Friday, August 26, 2011

Customer service matters. As does great cake...

As the school's here went back half-way through last week, all the toddler groups and extra-curricular activities resumed this week.  So we went back to Mini-1's sports classes and Mini-2's playgroups.  Friday morning's is my favourite, because I've met so many lovely mums there and enjoy catching up with them most weeks.  However, at about age 4 Mini-1 kind of outgrew it, as the 4yr olds tend to get morning nursery places in that area and both Mini-1 and Mini-2 had/have afternoon places.  Thus there is a predominance of 1, 2 and young 3 year olds so less kids for Mini-2 to play with.  As such, we may not go there so much from now on :(
But on to the point of this post - two mums spoke with me about cake (how exciting) at Friday's group, and I was able to help them both.  One wanted an Octonauts cake that I felt was a bit beyond my current capabilities, and the other wanted a traybake for guests coming over on Sunday.  I was able to help the first lady by suggesting other local bakers, more proficient at sugarcraft than I, and thrill the other lady with a golden sparkly Sweet & Salty Crunch Slice at short notice - so everyone was happy!
It doesn't look like much in the tray, but it sure does taste good!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hummingbird Lemon Drizzle Loaf

We had a classmate of Mini-Becca 1's due after school to play, Demi, and I had finished my housework early (woop, woop) so I had a flick through the book to see what, if anything, I could whip up in the time I had available.  Lemon Drizzle Loaf cake fit the bill, so to bake.
Similar to the cupcake recipe from another cookbook I'm lucky enough to own, you had to make a dry and wet mix then add them into the mixer one third at a time.  It's a bit of a pfaff, but seems to do the trick, so I just follow instructions and do as I'm told, ha ha.  Then it was into the oven for up to 1hr 15minutes, which was all the time I had left. 
Just before the timer was due to go off (at 1hr 10mins, because my oven usually needs a bit less than any stated time) I started on the drizzle sauce.  This time, it worked a treat, and they gave the very sensible idea of placing the cake on the wire cooling rack over your sink, so the drizzle mix would run straight off the cake into the sink - inspired!  Then it was time to go get the girls from school and nursery, so I ran off and left the cake in the sink. 
As soon as we returned home, the girls asked 'What have you made, Mummy?  Something smells delicious' then went looking for it.  How funny, they never noticed it because it wasn't on the stove...  Suffice it to say that the cake got the thumbs up from the Team (although I feel it could do with a bit longer in the oven next time), and Demi and her mum - yay!!  They even took some home for later, and all that's left of the cake is this...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing

I've had a request for a mixed batch of cupcakes for a 14th birthday, so thought I'd better practice my chocolate ones.  Well, you know, I may have forgotten how to do them.  Or what they taste like.  Or how big they should be.  Or perhaps we just needed some chocolate in our lives...
Suffice it to say, they were as good as last time, and as fun to do.  This time I even did the chocolate buttercream icing for them, which - despite having cocoa rather than chocolate within it - tasted really chocolatey.  And the smell, mmmmmmm.

I had thought to take a couple to a friend who'd recently had twin baby boys, hence the preponderance of blue sugarpaste decorations.  As it turned out, it had been her birthday the day before, so it was a triple celebration!
Mr Becca had tried one, and deemed them 'good, but they're just cupcakes'.  Fair enough, then why was the cake tin empty when I went to get more a couple of days later??  Hmmm... ha ha

Monday, August 22, 2011

New product test - Angel Delight Ice Cream

We were thrilled recently to have been approached by Angel Delight to test out and blog about their latest product, Ice Cream.  Their PR lady, Tara, said she liked what she'd seen of us and wondered if we'd be interested in trying out some recipes with it.  Sheesh, asking a couple of young kids and their baking-mad Mum to eat ice-cream?  Doh, of course!!
Our 'bloggers box' arrived this morning, before school, and we opened it immediately.  What a great surprise for early Monday morning.
There were two packets of the product, so new it's not even in the shops yet, some toffee sauce, strawberry squeezy jam, Mr Kipling Viennese Whirl biscuits, giant chocolate buttons, Jelly Babies, 100's & 1000's, a whisk with which to mix and a bowl in which to freeze it.  Oh, and lots of fat bubble-wrap to pop!  Brilliant.
So we got started, with a blatant bit of product placement
You'll be relieved to know that no orange bowls were harmed (or used) in the making of this ice-cream.  We emptied some of the powder into a bowl, then mini-Becca #2 poured in the milk.  All by herself, without spilling any (can you tell?  she was quite proud).
We did start out with the kindly supplied hand-whisk (it was pink, after all) but soon switched to our trusty electric one.  Now, you're probably thinking - gosh, what amazing hair she has.  And while I totally agree with you, and your secret thought that it should be tied up while preparing food, it usually is.  Especially if there's a chance that someone outside Team Becca may eat the food.  And there simply wasn't a chance of us sharing this bounty, tee hee.
Then it was a case of more blatant advertising, and the addition of the crushed biscuits and lashings of squeezy jam to the mix.
And here we see the finished mix, all ready to be frozen.
Here's a (gratuitous hair) shot of my lovely assistant placing our precious cargo in the freezer.  For a minimum of 4 hours, so for us that meant after school. 
Thus, onto the washing up...
After-school snack time! 
Our Strawberry Shortcake ice-cream was a hit with the Quality Assessors we employ.  Even Mr Becca (otherwise known as Daddy) got a taste, and proclaimed it good. 
Personally I only eat premium ice-creams, like Ben & Jerry's or Green & Black's or Haagen-Dazs , as the high unit cost prohibits regular consumption (thus prohibiting my waistline expanding at an exponential rate). However, this stuff was loads of fun to make, and it's so easy to add your own twist to it, that I fear my waistline may be in for some serious damage!

These last two photos are the next mini-batch ready for the freezer.  Toffee sauce and crushed chocolate buttons with Coco Pops on top.  We're calling it Toffee Crisp,  but may also call it breakfast...

Nah, just kidding

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wedding favours

A friend, and regular customer, suggested me to a friend of hers who was getting married yesterday.  And even more thrilling, the bride said yes to Becca Bakes!  So we made her some favours to put at the table for the children at the wedding, blue & stars for boys and pink & butterflies and flowers for girls.  We sourced matching individual cupcake boxes, and matching glitter (I do so love a bit of sparkle on my cakes) and the bride was thrilled when she came to collect them.

I made her a treat of a spare one, a Vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream icing coloured blue with blue glitter and she loved it.  So pleased, as she'd ordered without ever tasting anything we'd baked.  We also had some Lemon Drizzle Cake left from the previous morning (I hadn't told you about this, as it didn't go quite according to plan.  The cake wasn't lemony enough by far, and the drizzle was more like lacquer, needing a chisel rather than a knife to cut into it!), so we shared a slice on her arrival, and she loved that too - even the hard/chewy drizzle coating. 
Here she is, looking like a real princess with her Daddy...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hummingbird Peanut Butter Cookies

We had some time to spare today, so took a group decision to bake something for our friends visiting tomorrow.  Mini 1 wanted to do nothing, because she believes we share too much and there's never enough for her to have thirds and fourths.  Mini 2 suggested 'muffins, because we haven't done them in ages' but I pointed out that we hadn't done biscuits in ages either, and so took an Executive Decision.  Biscuits it was.
Off to find the recipe that one of our Facebook fans mentioned, from the first Hummingbird book.  It seemed quick and easy, which is always a bonus with young children (for those of you without some of your own, they have a short attention span).  We weighed out and mixed up the ingredients and put in a bit extra of chocolate chips (our pack had 100g and the recipe only required 75g, but I felt that the kids really didn't need to eat a full 25g of chocolate, hence the addition to the mix).  The recipe stated it would make 24, but I didn't want the cookies to be too large.  As it turned out, they were a good size and we got 60!!!
So enough for all the children, plus plenty extra for the Mum's to enjoy with a mug of coffee...
or a cup of tea, ha ha

Friday, August 12, 2011

Joint birthday cake

One of our local Facebook fans got in touch via email and said she'd been admiring our work (aw, shucks) and needed a joint birthday cake for her soon-to-be 1 year old daughter and 3 year old son.  We arranged for her to pop around and discuss some options.  As they were of opposite sexes, I wanted to use both blue and pink in the cake and Mary agreed.  However, wee Lucy wouldn't know the difference, so she got bright pink icing sandwiched between the two layers (along with raspberry jam) and the big boy got the lion's share of colour with his fully blue iced cake.  However, I felt the blue wasn't quite blue enough for my liking (a personal bugbear it seems, as everyone else thinks it's great) and so have asked for advice from others on this small dilemna.  And hope to have bluer blue icing soon...
I got a chance to use my new letter and number cutters and made a simple decoration for the top, with the beloved glitter and some extra pink glitter on a heart in the middle, coz Lucy seemed underrepresented.  And the result?  They all loved it (visually as well as the taste)...

Monday, August 08, 2011

Becca's Daddy's favourite Hazelnut Cake

My parent's nipped over to Poland for a family wedding (as you do, obviously) and for their return we decided to try out my Dad's favourite cake - according to my mum.  I'd bought the ingredients back when she'd emailed the recipe, so went to get everything out and ready.  Only to discover that I must have read things wrong, as I had chopped, not ground, hazelnuts.  Phew, lucky we have a mortar & pestle.  And that I don't have a problem with my wrists...
Then it was a case of separating the eggs (they look pretty luscious, don't they?)
And beating up the egg whites with sugar.  I was quite scared about this part of the recipe, as the only time I'd ever tried to make meringues in the past, it had been an abysmal failure.  But luckily, this time it seemed to work really well.
To finish, it was a case of folding the egg white into the dry mixture then adding the wet and beating again.  An hour or so later, plus a bit of choclate icing because the middle had sunk et voila!
Although it doesn't look terribly tidy, he said it tasted great, just like Mum makes.  :)  And it lasted well too, a good few days.  Nice one Team.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Nicki's 14th birthday

A friend's daughter turns 14 tomorrow, and rather than choose a cake, Annie chose individual cupcakes for Nicki's sleepover party.  The brief was simply pink and purple, and I recently bought number and letter cutters (though the letter cutters didn't arrive in time) and was keen to try them out.  Because I knew there'd be cupcakes left over from the batch, I added (perhaps not quite enough) mini-Smarties to them because the Team Becca members are kind of over vanilla cupcakes.  Don't get me wrong, they love them and love to see the new and different colour and sparkle topper combinations, but as for eating them... well, they probably want to try new flavours right about now.  Nonetheless, when I delivered these, Annie and Nicki's little sister loved the cupcakes - here's hoping the birthday girl does too!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes

We were supposed to play at Felix's house this morning, but his mum got in touch to say she was feeling quite under the weather and could we please take a raincheck.  Of course, we said, then wondered what to do instead.  It was raining outside, and we'd eaten all of the brownies we'd made on Tuesday so thought, what the heck, let's bake!  Immediately the girls said, 'let's choose an apron' (yes, we have 4 child-sized and 2 adult-sized from which to choose) and I reminded them that handwashing was a necessity too.  Jobs done, it was on to the chair to watch the Kenwood Premier Chef at work.  Amidst much shoving and wriggling, we got the 2 mixes done and combined and added in all the other ingredients.  Unfortunately though, the girls got bored with all the fiddly bits necessary and wandered off (after removing their aprons and washing their hands again).  Not surprisingly, they returned as I had just finished doling out the mix into the cupcakes cases.  I have been led to believe that a sous-chef has an area of expertise, whereas a commis chef is more of a general helper.  My two are becoming experts at bowl and utensil licking...
They both get a look-in to start with

 The elder moves aside to let the younger swirl her spatula for more
Then steps up again to swirl her spoon about to catch the last bits

Here's what came out of the oven after 18 minutes (I did them in cupcake rather than muffin cases, because they were just for us so didn't need to be big). 

Then they were iced once cool.  This was the first time I'd tried the Hummingbird's cream cheese icing recipe, and it didn't work for me.  There didn't seem to be enough butter into which all the icing sugar could dissolve.  So instead of waiting until it worked, I added in the cream cheese and kept my fingers crossed.  That did go into the correct texture after a moment or two - phew!  My sous-chefs had fully retired by this stage, but came back in the kitchen at the end, to marvel over the finished product, and when more bowl-licking was required, ha ha

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Great photo from aspire2be

Thanks to my friend Jill at aspire2be...creative photography, I have a wonderful and far superior photo of yesterday's Hummingbird Traditional Brownies.  Which is lucky, really, as there are no more left!  Yep, that's right.  The taste testers thought they were so tasty, that every last bite got tasted.  And the result - lovely.  So chuffed, thanks guys.
Now, the only problem is that these were meant to be for our playdate with Liz on Friday.  So I guess we'll just have to make more, this time with the addition of mini Smarties (great idea from our photographer, Jill).  Watch this space, and that biscuit tin!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hummingbird Bakery traditional brownies

Finally we had a chance to bake something new and delicious just for us - I chose the Hummingbird Bakery's Traditional Brownies from their first book.  Truthfully I was going to do Nigella Lawson's Everyday Brownies, because that's the one that has worked consistently before but then my friend mentioned on Facebook that she couldn't stop making these ones, so here we are.  I do want to try out most recipes in the book, so what better way to dip in than by recommendation. 
I started just after serving the girls their dinner, and they were keen to eat quickly so they could help stir the ingredients (after much bubbles and handwashing, of course).  My oven seems to need a little less time than is usually suggested, so after 32 minutes I took them out.  The tray didn't wobble so I was worried I'd overdone them, and left them to cool in the tray.  As the girls were getting their bedtime stories, the house smelled chocolicious - yum!
At first, I didn't even decorate them with icing sugar, so sure was I that they were overdone.  I cut straight into the middle to test them - and boy, were they good!  Really squidgy, just about perfect.  Needless to say, I dusted them with icing sugar and cut them into bite-size pieces.  I've been quite restrained and managed to eat just one, so far...

Happy birthday Tanya

Well, here's the reason I tried out the carrot cake in a round tin a week or so ago - it's my friend Tanya's birthday tomorrow and she requested a carrot cake as her treat.  Her daughter requested the cake be fully iced, so their wishes were my command.  And, just because I can, I coloured the orange cream cheese icing in a pale orange colour and topped it with stars and red and gold glitter. 
I mean really, if you can have edible glitter on a cake - why wouldn't you?
From an academic point of view, the taste test reviews on the practice cake were very positive so I didn't bake this one any longer than the previous.  And I nearly doubled the amount of icing made, which gave plenty to cover the cake with a layer inside too.  I sent it away with Tanya then remembered that because it has cream cheese icing, it needs to be refridgerated.  Luckily, I have her number so was able to pass on this important info, phew!