How to churn your own Butter and make Buttermilk – Back to Basics

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Homemade soda bread and butter at the ready!

Homemade Butter

Homemade Butter

Not wanting to let any food go to waste I realised I had a pot of double cream sitting in the fridge almost ready to be thrown away. So what to do with left over cream?? Why not teach myself how to churn butter at home?

Bread and butter. The perfect combination

Bread and butter. The perfect combination

Having a kitchenaid stand mixer makes this so easy, however I know you can make your own butter by sloshing cream around in a jar too. One guy attached a sealed jar of cream to his very active toddlers back and as the child frolicked he churned butter as he went. Now that’s multi tasking.

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I didn’t employ any small children in the making of this butter. Rather I set my kitchenaid to work for less than 20 minutes and produced a patty of butter and a bowl of buttermilk. Magic.

There’s 6 clear stages in the butter development which is quite exciting to watch.  Starting with 350ml of double (or heavy) cream just whack it in your mixer with the beater attachment and let it go.

Double cream at the ready

Double cream at the ready

As it’s quite liquid to start with I gradually increased the speed working my way up to high and left it running whilst I made myself a cup of tea and treat Super Hans to a dollop of leftover cream. I could then marvel at the wonder of butter making, stopping only to sip my tea and take photos.

If you start off too high the liquid will escape from the bowl and not end up in your butter. I want to maximise my butter intake so slow and steady it goes. The cream will thicken as it fluffs up with air.

Stage 1: Bubbly Cream

Stage 1: Bubbly Cream

Stage 1. White bubbly cream.

Whipped cream! Keep going

Whipped cream! Keep going

Stage 2. Thick whipped cream. Delicious on scones but not what we’re looking for.

Not quite ready... starting to become yellow and thick

Not quite ready… starting to become yellow and thick

Stage 3. It’s getting exciting. The cream takes on a yellow hue and is very thick.

Starting to separate into butter and milk

Starting to separate into butter and milk

Stage 4. It starts to look a bit scrambled as the cream begins to separate into butter and milk. Don’t worry it’s meant to look a bit grainy!

Ready!

Ready! We have Butter!

Stage 5. WE HAVE BUTTER! And a beautiful buttermilk by product.  It separates fully into a lump of butter sloshing around the bowl with buttermilk. Take it easy at this stage as you’ll lose the precious buttermilk if you beat the butter too vigorously.  Once the butter comes together in a patty it’s ready to drain.

Squish out the excess buttermilk

Squish out the excess buttermilk

Stage 6. Drain the buttermilk out of the bowl and save it for later. (This is a triumph. I’ve not been able to find real buttermilk in the shops so now I have genuine buttermilk to work with and make proper Soda Bread!) Squish the butter by hand to remove the excess milk and hey presto your butter is ready. You can also leave it drain in a sieve over a bowl.

And as if by magic we have Butter and Buttermilk

And as if by magic we have Butter and Buttermilk

Stage 7. Roll into a nice patty shape inside some greaseproof paper and pop it in the fridge to set. You could add flavourings at this stage too if you fancy, herbs, garlic, salt. As I’m going to use this in a pie crust I’m keeping mine pure and simple.

Butter me up

Butter me up

Before even starting the washing up I calculated the ratio of flour needed for the amount of buttermilk I had made (162ml of buttermilk to be exact) to whip up a quick soda bread!

Butter patty at the ready with Soda Bread for the oven

Butter patty at the ready with Soda Bread for the oven

I just threw all the flour back into the mixing bowl and made a half size loaf. I guessed just under half the amount of flour was needed. Now we have a full on snack from one pot of cream that was just going to be thrown in the bin. Using every single bit of the ingredient so nothing goes to waste. Economical and environmentally friendly baking. Now that’s my kind of cooking.

Homemade butter and soda bread!

Homemade butter and soda bread!

Things I used to make my butter

  • 350ml double or heavy cream (any amount would do, but the more cream you have the greater the amount of butter you will make with better value for your time and electricity bill…)
  • Kitchenaid (or you could shake it up in a jar or use a hand whisk if you’re feeling energetic)
  • You coud add herbs, garlic or salt to flavour your butter)

After 20 minutes of beating I made

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52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!

 

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

 

 

 

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

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