Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ferrero Rocher and chocolate brownies? Yes please!

Mr Becca received a large tray of Ferrero Rocher chocolates a while ago as a gift from work.  I don't recall why, and he doesn't really like them that much, so they'd stayed wrapped in the box for some months.  For lack of any other way to use them (obviously, I love them and could eat them, but I'm really trying hard to keep my weight at a healthy level, and 2 dozen chocolates wouldn't help that at all...)  I thought I might try them in Brownies.  As you do. 
I had seen someone do it with Cadbury's Creme Eggs and it looked like a good idea, as apparently you add the chocs on top just 5 minutes before the baking time is complete.  I don't like Creme Eggs, though the rest of The Team do, very much.   So I had no intention of doing it with them, but felt the Ferrero Rocher's would do nicely.  So at the appointed time, I removed the tray from the oven, popped on the chocolates, and returned it to the oven for the final 5 mintues.  They actually weren't that easy to keep in position, as the crust had started to form on the brownies and I had to push a little to get them in.  So some are lower in than others, and some started melting faster than others.
I waited till the whole tray cooled, sprayed it with edible gold lustre spray and took them down to our friend's house.  We didn't get the chance to eat them the same night, but the next.  And I made sure to photograph them before biting into them!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Easter treats for the last day of term

After checking with the class teacher, it was agreed that I'd be allowed to do mini cupcakes for the end of term day at school today.  I would have said end of term party, but they weren't having one this time.  Mini-1 seems to have lost a lot of her classmates (careless, wouldn't you say?) so it wasn't very many I'd have to do.  Which was fab, as I planned to use the remainder of the Strawberry Swirl ones from the batch with the alcoholic icing that I did for Lisa.  Lucky that they didn't have alcohol in the batter, wasn't it?
Anyway, in keeping with the Easter theme of the imminent holidays, I decorated them with matching Strawberry Swirl icing (if you look closely you can see some of the rich jam there amongst the buttercream) and topped them with super-mini chocolate cracknel covered easter eggs.  Totally yummy or what?!

Alcoholic cupcakes? Well, I never

One of the school mums knew I baked cakes, and had perhaps seen some of my work on here or our Facebook page and had a party planned for later on today.  She decided she'd quite like some mini cupcakes for nibbles for afterwards, and fancied them to be alcoholic.  No problem, I said, I'm sure that's easily done.  And quickly proceeded to research it.  Do people flavour the sponge?  Do you need extra alcohol for the flavour not to bake out?  Do you flavour the icing?  Do you need extra icing sugar to counteract the consistency of the icing once the extra liquid is added?  Do certain flavours work better in batter?  Icing?  So much to know...
Then Lisa told me she had some Champagne and some Amaretto and could I use those please?  So, one problem solved, ha ha.  In the end I went with the Amaretto, as it was a slightly more viscous liquid (and the bottle was already opened) and just used it in the icing. 
We thought Strawberry Swirl would be tastier than just Vanilla cupcakes, so here's the finished product...
And here are the non-alcoholic version for the pregnant party-goers and the children, with an Easter theme and chocolate buttercream icing.  Mmm...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A cake called Herman

I've never heard of this before, but there is a container of mix you may one day receive from a friend that has an instruction sheet (recipe) with it and they tell you it's called Herman.  The mix doesn't smell great, in fact it's a bit sour, but when you read the sheet you learn that after 10 days you can use it to bake a cake.  Mental, I know.  Here's the mix, see it bubbling?  That's the sourdough (or technically, it's more likely to be the yeast).
You leave it on the worktop (definitely not in the fridge) and 'feed' it with various ingredients (mostly flour) on certain days over the next 10 days.  Then divide it into four, give three away and bake up the last portion yourself.
Just like it says on the sheet, ha ha.  However, I told my friend that I wouldn't be around for the next 10 days and thus couldn't partake.  She thought about it for a bit, then texted me to say I could just skip to day 10 and bake it up now.  Righto then, here goes!
Mini-2 is getting rather adept at cracking eggs.  We do it over a little bowl, so if any shell gets in we can remove it before adding the egg to the cake mix.  And did hers have any shell in it?  No sireee, it did not.  You go girl!  We added in all the ingredients as listed, except the raisins because a) we didn't have any and b) I don't remember a time when I ever liked them.  The girls do, and did, but we haven't bought any for quite some months now and no-one seems to mind.  It was a very very solid mix, and nearly broke my little hand-held electric mixer (not the Kenwood) but I perservered so at least all ingredients were mixed.  We managed to scrape it into the prepared 8" springform cake tin, then covered it with 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Then into the oven.  Well, it took quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested.  So much longer, that I ended up having to do the school run by car, in order to leave it in the oven while I nipped out but also to ensure a speedy return.  (When we walk, we're easily distracted by the play park or the woods on the way home).  It was fine on our return, so was taken out of the oven a total of about 25 minutes later than recommended.  The top was very crispy (so much so that Mr Becca elected not to take it in to work the next day, as they didn't have chisels in the staff room.  Oh ha ha) and the interior rather solid.  Moist and tasty, but solid.  It's not my preferred cake texture, but we all tried some, gave some away and nibbled at the remainder.  And now we've met Herman.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy 30th birthday, Becca style

A regular customer got in touch recently to ask if we could do her friend a wee birthday treat.  Huh?  Sure we could, birthday is our middle name!  She wanted a pink and glittery box of half dozen Classic Vanilla cupcakes - not a problem.  We whipped them up, and I used the new butterfly cutter shape from the initial issue of My Cake Decorating magazine.  It's a bit different from my usual one, and the body in the middle of the butterfly was suggested in the magazine.  Both ladies were both thrilled with the results.  Thanks so much!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mother's Day chez Becca

You're probably thinking that this post will be all about Mother's Day at our house, right?  Nope, sorry. It's about what I baked for others.  I posted some pretty pictures about a month ago to entice people to order cupcakes or a little 6" cake from us, but it didn't work. 

For me at least, I saw that many of the other bakers on Facebook with whom I'm friends (some local, many not) were fully booked, often a week or three in advance.  Others showed the photos of all their goodies boxed up and ready for either collection or delivery - but we weren't quite that lucky.  So when a new Facebook fan asked for a dozen mini Strawberry swirl cupcakes, we were happy to help.  As I started on these little beauties (here we see the batter with the strawberry swirled through)
I received a call from a woman abroad (Jersey, but saying it's International makes it even more exciting) who had been let down by the cake-maker just 2 days before Mother's Day, which was fab too.  She wanted a selection of flavours, but after I explained that generally wasn't busy enough for that to be commercially viable, we settled on a mixed dozen of Classic Chocolate (chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream) and Strawberry Swirl (swirled cake and buttercream).
I was really pleased with how well the rose swirl of piped buttercream worked on these little ones, as I had only done the ice-cream type of swirl previously.
I don't know if you can buy boxes with inserts specifically for mini cupcakes, but they travelled well like this, and the customer was happy - so that's the main thing.  And, despite ordering them for afternoon tea with a friend, she sneaked a taste and told me they were delicious - hooray!!
As for the emergency International Mother's Day order - here's how they turned out...
Here we can see the Classic Chocolate at the front, with cute little green flowers to match the 'Mum' plaque in the middle, and now we see the Strawberry Swirl ones with their coordinating darker green flowers.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Triple chocolate cupcakes anyone?

Along with the new Strawberry cupcakes that passed the taste-test, I wanted to try out a good sounding Triple Chocolate recipe.  It called for ganache, rather than buttercream, for the icing which would make a  nice change.  This particular recipe asked for golden syrup to go in the ganache, to give it a nice sheen - I was keen to see how that may affect the overall texture.  The quantities of chocolate to cream were slightly different from other ganache recipes and I felt that this would be a result of the addition of the syrup.
Anyway, on to the cupcakes themselves.  The triple chocolate name came, I guessed, from the use of cocoa, white chocolate and dark chocolate throughout and it recommended cutting up white chocolate into chunks to put into the cake section.  I had white chocolate chips, so used them instead, pressing them down into the mix as stated.  However when baked, a lot rose to the top and I was a little concerned that there wouldn't be any inside, thus technically rendering them only double chocolate (as you were supposed to cut the tops off the cupcakes so the icing lay flat).
I waited a little to let the cupcakes cool, then did the ganache so that I could use it as soon as it was ready.  The cream got to near-boiling quite soon, so I gently stirred in the (slightly less than suggested) amount of chocolate.  This is because it was dark chocolate, Mr Becca's least favourite flavour as he finds it too bitter usually.  So I thought less chocolate would make it less rich.
I may have left the ganache to cool a moment too long, or perhaps it could have done with more cream or syrup to make it runnier. But either way, I didn't quite put enough on my spoon before dolloping it onto the cupcakes and so I didn't have a smooth glossy surface. To fix this, I decided to add more to each cupcake then swirl it all slightly.
And finally, to finish off I used white chocolate stars (again, rather than the recommended white chocolate curls, made with a vegetable peeler).  I have taken a photo with the flash on
Then again with it off. 
Which photo do you think looks better? 
Here's one of the interior, some of the white chocolate did sink!!

All the testers liked the taste very much, except Mr Becca - who didn't even bother trying once he realised there was dark chocolate in the ganache.  Ach, never mind. 
Comments from the testers were;  Mary O'C - Sponge was light and fluffy, white chocolate on the inside a nice sweet surprise, lovely rich dark chocolate topping, seriously rich topping. All in all a a nice chocolate pick me up!
Liz C - yummy.. just enough of everything rich ganache was just right
Pam S - Just picked mine up from (mutual friend) and couldn't wait till after tea! It smelled gorgeous! I only had half as I shared it with my 10 year old and she said it was yummy. Very chocolately but not too sweet. Tasted of very good quality chocolate which I LOVE! Usually chocolate cakes are made with cheap chocolate and you can definitely tell the difference. The topping was lovely and there was just enough of it. Too much would have been over-powering. I can safely say that my first taste of a Becca Bakes cupcake was fabulous and I'll definitely be back for more! :)
Jill H - Just to let u know I've just had my cupcake & it was so so delicious, loved the topping & the chocolate inside was fab. Made to perfection. Thanks again much appreciated. Happy baking xx

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is it a boy or a girl?

Babyshowers seem to be an American phenomenon, where the pregnant lady is thrown a party by a friend and people attend with presents for the imminent birth/arrival.  They also eat and drink, but basically you bring baby gifts.  I've only heard of them recently over here, and, when discussing it with an American friend, she seemed incredulous that we don't have them - but how do you get all the stuff baby will need?  she asked.  Uh, from the shops, I answered.  Odd.
But pleasingly, I was asked to do my first babyshower cupcake dozen recently.  The request was quite particular - white icing, coloured sparkles and the male and female symbols on top.  Great, nothing like a customer who knows what they want. 
I wasn't too sure of how to do the symbols on top, as I had no cutters the right shapes and am not too hot on fondant modelling.  Then I had the (I felt) inspired idea to make coloured fondant circles as the toppers, then pipe the symbols onto them.
And to colour the batter and use white paper cases, so the colours would show through. 
That way you have a coloured bottom, white icing, coloured sprinkles and toppers - lovely.  And here are some I made earlier, ha ha.
I do have pink piping gel, but there wasn't enough contrast between the colour of the fondant topper and the icing, hence the use of white.  However the blue worked well.
Now we can see them in box, as delivered...
And the final shot is of Mini-2 dressed as Snow White, making sure that the bowl is really, really clean!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Strawberries are nearly in season

Other bakers have 'ranges' of cupcakes, and business could be busier so I thought I might try out some new recipes in order to (hopefully) stimulate interest.  I can do various flavours, but people generally want vanilla with colours - which is always fun. 
And I've been doing a lot with blueberries recently, then noticed that strawberries are on offer and finally looking good.  They aren't local, so not ideal, but the girls have been asking to eat some for weeks now and I've not wanted to buy them because they aren't in season yet.  Kinda difficult concept to get over to young, hungry kids but I did my best.
So I bought a few punnets, looked through some of my favourite books and thought I'd like to do a taste comparison test, and offer the cakes around to our Facebook fans and friends for their opinions.  And, to be quite frank, the Team are getting sick of cake - shameful, I know.  Not the whole Team you understand, but some of them.  And apart from that, while strawberries are a wonder-food and healthy, by the time you add in the cake batter and icing, it's harder to agree that they're good for you.  So, to aid my health-and-seasonal based teachings, and save our waistlines - I baked up a batch of each recipe and offered one of each on the proviso that I had to receive honest feedback.  And we're off!
At the top, in the white cases, are the bases for the Strawberries and Cream cupcakes. These have crushed berries throughout the batter, and are to be topped with vanilla buttercream and half a fresh strawberry.  At the bottom, in the brown cases, are the cake part of the Strawberry Cheesecake cupcakes.  As you can see, these have pieces of fresh strawberry mixed through the batter, and are to be topped with cream cheese buttercream icing and crumbled biscuits - to resemble the layers of a cheesecake.
The cheesecake icing, naked.  I'm pleased with the swirls on these, though would like them even fatter.
And now they're dressed and ready for their close-up.
These are the naked Strawberries and Cream ones.  I got the buttercream whiter by extra whipping and a touch of Superwhite by Sugarflair.  I don't see this as cheating, rather it's a way to offset the ivory tinge caused by using real butter.
Here we see them fully dressed.  Pretty, aren't they?
Side by side, they created quite a buzz on our Facebook page.  And from the top...
I noticed later on though, that a little bit of water had run off after I'd washed the berries.  It won't affect the taste at all, just doesn't look wonderful.  What do you think?
P.S.  The feedback so far is very positive, with Strawberry Cheesecake winning at the moment.  But only 3 votes are in at this point - more to come later tonight I hope!