Happy Birthday to Me!

It was my birthday this week. As the world is still on lock-down I decided I wanted to make my own cake.

I have some small cake tins so I made 2 small rounds the weekend before that I froze to keep for decorating this week. I wasn’t 100% sure what my plan was – at first it involved Jammy Dodgers and Party Rings, but ended up only using the latter.

I wasn’t feeling adventurous on flavour, so I went with the good-old Vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam combo. I smeared some random pink colours around, and used a white chocolate drip. The gin was just as it was colour co-ordinated and made the cake more grown-up!

The top of the cake was decorated with some of the pink buttercream and Party Ring biscuits.

A shot of the inside of the cake

Finally, when I baked the cake layers, there was a bit too much cake mix. I didn’t want to over-fill the cake pans so I decided to make 2 x cupcakes with the remaining mix. I decorated these to match the cake:

Even with a smaller cake, there’s still 2 Party Rings worth left even though I also gave some to friends on Monday! I miss being in work where I could force cake upon my workmates… I love making it, but there’s only so much I can eat myself.

Afternoon Tea

Friday 8th May was the 75th anniversary of VE day. Though we couldn’t have any actual celebrations due to lockdown, I wanted to make an afternoon tea to do something typically British

I had purchased my afternoon tea stands quite a few years ago but had not used them in quite a while. This was another bake where I managed to make everything with ingredients already in the house – sadly this meant no cream for the fruit scones (though I did have jam).

  • Cream cheese sandwiches
  • Cheese and red pepper mini quiche
  • Fruit scones with jam
  • Oat and raisin cookies
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Cocoa macarons
  • Red velvet cake
  • Viennese whirls
  • Mini trifle

I started on the baking on the Thursday my making the cookies and macarons. I was following a Neurotic Mom recipe for the macarons for the first time, then being an idiot I went in the loft to hunt something and forgot they were there – thus over-baking them! Thankfully they didn’t end up too burnt.

The red velvet cake was some of the excess made for the birthday cake I’d made (see last post) so I didn’t need to do anything special for them.

The Viennese whirls were a recipe from Mary Berry that I had used a number of times and they always turn out well. So crisp and buttery!

I made the scones in the morning on Friday morning. They baked up well and I don’t really have any stories for these ones. As mentioned before, you’d usually have these with jam and cream, but I had no cream in and was unwilling to go out and buy any.

The trifles, sandwiches and quiche were the last items to be made. Nothing much to mention about these except my pastry on the quiche got stuck to the pan so they ended up more like little egg-bites.

Oh, finally, I had made so much extra that I ended up boxing-up a number of afternoon teas to take to family members as “doorstep drop-offs” (as we still can’t see each other due to social distancing)

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Well before social distancing and UK lock-down, I agreed to make a birthday cake for a family friend. I was adamant that I was still making the cake – and thankfully I had everything in the house that I needed to get it done.

The cake was made using a recipe from Chelsweets which I made the week before and kept in the freezer until I was ready to decorate. I made enough mix to make multiple layers, as well as some cupcakes and smaller bite-size cakes to decorate.

The cake was decorated with Cream Cheese forsting (what else?) and a dark chocolate ganache drip.

I didn’t actually have any cream in to use to make the ganache, so I used a method involving milk and butter instead – it worked great! I used this method and had no issues whatsoever.

Another new thing I tried was making icing roses – again, these turned out well for my first go. I didn’t have a cake nail, so I improvised by using some baking paper on my cake turntable. It just about did the job!

I can always find fault with a cake I’ve made, but overall I was happy with how this one ended up. Even more so as I didn’t have to venture to the supermarket for any supplies!

April – Lockdown Baking

I can’t believe that it’s the end of April already. I was looking back through Google Photos and saw a number of things that I’d baked this month but not posted about, so here goes:

First off, the mountain of cookies I made after learning to bake soft, gooey cookies. I had some “pumpkin spice baking chips” from our USA trip last year, and used these for the cookies.

Next up, was the cupcakes I made for James’ birthday that I left on his doorstep. Chocolate cake with PB icing, PB drizzle, and chopped up nuts

Whilst sorting out my kitchen cupboards, I also found out that I had 2 bags of vegetarian marshmallows left. They were a few months past their best before dates, so I decided to make these into a combination of Rice Krispie treats, and White chocolate Rocky Road:

And the final bake to post about, was a chocolate banana & rum bread that I made when I had a couple of ripe bananas that I’d not got around to eating yet

Worryingly, we’ve eaten all of these bakes between the two of us this month (well, except for the cupcakes). Maybe I should avoid baking anything for myself in May!

First Cake of 2020

It’s my niece’s birthday on the 4th January and she sent me a video in December asking me to please make a “Unicorn Cake with all the colours” because “I love unicorns”.

I hadn’t been asked to make a unicorn in well over a year, but it seems 5 year olds still like them.

The inside was 5 coloured layers to make it rainbow-esque and these turned out a bit brighter than I thought they would be.

Glass Stabbed Cupcakes

Another idea I had when making cakes for Halloween was to try making some “stabbed” cupcakes. I’d seen the idea on Instagram and thought it would be a good one to try. I had obviously made cupcakes before, but never tried anything with sugar work.

I had to begin by making the sugar mixture for my “Glass” – 2 cups of granulated sugar, some water, and a tube of liquid glucose. I had to heat this to 300 degrees F, whilst constantly stirring. It took nearly an hour!

Once the mixture was heated to the necessary temperature, I poured it out onto baking parchment and allowed it to cool down and set for a few hours

After setting, I hit it with a knife to get it to break up into the “shards”

I already had some cupcakes baked, and some leftover buttercreams. I used chocolate buttercream first, then added a vanilla swirl to the top mwhich i “stabbed” with the sugar shards

Finally, I added some red coloured icing drizzles to make the “blood”:

Brain Cake

In my last post I showed the cake that I entered for my work’s Halloween Baking contest. I entered a “Brain Cake” which is exactly what it sounds like – a cake shaped like a brain.

It’s surprisingly easy to make …

  • Bake cakes (I coloured them pink)
  • Stack cakes, then trim the edges. Take the off-cuts and put on the top to create a dome
  • Cover in buttercream (I had some red left over from other cakes so I added this too)
  • Colour some fondant using ivory food colouring and a tiny amount of pink
Cake on left, fondant on right
  • Roll the fondant out into “ropes”
  • Apply the ropes to cake to form “brain matter”
  • Coat in strawberry jam
Brain Cake

Work Halloween Baking Contest

I was planning on making a cake for my work colleagues for Halloween, but then work announced a Baking Contest so I had to get creative. The idea is that staff enter a cake that gets judged, and then they sell off slices of cake for our nominated charity.

I had three ideas, but could only enter one. I ended up making all 3 anyway (further posts to come) but entered one and just gave the rest for selling to raise money as it was all for charity anyway.

The cake I decided to enter was my Brain Cake

Brain Cake

I made one of these last year, and it is surprisingly easy to make. The Gallery below roughly shows the steps, but essentially:

  • Bake 3 round cakes (I used vanilla cake dyed with pink food colouring)
  • Stack the cakes then cut the edges from the rounds to create the curved pieces for the dome
  • Cover with buttercream
  • Colour some fondant with ivory colouring and a drop of pink
  • Roll out the fondant into ropes
  • Apply to cake
  • Cover in jam

The bakers in work are really good so there was some stiff competition! The next gallery shows some of the cakes that entered – you’ll see that the decorating work on the cauldron was really good!

Judging took place based on Appearance and taste. I was happy to say that I won the contest 🙂

I get to go have Champagne Afternoon Tea for 2 at Cloud 23 at the Hilton in Manchester.

Mini Pumpkin Cakes

I love the autumn. One of the reasons I love going to visit the USA in “fall” is because of the amount of pumpkin flavoured foods I can get. Whenever I can, I try to make things at home too that have been inspired by my love of the USA.

Today, this inspiration let to me making mini pumpkin cakes.

The first finished pumpkin cake

I started by making my basic cake mix and adding in tinned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices. I baked these in my mini bundt pan:

I trimmed the cakes to make them shorter, and then stacked them. I sandwiched the layers with a cream cheese icing.

The next step was coating the cakes in orange buttercream

buttercream coating added

I shaped the cakes using a yogurt pot to smooth the edges and add ridges too. The final stage was  to add a stalk made from tootsie roll:

The first finished pumpkin cake

I wanted them to look a little more professional, but they didn’t turn out too bad overall.

Boxed up to take to work this week.