Sunday, 26 January 2014

Black Lace Valentine Brownies

It seems a long time since I glammed up a brownie, so Valentine's Day would seem to be the ideal opportunity for some sophisticated glamorisation. These are dense fudge-y chocolate brownies covered with a pale sugar paste and then black lace make a lovely valentine surprise.  I always think of this as being a Paris colour scheme, the softest, pale peachy pink teamed with a matt sophisticated black lace. These brownies are based on an idea I used for these button bow cookies where I used the sugar veil lace mat as an embossing mat.

What you Need

To make these you need:

A batch of brownies baked with your favourite recipe. I used this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Book
A heart shaped cutter
Peachy pink sugar paste. I coloured mine with Wilton's creamy peach, you can get a similar colour with sugarflair's "paprika"
Black sugar lace. Mine is made using the ready coloured black cake lace mix and the original sugar veil mat. Check out this post for more about making cake lace.
Bow Mould. The one I used is Bow Set 4 by First Impressions.
A litte CMC / Tylose powder for making the bows (optional)

Baking and Cutting the Brownies

I baked half of my brownie mix in a square pan and the other half of the mix I used to make some bling valentine brownies, which are also decorated in this pale peachy pink colour, but with a little gold razzle dazzle instead of sophisticated black. The heart shapes were cut out of the large square brownie using a heart shaped cutter, it is easier to do this if you turn the square brownie upside down and cut from the bottom to the top. As the middle of the baked brownie does not usually rise as mush as the sides, you get the best shaped brownie if you cut them with the point towards the middle and the rounded end in the corner.

This brownie recipe is so chocolaty, I can almost smell the chocolate through the screen. This recipe makes a lovely dense fudge brownie and this denseness makes them ideal for decorating. I decorated mine the day I baked them, they will cut better if they are not quite so fresh and even better if you have time to put them in the fridge over night.

Covering the Brownies

Once the brownies are cut out, its time to cover with the peachy pink sugar paste. When working with a pale coloured sugar paste and dark chocolate brownies, it is best to roll out just as much as you think you will need each time as those little chocolate crumbs get everywhere and they just love to stick to your pale peachy pink sugar paste whenever they get the chance.

I used an icing smoother to help adhere the sugar paste to the brownie, just as you would if covering a conventional cake, then used a pizza wheel to cut around the base and trim off the excess sugar paste.

Now for the lace. Brush a little water over the sugar paste. I use a water brush for this, you should be able to find one in your local craft store, look for one with the water colour paints and equipment. Make sure it is only a little water. Too much and some of the black sugar lace might dissolve and bleed into the sugar paste. So, not a good look. You can always add a little more if the lace is not sticking.

Position the lace carefully, so that the pattern on the lace enhances the shape of the brownie. Use your hands or an icing smoother to adhere the lace on to the sugar paste and then trim with a sharp knife or pizza wheel.

I love the way that the texture on the sugar veil mat makes lace that looks like it is made from looped thread.

If you look closely, you can probably make out a couple of areas where I have not quite scraped enough lace off whilst I was making it. Whilst you can see this in the picture below, it isn't really noticeable on the actual brownies which are approximately 7.5 cm or 3 inches high.

Making the Bows

When designing these brownies, I was going to use the same bow that I used on the button bow cookies, hover, having got to this stage, I didn't want to cover up so much of that delectable lace, so opted instead for a smaller bow using this first impressions mould.

Separate a little of your peachy pink sugar paste and mix with a little of the tylose or CMC powder to help with the moulding process. If you haven't got any, use the ordinary sugar paste and put the mould in the freezer for about 15 minutes before un-moulding.

This mould works best if you start with a small sausage of sugar paste and sort of wind it into the mould. Take off any excess and smooth carefully all around the edges to make sure you get a good finish.

Pop out the finished bows. How sweet are these?

Brush a little water onto the underside of the bow and gently push the bow onto the top of the brownie.

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Cake Lace - Making it work for me

It was at this year's Cake International that I decided it was time to try Claire Bowman's Cake Lace and purchased a starter kit. The starter kit included a pot of cake lace mix, a Cake Lace mat and a Cake Lace Spreading knife.

I have tried other brands of cake lace before, with mixed results. Perseverance is the key to success and I love the look of lace on cakes, so I decided that this new brand was worth a try.

Depending on where in the world you are from or based, you may also know this product, or a very similar one as Magic Decor Cake Lace

As you might expect, the Cake Lace comes with a list of comprehensive instructions, which when making my first batch, I followed to the letter and so, of course, my cake lace came out right first time, yes? Well, actually, not quite.

This is probably a good time to mention that I live in England, in the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. Beautiful, but humid, or, well, damp. It is more likely for freshly made sugar flowers to wilt than dry in the watery air around these parts. I suppose what I am trying to say, is that conditions are different, according to where we live, or the type of house we have, so that we can't expect manufacturers to produce a set of instructions that will meet them all and that is why this post is about how I make Cake Lace work for me.

What's in the mix?

In your pot of cake mix, you get a bag of powder, a little pot of viscose liquid and your instructions for mixing. 

One of the first things that I do with any new product is to see what the ingredients are, mainly because I like to know what I am eating but, also because I like to maybe get a bit of an insight into how a product works. The cake mix ingredients for this original mix that I used, with a few science bits are:

Wheat - I think we are all familiar enough with this, a cereal grain that grows in fields all around us and is used for making flour.

Starch - A carbohydrate derived from plant sources

Fructose - Fruit sugar

Glucose - Another type of sugar. Can be found naturally in plants and can also be synthesised. (Made in a laboratory)

Thickener E440 - Also known as pectin. This is a gelling agent extracted from fruits. It is used a lot in jam making to help the jam to thicken and set

Colouring E171 - Titanium Dioxide a naturally occurring oxide of titanium found in minerals. This is used as a white food colouring

Flavour vanilla - a familiar flavour derived from the pod of an orchid

Preservative E202 - Potassium sorbate this is a soluble white salt used as a preservative, this occurs naturally in some berries but is usually manufactured synthetically

Emulsifier E433 - an emulsifier is something that holds water and oil in suspension (prevents them from separating). This particular one is polyethylene sorbitan mono-oleate. This is derived from vegetable oil using a chemical process.

Mixing it up

To make the cake lace, you measure the powder and some water and mix this together. I used the "K" beater in my mixer, though I note from a video (see below) where Claire Bowman makes the Cake Lace that she uses the whisk, so maybe I need to try that next time.

When you have mixed this for a couple of minutes, you add a little of the viscose liquid and mix a bit longer.

Spreading it Out

The next stage of the process, is to spread the mix onto a specially made silicone mat. The mat I used is this Chantilly design.

Place some good dollops of the mixed cake lace all over the mat and spread it around, you can either use the cake spreading knife that comes with the starter kit or a rubber spatula. Once you have spread the mix all over, you need to used the knife to take off the excess. You can see Claire Bowman doing this in the video below. When I am doing it, I try to think about pushing the mix into the mat rather than scraping the mix off.

This is Claire Bowman's video of making cake lace

TIP: When you remove your mixing bowl from the mixer, if you are leaving the beater in situ, pop a piece of kitchen towel underneath to catch anything that drips off the beater. Watch out for the dripping Kitchenaid beater in this clip!

Drying the Lace

Before it can be used for decorating cakes, cupcakes and cookies, the lace has to be dried out. Bearing in mind the humidity in my location, I knew that it would be prudent to dry the lace in the oven rather than leaving it to air dry and so popped it in the oven at 80 C for 15 minutes as directed.

Peeling the Lace off the Mat

Once "cooked" and cooled, time to peel! You can see the peeling technique in the video above.

It is always very exciting when trying a new product, because you can't wait to see how it turns out and then go on to use it on a cake or cookie, but, this is one of those times when, you really need to take a minute, take you time and focus. Definitely a task for after the kids have gone to bed, trust me, you can't be peeling cake lace with someone shouting "Mum!" every two minutes.

When you are ready to peel, it is a good idea to start by putting some baking or parchment paper on your work surface ready to peel the cake lace onto. Start by bending back a corner of the mat and peeling off a little of the lace, then turn the mat face down and fold it back upon itself. As you peel, you can use the spreading knife to hold the peeled lace down

This is where it all went a bit wrong for me the first time. The lace was just stretching and breaking away rather than peeling off. If this happens to you too, remember this is time to stop and a think, rather than chucking the whole lot in the bin or peeling it all off in tiny little bits.

After a few moments of reflection, I decided that my layer of cake lace was too thin and maybe a little too sticky, so I spread another layer of cake mix over the top of the existing one decided to bake it for thirty minutes this time. And Hurrah! this worked for me, once the cake lace had cooled, it peeled off like a dream.

For my first attempt, I had used about half a batch of mix, so the next time I tried, I used the whole of the batch in one layer and baked for 30 minutes and this also worked beautifully.  It maybe that these minor issues could be remedied by mixing the cake lace with a whisk, I will be trying this next time and I will let you know what happens.

If the 25 minute video above is a little long for you, you might prefer this shorter one

A Few Notes on Black Cake Lace Mix

I have also tried the ready coloured black cake lace mix (see picture and link below) so just thought I would share a few tips
  1. It is a good idea to put some cling film over the areas of your worktops that you will be using to spread the lace over the mat (just in case)
  2. Don't worry if the mix looks a sludgy purple when prepared, it will dry to a lovely deep black
  3. The black mix may stain your hands a little, so consider wearing gloves if this worries you. My hands were a little stained in places, but the staining washed / wore off within a few hours

Cleaning Up

When faced with an intricately detailed, sticky and possibly black silicone mat, cleaning up can feel a bit daunting. I found these cake lace mats really easy to clean, I put mine in the sink with hot soapy water for about five minutes, this lifts off most of the cake lace remnants, quite magically it seems. To ensure I get every last bit, I then put a chopping board  or baking sheet in the sink, put the cake lace mat on top and wipe it down with a washing up sponge. I pat the mat with kitchen towel to dry and then leave the mat face down on a couple of sheets of kitchen towel to finish off drying. 

Cakes using Cake Lace

My first cake lace cake. Daphne's Birthday Cake, made with the lace you see being made above.

These Black Lace Valentine Brownies were made using the pre-coloured black cake lace mix.

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Wednesday, 1 January 2014

My top three from 2013

Happy New Year 2014 !

Having shown you the top five most viewed posts from 2013, I hope you don't mind indulging me, while I share my three favourite posts from 2013.

Number 3

This post was just so much fun for me to write. It started with a lot of time planning which flowers to make, making them and then taking the photographs. I also really love this Japanese style blossom that I made. I don't think I have got round to actually using it on a cake yet, so I need to remedy that!

Number 2

I was really torn as to which of these two cakes was number 1 and number 2 and in many ways I think they are equal top. This cake occupies a special place for me as it is the first tiered wedding cake I made. I felt so honoured that Kerrie trusted me enough to make this cake for her, knowing it was my first and am so grateful to her for giving me the opportunity. So much of this cake had to be done at the last minute and I knew there were no second chances, I have to confess there were a few sleepless nights.

Number 1

I love cupcakes, they are my favourite thing to make and decorate, this might surprise you as they do not appear that often on my blog. I often find that I don't have time to photograph them before delivery as I usually make them the night before they required. This cupcake tower was one of those magical moments for me, when everything came together perfectly. A beautiful day, a lovely marquee, fresh flowers that complimented the cakes perfectly and photographs that turned out OK too. This was a seven tier cupcake tower with over 100 freshly made cupcakes and about 300 sugar flowers each hand dusted with petal dust. I loved doing this cupcake tower and can't wait to make another one day.

That's all for today
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Your Top Five of 2013

Happy New Year everyone !

In the best blogging tradition, Ladies and Gentleman, may I present, your top five favourite blog posts from 2013. I love to look back at what I've done over the year and see which posts have been the most popular, it also reminds me of all the things I have done and all the happy occasions that I have made cakes for.

Number 5

This is one of my favourite flavour combinations so it is lovely to see this cake at number 5. I think a cupcake version is overdue, so watch this space.

Number 4

The beginning of this journey was the first decorated cookie I ever made, so this is a special post for me. I was happy with these, but I think I can do better, so I'll be having another go in 2014.

Number 3

I am so pleased to see these in the top 5. I loved making them. It was one of those magical moments for me, when everything came together, the cookies turned out well, I happened on the perfect lustre dust to enhance them, the styling of the photo adds to the romance of the cookies and the natural daylight for the pictures picks out all the details so clearly. My only concern is, I like to think that I can improve year by year, but goodness only knows how I will top this, this year. My Pinterest stream has been full of hearts and flowers for a week already, so I know I haven't got long to figure it out.

Number 2

A surprise one for me at number 2. It seems that chocolate is popular in the blogoshphere with my Dark Chocolate Rose Cake being the most popular post ever and this one here at number 2 for 2013. I have made quite a few zebra cakes this year and they have always been popular.

Number 1

These lemony cookies look so fresh it is lovely to see them here at number 1. Some things in the sugar craft world look really tricky but are actually fairly simple to do, whilst others looks easy, but oh my, are they tricky. I am happy to say that these are the former.

That's all for today

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