Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cake Time - Noah's Ark Christening Cake

The animals went in 2-by-2, hurrah! Hurrah! 

The animals went in 2-by-2, Hurrah!

Right, lions are boss

Closely followed by the hippos because really who would mess with them?

Oh look some giraffes...

And there are some cheeky monkeys. And there are more than 2 of them... Very cheeky.

Oh man, who let these elephants on? Seriously. They look deranged.

What are these?  Oh, blue bears. Are they a thing?


Happy fish

Birds, you know you can fly, right? Fly all away from the water.

Do you know what this cake needs? Red pandas.

Lemme on!

Noah's Ark made for baby Maxwell on his christening. Vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream (but no jam because we ran out.) Based on the design and instructions of Debbie Brown, novelty cake lady extraordinaire, in Debbie Brown's Baby Cakes.

Vicky xx

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Weekend Bakes: Nigel Slater's Black Banana Cake

For a while now I have been meaning to try my hand at making some banana bread. It seems to be everywhere at the minute; just the other morning someone was making it on Lorraine and it made me a bit sad that my breakfast was rather boring. When I was on holiday in Australia the other year I had it for breakfast all the time like it was just a standard thing. I'd get it toasted, smoother it in butter and then just be in a banana, buttery paradise for the duration of breakfast. I think if I started everyday like that it would be pretty sweet; cake that is positively encouraged as breakfast food is fine by me.

We had a bit of a run a couple of weeks ago of getting really bad bananas; they were ripening very quickly and ended up getting wasted. So I decided that was the perfect time to have a go at some banana bread.

Except I didn't.

What I actually ended up making was Nigel Slater's Black Banana Cake made with banana, chocolate chip and hazelnut loaf. (And I didn't even really make that because we didn't have any hazelnuts and I had to use walnuts.) I'm not sure what happened between me looking for banana bread recipes and ending up with a cakey loaf but it happened. The worse thing being I couldn't really get away with eating that for breakfast. Well... maybe not on a daily basis.

But I did end up with a really nice, light loaf full of flavour and texture that was excellent for eating during the day with a cup of tea.

I won't type out the whole recipe here as it can be found here. It varies on a normal sponge by using butter and light brown sugar instead or margarine and caster sugar. I love baking anything that uses brown sugar instead of caster sugar; the smell when it is in the oven is a delicious caramel-type smell that makes your mouth water. I also think that anything that smells like that lends itself to be eaten when warm and melty.

Look at all that chocolate!
Only problem with the recipe was maybe the cooking temperature could have been a touch lower; I was surprised at how quickly I had to cover the loaf because the top was browning very fast but the middle still wasn't anywhere near ready. I think this explains why my loaf came out sunken because I'd had to open the oven door sooner than I would  have liked.

It was also quite crumbly which is fine, I guess, when you are just going to eat it, but it made it really difficult to cut up into nice slices.

Crumbly goodness
There was no frills and bows with this one, just the cake as it was and that was all that was needed. There was enough moisture in the cake from the bananas that it wasn't dry to eat on its own and there was a lovely sweetness from the chocolate and a crunch from the walnuts. My next door neighbour and chief taste tester, Uncle Ian, said he didn't think it needed the chocolate but I think banana and chocolate is such a wonderful combination.

My favourite part of the taste test was when my mum claimed that it was a shame when you use apples in baking that it makes the cake look like it's not cooked... Two thumbs from her then: bananas that taste like apples and a stodgy looking loaf.

This one is definitely worth having a go at, and I won't shout if you eat it for breakfast!

Vicky xx

Monday, 24 June 2013

Cake Time: Monday Morning Monsters

Morning All! Hope you have all had a lovely weekend. I enjoyed a rare weekend off and I'm only back for one day before I'm off again. It just makes Monday a little more bearable! 

I am working really hard at the minute to make sure I have lots of lovely things to post on here and to make sure I keep up to date with the cakes I have been doing. That's why you have been treated to cake posts two days in a row!

These are some cutie little monsters done for a little boy's birthday a few weeks* ago. All cupcakes were vanilla sponge and decorated with buttercream, fondant and royal icing.


We had to make 30 cupcakes. Do you know how hard it is to make 30 monster cupcakes? It's pretty hard! You have to be truly inspired. It was suggested that I should be doing 30 completely different ones but I think I'd still be doing them now...

Despite having to work hard thinking of enough good ideas, I enjoyed creating these monsters and monsterettess and we managed good levels of both brightness and silliness. Perfectly appropriate for a fun children's party.

Awww, you wouldn't mind finding such monsters under the bed, would you? :)

Vicky xx

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Things I love Thursday: Baking Books

I probably don't have the biggest cook book collection in the world (although the way my Mum goes on you'd think I did.) But I have to admit I probably have more than I need... They are piled up on my shelves full of recipes and projects that I would love to try but just can't find the time to do.

The Vintage Tea Party is my absolute favourite - I just want to live in its beautiful pages

But when I bought my friend the Clandestine Cake Book as a birthday present, I found it very difficult to part with. It was quite hard to wrap it up and write someone else's address on the envelope. So when I heard the book calling to me from the shelves in Tesco at a fraction of its retail price (damn you, Waterstones, and your full prices!) it might have just fallen into my trolley and made it all the way to the checkout and then home.

I won't go on about the Clandestine Cake Club here as I think most people who are interested in baking are now aware of the concept. It was set up by Lynn Hill in 2010 and is basically groups of people meeting up all over the world and bringing along delicious homemade cakes to a pre-decided theme. The one rule being it has to be a cake. Currently there isn't one local to me and it's definitely something I would love to get involved in setting up. I think it would be a huge step for me and would do wonders for my confidence. My excuse is my odd working days but I realise that's a lame cop out.

You can find all the info you need about the CCC here

The book is fantastic: there is so much lovely looking stuff in there. The thing that caught my eye straight away was the lemon, parsnip and hazelnut cake. Yum! I love the sweetness of roasted parsnips and can't wait to try them in a cake. The blue velvet cake is amazingly striking and I can't wait to fake an occasion so I can give that a go. The book has also made me see how much I need a bundt tin in my life! Maybe even a heart shaped one. A heart shaped cake covered in glacé icing and glitter?! What! Amazing.

I have already had a go at the toffee cake (I bought dates to make a date & walnut loaf for the nice gentleman who brings me eggs at work and thought I would never use them again!) but more on that soon.

The only problem with the book is that it's not helping me work on other sides of baking like bread or pastry and is just helping me continue my cake obsession but if those are the rules...

Vicky xx

I love: wearing gloves to colour fondant *squish* <3 pilates <3 Super Mario Bros Wii <3 House (I always love House) <3 red lipstick <3 headscarves <3 early morning pre-work jogs <3 cringing over so-bad-they're-good films, I'm lookign at you Pitch Perfect (loved it!) <3 train trips to Newcastle <3 eating biscuits with my favourite people <3 parmentier potatoes <3 a cold glass of wine on a sunny evening <3 summer dresses <3 watermelon <3 making plans for visitors <3 The Temptations <3 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Weekend Baking: Rose Water, Pistachio & Raspberry cupcakes

I've called this new feature 'Weekend' Baking but don't worry - I'm not confused about what day of the week it is! Working at a tourist attraction means my working week runs from Thursday - Monday so I have my weekend on a Tuesday and Wednesday. So these tend to be the days I get to play in the kitchen.

When it comes to baking I'm still at the stage where I need to stick to the recipe but I'm hoping the more practice I get the more I will be able to be one of those clever people who just adapt recipes and make stuff up if they feel so inclined!

So here is my first weekend bake:

Rose water, pistachio & raspberry: this is a Middle Eastern combination of flavours that I kept coming across and so decided that it was a sign that I had to give it a go, and I'm glad I did!

Rose water is something I have used before but for the life of me I can't remember what I did with it: must have been a mind-blowing creation... But still I am a little bit scared of it; it's one of those things that has such a distinct flavour and aroma I worry about over using it.

I did a little research before I got started and found that 3 teaspoons of rose water was enough and that I could easily add it to my own plain sponge recipe. Some recipes also suggested using lemon juice, sometimes as much as the juice of one lemon, but I wanted to make sure I didn't overpower the taste of the rose water and just went for a couple of tablespoons (as much as I would use in lemon sponge.)

The smell of rose water is fantastic: it's that soapy, floral smell that reminds me of floral gums or cherry lips. My work colleague's perfume is also laced with it and it always leaves a wonderful smell in the office. For me its tradition personified in a smell. The smell of it as it came out of the oven and when they cake was cooled was just as lovely as when it's in the bottle.

Once you get over the faff of de-shelling the pistaschios, you can appreciate the further element of middle eastern flavour, as well as a wonderful texture and colour. I loved the way they looked crushed and sprinkled over the cupcakes, contrasting with the white buttercream and pink raspberries. 

Raspberries are one of my favourite fruits and I don't find them too sweet so it was the perfect accompaniment to a cake that, overall, wasn't (buttercream aside) overpoweringly sweet.

The cupcake itself was light and moist and just the right amount of rose water came across in each mouthful. The best way to eat this is taking a big mouthful and making sure you taste every one of the ingredients together because the combination of tastes and textures is delicious. I would definitely make these again: for such a powerful ingredient it was such a delicate cake and would be a perfect partner to a glass of champagne on a sunny afternoon. I enjoyed mine with a cup of tea but a girl can dream...

Recipe (makes about 15) 


6oz/150g caster sugar
6oz/150g margarine
3 large eggs
3 tsp rose water
2 tbsp lemon juice
6oz/150g self raising flour
100g chopped and shelled pistachios 


16oz/400g icing sugar 
4oz/100g softened unsalted butter
2tsp rose water
a few tbsp milk as required 

To decorate: 
30 - 35 raspberries, enough to put a couple on each cupcake
50g pistachios, roughly chopped

- cream sugar and margarine until pale and fluffy
- add rose water and lemon juice to the cracked eggs and add a little at a time to the    
  butter mixture, add a spoonful of flour at intervals to stop mixture curdling
- gently fold in half the flour 
- fold in the remaining flour along with the pistachios
- add to cupcake cases and bake on gas mark 4, for 15-20 minutes until springy to touch 
  and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean

- to make the butter cream, cream together butter, icing sugar and rose water until mixed
- add a tablespoon at a time of milk to create your best consistency for piping

- to decorate pipe swirls or spread buttercream on to the cooled cupcakes
- top with a sprinkling of pistachios and finish with a couple of raspberries

Vicky xx