Birthday Afternoon Tea Party

Ah yes, the week of my birthday, where, once again, friends and family gather to eat their own body weight in cake. There is a definite theme to all my birthday presents and the respective celebrations at which they are received – cake, cake, and more CAKE! Take for example this amazing 3d patisserie card – will definitely be finding a permanent home for this little lovely in my kitchen.

patisserie 3d birthday card cake lover

This year Rob and I hosted a birthday afternoon tea at home; we moved house in September and still love our new bolthole, as today proved it’s perfect for parties!

A windy Sunday afternoon in Derbyshire didn’t deter the party goers, and we made sure the house was well decked out for an afternoon tea party – balloons, banners, and of course bunting, zig-zagging across the hallway. I’m wondering how long I can get away with having this up for, the cats seem to have designs on pulling it down though…

pastel bunting and cats hosting traditional afternoon tea party at home

Starting with sandwiches, served with champagne, we tucked in to the veritable feast in front of us.

birthday afternoon tea champagne sandwiches and cake

afternoon tea party at home derbyshire happy birthday

Enjoyed freshly baked from the oven, delicious fruit scones made by Al…

afternoon tea party freshly baked scones

… and topped with home-made (by t’other Jen) blackcurrant jam, and whipped cream. Yum!

afternoon tea party fresh scones with homemade blackcurrant jam and whipped cream

Offerings from my kitchen included strawberry swirl meringues, and gluten-free brownie bites (both recipes now posted & linked up!) home afternoon tea birthday party chocolate brownie bites strawberry swirl meringues finger sandwiches

And and experiment with one of my brilliant birthday presents, a cake pop maker, little white kitty cat cake pops! They are not my finest work of art but not a bad testament to my battle with the evil that is candy melts.

kitty cat cake pops white chocolate candy melt birthday party ideas pink glitter sugar ears

cat cake pop white chocolate in place of a nose birthday party fun

And what else could you finish a birthday party with, other than a big sticky birthday cake?!

birthday girl blowing out candles afternoon tea party

Made by the lovely Jen this was one brilliant birthday cake:

chocolate swirl birthday cake with candles

– that just got better and better when I cut inside. Look at the chocolate checkerboard!

checkerboard chocolate happy birthday cake

Some more fun and games…

fun and games birthday afternoon tea party host at home derbyshire

… before waving guests off with full tummies and little party bags! Who doesn’t love a party bag, at any age?

mini afternoon tea party bags chocolate freddo cat toy

Thanks to all my lovely guests for a great afternoon, helping to make (and demolish) all the yummy food, and of course my fabulous presents! All that remains now is for me to get baking and start using some of them…

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The Sound of Music Lemon Cake Pops – with Handy Hints!

sound of music do re mi fa so la ti treble clef note lemon cake pops chocolate

This weekend just gone was largely centred around (another!) rather amazing theme party. This time – Musicals and Theatre. I have another bake to share with you but as time is tight I had to get the shorter one up first!

I’d been itching to try out the new cake pop stand that Secret Santa bought me for Christmas, and this was my first real opportunity.

First up – a quick lemon sponge cake, using 100g butter, 100g sugar, 2 eggs, 110g SR flour, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

lemon victoria sponge cake for making cake pops flavoured

It seemed a shame to break it up and put it into the blender but, as soon as the cake was cool, its fate was set!

cake pop instructions tips using a blender to make fine breadcrumbs

I picked up a surprisingly amount of tips during my quick cake pop session at the April Delights course back in December. It seems to me cake pops are a combination of luck, practice, patience and general confidence, but these tips certainly helped me get better results that previous attempts.

Tip 1 – ensure your cake is a very fine breadcrumb. A blender definitely helps with this, you can do it by hand but just be very thorough.

Tip 2 – go easy on the buttercream. You can see below it only really took a spoonful, again the blender is useful here. You want the mixture to just be at the balling up stage (second picture below) – i.e. the buttercream only just sticks the cake, it’s not too sticky or mushy. Clearly I made far too much buttercream, you can see the remnants on the Chocolate & Lemon Hearts post from last week.

cake pop mixture tips blender fine breadcrumbs and buttercream lemon flavoured

lemon flavoured cake pop dough thick consistency using a blender not too much buttercream

Next up – dividing the mixture into equally sized balls, laid out ready for their sticks and coating.

Tip 3 – try to avoid refrigerating your cake mix. It will be too cold once it gets smothered in the candy melts/chocolate, and the combination of heat differences and contracting on cooling can cause your precious cake pops to crack. If your mixture has a good buttercream to cake ratio, it shouldn’t be sticky so shouldn’t really need to go in the fridge anyway.

balls of cake and buttercream dough for lemon cake pops

Next up, prepare your chocolate or candy melt coating. Although I’m still a little unsure about them (what exactly ARE they?!), I can’t deny that candy melts work wonders when it comes to cake pops.

Tip 4 – prepare your chocolate/candy coating in a thin, tall mug. This will give you a good depth for dipping without having to prepare a lot of excess coating. (I found this one online but cannot remember the site at all, apologies).

I find that candy melts need a good teaspoon or two of vegetable fat (I use trex) to get them to a good dipping consistency. It makes the cooling/setting process a little slower but definitely helps them coat the cake pops better.

cake pop tips wilton white candy melts using a mug to dip into

Have your sticks and cake balls all ready to go so you can attach them together quickly and easily.

Tip 5 – dip your stick well into the candy melts, 2-3 inches at least. Let the excess drip off, and when you push into the cake ball this should create a good, firm base to hold the two together. Push the stick carefully but firmly in, to about 2/3 of the way into the cake ball (you don’t want it to reappear out the top!)

I love taking photos at this stage – they still look so uniform and perfectly cute!

cake pops tips attaching to sticks using candy melts instructions

Now, onto my least favourite part, dipping. Make sure the bases on the sticks are set firmly (you shouldn’t get chocolatey fingers if you touch them), and if notwait! They will only fall off… If you’ve added oil or vegetable fat to candy melts, or are using chocolate, you may find this takes a good few minutes.

I don’t really want to give tips on dipping as I’ve not quite perfected it yet. The cake obviously needs to be completely coated, followed by a combination of rolling and tapping lightly on the side of the mug to help the excess drip off.

cake pop dipping action shot in white wilton candy melts hints and tips

The one big Tip 6 is that it makes life SO much easier having a cake pop stand! Not having to fiddle around trying to balance your chocolatey sticks in polystyrene, mugs, or whatever else you may have to hand, means that you can keep the pop perfectly upright straight away, and has plenty of room to set whilst you make the others.

As I said – not as perfect as I’d like…

white chocolate and lemon cake pops in perspex cake pop stand present

With my basic cake pops finished I went onto decorations. To fit in with the party’s musical theme I was originally just going to do a combination of different notes, treble clefs, etc. But once the idea of the infamous “do, re, mi” song got into my head, I was decided!

Under close supervision from Chilli (cats do like chocolate, don’t you know), I piped some letters and notes onto greaseproof paper. These were made out of normal milk chocolate, I’d have liked some black candy melts but wasn’t going to buy a whole pack just for these little details!

chocolate sound of music decorations piped onto greaseproof paper kitten cat overlooking

After letting the chocolate set in the fridge, I carefully ‘glued’ the decorations to the top of the cake pops using a little more white candy melt, applied with a cocktail stick.

sticking musical chocolate decorations onto cake pops sound of music themed

And to finish – a good spritz of gold shimmer spray, and black edible glitter carefully applied to the chocolate detail.

gold shimmer and black glitter decoration sound of music cake pops

Hey presto- fabulous musical cake pops! Not perfect but I’m quite pleased how they turned out, and they certainly went down a storm at the party!

do re mi fa so la ti the sound of music cake pops instructions hints recipe theme ideas

musical note and treble clef cake pops sound of music theme party

Super Strawberry Cake Pops

Did you guess what I made such a mess of last week? Sticky summer strawberries!

I had some red sponge cake left in the freezer from my union jack battenburg, saved especially for making cake pops.

The recipe – if you could call it that – for cake pops is just cake and buttercream. Super simple. Mix up enough to get a firm texture that can be rolled into balls. Simple!

I decided to add some strawberry jam to give them a real strawberry mixture, passing it through a sieve first so there weren’t any pips etc., as cake pops need a nice smooth mixture. But – I wouldn’t recommend adding jam. The flavour is so subtle that you can’t taste it in the end, and it makes the texture extra sticky and harder to work with.

A great tip if you are using frozen cake for your pops – as soon as you’ve taken it out the freezer, use a grater to crumble it up finely. Works perfectly every time! You have to work quickly though, the more it thaws, the less well it grates.

 

The buttercream, cake, and (not recommended) jam mixed up easily into a beautiful light pink colour. Into the fridge it went to chill for a little while, so it would firm up a bit to roll into balls.

 

Next step – and I was super excited to finally be using these – candy melts! I’d bought these from hobbycraft quite a while back, and honestly not quite sure why it’s taken me so long to use them! Basically they are big coloured chocolate buttons – but are engineered (for want of a better word) to melt quickly in a microwave, stay liquid for quite some time, and then set quick and hard once you use them on the pops, without melting again if it gets warm.
Hopefully that makes sense – basically they are perfect for bakers – although this probably means a lot of e numbers as well! If you over-heat them or need to reheat after they’ve set, they are easily liquified again by popping in the microwave with a little vegetable fat (I used trex).

 

The cake mixture came out of the freezer, and I rolled it into balls, pinching a little at the edges for strawberry shapes, before dipping the sticks in the candy melts and securing them in the ends. Then, as the mixture was still a little sticky (and wouldn’t hold a warm candy melt mixture), they went into the freezer to firm up.

 

Next step was candy melt dipping / coating. This is still a work in progress for me – I don’t know how those videos online manage to dip in and out and end up with a perfect even covering!

And on to the fun part – decorating! I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do at the outset, so kind of made this bit up as I went along 🙂

First – I wrapped some of the pops in red fondant, before pressing gently into shape, trimming the excess, and smoothing down the joins.

 

Some of the other pops I just edged in fondant – rolling it out before cutting strips and pressing them into place around the edge, and a third batch I put a very fine coating of golden syrup (corn syrup) around the edge, before dipping into bright pink sugar sprinkles.

At this point I felt they were missing something – strawberry seeds! A great opportunity to use more sugar sprinkles, which I carefully ‘glued’ into place, by putting small dots of golden syrup (corn syrup) onto the cake pop, and using a cocktail stick (or my fingers!) to put each one on place:

 

And the icing on the cake – green fondant leaves and stalks, shaped, carefully glued on with a little dab more syrup, and then imprinted with leaf lines simply using a serrated edge modelling tool.

 

And – several hours later (I’m still learning) – I was done!

 

Yes I have some way to come in terms of consistency of shape and size, but I was so impressed! After a little while in the fridge, to completely set, they came out tasting brilliant as well – a crisp crunchy shell, with smooth creamy (not strawberry flavoured at all, silly jam!) inside.

 

Perfect treats for a warm summer evening. With a glass of Pimm’s, you say? Well, why not!

 

Cake-Pop-Aloola

I don’t really think this one needs much introduction; after my previous dalliance with cake pops, it was pretty clear I was to continue my quest into teeny balls of cake!

These were actually made a while back – before I’d been able to source some proper Wilton candy melts and lollipop sticks on my shopping trip. Making cake pops on cocktail sticks adds to the already challenging process, but if it’s all you’ve got, then they do work!

My finally excuse for some slightly dodgy photos – I am literally begging Rob to make me a proper cake stand, but it still has yet to appear. Short of picking up a drill myself (I’m really not allowed near power tools!), I have to make do with what boxes etc I have around for the meantime. And threaten not to make any more cakes until he pulls his weight 😉

My inspiration for finally getting round to this post, is this these stunning little beauties that one of our suppliers bought in last week (we have a lot of suppliers who bring in a lot of treats. I do like my job):

A quick google of the label led me to pop bakery, a lovely looking little shop down in London.  Mental note firmly made to pay a visit next time i’m in the capital, if I don’t cave in and order a batch beforehand! Needless to say they were super yummy and didn’t last long in the office!

Back to my baking – hopefully the reason you’re all here reading.

For these cake pops, I baked up a batch of chocolate cake, just in a flat tin so it was easier to crumble. It always seems a shame to crumb up such nice cake, but at least it’s a good excuse for a taste test!

The crumbed cake was mixed with some vanilla buttercream, and rolled into pop-sized balls (I tried all kinds of editing to make this photo look less like…well…and more like chocolate, but still seem to have failed, very sorry! Just look at it and think of a big bar of dairy milk….)

Next step – more chocolate – this time white, melted, and also taste-tested:

The end of the sticks were well-swirled into the chocolate before being firmly pushed into the cake balls. I think this yep is probably my favourite,easy and aesthetically pleasing!

After a good 10 minutes in the freezer (it helps keep everything ball-shaped at this stage), I covered the cake pops one at a time in more white chocolate, before embarking on my decoration experiments.

Number one: polka dots. Starting off easy; the coloured sugar discs were simply pressed into the chocolate coating, or stuck on with a dab of extra chocolate where it had started to set.

Number two: honeycomb. I crushed up a bar of honeycomb to crumbs, then rolled the pop in it as soon as it had had its chocolate coating. The plus side: crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, yummy. The down side: they look like chicken nuggets!

Number three: graffiti glitter icing. Quite simply, I took two of my favourite colours of writing icing and freestyled designs over the white chocolate cost. Very pretty, but writing icing does not dry quickly, so very difficult to eat/store/have in the vicinity of anything else!

Number four, five, and six. Pink glitter, blue food colouring, yellow insanity.

Let’s start with the pink. How could I make any kind of cake without using some edible glitter! It looked amazing, bit messy to eat (glitter all over your face is not a great look), and probably not that great for you – if you haven’t seen the recent hoo-ha on edible glitter then don’t worry your pretty little self. There’s plenty more to be read if you google it, mostly from bakers like me saying they don’t actually know what the fuss is about, it’s all a bit political-correctness gone too far in my opinion. I certainly will keep using it, although am quite sadden that my beloved Hobbycraft have decided this will stop them stocking it.
Rant over. Number five. I wasn’t sure how food colouring would mix with white chocolate, but this blue actually came up quite well. Just an experiment really.
Number six was my last and a complete free for all. The inner cake layer was covered in white chocolate, then yellow fondant (I found a spare piece while I was rooting through my decorating equipment for inspiration), finished off with some matching mini yellow chocolate beans. Looks like something out an alien movie but impressively funky!

So my second batch of cake pops, and I’d chalk it up as another success. Need to brush up on my neatness and roundness (a proper cake pop stand would really help, hint hint!), but there is definitely scope for a lot of fun with these balls of yumminess.
Rob couldn’t believe how much mess I’d made in the kitchen for 12 little pops – still he ate them without complaining so it can’t have been too bad 😉
Which is your favourite…?

Cake Pops: An Experiment

Up until last week, I’d only ever had one cake pop. I can remember it well. It was bought into our office by a supplier, attractively wrapped in cellophane, a milk chocolate pop, and just asking to be eaten.

I sunk my teeth through the crisp chocolate only to be absolutely horrified. A cake I didn’t like! After the initial excitement of the crunchy chocolate layer, I was met with a dense, thick, almost marzipan-like centre. Most definitely no like-y. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marzipan (Christmas cake just wouldn’t be right without it), but a normal day-to-day cake, or even cake pop, should be light, tasty and fresh.

Disappointed, I warned my colleagues off trying any of the other pops, telling them to stick to our abundance of Easter chocolate instead.

My comeuppance on cake pops came last week, when I was making Rob’s birthday cake. Trimming the cake to shape had left me with quite a lot of off-cuts, and not wanting them to go to waste, I tentatively decided to try my hand at making these little cakes on sticks – if they are so bang on trend that even topshop is selling them – how could I not?! Personally, I’ve always been fine with cupcakes the way they are… cake on the bottom, icing on the top. Simple but VERY effective!

The cake pop process is relatively simple – rub your cake into fine crumbs, and mix with buttercream:

Once mixed, refrigerate, roll into balls, cover in chocolate, and tada! The one upside is that they’re incredibly simple – no icing nozzles, delicately covering in fondant etc.

I kept the decoration simple on these – a quick dip in some simple sugar sprinkles. Don’t they look funny close up!

And that was that. Looks-wise, I was quite impressed with my first try at cake pops:

Taste-wise, they weren’t bad either. Still not a cupcake though. At this point, if I’m honest, I’d rather still have the cupcake, and a piece of chocolate on the side.

BUT… the real revelation came a couple of days after. I’d left the pops in the fridge so they didn’t melt, and happened upon them while look for something to make for dinner. A sneaky bite into a very well chilled cake pop… yum! Sweet, crunchy chocolate, and a cool, creamy centre, with a great taste of delicate cake, all mingled into one yummy mouthful. I was a convert!

And the ultimate test? (Rob doesn’t count, he eats anything!) Even Chilli the cat wanted a bite =)