Saturday, July 27, 2013

New baby? No problem

I recently bought the cutest little sugarpaste cutters in baby designs, so was thrilled to get a baby shower order.  It was to be girly, but not too pink, and just to say 'Welcome Baby'.  I wanted to try out a new recipe, and went for Nutella cupcakes.  They had Nutella in the sponge, a scooped out section with pure Nutella in the middle, and finally Nutella wound through the rich buttercream icing.  Mmm... chocolate hazelnut overload!
I like that Disney Princess wallpaper - we at Becca Towers fully believe in fairy tales, and doesn't every little girl secretly want to be a princess?
I'm still working on the polka dots.  They went slightly elongated when I rolled them out again.  Do you know how to prevent this?  Please do tell.
Here's a closer look at the supercute baby bottle shape.  There were a few extra cupcakes in the batch, so I made this one especially for a good friend who'd recently had her first baby.  We particularly like the name she chose, as The Team have been watching the Disney Channel's latest hit movie, Teen Beach Movie, and the star is a girl called - you guessed it - Layla.  Although they spell it a little strangely, as Lela.
 Next up is the rocking horse, perfect for wee Ruby.
And finally we have the onesie/babygro shape.  And although everyone thought this was for me, it wasn't! Crazy I know, but there are other women out there who think Rebecca is a marvellous name  ;)
Congratulations to everyone, Prince William and Princess Catherine of the UK, who has just had a baby.  All together now, awwww....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A cake can be the actual birthday gift...

This was a fun request - the cake was to resemble a bow-tied gift box!  It had to be in lilac and cream, where the icing was cream and the bow and any accents in lilac.  there were also to be matching cupcakes and it was for Laura's 21st.  Righto then, off to work.
I had recently seen a few bows done in a different style from that which I had learnt and sort of mastered, and was keen to try one out.  So I asked for a tutorial or some advice from another baker and she pointed me in this direction.  I found it really well written and easy to follow, et voila - I made lots and lots of loops!
Despite adding CMC powder to my sugarpaste so that it would be possible to roll it thinner and have it harden faster, I still made these a few days in advance and probably rolled them a little too thick.  I had been a bit nervous about how I would place and attach them, so did a couple of placement practices.  Until I found that you can't place any more than one layer without something to hold/bind them - oops.  Nevermind, the final run worked out well I think, and I used buttercream and a touch of sugarpaste to hold them in position.  I added the gift tag in last, as it needed to be soft so it could mould to the shape of the finished cake.  Suffice it to say that the customer was thrilled, and I heard back later that the birthday girl had absolutely loved it all.  Result!  Oh, and Happy 21st Birthday Laura   :)
It's not too obvious unfortunately, but some of the cupcakes have cute indentations on them that say 'party time' and 'happy birthday' with balloons.  Perhaps white wasn't the best colour for that?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Traybakes a go-go

What do you bring when you want to make something to bring, but it has to be easy to transport?  Why, traybakes of course!  Silly you, fancy needing to ask that question.  We love a good traybake chez Becca and had some Rice Crispies left (Rice Bubbles for those Aussies among you) - for some reason The Team don't really fancy them as a breakfast menu item...
So, Mars Bar Slice it was.  I had been given some fancy, schmancy milk chocolate drops (possibly Callebaut, from a large 3kg bag I seem to recall) by a colleague of Mr Becca's, and a friend, and was pleased to be able to use the last of them as the topping for this slice.   I decided to try to be a little arty and do white chocolate swirls on top - what do you think?
 Here they are from the interior - just to make you drool a little more...
 And this final shot is because they make me drool a little, ha ha.
I also tried a different recipe for Millionaire's Shortbread, as I'd been disappointed with the texture of the last one.  In that I'd used crushed actual shortbread held together with butter, and upon slicing, I didn't feel that it held together too well at all.
So this recipe required you to make your own shortbread, so I did.  However I couldn't get it in a thin enough layer to fill the size of tin required (28 x 18cm rectangle) so I put it in a 20cm square.  And the darn biscuit base rose as it cooked, leaving me little room for the next layer.
And I'd love your advice on this next bit - my caramel seems to have 'bits' in it.  They are smooth to the taste, and don't detract from the taste or texture much, but I can't think why they've appeared.  They appeared as I was stirring the mix on the stove as it bubbled, and I thought they would stir in and dissolve at some point, but they didn't.  Do you see what I mean?  Any ideas?
Then after a day of cooling, as suggested, I mentioned to Mr Becca that this recipe required just a drizzle of chocolate on top, not a layer.  And how much easier that should make it to cut...  But he wanted a layer of chocolate on top, and suggested a thin one might do.  So I did as he asked, but am now scared to attempt to cut it!  What a wuss, right?!
I'll need to get back to you to let you know how I got on...

Thursday, July 04, 2013

4th of July is red, white and blue fun!

We're not American.  Don't have any specific ties with America - though there is an Uncle living in Tacoma. WA and a good friend living in NYC, and another good friend who used to live here in Dundee but is now back in VA I think.  And I follow a few American bakers, like BakerellaThe Girl who ate Everything,  Created by DianePint Sized BakerRose Bakes and so on .  And I am part of an American baking group on Facebook, so see a lot of American style cakes and 4th of July ideas in my Facebook newsfeed and in the emails I receive to my baking/work email address.
So actually, America does seem to feature quite heavily, hmmm.  Anyway, a lot of great red, white and blue ideas have come my way recently, some trickier than others, and I fancied trying my hand at some of them.  These looked fun and easy, and the girls wanted to help with some of it too.  They would have helped with all of it, but it was warm and sunny outside and they were desperate to try out the new Slip 'n Slide that we'd bought last weekend.  
Don't know what this is?  Oh, you're missing out!  My siblings and I had a yellow one when we were growing up and used it loads!  Mind you, we did grow up in Melbourne, Australia, where they know how to do Summer.  Months of daily temperatures from 25-40c and sun - glorious warm, yellow sun!  Ahh, takes me back, ha ha.   Anyway, it's a plastic rectangle mat that goes on the grass and it has a tube through the middle of the mat that is poked with holes.  You attach the garden hose to the mouth of this tube and water sprays over the mat, through the holes and kids run up to it then slide along it on their tummies.  Make sense?  Kids love them!!
So, getting back to the baking.  I decided to go for two things I'd seen on my newsfeed from Facebook...  A variation on this Red, White and Blue Cookie Bark and some patriotic Marshmallow treats.  What fun they were to do, and easy too!  And oh my gosh, I had a sneaky taste of the bark - it is amazing!!!  We decided that adding Oreo's would be too much, and what a tasty decision that was.  The salt and crunch of the pretzels goes really well with the sweetness of the white chocolate.
You lay out the pretzels underneath (and Oreo's, if you're going to use them), then add the melted white chocolate over the top.
Then you carefully, or otherwise, place your selection of red and blue M & M's over the top before the chocolate sets.  I didn't think we'd have enough chocolate M & M's so used the crispy ones too.  Mmm, great idea methinks.
 Here's the finished product, all ready for the fridge.
 And here it is ready to eat, cracked into pieces for ease of nibbling.  Mmmm...
For the marshmallow treats, we even had real American wax paper - oooh!
These were a bit fiddly to do, but easy enough.  Although by the time I got around to them, the girls had had their hair-washed and gone to bed.
So they'll be a lovely surprise for them, and our friends coming to play after lunch, for tomorrow! 
 And here's wee funny for you.  Sadly, it's not that funny for me, ha ha

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A cake emergency? Becca to the rescue!

School finishes early in Scotland, on the 28th June this year.  Well, actually it isn't that early - my American friends seemed to finish earlier than that, and they have 11 or 12 weeks of holiday - eek!!  And luckily for us our Swedish friends finished a week or so before us and were able to come to our fair city to visit us.  But it is a few weeks earlier than in England (down South), and we go back the commensurate number of weeks earlier too.  I imagine it may have something to do with the weather or daylight hours or something, but either way it was that time of year for graduations and moving up a grade and so on.
And today I got a text from a regular customer, let's call her P, saying she had a cake emergency and could I help?  I replied honestly, saying it was unlikely but what did she want?  The request was for a vanilla cake with white icing and decorations in the school colours of purple and green, and it had to have the school name on top and Class of 2013.  It was to be the treat on the table at the Primary 7 leavers dance arranged for that evening.  For those of you not in the UK, Primary 7 is the highest grade in elementary/primary school, after which the children go up to a (different) high school.  It's a bittersweet night, because the kids go from being big fish in a small pond, to the smallest of fish in a very big pond (as usually a number of primary schools feed into one high school).
I calculated the time available, and discussed ideas with a cake-baking friend, and lo, I was able to rearrange my day to allow for baking and decorating of said cake to her requirements - and thus save the day!  
I felt that, because time was of the essence, I would not try to smooth the buttercream but rather chose a design that had texture, thus allowing me to achieve the effect in a more timely manner.  I also had to think which style of decoration would go with that style of icing, and decided upon stars in the school colours, as all the kids were stars in their parents eyes.
I'm really pleased that I managed this cake in the short time available, and was thrilled that P's husband loved it when he came to collect it.