Chocolate and Blackcurrant Heart Cake

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February 14th is Valentine’s Day so, along with millions of others, I was looking for ways to celebrate. I was keen to bake a cake and it had to involve chocolate and something to do with love or hearts so I decided to experiment with a heart shaped silicone cake pan. I baked a chocolate sponge using a 5 egg mix but divided it into three and baked three layers separately – very time consuming I know but the pan was really shallow! (I’m not sure I liked the silicone pan and the sponge was slightly dry so I will probably invest in a better quality heart shaped cake tin in the future!)

Anyway, as a keen follower of all things cake, I’ve seen lots of ‘naked’ cakes smothered with flowers and fruits and thought this would be perfect for my Valentine’s special. (It’s much more virtuous too which means you can have an extra glass of wine!) I made a compote of blackcurrants – a cupful of blackcurrants, with half a cup of sugar, covered in water in a pan, boiled and stirred till the fruit is really soft and syrupy. I used this to brush on to the top of each sponge layer and used some to mix into buttercream to layer in between each. I then dusted the top with icing sugar and decorated liberally with fruit, flowers and little chocolates.

As a member of the Virtual Clandestine Cake Club I was very happy that this weekend we had the challenge to bake a love themed cake so I’m looking forward to see what other cakes have been baked in the name of love. The Virtual Cake Club is a way of meeting up with others online and sharing your baking when you can’t physically get to one of the Clandestine Cake Club meetings.

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Gluten Free St. Clement’s Cake

It’s so cold outside I’ve been very thankful to be inside baking this week! I was asked to bake a cake for a friend with orange and lemon and it had to be gluten free. The cake is half orange, half lemon and I’ve named it  St. Clement’s cake after the children’s rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’. The gluten free flour gives it a very light texture and along with the light, citrusy flavour it makes this a very moreish cake.

The nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ appears to have originated before the 1700’s in London. It is a song referring to various churches in London and nearby occupations. ‘Oranges and Lemons – say the bells of St. Clements,’ refers to the church of St. Clements and nearby docks where merchants unloaded citrus fruits.

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Ingredients:-

300g Butter, softened

300g Caster Sugar

4 Eggs, beaten

300g Gluten Free Self-Raising Flour (I use Dove’s Farm)

2 Teaspoons Gluten Free Baking Powder

6 Tablespoons Milk (Any milk seems to work fine with this recipe)

1 Lemon – zest and juice (separated)

1 Orange – zest and juice (separated)

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

250g Icing Sugar

150g Butter, softened

Method:-

Preheat the oven to 180c and prepare 3 x 8” round cake tins NOTE: If you don’t have 3 tins, bake the cakes individually; gluten free cakes are very crumbly to cut and it’s not advisable to bake one cake and attempt to cut it into three layers. You could just make an ordinary two layer sponge cake but it is rather special with three layers. I’ve given instructions for a mixed orange and lemon sponge but you can separate the layers into orange or lemon.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, zest of the orange and the lemon (reserve the juice) and milk. Mix together ensuring everything is blended. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

While the cakes are baking, make some syrup in a pan with the juice from the orange and lemon and the two tablespoons of granulated sugar. Stir continuously while bringing to the boil to dissolve the sugar then allow the mixture to boil for a while to thicken a little. You will need to reserve 1 tablespoon of the syrup and then brush the rest over the top of the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing them from their tins and do so very carefully as gluten free cakes can be very crumbly.

The buttercream filling between the three layers is made by beating together the 250g icing sugar with 160g softened butter and the 1 tablespoon reserved syrup. Beat well for a few minutes until really soft and creamy then build up your cake with the filling in between each layer. Dust a little icing sugar over the top and there you have your deliciously moist, citrusy St. Clement’s cake.

NOTE: If you don’t want to make a Gluten free cake use ordinary self-raising flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 6 eggs and no milk.

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Lusciously Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:-

100g Butter, softened

110g Caster Sugar

120g Self-Raising Flour

2 Teaspoons Cornflour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

3 Medium Eggs, beaten

2 Tablespoons Whole Milk

Zest 1 Lemon

100g White Chocolate Chips

For Lemon Curd Topping:-

Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

50g Butter

200g Caster Sugar

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

For Buttercream Topping:-

150g Butter, softened

250g Icing Sugar

1 Tablespoon Lemon Curd

To make the cupcakes:-

Preheat the oven to 160 c and place 12 cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin.

Place all the ingredients for the cupcakes in a mixer and mix until light and fluffy, but don’t beat for more than one minute. Pour into the cupcake cases and bake for twenty minutes or until light golden brown and firm to touch.

To prepare the lemon curd – place the juice, zest, butter and sugar into a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir constantly while over the heat to melt the sugar and butter together well. Add the eggs slowly, beating well, then continue to beat well until the mixture thickens. Allow to cool fully before using.

When the cupcakes have baked and are cool, carefully slice the tops off if necessary to leave a flat top. Smooth a teaspoon of lemon curd onto the top of each one.

To make the lemon buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar and lemon curd together for about five minutes until light and fluffy. This can be smoothed onto the top of the cupcakes with a palette knife or piped on over the top of the lemon curd layer.

To make a pretty sugar-paste topper:-

Colour some roll-out sugar-paste pale lemon, leaving some white as well. Roll out the lemon sugar-paste and cut out 12 circles using a round pastry cutter the size of the top of your cupcakes. Using some white royal icing, pipe small dots all over the lemon circles. Roll out some white sugar-paste and cut lots of small flowers using a very small blossom cutter. Place the blossoms round the edge of the circle toppers with a little royal icing. The toppers can be left to dry for a bit before placing onto the top of the cupcakes.

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To complete the look place your cupcakes into cupcake wrappers and / or vintage china tea cups!

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Peach and Vanilla and Passion Fruit Birthday Cakes

I had two birthday cakes to make for two lovely ladies and wanted to make sure they tasted delicious so decided to try something a bit different. I made vanilla sponges and layered this with a Peach and Vanilla Conserve and Passion Fruit Curd. I also used the Passion Fruit Curd to make buttercream to cover the cakes before covering with sugar-paste and decorating. These flavours worked really well together, giving a delicate, sweet taste.

Peach and Vanilla Conserve

340g Peaches, peeled and chopped (about 4)
300ml Water
300g Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Put everything into a large pan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar and cook the fruit. When the fruit is cooked and soft, bring to the boil. Boil rapidly until the mixture starts to thicken. You can test a little on a cold saucer to see if it is thick enough, mine was not really thick but was a lovely soft consistency and perfect for spreading. Leave to cool fully before using.

Passion Fruit Curd

200g Caster Sugar
50g Butter
3 small Passion Fruit
2 Medium Eggs, well beaten

Cut the Passion Fruits in half and scoop out all the flesh and juice into a small pan. Heat for a few minutes and then sieve so that you are left with just the juice. To this add the butter and sugar and heat in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, stirring until melted and the sugar completely dissolved. Then add the eggs slowly, stirring well until the mixture thickens. Cool completely before using and store in the fridge.

I also made myself a Gluten-Free vanilla sponge and simply layered this with the Peach and Vanilla Conserve and Passion Fruit Curd but no icing. This made a deliciously light everyday cake, just right for afternoon tea:)

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Last minute edible Christmas gifts

Holly Jolly_

I love to give edible gifts as they are made with love and very personal. This year I’ve baked brownies and cupcakes, they look so pretty in presentation boxes. I’ve tried lots of chocolate brownie recipes but I always come back to Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe as it really is the best. Brownies should be richly chocolatey with a slightly crispy top and a  deliciously moist and chewy centre. The Hummingbird Bakery chocolate brownie recipe is here.

Here’s how I made my chocolatey Christmas cupcakes:-

(Makes 12)

100g Caster Sugar

100g Butter, softened

120g Self-Raising Flour

2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

2 Medium Eggs

2 Tablespoons Whole Milk

50g White Chocolate Chips

Put everything except the chocolate chips into a mixer and beat together for about one minute, ensuring all the ingredients are mixed well but don’t overbeat. Add the chocolate chips and then divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases. Bake for 20 minutes at 160c.

While they are baking, prepare a syrup to brush onto the top of the cupcakes as soon as they come out of the oven. Melt 50g butter together with 50g caster sugar, 50g cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Bring to the boil for a minute or two so the mixture becomes sticky. Brush a little over the top of the freshly baked cupcakes while still hot. The rest of the mixture is then used for the cupcake topping.

Beat 100g butter together with 250g icing sugar. Add the leftover chocolate mixture and beat well for a few minutes (add more icing sugar if needed). This can now be piped onto the top of the cupcakes when they are cool. They can be decorated or just swirl the topping on and add a piece of chocolate or some chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

These are really quick to bake but make a welcome gift.

My favourite idea for a Christmas gift has come from another blog, A Wee Bit of Cake. Here you can find a recipe for delicious salted caramel and it looks gorgeous. I think this might just be my gift to myself :)

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Simple Couture Cupcakes

There is always something special about a cupcake; little mouthfuls of loveliness in a perfect package. They can come in almost any flavour and with a multitude of decorations to please anyone. Cupcakes are still popular for weddings and celebrations for just these reasons and they can look stunningly beautiful too.

This week I’ve been trying some new Sugar Sheets from Cake Decorating Store and I’ve discovered just how simple it can be to create pretty couture cupcakes.

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I had never used sugar sheets before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. They can be susceptible to hot and cold conditions and need to be kept flat so should be stored carefully. However, I was impressed at how easy they were to handle making it very easy to cut shapes, using cutters, a craft knife or scissors. If they are a little hard to cut they just need to be placed in a slightly warmer place to soften up. I used a Snowflake Sugar Sheet and a Lace Print Sugar Sheet. These two designs are perfect for the Christmas table or for delicious Christmas  gifts presented in a pretty box. The lace sheet would also be lovely to make wedding cupcakes. The sheets were large enough to make at least 12 cupcakes or you could use them on the sides or top of a larger cake. They are incredibly cheap considering how effective the result is.

I made the cupcakes using a vanilla sponge recipe. I then cut shapes from the sugar sheets using a PME Flower Cutter Set  and a  PME Round Cutter Set. If you don’t have any other cutters these are good to start with as they are so versatile. The largest round cutter was the same size as the top of my cupcakes.

Here is how I decorated my Simple Couture Cupcakes…

1. Make a smooth dome from buttercream in the centre of the cupcake and smooth a circle of sugar sheet over it.

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2. Or, swirl buttercream onto the cupcake then add a circle of sugar sheet which has been set onto a circle of sugar-paste (fondant icing). This method was also used for the largest flower cutter. To do this cut a circle from rolled out fondant icing, brush gently over the top of it with a tiny amount of water, then place a circle the same size cut from the sugar sheet onto the top. This method is useful to make toppers in advance for a special occasion, but store them in a cool place in a cardboard box.

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3. Pearls were made by rolling little rounds of sugar-paste and dusting with a shimmer powder. Tip:- Allow the rounds of sugar-paste to dry for about half an hour. Tip a tiny amount of shimmer powder into a small food bag the tip in the sugar-paste rounds and shake the bag gently till they are all covered – so much easier than trying to brush them!

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4. Rose buds were made by making a little cone from sugar-paste. Then cut a flower from sugar-paste with the largest flower cutter. Place the cone into the centre of the flower shape and fold the petals around it one by one, folding the edges back a little to look like a rose.

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5. Petals were cut from the smallest flower cutter and a little round of sugar-paste in the centre.

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6. I sprinkled glitter over my finished cupcakes – check it’s edible!

7. I used pretty White / Ivory Floral Motif Cupcake Cases  and stunning snowflake cupcake wrappers.

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8. Add a little ivory ribbon bow to the front of the cupcake case or wrapper with a tiny dot of glue to complete the couture look!

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I was asked by Cake Decorating Store to review these products which I found a delight to use. I only ever agree to try products which I am genuinely interested in myself and know other people will like. I found the company very helpful and friendly, clearly cake lovers and I love the website. As well as a very good choice of products it has lots of helpful information, ‘How to’ articles, and a blog which give lots of ideas and inspiration. I’ve seen lots of things I like and will definitely be a future customer.

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Christmas at home and away

I’m ahead of the game this year with Christmas planning but there are still lots of things to do, especially as I want things to actually be ‘planned’. What I mean by that is that I so often underestimate the time it takes to think about what people might really like to eat or receive as a gift. I want to make my own foodie gifts and hampers for those very close at hand and send lovely hampers for those not so near. I know that the right choices will be enjoyed so much more than a gift-packed ‘smellies’ box bought because I don’t know what else to get and have run out of time.

With all that in mind I was really excited to have found a fantastic Hamper Emporium which delivers free throughout Australia. My son and his girlfriend moved out there two years ago and like so many others with family in Australia I struggle to find them something for Christmas. I tried sending presents but the cost of sending even the smallest, lightest items is ridiculously expensive. I often resort to transferring money which is great as they can get what they like but it feels meaningless sometimes. The Hamper Emporium has a fantastic range of Hamper choices for all occasions and I was genuinely happy to find that I can send them something that they would enjoy. The great thing is that the delivery is completely free so you know that the price on the Hamper is exactly what you will pay.

I decided to try out a birthday surprise Hamper for my son who is celebrating his 30th birthday shortly. It’s times like that I hate him being so far away. I know he has his girlfriend with him and lots of great new friends but it’s not the same as being able to give him a hug and a special gift on the day. I chose him a Beers of Australia Hamper because when I went to visit he’d taken me on a tour at Margaret River where we visited vineyards and tasted wines and beers. We also took a trip to Little Creatures in Freemantle to sample one of his favourites. I loved being in Australia with him and his girlfriend and the memories are strong so to send something so meaningful felt amazing. When he received the Hamper he said, “It’s great! It was amazing to come home to such a fun parcel. All my favourite things yippee!!!!”

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I was able to add a personal message and the quality of the Hamper and contents was excellent. The Hamper Emporium  has a variety of Christmas Hampers all with free shipping Australia wide. So if you are like me and have family or friends in Australia, I would recommend you take a look. Even if they can’t be with you to share your Christmas cake you can share the experience of enjoying something delicious with love and best wishes.

Holly Jolly_

Chocolate Surprise Halloween Cake

This cake is a devilish mix of rich dark chocolate, lime and chilli – just perfect for Halloween! I baked it in two small semi-spherical cake tins and stuck them together with chocolate buttercream. I then covered the whole cake with chocolate buttercream and roll-out fondant – coloured to look like a dark sky. I then modelled the witch and her broomstick, her cat, and bats from coloured sugar-paste. She looks quite gruesome!

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The cake recipe is adapted from a plain chocolate cake in ‘Cake Decorating Motifs’ by Sheila Lampkin.

The idea for the witch was adapted from Debbie Brown’s Enchanting Magical Cakes.

Ingredients:-

100g Butter, softened

165g Caster Sugar

2 Eggs, beaten

40g Self-Raising Flour

115g Plain Flour

40g Cocoa Powder

½ Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

1 teaspoon Lime Juice and Zest 1 Lime

A good pinch of Chilli Powder

140ml Milk

100g Dark Chocolate Chips

I mixed all the ingredients together well, but beating only for about a minute. The mixture was divided between the two prepared tins and baked for about 35 minutes at 170c. (Note: the tins need to be stood onto another tin to support them as they will tip over in the oven.)

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This a rich chocolate cake with a surprise kick, from the lime and chilli – probably a little adult for Halloween but why shouldn’t we have some fun too!!

Entering into the spirit of all things ghoulish, I am entering this cake into this month’s ‘We Should Cocoa’ Challenge. This month’s spooky spectacular bakes are being hosted by Hannah  at Honey and Dough and you can check out Choclette’s lovely chocolatey Chocolate Log Blog for more details about ‘We Should Cocoa’.

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…And just in case the children feel left out I’ve made some chocolate orange cupcakes with pumpkin head toppers! The basic chocolate sponge was the same as above but without the chilli and lime. I added a square of galaxy chocolate to each cupcake  instead and then made a buttercream icing with orange juice and zest.


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Great British Bake Off – Entremets

This year’s series of The Great British Bake Off has now sadly finished but I have a few bakes still to try. I was unable to keep up with the challenges that the intrepid bakers in the ‘Bake Off’ tent managed but have been inspired to continue to try lots of new bakes. The semi final included making Entremets – something I’d never heard of but which looked stunning. I had a quick look online and they seem to be mini cakes made up of layers of thin sponge, sometimes biscuit or something crunchy and mousses, flavoured creams, jellies and ganaches. They are then topped with something special such as fruit, macarons, meringue, spun sugar or chocolate.

My Entremets consisted of a sponge base with a crunchy coconut topping, mango jelly, white chocolate ganache, passion fruit curd cream and they were topped with mini passion fruit meringues filled with white chocolate ganache. My attempt at Entremets had some lovely flavours although some parts started to melt very quickly whilst I was trying to photograph them! They didn’t look that great, I have to be honest, but they are something I would attempt again and try to perfect as they tasted delicious. Also, all the leftover components got thrown together to make a scrumptious trifle – not Patisserie perhaps but very yummy!

Mango, Passion Fruit, Coconut and White Chocolate Entremets

Sponge Base

120g Self Raising Flour

120g Caster Sugar

120g Butter, softened

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

I beat these ingredients together well for just a minute to combine and poured into a prepared Swiss roll tin to make a thin layer. I then sprinkled 2 tablespoons of dessicated coconut over the top to add a crunch. This needed 15 minutes to bake at 160c fan. I then left the sponge to cool in the tin.

Mango Jelly

200ml water

1 medium Mango

2 sachets (12g) Vege Gel (Gelatin)

Cube the mango and mash down with a potato masher. Add the water and vege gel then blend everything well with a blender. Place in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring until the jelly starts to thicken. Pour into lined circular food rings on a lined baking sheet and allow to cool. (I used 4 rings) Put into the fridge to chill.

White Chocolate Ganache

Heat 150g White Chocolate ( I used Green and Black’s Organic White Vanilla) with 50g Double Cream in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir until melted, combined and thickening. Allow to cool then pour a layer over each of the rings containing Mango Jelly. Put back in the fridge to chill.

Passion Fruit Curd

Take the inside fruit from 2 Passion Fruits and heat in a pan for a while then strain and keep the liquid. Add this along with 50g Butter, 2 Eggs (beaten), and 200g Cater Sugar to a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir well continuously until the liquid thickens then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Save 2 teaspoons for the meringues and drizzle a thin layer over the Entremet rings containing the Mango Jelly and White Chocolate Ganache. Then beat the rest together with 200g of very thick double cream. This will be used to pipe swirls on the top of the Entremets.

Meringues

Whisk 3 Egg whites until thick and add a pinch of Cream of Tartar. Gradually stir in 150g Caster Sugar and then swirl in 2 teaspoons of Passion Fruit Curd. Pipe mini swirls onto a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 120c Fan for about 20 minutes until firm then turn off the heat and leave in the oven to cool.

To finish the Entremet:- Cut circles from the sponge the same size as the food rings. Gently push the Jelly, Ganache and Curd toppings in the food rings onto the sponge circles. Top with piped cream swirls and sandwich two mini meringues together with a little white chocolate ganache to finish.

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Fruity Christmas Crumble

Sometimes the simplest things give the greatest pleasure and a simple fruit crumble always pleases me. I often experiment with different fruits and different topping mixes and I’d like to share my Fruity Christmas Crumble…

Ingredients:

2 Medium Bramley Apples

1 Tablespoon Golden Syrup

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1 Tablespoon Fruity Mincemeat ( Or any Mincemeat)

For the topping:

100g Plain Flour

50g Oatmeal

50g Butter, very cold

50g Demerara Sugar

1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

Method:

Peel and roughly chop the apples and add them to a pan with the lemon juice and syrup. Heat until slightly soft but not pulpy. Add the mincemeat and then tip into a pie dish.

Rub the butter, lightly into the flour and oatmeal until resembling chunky breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar and ground ginger. Crumble the topping over the fruity mixture and bake in a medium oven until the topping is golden brown. Enjoy served with custard or cream for Afternoon Tea, dessert, supper or even at breakfast served with a spoonful of natural yoghurt – sounds good to me!

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