Sprinkles & Checkerboard Birthday Cake

inside pastel checkerboard cake method and how to

This weekend just gone was the 3rd birthday of Derby’s Clandestine Cake Club, which I have proudly been a member for 2 years – doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

What better theme to celebrate with, than big, sticky birthday cakes. I’d been wanting to try a checkerboard cake for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity.

I started off with three different flavoured round cakes, tinted with pastel colours to match the sprinkles I wanted to use on the outside. The peach-coloured cake was flavoured with Sugar and Crumbs raspberry ripple icing sugar, the green had the juice and zest of a small lime, and the yellow a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. I baked them in foil trays as 1) I don’t have 3 tins of the same size and 2) I wanted to minimise on washing up!

tricolour cake batter lime lemon raspberry pastel foil trays

Once cool, I scouted round the kitchen for suitable crockery to cut the circles. Posts I’d read online suggested cups, bowls, jam jars, but then had the brainwave of using my concentric circle cookie cutters. The largest and smallest were the perfect size to cut 3 even-thickness bands out of each cake.

making checkerboard cake with round biscuit cutters orange yellow and green

A quick reorganisation later and I had 3 dart-board-esque cakes:

checkerboard cake layers like target boards

Using a vanilla buttercream, I layered up the three tiers…

buttercream layering with pink palette knife checkerboard cake

… and gave the outside two good coats of icing, refrigerating in between.

butter cream on sides of checkerboard cake

After the second coat of buttercream, it was time for the sprinkles! And one of the trickier, stickier steps – rolling the sides of the cake in the bowl of hundreds and thousands. It took a bit of patching up but actually was quite effective, even if my kitchen was left covered in the sprinkles as well!

covering cake in sprinkles rolling sides in hundreds and thousands

cake covered in hundreds and thousands

The top was much simpler, a final coat of buttercream with hundreds and thousands poured and smoothed over. There were quite literally hundreds and thousands of them too – two whole packs for the entire cake!

sugar sprinkles hundreds and thousands cake topping

I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, although it does remind me a little of a giant liquorice allsort 🙂

sugar sprinkles and checkerboard birthday cake clandestine cake club derby sugar sprinkle covered cake hundreds and thousands looks like a liquorice allsort

Our cake club birthday party was a great feast of sugar and everything gooey and good, we gossiped for hours over tea and cake.

clandestine cake club derby third birthday party

And the checkerboard looked great inside!

checkerboard cake pastel layers hundreds and thousands covered outer inside checkerboard cake lemon lime and raspberry with sugar sprinkles covering birthday ideas

Or at least… what brief snaps I had time to take, before the cake-clubbers demolished the lot!

empty cake plate ccc

I’m entering this post into the #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 showstopper. This is not the last of my GBBO entries though – watch this space (and cross your fingers!) for a finale pièce montée in the next few days.

greatbloggersbakeoff2014

 
This post is also part of Celebration Cakes and Bakes – click the image for more info.

CelebrationCakesAndBakes

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

pink lemonade cupcakes using sugar and crumbs flavoured icing sugar easy recipe edible straws and fizzy sprinkles
A beautiful summers day and perfect excuse to use some more of my treats from Sugar and Crumbs.

A quick taste test and I was instantly smitten with their Pink Lemonade Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar. You know those Refresher sweets, with the fizzy lemon centre? It tastes exactly like that fizzy sherbet!
And despite the name, the sugar is white in colour… so you could easily confuse any taste testers… mwah haha 😉

sugar and crumbs pink lemonade icing sugar review and recipe

To keep on the theme I wanted to top these lemonades with a little straw – but no ordinary paper or plastic version. Instead I rolled together thing lengths of red and white fondant, twisting and intertwining to give the effect of a striped paper straw.

red and white drinking straws made from fondant twisting red and white

Once cut into lengths, I left them to air-dry and harden overnight.

red and white fondant icing edible drinking straws swirl striped effect

The cupcakes were a simple vanilla base – with more than enough flavour punch in the icing.To ice 12 cupcakes I used 350g pink lemonade icing sugar, 185g soft butter, a couple of drops of pink food colouring, and a splash of milk to get to piping consistency.

I used a star nozzle to get that perfect swirl, before creating a hole for the ‘straws’ with the back of a paint brush (the fondant would break if you tried to push it straight into the cake).

how to make pink lemonade cupcakes making hole for straw using paintbrush

A final topping of pink shimmer sugar for that little extra ‘fizz’ – et voila!

pink lemonade cupcakes sugar and crumbs flavoured icing sugar sugar sprinkles and straw

Definitely cuter than the real thing – and surprisingly refreshing to boot. A big things up to Sugar and Crumbs on this one! pink lemonade cupcake swirl icing with red and white edible straw

Making Mini Doughnuts

mini ring doughnuts jam sandwich and white iced with sugar sprinkles quick bake ideas

Tonight was one of those nights where I got home from work and just wanted to have a play in the kitchen. Anyone who loves baking or cooking will know what I mean – not your average weeknight cook a healthy dinner, clean up and find the evening is over. But something more creative. More fun. More… sugary!

Any my unsuspecting target? This silicon mini doughnut that I bought in the sale at Lakeland before Christmas. Sadly (for you!) it was in the sale as they’re not making it any more, but rest assured it’s not going to be difficult to find another one, should you desire.

mini doughnut mould from lakeland purple review easy to use results
The recipe for these mini doughnuts I’m not going to share with you, as, quite frankly, it didn’t taste that amazing. Kind of an ok-I’ll-eat-one-more, but not a wow-I-must-finish-the-whole-plate-immediately sort of recipe.

The one thing I must love about these mini doughnuts is that they are SO quick to make – literally a couple of minutes to make up and 6-7 minutes to bake. So you can have fresh hot doughnuts in under 10 minutes. That’s groundbreaking stuff right there. And if you throw them straight into the sugar after removing from the mould, they are ready to serve immediately too. Winner.

fresh sugar doughnut rings mini baked from silicon mould close up

As you can see my first batch turned out a little flat. I’d followed the not-so-great-recipe’s instructions to only half-fill each mould, and they just didn’t rise up enough.
Not to be defeated, I had kind of been daydreaming of jam doughnuts all day, so sandwiched them together in pairs with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Hey presto, instand mini jam doughnut sandwiches!

mini jam ring doughnut sandwich sugared finish how to

mini ring jam sandwich doughnuts baked not deep fried using silicon mould lakeland easy under 10 minutes recipe

The second batch I filled up the moulds much more, just so the middle circle could be seen peeking out, and they came out much better. Full, fat, round doughnuts. That’s more like it!

freshly baked mini doughnuts light fluffy round using silicon mould not deep fried

To finish these off I drizzled across a white icing, mixed with a dash of lemon juice for added zing…

dripping white icing on freshly baked mini doughnuts with sugar sprinkles
…before topping with some tiny sugar sprinkles.

mini ring doughnuts with white icing and pink sugar sprinkles easy home bake quick recipe

Result? Well I had my play and discovered a new love for these little bites of amazingness. Not only are they super-quick and easy to make, and moreishly bite-sized, they’re actually one of those not so bad for your waistline type of cakes. The recipe I used only had a tablespoon of oil, which divided amongst the 30 or so doughnuts it yielded means they can probably be classed as low-fat. Hurrah! I will definitely be whipping up some more mini-morsels from this doughnut pan, watch this space for my quest to find a better recipe…

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.

Orange & Mango Trifle and The Great Bloggers Bake Off

orange and mango layered trifle great blogger bake off british dessert recipe layered fruit jelly cake custard and cream

Last week whilst at cake club, I got to talking with someone involved in the Great Bloggers Bake Off. What was this I asked? (and how could I not know about it!)

Set up by Helen and Jenny, the idea revolves around that rather marvellous television programme that is the Great British Bake Off. Like many a budding baker, I am absolutely glued to the screen every Tuesday evening at 8pm, but can’t help but have an itch in my hands to what to get into the kitchen and try for myself. Which is where the Blogger part comes in – as every week the baker blog collective try their hand at one of the challenges featured on the show, and all link up into the Great Blogger Bake Off. Like the show itself, it’s great to see the variety of different things that bakers come up with in the challenges.

GreatBloggersBakeOff

Busy as I am it’s something I’ll have to hop in and out of, so yes I’m starting at week 3 (but rather glad to have missed bread week!)
This weeks challenges were trifle, floating islands, or petit fours. As much as I love minature desserts, trifle has always been a big favourite of mine as my dad makes THE best, and I always got to eat the leftovers when we’d had friend over for tea 🙂 I’ll start by saying that mine wasn’t a patch on his, but I had fun nonetheless.
Rob had been watching this weeks GBBO with me and his eyes had positively lit up at the trifles containing mango as he absolutely loves it, and from there my recipe was sprung.

Ingredients

Orange madeira cake
60g butter
60g sugar
1 egg
85g self raising flour
Rind of 1 orange
2 tablespoons of orange juice

For the trifle layers
1 pint of orange jelly
1 pint of custard
1 pint of cream, either thick or whipped
1 orange, peeled and split into segments
1 mango, peeled and sliced

First up I made the cake – as you would with any sponge/madeira – beating the butter and sugar, adding the egg and flavouring, then folding in the flour. I baked mine in a loaf tin to give a long flat sponge; it took about 15-20 minutes to bake, at 180 degrees.

orange madeira cake recipe half loaf tin peel and juice

Despite the wealth of dishes, tins, stands and plates in my kitchen, a beautifully decorated, large trifle dish as featured on the TV is sadly not in my possession. Instead, I had to make to with a pyrex dish. Pah.
First layer was the orange segments; I de-pithed them using a cocktail stick to get off the tiny bits so they wouldn’t interfere with the smooth texture of the trifle. As they were quite moist they stuck well to the edge of the glass and stayed in place even when the jelly was added.

orange segments in glass bowl trifle recipe bottom

I added enough jelly to just cover the segments, and put into the fridge until nearly set.

With the cake cool it was time to slice – I love the flecks of orange peel running through.

orange madeira cake recipe cut into slices for trifle

Again pressing into the sides of the bowl, I layered this on top of the now-set orange layer, before covering with more jelly:

action shot photography pouring jelly onto madeira cake slices in pyrex glass bowl for trifle

Back into the fridge the bowl went, giving me some time to contend with Rob’s favourite, the mango. This was beautifully dark green, plump and squishy, just as a mango should be.

fresh dark green juicy mango for trifle

For peeling and slicing… juicy is the word I’d use. You’ll notice there are no pictures of this stage, it was rather sticky, to say the least! Slices just about intact, they too were layered up and covered in the last of the jelly.

mango slices layered in trifle orange recipe using jelly

I then gave the whole jelly, cake and fruit layer a good couple of hours in the fridge to set, before layering on the custard, another hour to set, the cream, and last but absolutely essential for any good trifle, the sprinkles!

custard and cream layers on top of orange and mango trifle complete with sugar sprinkles

You’ll notice there are no steps on my custard making. As per my previous trifle recipe I’ll be honest that I inherited some bad genes from my mum in this area and am absolutely hands down rubbish at it. But resourcefully, well let’s just say it turned out ok this time around (thanks Ambrosia, sssshh!)

orange and mango trifle for great blogger bake off cake jelly custard cream sprinkles on top

And as for the judging criteria that the contestants on the programme obsess themselves with – well the layers were certainly well-defined (although next time I’d do a thinner layer of cake to look better), and the taste – safe to say I started digging in with a large spoon and struggled to stop. No pictures of this either, it wasn’t pretty!

visible layers in orange and mango trifle for great blogger bake off 2013 segments in jelly madeira cake mange slices custard and cream

Mojito Marble Bundt Cake

mojito marble bundt cake recipe clandestine cake club derby summer cocktails party green and white lime rum mint

This weekend marked the marvellous return of cake club, after its all-too-long summer break. The event on Sunday was part of Derby Clandestine Cake Club, themed as ‘Summer’s Last Cocktail Party’. Well, where to start with a cocktail cake!

I’d been thinking about a marble cake for a while, and the different ingredients of a cocktail seemed like the perfect opportunity to do this. A little light research later (and a rather sore head), I settled on a mojito. A simple mix of rum, lime, and mint – the drink version (recipe here) is muddled with sugar and topped up with soda, but obviously these are not required in the cocktail version. A couple of friends had suggested carving it into a cocktail glass shape, but there was a new bundt tin in my kitchen awaiting its first use…

morrisons five pound silicon bundt cake tin four pint bakeware bargain

As I’ve not made a bundt cake before, I wanted to stick with quite a basic recipe to ensure the consistency and bake was right, and Nigella’s vanilla bundt recipe seemed to fit the bill perfectly, minus the vanilla of course. I was dubious when it wanted a four pint bundt tin, but after a quick check with some pints of water that’s what mine held! It’s a lot of cake mixture but is padded out a lot and lightened by the addition of the yoghurt, so it’s not as bad as it sounds 🙂 I added a little extra flour and sugar to balance out the flavour and texture of the mint, rum and lime.

Ingredients
225g butter
325g white sugar
6 eggs
380g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
250ml low-fat natural yoghurt
75ml white rum or 1 1/2 teaspoons rum flavouring
Grated rind & juice of 2 limes or 1 tablespoon of lime juice
Good handful of fresh mint leaves of 1 1/2 teaspoons of mint flavouring
Gel food colours as required

Icing as desired – I used 250g icing sugar mixed with a pack of mojito flavouring

Method
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the yoghurt, and beat in with a tablespoon of flour each to prevent curdling
Sieve and fold in the remainder of the flour and baking powder
Divide the mixture into three parts, ready for flavouring and colouring

splitting cake batter into 3 bundt cake recipe bowls

For the mint section, I’d ended up with a whole mint plant as it was the same price in the supermarket as a few sprigs! In just a week it’s grown like wildfire, I’ll have to find it a bigger pot and some recipes to use it in.

fresh mint plant from asda cheap mojito cake recipe

Using a good handful of leaves, I put them through the blender so they were finely chopped, and mixed in with some green and black gel food colourings.

fresh mint leaves glass bowl for mojito cake recipe

freshly ground mint leaves for mojito cake mini food processor

mixing green and black gel food colour into cake batter for mojito bundt recipe

For the lime batter, I was quite uninspired by the size and quality of limes in the supermarket, so ended up using just the juice and zest of one, substituted with some bottled lime juice. I coloured this part using a mixture of green and yellow gels, to give it a really zingy lime colour.

lime for mojito cake fresh versus bottled juice asda

And last but by absolutely no means least – the alcohol! I had a couple of bacardi miniatures in the cupboard and these were perfect, about 1 1/2 bottles (5cl each) gave a great rum kick to the batter. There was no colour in this part as I wanted to keep it white like the rum.

bacardi miniatures for mojito cake recipe rum lime and mint

The three batters ready:

lime rum and mint flavoured and coloured cake batter for mojito marble bundt cake recipe

With the bundt tin well-greased, simply spoon in alternate mixes in and around. I used a mixture of spoonful dollops and some swirls and drizzles; don’t actually mix the cakes together as it’ll do this well enough and marble itself. I wish I’d taken more pictures of this stage but it was getting a little sticky!

mojito marble bundt cake batter swirl mint lime and rum

Bake at 180 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean, i.e. there’s no raw cake mix on it.

Allow to cool in the tin and carefully turn out:

mojito marble bundt cake freshly baked lime rum and mint recipe swirl mixture

I wanted to keep the icing simple and white to offset the marble of the cake. To keep up the flavour I used some pre-mixed mojito mixer – the Funkin brand is quite new to me but you can find them in most supermarkets now, they really are a great idea and all the ones I’ve tried really do taste like the cocktails (even if you don’t add the alochol!)

funkin mojito mixer lime and mint flavour to have with bacardi marble cake recipe baking ideas

I added the mixer to some white icing sugar to get a good thick paste, and simply drizzled this all around the top of the cake, topping with a good layer of mixed green and white non-pareils (sugar sprinkles), and a little edible glitter.

clenadestine cake club summer cocktails event derby mojito bundt cake marble batter recipe drizzle icing

mojito marble bundt cake clandestine club recipe method instructions lime mint and rum alcoholic

I’m totally in love with bundt cakes now and want to make more already! The shape lends itself to such easy decoration but looks stunning with little effort.

mojito marble bundt cake with green sprinkles and white flavoured icing rum lime and mint recipe alcoholic

Onto cake club I trotted, and the selection of cakes was fab! One of the things I love about CCC (Clandestine Cake Club) is that the themes can be anything and everything, and all the bakers come up with such different ideas. From a Rusty Nail to a Shirley Temple – we had such a great afternoon devouring all of these 🙂

clandestine cake club summer cocktails buffet derby

And I was so happy to see the marble effect when my cake was cut into! The mojito flavours came out brilliant and I was absolutely delighted with the colours:

swirl effect inside mojito marble bundt cake recipe for clandestine cake club green lime mint and rum flavour

In some parts the batter had curled itself down and then risen into a swirl during baking – entirely intentional of course!

inside mojito marble cake swirled effect green white lime mint and rum icing and sugar sprinkles

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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?

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 & Lemon Hearts

chocolate cupcakes egg and dairy free lemon icing yellow sugar sprinkles

Last night, amid a kitchen full of cake pops, I ended up with half a bowl of spare lemon buttercream. What to do…? I couldn’t throw it away; I shouldn’t eat it (although easily could have done!) so the only thing for it was to make some cupcakes to ice. It makes sense it my head.

I’ve got some more baking to do tonight – a good friend is having a big themed birthday party at the weekend – and haven’t got many eggs in the house. So, a quick look online found this super-quick, egg-free recipe. The cakes turned out so well I simply had to share it.

Recipe: (adapted from No Eggs!), makes 6 standard size cupcakes

75g self raising flour
10g cocoa powder
85g caster sugar
75ml milk (I used soya-milk, so dairy-free cakes too!)
40ml oil (the original recipe recommends corn, I only had olive, it worked fine)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt

Method:

Sieve the flour and cocoa. Add the other ingredients. Beat well until there are no lumps! (It’s quite a liquid mixture, it won’t look as thick as a normal sponge).
Bake at 180 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and spongy when pressed (your finger shouldn’t leave a dent when you press). To get the shape I used a silicon hearts mould sprayed well with cake release.

Cool, and ice! As mentioned I used a lemon buttercream, and finished the cupcakes by dipping in yellow shimmer sugar.

chocolate heart cupcakes with lemon icing and sugar sprinkles egg and dairy free recipe

Aside from the fact that you really couldn’t tell it’s any different to a normal cupcake recipe, the thing I love best is that they come out so moist and light – look at that sponge!

soft moist airy well-risen inside of egg free cupcake recipe no dairy chocolate and lemon

Definitely one to keep on the quick list – especially as they can be mixed up so fast, and in one bowl.

heart shape chocolate cupcake with lemon icing and yellow sugar sprinkles

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