Monday, April 30, 2012

Logo-tastic Becca!

I had fancied getting a logo for a while now, but really couldn't decide what I wanted.  There were a couple of pages on Facebook whom I was following and their work seemed great, but nothing really grabbed me.  I just didn't know if I would rather look at a designed image or the lovely white cupcake I have at the moment on my Facebook page image.  I really like that one, as the swirl is good and the sprinkles are in pink and red - and I really love pink.
Anyway, one of the Facebook pages I was watching (The Cupcake Company) got a logo from someone else (Purple Scrunch - Business Branding) that I really liked.  Then the new page had an offer on for reaching a certain number of fans, and did some pre-made logos.  To cut to the chase, this is what I chose - hope you like it too.  In case you can't quite read it, it says Becca Bakes the sweeter things in life.
Here's the white cupcake image I've been using until now, and which, as of right now, I still haven't changed over.  Do you have a preference?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Plain, but not boring

Most people want something a little fancy with their cakes, a little bit of glitter, or a particular type of decoration, or a favourite colour.  But this weekend, both customers wanted plain, unfussy and simple cakes.
One was a 40th birthday cake for a colleague and the order was helpfully specific - basically a Victoria Sponge with Happy 40th Birthday Jenni written on it.  It was also to feed a workplace, so I used my recipe that made a very tall cake.  It ended up at 8" round and 4" tall - and looked great for it.  I used Dr Oetker Cake Release on the walls of the tins (and lined the base with paper) to get a really smooth edge.  I used to line the edges too, but sometimes had issues with where the paper overlapped.  I now have a recipe for home-made cake release to try out (1 cup shortening (Trex in the UK), 1 cup vegetable oil and 1 cup flour or just equal amounts of each and then mix it up and paste it on with a pastry brush) but  need to use up this can first.
I bought some Patchwork Cutters alphabet and small number cutters, and had CMC/Tylo powder to add  to my sugarpaste so that it was more pliable and could be rolled thinner.  Wow, those cutters sure are difficult to use!!  I smeared the required shape with Trex to aid removal of the letter afterwards, but still barely managed much.  In the end I embossed, as I had done that technique successfully in the past. 
Once the cakes had rested, they were filled with lashings of jam and buttercream (they needed a lot I felt, as there was a lot of cake), crumb-coated then coated in luscious whipped buttercream.  A final sprinkling of glitter to ensure the embossed words were visible and the cake was ready to go.  Mr Becca took it in to work (the order was from someone there) and they even paid a bit extra for it, telling him to 'buy a treat for the kids'.  Awww, bless.
The other was a 67th birthday cake for a friend whose children never remembered to buy her a cake.  So my friend's mother (who is a close friend of the birthday girl) took it upon herself to do the honours.  In this case, they wanted a cake not too big, not too chocolatey and not heavily decorated - as the birthday girl is the sort of lady who has everything and is fussy.  So we decided on a cute 6" vanilla chocolate marble cake, with a simple J on it (the birthday girl's initial).
I decided not to use the same recipe as the cake above, in the main because I don't have 2 6" cake tins the exact same brand.  But also because they didn't want a big cake.  I made the cake mix all vanilla, then melted some milk chocolate and mixed that through half.  It wasn't as dark as if I'd used cocoa, but felt that the extra powder may affect the cooking time and texture.  The cake smelt great, and the girls really wanted to tuck in themselves!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Iced cookies, well I never...

There's a new cake decorating magazine just been released by De Agostini in the UK (famous, or should that be infamous, for doing collector magazines where the first issue is 99p but subsequent ones are usually £2.99-£5.99 and you need 70 to complete your model or whatever), called Cake Decorating.  It too had the first issue, with free cover gift, for a mere 99p and subsequent issues are £2.99 weekly, each with cover gifts.  It looked pretty good to me, so I bought the first one and was actually quite impressed, despite myself.  The photos are very clear, as are the instructions and the tools you get are detailed inside the magazine, with a variation on techniques to create different effects.  So, thanks to one of the nursery dad's who is a milkman, I have managed to buy each issue up till today (Issue 6).  There is a subscription offer, that is free of p&p, and they give you even more gifts with the first, third, fifth and seventh deliveries, but when you read the small print you see that they can send you extra items as they choose for £7.99 each and that puts me off.  But S says he's happy to pick me one up each week as he's doing his rounds - to which I say Thank You.
So, on to the point of this post - it is coming, I promise, but first a little more background.  A small local bakery near Becca Towers does iced cookies for around 70p each and the Mini Bakes love them.  They are shaped and designed like either Iggle Piggle or Mr Blobby, so not really of interest, but they love them nonetheless.   I don't like the idea of paying so much for such a simple thing, so have avoided doing so on the last couple of occasions, saying 'Oh, I'm sure we could make them ourselves'.  So when Mini-1 saw last week's issue of the above-mentioned magazine, she reminded me of that promise and asked for the heart-shaped biscuits.
So, to work.
Following the simple recipe, Mini-2 decided not to help me weigh out and mix up the ingredients before they went into the fridge for 30 minutes.  I was instructed to call her when it was time to roll them out and cut them. 
She liked getting floury hands...
But lifting the cut shapes onto the baking sheet was a tricky affair, even when using her special stripy mini spatula.
A mere 12 minutes later they were done.
This took us up until lunchtime, then it was time to walk to nursery.  But look what I managed to do later on, the outlines with soft-peak royal icing.  I'm not great with whipping up egg white to get meringues, so 'cheated' and used Royal Icing Sugar.  The  magazine showed you photos of what consistency was what, so made it easy for me.  Thanks to the regular cupcakes, I was confident with the fine piping - but not great, as you can see by the wobbly lines.
Then to fill them with 'runny icing', which just has a bit more water added.
I stopped for the day at this point, as you had to let them dry for 4 hours.  My runny icing must have had a little too much water added, because the next morning they weren't fully hard.  Oh well.
A poor quality photo, sorry.  But you can see the decorations done with soft-peak icing again (like for the edging).  The A and L are for my friend who's birthday is today and her hubby L who's birthday is tomorrow.  Despite the obvious flaws, she was impressed and we had them for morning tea.
The cookie recipe made nearly 20, so on these I tried two colours of the same consistency, called drop-in technique apparently.  Using a toothpick I made the designs on the middle two biscuits, as per the magazine instructions.
This one is meant to look like hearts - it kinda does, right?
And the final one is just for me.  It reminds me of the children's nursery rhyme Pat-a-cake ;
Pat a cake, pat a cake baker's man,
make me a cake as fast as you can,
prick it and poke it and mark it with a B,
and put it in the oven for Baby and me.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lest we forget - ANZAC Day

As a schoolgirl, I was privileged enough to attend the girls' school that participated (at Year 10 level) in a remembrance service at The Shrine (of  Remembrance) in Melbourne on this day.  It was a great school, giving a great education, for many other reasons too.  Of course, I probably didn't appreciate it at the time but that's what happens when you're 15, isn't it? 
In fact, I distinctly remember being told off in front of the whole massed Year 10 from not only our school, but the boys school also, because the service was being televised and the teacher could see my blue basketball shorts (I had basketball practice after school that day) under my cotton schooldress! Oops, sit more discreetly Becca, honestly! 
For those of you who aren't Australian, or who don't know what ANZAC even stands for, here's some background information...
Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, whose soldiers were known as Anzacs. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national occasions of both Australia and New Zealand, a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same remembrance day, but making reference to both countries in its name. When war broke out in 1914, Australia and New Zealand had been dominions of the British Empire for thirteen and seven years respectively. 
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries.
Thanks very much to Wikipedia.
And from the packet - Symbolising the enduring spirit of the Australian & New Zealand men and women, the ANZAC biscuit assumed an increasingly important role during World War 1.  Baked by the women at home using the only ingredients available - rolled oats, golden syrup and flour - this biscuit played a vital role in lifting morale of the soldiers and later, as a fund-raiser for the Red Cross.
A new friend, also an expat, who blogs here suggested I bake Anzac biscuits after reading and enjoying my Australia Day cupcakes on Jan 26th.  I have a few cakes due soon so in lieu of baking them myself, here are some I found in a shop.  Enjoy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Clandestine Cake Club hits Dundee!

Have you heard of the Clandestine Cake Club?  No?  It's like a book club, only calorific!  Basically a theme is set, you bake a cake to that theme then take it to the specified venue at the specified time and you all taste each others cakes and chat about them.  You need to register your interest in the first place, then the host emails you to tell you the time and date and theme of the next meeting.  There's always a limit to the number of attendees, and usually each baker is offered the option to bring along an 'eater' - i.e. someone who won't bake, but simply eat the offerings.  So it's a first-come, first-served kind of idea, and the clandestine part is that the confirmed invitees don't learn the actual location of the event until 24-48 hours before the event.  The theme and location changes each time too, to maintain the interest and intrigue.
So, I got on the list for the first event (well, that's a bit modest, I actually am the co-host of the entire Dundee enterprise, with my new friend Jac of Tinned Tomatoes fame) and Jac chose the theme - Getting Fruity.  Why, I hear you ask.  Simply because she likes fruit in cake, need there be a better reason?  As the time for the event got closer, we all had to tell her the cake we planned to bake, to ensure not too many of the same type.
I wanted to do the Blackberry, Lavender, Rose & White Chocolate one from Fiona Cairns' book The Birthday Cake Book (sorry but I can't find a link for this cake anywhere online) as it sounded tasty.  I had done it as a practice run a few weeks ago, and hadn't been impressed.  There was barely a hint of either of the flower flavours and the white chocolate ganache was far too creamy and thin for my liking.  Here's the cake I did in March...
As you can see, I wasn't too particular with smoothing the ganache.  It was more interesting to see how far it spread.  I made notes on the recipe for future reference (I, and Mr Becca, always do that - do you?) and left it at that.
So to yesterday's efforts.  This time I made the compote for the filling from scratch and thus had to leave it overnight to infuse with the lavender.  I had previously used my friend A's homemade Blackcurrant and Lavender jelly, but evidently not enough.  This time I again used her lavender, but actual blackberries.  Even after 24 hours they were still distinctly berries in syrup, so I mashed them and made them more spreadable (once the liquid was drained off).
Not long after doing the last cake, a friend had posted a photo of her chocolate ganache which was really thick so I asked her what I may have done wrong, because mine was really runny.  After some discussion, we realised I hadn't let mine cool long enough, so this time it got 30  minutes in the fridge then a further 45 in the freezer.  Job done, as far as texture was concerned, but that meant it barely spread at all.  Eek!  I ended up with enough to just do the filling and the top of the cake, and so was really quite upset about the look of the cake, as I hadn't taken any care with the filling - imagining that it would be totally covered up.  When asked his opinion, my darling husband stated politely that 'he had seen better work from me' and 'it looked like someone's first-ever cake'.  Gee, thanks.  But after a good night's sleep and some encouraging words from other bakers (including the founder of Clandestine Cake Club herself - reminding me that it wasn't a competition and we weren't there to judge, simply to eat and enjoy), I decided it wasn't that bad at all and took it along to Cake Club...
Where it sat proudly on the table with all the other delicious cakes the other bakers had made.  Those are hand-made chocolates if you were wondering.  I made them by melting white chocolate, adding some food colouring them popping them in my mould and freezing them.  I'm still working on getting all the air bubbles out (but from this distance you can't really see them anyway).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who ate the last Rolo brownie?

After the success of, and wonderful feedback on, the Ferrero Rocher brownies, I felt it was time to try again.  Refreshed from our wee break down south (to family in London via friends in Nottingham, via lots of lovely, tasty and delicious food at restaurants that don't exist in our city) I thought to try the brownies with Rolo chocolates this time.
In order to get a better mix of cooked brownie and melted chocolate, I scored the brownie before placing in the chocolates and also put them in less close to the end of baking time.  Overall, I think next time I'll actually put the chocolates in at the beginning of baking time, rather than near the end.  In this way I expect they'll fall slightly into the mix and thus bake into each piece (and thus the kids won't be able to pick the choc off the top).  A friend suggested baking a tray and putting a different type of chocolate into each square - to compare and contrast how the different chocolates perform.  A fab idea I think!