Tag Archives: cake

We did it! Again.

11pm two nights before the wedding and we had undershot our 9pm target finish time by a mere two hours. Disposing of several kilos of fondant and wearing our ‘we hate fondant’ faces, tired and weary and slightly hysterical we battled with covering four cakes. This was day four in the week-long run up to the wedding. The preceding day Emma had made vast amounts of buttercream and the following and final day we were dowelling and decorating long after our willingness had gone to bed. Trials and tribulations of the past few weeks are too much a blur to recall here in detail but suffice it to say that more expletives uttered, hysterical laughter erupted and icing sugar coated moments were experienced in Emma’s apartment recently than ever before. After a rather seat-gripping nerve-wracking drive from London to Marlow with a four tier cake balanced in the back, the infamously muttered lines of ‘never again’ were repeated but I am sure like all declarations of good intent, we had said that the previous time. We really had been ambitious with this one. Each tier with distinct flavourings of chocolate, and white chocolate buttercream, lemon curd, and apricot jam (not to mention the finger-flavoured slice some poor guest must have eaten since somebody had poked a finger into the top tier. Grrr). In the end, it all ended well and the wedding was beautiful. Congratulations to you Renzo and Elsa and thank you so much for trusting us with the first cake slice of your wedded life.

 

 

Oops I did it again

I agreed to make another wedding cake. ‘Agree’ is putting it mildly. The agreement was infused with enthusiasm and love and excitement and the conversation culminated in me saying that I would be honoured to make Renzo and Elsa’s wedding cake.

And then I realised that the wedding was a day before Emma’s birthday (Emma without whom I could not have pulled off my previous cake effort). So I proposed the following: “Emma, why don’t we just cancel your birthday dinner, you instead spend your birthday helping me make this cake and then we’ll somehow transport it to Berkshire”. Obviously she agreed. LOVE HER.

Since then we’ve been sketching ideas and buying tins n cutters n cute things and we went to a decorating course – where we made this.

tiered cake

No recipe attached as we didn’t actually bake, we spent the day at RockBakehouse learning new decorating techniques .

It was fun and tiring and so so rewarding to be creatively engaged.

Carrying the cake home on commuter trains was, um, interesting. And then I decided it would be an awesome idea to carry the cake all the way up to Leicester.

Time to get baking!

3 ways with courgettes

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I have lots of cousins and lots courgettes in my refrigerator. The cousins aren’t in my refrigerator of course, the courgettes are. Both are equally vocal. The cousins communicating all manner of things from encouraging and engaging to teasing and tantrums. The courgettes are calling for me to cook them. I guess that so many of my courgettes have been eaten thinly sliced and tossed raw into salads that it’s a fair request. When I didn’t know what to do with the amount of courgette amassing in my fridge I turned to Deb Perelmen’s plethora of recipes for I knew she would have some fun things to do with the vegetable. And fun things she did have. So I hereby give you three of my favourite things to do with courgettes: The aforementioned courgette salad that I have been eating all too frequently through summer, courgette fritters and courgette bread (which we all know is actually cake but I’m sticking with calling it bread. It sounds healthier).

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Speaking of healthy (and cousins); my cousin Daksha having taken a renewed approach to health and fitness (and how very proud of her I am for doing so) had been asking me for the recipe for courgette fritters. I had promised her a recipe post, oh I don’t know, about… a month ago. Every week since I have been thinking “yep, I’ll do that at the weekend”, and then Sunday comes and goes and suddenly Monday is upon me and I’m in the middle of this chaos called daily life yearning for the weekend again. What, how?! As my aunt pointed out this could have something to do with the hours I while away experimenting with recipes in the kitchen but I’m sticking with the story of my own personal time warp. Kind of like right now. Sunday night. Tick tock…

Courgette salad

Ingredients
1 medium sized courgette
1 tbsp  olive oil
handful of pine nuts
1 tbsp pesto
squeeze of fresh lemon

Using a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin if you are lucky enough to have one of those), top and tail the courgette and thinly slice until you have ribbons of it on the plate. Squeeze over some fresh lemon, and spoon through the olive oil, pesto and pine nuts. Simples.

I often eat this on it’s own although I have on occasion mixed it through some pasta and melted feta. That’s pretty awesome too.

courgette salad

Courgette fritters

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
1 large courgette
1 egg
½ cup buckwheat (or normal flour)
half an onion, sautéed (optional)
seasoning
oil for cooking (I prefer coconut oil here)

Grate the courgette and season with salt. Leave to sit for ten minutes.

Squeeze the water from the vegetable either by wringing it through a cloth, or pressing it hard into a sieve until all the liquid has been drained. It’s the less-fun part of the process but you’ll be thankful you did it otherwise you’ll end up with soggy courgette fritters and no-one wants that.

Put the grated, squeezed courgette into a bowl and add the egg and half cup of flour plus some salt and pepper. Mix it all together.

If using onions (they do add texture and flavour to the fritters), sauté them in a little oil until translucent and soft. Add them to the mix.

Dollop a little of the mixture into a pan of hot oil and fry until the underside of the fritters are brown. Flip and cook the other side.

I love these served with home made mayonnaise.

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Courgette Bread (Cake)

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients (yields two loaves)
3 eggs
200ml olive oil
220g sugar
350g grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract
420g wholegrain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp salt
Optional extras: handful of chopped walnuts or pecans or raisins or chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 6x11inch loaf pan, liberally.

Beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil, sugar, courgette and vanilla.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as any optional extras (nuts, chocolate chips raisins, if using). Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into the loaf tin.

Bake loaves for about an hour or until golden on top and an inserted knife comes out clean.

Share with cousins :)

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Project Wedding Cake – success!

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I am posting this amidst the Sunday morning soporific effect of post-wedding success. Accomplishments so far today: hauled self out of bed. Picked blackberries and apples from the garden and eaten copious amounts of both.

I don’t suppose you want to hear about yet more buttercream; lord knows I don’t. I have recently made enough of it to fuel an entire village of people for a month. Yet, having been elbow deep in vast quantities of butter and sugar for what seems like an eternity, the keyboard is a welcome respite from the perils of kitchen spoon-licking. So, you’re going to hear about the project. Again. Lucky you.

raspberries

Did I mention that I had roped Emma (and her wonderful kitchenaid) into project wedding cake? I had. So Thursday evening at the office we were both itching to get going. Part excitement because we are the kind of people who get excited about fooling around with ingredients and kitchen tools, and part nervousness about the magnitude of the cake task that lay ahead – the making of it and the transporting of it to the wedding venue. I was already somewhat wary following Emma’s stern warnings “there will be no licking of the buttercream bowls”. I’ll say no more about that.

The entire evening, we weighed, measured, sieved, levelled, softened, heated, whisked, whipped, dowelled, chilled, coated, piped, and panicked (only slightly… okay a lot, but wouldn’t you if the cake suddenly started sliding en-route and was about to fall into the driver’s lap?!). In all honesty the transportation of 10kgs of decorated wedding cake was the most stressful part of the evening. The rest was a lot of fun. My personal favourite was the 2kgs of icing sugar forming a haze of sweet white cloud across the kitchen surfaces and in the air such that we were at one point inhaling sugar. I may as well have been in heaven.

piping

From the heights of sugar heaven into the depths of the venue’s beer cellars is where we ended up; covering up the hand-prints in the side of the cake (a result of my having saved it from splattered oblivion whilst driving along the A214 towards Chelsea). At 10:30pm we left the cake sitting comfortably in the coolness of the cellars at the wedding venue exhausted but fuelled by the thrill of feeling proud, surprised and relieved.

The penultimate part of the project was excusing myself from bridesmaid duties to run to the venue to add the fresh flowers onto the cake. The flowers were an exact match of the bride’s bouquet. Great. The flowers were arranged in a manner that I did not know how to decorate a cake with them. Not so great. (Heck I have never decorated a cake with flowers, what am I talking about?). I ended up dismantling the arrangement (sorry, dear florist) and doing what I do best: making it up. It worked. I think.

wedding cake

The real judges were the wedding guests. And so came the final part of the project: the cutting and serving of the cake. It was a success. When people began asking me whether cake making was my profession, I knew my job was one well done. Thank you Pauline for trusting me with your wedding cake. Thank you Emma for helping me with the project whilst allowing me to take full credit.

For now I think I’ll stick with writing….

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Buttercream baby, let’s talk

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It’s getting creamy in here. And not in a good way. Let’s re-cap: yesterday we spoke flour, butter and sugar. I finally faced the challenging truth that I am in fact, baking a wedding cake and that despite my numerous attempts at denial, the magnitude of the project was beginning to dawn on me.

I did say that today I was going trial a different cake. I didn’t. Even my own very persistent inner perfectionist fatigued itself this weekend. In the end (the end being around 2am), I decided that the chocolate cake was delicious and also intense enough to hold the sweetness of the white chocolate filling. I will work out how to use the dowels next weekend. For now, let’s focus on making everything look pretty.

So today we’re speaking sugar, butter and white chocolate as we face filling, frosting and piping.

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For the filling I have decided to go with a classic recipe for white chocolate buttercream and fold frozen raspberries into the mix – which will look beautiful when the cake is sliced. The recipe and the process proved easy. This one is a winner.

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For the frosting I’m going with a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. In the end I decided that Swiss buttercream would be more forgiving as a frosting than any other cover and I needed something not too sweet. I took the advice of several bakers; whipped, whipped and kept on whipping right through my panic until the mix resembled something like frosting. It was a magical moment when it did.

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For the piping and decoration I am keeping it simple. I will admit on this blog that I haven’t so much as touched a piping bag before (did I mention I googled ‘how to attach piping nozzle to bag’?). I’ll say no more.

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So a whole three days into my long weekend I now have an enormous 10 inch, 5kg cake in the refrigerator that I will need to carry on my commute in the morning. I hope my colleagues are hungry. Forget weight training at the gym tomorrow, I’ll just run on the treadmill for hours ‘til I burn off the calories of sugar that I did (not) eat.

Recipes (and lessons learned) below.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream Filling

I took a classic recipe for white chocolate buttercream from Good Housekeeping magazine. It’s a very sweet recipe and ought to offset the density of the chocolate cake.

The quantities provided below covered ½ cm layer of a 10inch cake. I intend to double or triple for the actual event.

Ingredients
175g white chocolate
250g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk
handful frozen raspberries

1. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water. Remove when smooth, and set aside to cool for ten minutes.

2. Put the softened butter into a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Starting slowly, beat together until fluffy and combined. Beat in cooled white chocolate and milk.

3. Set aside and fold in the frozen raspberries when ready to use.

Swiss Buttercream

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen/ Wedding Cake Genius

Ingredients (to cover a 10inch cake)
227g caster sugar
4 large egg whites
340g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk egg whites and sugar in a large metal bowl over a pot of simmering water until you can no longer feel sugar the granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

2. Transfer to the mixer and whip until it turns white and approximately doubles in size. Add the vanilla.

3. Finally, add the butter a little at a time and whip, whip, whip. Here I quote Smitten Kitchen “do not have a panic attack as this takes a while to come together”.

So. Lessons learned:

Decorating the cakes is easier when they are frozen or very cold.

Moving the cakes from one surface to another is not easy whichever way you look at it. I have yet to address the problem of how I am going to transport them from my home to the venue (and whether assembly of tiers should take place here or on site). Any volunteers?

Make way more white chocolate buttercream filling and Swiss buttercream frosting than anticipated (note this is most definitely not because I ate some (a lot) along the way).

Don’t panic.

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I do…

…. Wish I were not freaking out about making my friend’s wedding cake.

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No, that was not a typo and yes I am making a wedding cake. Like, a real one. Yeah.

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I hadn’t shared that small piece of (big-deal) information here on this blog space in the secret hope that if I kept quiet it would either a) go away or b) the cake fairy might visit. Much like my other commitments in life, it didn’t go away. And the cake fairies are nowhere to be seen.

So I hereby declare this relationship with cake baking, official. And, we’ve had our first fight already. I won’t lie. It got pretty messy. My shirt is covered in more flour, butter and chocolate than my kitchen floor, my sink is piled with more dishes than I can see over the top of, and the number of expletives I’ve uttered means that my mouth needs cleaning even more than the kitchen sink.

And so far all we have is one very imperfect ten inch dense round chocolate cake base. Let’s not even talk about white chocolate raspberry buttercream filling and the oh-so-trivial issue of making perfect Swiss buttercream frosting and using cooking tools hitherto unheard of on this blog. Dare I say I am actually embarrassed that for someone who professes some degree of prowess in the kitchen, my baking skills are leaving much to be desired.

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So. What else was there to do but to retreat here, to this space (with a spoonful of raw chocolate mix in my hand. Eating my emotions? Me? Never…..).

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Pauline. If you are reading this, do not worry. I have an entire week to calm myself down and talk myself up to trial round two. You shall not have a cakeless wedding. It will be fine. I promise. I do.

Gulp.

Here is the the one I’ve trialled. Am attempting another one this afternoon and will report back. I promise not to eat raw cake mix (much).

Dense Chocolate Cake (recipe from Good Housekeeping, for one 10inch cake)

350g butter, chopped
350g dark chocolate
275ml milk
375g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
60g cocoa powder
750g caster sugar
6 medium eggs
250ml sour cream

1. Pre-heat oven to 160C (140C fan) mark3. Grease and line a 10inch round cake tin. Put butter, chocolate and milk into a pan and gently melt until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl and stir in sugar. In a separate jug mix together the eggs and sour cream. Pour both the chocolate and egg mixtures into the flour bowl and whisk until well combined.

3. Pour cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the tin.

[note, when I did this, I hadn't used wet strips and so the cake needs levelling in order to use it for my layers. also, the core is still slightly fudgey; use a heating core? still contemplating this]….