If you saw my post about the cake we made for Toby’s fourth birthday recently then you may have noticed me mention my fool proof sponge cake recipe. Well, I thought that sponge cake deserved a post all of its own. So here is my step-by-step guide to the perfect fool proof sponge cake, and if you are a seasoned baker then please forgive me if I am patronising you – I really wanted to go basic so that anyone can follow this recipe and get great results every time. Read more
As we head towards Toby’s fourth birthday, and I consider how I am going to make the requested Numberblocks cake, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this post of how I made his monkey cake again.
I’d never made a cake with any sort of design on it before so when we decided to have a (sort of) party for Toby’s 1st birthday I took to Pinterest to find some inspiration for his cake. I was considering doing a spotty number one cake but decided I didn’t want to brave proper icing and would prefer something with buttercream. Then I saw a few monkey cakes – a perfect choice for my little monkey. I combined a couple of tutorials to come up with a monkey cake of my own…and this is how I did it…
Step 1: Make the cakes
A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be invited to go to Glasgow for a blogger bake off in association with Currys and Kenwood. There were around 30 bloggers of all different kinds from parent bloggers, to lifestyle, fashion and beauty, and even a few food bloggers for good measure! The event was held at The Cookery School in central Glasgow who run all sorts of different cookery courses, when they aren’t playing host to a gaggle (what is the collective noun?) of bloggers on a Sunday.
After a coffee and a chat with some of my fellow bloggers we headed through to the kitchen for the first of the day’s demonstrations from chef Danny McArdle. Now I have to admit I was hoping to stretch my baking skills a bit but the event was definitely aimed more towards the non-bakers amongst us. We were shown how to make scones, victoria sponge and cupcakes and chocolate chip muffins, none of which are particularly challenging for someone who bakes regularly. It was also a bit tricky to see the demonstrations given the number of bloggers squeezed into the main kitchen (and everyone trying to get decent blog-worthy photographs didn’t help!).
Having said that I did learn a few new tricks; for example using 00 flour (it’s milled twice don’t you know?) for scones makes them much lighter, and you can flavour sponge cakes by adding some well-beaten jam or marmalade. I definitely enjoyed eating one of the scones we had made and I had fun decorating my cupcakes too – I was particularly pleased with my chocolate piping skills.
Due to the number of bloggers we were working in groups of three. Although this meant I didn’t get chance to do all the baking myself I did make sure I got a go on one of the beautiful Kenwood Patisser mixers! (Both the mixers were given away to two of the bloggers at the end of the day – unfortunately I didn’t win one but the lovely people at Currys and Kenwood did provide us all with an equally lovely kMix hand mixer to take home with us, along with lots of other goodies too, including my very own #currysinthekitchen apron).
We used the mixer to make the batter for the cupcakes and you could totally tell the difference between that and the one we made by hand for the Victoria sponge. The one made in the mixer was so much lighter! I would absolutely love one of these big stand mixers but we’ve got a lot of saving up to do first…not for the mixer but so we can buy a new house with a big enough kitchen to fit one in! I would definitely recommend using a mixer or hand mixer when making cake batter though – especially for the creaming together butter and sugar stage. Unless you’ve got guns like Stallone then I just don’t think you can get it light and fluffy when you’re doing it by hand, and that’s what you need if you want a light and fluffy sponge cake.
It was lovely to meet so many other Scottish bloggers and I have to say a big thanks to Joe Blogs blogger network for organising the event and inviting me along. It was fantastic to have an event like this in Scotland as so many of the things I’m invited to are in London and not always very easy to get to! And even though Barry had to look after Toby for the day while I went off gallivanting again, I more than made up for it with the amount of cake I brought home!
I love to bake, although I don’t do it that often otherwise me and the hubby would just spend all our time eating cake! I always used to stick to a few favourites but since I started going to my local baking club I like to try out new recipes. And with a meeting of baking club coming up I was on the look out for something new to bake. So when I saw a tweet from Sugar and Crumbs looking for people to try out their new flavours of icing sugar I jumped at the chance!
Sugar and Crumbs is a UK company selling flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder. I had never heard of flavoured icing sugar before I heard of Sugar and Crumbs so I was eager to give it a go. There are 22 different flavours of icing sugar – everything from strawberry milkshake to chilli lime! I was sent two new flavours, coffee and salted caramel, to try along with some black cherry icing sugar. Sugar and Crumbs also sell five different flavoured cocoa powders too and I was sent the chocolate cherry flavour. I haven’t had chance to try the cherry flavours yet to I will write another post about those when I have given them a go. In addition to the icing sugars and cocoa powders, Sugar and Crumbs also sell a range of coloured sugar paste and cake decorations.
So what did I make?
First of all I made a coffee sponge with coffee flavour buttercream. I was going into work for two days last week so I thought I would take in a cake for my hard-working colleagues. I used a very simple method to make the sponge – just weigh two eggs and then use the same weight of butter, castor sugar and self-raising flour. To add a coffee flavour I mixed two tablespoons of instant coffee with the same amount of boiling water, allowed it to cool then added it to the cake batter after it was all mixed. For the buttercream I used 125g butter with the 125g sample pack of coffee icing sugar I was sent and 125g of plain icing sugar. I added a little milk to get the right consistency and I also added a little dribble of coffee left from the cake, more to give the buttercream a bit of a coffee colour than for flavour.
The second cake I made was the one for baking club. This was a Devil’s Food Cake with Salted Caramel flavour buttercream. The recipe for the cake came from the first Great British Bake Off cookery book. It is basically a very chocolatey cake which also has soured cream added. It was a much more complicated recipe than I would usually use but I was pleased with how it came out. And luckily, Toby was happy to sit and play in his highchair and eat some lunch while I made a mess in the kitchen! The cake is baked as two cakes then each is sliced in half to make four layers. In between each layer there is a chocolate ganache made with melted chocolate and more soured cream. The recipe in the book also has this ganache on top the cake too but I decided to use the salted caramel buttercream instead. For this cake I used 100g butter with the 125g of salted caramel icing sugar, 75g of plain icing sugar and a little bit of milk.
- The flavoured icing sugars were very easy to use. Just like using plain icing sugar in fact!
- Both the coffee and salted caramel flavours were nice and strong. This means you can mix part flavoured icing sugar with part plain to get the flavour you need. This also reduces the cost as the flavoured icing sugar is more expensive than plain.
- Everyone who tried my cakes really liked the flavoured buttercream, especially the salted caramel flavour (which someone commented tasted a bit like Butterscotch Angel Delight!)
- Some of the flavours available are really unusual (Banana Split, Galia Melon, Pear Drops and Peach Melba to name a few) – I’m not sure how you would easily add these flavours to icing yourself so being able to buy them ready made is great!
- The products are well packaged in easy open, resealable packets.
- I would say the only real downside to the Sugar and Crumbs products is the price. The icing sugar is £4.99 for 500g, compared to £1 for the same amount of plain icing sugar.
- I would perhaps like the icing sugar to be coloured to reflect the flavour. When I made the coffee buttercream I ended up adding a little bit of coffee just to get the coffee colour – but then this rather defeated the purpose of the flavour already being in the icing sugar!
Due to the price of Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar I probably wouldn’t use it for my everyday baking. Also, I probably wouldn’t buy any of the flavours which are fairly easy to create yourself using plain icing sugar (for example; lemon drizzle, coffee or vanilla). However, for a special bake I would be very tempted by some of the more unusual flavours on offer especially as the cost can be lessened by using a mix of flavoured and plain icing sugars.
**Disclaimer: I was sent samples of flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder from Sugar and Crumbs in return for this review. All opinions are my own.
I love to bake but I tend not to unless it is for some sort of event where I can give away most of what I’ve made – otherwise me and the Mr just end up eating the lot ourselves! Halloween isn’t a holiday I’ve ever really gone in for before but it seems I might have to in future with a wee one in the family. So this weekend when we were meeting up with the other babies (and parents) from our antenatal class I took the chance to make some Halloween cupcakes and I thought I’d share my easy cupcake recipe with you.
I’ve got a couple of basic sponge cake recipes that I use but I can never remember them off the top of my head so when I came across this foolproof recipe on Esther Walker’s blog I thought I’d give it a try. (On a side note; Esther is the wife of Giles Coren and I find her blog, Recipe Rifle, which includes not only recipes but also tales of her life with Giles and their two kids, absolutely hilarious. If you haven’t read it then you should).
The cupcake recipe
All you have to do to get the recipe to make either an 7 inch sandwich cake or about 12-14 cupcakes is weigh 2 eggs (I cracked them into a bowl and weighed them but Esther has said in a comment to her original post that you can weigh them in the shells). Whatever your eggs weigh is then the weight you use of butter (I did use butter this time but usually use Stork for baking), caster sugar and self-raising flour. I also added a teaspoon of baking powder and, because I wanted chocolate cakes, about 2 tablespoons of cocoa.
Esther says to ‘make the cakes in the normal way’ – so cream together butter and sugar, add the eggs then fold in the flour. I use a big bowl and an electric hand mixer – whisk the butter and sugar together then just chuck everything else in and give it a good mix. This seems to work fine. I’ve also made sponges just by throwing all the ingredients into a food processor and mixing well. All these methods seem to work so just take your pick really!
I then spooned the mixture into paper cases in a muffin tin (I actually used old-fashioned bun cases rather than the larger cupcake cases – do you remember when we just used to have buns?!). I put about 2 heaped teaspoons of mixture into each case and this made me 14 nicely domed cakes. I put them in the oven at 180 degrees (fan oven) and they took about 16 minutes to cook but I checked them every couple of minutes after they’d been in for 10 minutes. You can tell they’re done when the top starts to crack and they bounce back when pressed gently on top. If you’re making a sandwich cake it will start to come away from the sides of the tin when it’s done and if you really want to be sure a wooden skewer (a cocktail or kebab stick will do) will come out clean when stuck in the centre.
Once out of the oven try and get your cakes out of the tins and onto a cooling rack of some description as soon as you can. Then the important bit, which I have fallen foul of many times in my eagerness for a cake I can eat as soon as possible, is to wait for the cakes to cool completely before attempting any kind of decoration. If you don’t you’ll just end up with your icing or buttercream or whatever melting and sliding off the cake. Another tip is not to put cakes in paper cases into any sort of storage container (particularly plastic) before they are completely cold otherwise the paper cases will detach themselves from the cakes which doesn’t look very attractive.
I also followed Esther’s rather vague recipe for buttercream as this is something I’ve struggled to get right in the past. She recommends using half a packet of butter (125g) and then just adding sieved icing sugar until it is the taste and consistency is what you are looking for. I did find that to get it sugary enough, and not tasting of butter I had to use rather a lot of icing sugar. This in turn made it too stiff so I added a splash of milk to loosen it. I also added about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract just for a bit of taste. As far as colouring the butter cream goes I really wanted bright orange – I used Dr Oetker’s gel food colouring but a whole tube only gave me a very pale hint of orange. I then used a silicone piping bag with a star nozzle. I’m not very good at piping but as Esther says, it’s easier than it looks. Just start at the outside and work your way to the middle. I did cheat a bit with the last bit of decoration and just bought some Halloween wafer things from Tesco! I will add that after I’d put a generous amount of buttercream on each of my 14 cakes there was still quite a lot left, even after copious licking of the spoon! If was was making this again I’d maybe only use 100g of butter and I think there would still be plenty.
So there you go. A bit waffley for a recipe but sometimes I think it helps to have things explained in detail. Next time I write up a recipe I’ll try and take some photos as I go along as I know that can help if you aren’t entirely sure what you are doing.