Friday, June 22, 2012

Giant cupcakes are not just for giants...

I have the email address on the blog and our Facebook page, and was lucky enough to get an email earlier this week asking me to do not one, but two, giant cupcakes for yesterday.  After checking the diary to see what other baking commitments I had, and the calendar to see what family commitments we had - I said, sure thing.
The customer was a new one, and wanted one sticky toffee giant and one vanilla with pink decorations giant cupcake.  I hadn't done any flavour other than vanilla before but was confident about the toffee as it's a similar flavour to caramel and butterscotch and I'm adept at them.  I used the vanilla cake recipe and swapped 2/3rds of the sugar for light brown muscovado sugar and it was good.  Baked up the same and smelt great.  For the icing, I searched through my books and folder (the folder is indivual random recipes that are printed from emails, or other books or other people or cut from magazines) and was beginning to panic as there were no specifically toffee recipes.  They seemed more caramel to me, and that's not what I was after.  Then I found it - Fiona Cairn's toffee buttercream recipe.  I had copied it out of this book as I liked the sound of only some of the cakes and designs she had featured.
The recipe required you to make a sauce with sugar and butter, then add cream then when cool you added it to the buttercream  I had to play about with the texture a little, so it was solid enough to pipe, but wow - did it taste good!! 
I had also made a chocolate shell for the bottom of the cupcake for the first time.  This was done by melting 200g of milk chocolate and painting it on the inside of my silicone mould.  I popped it in the freezer for 10 minutes, then painted on another layer, and so on times in total.  I turned it upside down, made a wish, then it popped right out in one piece!  Phew.  Next time I shall use a bit more chocolate, as it seemed a bit thin in places.
This is a vanilla cake with vanilla (and a round of lemon curd buttercream) buttercream, strawberry jam filling and a spray of flowers.  I think I really need to practice making flowers out of sugarpaste or flowerpaste, to give a little more variety in what I can offer.  But the customer loved it,  and that is what matters most.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Liquid chocolate from Naples is hard to find outside Naples...

I was in Naples in the 90's whilst backpacking with a friend, and we stopped for a pizza and hot chocolate at a nothing-special restaurant behind the main train station.  The pizza was pretty good, but it's the hot chocolate that I've never forgotten.  It was like molten lava, but made of chocolate.  Thick, luscious and totally divine!
For the intervening decade(s) I've tried to find that taste again, as I've not yet returned to Naples to find that restaurant, ha ha.  I've been to Italy a few times, and not found it  :(
Then we ate lunch in a Carluccio's restaurant, the time before last that we were in London.  Oh my gosh - I found it!!  Their cioccolata fiorentina is the bomb.  They describe it as 'thick Florentine style drinking chocolate served in an espresso cup' and that is it!  But it's so small...  So I bought a tin of it to take home.
I followed the instructions and can assure you that this gelatinous gloop is Not how it's supposed to look, or taste.We ate it, rather than drank it, but I think from now on it shall be one of those things that I am happy to pay someone else to do for me ;)