Tempting Tea – Amazing Birthday Afternoon

For my birthday this year I wanted to go back to the little girl world of tea parties – only this time with real tea, real people, and REAL CAKES!

Here are just a few pictures from a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon in our house. There were 8 of us for tea altogether which worked out perfectly in every way – number of tea cups, amount of space around the table…

Aside from the sandwiches (and tea!) the only cake I had to make was some sweet little cupcakes, and that they were! Moist chocolate cake, delectable white chocolate buttercream, finished off with a chocolate star and a few swirls of glitter icing.

Saying I didn’t have much to make – there was plenty more to set up! China tea cups borrow from my mum, jam and fresh clotted cream for the scones, and the cutest paper plates I think I’ve ever seen! The range is rather fabulously titled “Utterly Scrumptious”, I can’t find where it is made but they are widely available, from Amazon etc, mine came from here, and it was very hard to stop at just the plates!

A few extra touches included a teacup shaped candle – perfect for the occasion. And of course we had to have some bubbles, pink champagne no less to match the rest of the decor.

Cake had arrived from around Nottingham thanks to some amazing friends 🙂

And with sandwiches made – smoked salmon and cream cheese, roast ham and cucumber, mixed cheese and seasonal salad – all that was left to do was get everything laid out on the table – and EAT!

(The photographer in me wishes I’d taken more photos at this point. Mine and everyone elses stomachs took priority though, we simply had to tuck in!)

The final touch – a simply stunning and wonderfully gooey red velvet birthday cake with cream cheese icing. If you can make out the candle numbers I’ll leave you to guess whether I’m 72 or 27…!

Love Cake <3

As promised – valentines 2012 and another heart themed cake to better last years.

Rob had requested red velvet cake again, so I couldn’t disappoint. To make it extra special I decided to go for a triple layer approach – red velvet, chocolate, and red velvet again!

I stacked them up, filled and covered with the most heavenly white chocolate buttercream: a wicked combination of melted white chocolate, icing sugar and butter, all beaten until sweet, smooth and very sticky!

As it was going under a fondant layer looks didn’t matter at this point… it was just a case of getting as much icing as possible, and getting it to stay put! I left it for a little while in the cold kitchen to set a bit before continuing, so the layers didn’t start sliding all over the place.

Final step before decorating – yummy chocolate fondant. I bought this ready-made as trying to colour fondant is difficult enough, let alone adding a flavour.

A tip I learned online somewhere – use a piece of string or similar to measure up the side of your cake, across the top, and down the other side. This will tell you how large you need to roll the fondant out to before placing it on the cake.

Another tip to get the fondant shiny and clear – mine was covered in icing sugar and obviously needed smoothing down. I took a pastry brush and dipped it in a little water, then painted very lightly all over the whole cake. This blended in both the folds of the fondant, and also all the white icing sugar.

Final step – decorating! I wanted to go for something simple but effective, so mixed up some red fondant (it wasn’t worth buying a whole pack of red just for this little bit, so I used white with plenty of red colouring), and also invested in a pack of mixed chocolate hearts.

A cookie cutter or too later, some normal icing used as glue and tada – my creation was complete!

Rob was of course delighted, and after a delicious 3 course meal (this being the 4th course!) it took centre-table, flanked by obligatory champagne 🙂

And when we cut into the cake, it was everything I’d hoped – sumptuous, vivid layers, encompassed on all sides by the white chocolate buttercream. A true chocoaholics cake!

Sweets For My Sweet

As it’s nearing that time of year again, I wanted to share my sweet treat from Valentines 2011.

I made this cake for Rob, and to this day he still claims it’s the best cake he’s ever tasted (he ate the WHOLE thing to himself, save for a tiny slice which I was allowed!)

And, to my credit, I think it is my most proudest baking effort to date as well.

So here we are: Valentines Red Velvet Cake.

All the red velvet recipes that I’ve seen are generally very similar, and this one was no different.  At the time I couldn’t find any buttermilk or white wine vinegar, so used normal whole (full-fat) milk and just a splash of ordinary white vinegar.
Luckily I already had a heart shaped cake tin so no tedious cutting and shaping required.

The filling/icing was a white chocolate cream cheese concoction – and absolutely heavenly!

I decorated it with a very generous sprinkling of edible glitter, and made the heart shapes using the end of a chopstick and some red food colouring.

My only issue now is how to top it for 2012. All suggestions welcome! One week to go…

All in a Night’s Work – Petit Fours Mini Cupcakes

As the song goes: “the weather outside is frightful” – 2 inches of snow and very much still counting, topped off with temperatures plummeting below zero.

What better to do on such an evening than to put the heating on full, get the oven hotting up, and whip up a batch of the cutest cupcakes. Not that I ever need an excuse, but I need to feed my blog as well as my boyfriend now! And a great excuse to take more photos too – another one of my loves.

A couple of days ago I picked up some pastel petit fours cases in the supermarket (I always walk down the baking aisle even if I don’t need anything!) and this was the perfect opportunity to use them 🙂

I started off with just a basic sponge mix, with a little dash of lemon juice for some extra flavour.

Spooning into the cases I soon realised that the mixture would much more than fill my tray of 24, in spite of only making half the normal quantity of batter! Not to worry, never can have too many cakes.

Although they’re small they still took a good 9 minutes to bake, but came out beautifully and, being so small, cooled super quick, ready to ice.

This first batch I decided to try out my piping skills. They still leave a lot to be desired… Being by no means a piping-pro, I went for a star shaped nozzle, because I like the way the lines accentuate whatever shape you pipe out.

Nevertheless, a few sugar sprinkles and a dusting of edible glitter later, and hey presto! Not half bad.

Now there was the rest of the batter I had left. 24 of one cupcake was quite enough, so I wanted to do something a little different with the rest.

I decided they’d be similar but with a little surprise – a jam filled centre!

I half filled the cases with the mix, using the back of a teaspoon to make sure it was spread out evenly.

Next, and again using the back of a teaspoon, I carefully placed a little jam into the middle of each cake:

Finally, another layer of cake mixture on the top. Again I used the back of the spoon to flatten it out – but only a little at this stage as I didn’t want to squish the jam in the middle!

My secret is to make sure the jam is in the middle of the cake – not precisely speaking, but in terms of the cake batter. None of the jam should be touching the paper case, or be visible at the top of the cake. It should be entirely surrounded by batter, and as long as you don’t use too much, then it will stay this way during baking too.

After another quick 9 minutes in the oven, it was on to decorating the second batch. I decided that the jam centre was enough “wow” for one little mouthful of a cupcake, so went for a simple white icing.

Just room for one finishing touch, and I opted for red edible glitter to give just a little hint as to the jam surprise inside.

I popped a little circle onto the top of each one – it wasn’t intentional but I like the way they almost look like a classic cherry bakewell!

Second batch done – and of course I had to test – with a beautiful jammy centre.

And there we are! Mission accomplished, and certainly not bad for a couple of hours on a cold winters evening. Now, back to watching the snow…

What a Beauty! Strawberry Victoria Sponge

The first out of my archives – my trusty iPhone informs me the photo was taken back in August 2010. Explains the giant fresh fruits!

A simple victoria sponge, filled with cream and generously adorned with fresh strawberries. Divine!

Baked Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

A favourite in our house is the humble cheesecake, quick and easy to make, and keeps well in the fridge for sweet-tooth moments or dessert during the week.
I vary it by adding all different kinds of flavourings – depending on ideas I’ve seen around, ingredients in the cupboard, or just a craving for a bit of something!

This weeks I wanted to go for raspberry, having looked at the price of fresh ones in the supermarket (so winter’s not a time for fresh produce… who knew!) – I had the choice of tinned or frozen. Frozen seemed a bit more effort in terms of defrosting, and I wasn’t sure what they’d do to the texture either, so, with 2 cans of raspberries in my basket, I was all set.

I will post my proper cheesecake recipe at another point, but as this stage it was just the basic setup of low fat biscuit base, low fat cream cheese/quark, natural  yoghurt and sweetener, with eggs mixed in just before baking.

The tins were about half juice and half fruit, so I drained most of this away as I didn’t want to make the mixture too runny, and encounter the dreaded dilemma of a cheesecake that doesn’t set.

The first can went straight into the bowl and was well mixed in. On reflection I might keep all the fruit as a topping next time and go for white chocolate in the base. Next time…

Then the pièce de résistance – the swirl topping. I put the second tin of drained raspberries into a mug and used a spoon to mush them up into a paste. I also added a spoonful of raspberry jam to enhance the berry flavours and add some sheen to the topping.

With the rest of the cheesecake assembled, I carefully spooned the raspberry topping into a swirl on the top. Starting at the middle, I put a small amount on the spoon each time and placed it carefully on the top.

Everything in place, I put the tine VERY carefully in to the pre-heated oven, set the timer and crossed my fingers. One of my main worries was that the topping would just run across the surface and my pain-staking swirl-making would be ruined, but, 40 minutes later (a little longer than usual baking thanks to the extra moisture from the raspberries), and, tada!

Something else to work on for the future – making my biscuit base more robust! Although the majority of it stayed put, in my haste to experiment with the raspberries I probably skimped on the biscuit compacting step. Oops.