25 August, 2010

Chocolate Mud Cake

Chocolate. Mmmmm. Can't go wrong with it. I've had a few days off work lately and was really bored so I decided to test out a new recipe from a book I've got: The Home Guide to Cake Decorating - £12.99 from Waterstone's which is extremely reasonable given the amount of information and recipes it gives you on cake design.
There are two chocolate cake recipes; one is just a general cocoa-flavoured one, and the other is the one I've made - Chocolate Mud. I preferred this one, as it actually has melted chocolate in the recipe which makes the sponge a lot more moist - it was like a brownie cake! The other one will give you a drier sponge that you can buy off the shelves.
Anyway, it's not a masterpiece, I know. I was just experimenting and thought I'd share with you my ideas and tips. I simply decorated the cake with chocolate ganache, white chocolate stars, and a dark chocolate collar. This is the first time I've attempted a chocolate collar, hence the crappyness of it. But hey, practice makes perfect.

Ingredients for a 9 inch circular tin - I used two 1 inch deep sandwich dishes so that I could add a layer of chocolate ganache in between. Alternatively, use a deeper dish and just cut the cake in half:
- 7 oz Butter
- 7 oz Dark Chocolate
- 6 tsp Instant Coffee
- 160 ml Water
- 4 oz Self-Raising Flour
- 4 oz Plain Flour
- 1.5 oz Cocoa Powder
- 0.5 tsp Baking Powder
- 15 oz Caster Sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 7 tsp Vegetable Oil
- 110 ml Milk

For the Ganache:
- 5 oz Dark Chocolate
- 155 ml Double Cream

For the Chocolate Collar:
- 1 x strip of flexible plastic - I used the plastic found on the inside of Silver Spoon Ready Rolled Icing Sheets, however the picture showed the plastic you use to cover your old textbooks with - laminating stuff. Make sure it is at least a few centimetres taller than your actual cake, and enough to wrap around the whole thing, too - with a bit to spare for fastening.
- 120g Chocolate - your choice of flavour.

- White Chocolate Stars for decoration and colour.


Preheat your oven to 160'C and greaseproof paper your baking tin(s). Melt together the butter, chocolate, water and coffee in a pan on your hob. Keep stirring to prevent setting. Once completely melted, set to one side.
Sift your dry ingredients together and mix together. Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients, and add the combined eggs, milk and oil. Add in your chocolate mixture and completely stir the whole lot together.
Transfer your mixture into your tins, and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in their tins, then transfer onto a wire cooling rack. Remove your baking paper and level the cakes.
To make the ganache, melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stir, then for another 30. If there are a few small lumps, melt for 10 more seconds and stir. Mix in the cream until you have a thick consistency. This can cover the entire cake if you wish. I didn't use all of it, just enough to sandwich the two small cakes together, and to cover just the top of the cake.
Okay, for the chocolate collar: Melt your remaining chocolate using the same microwave method. Carefully spread your chocolate over your entire strip of plastic, and leave to set just VERY SLIGHTLY. You don't want to transfer your strip to the cake and find the chocolate already cracking. It needs to still be slightly warm to stick to the cake.
Carefully wrap the plastic around the cake, with the chocolate on the inside. Fasten with the remaining extra plastic, which will have chocolate on and will set like a glue.
Leave to set for an hour or so. Depending on how thick you spread the chocolate, it will take longer to set. You can check if it's set or not by carefully unravelling the strip - if it hasn't yet set, just replace again.
Finally, decorate your cake with white chocolate stars, or similar edible decorations - just for a bit of colour.
I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, but might just use a little extra chocolate on the collar next time. I think if it's thicker it will set more smoothly, instead of the rough finish I ended up with. You can also add white chocolate buttons in the strip to add interest if you want, or even the little stars. Add these to the strip first, then cover in chocolate and transfer to your cake. You'll end up with a polka-dot collar!

Let me know if you try anything better to help with the collar :)
Happy Baking!
Kirsten x

15 August, 2010

Wedding Fever Part 2

The wedding fever continues as the week draws to a close. One of my best friend's is getting married next year - I'm doing her cake, of course! - and she just bought her wedding dress - ahhh exciting times! If that isn't enough to make me smile, a local wedding hangout in Plymouth are desperate for more cake makers to flaunt their stuff for their clients, so asked my friend (who was enquiring about a Reception there) to pass on the message to me, and to get some business cards up there! Woohoo!
The Silver Wedding Anniversary was a huge success, they were so pleased with their suprise party and knew instantly I made their cake :D They loved it, thankfully! I followed the same recipe as the previous Engagement Cake, and FIIIIINALLY managed to figure out how to make an icing and wire spray decoration. FINALLY!!!
To decorate, I cut out some writing from White Rolled Icing, and using a Lustre Silver Edible Spray, gave the letters a metallic sheen. Hence the Silver anniversary theme. I left them to dry, which is a pain because since the font is so intricate, the feet of the font came off some of the letters after drying. Unfortunately, the silver spray takes aaaaaaages to dry, so I just had to suck it up and stick the letter feet back on later. Doesn't really make a whole difference though, does it?
I bought two sets of ribbon, since it was a white iced cake. Most silver ribbon is really tacky and untasteful - very glittery etc. So I bought a simple thick grey organza ribbon, and a thin white ribbon with silver edging. I then placed the thick ribbon around the cake first, and then the thin ribbon around the middle of the thicker ribbon. I used Royal Icing at a thick consistency to pipe around the edge of the cake, too. This is handy if you have a rough edge to the cake, which I usually do. Hey, I am still learning... To finish I dusted White Edible Shimmer Powder onto the entire cake to give a pearly sheen. Perfecto!

Okay, so how did I finally make the icing decoration? You will need:
- A pack of silver wire strands
- A pot of coloured Flower Paste - I used 'Silver Celebration' and dusted with more shimmer powder
- Cornflour
- A little water and pasting brush
- Jewels and gems for decoration
- Plastic pointed cone
*All available from a good cake stockist or craft shops*

It was so simple. I have always tried making this with simple rolled icing. I tried cutting out shapes, letting them dry in the fridge and then inserting the wire. Fail. I cut out shapes, let them dry at room temperature, and inserted wires. Fail. I cut out some more shapes, inserted the wire, and then let them dry. Fail. I tried all of these methods with different thicknesses for each cut out shape. FAIL. All of these times, the icing broke apart, or the wire wouldn't set flat and poked through.
So I asked my local cake shop owner. I took the two-year old, dusty decoration I had from my 18th Birthday Cake, and flat out just asked how the hell I did it. Her reply..."It's icing, dear..." YES I KNOW IT'S ICING!!! WHAT ICING?!?!
Well, I didn't really say that back to her. She is an old lady, after all. She told me to use Flower Paste, which is what people use to make icing flowers, too. It's very pliable and sets hard as a rock in no time at all.
She told me to roll out the icing very thinly, so thinly that you could read a book through it. Then, use a little cornflour for dusting. Cut out one shape, and use a little water brushed over it before placing a wire with the top folded down in the centre of the shape. Then cut out the same shape, and sandwich the wire between the two shapes. Voila, one icing on a stick.
I did this numerous times with different size hearts and stars, and let them to dry overnight - juuuust in case. The next morning, I arranged each stick with one lilac jewelled wire, and one silver gemmed wire, and repeated this until I had six trios of icing, gems and jewels. I then twisted them altogether, tweaked them a bit to look nice, and superglued the decoration into a plastic pointed cone - specifically for this decoration. This was then inserted into the cake, and with a bit of remaining ribbon I fastened this around the base of the decoration to hide the cone and wires.

Happy Baking x

10 August, 2010

Wedding Fever Part 1

Hi folks! I can practically still hear wedding bells with all my latest antics! Two great people I know got married after being together for 10 years! Here's my favourite photograph of them on their happy day, don't they look beautiful?!
As mentioned in the previous post, I recently made an engagement cake for the other's half's cousin. I had a few ups and downs with this one, but they seemed pleased enough with it, and so did the whole family :D So much so, I got another order! This time for a Silver Wedding Anniversary cake, which I'm actually baking right now. Thought I'd get round to posting the other cake while it rises...
I made a simple square vanilla madeira cake, covered it in rolled icing and then decorated with icing letters, ribbon and a bow. I'll tell you where I went wrong further down the post...
N.B. If you intend to make madeira sandwich cake like I did for this cake, you'll want to cut off the top of the cake to level it. This ultimately leaves you with half the cake left, so make two if you are sandwiching it :) Also, you can see in this picture that there are a few air bubbles in the icing. Use one of the pins to pop the bubbles and just smooth it over again with your hand. Use icing sugar to fill in the little hole.
Ingredients (for an 8 inch size square cake tin):
- 11 oz Butter
- 11 oz Sugar
- 6 Eggs
- 7 oz Plain Flour
- 2.5 oz Self-Raising Flour
- 6 teaspoons milk
*Optional* Buttercream and Strawberry Jam for the filling.
- 2 x Silver Spoon Ready Rolled Icing Sheets
- Red Rolled Icing
- Ribbons and bows (from all good decorating shops)
- 2 x Glass-Headed Pins
- Royal Icing (You can buy this ready made. RECOMMENDED. I made some from a recipe in my book and it gave me enough to cover a cake. I only needed a bit to pipe around the edges.
I bought a cheapy whisk from Sainsbury's to get my bottom drawer started. So go buy one for £4.18, chuck all the ingredients in a bowl and whiiiiiisk :P Haha, cheat. Bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes on 160'C.
When covering the cake, use a very thin layer of buttercream to make a glue for your first layer of icing. Remember to either ice your cake twice, or cover it in marzipan and then icing - depending on your tastebuds. Use a rolling pin to carefully pick up the icing and place over the cake. Use your hands to smooth down the lumps and bumps and chop off any excess icing with scissors. On the corners, pinch the excess icing together and chop it off. Brush a little boiled water over the first layer, then add your second layer. If you only use one layer of icing you will get a bumpy finish.
   I used alphabet letter cutters to spell out "Congratulations Natasha and Chris" onto the cake in red rolled icing, and then cut out a big and medium sized heart in red rolled icing to finish it. When fastening bows and ribbons, use a glass-headed pin to secure them in place. Just remember to tell your recipient there are sharp objects in the cake!
Okay, so where did it go wrong? For my 18th birthday cake, the ladies who made it managed to give the whole cake a glittery finish over the icing. I thought I'd try this. Remember the silver edible spray I used for the Caravan Cake? I sprayed some of this into a small pot then used a brush to brush some of the glitter spray onto the cake. This doesn't work. At least, if it's a silver colour. You can get other shades, including a pearl sheen for special cakes, so don't let my mistakes put you off. Anyways, I ended up with silver streaks on my white icing, effectively giving it a dirty finish. I just had to grit my teeth and try to blot it off with damp kitchen towels, and when that didn't work completely, went to the cake shop to pick up some white dusting powder. Well, here are the results. Obviously, I couldn't get in between the letters very well, which is where the worst of it is:
Happy Baking x