Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea

As Henry James once said "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea" and this weekend I was lucky enough to engage in this time honoured tradition at the Sanderson Hotel.
At the Sanderson they offer a Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea...and no there is no need to go down a rabbit hole in order to try it....although, that could be fun! The venue is certainly conducive to whiling away the hours with chat and cake, you can enjoy tea in the lovely courtyard garden which is light and airy with a zen garden theme.

The afternoon starts in style with a glass of champagne or a cocktail...it would have been rude not to partake, so I had a refreshing raspberry concoction.

There were many delights to try and the menu is full of twists on a traditional afternoon tea. To start us off we had rainbow coloured finger sandwiches and then scones that were light and fluffy, and of course they were accompanied by the obligatory clotted cream. There wasn't a massive selection of teas to enjoy with the scones but I had a peppermint tea and was also offered the choice of peppermint tea with chilli...which I declined! One particularly eye-catching tea choice was a dried flower which when covered in hot water, slowly opens out.

After that it got 'curiouser and curiouser'. My favourite touch was the Drink Me bottle, a little bottle where the flavours change the further you get down...it's a test for the tastebuds to see if you can identify them. We made our way through  passionfruit jelly, coconut panacotta and apple pie...simply delicious and very clever...sadly I didn't shrink when I tried it...in fact eating afternoon tea probably had the opposite effect!

So what about the most important part of any tea...the cakes! Well there were individual chocolate cakes designed to look like pocket watches, along with an 'Eat Me' Queen of Hearts cake containing a strawberry and cream mousse.
And if that wasn't enough we also had lollipops which turn your tongue hot or cold depending on what side of the lollipop you lick, as well as hazelnut praline ice cream pops, which we were advised to eat all in one go...and yes there was popping candy involved!
Overall, a lovely tea which I would highly recommend, the staff were very friendly and the food delicious! :-)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Black Forest Fudge

Well, it's fair to say that May has been quite a hardcore baking month, I've been baking like a demon and have been more than a little cross-eyed on a number of occasions after piping, sticking and cutting cake decorations! So I thought I'd try something completely different this weekend. I've probably made fudge at some point in the dim and distant past but I don't remember it.
It turns out that fudge is fairly easy to make, all you need is a sugar thermometer and the taste testers definitely enjoyed this one...but quite frankly I think it would be difficult to find someone who didn't like a mixture of white chocolate, dark chocolate, double cream and sugar!!

Once you've made your fudge you have to chill it in the fridge overnight before cutting it into squares, however if you take it out and leave it, it gets pretty soft. So we discovered that for optimal fudge eating it is best to leave it in the fridge and then take it out about 10 minutes before you want to eat it...if you can wait that long! :-)

40g unsalted butter
100g dark glace cherries
500g gold caster sugar
275ml double cream
75 g dark chocolate
50g white chocolate

Ideally, you need a 17cm square tin for this fudge but I only have a 20cm square tin and that seemed to work just as well. The first thing to do is butter and line the base and sides of the tin. In preparation it is also helpful to chop up the cherries at this point. The recipe suggested halving 50g worth and quartering the remaining 25g but I didn't find this to be enough so I increased it to 100g. Also grate both of the white and dark chocolate into seperate bowls.

The sugar, cream and butter should then be combined in a heavy based saucepan, you also need to add 3 tablespoons of water before heating gently for 5-10 minutes, this should dissolve the sugar. Once you've reached this stage, increase the temperature and bring the mixture to the boil. Pop in a sugar thermometre and head to 113 degrees celsius (235F). Once the mixture reaches this stage and is nice and thick, take it off the heat.

Pour a third of the mixture in a metal bowl (I used another saucepan), add the white chocolate to this bowl and the dark chocolate to the original saucepan. Stir both until slightly thickened, I think I waited too long as my fudge didn't swirl quite as well as I had hoped, so don't wait too long!

Finally, pour the dark chocolate fudge into the bottom of the prepared tin, scatter the quartered cherries over the top before pouring over the white chocolate mix to cover. Then to get the swirl effect, drag a skewer through the mix to create two tone swirls. To finish, place the halved cherries on top and then chill in the tin overnight. Turn the fudge out of the tin to cut into squares. The recipe suggests it makes 49 squares, so cut it 7 by 7 or larger if you wish! :-)

* Adapted from Mrs Hope's Chocolate Box

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flowerpot Cakes

Feeling a bit bored today? Why not try my new game...'Spot the Cake'...what do you mean it's not that difficult!?!
These little flowerpot cakes are really cute and can be scaled up to a full size cake...maybe for your Aunty's birthday or Mother's Day perhaps! Rather appropriately the cake inside is a mud cake, so when you cut into them you get to see the earth.
The mud cake was made as a large square cake which I cut into layers and then used a cutter to give several large circles which were stacked on top of each other and sandwiched with buttercream. I then carved into the cake to give the tapered flowerpot effect. Next the whole thing was coated in buttercream before covering with paste (teddy bear brown with a little orange paste and some red colour to give the terracotta colour).

The pots were covered upside down and then turned upright, to cover the top a large circle of dark brown paste was stuck on and finally a strip of the terracotta to give the flowerpot effect.
These flower pots are my entry into this month's Tea Time Treats as the theme is 'Floral'...perfect! However, I apologise to all the horticulturalists out there...I'm not sure my flowers are entirely identifiable...the cutter for the purple flowers simply says 'blossom' and the paste colour is African Violet. Although, I'm sure Alan Titchmarsh wouldn't mind! Tea Time Treats is hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked, check out their blogs to find out more.
I decided to make two different types of flowers. The first one, the rolled roses is the simpler option and doesn't require any specialist equipment. You just need to take some of the pink sugarpaste and add some CMC about an hour before you want to use it, this will strenthen it up. Then roll out a length of paste in a strip, then fold this in half lengthways. Some people like to put glue down the length too, to stick the ends together. To roll the flower, simply tuck over the first corner (see picture) to form the bud and then just roll. If there is any excess at the back when you've finished you can simply cut it off.

For the leaves I just cut out circles of green paste and pinched each end into a point...simples!

To make the purple blossoms, I used a blossom cutter and impression mould to add detail and then dusted with African Violet to add depth. The leaves were made using a PME plunge cutter and veiner...and the finishing touch, three dots of yellow royal icing piped into the centre of each flower.
Following the crown cake on the postbox, I thought I could take my flower pots to the Chelsea Flower Show this week for a spot of #caking...they'd fit right in! :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Regal Jubilee Crown Cake

Well it's only two weeks until the Queen's Jubilee and I for one can't wait for a right royal knees up! Even if you're not a Royalist, it's a good opportunity for a get together. So to celebrate Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate with a Jubilee themed cake.

The cake design is by Fiona Cairns, who made the Royal wedding cake no less. I just happened to see it online a couple of weeks ago and decided that I'd like to give it a go...possibly a bit gungho at that point!
So how is was it made? Well firstly the cake inside is made up of four 8" Victoria sponge layers, sandwiched together with buttercream and raspberry jam. The stack was then chilled to make it a bit firmer for carving. The top edges were carved to give a smooth curve and then the cake was tapered down to a 6" cake drum.

I love the colour of the sugarpaste for this cake,  Renshaw's amethyst paste...and it's the perfect colour to add a regal touch to the crown. To create the gold strips, it is just sugarpaste painted with a mixture of edible gold dust and dipping solution (alcohol). However, to make the ball and cross, I mixed the sugarpaste with some CMC the night before to make it really firm, otherwise the cross wouldn't stay up there on it's own.
To add the finishing touches, a 'fur' trim was created around the base...this is made out of priceless Fox's glacier mints, which were given an almight bash with a rolling pin...it's actually harder than you think to break a Fox's glacier mint! Then the little pearls were stuck on with royal icing, as were the jelly diamonds...I may have been a little cross-eyed after all that sticking! But the result...a crown fit for the Queen!
This month Homemade by Fleur is hosting a Blogging Jubilee Baking Competition so I think this is the perfect entry, what says Jubilee better than a Coronation crown. The competition is sponsored by Appliances Online.
Today is also World Baking Day and I couldn't resist joining in with a little 'Caking'. Check out the World Baking Day website if you want to find out more but it involved me taking my cake for a little walk and taking a picture of it in an unusual place! Here is the result, it drew more than a couple of strange looks from passersbys but the Royal Mail postbox goes perfectly with the Royal cake!
I hope you enjoy your Jubilee celebrations...God Save the Queen!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cake Pops

Move over cupcakes, whoopies and macaroons, cake pops are the new bake on the block!! Cake pops are always a big hit with kids. They're perfectly bite sized and oh so pretty! The good thing about them too is that you can use off cuts of cake, and even shop bought if you want.

In some ways the concept is really simple, just break up your cake into crumbs and then smoosh it back together again with some buttercream, some people also use cream cheese (chocolate philadelphia anyone?) and then cover it in chocolate. However, in reality cake pops can sometimes be a little trickier than they first appear.
I have tried cake pops once before but unfortunately it ended in tears as my pops fell off the stick and this is not an uncommon problem. My second attempt as you can see, stayed firmly atop their perch! The reason...I attended a cake pop course to learn the mystical art.

Way back in October I entered a cake competition, the theme was autumnal cakes and I was very excited to be pronounced the winner with this three tier homage to autumn, incidentally it was also one of my first blog posts. The prize was a course of my choice at Cakes 4 Fun and last weekend I finally attended their cake pop course.
So after my first failed attempt where had I been going wrong? The mistake...I didn't freeze the cakes, I only refrigerated them so they weren't firm enough to withstand a dipping!! So hopefully next time I try them at home they'll be a success.

To coat the cake balls you can obviously use melted chocolate but an alternative is Wilton's Candy Melts. The advantage of Candy Melts is the array of different colours...perfect for all your cake pop designs...orange for halloween pumpkins, yellow for Easter chicks and green for Christmas trees to name but a few. They come in button form and can then be melted down with a little oil to cover the pops. Once covered the cake pops can be decorated in any design that takes your fancy. The pig ears and snout were made from flowerpaste, as were the flowers and bows.

The cake pops I made here were really well received and I can't wait to have another go and try out some different designs! If you want to try making your own cake pops, you can check out a step by step guide here and there are plenty of recipes on the net. Or maybe try out a local cake pop class.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Window Cookies

You wait ages for a cookie post to come along and then three come along at once! This is my third cookie post this month...having previously only done one or two since I started blogging. I love these cookies, they're so cute! Most people have made stained glass window cookies at some point in their lives...but these are stained glass window, window cookies complete with flake window sills and skittle flowers...you can't go wrong! :-)
They are also my second entry into this month's Random Recipes hosted by Belleau Kitchen. You may have seen in my last post that once a recipe book was randomly selected, there was a choice as to whether to make the first recipe in the book or the last. The book I selected was Hamlyn's 200 Cakes and Bakes and the recipe on the first page was for these delicious Lemon and Limoncello Mini Cupcakes. On the last page...the window cookies.
The cookies tasted lovely, although there are more sweets and chocolate than actual cookie! I'm sure children would love these...and that obviously makes me a big kid as I love them too!


200g chilled unsalted butter
275g plain flour
100g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla bean paste

175g coloured boiled sweets
Royal Icing
10 chocolate flakes
12 skittles or M&Ms, various colours
Sugar sprinkles

To make the dough, dice the butter and then put it in a food processor with the flour and then mix until if forms a breadcrumb consistency. You can then add the egg yolks, icing sugar and vanilla paste before blending again until the mixture comes together in a dough. This should then be chilled for at least an hour, wrapped in cling film

Whilst the dough is chilling, line 2 baking trays with baking paper and unwrap the boiled sweets. Then when the dough is suitably chilled, roll it out quickly on a floured surface. I rolled mine to roughly the thickness of one and half pound coins. From this you should be able to cut out 10 windows, each around 10cm x 8cm. I made a template out of card before I started to make it easier. At this stage the dough was very soft, so I decided to put the baking trays in the fridge covered in cling film for a bout 20 minutes.

After the 20 minutes in the fridge I used a 3cm square cutter to cut out the window panes before popping a boiled sweet into each one. The cookies should be baked in a preheated oven for 12 minutes at 180c/160c fan/gas 4. The sweets will melt and fill the panes, if they don't you can use a toothpick to tease it into the corners, although I didn't find this to be necessary. The cookies can then cool on the baking trays.

Once cool you can add the finishing touches. Use royal icing to attach a flake to the base of each window. This should be right along the very bottom, otherwise the cookies won't stand up. Finally, attach the sprinkles and skittles and use royal icing in a piping back to add the additional details. Then stand your cookies up and your finished!

* Adapted from Hamlyn's 200 Cakes and Bakes