Musical Piñata Cake

It’s been a while since either of us posted anything… I have followed in the family tradition and (perhaps rather predictably to anyone that knows us) become a teacher. I have spent these past few months trying to get my head round a) how to teach, b) how to teach and c) how to teach. Oh and also how anyone my age can possibly be trusted with the education of the next generations. Anyway, what with starting a full time job, moving cities and having yet another rubbish oven, baking has been rather low on my list of priorities.

However, this week was my housemates birthday and there was no way i was letting her get away without celebrating. Evie is an english teacher and, like me, loves her music. Our spare room is home to her electric piano and her iPod is always filling the house with various genres of songs. I decided that a musical theme would be perfect for her cake. I had made Mark (my brother) a musical cake for his last birthday and decided that Evie would love a similar one.



Mark’s musical cake

For Mark’s, I did layers of white chocolate and dark chocolate cake with a filling of Nestle’s Vice-Versas to make it extra special.


However, i did not feel the white chocolate cake added anything, it was just over sweet and no real flavour. So, for Evie, i decided to go with a mocha theme and made chocolate and coffee cakes with a mocha buttercream in between.


Yes we did get her a stupid hat and yes it does sing

I bought these cutters which are a bit fiddly but well worth the effort. There are 3 different sizes of note which makes for simple variation.20151211_215840

I used chocolate fondant icing which you can buy from Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s to cover the cakes. I find this adds a lot to the taste because it is flavoured and not purely sugary. To make the ivory coloured notes I added a little of the brown icing to some white fondant just to take the edge off them. Evie’s surname is Star and hence I filled the cake with Magic Stars. Little personal touches like that always give a cake the extra edge.


If you are unsure as to how to create a piñata cake then the instructions are on this previous blog.

Sorry it’s been so long since we last posted but life has been so busy! I know that Ruth has been busy baking and has many fantastic cakes to write about but finding the time is difficult. We will try and catch up over christmas. For anyone that is interested Ruth has a recipe published in the latest Clandestine Cake Club recipe book for her foolproof chocolate recipe, we are going up in the world!



White Chocolate and Passionfruit Cake


It was my birthday at the beginning of June and, having moved back home, Ruth is no longer in the vicinity so couldn’t provide me with a fabulous cake as she normally would.

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(Just a little reminder of the previous few!!)

Mum did ask what sort of cake I would like but as soon as I started describing it she point-blank refused to make it. So… I made my own (i have to admit, i was secretly quite pleased – it meant I could have exactly what I wanted).

I am all for making a cake that looks good but that is relatively easy to pull off, something that most people would be able to do without too much grief and stress.

Admittedly the flavouring of this cake was slightly less conventional and required some planning, but the decorating principles can be applied to any flavour or occasion.

I wanted to try to make an exotic flavoured cake and found a bottle of passion fruit cordial in the pantry (mum does sometimes keep a rather random selection of goodies) which gave me the initial inspiration as to what i would do.

I decided to attempt a passion fruit and white chocolate layered cake which would be filled with passion fruit curd and passion fruit buttercream and topped/coated with white chocolate buttercream.

For the white chocolate layers I followed this recipe (without the raspberries) from the bbc good food website – it had a nice texture but lacked in flavour. It was very sweet but not really identifiable as white chocolate. In hindsight I should have just made passion fruit flavoured cakes and missed out the white chocolate all together.

For the passion fruit cake, I followed Mary Berry’s victoria sponge recipce but added passion fruit essence which i bought here. When making a cake using such a subtle flavour, the easiest way to make a powerful impact is by using an intense flavouring – baking tends to dampen flavours and you would have to use so much real passion fruit juice that the batter would become too runny and the cake would not rise.11407007_10205721637416693_3477559119969654145_n

I then devised a recipe for passion fruit filling.

For this I bought a carton of rubicon passion fruit juice and used cornflour to thicken it, it was a bit of a cross between a curd and a custard.

Passion Fruit Filling

200 ml passion fruit juice
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cornflour
knob of butter

Mix the cornflour into a small quantity of passion fruit juice (enough to ‘dissolve’ it with no lumps)
Whisk the egg yolk into the remaining passion fruit juice
Heat the juice and egg mixture over a low hear, whisking all the time
When it is hot, pour in the cornflour and continue whisking
Cook for 2 mins, whisking continually
Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with cling film then leave to cool

For the passion fruit buttercream, I used our basic buttercream recipe and added the passion fruit flavouring a long with some passion fruit juice. I don’t think the flavouring was as necessary for the buttercream as it was for the cake because buttercream can hold more juice, just make sure you add any liquid slowly and stop as soon as you think it may curdle.

I then had 2 eight inch white chocolate cakes and 2 passion fruit flavoured cakes.When they were cooled I cut them all in half to give me 8 layers, I decided that layering 6 of these would give an appropriately sized cake. I used the left over passion fruit juice to drizzle over the cakes. Whenever possible I try to think of something that will help to keep the cakes moist, they dry out less quickly meaning they last longer ~(not that this is ever really an issue in my house…). I then layered the two sorts of cake alternately, filling with both the cooled passion fruit filling and the passion fruit buttercream.

For the white chocolate buttercream I used this recipe which worked really well. You can really taste the white chocolate but beware… it is sickly sweet! I crumb coated the cake and iced it with this buttercream.

Finalllllyy for the decoration. This really was very simple but looked incredibly effective – i would recommend it to any novice cake decorators.


Firstly, I stuck chocolate fingers round the edge of the cake. Make sure you buy enough so that they touch all the way around otherwise the overall effect can be a bit messy. I think I used about 4 boxes to cover an eight inch cake.

You can also use twirls as seen on this cake we made for Anna,

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…or any other neat looking chocolate bar.

I tied a ribbon round the edge to keep the fingers in place.

Top tip: use pins to secure the ribbon in place! (But don’t forget you put them there otherwise you can end up pricking yourself and yelping rather embarrassingly in the middle of a full restaurant… but we don’t need to go into that)

I stole Ruth’s idea from above and put raspberries in a ring on the top. I could have done this over the whole of the cake, as you can see it gives an easy but very pretty finish. However, I wanted to do something a little different. So…. I scooped out the flesh and juice of 6 passion fruit. I then strained the pips and put the juice in a pan with a little arrowroot (a thickener rather like cornflour but that leaves your liquid clear rather than going cloudy). This causes the juice to go thick, jelly like and a bit sticky. I added the pips back in and poured it into the middle of the raspberries. You need to add enough arrowroot to make the passion fruit viscous enough that it will not slide off into the raspberries but stay together in the middle.

Eh voila


I had a lovely meal at a local Italian with my parents and my friend who was visiting from Mexico and the cake was a hit. The raspberries were a good addition because the cake was very sweet so it cut through somewhat.

We have a lot of cakes to blog about so keep checking for updates – hopefully with the summer holidays round the corner we will manage to do a bit of catching up.

Here are a few piccys to get you all excited:

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Lizzy 🙂


Peanut, Chocolate and Caramel Baklava


I’ve been wanting to try to make baklava for a while – I love it. However, I know that my family are not overly keen, they find it to sickly and sweet.

Anyway, the other day i had some filo pastry left over from dinner and decided some experimentation was in order. I am the biggest peanut and chocolate fan, whether it be snickers, peanut butter m and ms, the peanut kitkat, I love them all.

I decided that I would try to incorporate this into a baklava. I looked up a recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website and used it as the basis for my version.

A traditional baklava is normally made by baking chopped nuts (often pistachios) in between layers of filo pastry and then pouring a honey/sugar syrup over the top to make it stick together.
I decided that instead of pistachios I was going to put a mixture of chopped roasted peanuts and chocolate. Instead of using a honey syrup, which I thought might be a bit too floral for the peanut/chocolate combination, I made a runny caramel and used this to sandwich it all together.


My recipe was as follows:

1x 270g pack filo pastry (normally 6 sheets)
150g roasted unsalted peanuts
50g chocolate, chopped
100g butter, melted

For the caramel:
250g Sugar
125ml mixture of cream and milk
50g butter

First, to make the caramel:
Melt the sugar in a heavy based saucepan
When it is melted and golden brown in colour, remove off the heat and stir in the butter
Add the cream/milk mixture slowly, beating after each addition.
Set the caramel aside to cool.

Then make the baklava:
Put the nuts into a food processor and whiz them until coarsely chopped then mix in the chocolate pieces
Cut the 6 sheets of pastry in half so you have 12 pieces
Find a tin roughly the same shape as your pastry pieces and butter it with some of the melted butter
Lay a layer of filo pastry into the tin and then brush it with melted butter
Add another layer of filo pastry onto the first one and butter it again
Repeat this until you have four layers of filo


Sprinkle half the peanut and chocolate mix over the fourth layer of filo pastry

Repeat the layers of filo pastry and butter on top of the peanut mixture so that you have another four
Sprinkle over the remaining peanut and chocolate and then layer up the remaining four pieces of filo
Make sure you brush the top layer with butter
Cut the baklava into pieces before you bake it. Make sure that you cut all the way through to the bottom.

Bake at 170 degrees for 30 mins or until golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, check on your cooled caramel. If it is incredibly thick then thin it with some milk. It needs to be of a syrupy consistency that can be spooned over the baklava and seep down to the bottom.

When the baklava is cooked pour/spoon over half of the caramel, let it rest for five minutes then spoon over the other half.
When the baklava is completely cool you can take it out of the tin and tuck in!


Creme Egg Millionaire Shortbreads

This time last year Ruth was busy inventing Creme Egg Chelsea buns

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and i was casually chatting to Eric Lanlard on a google hangout about my creme egg and chocolate tart… (10 seconds of fame – if you want to relive the highlights click here)

As Easter is fast approaching, i felt it was about time to get the inventors cap on yet again and try and create something else. After contemplating all the little traditions we have at Easter, i felt like the creme egg is still the product with the most prospects so i decided to continue the theme. I thought about donuts with a creme egg centre, mince pies filled with creme egg but eventually decided upon the creme egg millionaire shortbread. Something quite simple and replicable by all.


I got very excited when i found this recipe on the daily mail for creating your own creme egg filling – it is very easy and also inexpensive compared to buying multiple packets of the real deal and scooping out the centre.

To begin i baked a traditional shortbread (i used the recipe on here). While it was in the oven i created the creme egg filling. I followed the recipe exactly – it is quite a lot stiffer than your traditional creme egg fondant but this is required for the nature of the bake. The filling is made using liquid glucose which i managed to find in the baking section of tescos, icing sugar, butter, vanilla essence and water. After tasting it i decided to add more vanilla as this is what makes the iconic taste and i didn’t feel it was coming through enough.


I coloured half the filling yellow and when the shortbread was baked and cooled, but the white half on top followed by the yellow half.

I then finished it off with a layer of chocolate ganache (half cream half chocolate). I used half cadburys and half dark chocolate as i knew that my family would prefer the topping to be slightly less sweet but it can be topped with whatever ratio you like or even with plain melted chocolate.


After tasting i decided that next time i would do a thinner layer of shortbread as the ratio of biscuit to topping felt a little out of kilter however, it was very tasty and definitely a bit different!


Lizzy’s 21st!!!!

It’s been so long since we last posted – not due to a lack of baking i assure you.

These past few months have been hectic for the both of us:
– I graduated (wooop), went on holiday and have since done my best to enter into the real working world….

– Ruth’s computer broke which rather hindered her ability to blog and then her little girl started school (sooo cute)


So there have been big changes for us both.

However, despair not, the baking has continued and we are going to do our best to update you all on our projects over the next few weeks.

Quite a few of the previous posts have been about my attempts to create 21st birthday cakes for my friends. Well, i eventually turned 21 in June (unfortunately during my exams) and it was my turn to be spoiled with what ended up being a MASSIVE variety of baked goods.

I asked Ruth to throw me a girly tea party as her present to me; she embraced the idea immediately. I took all my housemates and a couple of other friends round to Ruth’s house where she greeted us warmly into her sitting room with prosecco and presents.


Then we entered the kitchen………..


In this blog i am not going to go into the details of recipes and how everything was made but just describe all the bakes so that, should you ever want to throw a tea party, you can look here for inspiration.

I asked Ruth to do everything in miniature as i knew we would all want to try everything and we wanted to be able to fit it all in.

She did an amazing variety of both savoury and sweet delicacies. Between us we managed to get pictures of them all so here goes:

Coronation chicken and ham and mustard sandwiches served on homemade bread


Mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels


Caramelized onion and goats cheese tartlets

Beef and pesto drizzle crostinis


Chocolate cups with toasted marshmallow froth

Mini Eclairs – Salted Caramel and Chocolate or Coffee

Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Billionaire Shortbread

Raspberry Brownie Bites

Fondant Fancies: Lemon and Blackcurrant

Strawberries and Cream Meringues

Rhubarb and Custard Melting moments

Passion Fruit Marshmallows


A lot of the bakes could be prepared ahead and frozen which was very useful for Ruth who had a lot to do!

If anyone is particularly interested in any of the recipes then please comment below and we will put them up.

I had a lovely day and couldn’t have asked for more, but of course, being a student, i felt like i still had to have a slightly raucous houseparty to ensure i felt i had celebrated properly.

For this Ruth prepared yet another birthday cake which went down very well. It was a chic and sophisticated cake, which would be ideal for any young female adult.

She did a two tier cake, one coffee and one chocolate, covered them in white royal icing and then used a black icing to create dancing silhouettes all around the sides. It was beautiful!! Simple yet elegant. We wanted to top it with a barbie and a ken (don’t ask – it was a joint birthday party with my college husband; strange uni traditions) but the ken didn’t arrive on time so we improvised!


I had a brilliant birthday and it was the perfect way to celebrate finishing exams!


Butterfly Pinata Cake


Butterfly pinata cake

Butterfly pinata cake

This week, the last of my housemates turned 21, so it was my last opportunity to bake a wow-factor cake. She put on a lovely dinner party for couple of friends and I told her I would provide a cake.
For at least 3 months now I have wanted an occasion to bake a Pinata cake after seeing them on pinterest, so I leapt upon the opportunity.


For those who don’t know, a pinata cake is literally a pinata made of cake….
A cake that, when you cut into it (NOTE CUT, NOT HIT – if anyone had tried to hit it with a stick i would have cried), spills sweets onto your table. A pretty spectacular sight and definitely worthy of a 21st.IMG_1434

I did quite a bit of research before starting and came across several methods for assembling the cake.
The easiest way is to cook 2 cakes, scoop out the centre of both (but not all the way through to the bottom), mound up the sweets in the middle of the bottom cake and then place the other, upturned, on top.

However, i didn’t think this was going to give a satisfactory cake to sweets ratio, so decided to opt for a slightly bigger option…

The cake

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I made a 6 egg batter (6 eggs, 340g margarine, 340g caster sugar, 340g self raising flour, 3tsp baking powder and a few tablespoons of milk) and split the batter between two 8 inch cake tins. I decided to make a classic lemon cake, so added the zest of 1 large lemon to the mixture.

I baked these at 160 (fan) for about 45 minutes. As these are big cakes, i wasn’t sure how long they were going to take to cook, so unfortunately I did open the door of the oven to check on them slightly too early (big baking faux pas).

In hindsight, the sponges were very deep, and they couldn’t quite support themselves, so they sank slightly in the middle. If I made this cake again, I think I would split the batter into 3 tins to avoid this.

I took each of the two cakes and cut them in half horizontally,  so that I had 4 cakes in total.  I then cut a hole out of the middle of two of these cakes with a circular biscuit cutter, to create the hole for the smarties (my chosen pinata centre).

I made a lemon drizzle icing which I put over all the sponges to give it an extra lemon zing, and then spread them with a layer of lemon curd. If you use a coarse sugar for the lemon drizzle then you get a lovely, crispy icing which adds a bit of texture to the sponge. I assembled the cake as lesliebeslie has photographed in her blog, and before adding the top layer I filled it with smarties.

The pinata surprise

I decided just to use the pink, yellow, purple and green smarties, as this was going to fit in with the colour scheme I had planned for the exterior decoration. My little niece had great fun sorting through  to find the colours, especially when she realised I definitely didn’t want the brown ones – she helpfully ate every single one! To give an idea of quantity, I bought 12 tubes of smarties which was plenty for the 4 colours I needed. I probably had about 3 tubes left at the end so if you were using all the colours you would probably only need 9 tubes.


A word of warning – sweets like smarties, m&ms etc, do bleed their colour – I was aware of this, so tried not to get any lemon drizzle or lemon curd directly in contact with the smarties. However, the colour did leak a bit into the sponge and the smarties did go slightly soft. If you need to make this cake well in advance I would recommend using either chocolates without a sugar coating or wrapped sweets (although not too big as the cake becomes difficult to cut!) . Alternatively, if you put buttercream between the layers instead of lemon curd it would be less likely to ooze moisture into the centre.

Once the hole has been filled you can pop the top on and start icing the outside.


I made the basic buttercream recipe but increased the quantity to 250g butter/500g icing sugar, and the zest of a large lemon – this made enough to cover the entire of the outside.

To get a really good finish on a cake, you need to do the butter icing layer by layer. Don’t try to put it all on at once, otherwise you will draw up the outside of the cake and the finished product will be littered with crumbs.
First, do a crumb coat by taking about a third of the buttercream and covering the entire cake with a thin layer. This will look messy (somewhat like this) but if you put the cake in the fridge then remove it when the icing has set to do the next layer of buttercream, it creates a much smoother result.
I added two more layers on top of my crumb coat but you may find you only need one. After the last layer, let the buttercream set so it is no longer tacky, and then you can gently pat down any less smooth areas.




To make the butterflies, I coloured regalice icing to match the colours of the smarties using lakelands gel icing colours. I then cut them out using this cutter which allows you to create a lovely imprint. I left the butterflies to dry out over the edge of a chopping board so that they would become 3D.


It didn’t take too much pressure to get the butterflies to stick to the cake, but it was a very nerve-wrecking job. They are very delicate, so make sure you make more than you need as some will inevitably break.

Cutting into the cake was also nerve-wrecking as I had no idea how the smarties would have fared, but it looked brilliant and is definitely a cake I would make again.


Birthday girl cutting into her cake!



Definitely worth it!


You can never have too many smarties

I would definitely say that this cake is easier than it looks and even the most amateur of bakers could give it a go!



Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea


Showing how much we love our mummy is something all us sisters love doing, cheesy but true and what better way to celebrate than baking an afternoon tea just for her!

Last Sunday (Mother’s Day, in case you’ve forgotten already) i was down at a friends for their 21st (yes another one!) and while I did manage to get back and cook a Sunday Roast (all be it a bit hungover) i wanted to do something a bit different to show mum just how much we appreciate her. So, i invited her to her very own afternoon tea later on in the week.

Although i am on holiday, i do technically have quite a bit of work, it’s what comes with being a boring finalist…. therefore a baking break is always welcome. Although beware, preparing an afternoon tea is not for the faint hearted, it can take a long time (all day in fact).

The beauty of something like afternoon tea is that you can tailor it to contain all your favourite things (or, in this case mum’s). You also have a lot of control over what you make so it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I went for intermediate, it wasn’t french patisserie but not just a few biscuits and scones.


To begin, i devised a menu that i thought would suit mum down to the ground. She loves traditional english so i knew scones and lemon drizzle would have to feature, i also know that whisked fatless sponge is one of her personal favourites so this too was a must. I turned to mum’s old and trusted Delia Smith recipe book for both the scones and sponge while sticking to the personally tried and tested Mary Berry recipe for a lemon drizzle tray bake (it has never failed to deliver a deliciously moist sponge with lovely crunchy topping).


I then thought about what her other favourite things are, she loves peanut butter and also coffee so i had a search around for some recipes to include them. I found these peanut butter and jam bars on Rosie the Londoners blog and thought they looked divine, then, to add a bit of sophistication, i decided on coffee profiteroles (choux buns filled with a mixture of whipped cream, coffee, sugar and topped with melted chocolate).


On the whole, i kept to the recipes in the links but I made delias 7 inch fatless sponge in two 8 inch tins so that they came out a bit flatter. I then cut them into heart shapes with a biscuit cutter and sandwiched them with homemade strawberry jam to make mini victoria sponges (it’s the finishing touches that really create the atmosphere). I decided to make them in bigger tins because you need to think about the ratio of cake size to cake depth. As the hearts were going to be a lot smaller than a standard victoria sponge, i thought the individual layers would need to be smaller.


Now for the savoury items. Mum is a keen marmite fan so i made some oatcakes that she could slather it on.


I also made some home made white bread for sandwiches (the bread maker was a god send) and then a loaf of Soda Bread for something a bit different.


The soda bread was a bit of an improvisation but it turned out very well. Traditionally soda bread is a mixture of plain flours (either white or wholemeal), bicarb and buttermilk (or a mixture of milk and lemon juice). There is no yeast and you do not have to let it rise so it is the perfect loaf for a bread novice. However, it does not keep very well, so with this in mind i didn’t want to make too much as it would just go to waste. I also could not get any brown flour at the local shop so had to buy a packet of brown bread mix which already contains yeast. Being the scientist i am, i decided that as you do not leave the dough to prove and it goes straight in the oven, the yeast would not have time to work so i did not think this would be an issue.


My recipe was as follows:

1. Heat up 280ml milk until lukewarm and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Leave it to stand for 20 mins so that it separates. It will look disgusting but i assure you it works as a buttermilk substitute!

2. Weigh out 175g of both plain white flour and a brown flour of your choice (wholemeal, plain brown, seeded etcc..)

3. If you wish you can add some oats, sunflower seeds, raisins, anything you like really.

4. Add 1/2 tsp of bicarb

5. Stir the dry ingredients and then rub in 20 grams of butter or margerine

6. Add the milk bit by bit and bring the mixture together to form a dough, it should be quite sticky

7. Form the dough into a circular loaf and place on a floured baking sheet.

8. Mark a deep cross all the way across the loaf using the handle of a wooden spoon (this helps heat penetrate the deepest areas)

9. Place in an oven at 190 degrees for about 30 mins or until you hear a hollow sound when you tap the bottom


We had this afternoon tea as our dinner so i wanted to add something warm. I saw a really lovely recipe on the bbc for mini jacket potatoes which i thought looked really good. I didn’t have all the ingredients they wanted but i stuffed them with humous and roast tomatoes or tomatoes and cheese. I would really recommend this recipe if you are ever having a party and need a few easy appetisers, you could stuff them with a whole range of toppings.


If you are preparing an afternoon tea for someone, think about what their favourite things are. I know that mum loves mashed banana sandwiches (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, they really are delish!) so i did this on some soda bread and it was yummy.

Another key to preparing afternoon tea is thinking about what you can do ahead. Both scones and unfilled profiteroles keep well if you freeze them on the day of cooking and things like shortbread, oatcakes and other biscuits can be made the day before. If you are catering for a large crowd think about doing some cakes that mature with time such as gingerbread, fruitcake or yorkshire parkin as are best about 5 days after baking.


Get baking!

Lizzy x