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.

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Big Bucks Bake Off 2015

Each year the Eden Shopping centre hosts a food festival and there is a Big Bucks Bake Off which is judged by a celebrity chef/baker. The first year I entered it was Mary Berry but I wasn’t a winner with my lemon and coconut cake. Last year it was Jean Christophe Novelli and again I was unsuccessful with my lemon and blueberry cake. Although I did get some positive feedback from him so that was good enough for me.

For the competition this year the judge was Gregg Wallace and I decided to give it another go. Trying to come up with a cake was easy, after watching a few episodes on Masterchef it was clear that Gregg has an incredibly sweet tooth. I combined a few recipes and came up with a Sticky Toffee Cake with homemade Salted Caramel buttercream. That however was the easy part as I then had to perfect the cake and caramel, both of which I have never made before!

I did a practice run and it went well apart from the cake burning around the edge, and this could not happen to my actual entry as all you could taste was the burnt bits!

First Attempt, a little burnt

First Attempt, a little burnt. Next stop the real one!!

I managed to get the flavours right and apart from the burnt edge, I was happy with the cake itself so on Thursday it was time to bite the bullet and make the one that would become my entry for the competition. I have never really used this method of making a cake before, working with date ‘pulp’ and melted butter but the recipe itself did come together quite easily and the raw mixture was rather tasty.

After over an hour we have Salted caramel!

After over an hour we have Salted caramel!

Flour all sieved and ready to fold!

Flour all sieved and ready to fold!

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Eggs, Muscovado sugar and Golden Syrup whisking away

Dates mashed within an inch of their life.

Dates mashed within an inch of their life .

To ensure that the cakes baked evenly I put a tray of steaming water at the bottom of the oven which worked and I was really happy with the sponges as they came out level and not burnt!! After a little rest and a coffee I had to make the Salted Caramel which was another challenge as the method was not one that I have heard of before. I always believed that when making caramel, the one thing that you shouldn’t do is stir the sugar as it will crystalise but the recipe I was following stated that you had to stir the sugar constantly until it eventually becomes an amber liquid. After about an hour and with help from James the sugar finally melted and kind of resembled caramel, so in went the butter, cream and the all important salt.

The easiest part of the recipe was to make the buttercream as it was a basic mixture until I added the salted caramel. This turned it into something so delicious that I could have easily eaten it all but sadly I had to put it on the cake. I decided to pipe the buttercream in the middle of the cake and on the top just to make it look a little fancy, using my large plain piping nozzle. I managed to keep a little of the salted caramel so I piped little droplets between the peaks and finished the cake off with some Thorntons vanilla fudge which I cut up into little squares.

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The entries this year were really good and when I dropped my cake off I didn’t think I would have any chance of getting a place. So I was really happy when I managed to get 3rd Place, I was so surprised and Gregg said lovely things about my cake.

Comments about my cake!    FullSizeRender

The winner of the competition was a lovely lady from Cake Club which was also good, although Alison should have won a trophy as her mint humbug cake looked amazing and I know it would have tasted lovely!!

We are going for a clean sweep next year – Fellow Bucks bakers look out!!

It’s all about double digits!!!

So a few weeks ago my Stepdaughter Grace, or little mini baker Grace as you all know her, celebrated her 10th birthday. It seems to have all changed as when I turned 10, a few years ago well several really lets be honest, it wasn’t really a big deal but today it’s all about getting to double diimagegits!!

A real big milestone so obviously we had to mark this big day with a little party and of course a cake fit for a 10 year old. Planning the party was easy, make everything pink and girly with a hint of sparkle. The cake on the other hand was tricky as I really didn’t know what to make. I decided on a giant cupcake with some little cupcakes all finished off with some edible glitter and the big 10 candles. The inside was a little special as I made a vanilla sponge and turned the cake into a piñata cake filled with smarties. To make it look like a cupcake I used white chocolate fingers and the pink icing to look like a cake case and piped pink and white roses on top. This was also an excuse to use my giant cupcake tin as I had only used it once before and we don’t want James thinking that is should go to cake tin heaven!

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The little party itself was a success if I do say so myself as chief and only person in the party planning committee!! There was some Karaoke and a lot of eating what more does a 10 year old need. So a very belated Happy birthday to mini Baker Grace- next stop is the big 11 and probably boys!!!!!image

Chocolate Roulade- lost in the post!!

Grace is due to write her next blog article but with the school holidays and turning 10, she has been really busy and hasn’t had time to write. There are just not enough hours in the day but should be here next week.

Roulade

I am also a little behind, but on holiday next week so will be all up to date soon.

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

Almost time for Grace!!

You have all briefly seen Mini Baker Grace in the past, as she created Harry the chocolate hedgehog cake and of course the delicious profiterole tower at Christmas. But on these occasions I did most of the baking but as Grace has got a little older and responsible she is now creating her own yummy creations and I am merely her assistant to help with all things hot and heavy! So this blog is going to be shared with Grace, she will be writing all about her baking tales and knowing Grace her posts may also include the odd Unicorn and Dog. Not only will this develop her baking skills but will also develop her writing skills. So killing two birds with one stone, whilst also eating cake!

Teddy Bears Picnic

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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.

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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.

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