Thursday, 9 February 2012

A Helping Hand

This week I have a work experience student with me.
She's friendly, interested, smart and hard working - all ace.  She also LOVES cleaning, practically thumps me if I go to do the washing up and keeps asking if she can stay to mop the floor because mopping is fun.  This I find richly bizarre. But I'm all for it.  God knows I hate cleaning and regard washing up as the worst bit of the job.
On the first day she rather slowed me down.  It takes a while to get confident with new equipment and to feel settled, obviously.  However, the pace was far slower than I'd anticipated.  I was a little worried because I knew I had an extremely busy week ahead. Would I be able to get the Valentine and half term orders?
I needn't have worried. By Tuesday she was mucking in, volunteering to do things and really being a great help.
I tried to alternate her tasks between the workaday chores and playing with icing.  She had fun doing the faces on the gingerbread men, became a dab hand at sugar roses and loved icing the mini cupcakes. Across the week we talked about a design for a celebration cake of her own.
Today, amongst the orders for customers, we've made a vanilla and berry marble cake for her. She cut it into 3 layers, spread berry coulis and buttercream between the layers, covered with a crumb coat then sugarpaste. As I type she's making the last few roses to go on it. I think she'll be very pleased with her work.
I've missed Radio 4, talking to myself while I work and singing aloud whenever I fancy. I'll miss all the help and having someone to tackle the washing up - although I won't miss trying to remember not to swear every time I drop something!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Cocktails, anyone?

Today I had a go at a gin and tonic cake.  I had a good browse online, looking at others' experiments. I made tiny gin and tonic mini cakes some years back using my beloved Annie Bell book, but they hadn't impressed me.
I started with a light lemon cake as the base -
225g butter
225g caster sugar
zest of a lemon
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
a splash of milk.
As usual, I creamed the butter, sugar and zest together, added the eggs one at a time and the flour.  It was a bit stiff so I poured in a splash of milk. I baked the cake in two 20cm round tins for 25 minutes at 180 degrees C.
Then I made the syrup.  I wanted that quinine taste of tonic and a good splash of gin.  however, i only had the VERY nice gin I was bought for Christmas, so I was a little more stinting that I would be if it had been cheaper stuff.
100ml tonic water
100g caster sugar
juice of 1/2 the lemon
25ml gin
I simmered the tonic and the sugar together until the sugar had dissolved and the liquid had about halved.  I added the lemon and the gin - it smelled lovely!  I brushed the syrup across the warm cake very liberally as it came out of the oven and left it to cool.
For the icing, I wanted a nice smooth white butter cream with a gin kick.
100g butter
250g icing sugar
G&T syrup
25ml gin
I beat the butter until it was white, added the icing sugar and drizzled in the G&T syrup I'd got remaining after brushing the cakes. It was too mild so i added another 25ml of gin.  It's still to mild - you get a lovely juniper whiff as you smell it but the taste is just a lemon and something. You'd not guess G&T.  I'm having another go with more gin in the icing. Just as soon as I have a cheaper brand of gin to play with.