Excitement!

You know how when small children get very excited abut something they express it physically?  Like running on the spot or clapping or even, like Barn’s niece, actually juddering all over when the excitement gets too big to contain in her little body…

Well, that’s about where I’m at right now – utterly fizzing!

I was going to wait until things were totally finalised before sharing this news with you all…but I’m so excited I can’t contain myself any longer…

I’ve bagged some Saturdays in a pop up shop for my fledgling cake business – first one will be Saturday 2nd April!

Of course, there’s now a frantic whirlwind of preparation underway….insurance, baking, business cards, baking, working out the ‘staging’, baking, roping in assistance, baking…  it’s truly awesome fun 😀

So now that I’m going ‘official’ I think it’s time to introduce my alter-ego to you…I am The Cake Tailor of Manchester and I aim to bake the nation happy!

The dream in my head is finally stepping out into the real world and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

x

Cupcake Catch Up

I noticed recently that a few cakes have slipped through the record keeping net so there are no recipes for you today – just cakey pictures for your voyeuristic pleasure.

passion fruit curd

This pot of deliciousness just had to be bought.  It led to the creation of…

orange cake with passion fruit curd centre

…these – orange sponge cake with a passion fruit curd centre, topped with fresh orange Italian meringue buttercream and finished with a drizzle of passion fruit and orange glaze.

passion fruit curd centre in an orange sponge

Gorgeous, golden, passion fruit curd in the centre of an orange sponge cupcake.

I’ve seen a few recipes for strawberry meringues using artificial strawberry flavourings, and one or two using freeze dried strawberries, but prefer to use fresh ingredients where possible; in the end I decided to do some experimenting using fresh strawberry purée for both flavour and colour (click on pics for full descriptions).

They tasted absolutely  divine but my word were they ever a faff to get baked!.

Basically I didn’t fully account for the extra moisture added by the fresh strawberries (albeit a mega reduced purée), took them out too soon and consequently had to spend hours in a cycle of reheating the oven, cooking the meringues for a few minutes, turning off the oven, letting everything cool, checking, reheating the oven…

This was not an ideal method of cooking them and resulted in slightly weepy meringues, BUT it truly was worth the effort in terms of taste.  The freshness of the strawberry flavour was exceptional and the light strawberry chocolate cream used in the ‘regular’ ones was a sublime compliment.  Having said that, the whipped white chocolate vanilla ganache in the cookie ones was pretty damned fabulous too!

So…more experimentation…longer initial cooking time…

Choc on choc on choc

Choc on choc on choc: chocolate fudge cupcake topped with milk chocolate buttercream under dark chocolate poured ganache. Decorated with whipped milk chocolate ganache, hand crafted marbled chocolate shards, dark chocolate shavings and a dark chocolate rolo.

Surely enough chocolate to satisfy even the most die-hard chocolate addict?!

Lemon Raspberry Ripple

Dreaming of summer with lemon raspberry ripple cupcakes: lemon sponge rippled through with fresh raspberry purée, topped with a swirl of fresh raspberry and white chocolate mousse, finished with a fresh, juicy raspberry.

Strawberry cupcakes with whipped strawberry chocolate ganache

Still bringing on the summer vibe with strawberry chocolate cupcakes: strawberry sponge with fluffy, whipped strawberry chocolate ganache, topped off with a chocolate dipped strawberry.

coffee with double choc

Coffee sponge cupcakes with a silky double chocolate topping (milk & white) of whipped ganache.

Ok, I think that’s the cupcakes all caught up now…there’s a couple of celebration cakes still to post but I’ll do those separately.

Goodness…I’ve just made myself very hungry…I’m off to see if Barn’s left anything in the cake tin…don’t know what you’re going to do…  😉

x

Gluten Free Blueberry Pancakes

Some things are just made to go together: strawberries and chocolate; a needle and thread; Starsky and Hutch; fish and chips; a lazy Sunday and blueberry pancakes.

So sayeth me.

a delicious stack of pancakes

What about you?  Do you fancy some?

Makes around 8 medium-ish pancakes

Ingredients
3 large eggs, separated
115g gluten free plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
140ml milk
A good pinch of salt
Maple syrup and a dot of butter to serve
Music

If you’re going to need to cook in batches (which is very likely) put the oven on now, at a reasonable temperature, so that you can pop cooked pancakes in there to keep warm while you finish frying their kin.

egg yolk and flourPlace the flour and baking powder into a bowl then beat in egg yolks and milk, creating a smooth batter.  Start with the yolks, then add the milk a bit at a time, beating after each addition.

beaten to peaksWhisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.

fold togetherAdd egg whites to flour and yolk batter.

fold until just combinedUsing a large metal spoon, cut and fold in the whites until just combined – go gently, taking care to keep in as much of the air as possible.

sprinkle with blueberriesHeat a heavy based pan or griddle on a medium to high heat.  Lightly brush surface with a thin coating of butter or oil then pour on batter – make your pancakes as big or as small as you like.

You may need to control the run with a spatula but after a few moments they’ll start to firm up and hold their own shape.

Sprinkle with a few blueberries and continue to cook until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn pancakes over (blueberry side down) and continue to cook until that side is also golden brown.  You may need to press them down gently with your spatula to get even colouring.

Work quickly through cooking your batches as the mixture rapidly deflates and becomes overly runny (still nice when cooked though).Topped with butter and maple syrupServe immediately, stacked high, with a little button of melting butter and a good dousing of maple syrup (far more than it would appear in the pictures!)

x

Gluten Free Squishy Gingerbread

a cold and frosty morning
It’s been cold around these parts recently and I’ve got to say that after an exceptionally mild December and January this has been a little shocking to the system. (Hey, I’m British…we talk about the weather 😀 ).

squishy gingerbread

Cold and frosty mornings, grey afternoons and icy evenings have triggered cravings for squishy, sticky ginger cake, thrumming with warm spices and satisfyingly substantial.

Wanna try some?

Ingredients
300g self raising gluten free flour
2-3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
250ml full fat milk (it has to be full fat!)
2 large eggs
150g butter
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
120g brown sugar (the darker and more ‘treacley’ the better – muscovado is ideal)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, mixed with 2 tablespoons hot water

For the Icing (which is not at all necessary but I like it!)
Fresh lemon juice – about 3 teaspoons
Icing sugar – about 4 tablespoons
Music

Grease your baking tin (a 20cm square cake tin is a good size) and line with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F

Put the flour, ground ginger and ground spice into a largeish mixing bowl and make a well in the middle – set to one side.

Lightly beat eggs and milk together – set to one side.

Melt butter, sugar, syrup and treacle

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a saucepan over a low heat.

Remove from heat, then mix in the beaten egg and milk, and the dissolved bicarbonate of soda.

add liquid to flour

Using a hand whisk to mix, slowly and steadily pour the the liquid ingredients into the flour,  continuing to beat until smooth.   The best way to avoid lumpy bits is to make a thick paste with a small amount of the liquid and then slowly whisk in the rest – don’t dump the whole lot in at once or you’ll be chasing little flour capsules for ages!

This is a very runny batter so don’t worry – improbable as it seems, that liquid mix will firm up and become gingerbread 🙂

pour into prepared tin

It will start bubbling and fizzing as the bicarbonate of soda begins to react, so you need to move quickly to make sure you don’t lose precious ‘lift’ for your cake.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45–60 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch.  To decide if it’s done, use a finger to gently press the cake – if it’s springy, it’s done.  If you use the toothpick test and your toothpick comes out clean, you’ve over baked it.

Carefully remove baking parchment

Leave in the tin to cool before carefully turning out and removing baking parchment.

drizzle with icing and cut into squares

To make the icing: mix lemon juice with icing sugar until you reach the desired consistency (about the consistency of pouring cream).  When you’re happy, drizzle over the gingerbread.

Let icing set before cutting into squares.  As you can see, because the top of the gingerbread is sticky it will discolour your icing – it doesn’t affect taste!

squishy gingerbread and hot choc

If you fancy a steaming mug of luxurious, thick hot chocolate to go with this, you should look here 🙂

x

Chocolate & Orange Drip Cake

Chocolate orange drip cake

Drip cakes truly burst into the celebration scene last year and are set to be one of the bigger cake trends of 2016…so I thought I’d better get to grips with them.

Over the top decorations

I love this style of cake – there’s a cartoony visual appeal to the dripping ganache, and the over-the-top, pile it on approach to the decorations is so much fun.

choc orange and gold drip cake

Multi layers of sponge cake covered with chocolate Italian meringue buttercream and drip effect chocolate ganache; finished with orange chocolate cigarellos, gold tinted rolos, mini chocolate orange segments, orange, red and gold sprinkles, hand crafted chocolate shards and hand made chocolate lollipops

Inside

Inside we have alternating layers of chocolate and orange flavoured sponge, sandwiched together with orange curd and chocolate Italian meringue buttercream.

Choc orange drip cake

This was my first effort at a drip cake (which requires more skill than would be immediately apparent) and I’m quite  pleased with how it turned out – not 100% happy with it, but not ashamed either!

I’m really pleased with how my buttercream finish is improving and am now full of knowledge that will make the overall finish of the cake so much better next time around.  All in all, a good cake experience.

There most definitely will be a next time around for this type of cake; imagine it in multi colours for a kid’s party…or in pastels and tiered for a bridal shower…or…well, let’s just say it’s a very versatile cake style 🙂

What do you all think?  Do you like it?

x

Utterly Luxurious Hot Chocolate

Question for you: what’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “Nothing”?

Hmmm.

Let me present you with a big mug of silky smooth, creamy hot chocolate, and then I’ll ask you again…

top with whipped cream

Ok, so now let’s try that question again:  What’s more comforting than a big chunk of chocolate?

Did I hear you say, “A big mug of hot chocolate”?

You are correct! Well done! 😀

As far as I’m concerned, for true comfort, you can’t beat the hug in a mug that is hot chocolate.  But it has to be real hot chocolate – creamy, thick and luxurious – watery, instant stuff just doesn’t cut it.  And as for low calorie hot chocolate…well that’s just all kinds of wrong!

This is real hot chocolate – as velvety smooth as a kitten’s ear, delicious enough to make you purr.

Serves 2

Ingredients
500ml full fat milk (well, in for a penny…)
150ml double cream
75g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
A pinch of salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod
3 cloves
Music

First, let’s get your cream topping ready…

Whipped spiced cream

Split the vanilla pod and scrape out seeds with the tip of a sharp knife.  Place seeds and pod into a small pan together with the cream, cinnamon and cloves.  Warm, over a lowish heat, until it just starts to bubble at the edges.  Turn off heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 30 mins or so.

When cool, pour into a bowl , cover and chill in the fridge.

spiced whipped cream

When it’s thoroughly chilled, pour the cream through a sieve, discarding cinnamon, vanilla pod and cloves, then whip it ’til it’s fluffy.

Or just use one of those super cool pressurised can numbers if you have one (oh the envy!)

luxury hot chocolate

Now on with the hot chocolate…

chocolate

Finely chop your chocolate and place in a pan together with the milk and a pinch of salt.

Warm gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate has melted – whisk to blend and froth.

pour into mugs

Pour into favourite mugs.  If you want to be over the top decadent (who doesn’t?), now is the time to stir in a shot of Bailey’s…or brandy…or whatever else takes your fancy.

top with whipped cream

Pipe, spoon or squirt the whipped cream onto the top.

hot chocolate & cake

Grab yourself some cake, and settle back to slurp, nibble and relax.  I recommend also watching something old fashioned and comfortable on the TV…Columbo’s always a good bet.

Just one more thing…

ENJOY!

😀

x

Chocolate Pistachio Meringues

chocolate & pistachio

These crispy, chewy little treats are filled with gently whipped chocolate pistachio ganache and are just divine; the saltiness of the nuts and the bitterness of the dark chocolate create the perfect foil for the sweetness of the meringue.  A little effort is required but I promise it’s worth it!

Recipe makes enough ganache to fill 12 mini meringues

Ingredients

You will need 24 baked chewy centre mini meringue shells (little bite sized ones look fantastic); I’ve included the ingredients below but to avoid repetition will direct you to the recipe for chewy centred meringues for the method…sorry if this means you’re flip-flopping between pages.

For the Meringue
4 large egg whites
A small pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

(For meringue method, see here)

For the ganache
100g good quality dark chocolate
50g (yes, by weight!) double cream
A small handful of finely chopped salted pistachio nuts

For decoration
50g good quality dark chocolate
A sprinkling of finely chopped salted pistachio nuts

Music

If you’ve not already spotted it, the method for making the meringues is here; what follows is how to make the filling:

chocolateChop 100g chocolate into small pieces and place into a bowl.

chocolate and creamWarm the cream and pour over the top.  The cream doesn’t need to boil, or even simmer – just a bit hotter than is comfortable for your (clean) finger is fine.

melted chocolate and creamLeave to sit for a minute or two then mix until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth glossy mixture.

If the cream cools before the chocolate has fully melted, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and continue to mix until everything’s lump free.

Allow to cool for several hours – it needs to be at room temperature to whip.

Colour comparisonBeat until texture and colour become lighter (see helpful picture with ‘before’ ganache at the top of the beaters and ‘after’ at the bottom) .  Go as fluffy as you wish but don’t go too far – once you reach a milk chocolate colour you should stop.  I stopped a bit before that because I wanted to.

fold in crushed pistachiosFold in the small handful of chopped pistachios.

chocolate & pistachio ganache fillingCarefully pipe a layer of ganache onto a meringue shell then gently place another shell on top, creating a sandwich.  Use a slight twisting motion to set the tops onto the ganache – don’t push or your meringue shells will collapse!

Place on a rack.

chcolate & pistachio meringuesMelt the remaining 50g chocolate and drizzle over the meringue sandwiches.

Sprinkle with remaining chopped pistachios and leave to set.

Try not to eat them all.  At once.

😉

x

 

 

How to Make Chewy Centred Meringues

Choc dipped & choc pistachio sandwich

It seems a lot of people are frightened of making meringues – don’t be!  They’re actually not that difficult to make and a good fresh meringue is a thing of wonder.  Bonus point, other people are always ridiculously and unnecessarily impressed by them 😉

Here’s a quick meringue 101 for you:

Strictly speaking, a true meringue contains only sugar and egg white, and is not so much cooked as dried out in the oven.  It should be a light, crispy, sugary kiss that dissolves on the tongue then vanishes.

Meringues can have a softer centre, depending on time/temperature of baking/drying (moisture retention = softer centre), but they won’t be chewy.

Chewy meringues, or pavlovas, have cornflour and vinegar added, which helps create that chewy centre.

Pavlovas tend to have a slightly higher cooking temperature but shorter baking time.

This recipe is therefore really for a pavlova – a confectionery cloud that melts sweetly and gently on the tongue, to be followed by a chewy caramelised centre of sticky goodness…my idea of meringue perfection.

The cardinal rules of meringue making are:

1. Make sure all your equipment is completely grease free.

Tip: Give everything (bowls and whisk) a precautionary wash in extra hot water and detergent then wipe round your mixing bowl with a cut lemon.

egg whites

2. Make sure no yolk gets into the egg whites.

Tip: When separating multiple eggs, don’t risk losing a whole batch to a late coming errant yolk.  Use a three bowl method and work with one egg at a time: separate the egg, catching the white in the first bowl and dumping the yolk in the second.  Once the yolk is safely out of the way, tip the white into your mixing bowl (the third bowl).  Repeat the process until you have enough whites.  Using this method you only ever risk losing one egg at a time!

Nearly there, but not quite
See how the foam  sort of separates on the whisk?  Not quite there yet…keep whisking!

3. Make sure your egg whites are stiff enough before starting to add the sugar.

Tip: If your beaten whites sort of ‘split’ from the whisk, it’s not quite stiff enough.  It’s nearly there though…just a minute or so more…

4. Add the sugar slowly.

Tip:  Have some sing along music playing so you can get into a good groove to keep yourself entertained while you hover at the mixer  It’s really important to add that sugar slowly, so be patient and don’t get tempted to chuck the last half in all at once or you’ll end up with grainy, weepy meringues.

If you follow those basics you can’t go far wrong 🙂

Ingredients
4 large egg whites
A small pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (or similar – for this batch I used apple cider vinegar, as it’s all I had in, and they turned out fine)
Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF (yes, really, that high!)

20160228_133508Line baking sheets with baking parchment.

If you want very evenly sized meringues, draw circles onto the reverse of your parchment paper (make sure the pen/pencil side goes underneath ‘cos you don’t want that baked into your meringue bottoms!)

Now it's readyWhisk the egg whites and salt until they’re holding firm peaks but are not too stiff.

Continue beating and start adding the caster sugar, one spoonful at a time, allowing time for each spoonful to be incorporated before adding the next.

All the sugar whisked inWhen all the sugar has been added you should have a bowl containing a billowy, pillowy, mallowy, satiny cloud.  When you rub some between your fingers it shouldn’t feel gritty – if it does, beat a little longer.  The more sugar grains you can feel, the more likely it is that your meringues will ‘weep’ (ooze sugar syrup) during baking.

Corn flour and vinegar folded inGently fold in the cornflour, vanilla and vinegar.

piped meringueUse a tiny dab of meringue to secure down the corners of your baking parchment, then pipe or spoon meringue into required shapes.

Put into the preheated oven, immediately turn it down to gas mark 2/150ºC/300ºF, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes: bite size take around 20 mins and more regular sized ones 30 mins.

Turn the oven off but leave the meringues in there for another 30-40 minutes – they should peel easily from the paper when ready. Remove from the oven.

Carefully slide the parchment paper, with the meringues still on it, off the baking sheets and onto wire racks to finish cooling.

chocolate dipped meringue bitesWhen cool, carefully dip in melted chocolate and set on parchment paper until dry.

chocolate & pistachio ganache filling

Also perfect for making chocolate pistachio meringues.

x

Gluten Free Raspberry and White Chocolate Blondies

A miserable dayA surfeit of exceedingly gloomy weather and stodgy brown comfort food over the past few weeks led to me yearning for brighter days and something a touch fresher and lighter, whilst still comforting, to eat.

Are you looking for something similar? Look no further.  I can make the sun shine for you.  Cue raspberry and white chocolate blondies…

Raspberry & white choc blondie

 

oh happy day photo oh_happy_day.gif

See the day just got a little brighter didn’t it? 😉

Raspberries and white chocolateIngredients
150g white chocolate, broken into chunks PLUS some extra for decorating
100g butter
3 medium eggs
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g gluten free self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A handful of fresh raspberries
Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F

Line a shallow baking tin with greaseproof paper.

White chocolateIn a pan, over a low heat, gently melt the butter and 150g of white chocolate.  Stir to ensure fully combined, remove from heat and set to one side.

Whisk together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.

Fold in the melted chocolate and butter, followed by the flour and baking powder.

Sprinkle with raspberriesPour into prepared tin and sprinkle the raspberries across the top.

Bake until cookedBake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top and edges are crispy and golden, and the centre is gooey but not runny.  The toothpick test doesn’t work with this so you’ll have to rely on prodding and poking with a finger to see when it’s done.

Cool in the tin.

Drizzle with white choc and cut into squaresMelt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle over the top before cutting into squares.

Raspberry & white choc blondie on a rainy dayEat lots – there’s a heap of vitamin C in them there raspberries 😀

x

Rock Chic Roses & Vodka Themed Cake

Cake & CupcakesMy darling friend LL, who quite frankly should know better regarding timing ( 😉 ), made a last minute request for cakes for her sister’s 30th birthday.

Roses and Vodka Cake with Coordinating CupcakesWith insufficient time to create the desired vodka bottle cake (damn!  I’d have loved to do it), the spec then became very loose: a small cutting cake, with 30 cupcakes, the design somehow involving Absolut vodka.
I have no wish to cast aspersions here, but if at age 30 the ONLY thing people thought of in relation to you was Absolut vodka, would you not have a quick assessment of your lifestyle?! 😀

Red Roses and Absolut VodkaThe lack of time also explains why there are real miniature bottles of vodka on top of the cutting cake, rather than gumpaste ones.

Rock Chic Roses and Vodka Cakes6″ dense, moist, chocolate fudge cake, filled and frosted with chocolate Italian meringue buttercream, covered with fondant, decorated with hand crafted fondant roses and real (miniature!) bottles of Absolut vodka.

Cupcakes in two flavours: vanilla confetti with strawberry Italian meringue buttercream (silver cases) and chocolate sponge topped with white chocolate Italian meringue buttercream (black & white cases).

I think with under a week’s notice, this cake design worked out rather well 🙂

x