Thursday, October 23, 2014

Choc chip spiced banana loaf

I was really enjoying the taste of the pumpkin pie spice, and we had some bananas going spare... so Spiced Banana Loaf was born!!
It went down a storm with The Team, and the select few taste-testers who were lucky enough to get some.  A definite winner for next autumn!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Peanut butter butterscotch scotcheroos

I liked the sound of this recipe, so felt I just had to investigate further.  I had been lucky enough to receive some Hershey's Butterscotch Chips as a gift from a pupil who had been on holiday to Florida over the summer, and was keen to try them out.
This recipe is a no-bake one, and is basically rice crispy treats with added melted peanut butter and then a layer of the melted butterscotch chips on top.

It sounds a bit crazy with all those flavours, but it was so easy to eat!  We chopped it into bite-size pieces, then managed to bite our way through the entire tin in just a few days.  The Team could probably make a dessert like this themselves, with minimal supervision, so this is going into the must-bake-again folder.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mixed birthday cupcakes for a man

When it comes to birthday treats for men, well, you need to know if they have a sweet tooth.  See many men prefer crisps to chocolate, and well, that's a whole new ballgame then.  
Luckily this chap was partial to chocolate, and vanilla.  So these mixed classic cupcakes were a doddle, and the blue, green and yellow designs - perfect!
Happy 60th birthday to a great guy...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Honey Joys, or maybe cornflake crispy cakes

When I was a young girl, in a land far, far away, Kellogs Cornflakes had recipes on the side of the box.  As did Rice Bubbles and other breakfast cereals I'm sure, but I specifically remember those two. As I do now, my Mum used to bake with us as young kids, and the recipes on the side of these boxes were some of our favourites.  The Rice Bubbles (or Rice Crispies, as they're known here) one requires an ingredient that seems to only exist in that other land, but the Cornflakes one is easy to do anywhere in the world.  In fact, the actual recipe I use is cut from a box, about 20 years ago perhaps!

Suffice it to say, Mini-1 had a friend over to play and Mini-2 didn't fancy whatever game it was they were playing, so asked to bake instead - as you do.  We had made Honey Joys a month or so ago, so still had lots of cornflakes leftover.

A little aside.  I just Googled honey joys and was astounded to get links!! Those two links are different, but for the exact same recipe.  That is just so cool!  I had no idea it would be out there - isn't the web great?

So, as you can see from the recipes, they are super quick and easy to make.  The UK conversions are 90g of granulated white sugar and 150g of cornflakes.  And that's it.  It's seriously that quick and simple.
I find that you need to let them cool in the baking trays for a while, so that they harden in the correct shape.  And they do last in a baking tin for storage, but never for long chez Becca - they're far too more-ish for them to stick around long!  Even Mr Becca has been known to eat a few in a row.
These ones have pretty sprinkles added to them - it doesn't affect the taste at all, but the children thought it looked nicer.  If you make some, do come back and let us know how you got on!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Spice, homemade

Lots of American recipes I see now use Pumpkin Pie Spice in them.  I have checked closely, but nowhere sells it.  So then I checked my trusty friend, Google, and hey presto!  I found a recipe (or twenty!). 

I signed up a while ago to the Betty Crocker website, as they do so many different items and hav so many recipes from which to choose.  So when I saw that Betty had a recipe for spice mix, well, that just had to be the one I chose. 

As you can see on my photo, I didn't use quite all the right amounts.  And to be perfectly honest, I found it too heavy on the cloves even with these proportions.  So I added in another 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, to take off a bit of the clove taste, and it works better for me.

If you make some, do let me know what you think - and how much you enjoy baking with it.  Mmm, smells like Autumn!!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Pumpkin spice chocolate brownies

Thanks to the delicious chocolate chip pumpkin loaves I'd made a few days ago, I had more pumpkin puree to use.  I had looked out recipes for Pumpkin Snickerdoodle cookies, and Pumpkin cheesecakes, and Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and so on and so forth.  But these American recipes seem to make huge quantities, like 4 dozen cookies, or 9" large cakes, and we just can't eat that much food quickly enough that it's fresh.  And as crazy as it sounds, we don't always have taste-testers handy to help us eat up all the delicious baking and cooking we do.  (if at this point you'd like to volunteer your services, leave a comment below, thanks)

So, I figured chocolate brownies with the delicious addition of pumpkin plus the relevant spice mix would work.

I used my go-to brownie recipe - you could use yours, or a packet mix, whatever you like really.  I layered in half the mixture, swirled some pumpkin across this part, then poured on the rest of the brownie batter and dolloped and swirled the remainder of the pumpkin puree on top.  I had recently found and bought Halloween coloured peanut M&M's, so sprinkled them on top.
I added the pumpkin pie spice mix to the brownie batter before I poured it in, so that it would fully mix.  I kept tasting it to check, and added 4 tsp of spice before I felt I could taste it.  This baked up quite strong-tasting, and on my first bite I must have bitten into a little puddle of ginger, so I got a little fright that they were too strongly spiced, eek!
I gave some to a friend to test, as she hadn't had pumpkin much before, and her family's verdict was that they were great - just the right amount of everything.  Team Becca liked them too, especially the edges as they were a bit less squidgy than the very middle.  I think it was more moist than usual because of the pumpkin - yummy!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Mini-2 and the Peppa Pig sandwich cookies

Every now and then, Mini-2 gets the notion to use a box mix of something from the baking aisle of the supermarket.  We've been caught out by these before, because they look nice on the packet, but the taste is never as good as we can make ourselves.  So while we have fun making and baking them, we are not usually impressed by the taste.  This time, I figured I would just go with the flow, because they were Peppa Pig and I can't get her those little edible images any other way.
We followed the recipe on the back of the pack to make the dough, and she enjoyed rolling it out.
Well, mostly she enjoyed it - sometimes the dough got stuck to the rolling pin and it all got a bit messy.
Next it was time to use a fluted scone cutter and cut our the round, and a small diameter circular cutter (neither were provided in the box)  to cut away the interiors.  So it was kind of like making Empire or Linzer biscuits.
Once the dough was baked and had cooled, you made up the chocolate spread for the interior and sandwiched a full and a cut-out cookie together.  Then it was time to pop the little Peppa Pig images out of the icing sheet and onto each cookie.  
And the final result was these super cute Peppa Pig chocolate shortbread cookies.  They look good, but sadly tasted as expected.  But we had fun, and the whole family joined in eating the end product.
This post is our own opinion and we purchased the cookie box mix ourselves, no sponsoring or free product was provided.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Chocolate chip pumpkin cake

I follow quite a few American baking blogs and Facebook pages, and at this time of year they all talk about the most wonderful sounding Autumn flavours of pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon, apple and the like.  So much so that I even made a Pinterest board just for Autumn flavours, mmm...  Feel free to follow that board, any board of mine, or even every board of mine - it'll be fun to have you along.

So anyway, one of these recipes I noticed was for a chocolate chip pumpkin cake (I don't have the link handy, but will add it in when I remember where I found it) that sounded easy and tasty.  Ok, found it! and it turns out it is actually for Easy Pumpkin bars, I must have tweaked it a little...
Although, looking at the photo I seem to recall that this may not have been quite the right recipe, because I remember halving it as I only wanted two, not four, loaves.  So I think the one I used must have been called a pumpkin loaf, or pumpkin bread.  Ah well, it will have been similar.
As you can see, the loaves are very low, so I could have just made one larger/taller one with all the batter I had... I probably made a note on the recipe to remind me of that for next time.  Because yes, dear readers, there will be a next time.  This was delicious, like an afternoon tea type of cake that suits the British palate quite well.  I have found in the past that pumpkin items tend to be incredibly moist, and not our favourite texture (like a pumpkin pie perhaps).  But this was eaten by the whole team, and all taste-testers were pleased with the texture.  Well, all the British locals were - one good friend, American, felt it wasn't quite moist enough for her!  ha ha.

You can't please all of the people all of the time, I guess...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Colourful 60th birthday cake

I was pleased to assist S with another order, this time for a special cake for her mother's birthday. She had no specific idea of what she wanted, but we agreed upon bright coloured sponge, classic vanilla flavour, and co-ordinating pastel decorations on the outside of a white vanilla buttercream cake.
I'm sorry to say that the photos came out rather yellow-tinged, not sure why.  I gently swirled the icing design, and chose flowers and a plaque for the design.
I had fun mixing up the sugarpaste to similar but (hopefully) paler versions of the sponge interior layers.  I'm still hoping to get a customer photo of the interior, once the cake was cut.  If that photo comes, I'll be sure to update you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick no-bake Oreo cheesecake

We hadn't baked anything in class for a week or so, so to treat the 3rd years (freshman or Year 9's, depending upon in which country you live) my teacher, Miss K, decided we'd make Oreo Cheesecake. Well, technically she had planned for them to make Mandarin Cheesecake, but I couldn't help but notice that one of the other teachers was making Oreo Cheesecake with her class...  So I pleaded, and we ordered Oreos for the students (plus enough for us two to make a cake each too ;) ).

It was surprisingly easy, and after crushing the biscuits and adding melted butter for the base, we whipped up cream cheese with double cream for the filling.  Because Team Becca and I love Oreos so much, I crushed biscuits to put in the filling as well.  The Team knew I would be making this cake in class, and had requested I decorate it as a smiley face for them.  Miss K's more adult design is on the right there.
 We managed to hold off digging in until after the children's dinner, then got a sharp knife and cut decent wedges for us each.  And I have to say, it didn't disappoint.  Rich, creamy, chocolately and crunchy - taste sensation heaven!  As you can see, the Smarties faded in colour over the few hours between making and eating, and the whole cake didn't last too well over the next day or so.
This is definitely best eaten on day of preparation.  Enjoy!!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A giant cupcake way to say thank you

A regular customer of ours, let's call her S, loves loves loves our giant cupcakes.  She's ordered a classic one or two, a sticky toffee pudding one and now a thank you one.  This was for her child's nursery (kindergarten) teachers because he was leaving to go to a different nursery.  I had free reign, and was keen to try out a technique I had seen on Pinterest. It was a novel way to make a shaped top on the cupcake, using a fondant 'snake'.

You crumb-coat the cupcake as you normally would, then roll out a long snake of fondant and wrap it around the top half.  Then you place over your fondant top as you would when covering a cake.  If you click this link, you should hopefully see one of my pins on the topic.  (Have I told you how much I'm loving Pinterest?  It's like having a wall full of post-it notes, but on the computer!  And you can add to it whenver and however much you like! So so fun, and kind of addictive.  Check me out at Pinterest and see what I mean)
Then you roll out enough of another colour of fondant to cover the base, cut it to the size you need (I needed 3" x19" for this particular time) and roll it onto a rolling pin to transport it, then roll it off onto your giant cupcake.  That probably sounds super-confusing, so check the link above to find the photo tutorial.

I have embossed the greeting for two reasons - I really like embossing and I haven't successfully used my alphanumeric cutters/moulds yet.   The whole cake was then sprinkled with a bit of white fairy dust, and we're good to go!
I'm really pleased with the way it turned out, and the feedback from both the customer and the recipients was great!  Hope you do too 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blonde Rocky Road for a meeting

Mr Becca has a pretty stressful, customer-facing job and when it comes time for staff meetings - they have decided to have them after-hours, to not impact customer service.  Which is exceedingly kind of them, don't you think? :) 

I knew that this one would run late, as I overheard him talking to a colleague (and I wasn't sure if he was joking or not, so took it at face value) saying he had added a point 20 to the agenda. Eek!

So I offered to make him a sweet treat to take along, to gee everyone up when their spirits were flagging.  Because a hit of sugar always perks you up - it's a scientific fact!

I gave him my recipe binder and said, choose what you want (because frankly, he had no idea and neither did I).  So he chose this one from the archives, Blonde Rocky Road by Gizzi Erskine. Although having Googled it just now to add in the link for you, I notice she spells it without the e at the end, hmm.  
Either way, here are the add-ins, plus the crushed all-butter Scottish shortbread that is underneath these goodies.  The recipe calls for macadamia nuts, which I used when I first made this recipe a few years back, but we had eaten all of ours, so I chopped up some blanched almonds instead.  
It took hours and hours to set, and even then wasn't fully hard.  But I was able to cut it straight from the fridge, then made sure to keep it in the fridge for as long as possible.
As you can see, it's super-rich and decadent, and had a slight coffee taste even with me just using half a teaspoon of powder.  After all, it was a late night meeting and I didn't want them being too wired! Plus I knew our kids and friends would want to taste-test it too. 
You can see here the fudge I used, and some of the remaining mini marshmallows.
And one last gratuitous shot of that divine rich treat...  all gone now I'm afraid.  But you'll be pleased to know that it got rave reviews.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rolo slice for the work picnic

Mr Becca's work have an annual staff picnic.  I remember my dad's work doing this - only he worked in a HUGE company, so there were rides and tents with food and everything!  To us children it was heaven, and we looked forward to going on the ski-jump ride each year, as we never went to fair or carnivals or fairgrounds or whatever those places are where they have a lot of rides and rubbish food to eat.  The work picnic was our carnival, and we loved it.

Mr Becca's work however, is small.  They have a marquee in case it rains, and a barbeque and some tables laid out for folk to sit at.  There is a large open grass area, and a playpark just through the trees. Actually, for a kid that's still kind of perfect :)
He asked me to make a couple of traybakes to take along with us, and I was happy to oblige.  A kind reader had once emailed me her secret recipe for a Rolo traybake slice and I had bought Rolo's a few months back in preparation, but forgotten about them.  Lucky for me, they were still within their use-by date.
The recipe needed milk chocolate, but I felt it would be a bit sickly, so added in a third dark chocolate.  Don't they look lovely melting up together?  Psst, Mr Becca didn't seem to notice there was any dark chocolate involved, so let's not burst his bubble, ok?  ;)
 At this stage, I really wasn't convinced.  I mean, be honest, that doesn't look fabulously tasty now, does it?
But wait, the addition of a layer of melted chocolate, pink glitter and some leftover Rolo's later and voila - That looks better!
It was so so good!  The children and adults alike absolutely loved it.  And despite there not being a full complement of staff and families that turned out for the picnic, there was no Rolo slice to take home to Becca Towers.  Score!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Circus style cake for a birthday

A lady got in touch with a cake request that had me stumped at first.  She wanted circus style for her soon-to-be 5 year old daughter, and in my head I had visions of a two or three tier masterpiece, with modelled clowns and lions.  And panicked, because that type of cake is way out of my comfort zone, and doability.  Now that I'm lucky enough to have another academic year of work, I have less time available to craft more magnificent pieces of art than before, so am careful which orders to accept, and which I need to regretfully decline.

But after a bit of chat back and forth, we determined that it was something more suggestive of a circus than the epic masterpiece I had envisaged.  When added to the fact that her children preferred buttercream, I had a better idea of what would suit the family.  Bunting was a definite, as it's so fun!

Red and white were the only required colours, so I had fun with the bunting et voila!  

The bunting was printed onto paper, thanks to a link from The TomKat Studio - Kim puts so much fun stuff on the blog, it's hard to rein yourself in!
On the top of the cake was a plaque, but it just says simply Happy Birthday, rather than a name and age.
But we know it was Blythe's 5th birthday - hope it was fabulous sweetie!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Classic chocolate chip cookies for the first day back at school

I don't know if you recall, but last year and the year before (and perhaps even the year before that), The Team had fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies as a treat for their first afternoon tea on their first day back at school after the long summer holidays.  I had seen the idea on another ladies page, and her son was going into his last year of high school (daughter was already at college) and as he left his house that morning he said to his mum, I hope you're baking cookies today.

And I thought that was just lovely, that he still wanted the cookies after so many years!

So I resolved to make our girls cookies, even though they'd forgotten that they'd had the treat for the last two or three years running... 

It was a new recipe I'd tried, one I found on an American page, and purporting itself to be the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. (sorry to say that for the moment I simply can't recall which site. But I promise that if I find out, I'll include the link here so you can try it out and judge for yourself). So I felt it was only right to give it a go.  

And it made so much batter that I made half of it into cinnamon apple cookies!  They were flavoured with a package or two of Whitworth's new little snack bags of cinnamon apple goodness.  These also contained yoghurt covered raisins, so I removed them as I didn't think they'd bake up well at all. These cookies smelled and tasted great, but the kids preferred the choc chip ones.  
There were so many cookies in total that we ended up gifting some to their new teachers, for their first day back treat!  I've never done that before, but am pretty sure the ladies liked it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rustic style rainbow wedding cake

I haven't accepted any orders for wedding cakes before, because I never wanted to be under that much stress and pressure.  That's not to say that a birthday cake, or confirmation cake or order isn't stressful, as the cake will always be the centrepiece of the dessert table.  It's just that I've heard too many stories of bridezillas and the like, where the cake maker is under pressure of changed minds and specifications, despite contracts being agreed and whatnot.

So when I was contacted last winter for a wedding cake this summer, we sent many emails back and forth before coming to a mutual agreement of one stunning cake for their centrepiece.  The groom was one of the loveliest young men I've worked with in a long time, wanting to get everything just perfect for his bride.  He was kind, considerate of her feeling and wants, and a pleasure to work with. 

A rainbow cake is fun to make, but quite fiddly and time-consuming.  Then again, all the best things are, aren't they?  And those colours just make me happy!
I really like this shot, showing just a hint of what's underneath.  I had asked the groom to send me along a photo of them cutting the cake, so we could see the interior - but I guess they've got far more important things to remember than me, ha ha.  Like passports for their honeymoon I guess
Wishing Joe and Beth many many years of love and happiness, and a life as happy and colourful as the rainbow cake they chose...
P.S. Here's the update you've all been waiting for - photos of the couple and the cake at the venue...
 Doesn't it look lovely with those pretty pink and green flowers?
 And aww, aren't they just gorgeous!?!