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!

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Chocolate Cupcake Madness

I’m not quite sure why but I always seem to end up baking late on Friday nights (not from a lack of social life, however!).  This week I was baking chocolate cupcakes for a birthday picnic on Saturday.

The recipe was easy enough to follow: whisk the dry ingredients together, mix the liquid ingredients together and then whisk it all up to make the batter.  The recipe always says to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder etc. together as the first step.  I tend to do it a different way to make sure I don’t over-mix the flour. I mix the butter and the sugar together first before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The cakes went into muffin cases and cupcake trays (a deadly mix).  I didn’t want the cakes to blend together again from lack of support, so I put a little less batter in each case than I would normally do.  They came out perfect but hadn’t risen to the top.  One day I will be able to get it right with muffin cases… or just buy a muffin tray.

Then came the icing.  I’m sure I halved the icing as usual but am not sure how I managed to put double the amount of milk in.  Luckily this didn’t actually affect the icing and it came out well.  To be honest I may have just made a whole batch in my sleepiness and thought I had made half.  Who knows?!

The best part of baking for me is decorating the cakes.   Lot’s of blogs I read have beautifully piped roses etc. and I have become slightly envious; so I will be ordering some Wilton nozzles a.s.a.p. For now I made do with some nozzles that I found at home.

When icing frosted roses; you should apparently hold the piping bag directly above the cake, start from the middle and work your way outwards in a circle.  Sound easy? Not so much.  Some just didn’t seem to want to work, so I swirled them in the Hummingbird Bakery style instead.  Most did sort of work but it’s clear that I need a lot more practice!

I took the cupcakes to the picnic the next day and kept the box straight (so they wouldn’t get squished).  Because of the hot weather however, the icing got a bit, for lack of a better word, gooey.  Seeing my friends attempt to eat them was very funny to watch though.  They were enjoyed by every one and gobbled up.  I normally don’t like chocolate cake and these were very sweet but still yummy.