I want to share something with you. I get scared before I make any new cake. There. I said it! It’s not a confidence thing or an experience thing. It’s a perfectionist thing. I want each cake to be worthy of a customer at Fortnum and Mason. I want the birthday boy to say ‘Wow’. I want the anniversary couple to say “It’s too good to cut” and that’s the fear that holds me back each time.
I’ve had loads and loads of new comments and questions on the blog this week on different posts from the past, some about measurements, some about how to sugarpaste a specific design and most had this common fear. The aprehension we amateurs all feel just before we are about to slice a cake in half- “Eeeek I hope it cuts level” or shape it, – “Is it going to be even on both sides?” (in my case probably not!). “How on earth am I going to get the arms to stick on the sides without them falling off”. “How many road bumps are there on the way to the party?”. With a cake in the boot it’s a very slow ride – hands up who’s been there, done that? But mostly the fear comments this week been about baking big cakes for the first time.
So, I’m putting it out there. It’s a fear of the unknown and we’ve all been there. It doesn’t go away with experience. I’ve been making cakes for 4- 5 years now and I still get nervous when I have a new or tricky design to work out. But what I will say is I have learnt to plan waaaay in advance (Tim stop laughing. I said plan not start!) and that you have to actually cut the cake to get the shape not just stand there and stare at it so ‘Just do it’. You have to slice a cake in two to add buttercream so, ‘Just do it‘. Just don’t think about what could go wrong and get that knife out and slice! Do it, do it , DO IT!!!
So, what are your biggest fears when cake baking, slicing and decorating? I’d love to know. Why not post a comment below and share your fears?
Oh and by the way the pics above are just a few of my flops, wonky cakes and cakes with bits that have fallen off on route – wedding cake included!!
- My poor nephew Asher! It always seems to be his cakes that get the rough treatment. This is the castle cake I made for him last year. I couldn’t get the turrets to stick and stand upright and by the time I had cut it out there wasn’t as much cake as I wanted. This year he got a wonky Legoman. It’s a good job he loves me.
- Dahlia’s ‘lets not think this through and try to deliver a cake already on a cake stand cake!’ I only had to drive one mile. I only got around the corner!
- My little nephew Lawrence’s 1st birthday cake – steps to come soon. I couldn’t get the face to look cute. He just looked angry!
- This is a coffee cake I made when my sister held a tea and cake charity afternoon. Hot cake + buttercream = big mess!!
- I made this cake for my sister in a big rush and the diamond ring and box were far too wonky!
- How deep is this cake? Not at all!
- Before I learnt how to stop a cake from doming. I used to have a lot of waste or should that be increased waist!
- Shortbread. It’s my enemy when a mould is involved !!!!!
- This was a cake I made for my mum to take to her quilting class to celebrate her 40th Wedding anniversary. Although I love the way the cake looks the ’40′ isn’t central or straight. It bothers me every time I see this pic.
- The anniversary cake I made for my parents on their 40th Wedding anniversary for our family meal. It was supposed to be a replica of their wedding cake. Can you tell what it is? No it’s not a letter ‘U’. It’s a horse shoe…… honest!
How much do you like pancakes? We love them in our house- well me and the girls do anyway and I am sure that’s due to the amount of honey and maple syrup we put on them! We like all flavours and even when I sneak fruit into them the girls still love them so I thought I’d share my recipes for this year with you all.
But, before I get to the pancakes I have to back up a bit.
Have you ever walked through a supermarket and seen some electrical kitchen gadgets and thought
“Oh I could really do with a new blender/microwave/ kettle/ toaster- but how do I know this own brand stuff is up to scratch? I’ll have to go home and Google some reviews!”
Well, I know I have. I’ve walked past this hand held mixer in Sainsburys so many times but something was always holding me back. I think it was the desire to have a Kitchenaid or Dualit mixer – a named brand. So, when I got an email from Sainsburys about pancake day I knew it was fate! They sent me the mixer to give a ‘test run’ and I have to say it was love at fist whisk.
Why is this Sainsburys five speed hand held mixer a winner?
To start with it’s fast. I mean REALLY fast. Even speed No.1 whizzes round at 100 miles an hour. It also has a turbo button for when you want to add speed for just a second. It’s easy to use and has a really sturdy base for when the whisks are left dripping over a bowl. Mixers I’ve had in the past have been really unstable and needed propping up which is really annoying.
It comes with stainless steel beaters for cake mixes and to turn egg whites into stiff peaks in minutes as well as dough hooks to make tasty breads. I can’t wait to give it a go with cakes. So far I’ve only made pancake batter with it and I got a bit carried away. You know what it’s like when you have a new toy? You do what you need to do. Enjoy it. Then look around for what else you can whisk- hence I have three pancake recipes for you today!
So I am seriously impressed with the Sainsburys Kitchen Collection 5 Speed Hand Mixer, £29.99 http://www.Sainsburys.co.uk It was so much better than I expected and at this price a bargain!
Apple and cinnamon pancake recipe
- 1/2 pink milk
- 150g (1 cup) Self Raising flour
- 1 egg
- 1 Apple- peeled and grated
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- A little oil for the frying pan
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Heat up your frying pan then place a little amount of batter in the centre. Leave to cook until the edges are done and the middle looks almost done. You will get a few bubbles throughout the pancake. That’s when to flip it and give it a minute or two on the other side.
Pile ‘em up and enjoy!
Banana and Honey pancakes
- 1/2 pink milk
- 190g (1 ¼ cup) Self Raising flour
- 1 egg
- 1 banana mashed
- 2 tbsp honey
- A little oil for the frying pan
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Heat up your frying pan then place a little amount of batter in the centre. Leave to cook until the edges are done and the middle looks almost done. These pancakes are quite thick so cook them up on a lower heat for a little longer but watch that they don’t burn. They’ll be a bit squidgy when they are cooked and really hot!
Blueberry and choc chip pancake recipe
- 1/2 pink milk
- 150g (1 cup) Self Raising flour
- 1 egg
- 50g choc chips – I used dark but anything goes
- 100 blueberries – crushed just a little so they can be covered in batter
- A little oil for the frying pan
Place the milk, flour and egg in a bowl and whisk till blended. Add the blueberries and choc chips and blend again. Heat your frying pan till moderately hot and add some batter to the middle. Once the edges start to cook through turn the pancake over. The choc chips do burn quite quickly so keep a close eye on them. Once done remove and carefully wipe the frying pan with some oiled kitchen paper. You’ll need to clean the frying pan after each pancake – but trust me, it’s worth it. You end up with a moist, chocolately tangy pancake. These were definitely my favourite!
I made these pancakes yesterday, placed them on a plate and covered them in cling film then popped them in the fridge. This morning we had some for breakfast. I popped them in the microwave to heat them through (just for 10 seconds). They were just as delicious. Don’t try and be clever like I did this morning and put them in the toaster! Let’s just say it doesn’t work!!!!!!
Happy pancake day bakers
Disclaimer: The product in this post was provided by Sainsburys for review. All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own
One of the questions I seem to have been asked a lot recently is
“How long can I keep a Madeira cake for?”
The official answer is 1 week in an airtight container and 3 months when frozen.
How long I keep it for.
PHASE ONE: When I have a cake to make for a Saturday party I bake on Wednesday (usually at night once the kids are in bed- so late!) and as soon as it is completely cold I wrap it in cling film. I don’t put it in a tin as it tends to sweat and the outside edge gets sticky – yuck! I leave it on the kitchen work surface. Avoid storing your cake in the fridge. It does something to the butter in the cake mix and makes it go all hard.
PHASE TWO: On Thursday I cut the cake in half and add the buttercream and jam filling shape and give it a crumb coating. Then I cover it in sugarpaste. Once it’s completely covered in sugarpaste it is essentially sealed and airtight. The buttercream coating keeps it moist and the sugarpaste seals it in.
PHASE THREE: If it’s a simple cake I can finish the decorating on Thursday (unlikely). If it’s a more complicated cake design I will finish it off on Friday and won’t go to bed till it is completely done. That is sometimes VERY, VERY late – or should I say very early in the morning. Of course this is because I work full time and can’t do cake decorating with little sticky fingers swiping as much sugarpaste into their mouths as possible! So I do it all in the evenings once the wrigglers are in bed. If I had the day time to do my cake decorating I would bake on Thursday and decorate on Friday.
What about once it’s been cut?
Really if the cake was baked on Wednesday and cut on Saturday it should be eaten within 2-3 days, but it’s like bread. The slice that is left in the open (ie isn’t covered in sugarpate and buttercream) goes a bit stale. Cut that off and what’s underneath is still fresh and tasty.
My mum always makes a huge rectangular cake – whatever the celebration. Way more than we can eat at one party. The left over cake gets cut up into huge chunks (teh equivalent to a 6″ square cake) for each family. Once eating it at home we slice it into slim pices to make it last the whole week and it’s still good at the end of that week…… if it lasts that long.
Freezing Madeira cake
If you want to freeze Madeira cake you can. Once it is completely cold wrap it in two layers of cling film and freeze for up to three months. It will take about an hour to defrost on a wire cooling rack. Never cover a cake that isn’t completely defrosted with buttercream or marzipan or sugarpaste. You will end up with a sticky gooey mess!
Can I freeze a decorated cake?
Yep, you can. But the icing/ sugarpaste will become tacky once it’s defrosted so only do this once you have celebrated your occasion and you are freezing left overs. It will still taste as good as new it just might not look so pretty.
Hope that helps
Whenever we go to someone’s house for a play date (can you still call it that when your wrigglers are so big?) I like to take something home made with us. It doesn’t always happen (hence I love last minute freezer cookies so much) and this week is no exception. I made a big batch of freezer cookies after a slight mishap when the kids baked on their own- using a tbsp of bicarb of soda AND baking powder instead of a tsp. You can see how they could make that mistake. It created some very large burnt and yet uncooked splats. You couldn’t even call them cookies. I would share the pics with you but Beau would go mad! Even though she and her friends ate most of them up!
Anyway, I felt really bad for them as they were really looking forward to eating their cookies so I whipped up another batch while they were playing – thinking that I would have a ton left for another catch up tomorrow. Yeah right. Like home made cookies last more than a day in our house!
So, that’s why I whipped up these peanut butter cookies last night. They were one of the first biscuits I ever made as a kid and I loved them then nearly as much as I love them now. They’re kind of soft spongy cookies, just a little crunch on the outside edge and squidgy in the middle and not too peanutty.
Peanut cookie recipe
Makes about 25
- 125g butter at room temperature
- 150g brown sugar
- 125g crunchy peanut butter
- 1 egg – lightly beaten
- 150g self raising flour
- Beat the sugar and butter together till smooth then add the peanut butter and stir in.
- Add the beaten egg and combine.
- Sieve the flour over the mixture then mix till just combined.
- Use two teaspoons to place dollops of cookie mix onto a piece of greaseproof paper - about the size of a large walnut. Leave in the fridge for at least two hours (you can get away with chilling for one, but they bake better the longer you leave them for) You can also bake them straight from the freezer.
- Heat your oven to 190ºC and once chilled bake your cookies for 10 minutes exactly (12 minutes if baking from frozen)
- The cookies will puff up and look underdone. Don’t worry they are baked to perfection. When you remove them from the oven they will deflate as they cool and have that nice crinkled cookie texture. Leave them on a cooling rack till cold – if you can. Then devour with a cuppa!
I love butter. I mean I REALLY love it. I spread it on way too thick and I make toast/crumpets/hot cross buns just so I can eat it. So, you can understand my excitement when I saw Lakeland’s newest and exclusive gadget.
The butter maker
It has never occurred to me to make my own butter. It’s the one ingredient I run out of the most when making cakes. Tim says I should buy shares in President butter! When I saw this gadget I knew I had to have a test run and I am so glad I did. It made me really happy. Funny how making something from scratch can give you such a buzz.
It’s so easy to make. The ‘Chef ‘n butter’ ‘jar’ has two ends. At one side is a plastic white lid which becomes a ramekin dish for you to store the butter in. The other side has holes at the end so you can use it as a sieve and to drain the liquid off. This is sealed with another lid. On the side of the clear jar are measurements for different butter recipes – the honey one will keep Darcey happy. Have you heard of Honey butter? I haven’t!
You use cream to make butter and basically you place 1 cup of cream in the jar and leave it to stand at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Once it has sat you shake the jar for three minutes. After one minute the cream has turned from a smooth white liquid to a more creamy coloured clotted cream texture. After two minutes it looks like the cream has curdled. Then after three minutes you suddenly feel like there is a ball inside the jar and you can hear liquid sloshing around with a lump of butter. The liquid is buttercream.
This was another winner in my books. I needed buttercream for a muffin recipe I wanted to try out so I kept the buttercream to use later. Once the buttermilk is removed you take out the butter and rinse it under cold water then place it in a container……
…. or spread it on a hot cross bun and devour! As the butter is made from cream it’s very creamy. Much more than shop bought ones. I used double cream but I can’t wait to try other creams and add flavours and salt. I’m also thinking that this would make a superior buttercream for cupcakes- if only I didn’t eat it all up before I bake some!
So far I’ve made three batches (in two days. New obsession?) It’s easy fun and absolutely delicious.
Disclaimer: The product in this post was provided by Lakeland for review. All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own
Sometimes cakes go wrong! Sometimes they go REALLY wrong and other times, if you’re lucky, you can get away with it. Like when it’s a cake for your 6 year old nephew!
Asher is mad on Lego and wanted a Lego Policeman birthday cake this year. “No problem” I said. Anything for the other man in my life. I thought. And then he gave me his little Lego policeman and I had to make it! What was I thinking? I was completely stumped. How was I going to get the proportions right? How would I make him stand up without falling over? There were endless questions and not all of them were answered.
How I made a Lego man birthday cake and where I went wrong
1. The arms were too heavy
I started off with four Madeira cakes made using almond rather than vanilla essence (try it. You won’t go back) One square 6″ cake was for the legs and feet, one 5″ square cake for the body. One small 4″ pie tin for the head and one loaf tin (half filled) for the arms. This was mistake number one! The arms didn’t need to be made from cake covered in buttercream and sugarpaste. They should have been thinner and made just of sugarpaste. That way they would have stuck to the side of the cake better.
Each cake was cut to size and shaped.
And was then covered in a buttercream crumb coating and then a top coating of buttercream which was smoothed as much as possible.
I thought that covering a square cake in sugarpaste when it was turned up onto one side was going to be impossible but it wasn’t too difficult. I made sure that the sugarpaste was really thick when it was rolled out so that when I picked it up to smooth it over the cake it moulded perfectly without cracking or tearing.
Next the legs were covered in blue sugarpaste. I made a neat line in the cake for the crease in the trousers.
2. Where’s the support?
I used one plastic dowel to support the top half of the cake and keep him upright – which didn’t actually work! I thought that if the dowel went from the cake board right up to his head then that would be enough to keep him sitting – not slouching. It didn’t work!
What I should have done was placed a thin cake board underneath the body part of the cake and supported him from underneath in the legs. Then had another small cakeboard under the head cake and supported through the body. Cake is heavy, especially when there’s a ton of sugarpaste on top.
The head was cut to size and shaped then the face was added.
PC Legoman is a cheeky chappy complete with stublble.
3. I added stubble
Now I wanted to make the little Lego figure’s face as close to the one Asher had given to me to copy. I made the eyes out of black and white sugarpaste and then used black food colour gel on a dry paint brush to create the stubble. In hindsight a 6 year old doesn’t really need stubble on his birthday cake and it just made the cake look a bit dirty.
4. Too much hair makes your cake top heavy!
I used a ton of black sugarpaste to make the hair and although it looked good when I finished it was so heavy that it weighed down the rest of the cake making it impossible for the Lego man to stay upright. What I should have done was to leave as much cake on the top of the head and add as little black sugarpaste as possible. This is the one time you want the cake to dome!
After I attached the arms and head I had the cake resting against a food box. It was supposed to support the cake just while the arms were ‘sticking’. I turned my back for literally a minute and when I turned back again he had fallen backwards, leaning right on the box causing a massive crease all the way across the back of the cake. To make matters worse the arms just wouldn’t stay on. I gently rubbed the back sugarpaste to blend the crease in but it was just too deep. I had to leave it.
5. The hands weren’t quite right.
I wished I had made the hands well in advance so they were hardened and stayed in shape but I didn’t have the time with this cake so, I had to make them on the day. In future when I make a Lego man cake (because I am not beaten yet!) I will make the arms and hands in advance when I cover the cake board so that they are really firm and I can place cocktail sticks in them to attach them to the cake with sugarpaste.
All I can say is that Asher liked the cake and at the end of the day (when PC Lego man did literally topple over!) that’s all that matters.
Happy Birthday Asher. I love you. xx
I get press releases emailed me on a daily- no, make that hourly basis and I get tons and tons of baking/cooking/cupcake product ideas sent to me to test/play with / eat up and from the PR’s point of view hopefully feature. I usually resist the urge to show you absolutely everything, but I really couldn’t with these cake tins. How cute are they?
Cake slice tins
They’re from a company called ‘The Contemporary Home‘ and I have been a fan of theirs for a long time. They sell tons and tons of cute and unusual home wares – great for my styling job. I really love these tins. I’m actually a bit of a tin fan. I have quite a few for cakes but I have literally tons for my crafting. One for buttons, one for embroidery threads. I’ve even just inherited some really vintage ones from my grandma which hold her old needles.
So you can see why these took my fancy. I mean who doesn’t need a cake slice tin to hold a bit of lemon drizzle cake or a touch of Vicky sponge? They also have some really cute tins in the shape of a chocolate Bourborn biscuit and a custard cream. So cool!
Have a great weekend bakers.
Back in November Beau celebrated her 10th Birthday. My kids usually know what cake they want for their birthdays. Well, they know for about 10 minutes and then they change their minds about 100 times! But this year it was all about the penguin with Beau. I have absolutely no idea where this new obsession came from but all I do know is that we now have a cushion (half made but I’m working on it), mittens, a onesie and a cuddle cushion to name just a few of the recent penguin additions to our house.
Beau has been very creative and independent from a very young age and this year she gave me a drawing of exactly what she wanted her Penguin birthday cake to look like – complete with goldfish and bows in the hair. I love the little comments she put on there and that she even included what she wanted the board to look like and where to position the penguin’s feet! I think I’m going to be having bigger challenges as the years go on… or maybe she’ll be making her own cakes soon!
How to make a penguin cake
Beau decided that she wanted the actual cake to be “sky blue”. That was until I added blue food colour to a yellow cake mix and ended up with a green cake! Not to worry. It still looked good. I started off by baking three Madeira cakes in 4, 6 and 7” round cake tin. I loosely stacked them to check that the basic shape was going to work then I levelled the bottom two cakes and left the top one rounded for the head. I filled the cakes with raspberry jam and buttercream and placed a plastic food dowel through the whole cake to add stability.
The next step was to cover the cake in a crumb coating of buttercream, pop it in the fridge (yes I had to remove shelves from the fridge) to firm up. Then I gave the cake a top coating of buttercream which I smoothed as best I could.
Black sugarpaste is notoriously sticky but the plus side is that it is really easy to knead and roll out. It does tend to stretch and tear easily so try to keep the thickness of the sugarpaste 5mm or more. To cover the cake carefully lift the rolled out sugarpaste over the penguin. Smooth the top of the head first then smooth down the sides.
As long as the sugarpaste is thick enough you’ll be able to gently ease the sugarpaste around the neck area in (when you do this it looks like your strangling the penguin) Move your hands around it’s neck till you have a good definition between the head and the body. Smooth all over and remove the excess at the bottom.
I wanted the cake board (or cake stand in this case) to look like an iceberg sitting on some choppy water so I rolled out some really thick blue sugarpaste then positioned it over the cake stand and poked my fingers into it- carefully so that I didn’t go through to the stand. I then rolled out some white icing and softened the edges with my fingers.
To stick the cake in place I used a little royal icing o the iceberg then position the penguin in place.
I added a pretty pink bow to the top of the head with royal icing.
Next were the wings and then the feet and beak – all made from sugarpaste. Make sure the feet sit underneat the tummy.
The white tummy was added next. Be sure not to roll the white sugarpaste out too thinly or the black tummy will show through.
To make the eyes I used three circle cutters. It’s amazing what expressions you can get with a strategically placed white dot! The end result? A very happy Beau at her sleepover party. When this picture was taken she was in fits of laughter and didn’t want anyone to cut the cake up. Then I gave her a big knife to slice it up and it didn’t last very long at all.
I’ve made this cake a lot recently. And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean about five times in the last month. It all started when I was going to my sister’s house for FNC (a.k.a Friday Night Candles – that’s a family dinner followed by lighting Shabbat candles) I wanted to make a dairy free apple cake as we were going to be having a meat dinner (keeping kosher means not mixing foods with meat and milk in) and I had tons of apples. I had most of the ingredients for the recipe I’d found but not all of them …. well actually I had about half of the ingredients. What I didn’t have I substituted and as usual I made it up as I went along and hoped for the best. I have to say that it was one of my biggest successes. My dad loved it and even the kids who were well into their Friday night sweets came back for seconds.
I made this cake again the week before Christmas with peaches which Tim says is the best one (and I agree even though I think peaches look like goldfish and that normally puts me off eating them!) It was good. I simply cut the peaches up into thin slices and placed them directly on the cake batter then baked.
I also made it with tinned cherries for a New Years Eve dinner party. It tasted okay but no where near as good as the apple and peach versions. I think pear would probably taste good too. Actually, I think pretty much anything will work when it comes to this cake.
You can eat it cold but it tastes much better warmed through with a dollop of icecream.
Apple and Almond cake recipe.
- 125ml sunflower oil
- 180g light brown sugar
- 2 eggs- lightly beaten
- 130g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp almond essence
- 6-8 apples (I used Braeburn)
(You can get American conversions for this recipe here)
How to make the cake
- Peel, core and slice the apples in to quarters then cut each quarter into three.
- In a large saucepan of boiling water parboil the apple slices for 5 minutes. Drain and set to one side to cool.
- Grease and line an 8″ tin. Heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan)
- Combine the oil and sugar then add the eggs.
- Add the almond essence.
- Sieve the flour and baking powder onto the wet ingredients and fold in.
- Pour the mixture into your cake tin then place the cooled apples in a pretty design on top of the cake mix and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.
- It’s baked when a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake without any cake mix on it.
So what are you making this weekend. I’d love to know. Whatever it is I hope you have a good one.
Frequently Asked Questions: How to stop your cake baking too quickly on the outside
Just look at this beautiful 10″ Madeira cake. If you follow me on my CakesBakesAndCookies.com Facebook page you’ll have seen this cake already. I made it back in November and had a little play with baking a cake that didn’t finish baking on the outside before it was ready on the inside. And the trick is so simple!
It’s great news!
Well, not news as much as newspaper. I simply took three sheets of newspaper*, overlapped each sheet and folded them over three times. I then wrapped the long length of newspaper around the tin and tied it with natural string (natural string is very important as some string is coated in plastic and that isn’t a good taste for cake!) I tied it securely and then baked the cake as normal for the same amount of time. The result was amazing. A really light outer edge. Not over baked. Just super scrummy!
Since originally writing this post I was asked whether newspaper ink is toxic. I didn’t think it was but wanted to double check so I spoke with a printing press engineer who said that he thought it would be okay but to be on the safe side you should only use ‘food standard quality’ paper around your baking tins. So, newspaper isn’t such a great choice after all. Instead we should use greaseproof or baking paper folded a few times and then wrapped around your baking tin. Sorry for the confusion.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on. I guarantee it will improve the bake on any big cake.