Last Minute Lemon and Poppyseed Ring Cake

During Easter, I went a bit anti-Easter related baked goods.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m kind of tired of all the Easter eggs, bunnies, and bird nests.  We’ve all had our fair share of chocolatey goodness and enough is enough.

So when I was told that we had guests coming for cake and tea two hours before they were due to arrive – I refused to bake anything Easter-related I got out the trusty old Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and picked a recipe that reminds me of spring: the Lemon and Poppy Seed Ring Cake.Read More »

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The Easiest Cheesecake … Ever

 That’s right people – this is officially the easiest one I’ve made yet. I made this for yet another dinner party and we had lots to do.  Luckily there’s literally no baking involved in this recipe, which makes a welcome change … especially when both ovens were already packed with food being roasted.Read More »

Better Than A Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

I flaked on going out with a friend the other week and promised I’d make it up to him. He decided it that I could make it up by baking something with chocolate and orange. This was when a little light bulb turned on in my head and I remembered a recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery book for Chocolate Orange cupcakes.

The surprising thing about this recipe, however, was that it also used vanilla essence … hmm. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical while making the cupcakes, I thought there would be too many different flavours going on.  But, as always, I put my trust in the Hummingbird Bakery and powered through.

The cupcakes were made in the standard Hummingbird way, mixing all the ‘wet’ ingredients e.g. butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla essence etc. with all the ‘dry’ ones.  Once everything was incorporated and the batter was smooth. I used smaller, UK sized cupcake cases and managed to get 24 cupcakes out of the batter.

 

After twenty minutes in the oven, out came some great smelling, and perfectly flat cupcakes.  I was so happy! It’s been ages since they’ve come out looking so nice.

I let them cool and made up the icing, which consisted of icing sugar, butter, cream cheese, orange zest and cocoa powder.  Now I’ve finally learnt that you can’t pipe icing with any bits in it, no matter how well you mix it. So I went for the typical Hummingbird Bakery swirl and put a few chocolate stars on each to decorate.

 

A box of these cupcakes went to work with me the next day, as I seriously doubted my friend could work his way through 24 of them.  I got to work at 9am with the intention not to try one, but I caved by 11am and had a cupcake with my tea, for taste testing reasons, of course.

Now I’ve never actually had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, but the cupcakes taste exactly how I imagine them to be.  A colleague actually said they tasted better, and another described the cupcakes as ‘heaven’.  Well, you can’t get a compliment better than that!

Personally I really liked the taste and was pleasantly surprised that all the different flavours worked so well.  The vanilla essence actually helped to develop the orangey flavour.  The icing is beautifully smooth and unbelievably tasty.  Definitely one to bake again!

Who Needs A Coffee When You Have an Espresso Cupcake

So the second set of cupcakes I baked for the ‘Volunteer Reading Help’ cake sale at work were the Espresso Cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.

For the first time in a long time, I was smart enough to read the recipe a while before I started baking; so I knew that I needed to warm the milk first in order to dissolve the espresso powder and let it cool again.

A definite great start! The recipe then follows the standard Hummingbird route: mix all the ‘dry’ ingredients with the butter, then the ‘wet’ ingredients together, and finally whisk these in in two batches.

The batter was filled into cupcake cases and put into the oven for about 20 minutes. You can tell the cupcakes are ready when your kitchen starts smelling like a coffee shop!

 

While the cupcakes were cooling, I heated up some more milk and mixed in some espresso powder, ready to make the icing once it had cooled again – this time I was less patient and put the milk mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes.  The icing was made by mixing the butter and icing sugar and gradually adding the milk and whisking on high until smooth.

I used a Wilton 2D nozzle to create a whipped twirl effect on the cupcakes.  A while ago I was asked to make videos of how I ice cupcakes but I have either forgotten, not had the equipment or created rubbish videos.  For once, I managed to make a half decent video, which you can find here. Hopefully, it’ll give you a better idea on how I managed it.

For the final touch, I used small pieces of dark chocolate on top of the twirls.  The cupcakes were packed and sold the next day at the cake sale.  I actually bought one of these (as it just seems wrong to take one) and really enjoyed it.  I’m not the biggest fan of very strong coffee so was intrigued how these cupcakes would turn out and was pleasantly surprised.  The coffee flavour nicely offset the sweetness of the cupcake, the dark chocolate also giving it a nice kick.

The more of these coffee cakes I bake the more I like them. They are a great alternative to the really sweet options out there.

A Piper’s Dream

We had a charity cake a few weeks back and I was one of the many people who decided to bake for it.  I wanted to do something a bit different, i.e. try out some piping skills, so decided on a big vanilla sponge with a difference.

I used the vanilla cupcake recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery books and doubled the amount, put them into 3 cake tins and baked them for roughly 40 minutes. I had some batter left over so made some small cupcakes as well.

While the cakes were cooling, I used some white and green fondant and cut out a selection of big and small flowers and leaves and left them to set and harden.

I cut the top off all three cakes to make a really straight, smooth surface to work on.  I doubled the Hummingbird Bakery buttercream icing recipe and started assembling the cake.  I put a layer of icing inbetween each layer and made a ‘crumb coat’ around the outside of the cake. This is essentially a thin layer of icing to pack in all the crumbs.  I left this to harden a bit before I started to decorate.

Now, I’ve been a follower of Arty Cakes for a while and absolutely love what they do with their piping. So I used their basket weave concept as inspiration for this cake.  I started by spreading a thicker, and hopefully smoother layer of icing on the top of the cake.  I’m absolutely rubbish at this and even with a straightening tool had a lot of trouble getting it perfect.

I then split the rest of the icing and coloured the larger portion pale green.  This went into a piping bag with a basket weave decorating tip; I used Wilton’s no. 47.

To start the basket weave, pipe a vertical line on the cake.  Then, start at the bottom and draw a horizontal line across the vertical one.  Leave a space the size of the nozzle above and pipe another horizontal line above that etc. till you get to the top.  You then draw another vertical line next to the first one and pipe horizontal lines in the gaps (I hope this all makes sense!). You continue this all the way around the cake.

Now my biggest problem was my improvised piping bag.  I currently only have a large piping bag, which was too big for the nozzle I was using, so I used a sandwich bag with the corner cut off instead.  When you squeezed the piping bag, however, a small hole would often appear, which made it really hard to get any icing out at all, let alone evenly. My poor dad was there with the duck tape, taping any holes as they came!  With his help I finally managed to finish the basket weave and started on the top edges.

I used the Wilton 17 nozzle with the remaining buttercream icing to tidy to outside edge of the cake.  To achieve this effect hold the piping bag horizontally, squeeze quite hard while holding the bag still and gently remove pressure as you move the bag sideways.  Again I had problems with my piping bag and couldn’t squeeze too hard in case the bag decided to explode!

To finish the cake off, I stuck the fondant flowers and leaves onto the top of the cake with a little buttercream in whatever arrangement I thought looked good. This was at 2am however so my idea of ‘good’ may have been a little off at the time!

The last job of the night was to decorate the cupcakes. I used the Wilton 2D nozzle to make little roses in the centre of the cupcake and used spare fondant flowers and leaves to decorate the side.

Both the cupcakes and the big cake went down a treat at the bake sale and lots of money was raised for ‘Volunteer Reading Help’. A job well done and a hell of a lot of fun with the piping – only next time I might have to invest in some better piping bags!

A 5 Minute Apple Tart Concoction

I was going to my lovely friends house yesterday (who has a brilliant food blog – check it out here) with the promise that she would make me something amazing and new. Essentially she was treating me like a test subject.   So, naturally, I thought it would only be fair that I bring her something baked.

So I looked in my cupboard/fridge and found some left over puff pastry.  Hmm… After a quick Internet search I found a great recipe that I altered to suit my needs (click here to get the original recipe).

Essentially all you do is place the pastry on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper (I only had foil).  Also I decided to roll out the pastry a little more to make enough for three good-sized portions of tart.

 

Then you core, half and thinly slice any apples of your choice – I used some royal gala apples – and put them in a bowl with a cup of sugar.  Err… a cup of sugar? This is a quick treat, not a heart attack!

So this is where I changed it up. I used a small measuring cup (200ml size) and filled it up to the 100ml line with dark brown sugar.  I also put in a pinch of salt and a pinch or two of cinnamon.

 

These go in the bowl with the apples and are stirred together till all the slices are covered.  I then placed these down the middle of the tart and into the oven for 10-15 minutes.

They tarts came out smelling delicious.  But I had a tiny problem when trying to get them off the baking tray.  Because I rolled the pastry out, it had become ridiculously thin and very hard to get off.  Basically they broke in half. Damn. And I’ve promised them a tart now.

 

What did I do? I gave these three to my dad to taste test and went to the supermarket and bought more pastry of course!  This time I didn’t do anything silly and managed to get all the proportions and measurements right.

I somehow managed to wrap it up and get it to my friend’s house without eating it on the way.  After a beautiful dinner of chicken and chorizo paella, I warmed up the tart served it hot.  It was delicious and definitely not something you could believe took 5 minutes to prepare.  If ever you have some puff pastry going spare, this is definitely a recipe I would suggest, and it’s something that can be adapted for any fruit you feel like using.

So here it is. My adapted recipe for a quick apple tart:

Ingredients:

1 pre rolled sheet of pastry

1 egg

4  medium sized apples

1 cup of dark brown sugar (I used a 200ml sized measuring cup)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Icing sugar for dusting

 Method:

1.) Preheat oven to 170C.

2.) Dust both sides of your sheet of pastry with icing sugar and place it on greaseproof paper on your baking tray.

3.) Separate the egg white and brush the pastry with it.  Then fold each side to create a small border.

4.) Core, half and slice your apples.

5.) Mix your sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and put in the sliced apples.  Stir this together till all the apples slices are covered.

6.) Place the apples in whatever pattern takes your fancy, I did it in a straight line.

7.) Place in the oven for 10-15minutes or until the pastry rises and is golden brown.

8.) Once out of the oven, dust with icing sugar and serve hot.

A Nutty Loaf

After a loaf spree recently I wasn’t too keen on making another loaf for a while. My mum had other plans for me however – she’s had her eye on three different loaves for a while and managed to convince me to make one for a dinner party we were having.  So, me being the annoying person that I am, put it up to Facebook to decide; and, just as annoying, there was a tie!  So I chose the Pistacchio Loaf to get it out the way

I wasn’t too keen on making this but it had to be done at some point right?  For once I remembered to chop up the pistachios before starting on anything else, which took forever.  Chopping nuts is officially the most boring, dragged out process ever – the worst bit of baking in my opinion! Anyhow, once chopped I whisked all the ‘wet’ ingredients  and sifted the ‘dry’ ingredients  in anotehr bowl.  This was all then whisked together and the chopped pistachios stirred in.

 

After an hour in the oven, I took the cake out to cool.  It smelt great, as freshly baked cake generally does, but for some reason I just wasn’t sold. I took the cake out of the tin and left it to cool while our guests arrived and we ate dinner.

Before dishing out the cake to everyone I made the glaze to go on top.  I mixed icing sugar ad water together until quite thick and poured it over the cooled loaf.  I then ground up some pistachios using a mortar and pestle – or an anger management device, as I prefer to call it – and sprinkled it on to the glaze.

The cake went down really well at the dinner party; they really liked the nutty taste.  My gut served me right this time – it wasn’t my favourite cake at all; I did like it with the glaze but it wasn’t sweet enough for me.  I do tend to like most cakes that aren’t sweet, but these normally compensate with spices – the pistacchio loaf just wasn’t enough of either.  Ah well.  On to the next one!

What’s Better Than a Hot Chocolate on a Cold Winter’s Day?

I have three loves in life: music, books, and baking.  Today I got to mix two of them together.

We had a meeting at work today to discuss the amazingness of a book called ‘Pear Shaped’ that will be released in January.  Yes I used the word amazingness people, it’s that good – I started reading it last night and I had to ask my mother to hide the book from me while I write this blog.  And what is it about??? A pudding taster!

So how did this meeting connect to two of my loves?  Well, we had a great book to discuss and what better way to discuss it than over a nice afternoon tea – each person contributed and baked a cake for the meeting.

I actually had a bit of trouble choosing which cake to bake; I’m still new there so I couldn’t make anything too flashy that screamed ‘show-off’, but didn’t want to make something boring either. After spending way too much time looking at pictures in the books, I finally chose the Hot Chocolate Cupcakes.

These sound a lot more difficult to bake than they actually are; the hardest part of the recipe is heating the milk and stirring in the cocoa powder! Otherwise the recipe pretty much follows the same pattern.  Mix up the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt while the chocolate milk dries; then hand whisk the eggs into the chocolate milk and pour into the ‘dry ingredients’ and whisk.

The batter was a bit runnier than what I’m used to, so you’d think pouring it into the cupcake cases wouldn’t be hard… Wrong.  I somehow managed to drop the bowl onto a few packages of empty cupcake cases, which caused a knock on effect and essentially ended up in right mess.  I had to pour some batter back into the bowl from squished cases, replace them and start again.

I finally managed to get everything wiped down and clean again; the cupcakes went into the oven for 20minutes and came out smelling like the most amazing hot chocolate.  I got told off yet again for making the house smell too yummy by family members and had to give them warm cupcakes to compensate.

Once the cupcakes cooled I moved onto the icing.  It was now around midnight and I realised that I only had half the amount of icing sugar needed. Typical.  I made do and whisked up the icing.  The lack of icing meant that any fancy ideas for piping went out the window – I resorted to the trusty ‘Hummingbird Bakery Swirl’ with some chocolate sprinkles.

I treated myself to a ‘Yay, I’ve finished’ cupcake and some milk before I collapsed into bed.  I was worried that the cake would taste like a standard chocolate cupcake and that the recipe was just a fancy name.  Thankfully I was wrong; the cake was beautifully moist and didn’t have the richness of a chocolate cupcake – it actually tasted like hot chocolate.

The cupcakes went down a treat at the afternoon tea; in fact all the cakes at the tea party were beautiful. After some strenuous taste testing, I can say that they were all lovely!   There was so much that we also managed to hold an impromptu cake sale for a charity as well. Go team!

So what, you may ask, is better than a hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day?  It’s a hot chocolate cupcake with a cuppa’ and a bloody good book on a cold winter’s night!

The Not-So-Spicy Spiced Pound Cake

This week, I decided to make the Spiced Pound cake as a gift to a friend (i.e. I needed another reason to bake and had to keep it simple because I’m chair/bed bound).  My funny ass ‘friend’ (we shall not name or identify them in any way due to the, ahem, horrendus joke about to be written) said: is it called a spiced pound cake because its spicy? Ha Ha…. Ha… Errr… No!

I generally love these types of cakes (ones with spices, not with holes in them… I will never understand why you’d do that) because the recipe has lots of different spices in it, including cloves, cinammon and ginger.  My friend has an allergy to cinnamon so I ended up swapping the quantity with more ginger.

A tip for baking this type of cake: grease the cake tin with butter and dust some plain flour over it.  This should stop the cake sticking and making a mess of taking it out.

The batter came out quite thick and almost filled the cake tin.  The 60min cooking time for this cake was a lot longer than other recipes and  I was a bit worried that the cake hadn’t cooked enough so left it in for a couple minutes longer.

While the cake was cooling, I then realised that I did leave it in the oven for a bit too long, as the outside was a bit harder than it should be. Oops.  But it did look very tasty and the smell almost made me cut a slice right then and there.

The final part was sieving icing sugar on the top.  For once, I managed not to go too crazy with the icing sugar; mainly because I had time to waste and did it REALLY slowly.

The family gathered like a pack of wolves when the smells started wafting through the kitchen, so I resorted to threats and hiding the cake.  The holes you see in the pictures were somehow created the next day; I’ve never found the person who did it but if I ever do I’ll exact my revenge. Be warned.

The cake went down a treat and the crustiness of the outside actually went really well with the texture of cake.  It probably wouldn’t be a favourite for the crazy sweet-toothed people out there, but it had a really nice texture and went great with a nice cup of tea.