Ginger, Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

Ginger, Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

Ginger, Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake

With St Valentine’s Day just over, there has been an abundance
of recipes saturating the internet for chocolate desserts or hidden-heart cupcakes all slathered with frostings in every shade of red or pink, sprinkled with tiny heart sprinkles…
Maybe, just maybe, a little sickly??
How about a masterful cake with just a gentle nod towards ingredients that Aphrodite may have baked with?!
Cue this layer cake.
This recipe is heavily lifted (but very adapted) from the BBC Good Food website. ¬†It’s one of those cakes that looked handsome and dashing, making satisfying promises even though it mightn’t be in keeping with a more natural looking bake. It’s dense and rich and gets better with keeping… ūüôā
The great thing is, this style of layering cakes can be used and adapted to create other, more organic, unrefined style cakes.

From the top....

From the top….

The Ginger Theme…
It’s still going.
Why ginger?
Well, let’s have a look at the health benefits of ginger. ¬†What’s the history? ¬†What’s the mystery?
Contrary to popular belief, ginger is actually a herb, not a spice. ¬†It is the rhizome of the plant that is used in popular cooking – both sweet and savoury. ¬†Originally cultivated in China, it has been used for over two thousand years in Chinese medicines for a range of ailments and disorders. ¬†Some of these are familiar to us – when we have a cold, a typical old-fashioned remedy is to combine ginger and honey to create a soothing, antiseptic throat syrup. ¬†Ginger is known for it’s antiseptic properties, as a circulatory stimulant and as an anti-inflammatory.
In folklore, ginger has been often associated with healing and with love charms, due to it’s ‘heat’ and powerful effect on the circulation! ¬†It’s overall feel-good factor combined with the many, many health benefits surely make it a top-ten store cupboard ingredient…

Ginger, Chocolate and Caramel Layer Cake (8 inch, tall cake)

Ginger and Chocolate sponges

225g soft unsalted butter , plus extra for greasing
225g golden caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
85g grated, fresh ginger
150ml pot natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp cocoa powder

Caramel and Chocolate-Caramel Sponges
225g unsalted butter , plus extra for greasing
175g light muscovado sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
150ml pot natural yogurt
85g grated fresh ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm/8 inch sandwich tins with baking parchment. For the ginger & chocolate sponges, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating them in to the mix. Whisk in the yoghurt and the vanilla.
Whisk the baking powder into the flour with the almonds.  Fold the flour/almond/baking powder mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mix.
2. Scrape half the mix into a second bowl and stir in the cocoa. Into the plain mix, whisk in the grated ginger.   Pour into the tins and bake for 30-35 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean, or a cake thermometer reads over 96 degrees F.
3. Repeat step 1 for the caramel-ginger & caramel-chocolate sponges, again leaving cocoa and ginger out of the first mixing, then splitting the mix in half and stirring the cocoa into one batch and ginger into the other. Mark your tins so you can remember which is which! Cook as above.
3. After baking, cool the sponges on a cooling rack.

When cooled, spread the ginger sponge with your choice of filling.  Then place the caramel sponge on top.  Spread on your filling again, then top with the caramel-chocolate sponge and repeat with the final, chocolate sponge.

I covered my cake with a fudge frosting, but you could choose:
Cake Frostings/Icings

Happy Baking!

Posted in Almonds, Caramel, Celebration cakes, Chocolate, Chocolate sponge cake, Dark chocolate, Fudge, Gateau, Ginger, Icing, Large cakes, Layer cakes, Sponge cake, Uncategorized, Vanilla cake | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Glitter Cookies – Ginger, Chocolate and Orange

Ginger, orange and chocolate cookies...

Ginger, orange and chocolate cookies…

Oh my, what’s not to love? ¬†The gentle aphrodisiac of ginger, the cheeky sweetness of orange and the silkiness of warm chocolate. ¬†Perfect.
There’s nothing more delicious than chunky cookies that are crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. I remember making dozens of cookies using a tubbed ready-to-go-dough whilst working for a well known bakery chain. ¬†We deliberately ‘forgot’ to flatten the dough balls so that our customers always got that delicious chewy centre. ¬†Even more enticing when they’re warm! ¬†Who can resist a fresh-from-the-oven cookie?
Sit back, pour that glass of milk and indulge in the memories of childhood.

Heady spice...

Heady spice…

Hot, hazy summer days, lazing by the paddling pool, gently fishing out the unsuspecting insects that buzzed innocently above the water and dropped in. ¬†Cool carpets of grass tickling the toes, soft whispers of a warm breeze pushing through the branches of the overhanging apple tree. ¬†Bright young things, completing wobbly hand-stands, dancing, calling out, laughing, giggling whilst platefuls of freshly cut orange slices just wait to ooze their juices down sticky chins…
Just think – we’re moving into spring and then soon, very soon, it will be summer. ¬†Hot? Maybe. But I think I’ll still be calling for the ginger ¬†ūüôā

Glitter Cookies – Ginger, Orange and Chocolate (10 BIG, 15 smaller) (adapted from ‘Chocolate: a collection of over 100 essential recipes)

210g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
70g chopped dark chocolate (nice and chunky!)
1 generous tsp of golden syrup
20g finely grated fresh ginger
zest of 1 orange
melted milk chocolate for covering
Gold edible glitter (for decoration)

*  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
* Grease and line two good sized baking trays.
* In a bowl, whisk the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.  Keep to one side.
* Cream the butter and sugars together until nice and pale.
* Add the ginger and orange zest.
* Add the eggs gradually, still beating slowly.
* Fold in the flour, then the chocolate.
* Form balls the size of golf balls Рflatten them gently onto the trays.  Leave room between them as they do spread!!
* Bake for 10-12 minutes.  You can flatten them slightly when they come out.
* Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. ¬†Meanwhile, melt your chocolate ready to spread/drizzle onto your cookies. ¬†Sprinkle with gold ‘ginger’ glitter.

Posted in Biscuits, Chocolate, Cookies, Dark chocolate, Ginger, Orange, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spicy Fresh Gingerbread (for ‘Ginger Month’)

Spicy, fresh gingerbread.

Spicy, fresh gingerbread.

The Ginger Chronicles

Is anyone else feeling the long dark days and the bitter cold of February already?
Luckily, I have a fetish for fresh root ginger, so I‚Äôm designating February ‚ÄėGinger Month‚Äô.
Irresistibly soulful, gingerbread exudes that exotic warmth that immediately transports you to the Middle East , enveloping you with heady aromas and sultry flavours.  But gingerbread is also a huge matter of taste, like a Crème Egg. (How DO you like yours?)  Crisp and crunchy?  Soft and spicy? Hot? Sticky? It always fascinates me that so many young children like it.  Let’s face it, ginger is quite the acquired taste.

As a relatively new baker,¬† I‚Äôve been through so many ‚Äėphases‚Äô.¬† There‚Äôs been the fondant-iced-large-decorated-cake phase, the cupcake phase, the biscuit phase, the hunt-for-the-perfect-vanilla-cake phase, the pastry phase, the classic bakes phase etc etc.¬† Now, each one has been thoroughly enjoyable.¬† But I‚Äôm starting to find my niche‚Ķ
Natural flavours, fresh ingredients, experimental tastes.
The recipe below is one I always used, however it was never soft enough or flavoursome enough.¬† Certainly not enough to excite the palate.¬† I wanted to awaken the taste-buds, to push the plain old children‚Äôs gingerbread into the grown up version (with a little childlike addition ‚Äď a single Smartie!).

Lots of freshly grated ginger and chopped chillies...

Lots of freshly grated ginger and chopped chillies…

So, what is in gingerbread?  Ginger, of course!  Never having used fresh root ginger, I researched recipes that included it and settled on a rough amount.
My first batch included 40g but it didn’t zing.  So, in this batch, I added 55g.  Why not?  Half a fresh chilli added a grown up twist, along with the addition of some hot black pepper.
The mixture is very wet and well hydrated but who wants a mouthful of dry ginger biscuit anyway?  It’s worth the effort it takes to cut out the shapes from a sticky mix, it really is.
Try it.

¬†Spicy Gingerbread (14 ‚Äď 16 biscuits)¬†

¬Ĺ egg plus 1 egg yolk (beaten lightly)
110g lightly salted butter (Morrison‚Äôs ‚ÄėBest for Baking‚Äô is good)
100g dark brown sugar
90g golden syrup
55g fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
¬Ĺ fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
5g ground ginger
2g ground cinnamon
1g cracked black pepper
280g plain flour
1/8 of a tsp bicarbonate of soda
zest of ¬Ĺ small unwaxed lemon

* Beat the egg lightly and set aside.
* Put the butter and dark brown sugar into a mixing bowl and beat (I got the best results by doing this by hand).  Then add the golden syrup and beat again.
* Beat in (by hand) the eggs.
*  Add the spices to the batter and mix in.
*¬† Grate the lemon zest into the batter and mix. (It will look curdled ‚Äď this is okay)
*  Mix in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
* The dough will now be forming ‚Äď it will be sticky.¬† Gather it together (you‚Äôll need to use your hands) and then wrap it in cling film.¬† Put it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so.

* Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.
* Grease and line two baking trays.
* After an hour, lightly flour the worktop and a rolling pin.¬† Take half of the gingerbread and lightly coat it with flour.¬† Roll it out to 1 ‚Äď 1.5cm thick.¬† It WILL stick to the rolling pin ‚Äď be patient.¬† The gingerbread will be softer and more delicious if you can retain the moisture.¬† If it is far too sticky, knead a little flour into the dough.
* Cut out gingerbread shapes, place onto tray and pop into the oven.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the tray at 8 minutes for an even bake.
* When baked, remove from the oven and add a Smartie to the centre of each flower (or add as buttons and eyes to gingerbread people, etc) whilst hot.¬† Leave to cool for five minutes on the tray, then remove to a cooling rack.¬† For a more grown-up look, add some cinnamon sugar to the top, or dust with a small amount of icing sugar.¬† I might dip them in some dark chocolate next time‚Ķ ūüôā

Posted in Biscuits, Chillies, Cinnamon, Cookies, Ginger, Gingerbread, Ground ginger | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebration Carrot Cake (Sunderland AFC!)

The sugarpaste and royal icing Black Cats 'cat'.

The sugarpaste and royal icing Black Cats ‘cat’.

I LOVE a good excuse to make a birthday cake and, even better, this one was a very special birthday cake. ¬†An 80th birthday cake for a stout Sunderland AFC supporter…
You’d NEVER know it.
So, we decided to make him a cake reflecting his unyielding support over eighty years!
The cake itself was a rum soaked carrot cake.  It was incredibly moist and possibly could have done with another couple of days before icing but time was short and of the essence.  The recipe I adapted was from PastryPal   and is by far the best carrot cake I have ever made.  I omit the bicarbonate of soda though, and halve the baking powder, using self-raising flour rather than plain.  I know lots of bakers hate self-raising but I prefer it Рa lot of people dislike the strange aftertaste you get when using bicarb so self-raising cuts this out.  I then use half the stated amount of baking powder.

An eight inch rum soaked carrot cake...  mmm

An eight inch rum soaked carrot cake… mmm

This was before I added the whites to his eyes! ¬†I must dig out the light tent again – since the move, I can’t find it! ¬†Anyhoo…

Here’s the recipe for two 8 inch sandwich tins:

162g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) light brown sugar
162g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) caster sugar (granulated, US)
226g (2 sticks) butter
4 eggs, room temperature, cracked and beaten gently.
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 small orange
300g (2 + 3/4 cups) self raising flour.
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda (if using)
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using lightly salted butter)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
400g (just under 3 cups) grated carrot
120 g (3/4 cup) golden sultanas
40g (1/4 cup) chopped dates / pineapple / walnuts / apricots (I used walnuts)
Couple of spoonfuls rum

Buttercream Frosting
200g (1 cup) butter
400g (3 + 1/3 cup) icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

1) Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 degrees F. (Use your oven thermometer!!)
2) Line a cake tin with baking parchment. Put your sultanas in the bowl and soak in rum for about an hour – longer if you can.
3) Beat your butter. ¬†Beat it to within an inch of it‚Äôs life ‚Äď scrape your bowl down in between.
4) Add the sugars.  BEAT them.  I beat for about 10 minutes, scraping down every couple of minutes.  Use an electric hand-mixer, a free-standing mixer or even brute strength, if you live with someone from the WWE.
5) Add the eggs in 4 stages. ¬†In between, beat the hell out of the mixture to stop the mixture from curdling. ¬†Most people say ‚Äėdon‚Äôt worry if it curdles‚Äô, but I‚Äôm a convert to the Women‚Äôs Institute method of patience and a Led Zeppelin style of ‚Äúwhole-lotta-love‚ÄĚ at this stage. ¬†If you want airy cakes, trust me on this.
6) Slowly mix in the zest of lemon and orange juice.
7) In a separate bowl, high-sift the flours, baking soda/powder, ginger and cinnamon.
8) Add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture ‚Äď fold in by hand.
9) Fold in carrots, nuts, fruit that you are using.
10) Fill your cake tins.
11) Bake for 40 minutes (cake).  It will be springy to the touch when done and starting to move away from the sides of the tin.  A skinny knife inserted into the centre should come out clean if it’s cooked.  I often find in my oven, cakes need longer, so I’ll just keep adding an extra five minutes until it’s starting to come away from the tin.  I also take a thermometer reading Рaiming for 97 degrees C.
12) Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a cooling rack.
13) Make your buttercream frosting.
14) Beat the hell out of the butter (if you don’t you will get lumps of butter in your icing).   Add the icing sugar and beat, beat, beat.  (This blog is SO violent!).
15) I spread buttercream in between each layer of cake and then crumb-coated it. ¬†I refrigerated it for 30 minutes, then applied a second coat to achieve nice clean edges. ¬†After that, I coloured and rolled my sugarpaste and covered the cake. ¬†If you‚Äôre not sure how to do this there‚Äôs a great tutorial over at¬†Paul Bradford‚Äės site.

Posted in Birthday cakes, Carrots, Celebration cakes, Cinnamon, Fondant icing, Fruit cake, Hazlenuts, Large cakes, Sponge cake | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Christmas Cakes 2012

DSCF0307Christmas Cakes 2012 – I wish I had photographs of all seven of them but sadly, I don’t!
The end of 2012 became incredibly busy here. ¬†I had a presentation/assignment to do for university, we moved house and I had 7 Christmas cakes to do. ¬†Fortunately, the roses were started a few weeks before Christmas so they were ‘lustred’ and ready to go. ¬†I’d used Morrisons own brand icing for most of them, then realised I needed a few additional petals, so I used a well-known professional brand icing and couldn’t have been more disappointed. ¬†However, you live and learn!
So, house-moving day was 23rd December (Yes, I KNOW!!). ¬†it was also the eldest’s birthday and my mom, aunty and cousin were due to visit on the Megabus!!! ¬†School broke up late (21st) and anyone who teaches probably knows what I mean when I say that schools + Christmas = MADNESS!! ¬†So, first night in the new house, after moving loads of furniture, I decorated seven Christmas cakes.
I’ll be honest – I hate levelling fruit cakes. ¬†The way you get holes etc drives me nuts. ¬†So I was a lazy minx and didn’t level them as pedantically as I would normally. ¬†Plus time was short. (I did let family know that they wouldn’t be perfect – luckily they let me off!)
I had marzipanned and iced two days previous so it was just the decorating that needed doing. ¬†Good job Match of the Day was on until one o’clock a.m so there was something to watch!
I would LOVE to share the recipe but I have been sworn to secrecy on this one – it is an old family recipe that only a few are allowed to know! ¬†What I can tell you though is that I tinker with it and use Mich Turner’s rich fruit cake recipe as a ‘tinker guide’! ¬†Lots of people also recommend Delia’s fruit cake….
Give them a try – you can’t go far wrong.

Spiced fruit cake

Spiced fruit cake

There are loads of tutorials for making sugarpaste roses on t’internet…all I can say is find a way that works for you. I tried a couple of techniques and found a way that works for me – I might even do a tutorial shortly.
DSCF0320I have discovered a passion for making roses – these were the first I’d ever made. ¬†Call it a learning curve!

Sugarpaste roses - not perfect, but improving!  Everyone starts somewhere, right?

Sugarpaste roses – not perfect, but improving! Everyone starts somewhere, right?

Well, just to wish everyone a very happy, healthy 2013… ¬†Happy Caking!

Posted in Celebration cakes, Christmas Cakes, Fondant icing, Fruit cake, Icing, Large cakes, Marzipan, Novelty Cakes, Royal Icing, Sugar flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wedding Favor Biscuits

White wedding....

White wedding….

I am desperate to do more sophisticated fayre…
It’s lovely having kids around the house to eat the cupcakes etc, but I am so keen to move on and try my hand at something a little more demanding, but also something clean, fresh and crisp.
There’s something about white and silver – with a little pearl lustre – that evokes the sense of weddings (or today, Christmas!). ¬†Did anyone else get sugared with snow today? ¬†It lay, meaning sledging was on the cards down the hill at work! ¬†Such fun! ¬†Don’t you just love that muffled sound that snow brings, the feathery light flakes brushing your cheeks with their icy softness? ¬†Reminds me of dusting cakes with icing sugar, or frosting cupcakes with the lightest of italian meringue buttercream.
These biscuits would make lovely wedding favors – especially for a winter wedding. ¬†Imagine them, all wrapped up in crisp cellophane, glittery silver ribbon nestled into glistening snowflakes, spread across the table…
DSCF0300I used a basic shortbread biscuit recipe… James Martin’s, actually: (Taken directly from Good Food Channel)

  • 175 g chilled unsalted¬†butter, plus more for greasing
  • 225 g¬†flour
  • 60 g¬†caster sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 1 pinches¬†salt
  • 1 tsp¬†vanilla extract
  • Dice the butter and put into a mixing bowl to soften a little. Sift over the flour, caster sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Rub together with your fingertips and form the mixture into a ball.
    Lightly flour the work surface. Roll out the shortbread and cut into strips approximately 4cm wide and 10cm long. Lay the biscuits out on a greased baking sheet and prick the surfaces all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
    Sprinkle sugar over the shortbread then bake for 8 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Cool before removing from the baking sheet.

    When cooled – brush over a tiny amount of jam, then decorate as you wish!


Posted in Biscuits, Cookies, Fondant icing, Icing, Shortbread, Sugar flowers, Weddings | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mummy Cake

Mummy Cake

Mummy Cake

Now I know it’s not Halloween! ¬†Really, I do.
But it has been mega, mega, mega busy at work and blogging feels like a luxury I just don’t have these days.
Nevermind, here we are.
Better late than never.
This cake was huge fun to make. ¬†I loved him – he didn’t even get named (unlike Sven the Skull)! ¬†There are many, many ‘mummy cakes’ on Google images and I researched lots of them with an idea in mind, but it’s funny how your own take/style develops, even though you mightn’t think you HAVE a style. ¬†There’s also something particularly satisfying about baking a spherical cake – maybe it’s something to do with the mysticism of the circle/sphere. ¬†the world is a globe, Stonehenge is formed in a circle, many of the world’s most important ancient sites, when mapped, are found to line up in a near perfect circle… ¬†I love the band ‘A Perfect Circle’, circles have no end or no beginning… ¬†There’s something soft and gentle about a circle/sphere that makes you want to cradle it into your hands, pat it, form it. ¬†Who doodles concentric circles whilst on the ‘phone? ¬†I do. ¬†Who makes spheres out of blu-tac whilst working? ¬†I do.
We digress.  Back to The Mummy.
He is a zingy lemon sponge, using River Cottage’s lemon madeira recipe, but with added lemon zest, extra lemon juice and drenched in a lemon sugar syrup.

Lemon Madeira Cake
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons, plus the juice
200g golden granulated sugar
4 large eggs
Sugar Syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
Tablespoon of water
2 tbsps caster sugar
Lemon Curd Buttercream
250g unsalted softened butter
500g icing sugar
275g lemon curd
(Beat butter, then beat in icing sugar, then beat in lemon curd)

* Grease and line a spherical tin – I used Wilton’s sports ball pan. ¬†I lined it by cutting a circle about half the size again of the circumference of the tin. (So one plus a half) ¬†Then I folded and folded again, making a quarter of a circle shape. ¬†I then cut down towards the centre a few times from the edge (not right to the centre), so that when it opened out, it was fanned. Then stick to the sides of your pan with butter or spray.
*  Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
*  In a bowl, beat the butter with the lemon zest. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light. Add the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tsp of the flour with each and beating thoroughly before adding the next egg. Fold in the remaining flour, using a large metal spoon, then fold in the lemon juice.
* Pour the mixture into the lined tins. ¬†Spread out evenly with the back of the spoon, then push the mixture up the sides, creating a well in the middle. This will ensure your madeira cake does not ‘dome’. ¬†Bake for about 50 minutes, until the cake is well risen, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If you are a nerd like me, then take the internal temperature with a thermometer – it should be between 195 degrees C and 205 degrees C. ¬†Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
* Add all of the sugar syrup ingredients to a pan and bring to a simmer, checking and tasting.  I like mine tart, but others may want to add more sugar.
* Poke the cooled cake all over and drench in syrup.
* Allow to stand for a while then split each half of the cake and spread with a layer of lemon curd buttercream. Sandwich the two halves with a layer of plain lemon curd.
* Carve two eyeholes into the cake.  Spread a thin layer of plain buttercream all over the cake, then refridgerate for 20 minutes.
*  Roll out strips of white sugarpaste/fondant and soften the edges with a ball tool.  Wrap around to look like bandages.  I carved an open mouth and filled with black sugarpaste, adding sugarpaste teeth on florist wire (let the people eating know though!)
* Use petal dusts to add detail.


Posted in Birthday cakes, Buttercream, Celebration cakes, Fondant icing, Icing, Lemon, Lemon cake, Lemon Curd, Madeira cake, Novelty Cakes, Sponge cake | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mummy Cake Pops!

Mummy Pops!

These were LOVELY to make!!
I can’t say they were copied/inspired/taken from anyone in particular – they were an accumulation of internet image searches for mummy cakes! ¬†There were some really, really cute ones, despite how scary they were meant to be…
Here are some tips I learned about making cake pops (which you probably know already):
* Don’t make them too big
* Have somewhere to put them (e.g a polystyrene block)
* Do chill them in the fridge before trying to put lolly sticks into them
* Dip your stick in chocolate or candy melts, then put them into your cake pop
* Fridge them again for a few minutes
* Don’t use too much covering in one go and ROLL the pops in chocolate, rather than dipping otherwise the weight pulls them off

I used some frozen left-over chocolate cake I had in the freezer.  (NEVER throw away scraps!)
I added a tablespoonful of butter to the crumbled cake, pulling it all together into a delicious ball.  Then I picked off pieces and rolled into cake pops.  Who needs an expensive cake pop machine?
Then I coloured some white sugarpaste with a tiny bit of ivory sugarflair coloring, rolled it thinly and sliced (using a pizza cutter) tiny, tiny slices of long sugar paste. ¬†I secured one end to a dipped-in-white-chocolate-mummy-head with a drip of chocolate, brushed a little water along the ‘bandage’ and wrapped it around the mummy’s head. I then added two red-coloured buttercream icing eyes. ¬†Et voila! ¬†Mummies!
Here’s my favourite chocolate cake recipe:

Chocolate Tray Bake Cake (makes a large tray bake – quarter the recipe for a small cake to make cake-pops with)
340g (1 and 1/3 cups PLUS 2 tbp) unsalted butter
340g (3 and 1/3 cups) caster sugar
6 eggs
280g  self-raising flour (2 cups PLUS 1/3 cup) (or plain flour, with baking powder/soda added)
60g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
60g (1/3 cup) dark chocolate
60g (1/3 cup) milk chocolate

* Preheat oven to 180 degrees C / Gas 4.
* Grease and line a ten inch square cake pan.
* Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
* Beat the eggs, then add to the butter/sugar gradually.  If it curdles, add a small spoonful of flour.
* Sift together the flour and cocoa powder.  Slowly mix the flour/cocoa powder into the butter/sugar/egg mixture until combined.
* Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 ‚Äď 60 mins. ¬†Keep checking it towards the end of baking ‚Äď it is done when you can insert a skewer into the centre and it comes out clean.
* Allow to cool a little then turn onto a wire cooling rack.

CRUMBLE into a bowl, chill, then add a tablespoonful of butter until nicely pulling together.


Posted in Buttercream, Cake Pops, Chocolate, Chocolate sponge cake, Dark chocolate, Fondant icing, Icing, Novelty Cakes, Tray Bakes, Uncategorized, White chocolate | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Halloween Skull Cake!

What did we call him? We can’t remember! Steve the Skull? Sven?

We are almost American about Halloween in our house.
We LOVE it!
“Guess what Moo?”
“Erm… what?”
“It’s all hallows eve’s ween’s weave’s weeney weeeeeeeeeeeen!”
Maybe it’s the goth in me? ¬†Yes, that’s exactly what it is. ¬†Some of the costumes of the Trick or Treaters were lush – I soooo wanna be young enough to want to be a witch with flowing green locks and a spooky spiderweb dress…
Anyway, it was time to make the cake…
I used a simple madeira cake recipe – the one on Lindy’s blog is great for carving. ¬†I won’t regurgitate it here – check out Lindy’s blog. ¬†There are some fantastic tips and techniques.
Here is Steven/Simon/Sven/Cyril???’s split brains. ¬†Mwahhahahaaa.


Here’s the carving:

He looks like Jack from ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ right here…. ūüôā

I checked out some great Facebook pages that had fantastic carved skulls. ¬†Most were made from rice krispie treats so weren’t much help in the carving BUT they looked totally fantastic and were definitely an inspiration!
Here’s one I LOVE… ¬†Rock Cakes. ¬†I think she’s my new cake crush! ¬†I AM going to make a skull this brilliant one day. ¬†Honest! ¬†I love the use of dragees – she’s inspired me to start being a little more creative with nonpareils. ¬†Thanks Rock Cakes!
Here’s Sven the Skull with a jaw and some eyes…

His eye and nose worms are crawling around, look… I know, you were convinced for a minute there, weren’t you?!!!

The sugarpaste was a bit tricky to cover him with – I may have rolled it a little thinly, due to my obsession with getting perfect sharp edges if I can. ¬†Obviously, I forgot that skulls don’t have sharp edges. ¬†Doh.
Sven worked a treat.  Or was he called Steve?  Damn.
Anyway, cue a little Fields of the Nephilim whilst creating and painting using confectioners glaze and blossom tints… After all, we WERE going to see them on October 30th! ¬†How seriously evil… lol.

Fields of the Nephilim at Leeds 02 Academy.

Now THAT was a great gig.
But, back to Skull. ¬†He needed detailing. ¬†Using lots of lustre dusts, blossom tints and metallic paints, I created his eyes. ¬†I wanted him to have a very ‘cartoon’ look, so I outlined all of his features in super-black, thinned a little with dipping solution. ¬†(Vodka, to you and me).
Oh dear….

And again… eyeless. ¬†Looks like a scene from a horror film.

Ooooohhhhhhh NO!

Hope you like Skull.
Wait till you see Martin Mummy.

Posted in Buttercream, Celebration cakes, Fondant icing, Icing, Large cakes, Novelty Cakes, Sponge cake, Vanilla cake | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Whoopie Pies and Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Whoopie Pies and Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream

Whoopie pies. ¬†Sounds like a slip of the bottom, doesn’t it? You know – like a pump?! ¬†However, they tasted heavenly. Like little rounds of sunshine.
I don’t like the name whoopie pies – only because of the British connotations linked to ‘whoopie’… you know, ‘whoopie cushions’ etc. ¬†I think I prefer the idea of ¬†‘cake sandwiches’. ¬†Well, that’s what they are, are they not? ¬†Little cake sandwiches. ¬†With lush middles. ¬†What a thoroughly British description…maybe I’ll change the title.
However, whilst pouring scorn on the US name for cakes, I’d like to wish everyone there facing Hurricane Sandy all the best – I know my dad and Ameri-mum are battening down the hatches as we speak…Funny saying, that. ¬†Where does it come from?
Apparently it comes from nautical origins. ¬†Ships’ hatches, (or ‘hatchways’), were common on ships and were normally either open or covered with a wooden grating to allow for ventilation of the lower decks. When bad weather was apparent, the hatches were sealed with tarpaulin. This covering was then edged with wooden strips (battens), to stop it from being blown off. ¬†This was known to sailors as ‘battening down’.
Our thoughts are with you over the pond…
So, as for whoopies, the recipe I used was from the Joy of Baking website…
They were delicious. ¬†Quite heavy – I wished I’d piped them smaller, but still, they really were delicious. Chocolatey and indulgent, filled with pillowy Italian buttercream, which is the rapture of buttercreams. ¬†It really is. ¬†Imagine soft Mr Whippy without the brain freeze…Mmmmmmm.
I have to admit, I had a whoopie pie for breakfast. ¬†OH Yeah! ¬†That testimony to a recipe, don’t you think? ¬†Cereal? ¬†Noooo. ¬†Porridge? ¬†Nooooo. ¬†Grapefruit? ¬†noooooo. ¬†Whoopie pie? ¬†YES, WHY DIDN’T YOU ASK SOONER?!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
230g  (1 & 3/4 cups) self raising /all purpose flour
75g  (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/4 tsp (1 teaspoon if using US flour) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (omit if using self-raising flour)
170g (3/4 cup) lightly salted butter, room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60ml (1/4 cup)  buttermilk (50ml milk with 10 ml lemon juice added and left for 5 minutes)
120ml (1/2 cup)  lukewarm strong coffee OR 1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm water

*  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
* In a large bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
* Add the egg, beating well.
* Beat in the vanilla extract.
* In a measuring cup, mix the buttermilk and coffee (or water).
* With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk/coffee mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
* Pipe 2.5 – 3 cm of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. With moistened fingers or with the back of a spoon, smooth the tops of the cookies.
* Bake for about 9 -10 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Taken from Ruth Clemens at The Pink Whisk 
2.5 large egg whites
25g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
125g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
50ml (just under 1/4 cup) water
250g (1 cup) butter, softened

* You will need a sugar thermometer and electric mixer, (preferably a stand mixer – it makes life easier when handling hot sugar).
*  In a large clean bowl place the egg whites and whip.  When they reach the soft peak stage (foamy but won’t hold their own shape), add the 50g sugar a spoonful at a time.  Keep whipping until they reach the firm peak stage. Leave to one side.
* In a pan, add the 250g caster sugar and 100ml water.  Heat over a low heat, encouraging the sugar to melt to a syrup.  When  the syrup has turned clear turn the heat up to medium.  Boil the sugar syrup to 121c, this takes around ten minutes.
* ¬†When the syrup reaches 121 degrees C, ¬†remove from the heat. ¬†Turn the mixer back on to slow and and pour the sugar syrup down the sids of the bowl into the egg whites, gently, in a steady stream. ¬†TAKE CARE – it is very very hot…
*  When the sugar syrup is fully combined keep the mixer running whilst the mixture cools.  This will be about 8 minutes.
* ¬†When the bowl is cool to the touch, start adding the butter. Add it very gradually, in small chunks. ¬†It will start to look as though it hasn’t worked – almost curdled, but keep going. ¬†Persevere – you want the consistency of thick cream. ¬†It suddenly changes – be patient!
* Pipe buttercream onto one half of the whoopie pie, then sandwich it with another on top…
* Then.
* En

Posted in Biscuits, Buttercream, Chocolate, Coffee, Cookies, Cream, Dark chocolate, Italian Meringue Buttercream, Meringue, Uncategorized, Whoopie Pies | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments