Thursday, 27 September 2012

Little Fella's First Birthday Cake

I can't believe that our little fella turned one yesterday.

I have no idea where the last year has gone, but I know that what I have at the end of it makes me very proud and a very lucky mummy.

I tried making Sam's birthday cake and then decorating it with sugarpaste - this is the first one I've attempted. I made my normal chocolate cake (find the recipe here).

I crumb coated it using some chocolate buttercream, then used some coloured Regalice in turquoise and orange to create a present effect.

Sorry - couldn't get to it to take a decent daylight photo before it was eaten!
I was pleased with how I managed to smooth the blue over the whole cake - as long as I used patience and gently smoothed it into place it didn't break. I made spots for the 'paper' and a matching bow and gift tag, which I then painted Sam's name on.

It's not perfect I know, but for a first attempt I was really pleased with it and so thought I would share it with you.

It was, of course, more for us than Sam. But I think he enjoyed his first taste of chocolate cake.

Happy Birthday Sam.

I can't wait to see how the next year goes.


Mummy x

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Chocolate Profiteroles with Raspberry Cream

This month's Random Recipes challenge, hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, has joined forces with Tea Time Treats via Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked. The idea was to randomly pick a tea time treat to cook and then blog about.

So for me, the book that this challenge fell to was 'The Tea Time Cookbook' by Valerie Ferguson (although Amazon have it under a different title). It's in some ways an odd little book, with a mixture of recipes covering cakes, cookies, pies and tarts, breads, jams and jellies and then a section on decorated party cakes. Recipes are contributed by a number of authors, including Angela Boggiano, Roz Denny and Jeni Wright. Some of the content seems a bit dated - it was first published in 2007 - but I guess, though, that you'd be spoilt for choice when choosing something for tea.

When I opened it, the recipe that the book chose for me was one for Chocolate Profiteroles. I was pretty pleased with this. I have made choux pastry once before, when I did the pastry introduction course at Eckington Manor back in March. I've wanted to try it again but just haven't got around to it. This recipe intrigued me, though, as it uses cocoa powder to flavour the choux buns.

I have to be honest though - this did not turn out to be one of my favourite recipes. Following the instructions in the book (to bake at 200 Fan / 220 Conventional / Gas 7 for 35-40 minutes) led to some severely overbaked choux pellets that could have been used for the shot put in the Olympics. They were inedible. That being the case, I took some poetic license and reverted to the recipe sheet I was given at Eckington Manor. Baking at 175 Fan for 25 minutes gave a much better result. Sadly, by this time, I had only enough choux paste to make 5 profiteroles and one tiny little taster bun. The cream filling is simply double cream whipped to soft peaks with a little icing sugar, and some mashed raspberries mixed through. The chocolate sauce is a simple chocolate and cream ganache.

Chocolate Profiteroles with Raspberry Cream

Ingredients (should make around 24)

For the pastry
150g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
250ml water
1/2 tspn salt
1 tbspn sugar
115g unsalted butter
5 medium (57 - 63g) eggs

For the filling
150ml double cream
125g raspberries
3 tbspns icing sugar

For the chocolate sauce
50g chocolate
25g double cream

Preheat the oven - I used 175 Fan. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

Put the water, butter, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the flour mix all in one go, and stir vigorously until the mixture comes away form the sides of the pan. Place back over the heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly, so that the flour has time to cook out. Remove from the heat.

In a jug, lightly beat together the eggs to mix, and then a little at a time, beat them into the flour mixture. You may not need all the eggs (I did) so stop when you get a smooth, glossy mix that has a dropping consistency. Place the mixture in a piping bag and pipe buns 2 inches apart on a lined baking tray. You can use a dampened finger to gently pat the little peaks flat.

So for the batch that actually turned out OK, I then baked them in the oven for 25 minutes at 175 Fan. Took them out and cut them in half, then replaced them in the oven for five further minutes to dry them out. Remove and then put on a wire rack to cool completely.

I then filled them with the raspberry cream - whip the cream until the soft peak stage. Mash the raspberries with the icing sugar and then fold this gently through the cream. place a scoop of the cream on the bottom half of one of the choux buns, and cover with the top.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate and cream in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat gently until it melts, stirring to mix. Leave to cool a bit but then spoon over the choux buns to form the sauce.

As well as Random Recipes does Tea Time Treats, I'm also sending this to Ros at More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes, for Alphabakes, as the letter this month is 'P'.

I still love the idea of Chocolate Profiteroles which have a double dose of chocolate via the choux, but think this recipe could usefully be tweaked a bit. The choux was almost too chocolatey, and the first batch made at the higher temperature were decidedly bitter. The raspberry cream was lovely though, and complemented the dark chocolate ganache. It was just like a big 'ol flavour bomb going off in my mouth.

So I may just have to have an experiment!



I'm also entering these into Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes' monthly Classic French Challenge. As Jen notes below, the topic this month is choux. If your a 'choux' addict, or even a 'shoe' addict, then check out the blog at the end of the month for her round up. [Sorry, currently on a sugar high and couldn't resist that ;) ]

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Apparently, it's cupcake month. Well, according to Food Network and a few others.

(I must be a bit odd then as it seems every month is cupcake month in our house.)

Anyway, I came across a new recipe the other day that I wanted to try, as it involved toffee and caramel. Two of my favourite flavours. But it was the salted caramel that really caught my attention. It's something I've always wanted to try making but have never got around to it. I had a bit of a nudge the other week though.

Now, I suspect like anyone else that is interested in baking, I have been hooked to the latest series of Great British Bake Off, currently on BBC2. It's hard not to sympathise with the contestants when they are put through their paces on one of the technical challenges, or are under the pressure of having to produce a showstopping bake against the clock in an unfamiliar oven. Last week's episode had them making cremé caramels for the technical challenge, and there was much angst over saucepans of boiling sugar and water. So, idiot that I am, I decided I wanted to give caramel another go. (The only other time I have made caramel - and that was hard sugar - was for the crown on my Jubilee Royal Velvet Cake).

The recipe I had found was by Fiona Cairns for her Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream from her book, Bake and Decorate (you can  also find the recipe online here). It seems that I'm a bit late to this particular party, as there are also some great blogging posts detailing it, including this one by Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker from a couple of years ago.

But still. I wanted to give it a go. I scaled it down a bit though, and decided to try a way of making a smooth date pureé for the sponge. So here's what I did.

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients (makes 6)

90g pitted, chopped dates (I used ready chopped ones)
1/2 tspn vanilla bean paste
90g self raising flour
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
40g softened unsalted butter
75g light muscovado sugar
1 large egg

For the caramel
63g white caster sugar
40ml double cream
1/4 tspn salt (or more if liked)
1/2 tspn vanilla extract

For the salted caramel buttercream
80g softened salted butter
100g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 165 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Place the dates in a heatproof bowl and pour over 90ml of boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes or so to soak and soften. Mash the dates with a fork and then, to get a smooth pureé, pass the mash through a sieve (this fishes out all the little bits of tough skin, which while I love dates, don't particularly like getting caught in my teeth). Add the vanilla bean paste (or you could just use extract in the same quantity). Mix well and then set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy (this took me around 5 minutes in my stand mixer using the paddle attachment). Add the egg and mix (it may start to look curdled - don't worry as when you add the flour and bicarbonate of soda - next - it'll come back together). Once the flour and bicarbonate of soda has been added, and mixed in, then add the date puree and mix until just incorporated. This gives a lovely, toffee coloured cake batter.

Scoop the mixture into your prepared cases and bake in the centre of the oven for about 18 - 20 minutes until risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the caramel, put the sugar along with 30ml of water into a saucepan. Place over a gentle heat and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Then, turn the heat up and bring to a boil - stop stirring at this point. If you feel you need to, just swirl the saucepan occasionally to stop hot spots burning. You need to watch like a hawk now. Gradually, as the sugar boils it will begin to turn colour, but it can go too dark and burn very quickly. You are aiming for a deep amber colour, like strong tea. Once you've got to that point, remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the cream, then the salt and vanilla, stirring carefully as it is incredibly hot and you don't want it to splatter you. BE CAREFUL, AS IT WILL HURT IF IT CATCHES YOU! (Did you notice the wagging finger?)

Seriously, don't take any chances and keep a bowl of ice cold water ready so you can plunge your finger / hand in in the event of any untoward sugar incident.

Once it is mixed, you should hopefully have a smooth caramel sauce. Leave it to cool. It will thicken as it does, but you want it cool so it doesn't melt the buttercream.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the icing sugar for at least five minutes (this'll make sure ot is smooth, light and fluffy). I didn't bother sifting my icing sugar as I didn't find it necessary. Add the caramel and beat well until it is fully incorporated. Try not to lick too much out of the bowl (I failed miserably at that).

Pipe or spread the buttercream on the top of the cakes.

These were really delicious. The toffee sponge is fairly subtle compared to the punch of the caramel buttercream, but they do go well together. The sponge was light and fluffy. The one comment Mike made - as he was busy scarfing one down - was that as he loves sticky toffee pudding, which has a sauce to accompany the sponge, he had expected something a bit more like that. So, next time I make them, I'm going to try making some more caramel - and of a slightly runnier consistency - so that I can put some in the centre of the cakes (like the lemon curd in my Lemon Meringue Cupcakes). Anyway, I definitely love the whole salted caramel thingy - it really appealed to my sweet/savoury side. And making the caramel was an easy - if wary - experience.

As it is also Cupcake Month on Calendar Cakes, I'm going to submit them to the challenge hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of Dolly Bakes.
This month's host is Laura so the round up should appear on her blog around the end of the month.



Saturday, 1 September 2012

Little Orange Ricotta Cakes

It was pretty horrible and grey in Cardiff last week. The rain seems to have taken on an unseemly persistence which is guaranteed only to break as the boys head back to school next week. Mooching about the house looking for something to bake, I decided to try and bring a bit of citrussy zing to the table to pep everyone up. These little cakes are based on a recipe for a larger bundt-type cake. But I wanted to do something a little different with it, and so decided to use some cardboard Baking Moulds from Lakeland to make some little individual cakes. I hadn't used them before, but a couple of weeks ago, I had one of the cutest little lemon cakes in one (at my fab local deli, Deli a Go Go) and when I saw them in Lakeland thought I had to give them a go. You could always use ordinary cupcake liners though.

The recipe is adapted from one of my 'cookbooks of the moment', Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman (I love this little book as it has such delicious sounding recipes and fantastic flavour combinations. It's a US book though, so uses measuring cups that you need to translate). As I wanted to make a much smaller amount of mix for just 6 cakes, rather than the large one, I played around with the amounts. Even then I ended up with mix enough for 7, so made a little mini-bundt. Sadly - or happily if you were Mike and I - that didn't last long enough to be photographed. I also decided to make a simple icing glaze, using icing sugar and orange juice, and then to decorate with orange zest. Wow! This certainly gave the zinginess I was looking for and the cake itself was delicious - subtly flavoured with orange and vanilla. The texture was denser than some, but still very moist as a result of the ricotta. The icing gave a nice touch, especially with the oil from the grated orange zest creeping in to it.

Orange Ricotta Cakes

Ingredients (makes 7 little cakes - 6 square and one mini bundt)

210g plain flour
3/4 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tspn salt
85g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
135g ricotta cheese, at room temperature
2 medium eggs (to get the right measurement for the recipe, I cracked them into a jug and weighed out 75g beaten egg)
2 tbspns freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 tspn vanilla extract
3/4 tspn orange zest.

For the glaze
Sifted icing sugar - about a cup and a half's worth
2 tbspns orange juice
To decorate - strips of orange zest
(In total, I used 2 oranges - one for the cake (zest and juice) and glaze (juice) and the second for the zest to decorate)

Preheat the oven to 140 Fan / 160 Conventional / 325 F / Gas 3. Either use some baking moulds or prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Mix the flour in a medium bowl with the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer on medium). Add the ricotta and mix until smooth.

Gradually add the beaten egg, mixing to incorporate. Don't worry if it looks curdled, as it will come together as soon as you add the flour. Add the orange juice, zest, and vanilla, and mix briefly for a few seconds.

Now add the flour, and mix until incorporated and then give it about 30 more seconds. Scoop into the baking moulds so they are about half to two thirds full. Level the surface as best you can. 

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until risen, golden and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Make up the glaze by mixing the icing sugar and orange juice until you have the consistency of double cream. Spoon over the top of the cakes to coat. Sprinkle a little orange zest over the top to decorate, if liked. [I found that the oil from the zest ran into the icing in little rivers - see the little cracks in the photo. It gave it a really fresh, orangy taste]

It can be a little tricky extracting the cake from the bakers moulds - but after botching one, I found the easiest way was to just undo the seams.

With their citrussy aroma and flavour, these little cakes certainly brightened up my day.


* Just for the record, everything I use on the blog is bought and paid for by me. If I mention something, it's because I've found it good and I think you might be interested to know what I've used.