Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween, Becca Bakes style

Our schools have a Healthy Eating Policy.  Well, all of Scotland does really, and quite rightly so.  I believe that our fair country may be the fattest in Europe, something about which I'm not proud.  I'm an honourary Scot, having lived here for over 15 years now, and am still not a fan of deep-fried Mars Bars (seriously, someone in Glasgow 'invented' them!).
As such, school children aren't allowed to bring in cakes for their class on their birthdays (neither are nursery children) but I'm very lucky to have been given permission by our Headmaster in the past to bake (and take in with Mini-1) mini cupcakes for various class parties.  And so I was allowed again, for the class Halloween party.
Mini-1 chose orange icing with chocolate sprinkles because it was the most Halloween-y thing we possessed.  Oh no, actually we used graphite grey glitter (sold it by being told it was as good as black, but it isn't!  Don't let them fool you, if you want black glitter, buy black glitter, grrr).  And I made enough for her class and teacher - and they were very happy indeed!
See, it's not black enough, is it?  Never mind. 
And here's a random, lovely swirl in white that was done the same day, with a Wilton 2D nozzle rather than my usual Wilton 1M one...
And here's a photo Mini-1 and Mini-2 in costume, ready to go out Trick or Treating.  Mini-2 has her face painted like that because she wore her pumpkin costume to nursery earlier, in case you were wondering.  They had a fabulous evening, just like they remembered from last year.  The matching costumes and a couple of lousy jokes won most people over, and they had quite a haul of sweeties.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mr Becca's a handy man

Mr Becca and I have been together a long time.  A Very Long Time.  And he believes, wrongly I feel, that I'm a hoarder.  So every now and then he gets in a fit of pique and gets on his high horse about me and my crap, as he calls it.
This time, he decided to build an extra shelf in our cupboard - how kind!  So here we have a before photo of where all my cake-related goodies were stored...
Fairly neatly stacked on top of one another, next to Mexican bowls, mobile phone chargers and other, really important bits and pieces.  Then he got out the big boy toys...
And really not long afterwards, we had this nice pile of stacked neatness.  He really is one of the Good Guys, isn't he?!

Hmmm, when seen like this, one may get the impression that Becca Bakes is sponsored by Dr Oetker products.  This is not the case, while they are good, they just happened to be available at a good price - always one for a bargain, ha ha.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cake Pops

I read Bakerella's blog about her wonderful life with Cake Pops.  And my good friend PM makes them well, and her hubby even brought her back some Candy Melts from his business trip to Canada.  Then we found a shop or two here in Dundee that sells them, ah well. 
I wanted to try them out, they look such fun, so I followed PM's directions and got down to business. I made the balls by rolling day-old cake with buttercream icing, then melting a few discs in order that the sticks should stick in the cake balls, thus.
They had to chill in the fridge for a while, which gave me time to melt the rest of the discs I had been given by PM.  However, I found it really hard to get a decent consistency for dipping - it just didn't seem runny enough.  Despite a mercy call to PM, I was none the wiser about what I had possibly done wrong, so added a few drops of vegetable oil to thin it out.  The richness of colour was stunning so I went for it, and this was the outcome...
Not a fancy shot, but they were fun to make.  You can see that they are no longer round and I think that's down to my poor melting and dipping technique, but they're good for a first attempt, right?  My good friend JW is a dab hand with a camera (see her blog at Aspire2be creative) and took the following photos for me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peanut and chocolate chip cookies

Thanks to the Banoffee pie we made as a treat for Mr Becca a few days ago, we had condensed milk to use up.  I went onto the Carnation website for inspiration and found this recipe for Hazelnut and Choc Chunk cookies. 
It used a method that I've read of, but never used before, and sounded easy enough for myself and Mini-2 to manage on a quiet morning before lunch and nursery.  So off we went...
The mix wasn't actually that gloopy, despite the addition of the condensed milk, and with the peanuts (we didn't have any hazelnuts in the cupboard) and chocolate chips (they're much faster to add than chopping up a bar of chocolate, and much more fun for Mini-2 to pinch) it smelled amazing and looked so good.  But it had go into the fridge to chill for at least half an hour, and up to a week, so we did Peppa Pig jigsaws whilst waiting.  (Actually, she did them all herself, they're a bit too easy for her now, which gives me a great idea for a birthday gift).
Then on to the cutting and baking of the cookies...
You see here Mini-2 wearing her current favourite stripy trousers and 101 Dalmations jumper, cutting rounds for baking.  And here we see those rounds ready to be baked...

Mmmm, full of big chunks of peanut and chocolate.  A mere quarter hour and a fantastic smelling house later, we got these lovelies out of the oven.
They tasted amazing, and we have one and a half sausages of cookie-mix in the fridge for later.  I shall try more every few days to see how the mix bakes up

Monday, October 24, 2011

Too many bananas this time...

Ok, so sometimes we're not so efficient at the weekly food shopping.  I'm not sure efficient is the correct word, but I mean we over-estimate our needs and so end up with too much of an item.  This time it was bananas, and what better way to use them than to bake?  Obviously, a smoothie comes to mind, but I don't really know how to do one healthily (they always have ice-cream and chocolate sauce, don't they?) and am bored of Banana Bread/Loaf cake (as are The whole Team). 
I wanted to try something from my other birthday book, Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache, so had a wee read through.  And discovered that not only did I not have any white rice flour, I didn't have a courgette (yes, seriously.  And that's a zucchini to you non-Europeans out there) and some other slightly obscure ingredient.  So back to the almost fail-safe Hummingbird book 1 and their Banana Chocolate cupcakes. 
Things seemed quite simple and straightforward but when it came to mashing the banana before adding it, I baulked.  Regrettably or otherwise, I simply don't like bananas.  Never have, as far as I can recall - I blame my mother (sorry Mum) as she can't stand the smell and as far as I can remember, didn't even have them in the house!  Suffice it to say, I don't want the kids growing up as fussy as I seem to be (but don't feel that I am) so we have them, and they eat them and love them - mostly.  Getting back to the point, I chickened out of mashing it and releasing more banana vapour and just cut it and popped it into the mixer.  Sooooo.... there were chunks of banana throughout the otherwise runny mixture, which went into 16 cases then into the oven.
Just a matter of minutes later, they came out - looking and smelling wonderful, thanks to the inclusion of a few spices in the mix.  I couldn't resist, so bit into one almost immediately - wow!  Soft and moist and fab.
Then onto the icing.  I'm still trying to copy the lovely fat icing swirl that Georgetown Cupcake have as their signature swirl (somewhat unsuccessfully I feel), so used my Wilton 1A nozzle and went for it.  What do you think?
I added a touch of gold lustre spray and chocolate decorations, and they were just delicious!!  A few friends taste-tested and loved them.  Mr Becca agreed but felt that he could hardly taste the banana (I know, great) but the girls felt there was something  not quite right about them, the spices I guessed.  Ah well, you can't please all of the people all of the time ;)
I took some around to my friend Jill, who runs Aspire2be creative photography and she took a fab photo of them.  What do you think?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too many eggs = Fritatta or Brownie?

Ah, it's that time again - too many eggs in the fridge.  While I'd love to make a fritatta for the whole family to eat, I'm kidding myself if I think the kids will eat enough to make it worth my while.  So Brownies it is.  I'm going to try the Hummingbird Frosted Brownies again, because they need 5 eggs.  The last time, you may recall, they were absolutely divine to eat but not solid enough in the middle.  So this time, I baked them for a few moments longer, then another 5 minutes longer than that at 10c lower a temperature in the oven.  I didn't want to frost this time, as it's for us and we really don't need the extra calories. And instead of finely chopping 30g of dark chocolate within, this time I sprinkled 50g of dark chocolate chips across the top. You can sort of see them below, as little dimples.   Et voila!
Ok, ok, I admit that I'm not a great food stylist, and I'm happy to accept all constructive criticism you pass my way - but I bake a darn tasty Brownie, yum yum! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

National Baking Week UK

No sooner has National Chocolate Week finished, than National Baking Week starts.  Come on, guys - do we need help to get into the kitchen?

In honour, I started with a refridgerator Mars Bar Slice and dusted it with neon orange and graphite grey/blue glitter, as Halloween is the next upcoming holiday.  Here's a full-frontal shot, with the little pots of gorgeous glitter...
And a sexy interiors shot...
Mr Becca likes banoffee and had bought the ingredients to make the recipe on the back of the pack of dried banana chips.  It wasn't hard, just crush up the digestive biscuits and some banana chips and mix with melted butter.  Press into the base of a 20cm tin and cool in fridge.  Then whip up mascarpone cheese, banana yoghurt and some icing sugar for one layer and melt brown sugar and butter with condensed milk for the other.  Finally decorate with choc-dipped dried banana chips (you'll note that I didn't choc-coat the chips...).  So I made it for him just now, but he says he's not hungry.  Grrrr
Bananas are my least favourite fruit, so here's hoping he tucks in soon!

P.S. I took it to a friend's for lunch the next day and they all loved it, but felt it would have been better with fresh rather than dried banana, so you wouldn't have that crunch on top.  Mr Becca had some this evening and pronounced it good - yay!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

I had a tin of Carnation Dulche de Leche that was burning a hole in my ingredients cupboard, and didn't feel like another attempt at Millionaire's Shortbread, as I'm not really a fan.  I checked their website for inspiration, and found Chocolate Fudge Cake - score.
I cheated slightly with the cake and used a different recipe - still adding caramel to the mixture, then used theirs for the icing - wow!  We had friends coming to play and stay for lunch and the cake was ready just in time. 

The icing was still slightly warm when we tucked in, and dusted with neon pink edible glitter - it tasted just amazing!!  A scoop of vanilla ice-cream or mascarpone would have set it off very nicely, but a glass of water helped too.
The interior of the moist, dark, rich Caramel Chocolate Fudge cake with caramel choc icing and neon pink glitter. See the cake sticking to the knife... Sorry, am I making you drool?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thank you

Dear Readers
I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much for reading and following our baking exploits.  I'm really pleased to see that we've had over 940 (which is heading towards 1000!!) page views in the 8 months we've been online.  And we've moved up the list in the Wikio Gastronomy Blog ratings, from 437 to 419 to 398.  Out of the 1000 they list.
And it's all thanks to you.  Your support is very much appreciated.
Becca and The Team

Friday, October 07, 2011

Giant cupcake, first & second try

I had been keen to try out a giant cupcake, as I'd seen many other bakers make excellent work of them.  I found a silicon mould, with the help of an old colleague who now runs Cissyface Vintage, at a local The Works store and got to work. 
Unfortunately it doesn't come with a recipe, but rather says to use a box or two of packet mix and blah blah blah.  Well, that wasn't gonna happen at my house, so I tried a full batch of cupcake mix, sprayed the two halves of the mould with oil and went for it.  And boy, what a failure that was!  The mix was short by nearly half so I basically baked a pancake and a rugby ball shape - pretty darn useless.  Tasted good, but no-one wanted odd-shaped bits of cake.  And strangely, it didn't really come out of the mould well at all, despite the spray of oil.
So I emailed a couple of fellow bakers on Facebook who seemed friendly, and they were kind enough to share their cake recipe specifically for giant cupcakes.  I chose one and went for it.  And it worked!  And I even forgot to spray the moulds this time, but it came out almost perfectly (you may notice at the top of the top section, there's a tiny bit that isn't quite right).
I felt like orange for the icing (and neon orange for the glitter), and tried to make it a bit runnier than usual so that it may take the shape of the mould and run down the bottom half slightly.  Well, that had been my plan.  But it didn't quite work out that way...
So I added gold-touched butterflies and the words 'Becca Bakes' and declared us good to go.  The Team loved it, and were very impressed - with the look and the taste.  I found the best way to cut it was to slice up first the top half, then the bottom half.  And it had to be separated into halves to fit into a cake tin for keeping - not the tidiest thing to do, but hey, needs must.
And I'm pleased to say that it got good feedback on Facebook too.  While I'm fully aware that it isn't the best giant cupcake you've ever seen, we don't claim to be the best.  But we do have fun, and make great-tasting cake, so as Meatloaf once said, 'Two outta three ain't bad'.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Becca bakes bread

I know, shock horror - trying something savoury!  Well, to be fair it was from a packet.  I had chosen it a while ago because it sounded really tasty, Multigrain Bread Mix (I'm easily pleased really, aren't I?).  And this week at the supermarket we'd chosen fancy, rather than granary square/normal bread, so it'd been devoured rather quickly by The Team at Becca Towers.  Which meant we'd need more bread to last us the week until we next visited the supermarket...  Becca to the rescue!
Although the girls wanted to help with bread-making, by the time the dough needed to prove twice and so forth, it was going to be way past their bedtime, so I just showed them this photo and they were glad not to have been involved, ha ha.  Boy, what a mess!  Luckily it all worked out well in the end, and after waiting a mere 5 minutes for the completed loaf to cool, I cut myself a thick slice, slathered it in butter and tucked in.  Mmmmm, heaven!!  (a second slice soon followed)
I'm pleased to say that it lasted well in a cake tin for about 6 days, and was still soft and tasty on the last day.  By which time we'd been to the supermarket again...

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Cake Doctor is in...

'Hi Becca! Could I please order some more malteser slice and brownies :) may actually be medically addicted! Lol xx' 
I switched on my computer yesterday to see this on our Facebook page.  Of course, a few emails back and forth later and I was convinced I was going to be able to soothe her addiction and ease her longings.  Funnily enough, Mr Becca is actually Dr Becca, and confirmed that the NHS (National Health Service, to you non-British readers out there) would not pay for such treatment.  So Clare had to go private, and came to us. 
I didn't take any photos, as we've all seen a few Malteser Traybakes and trays of Brownies by now.  Suffice it to say, they were dusted with edible glitter to my heart's delight - and Clare's.  And I posted this on Facebook today, so spread the word cake-lovers!
'Becca Bakes wants to let you know that the Cake Doctor is in. If you're feeling unwell or know someone who is, have an addiction to Brownies or Maltesers, or even have a prescription for cupcakes - we can help. Just email or leave a message on the wall, we're here to help. Be sure to tell all your friends...'

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Happy 5th birthday Jack

And so we come to the birthday boy himself, who decided that he didn't want a blue cake, simply blue icing (which, to a 5 year old, is a blue cake).  His mother requested simply 'blue, Jack, 5' as the starting point, and I thought to keep it simple.  So to the finished product...
A lovely vanilla sponge, layered with white icing and strawberry jam, covered in blue buttercream icing (I like the colour better this time), sprinkled with edible blue glitter and sprayed with gold lustre.  They all loved it, and I quote feedback left on our Facebook page 'It was lovely and much party boxes for folk to take it home in........thank you :-)'.