Monday, 24 May 2010

turning a tantrum into a beautiful birthday cake!

Tantrum in the kitchen

More often than not, edible birthday presents are the best kind.  That's why I opted for a birthday cake in the shape of a birthday present!

I knew this was going to be somewhat of a challenge.  There were sure to be a number of hurdles along the way.  I got over most of them and whacked my shin on just a few.  This was a good exercise in keeping calm and a realisation that cakes can be quite unpredictable, no matter how meticulously you plan your creations.

That moment when you open the oven door to discover that your cake has risen to just half of the height you expected can be a toughy.  However, I am learning more and more each time I make a cake, that you have to be prepared to adapt things as you go along.  That may mean changing dimensions, making extra cakes, re-thinking methods.  Anything that you can do to avoid scrapping perfectly tasty, but unfortunate looking baked goods.

If i do say so myself, you'd probably never guess that i threw a hissy fit halfway through making this cake.

Inside was a rather beautiful chocolate sponge.  It's a good'un.  Lush chocolate cake recipe

The cake should be attached to the board with royal icing or 

tip:  If either of your cakes sink (ahem) put the sunken side underneath.  This way the top of the cake will be flat and the buttercream in the middle will fill in any gaps.

I then covered the outside of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream.  This works as a kind of polyfiller and smoothes out any dimples in the cake to give you a nice smooth surface to work with.  You can also use ganache or marzipan for this (although i wouldn't recommend putting marzipan on a chocolate cake...)

stabbing the gel dye into the icing is fun...

Then came the colouring of the paste.  Colouring up large amounts of sugarpaste with gel dye can be an arduous task so be prepared to get achey hands and to get a bit messy.

The decorating of the cake took a few days to complete, waiting for bits to dry etc.

I had made the stars a week or so earlier as they were a job in themselves...

Stars on wires (in a spray)

You will need:


gel dye

edible glue

florists' tape

flower pic

florists' wire

rolling pin

icing sugar for dusting

star shaped cutters

wire cutters


Colour up your sugarpaste.

Cut your wires into 3 (you could cut them into more or less if you wanted shorter or longer wires)

The thickness of your stars will depend on the strength of the wire you've chosen (although probably no thicker than about half a centimeter as they'll look bulky).  The thinner the wire, the more you will be able to bend it and the more movement there will be.  However a thinner wire will need a thinner star otherwise it wont stay up, so try a few different thicknesses out.  Push the wire into the star and hold the wire at the bottom to see if it sits how you want it to.

Once you're happy with the thickness of your stars, sprinkle some icing sugar onto a clean non-stick surface and roll out enough paste to cut out all of your stars in one go so that they're all the same thickness.

Bend one end of each of your wires so they have a tiny hook.

Dip the end into your edible glue and while it's flat, carefully push it into your star.  Be careful not to push it in too far so that it comes out the other side.  Do this to all of them and leave them to dry flat.

You can of course make any shape, not just stars.  You can also decorate them however you like.  I used royal icing to pipe '21' onto all of mine and then covered them with edible glitter.

Give the stars a few days to dry completely.

To arrange them on your cake, put them all together in a bunch and get them looking nice and neat.

Cut off any straggling ends of the wires.

Using your floristry tape, bind them together at the end.  Don't tape too high up otherwise you won't be able to pull them apart.

Push the ends of the bound wire into your pic.  The pic is the only part that can safely be put into edible goods.

push your pic into the centre of the cake and then put the wires around until they look beautiful.


All in all, this cake was a huge success and i'm rather looking forward to making it again.  Get your orders in quick!!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Babycakes, you just don't know know

It's not so easy to type today because the cat is asleep on the keyboard.

I thought I would share with you some baby cakes I made for some friends who recently had an ickle one.

I was massively inspired by my new Planet Cake book.  It's full of beautiful cake designs and excellent advice to help you make rather exquisite looking cakes. (even if i do say so myself).  I would definitely recommend a peruse of that website.  

I used the trusty Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe for the actual cakes.  I then used a thin layer of royal icing on top of them to stick the sugar paste to.  You could also use buttercream, ganache or boiled apricot jam as your glue.

If you've got a circle cutter that's similar enough in size to the top of your cupcake and a decent smoother, you're well on the way to having a neatly covered cupcake.  Simply spread your 'glue' (nice and thinly), place the sugarpaste circle on top and then carefully smooth it down.

If your cupcake has a rounded, or domed top then you will have to do a bit of work on the edges with the smoother, to get them to reach the edges.  If your cupcake is completely flat then you will need your circle to be as close to the size of the top of the cake as possible.  If your cupcake is uneven on the top, you could use a sharp knife to even it out.  Also, vary the thickness of the sugarpaste slightly, depending on whether you need to cover up any bumpy bits!

Once you've got your nice smooth surface, you can decorate away!

Sorry if i got that horrid song stuck in your head...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Red velvet cupcakes

The Red Panda. Awwww!

There's something so exciting about making something a different colour to what it should be.  Therefore, i was SO up for trying out some red velvet cupcakes.  Apparently these little delights originally got their red colour from a chemical reaction that took place between the ingredients used to make them.  As time passed however, something happened and they no longer do that.  (Explanations on a postcard please)

So, these days, we cram them full of red food colouring so that when you stick your fork (or face) into them, you are still greeted with a burst of bright red cakey joy.

Kal sat dribbling while i snapped his cake

I went for the hummingbird bakery recipe.  I became a bit wary of this book after several failed attempts to re-create the vanilla cupcakes which look so beautiful in the photos. After lots of googling, I found that numerous people had the same problem with that recipe (and a few others).  Each time, my cupcakes had come out dense with a funny bubbly layer on the top and although I planned to plaster them with icing, it just wasn't good enough.

 However, I decided to let them off as their chocolate muffins were so good.

The recipe made me feel a bit nostalgic because it contains bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and red food colouring, which as I'm sure most people know means VOLCANOES!  In my case, a huuuge Papier-m√Ęche one that erupted tremendously all over the floor!

I can't pretend i wasn't excited when I pulled these out of
the oven.

Different recipes call for different types of food dye, but I had read that the gel dye was more effective and it felt better to just put in a teaspoon of gel, rather than a whole bottle of liquid dye.

The icing is a cream cheese icing, made with butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.  There are tonnes of different versions available on the web, including here .  A really great icing reference page! 

All in all.  These were a huge success.  Although they are made with cocoa, they aren't really chocolate cakes at all.  They have a subtle chocolately flavour and a beautiful texture.  And best of all, they're blimin red!