Sunday, 24 March 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!!

I nearly didn't bother with a Birthday cake for myself, I had so many other things to do, then, on the morning of my Birthday, me little boy was talking to me in such an excited manner about blowing out the candles on my cake, that I knew I needed to make one, for him, if not for me. I'm selfless like that you see. (?!)

So a little after seven O Clock in the morning, a three layer six inch vanilla cake was baking in the oven and this is the story of what happened to it, later that day, with the help of my aforementioned little boy.

I wanted to share this cake, with you, not because it is the best cake that I ever made, but to show that a cake can be put together in a short amount of time and still look impressive (well, I think so), though any of you who may have been to pastry school, may not be impressed with some of my techniques, or rather, lack of them.

I based the cake on a recipe from Tea With Bea, which is my go to book for special occasions cakes and one of my favourite books

This is the first layer of the cake, generously spread, with a layer of vanilla pastry cream and then sprinkled with fresh raspberries. This was the first time I have made pastry cream, I have to say, it was a lot, lot easier than I ever expected


Another layer of vanilla sponge, same as the last with more pastry cream and raspberries

The third and final layer of sponge on top, this picture really makes me smile, such a topsy looking cake - not very professional! I did give it a good squash and level up before going covering with icing.

So, the crowning glory, a few minutes with sugar syrup and a sugar thermometer and my first Italian Meringue is spread all over the cake. I made a bit of a mistake here as, just as I had finished whipping up the meringue, it was time for the school run. I continued with the cake when I got back, but, should have given the meringue a good beating again to ensure it was smooth and glossy, there are a few slightly too large air bubbles here spoiling the finish a little

 Topped off with a little swirly piping using my current favourite nozzle / tip the Ateco 887.

A quick whizz over with a cooks blow torch, a sprinkling of the few raspberries that my son hadn't eaten and voila! ready to serve, topped with this amazing candle candelabra. I love the way the blow torching changes this cake from looking all sweet and innocent in white to something so different.

One last, thing to do, candles lit and blown out, lets all have a piece.

That's all for today
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Friday, 22 March 2013

Two for One Zebra Cakes

Zebra Cake Number One

This vanilla and chocolate zebra cake, decorated with basket weave piping using dark chocolate fudge icing is for a very lovely friend to wish her all the best with a new career, sad as I am for myself that I will be seeing less of her, I am so happy that she is moving a step closer to realising the ambitions she has worked and studied, so many years for. She truly is quite an inspiration.

One of the nice things about being someone that bakes, is that when a special gift is required, for a certain special someone, there is usually a special cake I can conjure up. I couldn't decide, what cake would be special enough for this momentous occasion. My lovely friend, mentioned casually one day (aka as dropping a not very subtle hint) how much she liked this Dark Chocolate fudge icing, so I took the hint and tried to decide what cake should go underneath. I think actually she would have been happy with just a tub of the icing, but, I rather felt it should be carried to her mouth on a delicious and stunning cake.

After much searching, I was finally inspired by a zebra cake in the current issue of sweet magazine (this is a newish magazine from the folks that publish Mollie Makes). The recipe featured is by Lily Vanilly, you can find it here. Underneath this chocolate fudge icing is a three layer six inch zebra cake.

I have never made a zebra cake before, so was quite nervous and a little sceptical embarking on this recipe. The zebra effect is made by splitting the cake mix into two and adding different flavours or colours to each part of the mix. For this cake, chocolate and vanilla.

Then the cake mix is added to the tins, in alternating scoops of each mix, into the centre of the cake pan each time. I used quarter cup measures to scoop the cake mix with. You don't need to be particularly accurate and the zebra effect appears as if my magic during cooking. To see if the zebra effect worked for my cake, you'll have to scroll down to the bottom. (I probably wouldn't be showing you if it hadn't!)


By special request, this cake features dark chocolate fudge icing, it is the same icing used for my Dark Chocolate and Banana Rose cake and you can find it here.

The icing is really easy to make, as long as you make sure that all of the chocolate has melted, if not, you can get lumps that get stuck in your icing tip / nozzle when you pipe it. The only difficult thing, with this icing, is trying to work out the exact moment when it has thickened enough, but not too much to be able to pipe. I think, I went a little too soon with this one, hence, my piping became a session of tilt roulette as I had to tilt my turntable to get the icing onto the cake,  without the cake sliding off.

This basket weave effect is piped with a Wilton 1D and the swirl border with a Wilton 2D. To find out how to pipe basket weave, take a look at my Lavender and Coconut Cake.

Zebra Cake Number Two

So, after filling my three six inch pans for the above cake about two thirds full, I still had quite a lot of cake batter left, so I quickly grabbed a seven inch cake pan and carried on scooping. Below is the seven inch cake, as baked. Just look at all those lovely stripes.

This cake had quite a dome on it and trimming it would have made it considerably smaller, I did just trim it a little, little bit and then decided to pipe chocolate roses on the top as this compliments the domed shape beautifully.

After the success of the zebra cake, I was in the mood for experimenting, so decided to try a whipped ganache to top this second cake. I had read about this often, but, have never tried it. I have to tell you that this whipped chocolate ganache tastes like the most luxurious premium chocolate ice cream (except that it is not frozen, obviously!)

I started piping the roses in the centre, working outwards and then over-piping another rose on top of the one in the middle. This cake is piped with an Ateco 887 nozzle and I ran out of whipped ganache before finishing the sides, which is why I have smoothed them off.

And here it is, the cut slice of the zebra cake with all its zebra stripes revealed. I am really rather happy with this cake and busily planning what other combinations of zebra cake I can maybe make

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Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lavender and Coconut Cake

So, this little cake that you see before you, is a rather unusual and curiously delicious, lavender and coconut cake. This is a six inch three layer cake, the top and bottom layers flavoured with coconut and the middle layer flavoured with lavender.

The frosting is a light buttercream, also flavoured with coconut and simply piped onto the cake.
I didn't want to have to make and bake two separate cake batters, so I baked one, fastidiously divided it into thirds and then added the flavourings.

I love a piped buttercream cake.

When baked and cooled I stacked the cakes with coconut buttercream (recipes for cakes and buttercream follow below)

Then, I coated the sides of the cake in buttercream impressed coconut onto them. I added the coconut to the sides by spreading desiccated coconut onto baking or greaseproof paper, turning the cake on its side and then pressing this into the buttercream.

The cake below may look a little uneven, this is just where the buttercream has squished up and was soon evened up again.

After the sides I started on the top of the cake by piping a basketweave decoration. Basket weave piping is much loved by cake decorators as it has a "how do they do that" feel about it, yet is surprisingly easy to pipe, once you have got your head around it.

This video from Wilton helped me figure it out or check out this picture tutorial also from Wilton

Below you can see the top of my cake "under construction" as you can see, basket weave is a great technique for anyone who is not great at getting smooth buttercream ... or bothered about doing a crumb coat first! You will also see that my piping is somewhat close that recommended, fortunately this is a very forgiving technique, you get away with pretty much anything.

After coating my cake and piping my basketweave on top, I coloured the rest of my buttercream a lavender colour, using, rather ironically, the Lilac gel colour from Sugarflair and piped swirly C's around the top and bottom of the cake using a WIlton 32 nozzle / tip.

One of my aims for this year is to learn the art of sugar flowers and I would very much like to show you the first sugar rose I have made, alas, I can't just yet, as this beautiful one below was purchased from my local sugar craft shop to sit in the centre of this cake

Thats it. One cake decorated and it didn't take as long as you might expect. 

I normally finish, by telling you what I would do differently next time, make my own rose for the centre maybe? Other than that, I have to say, perhaps rather immodestly, that I like this cake, just the way it is.

Just in case you are interested, the cake is displayed on a vintage cake stand purchased from a local Antiques Barn.

That's all for today -(Keep scrolling down for recipes)
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Cake Recipe

For a three layer six inch cake, you need a four egg mix. Weigh the eggs in their shells (you will probably find they with about 200 gams or so) and then weigh out the same weight of the other ingredients


Four eggs
butter or baking margarine
caster / superfine sugar
self raising flour

You will also need
35g desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
Optional lavender and coconut flavouring. I used one by Beau flavours

Three six inch cake tins / pans


Prehat the over to 350F, 170C, 160 Fan
Prepared you tins with baking spray or paper, or however you like them

If you want to be fastidious and have perfectly sized layers, before you start, weigh the mixing bowl.

Make the cake using the creaming method

Cream together the butter or margarine, until light fluffy and well combined
Add the eggs, a little at a time. Add a tablespoon of the flour with each egg if your mixture starts to separate and beat well
Finally, add the flour and stir gently until just combined.
Weigh the bowl with the mixture in it.
Subtract the weight of the empty bowl and divide this by three, then pour off this amount into another mixing bowl.- or, just pour off roughly a third

To the third of the batter mixture add 1 teaspoon lavender flavour (if using) and  teaspoon dried lavender flowers. Pour into one prepared tin

To the two thirds of the batter mixture add 1 teaspoon of coconut flavour (if using) and about 35g of desiccated coconut. Divide between two prepared tins.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 350F, 180C or 170 Fan for about 20 minutes. When cooked cake will spring back when pressed lightly

Coconut Buttercream

I wanted to keep the colour of this buttercream light and make it fluffy in texture, so I made it with part vegetable fat (Trex / Crisco) and part butter. If you prefer you can make it with 350g butter


250g Butter - really soft
100g Vegetabl Fat (Trex / Crisco)
500g Icing / Confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon coconut flavouring

In a mixer beat together the softened butter and vegetable fat until well combined and light in colour. Add the teaspoon of coconut flavouring and mix in
Add the icing / confectioners sugar one third at a time beating well after each addition.