There's nothing better than snuggling up indoors and eating homemade goodies at this time of year! Time to make a super easy jar of mincemeat and create some fabulous little mince pies that will disappear before your very eyes :)Read more
Every year, we celebrate today with a batch of Anzac cookies. Although living in the UK, we want our boys to remember their New Zealand heritage and every year Anzac Day honours the armies of New Zealand and Australia who fought at Gallipoli. Sweet Anzac cookies have become associated with the war because their ingredients don't spoil easily and so the wives of the army men could send these little biscuits to their loved ones and they wouldn't spoil on the long journey.
These cookies are simple to make and are full of ingredients that could easily be found in your kitchen at home. I wanted to shake them up a little so thought it would be fun to add a drizzle of salted caramel to make them even more delicious :)
We start by popping the oats, sugar and coconut into a bowl and sifting the flour in there too, whilst the golden syrup and butter are melted together over a low heat. When the butter and syrup are smooth and well mixed, we take the bicarb and mix it a tablespoon and a half of water, pop it in the saucepan with your sugary mixture and stir. Remove it from the heat and then pour this into the dry ingredients. The mixture needs to be combined well and then you're ready to shape your little cookies.
To make my cookies evenly sized, I always take a little time to weigh each cookie (these ones were around 30G each) but you can eyeball each scoop if you prefer. We roll the cookies into little balls and pop them onto a lined baking tray. When they're all ready, flatten each one a little and they're ready to go in the oven. Super easy.
They're quick to bake but it gives you just enough time to make the salted caramel sauce. We melt the golden syrup and sugar in a saucepan and then stir in the butter, cream and salt. Super yummy! Let it cool down to room temperature and when the cookies are baked and cooled, you can have lots of fun drizzling them with the sweet, sticky sauce :) I topped them with another sprinkling of sea salt. And they're done!
It's great to honour traditions and with something so simple to bake you can get the kids involved in the kitchen. Last year, my little boy made Anzac cookies for his house cookery competition and loved every minute!
But don't think that their simplicity means that they're not absolutely delicious and I think the salted caramel gives them an extra special twist.
They're just perfect for sharing with loved ones and friends 💕
Anzac Cookies with Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes around 20 cookies
- 200G PLAIN FLOUR
- 100G ROLLED OATS
- 110G CASTER SUGAR
- 65G DESICCATED COCONUT
- 45G GOLDEN SYRUP
- 150G UNSALTED BUTTER
- 1/2 TSP BICARBONATE OF SODA
Caramel Sauce Ingredients
- 100G LIGHT SOFT BROWN SUGAR
- 50G GOLDEN SYRUP
- 75G UNSALTED BUTTER
- 75ML DOUBLE CREAM
- 1 TSP SEA SALT
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan)
- Line two baking trays
- Put the oats, sugar and coconut in a bowl and sift the flour over the top
- Stir to combine
- Melt the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a medium heat until melted and smooth
- Mix the bicarb with with a 1.5 tablespoons of water
- Add this to the sugar mixture and remove from the heat
- Mix this with the dry ingredients until fully combined
- Form little balls of mixture (weigh them if you want identical cookies) and place them on the baking trays
- Flatten each ball slightly and then pop them in the oven for around 10-12 minutes or until they are golden in colour
- Whilst they're in the oven, make your salted caramel sauce
- To make this, place the sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of water
- Bring it just to the boil and then simmer for 3 minutes
- Add the butter, cream and sea salt in one go and stir for another minute until everything is melted and fully incorporated
- Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature
- When they cookies and the salted caramel are cooled, drizzle the cookies with the caramel
- Add a final flourish of sea salt to the cookies and enjoy :)
Who's excited about Pancake Day? Our boys are so excited and I just know we'll be making them pancakes for breakfast, they'll get them at school and will demand them for dinner too! We are huge pancake fans in this house -- the boys would eat them every day if they could but we restrict them to once or twice a week. This is a different kind of pancake -- possibly my new favourite kind -- that I've been trying out in advance of the big day in a couple of weeks.
Ever had a Dutch Baby? Making pancakes generally means hubby standing at the stove flipping a neverending supply of them onto our plates and our boys can eat a LOT of pancakes. After about 20 minutes, they declare they're full and he finally gets to eat his share. So if breakfast time is similar in your house and you haven't tried a Dutch Baby, this scenario will melt into the background. Cue one giant pancake, extremely filling, that you bake in the oven and then you all get to eat it together with your favourite toppings. Especially a cute little recipe for Maple Pecan Butter that is simply to die for. Looking good?
So I think I've said once or twice on here that Pumpkin is one of my favourite ingredients. I know it's more autumnal than winter, but when the weather is bleak outside, you need something to cheer you up and pumpkin makes a very filling and hearty ingredient (plus it's a vegetable so that must get a big tick!) I first fell in love with pumpkin when we used to visit my parents in Toronto and bought tins of Pumpkin Waffle mix from Williams-Sonoma. They are the best. But you can only get it around Halloween in their stores and we don't have the opportunity to travel to Canada right now. So I decided to bring the Pumpkin to a Dutch Baby and I promise you, this is amazing - the Pumpkin Dutch Baby with Maple Pecan Butter.
So if you're going the full mile and making the Maple Pecan Butter too (and I seriously suggest you put in the effort as it transforms the dish) you'll start the day before you plan to eat. I had some maple butter years ago in a London breakfast cafe with waffles and it was amazing. The consistency is very smooth and soft -- I refrigerated mine as I wanted the butter a little harder and this worked but it does soften up relatively fast once out of the fridge. I thought it would be as simple as softening some butter and adding the maple syrup and pecans and it is a bit more complicated than that -- but not too much! You do need a candy thermometer as you first need to gently heat the maple syrup and cinnamon stick to soft ball stage (240 degrees), then remove it from the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and add the butter. Then transfer it to a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment for 8 to 10 minutes. It will transform pretty quickly -- I wasn't happy with the consistency after 8 minutes (not firm enough) and less than 2 minutes later it had completely transformed so do keep an eye on it. Mix through the pecans and pop it on to some clingfilm and roll it into a sausage shape. Then refrigerate until you need it but mine had around 24 hours in the fridge. The ratios of the ingredients are 2:1 maple syrup:butter if you want to upscale it and make more. It keeps for around 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
The Pumpkin Dutch Baby itself it very straightforward. Think making pancakes and it's a one bowl and one skillet recipe. All of the ingredients go in the one bowl to be beaten. The one things to remember is that the eggs and milk need to be at room temperature. The skillet is heated in the oven so it's very hot, then the butter added and finally the batter. Then popped back in the oven for around 15-20 minutes. The outsides should be puffed and golden; the insides more of a custardy consistency. When you plan to serve this, it's best to have everyone sat ready at the table as it can deflate quickly -- so it's out of the oven, toppings on and onto the table in a couple of minutes to have the full effect.
This is delicious. The inside is like a pudding | custard and I love the orange tinge that the pumpkin brings to it. As the Dutch Baby itself doesn't have sugar or sweeteners in it, it does need lovely, sweet toppings. Mine had the Maple Pecan Butter, extra pecans, icing sugar and maple syrup to crown it -- you don't need all of these (I think it would be delicious with caramelised banana or lemon and sugar or just maple syrup or honey) but it's one of those dishes you really want to dress to impress.
And the great thing about a Dutch Baby is that if you think of it just like a pancake, you can make up your own variations with fruit inside the batter (apples, strawberries, bananas, blueberries) and really get creative.
If you fancy another alternative creation for the big day, you could also check out this fabulous Dulce De Leche & Mascarpone Crêpe Cake -- Dutch Baby for breakfast and Crêpe Cake for tea, anyone?!
I hope you all have a wonderful Pancake Day next week and would to hear what you're baking to celebrate :) xoxo
Maple Pecan Butter
adapted from Martha Stewart's Maple Butter
- 232G MAPLE SYRUP
- 166G BUTTER
- 15G PECANS, ROUGHLY CHOPPED
- 1 CINNAMON STICK
- Place the maple syrup and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and heat gently until it reaches 240 degrees (soft ball stage) - this should take around 10-15 minutes and it's important to keep this on a gentle heat for that time
- Remove from the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the butter until it's melted
- Transfer it to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on low at first (to save splashing it everywhere), then gradually increase to a medium speed
- Keep beating for around 8 - 10 minutes but keep an eye on it from 8 minutes as it does change consistency very quickly - you're looking for it to turn opaque and have a smooth consistency
- Stir through the pecans
- Place onto a piece of clingfilm and roll it up into a sausage shape
- Refrigerate until set - mine was prepared 24 hours before I used it
Pumpkin Dutch Baby
- 3 LARGE EGGS at room temperature
- 170ML MILK (semi-skimmed or whole) at room temperature
- 150G PLAIN FLOUR
- 3 TBSP PUMPKIN PUREE
- 1 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
- 1/4 TSP SALT
- 1 TSP PUMPKIN SPICE
- 15g BUTTER
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (fan)
- Put the skillet into the oven and heat for at least 10 minutes
- Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients (except for the butter) in a bowl with a whisk until smooth
- When the skillet's ready, remove from the oven and add the butter ensuring that the melted butter coats the bottom and sides of the skillet
- Immediately add the batter to the skillet and bake for around 15 minutes
- The Dutch Pancake is ready when the sides are golden and slightly puffed and the middle is a custard consistency
- Remove from the oven, add slices of Maple Pecan Butter, chopped pecans (toasted if preferred), maple syrup and icing sugar (or your preferred toppings)
- Serve immediately and enjoy with a huge smile on your face :)
- Happy Pancake Day!!
So this has been a busy week of baking and not much time to blog post so I am definitely playing catch-up - and we’re only half-way through January! I don’t often blog about my celebration cakes but I had lots of fun with different techniques for this cake so I thought I would share some of the elements that went into making it.
This was made for the husband of a dear friend and I usually make cakes covered in fondant for them. But this time we decided to go for something a bit different and this chocolate ganache drip cake was born. I made a 7 inch Chocolate Truffle Torte, split it into 3 layers and then filled and covered it with Chocolate Ganache Buttercream before adding a Chocolate Ganache drip. This is not for the chocolate faint-hearted as within its celebratory exterior, 725g dark chocolate lurks within – but I’m a firm believer that birthday cake calories definitely don’t count ;-)
Katherine Sabbath is the queen of these drip cakes with an array of fabulous colours. There is a great blog post of Katherine’s tips for styling these drip cakes from Delish here including some mini video footage that I love referring to when making these cakes.
So when you come to decorate the cake, you can use whatever comes to hand. Maracons, chocolate bark, sweeties and chocolates you have in the house, pretzels – the list goes on. As this was a special birthday cake, I wanted to make three decorations that were in keeping with the brown and gold theme. Sugar Glass, Meringue Bark and Honeycomb.
The glass is made from sugar and cocoa nibs. It’s very easy to make with just these two ingredients.
- 200G CASTER SUGAR
- 2 TBSP COCOA NIBS (or any other toppings you think would look good in the glass)
- Melt 200g caster sugar in a saucepan over a low heat
- By the time all this sugar has melted, it should have turned a lovely caramel colour and be time to take it off the stove
- Poured this on a baking tray lined with silpat and spread it out with a spatula - this is the time to create swirly edges that will be really interesting when you come to break it into shards
- Pop it in the fridge and let it set
- Once set, break it into different shaped shards
Note: once set and out of the fridge, it can go a bit sticky in room temperature so break it up straight from the fridge and store it covered and in a cool place.
Crunchies remain one of my favourite chocolate bars - and I was so excited the first time I made honeycomb. I've had my share of misses now with the temperature of honeycomb (making delicious toffee in the process!) so now I always use a thermometer and don't chance getting the state of readiness wrong by the colour alone.
I usually make a block of honeycomb and then break it up and coat it with chocolate. This time I wanted to see if I could made shaped honeycomb sweets by pouring it into molds. Due to the speed of the stage when the bicarb is added and then getting it into the tin, I had time to take 6 teaspoons of the honeycomb and get them into the molds. By the time I got the remaining mix into the bigger tin, it was deflated. It still tasted good when it was set but had lost its volume. I wasn't too concerned about this as I wanted to blitz the honeycomb to make a fine crumb that could be sprinkled across the cake.
- 200G CASTER SUGAR
- 100G GOLDEN SYRUP
- 2 TSP BICARBONATE OF SODA
- Grease the tin and line it with baking parchment
- Heat the caster sugar and golden syrup over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved (around 10 minutes) - it can be stirred at this stage but no stirring as soon as the sugar has dissolved!
- Pop in a candy thermometer and heat the sugar to 160 degrees celcius
- When the temperature's reached , remove it from the heat and quickly stir in the bicarb until it's fully mixed in
- At this stage, I scooped out 6 teaspoons of the honeycomb and put them into a silicone candy mold (each cavity had 1 teaspoon) - if you're just making one block, then pour it all into the prepared baking tin
- Leave to set at room temperature
- Once set, this can be broken up into pieces
- To cover with chocolate, melt the chocolate in the microwave, removing it when the chocolate is almost but not quite melted and then stir until melted completely
- Dip the honeycomb pieces into the honeycomb or fully immerse them using a fork and then leave to set on a piece of baking parchment
- To make the honeycomb dust to sprinkle on the top of the cake, take some honeycomb (without chocolate) and blitz it in the food processor until you reach your desired level of consistency
from the Meringue Girls Everything Sweet
I love meringue. My very favourite treat is macarons but I love how versatile meringue is in creating edible prettiness. I saw this in the Meringue Girls Everything Sweet and wanted to try Meringue Bark rather than Chocolate Bark. It’s the same recipe as their kisses, just treated a little differently.
- 150G CASTER SUGAR
- 75G EGG WHITES (I use Two Chicks)
- DECORATION (these can be customised to your favourite sweeties and toppings)
- For example, Cocoa Powder, Pearl Balls, Silver Nonpareils, Chocolate Covered Popping Candy, Melted Dark Chocolate
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (fan)
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spread out the sugar evening across it
- Bake for 7 minutes in the oven
- In the meantime, whisk the egg whites in a standalone mixer, slowly at first and then increasing the speed – you want the egg whites to reach stiff peak at the same time as the sugar’s 7 minutes in the oven is up
- Put the mixer on full speed and add the hot sugar a spoonful at a time, allowing each spoonful to be fully incorporated and return to stiff peak before adding the next one
- When all the sugar has been added, mix for at least 5 minutes until you can rub a little of the meringue between your thumb and forefinger and it no longer feels grainy
- Turn the oven down to 100 degrees (fan)
- If you’re making meringue kisses, put your mixture into a piping bag and pipe rounds onto a lined baking tray, pulling up at the end to create a little peak
- These should take around 40 minutes in the oven and are ready when the meringue can be removed cleanly from the baking paper
- If you’re making meringue bark, spread the meringue out over a lined baking tray until it’s 0.5cm deep.
- Add any decorations you like right now – I used a sprinkling of cocoa powder, pearl balls, silver nonpareils and chocolate covered popping candy
- Bake for 1 hour until the meringue bark can be lifted cleanly from the baking tray
- When it’s cool, drizzle melted dark chocolate across the bark
- When the chocolate has set, break the meringue into shards of different sizes
5 more sleeps to Christmas!!! *squeal* Excitement levels are running high in our house right now and there's nothing better than little ones at this time of year to remind you about the magic of Christmas and the build-up to the day when the big man finally makes his appearance.
Christmas gifting often gets kind of crazy. The shops started their sales yesterday and I was feeling relieved that I was nowhere near them. Maybe some people will think I'm bah humbug but I like to steer well clear of the shops and order most of my presents online of late. London gets pretty frantic at this time of year.
Edible food gifts are kind of special. You can make the yummiest creations, tailor-made for everyone and you know exactly what's going in them. When I was little, my mum and I used to make marzipan petit-fours fruits for my great-grandma. We were reminded of them recently and I decided that I'd make some for my dad's birthday. They are so simple to make and as soon as you open a box of them, the scent instantly transports me back to my childhood Christmas days.
All you need is a pack of marzipan (home-made or shop bought), cloves and food colouring (colours dependent on the fruit you decide to make). I use gel colours as I have them available in my drawer from baking celebration cakes, but when I was little we used to use the little bottles of food colouring from the supermarket and they worked just as well. For these, I used green, red, yellow, brown and orange. Each fruit was around 15-20G but you can make them as small or large as you like.
When making them, here are a few tricks that help: to make the oranges use the raised side of a cheese grater to create the dimpled pattern by rolling the marzipan ball all over the surface, then adding a clove in the top; for the cherries, make two smaller balls and then I used some florist wire to create the stalks; the apples have a clove at the top and bottom - the bottom clove has the stem part pushed into the apple and then the top clove has the stem protruding like a little stalk; finally, the banana has some brown streaks painted on its skin and brown on either end. Pop them finished into mini cupcake cases and then present them in a box.
It's been a busy week of playdates and parties to keep me sane as the boys started their four week break from school. Apart from my final birthday cake of the year and a couple of Christmas cakes (more pics to follow next week), here are three more ideas that you might like for Christmas.
Hope you're all enjoying your festive seasons and are (almost) all ready for the big day!!! xoxo
Hot Chocolate Gift Jar
Inspired by Donna Hay, she's the queen of creating beautiful gifts in the festive season. Lovely edible treats like brownie, cookie and gingerbread men mixes all presented in glass jars are but a few. I'm not a fan of giving a gift where the recipient needs to then go shopping to get other ingredients to make their treat so this glass of hot chocolate mix really appealed - just add milk!
1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1 tsp cinnamon & 3/4 malted powder
Adorned with whatever decorations you like! In this case, marshmallows and candy canes :)
These little cookies are wonderfully moreish, gluten free and make lovely gifts.
1 cup powdered pistachio (shelled pistachios blitzed in the blender), 3/4 cup icing sugar, 1 cup grated coconut and 1 egg white (40G liquid egg white)
Combine all the ingredients and then chill for 2 hours. Roll them into little balls and bake them at 170 degrees on a lined baking tray for 8-10 mins.
Seriously delicious, you need to package them up quickly before you eat them all!
Festive Chocolate Bars
I wanted to give some friends' children little chocolate bars but jazz them up. I had 2 bars of Green & Blacks chocolate (one white, one milk) and two tupperware containers a little smaller than the bar itself.
I lined the container with olive oil and a strip of greaseproof paper (so I could remove it easily when set). I melted each chocolate bar and poured it into the container. Whilst unset, add your toppings.
We have Haribo Minions and sprinkles. And then Malteser reindeer sprayed gold, Milky Way Magic Stars sprayed gold, Crunchy Rocks and Smarties.
But the best bit is choosing your own favourites :)
I can't believe how quickly the weeks are flying towards Christmas now. It seemed like everyone was digging out their Christmas spirit so early this year and then in the midst of parties, carol concerts and the seemingly neverending activities at school over the festive period, suddenly the boys are on holiday for four weeks and we're counting down to the big day.
I had a list as long as my arm of things I was going to bake this Christmas. But then, a couple of weeks ago, we had dairy, nut and egg allergies diagnosed in the family. They're not life threatening but they kind of scuppered my plans. And although I know that I will be still be baking with dairy, eggs and nuts in the future, we're just being a little more considered and restrained right now whilst we make our lifestyle choices.
But being Christmas time, we couldn't let it go by without out little gingerbread family. Whilst these Chocolate Gingerbread Men do contain butter, the rest of the ingredients are on our okay list and we made them pretty small (with a 5cm cutter) but just big enough to decorate.
The dough is really easy to make. After the butter is creamed in a mixer, all the rest of the ingredients are added in one go and combined. This is a soft dough and needs refrigerating so once I'd made and refrigerated it, I then cut out my little army and then popped them back in the fridge until I was ready to bake them the next day. To me, biscuits baked fresh are just the best when you have friends coming to visit.
You can use any cutters you like. I have a great set from Ikea with 3D stars, Christmas tree and reindeer which are lots of fun but I gave them to some adult friends to decorate before taking any photos and their creations disappeared home with their new friends! I bought some coloured icing pens and the kids just loved decorating them. Here is our little family :)
For me, Christmas just isn't the same without gingerbread and gingerbread people are such a fun way to celebrate with friends. I haven't met a child yet (and now it seems an adult too!) that doesn't love to become an artist and bring out their inner child.
Naked or decorated, these gingerbread men are just delicious. Just the right amount of chocolate throughout and then a lovely, but not overly intense, taste of ginger. I think this makes them perfect for kids but still completely moreish for adults.
And just right to enjoy with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows :)
Chocolate Gingerbread Men (makes around 20 x 5cm shapes)
- 125G UNSALTED BUTTER, SOFTENED
- 100G LIGHT BROWN SUGAR
- 230G GOLDEN SYRUP
- 375G PLAIN FLOUR, SIFTED
- 1 TSP BAKING SODA, SIFTED
- 25G COCOA, SIFTED
- 2 TSP GROUND GINGER
- 1 TSP PUMPKIN SPICE (you can use allspice here but I'd start with 1/2 tsp and then add to taste)
- COLOURED ICING PENS (optional)
- Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer for at least 5 minutes until pale
- Add the golden syrup, flour, baking soda, cocoa and spices and beat on low speed until combined
- Place on a sheet of baking paper and then pop another sheet on top
- Roll out the dough until around 1/2 cm thick
- Refrigerate for at least one hour so the dough has time to firm up
- Remove from the fridge and cut out your shapes - the dough will soften and get sticky quite quickly so just pop it back into the fridge if needed to firm up for 5-10 minutes
- You can either bake your shapes now or refrigerate them again until ready
- Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees
- Bake for 12 minutes for a snap to the biscuit (a couple of minutes less if you want them a little softer)
- When you remove them from the oven, the biscuits will be soft and very fragile so you need to leave them to cool down completely before handling them
- When they're cool, it's time to have some fun and decorate them - or eat them just as they are :)
So here we are in December. Who'd have thought it would come around so quickly! It kind of snuck up on us this year. We're always one of the first to put up our Christmas tree and decorations although it seems like this year everyone's ahead of the game and had them up last weekend. But we always wait until December, so this weekend is going to be jam-packed with Christmas excitement, parties, movies and yummy festive treats :)
I have been holding on to Gingerbread Marshmallows for a good few months now. I love marshmallows, love making them and especially eating them. The home-made ones are always that extra bit squidgier inside, smoother and silkier. They are simply delicious.
I started off with a few different recipes and ended up being captivated by these yummy ones from Joy The Baker, slightly mesmerised by the chocolate and crushed gingerbread biscuits adorning them. I wasn't sure I was going to go that far (but I did) and wanted to try making little gingerbread men out of them (which I did); I then got completely carried away and decided to make little gingerbread s'mores out of them (definitely glad I did). So much fun and such a sticky mess!
So making them also gave me a fantastic workout as I ran out of glucose half-way through and then had to walk the entire local area looking for more, only to find out that all the local shops have stopped selling it. You can imagine my delight at this! But then I came home, determined to find some more in my cupboard (you know that feeling when you know something you've lost is just lurking that little bit farther into the cupboard) and lo and behold, I found one last tube. A bittersweet moment - but at least I smashed my step count for the day!
So marshmallows are super simple to make. The only downside to them is that when you make them yourself, you realise that they're not at all, even the tinsiest bit, healthy for you. But just close your eyes and will those thoughts out of your mind for the next 20 minutes!
It's important to prepare the baking tin. I use a 8 inch square tin and this makes quite thick marshmallows which are generally deeper than regular cutters - so if you want to cut them into shapes you might want to choose a bigger tin or split the marshmallows into two tins. Usually I line the tin and then lightly grease the lined paper before adding the marshmallow. Joy The Baker's recipe calls for coating the tin with oil and then a very generous layer of icing sugar, thickly applied so the sides and bottom look solid white. The marshmallow did come out fairly easily but I did have to pry the sides away which made them a little dented.
After the marshmallow has set (ideally overnight) you can then decide how you want to present it. When you cut it up, either use a sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and if you're using a cookie cutter, again pop this into hot water. Try not to get too much water all over your marshmallow as it will turn into a squidgy mess (although the upside of this is that you're compelled to eat all the messy bits then and there!)
I tried three ways: cut into regular blocks; cut into blocks and then dipped into melted chocolate and crumbled gingerbread biscuits (this was Joy The Baker's way of doing it); and then cut into little men and turned into Gingerbread Men S'mores. For the S'mores, I got a biscuit (I used a Graham's cracker but if you don't have access to these you could use, say, a gingernut biscuit istead) and heated it in the microwave for around 30 seconds - it turns soft and then working fast, you can cut it into your desired shape using a cookie cutter. So I cut my biscuit into a little man, spread him with a little dulce de leche, popped a marshmallow man on top, dipped him in chocolate and then covered him with sprinkles. Such fun! This is really your opportunity to be completely creative and make whatever you fancy.
Marshmallows are fun. Home-made ones are definitely the best. And the beauty is that there are so many different flavours with which you can experiment.
Enjoy discovering your own favourite :)
Gingerbread Marshmallows (from Joy The Baker's Bonkers Awesome Gingerbread Spiced Marshmallows)
- 1 CUP COLD WATER, SPLIT INTO 2 x 1/2 cups
- 14G POWDERED GELATIN
- 415G CASTER SUGAR
- 270G GLUCOSE
- 1/4 TSP SALT
- 2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
- 1/2 TSP GROUND CINNAMON
- 1/2 TSP GROUND GINGER
- 1/4 TSP GROUND NUTMEG
- PINCH OF GROUND CLOVES
- VEGETABLE OIL TO COAT YOUR TIN
- ICING SUGAR TO COAT YOUR TIN
- Prepare your tin by coating it with vegetable oil and then cover that with icing sugar - you're looking for a thick coating so that the icing sugar looks solid white (alternatively you could line your baking tin with some greaseproof paper, lightly oiled on the inside)
- Pour 1/2 cup of water into your stand mixer and then sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the top
- Leave to stand for 10 mins
- In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, glucose, salt and other 1/2 cup of water and heat over a medium heat until it boils giving it a mix to make sure the ingredients are dissolved
- Then using a candy thermometer, heat the mixture to 240 degrees without stirring it
- When the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees, turn the stand mixer onto a low speed and start to pour it in a slow, steady stream into the gelatin (you're starting on a low speed so the hot mixture doesn't spatter everywhere and burn you)
- Gradually increase the speed of the mixer as you're pouring in the sugar until you're at high speed and all the sugar has been added
- Continue beating at this speed for around 10 mins until the mixture has more than doubled in size and looks like fluffy white marshmallows
- Add the vanilla extract and the spices and mix for a further 3 minutes
- Gently pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface if required with a wet spatula
- Leave to set for at least 3 hours or overnight
- When you come to cut up the marshmallow, use a hot wet knife or use a hot wet cutter to cut it into shapes
- Decorate your marshmallows as you like (some ideas are above) or enjoy them naked, just as they are :)
So a little late for Thanksgiving, but definitely not too late to indulge in this year, comes the Spiced Pumpkin Pie. There are two reasons why I love this. The first, is that it contains my beloved autumnal favourite - the pumpkin. Definitely one reason to welcome in the autumn after the warm, hazy days of summer. And the other is that the first time I tasted Pumpkin Pie, it came from Williams Sonoma, one of my very favorite shops (sadly contained Stateside) - and I loved it so much, I was hooked. So it seemed only fitting that the first time I tried my hand at this, it should be a Williams Sonoma recipe.
This is actually very simple to make and consists first of making and chilling your very own pie dough and then creating a rich creamy pumpkin filling spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. I mean, what's not to love?
In the UK, the pumpkin pie recipes tend to lean towards a sweet shortcrust pastry but an American friend reliably informed me that genuine article pumpkin crust tends to be more crumbly and flakey. So I used the (American) Williams Sonoma recipe for Pie Dough which you can make in a standalone mixer - even better! Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment, then mix together flour, sugar and salt. Next add cubed butter in one go, ensuring that you toss the butter through the flour to coat it before turning the mixer on. Mix it on low to medium speed until it forms coarse breadcrumbs where the butter is no larger than peas. Add 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix again until the dough comes together, around 30 seconds.
With this pie dough, you're going to roll it out and line the tin before you refrigerate it which is a little different from the usual method of chilling the pastry before you roll it out. So put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface and press down with your hand to form a large disc. Roll it out to around 30 cm and then carefully transfer it to your tin. I found it pretty robust at this stage so it didn't tear or rip. Then gently press the bottom edges around the inside base of the tin and the sides, ensuring that you are pressing it into the sides. When you've finished with this, my method of cutting off the unwanted pastry is to roll my rolling pin across the top to cut off the edges (although this pastry is prone to a little shrinkage so you could cut off the excess pastry after baking if you prefer.
This is when the pastry needs to be chilled. About a hour or so should do it and if you need it be ready faster, you could pop it in the freezer. After it's chilled, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line your pastry shell with tin foil, ensuring that the foil covers the top edges and hangs over the side and then it fill it with pastry weights or rice. Bake this for 20 minutes in the oven and then peek under the foil. As it's going to be baked again and will turn golden brown then, you're just looking for it to lose its wetness and the pastry to turn a light golden brown. This should take 20-30 minutes.
In the meantime, whilst your pastry is partially baking, it's time to make the pumpkin filling. Again, it couldn't be easier. First whisk the eggs and dark brown sugar until smooth. Then add the rest of the ingredients and beat together until smooth.
When the pastry is ready, remove the foil and weights and then fill with the pumpkin filling. You may find it easier to place your pie tin on a baking tray to make it easier to get in and out of the oven. Bake in the lower third of the oven for around 30 - 40 minutes checking regularly as you approach the 30 minutes. You want to ensure that it doesn't crack but the filling needs to be slightly risen and firm in the middle.
Then leave to cool on a cooling rack or eat slightly warm.
It is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It has a consistency a little like an egg custard but lovely spiced flavours and a creamy richness from the pumpkin and cream.
I love it. Like I said, don't fret if you've missed thanksgiving but break tradition and make this as a yummy pud after Sunday lunch. Or supper with friends.
You won't regret it :)
Spiced Pumpkin Pie (from Williams-Sonoma's Pie & Tart)
- 200G PLAIN FLOUR
- 1 TBSP CASTER SUGAR
- 1/4 TSP SALT
- 125G COLD BUTTER, CUBED
- 3 TBSP VERY COLD WATER
Spiced Pumpkin Filling
- 105G DARK BROWN SUGAR
- 2 LARGE EGGS
- 1 TSP GROUND CINNAMON
- 1 TSP GROUND GINGER
- 1/2 TSP SALT
- 1/4 TSP GROUND CLOVES
- 1/4 TSP GROUND NUTMEG
- 250G CANNED OR FRESH PUMPKIN PUREE
- 375ML DOUBLE CREAM
- Firstly make the Pie Dough by putting the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and stirring to mix the ingredients together
- Then add the butter in one go, tossing the butter in the flour until every piece has a light covering
- Put the mixer on low to medium speed until the mixture ressembles coarse breadcrumbs, where the butter pieces are no larger than peas
- Then add the water and mix briefly until the dough comes together, around 30 seconds
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and press down with your hand to form a large disc
- Roll it out to around 30 cm and then carefully transfer it to your tin
- Gently press the bottom edges around the inside base of the tin and the sides, ensuring that you are pressing it into the sides
- Roll your rolling pin across the top to cut off the edges
- Chill your pastry for around an hour
- Then preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Line your pastry shell with tin foil, ensuring that the foil covers the top edges and hangs over the side and then it fill it with pastry weights or rice
- Bake it for 20 minutes in the oven and then peek under the foil until it loses its wetness and turns a light golden brown (takes around 20-30 minutes)
- Meanwhile, make the Spiced Pumpkin Filling
- Whisk together the eggs and dark sugar until smooth
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix again until smooth
- When the pastry shell is ready, fill with the pumpkin mixture
- Bake in the lower third of the oven for around 30 - 40 minutes until the pumpkin filling is slightly risen and set in the middle
- Remove from the oven and cool it on a cooling rack
- Enjoy cold, slightly warm or with whipped cream :)
It feels like a week where a bit of colour is needed to brighten up the day. Nothing shouts colour more than this stunning Rainbow Meringue Cake with its rainbow layers, gorgeous vanilla mascarpone cream and topped with strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate seeds.
The idea for the rainbow meringue layers was taken from the Meringue Girls Cookbook. I am a HUGE fan of meringue, particularly macarons, and their little meringue kisses which I recently turned into little ghosts for a kids' birthday party, are the loveliest treats.
The meringue is straightforward using the Meringue Girls process. You need a couple of batches of their meringue mixture which is also the base of their kisses. It's simply oven-heated sugar added a spoonful at a time to egg white whipped to stiff peaks and then whisked for around 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
The more fiddly bit is preparing the piping bags for the mixture and these need to be coated with thick food paste in the different rainbow colours. Did you ever use an acronym to remember the rainbow order? I can still be found muttering Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain!! To achieve the different hues, I used Sugarflair Spectral Paste in these colours: Velvet Red, Yellow/Cream, Yellow Extra, Holly Green, Ice Blue and Purple. To apply them, the way that's easiest for me is to turn the piping bag inside out (I don't worry about the very tip of the icing bag as it will be snipped off and also gives us a little tag to hold onto when pulling the bag back through the right way). Once your bag is turned inside out, pop it over a wine bottle and then take your chosen food colour paste, painting the inside from tip to half-way down the bag with a thick coating of colour. If you leave the bag for too long after painting, you'll notice that the colour may start to separate so it's worth giving the bag a quick brush with a pastry brush to distribute the colour just before adding the meringue.
Then pull the bag back the right way so the food colour is on the inside. I then pop my bag into a measuring jug and fill it with a couple of scoops (I used an ice cream scoop) of meringue. Squidge the food colour into the meringue with your fingers and then snip off the end. Pipe the mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper starting at the outside and working in. I found that I didn't have generous amount of meringue mixture for each one so had to use a spatula to smooth it and cover the whole circle. Be careful not to smooth the very outside of the circle with the deepest colour as this will show on the outside of your cake so you want a really vibrant colour.
After baking and cooling, you're ready to assemble your cake. The cream does make the inside of the meringue soften and disintegrate a little, so it's best to assemble this as close to serving as you can. I decided to fill my cake with a vanilla mascarpone cream and then top it with beautiful strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate seed and a light dusting of icing sugar.
This cake is sweet and delicious and the cream is lovely and light.
It does take a little preparation but looks so bright and colourful, it would be a welcome addition to any party, dinner affair or just for fun.
Ours is just for fun. Can't wait to show the kids what they're having for pudding tonight :)
Rainbow Meringue Cake
Rainbow Meringue (from Meringue Girls Cookbook)
- 300G EGG WHITES (I use Two Chicks egg whites but you could also use around 10 medium eggs)
- 600G CASTER SUGAR
Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
- 500G MASCARPONE
- 460ML WHIPPING CREAM
- 4 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT (to taste)
- 140G CASTER SUGAR (to taste)
- PUNNET OF STRAWBERRIES
- PUNNET OF RASPBERRIES
- 1 POMEGRANATE
- ICING SUGAR (to dust)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
- The meringue is made in 2 batches so the first batch will make 3 meringue discs
- Line 3 baking trays with greaseproof paper and draw a 10 inch circle as a guide
- Line a roasting tray with greaseproof paper and then pour in 300g sugar, smoothing it to get it spread as evenly as possible
- Put the sugar in the oven for 5 mins
- Measure 150g egg white in a standing mixer and start by whisking is slowly
- Then increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes and then increase it again to high speed until it's formed stiff peaks
- The sugar should be ready to come out of the oven and with the mixer turned up to high speed, it should be added a spoonful at a time to the egg white (around 30 seconds between each addition)
- When the sugar is all added, keep mixing for another 5 mins - it's ready when you can rub a bit of meringue between 2 fingers and can't feel the grains of sugar
- Prepare 3 icing bags by turning them inside out and popping each one over a wine bottle (or similar shape)
- Paint the icing bags thickly with food colour paste, ensuring a heavy coating from the tip down to half-way
- Turn the bags the right way around and then add 2 scoopfuls of meringue into each bag, squidging the colour into the meringue with your fingers
- Snip off the end and then pipe a 10cm circle on the prepared baking tray
- Bake for around 1 hour until the meringue lifts off the baking tray
- Leave to cool on the tray
- Repeat this process with the other half of the meringue ingredients and the remaining 3 colours
- When you're ready to assemble the cake, prepare the mascarpone cream
- Put all the cream ingredients into a bowl and mix for a couple of minutes until the cream is smooth and has soft peaks
- Spread the cream over each of the layers and then assemble in rainbow order
- Top with your favourite fruit and dust with a sprinkling of icing sugar :)
It started with an image of a scrummy gingerbread cake from The Boy Who Bakes on Instagram. And the fact that it's Gingerbread Month on BBC Good Food. Although I've often made Gingerbread Biscuits, I've never made a Gingerbread Cake before. So I set about to find an authentic recipe with a truly gingerbready (is that even a word?) cake - and I think I've found the one.
I played around with an old recipe from the Crabapple Bakery that was originally intended to make Gingerbread Cupcakes. I wanted to make a Stem Ginger Bundt Cake. I've had my share of challenges removing cakes from Bundt tins in the past and scoured the web for help - stay tuned for the top tips I've gathered!
So this cake is a lovely traditional gingerbread and the wonderful ginger taste comes from both stem ginger and ground ginger. Although I'm not a fan of stem ginger, the small pieces throughout give a slight crunch and lovely pop of ginger when you take a bite. The cake itself is light in texture, although it does have a slight squidginess which is ever so delicious.
So before we make the cake, let's talk Bundt Tins. Ever had a bundt cake that just wouldn't release from its tin after baking? Or perhaps it broke apart when coming out of its tin? I have. So here are my tips that I now use. First I grease the tin with butter, wiping all over the surfaces with a good coating of room temperature butter. Then I get a pastry brush and make sure that all the little cracks and crevices are well coated too. Once the tin is very well buttered, I dust the whole tin with flour. I read somewhere that you shouldn't pour your batter into the tin in one go, but fill it with cupfuls so I did that here. And a final tip that I found on Crafty Baking was that when the cake is ready to come out of the oven, soak a towel with steaming water in the sink and place the cake (tin side touching the cloth) for 10 seconds, before turning out immediately onto a cooling rack. And it works!
Now on to the cake. The batter is made in a large saucepan where we start by melting the butter, dark muscovado sugar and treacle until the butter has melted and sugar dissolved but the mixture shouldn't boil. Once they're melted together, leave to cool for 5 minutes and then add in succession (stirring well between each addition) the milk, eggs, chopped stem ginger and sifted flour mixture, taking care not to over-mix and toughen the batter. Then pour this into the tin until it's three-quarters full and bake.
When I had a finished cake turned out and cooling on the rack, I warmed a quarter cup of maple syrup and brushed that all over the outside and then dusted the cake with icing sugar. It wasn't intended to look Christmassy but it does look like a light sprinkling of snow has passed overhead. And I have to confess that after spending the last few weeks practicing my son's Christmas choir songs for his school carol service, it's already beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
This makes a really lovely, light cake and/or dessert (I'm thinking of trying it with a little ice cream later!) with fresh pops of ginger throughout.
Personally I think it's all worth it for the smell alone when it's baking in the oven - but if you love ginger, then this is sure to be a hit :)
Stem Ginger Bundt Cake (adapted from Crabapple Bakery's Ginger Lovers' Cupcakes)
- 300G UNSALTED BUTTER
- 200G DARK MUSCOVADO SUGAR
- 160G TREACLE
- 240ML SEMI-SKIMMED MILK
- 3 EGGS, BEATEN
- 1 PIECE OF STEM GINGER, CHOPPED INTO TINY PIECES
- 400G SELF-RAISING FLOUR
- 1½ TBSP GROUND GINGER
- ¼ TSP SALT
- Grease with butter and flour your bundt tin
- Preheat the oven to 150 degrees
- In a large saucepan, gently heat the butter, sugar and treacle until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved but don't let it boil
- Once the mixture is melted and well-mixed, remove from the heat and leave to one side for 5 mins
- Sieve the flour, ginger and salt into a separate bowl
- Add the milk to the saucepan and stir until well-mixed
- Then add the eggs one at a time, ensuring that all the egg is combined well with the mixture
- Stir through the stemmed ginger
- Add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, ensuring that the flour is well incorporated and the mixture smooth but taking care not to over-mix it
- Transfer the batter to the bundt tin one cup at a time
- Bake for around 40 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
- Just before the cake is due out of the oven, soak a tea towel with steaming hot water in the sink and place the tin on top of it (tin side touching the towel) for 10 seconds
- Then turn out the cake immediately onto a cooling rack
- Leave to cool for 10 mins and then heat a quarter cup of maple syrup for 20 seconds in the microwave
- Lightly brush the outside of the cake with the syrup
- Sieve icing sugar over the top of the cake and serve on a pretty platter (Christmas look optional!!)
We're just one day away from Bonfire Night and the anticipation is hanging in the air in our house. The boys are SO excited! We're having a mini fireworks party with friends and have our sparklers at the ready. And what could be more perfect to eat but Bonfire Toffee?
I have been hanging on to this recipe for a few months until the perfect time, which would be right about now. I adore Annie Rigg and her beautiful photography which makes me want to go and make everything in her books right now. So it was hard work hanging on for this long. Believe me. I've read up on a number of recipes for this lovely toffee but decided to stick 100% with Annie's recipe. I don't consider myself a sweetie maker and on several occasions have fallen prey to not getting my temperature quite right and coming out with a sticky goo concoction, so I wanted a trustworthy recipe for my first attempt at this.
If you'd like to attempt this at home - it's easy as long as you (1) own a sugar thermometer and (2) follow the instructions like your life depends on it. It's all about timing. And patience. After putting all your ingredients into a large saucepan, you bring them slowly to the boil (stirring a few times to make sure it's all well-mixed and the butter has melted) and then slowly boil it for 20 mins until it reaches 130 degrees ("hard ball" stage). Then after submerging the base of the pan in cold water and giving it a couple of stirs, pour it into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. And wait for it to cool. Then snap it into pieces or cut it up and store it in boxes between layers of greaseproof paper or in little individual sweetie papers.
The taste of this toffee is a lovely deep flavour, sort of smokey where the undertones of the treacle really shine through. I can see why it's called Bonfire Toffee. It's reminiscent of big smokey bonfires with strong flavours and a lovely chewy consistency.
If you fancy having a go at making sweets, the only investment you need to make for simple sweets is a good sugar thermometer. Which also comes in handy if you like making macarons my way. Or jam. And if you do fancy having a go at sweets, do try this recipe (even if it's not Bonfire Night).
I promise you, it's gooooood!
Bonfire Toffee Makes around 50 squares (from Annie Rigg's Sweet Things)
- SUNFLOWER OIL (for greasing the tin)
- 20CM SQUARE BAKING TIN
- 125G UNSALTED BUTTER
- 200G CASTER SUGAR
- 150G BLACK TREACLE
- 125G GOLDEN SYRUP
- 50G CREME FRAICHE
- 1/4 TSP CREAM OF TARTAR
- 100ML WATER
- PINCH OF SEA SALT FLAKES
- Grease the baking tin with sunflower oil and then line it with greaseproof paper
- Place the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup, creme fraiche and cream of tartar into a large saucepan (2.5 litre capacity)
- Add the sea salt and water
- Set over a low heat until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved
- Stir mixture from time to time until it's smooth
- Then put the sugar thermometer into the pan and bring to the boil
- Cook steadily for around 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 130 degrees (I have an induction hob and I kept the temperature on 6 out of 9)
- Remove from the heat and plunge the base of the saucepan into a sink of cold water
- Stir the mixture a couple of times and then pour it into the prepared tin
- Either score the toffee whilst it's still warm if you want to finally have it in uniform squares or you can snap pieces off when it's cold
- Leave in a cool place to set
- Enjoy for up to 2 weeks :)
I know it's not Easter. It should, in fact, be summer but you could be mistaken for thinking it was autumn going into winter most days here in London right now. So back to Easter. Or rather not being Easter, but these lovely little buns that are traditionally served at Easter in Sweden should be served all year around. Doesn't the name sounds romantic "Bollos de Pascua suecos"? Much nicer than "Swedish Easter Buns"!
I hadn't tried these before, but saw a photo on Pinterest that stayed somewhere in the back of my mind for a day such as this one. When we were recently in Canada, out in the Algonquin National Park, we made many visits to our favourite bakery, Henrietta's Bakery, where they had lots of traditional buns filled with jam and cream, fresh cakes and pies and somewhere amongst all of this I was reminded of these little buns. Incidentally, if you ever find yourself in the Algonquin National Park with a craving for something sweet, I thoroughly recommend a visit to that lovely bakery for their amazing sticky buns :)
But back to my Semlor buns which are in essence bread flavoured with cardamom. The cardamom is freshly ground so it has a really vibrant flavour and smell. I'm not a huge cardamom fan (especially if you find me accidentally chewing on one in my pilau rice) but the 1 teaspoon in these buns is not too overbearing and adds a rather pleasant flavour.
Once they are baked and cooled, it's time for their little hats to come off. Then a small amount of the insides are scooped out ready to be mixed with almond paste and then layered back inside the bun. I made my own almond paste which meant I could make it to my desired consistency and as sweet as I liked it. This is then topped with a generous swirl of the most delicious mascarpone cream mixed with vanilla paste, icing sugar, milk and cream. Its little hat goes back on top and then it's dusted with icing sugar. There. Easy, right?
There are a few different sources that inspired these which found me translating Swedish recipes (and as such missing important stages!) but my recipe was in the main adapted from Swedish Food and Mercaditas Bakery. These buns do have a few different stages but it's totally worth the effort. The freshly ground spice really does give this a lift and transforms it from just a bread bun whilst pairing really well with the almond and mascarpone cream.
They're lovely enjoyed with a cup of coffee - but in my world it's always a hot chocolate :)
Semlor "Bollos De Pascua Suecos"
- 75G BUTTER
- 300ML MILK
- 10G FAST ACTION DRIED YEAST
- ½ TSP SALT
- 55G SUGAR
- 1 TSP FRESHLY GROUND CARDAMOM
- 500G PLAIN FLOUR
- 1 EGG
Almond Paste Ingredients
- 125g GROUND ALMONDS
- 60ML MILK
- ICING SUGAR TO TASTE
Mascarpone Cream Ingredients
- 250G REFRIGERATED MASCARPONE
- 120ML WHIPPING CREAM
- 60G ICING SUGAR
- 1 TSP VANILLA PASTE
- Melt the butter in a saucepan
- Add the milk and heat until it's lukewarm and mixed well
- Add the yeast and mix until it's all dissolved
- Put the salt, sugar, cardamom and flour in a mixer and make a well in the centre
- Add the buttery milk mixture and egg and then mix for 5 mins with the dough hook (or alternatively knead it by hand)
- The mixture should be sticky but not stick to your hands when it's ready
- Place in an oiled bowl covered loosely with clingfilm and leave to prove for a half hour
- Gently turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth
- Divide the dough into equal balls (I wanted 8 so just calculated what each ball needed to weigh and used the weighing scales to make sure they were all even sized at around 95g)
- Put the dough balls onto 2 baking sheets lined with baking paper, cover with a tea towel and leave for another 40 mins
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan)
- Bake for 25 mins until the tops are browned and then allow to cool
- If you're not filling the buns immediately, store them in an airtight container as they tend to dry out quickly
- Make the almond paste by mixing all the ingredients together - the icing sugar is at your discretion until the paste is sweet enough for you, but as a guide, I added 3 tablespoons
- Cut a small hat off the top of each bun and place aside
- Then scoop out a little of the bread from inside each bun and add this into the almond paste, then mix together
- At this stage, I added a little more milk until I had a creamy paste
- Divide the paste between each of the buns
- Then beat the mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla paste until mixed together
- Add the whipping cream and beat on high until it holds its shape and forms stiff peaks
- Using a star nozzle, pipe the cream onto each bun
- Then replace their hats
- Sprinkle liberally with icing sugar!
Today I wanted to share my excitement at my first (yes, that's my very first) corporate client and I couldn't have asked for a more fun and creative commission than helping Universal Pictures in London celebrate the launch of 50 Shades Of Grey at home entertainment.Read more
Every cake I make challenges me in a new way. I sometimes needs to remind myself that I'm pretty new to celebration cakes (and making them for other people) and could maybe be a bit easier on myself. But the internet now is rich with amazing cakes and creations which inspire me, but make me want to create something equally magnificent.
This week I had the opportunity of making a Rugby World Cup Cake for a 7 year old where the brief included a replica rugby ball and having the logos of all the teams from the World Cup 2015 featured in the design. I found Cake Toppers who specialise in making edible cake toppers from your supplied images which worked very well for the logos. I produced an A3 sheet of logos and then cut down the images by hand to feature them on the cake and board. The rugby ball was made from rice crispy treats (rice crispies, butter and marshmallows mixed together and moulded into shape), then covered in fondant and decorated by hand with a mixture of cut-out letters, edible pens and coloured fondant. I was really happy with the result. The base board was the largest one that I could find which was 20 inches so it was a big board and a big cake!
The other cake I made was a Survival themed cake for a shared party of three boys. They wanted a tiered cake with a model tank on top and their names on dog tags. I'll come on to talk about the challenges with making camouflage fondant (!) but this had a hand-painted bottom tier and an airbrushed top tier - and I'm still completely in love with my Dinky Doodle airbrush and the finish that airbrushing gives a cake. The tank was made from rice crispy treats covered with fondant and then airbrushed. I found some cute letter stamps in Hobbycraft and I thought the font would work really well for this so it's always worth checking out other departments as you can find lots of little treasures, often with a lower price tag than anything connected with baking fetches these days.
So as well as every cake challenging me, it's always a first time for something. This week was first time I've made two celebration cakes in one week.
So what's it taught me?
Well, for one thing planning is key. The more you can get done earlier on in the week, the better for when you come to make the cake. I was extremely thankful that I made the rice crispy models (rugby ball and tank) ahead of time and finished the rugby ball before even starting on making the cakes themselves.
If you try something and it doesn't work, keep persevering until you get it right. Camouflage fondant seemed so straightforward in principle (and I even found a great pin on Pinterest for how to make it) but it didn't work (twice) and when I sat looking at the bottom tier at 10pm the night before pick-up, it was clear that it spectacularly DIDN'T work. Time to rip off the fondant, re-frost the cake, set it, re-cover it and then paint the camouflage design by hand. I was so happy that I made the call! The image below shows the first way I tried to make this (pre-rolling) and the second one was my hand-painted finish.
And finally, I see cake makers often working through the night and think to myself that I couldn't do that - I love my sleep too much. But the truth is that if you're going to take on multiple cakes that need delivering on the same day, sometimes you're going to have to work through the night to get them done. I actually found my groove dancing around the kitchen at 1am, 2am, 3am finishing details (although late night decorating is clearly not good when your manage to airbrush your kitchen green as well as your cakes and stain your children's feet green the next morning when they come down to breakfast!)
I have a few weeks coming up where I need to produce two cakes so this has been a great induction into the process. It's taught me how much can be achieved and a little more about the process that goes into making multiple cakes. I know some cake artists can produce four or five cakes a week - you amaze me, people!
Hope you've all had a wonderful weekend - whether enjoying your own birthday parties or just the sunshine :)
I love minions! I mean, who doesn't love the little yellow bundles of fun and they're such a happy choice for a children's birthday cake. I had a request for a small (!) birthday cake this week and I promise, I promise, it did start out small! It was for a joint birthday with 3 other boys so they didn't need a huge cake and so I thought hmmm, a 7 inch cake would be perfect. Not too big, not too small. But then I had to make two times the 7 inch cake to get the height and when it was buttercreamed and covered in fondant, it was pretty large. Um, over 2½ kg fondant on this one. And that's a 12 inch board. Maybe not quite as small as I had originally planned!
I'm playing with the best way to cover cakes at the moment and have been experimenting with airbrushing them (starting off with my Darth Vader cake last week). The reason for this is that you're then only covering a light external layer with food colouring and not right the way through the fondant itself as these vibrant colours (like the black of Darth Vader and the yellow of the Minion) need a lot of additional colour to get the richness. Although after I'd knocked over my bottle of yellow airbrush paint for the second time, I was cursing my choice - although this was then tempered by the therapeutic airbrushing so all was well in the end.
The cake itself is vanilla cake with raspberry jam and butter cream and contains two 7 inch cakes stacked with a board half-way through. The base board was covered with fondant, then impressed with a woodgrain effect and handpainted with airbrush paint (I find the Culpitt brand works well for this), finished off with some washi tape.
I really love this cake. But then it's hard not to love a minion :)
I always love making cakes for friends and this weekend had the pleasure of making the birthday cakes and cookies for a very special family friend. I asked him a while ago what he'd like and he told me that the theme had to be Star Wars. So I asked him who was his favourite character. He said all of them! We decided that cupcakes of different characters would be the way to go - cupcakes are so easy for a kid's birthday party as they're ready-made helpings and there's no waiting for the cake to be served -but it would also be good to have a cutting cake and that should be Darth Vadar. The challenge was set!
The cupcake toppers took a day to make and I made them two days out. I looked for photos of the Star Wars cast and then I created rough sketches of the characters I wanted to include and then turned those that needed it, into templates to cut around the fondant. The fondant was stiffened with some tylose powder which helps them keep their shape. The chosen cupcake flavour was vanilla with vanilla buttercream and this was made one day out and then topped immediately with the fondant topper.
Also made one day out, the Darth Vader cake was chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream covered in sugarpaste. The cake was made of one 8 inch cake and two 6 inch cakes which were carved up to create the cake shape. I used cake to create the pattern on the face and then accentuated it with some extra sugarpaste around the brow, eyes and nose; then covered the whole lot with a large layer of white sugarpaste. I made a party cake a couple of years ago for my son which I covered with pre-coloured blue fondant - and then one of the class mums told me that it turned her child's poo green! That thought has stayed with me ever since :) So I decided that I would cover Darth Vader with white fondant and give my birthday present its maiden outing to use my Dinky Doodle Airbrush to spray the cake black. So it still has black food colouring but only on the very surface of the cake and not through the fondant. And I had a great time with my new airbrush! It was 11.30pm and it was difficult not to get trigger happy with the spraying. I left the cake to dry overnight and in the morning it had dried a much deeper and matte colour.
Finally, also one day out, I made some cookies for the party bags which were vanilla cookies (recipe here) with a layer of fondant over the top. The cutters are from Lakeland and are really effective. I always give C-3P0 a spray of gold lustre just to bring out the shine. Then they were presented in a party bag sealed with some pretty washi tape.
So after a brilliant climbing party tiring the boys out, we went to the pub for lunch and finished off with lots of birthday cake. And there was a LOT of it. So when the boys finished their cupcakes and wanted chocolate cake, there was plenty to go around. And plenty to take home afterwards. But I think that's one of the perks of being the birthday boy - taking the leftovers home and enjoying it for the next few days :)
This week, I had the pleasure of making a 70th birthday cake. It's always lovely to be part of people's special celebrations and be invited to make a cake for them. The brief for this one was a 9 inch vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam to include Digby dog, water, flowers, "Mum" and "70". Hmmm...what a challenge!
I first set about making Digby and the flowers out of gumpaste to allow them time to dry. And I decided that the top of the cake would be removeable, allowing the birthday girl to keep her model of Digby. Here are some work in progress shots of Digby and one of the flowers, the David Austen rose.
I do love making sugar flowers. Although it can take a little while to wait for the different parts to dry, there's something very satisfying (for me) when the flower comes together. Digby was more of a challenge, that's for sure, but it's nice to feature something that means a lot to the person and bring it alive on a cake. I didn't take a photo, but he even has a little name tag with "Digby" stamped on it.
The cake itself wasn't the largest cake I've made and covered but it's still a lot of cake! Three layers of vanilla sponge (soaked with sugar syrup) filled with jam and vanilla buttercream, coated in buttercream and covered in fondant. Delicious! Sometimes the simplest flavours are the best :)
Here are a few more photos of the finished cake. Hope you like it!
It's almost Easter. Cue a week of chocolate and bakes featuring mini eggs, bunnies and baby chicks. I wouldn't say the boys are as excited as at Christmas, but it definitely ranks up there and we're frequently counting down the number of sleeps until the Easter bunny arrives with an abundance of yet more chocolate! For those of you that don't know me so well, I kind of like Pinterest - not quite as much as some of my friends (you know who you are!!!) - but I love it for inspiration and ideas from cooking to baking to crafts to homes to travel and more. But pinning me down to do something with the pins is another thing entirely. I first saw this idea on Pinterest a year ago and it's taken me this long to do it (well, my excuse is that I was waiting for Easter as that kind of feels like the best occasion for this one!)
Baking brownies in eggshells. Cute, eh? Originally in Italian. I followed a crude translation and my own ingredient quantities but the idea came from Brownies In Eggshells and is inspired. A touch fiddly to create this little work of art, but still lots of fun and I decided to add my own twist and pop in a small chocolate egg into each eggshell. This meant that the holes I had to create in the bottom of the eggs were a touch larger than you'd ideally need but I experimented with two different types of egg: Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs (these mini eggs are actually quite large compared to an actual egg so you do have to create quite a gaping hole) and Lindt Eggs (white and milk chocolate).
So, the results. Well, the recipe suggested baking them for 20 mins. This seemed a long time considering the size of each egg so I went with 15 mins, but really my instinct alarm bells were ringing and I should have gone for 10-12 mins I think for the perfect bake. The Cadburys Creme egg (I only made one with this) exploded out of the top so there was little Creme Egg left in it! The Lindt eggs fared better but still needed a little less cooking I think. I will definitely make this again but perhaps next time, I might try Chocolate Oil & Almond Cake for a change and freeze the chocolate eggs before putting them into the batter. The kids love them. They're addicted to eggs anyway but present them with an egg that they can peel and find a chocolate brownie inside - awesome! And the possibilities are endless with these little creations - definitely fun for Easter and for making with the kids in the school holidays :)
Egg Chocolate Brownies (adapted from Craft Marmalade) Makes 6
- 70G DARK CHOCOLATE
- 40G BUTTER
- 1 EGG
- 60G CASTER SUGAR
- 40G PLAIN FLOUR
- PINCH OF SALT
- 10G COCOA
- 6 EGGSHELLS
- 6 MINI CHOCOLATE EGGS
- To prepare your eggshells, make a small hole in the bottom of each egg - I used the sharp point of scissors, made a small hole and then picked away some of the eggshell until I had enough of a hole to be able to fill with batter
- Shake the eggs until the insides come out into a bowl and then soak the eggshells in salty water for 30 mins
- Remove from the water and allow to thoroughly dry
- Pour a little olive oil into each eggshell to coat the insides
- Turn on the oven to 180 degrees
- Then to prepare the batter, start by melting the chocolate and butter in the microwave (around 1 min but keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn) and then set it aside to cool
- Put the egg and sugar in a bowl and whisk it by hand and next add the chocolate until thoroughly mixed
- Then add the flour and cocoa and mix evenly
- Finally add the salt and stir through until the batter is smooth
- Pour the batter into a pastry bag and fill the eggshells until they're ¼ full and then insert a little chocolate egg. Then top up the batter until the eggshells are ¾ full
- Bake for 10-12 mins until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean
- If the batter spills over the edge of the eggshell you can wipe away the excess when they're still warm
- Allow to cool, peel and enjoy :)
This weekend I delivered my very first wedding cake. I had the pleasure of meeting the bride and groom in late summer last year and they spoke to me about their sunflower wedding. We talked about a simple 3-tier wedding cake in white with a handmade sugar sunflower. With a surprising twist of a minion bride and groom on the top! A few requests - the bride had to have two eyes (!) and the groom had to have "Dave combover hair" and wear morning suit. What a challenge!
This cake was enormous compared to anything I've made before- three tiers including 6 inch, 9 inch and 12 inch cakes. I had to clear my fridge out to set the different levels so we've been eating hand to mouth for the last few days. This cake contains 3kg butter, 3.5kg caster sugar, 1 litre cream, 29 eggs, over 1kg chocolate, 1 kg raspberries, 450g egg whites and 4kg fondant amongst other ingredients. Phew! All layers were vanilla sponge soaked in sugar syrup, filled with raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream, covered in white chocolate ganache and then a final layer of fondant. The little pearls in between each layer were individual edible pearls placed by hand.
The journey to the venue was the most stressful experience I can remember of late. There were roadworks everywhere and what should have been a 20 min journey turned into an hour of me hung over the back car seats into the boot clutching onto the cake at every twist and turn. But we got there. The sunflower table decorations looked fantastic and were such a sunny, happy choice of flower complementing the pop of the sunflower and the yellow Minions on the cake too.
Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Bourne. I hope you had a truly amazing and wonderfully special day!
Happy Valentine's Day! A romantic day for many, but not for us. It will always be a special someone's birthday in our house and we celebrate my elder son's birthday over Valentine's Day every year. However, he came home earlier this week telling me that his teacher had asked who was going to make her a Valentine's cookie. At six (seven today!) years old, they're all eager to please so he put his hand up and volunteered - then promptly came home and told me the news that "we needed to make cookies". Given the amount of homework and after school activities we have every week, I knew he was really saying "you need to make us cookies"!!
Everyone's making Valentine's cakes and cookies right now, but I've been especially mesmerised by the fabulous Nectar and Stone who make the most gorgeous baked goodies and package them beautifully as gifts. Unfortunately they're based in Melbourne so I can't pop in for a visit - but that doesn't stop me drooling over their very pretty Instagram feed!
Inspired by their lovely painted cookies, I decided I'd create some with watercolour paint effect and gold highlights. It was lots of fun making these. The base is a simple vanilla cookie with a fondant topper hand-painted using Sugarflair Edible Tints mixed with vodka. But given the fun I had, I think this would be a great activity to do with children and edible pens would work perfectly for kids to draw pictures and create their own masterpieces. I'm definitely re-visiting these during the holidays! In the meantime, with some lovely packaging and a hand-written note, these are a perfect gift to celebrate a day of romance :)
Vanilla Cookies (30 small cookies)
- 200G UNSALTED BUTTER
- 200G GOLDEN CASTER SUGAR
- 1 MEDIUM FREE-RANGE EGG, BEATEN
- 2 TSP VANILLA PASTE
- 400G PLAIN FLOUR
- Cream the butter and sugar and then add the beaten egg and combine.
- Stir in the vanilla paste (you can use vanilla essence if you don't have the paste, but the paste gives the final cookie dough the lovely little specks of vanilla throughout).
- Gently fold in the flour and mix through until the dough comes together.
- Wrap the dough in clingfilm and then leave it in the refrigerator for at least 30 mins to firm up.
- When you're ready to bake your cookie, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (160 degrees fan).
- Lightly flour your work surface and then roll out the dough to 4-5mm thickness. If the dough crumbles apart, mould it back together with your hands.
- Stamp out your shapes using your desired cookie cutters (I used hearts and circles) and place them well apart on lined baking trays.
- Large cookies take around 10-14 mins until they're pale golden (keep your eye on them after 10 mins to ensure they don't burn) and the little cookies take around 5-8 mins.
- Roll out sugarpaste in your desired colour (I used Renshaw White Sugarpaste but you can get other brands and supermarkets are now doing their own too)
- Cut out your toppers using the shapes you used for your cookies (use the same size topper to cookie) and attach to the cookie with a little water or edible glue.
- Then using Sugarflair Edible Tints (I used pink, peach, pale blue, purple and gold), mix with a little vodka and paint onto your cookie. I wanted the watercolour effect so I made sure it was diluted enough (just test it on a piece of kitchen towel until your get your desired colour strength).
- Create your masterpiece and then package in a little bag with a handwritten note!