Marshall Amp Stack Cake

marshall amp stack birthday cake guitar lover ideas

Last week was Rob’s birthday, and as I was going away with work I wanted to leave him a big sticky cake to devour. He asked if I’d make him a Marshall amp stack, to follow up where his Guitar Cake left off a few years ago. After my initial bewilderment, a quick Google image search later and it was an enthusiastic yes! Two square cakes? Simples 🙂

I started off by making two rectangular cakes – one in a larger long tray, cut into 3 and stacked to make the base cake, and one in a smaller, thinner square, which I cut in 2 for the smaller top cake.

chocolate sheet cake tray bake layers for birthday

Chocolate cake simply calls out for chocolate icing, so I filled and crumb-coated both cakes with a sticky buttercream.

chocolate buttercream crumb-coated square cakes for birthday

Leaving the cakes in the fridge to cool and harden, I set about making the front pieces for the amps. Starting with a base of black fondant, I used a blunt straight edge to mark out the grid of the mesh, before using some white piped icing to line the edges and add the iconic ‘Marshall’ script in the centre.

marshall amp speaker front fondant icing with piped details black and white

For the top section I used a similar approach, adding a strip of cream fondant (white chocolate flavour!) with some added ‘buttons’.

marshall amp front buttons and piped logo made from icing

marshall amp front made out of fondant icing hand piped

Leaving the fondant pieces to set overnight, I covered both cakes in black fondant, adding a matching handle onto the smaller one.

black fondant covered birthday cake marshall amps leather look handle

Assembling the cakes was just a small matter of sticking the front pieces onto each cake, before stacking one on top of the other. Easier said than done when the front pieces of fondant started to crack!
A little gentle persuasion and sticking later, the cake was ready!

marshall amps small and large stack birthday cake hand piped details marshall amp stack black and white music lover birthday cake homemade marshall small amp with buttons and handle recreated in cake fondant icing marsh

And as no birthday is complete without them – an added inferno of candles to finish.

marshall amp stack birthday cake lit with candles

Inside the cake was deliciously sticky, with chocolate oozing from the layers! The birthday boy certainly was happy, as was I – it was a fun cake to make and even more so to eat 🙂

gooey chocolate cake food porn inside of birthday cake homemade

Caramel & Chocolate Choux Pastry Eclairs

chocolate and caramel choux pastry eclairs piped icing finish

I have a confession to make. During last years bake-off, I failed at making choux pastry. 3 times. It was a Sunday afternoon and no matter what I did it wouldn’t go right!

This time, as part of the second pastry week of this year’s Great British Bake-Off and #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 , I was determined not to be beaten.

I used Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Eclair recipe to the letter to avoid going wrong again – so won’t re-write it here. It’s definitely worth reading through a couple of times before you start so you know what’s ahead.

The lovely folks at Kerrygold sent me some butter to try, so this seemed a good place to start. Maybe the lower-fat butter blend I have as standard in the fridge was to blame for last year’s failure?

kerrygold butter blogger review choux pastry testing

Being ultra-prepared, I got everything out, pre-whisked the eggs, greased the tray just like Paul said…

ingredients and equipment ready for choux pastry making paul hollywood recipe

…and set about the choux pastry!

One of the main problems I find with making choux pastry is that it really doesn’t look like anything until it’s baked. The ‘cooking a ball of flour, butter and water dough’ is both unattractive and uninspiring in my book, but, what Paul says…!

choux pastry dough ball stage heating on hob gbbo

Dough satisfactorily ball-like and shiny, I put it in a bowl and set aside to cool. Suddenly it dawned on me where I’d gone wrong last year. Those five little words, ‘leave to cool until tepid’, (or the lack of them in my reading), were entirely responsible for my downfall. Cue flashbacks to last year and trying to beat eggs in the hot saucepan only for them cook and scramble… it’s like something from an outakes show!

Cool and tepid, whisking the eggs in was happily much easier this time!

choux pastry whisking in eggs method

And a smooth shiny, paste-like dough, well seemed pretty good to me 🙂

smooth and shiny choux pastry gbbo paul hollywood recipe

All that was left was to pipe…

piping choux pastry eclair lines gbbo

…and bake:

choux pastry eclairs greatbloggersbakeoff2014

What a result! I was as pleased as punch, my first choux pastries and they were really rather marvellous 🙂

freshly baked choux pastry eclairs long thin shape crunchy texture

Next came the cream piping – rather simple but made much trickier in a warm kitchen, with the cream threatening to melt all the time. I don’t envy the bakers in that tent one bit!

filling choux pastry eclair with piped whipped cream whipped cream filled choux pastry eclairs

And to top – I used Paul’s suggested chocolate topping for half the batch:

chocolate and caramel eclairs piped swirl shiny icing gbbo

And feeling more confident, whipped up a quick caramel icing for the remaining batch:

Caramel icing
55g light brown sugar
25g butter
20ml cream or milk

– Melt together the butter and sugar
– Add the liquid and boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
– Leave to cool and use once the icing reaches a spreadable consistency. If it over-sets you can easily re-heat to liquify it again


I finished both sets with a decorative drizzle of the other icing – chocolate on caramel, and caramel on chocolate.

homemade caramel choux pastry eclairs filled with whipped cream decorated with piped chocolate

My first batch of eclairs – and I am so delighted with the results 🙂

chocolate and caramel cream filled choux pastry eclairs piped icing finish chocolate and caramel choux pastry eclairs gbbo paul hollywood recipe cream filled

Read more about #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 here.


And for all the cat lovers out there – what better use of leftover cream? Chilli and Pepper have just turned 3 and are as mischievous (and ravenous) as ever!

cats eating cream chilli and pepper gbbo baking leftovers uses


Disclaimer: I was sent some Kerrygold butter to use in my gbbo recipes. Opinions and bakes are all my own.


Chocolate Milkshake Shortbread Biscuits

chocolate milkshake biscuits shortbread recipe using sugar and crumbs flavoured icing

Following on from my Chocolate Orange Fudge a couple of weeks ago, this is my second review of the new chocolate icing sugar range from Sugar and Crumbs.

And this week – Chocolate Milkshake icing sugar! With a smooth, creamy taste, it’s great for all in one recipes to add a perfect milky chocolate flavour.

sugar and crumbs chocolate milkshake natural icing sugar recipe and review

For this I used a simple shortbread recipe – that would work just as well with one of the other flavoured icing sugars.

Chocolate Milkshake Shortbread (makes 12)

120g plain flour
50g cornflour
50g chocolate milkshake icing sugar
120g butter

– mix together the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
– cube the butter and very gently rub into form a breadcrumb-like mixture, you can do this in a food processor if preferred
– add water a few drops at a time, and press together into a smooth dough

chocolate milkshake shortbread dough flavoured sugar and crumbs icing sugar
– refrigerate for at least half an hour, before rolling out and cutting into shapes (I used a cardboard template to cut mine into glass-shaped pieces)

chocolate milkshake flavour glass shaped biscuits shortbread recipe method
– bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes

Once cool, I used a thin glaze made from the chocolate milkshake icing sugar, to brush all over the biscuits and give them a sticky, chocolatey shine:

painting chocolate milkshake shortbread biscuits with flavoured icing sugar glaze

They were simply finished with a piped milkshake ‘froth’ of vanilla buttercream, and of course a piped chocolate straw!

piped vanilla icing small stars with chocolate straw milkshake biscuit cookie

chocolate milkshake taste and look shortbread biscuit

Simple and very tasty – another lovely product from Sugar and Crumbs 🙂

chocolate milkshake shortbread biscuits cookies recipe and method decoration

And they certainly went down well with Rob – he couldn’t eat them fast enough!

enjoying chocolate milkshake biscuits

Silver Spoon Designer Icing – Review

Last week the lovely folks at Baking Mad contacted me to ask if I’d like to test out some of their products, and no sooner than I’d sent them and emphatic yes, the postman brought me a great package the very next day.

bakingmad gift set silver spoon designer icing colour creator choco beans recipe book

I decided to start on with the Designer Icing – big, toothpaste-sized tubes, filled with ready mixed, pipeable icing.

silver spoon colour create ready to use icing review chocolate and blue piping nozzles

Each pack comes with a set of three piping nozzles, so you have everything needed in the one kit.

silver spoon icing nozzles designer ready to use writing reivew

The nozzles are very easy to use, and simply screw onto the end of the tube once the lid is removed. They fit tightly and snugly so there’s no chance of any leaks or splodges, even for messy bakers like myself!

silver spoon blue designer icing fitting piping nozzle easy twist on review

First up I tried the slatted nozzle which had a slight cross shape.

silver spoon slanted cross piping nozzle italic calligraphy lines effects icing

This was great for making slanted and angular lines:

silver spoon blue designer icing slanted nozzle review lines

And also for calligraphy style writing:

silver spoon blue designer icing review creating calligraphy letters J

Moving onto the star nozzle, which I used to pipe ridged lines and waves – this blue colour would be perfect for depicting the sea!

testing silver spoon designer writing icing review star nozzle lines waves sea effect

The star nozzle is also perfect for creating that perfect swirl for cupcakes or biscuits alike.

piping with silver spoon designer icing ridged swirl using star nozzle

Last but definitely not least, the thin round nozzle can be used for all kinds of intricate detail, spots, stripes and patterns…

silver spoon thin round pointed nozzle testing on biscuits icing polka dots and lines

…and making your own mark with careful lettering.

silver spoon designer icing review using to write on biscuits cookies and cakes

Because the icing comes out of the tube fresh and sticky, you can easily add extras to it – such as these sugar sprinkles / nonpareils.

bake writing on cookie adorned with sugar sprinkles using silver spoon blue writing icing

To test out the chocolate icing, I whipped up a quick back of cupcakes.

Again the pack came with the same three nozzles, however I found the texture of the chocolate to be a bit more sticky (such is the nature generally, of chocolate icing!), and as such did not hold its definition as well. You can see the centre of this cake didn’t hold the design as well –

chocolate cupcake swirl icing baking silver spoon designer icing review

It certainly didn’t detract from the flavour though – a thick fudge icing. Yum!

biting into cupcake with thick chocolate fudge icing ready made from silver spoon

Allowing some time to set in between layers (using the fridge to speed things up), an intricate swirl pattern is still more than possible.

chocolate swirl icing on cupcake

Or, using a combination of the nozzles, an intricate pattern out of spots and stars.

flower decorated chocolate cupcake easy how to using silver spoon designer icing

With the small round nozzle – an abstract pattern:

abstract design chocolate cupcake icing using thin piping nozzle and silver spoon designer icing

Or more text – not that explanation is needed!

cake writing on cupcake in chocolate icing silver spoon decorating

So how would I rate these kits? Well they are a fantastic pick-me-up to have on standby, icing quickly and easily with no mess whatsoever. What’s more you can easily rinse out the nozzles and screw on the cap so it will keep for use another time.
The only downside I found was the consistency of the icing; it was quite thick to squeeze out of the tube in the first place, even after some considerable kneading – after all that piping my hands were positively aching! I do think that having them in a warmer kitchen may help a little.

Nevertheless they are perfect for kids and adults alike, and coming in a rainbow of different colours would be great for all kinds of different projects – Halloween cakes and biscuits and Christmas bakes too!

Disclaimer: The products featured in this post were provided to me by Baking Mad for the purpose of review. However the designs and opinions are completely my own.

Christmas Gingerbread Houses

gingerbread houses for christmas star front door smartie roof

What could be more Christmassy than the warm spice of gingerbread, sugared with crunchy royal icing and adorned with yummy sweets?

I’d not made a gingerbread house before and decided that was my challenge for this festive season! Using the recipe from BBC good food and tips from Kirstie Allsopp’s version over on C4.

For the construction itself I actually varied the BBC template slightly – their house was quite tall and church-like, I wanted mine to be more of a snow-covered family home. I printed off their templates and trimmed accordingly, making sure the sides that needed to match up and join were the same size as each other.

gingerbread house templates roof side wall front back

After refrigerating the dough for a good half an hour, I rolled it out directly onto the greaseproof baking sheet and cut around the templates. Doing it straight on the sheet means not picking up or moving the pieces, which can easily break them.

gingerbread house rolling out pin paper templates greaseproof baking sheet christmas

gingerbread house pieces dough ready to bake roof side walls end

It took the pieces about 15 minutes to bake in our fan oven, I wanted them quite firm as construction was going to be tricky enough as it was! The recipes recommended using the paper templates to re-trim the pieces into shape after cooking incase they’d spread slightly. Perhaps not so wisely I chose to skip this step as I wanted a ‘rustic’ look to my house… it did make things a little tricky when it came to piecing them together!

I took a great tip from Kirstie Allsopp – to decorate the pieces and let them set over night before assembly. This means piping onto a flat surface and makes it much easier to get the shapes and patterns you want – without trying to do them on sides when it is assembled. The icing is a simple mix of 2 egg whites and 500g of icing sugar, and sets really hard so perfect for the decorations and assembly. It keeps really well in an air-tight container in the fridge so you don’t have to do everything in one go.

For the roof pieces I used a cocktail stick to mark out the pattern for the smarties on a roof top, before gluing them on with generous blobs of royal icing.

marking holes on gingerbread house roof for icing with sweets smarties

gingerbread house roofs ideas decorated with chocolate beans smarties sweets royal icing

Next step – a great time freehand decorating the walls and windows, and plenty of snowy decor!

royal icing piping design close up detail gingerbread house window christmas

gingerbread house vines and plants piping front door christmas baking royal icing

I put the finished pieces aside and left them to dry overnight.

christmas gingerbread house pieces ready to assemble decorate with white royal icing

Next day, when it came to assembly, I’m not going to lie – it was tricky! Pieces sliding all over the place (perhaps something to do with my impatience to get it together). The great thing is the icing doesn’t need to be neat – it all adds to the snowy effect – and nobody is going to know what the joins look like from the inside! I actually employed a spare pair of hands to keep the pieces together while it started to set:

gingerbread house assembly with white royal icing holding up with hands

Rather a lot more icing later and the house was together!

christmas gingerbread house with smarties roof and white royal icing piping

I used the spare royal icing to try to pretty up the joins a little, with snow mounds, and a little added sparkle from some edible glitter.

christmas gingerbread house royal icing piping detail edible glitter chocolate bean roof smarties

You might have noticed some extra pieces in a few of the photos – I had some spare dough after making the big house that I used to make a super-cute teeny tiny version as well.

christmas gingerbread houses back view windows roof beams trailing plants smarties white royal icing

Did you know cats like gingerbread too?And a lot!

grey tabby cat eating christmas gingerbread house festive baking

I was lucky enough to be over in Hamburg, Germany last week, and was determined to find a gingerbread house to see how mine compared. We went to the biggest Christmas market in the city – Rathausmarkt, at the town hall.

hamburg weihnachtsmarkt christmas market rathaus markt2012 germany decorations

With a mulled wine or two to stave off the sub-zero temperatures, I was disappointed to find absolutely no gingerbread houses. What is Christmas coming too! The closest things came were these (very pretty but expensive) china decorations:

gingerbread house christmas decorations hamburg weihnachts markt

And some hand-decorated gingerbread hearts (reading ‘Happy Christmas’ for the non-German speakers reading!)

gingerbread iced hearts hanging decorations frohe weihnacht hamburg rathausmarkt christmas markets

Chocolate Brownie Christmas Trees

christmas tree forest mini cupcakes piped with a star nozzle and green butter cream

What a week last week turned into! The winter weather well and truly hit the UK with some horrid floods followed by a sharp cold snap – road closures and ice everywhere. I shouldn’t complain, a lot of people have far more serious problems caused by the floods, but for me it’s meant some horrific problems commuting – one day it took a total of 5 hours, just to go 20 miles each way!
By Wednesday I was just plain fed up, in a bit of a sulk, and craving some time in the kitchen to cheer myself up. What could make me happier than some festive baking! Totally inspired by these Christmas tree cupcakes over on The Baking‘s blog. Thankfully this week is looking a little better (although I did skid on a big patch of ice this morning) – and I’m back to Christmassy enthusiasm!

I have no recipe for these I’m afraid. They started as a a kind of whipped chocolate cupcake to use up the egg yolks from the weekends Christmas macarons but ended up having all kinds added – melted chocolate and coarsely ground hazelnuts being two of the main culprits. I baked them in my mini muffin tray, spraying it with cake release first so they popped out easily. They came out as a fudgy, nutty brownie, good for all kinds of cravings and a perfect base for my little trees.

mini christmas tree cakes petit fours green icing with yellow star on top

For the Christmas trees themselves, I simply mixed up some stiff green butter cream, and piped onto the brownie using star nozzles. Starting with a wide star nozzle, pressing it down so the base spread out, leaving for 10 minutes to set slightly, then piping smaller stars on top, finishing with a finer swirl from the smaller nozzle.

metal star icing nozzles wide small piping bags bright green butter cream christmas tree

My decorations weren’t as elaborate as those over on The Baking – all my patience has been used sitting in traffic jams this week – so I topped them with a simple gold star sprinkle, and a quick spritz of silver shimmer spray.

chocolate brownies with christmas tree butter cream top festive baking easy star nozzle piping

Because the icing was so stiff to start with it held really well, so the result was a soft, gooey brownie with a squishy icing tree topper. Hooray for Christmas!

christmas tree picture mini cupcake choclate brownie with butter cream piped topping

christmas tree mini cupcakes petit fours simple gift decoration idea green piping

PS they also looked cute in little petit four cake cases, I’d suggest they’ll make an excellent present but realistically they didn’t last the weekend!

christmas tree chocolate brownie petit fours mini cupcake cases green tree yellow star

Red Velvet & Chocolate Reindeer Cupcakes

santas red nosed reindder cupcakes red velvet and chocolate christmas baking ideas

A couple of weeks ago I attended a work event where we had a quick team building session – cupcake making! The lovely lady who was running us through things had some fantastic Christmas ideas (you may have seen them over on my twitter). As soon as I clapped eyes on her reindeer cakes I knew they’d be perfect for the primary school Christmas fair I’m attending over in Leicestershire today.

To make them extra festive I decided to do a red velvet cake, in a red paper cupcake case. I didn’t have the ingredients in for a ‘traditional’ red velvet recipe so I adapted a chocolate one I knew would work well.

This recipe is from my much-loved Be-Ro book – you can see it’s had plenty of use and I’ve only had it about 5 years! It had quite a low cocoa content anyway, so I upped the vanilla to a teaspoon, and added a good amount of red gel food colouring to get the colour.
I also didn’t have any evaporated milk – but as this is essentially just concentrated milk, I used 90ml of regular milk and omitted the water.

milk chocolate cake recipe adapted to make red velvet ingredients classic british bero

As the cupcakes were much smaller than the big cake in the recipe they needed less baking time – they took about 12 minutes at 180 in my fan oven.

red velvet chocolate cake cupcake wrappers baking tray christmas ideas

To decorate it was chocolate all the way! First I whipped up some chocolate butter cream (simply using butter, icing sugar, and cocoa), before piping onto the cakes using a wide star nozzle. I quickly topped with the first chocolately decorations – two Cadbury chocolate pretzels for antlers, and a chocolate button to form the base for the nose.

reindeer chocolate red velvet cupcakes pretzel antlers christmas

The red Rudolph nose was as a simple as a chocolate button – ‘glued’ into place with a little leftover buttercream.

red chocolate bean nose on chocolate bun with swirl icing using star nozzle how to make reindeer cupcakes for christmas

Finally I was left with the eyes – these presented more of a challenge as I didn’t want to pipe straight onto the cakes for fear of messing the whole thing up! Luckily I found these great sugar sprinkles in the supermarket, the white ones were perfect (and I’m sure the pink ones will come in useful some cake down the line):

dr oetker pink and white polka dots sugar sprinkles making googly cartoon ideas for cupcakes

To the white discs I added small blobs of black royal icing, very carefully dabbed on using the end of a cocktail stick. I made a whole plateful of googly eyes so it was easier to match up pairs – I didn’t want boss-eyed reindeer!

eyes for cartoon reindeer cupcakes googly black and white painted

These were glued in place with a tiny bit more butter cream. If I’d have been organised I’d have made the eyes in advance so they could be stuck on as soon as the icing was in place… but, well, if you saw the state of my kitchen, you’d understand organised isn’t really a word in vocabulary…!

christmas red velvet reindeer cupcake chocolate pretzel antlers red nose rudolph

They are seriously some of the cutest cupcakes I think I’ve ever made – and combine all the classic food groups of chocolate, cake, and sweets. I hope the kids like them as much as I do!

chocolate red velvet reindeer cupcakes decorated with pretzels buttons beans and sugar sprinkle eyes christmas baking

red velvet and milk chocolate cupcake pretzel buttons and smarties kids baking for christmas rudolph