Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two of your 5-a-day, surely...

I have bought a lot of blueberries recently, as they've been at a really good price at my local Lidl store.  Of course, that's not the only reason - they're also delicious, really good for you and mess-free.  And we all love them!  At least, we all did, until we ate our fill (and by we, I mean the rest of The Team).  So I'm going to stop buying them for now, and use them in things other than just cereal and yoghurt.
And so to the cake...
I saw this recipe Good to know, which is a suprisingly useful website that I rarely visit.  But I have signed up to various newsletters so get the info after all.  Anyway, the recipe is for Lemon & Blueberry Swirl Cake, to be made in a loaf tin or 20cm/8" round tin.  I have both, or so I though, until I went on the hunt for the loaf tin.  I even texted Mr Becca at work (but he had no idea where it was) and made an impassioned plea on our Facebook page, to no avail.  So round it was to be. 
This was good though, because it would give me a chance to try out another new technique I learnt from my new American cake friends, one that help the cake to cook level, not with a bump in the centre.  Once the cake is ready to go in the oven (topped with flour-coated fresh berries (so they don't sink), rather than jam in this case), wrap it in tin-foil coated wet paper towels.  Seriously.
So, to make the wrapper you lay out enough length of aluminium foil to go around the cake tin.  Then dampen some paper towel and lay it on the foil, like so
Fold in from the long edges, until it is the width of your cake tin's depth.
Then wrap it around your cake tin with the unbaked mix, and pop it into the oven.  This method keeps the edges of your cake cooler, so they don't bake so quickly.  In this way you stop the centre rising, because it is still baking and needs to expand. 
And if all goes well, your cake should look like this - fairly flat.
And because you flour-coated your blueberries, they haven't sunk (hooray!!) so your cut cake looks this tasty...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teamwork is a lovely thing

My friend C, whom I don't see often now as our Mini-1's are in schools at the complete opposite ends of the city, got in touch last week to ask if I could make her this cake for yesterday  http://www.docrafts.com/project/Horse-Cake/p3279218
I didn't think there would be enough time to do a good job, as I had the pink sparkly cake already planned out and not enough ingredients in the house for the Horse one.  So I politely declined, and she then asked if I had relevant sized and shaped cake tins she could borrow...  Sure thing, said I, and delivered them to her on Friday morning (as she happened to be working near our house that day, and we were going out anyway).  So out of these tins, and a round one of her own...
She baked 4 cakes to get the proportions and solidity correct for carving, then added Betty Crocker's buttercream underneath lilac marbled fondant, licorice laces, fruit winders, licorice allsorts and wafer daisies to create this fantastic cake for her 7 year old horse-mad Mini-1. 
Isn't it wonderful??!!  So impressed with her dedication, and love for her daughter.  Awww...  Then, when she returned the tins to me this morning, she brought me pink tulips, wow - Thanks C!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pink, sparkly and with roses please

I've been friends with J for a little over 5 years.  We met via a mother's group, the NCT, for whom I volunteered for 4 or so years.  Her elder daughter is a few weeks younger than Mini-1, and her younger is a few months older than Mini-2 - perfect or what?!  As you may remember, Mini-1 recently had her birthday, as did J's Mini-1.  I couldn't make her birthday cake as she has serious food allergies and I haven't any experience of gluten/dairy/egg free baking (yet).  But her other daughter... well, the request was blue cake with a pink, sparkly top and lots of roses.
Lucky I'd been practising with my new rose mould - and you thought it was all a coincidence, huh!  So the cake baked up well, as it was a recipe I've used successfully before.  After cooling and crumb-coating with icing flavoured and lightly-coloured with strawberry jelly crystals (a technique learnt from my new American cake friends on a Facebook advice group)  I added on the heart and rose-shaped chocolates I'd made earlier in the week.  Et voila!
And here's the happy birthday girl with all the lovely candles in place - it was a Princess costume party and she was Rapunzel.
 And here we see Snow White and Jasmine, ready to join the party!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Caramel chocolate fudge cake, but cute

I still had some of that tin of Ducle de Leche left over, and it seemed to still taste amazing, so I thought I'd use my new-ish 6" pan and bake me a cake!  Also, we had plans to visit A on Friday morning, and when I had asked if I could bring anything to lunch, she had replied, oh only if you're baking.  Ha ha.  I had really enjoyed the Caramel chocolate fudge one with the caramel choc ganache icing, but figured I'd only need half the recipe for the smaller tin.  That dropped it down to 1 egg from two, so made everything else easier too.  The only problem was, because I didn't have a full tin of caramel, I winged it with the amounts and got a little over-excited when adding to the cake batter.  Suffice it to say, the cake was only just cooked after nearly the full time, and ended up sinking whilst cooling.  (I didn't take a photo at this point, as I was rather embarrassed). 
But I figured I could just hide it with the ganache...  What do you think - can you see the hole??  Under all that delicious, gooey, swirly caramel choc topping with the edible pink glitter?  No?  Great! 
And all that extra caramel in the batter?  Wow, the cake was super-moist and delicious!  And because it was only 6" it was all gone quite quickly.  I posted a pic on our Facebook page and it garnered a lot of pleasing comments, so I took some slices for samples to friends.  Aren't I the best?  ha ha

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate moulding

My friend H had lent me her chocolate moulds, to make teddy, star, moon, duck, castle, Mickey Mouse and so on shapes out of chocolate or even candy melts.  I can't recall why, but on an earlier post she'd offered to and I took her up on that offer.  Then forgot about them for a fortnight or so, oops.  I recently got an order for a friend's daughter's 5th birthday cake and she wants roses on it.  I haven't yet made them out of sugar/flower paste (though I am booked on a course next month to learn), so treated myself to silicone moulds for them, and some cute heart moulds too.
Then last weekend while at the supermarket doing our weekly shop, I saw a little sachet of chocolate that you just put in warm water to melt then pour - I bought a white and milk version to try them out.  I know, I know, it's kind of cheating but hey, it would get the moulds tried out so I could return them to H sooner rather than later.
Here are the teddy and star in H's plastic mould, these turned out shinier (in white chocolate) than the roses and hearts from the silicone mould.  No idea why, perhaps something to do with the material...  A friendly fan on our Facebook page said he sprayed his with PME Glaze, which made them very shiny indeed.  So I think that may be my next purchase...
And on to the finished products.  You will see that I haven't quite got the getting-rid-of-all-the-air-bubbles technique down pat, but I'm trying.  And keen to practice with the yellow and green candy melts we have at home...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's is for cupcakes, and brownies part 2

I'm sorry to say that I'm not great at blogging on time, but we are baking every few days.  Since my last post, we've done five things that I'd love to show and tell you about...  Sorry.  I shall most likely post about them at some point rather soon, then back-date them so that the blog runs chronologically correctly.
So, to today's baking.  As mentioned earlier in the month, I had thought to offer cupcakes and brownies for Valentine's Day treats and had been lucky enough to secure a few orders for delivery locally.  I did some cupcakes for last Friday that were requested to be a mix of chocolate and vanilla icing on vanilla sponge
The little red hearts are soft jellies, ostensibly healthy treats for kids.  But I read somewhere that although they are made of nearly pure fruit, because of the high fruit content they are very high in sugar too.  Oops, not for the kids any longer!  And I learnt how to put a 'watermark' on the photos, cute huh?!  Here's a choc vanilla beauty, up close and personal
For today's orders, I chose white and red icing.  Though as you can see, the red wasn't red at all!  I added what I thought was quite a lot of paste - what do you guys use to make red buttercream?  This shade is called Christmas Red and is by Sugarflair...  And I've gone back using non-toxic food safe glitter as it has now been re-approved by our FSA.  One brand, EdAble Art, is fine and luckily most of my stock is that brand.  Phew!  With the other colours, I shall just use them to glitter sugarpaste removeable decorations, job done.

As for the brownies, I did them in a stack of 4 squares, dusted with vanilla scented icing sugar (a treat brought back to me by my good friend P from her native Sweden) and red glitter.  Wrapped in clear cellophane bags and tied with a red rubber band, Becca Bakes business card and sparkly red and gold heart ribbon.  As you do.  Mini-2 and I did the morning deliveries together, and we all did the evening ones (though the girls waited in the car while I ran to the front doors).

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Heart-shaped love for a special little boy

As Valentine's Day is nearly here, I thought I'd like to borrow and try out my friend R's heart-shaped cake tin.  I also fancied trying a new recipe, to add to my repertoire (hopefully) so picked Caramel Cupcakes, using Dulce de Leche (mmmm).  It's basically a really thick caramel that you can spread over things, add to things or, should you really wish, eat direct from the tin with a spoon!  I was being restrained and decided to add it to the cupcakes (also made with two types of brown sugar, for added caramel-ness).
I followed the baking time for the cupcakes so I would know for future reference, but wasn't sure how long for the heart-shaped cake and the smaller heart-shaped cupcakes (I bought a silicone tray last year), so you can see the holes where I poked it with my test stick, to see if it was done.
Then it was on to the ganache for the icing.  This was fun - break up the dark chocolate, heat the cream to nearly boiling then pour it onto the broken chocolate and wait a bit. 

Then start stirring et voila!  Chocolate ganache.
Then you kinda just smear it  nicely on top of your cake, I think.  I'm sure there's an actual technique involved, but I didn't either a) know about it or b) care that much.  I just smoothed on the luscious thick creamy chocolate sauce and hoped for the best.
As you can see, only 3 of the heart-shaped cupcakes came successfully out of my greased silicone tray, gggrrrr.  What a sham that tray is!  I've since bought Cake Release spray and will use it next time I do a shaped tin of any sort (after my also-disaster with the bundt tin).  Anyway, after the ganache and some gold edible glitter, I added the final touch - blue mini-Smarties in the shape of a number 2.  Why?  Because today should have been the 2nd birthday of our son, Mini-3.  Unfortunately he died before he was born, and so we never got to meet our little boy.  The girls know of and love their little brother, and we think of him as our own personal Guardian Angel.  You do what it takes to get by, really.
P.S. The cake tasted great!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Cookies & Creme cupcakes, yummy

Uh, I think I've been baking too much and too often, when I can't even remember why I baked!!  (This post is being dated chronologically but actually written a week or so after the event, oops).  I found these photos of Oreo cupcakes on my camera, so figured I may as well share them with you.  Especially as the latter one got so many encouraging comments on our Facebook page (not sure if that link will work, as it's actually for the photo, not just our page).  This first one is to show that not only do I crush lots of additional Oreo's into the batter, I also add a mini one on top, because you can't really ever get enough Oreo's into the batter!!
I did try to make it look a bit arty and just to focus on the food more - and I think I did ok. What do you think??