home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Little Mermaid

It was a busy end to last week with a few orders to complete on Friday night. Last to be finished, during the small hours of Saturday, was this cake featuring Disney's favourite underwater princess, Ariel.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Biscotti is a New Favourite in our House

I have been meaning to bake biscotti for some time now, and when Astral at The Art of Being Perfect provided us with a recipe on her blog, I had no excuse not to crack on with it. I had been in a local cafe with my son the very same day and had introduced him to biscotti then. I'm not sure it's meant to be dunked in banana milkshake but he enjoyed it. I assured him he would like the home made version even more and set to work on our return home.

I used Astral's recipe, with a couple of flavour variations. First up was cranberry, white chocolate and almond as that was what I found lurking in the cupboard. I unfortunately had to shorten the cooking time by a couple of minutes as I was once again running late for school pick up. This meant that the biscotti were a touch softer than they should have been, but were absolutely delicious nonetheless. The recipe was very simple and with the correct cooking time these biscotti would have been perfect.

Determined to get it right, and greedy for more, I baked another batch the next day using dark chocolate, orange and hazlenut. Like the first batch, these were well received by husband and kids, and have now become a firm family favourite. I can see that there will be more flavour combinations to come. Thanks to Astral for the recipe, it's spot on!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

First Birthday Cakes

I've been busy baking birthday cakes for two little one year old girls. As ever, due to to a packed schedule of kids' ballet classes, swimming lessons, football training etc. this has involved staying up late and getting up early, but never mind, it's all part of the fun! Apologies for the dodgy photos. I blame it on the unsociable hours and consequent lack of daylight (and perhaps a touch of technical ineptitude on my part).

I hope Elsie and Daisy enjoyed their cakes and had fantastic birthdays.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tea Time Treats - Delia's Lemon Meringue Pie

Last night I discovered two lovely blogs: 'Lavender and Lovage' and 'What Kate Baked'. Together they host a monthly blogging event known as 'Tea Time Treats',with a different theme each month. Participants are invited to join in the virtual tea party by sharing their blog post about their tea time bakes. This month it's sweet pastries and breads, and luckily for me the lemon meringue pie I had planned for lunch today falls into this category.

I used Delia's recipe from her 'Complete Cookery Course', though I did make extra meringue topping as the quantity specified fell a little short. The result was a very tasty combination of tart lemon filling and lovely sweet meringue.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Iced Valentine's Cookies

Now that every trace of Christmas has been returned to the loft my mind has turned to Valentine's Day baking. It may be a bit premature, but I have decided to open an Etsy shop, and I thought that some pretty Valentine's cookies would be a good way to kick it off. I used the 'super chocolatey' dough recipe from my beautiful Biscuiteers book. The recipe is very easy to follow and all of the hints and tips provided in the book are extremely helpful. I ate a couple of the biscuits before icing them (I had to be sure they were OK), and they were very good. They have a lovely dark chocolate flavour which is not too sweet, so a great base for all that royal icing.

Now I need to think of some other postable goodies for the Etsy shop, as these are looking a bit lonely.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Poached Pear and Frangipane Tart

My lovely friend Sarah, i.e. Scrumptious Sally, gave me the beautiful 'Tea with Bea' book for Christmas. I have never been to Bea's of Bloomsbury, but after looking at the stunning pictures in the book I am very keen to go. The chocolate cake pictured on the front cover looks especially inviting.

Though I haven't, strictly speaking, tested an entire recipe from the book as yet, I did use it to guide me through this extremely tasty pear and frangipane tart.

I used my mother-in-law's simple recipe for pears poached in red wine. This is another favourite dessert for us at Christmas time, usually served warm with a big dollop of creme fraiche. You simply bring half a pint of red wine to the boil, with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a slice of lemon rind and 3 tbsp of caster sugar, then poach six peeled pears in the red wine mix for around 40 minutes.

Two of the pears were swiftly eaten, the other four set aside to cool, before being sliced for Bea's tart.

I stuck with the pastry recipe from my GBBO walnut tart as it had turned out so well last time, but followed Bea's instructions for the frangipane. Well, sort of. I didn't have enough ground almonds so I reduced all the quantities by 20%, but still had plenty to fill the pastry case. In fact I had enough of everything to make a couple of small tarts as well.

It's not as pretty as the one in the book, but the finished tart was delicious, and I can't wait to try out some of Bea's other recipes.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Il Diplomatico and Some Christmas Sweets

As ever I have been a little slow in posting pictures of my latest bakes, therefore my first blog post of 2012 features our Christmas day dessert. We are not fans of Christmas pudding in our house, so I plumped for one of my husband's favourites instead. Il Diplomatico is something his mother makes and has always been popular with the family. The rich chocolate mousse is surrounded by coffee and rum soaked Madeira cake, then the whole thing is smothered in whipped cream. It is rich and delicious.

The recipe comes from my mother-in-law's 'Classic Italian Cookbook' by Marcella Hazan. The accompanying blurb states that the 'marvellous thing about this dessert is that it requires no baking'. That of course is only true if you buy your Madeira cake from the supermarket. For the purposes of the blog, that would be cheating, so I turned to Nigella's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' for her Madeira cake recipe. Luckily the recipe made a little more than I needed, as Nigella's Madeira cake is very tasty in its unadulterated form. You have to work quickly when dipping the cake slices in the coffee/rum mix, to avoid them going soggy and falling apart, but generally speaking, the recipe was not as fiddly as I had imagined. It is definitely one I will be returning to.

When I was younger I used to make marzipan fruits for my Dad at Christmas, and chocolate covered candied orange peel for Grandad. Neither are with us now, and whilst no-one else in the family misses the orange peel, most of us are partial to a bit of marzipan at Christmas, so that tradition has continued. This year I had some lovely French marzipan to play with and made these stripey sweets, edged in dark chocolate. I also melted down some dark chocolate and studded it with dried cranberries and pistachios, to make these pretty chunks of chocolate. The idea had been to bag these up as gifts for the family, but in the end only a few made it out of the door.

So that is the end of the Christmas baking. Time to move on to new things. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2012.