Sunday, October 30, 2011

Spooky Halloween Cookies

To celebrate Halloween I made these easy biscuits with royal icing. Once you've baked your biscuits, mix up some royal icing and pipe an outline around your design as in the picture... it doesn't look pretty at this stage but the final product is a really great looking biscuit, or cookie if you will! Once you've edged your biscuits cou can then make your icing slightly runnier by adding a bit more water and then flood fill the biscuit using a piping bag with the end snipped off. You can use this to push the icing right up to the edging. If you want to make your biscuits even more special you can pipe contrasting colours on to the base layer icing and they blend in to each other like the eyes on the ghost!

Why not try some spooky cupcakes too! There are loads of great cupcake toppers available if you want some quick and easy decorations... team them with bright orange and green icing! These are some mini cupcakes from Lola's which a friend had for her Halloween party.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Autumnal Cake Competition

Well having been on a fair few cake decorating courses now I thought I ought to put my skills to good use and try and design a cake of my own. So this is my entry for the Cakes 4 Fun autumn cake competition. The pumpkin on the top is based on one of Debbie Brown's easy party cakes and was made using madeira cakes cooked in small pyrex bowls and then sandwiched together...I was quite pleased with the result as I wasn't quite sure what to expect! To decorate the bottom layer I used a range of FMM leaf cutters and a whole array of autumn dusting colours. Then just to give it those final autumnal touches I added some acorns, blackberries and pine cones using DPM fruit and nut moulds...these were then dusted and glazed to give a great realistic effect. I'm not sure if my entry will win the competition as there are some other great cakes...but fingers crossed!         

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Celebrate National Baking Week

So we've had National Cupcake Week, last week was National Chocolate Week and just for good measure this week is National Baking Week, so why not celebrate by baking an old favourite or if you're feeling adventurous try something new!!

Click here to visit the National Baking Week website where you can check out all the recipes, competitions and downloads. In addition, Ruth Clemens who was on the last series of the British Bake Off is the National Baking Week Chef and you can win a cooking lesson with her by visiting the Just Milk website.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wonderful Wonky Stack...

Wow what a weekend... I attended the Wonky Stack course at Cakes 4 Fun in Putney and it was with some trepidation that we all arrived on Saturday morning... would our wonky cakes look anything like the dummy... and more importantly would they stay standing!!

It was a great course, we learnt to carve our cakes to create the tapered effect, done upside down and then flipped over!! We also stacked the cake which is strangely easier than stacking a normal cake. However, there is a secret element... a spiked dowel driven right through the middle, a little nerve wracking as you're hammering it through!! Other techniques learnt include the fantastic rolled roses, a quick and easy method to create great looking roses which could be used on many types of cake. The final product was amazing and more than a little Alice in Wonderland.

This cake is sure to impress but having laboured so painstakingly over it you may be loathe for anyone to go near it with a knife!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cake About Town

Do you like nothing more than a stroll around London on a Sunday afternoon…if so then reward yourself after all that hard work at one of these fabulous bakeries or perhaps you're visiting London for the weekend and want to make like Carrie Bradshaw and enjoy a cupcake whilst about town.

Click on the map below and check out some recommendations. Choose Laduree if you like macaroons or if you’d prefer a cupcake or a slice of cake I’ve listed all the best places for your perusal! But be warned some of the suggestions are 'destination' bakeries and it has been known for patrons to queue out the door!

If you try any of the suggestions then it would be great if you could share a review here. I'm going to make it my mission to visit all of the cake shops on the list... but you could even try a cake crawl and attempt to sample them all in one day!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Product Review: Squires Kitchen Real Fruit Fondant Icing Mix

I'm all for vanilla buttercream and icing but sometimes it's good to add a bit of variation to basic cake recipes. So I thought I'd try Squires Kitchen Real Fruit Fondant Icing Mix, they do lots of different flavours including strawberry, blackcurrant and lemon, but I went for the raspberry flavour.

It comes in a 250g pack and is very pale pink... you'd therefore think you'd end up with pale pink icing but as soon as you add the butter (125g) and water (2tsp) it becomes a vibrant pink making for very attractive cupcakes! You can also use the mix for a thinner consistency for fabulous fondant fanices.

So what does it taste like? It's extremely fruity and you really get a strong flavour of raspberries which is great. It's very moreish but extremely sweet so only for those with a sweet tooth... but if you're reading this...then that's probably you!! Of course you could achieve a similar result by making a basic buttercream and then whizzing in some fresh fruit of your choice, this is also a good option and it looks good too but this fondant icing mix is definitely worth a try, especially when you don't have fresh fruit or it's out of season.

The mix is made with freeze dried fruit powder which you can buy online and it can be used in all sorts of ways in your baking. A contestant even used it on the Great British Bake Off to flavour her meringues! Finally, if you like the cupcake wrappers you can buy them in packs of 12 in different designs from Culpitt.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Create a cover-star cake

Olive magazine are looking for a reader's stunning cake recipe to feature on Olive's 100th issue front cover next year. You can enter if you are a novice or a more experienced baker.

Novice baker? Add any flavourings to olive's basic sponge cake recipe:
  • Butter (175g) softened, golden caster sugar (175g), self-raising flour (175g), baking powder (1tsp), eggs (3), milk (1-2 tbsp)
  • Use the all in one method to mix the ingredients and divide the mixture between 2x18cm sandwich tins. Bake on 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 for 20-25 minutes
  • To make the sponse chocolate, add cocoa powder to the flour. To make a lemon cake add lemon zext and for coffee, add coffee granules mixed with a little water.
Experienced baker? Go freestyle - olive want to see how creative you can be!

How to enter: visit or send your recipe to olive magazine, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TQ. The closing date is Friday 18th November.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to pipe icing on your cupcake...

Jo wins the Great British Bake Off

Following the final of the Great British Bake Off this week, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my Tuesday evenings. It was a great series for all budding bakers out there as it provides inspiration and fresh ideas... even Chris Evans is a fan! In the end mum of three Jo was a worthy winner. Along with finalists Mary Ann and Holly she produced Mille Feuille and a Sacher Torte but it was Jo's final trio of street party petits-fours that won the day. She produced mini Victoria sponges, Banoffee tartlets as well as raspberry and pistachio just goes to show that simplicity sometimes is the best option. So despite eight weeks of largely impressive baking, the precision of Holly and experimentations of Mary-Anne were not enough to surpass Jo in the Great British Bake Off Final.
I've just treated myself to the accompanying Great British Bake off recipe book and there really are some lovely recipes, it includes the best recipes from the contestants, some baking classics as well as all the technical challenges. So in true Julie and Julia style I've decided to tackle the seven technical challenges...I'm aiming for one a month for the next seven months and I'll post the results here for you to see...good or bad! I may even attempt the croquembouche and even if it ends in disaster I can console myself with the fact that Jo's did too! Wish me luck.

If you fancy having a go yourself you can now apply for Series 3 of the Great British Bake Off which will be filming from March to May next year!!