Thursday, 31 October 2013

3 Ways With... Halloween!

Do you know what is terrifying me this Halloween? My own bad time management. Seriously. It’s terrifying. Mostly because Halloween is such a good time to try new things and be really creative but I didn’t manage it very well and have left myself feeling disappointed. Take this giant cupcake for instance; it didn’t turn out like I had it in my head, mostly due to no time for planning.

I don’t like it. That’s that.

But anyway, moving on to some things I did actually a little bit like, here are 3 ways with Halloween:

1. Cake Pops

I always dread a little bit being asked to make cake pops, mostly because my skills with them aren’t terribly reliable – sometimes they work great, other times not so much. I know a worklady shouldn’t blame her tools but I think the candy melts play a big part in whether the pops are going to be a success or not: sometimes they are beautifully smooth and perfect consistency, other times they are thick and lumpy. It varies from make to make and from colour to colour.

So when they actually go right, like with this lot, I make sure I do a little happy dance.

These were for my cousin Oliver who loves the cake pops. He loves them so much that when my auntie asked if I would do him some I already had it in my diary because he’d already placed an order! His brother, Sam, also loves the cake pops but hates Halloween so he got some plain ones and everyone was happy.

These little Frankensteins are the most creative I have ever been with the cake pops and I was pleased with how they turned out. Could this be opening the door to cake pop adventure land? We’ll see…

The cake pops for the ghosties didn’t cover so well but that wasn’t so bad because they were covered with fondant sheets. Wooooooo!

2. Iced Biscuits

Oh I do love an iced biscuit! The only thing I love more than decorating an iced biscuit is eating one. We make so much cake these days that we’ll take it or leave it in our house,but everyone is all over these sugar cookies and the lovely royal icing.

Iced biscuits are something I would love to work with more often – they are just time consuming because there is a lot of drying time required but I think the results are worth it.

Again, I had more ideas in mind for these but time got the better of me. But I think Frankenstein and his bride turned out pretty well.

3. Cake

I got to do a Halloween cake…For my Nanna! Love it! Her country club put on a Halloween party so she wanted to have a cake to take to give to the committee to say thank you. Now that may sound very sweet but I was having nightmares about what she was going to say about this cake. My Nanna has entered that stage of life where she doesn’t care who she offends. (BTW I adore my Nanna she is the loveliest, most generous woman who just makes me giggle with her old lady sass!) So I was worried about the comments. The least terrible being: “yes, Rosie it’s very nice.” The worst being “What on earth is that? It’s rubbish. I can’t give them that.”

Her actual response was: "Oh isn't that lovely! They're going to be over the moon with that!" Yay!

When I Googled Halloween cakes this one instantly caught my eye; I thought it was suitably grown up and just creepy enough. Mine is an amateur take on this one, which I just completely adore, but I think it turned out ok. My favourite bit is the black roses topper – makes me think of an eerie wedding cake.

Funny story – when I was trying to cover this, I accidentally hit myself in the chin with my silicon rolling pin. Those things are heavy. Given the noise that occurred I was lucky to escape a cracked tooth but I do have a bruise (thankfully) under my chin and my left ear just isn’t quite right. Baking is dangerous, kids.

Ok.... 4. Cupcakes

Just because it's Halloween. 

Black velvet cupcakes with meringue ghosts! Spookilicious.

Word to my mother for these Halloween cupcakes!

Halloween: next year I'll be really ready for you!

Vicky xx

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cake Time: Candy Crush

Hands up how many people are addicted to Candy Crush? I have to admit to owning it on my phone and I did get a little bit sucked in trying to get past some of the higher levels. I did draw the line when my app was making me play on Facebook - I spend enough time on there already stalking random strangers...

*Ahem* Moving on...

Bernie obviously loves Candy Crush enough that her family though it fitting to get her a cake in the shape of her favourite game.

I set the cake up as the game screen and made use of all those lovely bright colours. Mum took care of the actual game board because I don't do well with straight lines.

I rather enjoyed crafting those little bits! Cute. This is a cute cake.

And there is the ol' scoreboard:

I realised 40 points isn't very many but that's how old she was and it seemed fitting!

I didn't quite get there with the correct Candy Crush font but I don't think I was too far off that you couldn't get the reference.

How bizarre is it that mobile phones apps are now becoming the norm for cakes? This is the second one I have done now and there are plenty more examples out there. But I guess it's no odder than making a cake for someone's favourite computer game; we all know how popular they are.
App cakes. Clockwise from top left: Temple run, Plants vs Zombies, Too Dumb To Die 

So bring on the inspiration! And someone bring me a Hello Kitty Cafe cake.

Vicky xx

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cake Time: Gruesome Shark Attack Swimming Pool Cake!!

Oh another fun children's cake!

This was for the son of one of the ladies’ from Better, who had wanted a shark cake and was having a swimming party for his birthday, so we merged the 2 together and made: Gruesome shark attack swimming pool cake!

I loved doing this cake! It was such fun! I think deep down inside, past the kittens, cupcakes and twirly skirts, I maybe enjoy a bit of gruesomeness.

My favourite was this guy at the front who did have 2 arms before one fell off while transporting him to the cake. One shocked expression later, and he was the victim of an attack, who had bravely lost an arm trying to battle the shark.

Sadly he didn’t do so great because this guy got it…

I did try to inject some humour in to it with the floating shorts. Probably best that the owner of said shorts doesn’t feature on the cake…

And someone needs to get this young lady a slice of birthday cake. A large one. With a side of ice cream.

And finally, I went red and tried to capture the ‘Jaws’ theme with the lettering of the name.

Overall it was a fun cake that I enjoyed doing (once it started to come together) and was enjoyed by kids and adults alike. That’s all I can ask for :)

Vicky xx

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Autumn Baking

Yes, yes, I am one of those people who love Autumn. Any season that makes it ok for me to get out my hot water bottle and drink hot chocolate in bed is alright by me. And the Autumn colours, obviously! My place of work looks like this in Autumn:

Image copyright English Heritage
If that's not a good enough excuse to get up for work on a dark morning, I don't know what is!

So as Autumn is slowly slipping away from us and the time for sloe gin and Christmas cake is nigh (actually, I don't like Christmas cake so I'll just have extra gin,) let's have a look at what I did with Autumn goodies.

The Food
Brambles, apples, plums & pumpkins. Three of those things I got for free right of the bush/tree! Amazing. 

The brambles came from my own back garden. We discovered the bush last year after we got very little gardening done due to the bad weather; this thing just started taking over the garden and then produce some lovely brambles. It turns out my Mum had taken a cutting from my auntie's garden years ago and forgot about it and had been cutting it back for a number of years, meaning we had no idea it was going to produce some delicious fruit until last year. This year we didn't dare cut it through fear of losing the berries. It is in the corner of the garden affectionately called 'the wild area'.

The plums came from work; we have a small orchard in the grounds that's made up of plum, apple and pear trees and bounty this year has been amazing.

My apples didn't come from the Priory but from a castle! Nearby Richmond Castle was also enjoying a fruitful September and I sweet talked our gardeners into acquiring me some. (When I made a visit to Richmond the branches were far too high for me to get them myself!)

Richmond Castle - Image copyright English Heritage
Sadly I don't have access to a pumpkin patch so my pumpkins came from Tesco.

Hagrid's Pumpkin Patch
The drink

Plum liqueur
After a successful bash at making sloe gin last year, I knew I was going to make more liqueurs this year, and because we had such an abundance of fruit I was able to make a couple.

Blackberry liqueur
I used this recipe for the plum liqueur and this one for the blackberry one. (Note: if you get minute have a look through The Boy's Club site - their cocktails are inspirational!) Nothing to report here as I just followed the recipes and both are still doing their thing! I did run out of vodka for the blackberry so topped it up with white rum. I'm sure it'll be fine...

The Sweet

One word: crumble. In our house the fruit is a necessary evil. We would quite happily (and have been known to) eat a bowl of crumble with some custard. I used James Martin's recipe for the crumble (110g/4oz butter, softened - 110g/4oz demerera sugar - 180-200g/6-7oz plain flour just lightly rubbed together and baked on a baking sheet for 15 mins at 190/170/gas 5) and then I used this BBC Good Food recipe for the fruit. Delicious! I love warm brambles - they remind me of when my Nanna used to make bramble pie. Even the smell gives me that nostalgia. Yum! She should get on that again.

Plum, chocolate & hazelnut cake
Next was this recipe also from BBC Good Food. Can you see I haven't done anything ground breaking? I am afraid using other peoples' recipes was the best I could come up with! I was unsure about the plum, chocolate & hazelnut combo of this cake but it actually was surprisingly lovely. The ground hazelnuts really came though and the texture of the plum was a nice contrast. I would recommend giving this a try for something different.

The Savoury 

Image copyright BBC Good Food
Pumpkin soup!! I have memories of eating pumpkin soup ata German Christmas market around a barrel after a few too many Gluhweins. Perhaps that is why I remember the soup tasting so delicious but it also came in a bowl made out of bread! Uh! Amazing! It was mindblowing.

I had to eat my soup out of a bowl and one day I had to eat it with Ryvita because I didn't have any bread. Not. On.

Guess where I went for my soup recipes? Well done - BBC Good Food. The first one was a little but onion and cream heavy  - maybe it only needed one onion but the onion taste is why my mum liked it so much so each to there own. The Thai one had such an amazing fragrance - it just smelled of Thai  It was little thinner than the first one but I think that's just the style of Thai soup but it certainly had a lot more flavour and a definite kick from the red curry paste but was maybe lacking in the taste of the ginger, although I think that might be my own fault.

So I might not be winning any awards for culinary originality but I have enjoyed baking and eating things that I have foraged for. Ok, so very little foraging took place but I found the process of baking things that I knew to come directly from the source extremely satisfying. And I just can't wait to get my hands on the sloes in a couple of weeks time!

Vicky xx

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cake Time: Spongebob Squarepants

Oh Spongebob, you crazy…sponge! You are my most favourite character to make for cakes because you are square and that makes me happy. Ol’ Bob is also a character that comes to life very quickly after only a few details and I enjoy watching that transformation.

The first Spongebob cake I made was this one for my cousin’s birthday last year and I was super pleased with it.

I think everyone else enjoyed it too…

This second one was for a work colleague of my mum (well, not actually for her but you know what I mean!) This time we got to do a 2 tier, under the sea style cake, and got to include Patrick on it too.

As usual, mum was in charge of background scenery and did an awesome job. Love the Spongebob-esque flower things floating about.

I was in charge of modelling. I have started to put a bit of Mexican sugar paste or petal paste into my fondant when making characters. It makes makes the figures a little harder but you end up with something with a better finish and less sagging.

My favourite part of Bob is dusting his sponge hole thingys with green lustre dust – that just makes him come alive! There's those details again! They are my favourite – even the simplest ones.

Patrick’s shape was easier than I thought and I didn’t have to fiddle on with it too much. I missed off his flowers on his shorts due to wanting to wait until the paste had dried and then putting him on the cake and not having enough space. I don’t think it ruins him too much but a finished off pair of shorts would have been nice!

This cake makes me happy! I just love doing colourful children's cake! More please :)

Vicky xx

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cake Time: Angry Birds

My cousin Oliver wanted an Angry Birds cake for his birthday. On his birthday he got Angry Birds everything. Apparently Angry Birds has sky rocketed from being a simple, free phone app to some kind of phenomenon. I think there’s even a cartoon and the birds have names!

But this also means that there is lots of inspiration out there for Angry Birds cakes.

Left to right: Nest, Slingshot, Kaboom!
My Mum, being ahead of the times as she is, made an Angry Birds cake about 18 months ago. What a trendsetter.

I wanted to do a cake with a bit of depth and up and downy-ness and ended up with something quite mammoth, even though I hadn’t actually baked that much cake.

The idea of using Kit Kats as the wooden hiding places was not mine; I saw the idea on another cake that has since disappeared in to thin air. But props to you if it was your idea.

The pigs and birds were almost fun to make; I would have enjoyed them a lot more if it hadn’t been a sweltering day in July and the icing hadn’t melted whenever I went near it.

I know I have been going on a lot about details but they really are my favourite thing at the minute and this cake was no exception! The small details of a snout, some eyes and a crooked smile transforms a green blob into a mutant pig that wants to take over the world! Or steal eggs… I think that’s what they do.

And the birds turned out ok too but they were even more melty because they require a bit more handling to get them in to shape. And getting them to hold their shape in the heat was a nightmare.

But overall it was a fun and effective cake. Best part? Left over KitKats.

Vicky xx