How to make an Elsa Frozen cake

Elsa Frozen cake

Last summer I was asked to make a cake for my friends little daughter Belle. I was sure she was going to be two but she was to be three! Where do the years go? It feels like only yesterday she was a tiny baby.

As I am sure you’re aware, if you are a little three year old girl your birthday/Christmas/life is going to be all about Frozen. Whether you’re in the Elsa camp or Anna that’s what all the little girls want. Did you see the program about Frozen that was on over Christmas? It’s the most successful cartoon of all time. The queue’s outside the Bromley Disney store with mum’s waiting to get their hands on the latest delivery of Elsa dresses went round the block and started from 8am and that was back in October! I can’t imagine what it was like in December.

My girls loved the film and I have to say that we have had a sing-along or two in the car (ahem- led by me and under protests of suffering daughters!) I’ve admitted to singing ‘Let it go’ on the way to shoots when the girls aren’t even in the car. I’m sure I’m not alone – am I?

So, I was pretty happy when I was finally asked to make an Elsa cake. I had been waiting !!!! The mum was happy to have a doll in the cake but I don’t really do that. It takes away the creativity and fun for me. So here’s how I did it.

How to make an Elsa Frozen cake

Start with the skirt

Elsa Frozen cake - skirtI started off with two Madeira cakes. One was baked in a Christmas pudding cake tin which gave the top the cake the skirt/waisted look. I matched the bottom of that tin to the closest size round tin – mine was a 7″.

I cut the half sphere cake in half then added butter cream and jam in between each layer then cut the outside of the cake into a more skirt shape. Next the cake was given two coats of butter cream – a crumb coat and a top coat.

The skirt was covered in sugar paste, smoothed and neatened and placed on the cake board; which I had covered in white sugar paste a few days earlier. I set the cake to the back of the board so I had room for wording and a few snowflakes.

How to make Elsa’s face

Elsa Frozen cake -face

It’s a good idea to make the head ahead of time. The more time it has to harden the easier it is to handle and position it when you need to add the hair later on.

I coloured plenty of white sugar paste with Paprika coloured food gel (enough for the head, body and arms) so it was a really pale flesh colour then made the shape of the head. I used my fingers to make dents in the eye sockets and created a nose. I did make nostrils but they looked terrible so I rubbed them out.

I used a flower and Leaf Shaper Tool (the pointed one) to make a slight indent for the mouth and the outline of the eyes. I then filled in the eyes with white shimmer powder. To make the shimmer into a paint I used a little vodka mixed with the powder. You only need a tiny amount of each. This white paint is really easy to apply if you go slow and don’t have too much on your brush. If you have lots of liquid on your brush it really runs into every crevice and beyond your outline. You’re better off doing two to three light layers rather than one thicker one.

To make the cheeks rosy I applied a small amount of pink powder. To do this sprinkle some powder onto a piece of kitchen paper then use a dry paint brush to apply it. Dab off as much colour as you can so it looks like there’s hardly any on it then brush it onto Elsa’s cheeks in a  gentle round action. I also added a little bit to above her eyes to give her more of a glowy eye shadow.

Once the whites of her eyes are completely dry I painted on two circles in ‘baby blue’ food gel colour. The next step was to add the black eye liner. I used the ‘black’ food gel colour and a really tiny paint brush and went really, REALLY slowly. Paint on largish pupils in the centre of the blue of the eyes at the same time. Again leave it to dry completely between each layer. Paint on the bottom eye liner and add a white dot of shimmer on each pupil.

Use a small amount of the paprika gel colour – watered down to draw on the eye brows and the freckles.

For the ears add two tiny balls of the flesh colour, squished into ovals then pressed into place with a little bit of edible glue.

Finish off the face with a ruby-red colour for the lips.

I place the head on skewer to dry. The hole made by the skewer will make it easier to position later on.

How to make Elsa’s body

Elsa Frozen cake - arms

Take some of the flesh coloured sugar paste and mould it into the body shape. Position the body on the skirt, securing with some royal icing. Place a long skewer through both so that the body can set in place in a completely upright position.

 

Roll out some of the blue dress coloured sugar paste and shape it so it has a dip at the neckline and a point at the bottom on the front. Wrap this piece around the body. Where the sugar paste overlaps at the back cut away the excess and smooth the join line.Roll out a long strip of pale blue icing and position it over the join line bringing it to a point at the front.

To make the arms: Roll out two pieces of flesh coloured sugar paste . Cut them to the desired length. At the elbow and wrists use your finger to roll the length and make it a tiny bit thinner. Flatten the ends so that the shoulder is more natural and the hand is the right size. Use a knife to cut the fingers and thumbs and a small ball tool  to make indents where the nails are. Attach the arms with royal icing or food glue.

I cut out a large ‘3’ for Elsa to hold to personalise the cake a little more and glued this into place on the skirt before gluing the hand in place. This helps the arms to stay in place (glueing the hands) and lets you add a piece of rolled up kitchen paper under the elbow to keep the shape until it’s dry – which will take a good few hours.

The final step is to paint the arms with a glittery blue paint – I mixed a little food colour with white shimmer powder  and vodka and let it get quite runny. This gives the effect of a sheer sleeve. This took a few hours to dry.

How to make Elsa’s cape
Elsa Frozen cake - train

The cape was made out of pale blue sugar paste rolled quite thin. I cut it to shape then held it up against the cake to make sure it was a good fit. Once I was happy that the top would sit nicely at the shoulders and the base would just sit on the cake board I gave the edges a frill by rolling it with a Bulbulous Cone Modelling Tool. The cape was stuck onto the cake with royal icing. A piece of kitchen paper was positioned under the base of the cape and a layer of shimmer food colour – the same as used for the sleeves, was used to coat the whole cape to make it shimmer and shine.

 How to finish Elsa’s body
Elsa Frozen cake - shimmer

The last step for the body was to add a layer of glitter. I used a paint brush to coat the bodice with edible glue then used the tiniest amount of glitter on a dry brush. Too much glitter on your brush and it will go everywhere! Very slowly dab the glitter over the bodice then leave to dry before you touch it again.

How to make Elsa’s hair

Elsa Frozen cake -hair

Now it’s time to position the head. Cut the skewer down so the skewer won’t stick out the top of Elsa’s head and place the head in place. Use a little royal icing to secure her.

For the hair; roll out strands of pale yellow sugar paste and use three thicker ones to make a long plait. Secure the plait to the back of the head so it comes down over her shoulder. Add more strands from the top of her head so that they cover up the top for the plait. Use smaller strands to create Elsa’s fringe. Add a little glitter to the ends. Elsa Frozen cake - Belle

As Belle is a short name I was able to add it to the ‘3’. I thought a touch of glitter was needed here. All three year old girls love a touch of glitter!

Adding snowflakesElsa Frozen cake - back

To decorate the cake board I cut out some snowflakes with snowflake plunger cutters and added yet more glitter to them using edible glue. I cut some in half so they could be placed right up against the skirt so it looked like Elsa was walking on snow.

Before glueing the snowflakes in place I piped the birthday message then used royal icing to position the snowflakes.

Elsa Frozen cake - side view

This cake although looks quite complicated and time-consuming, actually didn’t take that long to make. The longest part is having to wait for the head and arms to harden- and the eyes to dry between each layer.

I was pretty happy with the end result but if I do it again I would make her neck a bit longer. Also as I was typing this up Darcey peered over my shoulder and said she looks a bit fat! I didn’t see that till she mentioned it so next time I’ll make her slimmer.Elsa Frozen cake

I really enjoyed making it though. Anyone need an Anna cake? She’s next on my want list!

EmmaMT

x
CakeCraftWorld

Kitchen Gadgets Review: Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 hand held blender

Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 hand held blender

I love to test a kitchen gadget but especially when it’s one that helps with your baking. This Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 hand held whisk is really clever. It has the ability to perform six tasks.

    • Processing
    • Creaming
    • Slicing
    • Shredding
    • Blending
    • Whisking

The Aura has a 600W  motor so it’s got the perfect amount of power to handle anything from whisking egg whites to grating cheese.

There are two attachments for the main stick. A stainless Steel blending leg which is for making smoothies, soups and pancake mixes till they are really smooth and creamy and a stainless steel whisk which will make really light work of egg whites for meringues.

Why it’s a winner

What makes this gadget a winner in my eyes is the 1.2 litre processing bowl. It’s just like having a food processor but without the cost or the weight! The three attachments that fit into the jug are the processing blade which is great for mixing up cake mixes and doughs – or in this post’s case, crushing biscuits into crumbs in a matter of seconds for a cheese cake base; the creaming disk which is for creating the smoothest of sauces and mayonnaise and the slicing / shredding disk which is great for grating carrots, cheese, courgettes etc- coleslaw anyone?  The list of what it can do goes on and on.

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Russell Hobbs sent me this Aura to test and set me the challenge of making a cheesecake with it and I have to say I haven’t stopped using it since. I’m currently making up a pancake recipe for a post I’m doing for Achica for pancake day and the stick blender made light work of mixing up all the different combinations I tried – and there were a lot! More on that in February. I also made a triple chocolate mouse to take to a friends last week and that involved a lot of whisking which the whisk handled with ease.

“So what about the cheesecake?”

I hear you cry? Well I made it. Chocolate cheesecake is my all time favorite cake (at the moment) I may have mentioned that before. So that’s what I made. But Tim doesn’t like it and the girls won’t touch cheesecake at all so…….. can you guess where this is going? I ate half of an 8″ double chocolate cheesecake on my own! And worst of all I didn’t even take a photo of it as my camera wasn’t working!!! So I decided to improve on my recipe when I was invited for a Christmas lunch with the Tennis mums, and that way I couldn’t eat the whole thing on my own. This time I made a chocolate cherry cheesecake and it was deelish. Maybe even better than the first one!  Half of that cheesecake came home (thanks to a delivery from Caroline – thanks hun) so I got to take pics with my now fixed camera and I very quickly took the rest round to my sisters…… after I had eaten another couple of slices. I really need to add a few more miles to my runs!

So here’s the recipe. It’s dead easy to make but even easier to eat and makes a great desert whether it’s Christmas, Easter or just for the hell of it.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake recipe

Chocolate cherry cheesecake recipe

For the base

  • 100g digestive biscuits – crushed to smitherines
  • 40g butter

For the cake

  • 600g full fat cream cheese (low fat ones just don’t work!)
  • 115g Caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs – separated
  • 280ml double cream
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tin of cherries drained – but keep the juice to one side.

For the Glaze

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 200ml the juice from the cherries – add water to make up to 200ml
  1. Line the bottom of an 8″ cake tin with silicon paper. Pre-heat your oven to 160C (140C for fan ovens)
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and add the biscuit crumbs. Stir till all the crumbs are coated. Press into the bottom of the cake tin and chill in the fridge while making the rest of the cake.
  3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and set in a bowl over a saucepan half filled with simmering water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water. Melt the chocolate then set aside to cool a little.
  4. Whisk the cream till it’s thick; but not solid then add the rest of the cake ingredients. Slowly add the cooled chocolate. I wanted there to be a few lines of plain cheesecake in with the chocolate cheesecake but I over mixed it!
  5. Finally add the drained cherries and mix – then pour the mixture over the biscuit base. Pop in the oven for 45 minutes. It will look a bit wobbly on top when it’s done. This is right. It will continue to set once out of the oven so just look for the edges of the cake to be coming away from the cake tin ever so slightly. Set aside to cool. The middle of the cake will sink a little. I like that. It means the glaze won’t dribble over the edge.
  6. To make the glaze place the cherry juice in a saucepan over a low heat and add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the flour slowly. I use a mini sieve to sprinkle it over the top of the liquid gradually and mix well as I add more. That way I don’t get lumps. Lumpy glaze. Yuck! Continue to stir and allow the mixture to bubble gently for 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool a little before pouring over the still warm cheesecake (which is still in the tin)
  7. Leave the cake with the glaze to cool completely then chill in the fridge over night (or for at least four hours).
  8. Remove the cake from the tin by placing a small bowl on your worktop and placing the cake tin on top. Press the cake tin down from the sides so the cake comes out. You should be able to remove the cake from the base of the cake tin but it’s not really necessary.
  9. Serve and eat within two days.

The first video review

I’ve been thinking about doing short 5 minute video reviews of kitchen gadgets on the blog for a while now so this seemed like the perfect time. It’s not long and it’s not professional but I hope you like it. Here’s the Russell Hobbs Aura 6 in 1 hand held blender

Enjoy!

EmmaMT x

Disclaimer: The product in this post was provided by  Russell Hobbs  (Thanks you guys I love it) All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own.

 

Melt in your mouth Lemon butter biscuits recipe

Lemon butter biscuitsI don’t know about you guys but we try not to have too many treats in the house over the Christmas break. We’re all at home, chilling and watching TV (or playing Minecraft if you’re my girls) and the temptation to pick and graze is a bit too much. But, by 28th December I was dreaming about biscuits and after making so many for other people for gifts I thought it was time to bake some just for us.

Lemon butter biscuits

These Lemon butter biscuits are really light and melt in the mouth. I had come up with the recipe (adapting it from an old favourite), made the mix and had them in the oven by 7.25am. Not bad when you’re on holiday from work. The first dozen I baked were really brown underneath so I baked the next lot for a shorter time. The corners were only just a little more than golden when I took them out of the oven and the tops looked a touch anaemic but it definitely improved the texture. They don’t look baked but trust me they are. They continue to cook for a few minutes while they sit on the baking tray cooling which makes them just perfect when they’re completely cooled.

Another thing I should mention is that I froze a small batch of these (or we probably would have eaten the lot – I made 35 from this recipe) so I can pop them in the oven if we have friends pop round unexpectedly. I love doing that.

Lemon butter biscuits recipe

(makes around 30-35)

  • 200g butter at room temperature
  • 200g caster sugar – sieved
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 rind and juice of a lemon
  • 370g plain flour- sieved
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Extra golden caster sugar for rolling the biscuits in.
  1. Line a baking tray with silicon paper and pre-heat your oven to 170ºC (Fan oven150ºC)

  2. Place all the ingredients into the bowl and mix. You can mix by hand or with a stand mixer but however you do it be careful not to over mix or the biscuits will become tough and will lose their lightness.

  3. Place the golden caster sugar into a bowl.  Roll a spoonful of biscuit dough into a ball so it’s around the size of a large walnut then roll it around in the caster sugar till it’s completely coated.

  4. Place on the baking tray and use a fork to press the ball down a little. These biscuits only spread a little bit.

  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are turning a deep golden brown colour – not brown-brown. Remove and leave to cool on the baking tray for ten minutes before transferring onto a rack to go complete cold.

Enjoy!

 

EmmaMT

xLemon butter biscuits

Merry Christmas bakers

Merry Christmas all you happy bakers out there. I wish you a very merry break over the holiday season.

Lots of love

EmmaMT

Amaretto and Apricot cake with ameretto buttercream and glaze

Amaretto cake with buttercream and glazeSometimes we all need a showstopper cake in our repertoire and this is one of mine.I love a bit of Amaretto and Apricot cake and I seem to be making more and more tall cakes with a touch of alcohol in the ingredients…. and I’m practically teetotal. Well, designated driver at least!

This is a cake I came up with after my lovely friend Jane gave me a beautiful bottle of Disaranno after I made her daughters Minecraft cake.( I’ll have to share that with you sometime. It was a girl version of this one.) The reason Jane bought me this rather than any other drink is because Dr Pepper is my drink of choice – I love the stuff, and amaretto and coke is like alchoholic Dr P. Very good on a school mum’s night out.

Anyway, I was talking to my sister about the disaranno and she said that Amaretto is made from apricots and I was surprised as I always thought it came from almonds. It turns out that it can be made from either.  What a good way to flavour a cake I thought. So I did.

 

Amaretto and apricot cake

For the cake

  • 150g dried apricots (cut into small pieces)
  • 100ml Amaretto
  • 175g butter at room temperature
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Amaretto
  • 200g self raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Amaretto Buttercream

  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp Amaretto (or 1 tsp almond extract)  this could be increased according to your preferred taste

Amaretto Glaze

  • 50g butter
  • 50ml honey
  • 1 tbsp ameretto
  1. Cut up the apricots into small pieces and soak in an air tight container for 24-72 hours – or longer if you want a boozier cake. Give the container a shake every now and then.
  2. To make the cake: Pre heat the oven to 180ºC (Fan oven160ºC) and line a deep 6″ cake tin or four 6″ sandwich tins- You can use disposable foil ones for a quick clean up.
  3. Place the sugar and butter in a bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs slowly and whisk thoroughly. Add the Amaretto
  5. Sieve the flour and baking powder over the mix and fold in gently.
  6. Add the chopped apricots and whatever Amaretto hasn’t been absorbed.
  7. Place the cake mix in the cake tin, smooth with the back of a spoon and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes for sandwich tins (40-50 minutes for a deep tin) until a skewer comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and after ten minutes take the cake/s out of the tins and leave to cool completely on a rack.
  9. Once the cake is completely cold whisk all the ingredients for the buttercream together in a bowl for 4-5 minutes until it’s really light and fluffy.
  10. Slice the large cake into four layers.
  11. Layer up the cake with a decent amount of buttercream between each layer finishing with a smooth top. You can use a palette knife or place the buttercream in a piping bag for a really easy assembly. Set to one side.
  12. To make the glaze place the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until melted. Add the honey and Amaretto then leave to bubble for 5-10 minutes until the liquid is a rich golden brown colour, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before pouring into a jug.
  13. When nearly completely cold pour the glaze over the whole cake so it dribbles down the sides. Ensure the glaze isn’t too warm or it will completely melt the butter cream.
  14. Serve straight away

Apricot and Amaretto cake

Enjoy!

 

EmmaMT

x

Gingerbread man wreath – the perfect Christmas gift

Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.comHave you ever been on the BakingMad.com website before? It’s jam packed full of tons and tons and TONS of recipes, loads of inspiration and a cakesbakesandcookies.com cake or two! (See here and here if you’re interested!)  They’ve really revamped the website since the last time I was on there. Now there’s an array of baking images to greet you from the get go. And if you’re looking for a touch of Christmas baking gift inspiration – I’m thinking teachers here, then there’s loads of choices there too.

Beau and Darcey always want to give ALL their teachers a Christmas gift, so that’s their class teacher, the teacher who has them when their class teacher is planning, the teacher’s assistant, the teacher that helps them with extra maths or English…. the list goes on and on and let’s face it I’m not made of money and I love to bake, so it’s a no brainer really. Enter Bakingmad.com and their gingerbread man wreath. How cute it this? Such a simple idea.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to be set the challenge of making one of their Christmas recipes to share with you guys (in exchange for a box load of flour, essence and some yummy Bilington’s sugars- thanks you guys!)

When the BakingMad team asked me which recipe I was going to make I said the peppermint candy canes, then the chocolate fudge cake and then finally I decided that it had to be this wreath. I have actually made the chocolate cake too but more on that in another post! Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.comThe wreath was super easy to make. You simply cut out  the shapes – I made some from gingerbread men and snowflakes. Place the biscuits on a sheet of silicon paper. I used circles of paper so I could follow the shape of the paper and keep it neat. Once all in position I gave the holding hands a gentle press just to make sure they stuck together whilst baking- and they did. I was surprised how well the wreath held together once baked but then I did make pretty thick biscuits!

Once out of the oven I threaded ribbon through the gaps. I made a few extra gaps with a metal skewer and finished off with a bow. Cute hey? I have to say that I really enjoyed making these. I was singing away to myself the whole time! Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.com

So, that’s the teachers sorted – now for the rest of the family!

Gingerbread man wreath with Bakingmad.com

So what are you guys making for gifts this year? I’d love to know.

 

EmmaMT

x

Beau’s 11th Birthday cakes – yes cakes! Plural

IMG_6759Beau turned 11 years old on the 14th November which just happened to be a Friday. Scouts is on Fridays, so I hatched a cunning plan. Her Scout group were going into London to see the poppies at The Tower of London. It was a ‘Poppies and Pizza’ evening but as there were 25 of them they couldn’t get a table in London and came back to the Bromley Pizza Express for the pizza part.

My cunning plan was to make a cake and deliver it to the Pizza Express while they were out. When I dropped Beau off at the train station I told the leader my plan but she wasn’t expecting me to make sure there was enough for everyone. She obviously doesn’t understand how a Jewish mum’s mind works. Food is king and there’s always enough to go around. IMG_6758

The cake was a 10″ Madeira cake with a mint green coloured buttercream filling. I also coated the cake in the same buttercream and rolled it in 100’s and 1000’s. I’ve made a few cakes now which are covered in sprinkles and I am yet to do it without making a huge mess!

How to decorate a cake with sprinkles

I always start by giving the cake a butter cream crumb coating followed by twenty minutes in the fridge for that first layer to firm up. I then add a second butter cream coating to the sides which the sprinkles stick to when I lift the cake up and hold it sideways between my hands from the top and bottom and roll it in a tray full of sprinkles. I then pop the cake back in the fridge for the butter cream and sprinkles to firm up enough to decorate the top of the cake. I add a generous amount of butter cream with a spatula to the top and give it 10 minutes to chill then I position the name and age cut out on the top and press down gently around the edges of the letters and numbers so no sprinkles can get underneath the paper. I then gently add sprinkles to the top. I brush off the excess with a bristle pastry brush and then – you’ve guessed it – pop it back in the fridge, this time for ten minutes. Then I remove the paper letters and numbers and carefully transfer the cake onto a cake board, put it in a box, take a few snap shots and shoot out to Pizza Express.

Beau was really stunned and I think just a little bit chuffed with the surprise. When the parents got there to collect their scouts there was tons of cake left over so there was definitely plenty to go around. We even cut some up for people to take home. I definitely didn’t want any at home as we had the second birthday cake and that was also a biggie.

The birthday party cake

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When I asked Beau what cake she wanted for her birthday party this year she already had it planned. Her one word answer was “Smarties”. For some strange reason she has got really into Smarties recently. I think it’s the boxes with the letters on the lids. Have I ever mentioned that Beau is really into crafting and a lot of that revolves around making things from boxes. I’m in big trouble if I try to throw out a toilet roll tube!

Well, for the cake she wanted to have two tiers and it be Madeira cake with chocolate butter cream as the filling and on the outside with the whole thing covered in Smarites. I chose to add a few of the Renshaw mini bean cake toppers to the cake to add a bit of scale. Tim managed to get hold of one of those tubes of just pink Smarties so I could use them for the words and ’11’. Beau loved it and I’m not sure how we managed to get the cake to the bowling party without any going missing!

IMG_2351 IMG_2362I think she liked it. Judging from this smile I think it was a winner! I must say that I seem to have a recurring theme with photos of my daughters and their birthday cakes. They always seem to be wielding massive knives! IMG_2359

I can’t actually believe that I now have an eleven year old. When did that happen. She’s so young and grown up all at the same time.

 

Happy Birthday Beau Beau Bob. We love you soooooo much. 

Mama. x

How to make your own vanilla essence

Vodka! Love it or hate it, it’s the super secret ingredient to making your own delicious vanilla essence and it’s super easy to do too! If you’re quick you could even have some ready to give as a gift this Christmas. I’ll show you how to make your own vanilla essence in under 10 minutes ….. plus a few weeks!

U’Luvka Vodka You can use any vodka but when it comes to a gift or when you want a really amazing flavour I suggest using a better quality one. I’ve used U’Luvka which is a super premium vodka (It’s won over 60 awards for its smooth, sippable and full flavoured taste) so you know you’re getting a top notch flavour. It’s also got this really cool bottle. Don’t you just love it?

 

How to make vanilla essence

How to make vanilla essenceStart off by cleaning and sterilising your bottles. I used miniatures of the U’Luvka Vodka so I just added the pods straight to the liquid.

How to make vanilla essenceVanilla pods are quite expensive from the supermarket costing around £2-3 for two pods. I bought 20 pods for £8.75  from  Amazon.co.uk and they are big and fat and full of seeds. Even when the packaging was sealed shut I could smell them! How to make vanilla essence

Take out two to three pods per 100ml of vodka and cut a slit down the centre so the seeds can escape. Scrape out the seeds from one pod and add it to the bottle. Now all you need to do is re-seal the bottle and store it for 4-6 weeks shaking it regularly so that the vodka really infuses with the vanilla seeds. How to make vanilla essenceAnd this is what it looks like after 6 weeks of shaking and infusing.

How to make vanilla essence

I would like to thank my lovely friend Cristina from Free Cakes for Kids  for this recipe. She very kindly gave me this beautiful bottle full of her home made vanilla essence (as you can see above) and I have to say that it’s still going strong-  and you can imagine how much baking I do! There’s still some left in the pretty bottle and she gave it to me back in July!

I didn’t believe Cristina when she told me how easy it is to make this vanilla essence as the taste is so much better than shop bought essence and it works out so much less expensive but it really is that easy.

So what have you got planned to make for Christmas gifts this year? I’d love to know!

EmmaMT

x

Special thanks to LOVEDRINKS.COM for sending me their cute mini bottles  U’Luvka vodka.// All opinions are my own.

Best for Baking: Silicone piping bag

 Silicone piping bags. Why I’m a new convert to after making these chocolate cupcakes

Silicon piping bag

Silicon piping bag

I must have walked past these silicone piping bags a ton of times. They sell them at Hobbycraft (a regular haunt of mine) and they’re available on Amazon too. I’ve always just used disposable piping bags in the past as I think they’re really easy to handle and just chuck away rather than clean up all that greasy butter cream when you’re done. But I figured at £5 it was worth a try. Good decision.

I had some cupcakes to make for Free Cakes For Kids so I thought that it was the perfect testing opportunity. When I make cupcakes for outside friends and family I measure the cake mix into each cupcake case. I know that sounds a bit OCD but it’s the only way I can get them almost even. I do try to be professional! The way I do this is by measuring each cupcake as I go. When using this piping bag it was a doddle.  The silicone piping bag has a smooth inside so the ingredients can be squirted out easily but it has a lightly textured outside so your sticky/wet hands can still grip it firmly. I have to admit I was surprised how easy it was to handle and control.

Silicon piping bag

When I fill a piping bag with cake mix I place it in a large jug, fold the edges over the top and then fill. If I’m filling a smaller bag I simply use a tall glass. This has been the easiest and cleanest way to fill a bag. Make sure that the bottom is folded up so no mixture can escape while you’re filling and if you need to stop half way through filling or decorating you can just pop it back in the jug or glass. Silicon piping bag

You can see how easy it is to fill cupcake cases using the silicone piping bag below. See? Not a drop out of place! Silicon piping bag

Once the cupcakes were baked and cool I added the buttercream topping. Test number 2. Again I made up the chocolate butter cream and filled the bag. This time I added a piping tip. As it’s a large tip I had to cut quite a bit off the end of the silicone piping bag so I think I would need to buy a second bag if I wanted to use it with some of my smaller royal icing tips but as I don’t use them that often I’ll see how I go.

Silicon piping bag

I was really happy with the end result. I think these are probably some of the most even looking cupcakes I’ve ever made and I put that down to using the silicone piping bag. So marks out of 10? I’d give it 8. Silicon piping bag

The end result was 24 pretty and yummy cupcakes boxed up and ready to deliver.

Super-flex silicone piping bag is available from Amazon.co.uk

Do you have and use a silicone piping bag? What do you think about them compared with disposable ones? I’d love to know.

EmmaMT

Cakes in Bloom: Peggy Porschen book review

Cakes in Bloom by Peggy Porschen Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomThis post has been a long time coming! I received this book ‘Cakes in Bloom Peggy Porschen‘ back in May when it was released and one thing and another (mainly a chance to take part in one of the Peggy Porschen flower master classes- which you can read about in the next post) it didn’t happen. It’s been on my to do list since then and it’s November! Where has the year gone?

About the book

So, this is a different kind of book to the others that Peggy has written. Yes, there are cake recipes – at the back (including Victoria sponge, rich dark chocolate cake and a luxury fruit cake) but it’s all about sugarpaste flowers. The flowers are so beautiful and shot so close up that when I showed my mum the book (I did get a bit over excited when I got my hands on it) she didn’t believe that the flowers weren’t real. They are the most realistic sugar flowers I have ever seen and I’ve seen these up close and in the flesh.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in Bloom

So what’s the best thing about this book? Or rather why is it a winner in my eyes?  Well, apart from the stunning flower creations by Peggy – it has to be the photography. Georgia Glynn Smith you are a pro! The shots are sheer perfection for a complete sugar flower making beginner like myself. I’ve never really gone further in detail than with a simple rose or a rose bud and maybe a few blossoms cut out with a plunger cutter. These flowers look so complicated and like you need so much equipment but that isn’t the case. Now, I know that I have quite a lot of equipment and cutters are a big part of my collection but I found a ton of blooms I could make straight away without having to purchase anything else.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in Bloom

I’m going to be completely honest here. I’m not much of a flower on a cake sort of a person. But I was so intrigued by the book I had to have a go and just as the book landed I had a cake request with loads of flowers on. Funny how that happens isn’t it? The first bloom I attempted from the book was a Dahlia. It looked okay. I used sugar paste instead of flower paste. Flower paste is much sturdier and can be rolled out so it’s see through and thin like paper. It makes really delicate flowers. Sugar paste still makes a good flower but no where near as realistic. Sugar paste also takes an age to dry out.

My Dahlia took me absolutely aaaages to make. I hadn’t planned this into my cake design and I was up all night because I was enjoying making the flowers so much I wanted to make three to five of them. But I loved every minute of it. Had I read the instructions before I attempted to make them for a cake I would have realised that I needed to make some parts the day before so they had time to dry out. Oh well- I knew for the next time.

So, back to the book….Cakes in bloom by Peggy Porschen

 

Contents include:-

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomSugar flower basics

How to get started, the basic tool kit and specialist tools that are a bit new to me too. There’s also a whole section devoted to flower paste.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomFlower designs

Okay- deep breath. The flowers covered are Spring blossom, purple Pansies, Frangipani, Carnation Pomanders, Roses and Lily of the valley, Snowballs, Dahlias, Daisy wreath, tumbling hydrangeas, roses and violets, Iceland poppies, White rose and petals, Ombre petals, Sweetpea posy, English garden roses, Climbing Cosmos, Peonies, Chrysanthemum trees, white Orchids, Blush Anemones, Vintage blooms, cherry blossom, Camellia Lace and Floral cascade!!!

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomBaking and icing basics

I really like the ‘planning ahead’ section on what you should do on each day. I need to adhere to this a bit more. There’s also details on baking tools, how to line a cake tin, the cake recipes including butter creams, how to layer cakes, covering cakes with marzipan and sugar paste. How to dowel a cake, ice a cake board, then there’s a whole section on royal icing.

Quantity guides

These pages show you how much ingredients you need for different cake tin sizes, how much sugar paste, marzipan, ganache etc you need for different cakes.

Sugar flower glossary

Just in case you don’t know how to do a technique Peggy explains it in full in this section. Dusting anyone?

Suppliers

Where to buy Peggy’s tools and equipment

The book is really beautifully laid out. Loads of space and load of amazing pictures. The step by step shots for each arrangement are really, really thorough. I’ve been sent quite a few ‘how to make flower’ books for review here on CakesBakesAndCookies.com but none of them have been good enough to feature. I have to say that EVERY step is covered in this book. There’s no guess work. Anyone can make these flowers – just make sure you leave yourself enough time!

So armed with all of this information don’t you just want to have a play at flowers? I reckon this book will be a good Christmas present so if you have a list (well it is November after all) then I would pop this on it. You won’t be disapointed!

Oh and just in case you wanted to see my cake with my first attempt at Peggy Porschen flowers on it. Here it is. Not bad for a first attempt.Flower cake

EmmaMT x

Cakes in Bloom: Exquisite Sugarcraft Flowers for All Occasions by Peggy Porschen, £25 published by Quadrille

Disclaimer: The product in this post was provided by  Quadrille Publishing All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own.

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