I hardly ever make cupcakes. Do you? I find them a bit fiddly and all too easy to eat 10 without really noticing. I mean if you have a slice of cake that cake will look smaller. If you take one cupcake out of an airtight cake tin and pop the lid back on who knows how many have scoffed!
So, when I was asked to make cupcakes for Free Cakes For Kids last week I knew I was in trouble. I needed to make 24 cupcakes and my recipe makes 20. Well what was I to do? I halved the recipe and made an extra 12 so that there would be – ahem- some for my girls. But with all good baker’s style I HAD to test one – just to check they were okay. They were OK!
As a charity FCFK is often the recipient of cake ingredients and those lovely people over at Mamys Sugarcraft donated bags of beautiful sprinkles to us. I was desperate to use them on these cupcakes. They’re really cute- flat circles of beautiful sugaryness. Lovely aren’t they?
The Chocolate cupcakes
My plan was to bake nice flat chocolate cupcakes and then pipe chocolate mirror glaze around the outer edge, dip them in sprinkles then flood the middle part of the cupcake with more thick delicious glaze. I wanted the cakes to be flat. I baked them really slowly and with a baking sheet above them but they still wanted to be light and fluffy and tall! Usually that is the desired effect but not this time.
As a result I had to keep the mirror glaze a little thick so that I could pipe it over the cake mound without it dribbling off the sides. If I made these again I would lower the baking temperature and maybe bake just 6 in a small tin at a time rather than 12. I’d place the empty baking sheet above the cupcakes a little bit closer which usually helps create a flatter cake with my larger cakes. I used 4 tbsp water in my glaze so if you want it smoother and runnier then add more and see how you go.
Well, lets just say that I ate more than one! That mirror glaze is something else and teamed with the sprinkles. DELISH! The charity I delivered them too looked pretty happy with them as I assured them that they tasted “alright!”
Ok let me just warn you that this might be a bit of a frustrating post as the day this post goes out is soooo close to the closing date of this competition it’ll be hard to enter. Hard but not impossible!. My friend shared it with me and I thought it was so clever and the cakes were so good that it was still worth sharing it with you guys!
It’s furniture company Loaf’s 8th birthday and they want cake. Sofa and bed cakes to be precise. The competition is to make any Loaf bed or sofa in the shape of a cake and win the model you’ve made and decorated. You can email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org put it on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages using #BakeItToWinItbyMonday 16th January and they’ll pick the winner on 17th Jan.
But here’s why I wanted to share it with you. Just look at the cakes below from last years competition! So clever and so cute.
What do you think? Well worth a Sunday baking and decorating sesh don’t you think?
As I was pondering what I should post about this week – a week when the vast majority of people are trying to eat healthily and avoid cakes, bakes and cookies (in order to stick to their new years resolutions) I came up with one quick tip that I wanted to share….. and then I realised that I was talking about chips!
Chips it is then!
A few years ago a friend told me that she never lines baking trays with anything other than silicon paper – whether she’s baking cakes or cooking salmon. Nothing ever sticks to it – EVER! So I started using silicon paper when we made oven chips. We used to use tin foil – as I hate the smell of greasy tins and would much rather protect my trays – especially if they’re going to be used for baking at a later date.
I’m a bit obsessive with those chips. I set the timer for six minutes (three times) and give them a big shake when I hear the oven beep. When I used foil the chips would stick together and stick to the surface but now I use silicon paper they are all individual and nothings sticks anywhere.
What else then?
So once we tried the paper not foil method on chips we used it on everything else in the oven too – tuna, burgers, fish fingers you name it – it doesn’t stick. The only thing you can’t use it for is grilling – unless you like a touch of charred paper on your diner?
So this post is short but sweet and I hope by sharing this little tip it makes your washing up a bit quicker and easier and your oven fries tastier.
Till next week when I am sure we’ll all be desperate for cake again
How much do you love chocolate brownies? Well let me tell you as I sit here typing I’ve had both daughterlings come and ask me when they can eat these soft cherry brownies? They’ve only been out of the oven for two minutes but they’ve made the whole house smell all chocolatey. “They’re for New Years Eve” I told them as they skulked off as if they had to wait an eternity.
Brownies rock NYE
I’ve found that with this recipe these brownies taste good when still warm with a dollop of ice cream but if you can bare to wait they improve in richness if eaten a day after baking. I made these to take to a New Years Eve party this year where there will be other chocolate loving kids so I wanted to add a soft cherry flavour. Usually I add glacè or natural morello cherries but for this one I decided to make them quick and easy and used a tin of pitted cherries in juice. I drained the juice completely so they wouldn’t make the cake all gooey – well more gooey than it should be. I also didn’t cut them in half so when you eat them you get all that juicy flavour in one hit.
Line a 20x 30cm baking tin with silicon paper and pre-heat your oven to 180*C (160*C for fan ovens).
Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk up then add the sugar and combine. Set to one side.
Place the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and when melted remove from the heat and add the broken up dark chocolate until it melts. Place over the heat if necessary but be sure to watch that it doesn't burn.
Measure and sieve the flour and cocoa into a separate bowl.
Add the chocolate to the egg and sugar mix and combine. Add the dry ingredients and fold in.
Stir in the drained pitted cherries then transfer to the cake tin.
Bake for 30 minutes. The top will start to form cracks. That shows it's ready to be removed from the oven.
Leave the tin on a rack to cool completely before removing the cake from the tin.
To cut neat portions place a large knife in hot water then dry before cutting each slice. The heat from the blade will slice easily through the whole brownie if you re-heat it each time.
So what are you baking for New Years Eve then? Last year I made a tart and the year before I made Tiramisu. Anything goes as long as it sees in a sweet new year and brings you plenty of joy and happiness.
Oooooh don’t you just love a mini Christmas cake? I made some last year as gifts and they went down really well. This time I decided to give them a touch of Jack Daniels and I have to say they are gooooood!
I made these ones for a local food bank on behalf of the charity I bake for Free Cakes For Kids. Lots of bakers have made lots of mini cakes so lots of families would have a special cake and it always feels great to be giving and baking for others at this time of year- don’t you think? If you want to join in the fun check out the FCFK website to find your local group. I’m yet to find a group of bakers who aren’t really friendly!
I made these cakes really last minute (meaning I didn’t start in October so I could ply the cake with alcohol) so I had few cheats. I soaked the fruit in the JD for a week before baking the cakes and once they were out of the oven I gave them another really good brush/soak with the good stuff. If you add the alcohol while the cake is still warm the liquid soaks right in. I think a Christmas cake still tastes great even if it hasn’t been drowned in alcohol for weeks or months before.
Once baked I decorated half the cakes with marzipan and white sugarpaste and the other half with just the sugarpaste so there were some nut free options – also so I could eat the marzipan that was left over.
How to decorate Christmas cakes the non traditional way.
I didn’t want to go for red or green decorations this year. My original plan was to have a little forrest of sugarpaste Christmas trees standing on top of the cakes but once I had decorated one I realised that they would be really difficult to transport to the food bank and for the families to take home too so I opted for a 2d version.
The Christmas tree decorations were made up a day ahead in pale blues, pink and white so that they could be layered up without drooping. The gingerbread men were also made up ahead of time. After 24 hours the faces were drawn on with a clever food dye pen in ‘liquorice’ black. The trees and gingerbread man were then stuck in place with a little royal icing.
To give the cakes a really professional finish I placed ribbon around the cake and wrapped them in cellophane. I was really happy with the end result. I hope the families will be too when they pick them up later this week.
I wrote this post before I delivered the cakes to the food bank. I feel now looking back that I brushed over the food bank part. For me this was supposed to be about sharing my recipe for a Jack Daniels Christmas cake. It is in fact about a lot more than that. There are so many people in need in our country and right on our door steps. You may not even be aware that there is a food bank on your high street, in your church or by your community centre. These places are amazing. They’re run mostly by volunteers and the people who need them are often in dire situations.
When I delivered these cakes I met with a band of very jovial volunteers who are loving and caring and so, so knowledgable. There was a young mum who was there as I dropped off. She was collecting a couple of blankets from the centre. She had been housed in the hostel around the corner. The week before she had left a violent relationship with nothing but the clothes on her back and her teenage daughter. She had nothing. She was housed in a hostel so they were safe. The hostel is an amazing resource with a bedroom and some furniture and a kitchen along one wall but that’s it. It’s very, very basic. No bedding, no plates, no comforts. I’m sure she was grateful for a safe and warm roof over her head but having just spent a few hundred quid on presents for my two daughters to then see this young woman with so little but still with a grateful smile on her face was incredible humbling.
So I’m asking you to do something and not just now – for the foreseeable future. When you’re doing your food shopping pop an extra tin of something or a bottle of shampoo in your basket and leave it in the food bank bins which are always situated just behind the checkout. All the big supermarkets have collection bins and the extra pound or two probably won’t make much of a difference to you but it will make a massive difference if we all do it for others.
I love making cakes for Evie. Apart from the fact that she’s lovely, she is ALWAYS smiling. She always says “hello” when we walk into school (and I mean says hello to me- not just Darcey!) and she always chooses fab cakes that I’ve never made before. This year she was having a swimming pool party – obviously! So a swimming pool cake was definitely the right choice of cake.
I’ve made a few cakes for Evie before and if you remember then you probably know that she’s coeliac. That’s why I love making her birthday cakes. You don’t get cakes like this in the supermarket. I basically use my Madeira cake recipe as seen in this chart and swap the flour quantity for 50% gluten free flour and 50% rice flour. I find that mixing up the same quantity of flour needed in a recipe with a mixture of gluten free flour, rice flour or almond flour comes out light and tasty.
Designing the Swimming pool cake
I wanted to keep the design simple so I made the main part of the cake the swimming pool. I baked a rectangular cake and cut it into three layers then cut away the centre of the top layer. Raspberry jam and buttercream were added and the whole cake was covered in pale blue sugarpaste. I had to make it quite thick to be able to handle getting into the corners of the pool.
I wrote ‘Evie’ in my fave script and left it to dry for a few days. I mixed it with some Tylo powder so it would really firm up (and quickly). A square cutter was used to make tiles which we placed around parts of the pool.
Rope was made with white sugarpaste strands which were twisted together and stuck on at the corners.
The splashes were made from a ball of sugarpaste which was brushed with gelatine to give it a glossy effect. The Evie was also brushed to give shine.
A life saving ring was made from white and red sugarpaste and left to harden.
To make the ‘water’ I made up some gelatine and let it cool before I spooned it into the pool. What I hadn’t banked on was that the tiles I had stuck in the bottom of the cake would bubble up and kind of soften and start to dissolve. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was how the gelatine would set. I thought it would just firm up like jelly. It didn’t. It wobbled a bit like jelly but when I had to drive the cake to the pool party it had moved and jiggled creating all these white lines. I was mortified but Evie’s mum said that the waves looked great. Pfew! Lucky save.
To finish off I added grey bars which I painted with edible silver paint and stuck them onto the side of the pool along with another life ring.
Having learnt my lesson making this mermaid cake I kept Evie in a little better proportion and just made the top half to place in the pool.
The bunting was literally a last minute idea made from decorative paper, string and two skewers.
I kinda like this cake. I think the water worked but it’s all the splashes and the ‘Evie’ in a big dribble of water that makes it for me. What do you think?