Panna Cotta and Raspberry Jelly

The more I bake the more complex and beautiful my baked goods are expected to become – apparently having a baking blog means I’m somehow automatically trained in the art of decorating cakes. And I get it to an extent; I get a lot more practice at baking than others, but not enough to call myself a professional and definitely not enough to compete with some of the insanely beautiful blogs out there.Read More »

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!

The Journey Begins…

I’ve decided to kick-start this blog with the simplest recipe that appears in both books: Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing.  However, in the spirit of Easter, I’ve decided to make them look a bit more exciting.

The recipe in the book was easy enough to follow and used easily available ingredients (the other reason why I chose to start with this recipe).

The hardest part of baking for me is getting the measurements right.  I have temperamental weighing scales that decide to change the measurement without me adding anything! First baking suggestion would be to buy a decent set of scales.

The recipe requires you to add all the dry ingredients first and add in the rest bit by bit.  This was all simple enough to do and the batter came out looking perfect.

Get ready for the second baking tip: invest in an ice-cream scoop.  No I’m serious, it’s the perfect measure to fill up enough batter in the cupcake cases for the cakes to come out perfectly.

The cupcakes came out nice and golden, however some managed to sink a bit. You may wonder why this happens? Well its either because I over mixed the batter, or I opened the oven door before they were cooked enough.  Due to a mixture of getting over-excited and impatient, I managed to do both these things.  My saviour came in the form of icing, which nicely covers everything up and hides your flaws.

However icing sugar itself has a flaw, it covers your entire kitchen in a white dust.  I have come up with a handy tip however, cover the top of your mixing bowl with kitchen foil and make a hole in the middle for your whisk. It takes a bit of practice to gauge when all the sugar has been mixed but it drastically reduces time needed to clean up afterwards

Icing the cakes, I decided to get creative and used a piping bag with a little star shaped nozzle to make little mounds that hopefully look a bit like grass.

Then with a few mini eggs and sugar flowers (bought from the supermarket) I finished my Easter creations.