Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Zombie Graveyard cake

I had just been considering delaying this post until next Halloween and breaking my golden rule of posting things in the order that they are baked, just because it seemed so ridiculously out of season. But then I saw that the Alphabakes February letter was Z and I thought YES!!!! (and therefore on the same lines, if anyone wants to do a Christmas themed baking challenge in springtime that would be really helpful thanks...)

So this is my Zombie Graveyard cake, which I made for the Runcorn and Widnes Clandestine Cake Club way back on Halloween.

I'd seen this cake on Butter Hearts Sugar back in 2012 but had already got all my Halloween baking planned out that year, so it sprung straight to mind this time around. I'd also wanted to try my hand at some more fondant decorations, because it is something I am notoriously rubbish with.

It takes a bit of planning, you definitely need a full day or two evenings for this. You need to make a white cake in advance to cut zombie bones out of to then bake inside the chocolate sponge. You also need to make all your decorations in advance to give them chance to dry out.

Which brings me to where I went wrong! Although I loved making the decorations and was happy with how they looked - especially the zombie arms! - I'm not sure where I went wrong with the fondant. I was expecting it to dry really quickly, but it never actually dried at all. Especially the pumpkins and gravestones - they were really shiny and soft and actually started to smell a bit weird. Not sure where I went wrong with that - I greased the surface I was working on because I seemed to remember that was what you were meant to do but clearly something went awry. I wasn't sure whether to use icing sugar since I thought it might ruin the colours. Any tips or ideas anybody??

Another place I went wrong was the bones - for some reason I made cupcakes and cut the bones out of the bottoms of them - but they were just way too small! You could hardly see them in the cake when it was cut, and they were really dry and hard. So I would say do a tray bake or at least a larger round cake.

I used a Rachel Allen chocolate cake and frosting recipe (which you can find here, as it's the same one I used for the hedgehog cake - and I only realised as I introduced my cake that it meant I had baked the exact same cake for two cake clubs in a row - oooops!). The dirt is crushed Oreos and the fenceposts are Cadbury's Fingers. I was a bit irritated by the gravestones  at the time as I wanted them to be cleaner looking, but now I look back at the pictures I think the fact that they are bashed and misshapen and covered in random nail marks actually makes them look a bit more authentic!

All things considered I was pretty pleased with how this cake turned out, I may make a cupcake version this year as the zombie arms were so much fun. See the original recipe here on Butter Hearts Sugar for a really good step by step guide on how to do it.

See here for the Cake Club write up and the other fab Halloween cakes and decorations that were on display there - I'm sure nobody has Halloween on their minds right now but you never know, I'm so late posting this that maybe some of you have already started thinking about it...!

I'm entering this into February's Alphabakes challenge, by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes - the host this month is Caroline Bakes and the letter is Z - for ZOMBIES! Aaaargh!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Gargantuan Rice Krispie Treats Layer Cake

This was the 'cake' I made for Mike's sister's birthday back in October 2013. Since I'd seen the recipe on the Pink Whisk earlier in the year, I had it in mind that it would be perfect for Louise. It was ridiculously over the top - it wasn't even a milestone birthday - but I thought that would just add to the appeal! Also, I'd been after an excuse to use the topsy turvy cake tins from Lakeland for a good while and this seemed like a good one for them.

True to the Pink Whisk awesomeness, Ruth had provided a handy chart of various quantities depending on the size/shape of tin you were using, which was such a massive help. I am really rubbish when it comes to adapting quantities to tin sizes! However it was at this point I think I realised just how big this cake was going to be. Two massive boxes of Rice Krispies were required! Really the scale of the thing should have been obvious when the recipe had suggested using giant plastic boxes to mix it all in...

It's a cake that really lends itself to crazy angles...
Rice Krispie treats really are the simplest things to make - you just melt the marshmallow and butter together, then stir in the Rice Krispies. The hardest part of the whole thing was lining the tins!  Also, Ruth wasn't joking in the recipe when she said to consider using plastic boxes for mixing the ingredients. I managed to do the top tier in the one pan, but the second took two batches and the biggest one took three. At the end of the evening I felt a bit lightheaded from all the sweetness... and unfortunately, also like I wanted to never see another Rice Krispie ever again.

I left the layers to set overnight and assembled them the following day after work, with renewed excitement! That was definitely the fun part! I liked the effect of the chocolate drizzled around the outside but I'm not sure if next time I'd be tempted to cover the tops completely in chocolate - I don't know if that would top it into way too sweet territory, but it seems I do like a good dollop of chocolate with my Rice Krispie cake.

The marshmallow flowers were great too - I didn't believe that the Smarties would hold on the chopped marshmallow, but they really did! The standard marshmallows from Asda were a bit too small so I'd had to get the super-huge American ones which did the trick, although they don't look as flower like as the originals. I'd ordered some button print ribbon from Baker and Maker (my new favourite website) to go around the bottom of each layer and was pleased that the Smartie flowers co-ordinated well with the buttons on the ribbon.

As you can see from the above picture, more than one pair of hands are required to disassemble it, plus several pieces of kitchen equipment and some brute force! The cake went down really well, although seriously, I know it's obvious but I cannot stress how much it is a LOT - and it goes further than a usual cake aswell because it's so sweet you eat less of it! Next time I will reserve something this colossal for large gatherings only... I'm not sure if any of use have eaten Rice Krispies since...!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Gateaux du Kim: Pistachio ice cream and macarons

Hello, I'm back! I didn't really mean to not blog for so long, but Mike and I are now the proud owners of our very own house, so things have been a bit busy for the past few months. So as usual, I'll be posting about things I've baked woefully late which will mean I won't be able to remember anything I wanted to say about them... but here we go...

Back in October I proudly, and somewhat premature, announced that I was going to try out some French inspired recipes after being inspired by my holiday. It started off well, with pistachio ice cream and macarons, but I didn't even get any decent pictures of them and haven't done any Franco-baking since!

But anyway, let's celebrate what I did make...

Firstly, the pistachio ice cream. I don't know why but I've suddenly become obsessed with pistachios and while on holiday I would happily bypass all manner of amazing sounding ice cream flavours for plain old pistachio. I had been made up to receive an ice cream maker for my birthday so knew that pistachio had to be the first flavour I tried!

I used this recipe from BBC Good Food and it did not disappoint! I was initially a bit skeptical about using the ice cream maker as I'm notorious rubbish with technology and gadgets but it was really easy to use, you just have to remember to put the base in the freezer a good while beforehand (I think the instructions said 24 hours, but I had to make do with about 2 because I couldn't possibly wait). I was pleased with the ice cream, it was lovely and creamy, it was just a shame that most of my guinea pigs hate pistachio... although not that much of a shame - all the more for me!

We had our ice cream with some melting middle chocolate puddings (not home made!) and bashed up digestives. Could do with getting a proper ice cream scoop as the presentation wasn't great, but I also couldn't wait for it to soften after taking it out of the fridge! Mmm, revisiting these photos is making me want to crack out the ice cream maker again...

Next up were less successful macarons. I didn't have high hopes as I know macarons are a tough nut to crack, but I followed this recipe for the salted caramel filled ones to the letter and it was *almost* a success! I think I know where I went wrong anyway - the macarons are supposed to rest until they are no longer sticky to the touch, but after over an hour mine were still a bit sticky. OK, quite sticky. But typically I ran out of patience and just shoved them in the oven.

Although they tasted pretty OK and macaron-like, the shells were cracked and biscuit-like, and there was no classic 'foot' on any of them. Tellingly, the ones from the second batch I baked were a bit smoother and there was just one that was completely smooth, so I definitely think longer to rest was needed. Not sure what happened on the 'feet', maybe that's a resting thing too.

The ONE smooth macaron!
So there we go - my first forays into French inspired baking! I've got a long way to go yet but just writing this post has reminded me that I need to get back on it!
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