Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fondant Fancies

Since Fondant Fancies appeared on the Great British Bake Off they've been all the rage. On the show John, Brendan and James found them somewhat trickier than you would imagine and ended up with some rather sad looking fancies.

Home bakers have since taken up the challenge, and recipes and how-to guides have appeared in magazines and on TV. I've also seen a number of courses teaching the secrets of a perfect fondant fancy. One such course is run by Cakes 4 Fun which I attended this weekend.
On the course we learnt how to cut our squares evenly and add the marzipan on top, adhering it with a layer of apricot jam. These fancies don't have buttercream but you could add it if you wanted to.
The secret to preventing the fancies breaking up upon covering is to freeze them for at least an hour and a half beforehand. To cover the fancies, each one was speared with a chocolate dipping fork, usually used for covering truffles, before being dipped in runny fondant icing. You can use Squires Kitchen Fondant Icing Mix which works perfectly. As we discovered there is quite a knack to dipping and covering which takes quite a bit of practise.
To add a little something extra to our fancies we used decorative moulds such as these from Squires Kitchen to make the pretty little cakes, teacups and teapots on top. We also used a mould to make the style of rose on the right below, however you can also hand roll roses, such as the one on the left below.
As always with Cakes 4 Fun, this was a fabulous class which has given me the confidence to try fondant fancies at home. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and are happy to help. Above is only a taster of what we learnt on the course as I don't want to share too much. If you'd like to learn more I'd thoroughly recommend attending!

In the video below you can see Mary Berry explaining how to make Fondant Fancies, however she used a different method to the one we used. She covers her sides in buttercream and adds the little blob of buttercream on the top. In addition, Mary's fancies are refrigerated and not frozen. She also melts down sugarpaste to make her fondant for covering.
Finally, I'm going to try and sneak these into this month's Calendar Cakes Challenge. Rachel over at Dolly Bakes is hosting in April and you'll find the latest challenge posted here at Laura Loves Cakes on May 1st. The theme this month is The Great Village Show and British baking institutions. I know, I know...I can already hear the outcry...fondant fancies didn't originate in Britain. But I rather think of them as a bit of a British institution, admittedly I'm probably thinking of the Mr. Kipling kind, however since they were first introduced in 1967 they have quietly infilrated society and can be found in many a fine establishment purveying that most British of traditions...afternoon tea.
In addition, fondant fancies were voted as one of the top foods Britain's miss when they move abroad and furthermore during the Queen's jubilee someone even made a portrait of her using these sweet treats. I for one would be delighted if I found fancies gracing my local village show. I hope I've convinced you but if you think otherwise, feel free to leave a comment! ;-)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Apple & Almond Bear Claw Pastries

When I decided to make these bear claw pastries from the Hummingbird Bakery 'Home Sweet Home' cookbook I didn't really check the recipe that closely and just assumed they would be fairly easy to make. However, when it actually came down to it, they were a little more tricky than first anticipated.

When thinking of pastry, I was thinking of the Danish kind but that turned out to be incorrect. The pastry here is made with milk, sugar, butter, salt, yeast, egg and flour. The mixture also had to be left to prove which was not what I was expecting.
When the dough had proved, the recipe requires it to be rolled out into quite precise rectangles. I did have to wrangle with it a bit as the dough kept springing back when I rolled it which I don't think is quite right. I also found it quite difficult to shape and seal the pastries and as a result they were all slightly different sizes. Given all this I was quite expecting a disaster when they came out of the oven but they actually looked rather better than expected, puffing up nicely and browing on top with the egg wash. 
Inside the pastry is a filling of apples, butter, sultanas, light brown sugar, cinnamon and cornflour. On top is a sprinkling of sugar and some flaked almonds which were added before baking. The finishing touch is a drizzle of icing over the top when cool. And how did they taste?...much better than expected! Kind of a bready/pastry outer with a sweet filling. Apparently these are found in traditional bakeries in America and are often eaten for breakfast with coffee. I think I could quite happily consume these for breakfast on a regular basis...but probably only if they didn't take quite so long to make! However, the bear claw finish is very cute and was achieved by cutting into the pastry along a short edge. I used scissors and cut in about a centimetre.

These pastries are my entry into this month's Alpha Bakes, hosted by Ros over at the More than Occassional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. Ros is hosting this month and the letter is 'A', so this is a double whammy with apples and almonds!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

3D Chocolate Owl Cake

This 3D owl is such a cute little cake and it's perfect for a birthday or christening. It's pretty in pink for  a girl but the decorations work just as well in blue or any other colour that you might choose.

I made this cake on a course at Pretty Witty Cakes which is located in Crowborough, East Sussex. Pretty Witty Cakes offer a great range of courses with something for everyone from beginner to advanced. They also attract a number of international tutors. I was particularly keen to attend this owl course as it was a great opportunity to learn about 3D cakes as the 3D aspect really adds something extra special to a cake!
At the beginning of the day this owl started life as a stack of sqaure chocolate cakes which were ganached together and then carved into the shape of the owl. At one point the whole thing did look a bit like a transformer with bits of the carving stuck on at other points to give the shape...however, the tutor did warn us in advance and as predicted the finished carving eventually morphed into the owl...although my owl ears are a little too pointy!! :-)
Once carved the cake was covered in two thick layers of ganache before being covered in sugar paste, the covering was a little tricky as it was tough to lay it over the cake without tearing it on the ears. With the hard work done it was down to the decorating using a template for the wings and some cutters for the eyes, flowers and hearts. You may also just be able to make out the stitching outline on the wings above which was made with a stitching wheel.
The course tutor was Michelle Rea of Inspired by Michelle Cakes. Michelle is from Australia which is where she runs her business, but her classes are in demand internationally so she's currently in the UK for a few weeks, teaching a number of classes including this 3D owl cake. As the techniques for creating the owl were learnt on a course I can't go into too much detail about how to make the cake...but if you'd like to learn I'd definitely recommend attending a course with Michelle or at Pretty Witty Cakes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jaffa Cupcakes

I think I'm yet to meet anyone in life who doesn't like Jaffa Cakes...and as to whether Jaffas are a biscuit or a this case they're most definitely a cake. If you're interested, apparently the difference between a biscuit and a cake is that cakes go hard when they're stale and biscuits go soft! McVities claim that Jaffa Cakes are indeed cakes...the reason they are keen to define them as such is that you don't have to pay VAT on cakes!

I used the vanilla cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery's new book 'Home Sweet Home'. It is a great recipe that I've used before and it gives a lovely soft and moist sponge. You can find the recipe here but this version is slightly different from the one in the new book. I've found previously with this recipe that the cakes actually taste better the next day after they're made.
As you can see from the pictures, the cupcakes also have a hidden centre. Once cooled, a little piece of cake was cored out from the centre of each cupcake and then filled with marmalade. I used Robertson's Golden Shredless and it really did taste like the centre of a jaffa cake!
As already mentioned the recipe for these Jaffa Cupcakes is from the new book by the Hummingbird Bakery 'Home Sweet Home'. If you'd like to know more about the book you can read my recent review here.
The icing is chocolate buttercream made with 450g icing sugar, 60g cocoa powder, 150g unsalted butter and 60ml of whole milk. All the ingredients bar the milk are mixed together until there are no large lumps of butter left and then the milk is added in gradually. This is a lovely light icing as there is comparatively less butter than usual and the milk loosens it up.
These cupcakes were easy to make and look cute with the mini Jaffa on top. They were also very tasty and I'd definitely make them again!

I'm entering my Jaffa Cupcakes into this month's Tea Time Treats challenge which is hosted alternately by Kate from at What Kate Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, this month it's Kate's turn. The theme for April is Fairy Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Calendar Cakes Round Up - March

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend and enjoyed lots of yummy Easter bakes! The March Calendar Cakes round up has been slightly delayed as I've been away for the last week but now without further ado, here it Easter Extravaganza!
The first entry was from Lisa at Good Food, Shared. Lisa made this Simnel Cake with it's fruit cake and marzipan topping, complete with the 11 apostles on top. A lovely traditional Easter cake to get us underway.
Easter wouldn't be Easter without a Hot Cross Bun and our first offering is from Victoria at A Kick at the Pantry Door. These buns have taken three years of experimentation to achieve perfection and they certainly look delicious. Victoria also suggests that cranberries are a great addition to the traditional hot cross bun.
A great idea next from Laura at How to Cook Good Food. Laura created these fab bagels when the possibility of a Hot Cross Bagel came into her head. To make bagels you need to boil them first in a big pot of water before baking them. The basis for the recipe is from Dan Lepard's simple bagels and I think you'll agree they turned out really well.

Here's my first entry for this month...Chirpy Chick Cupcakes. They're vanilla cupcakes with a swirl of vanilla buttercream on top. The chicks are made from sugarpaste with a little CMC added. The finished product is super cute and perfect for kids.
Next a twist on the traditional with Chocolate Hot Cross Buns from Joey at Little Accidents in the Kitchen. These originally started life as chocolate chip buns but the chocolate melted whilst proving which led to the fab discovery of chocolate swirl can see a picture of the inside of a bun on Joey's blog...they look delicious!
Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen brought us these Easter Nest Cupcakes. These were a request from Elizabeth's son and the base is made using Nigella's Fairy cake recipe, there is then a swirl of green buttercream icing on top and the nest element was made using a Cape Breton Spider Cookie recipe. I bet the kids were thrilled with these.
Next up another really great idea from Elizabeth's Kitchen. These are Easter Eggcupcakes. They're very novel with a mini cupcake in the egg cup, a swirl of buttercream piped on top to represent the egg white, then lemon curd is added to represent the yolk. This is all finished off with a white chocolate shell. Again this is a great idea for kids!
Kat from The Baking Explorer made these Easter Simnel Cupcakes. The cupcakes are full of spices and dried fruit and there is a little disc of marzipan hidden in each one. Having used the same recipe before I can confirm that these are in fact my all time favourite Easter treat as they taste so good. Kat has also decorated them with some fab designs.
You can tell just from the description and the look of the next entry that this is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Ros from the More than Occasional Baker made these Mini Egg Brownies. Mini eggs are everyone's favourite and coupled with a brownie this is Easter baking heaven!
Having made a traditional Simnel Cake last year, my next entry is this Simple Simnel Cake. A fruit cake with a layer of marzipan baked in, then on the top is orange icing and almond caramel made by heating caster sugar in a frying pan. It was very tasty but without the apostles perhaps not obviously Simnel Cake.
From a Simple Simnel Cake to a more traditional version from Caroline Makes. Another lovely fruit cake with the marzipan topping. Caroline made this cake as her parents were visiting for Easter and it's the first time she's made a Simnel Cake. It's also interesing to learn from her blog post that the name Simnel is most likely to come from the Latin word 'simila', meaning 'fine flour'.
Another lovely entry from Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker with these Easter Cupcakes. Ros couldn't decide whether to make chocolate or lemon cakes so she made lemon cupcakes with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. The toppers and cases are from a cute cupcake kit and the twirl and mini egg toppings make these very appealing indeed.
Choc Cross Buns are next on the list and these beauties are from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog. Choclette followed a number of different recipes and mashed them up to produce her buns. The crosses were made from a paste of flour, cocoa powder, water and a pinch of chilli!
If you go to the original linky on the announcement post for March, you will see an entry for Chocolate and Pistachio Wedges. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the bake or identify the baker by following the link but if you send me more details I will happily add you to the round up! :-)
Having previously made a Christmas gingerbread house, Laura from How to Cook Good Food, followed up her success by making a whole gingerbread village for Easter. The little houses are so cute and I know I wouldn't be able to resist picking off the sweets when no one was looking.
These next Easter Egg Surprise Cakes are very clever. Caroline from Caroline Makes collected egg shells and then carefully made a small hole in the bottom of each one. Once washed out she used a white cake mix which was poured into each shell. To make them even more realistic a little ball of marzipan was added to represent the yolk. They were then baked. These would be a great surprise for any unsuspecting person expecting a regular egg!
Moving away from cakes for a minute, we have these tasty Easter Biscuits from Angela at Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me. As Angela suggests, biscuits are a great alternative to chocolate and can also be gift wrapped up in pretty bags to give as presents.
Some very inviting Easter Nest Cupcakes up next from Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen. The chocolate buttercream looks dark and decadent and it's in perfect contrast to the brightly coloured eggs on top. The vanilla cupcake recipe comes from Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking. These are a lovely Easter bake.
Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking brings us another great twist on the traditional with these (Not) Hot Cross Buns! It's a no-knead recipe and although they look unassuming, the taste testers gave them a resounding thumbs up.
These Mini Egg Hot Cross Buns are from a blogger new to Calendar Cakes...Mean Miss Mustard. The mini eggs were mixed into the buns and baked inside which is quite frankly a genius idea...and a surprise to anyone who bites into them expecting a traditional hot cross bun.
Gill from the Tales of Pigling Bland made these lovely Sugar-free 'Chocolatey' Easter Nests which are the perfect antidote at a time where there is chocolate and other rich treats by the bucket load. They're made with a natural sweetner called Truvia and also contain chopped dates. These are perfect for anyone on a low sugar diet which is what inspired Gill.
These amazingly cute Mini Sheep Cakes were entered by Helen from @HudsonBakery. Helen baked simple vanilla fairy cakes, then inverted one onto another and sandwiched the two together with vanilla buttercream to form the sheep's body. Then she covered the body in vanilla buttercream all over.  The heads are made from mini Creme Eggs, with ears made from marzipan and dipped in chocolate and icing writing pens were used to draw on the eyes, hair and noses. Once the heads and faces had set, they were stuck on to the bodies with a dollop of buttercream. Finally, white mini marshmallows were halved and stuck them all round into the buttercream to create the woolly fleece. I'm sure you'll agree the finished product is really effective.
Our final entry is from @desi_orchid who made these Creme Egg Cupcakes. Baking with Creme Eggs has been all the rage this year and I can see why...who could resist a chocolate cupcake with a creme egg baked inside and then creamy frosting and another egg on mouth is watering at the prospect!
Thanks for all your Calendar Cakes entries this month, as always they are much appreciated and I have to say there are many interesting ideas and fab bakes on show here this Easter!

To join in with April's Calendar Cakes Challenge, head on over to Dolly Bakes for more details about the theme and I'll see you back here in May! :-)