Friday, September 30, 2011

Autumn starts with Apple & Cinnamon

I thought I'd lead with the photo this time.  This was taken just a few moments after the muffins came out of the oven, and the Cinnamon butter had been added.  I'd pushed a bit inside each muffin, and left a generous blob on the top to start melting... making you want one yet?  Ha ha.  We posted on our Facebook page, to invite someone (anyone) for afternoon tea, but no-one came.  So these beauties were shared with some happy-to-help-out neighbours. 
I had a book on the shelf that I'd barely opened, and felt it was about time.  Called simply Muffin Magic, it has a selection of delicious and even healthy-sounding recipes.  I chose these because it said they were 'faff-free' (proved to be true, as they were easy to do) and as a way to help Mini-1 eat apples, as she has 3 wobbly teeth at the front (weeeeell, she is 6 and a half) and is complaining of sore gums.  So these contain 2 apples, finely chopped.  Plus the usual sort of ingredients and cinnamon.  And wow, did the house smell good or what?!!
Shame it happened to be one of the warmest and sunniest days of the year, ha ha.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blue is for boys

I was asked to do a blue cake for a boy's upcoming 5th birthday, and had been unhappy with previous shades of blue buttercream icing I'd managed to achieve.  After some discussion with other bakers, we determined it was probably the case that my constituent butter was too yellow, thus turning the blue somewhat green-ish.  I was also using liquid colour, rather than paste, and wondered if this too may have had an effect. So I bought lighter coloured butter and Navy Sugarflair colour paste and thought I'd test it out on a sponge cake, in case the birthday boy wanted an actual blue cake as well as blue icing. 
I was also trying out a new sponge recipe that had been heartily recommended by the other bakers, and needed to know how long it took in my oven etc.  I did it in two halves, rather than the tall cake tin and was amazed to discover that my two 8" round cake tins aren't the same size, eek.  Looks like a trip to Lakeland is on the cards... (mind you, that'll explain why my birthday cake was wonky, ha ha)
Anyway, suffice it to say that it worked well and I filled the two cakes with some new blueberry fruit spread/jam and some icing then slightly iced the top with the remaining icing.  My plan had been to store the cake and taste it every day to see how well it lasted and how long too.  However, due to the incredible height of it, it barely fit into my container!  And ended up tasting good but of too much cake and not enough filling.  
My friend Tanya wanted to try some, so popped by the next day and gave this review on Facebook  'I have died and gone to heaven!!!! Oh no I haven't I have just eaten a piece of the scrumptious blue sponge cake, and the surprise was the blackcurrant jam in middle...... Total heaven thank u for letting us sample it, well recommended 20/10 xxx' 
The finished cake doesn't look like much I know - please keep following us though, I promise we'll try harder next time.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marbled toffee brownies

We had friends visiting this week, on Monday and Tuesday mornings, and I felt like trying something a little bit different for them.  I had recently come across a little booklet that had been an insert in an old, old copy of BBC Good Food magazine (I know this because it said so on the booklet, tee hee) and it was all about chocolate and sponsored by my favourite brand, Lindt.  After reading through and discovering that we were short of some ingredients for many of the recipes, or they wouldn't suit for one reason or another, I chose the aforementioned brownies.  After a brief chat with Mr Becca about the house-bound availability of fresh double cream, we determined that I'd need to run out and buy some (it was the girls' dinnertime at this point, and hair-washing bath was soon to follow (a high point of the week for dearest Daddy, not) so kind of late).  Luckily, our nearest supermarket had some and I was home quite quickly.
The recipe required that you melt 250g of dairy milk toffee sweets with the cream to make the sauce, and I only had a bag of 200g so used that.  In retrospect, I think even 300g would be better, as I can't notice the internal layer of toffee when eating the brownies.  You were to layer most of the brownie mix with the toffee mix then the remainder of the brownie mix and bake for 40-45 minutes.  The recipe called for 100g of pecan nuts roughly chopped, but I only had nibbed hazelnuts and again, in retrospect, feel that this was too much.  After it had cooled, you were to warm up the sauce and drizzle it over the top, along with some melted chocolate too. 
Luckily, both mums and all the kids loved it, and didn't feel the same way as I about the lack of toffee and abundance of nuts.  Score.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mr Becca comes home

Mr Becca is fast developing his own following on our Facebook page, and I've set him up with his own album.  As he loves to spend a Friday evening listening to the banging tunes courtesy of Judge Jules or Annie Mac on Radio 1, or downloaded podcasts on his iPod (often by internationally-renowned DJ Pier, yep that's right - this lovely man is Mr Becca's brother), I've titled the album Last Friday night.  He only cooks savoury food, and has a passion for Asian foods from scratch, especially since our months in India back in 2004.  He can quite easily spend 20 minutes with his mortar and pestle, crushing the required spices into the right consistency to make the sauce or whatever.  He has quite a collection of cookbooks and varies between Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and many Italian and mediterranean dishes.  His family background is Italian, and we have travelled in our youth, so he's always looking to recreate some of the flavour that we don't find locally. 
His current faves are Jamie Oliver and Thomasina Miers and on his recent mid-week trip to London to see his family he made sure to visit their restaurants.  And also to check out a shop he found recommended in the back of his latest favourite cookbook, Mexican Food made simple, by Thomasina Miers, Casa Mexico.  Where he bought some smoky-smelling Chipotle chillies, some fat and odd-looking Poblano chillies and similar oddities for himself and for me, he chose some fabulous pieces of useful kitchen stuff - a teatowel and potholder.  The fact that he prefers to use a potholder, and I prefer an oven mitt, didn't escape him ;)
Then he bought a fabulous, fun gift, ostensibly for Mini-1 but actually for me (she graciously agreed to let me use it on her behalf). 
I know, I'm a sucker but I love the London Underground iconic tube map.  Last time he was down there visiting, he brought me back a tube map tea towel.  And years ago when we lived in London I had a mobile phone fascia for my old Nokia in the same design and I loved it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy 6th birthday Dea

My friend Ros's youngest turns 6 today, and she wanted a lovely treat for her only daughter.  We discussed cupcakes, and came to the conclusion that most kids really only eat the icing, so why pay for/provide cake?  Thus the idea of mini cupcakes was born!  They provide just a smidgen of cake onto which to sit your icing and decoration, hence keeping everyone happy ;)
As Ros has a large family, we decided upon 3 traybakes (Mars Bar Slice, Malteser Slice and Rocky Road) for the adults and older kids to nibble on and 3 dozen mini cupcakes for the party girl and attendees.  The chosen colours were pink and purple and we were to put the number 6 on a dozen, individual initials on another dozen and girly sparkle on the final dozen.  Not a problem I assured her.
Only it kind of was - how was I to co-ordinate my time to get everything as fresh as possible for her Friday morning collection?  I did the traybakes first, as I've done 'scientific testing' on them and know that they remain fresh and great-tasting for up to 6 days when stored in an airtight tin lined with baking paper.  The Mars Bar Slice was first off the starting blocks, and the milk chocolate top layer was dusted with pink glitter and light pink sugar sand.  Next up was Rocky Road's turn, using pink and white mini marshmallows within and a dusting of the two pinks to decorate the dark chocolate top layer.  Finally the Malteser Slice, and its white chocolate top layer was dusted to match.
Just in case you were wondering, this is how I  make a bain marie with which to melt any chocolate I may need to use.  I have tried it both directly in a saucepan and in the microwave and was mild ly inconvenienced on both occasions to learn that you can actually burn chocolate.  Did you know that? 
 The gas is actually on (very low), though it doesn't seem so from the angle of this photo.

Then on to the cupcakes.  I had done the sugarpaste cut-outs prior to last night, so was able to set them out ready and waiting, along with the other items I had thought to use as decorations.  As I'd already done the oddly-enjoyable task of colour separating mini Smarties for Lacey's cake, I used some pink and purple ones on these little cupcakes.  And my beloved glitter - I'm so glad I discovered edible glitter - it's so much fun!  Here they all are laid out to set on the kitchen table...
And here they are in their presentation/delivery box.
And, oh!! Would you look at that - some of the required initials spell out my name!!  (my surname starts with an M too).  How fun is that?
I'm happy to report that Ros was delighted when she came this morning to collect her order.  Happy birthday Dea, hope the party is a huge success!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy 2nd birthday Lacey

I got a text from a school mum friend, Jen, to say that her middle child was turning two this Friday and could I make her a cake please.  I already had a large order booked in for collection on Friday, so we agreed to have it ready for Thursday lunchtime instead.  As it was a cake, it would last well and remain tasty for a few days (more than I can say for cupcakes generally. As they are smaller, they tend to lose their softness/moistness quicker and thus need to be eaten within 48 hours of baking, and preferably 24.  Especially true of mini ones I find) and so be ideal for the family party planned for Friday afternoon.  Jen had seen the 6th birthday cake I'd made for mini-1 earlier this year and wanted something as colourful as that for her daughter Lacey.  I looked up the possibility of making a shaped number 2, but it would require a technique I hadn't yet practiced enough/mastered so we deferred to a round cake that I'd decorate to my preference - oooh, what to do?
As it was for a little girl, I figured pink had to play a part.  And because I feel it's a happy colour, the vanilla sponge was dyed orange and flavoured with a hint of orange too.  I sliced it and filled it with a touch of pink icing and strawberry jam, then coated the whole cake in pink icing.  After separating out a few boxes of mini Smarties, I made a colourful number 2 on the top, added in gold-leafed white letters and butterflies and covered the whole confection in pink glitter.  And the verdict?  Jen and Garry loved it!  Let's hope they loved the taste too...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cupcakes galore - mini & Cookies & Creme

A local friend, who has been the lucky recipient of many spare cupcakes and cake slices in the past, trusted us enough to bake a couple dozen mini cupcakes for her grandson's 1st birthday.  Her only request was plain sponge and baby blue icing. 
As I have the cute little letter and number cutters, I felt it only right to use them.  And here we have the finished product, with my beloved glitter on the unadorned cakes - silver this time.  She told me the birthday boy grabbed a cupcake as soon as he saw them, and that the rest of them went down quickly too.  Great news, just what we love to hear - happy customers.

Then we had another order for collection tomorrow - two gift-boxes of half dozen Cookies & Creme cupcakes.  The lady chose them because she'd seen the photo of the ones we'd done last week, now that's a first.  She decided to get a box for her hubby's birthday and a box for her staff - what a lovely wife and boss, awww...  Hope they all love them, thanks for thinking of us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gift box of baked treats

Clare, the bride who had requested the individually-boxed cupcake favours a few weeks ago (and been so pleased with them - all the children at the wedding had loved them), wanted to give a different sort of thankyou gift to her wedding photographer.  Her thought was to do some Brownies, Malteser Slice and cupcakes - my thought was to box them up and make a little treat out of them.  After some discussion about decoration, I got down to business.
In order to get the goodies as fresh as possible, I baked the Brownies first and did the Malteser Slice while the Brownies were baking.  Kind of, after the washing up was done and the surfaces cleaned and sanitised, but you get my drift.  Making a paste of the syrup, chocolate, biscuit and Maltesers was a tough job, but someone had to do it...
Once the brownies had cooled a bit, they were cut up and boxed
Then it was time to deal with the rest of the Malteser Slice.  The colours chosen for the decoration of the cupcakes was red, white and black so I sprinkled the white chocolate top layer with red and graphite edible glitter and left it to set.
Then it was on to the cupcakes.  I felt that these had to be done last, as they taste best when eaten within about 48 hours of baking (even better if within 24).  It's difficult to make only 4, so here's what we started out with...
I had used whitened vanilla buttercream icing and put a little red colouring around the inside edges of the piping bag to get the effect.  It was less red in my mind, but Clare loved these.  The black glitter was darker in my imagination too, but it hasn't come up so dark in these photos.  Here's another, what do you think?
And my friend Jill, over at aspire2be photography, took this arty shot for me
And here we see the final treat box, all cut and wrapped in fire-engine red tissue paper.  Hope the recipient loved it as much as the client did.

Monday, September 12, 2011

National Cupcake Week, UK

Well will you look at that?  We have a National Cupcake Week.  A bit of nonsense, really, but fun nonetheless.  Thus I made Cookies & Creme cupcakes today, while the girls were off being educated. 
I got to bash out my frustrations on poor, defenceless Oreo cookies then added more than the recipe suggested to the batter - the last time they simply didn't have enough cookie in them we thought.
Looks like a lot, right?
(a gratuitous shot of the lovely 'messy' biscuits, mmmm)
I also felt that I wanted more cookie, so crushed up more cookie to add into the vanilla buttercream icing.  Here's a wee before and after shot...

I used a wide plain nozzle to pipe on the icing, trying to emulate Georgetown Cupcake 's signature swirl.  But I didn't allow for some of the cookie crumbs to be larger than the nozzle aperture.  So some of the swirls simply weren't as tidy as I would have liked.

Still they tasted amazing, so that's the main thing - right?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Hummingbird Bakery frosted brownies

We had a surfeit of eggs, so after giving The Team sunny-side-up eggs for dinner, I was looking through the book for recipes requiring many eggs and recalled that in most cases, brownies need eggs.  The Traditional variety only needed 3, so I turned the page and learnt that the Frosted variety required 5 - score!
It was rather easy to make up the mix, and we added white chocolate chunks rather than dark (Mr Becca likes his desserts sweet, and finds dark chocolate too bitter) and crushed hazelnuts because we didn't have walnuts.  A mere 30-odd minutes later and we had a sizzling and wobbly tray of brownies. 
As yet, they are unfrosted but Mr Becca has tried some and declared them not sweet enough (what?!) so I shall frost them soon.
Mini-Becca 2 helped make frosting by helping weigh the icing sugar and cocoa and by sifting it.  Then by 'washing up' while I used our beloved Kenwood Mixer to do the business to the ingredients.  And the result - OMG, it is even more delicious than before!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Happy birthday traybake

I received an email a week or so ago, enquiring about a Malteser Traybake for a lady's 18 year old son, and could I spell out 'Happy 18th Jack' on it in Maltesers please.  An unusual request, if only because Maltesers don't come in a mini size.  After a few emails back and forth to decide precisely how we could accommodate one another, we ended up with this beauty.
Red glitter and blue sparkly piping.  It works, doesn't it? 
Then she rightly decided that one tray simply wasn't enough, and upped the order to one and a half.  And one of our lovely followers on Facebook agreed to buy the other half.  So everyone was happy. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Becca Bakes to the rescue

We were lucky enough to receive an email request recently for 14th birthday cupcakes.  The mum in question can bake (as can the daughter), but the daughter now doesn't go to bed until later on, so there's no spare time in which to do so in secret.  Becca Bakes to the rescue!!
The brief was half vanilla, half choc and bright colours and sparkle.  Not a problem I confidently replied.  Hah, that would've been true normally but for some reason the chocolate cupcakes didn't work out so well this time.
Hopefully, they look okay here - I tried to redeem them, but it's just for our delectation (and a couple for Sam so she could try what she'd initially wanted - she said they tasted great, as did her youngest daughter).  Luckily the vanilla ones worked a treat, and here are a few of my favourite plus a shot of the full batch.  Sam was delighted when she came to collect them.  Lucy will see them after school - happy birthday, hope you love them!
Vanilla icing coloured pale yellow, with neon orange glitter
A close-up of the above...
White vanilla icing, purple glitter and gold tinted 14
Chocolate icing, gold glitter and gold sparkly tinted butterfly - lovely, right?
The whole selection...