Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Easter Simnel Cupcakes


Happy Easter everyone! I love Easter so much, I'm a bit of an Easter nut in fact. Last year I ate hot cross buns all day long, made my own Easter eggs and did some art with an Easter craft set. Then I put my art work on the fridge - a great day! This year I am being slightly more grown up and spending the weekend at my boyfriend's parent's house. I decided to make Simnel cupcakes because they are a traditional Easter recipe. Then I went for it with Mini Eggs and fluffy chicks to decorate! Here's how I did it...

  

First I mixed together 150g butter and 150g light soft brown sugar until creamy.


Then I added 3 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract and the zest of one lemon, and mixed well.


I added in 150g dried mixed fruit. The mix I used was called luxury dried fruit and was from Aldi. It's great because it has everything in it. Raisins, sultanas, cherries, and mixed peel. So you don't have to buy everything separately!


Finally I folded in 100g plain flour, 150g plain wholemeal flour (both sifted and the bran from the wholemeal flour tipped in), 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp mixed spice.


I used golden marzipan and made 12 balls each weighing 12g (no particular reason for this weight, they just looked like the size I wanted). Traditionally, on a large sized Simnel cake, 12 marzipan balls are used to represent the twelve apostles, without Judas, or 11 marzipan balls are used to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles, minus Judas again. No cake for Judas.


Once I had filled the cupcake cases with mixture, I pushed the balls of marzipan in.


Then I put a small amount of mixture over the top.


I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 20 minutes, until they were golden brown. 

Once the cakes were cooled I whipped up some almond buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter, 2 tsp cream cheese and 1 tsp almond extract.


The first decoration I did was this fluffy chick. First I coated the cupcake with buttercream using a palette knife. You can also use the back of a spoon. Then I sprinkled on the 'fur', made from dessicated coconut dyed yellow with some food colouring, finally I stuck on chocolate chips for eyes and some orange sugarpaste for the beak.


My second design was a simple swirl of almond buttercream using a star nozzle, and three Mini Eggs arranged in the middle.


For this design I spread the almond buttercream across the top of the cupcake using a palette knife, then using my star nozzle I piped a small swirl into the middle. I sprinkled on some Dr. Oetker Citrus Strands, then added a (non-edible!) fluffy chick. So frickin' cute!!


Finally I went a bit glamorous. I spread the almond buttercream on the cupcake using my trusty palette knife again, then piped a small swirl in the middle, then little rosettes around the edge, and topped each one with a silver ball. Upright Mini Eggs in the centre finished it off.


The cupcake sponge was really delicious, and had just the right amount of fruit. The marzipan ball hidden in the middle is a nice surprise! I had planned the first two decorations, but made the other two up as I went. So be creative and see what you can come up with! Grab some little eggs, sprinkles, whatever you fancy and celebrate Easter with sweet delicious treats!


I am really pleased with my cupcakes and am entering them into Calendar Cakes 'Easter Extravaganza' hosted by Laura Loves Cakes and Dollybakes.


If you fancy showing off your Easter baking and be in with a chance of winning tickets for The Cake & Bake Show (5th - 7th April and Manchester Central), Renshaw Baking are running a competition which you can enter by clicking here. I will be heading to the show myself and can't wait to check out the bread baking, sugar crafting and celebrity appearances! They are big fans of marzipan too over at Renshaw Baking and have a selection of Easter recipes which you can peruse by clicking here.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Review: Cake International - Part #2


Welcome to the second part of my review of the 18th Cake International - The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating & Baking Show - at EventCity in Manchester. If you haven't read part #1, click here to read.

 Review Part #2
John Whaite
Demonstrations
Overview

John Whaite


I headed back to Cake International on it's third and final day in Manchester to see The Great British Bake Off's winner John Whaite's demonstration. John showed us how to make his Midnight Blues Tart from his new book, which is called "John Whaite Bakes: Recipes for Every Day & Every Mood". He wrote the whole book himself and it is divided into chapters based on how you're feeling and what you might want to make in that mood. Such as hungover, happy or sad. I thought this was a really unique idea and I'm looking forward to the book being released!


He made the tart using sable pastry, which is a very rich sweet shortcrust pastry. John is currently studying a patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu in London. He told us he was putting on weight from eating his work! He also said that he has moved to London for the course and people aren't as happy there as they are in the North. He was glad to be back in Manchester! The recipe for the Midnight Blues Tart will be in John's new book, but he said if you tweet him (@JohnWhaiteBakes) he will send you the recipe, which I thought was really nice of him!


I was interested to hear from John that you can infuse eggs with vanilla because the shells are porous. I looked into this further and you can infuse them with lots of flavours. He also told us how to make vanilla bean paste out of leftover vanilla pods. You can find out more here. John also had a tip to avoid the dreaded 'soggy bottom', he said you can brush chocolate over the pastry as a seal to stop the pastry going soggy. A great and delicious idea!


John's mum was in the audience and he told us that he'd made her shortbread for Mother's Day and taken her out for dinner, but still got asked where her present was! He also talked about Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. According to John, Paul is one of the nicest men you can know, and it's a bonus that he can cook. And Mary Berry told him that if something falls on the floor, as long as nobody sees it happen, just pick it up and put it back in the pan - great advice if you ask me!


The filling for the Midnight Blues Tart was blueberries and Limoncello liquor. I love lemon and blueberry together - a great flavour combination. He finished the tart with blue glitter and edible gold stars. I really want to try this recipe out!


The audience got to ask some questions at the end. John said that Paul's technical challenges were the worst as he left a lot of information out of the recipe. He never wants to see another fondant fancie ever again! John provided tips on making eclairs, piping and pastry. He recommended using vegetable shortening to practise your piping, advised us to chill our pastry before baking to avoid shrinkage and to fill up the tin with baking beans. There was also a really sweet 7 year old boy who asked John how old he was when he started baking - John was 4 years old - and told John how he'd helped make £200 for Comic Relief with his baking. So cute!


John's book is out at the end of April and he will be doing a book signing on Saturday 27th April at 11am in Selfridges at the Trafford Centre, and at 3pm at Waterstones in Wigan.

Demonstrations


There were several opportunities at Cake International to get involved and try out some baking and sugarpaste skills for yourself. The first I came across were The British Sugarcraft Guild's 'A Taste Of Sugar' Mini Workshops. These workshops were specially designed for people new to sugarcraft to get a hands on experience and learn the techniques of crafting with sugarpaste.


The marzipan roses above are an example of what beginners can achieve with expert help!


Xanthe Milton aka 'Cookie Girl' was hosting live competitions where visitors had the chance to compete against each other with their piping skills to win prizes! Xanthe has gained a cult following from her YouTube channel and decorating classes in London.


She demonstrated both basic and advanced piping techniques to the crowd before six people could have a go themselves. There were four opportunities per day to take part and prizes offered included electric hand whisks.


Sean Bird is a chef, food writer and columnist who has worked in many top kitchens around the world. I saw him demonstrating one of his recipes at the Manchester Food Festival last year and have been a fan ever since. Sean was the expert leading the demonstrations in the Baker's Dozen live theatre -  a new feature at the Cake International shows. 12 people could take part, each with their own cooking station, in making sponges, pastry or dessert.


The other great thing about these workshops, besides getting expert assistance and tips, is they are also free of charge! You just have to hurry in the morning and be the first to sign up.


Renowned chocolatier David Leslie was offering workshops every day at the show. With more than 20 years experience as a chocolatier, David Leslie is also a Le Cordon Bleu Patissier. He makes bespoke handmade truffles, couture chocolate wedding cakes and celebration cakes. There were free demonstrations happening at his stall and several youngsters were getting involved and making chocolate roses.


In the free workshops, you could also learn how to make heart shaped truffles and praline truffles.


For an extra price, you could spend two hours with David learning all the basics of chocolate and take home 20 truffles with four different fillings all made yourself. I would have loved to do this as I'd really like to learn more about working with chocolate and have some hands on experience with an expert guiding me.


How gorgeous are these Easter eggs?! I especially love the shimmering purple one!

Overview

I really enjoyed the time I spent at Cake International and I would recommend it to anyone interested in cakes and baking. The show does focus mainly on cake decoration, such as sugarpaste, and icing tricks and techniques, but that doesn't mean hardcore bakers won't enjoy themselves too! Even as someone who has only used sugarpaste a handful of times, I loved looking at all the gorgeous cakes. It's essentially cake art, and just because I can't make it, doesn't mean I don't like looking at it! So even if sugarpaste frightens you, don't let it put you off visiting Cake International.

I really liked all the different elements of the show, depending on what you're after or what mood you're in, you can do a bit of browsing, watch a demonstration, or take part and make something with expert help. There's plenty to keep you interested over the whole three days, and I'd say a three day ticket is essential. Please let me know if you attended Manchester Cake International in the comments section!

If you missed Cake International in Manchester you can catch it again at the ExCeL in London (April 2013), the SECC in Glasgow (October 2013) and the NEC, Birmingham (November 2013). Check out the website for more details and to buy tickets!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The March Lust List

It feels a bit strange talking about Easter so early, I associate Easter with April, not March. Is it usually this early?! Easter is all about new birth, lambs, chicks and of course - eggs! It doesn't quite feel like Spring has sprung in March. However saying all that...it's not going to stop me, or you I expect, doing some Easter baking! I am really into Easter and I think it's a lot of fun. Last year I bought an art set and did Easter crafts whilst eating hot cross buns all day. I didn't do any baking, but I'd like to try out homemade hot cross buns this year if time allows. I can't promise I won't end up making them in April though! Here are this month's lust list items to get you started with your Easter baking...


Easter Egg Mould (Medium)
Sew White £5.50 - Also available in Large and Small
Making your own Easter eggs is so much fun! I have a mould exactly like this that I used last year to make my own eggs. I used both white and milk chocolate to make patterns with the eggs just like in the picture above. I highly recommend it!



Easter Grippy Cookie Cutter Set
Cakes, Cookies & Crafts £3.97
A fab selection of cutters for Easter cookies and biscuits. The colourful grips also make it easier (and less painful!) to press the cutters down into dough. Perfect for baking with children,


Wilton Grass/Hair Piping Nozzle
Totally Sugar Crafts £2.95
This nozzle is perfect for creating Springtime scenes on your cupcakes! Place a lamb, rabbit, chick or flowers onto grass effect icing. You can make your own animals and flowers out of sugar paste, or buy pre-made shapes. Either way, you will have some gorgeously decorated cupcakes!


10 Easter Cello Bags with Base - Large
Cakes, Cookies & Crafts £3.00
Perfect for wrapping up homemade Easter treats. Such as homemade eggs made with the mould above! Or moulded chocolate shapes!



If you fancy showing off your Easter baking and be in with a chance of winning tickets for The Cake & Bake Show (5th - 7th April and Manchester Central), Renshaw Baking are running a competition which you can enter by clicking here.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Review: Cake International - Part #1



Last weekend I attended the 18th Cake International - The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating & Baking Show - at EventCity in Manchester. It is the first time that the show, the largest of its kind in the world, has come to Manchester and there are over 70,000 people expected to attend it this year across four venues in the UK.

I have a lot to tell you and show you about my Cake International experience, so I am going to have to divide it into two posts!

Review Part #1
Stalls
Competition Cakes
Mary Berry

 Review Part #2 (Click to read)
John Whaite
Demonstrations
Overview

Stalls

There was a vast variety of exhibitors selling their cake, chocolate and sugarpaste goods at Cake International. There were some amazing new products that I had never seen before and some definite product trends throughout the stalls.


The first stall I noticed was a familiar face - Sugar & Crumbs. I did a review on their flavoured icing sugar, which you can read here, and it was great to see the full range of their products such as chocolate orange cocoa powder, chocolate cherry cocoa powder, and lemon drizzle icing sugar.
 

I thought these cute mini glass domes at the Cake Decorating Company's stand were so gorgeous and cute!


They also sold LorAnn Oils, which are super strength flavourings. Three to four times stronger than the extracts you find in the supermarket. They withstand heat and can be added to chocolate, sponges, icing and fudge. They come in a massive range of flavours including Cola, Key Lime, Peanut Butter and Butterscotch.


Sugarveil is an amazing product that creates an edible lace which can be used to add texture when decorating cakes. The effects it can create are absolutely stunning and despite looking very fragile it is quite sturdy and flexible.


Tracey's Cakes sell this chocolate paste, which can be used to cover cakes, or moulded and shaped into cake decorations. It is made purely of chocolate and is not sugarpaste, so tastes like chocolate too!


 As you can see above, it can be made into beautiful flowers!


Tracey's Cakes made all of the decorations on this 4 1/2 foot 'Under The Sea' cake out of chocolate paste! It was moulded with white chocolate paste and then airbrushed to add colour. Airbrushing was a popular trend and I saw exhibitors demonstrating it on a few stalls
 

Cake Stand Solutions had some gorgeous and unique cake stands on display. They have created some very detailed and pretty ways of displaying cakes.


I really liked the carousel cake stand!


D G Films Ltd edible printing absolutely amazed me. They print images from photos, to logos and cartoons onto edible wafer paper using ink which is essentially made from similar ingredients to food colourings. Just imagine what you could do with this!


The image above is an example of what can be achieved with these printers.


The edible inks used in the printers. I purchased some Red Nose Day logos to stick on my Comic Relief cake sale cupcakes from them!


Another popular trend I noticed at Cake International were ready made fruit cakes. The picture above are the offerings from Sugar and Spice, who supply rich rum fruit cake bases ready for decorating with sugarpaste. These cakes are definitely aimed at dedicated cake decorators who perhaps don't have time to make the cake as well as do their intricate sugarpaste designs.


Cake pops have increased in popularity over recent months and Cake Pop Heaven's Starter Kit contains all you need to make 15 cake pops and is a great way to try out the trend.


The Fudge Factory had an amazing range of flavours available including classics like Rum & Raisin, Chocolate and Vanilla. And some more interesting flavours like Jammie Dodger, Vimto, Iron Bru and Jack Daniels. I purchased three boxes for £5, which I thought was a great bargain!


I just had to show you these gorgeous cupcakes that were on FPC Sugarcrafts' stand. So pretty!


I was immediately sold on the Whizzy Whisk after seeing the demonstration of how it makes milk super frothy (see above photo!) with only manual use, no batteries included. You just push the top and in only a couple of minutes, milk froths up ready for a hot chocolate or a cappuccino. It also works on pancake batter, cream and eggs. I tested it when I got home and loved it!



Competition Cakes

Cake International holds competitions at each show. There were fifteen categories at the Manchester event, including Floral Sugarcraft, Yeast Cookery, Novelty Cake, Wedding Cake, Cupcakes and Decorated Celebration Cake. All the beautifully decorated and designed cakes were displayed for visitors to view. This was definitely one of the popular parts of the show, there were so many cakes to see and be amazed at! I hope you enjoy the following photos of some of my favourites....




Yes these are not real flowers, they are made from sugarcraft!







 











 
 

   







 







And finally, a simple yet stunning design that I really loved...



Mary Berry


Without a doubt my personal highlight of the show. It is the first time I have seen Mary in person, and she exudes warmth and kindness. She started her time on the Bakery Theatre stage by talking about a little girl who had won gold in one of the cake competitions, and she wanted to know if the girl was in the crowd so she could invite her up on stage. Unfortunately the girl wasn't there but it was such a thoughtful gesture. She then went on to make a joke about how her and Paul have been named some of TV's best presenters and "Simon Cowell better watch out!"


Mary really interacted with the audience throughout her demonstration, asking about what we thought of Paul Hollywood and his blue eyes. She said he was funny and also talked about Mel and Sue's great ability to calm all the GBBO contestants nerves. She gave Sue's new sitcom, Heading Out, a plug too!


Mary showed us how to make three dishes; A pear tart, mini banoffee pies and a Simnel cake. Although I was in awe the whole way through, I felt like the recipes took back stage somewhat to her anecdotes, tips and stories. She used tinned pears for the tart, and said she likes using shortcuts where possible. The filling for the pear tart consisted of cream cheese, lemon curd and lemon zest. Mary always uses full fat cream cheese, and full fat everything else. She told us she would rather have one small slice that tastes really good, than more and it not be as nice.


Mary talked about her appearance on The Graham Norton Show, she said Graham was "quite saucy" and she had trouble deciding what to wear. She found a cardigan that her husband said was over the top, but she decided that Graham was over the top too, so it would be ok! Hugh Jackman was on the show as well, and put his hand on Mary's knee, which was a highlight for her! It would be for me too! However, as you can see from the photo I found below, it seems Mary was the one with both her hands on Hugh's knee!


I as mentioned, Mary really likes using shortcuts and making things easier when baking. She said that there was a lot to learn at Cake International from all the new products on offer. For the banoffee pies Mary used another shortcut, the tinned Carnation caramel, she added butter and muscovado sugar to it and heated them together. She also had a handy tip about freezing bananas if they were starting to go brown.


When Mary featured on Desert Island Discs, she told us that the presenter Kirsty Young brought along some biscuits that her 10 year old daughter had made and wanted Mary's appraisal on. Mary said they were over baked, but tasted delicious. She said she can always find something nice to say, as you have probably noticed on GBBO!



The last thing Mary made was a Simnel Cake. She had a few tips, such as making sure your butter is always at room temperature, greasing the cake tin with butter so the greaseproof paper don't slip, and microwaving a cut lemon to make juicing it easier. She asked the audience to give her stage assistant Georgia a round of applause which was really nice. Georgia had sieved the apricot jam for the Simnel Cake, but Mary said she wouldn't do this at home, as she quite likes the bits! She commented on the different styles that her and Paul have. He likes everything to be perfect, whereas she doesn't mind.


As you may know, The Great British Bake Off won a BAFTA award. As the cast were sat in Row H, Sue told Mary they had no chance of winning as they were two far away from the stage. But to their surprise, they did! It is clear that Mary has an interest in fashion as she talked about how excited she was to see what everyone was wearing at the award ceremony. I just had to post the below picture of Mary looking absolutely gorgeous and glamorous at the National Television Awards as soon as I saw it!


The final touches to the Simnel cake were using a blowtorch to brown the marzipan on top. Mary said she never had a blowtorch as her naughty children would have ended up chasing each other with it! She also used crystallised primroses to decorate the top. Which you can make by coating the primroses in some beaten egg, sprinkling with sugar and then leaving in a warm place to harden.


As Mary's time on the Bakery Theatre stage drew to an end, she answered several questions from the audience. She told us that he favourite thing to bake was her mother's ginger cake with stem ginger, and that for Mother's Day she would like a Simnel Cake or a Sherry Trifle. She advised us to use good quality cupcake cases, to pre-cook pastry before filling it to avoid soggy bottoms, to cook large cakes for longer on lower temperatures, and finally when a little girl asked for advice on how to make chocolate teacakes, she said "get your mum and dad to help". At the end Mary signed some autographs and it was children first. Just another example of what a nice lady she is!

If you missed Cake International in Manchester you can catch it again at the ExCeL in London (April 2013) and the NEC, Birmingham (November 2013). Check out the website for more details and to buy tickets!