A Case of The Munchies – Chocolate & Vanilla Kisses

Ok, hands up, last night I may have had a drink or two. But it was a beautiful sunny day and I spent the with a handful of friends evening watching Rob’s band play a gig at a local pub.

I got home a good hour or two before Rob – we left a little before the end, plus he had to pack up, load the van, drive back etc.

When I got in the drink had obviously gone to my head and I had a massive craving for something sweet – nothing but chocolate would suffice. But, horror of horror, the house was a chocolate free zone! (To be fair it is almost all the time, we don’t keep junk food in as I’d just eat it. All. In one go.)

Not letting this stop me, I grabbed my Be-r0 cookbook and found a recipe I’d loved as a child – coffee kisses. They’re like a soft biscuit/cake, sandwiched into pairs with sticky buttercream. As I decorated them I began to think how much they looked like whoopie pies – not sure if those are a US version of the same thing? Will investigate at some point, in the mean time I’m sticking with the good old British version I’ve known for 20 years!

Being nearly midnight coffee was not going to go down great, so I substituted in a couple of spoonfuls of rich cocoa instead.

The thing I love about the Be-ro recipes is that they’re so quick and simple to make. In a matter of minutes my mix was balled up and ready to bake:

As they’re quite little they cool very quickly, and, slowly sobering up (a couple of the biscuits didn’t make it as far as the icing stage…), paired them into equal sizes.

The filling was a sticky buttercream, with an extra splash of vanilla to give a really sweet contrast to the rich chocolate. At the last minute I decided to add some sugary pink colouring for a pretty touch.

A generous blob of icing between each pair, gently squeezed together, and my kisses were complete!

I can happily say that, not only were my cravings satisfied, but super quickly! From packets to plate it was less than an hour until I was happily munching away – a quick couple of minutes chilling in the freezer made them cool enough to ice very quickly.

And the best bit? The pink matched beautifully with the flowers that Rob had bought me earlier that day. All set off by the lovely evening sun earlier tonight (my head being much clearer today!)

But… that’s not the end of the story! Earlier today I’d been to the post office to pick up a parcel of the latest issues of My Cake Decorating magazine. Like a child at Christmas I’d opened the box straight away, and each little packet, the contents of which were strewn across our living room floor – a new cake caddy, cookie cutters, jubilee flags…
As I started to upload my photos for the post, these cute little stencils caught my eye:

The idea is to ice over them onto rolled out fondant, cut out your shape, and then top cakes, biscuits, etc.

In sticking with the theme of my kisses (are they biscuits, are they cakes… I’m not quite sure what else to call them!) I mixed up some chocolate royal icing. Royal icing sugar is best for this job as it’s quite stiff, so will hold the shape of the pattern and not run, like regular icing has a tendency to do.

I tested it out on a our butchers block board; pressing the stencil down flat, applying a small amount of icing to the bottom of a cake smoother, then running it firmly over the stencil, going over in the same direction (otherwise it’ll get under the stencil) until the pattern is completely filled.

The results are really impressive – look out for more soon!

For today I coloured some fondant in the same pink colour as the buttercream filling, and chose small bits of the stencil design to embellish them with. Because I didn’t want the full stencil pattern, I used a small paintbrush to gently fill in the bits that I required.

Using some small circle cutters, I trimmed round the designs, used a little of the royal icing to stick them to the top of the kisses, and finally painted with a little iridescent glitter:

So there we go – my little hangover cure actually turned into something quite pretty, and an excuse to try something new! Late evening baking is definitely the way forward now the weather’s hotting up – who knows what will be next… 🙂

Competition Cake – Jubilee Theme

While I’ve got your attention – it really is a competition, and I really would love you to vote if you can spare a click or two! Edit – competition now closed.

A couple of weeks ago I read that the cake decorating magazine to which I subscribe is running a competition to win a great selection of baking equipment from Lakeland – one of my favourite kitchenware shops.

I’d been thinking about what to make for a while, and happened to glance at the site again to see that the deadline is this Friday, eek! Being away with work Wednesday – Thursday meant I had to spring into action pretty sharpish.

The theme for the competition is, not unexpectedly, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, which is slowly taking over the country one tea party at a time.

The idea had been in my head for a while – an elaborate Union Jack flag – with red, white and blue made out of the sparkliest cake decorations I can find.

As usual my cake was a simple victoria sponge (nothing more British!), baked in a loaf tin and trimmed down to size. The ends I think I will save to make a trifle with soon… yum 🙂

Then it was a simple case of covering in butter icing – first a crumb layer then a second smooth layer, refrigerated in between;

and lastly crisp white fondant – because I was extra keen to impress I rolled it out quite thick, so it wouldn’t crack or split and would tease out easily round the corners – even I am impressed!

Onto the decoration – I’d chosen sugar stars and sugar balls, largely because they both came in the red and blue that I needed!

After loosely marking out the lines on the fondant, I marked out the positions with a cocktail stick for the stars, and blunt ended tool for the balls (so they’d have a little well to sit in and wouldn’t roll around). Then with a dip of icing applied with a cocktail stick, I got to work making the flag:

Repeated 146 times later (yes, I counted), and I was done!

And as if you couldn’t see it coming already – finishing touch in the form of silver shimmer lustre, lightly painted onto all the decorations with a little brush.

I was in love. It was beautiful. I took my new cake-crush outside for its official photoshoot for the competition.

The final picture had to have my name in it – which you’ll see on the left hand side of this if you go and vote. (Edit: voting now closed) I absolutely love the way a ladybird has crawled into the picture as well – it obviously wanted to join in with the red, white and blue theme!

A snap or several more later…

…and my cake was entered!

The best thing about this one? I didn’t have to give it away, wait for people to come round, or take it somewhere else to eat. I cut big pieces for Rob and I and we tucked in! It was so yummy that Rob went back for a second piece straight away… the ultimate of wins 🙂

Sprinkles in (the) Bath

This weekend we had a mini break down in Somerset, visiting everywhere from Bristol to Bath, Weston-Super-Mare to the delightful Cheddar, at the bottom of Britain’s biggest Gorge.

Our (ok my) most exciting find came in the form of this divine little cake supply shop in the back streets of beautiful Bath:

The Happy Cupcake Company only have a couple of stores, both of them in the South of the UK. The Bath store looked extra special because of its setting among the ancient town. You can see that their swinging sign is right next to an old inscription in the wall.

What follows inside is no less amazing; a little treasure trove of cupcake supplies, from themed paper cases and decorations, to ornate stands, and my favourite, an amazing choice of about 50 different types of cake sprinkles.

After fluttering my eyelashes at Rob, I secured the funds to take up their “5 sprinkles for £10” offer – little did he know how long it would take me to decide! Here is my final selection – 3 bright colours of hundreds and thousands, sparkly gold stars, and multi-coloured alphabet letters.

I love the vibrant colours of the hundreds and thousands – deep indigo purple, striking sky blue, and girlie hot pink. You’ll be able to see my cakes from miles away!

Chilli is clearly a girl after my own heart – her favourites were clearly the hot pink ones! Are e-numbers bad for cats…?

Flower & Butterfly Baby Name Cake

As I’m sure you’ll have figured out by now, I love any excuse to make a cake! A new baby is one of my favourite cake making occasions – an excuse to go wild with super cute patterns, fondants, all in beautiful pastel colours.

This one was for a lovely little girl named Mollie, and I wanted to keep it simple yet effective. Some beautiful girlie flowers, interspersed with bright butterflies. And of course – personalised with her name in sparkles!

The cake was a simple 2 layer sponge with one large and one small round; I covered each section separately with plain white fondant.

Onto the decoration – I stuck with three bright, vibrant colours, that still stuck with the baby girl theme. A pretty pink, pastel purple, and lemon yellow.

The flowers were cut in four different sizes in pink and purple, and the butterflies in yellow. Then just layered on, stuck down with a small amount of normal liquid icing.

Onto the name itself – and I suck with the same pink and purple fondant colours to tie the whole cake together. To get the right height, I measured the small cake before cutting strips of fondant in the correct width, and used a sharp knife to free hand cut the letters.

Again they were stuck on with a dab of liquid icing, before being finished with a fantastic layer of edible glitter. To get the glitter so dense, I mixed together a few drops of water with some of the glitter, and used a thin paintbrush to carefully apply on the shapes.

Incredibly easy to do but so cute and effective – Mollie’s parents were delighted, and I hope she will be able to look back and see her very first cake when she grows up!

Message in a Biscuit

Sometimes it’s nice to make a message out of your baking. Sure presents are nice, flowers etc., but is there anything better than a personal, handmade, super tasty message?!

Rob has been in hospital today for an operation on his hand (nothing major, and he’s already been discharged so worry not!)
While he was out last night I cooked up a little storm in the kitchen so there was a little surprise waiting for when he got back today…

His favourite biscuits are chocolate hob nobs, and these are super-easy to make. Using this recipe, halved as I only wanted a small number of biscuits, my mixture was made and ready to go in a matter of minutes.

I rolled it into small balls and placed on a well-greased tray. A word of warning that biscuit recipes containing bicarb DO spread out a lot during baking – space them well apart or you’ll end up with one giant cookie sheet! Also be sure to grease your paper very well as they also have a tendency to stick.

A quick 10 minutes in the oven, and they came out a perfect and delicious golden brown.

For the decoration I mixed up some chocolate icing (icing sugar + cocoa powder + milk) and smothered generously over the top.

Once they were nearly set, I took out my glitter writing icing and went freehand on the letters.

The best tips I can give on writing icing are to keep the pressure constant so you have an even flow, and just be confident! If you think you’re going to mess up, and start wobbling your hand all over the place… well then you probably will! Think what you want to write and then go for it, keep your lines as smooth as possible and don’t pause to think or you’ll end up with a big blob of icing…

And of course a (small!) sprinkle of edible glitter, to really set the biscuits off:

With my message spelt out, I put them on the plate and hid it in the cupboard… now I just need to tell him where to look when he gets home 🙂

While The Cat’s Away…

Rob is in Scotland today & tomorrow doing a couple of gigs, and with him gone I did what any girl naturally would with a free weekend… shop!

This is just what I bought baking wise, I won’t show the rest – (half in hope that I can sneak it into my wardrobe without Rob noticing 😉

Did someone say cake pops….?

But my absolute favourite purchase has got to be these super cute teacup shaped silicon moulds. Just IMAGINE how amazing my cupcakes will look in these!

And the best part? They were the amazing price of £1 for a set of 2! I’m not enamoured by the ‘saucers’ that they came with, they’re quite cheap plastic and don’t add much, but perhaps I can borrow some of Rob’s paints and jazz them up.
At this price I couldn’t resist and bought 3 sets… but am already wishing I got more. Maybe a return trip tomorrow is on the cards!

All in all I’d call it a pretty productive day (Rob will call it expensive… here’s hoping he doesn’t actually read my blog!), and I can’t wait to try them all out. Watch this space…!