Friday, 28 September 2012

Hey Little Cupcake: Decorating Class

Hey Little Cupcake! is a fabulous, bright and colourful little cupcakery tucked away in Manchester city centre just off Deansgate. It was my birthday about 2 months ago and I decided to book myself onto their cupcake decorating class with some of my birthday money. As the classes are so popular I wasn't able to get a space until this week. But it was worth the wait!

I was offered a complimentary drink on arrival, and had my own work station and pink polka dot apron to wear. It was definitely a very girly experience! The class began with making some sugarpaste flowers, leaves and other shapes of our choice for putting on the cupcakes later. It was fun experimenting with the different cutters and playing with the sugarpaste. I've never used it before but I can see my interest developing after this class! We also got taught how to make buttercream and learnt some tips on getting the right consistencies and flavouring the buttercream with different things.

The first cupcake we made was the Cookie Monster! I've seen this done before with blue icing, or blue sprinkles. This one is made with coconut flakes that have been dyed blue. He makes me chuckle everytime I look at him!


The second cupcake we made was this 'Paris' cupcake using strawberry flavoured pink buttercream. The nozzle we used is called a closed flower nozzle which created very thin delicate layers of buttercream.

This Oreo cupcake has an Oreo biscuit baked into the cupcake sponge. You can just seen it peeking out at the left under the vanilla buttercream. The nozzle for this was just a simple circular one. I found this quite hard to get neat and had to start over with this as I wasn't happy with my first try.

This nozzle with lots of holes in created this brilliant grass effect! You can also use it to create the effect of hair. This was easy and fun to pipe and I overloaded the cake with all my sugarpaste decorations!

This cupcake is called the 'Viva Las Vegas'. I went a bit wild with my chocolate buttercream on this one and piled it slightly higher than I perhaps should have. We were told that the cupcake used to be covered in cupcake glitter, but this had to be changed because cupcake glitter is not technically edible and so the food standards people weren't happy with it being served. It is non-toxic though I am happy to report, so if you still want to use cupcake glitter on your creations, you can. I've eaten it before and lived to tell the tale! You can also buy the glitter at Hey Little Cupcake!

Finally my proudest moment - my rose! I did this with my first try and I'm so pleased with the effect, it looks fantastic! Don't think I can bring myself to eat this! The icing comes out in very thin layers using the nozzle above and you pipe from the centre outwards.

I had so much fun at the cupcake class. If you're interested in attending one they cost £35 and you're there for about 2 hours, you get a complimentary drink, and to take all the cupcakes you decorate home. Plus the staff are lovely, are happy to answer questions and have lots of knowledge. They also sell most of the products we used during the class in the cupcakery if you want to take what you've learnt home. Sugarpaste specific decorating classes are also available as well as jam making classes. Check out their website:

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Taste of Trafford: Altrincham Market

This Sunday I headed to Altrincham Market for A Taste of Trafford. This is an annual festival celebrating the food and flavours of local businesses. Held at Altrincham's covered historic marketplace the festival included hot ready-to-eat dishes, deli produce, as well as cakes and desserts. The place was bustling with people when I arrive around midday and smelt great!

The first thing I noticed was La Rioja's chicken and chorizo paella. They also had other Spanish delights on offer such a calamari, meatballs and chicken kebabs. The food looked really fresh.

I ended up opting for La Vina's chicken and chorizo paella (photo above is while it was still being prepared) as they were offering paella and a glass of sangria for £4 - and I can't resist a good bargain! The paella was delicious, moist and full of flavour. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am planning on visiting their restaurant on Deansgate soon.

My friend went for The Farmer's Wife's pork meatballs in a tomato sauce. I had a bite and they were very tasty. The business supports British farmers who keep pigs in the traditional way and they also had pork burgers on offer as well as sausages for the kids. The dish on the left is tuscan bean stew.

Pies are so traditionally British it was interesting to see that The Real Thai Pie Company add Asian flavour to the dish.

Dozo Sushi (07877048634) had delicious chow mein, siu mai and steamed pork buns on on offer. The food was fantastic quality - not your typical Chinese takeaway. They also offer Sushi Workshops.

I saw End of the Rainbow cupcakes at Eccles Farmer's Market last week and mentioned them in my review. There were a lot more flavours on offer today and I thought the cupcakes were better presented. These cupcakes are also an absolute bargain at only £1 each. My friend bought four in a variety of flavours and was equally as impressed as I am with the generous application of buttercream!

I thoroughly enjoyed my toblerone brownie from Lush Brownies. I wish I had taken advantage of the four for £5 offer, but by the time I tucked in I had left the market. Very very good brownies, light, moist and super tasty! Will be searching these out again at another market soon.

I wanted to eat pretty much all of Vanillis Cafe's stall! The desserts and cakes looked amazing. I'm ashamed to admit but I forgot about these guys on my second walk round. (I did a browse, then went back round to buy.) When I saw this photo my heart dropped as I wanted to buy this chocolate mousse things that looked fantastic. Next time!

I saw Dough It Yourself at Westfest (see my review here) and made the terrible mistake of not trying their pizza because I was really full at the time. This time however I gobbled up a couple of slices and was immediately converted. Their pizza bases are fantastic. Perfectly crispy and light. Me and my friend both bought two bases and a pot of sauce for £5. I've put them in the freezer for now but will be cracking them out at the weekend and getting creative with my toppings!

The Pate & Wine Company had some great pate's including duck & gin, and smoked mackerel. I was really impressed with the flavour but the pots were quite big for just me and also a little more pricey than I was willing to pay. Would be great for a family though.

Mininki's Kitchen make pesto (basil, coriander & tomato) as well as the Turkish bread pictured above, biscuits and chilli jam. My friend really liked the chilli jam. The pesto was really good, full of flavour and very fresh. Pesto is quite simple to make yourself, but if you aren't inclined to make your own, Mininki's would be a great alternative.

And finally I have to finish with the fabulous The French Corner. The photos say it all really. Fresh, crusty, golden bread. Their products are handmade by highly trained French bakers. The queue for this stall was rather lengthy but worth the wait! The lady ahead of me bought 10 pastries (croissants and pain du chocolats). My friend got a Marguerite loaf, and I chose an Onion loaf that I ate some of in the evening dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yummy!

Other businesses deserving a mention are Dilli Indian Food, Love Thai Cuisine, and Cacao & Co Luxury Chocolates.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Chocolate Fondants: GBBO Week #6

Last week's 6th episode of GBBO was all about puddings. 6th episode - that means we are halfway through the series now bakers! The first request from the judges was for a dozen sponge puddings, two different flavours, six of each flavour. Several bakers went for sticky toffee puddings and chocolate fondants. Danny's pudding is pictured above (with the collapsed fondants just out of shot). Poor Danny dropped a fondant when it came out of the oven, you could tell she was really devastated about it. The competition is getting serious now and little mistakes like this are starting to affect the contestants. The reality is mistakes like this happen all the time when you're baking, and as well as talent, you need luck in GBBO!

The technical challenge this week was a Mary Berry recipe called 'Queen of Puddings' (pictured above). I haven't heard of this pudding before, it is custard, with jam layered on top, then finally a layer of meringue. Of course this sounds fairly simple, but there are several technical details that need to be just right, also none of the contestants had made jam before! This is where Brendan really stood out because he had technical knowledge on the setting point of jam. Sometimes age has it's advantages!

The final challenge was to make a strudel, savoury or sweet. Even Mary Berry admitted that when making a strudel she would buy the pastry, so it was obvious this was going to be a tough one! Strudel pastry has to be stretched by hand until it is incredibly thin, without tearing it of course. Once again Brendan stood out here. He rolled his sleeves up, oiled his arms and got stuck into the pastry stretching without a single bead of sweat or a hint of panic.

Meanwhile Cathryn accidentally launched her pastry across the room, and poor John got taken away by paramedics after cutting his hand. Oh the drama!! I was quite on edge! Brendan's strudel turned out fabulous (pictured above) and he added a lattice work on top for bonus points. John sadly did not get to make his strudel because of his injury, which meant no one was eliminated this week! Two to go next week though...

I decided to make a chocolate fondant and started by melting 150g butter and 150g dark chocolate in a glass bowl above simmering water.

Meanwhile I lined the sides of 4 ramekins with butter and the bottom with baking paper. There were many instructions on how to line the tins. One recipe I read said to use melted butter, then let it chill, then flour it. The way I chose worked fine.

I let the chocolate and butter mixture cool slightly and whisked together 3 eggs with 75g caster sugar.

I poured the butter/chocolate into the egg/sugar and whisked as I poured. Finally I sieved in 1 heaped tbsp of plain flour.

I poured the mixture into the ramekins, make sure not to fill to the top, and baked on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for exactly 12 minutes.

Let them cool for a couple of minutes. In my eagerness I immediately tipped one out onto a plate and it collapsed immediately. The second one came out intact. I used a palette knife to loosen around the edges and it slid out of the ramekin very easily and I peeled the baking paper off the top.

I cut into the chocolate fondant and was pleased to see a gorgeous warm chocolate goo spill out.

A dusting of icing sugar and it was ready to eat! You could also serve with cream or ice cream. So rich and decadent - absolute chocolate heaven!

I am adding this to Classic French August 2013, ran by Blue Kitchen Bakes and this month hosted by Under the Blue Gum Tree.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Clandestine Cake Club: Bounty Cake

On Wednesday night I roped my housemate into baking a cake and coming along with me to the latest Central Manchester and Chorlton Clandestine Cake Club. I found out about the CCC via Twitter, it has only been going since 2011, but has proved popular all over the UK. It's for people that love cake and baking to get together for a chat and to eat cake of course! Their mission statement is "Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake". This month's theme was 'Tipsy Cakes'. I did a post last month called Five Thing To Do With Semolina and there was a recipe for a Bounty Cake involving coconut and rum that I wanted to try out, so it was an easy decision on what to make!

I started by mixing together 200g self-raising flour, 100g semolina, 50g ground almonds, 200g sugar, 1 tbsp arrowroot powder, 2 tbsp custard powder and a pinch of salt. This cake is unusual in that it doesn't contain any eggs or butter. Arrowroot powder is not an ingredient I am familiar with or have used before, but I found it quite easily in Tesco. It is a thickener similar to cornflour.

Next I poured 350ml of milk, 4 tbsp of vegetable oil and 2 tbsp of rum into the mixture of dry ingredients. I whisked it together until fully combined.

I used dark rum from Aldi for this recipe. Aldi gets a bad rep, but they sell some very good quality ingredients and produce. It's where I shop the most for all my basic groceries including flour, eggs and butter used in all my baking.

Finally I melted 60g of milk chocolate and mixed into the cake batter. The recipe advised not to mix for too long as it could affect how the cake rises.

I lined the bottom of a lose bottomed cake tin with baking paper and greased the sides with butter.

In went the cake batter...

he recipe said to pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7. But my oven cooks very quickly and after plenty of baking I know what it is like so I only pre-heated it to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 to be on the safe side. I gave it about 35 minutes in the oven, but you can adjust this depending on your oven. Mine came out crispy on the edges after this amount of time.

When my cake came out it was smiling at me! It rose very strangely, I have never seen a cake crack like this. It is my first cake without eggs or butter so I expected a different result than what I was used to. Plus I have now learnt that my oven is crap and I despise it. I live in rented accommodation at the moment otherwise I would be straight to the oven shop!

For the bounty topping I put 200ml double cream, 200ml milk, 6tbsp semolina, 60g sugar, 100g dessicated coconut and 2 tbsp rum into a pan and let it simmer until it turned into the rice pudding like mixture you can see in the photo above. I tasted it and added about 10g more of sugar and another glug of rum. I tasted again and added one last glug of rum! The theme was tipsy cakes after all! This stuff was so delicious I could've eaten it on it's own! Seriously thinking of just having this as a hot pudding on it's own sometime.

Make sure the cake is completely cool and the topping has cooled down too, then pour it on top and smooth out. Leave it to set in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

When the topping has set and the whole things is chilled it will slide out of the cake tin and look like this. I melted some milk chocolate (about 100g, I was in a rush though and didn't measure it) and created a lattice pattern on top of the cake.

Don't worry if you mess up your pattern, because the cake is chilled the chocolate hardens quickly and can easily be removed from the top without damaging the topping.

Now my Bounty Cake was ready for it's journey to the Clandestine Cake Club!

This is my housemate Stacey's Tartouillat (Cherry & Rum Cake). It went down a storm at the CCC and was really delicious.

A Gin & Tonic cake by Sarah Grace. I don't like Gin & Tonic, but I loved this cake!

Brazilian Stout Cake by Kelly. This was really yummy and I loved the butter cream icing.

My favourite cake of the night! Chocolate & Guinness Cake by Charlotte. She used the Hummingbird Bakery recipe for this cake. Which I will be trying very soon!

The two cakes above are both gluten free. The top one is Bourbon & Orange and the bottom one is Apple & Vodka. I've not had a gluten free cake that I am aware of before, and I honestly could not tell the difference. They were both very different cakes, but both really tasty!

This brilliantly decorated cake by Claire was appropriately titled a 'Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum Cake'. It was flavoured with Ginger & Rum. By the time this cake arrived I was so full but I brought a piece home with me! (As well as several others...) I love the effort that's gone into decorating it, it looks fabulous.

My much cake but such a great night. I definitely recommend looking up your local CCC and going along. I am looking forward to the next one already!