Archive | October, 2010

Vanilla Spice Cupcakes

21 Oct

My latest cakes made for a birthday present…Vanilla Cupcakes with a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon added to the mix to enhance the flavour.  I think this flavour is more suited to Autumn rather than your sweet-as-can-be-vanilla-icecream vanilla.  Be warned though – a little cinnamon goes a long, long way.

Apologies that the darker nights seem to be playing hell with my amateur photography.  I blame the tools.


Cinders and Ashes

16 Oct


Despite my numerous attempts to dissuade Little Tester from her choice of a Thomas the Tank Engine Cake for her birthday, she could not be swayed. My ambitions to do a Barbie doll cake or similar were thwarted. It was Project Thomas for me.

Silly me didn’t devise a cunning plan before our holiday, so I only had seven days between our return and the party, for planning, making and creating. I decided to make a 3D Thomas and go it alone. I could have ordered Debbie Brown’s Children’s Character Cakes but was put off by the postage for quick delivery.

I made a 10″ by 8″ madeira (9 egg mix) but it just didn’t look like enough cake to work with so the next night I cooked up a further 6 egg madeira mix, making two 2lb loaves and one 1lb loaf. That looked more like it – enough cake for mistakes!

I got started with some prolonged staring at the cakes and trying different arrangements. I dragged in Chief Tester to help. We decided to use the 10” by 8” for the base, the 1lb loaf as the cabin and a 2lb loaf as the tank. Of course, these were trimmed a bit to straighten them up and get rid of crusts.

We cut up the remaining 2lb loaf to give the cabin and tank a bit more height, to ensure there was room for Thomas’ round smiling face. We used the other trimmings to make the side bits. Apologies that I do not know the trainspeak for these parts.  I’d probably know more if Little Tester was actually as into Thomas as the choice of it for her cake suggests.

Then it was the job of icing it, which I did in three stages; the base, the cabin and the tank. I should probably have been a bit braver and iced the tank and cabin together to be honest, as the result of icing the cabin and tank separately was that they weren’t as snug as they could have been.  Fortunately, this wasn’t as apparent with the finished cake.

Here’s how it came together:




Then it was time for adding the face and remaining details.


It was quite tricky getting the face right and my Thomas does have the slight look of Lesley Ash.  Hopefully the real Thomas will take this as a lesson not to have unregulated plastic surgery anytime soon. 

And then it was time to take the cake to the party. This was good fun as Thomas was very heavy on my lap (his lips didn’t help) and we were getting a lift with a friend who wasn’t familiar with the route. Fortunately, we got there safely.  Only a few swerves along the way.  Phew.


Of course, Little Tester loved her cake and was very proud of it (and of her very blue tongue, it must be said).  She had seen it progressing over a few days and was so thrilled that her mum was making it for her, that it didn’t really matter what it looked like.  Well, maybe it did a bit but the blue icing went a long way in capturing a four year old’s imagination.  I was very happy with my first attempt at this type of cake but really it was her excitement that gave me the biggest buzz and a memory that I won’t forget.


Cake Balls to You

10 Oct

These are what I made for Rachel, one of the winners of my most recent Facebook competition who suggested something cakey inspired by Rose and Violet Creams.  These weren’t everyday flavours for me and there were lots of possible options – cupcakes, macaroons, a flavoured millionaire’s shortbread….but of course the prize was to be sent through the post so I had to bear this in mind.   

I’ve seen cakeballs and cakepops online before and they looked like great fun and easy to transport.  I knew I could incorporate the flavours of rose and violet into the soft cakey centre quite easily, and it would work well with a chocolate coating.

Cakeballs are ideal to use up offcuts of cake but I started from scratch with a fresh six egg mix Victoria Sponge.  When this was totally cool, I whizzed it in the food processor to make the crumbs.  I made the buttercream (200g butter to 500g icing sugar) and split this into two for the different flavours, ready to flavour and mix with the crumbs.

It was at this point that I made the mistake of adding the crumbs to the buttercream rather than the other way around.  Of course I ended up using all the crumbs on my rosewater flavoured buttercream (bye bye for now Violet Cakeballs)!  I even had to add a little extra icing sugar to get the consistency I wanted.  So you need half the amount of buttercream I made, or maybe even a bit less.  Cakeballs really are ideal for leftovers.   

My next tip is to refrigerate the mix so that it can rest and is a bit easier to work with.  When it’s chilled you then begin rolling chunks in your hands to make balls the size you want them, placing them on a tray lined with baking paper as you go along.  Put the tray in the freezer for at least an hour in preparation for coating them with melted chocolate.  I used Menier Dark Chocolate, rolling them between two teaspoons to drain the excess chocolate and then dropping them in the petit four cases and chilling them in the fridge to set.

It was then time to package them up for Rachel and pop them in the post!

What about the Violet Cakeballs I hear you ask?  Well, for a start, Violet syrup is not easy to find so I was all ready with six packets of large Parma Violets which I had ground up to add to the buttercream.  I might try something different with the powdered Parma Violets now, so watch this space….

Thanks to Rachel for the inspiration. xxx 



If anyone would like a Christmas Cake let me know.

6 Oct

I can cater for special requirements such as no nuts, no cherries, no alcohol
etc, etc. Perhaps not no fruit but I am sure I could think of something! A
rich chocolate cake perhaps?

Let me know what you are after and I will work out a price for you.


I’m back, back, back etc

5 Oct

Well I am back after a few blog-free weeks!

I have been mad busy with a lovely two week family holiday and celebrating three
birthdays, including Little Tester’s. I seem to have had a peak in paperwork to
deal with too. Not quite sure where the time is going, and I can see Christmas
looming on the horizon too.

I do try to avoid the early Christmas commercialism but making your own
Christmas Cakes means you can’t ignore it for too long. I am in the process of
slowly buying the ingredients and new baking tins to make a couple of different
sizes as I already have a couple of orders from friends and family. I haven’t
quite decided what recipe to use but I have treated myself to some quality,
whole candied peel (as recommended by Delia I think), and I am thinking that
Calvados might be a nice fruity alternative to brandy to ‘feed’ it with. What
do you think? It is also about this time of year that we start our annual
search for some Noe 30 year old Pedro Ximenez sherry which tastes just like
liquid Christmas. If you like dried fruits then you will love this. There is a
buzz of excitement when Chief Tester and I find some (usually clearing the
shelves) followed by us policing intake to ensure we have fair shares.
Sometimes we can even bring ourselves to give a bottle as a present.

I am working on some ideas for blog entries but I thought I’d put up a couple of
piccies of things I’ve been up to. Shamefully, it is only this week that I am
making the rose and violet creams inspired cake for Rachel (I blame the
holiday), but I did deliver Tracy’s carrot cake during the week before my
holiday. She was looking for something low fat so I went to Harry Eastwood’s
book and tried out her recipe. I don’t think it is as light as some carrot
cakes I’ve tried but it is tasty and sweet. I cut out the addition of nuts to
the cake to reduce fat further. The topping was creamy of course – would it
still be carrot cake without the topping?

I also made a square chocolate birthday cake for my sister. This was a new
recipe and very rich. I am not quite sure what defines a ‘mud cake’ but it was
a similar recipe to chocolate mudcake recipes I’ve seen. It was quite damp and
dense and kept well. I liked it but it is not for the faint-hearted, but then
again, who-ever heard of a faint-hearted cake lover?

Of course, I realise that I am still very much on a challenging learning curve
when it comes to the art of cake decoration, and every cake I make brings new
lessons with it to learn (my sister’s birthday cake is a case in point). That
said, I hope you can tell the cake that Little Tester and I decorated together
for her big sister’s birthday. It was quite liberating to open the sprinkles
cupboard and empty it on to the table! Little Tester even positioned the
candles. Needless to say this was great fun and received very fondly by the
birthday girl. Let’s just say that Little Tester’s birthday cake was a little
more of a challenge for me, but I’ll keep you waiting on that one. Here’s a
clue: it used a LOT of blue food colouring. Cinders and ashes!