Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy giant birthday Laura

A friend of a friend saw our photos on our Facebook page and like them so much, she requested a giant cupcake for her daughter's birthday.  The only requirement?  Pink! 
Using the last blue and white one as a guide, I again rolled out fondant to cover the base and used it to make the disc at the front, so they matched.  Her name was Laura, so I got to use my new embossing set to do the disc.  I wanted to do pink icing on the top half, so planned to use white for the decorations - sprayed with gold lustre to make them stand out more. 
I was quite pleased with this one, as I managed to make the rose swirls smaller and tighter, and thus fit 2 rows all the way around.  I delivered it earlier this morning, and the client was thrilled.  Some of her colleagues had waited around to see it too, and were also impressed  So pleased.  Then I got a comment on the Facebook page photo to say that not only did the birthday girl love it, it tasted great too - yippee!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, (here's Wikipedia's take on it, FYI) Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day) is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.
Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. It is presently an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia and is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, announcement of the Honours List for the Order of Australia and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. With community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies the day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation. Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.
Hmm, the font is very strange in this post - sorry!

If you read the last post about Burns Night, you'll understand the cupcake.  Here I'm simply going to show you the Southern Cross topped cakes, and the latter is by Aspire2be. creative again.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Burns Night, or Scottish Day if you're 4 years old

Tomorrow is Burns Night, which is (according to Wikipedia) - a Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet's birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.
Basically, to Mini-2 it's Scottish Day (although technically November 30 would also fall under this category, as that is St Andrews Day, and he's the patron saint of Scotland).  They had China Day on Monday as it was Chinese New Year, so for snack they had prawn crackers and noodles and tomorrow they're going to have Haggis and oatcakes.  Ooh, wonder if she'll try the haggis? 
I felt like trying a new flavour of cupcake, then covering the top in fondant and doing a Scottish flag design on top (with an Aussie one for the day after tomorrow) and had a wee read through my favoured cupcake books.  Peaches and cream it was - only I didn't have any peaches and wasn't planning vanilla buttercream for the icing.  I had a tin of pears, and felt that the others ingredients would be lifted by the addition of about a 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice, resulting in Spiced Pear cupcakes.
However, after baking - the Team and I weren't thrilled with the result.  Don't get me wrong, they tasted good and were moist and so on, but it was really silly of the recipe to tell you to put the chopped fruit at the base of the cupcake case, because then the whole thing disintegrated when you removed the wrapper.  You kind of had to turn it upside down to eat, not practical. And Mr Becca and I felt that I could up the amount of spice, for a better flavour.  Still, they were the perfect foil for the fondant topping, which was the original plan.  So all's well that ends well!
And again, by Aspire2be. creative photography...
and another

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Valentine's is for cupcakes, and brownies

I couldn't help but notice that all the other bakers on Facebook were offering treats for Valentine's Day, and figured the old adage was apt, 'if you don't ask, you don't get'.  Coupled with the fact that I hadn't made chocolate cupcakes often enough to feel really confident about them, and we have... ta da!!  Chocolate cucpakes with chocolate buttercream icing.
For some reason, despite using the same size cake cases and the same ice-cream scoop to fill them, the cakes didn't bake as flat as the vanilla usually do.  I followed the recipe as I do for vanilla, and they still tasted soft, light and lovely, just had a little volcano in the middle.  Do you have any idea why that happened?
The chocolate buttercream wasn't as problematic, just light and delicious.  Mmmm....
I played around with the candy letters I used to make the X and O on the rear cupcake, and whaddya know - it spelled out my name!  haha
Here are some photos taken by my friend Jill over at Aspire2be. creative photography, great aren't they?!

I'm more confident with Vanilla, so that's the offer for Valentine's - along with Chocolate Brownies for those who prefer their treats dark and decadent.  What would you choose?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buttermilk and blueberries = ??

At Christmas-time, I hadn't been able to find any buttermilk on the supermarket shelves.  No idea why, I can't think particularly what people do with buttermilk specifically at that time of year (all advice gratefully received).  I wanted it to make Red Velvet cupcakes, as I had thought the bright red sponge would look lovely at that time of year - ah well.  So when I found some last week, I snapped it up without thinking.
And the blueberries?  Well, me and the Team are great fruit eaters, especially berries.  We love them!  So when we saw blueberries on special offer at our local Lidl store, we snapped up a few punnets - yummy.  Most were eaten as a snack, but there was one punnet left this morning, plus the buttermilk.  This brought to mind a recipe I had just snipped out of a magazine a few days ago, for, you guessed it - blueberry pancakes.
Now, pancakes and I have a very long and chequered history.  Longer, in fact, than Mr Becca and I - which is Very Long Indeed.  The first time I can recall trying (very unsuccessfully) to make them was for a friend I was trying to impress while on a weekend away in Phillip Island, Victoria.  (By the way, if you ever get the chance, you must see the Fairy Penguin parade on this Island, superb!  Can't wait to take the girls there...).  They were an abysmal failure and I remembered that for a long time.  So Betty Crocker and I became good friends, and so did pancakes and I.
Until today, with the confidence born of the general success of my Becca Bakes exploits, and the blind faith of my loving Mini-2.  We weighed out and mixed up the ingredients
Then carefully inspected all the blueberries before adding them to the mix and whisking gently.
I need to figure out how to get them all even and looking good, as the egg shape wasn't foolproof.
So there was quite a selection of shapes from which to choose your favourite, ha ha.
Still, when placed on a plate and drizzled with pure Canadian Maple Syrup, neither Mini-2
nor myself were complaining.  Mmmm, with morning tea this tasty - who needs lunch?
Especially when Mummy lets you lick the bowl at the end...

Monday, January 16, 2012

7th birthday number 2, for Anna

Here the brief was slightly less strict, but nonetheless a challenge.  A giant cupcake for a girl that wasn't too girly, and had to feature blue.  After some discussion, it was decided that the icing was to be cream with blue stars, and also vanilla flavour cake and icing.
Ok, here goes.  I had recently come across a few more recipes for giant cupcakes but was loathe to try a new one for an order, in case it went wrong and I wouldn't have time or ingredients to re-bake.  So I went for my trusted recipe and started early in the morning, to allow the baked cake plenty of time to cool.  So far, so good.
Uh oh - not so good.  When I thought the cakes (baked in 2 separate halves, as you do) were cool enough, I tried to remove the silicon mould from the base.  Seriously bad move, as not all the cake pulled away from the side of the mould.  This meant that there wouldn't be a smooth, shaped base to my giant cupcake - but what could I do to rectify it??  Lucky that I had started baking early, because after the nursery walk I had to dash home to re-bake the base!
And as if that wasn't issue enough, I then had to calculate how much time I had available before needing to collect the girls from nursery and school versus how long it would take to mix up then bake the cake.  And the answer?  They would both need to be done at the exact same time - aaarrrggghhh.  So, I waited a bit in order to put the cake in a bit later and for a bit lower a temperature, then left it baking while I did the school dash.  Woo hoo - it worked!
So to decorate - I had seen a photo somewhere that showed a giant cupcake base cut in half and jammed then jammed and buttercreamed in the middle and jammed again halfway through the top half.  I thought that was a great idea, because - to me anyway - it seems like there's far too much of a cake to filling ratio.  So I jammed the base halfway through, then had seen a video (was trying to find it there, to give you the link, but no luck - sorry) on how to use fondant to ice the bottom half.  It didn't look to hard, so I tried it.  And it worked!  I then crumb-coated the top half and popped it in the fridge to set.
I hadn't thought to crumb-coat a giant cupcake before, but had seen it done (perhaps on the same video as above?) and it seemed very sensible.  It also gave me time to tidy the table in order to do the icing roses and decorations later on.  And so we come to the finished product - they loved it!!!
Can you see I used my new toys again?  Floral embossing mat and alphabet embossing set, as mentioned in the previous 7th birthday post.  Oh, and a little aside - you may (or maybe not) be surprised to learn that this and the other 7th birthday girl met in utero, but haven't really met up again since.  Odd the way things work out.  We're back in touch again now, so that will probably change soon ;)

Friday, January 13, 2012

7th birthday number 1, for K

The brief for this cake was round, green, blue, stripes.  That's it.  Oh, and it had to be vanilla flavoured (none of that chocolate nonsense) with berry jam and a letter K in stripes in the middle.  Sheesh, talk about strict instructions...
As I knew this particular customer didn't much like cake (was getting bored of it, can you believe?!), I tried out my new 6" tin, still placing the cake on a 10" board.  Which allowed me to try out my new embossing alphabet set, and floral embossing mat - both from Purple Cupcakes.  (I don't get paid for endorsing the company, rather I'm sharing my knowledge).  I also need to share with you that this cake wasn't wholly my idea - a new cake friend, Chelsea over in the good ole US of A did it waaaaay better (check out her Facebook page and see the Rockstar cake) and let me borrow her ideas - thanks C!!
And was the recipient pleased with my interpretation of the brief?  Too right mate! She loved it, and even more so when she saw the bright orange interior with its layer of red strawberry jam - job  well done!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Can you have too much chocolate?

I have a couple of 7th birthday cakes planned for the latter part of this week, but today while Mini-2 and I were out doing top-up shopping at the supermarket (we shop weekly, and somtimes need top-up bits elsewhere and we have a killer tactic to blitz it. She bleeps, I bag at the self-service checkouts) we came across a superb bargain.  Very low priced short-dated Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bars, mmm.  Mini-2 is learning my money-saving ways, so wanted to buy 'lots and lots, maybe 5' bars, but I reasonably figured we would use a few less than that in the time we had available, simply because if we made lots of dark chocolate treats - we'd need to eat them all!  And that's definitely not in line with the Scottish Government Healthy Eating Initiative  ;) 
Thinking quickly, I figured we could happily use 200-odd grams so we bought a few and headed home.  Mini-2 took some time out with the 'one-eyed babysitter' (television, ha ha) and I went to check my brain and books for inspiration.  I landed upon one my good friend C gave me as a birthday gift, by the Australian equivalent of Nigella Lawson I believe, Donna Hay.  There were lots and lots of great recipes in there, but I chose the Chocolate Mud Cake for use of chocolate and ease of preparation.
This was very solid, and oddly not that rich to me.  And I felt it needed more than just the simple cocoa powder dusting recommended in the book.   Perhaps a choc ganache, or buttercream would have been better.  Knowing there was far too much for us girls to eat, I offered some of it to some friends, and one tried hers hot.  So I did too, with a drizzle of single cream.  Mmmm, yummy.
Also tonight I wanted to try moulding chocolate, or rather candy melts. I'd seen a YouTube video or one on Wilton (sorry, no link just now as I simply can't recal which one I saw) and had had some success with the last lot of candy melts.  However, I didn't have any moulds, only the best bits of a Christmas Advent calendar. 

As you can see from the photo above, they weren't all nicely shaped, but they were quick and easy to do - simply gently microwave the melts (agan with a bit of vegetable shortening), pour into the mould then refridgerate for 20 minutes or more.  Et voila! 


Friday, January 06, 2012

Good friends need tasty treats

I have a good friend, to whom some really bad things have happened.  On the day that her mother went into hospital for a radical double mastectomy to counter the breast cancer with which she had been diagnosed only 3 weeks prior, my friend was told the results of her biopsy - also breast cancer.  Not surprisingly, her daughter is going to have genetic screening soon too.  And her son has been ill since birth, and possibly spent more time in than out of hospital. 
So to try to cheer her up, I offered her the pick of our menu.  And she chose...  Mars Bar Slice. 
Yet despite all this, she remains as cheery as possible and is even having her hair cut (in advance of losing it with the chemotherapy treatment) as a fund-raiser for two local charities that are very dear to her, Charlie Kean's children's cancer fund and Maggie's Centre, Dundee.  Here's a lovely, smiley photo of her with her kids and long blonde hair, at our Ice Arena with very special guest...
And here's my brave friend, after the chop - still smiling away and looking as stunning as ever.
I'm just happy that our glittery bake helped her feel better, if only for an hour.  And including our donation, a mutual friend tells me that this friend has beaten her fundraising target of £1000!  Outstanding!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Aspire2be creative photography, birthday cake pops and us

Our good friend Jill is a photographer over at Aspire 2 be creative (and on Facebook too) who loves to take photos, including of us and our food.  And we love her photos!!  We popped by after school today, to take her and her son some treats from yesterday. 
I had made cake pops yesterday but ran out of melted orange before I ran out of prepared cake pops.  Here are the prepared pops, cooling in the freezer while I melted the candy...
And here's the candy before I melted it..
You use a little of the melted chocolate to stick the sticks into the cake balls, hence the dot of orange on them all. 
This morning, Mini-2 and I finished off the remainder.  We had some green melts, donated by our friend Paula, left over from the last time and they should have been enough to do the job.  But no matter how long we tried, or how much vegetable oil we added, we just couldn't get the consistency correct.  So, Mini-2 ate some of that mix while I moved on to another colour, sunshine yellow.  These ones were by Wilton and melted much more easily.  On the back  of the pack it suggested adding a touch of vegetable shortening (rather than oil) to get a runnier mix, et voila!  It worked a treat - hooray.
And so to decorate...
Mini-2 wanted to do one by herself, but found it tricky to hold the bowl and turn the pop around.  She preferred the next step, adding the sprinkles, instead.
And so we had this as the result...

And again, photographed by Aspire2be creative
7th birthday cake pops
 Cake pops, up close and personal
 The interior of the 7 cake (actually, this was all that was left 24 hours later)
Our lovely sous-chefs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy birthday Mini-1

Our darling Mini-1 was born 7 years ago today, and - as is our wont at Becca Bakes - we intended to make a fuss.  She had some specific cake requests though - it had to be vanilla, and have vanilla icing, be green and perhaps also yellow, turquoise, red and pink.  Oh, and she wanted one in a number 7 shape and one round, and some mini-Smarties on the shaped cake.  And something to do with Moshi Monsters too please Mum?!  I duly noted all this down, and got my thinking cap on.
Was it to be covered in fondant, or buttercream?  Was I going to make my life easier and mark out the number 7 in the actual Smarties themselves on a cake, or actually try to shape one?  Was I going to layer the cake and thus try to get in some more colours?  Was I going to buy a Moshi Monster cake topper and just pop it on top?  And so on and so forth.  In the end, I decided to go for two differently coloured layers, with red jam in the middle, green buttercream icing all around and cut the cake into a number 7.  I know that you can buy shaped tins, and some places actually hire them out (though no idea where those places are) but I had a book that I received for my last birthday that gave hints on how to bake and cut.
I knew I would need time for the cakes to cool before I could assemble and decorate them, so had to start baking in the afternoon.  Luckily, Mini-1 wasn't too interested to see what I was doing (unlike Mini-2, who loves to help) so she didn't really notice the first yellow or the second green cakes cooling near the oven later on.  Phew!

I know they're not pretty, but keep reading...  Next up, after slicing off the rounded tops to make them flat for layering, was to mix up the buttercream to get it all green.  As you can see, it's also not pretty, but I'm getting there, promise!
Then on to the task of separating out the mini Smarties.  Honestly, the things we do for our kids - they really won't know how much we love them, until they have kids of their own!
And finally to the finished product, ta da!
The little figurine at the bottom of the cake is a Moshi Monster that she likes, called Cali.  I bought it off eBay because none of the images we found for cake toppers were attractive.
Here we see Mini-1 herself with her eyes covered so that I could get the cake onto the plate, place in the figurine and candle, and bring out the cake pops.  The silly girl had pressed too hard when covering her eyes, and couldn't see straight when she first took her hands away.  She absolutely loved the cake and pops though  :)
Here are the cake pops.  As with last time, they're not fabulously round, or even particularly spherical.  But they taste better this time because I used some cream cheese to help mould them, rather than all icing.  And the girls couldn't eat them fast enough, result.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A new year, another birthday

One of the school mums got in touch after the Christmas Fayre, to order some cupcakes for her daughter's 9th birthday, lucky us!  The brief was pink and purple, with 9's and initials of the guests and the rest was up to me.  This was similar to Dea's 6th birthday last summer, so would be fun, as in this case it was maxi, rather than mini, cupcakes, thus allowing more space for the decorations.
About a week ago, I received an email changing the details slightly as not all the invitees had replied yet.  So the 'named' cakes would just have the birthday girl's name and age on them, and the rest decorated accordingly.  No problem.
I baked them all vanilla, and washed up while they were cooling.  Then on to the icing, making sure that I separated the batch exactly in half to get the correct amount of pink and purple to ice all the cupcakes.  I had made the initials and number yesterday, in order that it should solidify in time, and got all the decorations I had prepped and planned ready on the table.  I felt butterflies, flowers, stars, hearts and glitter would suit the occassion, and really hope Mother and Daughter love their cakes...

P.S.  They loved the cakes!!  The Mum wrote on a Facebook craft group page 'Just collected 9yolds birthday cupcakes from Becca Bakes. They are fantastic! One v happy girl (who is also planning how she will reuse the lovely packaging too). Would recommend :) — with Becca Bakes'  and this is how they were displayed for the party... just lovely.