Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Get baking!

Lizzy x

Creme Egg Chelsea Buns

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Creme Egg Chelsea Buns

Sticky syrup, chocolate chunks, soft bread and dripping in creme egg fondant. Oh yes…..love them or hate them, the Creme Egg Chelsea Bun has arrived!

Creme Egg Chelsea Bun

Creme Egg Chelsea Bun

Did any of you catch the #CremeEggBake competition that was advertised recently? Cadburys were looking for people to come up with new ways of baking with the creme egg, something to follow in the footsteps of the now renowned creme egg brownies, invented by Eric Lanlard (cue swoon). Lizzy entered the competition and won a google hangout with the very man himself (sooo envious). Eric recreated her recipe, a creme egg chocolate tart. If you missed it, you can catch up on you tube here and see our very own Lizzy in action.

Last month was a very busy month, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment with a creme egg bake in time to enter the competition. However, this did not stop my mind racing, contemplating all the possibilities. Recently, I’ve been trying out Chelsea buns, both baking and eating! Having never before properly delved into the world of enriched dough baking, I am now well and truly converted. They are remarkably easy to make, yet impressive and oh so tasty.

I was busy making a batch of the traditional cinnamon and fruit ones for a family gathering, when it struck me – a creme egg chelsea bun! The traditional ones are sticky with lashings of syrupy coating, but the bready base means they can take all the sugar without it being tooo tooth-achingly sweet. It dawned on me that creme eggs and chelsea buns could be the perfect pairing.

I searched the internet to see if such a thing already existed, but to no avail! So the experimentation began…….you saw it here first!

I have made these delectable, gooey treats several times now and they’re a roaring success. They would be a great addition to any Easter party and would definitely please guests who don’t like the traditional hot cross bun (although do such people really exist….?!), but make sure you have the napkins at the ready as they are very sticky!

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Easter Chelsea Buns

I have played around with the recipe based on feedback people have given me each time. I’ve included my final version of the recipe at the bottom of the post, but, as always, this depends on personal preference. My husband prefers them without the added chocolatey paste in the middle, but Lizzy and I think they’re much better with it.

Note: You may notice throughout the post that some of the photos are of the buns with chocolate paste and chopped chocolate in the middle and some without the chocolate paste. I hope this doesn’t confuse you! Also, you could make your own creme egg fondant for the top of the chelsea bun and just use ordinary chocolate in the middle. Sticky pinny tells you how to make creme egg fondant in her creme egg cupcake blog post. However, Sainsburys were selling packs of 12 standard creme eggs for £4, which seemed reasonable enough, so that’s what I used. I encourage you to adapt the recipe as you see fit!

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Box of 12 creme eggs

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take a peek

Make the dough

The first thing to do is to make the dough. It’s really simple, especially if you use a dough hook on your machine = no kneading! I find this works much better for me, because the dough is very sticky and messy. When kneading by hand, I end up adding a lot of additional flour, which risks making the buns dry. If you don’t have a dough hook (or if you’re more adept at kneading than I am) it works fine kneading by hand too – it’s just a bit messier.

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Dough hook doing the hard work for me!

Kneading is finished when the dough is elastic, and comes away from the sides of the bowl (if using a dough hook). Pop the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm to avoid a skin developing. Leave to prove until doubled in size. This will take at least an hour, but may take more if it’s not in a particularly warm place (up to 3 hours).

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Dough before proving

Prepare the filling

While the dough is proving, it’s important to get ready for the next step. You don’t want to roll out the dough only to realise you haven’t prepared the filling (yes this has happened to me).

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Cut the creme eggs in half and scoop out the centres

Cut the 12 creme eggs in half, scoop out the fondant and keep them separate to one another, so you have 12 in total. I tried doing this both at room temperature and when they were cold. I found it slightly easier to scoop the fondant out at room temperature, but both ways seemed easy enough. I put the fondant centres onto a plate – bit of mistake! I should have put them onto greaseproof paper to make them easier to take off later. Chop up the creme egg chocolate into pieces, about the size of raisins.

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Creme egg fondant

If you are using chocolate paste, make it at this stage, with softened butter, brown sugar and cocoa.

Roll the dough

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Dough after proving

When the dough has proved, scoop it out of the bowl and shape it into a rectangle. Then roll out into a large rectangle on a well-floured surface. Tack one length of the rectangle down onto the table (nearest you). Spread the chocolate paste all over, using your fingers.

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Sprinkle the creme egg chocolate over the top. Make sure you reserve the fondant centres for later.

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Creme egg centre of chelsea bun

Roll the rectangle up tightly, finishing at the length you tacked to the table.

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Rolling up chelsea bun

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Cut into 12 sections and discard the 2 ends. (Paul Hollywood suggests 9, but I prefer the slightly smaller size – if you want to do 9 large ones, then you will only need to use 9 creme eggs).

Prove and bake

Place in a baking tray, about 1cm apart, as they will grow again.

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Before proving

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After proving

Leave to prove for another half an hour, and then bake in the oven.

Make sugar syrup

Make sugar syrup, ready to pour over buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Pour sugar syrup over chelsea buns

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Chelsea Buns drenched in syrup

Leave to cool and then move onto a wire rack.

Finishing touches

Put the fondant centres onto each bun, just shortly before serving. The fondant goes very runny and if you leave it for even just a few hours it will almost disappear (still tasty of course, but not so fun looking!). Don’t worry about being too neat as the fondant will start gliding down the sides in no time.

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Putting creme egg fondant onto chelsea bun

I did this using a spoon. On reflection (hindsight is a wonderful thing), if I had put them onto greaseproof paper in the first place, and popped them in the freezer, I could probably have just lifted them off really easily.

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When you first put the fondant on, it won’t look like very much topping, don’t fret! The fondant oozes and glides down all the crevices fairly quickly.

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Finish off with a halved mini creme egg on top, and you’re done! Eggs-ellent 😉

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Creme Egg Chelsea Buns

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Creme Egg Chelsea Buns

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm…………..Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

Ruth 🙂

Creme Egg Chelsea Buns – Recipe

A soft, enriched bread rolled up with chocolatey paste and chocolate chunks, dripping with creme egg fondant and adorned with a halved mini creme egg.

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Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Chelsea Buns.

Ingredients:

  • 500g strong white flour,plus extra for dusting

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast

  • 300ml milk

  • 40g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the tin

  • 1 egg

  • 40g caster sugar
  • vegetable oil, for greasing

For the filling
  • 25g unsalted butter, softened

  • 75g soft brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 12 standard creme eggs, chocolate only

For the sugar syrup
  • 50g caster sugar

To finish
  • 12 creme eggs, fondant only

  • 6 mini creme eggs, halved

Method

  1. Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast.
  2. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. Pour into the flour mixture, add the egg and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough.
  3. Use your dough hook or tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for five minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with clingfilm, for one hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Scoop out the centres of the 12 creme eggs and put on a plate covered in greaseproof paper. Make sure you keep the centres separate from each other. Pop in the freezer until later.
  6. Chop the remaining creme egg chocolate (from the 12 creme eggs), into pieces about the size of raisins.
  7. Make the chocolate paste by combining brown sugar and cocoa with very softened butter, using a fork to beat it together into a paste.
  8. Line a deep roasting tin or baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  9. When the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a rectangle about 30x20cm/12x8in.
  10. Smooth the chocolate paste all over with your fingers and sprinkle with chopped chocolate from the 12 creme eggs.
  11. Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. With a sharp knife cut into 12 slices, discarding the 2 ends.
  12. Place the buns, cut side up, into the greased baking tray leaving about 1cm of space between each one. You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake, they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge.
  13. Leave to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.
  14. Preheat oven to 190C (170 fan)/375F/Gas 5.
  15. When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden-brown. Check after 15 minutes or so and cover the buns with foil if they are getting too brown.
  16. Make sugar syrup, bu adding 2 tbsp of water to the sugar in a pan and simmering on a low heat until the sugar is melted and it starts to go syrupy.
  17. Remove the buns from the oven and pour sugar syrup over the top.
  18. Let them cool slightly before transferring them from the tin to a cooling rack.
  19. Once totally cooled, and just shortly before serving, get the creme egg fondant centres out of the freezer and transfer one onto the top of each bun. Garnish with a halved mini creme egg.

Raspberry Twirl Cake

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Raspberry Twirl Cake

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Hello!

I’ve got so much blogging to catch up on, with Anna’s 18th and my son’s 1st birthday falling in the same month, busy busy! As you know, I made this crazy skittles flavoured cake for Anna’s 18th party. However, the party wasn’t on her actual birthday and our family celebration called for another cake, of course! Anna loves raspberries and Cadbury Twirls, so I wanted to somehow combine these two elements. Raspberries and chocolate are a winning combination, so I knew it would be hard to go wrong!

I decided to make a vanilla sponge, sliced into thin layers and sandwiched with raspberry jam. The idea was not to let anything interfere with the raspberry flavour too much, however, this did make a very sweet cake – so lemon sponge layers would also be very nice, depending on personal preference.

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Raspberry Twirl Cake layers

I then covered the whole cake in delicious raspberry buttercream. I had some Squire’s Kitchen raspberry flavoured fondant icing mix in the cupboard, which I won in a hamper (woooo). It is used in just the same way as icing sugar and makes fabulous raspberry glacé icing or buttercream. It can be difficult to flavour buttercream as it can’t take much liquid before it curdles, so it’s amazing to be able to buy concentrated, flavoured icing sugars for special occasions.

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Raspberry buttercream

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Cadbury Twirls around the cake

I wanted the cake to be tall enough so that the Twirls were only slightly higher than the top of the cake. The raspberries nestled just inside the Twirls, to make the whole thing look nicely finished. From an aesthetic point of view, it looks much better like this than if the Twirls are much taller than the cake, so bear this in mind when thinking about how much cake to bake.

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I warmed and strained about half a jar of raspberry jam and brushed it all over the raspberries for a lovely glaze. It really brings the raspberries to life and gives the cake a nice polished look.,

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Turns out it’s quite difficult to position 18 candles around a cake symmetrically!

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Happy 18th Anna!

Ruth ❤

 

Raspberry Twirl Cake

Thin layers of vanilla sponge, sandwiched with raspberry jam and covered in raspberry buttercream. Surrounded by Cadbury Twirls and topped with raspberries, glazed with raspberry jam.

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Cake Ingredients:

Note: This recipe makes 3 8 inch cakes, cut in half to make 6 thin layers. I only used 5 of the layers to get just the right height for the Twirls and raspberries to sit neatly. I’m sure the 6th layer won’t go to waste if you don’t need it!!

350g soft margarine or very soft butter

350g caster sugar

6 large eggs

350g self-raising flour

3 level tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

1 and 1/2 jars of good quality raspberry jam

19 double Cadbury Twirl bars (38 singles)

 

Butter Icing Ingredients:

200g sifted raspberry fondant icing mix

100g butter

 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees / 160 degrees fan (or the temperature you use to bake cakes in your oven, each oven is different).

2. Prepare three 8 inch / 20 cm cake tins with a disc of greaseproof paper in the bottom

3. Cream together the margarine and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Add the lightly beaten eggs and sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Add the vanilla extract.

5. Now beat everything together briefly until everything is just nicely incorporated.

6. Divide the cake batter between the three tins. Use the back of a spoon to make sure the batter is as level as possible.

7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until slightly golden and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle.

8. Leave in the cake tin to cool for a couple of minutes, then remove and leave to cool on a baking rack.

9. Once the cakes have completely cooled, cut them evenly in half using a large bread knife.

10. Put the bottom cake on the cake stand and dollop a thin of jam onto it – stack and repeat. You will have a spare 6th layer….at this point, measure your Twirls against the cake and decide if you need it – remember you will be putting raspberries on top as well, so the Twirls need to be slightly taller than the cake. Don’t put jam onto the very top layer.

11. Make the butter icing, by following the instructions on the pack and cover the whole cake in icing.

12. Stick Twirls around the side of the cake.

13. Add raspberries in circles on the top, and brush on half a jar of warmed and strained jam to glaze.

 

Skittles Flavour Checkerboard Cake

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This epic skittles flavoured cake includes:

-Skittles buttercream

-Skittles jam

-Skittles drizzle sponge cakes (each sponge flavoured by the matching colour skittle….oh yes)

A couple of weeks ago, it was our youngest sister Anna’s 18th birthday (HOW is she 18?!).

Look at my two sisters, all ready for Anna’s first ‘legal’ night out – making me feel ancient!!

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Cupcake Sisters Lizzy and Anna

It goes without saying, that this called for a special cake. Expectations were high, so Lizzy and I started the planning weeks/months in advance. Anna loves bright colours; definitely no pink, fluffy stuff or bling. The rainbow cake seemed an obvious choice, but we were concerned it wouldn’t be ‘surprising’ enough, especially as I’d already made this one for Lizzy’s birthday, and this one for my daughter’s 1st birthday. We decided the perfect alternative would be a rainbow checkerboard cake and Lizzy came up with the amazing idea of flavouring the cake with skittles to ramp it up a gear. Anna is an absolute sweet-fiend,  she could easily eat a large bag of skittles in one sitting, so it seemed the perfect choice.

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Lizzy and I discussed several ways of trying to incorporate the skittles flavour, but in the end, I sort of invented the cake as I went along. I couldn’t find any other skittles cakes on the internet that flavoured all three aspects of the cake with skittles: sponge, jam and buttercream – I should have realised then just how crazy an idea it was! But you know me, always in search of a baking challenge…

I also wanted each colour of cake to taste of that particular flavour of skittle (yes, you read that right). With that in mind, I am going to show you the process in photos, but with fairly vague ingredients/construction guide, as I worked a lot by eye. I can’t imagine that many of you will actually want to attempt this cake, (unless, like me, you are a bit baking bonkers!!) so I’m sure this will suffice!

*Disclaimer* This cake is an absolute beast to make. Should you attempt it, I guarantee you will feel totally ‘skittled’ by the time it’s finished. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying it at home, unless you’re prepared to be in it for the long haul. If you do want to and have any questions, feel free to post them as comments at the end of the blog.

5 coloured cake layers

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See instructions on my pastel rainbow cake post for how to colour your cakes. You will need just 5 cakes this time, as there are only 5 skittles colours. I used slightly more batter for this cake than the pastel rainbow cake above because I wanted to ensure that the squares would look properly square, as opposed to rectangular. I quadrupled this basic 2 egg sponge recipe, using 8 eggs overall for the 5 cakes. I didn’t attempt to add skittles into the actual cake itself, as I didn’t have any way to grind the skittles finely enough and I didn’t want to ruin the texture of the sponge.

Skittles Buttercream

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melted skittles

1. Melt insane quantities of skittles with water, to cover the skittles about half way (I think I used about 1 large bag, but I melted it in stages so I’m not absolutely sure how it would work if you tried to melt them all at once). Give it short blasts in the microwave and watch it like a hawk. Beware, the skittles syrup is extremely hot!

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skittles buttercream

2. Cool melted skittles a bit, then add to your already-made buttercream (I made double the quantity of the basic buttercream, but only added 1 tsp of milk, as I was adding so much syrup). Add syrup SLOWLY, about a teaspoon at a time. I did this through a sieve, in case there were any bits of skittles shell that hadn’t melted, but actually, this didn’t seem necessary. I had no idea how much of the melted skittles syrup I would be able to add, before the buttercream split, so I just kept going….and going…..and going. In the end, I added extreme quantities of melted skittles, so that the buttercream took on a strong skittles flavour. It didn’t curdle at any stage – perhaps because it’s literally just sugar that you’re adding, or perhaps because I added it sooooo slowly. It really did taste amazingly skittle-y by the time I’d finished with it!

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skittles buttercream

Skittles Jam

Melt even more skittles and add to a jar of strawberry jam. Melt the jam and skittles together a bit, but be careful not to let the jam burn. Leave in fridge to set. This was a real star of the show – a superb skittles flavour!

Skittles drizzle for the cakes

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1. Separate remaining skittles and add a small amount of water. I left it overnight to dissolve, then turned it into a thicker syrup by blasting it in the microwave for a minute or so.

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Skittles syrup

2. Drizzle skittles syrup liberally over the matching colour cake.

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Skittles drizzle cakes

Checkerboard cake construction

1. Cut rings out of cakes. I made 8 inch cakes, so I used 3 inch and 5 and 1/2 inch cutters to get the right size rings. For more instructions, look at Lizzy’s previous checkerboard post here.

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Rainbow checkerboard cake construction

2. Use skittles jam to stick the inside of the rings together.

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guide (picture behind the cake) of what each slice should look like – this helps when constructing the cake

3. Put skittles jam between each layer as you build the cake up. Make sure there is jam everywhere except the outside, or the squares will fall apart once sliced.

Note: Stack the rings and layers according to the picture above (behind the cake), to make sure no colours are next to each other when you cut the cake open.

crumb coat of skittles buttercream

crumb coat of skittles buttercream

4. Crumb coat the whole cake in skittles buttercream. (Note the empty glass of wine behind the cake…..)

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5. Decorate. I put rolled fondant over the top as it was a special occasion, however I did feel that the icing took away from the skittles flavour a bit, so if I were to make this cake again I would just cover the whole thing in skittles.

Party time

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Rainbow checkerboard cake – the big reveal!!

As you can see by the faces – it was definitely a surprise!!!

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Skittles rainbow checkerboard cake

Time for a little lie down now!

Ruth xx

VALENTINES DAY PANIC

So Valentines day is round the corner which means one thing for us. A CAKE OPPORTUNITY. However, for others we know it can just be a last minute stress to plan the perfect day  so that your other half will hopefully continue to talk to you for another year.

What do they say? The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Well for the record, cakes definitely win women over as well.

For all those of you out there panicking about how you are going to impress this friday, we have come up with a variety of recipes to suit all baking capabilities.

For the really adventurous, the heart surprise cake is a must try, it’s really tasty and impressive. You can find the original recipe on the BBC Good Food website but i think ours is slightly less faff.

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If you want something a bit different, try valentines day cake pops. The Hello Kitty blog gives a quick overview as to how to make a basic cake pop if you aren’t sure what they are.

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Instead of making them spherical, you can also make them cuboid – just mould the mixture into any shape you desire (you could even attempt hearts…).

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If you want something classy, dip them into a mixture of dark, white and milk chocolate, sometimes less is more. But if you really want to get your point across then invest in some love hearts (CHEESE), dip them into white chocolate or pink candy melts and decorate.

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If you have slightly less baking prowess or only have limited time then biscuits are a good option.

This basic biscuit recipe is really easy and can be adapted to make them more impressive. A few ideas are:

  • cut into heart shapes and add red food colouring
  • add food colouring to the dough but don’t mix it in completely to acheive a marbled effect
  • add the zest of an orange or lemon to give them a bit more flavour
  • cut out a shape from the middle and fill with a crushed boiled sweet before baking to give a pretty stain glass window effect
  • dip in melted chocolate for a bit of sophistication

The possibilities are endless… Remember that biscuits harden up as they cool so don’t panic if, when you take them out, they don’t feel completely cooked.

If the idea of making something from scratch really scares you, we did (just this once) try out a packet mix. SHOCK HORROR.

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Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Cupcakes promised “a featherlight sponge, irresistibly smooth icing and the cutest sprinkles”. We were dubious. However, it was very easy to do and the results were definitely edible. Actually, that’s harsh, they tasted better than we expected but were a bit dry.

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If you are someone who doesn’t really bake then this is a great alternative, they are very vanillary and sweet but definitely look the part and show that you have gone to some effort.

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If you do use it then we do have some tips:

  • you may need your own cupcake cases, the ones in our packet were very crumpled and didn’t look great

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  • if you have any red or pink food colouring, add a bit to the icing as otherwise they look slightly anemic
  • do not necessarily expect them to go brown in the oven
  • invest in something more interesting to decorate them with (although if you choose love hearts, vet them before you put them on, they are definitely not all suitable and you could end up accidentally proposing… which would be awkward for all involved)

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We also have a few ideas for people wanting to impress someone with allergies/intolerances.

After much experimenting, we have concluded that gluten free cakes really aren’t that great. The best thing to do is either find a recipe with minimal flour such as a chocolate torte and use a gluten free flour alternative or try substituting all the flour in a chocolate cake for ground almonds. We haven’t tried this with every single chocolate cake recipe out there, but we know it works well with this one which is for two eight inch tins:

Dry ingredients:
175g self raising flour (or in this case ground almonds)
1 level tsp gluten free baking powder
2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
150g mix of caster and brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:
2 large eggs
150ml milk
150ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp of coffee

  1. Heat oven to 160 fan.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients, including sugar into a bowl and mix.
  3. Put all the wet ingredients and vanilla and coffee (if you have them handy) into a jug and mix briefly.
  4. Tip the wet ingredients into a well in the dry mixture.
  5. Using a whisk, beat all ingredients together until combined, but don’t over beat.
  6. Pour into the two tins and bake for 20-30 mins or until it springs back when pressed lightly in the middle. Check at 20 minutes because it over bakes quickly.
  7. Turn out chocolate cakes onto wire rack to cool

You can use this recipe to make cupcakes and traybakes as well.

This recipe is also good if you need an egg free one. As it only requires two eggs for a whole cake (four is more normal) then you can hardly tell if you use an egg substitute   .

Happy Valentines Day!! ❤

Ruth, Lizzy and Anna xxx

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

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I made these adorable Hello Kitty cake pops for a little girl’s 8th birthday party recently. I was so pleased with how they turned out, very cute indeed ❤ ❤

What is a cake pop?

It’s essentially just crumbled up cake, mixed together with icing. They are shaped by hand and then fixed to a stick with melted chocolate. How you personalise it after that is up to you! There are already a lot of cake pop video tutorials on line. If you fancy trying your hand at making some, check out Bakerella’s blog for advice and inspiration – she basically invented cake pops.

hello kitty cake pops

Be warned…they are not the easiest thing to master. In fact, there are so many pitfalls along the way that I used to make double the amount to allow for casualties! One of these days, I’ll write a blog about all the little tricks I have picked up along the way.

For now, here is an abbreviated version on how to get the Hello Kitty look.

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

Once the crumbled cake and butter icing is mixed together, shape the cakes into balls and flatten them to make the faces. Then, dip the stick into melted white chocolate and push it into the pop. Leave them in the fridge to firm up a bit.

For the ears, stick white chocolate chips onto the cake pop with melted white chocolate, and leave to set in the fridge again. Make sure you have your cake pop stand ready at this point, so you can leave them upright.

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Hello Kitty without her make-up

Then, dip the whole pop into melted white chocolate, and leave to dry (not in the fridge this time) before adding the accessories.

As always, these cake pops needed particular sprinkles for the facial features. Fortunately, my sprinkles cupboard is so well stocked, this didn’t require a special trip to the shop……… (not sure what this says about me?!).

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Sprinkles for Hello Kitty

Here comes the fun bit……two pink hearts and pink confetti make up the bow. Black pearls for the eyes and yellow confetti for the nose. All stuck on with a dab of white chocolate. The whiskers are drawn on with a black icing pen.

Look at those cute ears! Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty cake pops

Hello Kitty cake pops

Ruth 🙂

Heart Surprise Cake

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 This weekend i ventured down south to Bristol for a friends 21st. Now that i have a bit of a reputation regarding cakes, i didn’t feel i could turn up without one but was swiftly running out of ideas. After the checkerboard cake i made last time i wasn’t sure how i was going to top it.

Luckily i was saved: days prior to leaving, the next issue of the BBC Good Food Magazine arrived and in it was a recipe for a loaf cake which, when you cut into it, has a heart running through it.

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The way it is achieved is by cooking a pink cake, cutting out pink hearts and then lining them up in a second loaf cake to be baked again inside a different coloured cake batter. The actual recipe said that i should make a pink loaf cake, cut it into slices and cut out a heart shape from each slice using a biscuit cutter. I decided this sounded like a large percentage of the cake wouldn’t be used so decided to change the method slightly.

I cooked a two egg cake (in fact i used the exact quantities from the basic cupcake recipe) and added about half a teaspoon of red gel food colouring. I then baked this for about 13 minutes at 180 degrees in a 9″ x 12″ rectangular baking tin. I have to admit, i did commit the ultimate baking sin and kept opening the oven door to see if the cake was cooked as i had no idea how much shorter it would take than a batch of cupcakes. Despite the cake being thinner than cupcakes, it took a lot longer to cook than i expected.

If you are using a liquid food colouring, you will need to use a lot more in order to get the same intensity of colour. I would recommend adding a bit more flour so that the mixture is not too runny.

Cutting hearts out of the tray bake

I let this cake cool, put it on a chopping board and cut out hearts using a biscuit cutter. My cutter was bigger than the one called for in the recipe but this didn’t seem to matter.

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I then mixed together the second lot of cake batter. In the good food recipe, this was a cake with ground almonds – i didn’t tamper with this because i thought they could be crucial to the structure.

Ingredients:

  • 175g unsalted butter (I used margarine)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 140g self raising foour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 100ml milk

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan
  2. Grease and line 900g loaf tin
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time (if you are not using an electric mixer whisk the eggs lightly before you add them)
  5. Sift together the flour and baking powder and stir them into the mixture along with the almonds
  6. Mix in the milk and vanilla essence to form a smooth batter

I then added a very thin layer of the batter to the bottom of a greased and lined loaf tin so that i could stand the cooked hearts in it.

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I placed the hearts on top of this layer. I would recommend lining a couple of hearts up at a time and then placing them into the tin together – trying to place them in one at a time makes it very difficult to get them exactly lined up.

Placing in the hearts

I put in as many hearts as i could to make sure they would all support each other and stay stood up.

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I then spooned on the second cake batter over the top and round the sides and popped it in the oven at 160 degrees for 1hr 10 mins.

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When i took out the cake, it had domed meaning that there was a split in the cake where two hearts had come apart from each other. However, icing can hide a multitude of problems and the hiccup was covered up well.

When checking the cake is cooked, you need to remember that the very deepest point in the middle of the cake is actually the hearts (which are already cooked). So sticking in a knife or skewer at this point will inevitably come out clean – you need to choose a testing point somewhere around the hearts.

The icing in the magazine was a ganache (cream mixed with melted chocolate) but i didn’t have any cream so decided to make a chocolate fudge icing a la Mary Berry.

To do this:

  • Melt 2oz butter in a pan
  • Sieve in 1oz coca powder and cook on a low heat for 1 min
  • add about 3 tblsp milk
  • sieve in 8oz icing sugar and mix until smooth

While this icing is hot it remains quite runny so you can pour it over the cake. However, it cools and sets rapidly so you need to be quick. If you don’t manage to ice it fast enough, get a metal knife and a cup of hot water. Dip the knife in the water to warm it up and use it to smooth the icing.

I made this cake twice – i did a trial run for my brother’s birthday. The first time i sprinkled the cake with cocoa powder which was easy and covered up any cracks in the icing, the second time i sprinkled some flaked almonds on the top. If you want to do this, make sure you do it quickly as they will not stick to the icing once it has dried.

When you cut into it there was a lovely heart both times – it wasn’t necessarily perfect all the way through but the wow factor was there. Now i’ve just got to think about what i’m going to do for the rest of my friends birthdays – eeeek!

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This cake is definitely easier than it looks to achieve so i would recommend it if you are trying to impress someone – definitely a good valentines day recipe! I think you could change the hidden picture if you want, so long as it is not too complex. I think that if you chose a shape with lots of edges or holes (such as a star) it might be difficult to get them all to stay in the same orientation.

Keep an eye out for Ruth’s next blog – i have seen the pictures and feel rather inferior…. 😉

Lizzy

Similar recipes can be found here:

Hidden Heart Cake

Hidden Heart Cupcakes