home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Forever Nigella #10 - Lemon Meringue Cake

I have baked this as a Christmas Day dessert for the last two years. It is delicious, and light enough to squeeze in after an enormous plate of Christmas dinner. I'm going to try something different for Christmas Day this year but couldn't quite let go of this, so I wheeled it out for a pre-Christmas lunch with friends at the weekend. Perfect timing for the 10th Forever Nigella, hosted by Maison Cupcake.

Though called a cake, this is more of a dessert as the cake layer is very thin. The recipe comes from Nigella's 'Feast', and is also published on her web site. Nigella suggests replacing the lemon curd with passion fruit curd to serve this at Easter. To make it a little more 'Christmassy' I swapped the lemon for orange, which also worked well.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Corporate Logo Cupcakes for Christmas

I have been busy baking hundreds of these this week for the lovely people at Blue Cube to give to their clients as Christmas gifts. I must try a few with my own logo some time, to see how they look.

I had a lovely day off on Friday once this order was finished, and went to visit the Harrods food hall for the very first time. Sarah of Scrumptious Sally was horrified that I never been and made it her mission to rectify the situation.  We did get a little side tracked by the beauty counters as Sarah was on a lipstick finding mission, but once that was that was done (how much??!) we moved on to the delights of the food hall. I still have a pistachio marzipan treat from William Curley awaiting my attention downstairs. It is hidden from view until I get a moment alone to enjoy it in peace.

Even more fun than Harrods was our fabulous lunch at Ottolenghi in Islington. I have been waiting to go there for so long that there was a real danger the meal would not live up to my expectations. Suffice to say that I was not disappointed. There was a huge array of delicious veggie salads on display, and mountains of beautiful cakes. Accompanied by a lovely glass of wine this was just perfect. A brilliant day out.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Swedish Saffron Buns for Saint Lucia's Day

These saffron buns, known as lussebulle or lussekatte, are traditionally eaten in Sweden on 13 December, Saint Lucia's Day. I was asked to make them having never even seen them before, and with no idea how they were supposed to taste. Therefore a trial run was in order, but the high price of saffron meant that I only had one chance to get it right. I found several recipes on line, and based on reviews of these and a lack of fresh yeast, I made some adaptations and decided on this:

Lussekatte (makes 12)

120ml semi skimmed milk
30ml double cream
65g butter
0.4g saffron (one pack)
75g caster sugar
350g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried yeast
1 egg
24 raisins

Using a pestle and mortar, grind the saffron threads into powder. This is easier to do if a pinch of sugar is added to the saffron. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the cream and saffron. Pour this over the dried yeast and stir to remove any lumps. Add the sugar, followed by the flour and salt. The mixture should come together into a beautiful golden yellow, slightly sticky dough. Leave this to rest in a clean bowl, covered with a tea towel, for approximately 30 minutes.

Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, then divide into 12 even sized balls. Roll each ball into a sausage shape, approximately 15cm long. Shape each one into a reverse 's' shape and place on a lined baking tray. Push a raisin into each end, as pictured above. Cover with a tea towel and leave for another 40 minutes.

Cover each bun with an egg wash and bake at 180 degrees (fan oven), for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm or cold, but eat the same day or perhaps freeze. The saffron dries the dough out, so these will not keep for long. They probably won't hang around for long anyway, as they are very yummy! Perfect with a hot chocolate on a cold day. I asked a lovely Swedish friend to do a taste test for authenticity and she gave them the nod, so hopefully we will be OK for Saint Lucia's Day.

Monday, 5 December 2011

My First Gingerbread House

I have seen some beautiful gingerbread houses recently and thought it high time I attempted one myself. I used a gingerbread recipe from the BBC Good Food web site, which was very tasty and easy to work with. The house is far from perfect, but I was happy with it for a first attempt. The kids are taking it to a tea party tomorrow and can't wait to pull it apart and start eating.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Hello Kitty Birthday Cake and a Big Chocolate Eight

I'm a week behind - these are the products of last week's kitchen endeavours. Hello Kitty was for my daughter's school friend, and the big eight was for a friend's daughter who is by all accounts a massive chocoholic. I hope that both lovely girls had fantastic birthdays and enjoyed their cakes.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hotel Chocolat Product Review

My son and I recently went to collect a parcel from the Post Office depot and were delighted to find a parcel from Hotel Chocolat. I had been asked to pick a product from the Christmas range to review, so it was no surprise, but exciting to receive chocolate in the post nonetheless.

I love chocolate but usually only in small doses, and have earned myself a reputation for making a box of chocs last an inordinate length of time. The ever present bar of Green and Blacks in my desk drawer would usually keep me going for at least a fortnight (unless discovered by a nosy colleague), and I have never managed to eat a whole Mars Bar.

My only previous encounter with Hotel Chocolat was when I was given a box of their chocolates one Christmas. I enjoyed them but found them a little large and to be honest, nothing special, so I was keen to try something different from their range. My dilemma was whether to choose something aimed at the kids, to share with all the family, or to pick something a bit more grown up and more to my taste. I decided that the kids had already been spoilt at Halloween and went for something nutty, which in my opinion is the best way for chocolate to be.

I chose the Nutty Noel Pick Me Up, and was not disappointed.

The box included cinnamon almonds, six gingerbread truffles and a penguin shaped bar of dark chocolate. The almonds were my favourite, and I had no problem at all polishing these off. The cinnamon flavour was just right and worked perfectly with the chocolate covered almonds. I also enjoyed the truffles, which were small, but just right for me. I thought the gingerbread flavour may be overpowering, but it wasn't, it was spot on. The penguin bar was nothing to get excited about, but still enjoyable. I'm not sure about the name of the product, as the only nuts were the almonds, but overall, it was a lovely gift pack which I imagine most people would be very happy to receive.

The only unfortunate aspect for me was that I had to share my goodies with my son Noah, who unexpectedly loved them all. So much for choosing a grown up gift to eat myself!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Christmas Baking and a New Career

I have been neglecting my blog for the last few weeks as things have been a little busy around here. I finished up at work last Friday (and had a massive night out to celebrate!), and am now going solo as Vanilla Frost Cakes. There is still a lot to do, but things are finally taking shape. I have a beautiful new logo, but due to my technical ineptitude I can't show you that today.

I kicked off my first self employed week with a stall at the very atmospheric St Faith's Christmas Fayre in Brentford. It was a great way to start the festive season, with lots of lovely stalls selling beautiful Christmas gifts, food demonstrations from the local butchers, fishmongers and deli, and hot food and mulled wine a plenty. There were also Christmas carols from a local school choir amongst others.

For my stall I made Christmas cakes, Christmas pudding cake pops, chocolate macarons, florentines, brownies and cupcakes. I'm pleased to say that most of it sold. My lovely friend Emily came to help me man the stall, which was much appreciated.

After last night I am feeling very festive and would like to get started on the Christmas shopping, but the kitchen still needs tiling, so I'm off to get stuck into that instead.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Random Recipes #9 - Thai Cucumber Cups

This month's Random Recipes Challenge from the lovely Dom at Belleau Kitchen  takes me away from my baking comfort zone and into the unfamiliar world of Thai cuisine. Those of us who contributed to the September challenge were paired up and asked to provide each other with a random recipe. We each had to count our recipe books and ask our partners to randomly pick a book by number, and a page from the book to identify the recipe.

I was paired with Phil from As Strong as Soup, whose blog was new to me, but I am now a keen follower. I counted a total of 46 cook books on my shelves and duly reported back to Phil, with my fingers crossed for a lovely cake recipe.

Phil clearly has quite an imagination as his method for selecting my recipe was most unusual. He divided the serial number of his new lawnmower by its price and then by the frequency of the radio station he was listening to and came up with the number 11. Number 11 was not a baking book, but 'Complete Thai Cooking' by Carol Bowen, Cara Hobday and Sue Ashworth. We picked this book up years ago in a cheap bookshop in Plymouth. Whilst I am not particularly familiar with it, my husband does produce some mean curried noodles using this book, so I still had hope for something good. As I am a vegetarian I was hoping for something that I could eat as I am not in the habit of cooking fancy meat dishes for my husband. I can roast a chicken but it doesn't get much more exciting than that.

Phil came up with a very elaborate means of identifying a page number, using the track listings from various albums he had been listening to that day. I followed Phil's instructions and turned to page 79 with much anticipation, only to find a recipe for Filled Cucumber Cups. At least it was vegetarian.

This recipe involved carving pretty shapes from chunks of cucmber and filling them with a tasty mix of peanuts, lime juice, shallots, chilli and not much else. It also recommended filling cherry tomatoes with the same peanut mix. I thought it sounded a bit dull so I made a few sweetcorn fritters from another page in the book to accompany the cucumber cups, and ended up with a very tasty little plate of Thai starters.

This is a recipe I would never have chosen, which I guess is the point of the Random Recipes challenge. So thank you Dom and Phil, as I thoroughly enjoyed my Thai Cucumber Cups!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Rainbow Fairy Cake - Evie's Birthday Part 2

Today was party day. 30 kids in a massive play gym to celebrate Evie's 6th birthday, (and a husband with even more enthusiasm for somersaults than the kids) . Everyone had a great time, but we are now all shattered. I think this birthday is finally finished.

Evie chose Rainbow Fairy for the theme of her birthday cake, as it is the name of the solo she dances at the festivals. I was very nervous about whether or not my rainbow would stand up, but it did and all was well.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Malteser Cake - Evie's Birthday Part 1

My daughter turned six on Sunday, and though her party is not until next weekend, we could not let the day go by without celebrating. Once swimming lessons and lunch were out of the way we hit the disco, hosted by Dusty, a giant dog.

Once we had exhausted our moves we headed home for a birthday tea with the kids' cousins. This, of course, required a cake. I wanted to keep it simple as the 'real' cake is for next weekend, so we opted for a marble cake covered in Maltesters and Chocolate Fingers. Evie did a lot of the baking herself and was very pleased with the marble effect produced by her 'blobbing'. As far as I could tell there weren't even any bits of eggshell in there. Good work Evie.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Baby Shower Cupcakes

Seeing Astral's recent baby shower post on her blog, The Art of Being Perfect, has reminded me that I have some baby shower cupcakes of my own to post. I made these for a friend at work who is a total red velvet freak and would eat them every day if only she could. Her friend's baby shower gave her perfect excuse to eat a few more. The girls kindly sent me some pictures as I forgot to take any!   

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Nigella's Gleaming Maple Cheesecake

It seems that I am totally hooked on Nigella's cheescakes. I have now found another of her cheesecake recipes that I absolutely love. This one comes from the Nigella Christmas book. It is not a book I own but the recipe is easy enough to find online. I would highly recommend a Google search, as this cheesecake was delicious. The maple syrup is tasty without being overpowering or sickly sweet (unlike my porridge last week when I was a little heavy handed with the maple), and the pecans in the biscuit base are the perfect complement.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Chocolate Crackles from the Great British Bake Off Book

A lovely friend gave me the new GBBO book for my birthday, and this week I have christened it. In other words I have tested a couple of recipes and covered the appropriate pages in smudges of butter and splodges of egg. Whilst I am not a particularly messy baker I can't deny that my cookbooks are a touch grubby. You can spot my favourite recipes as the pages of the book will be stuck together. So my lovely new, shiny Bake Off book is a little less pristine now that I have baked both the strawberry and white chocolate cake and the chocolate crackles.

The book is laid out well with different categories to reflect the themes of each episode of the show. It is full of useful technical tips from Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, and makes for a pretty good read. I would have liked to have seen more pictures of the food as a lot of the recipes are not illustrated. It is usually the photo of the finished product that inspires me to bake something, so for me the book is lacking a little here. 

The two recipes I tried were both successful. Unfortunately the strawberry and white chocolate cake was demolished before I could take any pictures, but I will be making it again some time so will post  pictures then. I also was looking for something easy to bake with my daughter, and picked out the recipe for chocolate crackles. These are not to be confused with chocolate rice crispy cakes (or chocolate crackolates as we called them), which I believe are known as chocolate crackles in Australia. These are chocolate biscuits coated in icing sugar that crack during cooking to reveal the dark chocolate inside.  

These were delicious and very moreish! It was a great recipe to bake with Evie as there was plenty she could do. She also loved the way the little balls of powdered dough changed shape during cooking to become pretty, cracked biscuits. We will definitely be making this one again as well. Next though, I think we will try one of the bread recipes or maybe Holly's delicous looking cheese and onion pie.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Printed Logo Cupcakes for a Corporate Branding Event

I finish work early on a Friday to do the school run, so I unfortunately missed out on the party corporate branding event that took place in our staff room last week. I did contribute by making some cupcakes complete with company logo, but sadly missed the fancy dress arm wrestling.

I ordered the printed icing discs online from Cakes Crazy and was very impressed by the quality of the print, as well as the speed of delivery. The arrived the next day! The logo was printed onto wafer thin discs of icing that need to be stuck onto fondant icing discs. This needs a bit of foresight as the discs need at least one night to dry out before use, to stop them going floppy. I panicked intially when I couldn't remove the discs from the backing sheet but the Cakes Crazy website had some very good tips for this, and all was well in the end. Printed icing is never going to be a budget option, but for a corporate event I think it is very effective.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Random Recipes #8 - Dan Lepard's Blueberry Almond Bars

This month Dom at Belleau Kitchen has challenged those of us with piles of recipes cut from magazines to randomly select one and actually get round to baking it. I consulted my stash of cuttings and came up with Dan Lepard's blueberry almond bars.

It turns out that the vast majority of my cut out recipes are actually Dan Lepard's, taken from the Guardian magazine, and yet this is the first of his recipes that I have actually tried. The recipe is published on the Guardian web site, dated July 2009, an indicator of how long I have been adding to the mounting pile of cuttings on the kitchen shelf. They have been sitting squeezed between the icing sugar and pasta twists, awaiting my attention, for some time now. So thank you Dom, for the kick up the bum. Here are my blueberry almond bars, and very tasty they were too!

Of course the success of this recipe will only encourage me to collect more Dan Lepard recipes from the Guardian. I might have to make more space on the shelf.

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Birthday Cake for my Boy - the Gnome's Garden

My lovely boy Noah turned four today and we celebrated yesterday with a BBQ and some party games. After working through six or seven ideas for his cake Noah finally settled on a gnome theme, with a few 'mini beasts' to keep Mr Gnome company in his garden.

Noah was delighted with his cake, particularly because the gnome resembled his grandad!

We also had a few cake pops at the party, which proved to be particularly popular with the pirates. 

Noah had a great day and is already planning next year's cake.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Blueberry Cupcakes for the End of Summer

I have been meaning to post these pictures for a while as I made the cupcakes some time ago, when there was still a whiff of summer in the air. I have two children at home, one of whom loves blueberries, the other who loathes them. However he does love a good cake, so I thought I'd see if he would eat the blueberries in cake form. He ate them very happily (but still refuses to eat them any other way).

I tried two different versions. The first was a vanilla cake with the bluberries stirred through, then decorated with blueberry buttercream. The other was a vanilla cake with a hole cut of the centre and filled with cooked blueberries, and then decorated with lemon buttercream. 

My personal preference was the lemon buttercream version, but the vote was split.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

Brentford Festival Cake Stall

This Sunday, 4 September, Scrumptious Sally and I will be selling our cakes at Brentford Festival. The Festival is held in Boston Manor Park, Brentford and is a great family day out. Last year there was live music, some excellent stalls, donkey rides, a Viking battle and a dalek! Plus some delicious cakes of course.

Hope to see some of you there!