Monday, April 29, 2013

Gluten-free Mars Bar yumminess

We were out at Scone Palace yesterday, making the most of the stunning castles that Scotland has to offer and also the sunny spring weather.  We are members of both Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, and love to visit their properties and learn a little more of the history of this small but proud land that we call home.
At the cafe they had a selection of baked treats and it was afternoon tea time.  So we went to get coffee or a juice and the girls wanted to choose something to eat.  Mini-2 picked a scone (no pun intended I'm sure) with jam and butter and Mini-1 took a little longer to decide.  She rejected the Malteser Slice and Mars Bar Slices out of hand, declaring that 'we could make them ourselves at home, quite easily'.  Good girl!!  Way to go Mini-1, love the attitude.  In the end, the only thing she decided upon was an empire biscuit.  Now whilst I do have a printed out recipe to try (from the Hairy Bikers Mums Know Best tv series), I haven't yet made them.  It was rather tasty, and we decided to make our own Mars Bar Slice the very next day.
So we did.
As it happens, because it uses Rice Krispies (or Rice Bubbles as they were known in my youth) it becomes a gluten-free treat.  And we'd recently learned that one of Mini-2's new friends has coeliac disease so can't take gluten at all.  The product does contain barley extract, and thus barley gluten but the supermarket own-brands have less, so this was on her approved list.  
An impromptu playdate thus occurred and the little girl and her sister (plus Mum of course) all came round after school today to enjoy a treat!  What fun!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Strawberry and vanilla ruffles for a girly birthday

It was my friend A's birthday again.  I mean really, who apart from me has birthdays every year?  It's just greedy really.  What's that?  Everyone has birthdays every year?  Not just me?  No fair!
Anyway, for her birthday this year we happened to be going to visit on the actual day and I had wanted to try out buttercream ruffle icing for a while, so I figured I'd combine the two.  Oh, and a strawberry cake.  So three things in fact.  Sad to say that some things worked out better than others that day...
So, a great thing happened whilst I was making the strawberry cake - I successfully made meringue!!  This is a red letter item indeed, as the only time I had tried before to make meringue I had wasted 8 egg whites and quite a bit of time and frustration on the project.  And not succeeded.  Hence the photo of the pink meringue mix, I was happy!
I used tinned strawberries well-drained, but as the end result proved, perhaps not well enough drained - the cake was edible but very moist.  The recipe doesn't suggest to use them, and in fact when I managed to chat with the legend herself, Miss Edna de la Cruz, she had never heard of tinned strawberries and showed me a photo of the cake when cut.  Suffice it to say, I heartily recommend that you don't use tinned strawberries when you make this cake.  Ever.
On the plus side, the YouTube video I've linked to above for the buttercream ruffles worked a treat and I got them done, almost without mishap.
Only I misjudged exactly quite how much icing I would need for this technique, and had to make up more - twice.  So the top layer is flat because by that stage I wasn't in the mood for making up yet more icing.  Sorry A!
I think I rescued the cake though, don't you?
And as it was a sunny day, I thought to take my spring flowers cake outdoors for some alfresco shooting
Then, when we got to A's house after school that day, she wanted a photo too because she was so pleased with her birthday surprise.  Thanks sweetie, so glad you liked it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My cake for Clandestine Cake Club Dundee

For the latest Dundee Clandestine Cake Club meeting, I had to do something pink but had no idea quite what to make.  When mentioning it to a friend, who has come along as my eater on the odd occasion, she suggested something she'd just read in a magazine.  A peek-a-boo cake, or patchwork cake as it looked to me.   (Sorry but I can't get a link to that particular recipe, though I'm sure any madeira sponge recipe would do fine as it's slightly heavier than a usual sponge, so would hold its shape better once cut).  It looked a bit technical, but do-able.  So I tried it...
The recipe used ground almonds, so it was quite a heavy batter.  This meant it baked up well and held its shape for cutting.  You see, you had to make the three layers in colours (though silly me should have chosen two shades of pink for this meeting, not the purple of the recipe) then cut out circles then stack them in a particular order to achieve the final effect.  In order to get the middle cooked well, the outer edges got a little too well done for my liking, so that once cut into rings, in parts they cracked.  Nothing a later splodge of buttercream couldn't fix, but not perfectly tidy.
Once cut and assembled I got onto the task of the pale pink buttercream.  You were only to use jam to hold the rings together, so that the patchwork look was more prominent once the cake was cut.  It was a bit tricky to get the icing super-smooth all the way around (I always find that bit tricky, as we don't have Viva paper towels in the UK.  I have a good smoother, but still...)
I'm thrilled to say that the cake worked, and it went down a storm at the meeting.
Ooh, check my silly smile - I was just so pleased that it worked as I planned!
All that was left at the end were some multi-coloured crumbs - result!!

Clandestine Cake Club in Dundee turns pink

It was that time again, another Clandestine Cake Club meeting - yippee!  What's that you say?  You don't know what the cake club is?  Shame on you, we've been up and running in Dundee a full year now.  It's a secret cake club that meets in central city locations (usually) every 6-8 weeks to bake cakes to a theme, then eat them and chat about them with the bakers of said cakes.  Sounds fantastic, right?  It is, it really is.  But you do need to attend on an empty stomach - it's very hard to only take small slivers of cake.  Especially when there are 14 (yes, you read that right, 14) of them to try.
So anyway, this meeting's theme was 'Pretty in Pink' and it's wonderful how different people interpret the same theme in so many ways.  We had a Watermelon cake, a pink and white striped zebra inside cake, a vanilla sponge with pink icing in a heart shape, a white chocolate and macadamia cake, pink grapefruit, strawberry cake, checkerboard pink and white cakes and so on and so forth.

A beautiful spread, I'm sure you'll agree.  We had a few newcomers to this meeting, which was wonderful.  I think they were quite impressed at the turn-out and the sheer variety of cake available to sample.  Here are some group photos, to give you an idea of what happens at a meeting - should you wish to attend one in future...
Putting the world to rights over cake and coffee - what a great way to spend a Sunday evening.
Hmmm, which ones haven't we tried yet?
Right, I'll have some of this one next.
All that was left at the end, once everyone had eaten their fill and the leftovers were divvied up between us all (it actually says to bring a container for leftovers, in the welcome email).
So, have we whetted your appetite?  Like to attend a meeting in future?  Then hop along to the Dundee section of the Clandestine Cake Club website, register as a member and get in touch with us.  And who knows, next blog post could feature your happy face!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Biscoff crispy treats

Have you ever heard of Biscoff?  They're the spiced thin biscuits that sometimes get served with coffee in restaurants.  In the UK they're called Lotus cookies, and you can buy them in a pack or individually wrapped (ideal for lunchboxes, or just general nibbling.  But it is a bit fiddly to get the package off when you want one quickly).  I have loved them for years, and always thought of them as coffee biscuits.    Lidl, the fabulous little supermarkets from Germany, stock their own brand of them (thus much cheaper, and you get more for your money) as a special treat leading up to Christmas.  For me, this just added to the allure because I would invariably get sick of them after a 600g packet of them.  Then a few years ago I saw them in local branches of Tesco supermarkets and was thrilled - now I could buy them whenever I felt the need.  Which strangely enough, wasn't that often.
But the point I wish to make here is that I recently saw a little sticker on the packets at Tesco, offering a new treat, Biscoff spread!  Now this I wanted to try.  I follow a few baking blogs and a couple of ladies had mentioned them too, so I was really keen and went online to try to find a local stockist.  No luck, as they are exclusive to Waitrose supermarkets at the moment, and we don't have that retailer in Scotland.
But my in-laws were due to be visiting from London, and they have a branch not too far away I think.  Just as I was considering how much of an imposition it may be to ask them to trek across London in search of a peanut-butter like spread to bring up on an airplane, I found a jar of each smooth and crunchy in a local pound-store.  Woo hoo!!  And at a little under half the RRP.  And within date, tee hee.  Score!
Now, just to find those recipes...
Then I got this recipe via Bakerella and was off.  Like her, I've never made Rice Krispy Treats before.  A lot of bakers use this as a modelling substance, to make structures on their cakes, but I feel that's a little beyond my skill set at this stage.  Suffice it to say, I found the melted marshmallow/rice crispy combination really odd.  It's an odd colour too, because the Biscoff spread is brown, and many of my marshmallows were pink.
But it smoothed down well into the square tin and I decided to cover it in a thin layer of milk chocolate, some gold sparkle and a little message to a good friend who has just given birth to a bouncing baby girl - her first child.  
She doesn't live locally any more, so I'll enjoy a slice with my afternoon coffee on her behalf.  
Congratulations L and K!!  She's a beauty, awww...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's a boy

The Team are just about to return to school, after two weeks of holidays.  We didn't leave the city, or go anywhere afar, as we have rather huge plans for later in the year.  Rather, we filled our time with multiple playdates, catching up with friends, doing artwork and generally chilling out.  We've had a blast, and really enjoyed our time.  As such, I hadn't taken on many orders during this period, as I knew I wouldn't have as much time to devote to an order as usual.  So when N rang (suggested to use me as the baker she had contacted was going to be away.  Don't you just love friendly referrals?) to request some babyshower cupcakes for a good friend, I was only to happy to help.  Babyshowers are still quite a new thing here in the UK, but I knew roughly what she might need.
Her friend is having a boy, but didn't want everything to be over the top blue.  And N didn't want it all vanilla.  So in the end we agreed upon Classic Vanilla and Triple Lemon cupcakes, with pale green, blue and yellow to decorate.  And she was thrilled when she came to collect - have a wonderful rest-of-your-pregnancy Lorna!!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven

I love cinnamon rolls.  And Danish pastries.  And basically most bread type products.  I mean, seriously, who doesn't??  I bet even Coeliacs and gluten-allergy sufferers probably still love the smell of fresh baked bread, even though they can't partake in quite the same gluttonous way.  Anyway, I digress, and I don't like to go too far off topic.
My good friend P, who just happens to be Swedish and the daughter-in-law of a baker (and wife of a keen home bread baker), made us her cinnamon rolls using the huge chunks of Swedish Pearl Sugar on top for decoration.  She up and left me a few months back (meany, the whole family relocated and we've all been down in the dumps ever since) but did leave me her recipe and a box of Parlsucker (that's probably not how you spell it, sorry P!).  So one day, I surely intend to bake them and report back to her, via Skype, ha ha.
In the meantime, we went to Ikea a couple of weekends ago and I brought back these goodies.
Yep, that's right - the Ikea cheat's version of P's Swedish cinnamon rolls!  Well, I had fancied them last night and these were by far easier to whip up for The Team breakfast.  And they were pretty darn good too...
 Mmm,  now, just to find that recipe of P's and get started on the real thing...

Monday, April 01, 2013

No-bake cheesecake rocks

I had made a cheesecake once before, wrapping it in foil and putting it in the water bath, and while it tasted great it was a bit of a bother.  So I haven't baked one for quite some time.  I loved the idea of Lakeland's PushPans, and bought a couple, but still hadn't made a cheesecake.  
Then I saw this recipe, for no-bake cheesecake, and I was sold.  (I should at this point have included the link for that recipe, of course, but I can't for the life of me recall where I saw it.  So as soon as I find it, I'll add it in for you.  Promise...........  Ok, great news, I just found it!)
It needed mini Creme Eggs which, despite it being their season, could not be found for love nor money.  Boo hoo.  Then we found some, in the last shop we tried (d'oh, of course).  And it was game on.
The girls were supposed to help me, as it wasn't a difficult recipe and we were making it for a playdate today (we made it Saturday late afternoon) and Mini-1 had a lot of fun crushing up the Oreo's.
But then when it came time to mix up the cream cheese and sugar etc, she didn't appreciate not being allowed to lick the beaters (because we still needed to use them) and her impatience got the better of her.   So we parted ways, me staying in The Kitchen, and her going off to join Mini-2 to play in the back garden.  No harm no foul, right?! 
I think she would have liked to stay around for the cutting of the eggs part... It was pretty plain sailing from there on in, and the cake rested really well in the fridge for the day and a half until it was needed.
Although some of the creme eggs did perish along the way (Mr Becca had a midnight feast methinks) but we had enough for the decoration required.  (Even though I used the PushPan and waited for a while once removing it from the fridge, there were a few little areas of adhesion to the pan, creating a hole here and there.   If you've any hints or tips on how to avoid this next time, please share)
And the taste - oh my goodness!  Fantastic!  So sweet and smooth and delicious, you've got to try it yourself.  I had mentioned it to one of the new school mum neighbours (we recently relocated Becca Towers, thus necessitating new school and new local friends) and given her the recipe, and she had made it too, for her Easter Sunday family lunch.  And texted me to say it was so good that she should have made two!  How's that for yummy??!
A gratuitous interior shot or two for you to drool over, because I'm kind like that.