Thursday, 29 November 2012

Clandestine Cake Club: Sex On The Beach Cake

On Monday I went to my second Clandestine Cake Club event. This time it was the Christmas party for all three of the Manchester groups - Manchester North, Manchester South, and Manchester City Centre & Chorlton. It was held at Grosvenor Casino in East Didsbury. The casino has only been there since February and was a very stylish and glamorous venue. The theme was 'Cocktails and Mocktails' and there were about 30 cakes in total. I brought along a Sex On The Beach Cake (pictured above) which I will show you how I made further down in this post. But first a recap of the cakes...

White Russian cake by my friend Beth who I took along for her first Cake Club experience. This was definitely in my top three favourites of the night. It was covered in whipped cream, and the sponge was so light.

There were several mojito cakes, but this one was the tastiest in my opinion!

A Bailey's cake by Kelly. Baileys was another common choice of flavour, and I am not complaining!!

Naomi's very creative Bubbly Bucks Fizz cake was sprinkled with popping candy. I thought it was a brilliant idea making it into the shape of a martini glass! I love how creative everyone gets.

Another of my favourites of the night - Jackie's Bailey's cheesecake with Baileys cream. So damn good!

Ellie made The Godfather cake. The Godfather is a very manly cocktail, with only two ingredients, and yes they're both alcohol! My housemate Pete requested a slice if someone made a Godfather cake, and lucky for him they did! He said 'the person who made this is a genius' after enjoying the slice I brought home for him.

There were lots of cakes involving strawberries.

Stina's Ginger Cake with Pineapple Cream and Spiced Rum Topping. This was really delicious!

Claire's Irish Coffee Cake definitely wins my award for the prettiest cake of the night. The decorating is superb and so neat. I didn't actually taste this as I'm not a fan of coffee, but Beth gave it the thumbs up for taste!

A couple of shots of the tables of cake. A few more did arrive after I took these photos.

My leftovers....

I'm not sure what gave me the idea to do a Sex On The Beach cake. I think I was thinking of cocktails, and second after a cosmopolitan, I thought of a sex on the beach. And then my mind just ran with it, and this is what I came up with:

I made a basic sponge using my favourite method (weigh the eggs, then match the weight of butter, sugar and flour). I separated it into 3 bowls. Into the first bowl went dried cranberries.

Into the second bowl I put about 2 capfuls of Peach Schnapps.

I really wanted to make sure the flavours came through so I was quite generous!

And into the third bowl I put 2 tsp of orange flavouring.

I poured the mixture into a shallow lined tin.

I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out clean.

While the cake was cooling, I added some green food colouring to some white sugar paste icing and rolled it out. Use icing sugar when you roll out icing to stop it from sticking, it's like using flour with dough. I am a sugar paste novice and don't have any speciality tools, so I just used a knife to cut out nine leaf shapes and a pair of shorts.

I then coloured a smaller amount of white sugar paste with pink icing, rolled it out, and cut out a bikini shape.

I made buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter, and about 4 heaped tsp cream cheese. I also add some blue food colouring. This was to represent the sea.

I piled up the three sponges, putting a small amount of buttercream between each layer, then smeared the blue buttercream all over the cake until it was fully covered.

I bashed up some digestive biscuits with a rolling pin and sprinkled the crumbs over the top of the cake to represent sand.

I put a dab of buttercream on the back of the bikini and shorts, and positioned them on the cake.

I made palm trees out of orange chocolate sticks. I put two sticks back to back, then stuck three leaves on each one using buttercream to stick them. Then I pushed them into the sponge.

And the cake was done! It did get a final decoration of a cocktail umbrealla at the cake club, thanks to Beth. I was really pleased with how my idea came together and how it looked and tasted. Clandestine Cake Club is such great fun and I really do recommend anyone to join up. It inspires creativity in your cake making, and lets you share it with other passionate cake eaters and bakers.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Swiss Roll

The last (and only) time I remember ever making swiss roll was in Home Economics (now more often known as Food Technology) at high school. So I was probably about 13 years old. I don't remember the method, or how it tasted, or how it turned out. I just remember there being a lot of eggs involved. So I decided to refresh my memory, and give it a go a few years later....ok more than a few years later!!

Turns out my memory is terrible. What you are meant to do is this: Over a pan of simmering water, in a glass bowl whisk together 3 eggs, 100g sugar, and a pinch of salt with an electric whisk until thick. Then whisk for 1-2 minutes off the heat. Then fold in 75g of flour and 1 tsp vanilla extract. What I did: Put the flour in at the start. Ooops. I whisked it for a while and it didn't thicken, but seemed to have lots of bubbles and volume, so in typical Baking Explorer style, I thought I'd bake it anyway and see what happened.

I lined a square tray with baking paper and poured the mixture in. I did double the above mixture to make two rolls. Tilt the tray so the mixture spreads evenly. Then I baked it on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes.

 Meanwhile, I prepared a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar.

The sponge came out of the oven looking golden and was springy to the touch. Looks like I have gotten away with my mistake!

I tipped the sponge (golden brown side down) onto the baking sheet of sugar, then smeared raspberry jam all over the other side. I smeared the second one with chocolate spread.

Now the tricky part! Make a dent in the sponge about 2cm from one end. This will help to get the roll going. Firmly, but gently, roll the sponge. Use the baking paper to help you, and don't worry if it breaks! That is all part of a swiss roll's charm. Keep it wrapped up in the baking paper until it cools fully.

Lay out onto a plate to serve, cutting off the ends gives it a neater, more presentable look.

This swiss roll will keep for 2 days in an air tight container, and best of all, it's fat free! No butter or cream used. A treat you can enjoy without any guilt. They are also so versatile as you can fill them with anything you want. Lemon curd, marmalade, and even mincemeat for a festive swiss roll.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Pretzels come in many shapes and sizes, from the giant to the tiny. They can be hard or soft, and sweet or savoury. A pretzel is basically a dough twisted into what is known as the 'pretzel loop' and a double glazing method is used when baking for a dark, shiny effect. They are popular in Europe, Germany in particular, and the USA. I've actually never eaten a pretzel before, and maybe that was a good thing in case I messed up, then I would be none the wiser! But in fact this is a baking success story, and I now absolutely love pretzels! Especially the sweet ones!

I started with 350g strong white bread flour, 150g plain flour, 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp caster sugar in a large bowl.

In a jug I stirred a sachet of dried yeast into 300ml warm water, and left it to dissolve for 5 minutes. Then I added 2 tbsp sunflower oil.

I mixed the yeast into the flour until it formed a dough. I tipped it out onto a floured surface and kneaded it for 5-10 minutes until it became a smooth and soft dough.

I put the dough into an oiled bowl and left it somewhere warm for about 90 minutes. There is nowhere warm in my house this time of year, so I wrapped the bowl in oven gloves and tea towels for extra warmth. After the 90 minutes it had almost doubled in size.

I knocked the dough back on a floured surface, this just means to push all the air out. I cut the dough in half with a sharp knife, then each half into half again until I ended up with 16 pieces.

I rolled the dough out into a long, thin sausage. They should be about 45cm long - I used a measuring tape to help me keep each piece roughly the same length.

To make the 'pretzel loop' I crossed over the two ends, then twisted them around and brought them back on each other, and secured them by pressing gently.

Not the neatest, but above is roughly what it should look like.

They were quite lose structures at this stage, so I lifted them carefully onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then I covered them with cling film and a tea towel and left for 30 minutes to rise again.

I five bowls I prepared my glazes and toppings: sesame seeds and coarse rock salt, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 3 tbsp caster sugar, one beaten egg, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed with 2 tbsp boiling water, and some melted butter.

I brushed all of the pretzels with the bicarbonate of soda mixture.

For the savoury pretzels, I sprinkled over the sesame seeds and coarse salt before baking.

I baked the pretzels on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Take them out and very lightly brush with egg, then put them back in for another 5 minutes.  Cool for at least 5 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.

For the sweet pretzels, I did the same egg glazing method as above, then once they had finished baking I brushed them with the melted butter, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar over them generously and left to cool.

My pretzels weren't perfectly formed, but they were perfectly baked. I even did the Paul Hollywood tap on the bottom to make sure! The simple addition of the different sweet and salty flavours makes such a difference, and the baked dough is chewy and delicious. These didn't last long, I devoured two sweet ones pretty fast! Next time I will roll the dough even thinner and might even make some giant sized pretzels.

TIP: Put chocolate spread (Nutella or any supermarket version) on the sweet pretzels, you will not regret it!!