home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Monday, 23 May 2011

Apricot and Almond Cookies (and Another Octonauts Cake!)

I had an unusually quiet morning at home with my three year old son Noah today. After a bit of a crazy weekend we decided to hang out at home, play a bit of football and bake a cake. Unfortunately we couldn't agree on a cake (I wanted to try the Hummingbird honey and walnut loaf, but apparently Noah doesn't like nuts), so we went with the apricot and almond cookies from the same book (he didn't realise almonds were nuts). It's a very straightforward recipe with plenty for Noah to do. He soon tired of chopping apricots, but thought pressing toasted almonds into balls of cookie dough was fun.

The cookies came out well, though finding exactly the right cooking time for a good mix of chewiness and crunch was a bit tricky. I think we decided that 18 minutes gave the best results in the end. The flavour combination was good, with neither the apricots or the almonds being too overwhelming. Noah loved them and has decided that whilst walnuts are still 'yuck' and we're never going to make the honey and walnut loaf, almonds are his new favourite thing, even if they are actually nuts.

Apricot and Almond Cookies (adapted from Cake Days, by the Hummingbird Bakery)

Makes 12 generously sized cookies

135g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
80g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
190g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
60g ground almonds
20g toasted flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade and line three baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then the vanilla essence. Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Add to the butter and sugar mixture in two batches, then stir in the apricots and ground almonds.

Shape the cookie dough into approxiamtely 12 balls, using about 2 tablespoons for each one. Place the balls on the baking trays, leaving large gaps between each. I only cooked four on each tray. Press flaked almonds into the top of each ball and cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on the tray for ten minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Another Tribute to Captain Barnacles and his Crew

I know I've already posted a picture of an Octonauts cake, but I made a slightly different one this weekend and because I'm quite proud of it I'm going to post this one too. My theory has always been that making a cake for the second time would be much quicker than the first attempt because I would already have the design worked out and wouldn't need any 'thinking time'. I was still up until 1.30am for this one, but I'd like to think that if it hadn't been for the Thai curry and prosecco breaks it would indeed have been a reasonably early finish. Still, it was nice to have company while I worked. Thanks for staying up late with me Cath, and happy birthday Martha.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Spiderman Cake

I made this last weekend. There aren't many pictures of fondant modelled Spidermen online, so inspiration was lacking, but I think he came out OK. He is far from perfect but apparently he was convincing enough for the birthday boy, Anthony. Anthony was also treated to a massive Spiderman bouncy castle in his back garden, which he shared with all his neighbours. Sounds like a fun afternoon.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Pretty Embossed Cupcakes

I recently discovered a new online shop to fritter away money on cake related goods and last week spent a rainy lunch break at work doing just that. I came across Purple Cupcakes by chance but found that though they stock a limited range of products they had just what I had been looking for. I placed my order and two days later it arrived, complete with a mini Lindt chocolate. I now have some new daisy cutters, a drying mat for my daisies, two embossing mats and most importantly, a set of mini alphabet embossers. These have been very hard to find.

Now that I was all tooled up I just needed an excuse to bake fancy cupcakes. My niece helped me out by turning ten at the weekend and inviting all her cousins round for a birthday breakfast.

The embossing mats were easy to use and left a perfect imprint every time. The letters were fiddly but I guess you can't expect anything else when working with something that small. Purple Cupcakes were a good find and I shall definitely shop with them again. They did send me chocolate after all.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Rhubarb Loaf and Bill Granger's Lime, Coconut and Macadamia Cake

I've been trying out a few new recipes lately, with varying degrees of success. These two both surprised me.

The rhubarb loaf recipe came from my new Hummingbird book, 'Cake Days'. On first inspection it felt as though the people at the Hummingbird Bakery were scraping the barrel a bit in order to put together a second book. Some of the recipes did not appeal to me at all and a few of the old favourites, such as vanilla and red velvet cupcakes, had reappeared after already being published in the first book. After a second read through however, I had a mental list of several recipes I fancied trying, one of which was this rhubarb and almond cake. It didn't look hugely exciting in the picture but would be a welcome change from cupcakes and frosting (and besides, rhubarb is in season and half price in Sainsbury's at the moment).

The cake I produced looked even less exciting than the one pictured in the pretty book as it lacked the lovely pink colour of the rhubarb that was shown. I think I may have 'over stewed' my rhubarb a little, but I still can't see how the Hummingbird bakers achieved this colour throughout their cake. I guess they paid a bit more for their rhubarb and didn't get any green bits! Aside from the colour mine still didn't look quite right but it tasted good, and better still after a few hours when the flavour of the ground almonds became more pronounced and the spices a bit more subtle.

I had initially deemed this cake a disaster as it had a kind of stodgy look about it, but I have been converted and will definitely give this one another go. It has also been a good introduction to rhubarb for my daughter who absolutely loves this cake.


The recipe for Bill Granger's coconut and lime macadamia cake was recommended by a friend who recently moved to South Africa. Macadamia nuts come cheap in Cape Town so she makes this one regularly for her family. With six eggs and two packets of macadamias this cake is a bit more of a luxury over here, but definitely worth making once in a while. I found the recipe on the BBC web site, which comes complete with a printable shopping list!

Again I wasn't convinced when this one came out of the oven. It looked boring and as though it might have a bit of a rubbery texture. However the lime glaze and some lime zest sprinkled on top transformed the look of the cake, and the sponge was soft and moist. The dessicated coconut added an extra something to the texture and the flavour combination was perfect. This is also a dairy free cake and so would be a good alternative to a traditional birthday cake for those with a dairy intolerance.

I have since read many good things about Bill Granger's cake recipes and will be on the look out for another one to try. Any recommendations?