The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Marshmallow Fondant and Exterminate!

We just had a very busy few days with celebrating Father’s Day and my son’s birthday.  We did a small family gathering on Saturday and our friends have a tradition of hosting a BBQ at a local lake.  It was perfect before the kids are off on their summer adventures of camp and making the rounds with the grandparents.

My husband and I also got bikes!  Turns out the kids were thrilled as they love the bike paths round here so we’ll have plenty of fun with this family activity.  Though could someone please, please invent a more comfortable bike seat?  Yikes.  We’re lucky that there are many places to bike round town.  This town used to be a hub for the railways, even building the steam locos here.  When the rails were pulled up the lines became trails for bikes and walking.  Miles of them!

As some of you know we are fans of Dr Who and I wanted to do a Dalek cake for my son.  The thing is store bought fondant is, to put it mildly, awful tasting.  Not something you can really truthfully call edible.  While watching the Great British Bakeoff awhile ago we saw one of the contestants make a marshmallow fondant.  Of course the recipe wasn’t disclosed, probably something about editing and not enough time!  Excuses, excuses.

Thank goodness for the intertubes.  There are a few versions on how to make the marshmallow fondant.  I decided to go with the Wilton version as it was pretty simple.  When you have loads going on, simple is best!  Wilton is a cake decorating brand stateside.

The fondant needs to be started the day before.

Dalek cake 1 2016

In a large microwavable bowl add 16oz of good quality marshmallows and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the marshmallow has melted.

Dalek cake 2 2016

As you can imagine this was an extremely sticky enterprise.  Better than superglue!  Add 1 1/2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar.  You will need an additional half pound of the sugar set aside for the kneading.

Dalek cake 3 2016

Now if you know what you are going to do and know you just need one colour, add your colourant at this step.  It will be much easier to incorporate.  However, I was still figuring out how I was going to decorate this cake.  Start incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallow.  If you want any flavouring this is the step you add it.  I added a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Once the sugar is incorporated tip the mixture out on a greased counter.  And when I say greased, I mean greased.  I used vegetable shortening.  Not only do you need to grease the counter you need to grease your hands as well.  Sounds messy but trust me, it is much needed.

Knead like you would knead bread adding in the extra half pound of the sugar a bit at a time.  You may not need all of the sugar.  I had about an eighth of a cup left after the fondant came together in a smooth ball.

Dalek cake 4 2016

Store in an airtight container or bag and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning let it come to room temperature.  Add the colourant and then knead until the colour is uniform throughout.  Be patient as this can take awhile and be careful of your wrists as it is a bit of a workout.

Dalek cake 5 2016

I layered the cake and shaped it.  Then coated it with buttercream.

Dalek cake 6 2016

Roll out the fondant until about 1/8″/.3cm thick.  Drap the fondant over the cake.  The mistake I made here was not to keep the fondant cool enough.  So it began to rip as I was doing this.  And because it came into contact with the buttercream I couldn’t roll it up again and chill it.  So the Dalek looked a bit injured.

For the grey parts I used rice crispy treats and gum paste.  I also found edible adhesive.  That was a cool find I must say.

Dalek cake 7 2016

The cool thing about this is I managed to keep this a surprise from my son.  So when I brought it out after the lunch he was very surprised.  That was the best.  And it is wonderful, despite him growing so fast, he still loves stuff like this.

Victorian Sponge and a Fabulous Trip

There is something really surreal about being in London in the morning and the Hannafords grocery store in NH at night on the same day.  It messes with your head.  But we had an amazing trip.  The weather was just gorgeous, we even got a bit of a tan!  I didn’t blog as much I as planned because I forgot the cord for my camera.  Like most people I always forget something.  At least it wasn’t something major like a passport.

A few years ago I had tried to make a Victorian Sponge and it failed.  The middle wouldn’t cook and it was heavy, basically the opposite of what it should be.  I wasn’t sure if my technique was off or the flour was just different enough.  So it was on my list to make it while visiting my in-laws.  My MIL makes a fabulous Victorian Sponge.  My son is a fan so I wanted to get this figured out.

My MIL is a great teacher as it came out perfect!  Enough that I will be trying this here at home with our flour.

The cookery book she had is called The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  No idea who wrote it as it didn’t indicate.  Which is weird.

If at all possible use a hand mixer rather than the big mixers as you need to be delicate with the batter.  Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Prepare two 7in/18cm tins by greasing with butter.  Cut out circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the tins.

Victorian sponge 1 2016

In a mixing bowl add 4oz of caster sugar and 4 oz of softened butter.  Cream the two ingredients together with the hand mixer.

Victorian sponge 2 2016

Now this is where I went a bit wrong the first time I made this.  I was about to move on to the next step when my MIL said I wasn’t close!  Keep mixing.  And be patient.  It needs to be pale in colour and fluffy.

Victorian sponge 3 2016

Weigh out 4 oz of self raising flour.  Take a tablespoon of flour to the mixture and add an egg.

Victorian sponge 4 2016

Mix well and repeat this step with another egg.

Victorian sponge 5 2016

Sift the remaining flour in and gently fold it into the egg and butter mixture.

Victorian sponge 6 2016

You want to keep it airy as you do this step, don’t crush the fluffiness!  Divide the batter between the two tins.

Victorian sponge 7 2016

Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is golden brown and is springy to the touch.

Victorian sponge 8 2016

Cool for a few minutes then turn out on cooling racks.  Once it is cool spread jam of your choice onto one of the cakes and top with the other cake.  We used my Mil’s amazing rhubarb and ginger jam.  I’ll have to try to recreate it.  Delicious!  Sift powdered sugar on top.

Victorian sponge 9 2016

Serve when ready.  Add a cup of tea and enjoy!

Victorian sponge 10 2016

So glad my MIL helped me with this because this is definitely a treat we love.  🙂

Tips: If the batter comes out a little dry because of the flour add a little milk.  For different flavours add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.

 

Pear and Gooseberry Cake

Oh, just two more weeks of tax season and then I can get back to blogging more regularly.  Can’t wait!  Yesterday I didn’t have time to blog because I was baking and cooking up a storm.  It felt so good to be up and moving about.

The PT is working really well.  I went back to Pilates and last week after doing a forearm plank suddenly my shoulder felt fixed.  Figured out the bicep tendon had been flipped out of it’s groove for months.  Geez, if I had known doing planks would help I would have done that a lot sooner!  It’s wonderful not to feel old and infirm.  Can’t tell you how excited I am about this!

For St Patrick’s Day I usually cook something Irish.  Go figure, right?  As a treat I found a Pear and Gooseberry Cake with a Black Currant Compote in The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

It can be tricky to find ripe pears and because I only decided to do this on the day, the pears were pretty hard.  I microwaved them for a bit to soften them a little.  They were still on the firm side after baking but it was balanced with the softer gooseberries.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Pear gooseberry cake 2 2016

This is a cake not made with a mixer.  In a bowl mix together 1 3/4 cups of self rising flour, pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of ground ginger.

Pear gooseberry cake 3 2016

Cut in 4oz of cold butter into the flour mixture.  You want to mix the butter in well enough that it looks like bread crumbs.

Pear gooseberry cake 4 2016.JPG

Add in the two pears, chopped and about 1 1/2 cups of gooseberries.  The recipe calls for 3 cups but that would be way too much and put out the cake out of balance.  Mix well.  Add a 1/2 cup of sugar.

Pear gooseberry cake 5 2016

Add 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 a cup of milk.  Mix and then spread out into a 9 x 13″ pan.

Pear gooseberry cake 6 2016

Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pear gooseberry cake 7 2016

While the cake is baking put a cup or so of black currants in a small saucepan.  Add about a 1/2 a cup of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Gradually add brown sugar until you get the balance of sweet and tart you like.  Just don’t make it thick like jam.  I kept it on the tart side because my husband loves the flavour of the black currants.

Pear gooseberry cake 8 2016

This is a very moist cake with a lovely sweet and tart flavour to it.  I do apologise for the last picture.  My camera was being wonky, I think because the batteries weren’t  charged properly.  I have to say it’s nice that it is so light later now, I’m back to being able to use natural light again.

The Cherry Tops It – Madeira Cake

Today was an exciting day for our daughter.  She had the opportunity to be on a local cooking show done by our friend Luca.  It was exciting to watch the process as well.  I have to say I’m a bit envious of her having this chance but more than that I’m very proud of her.  And she had a blast.  When the link to the show is available in about a month I will share it with everyone. 

I can be found occasionally saying to people I take requests for my blog posts.  I say it a lot to my family as it very often sparks ideas and keeps things fresh for me.  Sometimes when it gets crazy busy as it will now with tax season my creativity gets a bit blocked.  So I ask.  And yes someone took me up on that!  Our friends up in Scotland, Dianna and Hugh, mentioned they really like baked goods with cherries along the lines of madeira cake.  Sounds good to me.  🙂

To give you an idea how the cold I had muddled my brain I was thinking I needed to find the wine.  Which obviously I didn’t but man the cold just made me ditzy as can be.  Thank goodness that is passing!  But this cake goes well with the wine, hence the name, but is also a lovely tea cake.  Denser than a Victoria sponge but very light nonetheless.

There are several recipes available for this cake but I chose to follow the one from the BBC.  I added the glacé cherries.  They went very well with the lemony cake.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and lightly grease and flour a 8″ cake pan.

Because this is an English recipe it calls for self-raising flour, which I don’t have, so I had to make my own.  There are what seems like a million versions on how to make self-raising flour, all different mind.  Using the dart board method I went with a tsp and a smidge of baking powder and a pinch of salt to the 9oz called for in this recipe.  Definitely weigh the ingredients for this recipe.  Set this aside.

In a mixing bowl cream together 6oz of softened butter and 6oz of sugar.  While that is blending together, take about 3-4oz of glacé cherries and soak them in warm water to get rid of the excess sugar. 

Madeira cake 1 2014

Add 3 eggs one at a time and beat until blended.  As the last egg is being beaten into the mixture slowly add the flour mixture a bit at a time until well blended.  It will be a bit stiff but then add 2-4T of milk one at a time to the mixture.  Depending on your flour you may need to add more milk.  You don’t want it runny but it needs to be smooth enough to slowly fall off the spoon or mixer paddle. 

Madeira cake 2 2014

Take a clean organic lemon and zest it into the the batter.  Be careful you don’t dig into the pith, try to just do the yellow bit, so it’s not bitter but you have a nice bright flavour. 

Madeira cake 3 2014

Drain the cherries and pat dry.

Madeira cake 4 2014

Lightly coat them in flour and add to the mixture.

Madeira cake 5 2014

Spoon out into the baking pan.

Madeira cake 6 2014

This needs to bake 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.  I went the full 40 minutes.  Once it is nice and golden and the toothpick test comes clean remove and let cool for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Madeira cake 8 2014

Slice and enjoy.  It’s been a hit as there is only one slice left!  Fortunately it is really easy to make perfect for tea or wine.  Your choice.  🙂

Bringing the Fruit Cake to a Winter Wonderland

Hard to believe Christmas has come and gone.  So much preparation that goes on then you blink and it’s gone.  It was an absolute whirlwind.  This year it was our turn to have the kids for the day rather than Christmas Eve and morning.   Once they had done the presents at their mother’s they arrived to our round of presents and sticky buns.  Then a dash to my parents where the whole family gets together.  In the years past we usually pass a present out to everyone then we all open and see what each other gets, say thank you , that sort of thing.  I have no idea what happened this year.  It was chaos.  Paper flying, screams, excitement, confusion.  When it was done the adults just sat back and wondered what just happened.  Fortunately it quieted down and all the kids went off to play with their new toys, the adults fortified themselves with wine and beer and we had a breather.   My mum cooked the Christmas dinner and it was a lovely turkey with the sides.  It’s a lot of work but she pulled it off beautifully.  We both made Christmas cakes and she made a trifle.  That was delicious.

I offered to make the cake and mum said that we should each make one as we seem to be the only family stateside that never has enough fruit cake!  Our husbands would be happy to each have one.  🙂  This year I wanted to create a winter wonderland for the kids.  I bought way too much candy for this cake so we have a large bag left over.  What was in my head was much bigger than the cake!  I had to downsize a bit.  Ah well.

The recipe I used was our family’s recipe for the Christmas Cake.

I had seen on pinterest a few times people using sugar cones to make trees so I thought I would give that a try.  To cut down to size just use a bread knife.  Very easy.

Winter wonderland 1 2013

I set this aside and work on the other elements.  Once I start using the Royal Icing I have to work quickly.  I wanted to do a snowman so I used marzipan as the base and stacked them with two toothpicks.

Winter wonderland 2 2013

I then iced the cake and placed the candy where I wanted it.  I used sugar plums as little ponds. Had some gummy bears frolicking in the “snow”.   I iced the snowman.  At first I was obsessed on getting it all smooth but then I realised that real snowmans aren’t always smooth either.  Once I was done with the white I added the green and iced the sugar cone to make a tree and added some sugar pearls to dress it up a bit.

Winter wonderland 4 2013

To paint the snowman I used food colouring gel to draw the face and buttons.  To finish the cake I dusted it with white glitter dust to add a bit of sparkle.

Winter wonderland 5 2013

Winter wonderland 3 2013

I was pleased with it and I couldn’t wait to bring it. When we were waiting for the kids to show I made the mistake of putting the dome over it and left it in the sun.  When I got in the car I noticed red puddles on top of the cake.  The peppermint candy canes had melted the red off!  It was a massacre.  Good thing I had taken the photos!  We had a good laugh about it and it didn’t change the flavour of the cake.  🙂

Castle Birthday Cake

My kids love creative cakes.  Well they love cake so I could get by with a bit of frosting.  But they really love something over the top.  It’s my son’s birthday this month and he has been thinking about his cake for months!  We talked about a pirate cake for which he was on board.  Then we talked about a cake with knights and that perked him up.  Then I said what about a castle cake that has knights defending the gold with the pirates attacking?  Eyes go wide.  Score!  🙂

As I mentioned in this apple jam post he really wanted the apple filling.  I made that the day before his family party.

Several days prior I needed to make the castle tower so it was set and ready to go.  Crispy rice treats are a major component to doing something like this.

Castle cake 1 2013

It’s very unglamorous but you squish the treats together to form the tower and the bits at the top until you get the shape you need.

Castle cake 2 2013

I like to use gum paste to cover the form so I mix in the colours I need for this and start wrapping the tower.  It gets a bit fiddly trying to blend the seams.

Castle cake 3 2013

Then I add the doors and windows and the floor of the top of the tower.  Once finished stick toothpicks on the bottom so it can be attached to the cake.

Castle cake 4 2013

Now when I showed him the tower he was thrilled.  I had bought some figures and was going to keep it relatively simple.  But then my MIL got grand plans!  She said to my son how wonderful it would be with a moat, drawbridge, fencing, etc.  Facepalm.  LOL  Back to the drawing board!  I managed to figure it out.

On the day of I placed the cake onto the board for decoration.  He requested yellow cake for this layer.

Castle cake 5 2013

I had some round chocolate cake in the freezer so I layered that onto the yellow cake with apple jam.

Castle cake 6 2013

I then took broken pieces of cake to form a rough “cliff” which I didn’t take any photos of unfortunately.  I placed the tower onto the cake then used buttercream frosting in green, yellow, and blue as this was a cliff scene coming off a beach.  I made a yellow moat with blue gel for the water.

Castle cake 7 2013

Next I used brown sugar as the sand.  I placed the figures round the cake to set up the scene.

Castle cake 8 2013

I found these great tall birthday candles that I used for torches round the tower and then one near the canon to light it.  🙂  I used yellow peanut M & Ms for the gold.

Castle cake 9 2013

I used part of a kitkat bar as the drawbridge.

Castle cake 10 2013

And what is a fantasy scene without a dragon?

Castle cake 12 2013

Needless to say he loved it.  🙂

 

 

 

Easter Cake

Over the years I had wondered about the Easter Bunny and eggs.  I mean, bunnies don’t have eggs.  And having gone to church until I was about 8 or 9 I had a pretty good grasp on what Christians thought Easter was about.  No mention of bunnies or eggs.  Strange.  Recently I’ve discovered the history and it makes sense now.  Original Easter was all about the bunnies and eggs.  Way back when you had Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex.  Woman would put out red eggs about the time we celebrate Easter. There there is the Goddess Eostre and people also celebrated with eggs and also bunnies because bunnies breed like, well you know.  🙂

My Grandma was a huge fan of Cadbury Creme Eggs and she passed that addiction on to me.  Cadbury licensed the eggs to Hershey.  Sigh, not the same at all.  They are smaller and not as creamy.  Fortunately I have a source for the real stuff.  I love the mini eggs as well and as far as I can tell there isn’t any difference.  Yay!

Easter happened to be the day where the whole family could get together to celebrate my birthday and my mum’s so I decided to make an Easter cake as we’d have all the kids together.  I was going to do gum paste eggs but my daughter had a better idea of using the mini eggs.  Smart cookie.  😉

I made the fruit cake ahead of time for this.  And I did the marzipan and royal icing the same as I did it at Christmas.

I wanted spring flowers for this cake so I used gum paste for this step.  I mixed in the colour I wanted and rolled it out thinly and used the cutters to cut out the shapes.  You need to work somewhat quickly with gum paste as it starts to dry out.

Easter Cake 1 2013

Easter Cake 2 2013

I then shaped the flowers and decorate the centers.  I used sugar and sugar pearls for the flowers.  I also shaped an Easter basket.

Easter Cake 3 2013

Once all the gum paste decorations are done I prepped the cake with jam and the marzipan.  I whipped up a batch of royal icing and spread it on the cake.  I wasn’t worried too much about how smooth it was as it was representing grass.  I placed mini eggs around the base and in the basket.  I then placed the flowers on the top of the cake.  My son picked out the Easter bunny.  🙂

Easter Cake 4 2013

Easter Cake 5 2013

As a finishing touch I dusted the flowers with pearl dust.

Easter Cake 6 2013

It was a hit with the kids.  🙂  It was hard not to eat the royal icing as I did this cake.  I love royal icing!  But the sugar rush is a bit much.  🙂

 

 

Chocolate cupcakes

My son was having his first ever sleepover so I wanted to make it special.  I decided to surprise him with chocolate cupcakes.  I’ll post tomorrow the decoration part of it.  The recipe I used this time was Basic Chocolate Cake from the Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking.  This book is getting worn out!  It is falling apart at the seams.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

The recipe calls for 4 oz of unsweetened chocolate to be melted.  Now I use whatever we have on hand.  This time I had chocolate chips.  In the past I’ve used Belgium chocolate.  Which is outstanding!

I melt my chocolate in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time until melted.  It is important to stir each time to keep the heat even.  Otherwise you risk burning the chocolate.  Smoking hot is not a good thing here.

In the mixing bowl add 1/2 cup butter softened and 1 1/2 cups sugar.

Mix until creamed and blended.

Next add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix well.

At this point the chocolate should be melted.

Add to the mixture and blend well.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients.  2 cups of flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of bake soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  At this point you will also need 1 cup milk.  This need to be mixed into the chocolate mixture a bit at a time alternating between the flour mixture and the milk.  Mix after each addition.

Couldn’t resist an action shot.  🙂

If you are just doing straight cakes then grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  As I was doing cupcakes I set up 12 cupcakes and one cake pan.  For some reason there was a battle between myself and the cupcake paper cups.  It was a massive struggle for me to get the batter in.  I won in the end.  But geez.

Bake for 27 to 35 minutes.  You want the toothpick to come out clean.  Then let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  I froze the cake for another time and set aside the cupcakes for decoration.

Decoration will be shown next time.  🙂