Winter Chocolate Cupcakes

winter cupcakes gold and silver chocolate chips edible glitter

So finally it seems like the end of winter might be in sight, dare we hope? The days are getting lighter and longer, the snow is getting less frequent, and the temperatures are, well, still damn freezing to be honest!

In any case I thought it was about time these made it up, they were actually made for boxing day 2012, but there’s been so much baking-busyness, work, and travel in the first couple of months of 2013, I’ve been stock-piling photos and posts until some precious free time comes along.

As everyone wants in winter, they were a thick, moist cupcake, topped with a rich, creamy chocolate buttercream, swirled into a blizzard and topped with chocolate chips. Baked into silver and gold foil cases, they were adorned with complementing gold star or white snowflake sugar sprinkles, and an obligatory snowstorm of edible glitter.

silver and gold chocolate chip cupcakes stars snowflakes and edible glitter foil wrappers winter

gold and chocolate cupcakes stars chocolate chips foil cases

Seasonally very pretty, but let’s have some warmer weather now, hey?

Fondant Fancies & Afternoon Tea Party

pink and purple fondant fancies in cupcake cases artistic photography mary berry recipe

In case you didn’t hear already, it was MY BIRTHDAY this week! Not that I get at all excited… 😉

I’d decided on an afternoon tea party to celebrate, but what else. After hosting at home last year, this year a very lovely friend offered to hold it ar her house. She told me I was under no obligation to make anything but could if I so wanted. How well she knows me!

After being thrust into the spotlight after featuring on Season 3 of The Great British Bake Off, shown at the end of last year, I’d been wanting to make fondant fancies for a while, but, to be honest, wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge! Well, no time like the present, and they are so perfect for a tea party.

All roads seem to lead back to Mary Berry’s fondant fancy recipe, and I’m really not one to dispute. However a 4 egg cake seemed like rather a lot and a bit more than needed for an afternoon tea, when there are so many kinds of cake to be sampled. So – I scaled it down a little, and made a few adjustments at points I disagreed with – marzipan? No need! Buttercream? The butter/icing sugar ratio didn’t seem right!

Recipe (makes about 10 fancies)

Sponge cake base

120g butter
120g sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
120g self raising flour
flavouring – I used 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Simply beat all the items into smooth mixture, and spoon into the tin. To make one large cake (and cut into squares afterwards), about a 10 – 15 cm square tin would be ideal, however I used a teeny little shortcut and checker-boarded my alphabet and number cake pan so that the cakes bake in their own tiny little squares. It took them around 15 minutes at 180 to cook like this.

fondant fancy recipe review mary berry cake pan with small squares sponge mixture

I paid for my shortcut ever so slightly when it came to taking them out after baking – 10 little squares all stuck on every side (despite some good tin greasing before they went in!) It took a good 5 minutes, and a very thin knife-like spatula,  to carefully prize all the little sponges away from the square blocks of the tin.

sponge squares for fondant fancies easing out of the tin

Buttercream

50g butter
100g icing sugar
flavouring – again I used lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon

Once beaten together I set aside a small amount in a piping bag, putting in the fridge to firm up slightly. At this stage I chose to skip the marzipan and apricot jam Mary Berry’s recipe uses – sponge, buttercream and fondant seems a good enough combination as is!

With the remaining buttercream, I covered the 4 sides and top in a thin, smooth layer. Then, with the refrigerated icing, I piped small circular buttercream blobs onto the top of each cake.

fondant fancies recipe buttercream crumb coat piping stiff refrigerated buttercream blob on the top

Whilst the cakes were setting in the fridge, I set to the fondant.

Fondant covering

400g fondant icing (ready to roll)
water
flavouring and colouring
chocolate, to decorate

The fondant I used was already quite soft, and I broke it down into small chunks, placing into my stand mixer. Adding only a little water (30-50ml), I set the mixer off on a slow speed, and helped to break down the pieces by squashing with a spatula. More water can be added if needed!

making liquid fondant for fancies break into small pieces using stand mixer

Relatively quickly the fondant broke down into a paste, but I had to speed up the mixer and let it run for a good few minutes in order to get it completely smooth and free-flowing. It had an odd texture a little like melted marshmallows!

liquid fondant for fancies glossy shiny icing

After seeing the disastrous attempts at dipping the cakes into the fondant on the GBBO, I decided this method resolutely was not for me. Instead, after colouring the fondant (split in half, pink and purple, my favourite colours) , I placed the cakes on a wire rack, on top of a baking tray covered with cling film, drizzling the fondant over them.

drizzling liquid fondant over fancies sponge cake using wire rack with cling film to avoid mess

A little gentle coaxing with a teaspoon was all it took to ensure the sides of the cakes were all perfectly covered in fondant.

fondant fancies covered in icing pink coloured dripping onto wire rack with cling film

Placing the wire rack over a tray worked a treat – it caught all the drips and the clingfilm was easily taken off afterwards for a super-quick clear-up!

pink and purple fondant fancies covered in icing recipe mary berry

The final step – icing on the cake if you like! – thin lines of chocolate, drizzled across from a piping bag.

drizzling milk chocolate onto fondant fancies pink and purple pastel colours

My only final dispute with Mary’s recipe is the timing. 30 – 60 minutes cooking, ok. 30 – 60 minutes preparation? I don’t think so! It took me at least a couple of hours to do everything from start to finish, including cooling times, edging in buttercream, and I only made half as many as the original recipe suggested! The other point not mentioned is drying time – I left the cakes in the pantry overnight and they were only just dry, the fondant does take a long time to set.

Next morning – using one of my great birthday presents, a light and photo studio, the cakes had their own photo shoot.

photography studio baking blog plain background stand up lights birthday presents

And they looked amazing!

finished fondant fancies from mary berry recipe omitted marzipan baby pink and lilac purple chocolate stripes

For a finishing touch, I placed the cakes in some complementing pink and purple cupcake wrappers, pinched at the edges to make a square shape to fit. And adorned with shoes and handbags – so very me, perfect for my birthday party!

fondant fancies in pink and purple shoe and handbag print cupcake cases

pink and purple fondant fancy from mary berry recipe shoe and handbag cupcake case

And afternoon tea? Well, where do I start! The fancies were great little jewels atop the cake stands, but not forgetting fab finger sandwiches, crunchy chocolate fridge cake, mega mini meringues, and wonderful warm freshly-baked scones, all washed down with a glass of bubbles and plenty of tea 🙂

happy birthday jen scottie dog chalkboard bright flowers afternoon tea

afternoon tea champagne fondant fancy meringue with berries finger sandwiches

afternoon tea cake stand fondant fancies chocolate cake finger sandwiches homemade

More cake you say? Look at my AMAZING birthday cake – a black forest gateau of a cake and sooo delicious – complete with name candle sparklers!

jen name sparklers for birthday cake chocolate with silver and gold sprinkles

(Oh yes, we did set the fire alarms off…)

sparklers on birthday cake afternoon tea chocolate

It was such a lovely afternoon – my tummy is still full of all the yummy, yummy cake. A great end to my birthday celebrations and thank you so much to my lovely friends that made it happen. Mwah! x

jen birthday afternoon tea champagne fondant fancies finger sandwiches meringues thumbs up

Happy Birthday to me! Fondant Stars Birthday Cake

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Yes that’s right – today is my birthday! There are 3 great rules at my office about birthdays:

1 – everyone has an extra day off on their birthday
2 – everyone chips in £5 for everyone else’s present, so everyone gets a present and by mutual agreement of everyone else, something that they like as well!
3 – everyone should bring a cake into their office around their birthday

So here is my contribution for this year – a luscious lemon cake adorned with bright fondant stars.

I used Nigella’s lemon loaf recipe, baked into an 8 inch round for prime birthday cake shape!

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Once cool, I coated and topped with a thick layer of vanilla buttercream:

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– before covering in brightly coloured fondant stars. I love how this sounds such a simple step but took absolutely ages! About 2 hours of my Sunday night, albeit in front of the tv 🙂

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Of course they had to cover the cake all the way around and down – so I pre-cut some of the stars into segments, so they’d line up along the bottom edge.

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A brilliant shining sea of stars – with a little help from some silver shimmer spray!

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It went down well – and quickly – in the office! Here is a sneaky slice adorning my desk –

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Happy birthdays all round – I’m off to enjoy the rest of my extra day away from the office!

Mum’s Low-Fat Carrot and Walnut Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

happy birthday mum cake with candles star shaped carrot cake cream cheese icing and walnut edging

 

 

Wednesday of this week was my mum’s birthday – hopefully she won’t mind me telling you she’s trying to eat healthily in preparation for my brother’s wedding in 7 weeks time – in New Zealand! More to follow on that I’m sure…

Birthdays are the one day when diets don’t count, and cake is a must. But I made a low-fat one so she could eat more of it 🙂

I used Delia’s Saturday Carrot Cake recipe, it was incredibly simple to follow and I love that it can be made all in one bowl, basically just beating everything together. Before you go think it’ll be a good way to five-a-day – the whole cake only took up 2 small carrots! I have the rest of the pack still in the bottom of the fridge, waiting for an urge or healthiness to be eaten. It’s not happened yet. I don’t hold out much hope.

With an absence a suitable sized round tin (seriously, I need to go shopping!), I clapped eyes on my silicon star moulds which are just brilliant for birthday cakes.  I’m still not sure, however, how Delia manages to fill a whole loaf tin with hers!

Once baked and cooled I simply topped with cream cheese icing – you may recognise it from this weeks Valentine’s Ombre cake. As I was making two cakes I made a big batch, using extra-light cream cheese and low-fat spread to make it as healthy as possible. Into this I pressed some more walnut pieces, all around the edge of the star.

carrot cake star shaped with cream cheese icing and walnut pieces edging happy birthday

 

Who doesn’t love a personalised birthday cake – my piping was a little shaky however, it was done slightly on the run, coming in from work, mixing up the icing, piping, and heading out the door again, all in the space of 5 minutes!

carrot and walnut low fat birthday cake idea cream cheese icing happy birthday mum

Even with the shaky icing and dodgy “Happy Birthday” singing mum still seemed very happy – although maybe that was the wine we shared over dinner! The cake was a great dessert, crunchy, tangy base with a sweet, squidgy icing. Happy Birthday Mum! x

Red Velvet Valentines Ombre Cake

red velvet ombre valentines cake present vanilla and chocolate with cream cheese icing heart sugar sprinkle topping

Happy Valentines Day! We have agreed not to do presents this year (it is going to be a costly enough 2013 as it is, watch this space…) but of course I couldn’t shy away from the valentines cake tradition! Rob would be broken-hearted if there wasn’t a red velvet surprise waiting for him. Last years was an epic 3 layer chocolate-fondant-covered Love Cake, and two years ago a gigantic heart-shaped red velvet cake.

This year I decided to go somewhat on-trend, and something I’ve wanted to try for a while, ombre. For those not in the know this is basically just a layered cake, with colours graduated throughout. Generally a light coloured layer at the top, with colour building layer-by-layer to a deep hue on the bottom layer. Simple.

Although there are some great red velvet recipes out there, with their buttermilk, vinegar etc, I chose to stick with a simple vanilla sponge, that I know well, so I could easily add the ombre effects.

As I didn’t want a huge cake on my hands (Rob may disagree!), I used 1.5x the mixture for a normal victoria sponge. I.e.: 150g butter, 150g sugar, 3 eggs, 150g SR flour and a splash of vanilla essence.

I mixed the basic sponge up in one big bowl, then divided into 4 smaller ones to start the colouring:

vanilla sponge cake mix divided into four glass bowls recipe

First up, cocoa. Leaving the first bowl plain, I added 1/2 teaspoon to the second bowl, a full teaspoon to the third, and a well-heaped teaspoon (probably about 1 1/2 teaspoons) to the last.

ombre cake cocoa powder mixing chocolate batter into for bowls

And then, the red food colouring. I use Home2Bake, which I get from Asda, the little pot lasts for ages (even with the amount of baking I do!) and always gives a good strong colour.

Again I added nothing to the first bowl, the second had just a little dab (using a cocktail stick), the third a good swirl, and the fourth as much as the cocktail stick could pick up in one splodge!

ombre cake red velvet colouring the batters into graduated layers gel food colour instructions

I baked the cakes in normal round victoria sponge tins (I think mine were 7 inches). As they were a little thinner than a normal sponge they took around 9 – 10 minutes in my fan oven, at 180 degrees. As I then had to take a break to make dinner, I had to hide the cakes away from Rob, so left them to cool dotted around my crockery cupboard!

ombre cake four layers cooling in crockery cupboard red velvet chocolate

To fill and top I used a rich cream cheese icing. I tried to follow the pink whisk‘s recipe, but found it really very runny. In the end I used the 70g butter, 250g tub of cream cheese, and 700-800g icing sugar. This was far too much icing and I’d definitely halve it if making again!

First layer:

layering ombre cake with cream cheese frosting icing turntable for ease instructions

And the finished stack:

red velvet ombre cake layers graduated colour filled with cream cheese icing valentines present

Next step was to cover the entire outside of the cake in the frosting, so that the layers would only be revealed once a slice was cut. This was more tricky than it sounds! The cream cheese frosting doesn’t hold well in place (it needs to be kept cold, difficult while working with it), and the cake went a bit leaning-tower, but only on one side…

cake covered in cream cheese icing ombre slightly wonky

Nevertheless I was glad it was all covered, and hurriedly stuck it in the fridge to cool and set before the cream cheese slid any further. I checked back the next day and it was definitely looking more solid!

As the inside was so complex, I wanted to keep the topping simple. Using some left over, thinned down icing, I painted a heart on the top…

valentines cake painting heart in icing to be covered in shimmer sugar

… and covered with red shimmer sugar, coaxing into place as well as possible.

red velvet ombre valentines cake heart shimmer sugar topping cream cheese icing

Well the outside didn’t look too bad after all the cream cheese issues – but as they say, the proof of the pudding…

red velvet ombre valentines heart cake slice pink champagne glasses (2)

Hoorah! The layers looked fab! And perfect with the cream cheese frosting.

red velvet ombre cake candles background cream cheese frosting

Of course Rob loved it (I haven’t yet made a cake he didn’t!) and went back for 2 generous slices.

Happy Valentines everyone! ❤ x

valentines day flowers and red velvet ombre cake cream cheese frosting

Chocolate, Flowers and Butterflies Cake, for a new Baby Girl

new baby cake simple ideas butterflies and flowers baby girl polka dot cake stand

This weekend we finally had the opportunity to go and see one of my best friends and her nearly-new (now 3 week old) baby girl. Of course I couldn’t turn up without cake in hand!

Am pleased to report that all are well, baby is such a cutie and mum and dad filled with scrummy cake 🙂

The base of the cake was a chocolate sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream. I covered the top with green fondant before creating a garden fence out of buttons and mini chocolate fingers (found in the supermarket at Christmas, I’m not sure if you can get them all year round).

chocolate fingers and buttons fence on garden flower cake edging green grass fondant and flowers

To top, pastel coloured flowers, imprinted with the baby’s name using italic letter stencils, piped over with a thin black icing, and finished with some silver sparkly edible glitter.

evelyn baby name cake simple easy pink purple yellow flowers with stenciled name chocolate

Finally, 3 beautiful butterflies made using my new butterfly plunger cutters – another fab Christmas present. They imprint a fantastic pattern onto the icing which I painted with food colouring to match the flowers, and finished with a good spritz of gold shimmer spray.

set of three butterfly fondant icing plunger cutters ornate

baby cake green grass chocolate finger fence fondant printed stencil butterflies decorated with food coloruing and gold shimmer spray

Isn’t it cute! New babies are such a lovely occasion to bake for!

evelyn baby cake green fondant grass brightly coloured flowers name shimmer butterflies chocolate fingers edging

We sampled a slice before a snowy drive home (grr winter weather), well, the baby is too teeny to eat it so someone has too… 😉

chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream green grass fondant and chocolate finger fencing edge

 

One Year Blogiversary!

bakearama one year blogiversary cupcake purple wrapper piped chocolate icing candle birthday anniversary

Happy birthday to blog, happy birthday to blog…

Can you believe it’s been a whole year since my first post, on a blog dreamed up in a corner of my mind on a quiet afternoon in the office. That humble first post – Baked Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake – still looks pretty tasty to me!

88 posts later – that’s 1.69 a week and an awful lot of sugar, fact fans, and things are still going strong. Although I originally started the blog to keep a track of all the birthday and celebration cakes I made for friends and family, it’s become so much more than that. Yes, a bit of an addiction, I can turn any occasion into an excuse to whip up some cakes or bake some biscuits! No complaints to be heard from the cake-filled mouths friends, family or colleagues mind… But, I’ve also learnt a lot, travelled far and widetried out new things, made new friends, visited cake clubs, and had the odd disaster or two along the way, all in the name of baking blogging.

So thank you for reading – as my stats tell me many do – and for those of you that follow as well. What you must think when some of the posts pop up in your inbox I am not sure! I also get some lovely comments, please do let me know what you think (good or bad, I can take it… I think!) – that little comment box at the bottom of every page is awaiting your thoughts.

If you haven’t done so already, please take a look at my photo gallery page. Not least because it takes me ages to keep up, and uses almost the entire extent of my somewhat minimal HTML coding skills, but also because it’s an (almost-up-to-date) amazing pictorial log of everything I’ve made and posted to date. It’s great to scan through for ideas, inspiration, or just to make your mouth water. And by the wonders of modern technology (and some dubious coding), you can click on the pictures to take you to the relevant post.

Here’s to many more golden-brown, well-risen, fondant-topped and chocolate-covered bakes!

Jen x

PS I know I bake for almost any occasion but I didn’t for this. Promise. Just took a few extra photos of some cupcakes that will follow on a post soon.

bakearama one year blogiversary cupcake ipad blog wordpress purple leather case kitchen

Chocolate Philadelphia Swiss Roll

cadbury kraft chocolate philadelphia cream cheese in sponge swiss roll recipe instructions

So my first ever attempt at a swiss roll went really rather well a couple of weeks ago. So well it was devoured entirely the same day, with not a crumb left!

Immediately after making it a thought popped into Rob’s head, his little face lit up, “how about making one with chocolate Philadelphia?”

Well – you know I can’t refuse a baking request, especially not one that could be so amazing!

If you’re not sure about chocolate Philadelphia, well, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I agree the combination of cream cheese and chocolate sounds a little weird, but if you think the cheese is really just made of milk and cream, then it’s just one big creamy chocolate spread!

You can find my recipe and method for the swiss roll here – Simple Strawberry Jam Swiss Roll – it really is easy, promise!

It’s just as easy to adapt the filling as well. Rob wanted “some of that white creamy stuff” in it as well – I eventually deciphered this to be buttercream. After rolling the cake and leaving it to cool, I spread on a layer of thick vanilla buttercream followed by a very generous layer of chocolate Philadelphia – I used about 1 1/3 tubs altogether.

chocolate philadelphia swiss roll recipe spreading buttercream and cadbury cream cheese onto sponge base

A quick re-roll, some chocolate icing drizzled over the top, and done! I love how quick swiss rolls are to make as well, and you can eat them straight away (although this one got even better after a little time firming the fillings up in the fridge).

chocolate philadelphia cream cheese cadbury swiss roll recipe instructions

Don’t you love that gooey inside!

chocolate philadelphia and vanilla buttercream swiss roll cadbury kraft

Fancy a slice….?

cadbury chocolate philadelphia swiss roll slice recpie ideas instructions

Macarons… in McDonald’s?!

mcdonalds price list macarons belgium brussels euro chocolate vanilla raspberry pistachio

Last weekend I was working in a very cold Brussels – the temperature didn’t seem to reach above freezing the whole time we were there. More than a little tired (think, 12 hour days, 3 hour plane delays…), a colleague and I set out for dinner, only to stumble across McDonald’s advertising macarons in their window.

mcdonalds rue neuve brussels outside photo selling macarons belgium

Now, we are both big macaron lovers and were very easily sucked into the idea of a quick and easy dinner – there was no other way to it!

Consulting the menu we obviously had to try one of every kind each, but at 3 Euros for 4, fantastic value for macarons.

The four flavours were chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, and pistachio. The latter slightly unusual for the mass market maybe? But oh how European!

macarons in mcdonalds in brussels belgium one of each chocolate vanilla pistachio and raspberry review

Packaging was a big let down – a paper bag! If McDonald’s can put their burgers in boxes I’m sure they could manage it for macarons as well, they are supposed to be a delicacy…

macarons in paper bag from mcdonalds brussels

So how did they taste? Well, rather good actually! The vanilla had a thick sweet cream in the middle – perhaps a little too much so?

vanilla macaron with a bite taken review from mcdonalds in brussels

And the chocolate, a thick ganache filling. Having sunk into the macaron shell a fair amount this was really more like a round, fudgy brownie (albeit it a tasty one), than a delicate macaron:

chocolate macaron filling like a fudge brownie review brussels belgium mcdonalds

I’d had enough of photo and wanted to concentrate on eating – but the raspberry was filled more with jam than buttercream, and the pistachio was my surprise favourite, a lovely delicate flavour throughout.

Overall – a tasty trip, and lovely little desserts for the price. However, and somewhat understandably for a mass and fast food market, not quite what you’d expect from normal macarons. They were quite a bit heavier, denser fillings, and sadly lacking in the crunchy-chewy shell that macarons normally have.

Would I have more? Well, if the temperature is still in the minus figures when we return in a month, then I’ll have to substitute my usual McFlurry for something else sweet – and these are certainly not a bad compromise!

We also managed a little sight-seeing of our evening:

Stunning architecture in the main square, the Grand Place:

brussels belgium grand place main square at night panoramic view

Tintin fire escape mural – genius! Did you know he was Belgian?

brussels belgium tin tin mural fire escape painted on wall snowy dog captain haddock

And of course we visited some of the famed chocolate shops. There are a lot of replicas around of Brussels’ famous statue, Manneken Pis (the weeing boy, yes really!). We saw the actual fountain itself, but these were my favourites – with chocolates to match!

brussels belgium mannekin pis little man pee weeing boy famous statue multi coloured replicas chocolate shop