Food Festival Fun

The Great British Food Festival is taking place at Harewood House this weekend and I thought it might be fun to enter a spring-themed cake. So, after much deliberation, I opted for a carrot cake with a light honey and orange buttercream.

For the cake, I used Felicity Cloake's perfect carrot cake as my recipe, though I amended the measurements slightly so that I could use two 20cm tins instead of 18cm ones. I also changed a few other ingredients, just based on my own preferences! Who really wants sultanas in a carrot cake?

The ingredients I used were:

200g melted unsalted butter
200g soft dark brown sugar
4 free-range eggs
270g self-raising flour
1.3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon orange extract
270g grated carrots
200g walnuts

I started by whisking the melted butter, sugar, and eggs until the mix had doubled in size.

After sifting all of the dry ingredients together (excluding carrots and walnuts), I folded them into the wet ingredients, taking care not to beat too much air out. I then carefully added the carrots and walnuts, mixing until just combined, before splitting the batter between two cake tins and baking at 180 degrees for 35 minutes.

For the buttercream, I mixed together 500g unsalted butter, 1kg icing sugar, the zest of one large orange, a teaspoon of orange extract, and 2 tablespoons of runny honey, and beat everything together for a long time (seriously, about 30 minutes) until as light and fluffy as was physically possible. Thank goodness for food mixers!

When the cakes were cooling, it was an ideal time to start on my spring-themed fondant decorations, so I started as always by setting up my workstation. It's so much easier to get stuck in when you have everything to hand!

I started by making the bees (an essential for honey buttercream), which are incredibly easy to make. All that's needed is to gently roll yellow and black strips of fondant together, then use an edible ink pen to dot on some eyes and added a couple of white wings. Continue until you have a swarm:

Next, another easy job; carrots. Simply making a cone of orange fondant and adding a few lines with a toothpick makes these cute little veggies come to life. They're no good with hummus though:

Fondant bunnies weren't quite as simple to make as the bees and carrots, but as with all fondant work it was just about making the right shapes and adding them all together. The photos probably do a better job of showing how I did this than my words will!

I had to leave the rabbit heads and ears to set for a while before putting them together, but once firmer I used toothpicks to assemble them securely. So, during my wait, I made lots of flowers using plunge cutters (plus a few roses by hand) just to dot all over the cake:

Once the cakes had fully cooled, I sliced both into two and piped buttercream between the layers. I then continued to pipe all around the assembled cake (using a large round piping nozzle) until it was entirely covered. Then it was just a case of adding the decorations as the finishing touches:

Keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow... and preferably for some sunshine too!

A Christmas Pudding Cake

When my mother-in-law asked me to make a Christmas cake it was difficult to decide on how to decorate it. There are so many possibilities with Christmas cakes and generally traditional ones are decorated with dazzling white fondant. However, this year I decided to try something slightly different and make a cake that looks like a Christmas pudding.

To start, I made a traditional fruitcake around a month ago and kept it topped up with brandy since then. It should be made even earlier really, so next year I'll probably do this step around September/October. 

Then, when ready to ice the cake, I carved the top slightly to give it a little more of a dome like shape:

Christmas Cake Carving

Before icing a fruitcake the best thing to do is brush it with boiled and strained apricot jam. However, in this instance I didn't actually have any apricot jam at hand and replaced it instead with a layer of amaretto - perhaps not quite as sticky, but it'll do the job just fine! 

I covered the cake in a layer of marzipan, then a layer of fondant and, since it's Christmas, I added a dusting of edible bronzing powder for an extra shine:

Now the next bit was the fun bit - making it look like an actual pudding. I rolled out a piece of white fondant and hand cut it to look like a big splodge for the top, followed by a sprig of fondant holly:

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But, of course, no Christmas pudding would be complete without a penny stuck in for luck! Thankfully this is edible too so there should be no emergency dentist trips on the day:

Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be back baking and writing in the New Year!

Where the forest meets the sea

A friend asked me to make a surprise wedding cake for her sister's surprise wedding - so many surprises! Like the happy couple, the cake needed to combine an eco-warrior wowing woodland theme with a sailor-suitable navy theme, which certainly provided a challenge for design. Fortunately my friend was at hand with lots of advice and we managed to find a combination for the cake which we think suited the couple to a tee. 

We decided that it would be good to surround the cake with flowers in the wedding colours and with lots of little woodland animals. I can only hope that real animals smile as much as these fondant chaps:

Woodland creatures need some nice wildflowers to play in. It's just cruel otherwise. Fondant roses are fun to make, but a little more complicated than normal flowers.

For both you need to do a bit of palette mixing, kneading up some nice colour combos into your fondant. Flowers are perhaps worth their own post at some stage...

Once the cake (a Victoria sponge) was baked and iced, I placed it on an iced cake board and got to work on the nautical element. I started by hand drawing anchors on the icing:

Using a light brown fondant, I made lots of small pieces of fondant rope to write 'Congratulations Rosie and Mike'. Basically that meant making two thin cables of fondant and twisting them together, pretty much like a real rope. But not as suitable for actually rigging up a yardarm, obviously.

Then I went round the edges, adding some woodland features - blades of grass that climbed up the side of the cake, wildflowers and animals. I was going for that disorderly, natural vibe. Here's the final result:

So congratulations again to Rosie and Mike, and I hope you enjoyed the cake! Big thanks also to Emma for asking me in the fist place and for helping with the secret plans (mwah ha ha!), and to Rachel for carrying it all the way back to Yorkshire!