Sunday, 31 May 2009

X Men Cake

So it was my 21st birthday party yesterday. My birthday isn't actually until Friday, but it was a joint party so we had it between our birthdays. I baked for three days to make enough yummy things to eat (unsurprisingly, there are a few leftovers, but nowhere near as many as I was expecting!) I made everything bite sized, so that it was easy to snack on and I now have at least three recipes that I will share with you in the near future because WOW were they good.

I actually made (in the end)

1) Vanilla cupcakes with butter cream
2) Chocolate cupcakes with marbled vanilla and toffee butter cream
3) Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and cinnamon dust
4) Banoffee cupcakes with toffee and cream toppings (I will share this recipe at some point. It's one of my absolute favourites and people practically maul me when I produce them)
5) Malibu and coconut chocolate cookies (I adapted another recipe, but will share this because I actually have to restrain myself from eating the lot)
6) Lemon cloud cookies that I wasn't overly impressed with, they weren't lemony enough for me and the texture was almost floury.
7) Black and White cookies that were delicious, but really cake-y, rather than the biscuit I was expecting. I followed the original recipe's suggestion to sub almond extract for the lemon juice in the topping and they ended up tasting a whole lot like bakewell tart. Which, according to my friend Rachel, made them even better. I think she ate about 8, lol.

I'm a bit miffed (oh what an English word) that there aren't many photos of my mini cake bites anywhere, I was too busy arranging the party to worry about actually taking photos. If I find any I'll put them up, because not only did it look super professional, it also looked incredibly cute. I actually didn't want anyone to eat them at first because it looked so good. I'll make them again though, worry not. If only because I love my new silicone petit four baking tray so much that I simply have to use it again!

The birthday cake itself went from an excellent and exciting creation to a slightly crappy version of what I wanted because my oven broke just before I could bake it. Which I didn't realise until I'd cooked (and ruined) the first carrot cake. It doesn't help that the entire food spread was wheat free (the person that I was sharing the party with is a Coeliac) and so the cakes are quite difficult to cook anyway. And by the time I'd utilized my friend's oven, I didn't have the time to spend on the prep of the cake as I wanted.

So instead of having a two layered bottom tier, we only had one, which made the cake look very squat. And the carrot cake wasn't leveled out or tidied up round the edges, which gave the top tier a very bobbly, uneven finish, which was a tad annoying, but I literally had half an hour in the end to ice and decorate it.

So my great apologies for the amateur look of this cake (and I had such grandeous plans as well!) but it really was the best I could do with the time constraints and the broken oven.

Also, the only picture I have of it has me in (as the Scarlet Witch, did I mention that the party was X Men themed? I should point out that I have put on someone else's mask - I do know that the Scarlet Witch doesn't wear one :-P)

My red gloves and cape seem to have disappeared as well. And I'm kneeling down, my kitchen counters aren't head height.

That's the X Men logo on top, with a 'V' and an 'L' for the birthday girl's initials and, of course, the standard '21' to signify how old we are. The blue and yellow fondant balls around the edge are in the X Men colours.

Once again though, despite the not great quality look of the final cake meant nothing to it's final taste. Somehow the oven breaking down half way through cooking one of the tiers and the ferrying of cake tiers half way across Reading and the last minute That-Tier-Is-Ruined-I'll-Have-To-Make-Another-One-Oh-Cr*p-I've-Got-Two-Hours, didn't affect the yumminess of it all.

Of course I now have a half a 12" chocolate cake and half a 10" carrot cake to make my way through. Oh noes.

<3 Maag

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Supernatural Cakes and Cupcakes Order

*collapses in a heap*

Okay, that was hectic. So I finished and delivered my first proper cake order last night. The Supernatural one (the practice cupcakes are on my blog somewhere) and it was all very last minute. My timing was not great, but it all got done and looked good in the end (although I couldn't help feeling that it looked unfinished) and I know that it tasted great (cook's perks - tasting frosting and cake trimmings).

Yes this is me attaching fondant balls to the outside. I had a few disasters with this cake, including the devil's trap falling apart twice. And I seriously could not have done it without my Mum (she did the fondant Sam and Dean) and my little team of helpers - my friends that I brought for an idyllic two day holiday trip to Bath and ended up using and abusing, as they put the scrolls out on the cupcakes, boxed them all and then made a box to put the leftover cake in. It took 3 students, all of whom have just finished a degree, 45 minutes to make a 3" by 3" box :-D All I could hear from the other room was "we're ENGLISH students! We can't do this! We need a mathematician!" But it was an awesome box when it was done :)

So yeah, here is the finished cake (chocolate chip with chocolate buttercream if you were wondering).

And a side view of Dean (Sam being the possessed one on the top of the cake)

And the 37 cupcakes made to go with this order:

One third vanilla with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles, one third chocolate with chocolate buttercream and one third (gluten free) marble cake with marbled icing.

They moved around in the box a bit, although the icing had crusted enough for that not to matter. I'm going to look into a more fool-proof method of transporting cupcakes I think.

And that was my SPN order :-)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

The May challenge for the Livejournal community bakebakebake is 'custard'. You have to incorporate this into some form of baking. So, as I adore cupcakes, I made Rhubarb and Custard cupcakes. I had a quick look on the internet, but there aren't any recipes for this (although there are a couple for Rhubarb and Custard muffins, which I didn't like the look of) so I was able to make it up happily, without fear of plagiarism.

So this is my own recipe, thrown together from a number of pre-existing recipes no doubt. The confectioner's custard isn't my own recipe though, that can be credited to the Rick Stein Cookbook that I got for my 18th birthday. But even that I changed a little bit.

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

For the cake:
40z butter
40z caster sugar
40z plain flour

1tsp baking powder
1/4 bicarb of soda

2 eggs, beaten

For the Rhubarb:
2tsp sugar
enough rhubarb to make about 5oz when stewed
2 tsp water

For the custard:
2 Egg yolks,
2oz caster sugar
3/4 oz (20g) cornflour
3/4 oz (20g) plain flour
10fl oz (300ml) milk
1tsp vanilla extract
150ml double/whipping cream.

First, peel, chop and stew the rhubarb (by combining water, rhubarb and the 2tsp sugar and cooking over a low heat until almost mushy. I didn't stew down completely, leaving quite a few small lumps in. I would probably stew it even less next time to have even more lumps as these gave quite a nice texture to the cake. It's a personal preference thing). I forgot to weigh the rhubarb before I cooked it, which means that I can't tell you how much is it takes to make 5 1/2 oz stewed, sorry. I wouldn't worry too much though, as the amount of rhubarb in these cupcakes is determined by how much I had. So guess.

Set this aside and let it cool. Then make the confectioners custard. You'll need to put the egg yolks, sugar, two flours and 2 tbsps of the milk into a bowl and mix together until smooth. I used a whisk, just to make sure there were no lumps at all. Put the remaining milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep watching it, because when it starts to boil it will triple in size and boil over if you're not careful. Pour the boiling milk into the egg mixture slowly, whisking constantly as you do until you have a smooth mixture. Pour this back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat, stirring (or whisking) constantly until you have a nice thick custard. Take off the heat and pour into a bowl. Cover the custard with a layer of cling film (cling wrap/ plastic wrap for Americans) pressed gently onto the surface of the custard to stop a skin forming.

Transfer this to the fridge and allow to cool completely. Preheat oven to 180'C. Now for the actual cake. Cream together the butter and the sugar and gradually add beaten eggs (adding a tablespoon of flour if the mixture starts to separate). Sift together flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt and fold into the butter, sugar and eggs. Once combined, add in the stewed rhubarb and mix in well.

Half fill muffin cases with mixture. As this was a first time cake recipe, I experimented a bit with different combinations. The first six I filled 2/3 full with the rhubarb mixture, the middle three I filled 2/3 with rhubarb mixture and put a dollop on custard on top, and the last three I half filled with rhubarb, put a dollop of custard in and then covered the custard with more rhubarb. Bake for 14 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch and take out and leave to cool. These photos are a bit rushed and not as clear as I'd like, primarily because I had to rush to collect my mum from work and I wanted to take them as taste testers (nothing brings people out of the woodwork faster than cakes. I turned up to see two people and within 3 minutes of bringing these out there was an entire crowd!)

The cakes without custard baked into them had the confectioners custard as topping. To make it into a topping, I whipped 150 ml of cream (I used double as they didn't have whipping, but either will do) and folded it in to make a lighter topping. Next time I think I will do double the cream as the end result was not stiff enough to pipe or even hold its shape. It was amazingly yummy though.

I also didn't have my muffin pan with me (I was baking at my parent's house) so the cupcakes came out all sorts of funny shapes. And because the cake was weighed down with the rhubarb, it didn't rise. Which, normally would irritate me, but the texture of the cake was so beautiful that I couldn't complain.

I'm definitely making this again (I'll have to, I have an order for a rhubarb and custard cake for a birthday - apparently my mum liked them so much that she was recommending them to her friends at church and I got an order out of it!) as I'd like to sort out a pipable custard topping and maybe have a few more chunks of rhubarb in the cake itself. I also want to experiment with the sugar levels, although I have to admit, the sugar that I used made the cakes tart enough to taste properly, but sweet enough not to be unpleasant, so I was pretty happy with that :-)

All in all, a bloomin' good success I'd say!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Verity's Birthday Cake

So as a general rule I think I'll only post the good cakes on here, but as this was the MOST delicious cake ... ever... I think I'll make an exception for this. First let me note what was not good about this cake.

1) I made it the day before. Normally this is fine, but I used a hell of a lot of food dye to make the colours as bright as I did (I could've used less, but hindsight is a wonderful thing) and when I actually delivered the cake they'd started to run into the other icing. Cue an unhappy Maag.

2) It was my second time using butter cream transfers and I did it slightly wrong in my zeal to do it correctly. I have, however, figured out what I did wrong and will not be doing it again. So my next one will be a lot better.

3) The cake board I used was actually a microwave plate (I'm a poor student and it wasn't a professional cake so I didn't bother with the formalities) and was too small. So quite a lot of the icing fell off the sides. It was a butter cream massacre. We took it to Nandos and the entire table got covered in it. Like I said, it was an amateur cake so I didn't bother with a cake board, but I really, really should've!

4) The Hogwarts crest was actually off centre because I was expecting to put another scroll underneath, but due to bad measurements it didn't fit. It looks okay with candles, but I was cringing when I did it.

Yeah. So as I'm a complete perfectionist, I deem this cake a big failure. Thankfully Verity was thrilled, so it wasn't a big deal in the end. And it tasted incredible (I'm really getting the hang of this gluten free thing) so it was completely fine.

Want a gluten free chocolate cake recipe? I tell you what, I won't bother because it is essentially the same as my chocolate chip cupcake recipe, but I replaced regular flour with gluten free flour and 2tsp Xantham gum (good stuff, cooking with GF flour is a lot harder without it) and doubled (maybe tripled?) the quantity to make a bigger cake. The butter cream was just regular butter cream with cocoa tipped in until I liked the taste.

That's how I cook people. By taste, look and instinct. :-)

So you probably want to see it?

Fine. But it isn't good.

Okay, well it looks okay in this one, but this was when it was first made and the lines hadn't blurred. And the coloured bits on the side were little 21's that looked RIDICULOUS, so I ruined it a bit more by replacing them with white chocolate shavings...

... and chocolate frogs. Less inventive next time Maag! Less inventive! This is the top the day I delivered it. Should've stuck with the first side design as well, I know. Well, chalk it up to experience. It's just annoying, as this could've been a really good cake!

Yeah, it bled too. I mentioned that didn't I? Well the candles helped sort out the off centre thing at least. Oh, and the crest thing? Hand drawn baby. All by me :)

Aaaand the inside. That giant blob of butter cream is... a giant blob of butter cream. Covering a couple of chocolate frogs.

There you go then. I have a Supernatural cake and an Xmen cake to make in the next few days as well :-)

Much love,

Maag x

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Practice Cupcakes

Here is my exciting news for the decade: I've been commissioned to make a cake and accompanying cupcakes for the UK Supernatural convention Asylum (I really wish I was going). Now, Supernatural may just be my favourite TV show and I have a soft spot for Jensen, Jared and Mischa (and Jim Beaver, but in an aw-I-want-to-cuddle-him way. And I kind of wish he was my uncle or something). And there is a fairly big chance that the boys will be eating my cake! I'm actually making them personalised cupcakes as well, so hopefully they'll get those even if they don't get a piece of cake!

Anyway, I'm super excited about it, as this is my first big commission (as the wedding cake was friend of the family and I didn't charge for anything other than ingredients I'm not counting it) and is hopefully the start of many more. So I have to make it perfect. But enough about the cake, here are my practice cupcakes!

The cupcake itself is chocolate with chocolate chips, whilst the butter cream topping is chocolate and vanilla marbled. The scrolls are made from coloured gumpaste and written on with my (adored) edible pen.

My photography is not great (and probably won't be for the foreseeable future, just to warn you) but you get the gist :)

They tasted amazing as well, if you were wondering. Best ever, according to some trusty taste testers.

Double Choc Chip Cupcakes

8oz butter (or half butter, half Crisco)
8oz caster sugar
6oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarb soda
2oz good quality cocoa
4 eggs, beaten
100g chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar, gradually beat in eggs adding a tablespoons of flour mix if the batter starts to separate. Fold in flour mixture (flour, cocoa, baking soda and bicarb) and then mix in chocolate chips. Make about 20 big cupcakes, more if you use smaller cupcake cases.

180'C for 13-18 minutes.

Let cool and then add your favourite topping!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

A complete disaster

Today's culinary challenge? Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.
Today's complete failure? Swiss Meringue Butter Cream.

Now, I could be wrong, but I think the main problem is that I don't have a kitchen mixer. That's right, I do it alllll by hand. Which makes whisking egg whites an interesting and muscle building adventure that normally gets passed to my housemates as they wander in to see what all the fuss is about. One or two of them now leave the kitchen quickly whenever they see me pick up a whisk. :-)

I'm guessing that the failure of my SMB is also to do with my lack of candy thermometre. And possibly a dodgy recipe. Oh well, next time. Next time! I'm not putting up a photo because, frankly, I'm a little ashamed of my thick, greasy and buttery attempt! I also managed to burn the GF chocolate cupcakes that I'd made to go with my icing because I got carried away with the washing up and forgot about the oven.

It's a shame though - I was hoping for a slightly more sophisticated icing that bog standard butter cream for the cupcakes that I've been commissioned to make next week for the Supernatural cast (SQUEE) and a load of Supernatural Convention goers. However, it seems that butter cream is what I'm good at (and wow, is it ever good!) so perhaps I should stick to that!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

How very exciting, I have a blog! How about some (very poor quality) photos of yummy things that I have made recently?

The wedding cake that I made for my friend Niki. This was about two months ago and is the cake that I'm most proud of! I swear, it was more important to me than my dissertation.

My sister's 18th birthday cake. The little cupcake parcels were dipped in white chocolate with fondant bow detail.

Jenny's 21st birthday cake, styled on a House of the Dead (2? 3?) zombie. This was absolutely revolting looking, but it tasted damn good. Especially as that 'blood' is homemade raspberry sauce. Yum.

My housemate's 21st birthday cake. I wish I'd made this two months later, when I'd actually got the hang of fondant bows, but sadly this was my first attempt. You can tell.

Rachel's 21st birthday cake. All my friends are 21 now, it's a bit weird. We all appear to be getting to the Grown Up part of life. This must be remedied immediately by a stint in the ball pen and jelly and ice cream. But more to the point, this is a Supernatural cake, with a devil's trap made in buttercream with fondant Sam and Dean adorning it lovingly. You can't see, but Dean is wearing chaps. We wanted to give Rachel Dean's bum for her 21st, but for legal reasons we obviously couldn't. Plus, I think he needs it to sit on.

There you go! A few cakes to start off the blog. I will keep you updated with anything else I make in the next few days. There's an Xmen cake in the offing, just to warn you.

Much love,

Maag x