Sunday, 1 July 2012

Go to Recipe: Vanilla Cupcakes

Two years ago, my then 21year old son said ' Mum, do you fancy coming to New York with me for a long weekend?'  I didn't hesitate to say yes! Once my daughter heard of this it wasn't long before it was a trip for three to New York City.  My son has a reputation as a very healthy eater but one of his friends said that if he was going to New York he had to treat himself to a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery in Bleeker Street. Always happy to try any baked goods I looked forward to visiting the bakery. 

I loved it from the minute I walked in the door as it has such a great atmosphere which is heavy with the smell of delicious cake and cookies. We had a hard time deciding what not to buy! We got a selection of treats that included peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, red velvet cupcakes and coconut cake. I also bought the Magnolia Bakery book 'More from Magnolia' so I could re-create these amazing confections. 
 You need to understand that before I became interested in cake decorating it was all about the cake itself. I wanted to make the best cake (or cookie, or brownie, etc.) I could. The magnolia vanilla cupcake recipe produced a cake of perfection! It's a simple recipe and the cake is light with a good even texture - every time. I've experimented with different varieties of vanilla; using vanilla paste, vanilla pods, clear Mexican vanilla (a reputable brand with a lovely caramelly flavour) and of Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract, I have added sprinkles and chocolate chips and used a variety of frosting and decorations and the cupcake is always perfect. I have made so many cakes from one good recipe.

For Easter with pastel M&M's

For a birthday cupcake - the decoration was made with melted chocolate. I was experimenting with shapes.

Fourth of July

For a little girl's christening

I bought the set of cupcake liners and toppers in New York.

I made the pink flowers with sugar paste and I used a mix of pink and white butter cream in the piping bag.

The vanilla cupcake is the perfect cake for any occasion and these ones were to celebrate my dog nephew Tigger coming to Buckingham  Palace. You can read all about him on

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Gorgeous: Jubilee Celebration Cakes

Gorgeous: Jubilee Cakes!

Usually I can make up a reason to bake ( like its Saturday) but its more fun when there is an event to bake for and this was a very special event.  My parents-in-law had been married 60 years in March and we had decided to celebrate as a family over the Jubilee weekend.  I had made my choices of cakes to bake; a Victoria sponge, a chocolate cake and a carrot cake ( I pretended this was the healthy option).

The Victoria sponge was made using a Mary Berry recipe from her book called Mary Berry's Baking Bible.  Its a really simple recipe and it turns out well every time I have used it. I spread the bottom layer of the cooled cake with strawberry jam, whipped up some double cream and spread that over the jam.  The next layer went on top and I added the Union Jack crown. I thought that it looked a boring so I cut out a shape with paper and  dusted some icing sugar on the top before putting the crown back.  I piped more cream on the sides of the cake to secure the crowns.  It all looked so nice as you  can see in the main picture until the crowns started sliding off.........

I kept putting them back until eventually they stayed in place. Sugarpaste and fresh cream aren't the best combo

The finished product - behaving itself.

For the chocolate cake I used a Nigella Lawson recipe that I had made for my son's birthday. If you want to make a really chocolatey cake this is a good recipe to use.  The cake has a light even texture and with the fudge frosting it smells and tastes incredibly good. To avoid being tempted by this cake you can store it in a cake tin in a distant cupboard with a padlock on it. You could possibly eat spoonfuls of the fudge frosting, if you were that way inclined.........  The icing I made was more than enough for the cake and I did spread it on thickly.  This cake improves with age so if its in an airtight container it will last for up to five days.

The third cake - the healthy choice - was a carrot cake made with a recipe I found online called How to make the perfect carrot cake. I knew this would be good from the title. The cake is fairly easy to make, the only fiddly bit was grating the carrots.  I have to be extra careful not to grate my fingers so I had to take my time over this task. I wasn't that keen on the frosting recipe they suggested so I used a basic cream cheese frosting recipe and added a bit of orange oil for flavouring.

Cream Cheese frosting:

250 gms unsalted butter softened
300 gm tub of cream cheese
1kg icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange oil or 2 tsps vanilla

The butter needs to be quite soft or it won't mix evenly into the cream cheese. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth then gradually add the icing sugar.  Add the flavouring.  If the icing is too runny for piping put it into the fridge to harden up a bit. 

I did have quite a bit of icing left over but it keeps well in the fridge when stored in a plastic container. When you want to use it again it needs to warm up to room temperature to make it easy to spread or pipe.  Like the chocolate cake this cake certainly improved with age.  The cake tasted even better after about five days as the moisture in the icing softened the texture of the cake.

I made the letters and numbers on the cake board by putting strips of the sugar paste on a non-stick board, rolling over then lightly to bond then together and then cutting out the shapes.  I stuck them on the board with a dot of icing.

This was the centrepiece Jubilee cake with the Royal Pop Top decoration made by  It created the perfect celebration cake as it reflected both the Diamond Jubilee and the Diamond wedding anniversary. 

This was not the end of my Jubilee baking as I had a lot of sprinkles and cupcake liners to use up so there are more to follow..........

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Gadgets: Jubilee Cake Decorations

I admit I got completely caught up in the Jubilee hype.  I have bunting at home and in my office.  I convinced my husband to buy a lifesize cardboard cut out of the Queen for his office window which as you can see looks amazing!

And of course I have purchased more Jubilee cupcakes liners, decorations and sprinkles than I will use for this Jubilee at least.  I even have some things left over from the Royal Wedding.  I am sure I will find ways to use them up even if I have to invent some new events. I had several things planned over the Jubilee weekend and one event was to celebrate my in laws 60th wedding anniversary.  I made cakes for our tea party which I will blog about later but this blog is going to focus on making the decorations for the cakes.  I made three cakes; a Victoria sponge, a chocolate fudge cake and a carrot cake (its good to have a choice, right?) but in the spirit of all things red, white and blue the decorations aren't going to be totally traditional.

I decided to have a separate theme for each cake based on my equipment and skills.  I had purchased the Renshaw great British icing pack from Lakeland  (love that store) which gave me lots of red, white and blue sugarpaste to use for the decorations.  I got my cutters and started to put together some ideas.  I ended up with more ideas than cakes to decorate.  I decided upon crowns, roses and small flowers because I like using the plunger cutters.  

Here are my assembled gadgets:

I sat down in front of the televison and set to work.  I started by adding a pinch of  gum tragacanth to the sugar paste to make it firmer and easier to work with. The rolling pin I use and the board are both non-stick. I had some corn flour nearby in case the paste got a bit sticky but you need to be careful as it can leave a white film on the decorations.  I started with the navy blue paste to make my small flowers.  I decided to use some white ball sprinkles that I bought in Williams Sonoma in New York as the middle of the flower and I used a tiny bit of edible glue to stick it in place - royal icing would work just as well. 

I think this looks like my dog nephew Tigger with a close up of the flowers I made.  I used the little white flower cutter that came as part of a 3 part set.

Making the crowns was a bit more complicated as I thought they should have the full red, white and blue effect on each one. I used the red sugarpaste as a contrast on the blue crowns and used the same white sprinkles as jewels.  I lightly dusted the red sugarpaste with some edible red glitter dust to add some sparkle to the crowns.  

 Here you can see my lovely crowns sliding down the cake......fortunately they stayed in place when it was ready to serve!

Another sliding crown.........

I realised I needed a centrepiece to go with the small crowns so I came up with the idea of a Union Jack crown.  I cut out a big blue crown with a cookie cutter I had and made strips of white and red to make the flag.  I was very pleased with the end result!

Add it didn't slip or slide off the cake!

The third decoration was some simple sugarpaste roses that you make by cutting out seven circles that you then gently flatten out to form into roses.  Considering the cutter I used was the same the roses are all slightly different sizes. Could be I lost concentration as I was watching TV at the same time.  

I put some of the red glitter on the red roses - I do tend to 'over' glitter because I like the sparkle.

Had to do one rose with all three colours.

Once I put the roses on the cake it needed something to make the decorations look complete so I had to quickly twist together the sugar paste into a number 60.

 Full pictures of the cakes will follow!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Gorgeous Pink Glitter and Butterflies

I have been wanting to make a strawberry cake for ages but all the recipes I found called for strawberry jelly powder - not an easy thing to come by in the UK.  A friend's birthday was approaching and shes loves strawberries so it gave me a good reason to search out the jelly powder because then I could make the cakes. (Likes I need a reason to bake!) It didn’t take long to find what I needed.  Amazon had strawberry Jello powder in their American food section.

I had sourced a recipe from GothicGirl on the All recipes website so with my ingredients assembled I was good to go.

The smell when I added the Jello powder to the mix was incredible – such a good intense strawberry smell.

I had to take a picture of the batter when I added the strawberry puree as the contrast of the two pinks looked so good together.

Soon the cakes were out of the oven and ready for my favourite part – icing and decorating. I was making a basic buttercream but I had some strawberry puree left over so I added it to the mix with a drop of pink gel colour. I had some cupcake wrappers or skirts with butterflies on them that I wanted to use so I was inspired to make some pink butterflies from sugarpaste to decorate the cakes.  It was such a hot day I had to work really quickly and put them in the fridge to firm up.  The cakes were iced, the butterflies added, they were wrapped in their skirts and with a dusting of glitter they were just right for the birthday girl.

Happy Birthday Anna

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The beginning of my blogging experience

Bored with this  - I need a cookie

Getting Started............

What should I write to to spark people's interest? What can I say that with intrigue the reader and make them want to keep reading? These questions and many more have been playing on my mind since I set up my blog name many month's ago. I have wanted to do a blog about my baking experiences for some time now but I didn't know where to begin. 

My sister has a blog (you can find it here and she gave me some very good advice - just get started and the words will flow. 

I have loved baking for all long as I can remember. I have recipes I have used for ever, new experimental stuff and my fair share of disasters.  I like to ready cookery books, love magazines and tv programmes about baking so its no surprise than when I am not focussed on baking; I am focussed on weight loss!

I have lots of things I want to write about but I thought it would be good to put them into categories.  These will be:
  • Go to - the recipes I know work well
  • Gadgets - utensils and tools I like to use
  • Greats - triumphs
  • Goofs - disasters
  • Gorgeous - the ones that look beautiful
To tempt you to come back, I have added pictures of some of the things I have made.

Experimenting with fondant
Fruit and nut bread

Chocolate chip cookies