Christmas Sugary Fun!

It has been a little while since I had chance to post, and at the moment I am in the middle of lots of projects so there will be loads to come in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled!

I am in the middle of making a beautiful Chrismas cake, it is currently in that stage of being fed lots of delicious rich spiced rum but this weekend I will be icing and decorating it.  I spent the previous weekend making some of the cutest sugarcraft figures to sit atop the cake…little choir boys singing their hearts out with songs of Christmas cheer.  Here is a little sneak peak…

Only 17 sleeps left until Christmas….

Claire x

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Christmas Cake Traditions

I am a very traditional type of girlie when it comes to making the much loved Christmas favourites, but traditional doesn’t mean little modern touches cannot be added that give the baking in question a beautiful extra something that makes it really special.

I have already posted about the finished Christmas Cake but this post is all about those things that make the cake TASTE great.  I opted for an Orange and Spiced Rum Christmas Fruit Cake this year.

I have 4 key tips for anybody out there tackling this Christmas tradition (and please do, its so satisfying!)

1. Do not skimp on fruit! – Pile it all in there…raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, apricots, cranberries, mixed candied fruit – as much as you can cram.  Make sure you add your liquids to the fruit at least 12 hours before you plan to start baking the cake, this will give it chance to become deliciously plump and full of soaked up loveliness!

2.  Add something extra special – for me this year – Morgan’s Spiced Rum.  Christmas is all about indulgence and this just adds such a warm, rich flavour to the fruit.

3. Protect your cake from the elements – This is a very important part of making the cake extraordinarily moist and is something that has been passed down from my grandparents generation and their grandparents generation…Once you have lined your cake tin with baking parchment wrap the entire outside of the cake with newspaper and tie with string, your cake is going to be in the oven for at least 4 hours so it makes sense to protect it!  This stops the outside of the cake from cooking too quickly and becoming dry…and in my book there is nothing worse than a dry fruit cake.

4.  My final tip…it’s Christmas so there is one last thing that is a must have add to your traditional cake…Love!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…(well nearly!)

Have I gone mad you say?  Its only the 13th of November…

It is only 42 sleeps until Christmas Day is upon us…and the truth be known I LOVE Christmas!

The festive season seems incomplete without traditional Christmas Cake so this is something I have been working on for a few months now so that the cakes have time to be ‘fed’ properly.  I like to make a very rich Christmas Cake with lots of fruit – raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots and cherries combined with a divine splash (when I say splash I mean pour!) of a good oak whisky and freshly squeezed orange juice…all in all it creates a beautifully moist, sweet cake – perfect for the most important day of the year!

I  wanted to achieve a more vintage elegance with the finish of the Christmas cakes so decided to opt for beautiful pure white snow flakes (something we all wish for at Christmas!) that shimmer and shine when the light catches the sparkling irridescent powder the cake is lavishly covered in.  To finish I added a vintage lace ribbon.

More Wedding Bells…

I seem to be asked more often than not to create wedding cupcake towers over traditional wedding cakes lately…not that I am complaining!  As this time the bride was family, and so obviously the bride’s family were my family without trying to sound too much like the mafia – this time it was personal!

Kelly wanted cupcakes that would match the burgundy and cream theme of the wedding with a little golden sparkle to finish.  We decided upon two different flavours – Caramel Crunch and a simple but delicious Vanilla sponge.  Each individual cupcake was tied in a burgundy ribbon and finished with tiny little gold stars as well as a hand-made sugar roses. Kelly wanted a traditional cake on the top tier so that she could still have that moment as the bride to cut the cake with her new husband.  This was made to resemble the smaller cupcakes finished with a large burgundy rose with stars shooting out of the top.

When I agreed to make this cake (or these cakes being that there were over 100 of them!) I didn’t exactly consider the logistics of transporting from Cornwall 300 miles into the Midlands. With a little bit of careful packing and some very careful driving they all arrived safely – phew!

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning the incredible dance moves that took place later on at the evening reception and decided to include a few anonymous pic’s – you know who you are!

A Shining Birthday Star…

I was recently asked to make a birthday cake for a little boy called Bradley and the only specifications were that he loves the stars and his favourite colour is Orange.

I decided to cover the sides of the cake in teeny tiny stars, the end result was really striking but I sure did think twice about my design choices at around the 20th star…

Going to the Zoo, Zoo Zoo, You can come to…

I was lucky enough this summer to have my sister Beth from ‘Up Country’ come to stay and this mean’t without a doubt baking something weird and wonderful was on the cards. Beth may only be 15 but has the sugarcraft skills of a pro and I have no doubt that whatever she chooses in life she will make the most of it!  We decided to create some multi-coloured cupcakes that would be topped with a green grass buttercream and zoo animals – we had visited Paradise Animal Park earlier in the week and this was enough inspiration for us…

P.S. You can click on the picture below to see it in full screen glory! Claire

A Tribute to Chocolate…

As it is Chocolate Week (10th-16th October) it seemed only right that I dedicate a little space to such a well loved versatile ingredient, one that is often used in my baking and soon demolished by all! So with this in mind I am sharing one of my favourite recipes – The Double Chocolate Triple Layer Cake finished with handmade chocolates and dark chocolate shavings.  This cake is for the serious chocoholic, the one that is either chocolate crazy or in the need for a serious chocolate hit due to factors beyond every day control (it’s ok you can admit that these situations are usually men-related).

Double gold award winning truffles. A dark chocoate shell with a smooth hand-made caramel centre with fresh Cornish cream and a hint of Cornish Seasalt. Dusted with cocoa powder. TM Nicky Grant 2010

The chocolates can be made well in advance of the cake or you can take the opportunity to visit one of the beautiful local chocolatiers you probably have right on your doorstep. Living in Cornwall I can whole heartedly recommend many but you haven’t lived until you have tried a Nicky Grant Award Winning Cornish Sea Salt Caramel. (if you are not lucky enough to live in Cornwall you can order these online here)

Anyway on to the cake recipe I promised…

For the Cake – 100g butter (if you wanted to be a little more saintly you could use stork!), 265g Caster Sugar (golden if possible), 2 Medium eggs, 50g Cocoa Powder, 1/4 tsp Baking Powder, 1/4 tsp Bicarb of Soda, 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract, 175g Plain Flour, 165ml Milk

For the Chocolate Custard/Ganache – 500g Caster Sugar (golden if possible), 1 tbsp Golden Syrup, 125g Cocoa Powder, 175g Cornflour, 85g butter (again stork could be used here..decide on your halo and whether you want it to slip or not!), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

You will need 3 8″ (20cm) cake tins greased and lined, and you will need to preheat your oven to 170C (325F)

You will start out by making the Chocolate Custard/Ganache as this will need around 2-3 hours to cool down before you can spread it lavishly over your baked cakes.  In a large saucepan mix together the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder and 600ml of cold water and bring this to the boil over a medium heat.  You can whisk this occasionally but its not essential.  The Cornflour needs mixing in a separate bowl with around 150ml of cold water, you may find this seems like you are making cement but it will with a little bit of elbow grease end up as the consistency of thick glue (think the pre-school variety and your there!) Add this gradually to the saucepan with the other ingredients and whisk it constantly over the heat until it goes lovely and gooey and thick.  Then add the butter and vanilla extract, pour into a bowl and leave to cool.

The cake is simple enough, cream your butter & sugar, then add the eggs one at a time until well mixed.  Add the vanilla extract, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb of soda and continue mixing. Add half the flour, then all of the milk and then the rest of the flour and give it one last mix until all is combined. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Then the fun begins, layer your cakes and lather them in the thick chocolate custard/ganache until the whole cake is covered and then shave some dark chocolate for the top – you can do this by pulling a knife blade along the smooth side of the dark chocolate or by using a peeler to create little curls! Then add your chocolates around the top and voila….a chocoholics dream.

If you want to find out more about what is happening during Chocolate Week 2011 click here to visit the official website!

Claire x

Ding Dong the Bells are going to Chime…

It all started with a message posted on one of my wedding cake pics by the lovely Louisa Ussher that simply said “When are we going to talk about mine then?!” Little did I know at the time she would become one of my closest friends, and I couldn’t be more happy for the now Mrs Ussher-Bass, you deserve all that life can offer x

Now I have finished gushing about the romance of the day lets talk cake!  Louisa wanted a simple cupcake tower that matched the colour theme of the wedding – Cornflower Blue and Yellow.  Louisa and I decided to go with a simple rose swirl buttercream on a base of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes finished with a cute little sugar flower and the customery RosyCheeks Bakery sprinkle of glitter!  The tower was decorated with beautiful fresh flowers from the wedding breakfast tables. I base the success of the cakes on the small children seen sneaking over during the first dance to carefully take a cake and disappear into the darkness never to be seen again, the only evidence were the empty cases littered around the marquee…

Ooo La La – Cupcake Camp Paris

Cupcake Camp is quite simply described as “an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment.” Cupcake Camp (2011)

The second annual event took place this past weekend and over 2600 cupcakes were sold and devoured! If you wanted to find out more information check out their beautiful blog over at cupcakecampparis.blogspot.com 

Below are a few photographs of some of the winning cupcakes;

Marie Grave won Best Fall Inspired Cupcake with her Apple, Nut and Maple Syrup cupcakes.

Rose of Rose and Cook won Most Unusal Ingredient with her Vitelotte Potato and Violet Syrup cupcake.

The big winner of the day, Rahima Mohammad a.k.a Fairy Cooker, won not only Most Parisian Cupcake and The Make a Wish contest, but she also won Best in Show.

If you wanted to check this out further with some enchanting pictures that really capture the day in all its colourful sugar filled glory please click here for the wordpress freshly pressed choice of the day ‘Colourful Concoctions at Cupcake Camp’

Claire x

Twit Twoo…

So I start this blog post with how do you go about making a birthday cake for someone who is an incredibly talented crafter, crazy about owls and one of your best friends? Answers on a postcard please, but first here was my solution, Hope you enjoy…

It was obvious immediately that the theme of the cake had to include owls…I started to look at making sugar owls and started out with these little guy’s…

Grumpy Owls

Now yes they look like owls, but can you hand on heart say they look like owls who wan’t to ‘hoot’ you a Happy Birthday whilst sitting proudly atop a cake? quite simply it was a no. The owls had to be much, much cuter.

The cake was a simple Victoria Sponge jazzed up with a little gel food colouring and layered into 8″ cake tins to create a rainbow effect when sliced into.  I used pink, purple and green to match the theme of the overall finished cake.

Twit Twoo - finished and ready!

A Wilton number 233 was used to create the grass effect surrounding the owls

When using your Wilton nozzle number 233 to create grass I offer the following tips (whether you use them is entirely up to you!)

1. When colouring your icing I choose a gel based colour (there are several different brands but the choice is yours!) These colours are very concentrated so you only need a tiny amount – start with the tip of a cocktail stick and then if you think you need it add more.  It is much easier to add depth of colour than to take it away!

2. Only half fill your piping bag so that you have better control and grip

3. Pipe the grass using a ‘lift and pull’ technique – do not squeeze too much buttercream or push down on the cake as this will not give you the desired affect and will instead result in ‘blobs’ of icing instead of grass.

And finally the rainbow effect I just know you all want to see…

Rainbow cake is revealed

yum...

And the most important thing in all of this? did the birthday girl love it? sure did – Yippee! If you would like to check out my aformentioned incredibly talented friend Victoria Thyer you can do so at www.fab-brick.co.uk