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!

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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.





A turning point

4 01 2012

Fellow bakers/ cake aficionados; have you ever reached a point in your cake odyssey where it all suddenly clicks? I’ve experienced those moments of divine clarity on various cakes over the years…the first time I covered a cake in fondant without it cracking, gaping or tearing, the first time I made a topper that didn’t collapse or sag, the first time I used colours to paint directly onto fondant, etc. We have moments like this on the journey but I’ve recently had a huge revelation in terms of my cake creations. 

For the last 2 or 3 years, each cake I designed would come out quite differently than I envisioned. Sometimes I sketched ideas on post-it notes when I had a few minutes to spare in work, other times I just created a picture in my mind. About 99% of the time the finished article would be similar to that vision but never close enough to satisfy me. It has occurred to me in the last few months that my visions are almost being realised in their entirety. Aside from a few niggles (that most other people claim not to notice) the cakes I am currently producing are as close to my visions as I can get. I learn something new every single time I make a cake. I suspect that will continue for many years to come. However, I want to embrace the feelings I am having now. I am at a point where I know how my materials work for me, I know how to plan the cake more carefully, where to source the right materials. I’m still figuring out portion sizes and learning how to judge amounts of fondant (that’s one I haven’t mastered just yet) but now when I’m taking pictures I’m not fighting to find an angle that hides the messy part at the back. There are still parts that won’t hold up to intense scrutiny but they are becoming less and less frequent. 

I have never claimed to be an expert but practice in anything will give you more confidence in not only your skills but in your ability to share your knowledge with others. I have made all those mistakes too many times to count. I’ve cried & screamed over a number of cakes and yes, I’ve thrown out quite a few too. I’ve scoured so many blogs that I’ve had to rein in the panic at seeing such perfection, such skill & such attention to detail. What the blogs don’t show is the hours of work, frustration, mistakes and rejects. I understand why; we all want to present the best of everything we do. I do exactly that right here on this blog. This isn’t a segueway into a post with all my rejected cakes. It’s just a timely reminder, as much to myself as to my readers, that baking and the whole world that surrounds it, is as much about hard work, practice and many many mistakes as it is about the finished (almost perfect) cake.

Everyone asks how I do what I do. There is obviously a passion there, and yes, I did an Art Degree but that means nothing compared to just getting out there and trying. I’ve come a long way from having only one wooden spoon and mixing bowl & no scales but you don’t need much more than that to get started. The rest will come with time.





Cupcake Magic – Competition closed

28 03 2011

It’s time for my first ever blog competition. Over the years that I’ve been baking I’ve been drawn more towards cakes or other treats rather than cupcakes.  I think this is partly because there has been more demand for novelty cakes but it’s also because I was never very happy with lots of the cupcake recipes I tried. I discovered a few great vanilla recipes but had never pinned down a chocolate one that didn’t taste either dry or greasy. Someone bought me Cupcake Magic by Kate Shirazi and I was delighted to finally find a chocolate cupcake that I liked. I’ve only tried a few of her other recipes but the buttercream recipe is one I use almost every time I need a decent buttercream. It’s a great read as it’s not written like a traditional cookbook evidenced by her choice of names for both the cupcakes and the levels of difficulty involved, anyone who uses the word faff this much is a friend of mine.

I have one copy of Cupcake Magic to giveaway to my readers.

You will also win this natty apron. I’ve covered over certain letters for blog purposes but the apron has no censorship so you have been warned about the fully fledged cursing!

I’ll also throw in a few extra surprises for the winner from my collection of baking goodies, still to be decided!

This competition is open to international readers, the closing date for entries is Saturday 16th April 2011 at 4pm.

To be in with a chance of winning, comment on this post with your favourite existing cupcake flavour & also tell me; if you could choose any flavour combination in the world what cupcake would you create? Would it have a surprise filling, an unusual savoury topping…? I’ll choose a winner with a random generator and they will be contacted via email so be sure to leave an email address in order to be contacted for postal details.

Good Luck!

Edited to add: you should be able to add your email when you log in to comment so that only I can see it, just in case you were uncomfortable about putting your addy in your comment. Sorry for not clarifying that!

WE HAVE A WINNER!

Congrats Lily Ramirez-Foram. There is an email on its way to you now to arrange posting of your prize. You were picked via www.random.org





Roundup

28 03 2011

Time for a quick catchup before I have my first ever blog competition!  Baking has taken a back seat recently, I’ve been churning a lot of ideas for potential future treats but putting them into practice has proved difficult. I’ve also been plagued with worries about an impending wedding cake and another secretive baking job that I hope I can divulge a little more about in a few weeks.  I’ve gone through many days filled with doubt at my skills and fear that lack of time means I’ll not develop or adapt to ever advancing ideas out in the baking ether.  I have to rein my brain in and remind myself why I’m doing this….because I love it. A swift kick to remind me that it’s not about anyone else, it’s not about being better than others, it’s not about charging to little or too much, it’s about the love of creating.  I want to always think about bringing a smile to someone’s face with the look and taste of what I create, that’s it.  The rest is just gravy peeps. 

 Onto recent endeavours…

This cake was so much fun to design.  I was told that it had to be penguin themed, that’s it.  I decided a scene would give me greater scope for modelling and I knew I wanted to create a winter wonderland effect with the whole cake rather than just placing a few figures on top of a plain base.  It’s one of the few cakes I’ve finished and thought it actually looks insanely close to how it looked in my head while I was designing it!

All the toppers are fondant; the igloo is rice crispie treats covered in fondant. The trees were made with my mini star cutters and I trimmed a few to make them graduated a little at the top.  The ‘water’ in the fishing hole is a little royal icing tinted blue and poured into a dip created in the top of the cake.  I’m committing a cardinal sin by stating that I can’t remember what the cake inside is!  I think it might be vanilla but I’m not really sure!

These cupcakes were whipped up at the last minute to bring into work for St. Paddy’s Day.  I got it into my head that I wanted to make something bright to cheer everyone up and St Pat was a great excuse to make rainbows and pots of gold. The cupcakes were a basic vanilla tinted green and the frosting was the divine white chocolate buttercream.  This buttercream has become my new favourite and will be adorning most of my future cupcakes.  It firms up beautifully, it’s not greasy and tastes sweet with a lovely creamy kick from the added chocolate.  

All the toppers are fondant.  I used a mini heart cutter to make my Shamrocks, very simply adding a stem and sticking them together with a little water.

The rainbows were made by rolling thin lengths of different colours, sticking them with water then rolling them thin with my mini rolling pin and cutting them to size.

The pots are balls of black fondant, a small disc flattened on top with a mound of yellow on top. I rolled a few smaller balls of yellow and flattened them onto the large yellow mound then painted the whole thing with some gold lustre dust. 

And of course I had to tint the cupcakes green, it’s almost mandatory when it comes to St Patrick’s Day baking.

Be sure to check out my next post for my first ever competition!





Resolutions & Realisations

25 01 2011

So another year has passed and as we enter a new one I’m once again pondering whether I’ll be able to keep on top of blog posting as much as I would like to.  I was going to make a New Year resolution but I don’t think my brain could handle the additional guilt at not being able to stick to my promise.  Instead my focus is on a fresh start.  While life has been kicking me in the behind recently my baking has been neglected and part of me is happy with that.  Don’t all faint at once, it’s taken me a long time to realise that I have no one to answer to when it comes to how often I bake, or blog, or even brush my teeth (well except my dentist)  I think I’m still under the misapprehension that everything I undertake is being overseen by some higher being that has some power to punish me if I fail.  What exactly am I failing at if I don’t bake when no one has asked me to, ordered something from me or is paying me to do so?  The answer is nothing.  I don’t fail at life if I down baking tools, take a break and pay some attention to what is happening around me.  It’s something I’m still learning about & I can’t say I’ve progressed very much but I’m trying to bring the enjoyment back.  Every hobby or interest I’ve ever taken on has very quickly morphed into a chore and baking has been gradually becoming a monster in my life.  At times I feared the passion was gone altogether, I couldn’t even get motivated to think about it never mind produce something worthy of consumption. However I find myself with renewed vigour and the love for the art is back.  Now is the time to put the passion to good use and learn to balance the need to bake with the need to have a life too.  I was bitter for so long that I couldn’t pursue this full time, that other bakers, cake decorators, food bloggers had it lucky and I was forever destined to reconcile invoices while dreaming about macarons & brownies.  I can’t say I’m happy to acknowledge that this may well be my future, no one can know for sure, but I do know that I should not let that affect the love that is in my heart for the craft.

 Now that I’ve shared that insightful little part of my psyche with you I’m going to move onto more constructive information.  Not only was I finding it hard to find time to bake amongst the madness I couldn’t get past the fact that my baking equipment was a mess.  There was no point pretending any longer, I wasn’t even sure what was lurking at the back of the cupboards and instead of creating a space for everything I was just piling new on top of old and holding my breath hoping the whole Jenga like construction wouldn’t fall down round my ears the next time I opened the cupboard.

I’ve decided to share my organisational skills with the world in the hope that it inspires you to de-clutter or even to start picking up the tools of the trade that you think you might need to embark into the crazy baking world.

First things first, this is the horror before I tackled it:

There was more to this mess but I’ll refrain from bombarding you with it all.

And this is the result, totally worth 5 hours of my precious day off, really.

I’ve decided to delve deeper into each of the boxes to share my  basic baking toolkit.  I don’t consider my  collection to be large but I’m sure some beginners would find it overwhelming.  In order to save your sanity I’ll put the rest after the jump…apologies for the lengthy ramblings!

Read the rest of this entry »





Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

17 02 2010

As usual life outside of my baking world has severely encroached on my blogging time. The next few posts are a catch up on what I’ve been doing over the last month but I’m afraid they will mostly be pictures.  I hope to update at a later date with recipes.

First up are Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.  These bittersweet bad boys were the very first cupcakes I tagged in one of my many baking Christmas presents:  Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman.  I highly recommend this book, along with Cakes Galore by Phillipa Vanstone and Valerie Barrett.  They are both jam packed with a great range of flavours and fillings, from the super simple to the darn complicated.  

I cheated a little by using shop bought lemon curd but my reasons were two-fold, I was baking several items at once so my time was very tight and also, I’ve made lemon curd twice before and it wasn’t very successful, as this was a new recipe I thought I’d keep it simple. 

The lemon cupcake was lovely, the lemon curd was nice and tart, the only disappointment was the meringue.  I had hoped for something a little firmer and it was quite soft.  I would have liked to add a lot more of the topping but in order to cook a large amount the whole way through the tops would have been extremely burnt.  This is something I want to work on when I next make these cupcakes.  I might even make some traditional meringues and attach them with some curd to the top of the cupcake.