I stayed up until 3am last Sunday morning. GASP!!! For anyone who knows me, this is quite an achievement. I usually get to about 10.30pm on an evening out and start yawning, then by 11pm I’ve firmly got my going home hat on, and that’s it, the night over. But on Saturday I was having such a great time that I forgot about the fact that my children would be waking up in 6 hours…5 hours…4 hours and was happy to keep going. I bet you are all wondering what I was up to. Well, hubby and I, along with 3 other couples have been taking part in our own ‘Come Dine With Me’ dinner parties. Last week we went to CDWM No: 3…and it was brilliant! The theme was ‘The Oscars’ and I just LOVED getting dressed up. Our hosts had even laid out the red carpet for our arrival, and placed a champagne saucer of pink bubbly in our hands as we walked in. I felt famous, just for a split second.
We were actually first to host a couple of months back and decided to have a Mexican themed night. I had no idea that there would be such a market for Mexican style partyware, but I was amazed at the choice. I think my favorite purchase was the inflatable cactus. The only down side being, it has no further use at all! I mean where does one store an inflatable cactus? It looked fab in our dinning room on the night though. The second CDWM had an Olympic theme which had us all dressed up in red, white or blue and taking part in various party games. Such a great night.
These evenings have been really successful so we have agreed that after the last one next month, we are all going out for a meal together over the summer and then we will be starting CDWM season 2 in the autumn. So I’ve got my thinking cap on already for themes, food and entertainment to make our next one even better than our last one.
I want to create my own dessert next time round, (for extra wow factor) so it’s with thanks to the Alphabake challenge hosted by Caroline Makes and Baking Addict and the We Should Cocoa challenge hosted this month by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and organsied by Chocolette that I have come up with a Toblerone style dessert. It contains the required almonds and chocolate for We should Cocoa, and the ‘H’ ingredient is honey for Alphabake.
I have to say that this was a complete experiment right up to the point of the finishing touches. I had imagined in my head that I would cover the cake with a ganache that would make it look more like a triangle of Toblerone, but I ended up with a chocolate sauce so went with that and I think it worked really well. The final dessert had a gorgeous stickiness to it a bit like a sticky toffee pudding, and served with the ice cream, I was in heaven.
Toblerone Inspired Dinner Party Dessert
What you need:
- 125g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 115g self raising flour
- 25g cocoa
- 1 tbsp milk
- 25g toasted flaked almonds (and a few extra for decoration)
- 70g chopped nougat
- 75g milk chocolate
- 100ml double cream
- Medium sized traybake tin (mine was 27cm x 21cm) greased with the bottom lined
- Serves 8 (based on a few people having a second helping)
What to do
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.
- Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Mixture should have a light and fluffy texture
- Gradually add eggs and honey beating after each addition. Sift in flour and cocoa and add milk then fold in with a large metal spoon
- Once the flour and cocoa is almost folded in add the nougat and almonds and gently mix in
- Pour mixture into the traybake tin, and gently smooth down. Pop in the oven for about 20 mins until a knife comes out clean
- Remove cake from the tin and cool on a rack
- Once cool, cut the cake into 6 even squares. Then cut each square diagonally to make 2 triangles. Find a rectangular shaped plate or tray and line up the triangles as in the pictures
- To make the chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water. Mix with a spoon to incorporate and drizzle over the cakes
- Use the reserved almonds to decorate the sides of each triangle and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
I can’t quite believe that my 3rd Bake Club has been and gone already. I’ve had such fun organising them and meeting lots of new people who have a passion for baking just like me. We always end up chattering away and losing track of the time.
This month the theme was ‘Queen’s Jubilee’, which is rather helpful of course as this links in very nicely with the Jubilee Competition that I am running on my blog at the moment. So I’m hoping that a round up of all the cakes might help to give you a little bit of inspiration to get baking. After all a bank holiday is the perfect time to get into the kitchen with the additional day off. As usual my guests completely exceeded my expectations with their creations. All fabulous and suitably regal. So if you are ready, lets indulge.
First up was Christina’s fruit decorated chocolate fudge cake. Christina tells me that she got the recipe from this months Good Housekeeping. She halved the quantities because it said the cake would serve 40!!! As you can see it was still pretty sizable, but a much more manageable. It was chocoholics dream with the rich chocolate sponge and white chocolate buttercream and it tasted amazing.
Then came Abi’s orange flavoured crown cake with fresh fruit, white chocolate and raspberry coulis. Abi explained that she had combined a number of recipes to make the various parts to this cake. The orange taste was incredible. You could really taste fresh orange with every bite. I love the idea of using sponge fingers around the cake too.
Then Vicky brought a Almond and rhubarb loaf cake made with rhubarb from her own garden. Now you can’t get more British than that! The flavours were gorgeous. I could really taste the almond and cinnamon that had been added.
Lastly, there was my white chocolate and elderflower victoria sponge cake. I used a Nigella victoria sponge cake recipe, (which can be found on pg 26 of her cookbook, How to Eat) and added 2 tbsp of elderflower cordial to the cake batter and 3 tbsp of cordial to the fresh cream that I whipped up to fill and top the cake with. I also drizzled melted white chocolate on the cream in the middle of the cake and again in the top. Don’t hold back with the white chocolate, just go for it. The little white chocolate crowns were an idea I got from talented Sew White. You can see a little video on how to make them here. They were great fun to do and I was very pleased with the final cake.
As June is the perfect time to hunt for fresh elderflower you could always make your own cordial. I will be doing this for sure. Karen from Lavender and Loveage has a great recipe over on her blog.
Next Bake Club and New Ideas
I’m feeling more experienced now having run 3 Bake Clubs and it’s been great getting a feel for what people want and how they run. I’ve had a few ideas which I hope will make my Bake Club even better than before. Let me know what you think.
- Running a charity Bake Club twice a year, starting next month. On the 13th June the theme is ‘bake it pink‘ and all entrance fees will be going to a Breast Cancer Care. My very good friend Anna will be coming along to support the evening. Anna found out late 2010 that she had breast cancer and endured an incredibly hard year battling the disease. Her strength and courage has been an ongoing inspiration to me and I tell her on a regular basis that I think she is amazing. She has even signed up to do the London Marathon next year! There will be some time allocated to allow Anna to share her experience and talk about breast cancer awareness on the night.
- Organising a number of talks/presentations for the next few Bake Clubs, as I really think there is room for everyone to learn more from each other and from any special guests that I might get in. I’m not talking anything that will take away too much time, just 20 mins focusing on a particular baking related subject. For example at either the July or August Bake Club one guest has already offered to share her macaroon tips.
- Investigating avenues to donate any left over cake to a local old people’s home if guests do not wish to take all the cake home with them.
How to book for the June charity Bake Club:
Here are all the details you need, but essentially all you need to do is drop me a line at: email@example.com
Bake Club dates for your diary:
- 18th July 2012
- 29th Aug 2012
Both based in Sevenoaks
Finally, the great thing about my white chocolate and elderflower victoria sponge cake is that I can also enter it into two blog challenges this month. Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked has gone all floral this month so the elderflower in my cake certainly counts there. Also, the Forever Nigella blog challenge created by Maison Cupcake and hosted this month by Nelly’s Cupcakes has a Jubilee theme. So thank you to Nigella for the fantastic and extremely easy sponge recipe which made a fab base to my cake and qualified me to enter Forever Nigella this month.
Hands up who got excited about the Royal Wedding last year and all the baking that happened as a result? My hand goes straight up because I certainly did. We hosted a party at our house and I was in my element planning for it and baking lots of gorgeous treats to serve my guests. Luckily, for us keen bakers there is the Queen’s Jubilee to celebrate this year which means more street parties and family gatherings to bake for. Hip, hip hooray!
In preparation for the Jubilee I started to scan the internet to see what recipes I could find to inspire me and I have to say, I have been disappointed. All I could really find was red, white and blue cupcakes or crown shaped biscuits. That’s all fine, but I was looking for something a bit more original. So I was thrilled when Appliances Online agreed to sponsor a Jubilee Baking Competition on my blog.
I am looking for any bloggers out there to make their best Jubilee themed cakes and bakes and enter them into my competition so I can create a real treasure trove of inspirational ideas. I want you to be as creative and unique as you possibly can. Anything goes! I shall do a round up post of all the entries when I announce the winner.
The judge for this competition is fellow blogger Vanessa Kimbell. Vanessa is quite an inspiration to me. Her first cookbook ‘Prepped‘ was published 6 months ago, she has her own Sunday morning radio show on BBC Northamptonshire, she runs a ‘pop up’ bakery in her front garden each Saturday with her children and she writes popular blog, ‘ Goddess on a Budget‘. I know that Vanessa has the perfect eye for judging this kind of competition and I’ve no doubt that she will pick a worthy winner.
The deadline for entries is 3rd June 2012 and one lucky winner will get £100 of Amazon vouchers, provided by Appliances Online. Think of all the lovely baking accessories or cook books you could buy for that!
Competition Rules of Entry
Main Entry – Blog post
- Your Jubilee cake or bake needs to be featured on one of your posts. Tell your readers that it is for the Homemade by Fleur, Blogging Jubilee Baking Competition with a link to this post (http://wp.me/p1UMex-o3) which tells them all about it
- You also need to mention that Appliances Online are sponsoring the competition and include this link (http://www.appliancesonline.co.uk/cookers/cookers.aspx) within the post
- Copy and paste the competition badge below and include in your blog post
- Add Homemade by Fleur as a tag on your post / page that you are submitting
- I would love you to sign up to follow my blog to find out the results and of course to see the entrants and winner, but this is not compulsory
- Feel free to like the Homemade By Fleur page and share it with others to get into the Jubilee spirit
- Follow me on twitter for competition updates @homemadebyfleur
- Post your entry on twitter mentioning me @homemadebyfleur and adding #jubileebakingcompetition
- I will retweet you and your post when I see it
- Make anything bake or cake that you wish as long as you feel it links to the Jubilee theme and have explained this in your post
- Please email your photographs (no more than 2) and a link to your post to firstname.lastname@example.org
- In that email please also include your name, although I will be listing entries by blog name on the round up
- The deadline is 3rd June 2012
- The winner will be announced a few days after the deadline, so keep you eye out!
- The judges decision is final
Vintage Jubilee Flag Biscuits
To get you all in the mood, I have come up with a Jubilee themed bake of my own. I had a lot of fun making these but the best bit was taking the photos of them on Hove beach in Sussex. I was down there last weekend and along with all the paraphernalia needed for 3 children when planning a day trip to the beach, I packed my biscuits, the mini bucket and spade (pre-filled with sand from our sandpit as I knew Hove beach had pebbles) and my camera. My husband rolled his eyes more than once as I took ages to find the right box to transport the biscuits as we were trying to get out of the door. I’m sure you can picture the scene. But it was all worth it as I love the pictures and the weather was amazing. It has turned out to be the only sunny day in the last 2 weeks, so I was very lucky. It’s a reminder in amongst all the rain that we do have some beautiful days here in England.
I used the Irresistible Chocolate Biscuit recipe from pg 183 of my new aptly named ‘Biscuit’ cookbook written by GBBO finalist from series 1 Miranda Gore Browne. It’s a great book by the way, and if you are partial to the odd biscuit or two this is definitely one to put on your birthday list. But there are plenty of other cookbooks and online recipes for a basic chocolate biscuit. You will probably find one in a book you already have. What you are looking for is one that creates a biscuit dough that you can roll out and use cutter on.
What you will need:
- 8-10 rectangle chocolate biscuits
- Some royal icing (I used 250g (half a pack) of the royal icing sugar mixed with water and it was enough)
- Approx 100g white fondant icing
- Red and blue food colour (I used my new India Tree natural food colouring for these and thought they were great)
- Pencil (not too sharp) ruler and greaseproof paper
- 4 icing containers/bottles or bags
- 4 icing tips, I used 2 x PME 2 tips for the piping icing and 2 x PME 4 tips for the flood icing
- 8-10 Lollipop sticks
How to make:
- The first thing I did was draw around the rectangle cookie cutter I used to make the biscuits onto greaseproof paper and cut it out. I then drew on the central cross from the Union Jack followed by the rest of the flag, but but I found that I only really needed the central cross as a guide and the rest of the flag I did freehand
- Next I made my royal icing. Follow the back of the pack with regards to the amount of water needed. Aim to have it fairly stiff, but soft enough to pass through a PME 2 icing tip and holds its shape with out any problems
- Divide icing into 4 small bowls. Put two bowls aside then add a little bit more water to the remaining two bowls. You are aiming for the consistency of custard. This is your flood icing and is what you will use to ‘colour in’ your flag. The other two bowls contain your piping icing which is what you will use to pipe the flag pattern onto your biscuit
- Colour 1 piping and 1 flood icing red/pink and 1 piping and 1 flood icing blue then fill the piping icing into the icing bottles or bags that have the PME 2 tip and the flood icing into the icing bottles or bags with the PME 4 tip
- Roll out your fondant icing (not too thick) and use your rectangle cookie cutter again to cut out rectangles of fondant and stick these onto your biscuits with a little bit of royal icing (I just scraped out the last bits from the bowl I mixed my royal icing in to do this)
Icing your biscuit step by step
- Take your greaseproof paper flag and place on top of the fondant. Use your not too sharp pencil to imprint the central Union Jack cross onto the fondant
- Pipe the pink/red central cross onto the fondant and then add the 4 diagonal lines that come out from the centre of the flag using the PME 2 tip and piping icing
- Now add the blue triangles onto the flag using the PME 2 tip and piping icing
- Fill in the cross and diagonal strips with pink/red flood icing and the blue triangles with blue flood icing using the PME 4 tip
- Leave your biscuits to dry for a couple of hours then stick your lollipop stick on the back with any remaining royal icing and leave to dry over night
- Cover your royal icing with a clean damp j cloth to stop it from drying out at any point
- Don’t cut your biscuits too thick. I think I did mine too thick, and consequently they were a bit on the heavy side as it was tricky getting the lollipop sticks to hold
- Sticking these in a bucket is a great idea for a centrepiece at your Jubilee party but these flags can decorate cakes, desserts, or if making mini ones, you could use as cupcake toppers
- To make mini flags all you need to do is make smaller flags. You could use the thinner wooden coffee stirrer as the flag pole instead of a lollipop stick giving you the perfect excuse to go for a coffee. See how Maision Cupcake has used them here
HAPPY BAKING EVERYONE!
I’ve just had a week away by the seaside with my family in Cornwall, and I have to say it is just what the doctor ordered. Nothing beats some quality family time. The best bit for me was our visits to the beach. Watching my children happily run around for hours building sand castles and paddling in the sea, whilst enjoying a little bit of sun on my face made me a very happy lady.
I loved being cooked for each night, but I did miss not being able to bake for a week, even though I suspect that it was probably good for me! So as soon as I had unpacked I got the ingredients out and started baking for this blog post. I was up for a bit of experimenting and here is the result.
I think the best way to describe these chocolate olive oil cupcakes with a goats cheese frosting is ‘bittersweet’, but in the best possible way. This applies to both the recipe and the final taste.
A contradiction in a cupcake? Not sure? Well let me reassure you. Remember that Paula Abdul song Opposites Attract? Here’s a verse to jog your memory…
“She makes the bed, and he steals the covers. She likes it neat, and he makes a mess. I take it easy, baby I get obsessed. She’s got the money, and he’s always broke I don’t like cigarettes, and I like to smoke. Things in common? Just ain’t one. But when we get together, we have nothin’ but fun.”
And here’s the video if you fancy a trip down memory lane. It’s worth a look if only for the cool little rap in the middle and Paula’s choice of fashion and break dancing attempts. I am a little bit embarrassed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, and caught myself at one point ‘bopping’ in my chair!
Ah, I loved that song! But the reason I’m talking about it is because the underlying message applies to my cupcakes. You may think that they won’t work because the ingredients are not ones that you might put together ordinarily, but these are quite possibly the best cupcakes I have ever made…and that is saying something.
The cupcake sponge is dark and moist (due to the olive oil) and has just enough sugar added to balance the dark chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee which are three of the main ingredients. These are not in any way bitter, I did not mean that literally, just far less sweet than your average sugar and butter laden cupcake. The word sophisticated comes to mind.
The goats cheese frosting is the sweet part. Both in taste and surprise. The goats cheese works well sweetened and actually makes a mighty fine frosting. Yes you do have to like the taste of goats cheese to start with, but I was genuinely impressed. It’s different, and that is partly why I like it so much.
The inspiration for these cupcakes is two fold. The first is this month’s ‘We Should Cocoa‘ blog challenge hosted by Chocolette, who shares it with Chele from Chocolate Teapot blog. Always trying to keep us on our toes, the challenge was to blog a recipe which had chocolate and cheese in it. In all honesty I did panic a bit when I read this. But in actual fact it’s not so bad, and I doubt I would have made these special little cupcakes if it had not been for the WSC challenge.
The second inspiration was from an American blog that I found whilst looking for chocolate and cheese recipes. It’s called the Vanilla Bean Blog and it is a lovely blog to visit if you have a spare 5 mins. The only problem is that all the recipes are in American cup measurements. Having converted this one I now realise what a nightmare it is. Converting cups to grams depends on what is in the cup, so it all got a bit complicated especially as I was halving the recipe too. Anyway, with a few educated guesses and an new IPad app to help me convert I was more than a little relieved to pull a beautiful set of dark moist cupcakes from my oven.
These are most certainly worth a go!
Chocolate olive oil cupcakes with a goats cheese frosting
What you will need:
- 50g dark chocolate cut into small pieces
- 175ml hot coffee (I used decaffeinated filter coffee)
- 85g cocoa powder
- 250g caster sugar
- 2 regular eggs
- 315g plain flour
- 80ml olive oil
- 180ml buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade one for the first time)
- 20 cupcake cases (I use the foil ones as they are sturdier and old their shape better)
Makes approx 20 cupcakes
Goats cheese frosting
- 30g soft unsalted butter
- 50g cream cheese
- 50g soft goats cheese (one without the rind which looks a bit like cream cheese)
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (not extract as too much liquid for the frosting then)
- 250g icing sugar (I used natural golden icing sugar which gave the frosting its caramel colour, but it would be fine to use normal icing sugar too)
- 50g chopped walnuts for decoration
How to Make:
- Preheat oven to 190c/375f/gas 5
- Put the chocolate, cocoa powder and hot coffee in a bowl together, stir and leave to melt
- In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, bicarb of soda, baking powder and salt. In a second bowl whisk up the eggs in an electric mixer for about 3-4 mins until light and fluffy
- Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs mixing until well combined
- Then add the remainder of the dry ingredients to the mix half at a time and mix with the beater until just combined
- Fill your cupcake cases until 2/3 full. I over filled one and it took another few minutes to cook so it is worth taking your time to get this bit right
- Bake in the oven for 14-15 mins. Test with a knife which should come out clean. If not put back in the oven for another couple of minutes
- Once baked, leave in tin for 10 mins then transfer to a cooling wrack
- To make the frosting beat the butter until softened then add the cheeses and vanilla paste. Mix for about 3 mins until smooth
- Then add the icing sugar bit by bit and beat for about 8-10 mins as this will result in a super smooth frosting. This frosting is not as stiff as butter cream so can’t be piped onto the cupcakes
- Using a palette knife smooth over the frosting onto each of the cupcakes and sprinkle with chopped walnuts
My blog is 6 months old on the 10th April! It only seems like yesterday that I was sitting on this very same chair at my computer wondering if I should take the plunge and start my own blog. I was scared. Mostly of opening up a window into my life for others to see. What would people think of me? What if nobody read my blog? Why would anyone want to read about me? But deep down I had a bubble of excitement. I could imagine how wonderful it would feel to inspire others to bake and maybe people would like what I write and enjoy reading it! So I went for it and it’s safe to say I have not looked back.
In the 6 months of writing my blog, I feel like I have come so far. I had no idea how much fun it would be or how I would feel writing about something I love in my own way without any rules. I have had unwavering encouragement from my family and friends and I have made so many new friends both online and face to face. There is a fantastic blogging community out there which is incredibly supportive, and I have loved becoming part of this. Planning my posts, baking, photographing what I have made and writing about it is now a very important part of my week. People often ask me where I want to go with this blog, and although I can’t give a precise answer, I do know that it is a fabulous adventure which keeps getting better and I am thoroughly enjoying the ride.
One thing I have learnt in the last 6 months, is that the blogging world is full of awards. Which is a great because whilst writing a blog is a fantastic thing to do, it is also a lot of hard work behind the scenes. I have had many late nights baking, writing, formatting and organising blog posts to ensure that my blog is the best I can make it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist!
Many of these awards are based on votes from readers, and I kind of wish they weren’t as I’m just not used to canvasing for votes. However, last week I found out that I have been shortlisted out of 12,000 nominations for the ‘Tasty’ category in the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging awards which I am so chuffed about, I just could not keep it quiet.
So firstly I need to say a big thank you to everyone who nominated me in the first instance. It feels amazing to have made the shortlist it really does. I am 1 of 20 shortlisted blogs in this category. The next stage is to become 1 of 8 finalists which would mean an invitation to an awards ceremony in London, (and therefore a new dress) where a panel of high profile judges pick the final winner. Being a finalist would be incredible. Just having that recognition for my blog would be such an achievement and would mean lots of new and exciting exposure for my blog.
But I’m not just going to ask you to vote for me, I’m going to give you good reason to take the time and vote for me. In celebration of my blog being 6 months old and for making the Brilliance in Blogging shortlist I have created the most scrumptious celebration cake you ever did see (and taste). Inspired by my favorite summer flower, my love of pink champagne and a my very dear friend Anna (because its pink and has champers in it) I have come up with a cake that will make any celebration one to remember. I made it mini sized because that was perfect for me, and it is my celebration cake after all. But also I think there is something special and understated about making an individual sized cake for someone. It’s not over the top, yet all the effort and sentiment is still there in extremely cute proportions.
How to vote:
So here is how to vote if you would like to. Click on the BIB logo below and you will be taken to a survey monkey form. Scroll down to the ‘Tasty’ shortlist (it’s not that far down, category number 2) and click next to Homemade By Fleur. Scroll to the bottom and click submit and that’s it. A big thank you to anyone in advance who votes xxx I’ll let you know how I get on.
Recipe: Mini Pistachio and Rose Celebration Cake with Pink Champagne Buttercream
What you will need:
- 2tsp rose syrup (I used Star Kay white rose water)
- 120 ml whole milk
- 120g plain flour
- 100g sugar
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 40g unsalted butter
- 30g pistachio nuts (25g for cake, 5g for decoration on top) finely chopped. I put mine in the food processor for 1-2 mins
- 2 x 11cm sandwich cake tins greased and lined
- large metal spoon
Pink Champagne Buttercream
I prefer not to have too much buttercream on my cake, but if you like lashings of it, you might want to double these quantities.
- 40g unsalted butter
- 165g icing sugar
- 25ml pink champagne (there should be plenty left in the bottle to pour yourself a glass once you have finished the cake :-))
- Pink food colouring (optional)
- Palette knife
- 150g royal icing sugar
- 1-2 tsp water
- Pink and green food colouring (most supermarkets sell natural colours although I did not use them on this occasion)
- Small rose and leaf icing tips
- Icing bags
How to make:
- Preheat your oven to 170c/325f/gas 3
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter in an electric mixer and combine with a paddle attachment until thoroughly mixed in and has a sand like consistency
- Slowly add the milk, then the rose water, then the eggs
- When you have a smooth batter, fold in the chopped pistachio with a large metal spoon ( remember to save a bit for the decoration)
- Divide the batter between the two cake tins, gently smooth over and put in the oven for 25-30 mins. To check that they are done stick a knife in both cakes and it will come out clean if baked. If not, pop back in for another 5 mins
- Let the cakes cool in the tins for 5 mins, then turn out onto a cooling rack
- Whilst cooling you can make the buttercream. For this just add the icing sugar and soft butter to a bowl and start to mix with an electric mixer. Then add the champagne slowly. Once all the champagne has been added, add a few drops of pink food colouring. I just did one drop at a time as I knew I wanted a light pink. Once you are happy with the colour, continue to mix the buttercream for another 5 mins or so. This step is quite important as it stops your buttercream from being grainy and gives it a light fluffy texture
- Once your cakes are cool slice off any bumps that have risen up on the top of each sponge. Then slice each sponge in half lengthways. Then fill each layer with butter cream and build up your 4 layer cake.
- Then use a small palette knife to cover the outside of the cake with the remainder of the buttercream. I used upwards motions in the side of the cake
- Sprinkle your remaining chopped pistachio around the top of the cake, then make your royal icing by mixing the royal icing sugar and water together until it forms soft peaks. It is probably best to add the water slowly and watching the icing come together. You may need a little less or more water than I have suggested
- Divide your royal icing into two and colour one dark pink and the other one green. To make a rose I watched a couple of You Tube videos, this video is a good one. Essentially you start with the fat part of the icing tip at the bottom and pipe a small closed circle. In some videos they used a flower pin to do this, I just had my cake on a turntable and moved it round as I went. You then start to add on the petals piping 3 around on the first layer and then 4/5 on the second layer. I does not look like a rose to start with but quickly becomes recognisable. I needed a few practice goes first and I piped mine straight onto the cake when I was ready.
- To create leafs, just point the leaf tip close the rose, flat side down and pipe out some icing pulling away as you do and stop piping when it is big enough pulling high to break the icing off
- Give to someone very special and make their day x
If you are inspired by this cake you must also check out fellow blogger Cakeboule’s Tiffiany inspired champagne layer cake. It’s stunning.
I’m also going to send this over to Kate from What Kate Baked to enter the Easter themed Tea Time Treats. This challenge is shared with Karen from Lavender and Lovage. As Easter is a celebration and a time for getting together with the family I think this little cake would make a lovely addition to any table of treats over the Easter weekend.
Hot Cross Buns
Last Easter I was busy packing all of our belongings into cardboard boxes as we prepared to make the life changing move out of London. Our new destination was Kent, where I grew up and where my Mum and brother still live. We had only been in one week when we packed more bags and set off up to Cheshire to see my in-laws for the Easter weekend. Something we do most years. At the time it seemed crazy after just moving house, but once we got there it was lovely to relax, have meals made for us and not unpack any boxes. The weather was fantastic and on Easter day we were spoilt with an Easter egg hunt and plenty of chocolate.
This year without having to plan for a house move, I have been able to try making one of my most favourite things ever…hot cross buns. I actually love and hot cross buns and would be thrilled to eat them all year round. The way I like them is toasted, spread with unsalted butter and a cup of tea to wash it all down.
I have to say though that I’m not great at making bread items. I truly believe that it is something that takes a lot of practice, so I continue trying in the hope that my next effort will be better than my last. It’s a good job I think like this as my first attempt at hot cross buns were only just passable, but my second attempt was pretty near to perfect in my eyes, (picture below). I would have liked to know what Paul Hollywood thought of them! I digress. The most delightful thing about homemade hot cross buns are how much better they taste in comparison to shop brought which makes them totally worth the effort, even if they do take a few attempts to get right.
The basic hot cross bun recipe I followed can be found on the Baking Mad’s website. A few things I have done differently that might be worth trying as well include:
- Substituting 50g of plain flour for wholemeal flour
- Adding chopped dates and dark chocolate chips instead of raisins
- Using a 100g strong white flour, 25g butter, 125ml water and a pinch of sugar to make a paste. Then put this in a small freezer bag, snip the end and pipe crosses
Another wonderful thing about Easter is of course Easter Eggs. I love to look around the shops each year to see what temptations have been created. I’m always drawn to eggs that are a bit unique or have something special about them.
Hotel Chocolat, who are fast becoming a firm favorite of mine have a marvelous Easter egg selection and I was lucky enough to be allowed one to review (or scoff which ever way you like to put it). I picked the ‘You Crack Me Up‘ egg with extra thick shell because I loved the look of the chocolates that came inside.
Little happy faces, chicks, fried eggs and soliders all appeal to child in me and I thought it was likely that my own children would be wanting some of this egg too!
I was not disappointed. All (and that is saying something) the chocolates were lovely. If anything there could have been more! The shell was indeed extra thick and gave the egg a real feel of quality. I loved the packaging too. It came in a gorgeous box and the egg itself was wrapped in the most lavish looking light gold foil.
I have had this egg for 3 days now and it’s nearly all gone already. Easter egg reviewing…it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it😉
Many thanks to Hotel Chocolate sending me the Easter Egg to review and Baking Mad for sponsoring this post.
Well, my TV debut has finally aired and now I can scream at the top of my voice “I WON, I WON!!!” I still can’t quite believe it. Yes, I went there with every intention of winning but I had no idea what my competition was going to be like or how things were going to turn out on the day.
I made so many cheesecakes in the week leading up the show and I really felt that I went on a cheesecake journey during that time. Going from sheer panic to refining my ideas and feeling confident in what I was doing and looking forward to the day.
When I heard we were making cheesecake I was initially quite pleased…until my first cheesecake ended up looking like a cow pat. I kid you not! Making a large cheesecake in 2 hours I came to realise was not possible for me. My hat goes off to Christine who did manage it on the day. I tried her raspberry cheesecake and it was superb. The problem is it takes 50 mins to cook a large cheesecake and in an ordinary situation you are meant to leave it to completely cool in the fridge overnight before taking it out of its tin. When practicing at home, removal of the tin after a mere 15 mins of cooling, (due to the time constraints) made my large cheesecake efforts crack and dip in the middle. It looked a bit more presentable covered in chocolate ganache but there was no way I could give it to Eric on national TV.
Then the lightbulb moment came. I would make a little cheesecake. It would cook and cool quicker and because I could not decide on what flavour I was going to do, I came up with my next lightbulb idea of cooking 3 complimentary flavoured cheesecakes, each one with a different base and bespoke decorations. The first time I tried to cook them, they came out perfectly and the relief was massive. At least I there was a chance that I would cook something which had a chance of winning.
When the day came, I was up at the crack of dawn as we had to be at Cake Boy (Eric’s cake shop and cafe) by 8.30. Once I got there I soon felt relaxed with a coffee and it was lovely to get to know my fellow contestants Christine and Hannah a little bit.
Cake Boy is gorgeous. It has the most amazing selection of cakes which Eric bakes himself every morning and the comfy seating next to a wall of fairy lights is inspired and gave a magical feel to the place. All of the production crew were extremely friendly too and talked us through what was going to happen during the day. Considering we were the second to last episode to be filmed and there are 20 episodes in total, I think the team did so well. They must have been exhausted from it all.
Just before we were about to start and as I was finishing my coffee, I looked up to see none other than Nigella Lawson sitting opposite me chatting to Eric about cakes (of course). She had popped in with a couple of friends who were getting married and who wanted to order one of Eric’s spectacular wedding cakes. I almost choked on my coffee. What a fab start to the day to see Eric for the first time along with Nigella. Star struck? Quite possibly!
We then got to work filming some sound bites about why we wanted to take part in the show and what we were cooking. Then we had to get our ingredients ready and the bake off began. I thought I was feeling calm and collected and things were going well. Then I took my cheesecakes out of the oven and with two cameras filming, all the production crew and the two other contestants watching I had to take all three out of their tins. Possibly the hardest part as the tins are small and I had to push the cheesecake up and out. So much could have gone wrong especially as they are still a bit soft when they first come out of the oven. I was shaking like a leaf and could hardly cooridnate my fingers, but I managed all three and took a big sigh of relief. Once out, I could relax a bit and start to decorate them. I over whipped my cream which made it a bit hard to pipe, but other than that I was really pleased with the end results.
We had to wait for ages to take our creations into Eric, and when I did, he really gave nothing away. Then we had to wait for even longer whilst they filmed Eric’s reactions to the cakes, but finally the time came for him to announce the winner. I had come to realise by this point that in order to make a TV show, there needs to be lots of re-takes to get it just perfect. This was indeed the case as well when announcing the winner. Eric must have said, “and the winner is….” about 6 times, before he finally said, “…Fleur”. At which point I actually almost cried. It meant so much to me to have Eric pick me. I knew I could bake, but to have a master cake maker pick me was such an amazing feeling. I was so worried that I may have over done my flavours and he would not like them, but he told me afterwards that it was my flavours that made him pick me in the end and he liked the fact that I took a risk with something different.
I have to say though that Christine’s raspberry cheesecake,
Needless to say the masterclass was brilliant. I got to know Eric a bit better, and there was plenty of banter so it was a real laugh. We made a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake covered in gold leaf and it was absolutely stunning.
A truly amazing day and a wonderful experience. Something I won’t ever forget, and it has given me more confidence to continue with my baking and blogging. Who knows what will be my next adventure but I’m looking forward to it already, and open to offers😉
Here’s the link to the show. I’m in episode 16 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/baking-mad-with-eric-lanlard/4od
Trio of mini cheesecakes, chocolate and chilli, cinnamon and ginger, and cardamom, vanilla and pistachio
What you will need:
50g ginger nut, bourbon and hobnob biscuits
3 x 20g unsalted butter
300g cream cheese
90g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
1 large egg and egg yolk
7-8 cardamom pods deseeded then seeds crushed in a pester and mortar
1 tsp of vanilla paste
20g pistachios finely chopped
2 tsp cocoa powder
4-5 drops of homemade chilli oil or chilli power to taste
20g crystallised ginger finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
70ml double cream
50g plain chocolate
50 ml double cream whipped
30g white chocolate melted
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon, vanilla sugar and icing sugar
Sprig of fresh mint
3 3″ round tins
How to do it
1. Grease and line the bottom of 3 3″ round tins with parchment paper
2. Turn the oven onto 160c
3. Either separately whizz your 3 different types of biscuit in the food processor or put the biscuits in 3 separate freezer bags and bash with a rolling pin until the consistency of breadcrumbs
4. Melt 3 x 20g butter separately and mix each with the crushed biscuits in separate bowls
5. Add the biscuit and butter mixture to each of the tins and press into the bottom with the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge
6. In a large mixing bowl mix the cream cheese and sugar together on a low speed
7. Add the egg and then egg yolk and continue to mix slowly
8. Add the sour cream and mix
9. Divide the mixture evenly into 3 bowls
10. In the first bowl add the cocoa powder and chilli oil and stir in with a spoon
11. In the second bowl add the crushed cardamom, vanilla paste and pistachios and stir in with a spoon
12. In the 3 bowl add the chopped ginger and cinnamon and stir in with a spoon
13. Get the 3 cake tins from the fridge and pour the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake mix into the tin with the ginger nut base, the chilli and chocolate cheesecake mix into the tin with a bourbon base and the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake mix into the tin with the hobnob base
14. Boil the kettle, cover the bottom of the cake tins with foil (to make the tins more watertight) then place the 3 tins in a deep baking dish and pour in the boiling water until about half way up the sides of the tins
15. Place in the oven for 30
16. Once out leave in the tin to cool for 20 with a bowl over the top of the top (keeps the air moist whilst cooling so helping to prevent any cracks)
17. Once completely cool take out of tins
18. Now melt your cream and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
19. Once melted pour over the chocolate cheesecake and down the sides. Work quickly and then wipe away any excess at the bottom to neaten up
21. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, place in a freezer bag, snip the end off and decorate the cheesecake with white chocolate stripes
20. Whip the cream and vanilla paste together, until stiff. Place in a piping bag with a icing nozzle and pipe a cream decoration on the top of the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake and sprinkle with vanilla sugar
21. Use a palette knife to smooth over a layer of crème fraiche on top of the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and icing sugar and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint
- I used whole pistachios which I covered in gold leaf to decorate the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake
- I made simple sugar corkscrews for the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake out of melted sugar which I wrapped around the end of an oiled plastic fork
Today the weather was pretty grim. It basically rained all day long. It was not much fun doing the school run and I almost made the decision to skip after school ballet as I just wanted to stay dry. But I managed to sum up the motivation and you’ll be glad to hear that we did all make it to ballet in the end. Some days, (like today) I actually lose count of the amount of times I lift my youngest in and out of the car. Luckily, he seems to enjoy tagging along with his big sisters and is pretty laid back. No doubt this is probably a result if being a third child and having to fit into the daily circus that is life in our household. My Giddy Aunt (she’s not really giddy, that’s just what we used to call her as kids) came to visit last week. It was lovely to see her, but I do hope she will visit again. I fear that we may have scared her off!! It must have been very loud and hectic here in comparison to normal life at home for her in the picturesque village of Melmerby in Cumbria.
I do get my evenings though and they are my sanctuary. Peace and quiet with no one demanding my attention is bliss. I normally have lots of accumulated jobs to do but I will make sure there is also time for a few guilty pleasures. Maybe a hot bath with lots of bubbles, (door locked obviously in case anyone is not quite asleep), a glass of red with crackers and Roquefort, baking and then eating said baking, catching up on sky+ (tv is so rare for me these days) and reading blogs, baking magazines and cookbooks in bed! So rock and roll I know, but that is what I love.
Talking of cookbooks, the new random recipe challenge from Dom over at Bellau Kitchen is to pick book number 17! Well I’ve got to say, that’s about as random as it gets Dom, (and Choclette) but 17 might have to be my new lucky number because my latest cookbook purchase turned out to be my number 17! It might have rained all day today but this was really lucky because I love my new cookbook so much and am thrilled to be able to share a snippet with you.
It is Recipes From My Mother For My Daughter by Lisa Faulkner. Lisa who won celebrity Masterchef in 2010 is someone I admire greatly. I’d be lying if I did not admit to being a wee bit jealous of her too. When her cookbook arrived I sat for ages looking through it and just dreamed of a day when I could create a cookbook like that too. It’s beautiful! But you will see if you get the chance that Lisa has worked so hard for her success. At the start of the book there is a wonderful narrative where she opens up about what she calls her ‘food journey’. She talks of the inspiration her mother gave her and about times in her life when baking helped her through. I felt privileged to read it, and for me it makes the book even more special. It is a marvelous collection of seasonal recipes, each one with a special meaning to Lisa. Some are her take on everyday classics like macaroni cheese, and others are suitable to serve at your next dinner party. In fact, I’m going to make Lisa’s lemon sole fillets with shrimp butter on Saturday for friends who are coming over. There is also a few gorgeous looking cakes to try which will satisfy those baking mad types…me!
For this blog post I have been inspired by Lisa’s hazelnut meringues which can be found on page 187 of the book. I know this will mean a few sweet blog posts in a row, but I just thought why not and I have a nice savory one planned for next week. I willingly took Lisa’s advice where she writes; “I want you to experiment with these recipes, try them, substitute ingredients, posh them up, dress them down.” and have come up with Marbled Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues. So thank you Lisa, here it is, and I can safely say that I really enjoyed it!
Changes I have made from Lisa’s recipe include lowering the amount of sugar and chopped hazelnut as I felt that not as much of either was needed, but then I always try recipes with less sugar. I have also added cocoa powder to create the chocolate marble flavour and effect.
What you will need:
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- 75g toasted chopped hazelnuts
- 1.5 tbsp of cocoa powder
- 250ml double cream
Makes approx 8 sandwiched meringues
How to make:
- Preheat your oven to 140c/275f/gas 1 and line 2 baking trays with non stick baking paper
- Put 50g (save the other 25g for when the meringues are assembled after cooking) of your hazelnuts in a food processor and whiz until they are chopped up as small as possible.
- Whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form then add the sugar bit by bit and keep whisking until the meringue has stiff peaks
- Use a large metal spoon to fold in your finely chopped hazelnuts
- Now sieve your cocoa powder into the meringue and fold again but this time only do 3 or 4 turns with the spoon s o that a marbled effect is created
- Now use a smaller spoon to create small balls of meringue on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon
- Place in the oven for 1 hour and then turn off the oven and let the meringue sit in the oven until it cool completely. These are quite good to cook in the evening and leave them to cool in the oven over night
- When you are ready to make the meringues up, whip the double cream in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Keep you eye on it as it is very easy to over whip and be left with a bowl of clumpy cream
- Then spread cream onto the flat slide of one of the meringues and sprinkle with a few of the chopped hazelnuts that you saved from putting into the food processor and then sandwich a second meringue on top. Continue until you have sandwiched all the meringues together
The other great news is because meringue stars with ‘M’ I can also enter into this months Alphabakes blog challenge run by Caroline from Caroline Makes and is shared Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker. Love this challenge so thrilled to enter again.
Most Saturday’s I’m left on my own with the children for the afternoon whilst hubby goes off to play rugby. Yes, it is quite annoying especially when I have been looking after the kids all week, but I know he really needs to do it. He works hard with long hours and a fair bit of stress so an afternoon of rugby is the perfect tonic for him. He comes back in such a good mood, even if he is injured or they lost the game which, even though I hate to say it, does make being a rugby widow worth it. Now, I know what you are all thinking…what a wonderful wife I am! And I have to agree with you all there😉
I digress, back to Saturday afternoons! I don’t normally take the kids out because I think after a hectic week, it’s good to have a bit of time at home, plus with three of them to organise, a whole stack of energy is required to get out the door. So I look for something we can do at home and quite often we will get our aprons on and prepare to create a baking masterpiece…well that’s what my girls like to think anyway. This week we had the baking activity already planned because thanks to my new twitter pal Iris from Baked By Me (@bakedbymeuk) I had a Easter cookie jar on the side waiting to be used.
Baked by Me is a new business set up just a month ago. Iris tells me that she loves baking and wanted to share the joy with everyone and so Baked by Me was born. I greatly admire people who have the energy and courage to turn their dreams into reality, and I am thrilled that we got to try out some cookie mix.
The jar arrived in a cute little box and when I opened it up I was impressed with the look and feel. There were some nice touches too, a little hand written note, a fluffy Easter chick and gorgeous ribbon around the jar.
The first job for my four year old was to dig out all the mini eggs, and I could tell that she really enjoyed doing this. It was like a little treasure hunt digging in the sand for gold.
I thought there would maybe be 10 or so eggs hiding but they just kept on coming until we had a whole bowl full!
Then we needed to mix up some egg and butter, which was the only two ingredients I provided. Next, another good job for my four year old, we had to tip the dry ingredients from the jar into the mixing bowl.
After a couple minutes of mixing, we had the most delightfully smelling chocolate cookie dough. In fact I had to pause the proceedings whilst my girls filled their airways with chocolate.
As soon as they come out, the mini eggs go on, another enjoyable part for the girls, and then they are ready to eat. And what a lovely treat they were. Especially nice still warm and gooey from the oven.
It was a super activity and great for me not to have to weigh everything out. If you are looking for an alternative Easter gift this would be a fun option to consider. I might order a job lot and have them on standby for birthday presents. My girls seem to go to a party almost every weekend!
Take a look at the IBaked by Me website to see the whole range. The cost for a cookie mix jar from Baked By Me is between £8.80 and £9.80.
I wish Iris all the best with her new venture.
Disclaimer- I do not work for Baked By Me nor did not get paid to write this review.