Sunday, September 30, 2012

Now we are six

Jack loved the birthday cake I made him last year, which was kind as it wasn't one of my best.  But I have improved since then, I hope, and was thrilled at the chance to bake again for him.  He wanted the same cake this year, but with a number 6 on it (as he was planning to be older this time) and different candles (his Mum figured that was her department, haha).
We chose vanilla sponge with strawberry jam and coloured vanilla icing again, and I happened upon a lovely birthday card when out and about last weekend that inspired my colour choice.
And then a few days ago, I found a bag of M & M's that was just red, white and blue - serendipity or what?!! 
So these big beauties made the number 6 for me, and it was then the task of separating out all the red and blue M & M's in a normal pack or two of sweets to see if I'd have enough to make the border around the base of the cake.  Woo hoo, I did have enough!!
And don't you think these leftover M & M's would make lovely autumn-themed decorations for something?? 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Even 70 year olds need cake

The brief was that her dad was turning 70, but they were only having a small family party, so didn't need a huge amount of food.  She wanted a cake, but didn't really know quite what she wanted.  We narrowed it down to vanilla sponge, raspberry jam and vanilla icing - a great start.  Then we fixed on colours - blue, white and silver were quite manly we felt.
Then I had the inspired idea of doing a burst cake, like I learnt at Cake School back in June (I haven't written about that, yet) and she loved that idea.  And a little 6" cutie would give them just the right amount of cake and the grandkids would love having a cake on grandpa's birthday.  The cake is filled and iced in blue buttercream, with sugarpaste covering.  So, what do you think?

The girl loves Hello Kitty

A reader saw the Hello Kitty cake and cookies I made for my girls last month, and was lucky enough to get a few to taste-test.  She and her girls loved them and ordered just over 3 dozen of them for her youngest's birthday party this weekend. 
The napkins were red and pink striped, so I made the sugarpaste in hot pink and baby pink.  And there was a little bit of each left over at the end, so two lucky cookies got the stripy treatment.  (I think I may save those two for my little angels for snacktime at school on Monday).  Happy Birthday Airlie, hope you have a great day!

Friday, September 28, 2012

World's biggest coffee morning

MacMillan cancer support are a nationwide charity here in the UK who provide support to families and sufferers of all types of cancer.  Each year they hold a massive fundraiser and this year I was approached by a local nursery to donate something for their raffle.  I don't have a particular affiliation for this charity over and above any others, although, as with most families these days, we have been personally affected by cancer.  However my childrens' school was also holding a coffee morning to support the charity so I got behind it 100%, Becca Bakes style.
After getting in touch with my favourite printer Jade, over at The Cupcake Company, I was able to make the following for the events.  Classic Vanilla cupcakes with toppers and green sanding sugar for the nursery
And some vanilla cookies with sugarpaste icing on for the school.  I tried larger sized cutters this time, and they took longer to bake.  That was a bit tricky to coordinate, because I kept needing to check on them, but not wanting to open the oven to do so.  Anyway, because they were larger and I had no impression stamps for them I embossed the sugarpaste on most of them for added interest.

I went down to the school for my elder daughter's class time for the event (so about 40 minutes after it started) and there were no cookies to buy....  They'd sold out!  Woo hoo, go Team Becca  :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chocky Rocks? They're bonza, mate!

I had asked for easy-to-make-with-kids recipes, particularly Australian ones and was rewarded with the following links by some Aussie bakers in a group I'm in.  The first was for White Christmas, which is technically not baking, but perfect for kids.  Next up was Chocky Rocks and Anzac Biscuits, both of which seemed ideal for my needs.  The needs need to remain secret just now I think, but suffice it to say that the 'kids' in question are not my own - ooh, exciting!!
Anyway, the point of this post is that the girls and I wanted to try out one of the recipes and thought Chocky Rocks sounded fun and easy.  And messy, their favourite part! ha ha.
We started shaping the cookies by hand, as the recipe suggested, but my gosh!  What a mess!
 After shaping them, you had to roll them in cornflakes.  Not easy with such mucky hands...
 So after cleaning their hands thoroughly (with soap and water, I promise!!)

 We switched to using two spoons to roll the balls
 and then dip the balls into cornflakes.
 They were then unceremoniously dropped onto a lined baking tray (I'm working on the gracefulness of the girls, working hard ;))
 And popped into the oven to cook.  And then taken out to be eaten.
Served with a tall glass of ice cold milk - mmmm, yummy!!  I remembered making these as a child with my Mum and siblings and I think my girls had just as much fun.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mr Becca on a Friday night...

Some men like to play video games.  Some like to go out for drinks at the pub.  Some like to play five-a-side football at the weekends.  My husband's favourite method of chilling out after a long hard week at the office is to cook.  Yes, you read that right.  Cook.  He loves to spend hours painstakingly measuring out tiny amounts of obscure Indian herbs, or Thai grasses, or Vietnamese chillies and grinding them in his granite mortar and pestle to make delicious, fragrant sauces and marinades for any number of dishes. 
He has a good selection of cookbooks and likes to pick one on a Friday morning in order to plan out his Friday night's entertainment.  He stops by a near-to-the-office supermarket on his break and picks up any last minute ingredients, sometimes calling me during the day to enquire as to the amount of any particular one that we may have remaining in a cupboard. 
As you may notice, they aren't all Asian cuisines, there are a good few Mediterannean ones in there too, and a couple of Mexican ones.  As long as the food is fresh and flavourful, he's happy.
So anyway, the Friday just past, he made Chicken in Parmesan with a basil sauce (that's a typewritten recipe, so may be one from his late gran), Jamie Oliver's Red Rice from Jamie's 30-Minute Meals  (incidentally, it's very hard to make these meals in the alloted 30 minutes.  They use up every piece of cookware you own and leave them all lying dirty about the kitchen in order to meet the timescale.  Not ideal, really) and some Creamed Spinach.  I'm not really sure why it's called that, because it is made with softened onion, pine nuts and a cheesy layer on top...
We eat whatever he makes for lunch on the Saturday, or, if we're out for the day, then for dinner, because he stays up late to cook.  I mean, waaaaay late like 2am late.  Can you tell it's me that wakes up with the kids every day?!  Still, when lunch or dinner is this fresh and delicious, it's not all bad ;)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mini cupcakes or a traybake?? Or both...

A lovely lady, let's call her R, and I have been friends since we met with my eldest daughter (and her youngest) at a toddler group years ago.  She's one of those friends whom you don't see all that often, but pick up where you left off when you do get together, and are always happy to catch up or run into one another.
She was one of my first customers, and has recommended me to others.  And this year, her daughter wanted my mini cupcakes and a traybake again for her birthday.  There was a bit of discussion with the older brothers as to precisely which traybake but the brief was simple - white, purple and sparkle.  Ah, music to my ears!! 
The boys agreed on the Mars Bar slice, full to bursting with Rice Bubbles (I know, I know, they're not called that here, but it's the name of my youth) and covered in white chocolate this time.  I forgot to take a photo, but you've seen one before ;)
I'm pleased with the cupcakes though, and both mother and daughter loved them!  Happy 7th Birthday Dea!!


A man who knows what he wants, how refreshing

It has to be very pink, very sparkly and very girly - and have white hearts and butterflies and can you do the hearts on sticks?  And could you off-set the cake and pipe Happy 21st birthday Karen around the plain cake board, evenly in the space remaining, in pink and white if possible?  It's all she's wanted and talked about for weeks, so it has to be right.  Oh, and do you colour the sugarpaste yourself?  Yes?  So can that be pale pink and the icing to be hot pink?  I think that's all, oh and can you deliver it please?
Phew.  A man who knows what he wants - quite a nice change actually ;)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clandestine Cake Club hits Dundee, again

I haven't written for a while, and intend to remedy that... soon.  And what better reason than to tell you about another meeting of the super-fun Clandestine Cake Club in Dundee?!  The venue this time was the very posh and lovely Hilton Hotel Dundee, and they had been kind enough to set out a fancy glass table on which to display our cakes, along with a long meeting table for us - giving us plenty of room to eat cake, mingle and chat.
This month's theme was 'Like a kid in a Sweet Shop' and there were a plethora of chocolate based cakes on offer.  Chocolate Lime with a lime cream accompaniment, Choc Orange, After-Eight (choc mint), White Chocolate and Orange, Chocolate Jazzie, Coca Cola and Coconut Lime cakes. 
And here's a photo, taken by the lovely @zoevenditozzi from her Twitter feed, of a plateful of deliciousness
Which one is mine, you ask?  Oh dear, I kind of wished you hadn't.  I put the oven on before 5pm on Saturday (the day before the meeting) and it short-circuited the entire house!  That's right, all the appliances went off, and the lights upstairs and downstairs.  And to top it off, it was the one day that Mr Becca was away in another city for a stag-do, so couldn't help at all.  I sent him a few text messages, asking for help and advice, but it wasn't until he received the one saying 'eating microwaved 'baked' potatoes by candlelight for dinner' that he replied.  With a phone call.  And an exortation to get power back to our lovely, large American-style fridge freezer, as it contained lots of his home-made 'ready meals' that he cooks on a Friday night. 
I did what I could, but could not move that fridge for love nor money.  A quick knock on the house next door, and my neighbour D came to help.  His knowledge of electrics was better than mine (I did Year 11 physics and, though I really enjoyed it, I wasn't too good at it) and we not only moved the fridge but fixed the problem so it was only the oven that was out of commission.  Woo hoo!
Except that I had no oven in which to bake the Kit Kat cake I had planned to bring along to Cake Club the next evening  :(
So we had one more eater at the meeting - ah well!  All's well that ends well.  (And you'll be pleased to hear that my oven was repaired this morning, although it did mean I missed my weekly Zumba class, and thus didn't work off any of the excess calories ;))

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pink, purple and a touch of sparkle? Must be birthday time

I got a message on my Facebook page, having been suggested to a customer by another local baker who was fully booked (thank you!).  She wanted some cupcakes and a traybake for a birthday that weekend, and I was only too happy to help.  The brief was pink and purple with a touch of sparkle, and I really enjoyed making these ones.  They are a Classic Vanilla cupcake (vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing) with the addition of pink and purple colours and sugarpaste accents (I used to call it fondant, but my Cake School teacher told me off one time too many ;)).  I used the Sugarflair colours Grape Violet and Pink, and was surprised and pleased at how deep the purple intensified once it sat for a little while.  Below is the matching tray of brownies, rich and luscious and dusted with Vanilla Icing Sugar from Sweden and a touch of sparkle.  Happy birthday Leanne, hope you loved your surprise! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cake pops - discuss...

Do you love or hate cake pops?  I'm asking you as both a baker and an eater...  I love the way they look, and do like eating them, but what a nuisance they are to make!  I have a lovely customer, who has been very kind and ordered from me quite a few times (thank you S) and likes cake pops.  And is very kind to like mine.  No, honestly!  I don't have a cake pop machine, so they aren't perfectly round.  And unlike my friend Katie, of Dainty Katie Cakes (aren't they just the most gorgeous things you have ever seen??!), I don't make cake pops often enough to become good at them.
Now, before you suggest the inevitable and tell me to make them more often, I don't have the desire to do so.  I know, that may sound lazy, but despite having both my gorgeous Mini's at school fulltime now, I do find that I can fill my days adequately without resorting to baking them just for practice.  Because, let's face it, Becca Towers does not need more calories! ha ha
Anyway, I digress.  The customer in question, S, wanted to give her colleagues a treat on her last day on placement with them, and felt cake pops were the way to go.
So, they're not bad to start with.  But after setting, and dunking in Candy Melts they don't look quite so round.  Still bright, colourful, tasty and fun - but not round.
Or covered particularly smoothly for that matter.  But the customer loved them, and that's what counts.  She even got a couple extra as a loyalty bonus (though they were ones that I deemed not good enough for sale).  Oh, and both Mini-1 and Mini-2 were impressed...
So took these messy monsters in to school the next day to share - anyone for cake balls?!  haha

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lots and lots of mini lovelies

I was contacted by a friend of a friend, to make mini cupcakes for her daughter's 21st birthday.  The customer was pleasingly specific about what she wanted, and I was happy to be able to help.  The brief was 25 blue, 25 pink, white icing and white cake but coloured wraps and accents. 
Luckily, I have a supplier of pink and blue mini cupcake cases (how lucky is that?! any other colours and I probably couldn't have helped her) and I have edible food colouring in every colour of the rainbow in order to make the accents out of sugarpaste. 
There was a lot to organise for the party, so the husband came by to collect the cupcakes, and seemed pleased.  And the customer verdict?  Well, the few remaining ones were brought into work this morning and my friend was told 'these are all that are left.  They went down very well'.  Hooray, and Happy 21st Morven!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Hello Kitty comes to party at Becca Towers

Our kids have winter birthdays (well, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere they're in winter), so never really get to play outside during their parties.  It never seems to matter, but I'm aware of the lack of opportunity.  So I fancied giving the girls a party for going back to school.  It's Mini-2's first year of school, and today is the end of her first week of full days at school (they went only half-days for the first few weeks, to ease them in) - what more excuse does one need?
I also happened upon a really, really cute boxed party set of Hello Kitty.  The box had 8 matching paper plates, cups, napkins, party hats, and horns.  So fun, right?  And 3 months plus was a long time to wait to use it.
So I decided to challenge myself a little bit and try out a two-tier cake again (my birthday was the last, and first, one) and to match it to the napkin colours.  A local cakey friend, L, had Hello Kitty cutters that I borrowed (and have since bought my own) and I used them to make the little faces for the sides of the cake, and to make the cookies.  But first the cake...
I tried to match the colours of sugarpaste, and was quite pleased.  I made the pink myself, but bought some green sugarpaste and added in white until I was closer to the shade required.  The top of the cake looked quite bare, and wasn't perfectly flat and tidy.  So I remembered learning this trick for making ribbon when I was at cake school, and thought it would look perfect on top of the cake.  The girls loved it!
The top tier is chocolate cake coated and filled with chocolate ganache - another challenge.  The Aussie's seem to use ganache almost exclusively, in place of buttercream, but I found it quite difficult to manoeuvre and get smooth.  So if you look too closely, you'll see the bumps in the green cake.  The lower tier was vanilla cake with buttercream, at which I have more practice - so looks a bit smoother.
Now, the cookies.  Here they are naked, ready to be baked.
 And deliciously golden, out of the oven.
 And finally, dressed in their matching green and pink outfits :)
Here is the table all laid and ready for the party guests (we have 6 chairs, so the girls were able to choose 2 friends each), set with the matching paper crockery at each place and the co-ordinating snacks (red grapes an fresh green peas)
 And finally a close up of the cake and cookies in situ - welcome to school girls!!!
(an update - the girls never played outside during this party either!! ha ha. they were having too much fun messing about indoors)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Choc chip cookies for the first day of school

One of the ladies in the American cake forum to which I belong on Facebook makes cookies for her kids every first-day-of-school.  She had mentioned it in a post and I thought it sounded wonderful.  The reason she had posted her pic and info was because her son is a senior this year (and daughter in college), so she wasn't planning to make the cookies, thinking he was too old for them.  Then he surprised her on his way out the door, saying I hope you're baking cookies today Mom! 
Sadly I had missed the girls' first day of school, but really wanted to instigate the tradition.  So I figured I could do it for Mini-2's first full day of school - any excuse, right?!  
I chose to use the Carnation recipe, as it was so good last time and you can keep any uncooked dough for up to a week in the fridge.  It needs to be refrigerated for about half an hour or more before cutting, so I wrapped it in foil first time, and cling film this time.
And then got to cut nice, thick slices of cookie - ready to be baked fresh for their arrival (well, for me to go and collect them as us all to walk home)...
 Mmmm, fresh-baked choc and peanut chunk cookies with a tall, cold glass of milk.  Hungry yet?
 (This last photo is another batch, made almost a week later when friends came to visit.  I've included it because this post is being written some time later ;)  )

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Red Velvet hits the spot

B had eaten some of our goodies before, and was after something special for his wife for her upcoming birthday.  She fancied Red Velvet, and I was only too happy to assist.  He hadn't given me much direction with regard to the decoration, except that he wanted it to give her name and age on top.  Fair enough.  I wanted to try the rose swirls all over, because it looks so pretty - like you could just dive into a pillow of cake (mmmmm), and I thought pink for the accents, because red is hard to achieve, and pink would give a hint as to the richness of the interior colour.
He said, on collection, that the decoration was just what she wanted - as she'd seem similar on my Facebook page and loved it - woo hoo!