Icing Sugar Cloud

That "pfft" of icing sugar that covers every surface in your kitchen. It happens to the best of us…


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Beer + Biscuits = Beerscuits. Naturally.

So baking is my thing. I like to bake to unwind, I bake when I’m stressed, sometimes baking makes me stressed (see this post ) but I love it. Like I said, it my thing. But this post is not about baking, well not really. There’s a tenuous link.

Tiny Rebel 1 (HQ)

This post is about my husband’s thing (snigger). For a long time, my husband didn’t have a thing. I’m not sure he would appreciate that sentence but hey ho! At least I am amused. My husband needed a hobby. He’s a software developer (computer programmer) and in his spare time would read about computer programming. Hmmm. Thrilling, no? His only other interests are running and drinking Weston’s Vintage Cider and selected beers, mostly Belgian. It didn’t take a genius (me) to suggest home brewing as a new hobby. Mostly so that I could bake in peace.

Tiny Rebel Open Beer (HQ)

I’m not going to lie, there are days when I regret bringing home brew into our house. I now know far more than I would ever want to about hops, malt, sparging, wort and other things I stopped listening to. But that’s marriage for you. My husband has had to pretend to listen to me for years about baking, feigning interest in pictures, articles and recipes, taking my creations into his office and getting tasting notes off colleagues. It’s only fair I return the favour. Although to be fair the tasting notes thing hasn’t been very successful. “That’s really nice” is about the extent of it. Helpful.

So since the inception of home brew in my marriage almost 6 months ago, there has been a lot of beer talk!  And I’ve even been roped into helping with the bottling process.  I’ve not done too badly with it all, even if I do say so myself.  Except for on a recent trip to London when we went into a pub famous for its beer selection: I ordered a rum.  BIG MISTAKE!  Huge.  Total faux pas.  I won’t be making that mistake again, I tell you!  At least I had the presence of mind not to tell them that I don’t actually LIKE beer.  I think I might’ve been chucked out, had I uttered that blasphemous sentence…  Really!

Tiny Rebel Close Up (HQ)

But onto the tenuous link between beer and baking for this blog post, the Tiny Rebel Brewery.  Its a fantastic brewery local to us (well, in Newport and we are in Cardiff) and has a great pub, Urban Tap House.  Incidentally, Urban Tap House does the best burger I’ve had outside of London.  Plus the barman wasn’t snotty if you didn’t order beer!  (But I did order a half to begin with, having learned by lesson – it was very tasty, actually).  So, for fun, I decided to make my husband a Tiny Rebel biscuit.  It was also a great excuse to get some more practice using my KopyKake projector.  Best toy ever!  I was very pleased with how it came out.  It is my regular vanilla biscuit , flooded with white royal icing and then left to dry overnight.  The bear himself is royal icing too but the red is coloured with a food pen.  I shall be posting my vanilla biscuit recipe in a future post, so keep an eye out for it.

Tiny Rebel Cookie (HQ)I was surprised by the response I got on Twitter when I posted the above picture.  It proved much more popular than I had anticipated.  So much so, I even ended up posting a few to Tiny Rebel themselves!  They seemed to appreciate them, anyway.  And it saved me from eating yet more biscuits.  Result for all involved!

NB This post is not sponsored by Tiny Rebel or Urban Tap House.  My husband just likes their beer.  I like their burgers.  We both liked my “beer-scuits”.

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Fire Breathing Dragon Cake

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Fire Breathing Dragon Cake

This presented a bit of a challenge: how to get a dragon to breathe fire? I went for a simple option in the end but I think it was rather effective and as the birthday boy is only 3, I thought a cute dragon would be just the ticket. Plus he can eat the whole thing, wings n all! Good luck with that sugar rush!! (Sorry parents) But don’t get be started on those sodding wings. Attempts #1 and #2 were a disaster. Thank god for rice paper and edible food pens! I’d have been up shit creek with AppleMaps otherwise…


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Brownies: To Frost or Not to Frost

So, I’m on the question for the perfect brownie because … well, why not?  Unfortunately on my first attempt I fear I may have succeeded!  This is obviously devastating news as I had planned to do a whole series of brownie posts (and eat obscene quantities of brownies in the process).  Still, I’ll have to see how this bad boy stands up to the addition of nuts, chocolate chips, salted caramel sauce, fruit (both dried and fresh)…  I think I’ll manage!

I made the “Baked” brownie from the book “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking“.  This is an American cookbook, as most of my baking books tend to be, from the BAKED NYC Bakery and there are some truly scrumptious looking bakes in this treasure. Peanut butter crispy bar, anyone?  And their Sweet & Salty Cake inspired my own salted caramel chocolate cake.  You have to convert the recipes from cups, but that’s not really an issue for me anymore; I can do it in my head!

I’m not going to print the recipe here.  I don’t have permission and I know I’d be annoyed if someone reproduced my recipe without my consent.  (Psst.  Google may help you!)  I’m working on some variations of it though, so when I’ve changed it a bit, I’ll post my recipe then.

But back to the brownies.  The delicious, fudgy brownie that made me want to lock myself in my bedroom like the teenage boy having just discovered, ahem, himself and not come out until I had regained consciousness from my rich chocolate-induced coma.  In fact, I ate so many of these brownies when I first made them that I did indeed make myself feel rather ill.  If I hadn’t made them myself, I would’ve sworn there was crack in them or something.  You have been warned!

I’m not one for cakey brownies, I’m with Baked on that.  Anyone who wants a cakey brownie can, quite frankly, do one.  A cakey brownie is in actual fact a cake.  A chocolate cake.  This is where I understand the no frosting argument the most too: cakey brownie + frosting = cake.  A cake disguised as a brownie.  If that’s what you want, have chocolate cake not a brownie!  And whilst we’re at it, do you know who else can do one?  Those people who think you get a delicious fudgy brownie by undercooking it.  Do one.  You just get raw batter tasting gloop.  A brownie it is not.  You know who you are, so just stop it.

Baked comments that brownies should be unfrosted.  Naked.  A frosted brownie is just a wannabe cake.  I can kind of see their point…

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The not-totally-naked brownie. I had to dust with some cocoa powder. I can never just leave something alone!

The unadulterated (ignore the cocoa powder!) brownie is a delightful thing: rich, fudgy, decadent, chocolatey, delicious.  It seems a much more “adult” treat, like the baked version of 85% posh dark chocolate.  A small, even stingy-looking, amount is sufficient to give the best food high.  This is not a goody you’d give a child, mostly because they’d have to fight you for it.  Remember when your parents would say to you “Oh, you wouldn’t like it”.  This is that time.

Now enter, the frosted brownie…

"Baked" brownie with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream and yet more cocoa dusting.  I may have a problem...

“Baked” brownie with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream and yet more cocoa dusting. I may have a problem…

Go on.  Take it all in.  Bask in the glory of that brownie: dense chocolatey goodness topped with light salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream.  This.  Was.  Awesome.

Now  I must confess, this brownie is only topped with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream because I had some left over that needed using up.  You know, as you do.  Actually, this is a scarily regular occurrence in my house.  And I wonder why I can never shift that last 7lbs…  However, the combination totally worked.  How could it not?!  In fact, when my husband took the leftovers into work – if I’d had these in the house there would have been a further nausea and coma-inducing gorging session – his colleague said that he’d had a “personal moment” upon eating this brownie.

In fact, I think I’m going to have to go and make another batch, just to test that it wasn’t a fluke…


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Final Fantasy VII Cake

Final Fantasy Cake

This is the most recent incarnation of the chocolate cake recipe I recently posted.  This is a 6″ and 8″ chocolate cake, filled with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream coated in chocolate ganache (which I coloured black).  The flames are painted fondant and I modelled the Cloud figure and the Buster sword.  The figure was tricky, to say the least, but the client loved it so that’s all that matters really!  And she later told me it tasted great.  Phew!  I always have a massive fear that I have somehow cocked up on flavour, even though I can pretty much do this recipe in my sleep.  Good to know I’m safe for another cake.  Credit must go to “Celebrate with Cake” for their fantastic cake, which inspired mine.  It’s better than mine too.  I’m just starting out though…  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!


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Who doesn’t like Chocolate Cake? No-one, that’s who.

I love chocolate.  I love cake.  But more often than not, chocolate cake is a bit disappointing.  It’s a bit dry and flavourless.  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, its too moist and rich.  If I wanted a brownie I would’ve made them (and yes, I will definitely be making brownies.  Lots and lots of them).  I want a delicious, light and chocolatey chocolate cake.  One that’s rich and full of flavour.  Is that too much to ask?

Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

Triple Layer Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Fudge Icing

This recipe is one my go-to chocolate sponge cake recipe.  Its quick and easy to make and delicious with any manner of fillings and frostings.  I’ve made this recipe countless times in various sized cake tins and have yet to fuck it up. Score!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

The first time I made this cake and I’ve never looked back! This was a chocolate cake with salted caramel icing filling, covered in chocolate ganache. I ate about half of this cake!

Dark Chocolate Sponge
Dry ingredients
270g all-purpose flour
400g sugar (caster or light brown, or a combination of the two)
140g dark cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
200ml buttermilk
200 ml espresso or strong, hot brewed coffee
120 ml vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Prepare two or three 8-inch round cake tins with butter, grease-proof paper, and cocoa powder, tapping out the excess.
  2. Sift all dry ingredients into your stand mixer bowl (or a large bowl) and give a quick stir.  Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.  Add the wet ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients.
  3. With paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may want to use the plastic splash-guard or a tea towel here!) or beat by hand until smooth.  This chocolate batter will be very liquidy.
  4. Divide batter evenly among prepared tins. Sometimes I eyeball it but more often than not I use scales to weigh divided batter for even layers.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes (30 mins if using two deep tins) and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean, approximately 30 (or 40) minutes. Try not to over bake.
  6. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife, and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

Recipe adapted from the amazingly talented Sweetapolita http://sweetapolita.com/2010/11/rich-ruffled-chocolate-celebration-cake/ You should check out her blog and you will see that I have been somewhat influenced by her style.  Cough cough.

Note: These cake layers are rather deep and so I use cake tins that are 3” deep.  If you only have sandwich tins just be sure to only fill your tins a maximum of 2/3 full.

Fill and over this cake with your favourite frosting or, if you’re feeling lazy, just serve with a splodge of cream, custard or ice-cream.  That’s the stuff!  This recipe can easily be halved to a make a 6” cake with either two or three layers (or single layer 8” cake, if you prefer).

Birthday Cake

Triple layer chocolate cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and fondant hippo (that my nephew bit the bum off!).

I’ve made this cake with vanilla buttercream, chocolate buttercream, salted caramel buttercream, chocolate orange ganache and chocolate fudge frosting, to name but a few.  It was delightful in every permutation.  And the possibilities are pretty much endless: peppermint ganache, fresh raspberries and whipped cream, white chocolate buttercream and strawberries, coconut buttercream, cinnamon frosting.  I could go on but I think you catch my drift and, actually, its just making me hungry…

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake filled with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and coated in chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. Plus a modelling chocolate cat for good measure!

In fact, sod it.  I think I’m going to go and eat some off-cuts I have from the cake I made on Friday.  Just imagine me, all Nigella-esque, lit by the flattering glow from the fridge, placing delectable cake morsels in my mouth.  Yeah, that’s exactly what it’ll be like.  Definitely.


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My Baking Break Up

Its happened to us all.  We’ve been there, pootling along with our tried and true recipes when one day, BOOM! Disaster strikes.  The recipe which offered such promise is a complete fucking failure.  How?  How?!  I had my oven thermometer and everything!  I even followed the arsing instructions, for crying out loud.  It was like an unexpected break up.  You think things are fine.  You trust someone.  And then, like a bolt from the blue, your cake world implodes.  I put my heart in your hands and my cake in the oven. I TRUSTED YOU AND YOU BETRAYED ME, YOU BASTARD.  You begin to doubt yourself.  Was it me?  What did I do wrong?  Then doubt turns to shame.  I’m so useless.  I can’t even follow a sodding recipe.  Shame becomes anger.  It must be them.  They must’ve made a mistake.  I did everything they ever asked.  How could they do this to me?!  My hopes and dreams are dashed. Now I have nothing.  No cake.  No cake ever again.

Image

Apologies for the dodgy iPhone picture of the cake but I’m currently having some issues with my digital camera, by which I mean I can’t find the damn thing (but that’s a whole other rant).

I had such high hopes.  The last time I tried something new, it turned out to be such a waste.  A waste of time, money and energy.  I thought David and David of Outsider Tart would teach me to trust again.  Good-looking book, great reviews, personal recommendation.  This is the one, surely?  I’ve fallen afoul of the bad boy of the baking world before, namely The Hummingbird Bakery cookbooks.  Notorious.  Its got the looks, oh my, it’s a looker.  And the gift of the gab.  It seems to have so much to offer, showing you how life could be with its glossy pictures and delectable sounding bakes.  But it fails to deliver.  The crushing disappointment.  The soul destroying waste.  You bastard.

Off I trot to the kitchen, with my 6 eggs and unbelievable quantities of sugar, butter, flour and cream cheese, filled with cautious hope and a good helphing of excitement.  I follow the recipe to the letter.  This is unusual for me, as I generally think my ways to be better, but not today.  I lay myself at the mercy of the David, and their ‘Tisha’s Two Cents’ pound cake and my trusty Nordic Ware festive Bundt tin.  Unfortunately, I think I should have followed my instincts in this instance though… But yes, the cake.  Into the oven it goes, delicious tasting batter unceremoniously licked from the spoon (and beater, and bowl – you get the idea).  I’m feeling more confident, now that I’ve eaten obscene amounts of raw batter.  I impatiently wait the requisite 75-90 minutes.  Do the prod test and the skewer test.  Seems to be cooked, according to these tests but I am uncertain.  I don’t think its ready.  I don’t know why, I just don’t.  Doubt has crept back in.  I leave it another 10 minutes or so.  Think ‘Great-British-Bake-Off-sat-on-floor-nose-to-oven’ type waiting, except I have slate flooring in my kitchen, so it was more of the ‘standing-in-the-kitchen-drinking-a-glass-of-wine’ variety.  We’ve all been there!  I take it out of the oven, still trepidatious.  I leave it too cool in the tin, as per the instructions.  This took restraint of super-human proportions, I’m not going to lie.  Cake cooled, I inspect it closely before attempting to turn it out.  I have flying crust! The top was cooked but I spy a massive gap all around!  What happened?

I’ll tell you want happened: the fecker wasn’t cooked.   Still raw in the middle.  Yup.  I was right.  The outside of the cake cooked but because I took it out of the oven underbaked, the uncooked portion sank.  Result?  A huge gap between the majority of the cake and the aforementioned flying crust.  Bollocks.

I don’t have a picture of the wreck.  I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it.  It was too sad.  Why would I want a permanent reminder of my failings?  Also, I didn’t think about blogging about it until a few days after said incident.

I tried again the following day.  I had to make this one work, otherwise all hope is lost.  I will make this fucking cake if it kills me.  I only did 2/3 of the recipe this time.  Same tin.  Same oven thermometer.  It was a success!!  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration.  It was edible.  Still seemed a bit undercooked to me.  Tasted amazing though.  Well, why wouldn’t it?  There was a pound of sugar in the fecking thing!

Please feel free to share your baking disasters with me.  Please!  It’ll make me feel better, after all, misery loves company.

Happy New Year!

For those of you that are interested, this is the book I used: ‘Baked in America’ by Outsider Tart (here – http://www.outsidertart.com/our-cookbook/).  I will be baking from this book again but also listening to my instincts!