Sunday, November 17, 2013

1950's Vintage Dress Cake

A few weeks ago I attended a course at the Cake Parlour with owner Zoe Clark. Zoe produces the most beautiful cakes for weddings and other occasions and also supplies Fortnum and Mason. Her latest book is Chic and Unique Vintage Cakes and this vintage dress cake is from the book along with other designs such as a Singer sewing machine.
One of the reasons I wanted to go on this course is due to the gravity-defying design. The cake is suspended on a dress makers dummy. The design is also so chic, any lady would love this cake for a birthday or special occasion. This cake requires some construction including cutting foam board, attaching a threaded rod and nuts and using a glue gun but the finished product is worth the effort. The principle can also be applied to other designs such as a Christmas tree or bird house.
The dress I made is quite 'poufy', Zoe's original is a bit more slim line which is a little more elegant. However, the more poufy, the more cake! The body for the mannequin is made in advance with lots of CMC added which allows it to set hard. The cake is carved out of three different layers of cake to give the shape and some folds were also carved in.
The skirt part of the cake is covered in sugarpaste and then the body is added on top before adding the bodice in flowerpaste. I had a little bit of a problem with the sugarpaste as it buffed up to a really shiny finish and then it didn't dry and set as you would expect, it seemed a lot stickier than normal so I ended up with a bit of a wonky hemline but it was just about rescued!
The finishing touches were the necklace which was made using a First Impressions pearl mould, the bow around the waist to cover the join and the top of the dummy with the wooden handle. I particularly like the floor boards on the cake board, they were made using the edge of a ruler to mark out the boards and then a Dresden tool to mark the grain. Finally, to give the colour, a little paste colour was mixed with water and brushed on.

This is a lovely idea for a cake from Zoe. If you want to see more of her designs, check out her books.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ghoulish Graveyard Halloween Cake

With Halloween and All Souls' Day this week I made this Ghoulish Graveyard Halloween Cake. It was fun to make and would be great to bake and decorate with kids. It would also be perfect for a Halloween party.
The recipe for this cake is from BBC GoodFood and you can find it here. It is easy to make as it's just a basic chocolate sponge cake recipe made in a 20 x 30cm tin. The resultant sponge was light and tasty. Once cool, the whole cake is covered in chocolate buttercream. I put my cake on a rectangular cake board and then covered the board in buttercream too and put a black ribbon around the edge. Alternatively if you have an appropriately sized slate or granite board this would look good too, or you could cover your cake board in black sugarpaste.
The gravestone biscuit recipe is also included on the BBC website. They are made with soft light brown sugar and lots of golden syrup. You can cut your shapes out freehand or you can also cut them out in cardboard first and use this as a template. I used a cereal box to make my templates. To add the details I used royal icing piped with a size 2 nozzle.

To construct the cake you just need some Matchmakers, Oreo cookies and some Halloween jelly sweets. The jelly sweets are usually available in supermarkets and Haribo make good ones around Halloween time. The Matchmakers should be snapped at various lengths and then pushed into the buttercream around the edge of the cake. To make the soil on top whizz the Oreos in a food processor (or you can bash them with a rolling pin in a plastic bag), when it's a fairly fine crumb, sprinkle them on top.

Finally, push the gravestones gently into the cake and add the jelly sweets for a bit of colour and to complete the ghoulish graveyard look.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Calendar Cakes - November

Welcome to this month's Calendar Cakes Challenge. So what do we have in store for you this month? The answer:
On November 9th it's British Pudding Day! Now the nights are drawing in and the days are getting colder who can resist the institution that is the Great British pud? Do you have a great pudding recipe to share, be it a steamed sponge or a bread and butter pudding we'd love to see it.

You can enter any pudding you like, it doesn't have to be British but extra brownie points for a classic. It doesn't have to be fancy either, anything you and your family enjoy. It could be for example a cake that you enjoy warm with a dollop of custard, a pavlova, a crumble, a pie or a tart etc...anyway, you get the gist. I'm a bit of a pudding fiend so whether it's hot, cold, baked, unbaked, traditional, untraditional, simple or complex, bring it on! :-)
To see the October entries head on over to Dolly Bakes where the theme was Halloween.

Entry Guidelines:
  • Post your entry on your blog and include the ‘Calendar Cakes’ logo
  • Add 'Calendar Cakes' as a label on your post.
  • Follow Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes blogs using the Google Join this Site button.
  • Add links on your post to your hosts Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.
  • Link to your blog from here using the Linky tool below. It's dead easy...
  • If you don’t have a blog you can still join in, just email us a picture and a bit of information about your bake. Email to
  • If you're on Twitter, tweet us a link to your post @dollybakes and @lauralovesbakes - otherwise we won't see it! Use the handle #CalendarCakes.   

Calendar Cakes Challenge Rules:
  1. You can enter as many times as you like.
  2. It can be your own recipe or one you found elsewhere (please just state where you found it). 
  3. You can use old posts as long as you update them with the 'Calendar Cakes' logo and link back (see above).
  4. If you want to enter your bake into other challenges too then please feel free.
  5.  You must submit by the 30th November. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chocolate, Red Wine and Blackberry Cupcakes

Blackberries are in abundance at this time of year and I always make sure that I head out to scour the hedgerows in order to ensure that my freezer is well stocked for the winter ahead. It was reported in the news that this year was a bumper year for blackberries due to favourable weather conditions.

This is an interesting cupcake recipe as it contains red wine!!! You can't really taste it but it does add a depth of flavour. The method in general is rather unusual and the mixture is quite runny but it did yield success. There are also blackberries baked into the batter which are lovely and soft after baking and they definitely make for a moist cupcake. This batch was second time lucky as the first time I made these cupcakes I got distracted and forgot to add the sugar and also accidentally used cream of tartar rather than bicarb of soda...bit of a disaster...whoops!
The buttercream is made using the normal method but it gets its colour and flavour from the addition of 6 tablespoons of blackberry puree. I've actually made two batches of these cupcakes now and it's interesting the difference in the colour of the icing both times, the first time it was a darker purple which must just be dependant on the batch of blackberries you use. Smooshing fruit into buttercream icing is a great way to add natural colour, I particularly like using raspberries for this.
I followed the recipe as it was but also found the second time I made these that the icing was quite loose, I therefore added quite a lot more icing sugar until a good piping consistency was reached. I then used a star nozzle to decorate the cupcakes.
I'm entering these cupcakes into this month's AlphaBakes challenge where the letter for October is 'C'. The challenge is hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and on alternate months by Caroline Makes. I'm sure Ros will be receiving a deluge of chocolate recipes!


175g butter
100g dark chocolate (72% or above - Peruvian is recommended)
300g plain flour
375g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
200ml red wine
200-300g punnet blackberries


200g punnet blackberries (as above)
150g soft butter
300g icing sugar

Makes 12. Start by preheating the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4.

Place the butter and chocolate in a saucepan and melt gently on the hob until entirely melted and smooth. Meanwhile mix the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarb of soda with a pinch of salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug whisk the eggs and wine together. Then add the chocolate and egg mixes to the dry ingredients along with 100ml boiling water and whisk until completely smooth with no lumps.

Divide the mixture between 12 large muffin cases. The mixture is quite runny so I used a ladle! Then place 2-3 blackberries on the top of each one. Bake for 35 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the buttercream whizz the remaining blackberries to a pulp and then sieve to give a smooth puree. Beat the butter until it is extremely soft and then add half the icing sugar and mix. Add around 6tbsp of the blackberry puree and the remaining icing sugar and beat together thoroughly. This is then ready to pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. You may also want additional blackberries to top each cupcake.

* Recipe adapted from Olive Magazine - October 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Calendar Cakes Round Up - September

Yet again cupcakes proved popular in September and it just goes to show that they're not just a flash in the pan. You can check out the delicious array of cupcakes entered into September's Calendar Cakes Challenge below, the theme was in honour of National Cupcake Week.
To start us off Kat from The Baking Explorer made these Banoffee Cupcakes after a trip to the Richmond Tearooms where she was inspired by a mini Banoffee pie. Banoffee is always a popular choice and these obviously went down a storm as they disappeared in double quick time.
These beautifully decorated cupcakes are from Lucie Loves Baking. They are White Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Buttercream and they are based on a White Chocolate Mud Cake recipe from the Women’s Weekly ‘Cupcakes, cheesecakes and cookies’. I particularly like the colours and the little flowers on top.
Aimee at Wallflower Girl gave us these Flourless Chocolate and Lavender Cupcakes which means they are suitable for celiacs. Lavender is a lovely flavour in baking and here the cakes are chocolate and the icing is flavoured with dried lavender.
Caroline of Caroline Makes made these super cute and super creative Cupcake Ducks. The idea is from the What's New Cupcake book and I'm sure you'll agree that these are definitely a treat.
Ros from The More than Occasional Baker is somewhat of an expert when it comes to baking with peanut butter and these Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes provide an extra twist. You can see all the steps to make them over on Ros's blog, I particularly love the chocolate spoons made in a silicone mould.
Vohn at vohn's vittles made these Chocolate and Orange Marmalade Cupcakes as the third in a series of cupcakes created for the "Baking with Mackays" blogger challenge. I love marmalade in bakes and it goes perfectly with chocolate. The finished product is very pretty too.
Not only are these cupcake from Mummy Makes Cakes fabulously made but they were also made for a competition, raising money for a good cause. They're Alice in Wonderland Cupcakes - Down the Rabbit Hole. The grass effect works really well with the Rabbits' bottoms which were made from white fondant.
As always a creative creation from Chocolate Log Blog this month - Blackberry and Apple Cupcakes. Choclette describes them as 'an apple and chocolate chip sponge topped off by blackberry cream cheese icing, perfect autumnal fare'. Interestingly the chocolate in these is blackberry and ginger flavoured!
Next up a trio of entries from Food Glorious Food. Firstly we have Raspberry Cupcakes. The recipe for these cupcakes is from the Primrose Bakery book. They must have been good as they're described as having a delicious raspberry flavour in every bite.
Next up another treat from Food Glorious Food, this one with a Caribbean twist as they're Chocolate and Rum Syrup Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream...sunshine on a plate!
Finally from Food Glorious Food it's a throw back to childhood with these Fairy Cupcakes. The recipe is from Jo Wheatley's 'A Passion for Baking'. Kids would love to decorate these with the little jelly sweets and I'm sure they'd equally enjoy eating them!
Kirsty's favourite tea is a simple cup of Earl Grey and what better way to enjoy the flavour than in a cupcake, so these cupcakes from Kirsty's Cakes and Bakes are Earl Grey Cupcakes. The milk is infused with the flavour of the tea and is then used in the cupcake...yum!
Next up is an unusual flavour combination from Cake of the Week with Coffee Orange Cupcakes. I don't think I've ever tried this combination but apparently it's a winner and I'd love to try it! The idea was inspired by a coffee shop in Plymouth where you can get different flavoured syrups in your coffee, one of which is orange.
These Ice Cream Cupcakes are from Kat at Life of a Cupcake Baker and they're beautifully presented...I want a Mr Whippy now! Now summer is fading why not make up a batch of these to remind you of the warm summer days.
Another fab entry from Mummy Makes Cakes next with these Thomas the Tank Engine Cupcakes. These cupcakes were inspired by a visit to Thomas Land...I never knew such a place existed! They're perfect for making with kids.
If a regular sized cupcake just isn't enough then why not make yourself a giant cupcake! That's what Laura from I'd Much Rather Bake Than... did when she made this White Chocolate and Lemon Giant Cupcake for her housemate's birthday. It was a rather stressful run up to making the cake but I'm sure you'll agree that it was worth it in the end.
A beautiful entry from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary next. Elizabeth made these Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream which are glamorous and sophisticated in both flavour and appearance. A lovely entry and the two tone icing is particularly effective!
A second batch of Vanilla Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes next from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking. This really isn't helping with my Mr Whippy craving...perhaps they'll be a passing ice cream van this evening or is that just wishful thinking? The cake inside is Victoria sponge and the flake and chocolate sprinkles are the perfect finishing touches.
Next up my entry (Laura Loves Cakes) with these Sweet Peanut Cupcakes. This is the first time I've baked using peanut butter and I loved the result. A lovely subtle flavour and a moist soft sponge. I also made a peanut brittle for the top and they're certainly reminiscent of the retro sweet shop classic, sweet peanuts.
Cupcakery gave us a really inventive idea with Buttermilk Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting, Pancakes and Maple Syrup. These are an original recipe and the little pancakes on top are so cute. The photography of the finished product is also fab. I'd love to try these!
All of the entries this month have been visually appealing and the next entry Heavens Garden is certainly no exception. These are Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Cheese Frosting, I particularly love the two colours of frosting piped on the top and who doesn't love a cherry on the top!
A decadent entry next from The Purple Pumpkin Blog with Black Forest Cupcakes...and there's more cherries! These were ingeniously made for a 40th birthday and were made as the recipient was born in the 70s...the perfect retro cake!
Bells Bakery describes these Lemon and Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting as zesty lemony goodness and from just looking at the pictures I'd be inclined to agree! The only slight problem with these was tracking down the poppy seeds but well worth the effort I'd say.
It's a double entry from Josie at Pink Sugar. First up are these Peanut and Jam Cupcakes. Peanut butter seems to be proving popular this month! Crunchy peanut butter was used in the cupcakes which gives them an added dimension and with the jam this is a classic combination.
A stunning entry from Super Golden Bakes with Red Velvet Cupcakes. Superbly presented, it would be hard to resist these! The recipe for the cupcakes is also interesting as the red colour comes from a reaction between the buttermilk, bicarb and cocoa powder. The frosting also comes highly recommended, it's called ermine can find out more over at Super Golden Bakes.
Our penultimate entry is the second from Pink Sugar with these Almond and Raspberry Cupcakes. Another classic combination these cupcakes were made by replacing the vanilla with Almond Essence in the sponge, an almond infused butter cream was piped on top and then decorated with raspberries.
Next some fun Minnie Mouse Cupcakes from Katie's Cakery. These are beautifully decorated and perfect for a birthday.
Finally, delicious Plum and Coconut Cupcakes from Maison Cupcake. The cupcake batter itself includes a slice of plum and some desiccated coconut and coconut flavouring. The glaze contains coconut milk and each cupcake is topped with a sliver of grilled plum with demerara sugar...yum!

Thanks to everyone who entered cupcakes in September, as always all wonderful entries and much appreciated! To find out the theme for this month, hop on over to Dolly Bakes and I look forward to seeing you all back here in November! :-)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sweet Peanut Cupcakes

A touch of nostalgia today. Who remembers Sweet Peanuts, the crunchy peanut sweets that you can buy from traditional sweet shops by the quarter...or 113g in new money! These delicious cupcakes recreate the taste of times gone by...a lovely light sponge with a touch of peanut flavour, fluffy frosting with crunchy peanut butter running through it and some peanut brittle to finish. This all sounds extremely peanut-y but it's actually rather subtle.
The recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery's Home Sweet Home Book which you can check out in my book reviews section. The original recipe has chopped Sweet Peanuts on top but I decided to add a bit of pizazz by using shards of peanut brittle. The brittle is extremely easy to make, all you need is caster sugar and some peanuts, see the recipe below. You can see what the Sweet Peanut version looks like below. Personally, I think the chopped Sweet Peanuts are the least attractive option but they do have the added benefit of being bite size so they can easily be eaten with a mouthful of cupcake and they are very tasty this way, so it's a trade off between style and taste per bite!
Believe it or not this is the first time I've used peanut butter in baking. I know other bakers and bloggers are big fans and I have to say I'm a convert...the flavour as mentioned was very subtle and I loved the crunch, it certainly added an extra dimension to the cupcake!
You may be aware that last week was National Cupcake Week which celebrates these enormously popular treats. I hope you've been baking up a storm!

To celebrate National Cupcake Week the theme for this month's Calendar Cakes is...Cupcakes! We've had lots of lovely entries so far and we'd love to see your creations. You can still enter your cupcakes here until 30th September. Calendar Cakes is a monthly baking challenge which is hosted  here at Laura Loves Cakes on alternate months with Rachel at Dolly Bakes. These Sweet Peanut Cupcakes are my entry for September.

70g unsalted butter
210g plain flour
250g caster sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
210ml whole milk
2 large eggs
40g crunchy peanut butter


500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter
50ml whole milk
30g crunchy peanut butter

12 sweet peanuts, chopped for decoration

Peanut brittle

175g caster sugar
50g peanuts

To make the cupcakes, start by preheating the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3. Also prepare the muffin tin by lining with cupcake cases.

Making the sponge is nice and easy, you just need to combine the flour, sugar, butter and baking powder and salt in a large bowl, mixing until it forms a bread crumb-like texture. Then mix the eggs and milk in a jug. Once mix add half of this egg/milk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine on a low speed until smooth. You can then add the rest of the milk and egg and you should end up with a smooth batter with no lumps. Finally, add the 40g of peanut butter and thoroughly mix through.

Use an ice cream scoop if you have one and fill each cupcake case two thirds full. This recipe should make between 12-16 cupcakes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed. Once done remove from the oven and leave in the tin for around 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

To make the frosting, mix the icing sugar and butter together until they are thoroughly combined. Gradually add the milk and mix on a low speed. Finally, turn up the mixer speed and beat until the frosting is really fluffy, it can't be overbeaten! Then add the peanut butter and mix well.

For the finishing touches, pipe the frosting on top of the cool cupcakes. I used a 9mm round nozzle. You can then finish with either a whole sweet peanut, roughly chopped sweet peanut or some peanut brittle.

If you want to make peanut brittle. Put the caster sugar into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently without stirring until the sugar has melted. You can then turn the heat up slightly and the sugar should start to caramelise. You are looking for a light amber colour, any darker and your sugar may have burnt. When it is ready, add the peanuts and stir briefly before pouring out the brittle onto a piece of greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Leave to harden and set and then when completely cool you can break the brittle into pieces. Please be extremely careful as the sugar can easily burn and it is also extremely hot and can cause injury if it comes in contact with skin!

* Recipe adapted from Home Sweet Home by the Hummingbird Bakery