Once Upon A Time…

17 08 2012

…there was a girl who became completely and utterly obsessed with a superb fantasy show and her consumption inevitably led to cake. The End.

Well, actually that’s only the beginning. I started to watch Once Upon A Time on Channel 5 after the adverts invaded my brain for about 2 months before the show aired. Once it started I became totally hooked. I devoured everything OUAT related and poured all my crush energy into the most wonderful Lana Parrilla and her Evil Queen portrayal. If you haven’t watched it I highly recommend catching up with it. The wife and I have even converted my mum and she detests anything that can be deemed fantasy, sci-fi, magical or ‘unrealistic’.

As my birthday was approaching in June I decided I must honour my love for OUAT in cake form. I chose the book as the focus of my cake as it’s an important element to the ongoing story. I wanted to make the Evil Queen the highlight of the cake so I added the apple and heart. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t watched the show but these were important in the half of the season that I had watched up to that point.

The cake is white chocolate mudcake with raspberry marshmallow frosting. The apple and heart are rice crispie treats covered in fondant and hand painted. The detail on the book is all hand painted too. I was so pleased with how it turned out, the apple is definitely my favourite. I still have it saved as I’m loathe to destroy it!

So will you be joining the league of Evil Regals readers?


Long time no speak…

17 08 2012

Hi blog friends,

Another quick round up of recent cakes and a little info about each of them. I’ve a few extra posts coming up with unusual cakes and it’s my aim to have a back to school blog competition to win lots of lovely baking goodies that I’ve been gathering up for a few months. Nothing too large but lots of fun bits and pieces that any baker would be happy to have in their arsenal. I know I don’t actually get 2 months off in the summer but it starts to get really busy for me come September as the event season arrives in full force and the proper winter weather hits (I know, it’s hard to tell in Northern Ireland when our summer rarely has sun!) There’s always a general feeling of malaise as the darkness descends so what better to cheer up the winter blues than a competition…keep those eyes peeled in the next few weeks.

First up is my first ever attempt at fondant ruffles. This was for my cousins surprise baby shower. She had the fortune to be pregnant at the same time as her best friend so a joint party was in order. We had so much fun squealing over baby clothes and watching them cry while opening a mountain of gifts. I’m not one for sticking to stereotyping but I did go for the classic baby blue and pink combination as it really does work in a two tier cake & it matched in with the invitation. Neither mum-to-be knew the gender of their baby in advance so no surprise pink or blue cakes inside, just a funfetti tier and chocolate tier. The pink is quilted with dragees and the top is ruffled. This is achieved by using a cocktail stick (or the correct modelling tool if you have one!) & rolling back and forth along the edge of a strip of fondant to create a thin ruffled edge. Layer the strips on top of each other and after much cursing and re-rolling you have this beautiful effect. I found the instructions & inspiration here by Bubble & Sweet. How stunning is her pastel rainbow ruffle cake?! Go check out her wonderful blog on more cakes and crafting for her party tables.

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Baby I’m back…

23 05 2012

So my self imposed hiatus is over. I’ve no idea if anyone is still hanging in there with me and my sporadic (aka practically non-existent) posting on this blog but if you are still out there, thanks for reading!

My break from baking did give me some breathing room and allow me to relax a little but I don’t seem to have got the million other tasks done that I was hoping for! Then again, the point was to chill out a little and get back on an even keel and I’d say that I’ve done that. I have a better attitude towards future cake jobs and I think I’ve discovered a little about my strengths and weaknesses when taking on new baking tasks.

I’m posting a few pics of work I’ve done since my hiatus ended. There are a few cakes and also some personal baking. I wish I had more time for attempting any baking that isn’t a decorated cake but alas that doesn’t seem to happen as often as I’d like.

First up is a toy box cake for a 3rd birthday. I completely fell in love with this toybox. I almost didn’t add the toys and books but obviously that didn’t happen. The birthday girl was very happy to see her favourite teddy, handbag and books surrounding her cake. I hear she also enjoyed the tasty cake too. I love to hear from clients that the recipient loves their cake. It’s really what makes it all worthwhile.

In between making some more decorated cakes I tried my hand at a few non-cake baking. I attempted Ice Cream cupcakes for the first time. They were fun, if a little awkward to construct. I also finally mastered Choc Chip pancakes, adding the raspberry puree makes you feel virtuous and gives them a sharp bite. I made this amazing triple raspberry chocolate mousse cake from Hungry Happenings I used the triple chocolate layer bar from Choccywoccydoodah that the wife bought for me. It was a lengthy process but well worth it for a special occasion.  

Next up is a Sweet 16 cake. The birthday girl was very specific about what she wanted and showed me a pic that turned out to be from one of my favourite cake artists: Pink Cake Box. I had to change the colours around a little as my version was only 3 tiers but I love the contrast of zebra print on hot pink. You can’t really tell from the pics but there was edible glitter over each tier.

This anenome cake was an order from a twitter friend. The first time I met her in person was when she ordered her first cake from me last year. This was a coffee with mocha coffee buttercream and the criteria was blue and green with flowers. I decided to keep it simple and I’m glad I did as I love the stark contrast between the colours. This was the first time I’d tried anenomes, I took some liberties but I like how they turned out. Everything is edible except the stamens.

And finally we have my Jubilee Cake. My parents are both part of our local resident community association and were able to get funding to host a Jubilee Street Party in collaboration with the local YMCA. I made 120 cupcakes, 5 large coffee & walnut cakes, 5 large Victoria Sponges and this chocolate celebration cake. I decided to base the design on the official logo for the Diamond Jubilee. I love the clean lines and how the colours pop against the white. All the baking went down a storm at the party and it was a good way to meet people from our area that I’d not met before.

A cake hiatus

21 03 2012

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed a cake break. While that normally conjures up relaxing with the feet up and a slab of decadent cake to gorge on, this was a different type of cake break. After a few months of multiple cake jobs I had become overwhelmed. Even doing more than 2 or 3 cakes in a month is too much when you’re holding down a full time job, living in two places without your OH and taking over your parents kitchen (and dining room) A decent novelty cake takes me 3 – 4 nights and they tend to be during the working week. I had got to the point where I was making toppers or buying supplies at the weekend, drawing up a design then spending every evening baking, cooling, filling and decorating. I was running myself into the ground. I had to make the difficult decision to give myself a 2 month break. I had 2 cakes booked for Mar & April so I kept those in my diary and announced that I wouldn’t take on any other jobs until May. It might seem totally non dramatic to most but baking is my outlet. It might have created a lot of it’s own stress but once I was in the cake zone I loved it. While I’m loving the break I miss the cakes, I’m thinking about them all the time anyway and it seems wrong to not be working on one.

Despite it being strange, I’m happy that I made this decision and am really looking forward to working on some smaller baking projects, baking for fun and even some DIY/ Craft projects over the Easter break. It will be my first time in a few years that I’m not committed to something over a holiday.

To tide you over, here are a few of the cakes I created before I started this much needed break.

A very simple Engagement cake

A small 6 inch cake for a cat lover. I was really pleased with how the painting turned out on this one.

A retirement cake for a keen Marathon runner. I didn’t have his Marathon number so improvised with the date of his retirement. All the detail on the number and finish line is handpainted. The trainers are rice cripsie treats covered in fondant.

And finally, a Wizard of Oz themed cake for a 3 year old boy. His only stipulation was that it featured either the Wicked Witch or The Wizard. I went with the witch as I think she’s a much more interesting character to model and I had to include the yellow break road and Emerald City.

The Barking Dog, Belfast

21 03 2012

An impromptu visit to The Ulster Museum on Sunday meant that we were looking for somewhere to have a late lunch/ early dinner. I put it to my twitter friends that I was looking for a reasonably priced meal in a restaurant that was a step up from the usual chain or carvery fare. I received many replies but one place that was repeatedly mentioned was The Barking Dog  I had heard of this restaurant and even read a few great reviews but I’m rarely at that side of Belfast so hadn’t yet visited.

A quick search online brought me up their website, very easy to navigate, all the menus are available and they were open on Sundays (amazingly many of the other Belfast restaurants I searched for were closed on Sunday) I called and booked a table for two for 4pm. Although it was only a small gesture I appreciated hearing the person on the phone saying that they looked forward to seeing us. So often when I call to make a reservation the person at the other end of the phone seems to want me off the phone as soon as humanly possible.

We enjoyed our afternoon at the Museum but we finished a lot earlier than I thought we would so we decided to chance it and walked up to The Barking Dog. We arrived at about 3.15 and were able to get a table despite our early arrival. The place was buzzing. We were seated in the back just off the kitchen, I admired the décor of old crockery and bone handled cutlery. They reminded me of my gran’s kitchen yet complimented the pale green period paint and exposed brick.

Our server was quick to bring the menus and ask if we would like a drink or have a few minutes to peruse the menu. He then suggested a jug of iced water while we wait. I really do feel that all restaurants should offer a jug of water. It seems to be the norm in other countries; I’m not sure why so many places in Northern Ireland have been so slow to take up the custom. Perhaps we fear it’s rarely warm enough to warrant the need for a cool glass of water. Or I have been informed recently that some people fear it lengthens the time our body takes to digest our food. I ordered an Appletiser and the wife ordered a fresh orange juice which she was extremely happy to find was properly freshly squeezed as she adores that tart, bitter taste. 

We had been told that the crispy pork belly bites were a must so we ordered a starter portion to share. This was a big leap for me; if there are desserts to be had I will ALWAYS ignore the starters. I have never been so glad to go against my usual instincts. The pork was the perfect balance of crispy fat and soft, fall apart pork. The smooth apple puree gave it a sweet note while the pickled carrot provided a sour punch.

I had read a review of the Beef Shin burger online while making our way to The Museum and when we were trying to choose our mains I couldn’t decide between the burger or the Roast Beef. The wife pointed out that I had nearly drooled while reading the review and I would probably try to steal her meal if she ordered the burger and I didn’t. In the interests of our relationship we both went for the Burger. 

I’ve tried a variety of so called Gourmet Burgers. Some don’t even have the right to call themselves a burger never mind Gourmet but this one is a cut above the rest. The marinated, slow cooked beef shin is wrapped in a layer of burger meat laced with garlic and herbs. Every bite combined with the caramelised onions, chunky tomato and melted cheese to create a taste sensation. The burger is so big I did have to tackle it with a knife and fork rather than attempt to get my (rather large) mouth around the whole thing at once. The accompanying chunky chips were the perfect balance of crisp exterior and fluffy interior. I had been tempted to add a side dish to our order but the waiter kindly informed us that it wouldn’t be necessary with the size of our main meal. Although I would have liked to try their cabbage and bacon combo I’m so glad I didn’t as I fear I’d still be sitting at that table now, unable to move from over consumption.

A quick internal battle ensued as to whether I should order dessert. I was intrigued by the clotted cream and fudge ice cream that came with the Brownie so figured I would have to indulge. The wife ordered a Passionfruit cheesecake. This is not one for the faint hearted; she adored it as it was extremely sharp, a little too sharp for my sweet tooth. I’d not be a proper baking fan without critiquing the Brownie. It definitely scored highly with me for being gooey and not a dry brick that some restaurants serve and dare to call a Brownie. I’d say this one was verging on the border of too gooey in the centre; it was almost a fondant, although the warmth combined with the rich ice cream was a great combo.  To finish we had a tea and cappuccino. I was happy to receive a decent yet not lagoon sized cup of coffee with a great foam to milk ratio.

My overall impression was one of fabulous food, well priced & portioned with lovely surroundings. Service was prompt without being rushed and attentive without being overbearing. The Barking Dog is on my list of places to visit again and one that I’ll be promoting to anyone that asks (and even those that don’t!)

Fresh Squeezed Orange – £2.50

Appletiser – £2.30

Crispy Pork Belly Bites – £5.50

Two Beef Shin Burgers with chunky chips @ £11.95 each 

Brownie with clotted cream & fudge ice cream – £4.95

Passionfruit Cheesecake with roasted Pistachio Nuts – £4.95

Cappuccino – £2.75

Pot of tea – £1.30

Total cost – £48.15

The Barking Dog, 33-35 Malone Road, Belfast

I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away

14 02 2012

These cupcakes are so cute you might just find them hard to give away this Valentine’s Day.

I decided that despite my hectic schedule I had to try and make something a little sweet for my sweet so I decided to use a fab tutorial I had saved from the brilliant Bake It In a Cake  Unfortunately my hearts weren’t quite dense enough to stay in the middle of the cupcake and my light batter made them all rise to the top as the cupcakes baked. Despite that anamoly I still think these are super cute and I will definitely be trying them again, perhaps even with lots of different shapes and themes. These cupcakes are double vanilla with a simple milk chocolate buttercream. The heart sprinkles add a little crunch to this springy & smooth treat.

Happy Valentine’s Day lovely readers. I hope there is love in your life in whichever form makes your heart happy!

Anyone for KFC?

14 02 2012

These cupcakes were so much fun to create! Claire, one of my friends on twitter is a superb blogger of all things kitsch and due to her eclectic and varied tastes she always asks for the most fun ideas for me to recreate in cake. She featured a post on her blog of food themed baking which included a great version of KFC cupcakes. I tweeted that they were totally possible as I could see how they were done and was itching to try. She very kindly took the hint and ordered some for her husband for Valentine’s Day. I had free rein on what I made so I decided to try and make a range of items. The cupcakes hidden underneath are Raspberry Ruffle, the chips are fondant, the corn on the cob is rice crispie treats covered in fondant, the beans are Jelly Beans covered with gel colour glaze and the popcorn chicken is simply rice crispie treats rolled into balls (I had planned to add more detail but thought they looked fab as they are!) A kindly KFC employee gave me extra packaging when I ordered my meal on my last visit. I love how these turned out, I’ve even managed to fool a few people into thinking the corn on the cob is real. I’ve added a pic of the in progress work so you believe me when I say I made it myself! Big thanks to Claire for always bringing me fab ideas and her continued orders and support.