Archive | July, 2010

Next stop Lavender Biscuits courtesy of Cookie Girl

30 Jul

P1010630

Advertisements

Old Women’s Underwear? I think not. Introducing Lavender Cupcakes…

29 Jul

After announcing my excitement at finding culinary lavender on my personal Facebook page, one of my friends suggested that it would make food taste like old women’s underwear.  Ever one for stating the obvious, I responded by saying that I couldn’t comment as I hadn’t tasted old women’s underwear.  Personally, I like the smell (of lavender, I stress), it is reminiscent of a Summer’s day. I was intrigued to see how the aroma and flavour leant itself to cakes and biscuits.  I am not sure as to the official difference between culinary lavender and ordinary lavender.  I can only assume that it’s provenance is known and doesn’t include pesticides, etc, so if you know garden’s lavender is organic and pest free, you should be ok.  The stuff I bought is dried.

I chose the Hummingbird Bakery’s Lavender cupcakes recipe for my first delve into cooking with it. This uses their usual rubbing-in method to make the cupcakes.  The lavender flavour is achieved by steeping the lavender in the milk for at least a few hours beforehand (removing the flowerheads from the milk before you mix it in).  The milk for the twelve cake mix took three tablespoons of lavender.  I reckon I ended up steeping it for just short of twenty four hours.  Maybe a little too much as the end result was a little overstated.  Next time, I’ll simply do it overnight (as the recipe says, in fact) or maybe reduce the lavender a bit. I do like the flavour though. It is a bit different and nice for a change as they say.  No pants in sight.

I had figured that baking these cakes might put me on the verge of discovering the big new thing to market your house for sale.  Move over freshly baked bread and freshly brewed coffee!  Alas, the smell of lavender cakes baking was lovely but not as fragrant as I expected it to be.  It certainly didn’t attract all the local aromatherapists scurrying to the door to find out what the competition was. Fortunately.  

The cakes are topped with lavender flavoured butterceam which again involves infusing the lavender in milk, this time one tablespoon to 25ml milk for the same period of time. I was really happy with the flavour of the buttercream. I gave a cupcake each to three friends and asked them to guess the flavour.  I didn’t colour the buttercream thinking this might give the game away. They insisted on guessing from smell only and lavender was the fourth guess (notably after rosemary). The first question was ‘has it got vegetables in it?’. They know me too well. I’ll gently gloss over the comment made by one that the smell of lavender reminded her of her grandma.

P1010607

 

 

Eat Me! The Stupendous, Self-Raising World of Cupcakes and Bakes According to Cookie Girl

27 Jul

One of my favourite purchases of recent months (other than my cake carrier tier of course) is the book Eat Me!: The Stupendous, Self-Raising World of Cupcakes and Bakes According to Cookie Girl by Xanthe Milton. First things first, this book feels lovely. It is a chunky hardback. The cover is also a fabulous pink colour so it stands proud on my slightly sagging cookbook shelves.

Eat Me! mainly features cupcake recipes but there are a fair number of biscuit and cookie recipes thrown in too. The book is split into sections by seasons, headlined by a collection of recipes dedicated to parties. This features cocktail cupcakes such as White Russian, Pina Colada and Margarita no less. I am regularly drawn to reading the Margarita recipe. Cookie Girl claims every note of the drink is hit, down to the salt flakes sprinkled on top, and I have to believe her. I do intend to make these cupcakes but it seems so extravagant to buy the tequila and triple sec required, just for cupcakes. It will happen. One day. 

The writer’s passion for the connection she feels between food, memories and family is clear. Each section has an introduction which shifts between her own childhood and her daughter’s childhood, bringing the recipes to life. Autumn is particularly well catered for with the obligatory Chocolate Brownie Graveyard for Halloween and the Bonfire Cupcakes, requiring four (yes, four) packets of Matchmakers in all. There is something a little bit different about this book, so that you don’t mind too much when the traditional recipe for vanilla cupcakes sneaks in. It has it’s place after all.

Until tonight I hadn’t actually made anything from Eat Me! but you will be pleased to hear that I am now halfway through making Cookie Girl’s French Toast cupcakes. By halfway I mean that they are yet to be frosted – hence no picture. Of course I couldn’t resist trying one in its un-iced state. Verdict? Very sweet, with the gentlest hint of cinnamon. They do not quite match my memory of French Toast, but then I do tend to have it with tomato sauce so this is probably a good thing.

So what was the Cake Raffle prize, I hear you ask?

25 Jul

Well, it was Chocolate Fudge Cake. My gushed-about-yesterday lovely Lock’n’Lock cake carrier enjoyed a little outing yesterday to transport it across to the winner, Jan.  

P1010560

I was partly relieved that delivering the cake didn’t involve postage as that would have restricted the choice somewhat, though I would definitely have enjoyed the challenge.  I know that this one would certainly not have survived Royal Mail’s finest service without some serious upholstery. Unfortunately, the frosting was a little rushed because Delia let me down with her chocolate fudge recipe (ok, so I ran out of light muscavado sugar and plumped for golden caster sugar, my mistake, didn’t pay off).  I had to improvise and it kind of all went a bit Sara Lee chocolate gateau after that.  Now, you can’t beat a bit of Sara Lee gateau but did you know that it is no longer sold in this country?  What is the world coming to?  

By the way, the cake itself is Jamie Oliver’s party cake.

 

Guess the Shop…

24 Jul

It has been a few days since I posted as I have had a little trip to Bonnie Scotland to sample the delights of Glasgow and the beautiful Loch Lomond.  I haven’t been online enough to post.  I know…you’ve missed me….your waistline has suffered without regular reminders of cake.  Unfortunately, mine has not after several full Scottish breakfasts.

One of the many highlights of my trip was on the way home when we had a visit to one of my favourite shops.  It might even be my favourite shop in the Whole Wide World although sometimes in a fickle moment I do swing to John Lewis.  It is one for people into cooking, cleaning and associated innovative domestic gadgetry.  The endless brochures through the post are just a welcome reminder of my most prolific pen-pal.  (Personally, I like hearing about Customer Ambassador Wendy’s latest cleaning and cooking regime but it might not be to everyone’s taste.)  

Diehard fans will recognise the exterior of this shop chain’s flagship store.  Here is the first clue:

P1010548

Any ideas?  Here is the second clue:

P1010553

Still not sure?  This should surely help:

P1010547

Yes, it is Lakeland.  Or Lakeland Plastics as I like to still call it sometimes, to let it be known quite how long I have held it in my affections.  I visited the Windermere store yesterday.  It is a cracking shop for all baking supplies, such as tins, plastic-ware, baking paper, bowls, flavourings, ‘Cake Release’, cake testers, novelty items etc etc.  It isn’t the cheapest but the prices are reasonably fair and reflect the overall quality of the shopping experience; I mean, where else do you get television screens in the toilets?!  Showing sheep!?!?  There is also seating, free internet and newspapers laid on for temporary Lakeland widowers.  I’ll also wager that they were amongst the first to introduce reusable carrier bags.  Lakeland customers are reportedly amongst the most satisfied.

I’ll admit that I treated myself to a traditional ice-cream scoop to decant equal amounts of cake mixture into cake cases.  I also bought an additional tier for which fits my Lock’n’Lock square cake carrier.  I am quite excited about this. I love my cake carrier and this just makes it even better!

Happily, Lakeland seems to be getting more into cupcake supplies and I saw an increased supply of cake cases and decorating kit. There were some lovely printed doilies but I resisted temptation for the time being.  I had been told about a new electric Cupcake Maker they are selling, based essentially on the design of our old friend the toasted sandwich maker, and saw it for myself yesterday.  

Apparently, you can rustle up six cupcakes in ten minutes. Now, the speed is pretty appealing but beyond that I can’t really see the point of it.  Besides, what use is only six cupcakes?  That’s barely one sitting!   I wonder whether Lakeland Plastics have overstepped the mark on this one.  I can’t see myself buying one though I wouldn’t say no to having a free trial with it.  Not sure if I’d get away with walking into the store with a bowl of cake mix, tempting though that is.  So, what do you think – do you think electric Cupcake Makers are the new big thing or destined to sit alongside their cousins, the breadmakers, at the Carboot Sale? 

 

Laugh Out Loud Cakes

19 Jul

The Cake Wrecks blog is v funny and well worth a look.  I can’t quite remember how I came across it but it does actually make me laugh out loud which must be a good thing.  It is highly recommended for those seeking a less calorific way of indulging in cake!  There are some genuinely impressive cakes but also some classic bloopers, albeit without Dennis Norden in sight.

Shark Cake Anyone?

18 Jul

I started this blog as I’d got into decorating cakes a bit and wanted to document my experimentations but I feel so far I have dwelt on baking.  So, I thought I would change direction a bit and do more of a decorating post.  Here it is…..  

This is a birthday cake that I made for a little boy’s third birthday who, fortunately, is really into sharks and sealife (and, as it happens, called Matthew!).  It started out as a 12″ by 8″ all butter madeira cake in three layers with vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam, and was carved to shape using a paper template as the starting point.  Hacking bits off a cake to make a shape can be a bit nerve-wracking but, like life, you’ve just got to go for it and hope for the best.  I did cheat a bit as I’d had a bit of a trial run on a practice cake so not quite ‘no rehearsal’.  Incidentally, I’d searched high and low for a shark cake tin but there doesn’t seem to be one on the market.  There’s ladybirds, helmets, pumpkins etc but alas no shark. 

The cake is covered with vanilla buttercream and coloured sugarpaste.  You can’t really see from the picture but the shark is also sprayed with blue lustre.  The fins are made out of pastillage which is essentially royal icing dough strengthened with gum tragacanth (a natural gum).  It was the first time I’d really worked with pastillage and there were some stressful moments.  It is incredibly strong and dries hard so you can do some amazing structural things with it.  The downside is that it is incredibly brittle.  I found this out for myself when I had to conduct emergency surgery to the dorsal fin at 10.30pm on the Friday evening before cake delivery on the Saturday morning.  Fortunately, the repair worked and held for the following day.  Phew.  Double phew as the family were really happy with the cake too.