Category Archives: First attempts

Catch up continues

40th Birthday cake

Poker cake

This cake was just a little one that I made for James’s friend as he was going to be the big 40 and loves a game of Poker so the design was a no brainer. I managed to get a playing card cutter which I thought would have been perfect, however when I decided on the cake, I realised that the cutter was a little large! But not to worry, I changed my idea to look like a poker table with some oversized cards and obviously with some poker chips. They were really easy to make, roughly measuring the size I needed for the chip I placed little white balls of fondant on the circle and lightly rolled over it with a rolling then Hey Presto we have some poker chips. Happy with the end cake, although if I have to make this theme again will definitely make the cake  bigger or the cards a little smaller!

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Christmas baking catch up!

Xmas

Happy Christmas times

Over the festive period I didn’t really have time to do as much baking as I would have liked. Between  a little trip to Inverness, dog sitting for a few weekends and going to visit my Mum and Dad for New year there wasn’t much free time at all, although I can’t complain as it was all good fun and making memories is just as good as making cakes!

My Christmas baking list was

  • Christmas Tree Cupcakes
  • Viennese Mince pies
  • Christmas Macaroons
  • Ginger and Clementine Shortbread
  • Chocolate cheesecake

treeFor my Christmas tree cupcakes, I just made chocolate cupcakes and piped some bright green butter icing, all finished off with some sparkle.

I like to share my baking as little gift at Christmas time and I decided to change the shortbread ever so slightly so I went for clementine and ginger. The recipe was a little bit of guess work but it was all greatly received so its on the list as a success.  I used the baking mad recipe for the Christmas Macaroons and it is always a winner. On my second attempt the macaroon were perfect, I think the house was too cold the first time so they didn’t settle enough before going in the oven.

I used the John  Whaite’s recipe for the Viennese mince pies, but I think I had to cream the topping a little more that I did, but not bad for a first attempt.

I tweeted the picture to John and as he is so lovely, he replied which made my day!!

Viennese mince piestweet

bob

Bob enjoying a little sleep

When we were looking after Bob the dog I didn’t have access to a functioning oven so I made a Chocolate Cheesecake. This is a go to recipe for me that I found in a recipe book called Chocolate and it is always a crowd-pleaser. It is made using a lot of cream cheese, double cream and exquisitely bitter plain chocolate. With a chocolate digestive buttery base this is really only for certified chocoholics. As this was for a dessert I also made some chocolate truffles and as I had some chocolate left over I thought that I would have a go at a chocolate collar.

cjhe

 

A little bit of Gardening – Cake style!!

Over the past few months I haven’t been baking much, well the odd cake here and there but nothing to write about. That changed a few months ago when a work colleague asked if I could make her husband’s 60th Birthday Cake. As a keen Gardener she was looking for a Lemon cake that looked like an allotment. Looking for some inspiration I had a look for some ideas online and I had 2 options, decorate with Fondant icing or buttercream. It was decided to go with Fondant so that the cake wouldn’t be too sweet so I go t to work planning it all.

Basic things needed for any respected allotment –

* Shed

* Vegetable patch complete with Vegetables

* Flowers

* Wellies

* Flower boxes

* Lovely little picket fence

* Grass

Not a long list, but when you are contemplating making them from fondant it certainly feels like one. I made the decision to make the cake completely edible, which meant that the shed had to also be made out of cake. I would say that the cake was 99.9% edible, had to but some skewers in to hold up my tomato plants!

Part 1 of the plan – make some vegetables and Wellies.

VegetablesWhen it comes to vegetable patches I am far from an expert so I decided to keep it simple. The list consisted of Carrots, Parsnips, Cabbages, Cauliflowers, Beetroot, and Tomatoes. Obviously I knew what they all looked like but trying to produce miniature vegetables from icing did prove to be a challenge. Every two minutes I was asking James, ‘what does this look like?’

Thankfully they were all easily identified by James, so on to the Wellies. Stupidly I though these would easier than the vegetables, but that was certainly wasn’t the case. I had 3 attempts until I managed something that resembled some kind of footwear, there could be a plausible debate as to whether they could pass for Wellies.

Part 2 of the plan – make the cake (easiest part!!)

Onwards and upwards, it was time to make the cake, which is something I could do with my eyes closed. I used the zingy lemon cake recipe from the BBC food website as I have used it in the past and it was pretty fool proof. As well as the 9 inch main cake I had to also make a miniature cake that in my head would become the shed. Cake turned out well, as expected as did the miniature one. The bonus was that there was cake left over so I could ensure the cake tasted nice before I spent hours covering and finishing it.

A cake may look good but if it tastes awful then it becomes a waste of time.

Part 3 of the plan – cover the cake and make it resemble an allotment

As the cake was going to be covered in fondant I decided on colouring some white fondant a lovely green colour, although not a dark grass green as I didn’t think that would look edible. I was more than happy with the outcome of the icing, the colouring was really easy and several hours of kneading later I had a lovely shade of green to cover my cake. Once the main cake was done, I turned my attention to covering the shed. Using some brown fondant I covered the mini cake and scored it slightly to make it look like wood. Then added a little window and a flat roof. I did want to do a proper roof, but the icing just wouldn’t sit properly so I had to go with the flat one, and it didn’t look too bad. I also made some little flower boxes, and also the beds for the vegetables.

With all the elements ready all I had to do was put it all together. Once it all came together I was really pleased with how it looked, I added the little fence and a gate, as helped to hide a few little imperfections.

Mini Baker Grace- Treacle Scones

Hi I am mini baker Grace and I am going to be telling you all about my baking tales, the first of these tales are about my treacle scones I made for a Father’s Day tea.

Cold hands help!!

Cold hands help!!

I enjoyed making the Treacle Scones because they are different and challenging too. My tip would be to be quick making the mixture but take care with the dough, not handling it too much. Next time I am thinking about making plain scones so I can try them with Jam! I am also going to make a birthday cake for Grandpa Bill, not sure what it will be but at least I will have had some practice for Amanda’s birthday in February( I just hope Dad can help me as well as Amanda does)

Once the heated treacle is added the dough is nice and warm!!

Once the heated treacle is added the dough is nice and warm!!

I hope it is just as much fun on my next baking project, will keep you posted!! I hope you will all enjoy reading my posts and I will try to give you some tips as I learn them.

All ready for my assistant Amanda to put in the oven

All ready for my assistant Amanda to put in the oven

Write to you next time,

Mini Baker Grace

All baked, smell amazing and cant wait to try them

All baked, smell amazing and cant wait to try them

Afternoon tea all ready for a Fathers day treat

Afternoon tea all ready for a Fathers day treat

Teddy Bears Picnic

view view1

With a theme of a Teddy Bears picnic and the prospect of cake club in the sunshine I really had to think about what to make. I think every kind of summery fruit went through my head, and the more recipes I looked at the more confused my little brain got. As we were all praying for sunshine I had to make sure I picked a cake that was robust enough to withstand being sat in the blistering sunshine whilst remaining edible! My first thought was to make a teddy bear shaped cake, which would have been a good excuse to use my ‘grass’ piping nozzle but quickly talked myself out of that, it would be like watching a Snowman melt in the winter – and there is nothing more depressing than that. So several hundred Google searches later I decided on a Raspberry and Lemon Polenta Cake. This was the recipe from the Good Food website and was tagged a ‘summery’ cake so ideal for a day in the sunshine. Another deciding factor was that I had some fine cornmeal in the cupboard that I needed to use and I have the right amount so killed two birds with one idea.

Cakecake1cake2

That is all from me for now but I am hoping that the next post is going to be from Mini Baker Grace

So watch this space everyone.

Salted Caramel (well kind of) and Chocolate Tart

This week I let Grace decide what I baked, well she came up with the main flavours and I decided on the recipe. I was not at all surprised her choice of Chocolate and Salted Caramel. Instead of making a cake I decided to go for something that I don’t make often, pastry. Looking through some of my many baking books I didn’t come across any recipes for a Salted and Caramel Tart so I had to rely on Google to find one. I found several hundred recipes and decided on a recipe for Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart from www.homecookingadventure.com .

The pastry was easy to make and had the added flavour of ground almonds which gives the pastry a lovely texture. The first stumbling block was to bake the pastry blind. As I do not own baking beans I had to rely on a tip from Delia. Queen Delia says that you don’t have to use baking beans as long as you prick the base and I can confirm that this did indeed work.

Pastry case all bakedSome people may think that the pastry would be the most difficult aspect of this recipe, but that must only be people who have never tried to make caramel from scratch. I have to admit that I was going to buy the Carnation Caramel as a little cheat but when this was suggested, Grace did say that I wouldn’t do that as I am a proper baker, I couldn’t let her down so I had to make it. How hard could it be to boil some sugar and water, add cream and butter?

So far so good!

So far so good!

Once I had the sugar and water going in the pan, i got the butter,cream and salt all ready and waited patiently for the magic to happen. I think we scared the sugar with all the watching as one minute it was bubbling away and the next the water had completely evaporated and was left with a crusty mess. Not one to give up I added a little water which did the trick, the lovely bubbles returned and went a lovely golden colour. Once I got past this ordeal I added the cream, which Grace was mesmerised with saying that it resembled a science experiment, and she wasn’t wrong. Thankfully the caramel looked as it should and the butter gave it a lovely sheen so it was all ready to go in the chocolate case.

Looks like caramel for a while

Looked like caramel for a while

As with any recipe there is always some caramel left over so we got to try it and sadly this was not going to be what we knew as soft gooey caramel. I am guessing the added water was not the best idea as this caramel was setting hard, very similar to hard fudge or soft tablet. But I decided to keep with it and made the chocolate ganache for the top. once it was covered I could forget about the caramel disaster and just hope that it tasted ok when we had it for pudding. It definitely looked the part.

all ready to be eaten

 

TASTING TIME

My faith became slightly restored in my ability when I cut a slice of the finished tart as I didn’t have to saw into it. And the smile on Grace’s face when she tasted it confirmed that although it wasn’t as it should be it was still tasty. So at the beginning of the weekend I had planned to make a Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart, but I think this needs to be renamed as Chocolate and Salted Fudge Tart.

Just a little slice!!

Just a little slice!!

 

Next weeks star ingredient – French Glace Cherries. Just need to have a think about what to make!!

Rhubarb and Custard Cake – made by a converted Rhubarb fan!

As I had Saturday to myself I decided to do some baking and I let James choose what I made. The choice was an easy one for him as he went for Rhubarb and Custard cake, main reason being I had missed the last Cake Club which meant he didn’t get a chance to sample the cakes which included a Rhubarb and Custard cake made by the lovely Margaret. I didn’t mind trying the recipe as I haven’t really baked with rhubarb before and I all for trying new things!

I looked up several recipes and all were very different, some with stewed rhubarb, others with rhubarb jam and the recipe I picked from the Clandestine Cake Club book used roasted rhubarb which I thought would give a good flavour. First I had to cut up the rhubarb and in hindsight I should have perhaps kept it a little chunkier, but I got a little carried away whilst slicing it. As with most recipes I also completely ignored the amount and put in more than I should have, but when I tasted the cake, I could have put more in.

Rhubarb all ready to be roasted!Roasted Rhubarb

Once roasted the rhubarb tasted lovely and I have to admit some of it didn’t make it into the cake tin. Whilst it was cooling I made up the cake mixture, which was a simple 4 egg mixture with an Amanda twist. Reading through the recipe, the only custard was going to be in the topping, I took the executive decision that this was not going to be enough. So several spoonfuls of tinned custard later the cake was ready to be assembled. At this point I had to dip a piece of the roasted rhubarb into the custard just to make sure. The recipe called for the mixture to be baked in a loaf tin but that was not going to happen so I went for my hexagon tin, layering the rhubarb with the cake mixture – then it was time to bake. 50 Minutes later the cake was done and cooling so it was time to make the fat free topping! Well when I say fat free, apart from the butter,custard, cream cheese and the sugar the air whipped in was definitely completely fat free. The quantities for the frosting was far too much for the size of the cake, so I decided to cut in half and sandwich it together and then cover it in the remaining mixture. For the decoration I was to put sugar and rhubarb in a pan with some water, make a caramel and it turned out ok although I could have boiled it for a little longer.

The cake went down well with James and was a good weekend treat after he reached 500 wickets. A massive well done to him!

Cake all baked Rhubarb and Custard Cake Rhubarb and Custard Cake A slice of the cake

Next week’s cake is Grace’s choice so I think it may involve Chocolate or salted caramel, or more than likely both!!

Watch this space  

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