Sunday, 30 January 2011

In search of the perfect chocolate cake

How to make the perfect chocolate cake? This is my current obsession...

This weekend, having baked two styles of chocolate cake and made cupcakes, decorated with vanilla frosting and topped with raspberries, I have been using friends and family as my tasting panel.

So far, the more serious cake, made with, among other things, sour cream, ground almonds and organic chocolate pieces is winning hands down over the lighter, sweeter competitor. More tastings are scheduled for this week...

If you have an amazing chocolate cake recipe, please let me know!

Friday, 28 January 2011

A Chelsea Football Club cake for a 50th birthday party

Oh boy, has this Chelsea FC cake got me into trouble with my Spurs-mad husband. And apologies to Jane, Richard, Denise and all the other Tottenham fans out there...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sneaky preview of my frilly cancan inspired miniature cake

I am camera (and husband) -less this week :( so I've taken a quick shot of my latest cake with my phone (sorry it's so grainy!)...I will be writing up a "how to make this frilly cake yourself at home guide" later this week, once the camera (and more importantly my husband) are back in the country!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

How to make adorable miniature iced cakes

Miniature cakes are extremely popular at the moment.

Not only do they look adorable but, because of their little size, they help those of us who might be watching our waistlines and / or our pockets. 

These small luxuries can help celebrate any occasion. A stack of miniature cakes along with a single, 6 inch cake tier would be a lovely alternative to a traditional tiered wedding cake.

Here is my guide to making miniature cakes covered in marzipan and sugarpaste. Ideas to decorate these mini cakes will follow over the coming days and weeks.

You will need:

A cake, icing sugar, apricot jam, marzipan, boiled water or clear alcohol, a little white vegetable fat such as Trex and sugarpaste.

Fruit cake, icing sugar, apricot jam and marzipan
You will also need the following equipment:
Spacers, smoothers, templates, measuring tape, cake board, pizza wheel cutter, brush,  palette knife, rolling pin

1) Start by making the cake templates. Round, square, heart-shaped, hexagonal are all great shapes. I made a selection of templates, all about 4.5cm wide.

2) Place the template onto your cake and slice carefully with a sharp knife, being careful to cut neatly so that the final cakes will be lovely and smooth. This is a little tricky if your cake's a fruit cake, but don’t worry if you do have a few lumps and bumps, any gaps can be “filled” with marzipan so that the finished cakes will be perfect.

3) Place your cake onto a small board and coat your cake with the apricot glaze (this is just apricot jam which has been heated till it just starts to bubble, which is then sieved and cooled). This acts as a glue for the marzipan

4) Sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with a little icing sugar, using a shaker if you have one. Kneed the marzipan, this releases all the oils. Roll out about 250g of marzipan between a pair of spacers – these ensure the marzipan is an even thickness and also thick enough so ensure it doesn’t tear. When you roll out the marzipan, roll in one direction then give it a small turn after each roll, this will make sure you roll it in a nice round shape.

5) Lay the marzipan over the cake. If it is a square cake, tuck in the corners first, then shape the rest around the cake.

6) Cut off the excess marzipan using a pizza wheel, cutting in quite close, leaving only a 1mm edge.

7) Dust a smoother with icing sugar and use it to "polish" the sides and top of your cake.

8) Leave the covered cake for 24 hours to dry.

9) Brush the marzipan with (cooled) boiled water or a clear spirit (again, this acts as a glue).

10) Rub a (very!!) tiny amount of white vegetable fat (eg Trex) onto your surface and rolling pin. Kneed then roll out the sugarpaste using spacers to create the right thickness. As with the marzipan, turn a small amount after rolling to keep paste in a nice round shape.

11) Place the sugarpaste over the cake. Tuck down at each corner by forming a cup shape with your hands.

12) Cut off the excess sugarpaste with a pizza wheel and "polish" with a pair of smoothers.

And that’s it! Your cakes are now ready to decorate! 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Luscious fruit cake recipe

This is my take on a traditional, rich fruit cake. It makes a delicious cake which is moist but at the same time light.

It has a spicy Indian twist from soaking the dried fruits in a cocktail of orange juice and masala tea overnight. Soaking the fruit helps to make the cake rich and luscious. If you don't fancy the idea of using tea, then you could soak your fruit in cognac, whisky or simply the juice of a couple of oranges. Pop the fruit in a bowl, pour over the juice/tea/alcohol and cover with a clean cloth, stirring occasionally to make sure the fruit gets nice and plump.

- 250g currants
- 500g sultanas
- 200g glace cherries
- zest and juice of 3 oranges
- zest of 1 lemon
- 4 medium eggs
- 225g self raising flour
- 3/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 tsp mixed spice
- 25g ground almonds
- 1 desert spoon treacle

1) The day before you make your cake, add the lemon and orange zest to your dried fruits, then pour over the orange juice and a half a mug of masala tea and leave to soak overnight.

2) Grease and double line an 18cm (8 inch) square / 20cm (9 inch) round cake tin with unbleached baking parchment. 

3) Pre-heat your oven to 140 degrees C / 275 degrees F / Gas Mark 1 

4) Start by beating the butter and sugar until the mixture looks light and fluffy and quite pale -  I used my lovely Kenwood Chef so this couldn't be easier.

5) Beat your eggs gently in a small bowl, then slowly add into the butter/cream mixture a little at a time, beating well with each addition. If it looks like it's going to curdle, add a spoonful of flour.

6) Sift the flour and spices together and either gently fold into the mixture, or simply add into the Kenwood mixer bowl and beat gently.

7) Add the soaked fruits and mix well.

8) Add in the ground almonds and treacle.

9) Mix gently, keeping the mixture as airy as possible, scrape the sides of your bowl to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated thoroughly.

10) Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin. Create a small well in the centre of the mixture to allow the cake to rise a little in the middle. This should mean you will have a nice flat cake.

11) Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 3 hours. To check it's ready, pop a clean skewer into the middle of the cake, if it come out clean, the cake is done.

To store you cake, remove the baking parchment and wrap in a layer of greaseproof paper, then a layer of foil and store in an air tight box. Et voila!

Let me know how you get on!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Piece of cake

After a brief fling, I am ready to go public...I am totally in love with my new Kenwood Chef!

Given to me by my parents for Christmas, I admit I was slightly concerned it might be heavy and difficult to use and technically complicated but it has made making a large fruit cake quite literally a piece of cake.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Engagement cake

Here is the cake I made to help celebrate the engagement of two lovely friends - it's a zingy lemon sponge filled with lemon buttercream and lemon curd, covered with marzipan and sugarpaste - then decorated with pink and red hearts.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Heart throb

Divertimenti on Marylebone High Street is one of my all time favourite cook shops and, while their baking section is limited, I never fail to find some inspiration or ideas.

I couldn't resist this cute teapot shaped cookie cutter while I was hunting for some heart-shaped cutters to add a touch of romance to the engagement cake I'm working on...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Love is in the air

It's hard to imagine a more romantic time of year to get engaged than Christmas Day - what an amazing present! Two lovely friends of mine got engaged on this very special day this year and I am intent on making a cake to mark the occasion...this delicious lemon cake is fresh out of the oven, making the place smell totally delicious!