home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Cupcakes

It wouldn't be Christmas at Vanilla Frost without some Christmas cupcakes. I designed these for a cake decorating class I ran at the beginning of the month. Seven lovely ladies left their babies at home and came along for some mulled wine and a couple of hours of cupcake decorating. They each left with a box of six beautifully decorated cupcakes to share with their children the next day. My kids didn't go without either as they got to share the prototypes with their friends.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Gruffalo's Child Birthday Cake

I made this cake a couple of weeks ago, before the Christmas cake rush really got going. It's a lovely theme for a winter birthday. We all love the Gruffalo books and I really enjoyed making these little figures.



Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas Cake Pop Time

It's all go at Vanilla Frost HQ this month with birthday cakes and corporate orders for Christmas. I have also enjoyed myself at some lovely fairs recently, and have been lucky enough to sell out at many of them. However I still find it impossible to predict what is going to be the best selling item, as tastes seem to vary with each event. Cupcakes are always popular, but it is still hard to judge how many to bake.  The children seem to be getting more excited about cake pops than cupcakes these days, and Christmas pops have been a big hit. I'm going to be making lots of these for Christmas corporate gifts in the next week or two as well, so I shall post a picture now before I become tired of looking at them!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Waybuloo and Moshi Monsters - Birthday Cakes

Once again, I have fallen behind with my blog posts. I have a few things to show you, starting with another visit to the land of Nara, home to the Piplings. Last time it was Waybuloo cupcakes, but a couple of weeks ago I made a first birthday cake for a Waybuloo fan.

Another recent character cake was my first encounter with Moshi Monsters. This was for one of my daughter's best friends, and seems to have fed their growing obsession with the latest craze at school. I now know that these three Moshlings are called Poppet, Katzuma and White Fang. I also know that they are fiddly little things to make from sugarpaste. Still, it was fun to make and we were all pleased with the cake. Happy birthday Lily x

Friday, 26 October 2012

Vanilla Frost Vintage Tea Parties

Over the last year or so, with the help of my mother and her charity shop rummaging, I have built up a lovely collection of vintage crockery and linen. I have decided to combine this with my love of baking and offer a travelling vintage tea party service. A stylish vintage tea party is the perfect way to celebrate all manner of special occasions, such as birthdays, baby showers and hen parties. It is also great for a book club get together or just a catch up with friends.

My customers can have their tea parties delivered to their homes, where I will set the table with beautiful crockery and a delicious selection of finger sandwiches and home baked sweet and savoury treats. I have created three lovely menus with different price options, and can also offer bespoke menus to suit individual tastes.

I hosted a tea party at my house a couple of weeks ago and invited some friends over to give me some feedback. Katie from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter has written a lovely review on her blog. Do pop over and take a look. My Vintage Tea Party page on this blog provides a few more details and some sample menus.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Halloween Cupcakes

The days are growing colder and shorter and so it must be time for some Halloween baking. I made these last week and will almost certainly be making some more over the next fortnight.

I tried to sneak my daughter's witch's hat and cloak out into the garden for a little cupcake photo shoot, but she caught me and demanded a cupcake as payment. Thankfully she didn't eat a spider cake, as I think that black teeth should be for Halloween only. Some of these were red velvet which is perfect under a bloodshot eyeball.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Muppet Show Birthday Cake

Things have been a little busy around here lately and I have something of a backlog in terms of pictures to post on the blog. I will begin with this one, a birthday cake for a Muppet Show fan, but then who doesn't love the Muppets?

I started by making Animal, as I thought he would be the trickiest of the four characters. My husband, who is normally quite disinterested in anything to do with cake, took notice of this one and even took a few pictures of Animal taking shape. He mentioned taking more pictures the next day, of Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear coming to life, but unfortunately his interest had waned by then.

As predicted, Animal was a tricky little so and so, but aside from losing a little hair here and there, he turned out OK.


I used Rice Krispie Squares to make my drum kit. They are lighter than solid sugarpaste and don't need much time to dry out as there is only a single layer of sugarpaste to cover the Rice Krispie Cakes. They do need to be squeezed a bit before shaping to crush the Rice Krispies and get rid of the lumps and bumps, but this was the first time I had used them and they worked out well.

This cake was great fun to make, and I hope I get the chance to do another one. Fingers crossed that no-one asks for Gonzo though!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dan Lepard's Double Chocolate Lamingtons

Every Saturday afternoon, on the way home from my daughter's dancing classes, we stop at our local shop and pick up 'Saturday sweets' for the kids and the Guardian for me and the old man. Without fail, the first page I turn to is Dan Lepard's recipe page. I don't often find the time to try out the recipes, but I have a big pile of them in a folder awaiting my attention. However I did try one out not long ago, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who likes chocolate cake.

Mr Lepard's double chocolate lamingtons are a delight. The recipe is easy to follow and though I did manage to cover most of my kitchen worktop (and much of myself) in chocolate sauce and coconut, I would happily do it again. The chocolate cake has a lovely flavour and is very moist. Chocolate and coconut are a favourite combination for me, so this is a real winner. My only comment would be that my lamingtons were plenty big enough, but I cut them smaller than the recipe stated.

The recipe can be found on the Guardian website.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri Caketails

There seem to be a lot of cocktail inspired cupcakes around for National Cupcake Week, but I think they're great fun so I'm not going to let that stop me. The more the merrier! These were made for a 40th birthday cocktail party and were served alongside little boozy jellies.

For the strawberry daiquiri cakes I used the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery's 'Cake Days' book to make a rum and sugar syrup in which to soak the strawberries. I then put a layer of these in the bottom of each cupcake case and filled the case with my usual victoria sponge cupcake recipe, with a good helping of lime zest stirred through. I added the remaining rum and strawberry syrup mix to some vanilla buttercream, with a little more rum and some pink food colouring. This was piped on top of the cakes, which were then decorated with more lime zest and a quarter of a strawberry.
The flavour was great and the cakes look very pretty, but they do need to be eaten with a fork as the syrupy strawberries can get a bit messy.
I used a recipe I saw on a lovely blog called Under the Blue Gum Tree to make my pina colada cupcakes. A quarter of the quantities stated made 10 large cupcakes, and the sponge was delicious. I used a different recipe for the frosting as I didn't have any yoghurt. Instead I made vanilla buttercream and added the remaining pineapple and rum syrup. I also added some tiny pieces of pineapple which added to the flavour but did begin to curdle the mixture a little. I sprinkled dessicated coconut on top and decorated with cherries and pineapple on sticks.
I have now developed a taste for boozy cupcakes, and I'm planning my next experiment. I have to remember not to let the kids lick the bowl too often though!  
I'm sending these over to Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes for their monthly blog event, Calendar Cakes, which this month is celebrating National Cupcake Week. I'm sure there will be lots of 'caketails' on show, so do join the party and take a peek at their blogs for a round up at the end of September. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Homity Pie for a Picnic Tea

On Thursday I went to see an open air screening of The Artist at Kew Gardens, with my friend Sarah. Luckily for us it was a lovely evening and so we arrived early to have a picnic before the film began. Of course everyone else had the same idea, and we were surrounded by the sounds of popping corks and pleasant chit chat as people munched on their picnics and free samples of Davidstow cheese.

I had planned to make a quiche and some cupcakes for the occasion, but I forgot to buy icing sugar and Sarah made it clear that she is not a fan of cooked eggs in pastry, so I had to think again (or eat a lot of quiche). For some reason I was reminded of a favourite lunch from years gone by when I was a frequent visitor to Totnes in South Devon. There was a lovely tea room on the high street that sold simple but delicious lunches, one being a generous slice of homity pie. There are no eggs involved, so this sounded perfect for a picnic with Sarah.

A homity pie is a open wholemeal pastry tart filled with potato, onion, cheese and not much else. I had always thought of it as West Country dish but it seems that it may have been created by the Land Girls during World War II, when rationing meant that there was little food available other than that grown in the surrounding fields. The only place I had seen homity pie served other than the Totnes tea room was in Cranks in Covent Garden, so I found their recipe on line. Coincidentally, Cranks have now closed all of their restaurants other than the one in Dartington, near Totnes, so I still have a long way to travel if I want to buy homity pie.

I made a few changes to the recipe (and so have published it below), and was very happy with the end result. This is a simple dish, but surprisingly tasty and not difficult to make. I will definitely be making this again.

For the pastry:

200g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
50g butter
50g Trex (vegetable fat)
3 tbs ice cold water

For the filling:

420g peeled potatoes, diced
420g chopped onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
25g butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 tbs chopped parsley
2 tbs creme fraiche
100g mature cheddar, grated

Begin by making the pastry. Mix the flour and baking powder together, and rub the butter and vegetable fat in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough of the iced water to bring the mixture together, then shape into a round. Wrap the pastry in clingflim and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Next, boil the diced potatoes until just cooked. Then rinse under cold water and leave to cool.

Gently fry the onions in the oil and butter until soft, but avoid browning. Just before removing from the heat add the garlic and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Leave to cool.

Roll out the pastry and line a 20cm flan tin. Prick the base with a fork and chill for a further 10 minutes. Line the base of the pastry case with tin foil and fill with baking beans or rice. Cook at 180 degrees for 12 minutes, then remove the foil and beans, and bake for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cooked potatoes, onions, chopped parsley, creme fraiche and half of the grated cheese together. When the pastry case is ready gently press the filling into it, trying not leave any gaps. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at the same temperature for 20-25 minutes.

Serve warm or cold.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Handmade Chocolates by Genevie - A Giveaway

Recently I was lucky enough to receive a box of eight delicious chocolates to sample. The chocolates came from a lady called Genevie, who has recently started a new family business based in Edinburgh. Genevie is a chocolatier herself but also sources handmade chocolates from an artisan chocolatier in Belgium. She sells these through her web site, and with the help of her mum packages the chocolates in pretty boxes hand finished with silk and ribbon. Genevie says that no two boxes of chocolates are exactly the same, making each box unique.

The chocolates that Genevie sent me came in a shiny silver box decorated simply with two ribbons. The flavours were:

  • dark chocolate coffee praline
  • dark chocolate orange praline
  • dark chocolate marzipan
  • dark chocolate vanilla cream
  • milk chocolate truffle
  • pistachio milk chocolate cream
  • white chocolate cream pistachio
  • white chocolate hazelnut cream 

All of the chocolates I tried (I let my husband have one or two!) were delicious, but my personal favourite was the marzipan.

Genevie has kindly offered to send a box of chocolates to one lucky Vanilla Frost reader. I have chosen this stylish black box filled with 24 milk, dark and white chocolates.

For a chance to win, follow my blog and leave a comment to tell me you have done so. For a bonus entry you can also like my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/vanillafrostcakes), and for a third chance you can follow Genevie on Twitter (@GenevieChocolat). Again, please leave a blog comment to tell me. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator and will receive their chocolates in the post directly from Genevie. Unfortunately this competition is only open to UK readers.

Take a look at Genevie's web site to see the other yummy gift boxes that are available to buy - http://www.chocolatebygenevie.co.uk.

The closing date for this competition is Friday 7 September 2012.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Apple and Blackberry Pie - Forever Nigella #18

Last summer I made jam for the first time. My first batch was gooseberry, made with several punnets of reduced berries from my local Waitrose. It was tasty but didn't set properly and was a touch runny. The second batch was rhubarb and nectarine (a recipe I created myself because I was short on rhubarb). The combination was delicious and this time I got the jam to set. All in all it was a great success and I felt inspired to make more jam. I vowed to make the most of locally grown fruits the following year and felt determined to forage, using my harvest to make pots and pot of yummy jams to spread on the kids' toast and fill my cakes and macarons. Needless to say, I have failed miserably, and foraging has not been high on the agenda.

I have however broken my 2012 duck (I went to cricket on Monday, can you tell?), and been blackberrying. A friend had spotted a bumper crop of big juicy blackberries in the local park so I set off with the kids and some empty ice cream boxes before all the other mums did the same. We had a lovely walk through the park and down to the canal where we found tons of fat blackberries, and picked enough to make both a pie and four pots of jam.

I used Nigella's recipe for apple and blackberry pie, from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess', and can't recommend it enough. It was delicious and simple to make. The recipe uses a tablespoon of rosewater, the perfume of which was offensive to my four year old's nose and he unfortunately refused to eat the pie. However the rest of us thought it a great addition. Although the smell was quite strong the flavour was subtle enough not to overpower the all important apple and blackberries. The pastry was ever so easy to make and beautifully short and crumbly. Cutting into it revealed the lovely colours inside, and a gorgeous fruity, flowery smell.

We perhaps should have left the pie to cool a little before cutting into it as the filling was still very juicy. The juices thickened on cooling and it was easier to cut a neat slice of pie. Unfortunately what was left of the pie was in no fit state for being photographed by the time the pie had cooled, but was perfect for picking at later on. For this reason I am submitting it to Forever Nigella, this month hosted by the marvellous Karen of Lavender and Lovage. This pie makes for a particularly good fridge raid snack if you happen to have some clotted cream sitting next to it in the fridge. Perfect to slip onto a spoon when no-one is looking!

Forever Nigella

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Racing Car Cake for a First Birthday

Just a quick post today to show you a picture of the cake I made on Friday. This was for a little Italian boy who already loves his racing cars. The cake had to travel across London on the tube during the last weekend of the Olympics, which made me a little nervous. Thankfully it was the birthday boy's Dad doing the carrying and not me. I gather it got there in one piece, which was good to know.

Happy birthday Giulio!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

English Country Garden Cupcakes - Calendar Cakes

I had great fun making these lovely garden cupcakes for a first birthday this weekend. The theme was 'English Country Garden' and the song I remember from childhood (Country Gardens) became an earworm whilst making all the decorations. I think maybe I played it on the recorder long ago at my Cornish primary school.

I made snails, caterpillars, ladybirds, bees and butterflies as well as some traditional English flowers such as daisies, primroses, and hydrangeas. I also made some mini bugs to decorate cake pops.

I made the mistake of playing the song to my daughter on You Tube and now she is skipping around the house singing it too.

I'm sending these over to Dolly of Dolly Bakes for the monthly blogging event that she hosts with Laura from Laura Loves Cakes. The theme for August's Calendar Cakes is British Summertime, and these fit the bill perfectly.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Tea Time Treats - Janie's Flapjacks

On our recent Italian holiday my mother-in-law brought along a box of home made flapjacks, which were a huge hit with the kids. Flapjacks are perfect for picnics so given that the sun has been out in full force this week I thought it a good time to make some. I have adapted Jane's recipe a little, but not so much that the kids would object.

140g butter
2tbs golden syrup
2tbs honey
100g soft brown sugar
300g rolled oats
1tbs sesame seeds
2tbs pumpkin seeds
2tbs chopped, dried apricots
1tbs dried cranberries

Melt the butter, golden syrup, honey and sugar together in a saucepan. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and press into a lined tin (24 x 18cm or 21cm square).

Bake in a fan oven at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Despite the seeds and fruit I can't claim that these are healthy, but they are delicious, and this is such an easy recipe that it really is worth a go. I might try some with coconut next time, and perhaps some fresh blueberries.

I'm sending these over to Karen (Lavender and Lovage) and Kate (What Kate Baked) for their Teatime Treats challenge as these would be great for a cake stall at a summer fete.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympic Penguins

Things have been a little busy at Vanilla Frost HQ over the last few weeks, and my poor old blog has been a bit neglected. I have also been failing to enter any of the lovely blog challenges that take place each month. Luckily one of my orders from last week fits nicely with this month's theme for the Calendar Cakes challenge, and so I can join in with the fun. Laura and Dolly have chosen the Olympics as the theme for July (well it couldn't very well be anything else!), and asked us all to send in our appropriately themed bakes. Mine is a cake featuring penguins as Olympic athletes. It's a bit random, but the birthday boy loves penguins and his mum wanted to make the cake a bit more suited to the time of year.

It's not easy to make a penguin look as though he is running! I'm not sure I succeeded, but it's fun anyway.

Pop over to Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes to see more information on the Calendar Cakes Challenge, and for a round up of all the entries at the end of July.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jungle Cupcakes and Cake Pops

It's been another busy weekend with lots of fun cake orders and a few late night/early morning finishes. Unfortunately due to the gloomy weather and a shortage of time I don't have many decent photographs to show for any of it. Luckily one of my clients has come to the rescue with some of the best photographs seen on this blog so far (I really must do something about my photographic skills as they are distinctly lacking!).

Lovely Sandra from fashion blog The Lilac Pages got in touch and asked me to make some jungle safari themed cupcakes and cake pops for her son's party. I had no idea that Sandra was a fellow blogger until after the party, something I was glad of as I may have felt a bit of pressure, knowing that the cakes were likely to feature on a client's blog. Thankfully Sandra was happy with her cakes and wrote some lovely things about them (for which I am very grateful).

Checkout Sandra's blog to see some more fantastic pictures from her son's party. She decorated her house beautifully with some great decorations. It looks like a lot of work, but I imagine it was well worth the effort.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Primary Colour Cake Pops

We spent half term by Lake Orta in Italy, with lots of family, celebrating my mother-in-law's 70th birthday. The weather was mixed but the ice cream was consistently fabulous. Violet and yoghurt turned out to be a surprisingly good flavour combination, and the amarreto biscuit one was a bit special too. Our lovely week in Italy ended on a bit of downer when we returned to the airport car park in driving rain, only to find that my husband had left the car lights on for a week. This led to a prolonged spell playing Top Trumps with the kids whilst we tried to get the battery fired up again.

As soon as the kids were back to school and nursery I got stuck into an order for 350 cake pops. Luckily my poor sister was visting so I had a helping hand. The order was for a large corporate event being held at One Mayfair, a rather splendid old church just off Oxford Street. The client had engaged the services of Brian Olsen, a performance artist who paints huge canvases using lots of primary colours. He paints to music, using his fingers, elbows, arms and up to three brushes in each hand. To reflect his colours, I made vanilla cake pops covered in white chocolate and decorated with squiggles of red, blue and yellow Candy Melts. I prefer using chocolate to cover my pops as it tastes so much better, but Candy Melts are great for coloured details.

The cake pops were displayed around the old font. Unfortunately the photograph I have been sent is not great, but it gives you an idea of how they looked. It was hard work making 350 cake pops in two days, but very satisfying, and it's great to see them all in situ.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Jubilee Baking

Apparently there are 86 street parties taking place in Ealing this weekend. I'm afraid that I am no royalist, but I do like a good party. We are going away tomorrow for a big family celebration as my mother-in-law has just turned 70. Were it not for that I would be baking up a storm and seeking out one of the Ealing parties. Strangely I don't really remember the Golden Jubilee, but I do have a very vague memory of the Silver Jubilee, perhaps reinforced by this photo I rediscovered the other day. My mum used to put quite a bit of effort into fancy dress costumes!

I haven't missed out on Jubilee baking altogether as I was asked to make a Jubilee themed birthday cake for a little girl turning three this weekend (who just happens to have a suitably regal name).

This gave me the perfect opportunity to submit an entry to Homemade by Fleur's Blogging Jubilee Baking Competition, sponsored by Appliances Online. It sounds as though this has been a popular blog event and Fleur will have lots of fantastic goodies to show you when she does her round up in a few days.

It was still very hot in London when I made the tiara, and I was a bit nervous that it would flop. I built it around a tin of Bird's custard powder, which is just the right size and shape for a cake-topping crown. Luckily the heat did not get the better of me and there was no flopping.

I am also sending my Jubilee cupcakes over to Fleur for her lovely competition. I made 75 of these yesterday for a big BBQ taking place by the river. It's been fun, but that's my Jubilee baking done now as I'm off to Italy tomorrow to eat bucket loads of ice cream instead. Have a fun weekend everyone.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cake - Simple and in Season

What glorious weather we have been enjoying over the last week or so.It seems that summer has arrived, and with it comes the start of the British strawberry season. The strawberries in the supermarkets are now starting to actually taste of strawberries (as opposed to nothing very much), and we have had some really good ones this week during picnics in the park and dinners in the garden.

I thought I would join in with Ren Behan's Simple and in Season blogging event this month by baking something with strawberries. When my brother-in-law called and asked me to make a birthday cake for his wife, it seemed the perfect opportunity to make a strawberry and white chocolate cake, from the Great British Bake Off book. This seemed particularly suitable as this month's event is being hosted by Urvashi Roe from the Botanical Baker, who was a contestant on the series.

This cake has a lovely flavour, with orange zest toning down the sweetness of the white chocolate in the sponge. The strawberries in the middle are also soaked in orange juice with some sugar and more zest, giving them a little extra something. The only change I made to the recipe was to coat the sides of the cake in a thin layer of cream as well, and cover this with toasted coconut shavings. This is a lovely, moist cake with some delicious flavours and I hope to make it again while the strawberries are still good.