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

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

 

 

Christmas Cupcakes

PHEW!

There! That’s the huge sigh of relief promised in the previous post.

Now here come the pictures…

Blurred boxed up

I’m delighted to say the cupcake order (also mentioned in the previous post – c’mon, keep up now! 😉 ) is now complete.

Santas, snowmen, robins and elves – a total of 72 cupcakes, all boxed up and ready to go.

Christmas Cupcakes
A selection of vanilla sponge and chocolate sponge cupcakes, topped with vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and decorated with fondant.

These cakes are notable for two reasons:

  1. It was the largest single order for cupcakes received to date, and
  2. It was the first time I paid someone to help me complete an order (see above!).

And so, with baby steps, I continue to make the dream a reality.

x

Steampunk Meets Burlesque Top Hat Cake

I was asked to create a cake for my friend LL’s partner and the commission came in my favourite form – vague and mostly up to me.  To be precise, the spec was: “A hat, involving purple, with some kind of burlesque-ish touch.”

I know a little about the lady in question and her tastes, so this is what I came up with:

Steampunk meets Burlesque

I have to be honest with you…I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out 🙂  I’m also really pleased to know that LL was over the moon and her lady absolutely loved it.

Chequerboard design inside the hat cake

This four layer cake is a heavenly combination of purple velvet cake and caramel sponge cake, baked to form a chequerboard pattern when cut.

Filled with whipped white chocolate ganache, frosted with dark chocolate ganache, covered with caramel flavoured fondant, finished with hand crafted chocolate buttons, gumpaste flowers, fondant detailing and non-edible feathers.

Label in the hatband

A fondant label tucked into the fondant ‘leather’ hat band, with hand crafted, edible ‘antique’ chocolate buttons.

Buttons & Flowers detail

Hand crafted chocolate buttons and gumpaste flower detail.

Purple hat cake with button, flower and feather trim

I think this might be my favourite cake to date, hope you like it too 🙂

x

Wickedly Tempting Chilli Chocolate Brownies

For one reason and another it’s been a dreadfully long time since Barn and I were able to enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch together; however, the calendar indicated that our free time would coincide this weekend – glee!

Barn was full of anticipatory excitement as Sunday approached – the ‘big food shop’ had been delivered, cupboards, fridge and freezer were bulging with exotic delights…expectations were high for some kind of culinary wizardry.

BrowniesThen the day dawned and all I wanted to eat was brownies – warm, fudgey, chocolatey brownies.

Now Barn’s not normally one to need persuasion to eat chocolate but for some reason he was being difficult:

“You can’t just eat cake.  You have to have something savoury first.”

“OK, I’ll have a piece of Marmite on toast.”

The LookHe gave me The Look

“Fine!  I’ll have a piece of Marmite on toast, cut it in half and therefore will eat TWO pieces of toast”

He wasn’t buying it

“All right, all right…I’ll have a bacon sandwich.  But only if you make it while I make brownies – of which I’m going to eat non-rationed and unquestioned quantities.”

And so the deal was done

Bacon buttyThis is the bacon butty that was duly consumed: rather tasty and actually a good call on Barn’s part, as me, fuelled solely by sugar and butter = likely bad ending 😉Chilli chocolateIngredients
200g unsalted butter
130g plain dark chocolate, broken into chunks
100g chilli flavoured dark chocolate, broken into chunks
alternatively, use 230g plain chocolate and a pinch or two of chilli flakes ground into powder with a mortar and pestle – add this in with chocolate
160g caster sugar (preferably golden, but white is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, beaten
100g ground almonds
50g plain gluten free flour mix (I use Dove’s Farm)
Music

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

Lightly butter your baking tin and line with greaseproof paper (you can probably get away without lining but I tend to play safe).  My tin was a little to large and so the brownies were a touch too thin – a 8″ (20cm) square tin would be about right.

Broken chocolate chunksMelt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan.

Melted chocolate and butterTake the pan off the heat.

Vanilla pasteSift in cocoa powder, add vanilla and sugar and whisk until combined.  Leave the mix to cool a little (5-10 minutes).

Sugar, cocoa, vanilla and eggs addedAdd eggs to chocolate mix and beat until smooth and glossy.

Ground almondsBeat in ground almonds and flour then pour into the prepared baking tray.

Baked brownie trayBake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until just firm to the touch in the centre.
(I don’t know why that pretty swirly design happened – please don’t be cross if you don’t get this lovely effect 😉 )

Allow to cool a bit before turning out of the tray and cutting into squares.

Brownies and creamServe warm with whipped cream.

When completely cooled, store in an airtight container – this makes it easy to carry them around with you so you can snack at will through the day 😀
x

Get in the bowl M&M cake for Medieval

For Medieval’s February birthday I was inspired by one of his favourite adverts at the time, creating a giant M&M in a bowl.

The M&M was a chocolate fudge cake with peanut butter Italian meringue buttercream (don’t knock it ’til you try it…it’s gorgeous!) , covered and decorated with fondant.  This was baked using the same cake tin as for the corset cake…this time the cake wasn’t over baked and dry!

The arms and legs were sculpted from rice krispie treats, painted with melted white chocolate then covered with fondant.  If I did this again, I’d probably rethink the finish of the limbs, as they way I did it this time meant they had an unfortunate phallic appearance when separated from the body :S

The bowl was again chocolate fudge cake, this time with salted caramel icing, covered in toffee flavour fondant.

You get in the bowlMaking this was really enjoyable, and not difficult to accomplish…it just took some patience.  I thought covering the the M&M and the bowl would be the hardest parts, but in actual fact it was the limbs.

It was nice to actually be able to see a cake being enjoyed…it was a very social cake, with people getting involved with dismembering it and generally having fun.

Good times.

x

Q: How much pain can a broken shoe cause?

A: It is immeasurable, particularly when coupled with a low fat, low sugar, reduced carb chocolate cake with choc/mint filling, suitable for a diabetic*!

*There is no such thing as ‘suitable for diabetics fondant’ – clearly the outer covering of fondant would need to be removed from this cake before a person with diabetes consumed it.  But I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you that.

completed shoe cakeWhen I agreed to do this cake I must have been under the influence of a full moon or something.  Making it was a horrible experience that took me through full scale tantrums (not a pretty sight) and left me with my confidence shot to pieces.

On the plus side, I learned some extremely valuable lessons.

Trial diabetic cakeOf course, the first thing I had to do was to come up with a cake recipe suitable for diabetics.  This was really difficult and took a LOT of trial bakes.  Trust me, when it comes to cake there is no such thing as a good sugar substitute…my experience was that they either made the cakes look great but taste vile, or the cake tasted ok(ish) but didn’t rise properly.  In the end I managed to come up with something suitable using a mix of xylitol, fructose and a tiny amount of muscovado sugar.

Toothpaste frostingThe next issue was the frosting.  Mint/chocolate was the request but, try as I might, I couldn’t stop it from tasting like toothpaste.  It didn’t help that the sugar free frosting recipe I initially used ended up also having the consistency of toothpaste.  The taste-testers tried gamely but feedback wasn’t good.

In the end I used a packet mix of chocolate flavour sugar free whipped dessert as the base for the frosting, adding a bit of the toothpastey stuff for firmer texture and a touch of mint flavour.  It was passable.  At least it wasn’t green.  I didn’t take any pictures.

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