Sunday, 24 February 2013

Beautiful Bouquet Birthday Cake!

So the other half loves to volunteer my cake baking skills - going to have to get him to help on the next occasion! Nearly had a grumpy moment making this cake as I thought it was going to topple over during construction.  After having a search on the Internet for birthday cakes I seen some lovely bouquet of flowers cakes and thought I'd have a go.

The first job was to find out how to make sugar roses on youtube - there are some fab videos on there! As I wanted the roses to dry firm, I needed to find a recipe for the right kind of icing. Thankfully my mum had a 'Floral Cake Decorating' by Norma Dunn, first published in 1977 - so you can imagine the intricate flowers and cakes within. I used the modelling paste recipe (icing sugar 250g, gelatine 2 scant tsp, glucose 1 rounded tsp, water 30ml).  First I had to dissolve the gelatine in the water and then add the glucose (I only had glycerin - but it seemed to work the same). Then you added this syrup to the icing sugar and mix.  This was a tricky bit - I used a hand whisk and also added extra water, as the mixture was not coming together.  Once I'd given my arms a work out and added the colouring, I wrapped it up and left it to stand for the 3-4 hours required.

The icing took a lot of kneading 
Finally suck together
The second job was to create all the flowers - 15 of pink and 15 of red. This job was spread over two evenings and each rose got better the more I did.  I decided to add a couple of bumble bees and ladybugs.  For the cake covering I used ready to roll icing and coloured it green and pink - as I wanted this to stay soft.

Awaiting construction
For the cake, I used the Madeira recipe from James Martin's 'desserts' book (another fabulous Works purchase if I remember correctly!) baking two 6 inch cakes and a a dome of cake baked in a mixing bowl with a 6inch diameter. Also managed to squeeze two cupcakes out the left overs to make sure the cake was yummy - it was :)

I need to find a better way to cut my cakes so that they are flat, as mine were a bit on the wonky side and thought the whole cake was about to subside during construction! In between the layers I put a smear of raspberry jam and pink buttercream. Then I covered the whole cake in the pink buttercream so I had something to stick the rolled out icing too.

The green rectangle was put on first and then a circle of pink to the top. To break up the solid green colour, I added strips and leaves in a slightly darker green.

Then the flower arranging could begin - I mixed up icing sugar, water, glycerine (to make it harden) and pink colouring - starting from the top I stuck on each individual rose in a random colour sequence.  The placing of the lady bugs and bumble bees was next.

To finish off the cake, I dusted it in pink sparkly glitter and added a bow!

Finally the presentation touches - wrapping the cake up in cellophane and decorating the box!

So after 18 hours of cake baking and decorating I was rather impressed with the final cake and nearly 'left it at home' on our evening out for Eleyna's birthday!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Salted Caramel Brownie

My Valentines Day celebrations went as far as a card and a cake - I'd rather have random pressies throughout the year than lots on Valentines Day, it all just feels a bit commercial! After this new recipe for Salted Caramel Brownie popped up on Smitten Kitchen I knew I had to make it.

My first attempt at the salted caramel didn't quite work out - I think I cooked the mixture for too long so I made a sort of brittle (think Dime Bar!) rather than a chewy caramel.  It was yummy - but I didn't think it would work being cooked again in the brownie, so I made a second batch, which was much more successful.

First Batch - Dime Bar imitation!
Second Batch - Gooey and pliable 

For the bake, I used a silicone heart shaped 'tin' and the recently discovered 'baking' mode on my electric oven.  I got a better rise and lovely top on the brownie than I usually do with bakes - so the oven mode makes a difference.  However, I think next time I need to put my silicone cases on a baking tray to stop the singed bottom of my cakes.

The Brownie was delicious - the salt in the recipe really makes the brownie not as sickly sweet as some recipes can be - definitely going on the 'bake again' list.

My Valentines Daffodils have finally started to open - cheering up the sitting room! So much better than roses :)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

GBBO Tea Cakes

So this post is rather late - I made these tea cakes last October, but they never quite materialised into a blog post! Better late than never :-)

After seeing the technical challenge on GBBO, I just had to try these teatime treats.  It took a while to find the mould - Amazon ones were rather expensive, so thankfully I stumbled across a fab website called 'Sew White' where I could buy the mould at a more reasonable price (a cake pop kit may have fallen into my basket at the same time . . . still to make these!).

I had wanted to get a thermometer so that I could temper the chocolate correctly - the sugar thermometer in Lakeland didn't measure low enough temperatures and my bright of idea of the pharmacy was thwarted by them being out of stock.  So I decided to go it alone . . .

After heating up to temperature, mixing in the final handful of unmelted chocolate and bringing back up to temperature, I lined the mould trying to gauge how thick they would turn out . . .

Next was the marshmallow - delicious stuff and I may have had to check it with numerous tasting spoonfuls . . .

Then added it to the cooled chocolate shells:
Before topping with the chocolate covered home made digestives - I mis judged my cutter and mine were a tad smaller than they should of been.  I thought that they should sit inside the chocolate shell, rather than on top - must remember for next time. Ah well, just meant that needed to used extra chocolate - such a hardship!

Ta dah!! I had three perfect shiny ones and three with a small amount of blooming - not bad for ones made without a thermometer! (Also might have had something to do with me using cheap supermarket own brand chocolate - 35p stuff - just in case it all went wrong)

And a shot of the yumminess hiding inside (alongside a rather scrummy oat and raison cookie a la Faye!)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Grown Up Sized Tank Top

After knitting a baby tank top back in September, PB (the other half!) mentioned that he would like one!  I dismissed it with the line 'I don't knit big projects', as I wasn't sure if I could face the length of time and number of stitches it would take - at least with baby clothes they can be started and finished in a weekend!

However, PB's birthday is 7 days after Christmas, so I always have to think of double the presents (I can't really talk as mine is 7 days after his!).  I trawled Ravelry and found a pattern called 'Peter Easy Tank Top' and took it as a sign that I should have a go.  Best of all it was free and I could knit it from a 400g ball of aran wool.

The first attempt was a bit of a disaster and despite carefully checking I got a twist in my knitting when I joined in the round.  There was no way to fix this apart from unravelling and starting again - I nearly couldn't face casting on of 204 stitches, but I did and then spent every spare moment knitting.

I took the opportunity to change my decision to add red stitches to the base of the Tank Top when I had to start again, as I wasn't keen on the look!

I added the red stripes to the centre of the tank top as when I compared the yardage I thought I would run out (I didn't in the end, but thought the red stripes looked rather striking!)

I didn't quite finish on time and had to wrap it up without the arm and neck edges finished - thankfully he didn't mind and I managed to finish it off only two weeks late!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

January Birthday Baking

January is the month of birthdays - so I spent most weekends baking.  There were some rather yummy results - but also one spectacular disaster!

So the first was Delia Smith's Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Roulade - this was a sort of cheating bake, as I have made it before - but it is so scrummy and a perfect roulade when it's not summer and there is a lack of tasty soft fruit in the supermarket!  Because there are chopped hazelnuts in the meringue and dark chocolate in the cream it is not an overly sweet dessert.

The next cake was the Chocolate Fudge Cake in Sarah Randell's book 'Weekend Baking', which I baked purely because of the home made honeycomb topping.  Having never made honeycomb before I followed the recipe to the letter (75g caster sugar, 2 tbsp golden syrup, 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda) - the honeycomb puffed up and set beautifully.  Even the initial tasting was okay, yet there was a very strong aftertaste of the bicarbonate of soda . . . I may have eaten quite a bit of it to make sure - not a good idea!  So I decided to find some other recipes and compare.  When I found Nigella's Hokey Pokey recipe (100g caster sugar, 4 tbsp golden syrup, 1.5 tsp of bicarbonate of soda) I decided that there must be a typing error in Randell's book (a pretty significant one I thought!).   Nigella's recipe tasted much better and has replaced the one given in the book :-)
First Attempt of Honeycomb
Nigella's Hokey Pokey

The final cake was made with an icing made with creme fraiche and melted chocolate - rather fudgey and didn't taste 'healthy' or too sweet as other chocolate icing can.  I jazzed up the cake with the addition of gold glitter and gold balls - it's surprising the way the addition of glitter makes a cake look rather special.  There was also LOADS of honeycomb left over - perfect with a mug of hot chocolate.

The following bakes were Sugar Crunch biscuits, so that I could try out my new Jamie's Kitchen Woodland Creature Cutters - rather tasty, full of sugar and again the recipe made a ridiculous number (I may have slightly signed the final batch!).

And then a tray of Nigella's Sticky Gingerbread - which I spruced up with a simple lemon icing she suggests.  The main reason I chose this cake to bake was so that I could sprinkle my teeny tiny ginerbreadmen sprinkles on top . . . not sure that is a legitimate reason to bake a cake, but hey it was good enough me!