raspberry ripple birthday dreams

My gorgeous husband had his latest birthday on Monday, and we were under strict "no presents" instructions, so Pablo & I conjured up a home made gift of his favourite raspberry ripple ice cream and a hand-crafted card. Then I decided that if we were making ice cream we may as well make an ice cream cake (a first for me!) Our freezer is now full to bursting with raspberry ripple but Konch had a lovely birthday and we all made ourselves feel a bit sick eating too much cake.

an apple a day

Pablo's much loved childminder, Lucinda, moved away a year ago and we were very excited when she asked if she could pop down for a visit. Obviously we had to make a cake, but with a miserably poorly baby a trip to the shops was not going to happen. I scoured the cupboards and we had just the right amount of this and that to make this delicious apple cake. It was extremely easy and Pablo helped me lots. Indy did the opposite by tugging on my leg and looking pathetic throughout, but we got there in the end...

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Caramelised Cinnamon Apple Cake

100g butter + 1 tbsp
175g brown muscovado sugar + 1 tbsp
2-3 dessert apples
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
100ml milk
TOPPING:
25g flour
85g demerara sugar + 1 tbsp
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
50g butter
3 tbsp toasted sliced almonds

recipe adapted from BBC Good Food 

Heat oven to 160C. Mix the topping first - flour, demerara sugar, cinnamon butter with your fingertips to make sticky breadcrumbs. Pablo did half of this, but once he began threatening to eat hunks of sugary butter from his fingertips I chucked it all in a food processor. Stir in 2 tbsp of the almonds and set aside. 

Cut the apples into 1.5cm-ish squares. Melt the 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp sugar in a non stick frying pan and then add the apples and cook for about 5 minutes until everything is brown and gooey and yummy smelling.

Make the cake by creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, then add the vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients and alternate adding them and the milk until all is well combined. Grease a springform 8in/20cm tin and line with a circle of parchment on the bottom. Spoon in your cake mix and then sprinkle with the topping. Mix your remaining 1 tbsp demerara and almonds together and sprinkle these on top. Bake for 45ish minutes. Cool ten minutes in the tin before removing, then cool on a wire rack until it's time to indulge.

latest bake

Three layer red velvet with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle cherries for Gemma... now excuse me whilst I deal with day six of the hangover from her birthday megaparty...

strawberry milkshake cake

My lovely friend Jennie is always so patient and generous with her time when it comes to helping me out with little sewing projects (and teaching me how to make amazing quilts! Well, her quilts are amazing. And so are her classes - bookable here) that when she offered to spend her actual birthday helping me to prep a quilt for Pablo I thought it would only be right to make her a big old cake...

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Jennie is one of the more colourful folk I know (literally - she was dyeing her hair turquoise as we sewed) and made a special request for no chocolate, so I was excited to have an excuse to hunt out a suitably colourful cake. As usual, Sweetapolita did not disappoint and I went with an adaptation of her Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

350g Granulated Sugar
85g Strawberry flavoured gelatin crystals (don't be a moron like me and get block jelly. I had to send husband on a last minute urgent errand to buy crystals and all he could find were raspberry vegetarian jelly crystals, which worked perfectly, just fyi...)
227g unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
300g cake flour (this is not widely available in the UK - see tips on how to make your own here)
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
240ml whole milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
60ml strawberry puree (blend a handful of slightly defrosted frozen strawberries)

Preheat oven to 170C. Line 3x6in round cake tins with parchment and flour, tapping out any excess. Ensure strawberry puree is not icy, then combine with milk and vanilla. In a mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and jelly crystals until light and fluffy. I usually cream the butter a minute or two on its own first to make sure it's soft enough, or this can take ages... Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. 

Add eggs to the creamed butter and sugar one at a time and mix well after each addition. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so that everything is combined. Next alternate adding your dry ingredients and strawberry milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry. Mix well between additions but be careful to only mix until combined, not over mix. At this stage I also added a couple of drops of Americolor Neon Pink gel colour to give the cake an extra pink kick. 

Divide the mix between three pans. I thoroughly recommend weighing the batter so that this is as exact as possible. Bake in preheated oven approximately 30 minutes - my oven is pretty hot, but I recommend carefully (and speedily) checking the cakes with a skewer after 25 mins and keeping an eye on them every 5 mins beyond that. 

When the cakes are done, leave them in the tins 10 mins before transferring to racks to cool completely. Then make the icing!

250g unsalted butter, softened and in cubes
330g icing sugar
10ml milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
30ml strawberry puree (as above - it can be cold but make sure it isn't icy)

Whip the butter for 8 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add sifted icing sugar slowly with the milk and vanilla and mix on slow 1 min and then on high for 6 more. Then add the strawberry puree, and a drop of pink gel colour (optional - and you can of course add more than a drop! Just be aware that the colour does add a slightly yucky taste, and that it MUST be gel colour or you will be adding too much liquid). 

Stack the cakes and ice generously between layers before doing a very thin crumb coat to cover the whole cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for 30 mins before removing and applying a thick final coat of icing. 

The cake was DELICIOUS, really moist and tasted just like those naughty strawberry milkshakes I'd get at the seaside as a kid. It also looked pretty spectacular in all its pinkness. Definitely one to make again. Two large slices was probably a bit much but I needed to keep my strength up for cutting all those quilt squares...

Christmas bake

The couple of weeks leading up to Christmas were INTENSE, mostly due to baking commitments (ok, and whims...) Here's a few things we got up to:

L-R from top...

  1. cutting heart shaped doughnuts
  2. double choc 70th birthday cake
  3. making christmas biscuits with Elton John
  4. incredible rolls by Konch
  5. red velvet christmas cake
  6. finished doughnut heart
  7. cassis mince pies (with cinnamon-chic ice cream)
  8. our gingerbread cabin
  9. proud biscuit baker
  10. all iced and packed up for the school party
  11. cinnamon-choc ice cream getting going
  12. satisfying gingerbread poke by Pablo

kiss me cake

Just had a major weekend of parties, I think I may now have more prosecco running through my veins than anything else. Despite the hours of sleep I can never recover, and the sense of impending doom that accompanies most of my 30-something hangovers, it's always worth it for the chance of a long, rambling catch up with beloved old friends. Had to make little cakes for them too of course, and as I've been dying to make some meringues I thought I'd make this my excuse. 

Both cakes were 6" versions of this recipe (1 x that recipe made both these 6" 3-layer cakes), though I made Chris's yellow cake funfetti inside and Liz's pink one was three layers of different pink. The meringues were strawberry and black pepper from this recipe by the amazing Meringue Girls:

Strawberry & Black Pepper Meringue Kisses

150g egg whites
300g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
50g frozen strawberries
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

This recipe makes about 50 (I still have a whole tub of them and have eaten LOADS, but also hoping they'll double for toadstools around the gingerbread house I may never get round to making...) so you can definitely attempt less. Also I played around with different sizes, which is fine if you are keeping an eye on them whilst cooking.

Make the strawberry coulis by heating the strawberries with a pinch of sugar until they break down, then whizz them into a paste and cool.

Heat oven to 200C. Line a deep baking tray with greaseproof paper and heat the 300g caster sugar until the edges start to melt. This is apparently to help the sugar to dissolve into the egg whites. I am pretty sure I overheated my sugar because the edges were melted solid and I had to chuck them away. Still, it was only about 50g sugar and I just replaced it straight from the packet and all was FINE! Turn the oven down to 100C.

Wipe your mixing bowl & whisk attachment dry with lemon juice & paper towel to remove any possible grease, then add egg whites. Whisk slowly at first, allowing bubbles to form, then turn up the speed and whisk until you have medium peaks of fluffy meringue. At this point start adding the sugar spoon by spoon and continue whisking until you have a stiff, glossy meringue - about 5 minutes. Stir through the coulis and add black pepper to taste. I hardly added any black pepper and the taste was pretty strong, just as a heads up... 

ready to pipe!

ready to pipe!

Turn a disposable icing bag inside out and paint some lines in red, pink - or, in my case, electric pink - up the side. Turn back the right way out (awkward!) and fill with yummy meringue. Cut a hole approx 1/2in in diameter and pipe meringue kisses onto a lined baking sheet. Mine came out great, but in hindsight I could have put a bit more into my stripes as some were very feint, so don't be shy with the gel colours. 

Bake 30-40 minutes at 100C. To ensure they stay a bit mallowy in the middle, be sure to take them out as soon as they lift cleanly from the baking sheet. 

I thought these were so easy to make, lots of fun and make fantastic cake toppers. Definitely going to experiment with more colours and flavours... in the imaginary universe where I have infinite spare time. 

(yes, they do look like nipples)

book bakes

Pablo & I have decided to start making some of the incredible edibles from his many bedside stories. So many feature food, and we love to cook together and need some wintery indoors things to do between school and weekends. Our kick off was a bit ambitious since it's a taste I have in the back of my mind and memory from my own childhood, and also since the recipe is a bit confusing ("three squares of chocolate" = what size squares?), but it was cold and grey and we had all the ingredients and so we began... 

Transient

Happy Winter Fudge Cake

from the book Happy Winter by Karen Gundersheimer

This book was my absolute favourite when I was a cub and still has my name and address at a house we left when I was eight scrawled inside the front cover. Because it is amazing Pablo loves it too, and because it's nice and rhyming it's an excellent bedtime story. In the middle of the book is a lovely poem about baking a wintery cake, complete with recipe:

3 squares semisweet baking chocolate (more on this later...)
225g/9oz flour
200g/8oz sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
50g/2oz soft butter cut into small bits
1 teaspoon vanilla
620ml/24 fl.oz plain yogurt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F. Grease a tube pan - 250x75mm. We don't own a tube pan, so thought we would make two loaves instead. This was perhaps our first mistake...

Cut up the chocolate and melt in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. I didn't know how large the "3 squares" should be, so we used a row (10g) Green & Blacks 70%, which in hindsight was not enough. This was perhaps our second mistake...

Mix the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Mix the wet ingredients with an electric mixer (including the cooled melted chocolate). Our butter wasn't particularly cold but it didn't mix up brilliantly with the wet ingredients (third mistake??). Slowly add the dry to the wet, stirring with a spoon to blend. Stir in one cup of chocolate chips (we used 100g bar Green & Blacks, broken into bits). 

Pour batter into greased pan (in our case, pans...) and place in a preheated oven. Bake 45 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. (I checked our smaller loaf tins after 30 (mistake number 4???) and removed them at about 40 mins, when a toothpick came out clean. But then they sank.) Let cool 30 mins before turning out onto a plate.

Our cakes were...not good. They sank and were a bit dense and completely un-fudgy. I had a quick google and someone has had what appears to be more success with this recipe. Was it our daredevil pan changing, our not using enough chocolate, our uncertainty over cooking times and consequent cake checking before it was done...? All three? Oh well. Obviously it was completely delicious regardless, and we had a lovely time making them and then munching slices with a cup of tea & a marshmallow milk. Am determined to get this right so we WILL be trying this one again. Watch this space...

Happy birthday edie

Headed down to Countryside Live for some sheep shearing, beehive-gazing, falconry, ferret-racing, bat-watching and candyfloss to celebrate Edie's 3rd! Then back to hers for a proper pink fairy princess cake and prosecco.

Pablo had spent the morning insisting on making her some birthday cupcakes, and flicking through his favourite cupcake book to choose which. Vanilla with chocolate icing and pink sprinkles won. 

eating rainbows

The most delicious one year old in all the land was celebrating her very first birthday, and I got to make the cake! Holly isn't a super fluffy pink girl, but I thought I'd indulge and make a mega-pink cake regardless, because I'd been wanting to for AGES, and I was certain Holly wouldn't mind at all. The word "ombre" has been annoying me everywhere lately, so I thought I'd be bang on trend and copy this beautiful cake and this beautiful cake (I just realised both of those are from February - once again I have failed to be bang on trend...) 

I was going for neon...

I was going for neon...

Holly's birthday cake

The recipe I used is this one and I have to say I've been looking for a really all-American white birthday cake recipe forEVER, and this ticks all the boxes. I've reproduced it below, doubled for the purposes of this cake, and with conversions for the UK. I've also altered it for use with plain flour (cake flour isn't available over here, anyone know why?!)

440g plain flour 
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites (i bought a carton of liquid egg white and used 240g)
675g caster sugar
340g butter (room temperature)
1 pint/473ml milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Heat oven to 170C, line four 9in round pans (I only have one so I had to do four rounds in the oven! Fun.)

Measure the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Then sift together three times. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then gradually add half a cup of the sugar until soft peaks form. 

Cream the butter and once it's definitely creamy add the remaining sugar and cream them together until light and fluffy (this can take a while.) Alternate adding the dry mixture and the milk a little bit at a time, beating until smooth in between each addition. Mix in the almond and vanilla and then beat in the meringue until all is well combined. 

Weigh your mix and then use the scales to split it evenly between 4 bowls. Add varying degrees of gel food colour and mix each thoroughly (I used Americolor Electric Pink). Pour each different colour into a different tin and bake 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in tin for 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack and cooling completely. 

Once the cakes are completely cool you can begin to ice. I wanted a reliable, yummy buttercream so used Sweetapolita's whipped vanilla frosting - it's super easy and delicious and perfect for birthday cakes. The link above gives you exactly the right amount for this four layer cake. Once made I iced the cake between layers with a little vanilla frosting and a little raspberry jam, to offset the almond in the cake. Then I stacked and crumb-coated the cake and sat it in the fridge for an hour or so.  

To do the rainbow swirly icing I split the icing into three bowls and mixed each with different colour gel icing (Americolor Electric Pink and Electric Blue, I think, but barely any of each). I started with the top of the cake, smoothing it so that the icing hung over the sides a little, then I very roughly added rows in different colours to the sides. Once the icing was on, I vaguely followed these instructions from Apt 2B Baking Co to swirl the icing upwards using the end of the palette knife and the cake turntable. Topped with some garish sprinkles and edible gold stars it was pretty much PERFECT! 

We had to miss the party and zip off on holiday to Wales, but I hear Holly ate the entire cake, and loved it.

Transient