51. The Legendary Crack Pie (concocted the lazy way)

Legendary Crack Pie - no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Legendary Crack Pie – no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Crack Pie the most addictive pie you’re ever going to eat. It even sounds legendary before you even know what’s actually inside it. It hails from New York so apologies this is yet another American bake in my around the world adventures. But I’m sure you will understand why I just HAD to bake this. It was originally invented by Momofuku Milk Bar’s very talented pastry chefs and coined Crack Pie due to it’s extremely moreish quality.

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to bake this pie. This excuse came in the form of the Private Pie Club. The theme for this months Private Pie was Film Pie. I managed to shoehorn my Crack Pie in under the banner of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ as the most drug fuelled film I could think of , although with it’s final dusting of floral icing sugar the pie appears much more sweet and innocent than it’s name suggests… (If you like pie you should also come along to Private Pie club and meet other pie enthusiasts!)

Fully iced Crack Pie

Fully iced Crack Pie

The original epic recipe is merely concocted from a few store cupboard essentials. This means you will probably have all of the ingredients ready to hand to bake this pie. So what are you waiting for?? Get baking! Although there is a LOT of everything in it so you may need to invest in a few more eggs…

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

The homemade oat cookie base is well worth the extra effort of making a cookie just to crumble it up and reconstitute it into a pie crust. The pie in total consists of an entire block of butter, almost 500g of sugar (brown and white) 8 egg yolks and cream! This is a gloriously decadent pie for the hungry. It’s so popular I’ve heard that they sell for $45 a pop and are couriered across the states to feed the Crack Pie habit of the nation.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter and egg

To start with I got the method a bit backwards. Despite my lack of reading ability it turned out pretty well so you too can follow my lazy method. I forgot to cream the butter and sugar together and instead whacked all of the dry ingredients together into the mixer and beat them until crumbly.

Then beat in the butter and egg to make a thick cookie batter.

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

The best bit about baking this kind of cookie is it doesn’t need to be pretty and you don’t even have to bother rolling and cutting it out! Music to my lazy baking ears. Basically whack it all onto a greased baking sheet, press it down with your fingers and bake it for 20 minutes. Job done.

The baked cookie base

The baked cookie base

The rough cookie will be a lovely golden hue after 20 minutes in the oven at 160 degrees C. Technically you should let it cool down before crumbling up the cookie but I couldn’t wait.

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

All of the other recipes I’ve found instruct you to blitz up the cookie in a food processor, but frankly that involves unpacking my food processor from the jenga game that is my kitchen cupboard and even more washing up , so I didn’t bother. I threw the roughly crumbled cookie into my mixer and beat it into submission along with an additional 55g butter, 20g brown sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

This is how the cookie crumbles

This is how the cookie crumbles

After a quick blitz with the mizer (I’m sure you could just use a spoon or an electric handwhisk if you’re feeling the strain) the cookie turn to glossy crumbs. Just moist enough to shape it into a pie crust in your 2 pie tins.

Cookie Pie Crusts

Cookie Pie Crusts

Divide the cookie crumbs into 2 and squash them into 2 pie tins giving a thin and even crust along the bottom of the tin and up the sides. If it’s not sticking you can always blend in a little more butter to moisten the crumbs. I used a 9 inch tart tin and an 8 inch round cake tin. It’s handy to use a tin with a loose bottom to help remove the pie when it’s ready for eating. But feel free to use a solid pie dish, it’ll all taste amazing anyway. Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

Blend together your sugars

Starting the filling: Blend together your sugars and salt

Now here’s the bit where I ad lib even further from the original recipe. I admit the one store cupboard essential I don’t own is powdered milk. So I just left it out of the filling. I’m not sure what impact this had on the final flavour of the pie but to be honest I didn’t miss it. Looking for a substitute all things suggested just adding actual milk. A splash of milk and a dollop of speculoos butter later and we have one tasty Crack Pie!

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

I love the fact that you just have to keep adding to the one pot to make each stage of this pie. After blending together the white and brown sugar, all that’s left to do is to whisk in to the sugar the melted butter, the double cream, a splash of vanilla, a splosh of milk, and a dollop of speculoos butter. You don’t need to incorporate lots of air into this caramel custard so just whisk it until it’s smooth and everything is incorporated.

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

The caramel custard will be shiny and smooth taking on the hue of the brown sugar. Simply pour half of the custard onto each pie crust and bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees C. Then turn down the oven to 160 and bake for a further 10 minutes. I baked both pies side by side, but the larger of the pies needed an extra 10 -15 minutes of solitary baking time. The pies are clearly cooked when golden all over and only a little jiggly (like a good custard tart should be!)

The just baked Crack Pie

The just baked Crack Pie

A good tip from Mary Berry to achieve an even bake is to place your pies onto a hot baking sheet. It also means your loose bottomed tin will keep it’s bottom when lifting it in and out of the oven (I have had issues in the past with my tart tin). Also if it leaks any butter (and let’s face it with all of the butter in this pie it’s going to ooze a little) you will save a lot of oven cleaning by having your pie on a baking sheet instead.

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

The filling will rise slightly whilst baking but maintains a lovely smooth and flat top. Once baked leave your Crack Pies to cool down in their tins. They will keep well for about a week in the fridge and I hear it tastes even better the longer it lasts… (if you can reserve yourself that is!). When I took that first bite of Crack Pie I actually ‘yummed’ out loud. In public! It’s so moist, the cookie crust almost disappears into the gooey caramel filling with the edges giving that much needed bite. It’s a perfect combination of smooth, sweet caramel and oaty crumble, with a hint of spice (from the speculoos) and a tang of salt. The slice quickly disappeared before my eyes and the whole pie was gone within minutes. Without doubt a wonderful sign of an excellent pie.

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

As this is a recipe for 2 Crack Pies, you could scale it back to make just the one. But I fear one will never be enough! If you have the ingredients you may as well make two and share with friends (if you like anyone enough to share your Crack Pie with them) or alternatively gorge yourself on all of the pie. (Please eat your Crack Pie responsibly) Or even more sensibly you could freeze your second Crack Pie for a special occasion. I have my Crack Pie resting carefully in the freezer, wrapped diligently in greaseproof paper and tin foil (still in it’s tin) to prevent freezerburn and   that distinctive ‘freezer flavour’ contamination. I literally can’t wait to defrost it.

How to decorate a Crack Pie?

How to dress a Crack Pie?

Now you don’t have to dress your Crack Pie, if you don’t want to. You could leave it naked as the day it was born if you prefer, but I wanted to make it look pretty (and hide a few of the little cracks that had appeared on the delicate crust in the process of forcibly removing it from the tin) Armed with a cake stencil, tea strainer and a box of icing sugar I liberally dusted on a floral pattern, covering the entire pie. It’s the first time I’ve ever managed to stencil anything successfully! Hurrah! Cue many self indulgent shots of stencilled Crack Pie…

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

Things that I used to make The Legendary Crack Pie 

Oat Cookie (for the crust)

  • 150g plain flour (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1g baking powder (1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1g Cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon) – This should actually be bicarbonate of soda however I got the pots mixed up! It didn’t seem to do any harm so I will be using cream of tartar in the future.
  • 2g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 115g softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 60g dark brown sugar (1/3 cup )
  • 40g  caster sugar (3 tablespoons)

Step 1: Beat all of the above together until fully incorporated

  • 1 egg

Step 2: Beat in the egg

  • 90g oats (1 cup)

Step 3: Stir in the oats

Step 4: Spread onto greased baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees C (375F)

Pie Crust

Step 5: Crumble up the baked cookie and beat in

  • 55g butter (1/4 cup)
  • 20g brown sugar (1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/8 teaspoon)

Step 6: Split the crumbs in half and press firmly and evenly into 2 (approximately 9 inch) pie tins all over the base and up the sides to form a thin crust.  Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

The Caramel Custard Filling

  • 270g caster sugar (1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 130g dark brown sugar (3/4 cup and a scant 3 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • (I left the milk powder out but if you want to put it in use 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon)
  • 113g melted butter  (1 cup)
  • 285ml double cream (3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Splash of milk (to make up for the lack of milk powder)
  • 50g speculoos butter (to make up for the lack of milk powder – you could leave this out if you prefer or even use peanut butter instead)

Step 7: Whisk all of the above together

  • 8 egg yolks

Step 8: Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time until the mixture is smooth, shiny and thick

Step 9: Pour half of the caramel custard onto each pie crust

Step 10: Bake the pies side by side in a preheated oven on a hot baking sheet for 15 minutes at 17o degrees C (350F) then turn the oven down to 160 degrees C (325F) and bake for a further 10 minutes. When golden all over and only ever so slightly jiggly your Crack Pie is ready! 

Step 11:  Allow your pies to cool and dress with icing sugar. Then reward yourself for all of your efforts with a slab of pie. Enjoy!

*The Momofuku Recipe was published by the LA Times recently if you want to see it in all it’s glory

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

It’s no secret I’m not the best sugar crafter or cake decorator. I’m still finding my feet when it comes to making pretty cakes. I’m more at home pouring loads of ganache over a cake and hoping for the best. So why on earth did I decide to attempt to cover a bundt cake with fondant icing you may wonder?! I’m always up for  a challenge and this really was a test of my cake decorating abilities.

A recent cake experiment - I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

A recent cake experiment My Giant Chocolate Truffle Cake – I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

I was invited to participate in Renshaws Baking Competition. The challenge? To bake and decorate a cake fit for the next heir to the throne, to welcome Baby Windsor into the world. My initial idea was to make a 3D crown, hence the bundt cake. however it seems my imagination is far more advanced than my sugarcrafting skills.

Lavender Bundt Baking

Lavender Bundt Baking

What flavour cake do you bake for the royals? Well, I know Kate enjoyed a few Lavender shortbreads during her pregnancy, so a Lavender Madeira Bundt Cake I baked. Hoping that she hasn’t since developed an aversion to lavender. Not that Kate’s ever going to actually eat this cake, but you know it’s the thought that counts.

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Roll roll roll your fondant gently off the table

One of the reasons I don’t venture into sugarcraft very often is that there isn’t a lot of space in my kitchen. Attempting to roll my crown out meant there was a bit of droppage on the floor. I rolled the fondant as thin as I could manage in one rectangular piece.

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Pizza cutter at the ready – crown creating

I don’t own any proper sugar crafting knives so wielding the pizza cutter I attempted to fashion some crown shapes. Cutting triangles out of the fondant.

Hoping the crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Hoping the sugar crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Once I had my basic crown shape I gently lifted it onto a cling film covered bundt tin. and held the pointy ends in place with a crumpled horseshoes of tin foil. Unfortunately the bundt tin then needed to have a cake baked into it, so it all went to hell. The crown ended up as a crumpled mess, so I made another. This crown snapped after it dried. Admitting defeat I returned to the drawing board.

jam up the bundt

jam up the bundt

To help spur on my creativity I decided to apply a layer of marzipan to the lavender bundt. Applying a liberal coating of apricot jam to make it all stick.

A layer of marzipan

A lovely layer of marzipan

Bundts are not usually iced in this way and I can now see why. Pouring a whole lot of chocolate over a bundt is a much easier option. This traditional style of icing is best suited to a more circular cake with flat edges, like with my wedding cake. Anyway who said I had to be traditional! Undeterred I threw a thin layer of marizpan over the bundt and poked a hole in the marzipan, coaxing it into the inner ring and under the moulded edges of the cake.

Marzipaned bundt

Marzipaned bundt

Surprisingly the marzipan worked exceedingly well. I filled in a few gaps with some extra bits of marzipan as no one will know about the messy joins. If you won’t tell I won’t either. AND only a small bit of the extra marzipan fell into my mouth whilst rolling this out, honest. (Did I mention that I have a marzipan obsession?? It is manna from the heavens!)

Smooth fondant finish

Smooth fondant finish

The most tricky bit is trying to get a thin layer of smooth white fondant icing to cover the bundt. The Renshaw white fondant is really lovely to work with, so soft and smooth, but I had to add a lot of icing sugar to stop it sticking to the worksurface so I could lift it all up in one go over the rolling pin. I didn’t have the courage to pop a hole in the middle of the white icing once I eventually got it on to the cake. I couldn’t have faced more rolling after it took me a good few goes to get it the right size to fit the cake. It took a bit of manoeuvring in my little kitchen to get it to work but once in place it worked a treat! Using the palm of my hand I smoothed the fondant and buffed it to a nice sheen so a hint of the moulding of the bundt can be seen through the icing.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

In a bid to create a royal crown for my baby cake I cracked open a pack of yellow fondant. I clearly had to give up on my crown idea, as this looked more like a wonky chimney. A new approach was needed.

I give up on the crowns let's make flowers instead!

I give up on the crowns let’s make flowers instead!

And that approach is always flowers! I have a few sugar craft tools in my kitchen, most of which tend to be flowers or stars. The yellow sugar paste was really easy to handle. As it was so soft it didn’t really require any kneading to make it more pliable. It was good to go straight from the packet. As we don’t know if the baby is a girl or a boy (yet) I chose the gender neutral buttercup yellow.

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

I whacked a whole load of yellow buttercups randomly all over the bundt straight from the cutter. As the white fondant and the yellow sugar paste were still moist no edible glue was needed to hold the flowers in place. You could add some for extra security if you like, but the fondants bonded instantly and let me crack on with cutting as many flowers as possible.

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Just when you’re think you’re done… keep going

Just when I started to think I was almost finished, I kept on cutting flowers and piling them up in the centre of the bundt to create a bouquet of buttercups fit for the Duchess.

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

I realised that my bundt was starting to resemble a 1970s swimming cap. I was going for a vintage look but no one wants to eat a swimming cap, especially not Kate Middleton and Wills. The flowers required a lift. Spray on silver lustre is always my go to when cakes need a little something extra. It’s my pièce de résistance. And yet it still wasn’t enough. Back to my cupboard and I discovered a pot of edible pink pearls. Terrific! I studded the still supple yellow fondant flowers with a pearl in the centre. This (in my opinion) makes all the difference.

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Birds eye bundt view – Welcome to the World Baby Windsor

Pushing the pearls carefully into the centre of each flower added variance to the flowers, giving a more natural look and lifting the petals slightly from the cake. The added pressure also encouraged the bond between the fondants to help hold the flowers on to the cake.

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I love a bit of lavender in my baking, you can probably tell from all of the other cakes I’ve made. Lavender keeps coming back. Infusing caster sugar with lavender is so easy to do and gives you a naturally wonderful flavour that enhances any cake, shortbread, meringue, Madeleine or cupcake that takes your fancy. It’s subtle floral scent perfumes the house and soothes the soul (and tummy). A nice hunk of lavender Madeira cake is best served with a strong cup of proper tea. The marzipan and fondant gives you an extra flavour dimension and sweetness. That sugar boost a new mammy needs. Welcome to the World Baby Windsor.

Baby Bundt Cake

Build me up Buttercup – Baby Bundt Cake

Things that I used to make this Baby Bundt Cake

  • 115g Self Raising Flour
  • 115g Plain Flour
  • 175g Margarine
  • 175g Lavender infused sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 500g Renshaw white fondant icing
  • 500g Natural Marzipan
  • 40g yellow sugar paste
  1. Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy
  2. Beat eggs in, one at a time until fully incorporated
  3. Fold in the flours
  4. Fold in enough milk to get a good dropping consitency
  5. Pour into a bundt tin and smooth down, filling all of the gaps
  6. Bake for 50 minutes at 170 degrees C
  7. Cool
  8. Coat with apricot jam
  9. Apply a layer of marzipan
  10. Apply a layer of fondant icing
  11. Apply flowers, lustre and pearls!
  12. Present to your new parent friends.
Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercup Bouquet

Thank you to Renshaw for sending me this lovely box of icing and marzipan. I loved getting creative with the icing and it’s really easy to work with. I shall have to practice my cake decorating skills more often! Now who needs a celebration cake??

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

If you’d like to see the other entries in the Royal baby cake competiton head on over to www.renshawbaking.com

 

 

 

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat.  The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better,  it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1 cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3 cup or 75g  melted butter
  • 1 egg

Custard Cream Filling

Custard

  • 285ml milk
  • 25ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4 cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

47. A Thousand Layer Cake – Indonesian Spekkoek Spice Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’ve had my eye on this gorgeous Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake (Spekkoek) for quite some time. With it’s perfectly symmetrical stripes of spice interwoven with ribbons of vanilla. Spekkoek or lapis legit is a rich layered cake and is very expensive to buy due to the amount of time it takes to create it, so it’s normally eaten at special occasions and celebrations such as Christmas, weddings or festivals in Indonesian.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

It requires a bit of planning and preparation and a lot of hitting the pause button if you choose to watch a film whilst trying to bake it, as each layer is baked individually for 11 minutes precisely. But it’s well worth the effort.

Most recipes for a Thousand Layer cake ask for up to 30 eggs! I thought this was a bit extreme and not the most healthy of cakes so scaled it back to a mere 10 eggs. Much more affordable too. It’s definitely a special cake lavished with lots of love and attention it had to taste wonderful.

If you’re going to attempt this cake I recommend

  • You own an electric whisk – this would be quite an ordeal to whisk by hand!
  • You have at least 2 large bowls to whisk the eggs in
  • You add lots of spice!
Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

Beat the egg yolks and 100g sugar together

I’m lucky that I own a Kitchenaid and it could take the strain of whisking the egg whites for me whilst I busied myself whisking the yolks. But you could do it in 3 separate stages if you like. You don’t have to multi task to the extreme if you don’t want to. Me, I enjoy adding a bit of danger to my bakes. Doing everything at once. I’ll balance my bowls on top of many ingredients on the work surfaces and hope for the best, like spinning plates, but in my case it’s batter.

Whilst whisking the egg whites with about 100g of the sugar with a hand held electric whisk I set the Kitchenaid away to whisk the egg whites until fluffy.

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Whisking the egg whites until they start to stiffen

Once the whites start to stiffen add 100g of sugar (bit by bit) and continue to whisk until they reach stiff peaks and look glossy.

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar

Then as if you’re not busy enough, beat together the remaining sugar, with the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

Mix together the butter and egg yolk mixtures in one large bowl

You’re going to need the biggest bowl that you own to incorporate all of the ingredients together. Start with mixing the egg yolk batter and the butter/sugar paste together.

All together now - butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter

Butter, sugar, and egg yolks batter all together

Once all of the ingredients are mixed well (I used my electric hand whisk) the delicate process of folding in the egg whites to the batter can begin. Using a metal spoon fold in gently the egg whites to preserve the air in the batter.

There's a lot of egg whites to fold in!

There’s a lot of egg whites to fold in!

It will start to look like scrambled eggs but persevere until the batter looks smooth.

Yum scrambled eggs!

Yum scrambled eggs! Keep going with the folding

Next up is the relatively small amount of plain flour considering how much egg and butter is in this cake! It also needs to be folded in carefully to the batter with a metal spoon.

Fold in the flour

Fold in the flour

To achieve the two tone and two flavour effect half of the batter needs to be flavoured with spices and the other half left to be as it is, with a hint of vanilla.

Fold in a vast quantity of spice

Fold in a vast quantity of spice to half the batter

Split the batter in half (you’re going to need yet another bowl here!) and fold the spices into half of the batter.

Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

Vanilla batter – Leave the other half of the batter as it is in a separate bowl

The spiced batter should look slightly browner in colour. this will help you to remember which layer you’re up to when it comes to cooking the cake!

Spiced batter

Spiced batter

With your two bowls of batter ready, it’s time to spoon a thin layer (about 5mm) into greased and lined baking tin. I used my new extra long German loaf tin 30cm x 10cm. Make sure you push the batter into all of the corners and smooth it down. Give it a very gentle tap on the worksurface to remove any air bubbles and pop it in the oven for 11 minutes. Some recipes say to follow this bake with a minute under the grill, however my oven doesn’t have a separate grill and oven.  The grill would have to be warmed up each time which to me seemed a bit too laborious. Instead I added an extra minute to the baking time to compensate for the lack of grilling and it worked a treat.

The first layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first vanilla batter layer in the extra long loaf tin

It’s a bit tricky to get the first layer into all of the corners as the batter is quite stiff. I wiped the inside edges of the tin round with a clean finger to remove any extra batter to avoid any smudging of the layers later on. The last thing you want is a smear of burnt batter up the sides your beautiful layer cake.

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

The first baked layer in the extra long loaf tin

After 11 minutes in the oven the first layer should be slightly golden brown and evenly baked. Ready for the addition of the next layer straight on top of the hot cake. The heat from the first layer helps to melt the butter and spread the batter evenly around the tin. Remember to alternate your batters! One layer vanilla, one layer spice and repeat.

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

Raw spiced batter straight on top of the cooked cake below

As your cake bakes it will probably shrink back from the sides of the tin a little, so don’t be alarmed if some of the raw batter disappears down the sides of the cake and into the layer below. A liberal dusting of icing sugar hides all manner of mishaps to a finished cake!

The second spiced layer

The second spiced layer, smooth and ready for the oven

Keep alternating the batters. Repeating the layering, spreading, baking and even more layering until you’ve no more batter left. This process is not for the time restricted or feint hearted. Baking the cake took at least 4 hours, but it’s almost like a work out, leaping up off the sofa to take the cake out of the oven every 11 minutes.

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity... It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

Let the cake cool in the tin for about 2o minutes before gently loosening the cake from the tin with a palette knife and attempting to remove it from the tin. I grilled the final layer a bit for extra authenticity… It looks a bit burnt but tasted good!

The final long layered cake out of it's tin

The final long layered cake out of it’s tin

I must admit I was a tad alarmed at how dark the cake was when I removed it from the tin. I did wonder how the initial layers would hold up after being baked time and time again. Would they be burnt and tough? I baked at least 18 layers into my cake, that’s a whole lot of oven time for the first few cms of the cake.

Indonesian Layer Cake

Indonesian Layer Cake

The liquid batter did seep under the greaseproof paper inside the tin. The cake had baked around the paper which made it a his made it a bit difficult remove, but not impossible. However this meant the top was a little uneven, so I trimmed it slightly and dusted it with icing sugar! (shh no one will know!)

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

Trimmed and dusted to reveal the lovely layers inside

The white icing sugar gave the layers an extra lift against the contrasting spice. I baked my Indonesian Thousand  Layer Cake for a special Clandestine Cake Club ‘Here comes the sun’ themed event. I was hurrying along to the cakey gathering but just had enough time to slice up some homemade candied orange and lemon citrus peel (Thank you Sharyn at The Kale Chronicles for the how to!) in long thin strips to create my very own sunburst effect, adding a trio of star anise (one of the key spices in the cake) to bring the summery spicey cake to life. As Mary Berry always says, you should include a bit of what’s inside the cake, outside the cake to whet people’s appetites.

Here comes the sun - Indonesian Layer Cake

Here comes the sun – Indonesian Layer Cake

As the tin that I used is supposed to be for bread, I don’t own a cake stand or plate big enough to house such a lengthy cake. I resorted to carrying the cake ,open topped on a chopping board instead. Note to self, icing sugar sitting on a cake will not stay there for long on a windy day. Precariously seated on my passenger seat and me also liberally coated in icing sugar we made our way to the Clandestine Cake Club!

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake

I’m so pleased I took the time to attempt the Indonesian Thousand Layer Cake cake although technically not exactly 1000 layers it feels close enough! A challenge of the patience and my washing up ability it may be but this cake promises so much more than a frustrating time in the kitchen. It is such an unusual tasting cake, quite delicate and surprisingly light, I guess due to the sparse amount of flour and the endless whisking.

Layers and layers and layers

Layers and layers and layers

This cake is magic. There must be something in the enormous amounts of eggs that go into the batter that prevent the layers from burning or drying up to a miserable shrivelled mess. It’s moist, spicy and sweet, although not too sweet. It’s a proper grown up cake, sophisticated in it’s beautiful layers and exotic taste. It also improves with age. I had half a piece left from the Cake Club which I shared with Chris 4 days after baking it and it was delicious not dry in the slightest. I think spice cake always deepens in flavour with time. If you want to savour the cake you can even peel each individual layer and eat them separately. I enjoyed devouring it with a strong coffee. I will be baking this again when I have an afternoon to spare and maybe attempting more stripey cakes in the future. I think I’m hooked!

Things I used to make my Indonesian Layer Cake

  • 375g sugar (100g added to egg whites, 100g added to egg yolks, and 175g added to butter mixture)
  • 10 egg whites
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cassia bark
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 of a grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g butter
  • 185g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. In separate bowl – Whisk egg whites til fluffy add 100g sugar gradually. Whisk til shiny and stiff
  2. In separate bowl – Cream 175g sugar and the butter together til light and fluffy
  3. In separate bowl – Whisk egg yolks and 100g sugar together til fluffy
  4. In a big bowl – Whisk egg mixture and butter mixture together
  5. Fold in egg whites
  6. Fold in flour
  7. Split the batter in half
  8. Fold the spices into one half of the batter
  9. Pour a thin 5mm layer of vanilla batter into tin
  10. Bake for 11 minutes at 160 degrees C.
  11. Pour a thin layer of spiced batter onto cooked layer
  12. Bake
  13. Repeat alternating the batters until all the batter is cooked.
  14. Cool, remove from tin, decorate and eat!

The Final Frontier – Decorating and Assembling my 5 Tier Wedding Cake

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

When I engaged in creating hundreds of Hydrangea blossoms to adorn the wedding cake with I didn’t really stop to think too hard about how I was going to get them on the cake… It can’t be that hard right? I purchased a pot of edible glue (amongst many other things from the lovely cake shop) and trotted off to carry on baking, pushing all thoughts to the back of mind about how edible glue works.

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Fast forward 3 months to December 2012 and I have now 5 iced wedding cakes resting nicely in their cardboard cake boxes, up on some book shelves in our spare  room/wedding dumping ground. I have 1 extra iced cake just in case of any disasters and 2 naked fruit cakes leftover from the epic baking stage of this cake.

We were going to celebrate Christmas early this year, what with the wedding being on 30th December. So I started wrapping all of my presents very early. I was wrapping until 11 one night and popped everything under the tree only to look up and discover yellow stuff running down the walls, behind the tree. I showed Chris and he discovered that I had also placed all of my freshly wrapped presents into a quickly mounting pool of water gathering under the tree.

The wall was quickly turning into a water feature in our house. It also joins onto the spare room. A spot of investigating further revealed that the flood had started in the spare room, saturated the wall and then seeped into the living room and across the floor! Thank god my dress was at my parents house and thank god for Kate’s cake boxes! They were the perfect protection against any damp that was lingering in the air (there was a lot!). Luckily the shelves weren’t up against the soaked wall too and lucky that I had been wrapping presents to discover the leak as I wouldn’t have noticed it until we were swimming in our sitting room.

We're all having a dehumifier party

We’re all having a dehumidifier party

One emergency cake evacuation later and removal of everything out of my kitchen cupboards, the 8 cakes had a new dry home!  Our landlord delivered a dehumidifier to get rid of the damp and the stink and we were good to go. Although further calamities were awaiting me whilst Chris was away for his stag do and I had friends round for festive fizz, mulled cider and spare wedding cake tasters. The dehumidifier started to leak! I then flooded the toilet trying to mop it up and broke a handle off the door just before everyone arrived. I think it was best to get all the bad luck out of the way before the wedding.

Sticking a milliong sugar flowers in place

Sticking  millions of sugar flowers in place

To give myself plenty of time to glue the flowers on to the cakes I set aside a Saturday the week before Christmas to give them a chance to dry fully and me to repair any breakages/falling offs. This happened to coincide with the painter coming to repair our flooded flat. It made for an interesting 5 hours of glueing flowers whilst directing decorators to dust pans, brushes and keeping the cat at bay.

Edible glue takes a ridiculously long time to dry! In hindsight I think royal icing would have been a MUCH better idea… I used a cocktail stick to smear a little spot of glue onto the back of each flower (which had become really rigid and quite fragile so had to be handled extremely carefully). The moulded reverse of each flower results in grooves and ridges that the glue disappears into. It needs a bit more glue so that the it can actually touch the cake.

The glue should be tacky before attempting to apply it to the cake… If you try to stick it on while the glue is still runny you will have a happy game of chase the flowers as they fall off the cake leaving a trail of glue which has now taken on some of the blue food colouring all down the cake. Many of the flowers fell on the floor and smashed this way but I also realised that I have quick reflexes, almost a cake decorating ninja.

The painters were highly amused by my antics in the kitchen where I didn’t even stop for a cup of tea for 5 hours whilst contorting myself into all shapes to catch the falling flowers and hold 4 flowers in place with each hand until the glue dried enough to support their weight. Patience and flexibility were useful qualities to have a this stage in the cake decorating process. It’s a good job I do yoga.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet… have a look at the varied blue hues in the hydrangea

Zoe Clark’s original design for this cake uses buttercream icing to cover all of the cakes. The sugar flowers can then simply just sit on the buttercream and be held in place. No glue required. The fondant icing that I used, had now hardened and had no give to it to help hold on to the flowers, so it really was the glue doing all of the hard work.

I realised after about an hour of catching and reapplying flowers that I needed to paint the flowers with glue, leave them for about 5 minutes and then the glue would be just about right to stick it onto the cake. Some flowers also had to be rejected as when they dried they hardened into such a curly shape that they lacked a flat area on the back where I could paint the glue on.

I wanted the flowers to appear as natural as possible cascading down the cake.  I chose a combination of hues of the blue hydrangea blooms and applied them randomly at different angles to the cake to give a more varied finish. Tapering off towards the bottom of the cake.

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

With most of the flowers stuck into place, reserving a gap down the back of the cake, so I had some space to pick each cake up and stack it back together later on. I retired for an essential lie down.

A couple of hours later the glue was really dry and the flowers were stable enough so the cakes could be returned to their boxes and shelf for safe keeping.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

Back in it’s box. One Boxed Tier – note the gap down the back – no flowers here yet so it can be handled without damaging the decoration.

I arranged to deposit and arrange the cake at Jesmond Dene House the day before the wedding. It was an exciting and cautious trip in the car trying to keep all the flowers on the cake and intact.

I hired a cake stand to add extra height to the cake and whipped up a batch of royal icing to glue the cakes together and popped it in a icing bag so pipe it easily into place in situ.

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! BUt the cake is almost as tall as me!)

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! But the cake is almost as tall as me!)

Each tier of the cake required a generous dose of royal icing to hold it in place but not too much so it oozes out the sides. When royal icing dries it’s rock solid. That cakes wasn’t going to be moving anywhere!

With all 5 tiers stacked and arranged with the floral cascade running down the front and the joins in the ribbons running down the back I could then add more flowers to fill in the gap that I left to pick the cake up down the back. Amazingly only 2 flowers fell off in the process! Royal icing was a perfect glue and each flower didn’t need to be held in place for hours!

The final result was everything that I had hoped for. The 5 tiers of fruit cake ontop of the cake stand made it almost as tall as me! Please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair.

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

I have no idea how the wonderful staff at Jesmond Dene House managed to manoeuvre the gargantuian cake upstairs. The 12 inch tier by itself was just about all I could carry!

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

When we arrived at JDH after the ceremony it was amazing to see everything all together. I loved it. The flowers, the cake, the vintage glass, the real fire, and the sweets and treats I’d made. It was a dream come true with all of my most favourite people in the world together in one room! It was the most perfect day.

Cutting the cake!

Cutting the cake!

And then we got to cut the cake and the dancing began. I didn’t sit down all night but I managed to squeeze in a sneaky slice of wedding cake and it was truly my best ever cake. Rich, extremely fruity and moist, with not too much of an alcoholic burn. The 3 months of maturing were a really good idea! I love the amaretto and cherries. I will definitely be using this recipe again in the future.

What an adventure. This is without doubt my most epic bake yet. Exciting and exhausting in equal measures. I daresn’t even think how much time and energy I spent on the whole cake process, in fact I’m not even going to consider it (or how much I spent on eveything along the way) as it would detract from the very happy memories. I’m so proud that I could make my own wedding cake. Who would have thought a year ago when I hadn’t even made pastry before that I’d be baking and icing a 5 tier wedding cake?  I’m very grateful for the help I’ve had along the way too. It was all the more special that I made it myself and that I could share with all of our family and friends. I even posted some to my Aunty Carol in Canada. Cutting the wedding cake is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. I wonder if making it yourself gives you extra kudos in the luck stakes?

I’ve saved one naked cake for a special occasion and I still have enough cake left for one last slice. I’m saving that one for a rainy day. I’ll even get the wedding photos back out and relive it all just one more time…

 

This is part 4 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

Where to start when icing a 5 Tier Wedding Cake?

Me and my pride an joy - The 5 Tier iced wedding cake with ribbon in Kate's wonderful kitchen

Me and my pride and joy – The 5 Tier iced wedding cake with ribbon in Kate’s wonderful kitchen

If you’ve ever visited my tiny flat you will quickly realise that there is very little room to turn around never mind ice, stack and store 5 tiers of fruit cake. Thankfully I have a wonderful friend called Cake Poppins who kindly offered to spend the day with me in her amazing kitchen complete with all of her expertise and wonderful non stick cake decorating equipment. I cannot thank Kate enough for her help and guidance. If you haven’t checked out Kate’s blog I thoroughly recommend it !

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake –  one of my previous attempts at cake icing

Never before have I attempted any sort of technical cake assemblage that requires dowling. I have attempted rather slap dash icing of cakes with layers of marzipan and fondant icing. My results have been passable, but on my wedding cake passable would not suffice. It needed to be perfect. No pressure there then.

One of the 5 Tiers of Fruit Cake

One of the 5 Tiers of Fruit Cake

Before the cakes could even go near any icing a great deal of planning and shopping was required. I packed up a car full of cake and sugar based goods and headed round to Kate’s. The fumes eminating from the cakes made for a very happy journey.

To start with you need to purchase drum style cake boards (the ones that are half an inch thick to add extra height to the cakes). Each board needs to be exactly the same size as the cake. I purchased a 4, 6, 8 10, and 12 inch round boards. The 4 inch was pretty difficult to find but you can definitely buy them online.

I have absolutely no idea how much marzipan and fondant icing we went through and so engrossed was I in mastering the kneading, rolling and enveloping the cakes in icing I forgot to take any photos along the way. (sorry!) My guess is that about 6 packets of marzipan disappeared in the process, which would be around 6 x 500g = 3 kg of marzipan. As a rough guess the same amount of fondant ivory icing was used to cover the 5 cakes.

A slosh of vodka was required (not for me) but to sterilise the cake boards.

3 jars of apricot jam were used to coat the cakes and the boards prior to the application of the marzipan. This helps to stick the marzipan to the cake and the cake to the board.

There was a lot of tea, cake and rolling going on that Sunday afternoon. Gaps in the cake need to be filled with marzipan, a bit like smoothing putty into cracks in a wall before you paint it. You can even add a sausage of marzipan around the edge of the cake to fit it neatly to the board, if there’s a gap. I learnt so many brillliant tips.

Kate introduced me to cake spacers. A truly wonderful invention. They consist of 2 equally thick pieces of wood (rather ruler shaped) which you place on either side of your marzipan or fondant. You then place the rolling pin onto the rulers and roll away from you (preferably on a non stick board). Turning the fondant at regular intervals so it doesn’t stick. This means you get evenly flattened fondant, giving a smooth and much less holey finish than I often achieve. You have to press with all your weight rolling from your hands all the way up to your elbows evenly. If like me your a rolling novice you then get equally spaced bruises up your arms too. Kate’s an absolute pro!

Once the marzipan layer is on the cake, it’s best to get the layer of fondant on whilst it’s still tacky so it all sticks together. The less you touch the final fondant layer the better finish you get. Only touch the fondant covered cake with the backs of your hands to avoid leaving any fingers prints please. Smoothing the edges down with a plastic cake smoother, pushing the excess fondant down and squeezing it out in to the bottom of the skirt of the cake. Which can then be trimmed away with a lovely sharp palette knife, being careful not to cut into the cake (!)

Once all 5 cakes have a double coat of icing you carefully wrap a thin ribbon around the bottom of each cake. Double sided sticky tape is useful to stick the ribbon together. This gives a really professional looking image. I chose ivory ribbon to blend into the fondant and give a really sleek finish.

The Iced Wedding Cake

The Iced Wedding Cake – you can see the ribbon edging neating up each cake tier

Icing the 5 cakes took around about 5 hours. Then Kate showed me how to make sure the cakes are level, how to cut the dowels to size, where to insert dowels (plastic rods) to hold the weight of the cake above and how to stack the 5 tiers together.

Using a spirit level, a hack saw, a dowling guide template and a marker pen we forced the plastic dowels strategically into all 4 iced cakes, all in the right places so you can’t see any plastic dowels on the finished cake! The top tier didn’t need any dowels to as there was no other cake to support above it.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

One Boxed Tier – complete with a full round of dowls – ignore the flowers these were added later on…

The final result was very impressive! Seeing all 5 tiers stacked up in their smooth white finish was worth all of the effort! Then all we had to do was carefully take it apart again, box the cake and manouvere it all back into my car. Then the task of finding a suitable storaged place in my tiny flat to rest the cakes whilst the fondant set.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet…

There was still a month to spare before the wedding and I still had to glue all of the hydrangea flowers to the cake, box it back up again, transport it to Jesmond Dene House AND stack the entire cake, glueing each tier together. And then to eat it! So close and yet still so far to go…

This is part 3 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

How many Hydrangea Sugar Flowers does it take to make a Wedding Cake?

SEAN_ELLIOTT_PHOTOGRAPHY-703

After you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time baking 8 enormous boozy fruit cakes, how do you decide which wedding cake design to go for? Do you opt for a classic look, a fashionable design or something to match your colour scheme?? For those that know me, you will know that there has never been a colour scheme in my life. I don’t manage to match things very well. In fact if things clash that’s probably for the better. (

I couldn’t bring myself to decide on just one colour for my bouquet, as I love so many colours so I went for a bit of everything. It was only a last minute decision to leave out the bright pink roses from the bouquet. I decided it may be a little bit too much.  You can even see the blue hydragena flowers peeking out between the hyacinths. It was touch and go as to whether these flowers would bloom with it being a December wedding. It was clearly meant to be!

My wedding flowers

My wedding flowers – a little bit of everything

Part of me longed for a classic cake that I would love forever and part of me me wished for an entire room of different types of cake from around the world. Unfortunately there is not enough space in my freezer to create such an awesome display unless I baked them all the day before the wedding which in reality, was never going to happen.

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

As a compromise I baked as many extras as I could possibly manage. Opting for petite Lavender Meringues

Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

Table Treats – Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

and mini bundt brownies and madeleines to adorn the tables with.

I found so many gorgeous cake designs flicking through endless pages of Pintrest and magazines but many were way out of my skills set. One favourite was an impossibly beautiful white damask lace design on a pale green fondant  I made many many trips to my local cake decorating shop and experimented with different technniques,  I was never going to be able to use a stencil. (I practiced with a little one I had in the house and I always managed to smudge it or it oozed out of the sides.)  I was then going to make millions of sugar roses, but I made about 4. It took me ALL night and I felt angry. It was way too fiddly and my roses always turn out ridiculously enormous and ‘rustic’ looking.

Green Damask Lace Cake – The Cake Parlour

Another of my favourite designs was a tiered cake with a cascade of hydragena blossoms. Little did I know that both of these cakes were designed by the same woman the amazing Zoe Clark. (I have since purchased her books as I love her designs!)

I continued in an experimental vein ordering lots of plastic sugar tools online and waited a month for them to arrive. I attempted to make fondant pearls by hand but didn’t think about how they needed to dry so ended up with one lump of sugar pearl. That would never do.

One lump of pearl for me please

Just the one lump of pearl for me please

Back to the drawing board and my two favourite designs. My Mam invested in a hydrangea cutter and mould for me (thank you Mam) rather than watch me struggle with trying to do everything for myself.

Zoe Clark’s design used pink blossoms which is lovely but I’m not much of a pink girl. Instead I experimented with a few different colours including, lilac, baby blue, teal and finally decided upon ‘hydrangena blue’. I coloured some florists paste with food colouring and added a little more to get the right colour. I also left some to dry for a couple of weeks to see how the colour developed as it can fade as it dries out fully. I had found my winner. I made 3 slightly different shades of hydrangea blue paste to give the flowers more of a natural look and variety in the final cascade.

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it's the colour you need.I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it's in you can't take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it's not too sticky!

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it’s the colour you need. I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it’s in you can’t take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it’s not too sticky!

When adding food colouring gel to sugar paste it always makes the paste sticky. I find it much easier to handle if I colour it a few days before I need to use it.

Roll out the colourful florist's paste on a lightly dusted surface - making sugar flowers hydrangea

Roll out the colourful florist’s paste on a lightly dusted surface

You can add a little icing powder to the worksurface when you’re rolling it out but not too much as it will dry the paste out and it will crack. Florists paste isn’t cheap but it has a special ingredient (albumen) which allows you to work it into much thinner and more delicate shapes than normal sugar paste. It also dries really hard quite quickly so it keeps it’s shape. I tried to make my own (I know this was not my best idea!) I thought it would be cheaper to buy powdered albumen and knead it into sugar paste. In reality this was an extra faff on that I didn’t have the time for. It was much easier to just buy pre made florists paste and mix my own colour. If you’re feeling extravagant you could even buy yours in the shade you really want.

strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste - sugar flowers hydrangea

Strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste

My hydrangea cutter and mould instructions informed me that I needed vegetable fat to smear on the silicon mould to prevent the paste from sticking to the mould. It was late, I was all ready to cut out some flowers so I wasn’t going to make it to any shops. Improvising I took some pearl lustre powder and popped it in a shallow bowl.

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Using a brand new clean blusher brush I coated the mould liberally with a combination of edible pearl and baby blue lustre powders.

Dust like your life depends on it

Dust like your life depends on it

Et voila. I have satisfactorily released flowers with a touch a sparkle and glamour that I was going to have to paint on afterwards. Success and time saved!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

The little mould that I loved to hate. The first 50 flowers were a breeze but your fingers do start to ache after so much cutting, folding and pressing! The trick is to fold the mould over carefully so you don’t dislodge the flower inside. Or if the paste is too thick it oozes out of the sides of the mould when pressed…

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There is a lot of patience and gentleness required in this process…

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom – look at that beautiful detail

If you’ve lustred up the mould enough it should pop out quite easily but you might need to coax it out if it’s a bit stubborn. (Spot the cocktail sticks in the background). Flipping over the mould allows gravity to do the work for you and release the lovely detailed blossom into your palm.

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it's job

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it’s job

The final result! I also added a little baby blue edible lustre powder to the mix to ad depth and variation to the blossoms. I was glittering for a week after this!

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

I found a good way to make the flowers look more realistic was to gently roll themeach one in my cupped hand before leaving them to dry. This gives more shape to the petals, so they don’t appear too flat and fake. Then repeat times a million… This is probably an extreme exaggeration but I lost count of how many flowers I actually pressed. I used about 2 and half 500g packs of florists paste to create maybe around 150 hydrangea blossoms. Not all of them ended up on the cake however as I dropped some on the floor… Some snapped after they dried. They are quite delicate little flowers! And some flowers just weren’t that pretty (sorry flowers but some had to be prised apart and suffered the consequences) so they didn’t make the cut.

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

The flowers need to be held in shape whilst they dry. You can splash out on a special sugar paste foam mat if you like, or you can wrap an egg box in cling film and pile them all up like me. Crinkled up tin foil works really well too. It may also be a good idea to add layers of cling film to stop the flowers sticking together. I know I’m biased but don’t they look pretty all sparkly and delicate??

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat...

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat…

It takes about a day for the flowers to dry out. I made mine in stages so I could spend an hour or two at a time pressing hydragenas until I thought I had enough. Then  all that’s left to do is ice the 5 tiers of fruit cake and assemble it all.

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

This is part 2 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

5 Tiers of Fruit Wedding Cake – My biggest booziest cake ever

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

After Chris and I got engaged my first thoughts turned not to the arranging the wedding, or buying my dress, but to the wedding cake. I got my priorities right. My theory is sort out the cake first and everything else will fall in to place.  I actually bought the first wedding dress I tried on and my nephew who wasn’t quite 1 years old helped me choose it but that’s a completely different story. Let’s concentrate on the cake. We knew we wanted to get married as soon as possible, so the vast majority of the 6 months of our planning and preparation time I spent creating our wedding cake.

Fruit cake is very popular in my family as you can tell by my previous Caribbean Christmas Cakes and Jamaican Black Cake so I knew I needed to make something extra special, something a bit more challenging and flavour packed to feed about 120 of our family and friends. A few sleepless nights later of conjuring up flavour combinations in my head I had it planned. 5 tiers of fruit cake, each with it’s own booze and fruit combination.

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

I quickly realised that I needed much BIGGER kitchen equipment than I owned to create the largest 12″ tier. No bowl was big enough to house the enormous quantity of dried fruit to soak it in the flavoursome booze. A quick hunt round the house and I discovered a hard plastic storage box which I disinfected and decanted all the ingredients into. I like to soak my fruit for as long as possible, in a bit more booze than is recommended so then I don’t really need to feed the cooked cake on a regular basis. It matures nicely wrapped up in greaseproof paper and stays moist. I pour enough booze onto the fruit to give it a pungent glistening alcoholic coat, but not so much that it’s swimming in a pool of booze. If you stir it regularly you can make sure the fruit is absorbing the booze. There should be no liquid left after 2 weeks.

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit - wedding cake fruit

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit

Weighing out the fruit and measuring in the booze can be quite complicated as I found out, especially if you don’t mark on your pot which size cake the fruit is eventually intended for.  Note to self: You really won’t remember which fruit is which after 2 weeks of soaking in booze so don’t even pretend that you will. Your memory is good but it’s really not that good. Squashing an 8″ cake’s worth of fruit into a 6″ cake will not work and you won’t realise that this is the problem, even when you can’t fit it all into the cake tin and have to make extra cupcakes with the rest of the mixture. The cake will be extra moist and you will think it’s not cooked so you have to bake it for an extra 3 hours to convince yourself it’s definitely cooked. To compensate for the extra oven time you will then pour way too much booze on the hot cake when it comes out of the oven and drown it. You will never be happy with this cake so you will then have to start again. From scratch. (You will also have to make another 8″ cake as you decided to bake the two cakes simultaneously and made a right pigs ear of the whole thing. That was a really good Saturday well spent.)

one incinerated wedding cake - let's eat the middle with a spoon

One incinerated wedding cake – let’s eat the middle with a spoon

For my 5 tier wedding cake I ended up baking 8 actual cakes! Mainly due to my own stupidity and also because the oven broke. The 2 cakes which required an extra 3 hours of baking (when added onto their original 4 hours of baking is a lot of time in an oven!) made me realise that the oven wasn’t playing nicely. I invested in an oven thermometer to check the temperature throughout the wedding cake baking process and followed this precisely. Only to then incinerate one cake completely. It was a charcoal cake. Although once I chipped away the outer charcoal casing the centre of the cake was really rather nice. I was determined not to let the amaretto soaked cherries to go to waste. So I chopped up the inside of the cake and served it with ice cream. It was delicious!

The quick ice day late spare cake

The quick ice day late spare cake

The other ‘ruined’ cakes did not go to waste either. I decided to donate one of my reject cakes to the church bake sale and quickly iced it. However upon arrival we discovered we were a day late for the bake sale… Ah the brain fog of wedding preparations! So I shared it with friends instead when they came round for festive drinks. I must admit the extra booze and fruit in the cake made it tricky to cut but it was so tasty!! The final uniced extra boozy tier is still maturing nicely in the cupboard. I’m going to save that one for a special occasion. I’m sure it’s good to keep for at least a year or two.

I despaired slightly as I still had 3 cakes left to bake with a broken oven. Then I did a bit of googling and decided instead to dismantle the oven, clean it and put it back together.  Thankfully this seemed to do the trick! I also watched the other cakes like a hawk and turned them every hour to avoid any charring from the hot spots in the oven. The result? The final 3 tiers were the best cakes I’ve ever baked in my life. I’m sure that extra care and attention was the secret to their success. They were so level they didn’t need to be propped up when icing them to get an even top.

Creaming the butter and the eggs - wedding fruit cake

Creaming the butter, sugar and orange and lemon zests

The method for each sized cake is exactly the same and after baking 8 of them I was starting to know it off by heart. I think this Christmas I may make chocolate cakes! After soaking the fruit in booze for at least 24 hours (if not 2 weeks) you cream the butter, sugar and fruit zests together until light and fluffy.

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Then to add the eggs, whisking them into the butter and sugar mix one at a time. I had to use the biggest bowl I own for this job as the eggs inflate like mad when whisked. The mixture can start to curdle or separate at this point, but it’s not the end of the world. You can whisk in a little flour to stop it separating but it’s still going to taste pretty amazing.

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

Then to prepare the dry ingredients. A separate bowl was definitely required to sift the mountain of flour and spices together. I love a spicy cake, so I’m always quite liberal with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mountains of flour and spices

Mountains of flour and spices

For the 12″ cake I didn’t have a bowl big enough to fit everything in so had to resort to stirring it all together in the plastic storage box! Who knew it was so difficult to stir things in a square box… I ended up with cake mix right up to my elbows and consequently my face and hair. But I did it!

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

You have to fold the wet and dry ingredients in a third at a time until it’s all incorporated. Then finally fold in the ground almonds, chopped nuts and treacle.

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

I hired the largest cake tins from my local cake shop. At 50p a day it was much cheaper than buying massive cake tins and I don’t have to worry about storing them in our already full to capacity flat. It’s really important to double line and grease the cake tins to help prevent the cake from burning as it needs to bake for a really long time at a low (ish) temperature (150 degrees Celsius).

I always tie an extra collar of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and use that to prop up a greaseproof paper lid to protect the top of the cake from burning too. As it doesn’t have any raising agent in it the fruit cake won’t really rise any higher than it sits in the tin uncooked. I wanted to try to get the most even finish that I could so I carefully layered the mixture into the tin, spreading and flattening it down with a spatula. No air pockets for me thanks and the smoothest top I’ve ever achieved.

An even spread - all of the 12" cake mixture in it's very large tin

An even spread – all of the 12″ cake mixture in it’s very large tin

The largest cake obviously takes the longest time to bake. In hindsight starting a massive cake at 6pm is probably not the best plan. It takes at least an hour to combine all of the ingredients together and prepare the tins. Then it needs 6 hours in the oven. This meant I was babysitting the cake until 3am. I accidentally fell asleep and awoke with a fright with the oven timer going off, in my own personal inferno with the oven and the heating on, whilst wearing fleecy pyjamas, a dressing gown and a furry blanket with the cat sat on top of me. I forgot to turn this cake whilst it was baking, due to me being asleep and all , so the cake had a nice diagonal shadow across it, but once it had an extra feeding of booze and it was iced no one noticed. And with a cake this big, using so many ingredients there was no way I was going to start again!

The biggest 12" fruit cake with a slight shadow... shhh no one will notice

The biggest 12″ fruit cake with a slight shadow… shhh no one will notice

The cake fruit and booze combinations I created were…

  • 4″ Cake – Amaretto Tier – Almond, Amaretto and cherry
  • 6″ Cake – Vanilla Tier – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas
  • 8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango
  • 10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and mixed fruit
  • 12″ Cake – Orange Tier – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel
Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Each cake had a different baking time too although all were baked at 150 degrees

  • 4″ Cake – 2 and a half hours
  • 6″ Cake – 3 hours
  • 8″ Cake – 4 hours
  • 10″ Cake – 4 and 3 quarter hours
  • 12″ Cake – 6 hours
The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

What I used to bake my wedding cake – Ingredients

4″ Cake – Almond, Amaretto and Cherries

  • 150g dried cherries
  • 100g sultanas
  • 40g candied peel
  • soaked in (at least) 2 tablespoons of amaretto
  • 100g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • zest of 1/4 of lemon
  • zest of 1/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 10g flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tablespoon treacle

6″ Cake – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas

  • 70g glace cherries
  • 375g sultanas
  • 200g dried chopped dates
  • 45g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 4 tablespoons of vanilla infused brandy (pop a vanilla pod in your bottle of brandy and leave a vanilla pod in with the fruit whilst soaking in brandy)
  • 175g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • zest of 3/4 of lemon
  • zest of 3/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • 1 tablespoon treacle

8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango

  • 125g glace cherries
  • 650g sultanas
  • 320g dried tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya and mango)
  • 100g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 5 tablespoons of malibu (coconut flavour white rum)
  • 350g butter
  • 350g brown sugar
  • zest of 1 and half of lemons
  • zest of 1 and a half  oranges
  • juice of 3/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 6 eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 35g desicated coconut
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons treacle

10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and Mixed fruit

  • 180g glace cherries
  • 800g sultanas
  • 210g dried apricots
  • 250g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 110g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 8 tablespoons of brandy
  • 450g butter
  • 450g brown sugar
  • zest of 2 of lemons
  • zest of 2 of oranges
  • juice of 1 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 8 and half eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 55g flaked almonds
  • 2 tablespoons treacle

12″ Cake – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel

  • 250g glace cherries
  • 1460g sultanas
  • 400g dried apricots
  • 350g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 200g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 10 tablespoons of orange brandy liqueur
  • 660g butter
  • 660g brown sugar
  • zest of 3 of lemons
  • zest of 3 of oranges
  • juice of 1 and 1/2 oranges (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 12 eggs
  • 660g plain flour
  • 4 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g flaked almonds
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

Once all 8 cakes were baked I had a job trying to find places to store them. A bit of strategic thinking and double wrapping in greaseproof paper and tin foil later 8 cakes were ready to mature for a month before being iced. I’ll tell you all about that adventure later on along with our house flooding 2 weeks before the wedding and making over 100 sugar flowers…

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

Love from the new Mrs Lauren Hoy x

Me

Me – more bridey than cakey

This is part 1 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

We have been busy bees recently. I put some of our wedding present vouchers to very good use and invested in a beautiful Candy Apple Kitchenaid Mixer. I have christened her Joni and she has already proven her weight in gold.

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

My 30th birthday was approaching fast and wanting to mark the occasion my friend Jill (who’s birthday just so happens to be the day before mine!) and I decided to have a little soiree at our local pub. Cupcakes seemed to be a good option for a gathering, so we didn’t have to worry about plates, knives and such like. It also meant that we could go a bit mad with the flavour combinations too.

What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes!

On my actual birthday! What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes from my mam and my sister. We’re not going to go hungry. EVER.

The week before our birthdays, Jill and I spent a merry evening baking everything in sight. Modifying Hummingbird Bakery recipes to our hearts content. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 3 hours by two 29 year old girls, armed with a Kitchenaid and a bottle of prosecco. We got very creative indeed.

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz??

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz?? There’s still more in the oven…

We baked well over 100 cakes and still made it to the pub afterwards to meet our husbands. I must admit we sampled rather a few along the way so not all of the cakes made it into our freezers to await their icing. It’s hard to resist when you’ve got cupcakes hot out of the oven dancing in front of your eyes.

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin!

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin! Soaking in white rum syrup

The following week we defrosted our cupcakes and spent an entire day icing the lot, with lashings of buttercream, glitter and ganache. The results were very well received by our friends and the bar staff! The Jasmine green tea cupcakes were a surprise success after I accidentally  emptied the entire bottle of Jasmine Extract into the cupcake batter… They are the most fragrant cupcakes I’ve ever created. Perhaps an acquired taste for some and definitely an excellent air freshener accessory.

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes – my personal favourite. I shall be rolling many more cakes in coconut in the future

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table! (From left to right; coconut mini bundt cakes, amaretto snowballs cakes, pina colada bundts, jasmine green tea, double chocolate, more jasmine green tea, amaretto sours, and peppermint cream cupcakes,)

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful start to the new decade!

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

I’m not entirely sure if this is the scientific way to create your own recipes but it seems to work for me. My basic understanding of creative baking is to find a recipe that works for you then add and subtract from it. Experiment to the extreme! My general guidelines are

  1. Don’t alter the specified oven temperature (unless you have to because you’re using a fan/non fan oven) cupcakes bake at around 170-180 degrees Celsius and should take about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cases
  2. Maintain the combination of wet to dry ingredients
  3. Use whatever is in your cupboards
  4. Feel free to double the quantities if you need to bake lots but be prepared to bake them in stages
  5. Naked cupcakes freeze really well and can keep for a month. Freeze them as soon as they’re cooled in freezer bags/Tupperware and this holds all of the moisture in sponge. Leaving you with a wonderfully moist cupcake when you choose to ice it later on.
  6. You normally need more buttercream than you think so again feel free to make a double batch!
  7. The more you beat buttercream the better it is.
  8. Feel free to experiment with shapes if you have a Madeleine tin, Gugelhupf or mini bunt tin they work really well too
  9. A squiggle of melted chocolate works wonders if you can’t be bothed to whip up buttercream to top your cakes and a sprinkle of coconut and glitter hides a multitude of sins

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (using cupcake not muffin sized cases)

For the sponge:
Rub together (using an electric whisk if you have one) the sugar, butter, flour salt and baking powder. When it all looks quite sandy beat in the wet ingredients including your choice of flavouring!

Then pour the smooth liquid batter into prepared cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the centre of the oven at 170 degrees celsius until golden brown and springs back when pressed. To be extra certain they’re cooked insert a cocktail stick and if it comes out clean it’s definitely done.

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

  • 120g  (4½oz) plain flour
  • 140g (5oz/) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g (1½oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml (4½floz) milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Cupcake Roulette!
Choose from an array of flavour combinations such as

Green Tea

  • 3 Jasmine Green Tea bags steeped in 3tbsp just-boiled water (reduce the amount of milk by 3
  • Replace 30 ml of milk with jasmine extract

Vanilla

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Replace caster sugar with vanilla flavoured sugar (if you have pre-prepared some but if not don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • You can also add almond extract for extra oomph

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • Add 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Add zest of one lemon

Coconut

  • Replace 25g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of normal milk

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

  • Steep the milk in 1 tbs of dried lavender flowers overnight
  • Infuse the sugar with 2tbs of dried lavender flowers for a week
  • Sieve the lavender petals out of the sugar and milk before use
  • Blitz 1 tsp of lavender into the sugar before use

Rose

  • same as lavender but using dried rose petals
  • Replace 1 tbs of milk with rose water

Piña Colada

  • Replace 40ml of milk with Malibu
  • Replace 25 g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of milk
  • (soak cupcakes in rum syrup whilst still warm)

Chocolate Brandy

  • Replace 40ml of milk with brandy
  • Replace 20g flour with cocoa powder

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

The possibilities are endless! Create your own flavour combinations!!

You could choose your own favourite liquor, (Gin?)  cordial (sasparilla, blackcurrant), extract (Orange Blossom, violet), and just follow this idea. I’m very tempted to create some Brandy Alexander cocktail cupcakes very soon…

Then to choose your topping to enhance your flavour combination even further…

 

The Basic Buttercream Recipe
Depending on your style of icing you may want to double the quantities of buttercream. Piping swirls and roses uses a lot more icing than creating a palette knife swirl.

  • 25 ml milk
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 25 ml milk with amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

You can see here the rules are simple. Add whatever flavour extracts you like. Substitute milk for liquid or boozy flavourings.  Zests are good to add as they are dry so won’t effect the consistency of the buttercream. If your icing is looking a bit sloppy beat in some more icing sugar and return it to the fridge to set a bit if it’s too runny.

Use a piping bag and star shaped nozzle to pipe swirls,  Mr Whippy peaks, stars or roses onto your cupcakes. Or use a palette knife to smooth a swirl of buttercream onto your cakes.

Syrup

If you would like extra moist cakes you can add a syrup to the sponge whilst it’s still warm.

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

Warm the sugar and rum in a pan over a low heat. Simmer it until it’s reduced by half in volume. Once cooled pour over your cakes. Allow it to soak in before icing your cakes. Feel free to use other flavours too! Lemon juice, rose water, cordial etc make a really good syrup!

Colourings

Using a cocktail stick add a couple of drops of your food colour gel of choice and beat until its fully incorporated. You can always add more if needed.

If you want to swirl 2 colours together, split your buttercream in half. Colour each half whatever you fancy. Pipe one colour buttercream down one side of a piping bag and then pipe the different colour down the other side of the bag. You will then get a lovely swirl of colours on you cupcakes when piping the two colours simultaneously from the same bag!

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat up 300ml of double cream to just about boiling
  2. Take it off the heat
  3. Smash up equal amount of dark plain chocolate 300g
  4. Stir the chocolate into the hot cream until completely smooth
  5. Spoon a generous blob onto cupcakes and let gravity do the work to create a smooth level shiny ganache top

You could use white chocolate if you add more white chocolate to the mix as it contains less cocoa solids so it won’t set until there’s more chocolate than cream in the mixture.

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

  1. Sprinkles
  2. Glitter
  3. Desiccated coconut
  4. Chocolate shavings
  5. Hand made chocolate swirls (melt chocolate squiggle it onto some grease proof paper allow it to cool and hey presto fancy looking chocolate bits)
  6. Lustre powders
  7. Popping candy
  8. Pearls
  9. Cupcake wrappers (if you have some)

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

  • Chocolate sponge and peppermint buttercream
  • Jasmine green tea sponge and vanilla buttercream
  • Chocolate sponge and chocolate ganache
  • Amaretto sour sponge and amaretto sour buttercream
  • Piña colada sponge and coconut buttercream
  • Amaretto sponge and coconut buttercream

46. Say hello to my Brazilian Roll ~ Rocambole Cake

image

Brazil is yet another country on my still to visit list. However I do have a lovely Brazilian friend who was an exchange student at my sixth form. We became firm friends over A Level Media Studies and parties. Thinking of you Gabriella when baking my Brazilian Roll or as you may call it in Brazil a Rocambole.

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This bake reminds me of Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade (one of my very first around the world in 80 bakes more technical challenges). Both are very similar to the wonderful Swiss Roll however the distinguishing factor of the Rocambole and the Roulade is that they use whisked egg whites to fluff up the sponge. This means it’s a fragile cake but very light. Where as the Swiss Roll is more like a sponge cake, less delicate and probably (in my opinion) a bit easier to bake and to handle.

Traditionally the filling in a Rocambole is a Doce de Leite. This is a Brazilian favourite. It’s a creamy milky toffee sauce made from slowly reduced condensed milk. (It’s quite similar to the Italian toffee sauce dolce de leche). It’s reduced down over a low heat until caramelised to produce a thick fudgey gooey paste. As the filing takes quite some time to prepare it’s best to start with this! You need to be really careful with this as if the pan is left to boil dry the can could explode and really hurt yourself (and your kitchen).

how to make doce de leit Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Simmer an unopened can of condensed in a pan of water for at least 2 and a half hours

Take one unopened can of condensed milk (Most cans in the UK randomly contain a very precise amount of condensed milk of 395ml. Who knows why? But the process is the same regardless of the size of your tin). Place your unopened can of condensed milk in a pan of boiling water and simmer it for 2 and a half hours. Keep an eye on the pan and keep topping up the water so the water level remains.always around 2 thirds of the way up the can. Allow the can to cool for about 30 minutes before opening it.

Evaporated milk isn’t the same and unfortunately won’t work as a substitute, as evaporated milk doesn’t have as much sugar in it. Never to be defeated I have managed to make doce de leite with evaporated milk. If you’re up for an experiment and evaporated milk is all you’ve got, you could get away with adding sugar to evaporated milk and dissolving it slowly over a low heat to create your own toffee sauce. (I have free styled this recipe before and it gave a rather more liquid toffee sauce so it can be done! Just add enough sugar until you reach your desired level of toffee colour and taste.)

how to make doce de leite

The grand reveal! My doce de leite looks suspiciously like condensed milk. No hint of toffee here. Back in the pan you go

Unfortunately I failed to let the water bubble (being a little too cautious – very unlike me!) so when I opened my can it still looked like condensed milk, just a bit thicker. However undeterred I threw it all into the pan and heated it on the stove to make my doce de leite directly in the pan. It does require a bit more attention and elbow grease however…

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom revealed some thicker doce de leit

The slightly reduce condensed milk straight from the can, the bottom of the can revealed  the beginnings of some thicker doce de leit. It’s a bit lumpy so needs a good whisk

I’m a little impatient and wanted it to thicken up quickly so kept increasing the heat and whisking by hand until it bubbled, then removed the pan from the heat to allow the residual heat to continue to cook the condensed milk. You need strong arms to keep whisking continuously as the milk thickens! (My arms weren’t feeling the strongest after a full day of Yoga handstands the day before but I still managed)

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leit

Whisking the condensed milk over a low heat to make doce de leite

My impatience led my doce de leite to become extremely thick and it pulled the head off my hand whisk! However a little cold milk reduced the heat of the sugar to calm the doce de leite down. It allowed me to get the sauce back to a slightly more spreadable state. To stop the cooking process I placed the hot pan into a sink of cold water. In my ‘wisdom’ I then dipped my finger into the doce de leite to test if it was cool enough to spread! It was most definitely NOT cool enough and welded to my finger. I managed to pull the molten lava doce de leite off my finger and ran it under the cold tap. Did you know a piece of frozen melon makes a wonderful cold compress to take the heat out of a burn? Clutching my melon I managed awkwardly to continue to whisk the sauce still undefeated by my blistering finger. I ended up clutching on to more frozen fruit whilst spreading the doce de leit and rolling up the cake.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

After a good 5 minutes of whisking and heating it turns a golden brown colour and becomes quite thick! Add a bit of milk to loosen the mixture if it needs it.

The cake itself takes hardly any time at all to prepare. The whisking is the most time consuming part of the Rocambole. Like a Roulade you have to whisk the ALL of the egg whites (there’s 5 eggs in this cake! That’s a lot of egg!) on a high speed setting. (If you have an electric whisk, if not prepare your arms for a bit of a work out!) until stiff and shiny. This takes about 5 to 7 minutes. The egg whites will double in size. I love this bit!

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

Whisking the egg whites to make Rocambole

One slight difference between the Rocambole to a Roulade is that the egg yolks are then also whisked into the egg whites. (With a Roulade you whisk the yolks with the sugar and chocolate then fold it into the egg whites.) The Rocambole is a bit quicker banging it all together and whisking to your hearts content. You don’t want to knock any of the air out of the egg whites, so it’s best to beat the yolks lightly first so they are runny. You can then pour the egg yolks in as you whisk.

Adding egg yolks to whisked egg whites - rocambole

Whisking in the egg yolks to the egg whites – lovely creamy yellow colour and very fluffy!

Then to whisk in the sugar. The traditional Brazilian Rocambole recipe doesn’t include any flavourings or spices, it is a plain egg sponge. (A bit like my Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge favourite!)  Ever the experimenter I wanted to add a bit of flavour to this bake so I used vanilla sugar. I made this really simply by shoving a leftover vanilla pod, which I had scraped the seeds from for another bake, into a bag of sugar. I then left it to infuse it’s vanillary goodness for a couple of weeks. It smells lovely and gently flavours the sugar with a hint of vanilla. It’s a good way to get your moneys worth out of those more expensive ingredients as I hate to throw the pods away. I often pop a vanilla pod into any spirit that I have in my cupboard too. Vanilla Brandy or Vanilla Rum anyone?

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar - Rocambole

Then to whisk in 5 tablespoons of water into the eggs and sugar

The eggs should be seriously expanding and threatening to overflow the bowl by this point as they inflate rapidly. You need to continue to whisk the fluffy and shiny eggs whilst pouring in 5 tablespoons of water. This takes around 5 minutes of whisking.

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

Fold in the tiny amount of flour and baking powder

In order to maximise the air in the cake and to avoid knocking the air out of the wonderfully fluffy eggs, sift in all 5 tablespoons of plain flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Then using your  best metal spoon fold in the dry ingredients gently. This is probably the smallest amount of flour that I’ve ever folded into a cake. It felt a bit odd as the flour just disappeared to the bottom of the bowl, but trust in the recipe, it definitely works!

Rocambole Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Carefully pour the mixture into a rectangular baking tin

Line and grease a rectangular baking tin. I used a tin 37cm long by 22cm wide and 5cm high. Use a deep tin as it will rise in the oven.  This mixture is really delicate so to avoid knocking the air out of it, hold your bowl of mixture as close to your tin as possible and pour. It’s a very liquid mixture so try to pour it into all of the corners so you don’t have to move it around too much in the tin. Gently level the mixture with a spatula to avoid an uneven bake.

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

A fully cooked and curled Rocambole

After baking it in a preheated oven (350 F/170 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes, it will become golden brown and feel slightly firm and springy to the touch. I always check that a cake is cooked by using a cocktail stick, if it comes out clean from the sponge you know it’s done. Unfortunately I was trying my Mary Berry recommended foil backed parchment paper and it doesn’t always do what it’s told. In the heat of the oven it curled up and into the cake! Maybe a wider variety of paper is needed for this tin so that it reached the edges of the tin and can be scrumpled down over the lip of the tin to hold it in place?

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Carefully lift your cake from the tin and prise any baking paper out of the sponge (if needed)

Allow the cake to cool in the tin slightly so it holds it’s shape. Then carefully lift the cake out of the tin, by the baking paper. But don’t remove the baking paper.

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge - try not to take the cake with you

Spread the Doce de Leite carefully onto the sponge – try not to take the cake with you

Using a spatula and a palette knife , I tried to spread  a thin layer of doce de leite across the cake. This is easier said than done whilst holding a piece of frozen fruit on your burnt finger. The Doce de leite is very gooey and if it’s as thick as mine, it could pull holes in your cake (note the holes in my sponge above…) But who is going to check the inside of your cake? When it’s rolled up no one will notice  and it’s going to taste gorgeous anyway so throw it on as best as you can.

Carefully does it ... Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole

Carefully does it … Roll Roll Roll your Rocambole (excuse my slippers)

There is a bit of a knack to rolling up a Rocambole. I decided to neaten up my slightly rough edges, trimming the longest edge as straight as possible with my very best sharp knife. It’s not the easiest cake to trim as the sponge is very moist and delicate (so it sticks to the knife!). I only trimmed one edge in case I destroyed the other side. This cake was to accompany me to the Clandestine Cake Club and I didn’t have time to make another one (or anyone condensed milk!). Trimming the cake does have it’s benefits however, I could make sure it tasted good before serving it up to my friends! 

 

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole!

Ta da! One rolled up Rocambole! (And one pan of soapy boiling water on the stove to dissolve all of the doce de leite)

Before I even attempted rolling the cake I made sure I had loosened all of the edges from the baking paper gently with my fingers to avoid tearing the sponge. It’s best to keep the sponge on the paper so you can use the paper to coax the cake over. I started the roll off by pressing a knife into the sponge about half an inch in from the shortest edge. I then folded this lip of sponge over to start the roll and give a really tight spiral. Then to let gravity do it’s job! Lifting the paper over,  letting the cake fall into place whilst coaxing it into a roll with your hands. Once you start it’s easy to get carried away! Hence my lack of photos of this process the Rocambole was all rolled up before Chris could get into the kitchen to take a photo for me!

Rocambole recipe Gently ease any slightly stuck bits  of cake off the paper using your finger tip...

Gently ease any slightly stuck bits of cake off the paper using your finger tip…

All of the pictures I could find of a Rocambole seemed to show a cake with a very long spiral with a very thin sponge so I chose to roll mine from the short edge to the short edge, to maximise my spiral. If you wanted to get more slices out of your Rocambole you could roll from long edge to long edge and get a much longer cake.

Just rolled Rocambole - trimmed edge to the front!

Just rolled Rocambole – trimmed edge to the front!

Once you’ve rolled up your Rocambole all it needs is a liberal dusting with icing sugar and you’re good to go! I recommend eating it quick as the doce de leite has a tendency to ooze out of the sides when left for a night. But if you like this effect then see if you can hang fire for a bit for an extra level of goo.  I can confirm that this a tasty cake. It’s definitely a winner if, like me, you have a sweet tooth as most of the flavour is derived from the sugar in the cake and the milky caramel doce de leite! It’s an extremely tender sponge that almost melts in your mouth. I’ve heard very good things from my Brazilian friend, who’s Grandma makes Rocambole. She covers the entire Rocambole in chocolate buttercream and adds some texture with a fork to create a chocolate log Rocambole! Now there’s a good idea for another Christmas bake to add to my list!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

Glorious Cake Collection at the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle at Pink Lane Coffee

I took my little Rocambole along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club  at the lovely Pink Lane Coffee shop in Newcastle where we were baking around a ‘New’ theme. This could mean a new recipe, new baking tin, new ingredients. This was perfect for me as pretty much every recipe I bake is new to me and a bit of an experiment. There were some amazing cakes that night, my favourite being a chocolate and peanut butter layer cake (7 layers in total!). Check out Lisa’s blog for more gorgeous pictures of the beautiful cakes from all of the bakers who braved the January snow. When there’s cake nothing will get in my way. It was immense. I must admit I took an extra sneaky piece home for later too. I was so happy that all of my Rocambole got eaten.

So if that has whetted your appetite for a spot of Rocambole here’s what I used to make mine.

Ingredients

Doce de Leite Filling

1 unopened can of condensed milk (395 ml)

Alternative fillings…

If you don;t fancy simmering a can of condensed milk down in a pan I’m sure you could put a jar of nutella or jam or guava marmalade (another traditional Brazilian Rocambole filling) to good use here too.

Cake

  • 5 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons of vanilla infused  sugar (or just normal sugar will do)
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 5 tablespoons of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder