Friday, May 31, 2013

A free Craftsy Class? I'm in!

I can't think how I first came across (oh through Jessicakes blog I think) this but a month or so ago I learnt that Craftsy offered some free classes.  They specifically do cake decorating classes, so it was quite fun to look through the myriad of classes they offered and see which one or ones I would like to investigate.  Then I spotted one of the free ones, Modern Buttercream.  
I joined up, and enrolled in the class...  And that was over a month ago.  Oops, what can I say?  Sometimes day-to-day life gets in the way of cake and hobbies and free time, ha ha.  But it's in my account, that was free to set up and apparently it will remain there for as long as I have the account, so I will get back to it one day.  It even has video instructions on how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which is most definitely on my list of things to try.
And if it helps me produce a cake that looks as neat as this
by watching a presenter as focused on the work as this
Then that 'one day' might need to be soon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to make a young boy happy - football and cake

Boys like football.  Fact.  They also like cake.  Fact.  Combine the two and you've a recipe for success!  This particular boy is a fan of Dundee United Football Club, a team whose colours are tangerine and black.  So the interior of this cake is one layer chocolate (which I chose not to dye black.  I felt it may not only be messy, but slightly unattractive on the eye and palate) and one layer orange-coloured vanilla. 

Then it was a case of colouring the buttercream orange, to match the outside, and leaving out the jam - we felt it would taste odd with chocolate cake.  Decorate the base edge with little co-ordinating black and tangerine balls et voila - a birthday cake that any footie daft young boy would be glad to call his own.  Happy Birthday Andrew!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mr Becca's birthday treat, Millionaire's Shortbread

Mr Becca is not mad-keen on dessert, as a menu option.  He prefers savoury food, and will almost invariably have a starter and then not always be hungry for a dessert after his main course.  He likes them super-sweet so doesn't like dark chocolate with anything, because it's too bitter.  Every once in a while I make something that by chance he loves, but that I can't eat because it's too sweet.
I remember once,  long ago, we went out for a meal on my work (I won the meal as a reward for getting a customer satisfaction survery score of 100%) and he wasn't hungry enough for a dessert so we ordered two anyway.  For me.
Anyway, this year for his birthday I didn't want to make a cake ( like last year's butterscotch one, or the butterscotch one of the year before) a) because I wasn't confident I could find yet another butterscotch cake recipe that he'd like and b) because, quite honestly, he simply wouldn't eat a whole cake and thus make it worthwhile.  But then I remembered how much he likes Millionaire's Shortbread, and that I'd never made it successfully.  For those of you who don't know, or who know it by a different name, it's a 3 layer traybake of shortbread on the base, caramel in the middle and chocolate on the top.  I had made this once before, years ago, and not lined the tin.  I maintain that the recipe never told me to, but who knows now?  Suffice it to say, I definitely lined the tray this time.  
Knowing how much he didn't like dark chocolate, I only used milk.  Then for the marble effect, I used some Wilton Candy Melts in white colourburst brights - which have coloured sprinkles throughout them.
I was really pleased with the marbling effect, but felt it needed a little something extra.  So I marbled in a heart, using some red candy melts and matching sparkle.  Now just to hope it dried up exactly like that...
Phew, it did!!! 
I'm very happy to report that he loved it - the way it looked and the fact that I'd made it for him instead of a cake.  And the taste?
Well, it was rich and caramelly and crumbly and chocolatey.  How do you think that would taste?!  It was absolutely delicious!  But for future reference, he felt the chocolate layer was too thick, and I felt the base layer was too crumbly.  So I'll try it again at some stage, but with a different recipe.  Happy Birthday Darling!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A girly birthday, Becca Bakes style

I was contacted by S to make a birthday surprise treat for her good friend K.  She wanted pink, purple and girly sparkle.  And perhaps Red Velvet instead of vanilla.  Ok I said, sure thing!  How will these do you?

Happy Birthday K!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Butterscotch cookies, with a little bit of help from Ikea

You may or may not know that we recently moved house.  It wasn't as stressful as it need have been because we chose to have the movers pack up all our stuff.  Sadly, the unpacking wasn't a service they offered.  But, at Mr Becca's insistence, that task was completed in a matter of weeks.  And we discovered that we had a lot of stuff, but finally a bit more space than stuff - yey!!  So a trip to Ikea was deemed appropriate, to purchase storage items so that our stuff looked nicer and tidier in the new house.  It's a fair drive from Becca Towers, and we thought to do it without the kids for a change, so they didn't have to submit to the long drive there and back for little (for them) reward.  Mr Becca had a few days annual leave, so we went.
And whilst there, I saw a large bag of Swedish butterscotch chip milk chocolate.  And my first thought, after Mmm, how tasty, was what could I bake with them?  Ha ha, never switched off (much to Mr Becca's chagrin at times).  So here's what I baked - my trusty Carnation milk recipe cookies, with a twist.
The chocolates were far too large to include as is, so each one was chopped into quarters and popped into the cookie dough, along with some leftover cashew nuts we hadn't yet eaten.  The dough then gets split in half and rolled in a sausage and refrigerated for at least 20 minutes to firm up before slicing.
I just sliced up half of one sausage to get ready as an after school treat for the girls, I had only about 20 minutes before I had to leave to pick them up, so had a wee panic as to whether these would be ready in time or not...
Lucky for me, and the girls, they were!  And a delicious after school snack was enjoyed by all!!  There's still dough left in the fridge - it keeps for about a week, so we'll be enjoying this treat for a few days yet I think.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Direction goes rainbow

Since making the first rainbow cake for ourselves last year, I've been lucky enough to have a few orders for them.  This latest one was for a mad keen One Direction fan.  She wanted to surprise the rest of her family, so it was well hidden under a layer of white, with simple decorations.

I've just heard back from her Mother and it was enjoyed by all - it even scored dix points!  (well, it was Eurovision weekend ;) )

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Polka dots inside a cake? Happy Anniversary indeed

As you may recall, Mr Becca and I have been together for many a year.  Many years indeed.  And mostly, it's a wonderful life.  He's a pretty great guy, just gets moody sometimes.  But then, seriously - if we're being honest here - don't we all??  And I think he's aging rather nicely too  ;)
Anyway, because we've had so many anniversaries, and birthdays, and Christmases and Valentines' and random present-buying opportunities, I simply have no idea what to get him each time.  So now I bake.  Last year, I made this gorgeous and surprising rainbow cake which he loved.  So I wanted to do something equally fun for this year.  I asked on my Facebook page (which you can view without joining) for inspiration, and was suggested to try this polka dot cake.  Bingo - I was sold.
First I had to make the cake pop balls, and they hadn't worked out so well last time.  But this time, success.
Then it was on to adding them to the cake, and hoping for the best.  The cakes took longer to bake than expected, so sadly this wasn't ready for Mr Becca on our anniversary morning.  I was upset about that, but got it all finished in time for The Team's return from school.  They were super impressed with the exterior, but we all had to wait for Daddy getting home from work.
A similar top decoration to last year's, and if I'd had a little more time I would have toned the red down a touch, to match better with the other colours.
And then to the unveiling.  Or technically, the cutting.  Mr Becca was impressed enough and liked the cake as it was, but was quietly happy with the interior too.  I say quietly, because he's not much one for effusive praise.  And to be honest, I am.  And I love to receive it.  Ho hum.
Isn't it fabulous fun??  I'm so pleased with how it worked out, and The Team all loved it too.
This would be easily customisable for any occasion, and would make for a really fun gender reveal cake - don't you think?  It's an American thing, where the parents-to-be don't know the sex of their baby, but the cake maker does.  So the cake is somehow coloured inside (sponge or icing) to reveal the sex of the baby - too cute!
In case you were wondering, this was us 19 years ago...
And here was us this weekend, ready to go out for a slap-up meal...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oreo Brownies are a hit

We've made brownies often before, and this time I had some Mini Oreo's that were nearing their use-by date.  So what better to mix together than cookies and brownies?  Mmm.
I chopped up some chocolate and also added 2/3rds of the cookies into the mix, then dotted the remainder of the cookies on top of the brownie before it was cooked.  I had tried Rolo Brownies before, and not been thrilled with them, so was hoping for better results this time.
And I got them - these were perfect.  The right amount of cookies throughout and most pieces ( I cut them small so not every piece) had a mini cookie on the top too.  And the best bit of all?  These were for us, not a customer!  Oh yeah baby!  (Though, because we're good like that, I took some in for Mini-1's teachers - and they gave glowing reviews)
I had my first try out in the garden with a tall glass of cold milk - mmmm...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The lemon cake exploded

Oh dear, sadly I'm quite serious.  I almost feel that I shouldn't tell you about this one, because it truly looked pretty awful.  But I'm raising my children to be thankful for all that they have and to be tolerant of others and the differences between people, so it's included.
I may add at this stage that the cake tasted good, a bit more solid than I like my cakes usually, but still... It was lemony and sweet and really, what more do you need from a lemon drizzle cake?  It was drizzled with lemon syrup right after coming out of the oven, but Mr Becca felt it couldn't really be called a Lemon Drizzle Cake if you couldn't see the drizzle.
Fair enough, that visible enough for you darling??
As it happened, that was perfectly visible enough for him.  And exactly what he had in mind.  And I think it made the cake look better too, sure helped it taste good!  There was very little leftover of this treat too, after The Team and our friends had our fill.
Just need to make a note for next time, to get some cupcake cases ready for the excess batter - ha ha.

I made Violet Crumble - that's chocolate honeycomb to you non-Aussies

There are a lot of chocolate bars (or candy bars as an American would call them) that exist in Australia and nowhere else.  Well, possibly in New Zealand too, but as I've been in the UK for the last ____  years then here is where I need them.  Some of these bars are, in no particular order, Violet Crumble, Chokito, Polly Waffle, White Knight, Peppermint Crisp  oh my gosh, I've just read that Polly Waffles were discontinued in 2009 due to poor sales after 62 years!  Darn it, if only I'd liked them more  ;)
Anyway, I digress.  I love all of these chocolate bars and have told the girls about them too - in preparation for our upcoming trip to Melbourne later this year.  It's Mr Becca's and my first trip back in over a decade, and the girls have never been, so to say we're excited might be understating it just a little.  Me, I'm excited about all the chocolate bars and sweets (lollies in Aussie vernacular) I'll get to eat.  After all, diets don't exist in other countries, do they??
Hmmm, digressing again.
So anyway, I made some honeycomb for the first time ever.  And parts of it tasted just like I remember Violet Crumbles used to taste.  Result!!
I had a chance to use the sugar thermometer I had bought not so long ago, which was fun in and of itself.  It's surprising how long a watched pot actually does take to boil to 150c.  And then it all happened so suddenly that it wasn't so funny any more.
The recipe said to do everything quickly once it reached the right temperature, so I did.  But for next time I shall mix the bicarbonate of soda more thoroughly, and hope that the golden syrup doesn't sink so much to the bottom of the heavily oiled, foil-lined pan when poured out.  
Apart from that though, it was delicious.
As mentioned, in parts it was a bit chewy so I thought it'd taste better chocolate coated.  The next day I melted a mix of milk and dark chocolate and got to work.
For future reference, I think I'll just use the whole amount as milk chocolate as I feel it would taste better.  But there were no complaints on the taste, and every last bit was nibbled up by The Team and our friends.  So pleased!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Parent council meetings aren't so boring now

I've been lucky enough to have customers order treats for all sorts of occasions (weddings not included).  Tupperware type parties, baby showers, get well soon gifts, birthdays, Holy Communions, gifts for Teachers, Valentine's Day, Fathers Day, Mothers Day and so on.  But not as the highlight of a primary school Parent Council Meeting before.  
Until today, that is.  
These few dozen mini cupcakes and a sweet traybake made the meeting loads more fun, or so I was led to believe!