So go on then. How many times have you carved a pumpkin and don’t even bother to scoop out the insides? We’ve all done it but this year – like last, I scooped out enough to feed a small army and that was with just one daughterling. The other one didn’t even get her’s carved! Teenagers! So we have a whopper of a pumpkin to use and it’s the second week in November. So, I did what every good cake blogger does. I baked!
Every year I give my mum the pumpkin flesh as she makes killer chutney with it but this year I made a cake and still had plenty left over to share. This pumpkin cake is really moist and quite heavy. It’s a slow bake cake and is the kind you could use to stack for a tiered cake. Perfect for an October wedding cake maybe? Think of it as a carrot cake made with pumpkin. It’s topped with a cream cheese frosting – the recipe for which I got from Jane Curran, the food editor on Woman&Home. It’s the only cream cheese frosting recipe I use. It can’t be beaten. It also lasts a long time. Once decorated we were still eating this cake a week later and it was fine.
I know, I know. It’s been a while since I last posted. And even then the months before were a bit…. let’s just say sporadic. After 5 years of blogging practically every week I had a bit of a ‘moment’.
I stopped making birthday cakes for friends.
I stopped baking.
I just stopped everything.
So I thought I’d share what’s been going on and explain.
You see blogging takes a lot of time. Seriously a LOT. Apart from stopping to take shots of cakes I’m decorating – which seriously slows down to the whole 9 hour decorating process. It takes me around two hours to edit, label and tag the images, make openers and do all the behind the scenes SEO stuff and a further hour or two to write up the recipes and share the details. And my grown up work got busy. I just stopped finding the time. I didn’t get up at 6am at the weekend to do my blogging. I slept in. Something I never do.
So what happened?
At the beginning of the year I decided to start a cake podcast. I joined a podcasting community and got two terrific accountability partners. I had logos professionally designed. I bought a top notch microphone. I’d drawn up lists of all the great cake/bakers I could interview. The whole shbang. And then I felt flat. I wasn’t excited about it. I mean I REALLY wasn’t excited about it. Something wasn’t sitting right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then it hit me. I’m an Interior Stylist who bakes. I’m not a cake decorator or a real baker. I’m amateur and just because I have this terrific audience (and you are terrific) it doesn’t mean that’s what I want to be known for. I want to be known for my styling work. So I pivoted.
I had this sudden realisation that I wanted my podcast to be about Interiors. In doing a lot of thinking, planning and research I had my idea ready to execute but instead of just setting up a podcast it has turned into a fully fledged business idea. It has taken a lot of my time and a lot of planning but what actually happened is I just stopped baking and blogging in general. I’m still building that business idea now and it will be launching it at the end of the year.
Around this time my styling work got busy. The busiest it’s ever been. I went from shooting once or twice a month to shooting every week from the moment the girls went back to school in September till – well it’s still going on now in November. I’ve literally had back to back shoots with no time for anything else. It’s hard to explain my work as it’s all encompassing. It’s not the kind of thing you can just switch off from. I work from home and around my family’s needs and a lot of the time there are so many props in my house it looks like a junk yard! I use the kitchen as a painting studio and write my copy late into the night so I can do the gymnastics/drama/cubs/scout runs and I just haven’t had the desire or bandwidth to bake. These are a few shots of my kitchen mid shoot/press launch. Eughk!
I did bake. I baked a lot. Each time I thought “I should shoot that and share it on the blog” and it got eaten up so I didn’t. That’s happened a few times in the last few weeks and a strange thing happened. I got the joy of baking back. I find I’m looking for any excuse to bake. There’s a pumpkin cake, white, dark and cherry chocolate cookies and vanilla biscuits sitting in my kitchen right now. I have always found baking relaxing and now I think I will be putting a load of weight on!
So what I am trying to say is I am back but a little less often. I love writing this blog. It’s my baby. I know I have followers and I have lots of hits each month but I really didn’t think anyone would notice if I stopped writing and posting. I was wrong. So many people have asked if the blog was broken or if I had given up or why they weren’t receiving posts anymore. I nearly did give it up. I nearly sold this blog. But I couldn’t. I just love it too much.
So here’s to another five years or more of baking. Let’s get fat together!
If I get asked for one recipe (other than Madeira cake) over and over again it’s lemon cake. You guys seem to really love it. I haven’t made a ton of lemon cakes so I needed to find an opportunity to make one just so I could share it with you. Now, my ever expanding hips don’t want me to just make a cake and have it sitting looking at me every time I walk into the kitchen so I needed to have an opportunity to take it out of our house. I can’t for the life of me remember where I took this Lemon Victoria Sponge cake. I know there were kids involved and I know I had to apologize for having cut a slice to take photos and I then put it back again to take it with us. I don’t think any of my friends mind that one little bit!
The opportunity to make this Lemon Victoria Sponge Cake was also well timed as I needing to find a recipe that I could use the brand spanking new baking tools from JosephJoseph on – you know the ones I was talking about last week in the lemon curd recipe? Well the two newest products are the Fin bowl scraper and the Glaze – fillable pastry brush. That is why this regular lemon Victoria Sponge cake became a whopper of a beast. Cake +lemon curd + creme fraiche + lemon syrup glaze!
The Fin is very easy to hold and manoeuvre around the inside of a bowl. As you can see from the photos above it leaves next to no cake mix once it’s been scraped around. This is one of those really handy bits of baking kit and in true JosephJoseph style it’s ergonomic and has a wide base so it will stand up on it’s own and not leave smears of cake mix all over your kitchen. The Glaze is going to be a very handy piece of kit for me. I add sugar syrup to all my Madeira cakes so this will make it a much cleaner and easier job. Glaze comes with two lids – one with lots of holes which is perfect for adding glazes and the other with one central hole which will make light work of egg washing pastry. The pastry brush simply fits over whichever lid you choose. The bottle is soft silicone so you can squeeze it to allow the contents to flow out to your desired speed. The bottle is really tactile as it’s so soft. You just want to squidge it.
As you can see from the shots above I used it to glaze the top of the cake and then not content with the amount of sugar already in this cake I proceeded to dribble even more lemon glaze over the sides! To say this was a sweet and tangy cake would be an understatement.
I’ve been using this fab tool to glaze my cakes and I simply pour the warm glaze into the bottle and then leave it to cool down before adding the lid and brush. It’s so much easier than using a pastry brush and bowl as you don’t get those sticky, sugary drips all over the place. The last point to make about the Fin is that the whole unit is dishwasher safe. No brainer really.
When I asked Darcey what cake she would like for her birthday this year she actually said
” I want a caterpillar cake”
Now I have absolutely nothing against Marks and Spencer cakes. I love M&S and for a long time was ever so slightly, completely addicted to their profiteroles. Have you tried them? They’re devilishly good! Anyway.
“CATERPILLAR!” I replied. “You have got to be joking” A slightly crumpled Darcey replied –
“WellI don’t know – something that’s just me then”
So I got my thinking cap on. Darcey is really into a lot of things at the moment but at the top of the list is Adventure Time. We went to ComiCon in the summer and the guy who does the voice for Jake- one of the main characters was there and Beau and Darcey were a bit in awe. So, I decided an Adventure Time cake was in order. My plan was to make a 3D Jake the Dog cake with him sitting up with gifts all around him so that I could make a little gift cake from gluten free madeira cake for one of Darcey’s friends – no one misses out on cake in our house!
Changing your cake mind!
My plan was coming together nicely and then this book landed on my doorstep. CakeMoji. I didn’t stand a chance! One look and I had begs of ‘pleeeeaassse make me a poo Emoji cake‘ and ‘pleeeaasse make me a sunglasses emoji cake‘. Every five minutes it was a different cake so I went to plan B!
Plan B. The Emoji cake plan
As I had already baked a very chocolately Madeira cake – (actually I had three 8″ cakes and a 4″ Gluten free one) I thought I’d just make a few different emoji cakes. Thinking that one cake wouldn’t feed all the kids at the party and that I’d need a second cake anyway I set about reading the book (forcing it out of the girls hands!) and laughing quite a lot. Even the Poo emoji makes an appearance and it’s pretty cute – poo cupcakes anyone?
CakeMoji – about the book
I have to say that from the moment I received a press release about this book I knew I had to get my hands on it as I knew the reaction it would get when the girls saw it. Some books are for decorating details and some for baking direction – this book for them was pure joy. It’s clever and full of great tips, recipes and ideas as well as clear step by step photos for 30 cakes, cupcakes and cookie designs. But it’s the sheer giftability it has that makes it a winner in my eyes. I can think of loads of people who would love this book. Everyone knows someone who loves an Emoji. Everyone kinda has an Emoji signature. I have favourite sign offs. Tim is the only person who gets a red heart – everyone else gets a pink one – or two hearts if I really like you. Beau gets the pink heart with a bow – get it? a Bow / Beau! Darcey’s favourite is this tongue sticking out one – hence her birthday cake. She draws him all the time and always has. So I think this book will do really well.
CakeMoji – about the book
As you would expect in a baking book Cakemogi, by Jenni Powell, Quadrille Publishers, is full of recipes and top tips. It’s clever and full of great techniques for cakes, cupcakes and biscuits. There are clear step by step photos for 30 designs. Darcey had trouble making a choice but let’s face it – this isn’t going to be my last Emoji cake. Is it?
A few months ago I was asked to make a cake for a friend’s mum. It was an 80th Birthday cake for her friend – a lovely lady from Hawaii. Now she may have been 80 but she was larger than life and full of energy and anyone who met her wouldn’t have believed her age! So this Hawaiian birthday cake was set to be full of life and have tons of colour. The elements are all native to Hawaii and mean something to Sharon. It was so much fun to do a bright cake for grown up!
How to decorate a Hawaiian cake
The palm trees
When it comes to palm trees the trick is to make them in advance. WELL in advance. The first ones I made broke so I had to whip these ones up quickly. I think they broke becasue I was over handling them – anyway I learnt my lesson. My top tips would be-
Make more palm trees than you need then if one or two break you still have a back up. You also have a choice.
Place something long, thin and sharp at one end into the tree trunk. I made brown sausage shaped sugarpaste tree trunks and pushed a chopped down skewer into it’s centre. If it gets a bit loose use edible glue inside.
I made the leaves with an oval cutter and then folded each one in half along the length. I then scored lines and added them to the top of the tree trunk using edible glue
Make your tree with florists paste or at least add firming Tylo powder to sugarpaste to make it dry quicker and harden up nicely.
Leave your tree to harden up for as long as possible. At least three days.
When it came to making the shells I used a silicon mould. I was especially happy with the end result when my nephew Asher asked if these were the shells we had picked up from the beach a week earlier? What a compliment! Once they were out of the mould I gave them a brush with an almost dry paintbrush with a little brown paint on the tip. Each shell was given a dust of pink lustre. I started off with a white florist paste and moved onto colours for the starfish. I stuck them onto the cake with edible glue.
If you’re making a Hawaiian cake with flowers they have to be frangipani and hibiscus. Luckily I had my copy of Peggy Porschen’s Bloom book to hand so I could look up how to make them. I used a rose cutter for the smaller hibiscus and bought a large cutter for the big ones. Whichever size you’re making all you need to do is thin the outside edges of the petals then place them onto a palette to harden. A stamen stork was added then a little extra food colour inside each florist paste flower to make them pop out.
The frangipani was made using five petal shapes. The florist’s paste was rolled out a little thicker than usual and each petal is tucked into the previous until you have a complete flower. The flower was then placed on a piece of foam to dry out. Powder colour was used to enhance the inside of each flower. Each flower was stuck onto the cake using royal icing.
I really love how vibrant this cake turned out. Even the wording stands out. Really good fun.
When someone asks you if you’d like to do a sponsored post the chances are you’re going to say yes. When that post involves you baking- and lets face it, demolishing a Lemon drizzle cake in almost one sitting the answer is definitely a double yes!
Flora asked me to choose a recipe from their website and I have to say I was surprised at just how many recipes there were (gazzillions!) From their selection the Lemon Drizzle cake was the one that I fancied eating most right at that very moment. But I had to wait for the weekend food shop to get my hands on a tub of the Flora Buttery (it’s available in all supermarkets). By the time I had a tub arrived I was craving chocolate so I gave the Flora buttery it’s first baking test run on the choc chip cookies from a few weeks ago. Normally a softer butter (or margarine) would make a really gooey-not-in-a-good-way cookie but these were delish. I’ve already made them again.
Lemon Drizzle cake – everyone’s favorite.
When I used to work at Woman & Home magazine and we had a cake sale it was always the Lemon Drizzle and the banana cakes that sold out first. For that reason I though that it would be a good idea to make this Lemon Drizzle for when I was visiting a friend. It was the perfect balance of sweet and zingy. I baked the cake but I always worry I’m going to drown the cake in the lemon sugar syrup so I just brushed it on liberally when the cake came out of the oven. There’s something very satisfying about watching syrup seep into a cake. As the cake is hot it literally disappears in milliseconds. There was tons of syrup left which made me think I’d made the cake wrong. In hindsight I could have added a lot more syrup at this stage but it still tasted great without it. Really light and the texture of the cake was so soft and springy.
After I had ‘taste tested’ the cake I decided that rather than waste the lemon sugar syrup I would brush most of what was left over on top of the cooled cake. Oh – my- goodness!!!! That’s when it all came together for me. So good. So zingy. So deeeelish! In fact the true test of whether a cake is good is when Tim comes into the office peers over my shoulder while I’m writing this post and says “Mmmm that looks good. Can you bake it again?” – I should note that as my official taste tester he is a bit rubbish. He has amazing will power and will eat just one slice of cake, whereas I will eat till it’s gone (that’s why Monday’s are so good. No kids, no Tim, just me and the freshly baked goods!) I only saved one slice of this for Tim before I headed off to my friends – obviously it was not enough!
My reply to Tim was ” I can make another lemon drizzle cake but I was planning on making muffins today” to which he replied “You can make those too!” Hello ever widening hips!