Saturday, 4 December 2010
Monday, 29 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Saturday, 13 November 2010
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Monday, 4 October 2010
Monday, 27 September 2010
- the lovely plum cake - which is dead easy as well as delicious, so what's not to like?
- my talented friend Jo's blog about her sewing projects (and life in general)
- Nic's exciting blog about her plans to travel the UK learning about becoming a smallholder
- A shop I like to browse for baking things
- Read It Swap It, a great idea; swap your old books for something new to read
- a very lovely yarn shop run by friendly and helpful people
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Friday, 10 September 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Play on the Wii
Monday, 26 July 2010
Anyway, I had a look at what else I'd posted so I could make some other bits and pieces and it struck me I ought to have some more things up here. So, here are the bookends of my baking career -
The First Cake I Baked
When people ask me about how I got into baking as a career they ask if I'm professionally trained or if I've just always baked. I usually answer, "I didn't bake before I had kids." This is not strictly true. I baked every Sunday morning for about 3 years, and I always baked the same thing - a loaf of banana bread. I'd take slices of it into work with me when I was working in the Call Centre - godawful job and no place for a grown up - and on Wednesday, the last day it would be still nice to eat, I'd bring the rest of it in to share with the people I worked with. It's easy and it's fast to mix up. It is also the only recipe I know in ounces because that gives it a 2, 2, 4, 6, 8 rhythm that is easy to remember.
2 (eggs) 2 (bananas) 4 (ounces butter) 6 (ounces brown sugar) 8 (ounces self raising flour)
See? Easy peasy.
Beat the butter and sugar until light. Mash overripe bananas and tip them in, along with the eggs. Mix well. Sift in the flour and combine well. Pop it into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180 for about an hour (or until a skewer comes out clean). You may need to cover it loosely with foil for the last 15 minutes to stop it browning too much.
You can add nuts, chocolate chops, sultanas, anything you like. It's best left to cool totally before slicing; otherwise you risk breaking it. Lovely spread thinly with butter. Oh, and ace for picnics because it's fairly robust, a compact shape that won't get too bashed and it's easy to have whopping thick slices or thin delicate slices depending on how many picnickers you are trying to eek it out for.
My Most Recent Cake
(insert double fanfare)
Raspberry and Lemon Cake
225g self raising flour
175g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
75g ground almonds
zest of a lemon
In a large jug, mix together
250g plain yoghurt
150ml vegetable or sunflower oil
and pour it into the dry mix. Stir until combined, then carefully fold in
150g frozen raspberries
Bake at 170 degrees for about 70 minutes - keep checking after 50 mins and cover as necessary. I like it in a 23 cm round springform tin but a 20cm square tin would also do.
When cooked, leave the cake to cool a moment while you make the glaze.
juice of that lemon
Simmer in a saucepan until its volume has reduced by at least half. Poke holes in the cake and pour the glaze over it. Leave it to absorb before you remove it from the tin.
So there you go - where I started and where I'm at now. I hope you find something you like.
I'm off to bake with giggly small people. Wish me luck!
Friday, 16 July 2010
Sunday, 30 May 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010
Well, maybe not the part with the torrential downpour as I fetched the kids from school or the messy kitchen and the laundry I'm ignoring, but let's not sweat the small stuff.
It was Number 1 Son's birthday. He was delighted with and appreciative of his presents, he was very sweet with his siblings about the cards they'd made him. It was one of those lovely family moments when the kids are being gorgeous to one another and everyone is happy.
I sent him off to school with M&M cookies to share with his class. It was his specific request, and a pretty good choice. They are really tasty and stupidly easy - people dropping in for coffee when I'm baking a batch always comment on how quick they are to make. The recipe is based on the chocolate chip cookie recipe in the River Cottage Family Cookbook, which I will harp on about until you've all bought it.
melt 125g butter
stir in 100g granulated sugar (or caster if that's what you have in)
and 75g soft brown sugar,
then 1 egg
and a generous splash of vanilla extract.
Sift 150g plain flour and
1/2 tsp baking powder into the mixture.
Stir in 100g of chocolate M&Ms (much better than Smarties - they keep their colour when baked and they're not from Nestle)
Use a tablespoon to dollop the sloppy batter onto baking sheets and bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius (ish) for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool properly.
We get about 20 to 25 cookies from this. They keep for a good week in a tin, theoretically, although they are very moreish and tend to... erm... mysteriously evaporate in my kitchen.
Luke reports his class was very pleased. As they should be - I had the odd one for quality control purposes and they were very yummy.
On the way home from the morning school run I bumped into some of the very lovely parents of Luke's classmates who were heading up to the coffee shop. I had an extremely civilised hour drinking coffee and chatting with them. While I was there I received a phone call from someone starting a new business who was looking for a cake supplier.
Back at home I returned the call and am giving her a price list and suggestions that I think will suit her particular customers. We hope to meet up next week if possible to discuss my becoming her supplier. I am very excited about the possibility of a new outlet.
Next, I iced Luke's birthday cakes. I used the chocolate traybake recipe from the Annie Bell book (which again I highly recommend) and set about making LEGO blocks from a traybake. Luke owns more LEGO than LEGOland does, so I think I'm on to a winner.
I started by colouring sugarpaste in red, yellow and green - I meant to do blue but the colours I had weren't quite right, either navy or baby blue. I should get some royal blue for future use. Anyway, the green looked fine. Then it was time to get the cakes right.
LEGO is all about maths. If I didn't get each piece right in relation to the others, it wouldn't have looked right, so I got out my I measured a block of LEGO to get the proportions. I made the 8 block 23cm long by 11.5 cms wide, the 4 block 11.5 square and the 2 block 11.5 cm by 5.25cm. At those sizes, the little dimple things (what on earth are they called?) ought to be 3cm in diameter, so I fudged it with a cutter 2.5 mm across that I flattened a bit.
If I did it again, I'd smooth the edges on the dimple things a little better. I could do with a second cake smoother to help me do the corners slightly more crisply but on the whole I think it's pretty good. The birthday boy was very pleased indeed.
We all went to Pizza Express to celebrate. The waitress was lovely (we gave her some cake) and the kids behaved so nicely we were really proud of them. The whole evening was a pleasure.
This week it's all hands on deck. I'm doing my first order of wedding cupcakes and I'm putting together a tasting plate for the woman interested in my cakes. She's had the trade price list and seems perfectly happy, which all sounds pretty encouraging. And of course there's the usual deli orders, college work and a training day for the kids because of the election. Wish me luck!
Thursday, 22 April 2010
I've used some of my college-taught skills in real, paid work - the best indication that it was a constructive use of my time and my fledgling business's money. I got a real kick out of modelling with marzipan at the end of last term, and it gave me the confidence to try making a garden cake for a 70th birthday.
I covered the cake with white sugarpaste over the marzipan. Next, I cut a circle out of the top of it and inserted a circle of green sugarpaste as a lawn, and cut a wiggly corner out for the vegetable patch.
I used sugarpaste to make the cauliflowers and orange carrot bases, with marzipan coloured green for the leaves and carrot tops. The terracotta pot was sugarpaste too. The picnic blanket, trowel, book and champagne bottle were all marzipan. I dipped the top of the champagne bottle in edible glue, then in very fine gold powder (edible, of course) to get the foil effect. The trowel was an absolute pig to get right. I gave it about 4 coats of silver paint, which was sticky horrible stuff and ruined one of my nice brushes. I don't think I'll try that again!
The soil was demerera sugar over a thin layer of royal icing to hold it in place. I used royal icing to pipe the foliage using two shades of green and 3 different sized leaf tubes in an effort to get a nice lush effect. The flowers were sugarpaste in yellow and peach, carried across as a detail on the picnic blanket to make it all fit together nicely. The base of the cake was edged in yellow satin ribbon.
On the whole I'm very pleased with it. I know that damned number 7 looks like a number 1 so everyone said "it's for a 10 year old?" But it's the only number 7 I had and I totally suck at piping. But in the main, it's a pretty cool cake.
I also did bags of heart cookies as party favours for a 50th anniversary. I printed the names and date of the wedding on parchment and cut it into labels. I tied up the bags and labels with pink gingham ribbon, and they did look just gorgeous. I think I'll do something similar for the next party we have. The customer was delighted.
The third job this month - apart from the cake boxes and the deli cakes, of course - was a 1st birthday party cake and 48 mini cakes. The party was in lieu of a naming or christening, and the customer wanted pretty pastels and a Number 1 on the cake.
I basically did a version of B's birthday cake, but with flowers I'd piped myself. I used an edible marker pen to add a little detail to the pink butterfly at the front of the cake and edged the base of the cake with tiny lilac fondant flowers.
The mini cakes were in the same colours - lilac, lemon yellow and pink - and some had the same flowers or butterflies on to carry the theme across. The rest had sprinkles in the appropriate colours. I do so with I'd thought to take photos of the minis in their boxes; they looked just gorgeous and really set off the large cake beautifully.
The customer was utterly delighted. She texted me after the party to say the cakes were a triumph and she'd been tempted to pretend she'd made them herself. I'm so pleased it went well.
I'm getting a bit over-ambitious with thoughts for L's birthday next week, and my first wedding cupcake order looms.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
I thought it would be fun to do bread and butter; this is mostly because I think it is fun to make things the kids tend to assume you can only buy ready-made.
Because of time constraints I went for soda bread. Soda bread is dead easy. As I did the previous 3 times, I tested the process with Z and B on the weekend. I think if a 4 year old can manage it with supervision, 8 year olds should be able to manage it with minimum intervention. B was delighted. She had 'her' bread with the chilli we had for dinner that night, enjoyed a toasted slice with 'her' butter for breakfast, and showed off about it to her pals at Nursery. Quite rightly, too.
Our trial run established that double cream needs to be definitely at room temperature to make the butter and that soda bread takes less time than we usually spend. Oh, and that the oven needs as much time to heat up to the required 230 degrees as the bread takes to make, so it's best to turn it on before starting.
The kids were rather incredulous when i told them what we'd be making. As before, some had made bread before while some wouldn't know a rolling pin if it fell on their heads. I was pleased to see they all remembered how to wash their hands properly. They all did a super job.
DIY Butter -
200ml of double cream at room temperature. This is very important.
a jar with a tight fitting lid
Shake, shake, shake and shake. Remove the butter from the jar, press all the liquid out. If you are going to keep it for any length of time, rinse it over and over again to make sure you get every last bit of buttermilk out. Salt it if you like. If divvying up between loads of kids, put a heaped spoonful in mini cupcake cases and pop in the fridge for a bit.
Butter was the big hit. I talked them through the phases they could expect but the kids still pulled on my apron every 30 seconds to ask "is it butter now?" First the butter sloshes about a bit, then it barely seems to move as it becomes thick whipped cream. That lasts a while. Next is the slightly grainy phase when it looks a bit rubbish really. Then, suddenly there is a big SLOSH as the fat comes together to make butter and splashes about in the remaining buttermilk. Opening the jars to see their dollops of butter was so exciting. The kids all shouted to have a go squeezing the buttermilk and they were so keen to taste it.
Sift 250g plain flour with
1 tsp salt and
1 tsp bicarb
Add 2 tsp brown sugar
Stir in 225ml plain yoghurt or buttermilk
Knead for a minute or two. Form into as high-domed a ball as you can. Slash the top with a deep X (or, if making it for a table of 6 kids, a star) and bake at 230 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 200 degrees and bake for a further 15 minutes.
When the loaves had all been baked - in the same oven at the same time - the result was amazing. The loaves were each an accurate reflection of how the groups did. I've never seen such a blatant physical manifestation of cooperating and erm, not.
Two tables worked together very well. One of them in particular got a little enthusiastic about the kneading part and made the most beautiful loaf of soda bread I've ever seen. I was so impressed. Z's gang was one of those who did well, which is nice to know but not really surprising. They are a lovely group of kids.
Two tables pulled it together in the end after a rocky start, and produced prefectly edible bread, if not entirely appetising. One table (yes, the same one) did nothing but argue. They took twice as long as the others, clearly forgot to add the bicarb, didn't knead because none of them would get their hands sticky, probably added the salt three or four times over (based on the finished result) and produced an utter disaster of a loaf. It looked like home made salt dough we do for playdough, but baked to have a stiff crust around it. It would have been disappointing to take home and probably woulod have made them sick if they'd actually tried to eat it.
I went home and baked a replacement for them, although I did send their effort into the class as well. I felt a bit grumpy about it when I was dashing back to the school in the pouring rain, but it wasn't really much bother.
I had a very proud parenting moment when L told me I shouldn't have baked them a new one. "It is the natural consequence of their actions, Mummy. How else will they learn not to fight and to follow instructions?" Ah, the sweet pleasure of having your dearly held parenting beliefs repeated earnestly to you by your 10 year old...
He is of course entirely correct. However, on the off chance the 5 kids concerned did try and eat their grim slab of crusted dough, I didn't want to be responsible for making them sick. Plus it's nice to have something to show your parents, even if you did need a bit of a nudge (OK, a blatant replacement). I'm crossing my fingers for a better go next time.
Saturday, 20 March 2010
A few weeks back I gave a link to the Red Velvet cake I use - of the 3 or 4 I've tried, it's the recipe that works best for me although I use a different icing and do half the recipe. Andrew gave it a go and it was a disaster (it really was - I saw it!) When i gave them a wedge of Red Velvet, Jude said it was her family's favourite cake, Liz says hers didn't like it much.
Zach loves the muesli bars. Sair and Cath love the muesli bars. Emma says they are the nicest thing she's had. Michelle thinks they are horrid.
I try pretty hard to make as many people happy with my cakes as possible, obviously. It wouldn't be much of a business if I didn't. But in the past couple of weeks I've noticed how tricky that can get. I need to taste things myself, get Mark to taste them (he's more discerning, which is a nicer way of saying he's more likely to criticise) and have to get 4 or 5 other people's opinions or I end up with a pretty skewed product range.
I've made a mental list of who is a reliable source of tasting. Rebecca's family hate fruit in cake, as do Michelle's, and are keen fans of chocolate cake as long as it doesn't look like chocolate malteser cake. If it does look like chocolate malteser cake, if better be the real thing or they will be disappointed.
Sarah F's family like to try pretty much all kinds of cake but Sarah doesn't like apple or banana. Claire H's kids always have interesting points of view and don't always go for the obvious choices. Lisa and her family are keen to try any and everything and will rank them in preference, which was very useful when I was sorting out apple cakes. SJ loves cheesecakes. Val doesn't like sugar at all.
An added complication is that my palette is changing a bit. I'm not keen on the taste of royal icing (overexposure, I expect) and I'd rather eat a vat of buttercream icing than a tablespoon of sugarpaste. I am definitely keen on less sugar than I used to be. I spend so much time breathing in icing sugar as I sift and mix that I prefer the less sugary things. However, my two biggest selling items are both very sweet indeed. Butter, on the other hand... There's never too much butter, a perspective that Mark and Val both dispute.
So here I am, juggling feedback and tasting notes, suggestions and recipes. At some point I just have to go with what I think works.
You can't please all of the people all of the time etc. The joy of self-employment is that, on the whole, you can please yourself.
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Better get on with all that clearing up so I can get back to work. Once more into the breach, dear friends...
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
The season is on the change, Mother's Day approaches - or is that Mothers' Day? I'm never sure if it is 'the day for your Mother' or 'the day belonging to all Mothers' and I do hate apostrophes in the wrong place. Oops, got off topic a bit.
Easter's not far off either.
The birthday cakes are all flowery and springlike and I've spent an unsuccessful 2 hours trying to make daffodils out of icing.With the change of seasons comes the change in people's tastes. Unlike summer, a nearly chocolate-free zone, chocolate is still very big in spring. It's all those Easter eggs, I think. Lighter and freshers flavours move up while the spices that saw me through the winter season are much less in demand. Time to change what I'm making.
I've just had my meeting with the deli to decide on the Mother's Day range (I'm sticking to that apostrophe til someone tells me otherwise). It's gone well. I'm doing sugar cookies in the shape of teapots and teacups, lemon cupcakes with sugarpaste icing tops (and flowers and butterflies) and a decorated lemon layer cake.
The sugar cookies worked out really well. I have a regular moan about the stickiness and faffiness of cookie dough for cutting out rather than splodging. Splodge recipes are so much easier. The various cut-out recipes are either bland, too sweet, too sticky or stiff to handle - I'm looking at you, Ms N Lawson - or a little unreliable.
I've decided to go with the Hummingbird recipe, with extra vanilla because I like it and no salt because it doesn't need it. It's quite a sweet sugar cookie (the hint is in the name, really) so it doesn't desperately need to be fully iced, but it's not so sugary as to put your teeth on edge.
280g caster sugar
1 egg and beat well
400g plain flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Mix, chill for a bit if you have time, roll out to about 5mm thick and cut with the cutters you like best (or your kids are insisting you use. I find mothers rarely have free choice on these things. for years it was dinosaurs in our house, and when B finds out I have a crown cutter she's going to be ecstatic!)
Bake at 180 got about 10 minutes and ice or not as the spirit moves you.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
In a rash act of over-ambitious parenting a couple of weeks ago, I decided that trying to engage the kids in the Haiti Earthquake appeal would be A Good Thing. It seemed particularly important because at the jaded age of 10, L asked why we should bother sending money. "Shouldn't someone else do it? Like the Americans? They're rich and they're closer."
After delivering a lecture on the importance of everyone doing their bit, the brotherhood of man/sisterhood of women, how if someone needs help and we can give it it's our duty as fellow human beings to do so blah blah blah... I thought a more hands on approach might help.
When L was in Year 1 the Tsunami struck south east Asia. He was less of an old cynic then, and wanted to send his toys to the kids who had lost their homes "cos they probably haven't got stuff to play with." Lovely thought, but we decided raising money for food and medicine might be a bit more crucial. We baked biscuits, invited his class and parents over after school to a juice'n'cookie thing and raised about £65.
Z in particular is dead keen on that sort of thing; he loves a project and he loves to bake. With 2 kids in classes and one at nursery, that would be a lot of potential invitees if we did a repeat performance. We decided instead to do a Cookies for Cash sale after school in the playground. Z and B helped ice some of the 240 cookies I baked, my fabulously supportive pal Rebecca baked another 4 dozen and we set up shop. L took trays around the far end of the playground and was a very good salesman. Z helped man the main stall. I bothered my online friends for sponsorship and raised £40 that way.
A less wonderful bit - YIKES that was a lot of work. I was already rather busy with extra baking for Valentine's Day, Mark was away, I had my college course to fit in. Because the kids wanted to decorate them, I baked the faffy, roll-and-cut-out type for the first 128. That was kind of dumb. They take about 3 times as long as the nice easy dollop-y cookies. Just as i was getting horribly tired and uptight about how many cookies I still needed to bake, I had a thought... The kids were in school. They were not helping with cookies from this point forward so they won't care about icing. Super fast chocolate chip cookies it was! I got 112 done in no time flat. Still very tired, but chuffed.
Then I did all the sensible prep work - got bags of change from the bank, talked the staff of the fruit and veg shop into letting me have some of their brown bags for packaging, printed off signage emailed to me by DEC, packed up trays, tubs for money, aprons (to look the part) and gloves for all of us (it was snowing at times) and off I went.
Friday, 29 January 2010
I've blogged Riet's wonderful apple cake before. I've passed on Danielle's Chinese Chews recipe so often that I store it on the desktop, ready to print. FP Bean Stew from my online pal Millie is one of our standard dinners now.
The greatest of them all has to be Grandma Curl's Potato Salad recipe, which Dar and Kir's grandma Pearl Curry taught my mum to make back in the 70s. She taught me and I taught Mark. I can't imagine a summer without it. If you ask very nicely (and you remind me) I will post it at some point.
The next best thing to family recipes are recipes from cookbooks that other people swear by. My lovely and baketastic friend Rachel told me to buy Annie Bell's Gorgeous Cakes and it's been one of my best ever buys. I use it all the time.
My pal Lynne was asking about a chocolate cake that even non-bakers would find easy. My tutor Lesley was after a reliable, delicious chocolate cake that both children and adults love, and the answer to both of them has got to be the Annie Bell traybake. It's dead easy and utterly delicious. It's also very moist and last a fair while. You wouldn't think it had to because it is scrumptious and surely will be gobbled up, but in fact it does matter because the cake is huge.
So, here you go - my favourite chocolate cake recipe for when you have loads to feed:
75g cocoa powder
200ml boiling water
1 tsp bicarb
and set aside for a few minutes.
4 medium (or 3 large) free range eggs
370g light muscovado sugar
180ml vegetable oil
then stir in
200g self raising flour
Add the cocoa mixture, mix thoroughly and pour into a baking tin about 23 x 30 cm (9 x 12 ish inches). Bake in a medium hot oven (180 degrees ish) for about 30 minutes. If your tin is smaller and deeper it might take 40 minutes. Let it cool before icing.
In a bowl over a pan of boiling water, melt together
150g dark chocolate
3 tbs milk
and keep stirring until smooth. Pour it over the cake and scatter M&Ms or other sweets, glitter, 100s and 1000s, silver dragees... just cover it with bright and shiny stuff. It looks lovely and partyish.
I didn't use it today for Z's 8th birthday party because he wanted a Number 8 cake, and 2 round cakes was the smart way to go, but I did bake one anyway this morning for a customer with a family party this weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as they will.
Now wish me luck, my lovelies, because the over excited birthday boy woke us all up at 5:30 this morning and his party and sleepover is starting in an hour. It's going to be a loooooooooong night.
PS - Lesley also asked which Red Velvet cake recipe I use. I have a bunch, but I think I like the Magnolia one on the Guardian's website best. The quantities make 24 large cupcakes or 2 layer cakes, so most of the time I halve it.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
You probably already know this if you live within 150 miles of us, because Z has told EVERYONE. His entire school. The postman. The staff in Tesco. The woman from Freecycle who came to collect a car seat. Absolutely everyone.
Anyway, he's having a birthday party at home, with a sleepover for some of the kids afterwards. He wants to watch a movie with popcorn and eat a party tea of macaroni and cheese, pizza and scotch eggs and possibly melon. Bizarre, but there you go. He also wants a chocolate cake, traffic light jelly, whoopie pies, cookies, cupcakes and "just whatever else you want to make, Mummy."
Aw, thanks, chick.
Oh, and could I please bake cookies for his class of 31, possibly M&M ones and maybe little ones saying Zach Is 8 or something?
I think we'll just go with M&M cookies, myself. I'm all for simplicity, it's my new plan.
Last year I let myself get talked into tiny cupcakes with the initial of each child in the class piped on. That was a nightmare; it took us a good hour to remember the names of everyone in the class and I was all uptight that we'd have forgotten someone who would then be all upset. (We didn't) Anyway, I don't need that kind of palaver and with a college course, work cakes to do and a large number of party cakes requested all to be done Thurs/Fri, I think 31 M&M cookies is more than enough work.
My preferred recipe is from the lovely Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Family Cookbook. It's a super book, so do go and buy it if you haven't got it already. It explains the history and science of food as well as how to cook stuff. It's ace.
So, M&M cookies mostly like Hugh's recipe except he used chunks of chocolate -
125g melted butter
100g sugar (granulated or caster, whatever you've got to hand)
75g soft brown sugar
mix the butter and sugars together until well combined.
1 free range egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
and beat until smooth.
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
into the batter and then stir in
100g of M&Ms (or chocolate chunks or smarties or whatever you like)
This is a very sloppy liquid mixture. Splodge tablespoons of it on lined baking trays and bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a medium hot oven (around 190 degrees - nearly everything is cooked at that sort of temp) Do leave plenty of space between the cookies because they will spread.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes or so before you move them to cooling racks.
Makes about gooey 18 cookies.
By the way, as there is no creaming of butter and sugar needed and the batter is very liquid, it is a great recipe for kids to do. It's dead easy and really good.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
While I was in London, I thought I ought to take the opportunity to do some research. I visited Jane Asher's shop for a few bits and pieces, I spent a wonderful hour in Pages catering supply shop indulging in dreams of expansion and equipment. But mostly, I went to bakeries and cupcake shops, took photos and ate cake. Lots of cake. So much cake that I threw most of it out after I'd tried a bite.
My good friend Rebecca asked her good friend Beth, who lives in London, to recommend cake places to visit. Her recommendations were super, for which I am very grateful. Thanks, Beth!
Lola's is a cupcake concession in Selfridges and Harrods. They are very pretty, do loads of flavours and have LOVELY packaging. I am envious. The sponge itself is very white, which puts me off a bit because in my experience butter and free range eggs mean a yellower cake. I am a firm believer in butter and free range eggs.
Lola's cupcakes have icing very nearly as deep as the cake, and they are covered in all sorts of nice things. Luke tried one and was very keen.
Hummingbird cakes remain very, very sweet, with loads of icing but looking really cute. They do Chocolate malt cupcakes now - clearly inspired by my success with chocolate malteser cakes. As if. Still, I get to feel smug about being there first.
I also went to the Primrose bakery - gorgeous 50s diner styling, a nice cup of coffee and pretty cakes, although the one I bought was rather stale. The loaf cakes were rather strangely sunken in the middle - the sort of thing that would have made me think my cake had gone wrong, if I'd done it. However, the pretty curling ribbon used to tie up the boxes, the blowsy, old fashioned roses in a pitcher on the table and the pale yellow colour scheme were all lovely and made it a nice place to spend half an hour.
I had a look at the stuff from Patisserie Valerie, a new cupcake place called Ella's (nice enough, uses loads of edible glitter) and a good browse around the cake stalls of Borough Market too.
Things I learnt - red velvet is still a very popular cake and I was right to try and push it. The mini cupcakes I do are also very big down south. Lots of celebration cakes I saw were finished with a border of ribbon rather than the piped icing, and cakes on a black and white motif were popular.
Flavours I saw this time that I hadn't seen before are chocolate beetroot, rocky road cupcakes and earl grey cake. I got a lot of ideas for cake decorations too.
All in all it was a pretty constructive trip.
Friday, 8 January 2010
Here are the two cakes i did for our friends Tom and Abigail, who are twins. Tom wanted Dinosaurs, and i obliged as best I could. Abigail wanted a fairy. I bought a little figurine, which my eldest regarded as cheating. Ah well - I am very pleased with the result anyway. Most importantly, the kids were delighted.
The Divine Miss B had her 4th birthday party on Friday. She had a chocolate malteser cake, iced in a pale yellow buttercream with sugar paste butterflies (made by my own fair hand and dried for a few days to get the wings to stick up) and a letter B cookie. She was very, very chuffed.Below is a view of some of the stuff I baked for her party. The bright, low winter sunshine made getting photos a little tricky, and the pictures of some of the other stuff didn't come out as I'd like. However, I love the Happy Birthday banner made of iced sugar cookies so I've posted this one anyway.
At the back on the left is a cake stand that was my grandmother's, I think. The top layer contains mini cupcakes in the same lilac, pink and lemon colours as the cookies. The bottom layer has star sugar cookies in lemon. Then there's The Cake (all hail the cake!) followed by cupcakes iced in pale pink buttercream with silver glitter and Dora the Explorer wafers on. They are in Dora paper cases, too, but you can't see that from here. The jelly has B's name written across it (I ordered the personalised mould from Letterbox, and it's very cool.)