Saturday, 22 September 2012

Rainbow Themed Vanilla Cupcakes

Well I have not written a blog in a looooong time. November in fact, bad me!

I wanted to do a little one about these rainbow themed cupcakes, as its something a little different. I was actually quite apprehensive about making these even though the idea seemed relatively simple. I think it’s because so far I haven’t actually decorated a cupcake in this way, just the usual buttercream and a few sprinkles or such like. But I wanted to give them a go for my Daughter's 2nd birthday party, rather than a normal large birthday cake. Truth be told I really couldn't think of anything to make in that form. Think i set the bar too high with last year's princess castle cake!

The cupcake flavour stayed as a plain vanilla, I didn’t want to pick anything more adventurous and get tied up making them with a potentially long decorating stent in front of me. I have to say that I think this was the smoothest batter i have ever made. No idea why i came out so perfect but things just seemed to click for that. The same can't be said for the vanilla buttercream icing though..

Started out fine with the usual cloud of icing sugar engulfing the kitchen as I measured it out. Now don't get me wrong, I love to bake but i HATE using icing sugar. Softened the butter in the microwave, which is a usual for me as i never take it out early enough to get to room temperature, and I think this was my downfall. Must have put it on for too long as when i mixed it in with the icing sugar, it became quite lumpy and almost dough like. I did panic a little at this point, as I didn't have the ingredients, time nor will to remake it, so i ploughed on and added the milk and vanilla essence anyways and hoped it would turn out okay. And it did thankfully, phew!

Although a little lumpy, I scooped out roughly half the buttercream into a separate bowl and added the blue food colouring, to use this as the base coat of my masterpiece, as it were. I was hoping to get a darker shade of blue but could see straight off this wasn't going to happen and, as every good baker knows, you can't add too much food colouring to icing any way. the cupcakes had all baked well but domed in the middle slightly. Usually i just ice over this with the thick slavering but I needed these to be flat so the clouds and rainbow would take centre stage, so just trimmed the bulge off the tops. Nice little cake break for me then too.

The icing with the blue vanilla buttercream didn't take very long, it’s much easier to do when the cupcake surface is flat, so that out of the way I set about filling my silicone piping bag ready to do the clouds. I debated for ages over which size round nozzle to use and settled on the smaller of the two, in the thought that if it’s not enough i can add more and less likely i squeeze too much out like a volcano and mess it all up. Once i started on the clouds, piping two, directly opposite each other, I realised it wasn't going to be such a daunting task as i imagined. Was building things up to be harder than they were down to the fact I haven't done anything other than badly piped swirls on the top of a cake before, and nothing this small either.

The rainbow itself is a cheat. Just one of those flat fizzy sugary sweets bought from my local sweet shop. The original idea was from a cupcake decorating book and their version was to use chew sweets such as starburst, roll them out, cut into strips, stick them together and then shape into an arch. You can see why i opted for the ready bought version now! So these were simply just cut and stood into the white just iced cloud to create the cupcake you see now. Ta Da!

But that’s not all...Having completed my task and feeling rather pleased as punch with myself ( I think the words "Yeah I'm awesome" were uttered) I then proceeded to knock an open bottle of food colouring all over my toaster! Not so awesome now are we!

Mess cleaned the cupcakes went into two tupper ware boxes, so not to crowd them and risk damaging my lovely design, overnight and that was that. When I came down this morning I noticed all the rainbow arches had collapsed and looked ruined. Opening the boxes I realised whilst keeping the cakes nice and moist they had warmed the sweet and caused it to become sticky and not ideal. Quick thinking reasoned to leave them til nearer the party and just swap the sagging arch for a stiffer new one. This worried me in case the slightly hardened icing cracked too much but overall it was relatively easy to replace the rainbows. This time however they did not go back into tupper ware, lesson learnt.

They went down a treat at the party, some kids (and grown ups) couldn't wait until the traditional blowing out of the birthday candles to dig in. Would recommend anyone to give these a go as they are such an eye pleaser with fairly minimum effort. Pleased I decided on cupcakes rather than a large birthday cake, less leftovers and temptation too..and as I say that and finish this blog, I am about to tuck into one said cupcake with a cuppa...whoops!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Update Time!

Wow, its been a long time since I have updted anything on here. Might as well start off by stating the obvious...I didn't complete my challenge. It seems my toddler got in the way of things a bit.

I still love baking and even though I haven't been blogging or always trying new recipes, I can assure you the cakes have still been flying around my kitchen. Recently I have made the Peppermint cupcakes (twice) the Chocolate, Caramel and Hazelnut Cheesecake (although it didnt turn out as well as it did the first time, the choc and caramel layers mixed into one), the Caramel cupcakes and the Lemon and Thyme Loaf. Most of these were at the request of my family in Cornwall, I have just returned from a 2 week break down there with them.

As for what happened with the challenge itself, it for one started to become a bit of a chore. Trying to find a recipe I liked the look of and wasn't too difficult was hard. I had got to the point where i had picked the ones I fancied or were relatively easy and now was faced with all the unusual flavours or several page instructions.

Along with this slip up it was also becoming harder to bake in the days and also evenings, with my daughter rapidly growing and become a cute if naughty toddler. Her naps had become brief and that time was spent manically tidying. Once awake she cannot be left alone for a second, with all the 'exploring' of my furniture, window ledges and anything she can get her hands on that she isnt meant to touch. Just popping to the kitchen to get her a drink saw her feeding her crisps to our 8 month old puppy and to date I have found her one the bay window sill, trying to climb from the armchair onto the top of the baby fire guard and this morning she came wandering in with the lightbulb from our side lamp, a screw in one no less! How she managed to get that out i will never know.

With all this going on, the baking unfortunately got left behind and has become a nice passtime for me when I have an hour or so to spare. I don't mind it so much, with stress of trying to keep up with the 2 recipes a week for the challenge was starting to take its toll and take the fun out of baking and it is something that i never want to see as a chore. I always want to be proud and relaxed by my accomplishment than relieved its over.

So..where do we go from here, my fellow bakers? I am hoping to continue with this blog and update on the rest of the Cake Days recipes I have yet to tackle but this time I am not putting a time goal at the end of it all...Life just desn't care about your plans, even if they are of baked sugary goodness.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Mini Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes

Time for another mini and alcoholic cupcake round. The first were the Mojito cupcakes as they were requested by a friend. These ones are more my style since I actually have drunk a daiquiri of the strawberry variation and know they are good, so in cupcake form it should be interesting.

The rum and sugar need to be boiled and reduced by half before anything else can happen. The smell of boiling rum is horrid in my eyes, or nose should that be, and I had to open the back door whilst it was bubbling away. Managed to get it to the right consistency and the strawberries that had be chopped beforehand were added to this to soak away for what ended up being about 50 minutes. I forgot for a little while about them and started the batter part a little late.

The batter is the usual cupcake mix of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter. This is whisked and then the egg, milk and vanilla essence infusion is added into it until smooth. Batter complete and the strawberries need to be drained from the rum concoction, saving the liquid for later, and then about a teaspoon of strawberries is placed into the bottom of each cupcake case before the batter is poured over them. I made about 30 cupcakes in all, but this did require me to put another batch in later as yet again I only have one mini cake tray. These baked for about 15 minutes and as soon as they came out the oven I poured half a teaspoon of rum mixed onto the top of each sponge and left them to cool.

My usual routine after the cakes have actually baked it to clean up the kitchen and wash anything up I may need to use to make the frosting up with. During this I poured the leftover rum mixture down the sink until it came to be reading through the next few stages and realising I needed it for the icing. Stupid me I had to them put another batch on to boil, gross and meant I had to wait even longer as the strawberries needed to soak in it again too to add their infusion. With this and my husband giving what he thought were spare strawberries to our little one to try I also ended up being short on my decorations too.

Bashed the icing together and set about smoothing it onto the cupcakes. Got the palette knife out, scooped some frosting onto it and then thought it was going to be too big to ice the sponges nicely so settled on a teaspoon as a substitute. Put a quarter of a strawberry on top of each cupcake bar the last 8 as I ran out as previously said. Pleased with the end result and my Best friend was the first to try one, she loved them and said they might even take over the red velvet cupcakes as her favourites and that is saying something. Once I forced my way in there and had one, I can confirm they do actually taste and smell like the cocktail they are named after. Looking forward to the Pina colada ones next, not so much the Brandy chocolate, Brandy is not my thing.

Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

I haven't made any Whoopie pies for a while now and wanted something chocolatey, as again it has been some time since I made anything with that in it too. These were made last weekend on the Saturday 29th, followed by the plan to make the Mini Strawberry daiquiri cupcakes the next day.

Eggs ans sugar are the starting point in this recipe. Once fluffy the plain yoghurt, milk and vanilla essence is mixed in a jug and then added to the eggs and sugar until combined. The butter for the whoopie pies is melted before it is added in then come the dry ingredients. The usual flour, bicarb and baking powder are sifted together and then added in two batched to the wet mixture. This is where my electric whisk struggles to get through the dense mixture even when on high. Got there in the end, with a little gentle encouragement on my part, and the chocolate chips are the last to be hand stirred in.

I had a dilemma this week in that my local Tesco has not only decided to move all there shelves around, so annoying as taken me ages to work out where they have decided to put things..obviously cereal is now next to the squash and juices aisle., but they have decided to stop stocking chocolate chips of any variety! Something that comes into baking fairly frequently, I could understand if they had cut down to just the dark chocolate chips and abolished the white and milk to the underworld, but ALL of them it just madness. Frustrated I resigned myself to picking some up at my local Sainsburys later on and continued on my way. Should have just ditched the whole cart then and there in protest but alas we need food to survive. I did eventually get my own back when my one year old daughter dropped the packet of pasta from the trolley and it promptly split as it hit and floor and went flying everywhere..Muahahahaha!! If only I didn't then go and alert someone of the Tesco employment status to the said mess. Ah well, battle won, war lost on that one.

Back to the baking, and away from my possible mutiny of Tesco and all its stores, as I got to the chocolayte chip part of the recipe I remembered I had indeed forgotten to go and buy more supplies from said Sainsburys and so had to forage in the cupboard and hoped there was enough chips in there to cover the mishap. Luckily there was, but there were a leftover mix of white, milk and dark so my whoopie pies ended up as triple chocolate chip in the end.

The batter now mixed went to chill in the fridge and have a catch up with the milk and butter for 30 minutes. I lined the two trays with greaseproof paper and set the oven to 170 then chilled out myself for a bit. Once it was firm enough, the wedding rings came off and I set around trying to get the right sided mounds. Again I was over zealous with my portions and only ended up making 7 whoopie pies in total, 14 halves to be exact. I always make them a little on the large side but they, no harm in having to cut a whoopie pie in half just to try and eat it all.

Baked in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown and springy and then out to cool on the worktop they went. I cracked straight on and made up the filling, mixing the butter, cocoa powder and icing sugar together before adding the marshmallow fluff. Again I admit I didn't measure it out again and just used a whole jar plus a tablespoonful from a second. It is too sticky for me to be messing around with and I get it everywhere as it is without the need to measure it out. Later found a bit stuck to my foreman by my elbow, dunno how it reached up there.

This filling also needs to be chilled to firm up a bit so went into the fridge for 30 minutes whilst the pies still calmed down themselves. Before the filling was ready I peeled the pie halves off the trays and matched them up as best I could on their size so that we didn't end up with frosting spill out of one half over the other.

This time I actually slopped it on in a frenzy and used up all my icing bar a palette knife full at the end for me to eat neat. They looked great, not quite like the picture as my chips were tricoloured and seemed to be hidden mostly in the sponge but otherwise I dug straight in. I did have to cut it in half as it was too big to try and hold as one and eat but it was totally worth the effort. I love whoopie pies and these were no exception. My favourite still has to be the red velvet and the chocolate ones but these have a nice twist with the chocolate flavoured fluff in the middle too. Yummy. I would make whoopies much more often but they are not something you can knock together quickly like cupcakes due to all the chilling involved. Such a shame..if only Hummingbird extended their delivered to Surrey, I would be in big trouble and they would be rich.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is a recipe I have been intrigued by since I first opened the book. The only pumpkin recipe I was aware of beforehand was a Pumpkin pie and even then I assumed it was made with fresh pumpkin, not a puréed tinned kind. I sourced mine from Amazon, at the same time I reordered the Marshmallow Fluff for the pumpkin, and other, whoopie pies.

The start of this cheesecake is like many others, smash up a load of digestives, again in the blender, and add to melted butter. Then you add the twist of ground cinnamon and nutmeg and once combined the press into the lined tin. As with all my cheesecakes I used a 9 inch tin rather than 8 inch, as the ones I have are too shallow and also only have a loose base, not spring sides and this is definitely an essential for this type of cake.

The base went to chill in the fridge and so I cracked on with preheating the oven and whipping up the topping. Cream cheese, cinnamon and sugar all whisked together before adding the 3 eggs one at a time. So far so good. Then the tinned pumpkin has its turn. I was curious as to what it would look like but once the tin top was sliced off it was literally just blender up smooth pumpkin purée. This got me thinking that I might try the pumpkin whoopie pies with fresh steamed and then blender pumpkin after I had carved it for Halloween. Wanted to see if it would make any difference in terms of texture and taste.

Back to the recipe and the pumpkin is added to the sugar and cream cheese mixture until all blended nicely. I expected the colour to be a bit more orange than it was, it just added a slight hue to it instead. This was poured onto the chilled base and into the oven monster it went. I have given up placing tin foil around the cheesecake and sinking it into water, instead preferring to place a roasting tin of water on the shelf below. It does the trick in keeping the moisture in with less faffing around and flooding of the kitchen sides.

Cheesecake took around 50 minutes to bake and then was popped into the fridge once cooled enough on the side. I didn't leave this one overnight as we planned on having it for dessert after our roast dinner.

I was the first, and actually the only one to taste this, and I have to say I was deeply disappointed. The texture wasn't as creamy as as usual cheesecake for a start, I think this was because of the mushed pumpkin in it took some of that smoothness away. It also didn't seem to have much of a pumpkin nor a cream cheese taste to it, that almost seemed to have cancelled each other out. The smell was lovely, that of the spices in the topping and biscuit base but otherwise it lacked much else to me personally. I was going to give it another try a few days later but just couldn't tempt myself to have another piece and so after a fair few days of it sitting in the fridge abandoned and alone, it went in the bin!

I am not proud to admit that as I have always given each of these recipes an open mind but this one just didn't seem to cut it. It might have just been my particular cheesecake but it will be interesting to read the comments of others who have made this one already too. Also have another pointer I need addressing..whilst the cheesecake comes out the oven perfectly flat and smooth on top, once it starts to cool mine always develops a big crack down the middle and I don't know how to stop this happening.

Carrot and Ginger Layer Cake

Another creation I made a little while ago. I have lost my way with writing and blogging at the moment and everything else in life seems to be getting in the way. I am trying to catch up and once I have I am going to try and keep on track..on fair to all you lovely people that are following my journey at the moment.

So onto the Carrot and Ginger Layer Cake. I have wanted to make this one for a while as it seemed very appetising and the layer cake most likely to tickle my taste buds.

Made this one on the 8th October, a long time ago. I hope I can still remember everything.

I had to do this one in stages with looking after my little, but growing so much every day, one. Managed to grate the ton of carrots..okay maybe that was an exaggeration, it was more like 450g but who's counting. Had to dash off to retrieve the baby from her nap so hubby finished the grating off for me, typically got the other half done in half the time it took me to do the first lot. Saved me an aching arm though so not complaining. That done I set out squeezing some of the moisture out of the carrot but pressing them into a sieve. Then realised it was a lot more affective to just squish them in my hands. Grated the ginger root and added that to the bowl of carrots, along with the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla essence. It didn't look to appealing a mixture but I always have faith in Hummingbird.

Once it had all combined and I had attacked the whisk blades with a spoon to free some of the mixture, I set about sifting the dry ingredients together, including the ground ginger and cinnamon. This is added to the carrot mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides after each one. Lastly the pecans, that had been blitzed in the mini blender as I am too lazy to chop them, get stirred in and the batter is ready.

I still only have 2 8 inch tins as I'm not refusing to buy any more when I only need four for these sort of layer cakes. Don't mind having to do twice the baking and washing up instead. The tins had been prepared with greaseproof paper lining the bottom and the usual butter and flour greasing around the edges. Managed to get both tins looking like they had an equal amount of batter in each, with enough left over for another set afterwards. Into the oven they went for about 30 to 40 minutes. My oven is again taking a little over the stated cooking times, hit and miss but I usually bake for the time given, check them and usually add a few minutes more on.

Had to have a break at this point, as I needed the tins to cool down enough for me to remove the cakes and wash them up for reuse..the tins not the cakes!

Cuppa drunk and back to the grind..washed the tins and re-greased and lined them and in went the second round of cake layers. The first had cooled and smelt completely lush, adding to the smell wafting from the oven too. The whole house smelt yummy, couldn't wait to get the cake assembled and iced.

Waiting for the cakes to all cool I made the icing up. Grated my orange first then whisked the butter and icing sugar together before adding the zest and cream cheese until it was all wonderfully smooth. Had a little finger dip and lick just to make sure it tasted wonderful too. Placed the first layer onto a round cake board and started the icing. I was a little stingy with the amount of icing I put between each layer as I wasn't convinced there would be enough to cover the top and outside of the cake once stacked. I was wrong however, it is so hard to judge the quantity of icing you have when in the bowl, and I had more than enough to do the outside generously now.

All finished I left it undecorated in top, partly because it looks fab without anything but the frosting, and partly because I was feeling tired and lazy by that point. Photo taken before I hit the sack, the tasting would have to wait til the next day.

First had a slice as my elevens on Monday morning once little miss was napping and I could settle with a cuppa tea and catch up on a programme. It was amazing..better than the Spiced Apple cake, my favourite so far. I did over do it on the frosting on the outside of the cake, too much there and not quite enough in the middle but lesson learnt there. I took some to the neighbours as usual and also a few slices to my Mother and Father-in-law. She was so impressed just by the look and smell of them she asked me to make her one for a dinner party that weekend..hasn't even tasted it yet. Definitely a winner in the layer cake stakes. Unfortunately no photo for this one, I did take some but then had to reset and consequently wipe my phone before I had a chance to upload it onto the pc. You will just have to use your imaginations, or the photo from the book minus the flourishes on top.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Butterscotch Marshmallow Bars

Time has come around to make another bar and what better way to satisfy my sweet tooth with butterscotch and marshmallow all wrapped together in a gooey chewy bar.

Lined my tin with greaseproof paper, it is the tin that is now always used for bars as it is deeper but slightly smaller than the dimensions given in the cook book. Always worked out well previously and don't have another choice really.

Firstly the dough base is to be made. This is just icing sugar to give it a sweet edge plus flour and butter, rubbed together with your fingertips until the dough starts to form. Press it into the tray, making sure to go up the sides a little to hold the mixture in. Bakes for just over 20 minutes until the edges are brown but the middle is pale still. The marshmallows are then just sprinkled on top of the cooling base. This is also the only oven part of the recipe, the rest is all hob and cooling.

Next it to make the butterscotch part, which seems the longest bit of all. Two types of sugar (light brown and caster) are added into a saucepan with golden syrup and water. You let it boil away until it gets to the soft ball stage. This seemed to take forever but I thought we had finally got there so moved onto the next stage of stirring in the butter and then letting it boil for a few more minutes.

The rest of the ingredients are added to this mixture off the heat so in goes the crunchy peanut butter, double cream and vanilla essence. I was stirring and stirring away to get it all melted together but it didn't seem to look right. Put it down to the peanut chunks in it so carried on pouring it over the marshmallows on the base. This is then left for a few hours or overnight to set. We left it for ages but it didn't seem to be setting very well. The marshmallows hadn't quite been covered so much as melted and formed a layer on the top also. I decided to pop it in the fridge for an hour just to try and firm it up a little more. This didn't seem to work much either so I bite the bullet and cut a slice out.

It was difficult to cut as the melted marshmallows had formed a thick layer on top and the bars were still rather squishy themselves. Once I had a cut away section I could see that the butterscotch part and the peanut butter seemed to have separated and all the butterscotch then seeped into the available gap from the missing piece. It was too sickly once I tasted it so safe to say I made a complete hash of it. I guess I didn't leave the butterscotch on the hob long enough after all. Might not be attempting this recipe in a hurry again.