The Final Strawberry: Low-fat Trifles

After birthday cake and tarts, I had just enough strawberries left for one more dish. I’ve never made it myself before, but my dad makes amazing ones, and everybody seems to love a good trifle!

As with a lot of my cooking for Rob and I, I wanted to make them as healthy as possible, so used low-fat & low sugar alternatives wherever possible.

Then, it was as easy as 1, 2, 3…

1: Layers of chopped strawberries and sponge cake, covered in no-added-sugar Hartley’s strawberry jelly (the ones that come in powdered sachets).
(I didn’t have any suitable sponge in the freezer (Guinness cake & strawberry trifle anyone?!), so whipped up a really quick microwave sponge in a mug – almost any plain cake will do – I remember my grandma experimenting with sultana sponge, coconut cake, whatever she had left… in my opinion, the simpler the better!)
Leave in the fridge to set then…

2: Layer of custard (I used Bird’s instant custard, made with low-cal sweetener & skimmed). Leave in the fridge to set then…

3: Layer of sugar-free strawberry Angel Delight, whipped up with skimmed milk, topped with sugar sprinkles.

And it’s that easy; look at those layers!

I decorated the glasses with a little patterned tape from dotcomgiftshop; the glasses and sundae spoons are both from Ikea.

A small aside – nothing’s ever simple in my kitchen! I have inherited incredibly bad custard making skills from my mum. Not the proper, egg yolk kind, no, just simple, bird’s instant, mix with milk and sugar and heat. As a child I remember my mum’s attempts at desserts being either thick, yellow blancmange, or pale, yellow milk. My attempts are never much better:

Add to this 2 cats wanting to try some of everything – they were particular fans of licking the angel delight jug & spatula:

And the empty glasses!:

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Simple Strawberry Tarts

After making a delectable strawberry birthday cake on Friday, we still had a lot of strawberries to use up (thanks Costco, 1.5kg for £4!) Not that I’m complaining, they are big, juicy fruits, and so nice to enjoy in this lovely weather we’re having.

Of course this got me thinking – what more could I bake with them? In the sticky heat (it was 80% humidity yesterday, yuck!) I didn’t want something that was going to need a lot of time in front of the oven or even in the kitchen – I’d rather be outside with a cool drink (or giant ice cream sundae).

The pastry was made from Delia’s shortcrust recipe – she has such lovely simple steps on how to make it perfectly, I’m not even going to try and recreate them here. For my 2 small tart tins, I used 75g of flour, and 35g of fat (a mix of butter and trex).
After chilling in the fridge, it rolled out smoothly and easily, before blind-baking (with ceramic baking beads) at 180 degrees C in our fan oven.

And that was the hardest bit done!

At the same time as the pastry came out of the oven, I mixed up the Quick Gel – this is an essential – normal jelly will soak into your base and not set quickly enough at all. I picked mine up easily in the supermarket – on the same shelf as the normal jellies.

The name is a little deceptive, you do have to make it 20 minutes before you want to use it, and keep stirring as it sets. Still pretty simple though, as baking goes 🙂

When the 20 minutes was nearly up, I started slicing the strawberries and arranging in the pastry cases. After another quick stir, I simply poured the quick gel slowly over the tarts, making sure to cover all the strawberries, so they had a nice glossy finish. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat (around 15 minutes minimum).

And… that’s it! Simples! I told you so 😉 *

*That’s nearly it.

There were a few small offcuts of pastry which I used to make some jam tarts with fresh strawberries. I rolled the pastry thinly into a rough circle shape, pressed it into a paper cupcake case, and added a good dollop of jam.

They baked for 12 minutes (slightly less than the bigger tart cases), and as soon as they came out I pressed half a strawberry into the melted jam. A couple of minutes in the fridge to cool, and they were ready for a quick afternoon snack!

Pink Iced Strawberry Buttercream Birthday Cake

A summer birthday and a big punnet of strawberries… how could you resist this amazing strawberry buttercream filled cake?

The cake was a victoria sponge, sweetened with a few spoonfuls of vanilla yoghurt (also makes it extra light and fluffy.)

To fill, I pureed some strawberries, an amazing excuse to use my new mini blender 🙂 Expect to see more recipes that require fine chopping, ground ingredients, etc…!

To this I added some a couple of teaspoons of butter, then icing sugar. Because the strawberries were quite liquid after pureeing, it took quite a bit of icing sugar to get it to a thick consistency, which I then put into the fridge to harden a little more before spreading inbetween the layers.

To top off the cake – matching pink icing! I finally found a use for the alphabet sprinkles I bought in Bath, and studded the rest of the cake with little white stars.

A lovely, light, fresh cake, perfect for summer. It went in the fridge for a good few hours to set (and still melted a little on the way over!) but the birthday girl certainly loved it. Happy birthday to Rob’s mum!

 

Edit: forgive me for I have sinned.

In my strawberry and sprinkle excitement, I completely forgot to reference my inspiration for the polka dot (star) topping. My English teacher’s would be fuming!

Please take a look at at the lovely Geraldine’s blog – she made her own birthday cake which looks amazingly tasty and brilliantly simple!

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!

 

Photo Friday!

Blogging is unbelievably addictive. You write things, people comment. You read things, you comment. Every comment opens up another link to look at what someone else is posting about. Travelling photos. Restaurants. Pubs. Animals. Current affairs. CAKE.

On one of my many digressions reading blogs, I stumbled across the very cute rumpydog.com. This post is inspired by his most recent wordless wednesday (how cute are those cats!)

Going forwards, I’m going to make it my aim to post some photos every Friday, of everything bake-y, cake-y, or otherwise exciting that’s happened in my week. Cunningly enough this also gives me a great excuse to do more of 3 things I love: great creative with my camera, write wonders with my blog, and of course capture anything cake-related!

Without further ado, here are this weeks photos (with descriptions following):

1) last of the amazing double chocolate guinness cupcakes I made at the weekend, served with some fresh, juicy British strawberries. How they’ve managed to ripen at all in this horrid weather is beyond me though!

2) teeny tiny vintage print cake stand from dotcomgiftshop, as recommended by the lovely KerryCooks (displayed on my trusty ikea “arv brollop” cake stand)

3) a brilliant surprise of a parcel picked up from the post office on wednesday – 4 new issues of my cake decorating magazine, each with a free gift! Watch this space for some of their inspired ideas coming up soon….

4) kitty cats and cupcake case. Enough said 🙂

So that’s all for now, next week I’m lucky enough to be working in Hong Kong, but will be back on Friday with photos – albeit probably some rather jet-lagged posts…

Happy Friday everyone!!

Jubil-icious – Red, White, and Brilliantly British!

What a fantastic weekend it’s been – lots of celebrating the Queen’s amazing diamond jubilee. Of course I couldn’t let it go past without occasion, so this afternoon we had a barbecue in our garden for a few of our friends.

My baking of course had to be jubilee themed – and my fab cake decorating magazine had published a great special edition for the occasion, with some great free gifts including a crown cookie cutter, edible jewels and of course cute little flags!

To be truly British I wanted my biscuits to be either red, white or blue – one is nearly impossible, the other had the potential to look like some truly inedible alien food, so I happily settled on some red velvet biscuits. There are plenty of recipes out there, and mine was adapted from this one – omitting the chocolate chips and sour cream so I’d have a nice firm dough to roll out.

A word of warning – this recipe makes a LOT of biscuits – I was cutting and baking for well over an hour!

Next step was to ice them all a crisp white. I stuck with my tried and rested method of infill icing. Pipe a stiff line carefully around the edges, then water down the icing and ‘flood’ the middle. It gives a perfect smooth finish and no drips of icing running down the side of your biscuits.

For the decoration I just had one colour left! Royal blue is sadly not very easy to make from basic food colours, and I’d not had the foresight to get some in specially. Nonetheless, I mixed a few colours to get a rich blue with a hint of silver shimmer, and set to work with a paintbrush, making spots, swirls and of course sixty’s all over the biscuits.For a final touch I also dusted the edges with some red edible glitter, to bring out the colour of the velvet recipe.

It’s at this point that I feel I should admit that I think I have some form of baking OCD. Do you have any idea how long it took to ice and decorate all these biscuits? No, neither do I, I completely lost track! A normal person would have probably stopped halfway through, happy with a decent sized batch of biscuits. Not I….

Our cats, Chilli and Pepper, came for a visit at this point. They thought all their Christmas’s had come at once, all these biscuits laid out on a red carpet!

The jewel decorations weren’t quite as amazing as I’d hoped – they are basically just boiled sweets, and didn’t really sparkle or add much to the biscuits. I coated them in some silver lustre for a bit of extra shimmer, but have to say I don’t think I’ll be using these again.

Nevertheless, I was really happy with all the biscuits. The decorating really paid off, they looked (and tasted), great!

Next stop – I wanted CAKE! Again, red was easier to get into the base, but this time I went for strawberries and white chocolate. I used both some tinned strawberries (drained and mashed a little), for colour and flavour, and some chopped dried strawberries for a nice chunky texture and sweet chew to the cake. Chocolate needs no explanation! It’s much cheaper buying in a bar and breaking into chunks (bashing with a rolling pin) is oddly therapeutic 😉 If I’d had the time (and maybe the money) to buy endless ingredients, blueberries would have been nice to complete the theme. Maybe next time. Do you think she’ll make it to 70 years…?

I added the strawberries and chocolate to a basic muffin mix, and decided to stick with the heart shape for the cakes as well. A special occasion calls for something special!

The butter icing is difficult to get bright white unless you use pure vegetable fat (like Trex), which I hate the taste of, yuk, or you can buy some tippex-looking colouring from Wilton – this may be next on my shopping list… For today I just beat my butter to high heaven – this makes it super light in both taste and colour, and also took on a tip I’d found online of adding a few pin pricks of purple food colouring, to get that ‘ultra-violet’ kind of whiteness.

The decorations were red and blue to stick with the theme – a mix of red rolled fondant, piped blue butter cream, and various matching red and blue sprinkles.

I tried for about half an hour to decide on one design, but there were so many things I wanted to use and techniques to try, that I decided to go for the whole lot! The results were great – 14 themed but individual cakes, all brilliantly British colours!

Baking done, we were all set to barbecue! The brilliant British tradition that is bank holiday weather meant that I spent the whole morning looking gloomily out the window at the rain, but about half an hour before our guests arrived the clouds parted and we rushed outside to set up the garden – including decorations in the form of homemade union jack bunting:

A couple of good hours of beer, burgers, cider, crisps, salad and snacks later, and we were very quickly rained off by some more of the wet stuff. A perfect opportunity to dash in for tea and cake!

Happy Jubilee weekend!

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!