Saturday, 28 July 2012

Jubilee baking

Another post which shows how woefully behind I am with blogging... there was no way I was going to let the Queen's Jubilee pass without baking something, but the afternoon tea baking marathon I ended up on was even more than what I had originally had in mind! I didn't realise that I'd been stockpiling Jubilee decorations, and well, it would have been rude not to have used them all!

Here is a breakdown of what was in my spread. First up: butties. Featuring sandwich flags! Is there anything more pleasing than sandwich flags?! I made cheese and pickle, ham, tuna and cream cheese and cucumber.

Next layer for the tea stand: Earl Grey cupcakes! Decorated with a fab Jubilee cupcake set I got for my birthday and some Union flag coloured sprinkles.

...and finally, my first attempt at scones! I've made Baileys and chocolate scones before but never any plain scones. I was a bit nervous as I often see scone-related cries for help on blogs and Twitter. However, I can smugly report that my scones were scrummy! They weren't the prettiest scones ever, and most of them flumped over on the tray and looked a bit beastly. But there were just about 4 normal looking ones to put on the cake stand and look pretty! I can't even remember which recipe I used, but I'm pretty sure it was a Good Food one out of one of my mini books.

And finally, no Jubilee party would be complete without a Victoria Sponge! I've seen a few Jubilee cakes using these decorations, which I picked up from Harrods during my London trip in April.

We also had chocolate cola cake too, which was leftover from my practice bake the day before. It was definitely sweet treat overload and there was so much left over! So in true Jubilee spirit, after our friends had left, I decided to cut up some cake and take it door to door around our neighbours. I got a few bemused expressions and some people looked downright suspicious of me but they all took some cake! Even the landlord and his wife came around for a slice after I texted them (I was too scared to just pitch up on their doorstep!) and they brought me some flowers picked from their garden. It really rounded off a lovely Jubilee day.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chocolate Cola cake

The theme for the Chester Clandestine Cake Club in June was 'mystery ingredient' and after a work colleague mentioned a cola cake she had tried in the past I decided to give that a go, especially as I have a boyfriend with a cola addiction.

It took a while to sniff out a recipe but I eventually found this one, a James Martin one from the BBC website. Well, the test bake was a disaster! To be honest, it was so long ago that I can't remember exactly why it was a disaster, but I'm fairly sure it was something like the cake mix seemed too runny and after giving it double the time in the oven it was burnt around the edges but sludgy in the middle. Yak!

So back to the now slightly panicked drawing board and I found a tweaked Nigella recipe online so thought I'd better do another test bake. And it was delicious! It came out perfectly - lovely and moist and because it is just a single layer cake, not too heavy going either. I'm normally the first person to feel slightly queasy halfway through a piece of chocolate cake but I could have eaten two pieces of this on the trot!

The only slight disappointment was that I didn't think you could taste the coke in it... although this was quite pleasing in some respects as nobody could guess my mystery ingredient at the cake club!

It was a great theme and fun (if not slightly nerve wracking for a fussy madam like me) to try lots of different cakes not knowing what to expect! Other mystery ingredients included wasabi, mayonnaise and even mashed potato!

I will definitely be making this again and would recommend giving this recipe a try - I got this from Maison Cupcake who had tweaked it to make Cherry Cola Kugelhopf which also looked delicious. I've also since seen this recipe by Cakey Boi for Cola cupcakes which sound more promising on the cola taste front, using cola syrup in the frosting instead of cola - I am still feeling a bit cola caked out after having to make 3 in quick succession for this one but will try them soon!

This is the plain cola version that I used:

200g plain flour
250g golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp cocoa powder
175ml coca cola
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/4 tsp salt
125ml buttermilk, or you can use 30g plain yoghurt mixed with 100ml semi skimmed milk (I did the alternative because I can NEVER find buttermilk!)
1tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:
200g icing sugar, sifted
30g butter
45ml coca cola
1tbsp cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180c / gas mark 4, and grease/line a 22-23cm springform cake tin.
2. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and bicarb.
3. Beat the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and vanilla extract in a jug.
4. Melt the butter, cola and cocoa powder together in a saucepan - heat gently.
5. Add the buttery, cola-y, chocolatey goodness from the pan to the dry ingredients, and mix.
6. Add the eggy mixture and beat well.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes - a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
8. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
9. For the icing, melt the butter, cola and cocoa powder in a saucepan until liquid.
10. Remove from the heat and add the icing sugar gradually, beating as you go, then beat until smooth.
11. Spoon over the cake, and try to wait long enough for it to set before digging in!

The final cake I made for the CCC... no cola bottles to give it away!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Cakes Not From Kim: Lola's cupcakes

This the third and final installment in my Cakes Not From Kim mini London series! I was, for some reason, SO EXCITED about finding Lola's when we were in London. I have just loved Lola's from the second I got the book - I love the branding, I love the book and both of the recipes I had tried from the book were delicious (if you ignored the burnt tops of the cherry cupcakes, but that was entirely my fault!) and easy to follow. And there is so much more that I want to try from there!

The excitement had already built up because we had been in Harrod's and seen the Lola's concession stand in there, but I had forced myself to ignore it because I wanted to wait to see the place that was purely Lola's, and so we ended up walking from Harrod's across to Lola's at 16 Lansdowne Row, Berkeley Square, W1J 8QF.

It was even less conducive to eating in than the Primrose - there was just a bar with 3 stools, plus a few outside tables - and the drinks were all in takeaway cups. I didn't care though - it was empty and so we were able to sit down and enjoy!

There were so many cupcakes to choose from...

... but since one of them was an Oreo cupcake it was a no-brainer really!

Mike went for the black bottomed cheesecake cupcake, but weirdly he was more taken with the drink he had which was some sort of vanilla-y chocolatey milkshake type thing - so much so he went back for a second one!

Big thumbs up from me on the cake front - this was definitely my favourite in London although I was probably always going to say that! The thing that surprised me about the 3 bakeries I visited were that they were more geared towards taking the cakes out rather than eating in. I guess it's obvious because they are called bakeries rather than tea rooms / cafes etc, but I suppose since I don't live in a big city I'm more used to places being eat in, and places where you take away cakes tend to be the like of Sayers and Greggs!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hummingbird baking

So after my trip to the Hummingbird Bakery, I was inspired to try out some more of their recipes and the very next day made the Earl Grey cupcakes. I'm not sure why I chose them, since I don't really like Earl Grey, but I have seen them mentioned on several blogs, and I knew of a few Earl Grey fans I could pass them off onto if needs be!

I won't post the recipe as I have seen it on many blogs (here's one with particularly lovely decorations: Laura Loves Cakes), but I followed it to the letter, determined not to mess it up this time. I even tried to swirl the buttercream on with a palette knife, a technique that I have really struggled with before for some reason. And I am please to report that....IT WORKED IT ALL WORKED!

I even liked the cakes myself! The Earl Grey flavour definitely came through, I think in the buttercream more so than the cake itself. I've made these again during my Jubilee baking frenzy (likely to be posted months after the event!) and they were just as good, so these definitely weren't a fluke!

I was so confident about my new Hummingbird skills that I baked another recipe for the Chester Clandestine Cake Club, the theme of which was 'Sugar and Spice and all things nice.' The Cardamom loaf in the Cake Days book had caught my eye so I thought it would be perfect, plus I didn't have much time to make it so this no fuss loaf cake was convenient aswell.

Picture stolen from Nic, full set here!
I have to admit I felt a bit ashamed as it looked so dull on the table along with all the other beautifully decorated cakes, and I was even more crestfallen when I thought I overheard someone say it tasted like curry! However most people seemed to enjoy it and I personally thought it was lovely - just a simple loaf with a warm hint of spice. Curry indeed! Recipe is here.

Would you like rice, chips or half and half with that?
So I think I have broken my Hummingbird curse! I am wondering if using an electric mixer makes a difference, as the recipe I tried first I tried by hand and it just seemed too runny.

I have also set up a Facebook page for my blog - please 'like' me if you're on Facebook and you like my blog! The link is on the right hand side. I currently have a measly 12 likes including myself, which is a little embarrassing!

Cakes Not From Kim: Hummingbird Bakery

I have had a bit of a chequered history with the Hummingbird Bakery, it is one of those things that I feel like I should love - the books look great and everything bangs on about them all the time. But the one recipe I tried just didn't work - and it was only vanilla cupcakes, how can you mess them up?! - and so I had been hesitant to try anything else.

But when I was in London I just knew I would have to visit, and so we went down to the South Kensington branch (47 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3JP).

We went just after breakfast on the last day of our trip, and neither of us wanted to stay and eat, so we got some stuff to take away and haul back on the train with us.

We chose a big slice of red velvet cake and a whoopie pie, and two cupcakes. I loved the packaging, which was nice and sturdy and meant we got all our goodies back to Cheshire in one piece and not just a mound of crumbs as I was fearing! It also made the cakes feel lovely and luxurious, like a proper treat.

I really enjoyed my whoopie pie - I had never tried one, or even seen one before, and I am already stockpiling marshmallow fluff to try out my own soon! It was like a cakey cookie - firmer than a cake but still soft and squidgy.

Embarrassingly though, I don't think we ate ANYTHING else that we bought from there! I know, I know it's ridiculous - but after a week of birthday meals and treats I guess we both just couldn't face any more!

I really wished we had visited sooner in our trip so we could have enjoyed the cakes more, but it did get me motivated to try out some more Hummingbird recipes. The results of which are to follow....
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