A Birthday Cake

Here is a behind the scenes of a birthday cake I made recently, including my most favourite salted caramel icing. The request was for something chocolatey, and I do enjoy trying a bit of chocolate work when I can.

The salted caramel icing is a bit on the soft side, so to use it as a filling, I built up a bit of a dam around the outside of the cake using the chocolate buttercream that was going on the outside of the cake.

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Then it was a case of putting the top cake on, and icing that as well.

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I had decided on an ivory colour, and covered the cake on top of a bigger board. This helps to support any excess sugarpaste, and stops the weight from pulling on it.

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I had already made my chocolate loops for a bow, including enough to make a spare just in case! It is always wise to have spares when doing fragile work, but then there is the question of what to do with the spares afterwards. at least in this case I can just slowly eat my way through them.

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Then it was a case of putting the chocolate ribbons on the cake – at which point I regretted using ivory – and fixing the tag and bow in place. Thankfully I avoided any messy disasters, and it all came together to make something which I think was a little bit different.

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A Cake with Ruffles

I had been wanting to make a ruffle cake for a while, and then the February demonstration at the sugracraft guild was ruffles. there is no time like the present to do something after a demonstration, before all the information floats out your head.

I started with a 6 inch chocolate cake, with salted caramel icing, sugarpasted in pink. For the cake getting its ruffles, I used an 8 inch dummy cake.

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The ruffles are a 50/50 mix of sugarpaste and flowerpaste. You should try to do it in one piece round the cake – I managed the 8 inch ok, any bigger might be terrifying, a two person job! I had 4 shades of pink, 3 rows of each, and used about 200g of paste total, with some left over. Roll out a long thin strip of icing, and then ruffle it with, in my case, the end of a paint brush (there are proper tools available too). I used water to stick mine on.

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I did three layers of each colour.

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It took a few hours, but I can see it becoming quicker with practice! i topped it off witht he 6 inch cake, and a ribbon and bow made of icing.

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The finishing touch for this one was a little birdie!

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Christmas Pudding Cookies

Although the holidays are passing quickly, there is still plenty of time to make a batch of christmas pudding cookies. I saw this idea on Pintrest and had to have a go as well. Simply start off by making a batch of your favourite chocolate chip cookies. I think a sugar cookie style recipe might work a bit better as they will stay thicker during baking, but you cant really go wrong. Dark chocolate chips will look more like the raisins, and usign a chocolate cookie makes it look more puddingy as well.

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The roundest ones did make the prettiest puddings, but the odd shapes end up with more chocolate, which isnt bad either. Melt your white chocolate – 100g will do about 20 cookies. put the white chocolate almost half way down, with a wavy line – so it looks like icing running down the pudding.

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You will want some small holly cutters for the next bit (now found in many sales!) or else a lot of patience to cut out holly leaves your self. I used green sugarpaste to make the leaves, and some glace icing to stick them on, but you could just use some left over chocolate.

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Red sugarpaste was rolled in to tiny balls to make a berry for each cookie. You could use a dot of red glace icing or writing icing if you have it though.

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And hey presto, christmas pudding cookies perfect to enjoy at home or as a gift if you still have visits to make over new years.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

Chocolate Covered Oreos

These are amazing to eat, and somewhat challenging to make. I haven’t quite got the right knack yet for getting them out of the mould flawlessly, but it works sometimes! I got the moulds from Spinning Leaf in America, at the time they weren’t stocked in the UK, although I haven’t checked recently. But they are a good company – excellent customer service, and considering where they came from, postage was pretty fast.

These were supposed to become chocolate medals for an athletics group. So after the white chocolate was melted I added some yellow to see what happened. Chocolate will seize if you add the wrong colour to it, so you want the proper dye. I have powdered colours, but they are not as effective as the oil based ones, although they do the job. I really should have added more colour, but I decided I just wanted to get on with it.

From experimenting with my birthday cake, I thought id get a better result (no unmixed bits of powder) if I mixed the powder with some Trex first. The Trex melts in the warm chocolate so helps the colour to mix properly. Doing this just showed that I should really get gloves to wear for colour mixing, it can stain easily.

Filling the moulds is actually a pretty simple process – just fill with a spoonful of chocolate, then put in the cookie, and add a little chocolate to top it up. Some of them I left plain, planning to use gold lustre dust to brighten them up (and of course, I forgot to get pictures of these ones). I like the look you get if you put sprinkles over the bottom of the mould first. And for the others, I put chocolate drops in the shape of a number ‘1’, or scattered the drops randomly.

Unfortunately they all got eaten by the hungry athletes. So I had to make another batch – this time I went for flowers, and the dragonfly mould that I had not actually used before. Plenty for me (and one or two for Lewis I suppose).

 

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