Friday, 29 August 2014

I'm having a Peggy Porschen Moment (I wish!)

I've always wanted to attend one of Peggy Porschen's sugar flower classes, but for me, for various reasons, this wasn't practical, so, when I saw Peggy's latest book, Cakes in Bloom, I was beyond excited and pre-ordered it as soon as I could. And, as you may have noticed, things have been somewhat quiet around here since it arrived on or about 22 May 2014. The Cakes in Bloom book is full of the most stunning floral cakes complete with instructions on how to make them.

One of the best things about Peggy's books is that she includes full details, including the brands, of the cutters, veiners and colours that she used, so that you can get as close to her look as possible.

Naturally, I decided to start with a simple small cake featuring just a few sugar flowers, and then, I saw the cake on page 58 of Cakes in Bloom called "Vintage Blooms". I had always wanted to make a cake like this, with the full on sugar flower effect and decided that I was up for the challenge, even though, I have never made any wired sugar flowers before.

A little bit of practice in a few spare hours, over many weeks, maybe, months and here is one cake finished. Peggy's style leaves space between the flowers to give a light and airy look so that the light can shine through the flowers and I tried to do this with my sugar flower arrangement too.

Peggy provides really clear instructions in her book, but, reading a book is never going to instantly provide me with the years of experience or the eye for subtle balance of colour that Peggy has. Peggy's flowers form a beautiful dome shape on her cake and although I haven't achieved the same shape on my cake, I am happy with the result, considering these are the first wired sugar flowers I have made and used to decorated a cake.  Although, I know that when I look back at this cake is a year or two, I will probably cringe and want to make it all over again - a little bit better.

A special thank you to my lovely and talented husband Gareth, for helping me take the cake pictures above.

To see more about the stages of making this cake, keep reading!

This cake required the following sugar flowers

One wired full blown rose (not shown here)

Three rose buds in different stages of opening cut, made, dusted and steamed

10 rose leaves cut, veined, wired, dusted and steamed

20 hydrangeas cut, veined, wired, dusted and steamed

40 tiny white stephanotis, cut shaped and dusted with white for extra brightness

When I first started making sugar flowers I though that it would be the making of the flowers that would be the difficult part. Whilst making sugar flowers, can be tricky even these ones here that are relatively simple, it turns out that that is not the hard part. The hard part is in fact arranging the sugar flowers on a cake.

Faced with a cake and a good few handfuls of roses, hydrangeas and stephanotis is rather daunting. Where to start? I followed Peggy's instructions and start by arranging my flowers and leaves into sub-assemblies.

Groups of three hydrangeas

Groups of three leaves

Groups of three stephanotis.

I took my sub-assemblies and started at the middle of the cake working my way outwards to arrange the flowers and I think that I just about got away with it. If I was making the cake again, I might try arranging all the flowers into one bouquet, before adding it to the cake, which is the way Peggy did hers and see how that works out.

That's all for today
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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream Cookies

Today's raspberry ripple ice cream cookies are made with the second of my lovely samples from Sugar and Crumbs (the flavoured sugar specialists). When I was a girl, not so long ago (!),  ice cream pretty much came in one flavour, vanilla. There was hard vanilla ice cream that was scooped from the tub, or the Mr Whippy sort of soft ice cream, that came from the ice-cream van, hopefully with a chocolate flake in the top and if you were really lucky a drizzle of strawberry sauce. Then, one day there was a newcomer on the block, raspberry ripple. Like the vanilla in many ways, but, with that lovely pink streak of bright raspberry flavour rippling its way through the tub. It was these childish delights I had in mind when creating these raspberry ripple ice cream cookies.

Raspberry ripple has that certain "je ne sais quois", about it, a special taste, not quite raspberry and vanilla, somehow, a little more and sugar and crumbs have captured this perfectly. This icing sugar is unmistakably raspberry ripple, not raspberry and vanilla, but exactly raspberry ripple. This is guaranteed to transport you to some other raspberry ripple time and place and if you decide to try these, it will take every ounce of will power you have not to lift that piping bag in the air and squirt it directly into your mouth.

These cookies are all made with a basic sugar cookie recipe, to see how to make, roll, cut and bake sugar cookies, have a look at this post.

You might normally expect a sugar cookie to be decorated with royal icing or perhaps using a fill and flow technique, but, I haven't really made friends with royal icing yet and fill and flow and I definitely don't get along. Because of this, I am always looking to find innovative and unusual ways to decorate a cookie using anything other than royal icing and that dreaded fill and flow technique

I am really pleased with the way these cookies turned out, I hope that you like them too, The raspberry ripple icing sugar really makes them extra special. If you do decide to pop over to sugar and crumbs to get some raspberry ripple for yourself or to see what else they have, don't forget to let them know I sent you.


Waffle (or other) embossing mat. (I used one from Katy Sue)
Bow Mould (I used one from First Impressions)
Petal piping nozzle (I used Wilton 124)
Piping Bag

Edibles and Sundries

A batch of ice cream cone shaped sugar cookies
Sugar paste / roll out icing
Modelling paste or sugar paste treated with a little CMC, Tylose or whatever you like to use added
Gel colour (I used Squires Kitchen Rose)
Water, edible glue or piping gel
Batch of buttercream made with sugar and crumbs raspberry ripple icing sugar. See here for my buttercream recipe, or here for the sugar and crumbs buttercream recipe.


Start by colouring your sugar paste pale pink and your modelling or treated sugar paste a darker pink. Both these colours have been achieved with Squires Kitchen rose gel colour. A little to get the pale pink colour and a lot more to get the darker pink. I like to use two tones of the same colour, just because you know that your colours are going to go together.

Mould a bow for each of the cookies using the darker pink colour. If you don't have any modelling paste or treated sugar paste, then use ordinary sugar paste and freeze it in the mould for about 20 minutes before popping out. You will then need to leave the frozen bows at room temperature for about 24 hours before using as they go a little sticky when they have been frozen.

Take a freshly baked and cooled sugar cookie ready for decorating. This one was cut out using an ice cream cutter from Ecrandal.

Make the ice cream cone part of the decoration before piping the butter cream. I used this waffle mat from Katy Sue  (UK site, US site). I love the fact that this mat looks so ordinary and innocuous, but magically transforms sugar paste into something rather special. Any embossing mat would work well here, lace, in particular, would give a lovely vintage feel.

Roll our your sugar paste to about a half centimetre thick, then put on top of the waffle mat, press down with your fingers then roll, with a rolling pin on top to emboss the pattern. My paste doesn't usually stick to this mat, should your paste stick, use one of those cornflower pouches to dust it with cornflower or rub a small amount of vegetable fat (Trex / Crisco) onto the sugar paste before putting it on the mat.

Turn over and lift the mat off.

How such an ordinary looking mat produces such a beautiful effect is a mystery! Use your cookie cutter to cut out the cone shape from the waffle embossed sugar paste.

To get a nice shape to the top of your cone, use a large cookie cutter, to cut off everything above the cone.

Carefully lift off your cone and attach in place on your cookie. Use a little water, edible glue or piping gel to make it stick.

The first cookie, I made with the waffle pattern, the square way round, then I decided to try it the diamond way round. I decided I liked the diamond pattern better, so continued with this for the rest of the cookies.

Now for the star of the show, my butter cream icing interpretation of Mr Whippy ice cream, made with this delightful raspberry ripple icing sugar from sugar and crumbs.

The ice cream swirl is piped in ruffles using a petal nozzle. I used a fairly large one - the Wilton 124. You pipe ruffles with the wide end of the tip on the cookie and the narrow end pointing upwards, you just need to pip back and forwards in a zig zag motion to make a ruffle.

After some experimentation, I found the best way to pip these, was from bottom, almost to the top on one side

From the bottom almost to the top on the other side

From the bottom all the way to the very tip of the cookie next to where you piped the first ruffle

And then fill in the remaining gap. If your piping should go horribly wrong, just carefully scrape it off and start again.

Finally, add the moulded bow, attaching it with a little water or edible glue and you are finished.

 That's all for today
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Your Best Ever Sugar Cookie Recipe

This simple sugar cookie recipe forms the base of pretty much every cookie I decorate, today, I am going to share the recipe and some tips on how to get even and consistent cookies. This recipe is simple to make and the results are consistent and reliable, the cookies have a softish texture and bake smooth on top, just right of decorating.


A stand mixer 
A worktop for rolling out on
A large rolling pin (I like to use a traditional wooden one for cookies)
Marzipan spacers (Or one of those rolling pins with spacers on them)
Cookie cutters
Cookie sheet / Baking tray lined with baking parchment or a re-usable silicone sheet


200g / 7 oz unsalted butter or block margarine (I usually use a block of stork)
200g / 7 oz caster / superfine sugar
1 egg
400g / 14 oz plain / all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla bean paste of other flavouring of your choice.
A little extra flour for dusting


Recently I have been sharing some cupcake recipes with you, where you start by making a crumby mix, so just to show what a topsy turvy world we live in, these cookies are made using the creaming method, usually used for making cakes. 

Start by putting the 200g / 7oz of sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the 200g / 7oz of caster sugar and the teaspoon of flavouring. Using the "K" beater, mix on a slow speed, until just mixed together. You are not looking to incorporate air, just to mix the butter and sugar together.

Next, put the egg in and again mix on a slow speed until all just mixed together.

The mixture will be quite thick and stiff ...

... And will cling to the beater when you lift it. Can you see all those tiny black seeds from the vanilla bean paste?

Now for the flour. Add the 400g / 14oz and mix again. You may want to cover the mixer initially.

It is quite hard work, for the mixer here, I mix on slow speed and then turn the speed up a little when the mixer starts bouncing around. If the bouncing around mixer worries you, maybe try adding the flour in two batches instead.

You don't want to over work the flour, so stop mixing as soon as the mixture has come together. You can use your hands to press it together too.

The mix should be dry and feel soft to the touch

Ready to Roll

This beautiful ice cream cookie cutter is from Ecrandal, who have just the loveliest range of unusual and unique cutters.

I usually work a handful of cookie dough at a time, this reduces re-rolling which minimises cracks in your dough and provides a better texture for your cookies.

Sprinkle a little four over your work surface, position your marzipan spacers either side, plonk a good handful of cookie dough in the middle, sprinkle a little more flour over the top and roll, with your rolling pin over the marzipan spacers, until even and flat.

If you don't have, or don't want to use them, roll the cookie dough out until about 1 cm thick.

Use your cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, avoiding any cracks that may have formed in the cookie dough.

Lift the cookies on to your baking sheet. It can be helpful to use a palette knife if they are large. If you find it difficult to transfer the cookies to your baking sheet, perhaps because they are very soft, then try rolling them out of top of the baking sheet and then remove the excess cookie dough from around them.

Gather up the dough from around your cut outs and add a handful of fresh dough before rolling out and cutting again. If you want the very best results, you can put your cookies in the fridge or freezer here, which will discourage them from spreading as they cook.

Bake the cookies at 200 C / 400 F Gas Mark 6 for 8 to 12 minutes.

When the cookies are cooked, the centres will feel dry to the touch and they will be just beginning to brown around the edges.

The cookies will still be soft when just baked, so leave them to cool on their trays before lifting. Once cool they should keep, if stored in an air tight container for a month or so.

 That's all for today
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Sunday, 18 May 2014

Coco Loco Cupcakes

These delicious cupcakes are iced with a coconut and lime butter cream, made with a naturally flavoured coconut and lime icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs and were inspired by the Coco Loco cocktail. When sugar and crumbs were looking for bloggers to test their sugars and cocoa powders, who could resist volunteering? Not me! I volunteered and the lovely people at sugar and crumbs sent me three samples to try and this is the first. 

When I heard that I was going to get the coconut and lime naturally flavoured icing sugar to try (thank you so, so much!) and was thinking about what to make, the though of coconut and pina colada's entered my head, this may or may not have something to do with the fact that the pina colada was my bedtime drink of choice on a recent trip to Cocoa Beach in Florida, (so wrong and yet so right). 

I love a Pina Colada, but, you know how when it is cocktail time and you really want to have a pina colada, because they are the most unctuously scrummy cocktail, but, somehow a pina colada doesn't seem sophisticated enough, so, you end up ordering a margarita or a mojito instead, which is still yummy, but not in the dizzy heights way of a pina colada? This got me thinking how good would a coconut and lime cocktail be? Would the lime lend the coconut a little sophistication? And that is when I discovered the coco loco cocktail. A blend of rum, coconut and lime. I'm leaving the rum out today and letting that icing sugar do most of the work for me.

Recipes for these cakes and butter cream, follow below then next time, I will share how I made the decorations. 

So, what do these taste like? Amazing. The flavour is definitely coconut and definitely lime, well flavoured and not too strong. This was always going to be a sure fire winner for me, because I love coconut so much. My son and husband who claim not too like coconut enjoyed these too and my other taste testers all declared them smooth, creamy and super yummyily coconutty.

You can tell from the texture of the butter cream (no grainy-ness) that this icing sugar is a good, quality product and it pipes nicely too. One of the benefits of using a flavoured icing sugar, is that you can rely on it to give a good consistent flavour, so there is no worrying about how much of the different flavourings to add.

Is it good value for money? At the time of writing, a 250g bag is £2.99 and 500g bag is £4.99, which is not a lot of money compared to many things and about three times the price of an unflavoured bag of icing sugar. In their recipes Sugar and Crumbs do mention that, because the icing sugar has a strong flavour, you can use half their flavoured sugar and half ordinary icing sugar, you will, of course, get a more delicate flavour. We all have different circumstances, I am a Mum to a young son, working 35 hours a week at my day job, so convenience comes pretty high on my list of priorities, baking and blogging is squeezed into my "free time", so for me, not having to zest a couple of limes, or squeeze ;o) a coconut, or even start a batch again because the flavours are not right, not balanced correctly, or too strong, is worth paying a pound or two more for. If you have ever over salted a salted caramel butter cream, you'll know where I am coming from.

I was lucky to get these samples from Sugar and Crumbs for free, having browsed the flavours, I think I could well become one of their regular customers - Banana Split or Cherry Bakewell anyone? I have two more samples to try, come back soon to find out what they are, or follow me at any or all of the places at the bottom of this post.

If you do pop over to sugar and crumbs, don't forget to say Hi and let them know I sent you.

Coconut Cupcakes Recipe


120g  plain (all purpose) flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
40g softened butter or margarine
120ml coconut milk
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 170 C / 325 F. (I set my fan oven to 155 C) and lay out your cupcake cases ready. These lovely ivory baking cases are from Culpitt. This recipe will usually make nine to twelve cupcakes.

I am using a crumb method to make these coconut cupcakes, this freaked me out a bit the first time I used it, so I have I have shown the steps below, so you will know what to expect at each stage.


Step One

Put the 120g plain flour, 140g caster sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 40g of butter or margarine into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Step Two

Using the "K" beater, mix on a slow speed until the mixture becomes crumby.

Step Three

Put the 120ml of coconut milk and the egg into a jug or cup and mix together to break the egg up. With the mixer running on a slow speed, slowly pour the coconut milk and egg down the side of the bowl, until the mixture just changes from looking dry to looking wet.

Step Four

The "just wet" mix will probably look a bit lumpy, turn your mixer to a higher speed for a 20 or 30 seconds or so, to smooth out the cake batter and get rid of those lumps. Don't mix for too long though, or you will over work the flour and your cupcakes won't be nice and light and fluffy.

Step Five

With the mixer running on slow speed again, pour the rest of the coconut and egg mixture down the side of the bowl. You should now have a lovely smooth glossy cake batter.

Step Six

Divide the batter between your cupcake cases. I like to use an ice cream scoop to get them all the same size. This scoop is a size 16, which means if you have a litre of ice cream, you would get 16 scoops out of your litre. Next time I make these, I might put more mixture in each baking case, the size 16 was perfect for the flat fondant topped cupcakes, a little more would have been good for the butter cream swirl cupcakes.

Step Seven

Put them in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When cooked they will be a lovely soft brown colour and spring back when touched lightly on top.

Butter Cream Icing

Now to the star of the show, this lovely icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs. As soon as you carefully open the bag, you know you have something special here, this icing sugar is so fine that billowy clouds escape as soon as you have a tiny peek and then you are surrounded with the amazing scent of coconut with a little citrusy spike of lime.


You don't need a recipe, as such, for a traditional English Butter cream, it is made from equal quantities, measured by weight, of butter and icing (powdered / confectioners) sugar. 250g or 8 ounces of both will give you enough butter cream to pipe swirls on about 12 cupcakes. I live in Gloucestershire, England and the butter here is a gorgeous country yellow. For these cupcakes, I wanted a paler icing, to match the baking cases and also to complement the citrus shades of the decorations I was using, so, I used a mix of half butter and  half vegetable fat (Trex / Crisco).


You need to make sure the butter is really soft before you start. You can soften butter by leaving it at room temperature for a couple of ideas, or microwave it on low power. Once softened, put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, with the "K" beater attached and give it a good beat round for a couple of minutes before you start. This is just to make sure it is soft and get it all nice and smooth. You need to sift the icing sugar, to make butter cream, if you don't, any lumps, not only spoil the texture of the butter cream, but, may also get stuck in your piping nozzle / tip later.

I know, you don't need to see pictures of how to sift icing sugar, but, I wanted you to see how fine this icing sugar is.

 Just a couple of taps and most of this icing sugar has fallen through the sieve already.

I don't know about you, but, the brand of icing sugar I normally buy has quite a few lumps and I have to work most of it through a sieve with a spoon. Not only is this inconvenient and time consuming, but, it can also be responsible for that grainy texture, you sometimes get with butter cream. Not so with this one from sugar and crumbs, after a few more shakes and taps, there were only these few small lumps in my pack. Practically nothing.

Sift in about half of the icing sugar, then cover your mixer with something, a tea towel usually works well and start mixing, on slow speed until the sugar is incorporated and the clouds of icing sugar have settled down. Then speed up and beat on high speed for a couple of minutes. Repeat with the other half of the icing sugar. Lift your beater and have a look.

If your icing looks like that above, it is not ready yet, put the beater back in and beat on high speed again, till it looks like the picture below. All ready for decorating.

Call back soon if you would like to see how these cupcakes were decorated and find out what I do with the other samples from Sugar and Crumbs.

 That's all for today
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