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!

Return of the Blog

Last April my husband and I were lucky enough to buy our first home; a Victorian house in need of a lot of love! Whilst I've still found time to bake (thankfully!) in between all of the wallpaper stripping and painting, I've sadly not had time to write about it. But now, with only one room and the garden left to tackle, I finally have the time to write again! 

As I mentioned before though, the last 12 months have still been jam-packed with butter and icing sugar. Cue movie montage...

I loved making every one of these bakes and could bore you with details on them all, but I'll let the pictures do the talking in this instance. However, today I decided to make apple and almond muffins, and am happy to share details on these!

I couldn't really find a recipe online to suit the apple and almond muffins that I wanted to make, so I amended a few to create my own. First, I combined 200g plain flour with 100g caster sugar, 50g dark brown sugar, 20g ground almonds, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 2.5 teaspoons baking powder, and a pinch of salt. To this mix I slowly added one egg, 80ml vegetable oil, 90ml almond milk, and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, mixing each ingredient in one at a time. I then chopped 2 peeled and cored Granny Smith apples into 1cm chunks and folded them into the mix, trying not to overwork the batter.

After 18 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius, I took the muffins out and sprinkled them with granulated sugar, just to add a doughnut-style texture on top. Icing sugar would easily work too, but it just wasn't what I wanted on this lazy Sunday afternoon.

Now all that's left is to put the kettle on and catch up on some vital TV time. Happy Sunday all!

Small Cakes for a Big Coffee Morning

Today my work took part in the World's Biggest Coffee Morning for Macmillan Cancer Support, which called for cakes, cakes and more cakes. So, as it's been a little while since I made cupcakes, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with an orange curd filling and salted caramel buttercream.

I started by making the orange curd since it would need a little more time to cool and set. I used the BBC lemon curd recipe for this, but replaced the lemony elements with the zest of three oranges and then the juice of two and a half of these (popping the last half to one side).

Curds are easy enough to make, provided you're patient whilst it's cooking. I recommend using the lowest heat possible with them and constantly stirring to avoid the dreaded scrambled eggs forming at the bottom of the dish. After about ten minutes the mix thickens up, and you can tell it's done once it easily coats the back of a spoon.

Once cooled, I sieved the mix (to remove the zest) and added the juice of the remaining orange half (just for an extra orangey kick), before putting the final product aside for a day to set.

Last night I made the main element by using the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcake recipe. I started by beating 40g unsalted butter with 140g caster sugar until pale and fluffy, and then added an egg and continued to beat until thoroughly mixed. I sifted 100g flour, 20g cocoa, one and a half teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt into one bowl, mixed 120ml whole milk with a few drops of vanilla extract in another, and then added a little of each mix at a time to the butter/sugar combo. When the dry ingredients were just combined, they were ready to be baked for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 3.

Once the cupcakes were baked and cooled entirely, I cut out the middle section of each and added a dollop of the orange curd. I then replaced the top of the cake (with a little of the sponge removed to make room for the curd). 

Now to the buttercream. Lots of salted caramel buttercreams make the buttercream taste entirely like salted caramel, which is nice but not what I wanted for these little chaps. Instead, I decided to make a vanilla buttercream but then drizzle it with a salted caramel sauce, meaning the salty caramel sauce would pack a punch against the buttery vanilla icing.

For the sauce, I followed the Brown Eyed Baker's recipe and heated 200g of granulated sugar until it was entirely melted. Once the sugar hit 160°C (big shout out to my sugar thermometer), I added 110g of butter and whisked the bubbling mix until the butter melted. I then added 120ml of double cream and a teaspoon of ground sea salt after taking the pan off the heat.

The buttercream was a simpler job and just required 250g icing sugar, 80g unsalted butter, a little vanilla and 25ml milk to be beaten until thick and creamy, before piping onto the cupcakes. 

Once the salted caramel had cooled, I poured it into a piping bag and splashed it about all over the shop. Mainly on the cupcakes, but the table, cooling rack and my iPhone saw their fair share of it too.

Then the fondant called out to me... 'tiny oranges', it whispered in my ear...

And here's the finished result! I should add, the cupcake was on a glass table and was not defying gravity (sadly). Let's hope they taste that light though!

Whisky Business

Today I decided to bake the 'seriously rich chocolate cake' from BBC Good Food - a cake which doesn't use any flour or additional raising agents (like baking powder). Cakes like this can be a little risky as there's always the fear that they won't rise, but clearly I like to live on the edge. 

I began by melting butter and dark chocolate as recommended and then started on the rest of the mix. I didn't have the 6 large eggs that the recipe advised but 9 medium eggs are essentially the same, so I split these and let the KitchenAid whisk up the whites whilst I mixed the yolks with ground almonds and a little Cointreau.

Once the melted butter/chocolate mixture had cooled, I added it to the yolky/almond mix and stirred until they were completely mixed together. I then started adding caster sugar to the egg whites (just a tablespoon at a time) until the whites were creating nice firm peaks.

Now the tough bit - you have to fold the egg whites into the chocolatey mix, just a tablespoon at a time and oh so gently. Stirring this would only punch the air out of the whites and prevent the cake from rising, so you really need to take your time with this. 

So five hours later (or perhaps it was ten minutes) the cake was all neatly folded and ready to go in the oven. Learning from my last cake, I baked this at gas mark 4 rather than 3, but I noticed after 10 minutes that the cake looked to be dipping a little in the middle. I quickly banged the oven up to gas mark 5 instead and kept baking it for the rest of the time, plus an additional 10 minutes on the recommended time as the middle still wasn't cooked. The cake was still singing when I eventually removed it (if you've not heard the expression before, 'singing' is just the hissing noise that cakes make when they're still cooking inside) but my cake tester told me that the middle was cooked so I was happy to take it out.


After leaving it to cool, I whipped up half a batch of the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate icing using 50g unsalted butter, 150g icing sugar, 20g cocoa and 20ml milk (though I added a little extra milk for a softer finish). I then just spread this across the top of the cake and added some fresh strawberries before dusting with icing sugar. 

The tragedy is that I can't tell you what it tastes like! My husband will be taking it off to his office tomorrow so I'll have to wait and keep my fingers crossed for good reviews. Here's hoping!

Meringues Sitting in a Tree

The sun is shining and the daffodils are out - spring is finally here! And to celebrate I decided to make some bright meringue kisses. 

I started by making the BBC Good Food ultimate meringue recipe, which whisks 4 large egg whites with 115g caster sugar and 115g icing sugar. Once thick and glossy, I separated the mix into four bowls and carefully folded in  different food colourings to make lovely springtime pastel colours.


I piped the mix onto baking paper before baking at 100 degrees for an hour and a half, so they'd still be a little chewy once cooled.

Then, whilst the meringues were cooling, I made the Hummingbird Bakery's lemon buttercream by beating 250g icing sugar, 80g softened butter, 25ml milk and some lemon zest. I used this to sandwich together the meringues for the final result.

Forget meringue kiss - I may just label these little double bubbles as meringue snogs!