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Delicious!

London Cupcake Tour Round 2

Long term readers might remember round one of the London cupcake tour, and 2014 brings you round two! As a treat to myself I decided to go down to Kent for my friends birthday, and she had planned a cupcake crawl in London.

We started off visiting Peggy Poschen’s cafe. It is an adorable wee place, with a few tables, as well as cakey bits and pieces for sale. The display of cakes is lovely, with some cakes and biscuits alongside the cupcakes.

Peggy Porschen cake display

I went for chocolate cupcake. The icing was delicious, and although the cake was good it wasn’t amazing, but on the whole it was a great wee cupcake – although at £3.50, I would hope so! My other travellers had banoffee and red velvet cupcakes, and gave similar feedback, agreeing that the cakes were made by the icing, and that they were the best they had all day too.

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We walked over to the market for a trip to Crumbs and Doilies (at Partridges Fine Foods Market off Kings Road). I have followed their blog for years so was delighted to make it at last! And it was a nice wee cupcake – clearly this is a stand you need to get to first thing, as many flavours had sold out. However, I went for a mini lemon cupcake – just £1. It was nice sponge, and good traditional buttercream – although with it being such a cold day, the buttercream was pretty hard! My friend got a selection of minis (in  a little box, so they had room to move, but being packed in to my rucksack, they did survive the trip home), salted caramel, red velvet, lemon and vanilla. I have to say what a wonderful market it is too – there was so much hot savoury food to choose from, as well as plenty of bakeries, cheeses and nibbles, and it was a nice place to wander round, so the market its self is well worth a trip.

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A tube ride later, we were in Hummingbird Bakery (in Soho).

Hummingbird Bakery

With a shortage of bar stools, we got ours to go, and they still have those dinky wee boxes, and the cupcakes did survive their trip home. I got a cookies and cream cupcake (just under £3), chocolate sponge with Oreos baked in (my friends one had more Oreos than mine though!), and Oreo buttercream. It was a good cake, although very sweet, so I would say just for sugar lovers. My friends also went for an Oreo cupcake and a pumpkin whoopee pie, which was much loved. This stop was followed with a visit to the sushi shop Wasabi – I wasn’t feeling that adventurous, but it was very good according to them. (my friends pictures – check out that huge chunk of Oreo!)

Oreo cupcake

I also found Paul. A. Young’s chocolate shop on the same street! The smell as you walk in the door will just knock you out! I ended up with a bar of dark chocolate, and milk chocolate frogs (both just under £5 each). They do fresh hot chocolate too, and truffles – although they had some of the basics, they also had some more adventurous ones like marmite, and passion fruit. Theres some good shops in this area, including an impressive fabric shop, with plenty of exotic and fancy materials to admire.

Paul A Young chocolate heaven

Another short walk took us to Choccywoccydoodah. With a 45 minute wait for the cafe, we decided it was not worth the wait, and just had a good look round the shop. My friend got a bag of white, milk and dark chocolate drops, which were delicious, for £4.99. Anything else, you are looking at least £10. Most of the cakes you will recognize if you watch the TV show, the whole place screams trendy. However, it is worth a visit just to look at it if you like the programme (or are feeling particularly flash and not so full of cupcakes) – and there are a lot of good shops to browse in the neighbourhood.

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With an other tube trip, and a late night opening, we headed to Beas of Bloomsbury (at Theobalds Road). Again it was a busy little shop, but we got a seat outside. The hot drinks were lovely. I had a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing. The cake its self was gorgeous, deeply chocolaty, but the icing was very average, although together it was fine (just under £3). My friends went for a townie, brownie in a tart shell. Although a bit hard, they enjoyed the challenge of eating it, and after stealing a bit, it was delicious.

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So this time round, Peggy Porschen was the tastiest, so at least being the most expensive venue paid off in good cake! The journey was easy too, everywhere being near a tube stop or a short walk away. The shops are located in some nice and varied neighbourhoods – crazy couture hats anyone?

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Although a large part of our group were particularly excited to find Irregular Choice near Choccywoccydoodah, I reckon these badger shoes might have been the best find!

Badger badger!

The prices this time round were more varied – probably a sign of the different neighbourhoods, as much of the passage of time. Certainly, cupcakes are still going strong in London, with the odd woopee pie and macaron thrown in for good measure. If only there were a few more seats going round!

 

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