Monday, May 28, 2012

Clandestine Cake Club Dundee number 2

How exciting that we'd managed to organise another meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club in Dundee.  People seemed to have really enjoyed themselves at the first event, and this second one was no different.  Jac and I had discussed possible dates and venues and come up with last night at The Milton Inn, Monifieth.  I had chosen the venue because Team Becca had eaten there on more than one occasion and been impressed with both the quality of food and staff/atmosphere.
The theme we chose was fitting and current - A Right Royal Cake-up; red, white & blue.  Because really, the Queen's Jubilee comes only once in a lifetime.  We contacted everyone on our list, and in the end had 5 bakers and 11 in total.  This was slightly less than last time, but worked out well, as we had more people to eat less cakes.  We all still went home with leftovers and sore tummys though!
I had chosen to make a Red Velvet cake, with cream cheese icing tinged blue.  Thus getting in my required red, white and blue colours.  Or so I thought.  I had lent my Sugarflair Christmas Red paste to my neighbour a day or so ago, and hadn't asked for it back at a certain time, not remembering that I would need it so soon.  So I was all set to make pink velvet and figured I'd just apologise then I found a Dr Oetker Natural Red liquid colour bottle.  Kinda wish I hadn't...  I'm going to show you finished cake first, so you'll feel happy when you look at the colour of the interior at which point you may feel a little sad - I sure did.
Here's how I made the blue part of the swirl - I painted a stripe of blue food paste in the piping bag before I added the cream cheese icing.  So each time the icing passed the blue, it picked up a little bit.
And sadly, here's the interior.  See what I mean?  It's terracotta at best...  :(
So, to cheer you all up after that little disapointment - here are the individual cakes in close-up.  They were all soft, moist and delicious!  Mmmm
Earl Grey cake with a Rhubarb Glaze (and yes, it was very hot that day)
Devil's Food Cake with coconut and berries
White chocolate cake with cranberry & raspberry filling
Raspberry & vanilla cake.  And here we see me cutting into my own cake
Some of the other members trying out the delicious treats
And a lovely smiley group photo...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Butterscotch, piano, motorbikes... and cake

Mr Becca has 3 things he really likes (apart from us, his lovely ladies of course) - riding his motorbike, learning to play piano and butterscotch.  Last year, I made him a butterscotch cake with butterscotch drizzle and cream cheese icing and he enjoyed it very much.  As did a friend, who then ordered it for her mother's birthday a couple of weeks later!  (her mother gets migraines from chocolate and T felt that this was the perfect way for her mum to enjoy a delicious cake).
I felt that making a motorbike shaped cake was a little outside my comfort zone, so opted for the classic Meatloaf philosophy of 'Two outta three ain't bad' and decided to do a piano decorated butterscotch flavoured cake.  I had saved a few cake photos for inspiration, but the new recipe I wanted to try wouldn't suit having a fondant covering on top, as I felt it would impact the taste of the cake too greatly. 
So, to cut a long story short, I made the cake, decorated it then used piping chocolate and copied the first few bars of Fur Elise from one of his piano study books. In hindsight, I should have used more room for the music lines but hey, ho - he could read the music and loved the cake, so I was thrilled. Happy birthday darling!
Even better, I came downstairs to this note on the counter the next morning - high praise indeed, woop woop!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sweet and simple for a newborn baby, awww

One of Mr Becca's colleagues had ordered a simple birthday cake a couple of months ago, and they'd really enjoyed it.  This time, she wanted a cake that tasted as good, but had blue icing and a touch of glitter to celebrate the birth of baby Gabriel.  (Mr Becca didn't seem to know whose baby Gabriel was, but I wasn't sure if that was a problem.  Still, it would have been nice to know, don't you think?)
I was kinda busy but planned out my time as well as I could around the girls and any pre-planned commitments and made them a cake that they ended up loving.  Phew.

Marshmallow Top Hats are just the cutest thing.

Marshmallow top hats are what it's called when you get a lovely fat marshmallow, dip it in chocolate then sprinkle it with edible coloured shapes.  They're a kids thing, as they're so easy to make that kids can make them by themselves, or with a bit of adult supervision.  Plus kids love to eat them!
Mini-2 is nearing the end of her pre-school nursery (kindergarten) year and they wanted to hold a Cake and Candy stall to help raise money to buy in some live chicks so the kids could watch them turn into bigger chickens and then hens.  But they took too long to get organised and there were a couple of animal regulations that wouldn't be fulfilled, so the idea was to raise the money to get an animal handler to visit both morning and afternoon nursery sessions, with a selection of larger insects and animals,  instead.  We were busy at Becca Towers, what with the anniversary cake, the birthday cakes, and customer orders that we didn't have much time spare to bake.  Then I rememberd top hats from other children's parties and knew we'd have time for them...
We had some green Candy Melts that we'd been waiting to use for some time, and I thought this would be a fun way to do so.  We followed the pack instructions and dropped a little into each petit four case. 
Then we had to quickly dip the marshmallow into position before the melted chocolate started to harden. We popped them in the fridge to firm up and slowly worked our way through 6 dozen marshmallows, eek!  We ran out of green coloured chocolate part-way through, so changed to white chocolate...
We chose a selection of all our lovely edible sprinkle shapes and colours and did a little bowlful at a time.  We chose to put chocolate on the top then dip them upside down into the bowl, rather than drizzle sprinkles from the bowl onto the marshmallow (much more dexterity needed, thus more potential for mess, for the latter method).  So some of them are a little smeared looking (those were Mini-2's ones, honest!), but they would all taste great.
And here's a selection of the finished products - so much fun, to look at, to make and to eat!  Enjoy.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Candy melts aren't always a good idea...

One of the companies here makes flavoured and coloured candy melts (Silver Spoon, but I couldn't find the product on their website?), so the pink ones are strawberry.  When I bought them, I had thought this was a good idea.  Not so much now.
We had Maltesers to use up, so I made Malteser Slice.  And thought it would be fun to use the pink chocolate on top, rather than the usual white chocolate.  Please, don't try this at home.  Apart from the melts not actually melting as well as normal chocolate does in a bain-marie, it really didn't taste right having strawberry flavoured chocolate on your Malteser Slice.  Looked good, but did not taste good.  Ah well, that's what experimenting is all about really, isn't it?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lemon curd filled lemon cupcakes, mmm

As the yellow from the rainbow cake was such a lovely shade, and we had lemon curd at home, it seemed only right to try out the lemon cupcake recipe.  We had a do at one of Mr Becca's colleagues' homes today, a family day, and he'd volunteered me to bring a dessert item.  Team Becca are all kind of over cake and cupcakes, so to switch things up a bit I used lemon zest and juice in the batter.  I had some coloured muffin cases (I use these, as opposed to cupcake cases) so thought they'd look more fun in matching yellow cases.  I cored then filled the baked cupcakes with lemon curd and put some lemon curd into the buttercream too - along with a touch of the yellow food colour.
And guess what?!  They went down a storm at the lunch, and with all the Team,  woo hoo!  Everyone agreed that they were deliciously lemony not too sweet or tart.  They're a definite winner...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rainbows, cake and another anniversary...

Mr Becca and I have been together for a long time.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say a Very Long Time (as per Winnie the Pooh), and most of the time it's great.  We were really young when we met, and talked about growing old together.  It's really happening, gosh.
I'd seen a fabulous rainbow cake on another Facebook baker's page and she was kind enough to give her take on how she'd made the cake.  She made it seem not difficult, and I felt like I wanted to give it a go too.  I thought it'd be a lovely surprise for him for our wedding anniversary today.
I needed to borrow the ice blue from my neighbour but had all the other paste colours to hand.
The yellow and green I had bought specifically, so was quite surprised when the yellow paste came out orange.  But was really happy when it came up sunshine yellow upon mixing, woo hoo!
Aren't the colours great? I had to use 1/4 tsp of the gel per tin, but it was worth it - and didn't affect the taste at all. Because I only have 3 8" tins (all exactly the same, from the same shop) I could only bake 3 colours at once. They only took 16 minutes, but then it was time to wash everything down, ready for tomorrow morning.  Instead, I wanted to cut out the wording for the cake with my new Patchwork Cutter alphabet set.  I didn't have flower paste, or mexican paste - only sugarpaste (also known as ready to roll icing) and tylo/cmc powder.  And no experience.  Which led to tears of frustration!  Mr Becca popped in and out of the kitchen (under my watchful eye, so as not to ruin the surprise) and was surprised at how angry I got at the darn cutters, grrr.  Some helpful Facebook fans gave me many hints and tips, and I eventually managed this...
I did two sets, in case one broke somehow.  The next morning, Mini-2 and I got cracking on the remaining layers required.  She's getting to be a dab hand at cracking eggs, and we always crack them into a small bowl so we can pick out any stray bits of shell that may fall in, before we transfer it to the main mixing bowl.  No shell, woo hoo!
She wanted to add in some of the colour gel paste, so here she is doing the green one.
And here's the next three colours of the rainbow, ready to be baked.  I'm not sure why, but I didn't take a photo of the purple before it was baked, sorry.
Once the batters were all sorted and in the oven, she was in her element - utensil licking, ha ha.
I made multiple batches of my signature buttercream icing, using 1kg of icing sugar - gee whizz that stressed out my poor Kenwood!  I had wanted to try out a new petal icing technique, but after layering the individual coloured cakes and crumb-coating the whole assembled cake it didn't look like I'd have enough, boo hoo.
So I tried to get the final layer of buttercream as smooth as possible, and it looked not too bad I think.  It was sitting in the kitchen overnight, and today Mr Becca came down early enough (he's on annual leave this week) that the girls were still having breakfast.  When he saw the cake he said, 'That's some size of cake!'.  Despite them ruining the surprise and saying, 'It's a rainbow cake Daddy!' I cut into it and he was really surprised to see the rainbow - I think it's okay to say he loved it!
Sadly, the heart cracked as I placed it on the cake (lucky I'm not superstitious, isn't it?) so I know to do the decorations just before they need to be placed so they can mould to the cake shape for next time.
It was a rather large cake - 8" round and a full 5" tall!!  So we shared, a lot.  One of my favourite local photographers, Jill at Aspire2be.creative, enjoyed her slices, eventually! ha ha.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cookies & Creme cupcakes, can we do it?

A few of the school and nursery mums know I bake, and have taste-tested goodies when I needed help to eat everything.  One of them approached me yesterday to say it was her hubby's birthday and could I possibly make some of those divine (her words) Oreo cupcakes for him?  She would have done it herself but wasn't that good at baking, and mine were so good...  With a build-up like that, how could I refuse?  Ha ha.
I had big plans for a cake for Mr Becca, for our wedding anniversary tomorrow (more on that in the next post) and had to think on my feet to see if I could slot this order in - ummmmm, yep!
I used almost double the recipe-recommended amount of Oreo's, as when I'd made this recipe in the past I'd written notes and hadn't been impressed with the content/amount of Oreo's in the mix.  As you can see above, it looks about right, ha ha.  But just in case, I added a super-cute mini Oreo on top of each uncooked cupcake in the tin.
The recipe for the icing isn't as nice as my signature one, so I don't use it.  And I feel that if you're going to have Cookies and Creme, you may as well overdo it - see how small I crushed the Oreo's for the icing?  The reason is two-fold; taste and ability to use the right icing nozzle to decorate the tops.  Larger bits of cookie sometimes get stuck in the nozzle and makes the swirls look messy.
And we don't want messy icing swirls, do we?!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Berries a go-go

I was being good, so checked the freezer for use by dates too, and found a box of mixed berries.  Hmmm, smoothies for breakfast didn't go down quite so well as I'd imagined, so while the girls were out with Daddy to the cinema for a surprise Saturday morning treat, I whipped up a batch of Mixed Berry Muffins for their return/after lunch.  These were thanks to the cutest little book, Muffin Magic by Susannah Blake, and the easiest and best use of the remaining berries I could find at a pinch. 
Thanks to the smoothies, I was a bit short of the required 300g of berries, so added in some chopped (and flour-coated so they didn't sink) dried apricots - also nearing expiry.  Thus killing two birds with one stone, score.
They baked up well, and the house smelt great for their return.  But these were deemed too fruity by The Team  What??!!  I, and my friendly helpful eaters, thought they were delicious.  Even when microwaved a  few days later.   Mmmm...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hershey's Kisses don't melt well, fact.

I've recently gone through my baking store cupboard, to check if any items are nearing their use-by date.  And found some Hershey's Kisses and Crunchie (honeycomb choc) bars. 
There are odd other items, but I wanted to use these up first.  I had thought perhaps to do cookies, or pop them into a tray of brownies or cupcakes, but couldn't face eating any of those things.  Then I remembered a traybake I'd done in the past that used Crunchie's and was divine.  So I removed all the wrappers and got the chocolate ready to melt.
And the long and the short of it is, these Kisses don't really melt very well.  But I didn't learn that until a little too late.  If you look closely at the next image, you may see a little evidence on the top layer of the slice, where it seems to have separated slightly.  Nevermind, these were for us and it didn't affect the taste at all, agreed by the external taste-testers (non Team Becca).  Yummy!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Caramac choc cake, for a boy turning 8

I had seen a local bakery offering Caramac cupcakes, and bought some of the 'chocolate' bars when I saw them, in preparation for trying it myself at some point.  I didn't know if they used the chocolate in both the sponge and the icing, and thought I wouldn't ask - as they probably wouldn't tell me.
We have some good friends, K & M, whom we don't see often enough, and had arranged to catch up the day after their son J's 8th birthday.  After pinning K down to some of his likes and dislikes, I decided upon a small chocolate cake with Caramac buttercream icing and a number 8 picked out in boy-ish colour Mini Smarties.
But the icing was proving a bit tricky.  I melted 4 bars, as I really wanted to taste the flavour in the icing.  I let the mix cool a little, then poured it into slightly less than usual amount of sifted icing sugar.  I had thought that the melted mix would substitute for a bit of the butter, so added less of that too.  And was not impressed with the result.  It was almost grainy.  So I added more butter and a touch of milk...
And got this, still not right.  After a bit more playing around with ingredients it was workable but I would need to try again and note down exactly how much of everything I used in order to repeat it.  Still, it was smooth to the taste and spreadable (though wouldn't have been easy to pipe) and thus the cake was completed.
For future reference, I would level the cake - even such a small one.  I didn't think it would end up looking so rounded, it didn't appear that bad when 'naked'.  Still, the birthday boy loved it (it was a surprise) the kids gobbled it up, adults too!  Hooray.

Friday, May 04, 2012

G'day mate, fancy some chocolate?

I've started going to an exercise class on a Monday morning, as they have a creche so Mini-2 is ok there.  They also have a class on a Friday afternoon, but I've not made it to that yet - one week I had a bad dizzy spell and today I felt like baking instead.  We had a playdate this afternoon with friends we hadn't seen for months, and we were all looking forward to it.  I thought cookies would go down nicely for all.

I wanted to try another from the Donna Hay (Australia's Nigella Lawson) book my friend C gave me for a birthday a couple of years ago, Simple Essentials - Chocolate.  There were a few from which to choose, but the Double Chocolate ones looked perfect for the time I had available and I had all the ingredients to hand.  They needed a lot of chocolate - some melted into the mix, some chopped into the mix.  See what I mean? That's a lot of chocolate chips, and more were added after this photo.
The mix was a bit dry, but easily made over 3 dozen small-medium sized cookies, yum.  And they went down a storm with our friends...  Want one?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Chocolate cola cake? Whatever next!

A friend had made a cake for her friends a few weeks ago that sounded intriguing - chocolate cola cake.  She sent me the recipe link and I printed it out a few days ago, thinking it'd be fun and easy to try out.  It actually needed cola, so I had to go out and buy some.  Now, before you get to thinking that I'm really healthy and don't drink the stuff - uh uh, I only drink diet and caffeine-free, so had to buy the real stuff.  Diet so I have more calories to 'spend' on cake etc and caffeine-free because caffeine seems to trigger hours-long dizzy and headache spells latterly, which I can do without.  I haven't figured out any other triggers, but caffeine was a definite, so it's been off my personal menu for about 6 months now.
After adding the cola and milk and other necessary ingredients, and baking it then making the icing straight away (again using cola) - you had to pour the still-warm icing directly onto the still-warm cake and leave it all to cool in the tin.
One thing I would like to show you is the mess!  I wouldn't normally show anyone the mess, but I wasn't expecting this, at all.  The cake mix was really wet and took me by surprise.  Next time (and yes, I've written a note on the recipe itself) I shall use my Kenwood in which to make the cake mix. 
And the next morning we see the finished product.  One medium-light, soft and moist chocolate cake.  None of us could really taste the cola, but I think it makes the cake nice and moist.  Try it out yourself and let me know how you get on, please?!