home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Pudding Macarons

Time for a little seasonal blog post, before the big day arrives. We love macarons in our house, and chocolate is my favourite. I have added some simple decoration to these to make them a bit more festive, but not so much to take away from the delicious chocolate and almond taste. My preferred recipe is by Yotam Ottolenghi, as it consistently gives great results. I sometimes freeze the shells before filling them, and once they are filled, macarons will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. These would make a lovely Christmas gift, and they are great served with bubbles.






Wednesday, 17 December 2014

West Six Garden Centre Cafe

I have baked a lot of gingerbread cookies over the last few weeks, and many of them have gone to the gorgeous new cafe at West Six Garden Centre in Hammersmith. This is the second of two lovely venues that I now supply cakes and biscuits to. The garden centre is situated on the edge of Ravenscourt Park, just off King Street, and the cafe is located in one of the railway arches, just at the back of the garden centre. It is a beautiful space, with bare brick walls, lots of greenery and a large wooden bar area in the centre. The furniture and little bits of garden ornamentation give the cafe an appropriate outdoors feel. 



The menu at West Six is locally sourced, with meat coming from Chiswick butchers, Macken Brothers, bread, pastries and cakes from Sally Clarke's Bakery in Kensington, and other cakes and biscuits from little old me in Hanwell. The menu looks delicious, and I can vouch for the pastries and coffee. There is a warm winter vegetable salad that I have my eye on for another time.




The garden centre often holds events, such as window box and wreath making. It also plays host to children's outdoor theatre shows, with performances of The Snow Queen scheduled for this weekend. More details are available on the West Six web site and Facebook page.

The cafe has only been open for a few weeks, but seems to be thriving. Do pop along if you are local, it's just lovely!









Monday, 1 December 2014

Drink Me Eat Me

Over the last few weeks I have started supplying cakes to a couple of lovely cafes in Hammersmith. The first of these is a gorgeous place called Drink Me Eat Me, where your coffee comes served in beautiful vintage style crockery, and they do a delicious hot chocolate! 




Drink Me Eat Me has a large room next to the cafe area where classes are held for adults and children, and there is often a pop up shop to be found, The space is also available to hire for children's parties, baby showers, hen parties etc., and the cafe hosts its own events there on a regular basis as well. More details are available on their website
  
Drink Me Eat Me is a lovely spot for lunch, or a slice of cake, including my Curly Wurly layer cake!



Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gingerbread Christmas Cookies

This gingerbread recipe couldn't be simpler, and is perfect for making festive cookies to decorate the tree or to give as gifts to friends. It's also great for all those school Christmas fairs that are coming up.

Last week I recieved a gorgeous gift of candy cane rocky road from the fabulous Katie of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter, as part of the Waitrose #bakeitforward campaign. To continue sharing the baking love, I made these cookies for my lovely friend Jane and her boys. Jane lives over the road from me and hers is always the first door that I knock on when I have run out of eggs, washing up liquid or any number of emergency supplies. She is also a very talented lady, and has a fantastic sewing blog that is well worth a look. You will find her at Handmade Jane






Gingerbread Cookies

Makes: 10 large cookies

Ingredients
125g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g dark brown muscovado sugar
2 tbs golden syrup
1 tbsp treacle
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
Royal icing to decorate

1. Sieve the ginger, bicarbonate of soda and flour into a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter, sugars, syrup and treacle in a saucepan, then stir into the dry ingredients.
3. When the mixture has come together, roll out between two sheets of baking parchment, to about 5mm thick.  Place on a baking tray and leave in the fridge to chill for approximately 20 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Use a large cookie cutter to cut your chosen shapes. Place the cookies on a lined baking tray and bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to darken.
5. When the cookies are cool, decorate with royal icing. 



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Minions Birthday Cakes

I have a new birthday cake to show you, featuring one of the Despicable Me Minions. The Minion is made from lemon cake, filled with lemon curd and buttercream. He sits on top of a chocolate cake, filled with chocolate buttercream. I also made some cookies and cake pops to match, all for Edessa's second birthday party. Happy birthday Edessa, hope you had a fun filled day!









Thursday, 30 October 2014

Lime, Almond and Polenta Cake

This gluten free lime, almond and polenta cake is full of flavour, with a lovely citrus tang. It is moist but has the kind of crumbly texture that you only find in polenta cakes. It is also very easy to make.




Lime, Almond and Polenta Cake

Serves: approx. 10 slices 

Ingredients

For the cake:
200g ground almonds
125g fine polenta
1½ tsp baking powder
225g softened butter
225g golden caster sugar
zest of 2 limes
3 eggs, beaten

For the drizzle:
150g icing sugar
juice of 3 limes

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Grease a 23cm diameter loose bottomed tin, and line the base with baking parchment.
2. Place the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder into a bowl and stir. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the lime zest.
4. Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the eggs, and beat to combine. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
5. Spoon the mixture into the tin, and level with the back of the spoon. Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes.
6. Gently heat the icing sugar and lime juice in a saucepan, until the sugar is dissolved.
7. As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, prick the top all over with a thin metal skewer or cake tester, and drizzle the sugar and lime syrup evenly over the top. Leave to cool in the tin. When cool, remove carefully as the cake has a crumbly texture.



Thursday, 9 October 2014

Mini coffee, almond and blackcurrant cakes


I have a fabulous new cake tin from Lakeland, and a new favourite cake to go with it. To make these mini coffee, almond and blackcurrant cakes I adapted the quantities of a recipe I developed for the Good Food Channel web site last year. I haven't managed to find the perfect quantity to make the 12 mini cakes that this tin will hold, but this recipe makes 9-10 deliciously moist and flavoursome little treats.







Coffee, Almond and Blackcurrant Mini Cakes
Makes: 9

Ingredients
For the cakes:
1 tsp instant coffee granules (for a subtle coffee flavour)
2 tsp boiling water
110g unsalted butter, softened
110g golden caster sugar
100g self raising flour
20g ground almonds
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp milk

For the buttercream:
½ tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp boiling water
100g icing sugar
30g butter, softened
1 tsp milk

To fill:
Blackcurrant jam

1. For the cakes: Preheat oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Grease ten of the mini sandwich tins.

2. Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water and leave to cool a little.

3. Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy.  Add the sifted flour and almonds, and the beaten eggs, to the butter and sugar. Beat to combine.

4. Add the milk and dissolved coffee granules, being careful not to over beat the mixture.

5. Divide the mixture between 9 of the tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the cakes begin to come away from the sides of the tins. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.

6. For the buttercream: Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water and set aside. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.

7. Rub the softened butter into the icing sugar using the back of a wooden spoon, and add the coffee and milk. Whisk with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until light and fluffy.


8. To decorate: Once the cakes have cooled, split each one in half with a knife.  Spread a layer of blackcurrant jam onto the underside of one, and buttercream onto the other. Sandwich together and dust the tops with icing sugar.




The cakes can be a little fiddly to remove from the tins, but I find that the best way is to place a cooling rack on top and turn the whole tin over. As the tins are loose bottomed, a gentle push from underneath should pop the cakes out onto the rack. Any stubborn ones should come out with the help of a sharp knife around the side of the tin. I greased my tin with butter, but I see from the online reviews that some people prefer to use cake release.

The tin is available on the Lakeland website*. It's not especially cheap but it is a good quality product and pretty versatile. I'm thinking of trying individual cheesecakes or even tiny Christmas cakes in mine soon. I love that there are a couple of spare bases provided with the tin as well, as I am bound to lose one before too long!

* this is not a sponsored post, my tin was a birthday present from a thoughtful brother! 



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A kids' birthday cake catch up

Thought I would share some children's birthday cakes that I made over the last few weeks, featuring the Ninja Turtles, a cinema theme, Peep and the Big Wide World, and superheroes. These are all first attempts at these particular designs, so still a bit of room for improvement. 















Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Fig and frangipane tart recipe

Having only really eaten figs with cheese I was keen to try them in a sweet recipe. Figs are in season at the moment and can be picked up pretty cheaply in the supermarkets and on the market stalls, so it seemed a good time to play around with some recipes.

First up is this yummy fig and frangipane tart. It is delicious served warm, but also very good cold, especially when accompanied by a big dollop of crème fraiche.





Fig and Frangipane Tart

Serves: 8-10 slices 

Ingredients
For the pastry:
175g plain flour
1tbs caster sugar
100g very cold butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbs iced water

For the figs:
4 tbs red wine
2 tbs light brown sugar
4-5 figs

For the frangipane:
120g soft butter
120g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
120g ground almonds
1 tbs plain flour

1. For the pastry: Place the flour and sugar into a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and mix until the butter resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and water, and mix until the pastry begins to come together in a ball.  

If making the pastry by hand, stir the flour and sugar together in a bowl. Use the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and bring the pastry together into a ball.

2. Flatten the pastry into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

3. For the figs: Warm the wine and brown sugar in a saucepan, until the sugar has dissolved. Cut each fig in half, and then cut each half into three equal sections. Place into a bowl and pour the wine over. Leave to soak, stirring occasionally, but be careful not to damage the fig pieces.

4. For the pastry: Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm thick and use to line a loose bottomed tart tin (approx. 20cm diameter).  Prick the bottom with a fork, and cover with foil or parchment before filling with baking beans.

5. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the baking beans and foil/parchment. Return to the oven for a further five minutes, then set aside to cool slightly.

6. For the frangipane: Cream together the softened butter and sugar, until pale and fluffy, gradually adding the beaten egg. Fold in the almonds and flour.

7. Press the frangipane into the pastry case and level off with the back of a spoon. Strain the figs, reserving the red wine. Arrange the figs on top of the frangipane, with the inside facing upwards, pushing them in gently.

8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the frangipane is set. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

9. Reduce the red wine and sugar by warming in a saucepan, until it has thickened slightly, then drizzle over the tart. Serve with crème fraiche.






Saturday, 27 September 2014

Farmyard birthday party

In the summer I made some goodies for a little boy's party, which was held at Bockett's Farm in Surrey. The birthday boy's mum decides on a different theme each year, and always comes up with fabulous ideas for a beautifully styled party, with amazing attention to detail. Luckily for me, she also takes beautiful photographs and sends them to me, as well as putting lots on her own blog, The Lilac Pages.

This year I made farm animal cupcakes, decorated cookies and cake pops. I can't take credit for the design of the hatching chick cake pops, as these were spotted on another blog, but I think they look great displayed in their egg boxes.











Monday, 15 September 2014

Princess party

I just love these pictures of two beautiful princesses tucking in to the mini birthday cakes I made them. 


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

An art lover's birthday cake

I have a new favourite piece of cake crafting kit - some fabulous picture frame moulds by FPC Sugarcraft. I have had my eye on them for a while and finally found an excuse to buy them when I received an order for a Modigliani themed cake.

I thought that some little edible printed images of Modigliani's paintings would look great framed by antique style frames, decorating the top of a cake, like the wall of a gallery. I was a bit nervous that the frames would be tricky to remove from the moulds, especially the oval one, but with a liberal dusting of gold or silver lustre they came out quite easily.









I'm looking forward to using these frames again, perhaps with some printed family photographs, or I could try a bit more cake painting (see my Harry Potter cake post from February).



Thursday, 14 August 2014

Blackberry and White Chocolate Muffins

Last Saturday the kids and I jumped on our bikes and cycled through the local park, towards the canal, collecting blackberries as we went. We saw a lot of people out doing the same thing, but despite their overflowing bowls there plenty there for us to forage as well. We got stung by the stinging nettles, scratched by the brambles, and Noah took a tumble on his new bike, but we had a lovely afternoon.




After some deliberation we decided that we would bake with the blackberries, and that muffins were the way to go. I think that muffins are a great thing to bake when you have two little helpers, as one can take care of the bowl containing the dry ingredients, and one gets the other bowl with the wet ingredients, so they only really have to take it in turns when it all gets mixed together.







We came up with our own blackberry and white chocolate muffin recipe, which we were very happy with. I sense a return trip to the park with the tupperware before too long.




Blackberry and White Chocolate Muffins
Like most muffins , these are best eaten on the day they are made, and are especially tasty fresh from the oven. The tart berries are complimented beautifully by the sweet white chocolate, making for a moreish, tasty treat.

Makes: 15 muffins 

Ingredients:
275g self raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
100g golden caster sugar
240ml milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
90g melted butter
 140g blackberries
100g white chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas 5. Line mini muffin tins with 15 paper cases.
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl and stir.
3. Measure the milk into a jug or bowl, and add the beaten egg, vanilla and melted butter. Mix together.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Don’t worry if there are lumps.
5. Gently stir through the blackberries and white chocolate, taking care not to over mix.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, and bake for approximately 25 minutes.




Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Naked Cake for a Bush Hall wedding

This wedding cake commission was exciting for two reasons: it was my first naked cake and I got to have a peek around Bush Hall in Shepherd's Bush for the first time.






Naked cakes are very popular this summer. With no form of icing to cover the outside of the cake they have a very simple, rustic appeal, and yet they can be quite spectacular, comprising several tiers and usually decorated with fresh flowers or fruit. Whilst it is quite liberating not to have to worry about achieving a super smooth sugarpaste covering, the naked cake does have nowhere to hide, meaning that the sponge itself has to look pretty perfect, with lovely even layers and neat, evenly spread filling.

Naked cakes will dry out a lot quicker than a covered cake, and so have to be cut and filled on the day, and then assembled on site. I got to assemble mine in the main hall at Bush Hall, whilst the band were carrying out their sound check for the reception. 





According to Wikipedia, Bush Hall was built in 1904, as a dance hall, but has seen many incarnations, including war time soup kitchen, bingo hall and a snooker club. Now a popular live music venue, Bush Hall retains a vintage charm and atmosphere that makes it a fantastic wedding venue too.


  

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Pretty 70th Birthday Cakes

I wanted to share some pictures of a 70th birthday cake that I made recently, with matching cupcakes. The cakes travelled to Solihull for the party, and whilst they made it there in one piece, I gather that one box of cupcakes was dropped just as they were about to be put onto the cake stand. So close!










Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Lemon and Blueberry Ruffle Macaron Cake

My lovely friend Katie, who writes the fabulous Feeding Boys and a Firefighter blog, turned 40 a few weeks ago and I was flattered to be asked to make her birthday cake. Being the foodie that she is Katie had a few ideas and many millions of pictures pinned to a Pinterest board for inspiration! In the end she settled on a lemon and blueberry cake, decorated with ruffle piped buttercream in her favourite aqua blue colour, and finished off with some yellow and aqua macarons to match. 

Rather than making a tiered cake I made three separate cakes, each displayed on its own glass stand, with some extra macarons in a bowl. This made for a pretty display to go with all the lovely pom poms and bunting that decorated the party room.


 

I wish I had a picture of Katie in her party dress to show you as well, as she looked stunning. Happy birthday Katie!




Monday, 23 June 2014

A Macaron Tower for a Special Birthday

My husband, Pete, reached the grand old age of 40 a few weeks ago. Pete is a keen cricketer and still plays every Saturday (despite his old age and aching bones), so we celebrated with a cricket match. We hired a beautiful local cricket pitch, prepared a special tea and invited lots of friends and family. Luckily the rain held off and the although there was a last minute pitch inspection, the match did go ahead. Pete's Dad took on the role of umpire and two of his brothers were team captains. It was a fantastic afternoon.



The birthday boy.




Even the non-cricketers rustled up some whites, although
there was some questionable footwear on show.


Pete's mum largely took care of the tea, with some popular retro dishes on the menu, such as coronation chicken and poached salmon. Lots of us chipped in with different salads and plenty of sandwiches and sausage rolls for the kids. Another friend made a huge, delicious pavlova. My priority was the cakes of course, and we had plenty. There were brownies, cupcakes and scones with lashings of clotted cream.

The birthday cake was a bit more problematic. Pete is unfortunately not a huge fan of cake, so I didn't want to make him a traditional birthday cake. He loves macarons though, so thought I would have a go at a little macaron tower, and sit it on top of a cake for the rest of us to eat. I had to take extra care to try and get all the macarons pretty much the same size, and took some time trying to work out how many I would need. I went for chocolate and pistachio in the end as I know Pete likes these flavours, but actually I think that some brighter colours may have been better. 




I ordered a polystyrene cone from an an online florist supplier and covered this with dark brown paper. The macarons are secured with cocktail sticks. This worked well, with only one macaron falling off! I think that next time I will chill the macarons first to firm up the filling a little more, then this shouldn't be a problem. 


Monday, 16 June 2014

Minecraft - Cakes for the Latest Craze

It hasn't hit our house yet, but I think it's only a matter of time, as all the slightly older boys at school (and some of the girls too), seem to be obsessed with Minecraft. Dubbed 'virtual Lego' by many, Minecraft is now one of the biggest selling computer games in the world. It features various human characters as well as giant spiders, animals, zombies and plenty of building blocks. There was an interesting article in the Guardian magazine on Saturday about its enormous popularity.

Not surprisingly then, Minecraft birthday cakes have been very popular this year, and I have just made a batch of Minecraft cupcakes too. I'm sure my knowledge of the game and its many characters will increase if my children succumb to the Minecraft bug, but for now it's all about Steve, the Creeper and the animals.






Tuesday, 10 June 2014

World Cup Cupcakes

World Cup fever has set in at Vanilla Frost HQ. My son's first words when he opened his eyes this morning were "Only two days until the World Cup starts!". The wall chart is up, the Panini sticker albums are starting to look full and we are all getting excited. So it was lovely to have a World Cup themed cake commission last week. 

Premier Oil celebrated their 80th anniversary with a fabulous party at Kensington Roof Gardens. There were Brazilian singers and dancers, flags, footballs and fantastic food (and a couple of flamingoes!). I made this tower of cake and cupcakes, featuring flags from some of the competing nations. 



Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Recipes for Good Food Channel

I recently developed some new recipes for the Good Food Channel website, including a couple especially for Easter. I am not a big fan of fruit cake and as such the traditional simnel cake doesn't often get made in my house. However I do like the idea of a big cake to share with the family over the Easter weekend, something that is especially for Easter. I came up with this zesty lemon simnel cake as a modern alternative, using cake pops coated in white chocolate to represent the apostles, instead of the traditional marzipan balls.

It does require a little effort but looks impressive and will appeal to kids and grown ups alike. I used a version of this as a birthday cake too. This worked well as the children ate the cake pops at the party and took their cake slices home with them.  




This cake was baked by my lovely friend Katie at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter, and photograped by Sharron Gibson of The Image Garden, for the Good Food Channel website, where you can find the recipe.


I also came up with some chocolate ganache and coconut tartlets, topped with a Mini Egg to look like a little nest. These are very moreish, and I find it hard to stop at eating one, but I do love that dark chocolate and coconut pairing. These are quite simple to make, and again the recipe is over at the Good Food Channel website.




Katie also wrote a lovely Easter recipe for Good Food - these delicious and dainty simnel biscuits. Incorporating all the flavours of a simnel cake, these a lighter treat to have with a cup of tea, and as Katie says, they would make a great Easter gift alternative to chocolate. 




Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Minions Cupcakes

Minions is the name of a small Cornish village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, just a few miles from where I grew up. We still go there regularly, for Sunday lunch in the pub, Cornish ice cream with clotted cream on top in the tea room, or for a walk up to the Hurlers or the Cheesewring (ancient standing stones). However, this favourite place from home is not what springs to mind when I hear the word 'Minions' any more. It's these cheeky chaps:



I have made Minions cupcakes and Minions figures for cakes. We love the Despicable Me films in our house, and the little yellow guys are great characters to work with.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Passionfruit, Almond and Yoghurt Loaf Cake

This is a new recipe I have written for the Good Food Channel website. It is very easy to make, deliciously moist and full of fruity flavour.

Visit the website to see the recipe in full.




Photograph by Sharron Gibson, the Image Garden


Friday, 14 March 2014

Vintage Style Wedding Cake

Between Christmas and New Year I had the honour making a wedding cake for my tap dancing teacher. Alex has been teaching my daughter tap for a couple of years and she now has the dubious pleasure of teaching me as well. Generally speaking I don't 'do' wedding cakes, as I find it all rather stressful. The pressure of getting the cake absolutely perfectly right is magnified when the occasion is a wedding. I find this (and also some brides to be!) a little scary, however I couldn't possibly say no to the lovely Miss Alex, especially as she was planning a vintage theme for her wedding.

I met with Alex and Kevin a couple of times and between us we came up with a simple but elegant design, using lace from Alex's dress and some pretty vintage lace that I found at a fair. There were four tiers, each a different flavour, decorated with piped royal icing, a dusky pink ribbon and fresh flowers to match Alex's bouquet.

We had decided to have a layer of fresh flowers between cake tiers, which meant that I had to do some research as this was a new skill for me to learn. Luckily Jen from Jen's Cakery was kind enough to give me some advice on this, and I am very grateful to her. Jen lives near me and makes stunning wedding cakes, so she was the perfect person to consult.




The wedding was beautifully styled with lots of little vintage touches. I love the stack of books on the middle of each table, carefully chosen to suit the guests seated there. I have already asked to borrow a couple of things for a tea party photo shoot!




Congratulations on your marriage Alex and Kevin x