Sunday, 24 August 2014

CCC, RFL and RTA

mississippi mud cake

What a week! So many highs and a one real low this week in the Back Of Beyond. The week started fabulously with a delicious collection of cakes at a long overdue Clandestine Cake Club meet which I have been looking forward to for some time. The cake buisness has been pretty full on over the last month (hence the lack of blog posts *hanging head, looking sheepish) and I knew by the time I got to bake my cake for CCC I would be facing a week with no cake orders. Over the past year I have often been stressy if I had a week or two without order but being so busy I have actually been looking forward to a week off.

The theme for the CCC meet was the World Cup and World Cup nations. I decided my offering would be a Mississippi mud cake from the Hummingbird bakery Home sweet home book. I hadn't made this cake before but it looked fairly foolproof and everyone loves a chocolate cake. I did reduce the recipe by a third as the book recipe made a 3 layer 8inch sponge and the CCC rules say to bring a cake to serve 10-12 servings and the club in the back of beyond is not very big. My cake was still pretty sizeable and made more than 12 servings. Our meet up had 7 cakes with a couple of fondant decorated vanilla sponge cakes with a football theme, an Iranian pomegranate cake which was so moist, with cardamon and cinnamon flavours running through it, a Himmeltorte which really was a labour of love (you can find a recipe for it here), a mojito genoise sponge with rum and lemon flavours and a lemon and lime cake made with clotted cream. All of which were delicious and there was enough to bring a bit of each home for Master Vander-Cave to sample them too. I do love my CCC meets and with a new organiser I am hopeful for meeting slightly more often.

The other high point of my week was heading back to the big city to take part in Race for Life 10km. As long time readers will know I haven't been well over the past 2 years and I see taking part in this race is part of my recovery. Although I could have completed the race here in the back of beyond, I wanted to attend the race in the town where my close friend who lost her fight to cancer lived and where some of my nanny gang still live. After intially worrying I would be billy no mates (Mr V-C and Master V-C were at home because Master V-C was heading off on his school trip to France at the same time as the race) I ended up being well supported.  Two of the gang were there to see me off and be my water bottle holder and my niece Em and her son arrived to give me a hug at the the end. It was a very emotional race for me on so many levels and although I didn't meet my target time of under an hour I was thrilled to complete the race in 1hr 5minutes, a real sense of achievement completing this challenge whilst raising some much needed money for Cancer Research UK.

Unfortunately triumph gave way to terror on my way home to the back of beyond, I was involved in a car accident in Mr V-C's week old company car and because I was in shock and complained of neck pain I was put on a spinal board and taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital. Thankfully a few hours and some X-rays later I was given the all clear for a spinal breakage and diagnosed with whiplash and bruising and told to rest up for a few days. The car on the other hand is pretty banged up but at least they didn't cut the roof off which was discussed as a way of getting me out of the vehicle. I did get quite vocal when this was mooted, as I wasn't sure I wanted to face Mr V-C and tell him his long awaited car was now an open top!!!

This accident has given me a timely reminder that life really shouldn't be squandered. Every day should be celebrated (perhaps with a sliver of cake?) and we need to be kind to each other because you never know when our nearest and dearest may be taken from us.

 Now who's going to make me some cake while I put my feet up as the Dr ordered!

Mississippi mud cake from the Hummingbird bakery Home Sweet Home book

If you want a smaller cake reduce all ingredients by a third and use 2 x 7inch cake tins.

Ingredients
For the sponge:
250g unsalted butter, softened
600g caster sugar
3 large eggs
470g plain flour
140g cocoa powder
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
½tsp salt
375ml buttermilk
1tsp vanilla extract
375ml boiling water
 For the frosting:
800g icing sugar, sifted
120g cocoa powder, sifted
150g unsalted butter, cubed
600g full-fat cream cheese

 For the decoration: 40g dark chocolate, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line three 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins with baking parchment.
In a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Mix the buttermilk and vanilla extract in a jug.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture.
Mix well on a medium speed. Slowly add the boiling water, mixing until combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared cake tins.
Bake for 35-45min. Remove from the tins and let cool before frosting.

Whisk the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter together on a low speed until there are no large lumps.
Add a little cream cheese to loosen the mixture and beat until smooth, then add the remainder and mix on a slow speed.
Turn the speed to high and beat the frosting until light and fluffy.

Once the sponge layers feel cool, assemble the cake. Place the first layer on a plate and top with 3-4tbsp of frosting. Smooth out the frosting using a palette knife. Sandwich the second layer on top, then add more frosting, followed by the third cake layer. Next, frost the sides and top.
Finally decorate the top of the cake with chocolate shavings and cocoa powder.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Wedding cake





navy vines and ivory rose wedding cake
Em and her new husband Matthew


 
18months ago I was asked to make my first wedding cake. This wedding cake is the reason that Back Of Beyond Baking, 'the business', started and is probably one of the most important (emotionally) cakes I will ever make because it was the wedding cake of my beautiful niece Em.
 
Em is my God daughter as well as my niece and she and I have always been close. We look similar, are both babies of our respective families and have lots of shared passions. There is even a family joke that Em is actually my daughter who my sister adopted as I was only 17 when she was born (my sister keeps asking when I am having her back!)
 
Anyway, rewind 18months and a very exciting phone call from Em to say that her then boyfriend had proposed while they were visiting Harry Potter studio tour (one of our shared passions) and celebrating Em's 22nd birthday. During this conversation Em asked if I would make her wedding cake. My initial response was "you know I don't really do cake decorating, what sort of thing do you have in mind?" Em's response calmed my palpatations and sweaty palms, "I just want a plain 3 tier cake with navy blue ribbon around each tier".
"Okay" I replied "I'm pretty sure I can manage that".

 As soon as I got off the phone I hit Google and started watching as many videos and reading as many hints and tips as I could get my hands on. One month on I got another wedding cake commision, this time from my nephew, Em's brother.  You can read about that cake here  and suddenly I was spending all my time perfecting my fondant decorating skills.

As the wedding grew nearer and my skills and confidence grew Em revised her original design and asked for navy blue vines climbing the side of three circular tiers with roses on each tier. As is tradition these days each tier would be a different flavour; chocolate, vanilla and the smallest tier, fruit. I baked the fruit tier in January and fed it weekly until a week before the wedding when I marzipaned the cake ready for decorating. I kept my diary clear of cake orders the week leading up to the wedding which is what I have done with previous wedding cakes which I feel I need to be able to produce a cake fit to be star attraction at the wedding reception. I was glad of this forward planning after a mix up and a miscommunication lead to me having to make the roses twice and left me going from feeling ahead of myself and rather smug to feeling like I was running to catch up!

With a loose design brief I was banking on my knowledge of my niece to create the image she had in her head of her dream cake. I am thankful to say that when we finally arrived and set up the cake and allowed Em to see it there were tears of joy and a declaration that the cake was as she imagined in her head!
 
The wedding day itself was perfect with sunny weather, the bride and her bridesmaids looking radiant, the groom, best man and ushers (including Master Vander-Cave) looking handsome, the only brief hiccup when the brides father couldn't find his suit trousers which made the bride late. But from there on it was plain sailing with the perfect blend of tears and laughter and so much love flowing around the whole party. My brother in laws "father of the bride" speech was particularly poignant and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

The cake didn't get served until the evening reception to go along with a magnificent hog roast. There were lots of complimentary comments about the cake and in particular the chocolate cake which has become my go to chocolate cake recipe and is one shared by Lindy Smith on her website. You can find Lindy Smith's website here
 
Chocolate fudge cake
This makes a 20cm (8in) round cake 7.5cm (3in) deep – ideal for celebration cakes
 225g (8oz) unsalted butter
 225g (8oz) good quality chocolate
 1 (15ml) tablespoon instant coffee granules
 450g (1lb) caster sugar or soft brown sugar
 150ml (5 fl oz) water

4 large eggs
35ml (1.1fl oz) vegetable oil
100ml (3.4 fl oz) sour cream or you can use natural yoghurt or Crème fraiche

125g (4 .5 oz) self raising flour
 125g (4 .5 oz) plain flour
 50g (2oz) cocoa powder
 1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) bicarbonate of soda

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (315 degrees F, gas mark 2-3)
Line the 20cm (8in) deep cake tin with baking parchment
Slowly melt the butter, chocolate, coffee, sugar and water in a pan, once melted allow to cool.
Add the eggs, oil and sour cream to the chocolate mix and stir well
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
Pour the chocolate mixture into well and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the lined tin and bake for 1 hour 45mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Remember all ovens are different, so do check your cake towards the end of its cooking time
 
 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

What is a cake worth to you?

 

Just recently I have had several conversations about the cost of  my cakes. Now this isn't a rant about the price of cakes or how much work I put into my cakes but more my observations on my experience as a cake decorator.

The first conversation occurred a few weeks ago with one of my favourite people in the world, my dear friend Gem,  we were discussing some up coming cake commisions and quotes I had been asked for. The conversation went something along these lines (I am paraphrasing a bit here!):
 Me: "I have just had a meeting about an exciting cake order, three tiers, lots of modelling, it's going to be amazing."
Gem: "Wow sounds amazing, lots of work for you though, how much will you charge for that?"
Me "It is a lot of work but it will be a good cake to do, I won't take on anything else that week so that I can give it my full attention. I haven't worked out the full price but I think around £200.
Gem: "£200 for a cake wow, that's a lot of money for a cake"
That sentence right there made me kind of stop and think "whoa, what do you mean £200 for a cake?" This £200 cake will be 24hrs of my time without the material costs taken off! Once the indignation died down and I thought some more I started to think "If Gem, who knows how much time I spend on my creations can think this, what hope do bespoke cake makers have in persuading their customers that £200 is a fair price for a large occasion cake." (I should add here that after chatting to Gem she now understands £200 for a large occasion cake!)


On the internet you will find lots of blog posts and articles by cake decorators about how much it costs to make a bespoke cake, and complaints about customers not valuing a bespoke cake. Lots and lots of cartoons and pictures about "cheap cake not being good cake and good cake not being cheap". I am not doing that and I won't break my costs down for you on my blog because it's boring and every cake maker will charge for different things according to their own costings. I feel am good value for money and my customers are always happy with the cost of their cake.  If I quote and they are not happy, I will always discuss different size or decoration options to reduce the cost to make it more suitable to their budget. I spend many hours creating the vision of the customer and although I will never get rich from this business I do love doing this job and I hope one day it will give me a sustainable business which will pay me a living wage. Which brings me to the second conversation about cake pricing and value. I haven't had many people ask for a quote and then not place an order so I suppose I have been very lucky in my first year of business.

Last weekend I recieved a picture of a 2 tier cake along with a message saying how much would you charge to make this cake? The cake in question had a detailed model on top along with lots of other decoration. I quoted £95 for this and the reply to this was "thanks but someone else will do it for £25".  I politely replied that that was a bargain and I couldn't even get all the ingredients for that price! Now I mentioned this on a online forum for cake bakers and lots of comments came flooding in ranging from "that's ridiculous" and "you are better off with out commisions like that" to "I wouldn't buy or eat a cake that cost that little".

This last statement got me thinking again, mainly about quality goods. The old adage "if it seems to good to be true it usually is"  rings more than true here.  With cake this may mean a cake decorator without food hygiene training, an uninsured cake decorator or battery hen's eggs, synthetic flavouring and cheap margarine (instead of pure unsalted butter) or even packet mix cake (shuddering as I type)! And perhaps those things don't bother some people, but I will only make cake that I will eat so for me that means locally produced free range eggs, unsalted butter, organic milk, Madagascan vanilla extract, quality 70% cocoa chocolate etcetera etcetera.

I know it sounds a bit foodie and maybe a bit snobbish but taste a cake made with synthetic vanilla flavour and then try the Madagscan vanilla extract and you will never want to taste synthetic vanilla again. Yes Madagscan vanilla costs 5 times that of the synthetic stuff, but to me it's worth every penny. Maybe that's what makes me different to those other cake makers who can make a 2 tier masterpiece for £25.  I truely love cake and will only eat the best and therefore only produce the best for you to eat too.  So far my ideals are being rewarded with repeat business and a growing reputation as a good place to get a quality cake!


Now, on the subject of  Madagascan vanilla, last week I found a new vanilla cupcake recipe from a fab website Bakehappy, which from now on will become my vanilla cupcake of choice. A lovely moist 'vanillery' cupcake, with a slight tang from the addition of natural yogurt and really quick and easy to make. I will share this lovely recipe with you all as I have been pretty poor at recipes for you all recently!

Perfectly Moist Vanilla Cupcakes

16 cupcakes

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla pod (optional)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup  naturalyogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract  (I use the Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste with has the seeds in so stops you having to faff with deseeding the vanilla pod!)

Vanilla buttercream frosting:
2 cups icing sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
seeds from 1 vanilla pod (optional) see note above

 1. Pre-heat oven to 175c.
 2. Sift together all the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt.
 3. Cream together butter, sugar and seeds from the vanilla pod until light and fluffy. Then add in the eggs one at a time.
 4. Mix together the yogurt, milk and vanilla extract, the wet ingredients.
 5. Add in one third of the dry ingredients and then add in one half of the wet ingredients.
 6. Repeat step 5 untill all our combined. Just barely mix, until you cannot see streaks of flour in the batter.
 7. Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners, the batter will make 16 cupcakes. Fill muffin sized cupcake liners with 1/4 cup batter.
 8. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golder brown. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature.
 9. To make the frosting, mix together butter. vanilla seeds from the pod and vanilla extract. Sift the powdered sugar and add to the butter mixture slowly. Mix until smooth. Pipe frosting into the cupcakes

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013 a whirlwind of cakes

As the year comes to a close I, like many, am feeling reflective and just a little bit guilty for not keeping up with my blog as much as I would have liked. 2013 has been a watershed year for me. I have managed to get a handle on the ME that struck me down in 2012 and I am learning to live a new life, very different from my pre-ME life, but very rewarding and challenging non the less. I have taken the plunge and started my cake making and decorating business and I hit and survived the big 4 0. (Someone pointed out to me recently that i need to update my bio on the blog as I'm not a 30 something anymore but I'm still a bit in denial. Caroline, I admit it!)
This is my year in a whistle stop tour:

January
When I returned to work in January I didn't think I would manage anything apart from work and rest but very slowly (too slowly at times) I started to find the energy to make cakes and of course continue my new passion for cake decoration. With the wedding that started my passion for decorating coming ever closer my sugarpaste rose practicing became slightly frantic until I mastered the art with the help of some great tutorials. You can find my favourite one here sugar paste rose tutorial part 1. The sense of achievement I felt when I had made that final rose for the cutting cake was utterly amazing and concreted my desire to do more of this and hopefully build a business.

February
With the wedding cake finished and the confetti brushed away my mind turned to Back Of Beyond Baking cakes and cupcakes. Thanks to some great friends and family ordering cakes and spreading the word it didn't take long for the orders to start rolling in. My first paid cakes went out in February, the first of which was my 'beauty' girly cake for a 20th birthday. My nerves were in overdrive when I delivered that cake but the feed back was so wonderful I was hooked and with the photos of that cake I had my first 'non friend' order!

March





March Brought snow and ice to the Back of Beyond and my first cake-tastrophe. (I still don't know what went wrong with that cake). As the snow was falling and Master Vander-Cave's dreams of a  birthday weekend at Alton Towers was postponed, I was up at midnight finishing a second cake for a pony ride party after the first cake collapsed in the middle and I had to bake another cake. The pony ride didn't materialise either. They ended up having a sledging party!  We had a great weekend sledging and Master V-C did get his trip to Alton T,owers all be it  2 weeks late.

April



My first Clandestine Cake Club meet up occured in April. The theme of the meet was continental cakes and after much scouring of the internet I decided upon a bienestich cake (a bee sting cake) which is a honey and almond cake with a creme patisserie filling. Unfortunately my creme pat didn't set properly! I should know better and should have done a trial run, and by the time I got to the venue my cake had lost a fair bit of its filling and needed to be eaten with a spoon. All the other club members were very generous and made kind comments about my slightly unattractive offering. Some shared stories of their previous offerings that had had similar issues and most agreed for transportation one should consider a drier cake! The CCC is a fab idea and I urge anyone with a passion for cake to join up and find their local group. I had a great time trying lots of different cake and chatting to fellow baking enthusiasts.

May





In may I finally hit the big 4-0 and I must say it was a lot less scary than I thought it would be. Possibly because I filled my birthday with a luxury stay at the Hotel Terravina, a fabulous boutique hotel in the New Forest (you can see pictures of it  here ). Dinner in their 'Michelin star worthy' restaurant, a lunch out with friends and a trip to Harry Potter studio tour. I had also hoped to get my ride in a hot air balloon but like Master V-C the weather thwarted us and it was 3 weeks later that I finally got my wish and had a beautiful early morning balloon flight over rural Herefordshire. I made my own Birthday cake as I wanted to try out the box of cigarillo chocolates I had bought. "My life is like a box of chocolate" cake was a sucess and everybody who came to my birthday lunch thoroughly enjoyed it.


June
This month saw me having a stall at a local craft fair selling my cupcakes and cake pops. It was nervewracking to make so many cupcakes and then put them out on a stall and say come and buy me.(I still think no one will like my cakes!)  Thankfully, although it was a quiet event accourding to the other stall holders, I sold out of cupcakes and lots of people took a business card. I was on a serious high by the end of that day!



July
July bought the hotest week of the year along with my busiest week to date and some serious cake challenges. Whilst the country sweltered, the two Vander-Cave males were occupied with cricket and Andy Murray fought his way through to the wimbledon finals, I fought with wilting fondant and curdling buttercream to make one of the most special cakes of the year, my close friends 40th birthday cake and my first handbag cake. The cake turned out suprisingly well all things considered. On the day of Soph's birthday we gathered at a country house for afternoon tea and it was a truely memorable day, tears and laughter and a spontaneous rendition of "for she's a jolly good fellow" and much cheering when the news came through that Murray had done it. We finally had a british winner of Wimbledon. And to top it off Master V-C's cricket team won the county cup. A truely wonderful month.

August
 

At last our summer hols to spain and a well earned break from cake. I missed eating cake almost as much as I missed making them and I did find myself checking the business email when free wifi allowed and even booking another craft fair. This one in the run up to Christmas. Almost as soon as we touched down in blighty I was back in the kitchen, this time creating my first birdcage wedding cake and 45 vintage tea party cupcakes with minature cups and saucers. The bride and groom were thrilled with their cake and another first ticked off for Back Of Beyond Baking.

September
As the schools went back and the weather started to get cooler my cake orders got quieter. This initially caused me to feel anxious but then I knuckled down to sorting out my accounts and a bit of me-time, including a proper day off hitting the shops, enjoying a relaxing coffee and a read of something other than a recipe book! This quiet spell didn't last long (a week I think!)  before I had to turn my mind to Christmas cakes!

October
As any one who makes Christmas cakes and puddings knows you have to be prepared to get thinking about it sooner rather than later and this year this was never truer. I put out adverts via my Facebook page and the village noticeboard and eventually closed my book at 15 christmas cakes as well as various christmas puds and yule logs!  The cakes took me 4 days to make, 15kg of dried fruits  and 40 eggs, an hour to feed each time they needed feeding and they drank 2 litres of brandy between them! It was a mammoth task but well worth the happy customers when December 25th finally came around. The end of October brought annual village halloween pumpkin competition. Both Mr V-C and Master V-C entered pumpkins, while I was busy making halloween cupcakes for the village halloween baby who's now 3 years old. I'm pleased to announce that Mr V-C had a winning pumpkin with his amazing Sauron's eye.

November
As the nights drew in my energy levels dipped a bit but I managed to pace myself well and find the energy for all the tasks required and some time for more clandestine cake fun. This time the theme was british classics and as someone else nabbed the Victoria sandwich cake for their offering I produced my mum's classic the boiled fruit cake. Have a look here for this recipe for  boiled fruit cake.  The cake went down well and although the Victoria sandwich cake maker pulled out, we still had an excellent selection of cakey treats and some lovely company to share the cakes with. I am definitely looking forward to more CCC meet ups in 2014. Towards the end of the month master V-C and I went to Birmingham to Cake International. A veritable feast of cakes were on show, with cake competitions for every imaginable catergory, including best carved cake which boasted a life size Captain Jack Sparrow and a 4ft tall TARDIS, and best wedding cake which had some cakes that one couldn't even begin to imagine how they were created. Their beauty was quite breathtaking and master V-C took a gazillion photos of the various cakes.  In fact it was difficult to drag him away.

December
This month, as it should be, was all about Christmas. On the first day of the month I took my cakes and cupcakes to  a Handmade in Herefordshire Christmas craft fair. Again I was told it was a quiet event but I still sold 90% of my cupcakes and a few of the individual mini Christmas cakes. Thankfully an advert on my facebook page took care of the remaining cakes and puddings! I then spent much of the remaining month icing Christmas cakes and creating Christmas themed cupcakes. Whilst I was kept busy with this Master Vander-Cave was busy rehearsing for the village panto. His part had grown this year from magic carpet in Aladdin to Will Scarlet in Robin hood and the Babes in the woods. He had quite a few lines to learn which he did without needing much support and then remembered them all once onstage with around 100 people watching. His comic timing and delivery were spot on and again we felt very proud of our boy.
By the time Christmas arrived I was glad to see the back of the last Christmas cakes. The Vander-Cave cake was a very simply iced affair and to be honest it was lucky it got iced at all! Christmas this year was a quiet one with just the three of us in our barn but then followed up with a chaotic day with the wider family back in the big city. And now all there is left for me to say is Happy New Year and may 2014 bring all you wish for. x

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Chocoholic's dream come true

 
 
As most of my regular readers will know, we here in the Back Of Beyond are chocoholic through and through, so when we were given the chance to visit Cadbury's World courtesy of Superbreak we jumped at the chance! I had visited many years ago with Master Vander-Cave when he was a pre schooler so my memories were pretty hazy.  The one thing I remembered was the melted chocolate taster which I enjoyed reaquainting myself with.
 
Joining  us on our trip was Gem from Life with Katie and her family. We agreed to meet at Cadbury World for a leisurely lunch before exploring the museum and play area before of prebooked tour time.  Gem and co were driving up from the city, which on a normal day would have taken them two and a half hours, whilst we were coming from the Back Of Beyond which took us an hour. We did take an hour to get there whilst Gem took nearly 5 hours! Road closures and RTA's took their toll and they eventually arrived 5 minutes after our prebooked time. During our wait for the rest of our party the staff at Cadbury world were fabulous. They directed us to what we could do even without all our tickets (Gem had them with her!) and once our friends arrived they got us straight to the front of the queue for the next tour. Anyway back to our waiting time. Our first stop was the Cadburys cafe where we had freshly prepared baguette  with our choice of filling and a Cadburys hot chocolate. The service was quick and the food and drink enjoyable with good portion sizes for a reasonable price. With our tummies full (well our lunch tummies, not our chocolate tummies!) we headed to the Bourneville experience. This is a museum about John Cadbury and his work in providing excellent housing and working conditions for his workers and development of the Bourneville village. Also in this museum is a sweet shop frontage with a display of chocolate bars through the ages and reminded us of some of our long forgotten childhood favourite sweets. Master Vander-Cave's favourite exhibit was the design a chocolate box interactive display. Once designed one's advert is then displayed in the above mentioned sweet shop window!
 
Our next stop was the Cadbury's shop as Master V-C didn't want to see Santa in his grotto (he's way too cool for that these days!). I did pop my head into the grotto which looked amazing and the queue's were short and well managed. Once inside the shop I really did turn into a kid in a sweet shop and came out with way too much "bargain " chocolate.
 
And finally we got to the main event the Cadbury tour which we all thoroughly enjoyed. Anything that starts with being handed two bars of chocolate has to be good in my book! I won't spoil it all by going into to detail but one thing I will say was the melted warm chocolate covering my selected treat of jellybabies was well worth the wait and the look on Gem's son Pip's face was fantastic when he got his first ever taste of melted chocolate! (but there were subsequent tears when it was all gone). Oh, and make sure you see the purple planet which kind of messes with your mind!
 
After a long day of chocolatey fun we all headed back to our barn for dinner and a bit of grown up time with Gem and TMC. I had planned to make a chocolate pudding enhanced with Nutella on Saturday evening but we mutually decided we were all chocolated out (not a phrase you will here often here!) so it became pudding for all after sunday lunch. These chocolate pots from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries are coeliac friendly as they contain no flour and are quick to make. A perfect pud for Gem and me! Young Pip was most enamoured with further chocolately goodness as he doesn't get chocolate very often and was not keen to share with his daddy! I wish I could show you a photo of his face, it really was a picture!
 
Hot Chocolate pudding
 
200g dark, fine quality chocolate (I use 70% cocoa solids)
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
60g butter
2 lightly heaped tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella or similar)
 
Set the oven at 200 degrees C or gas 6. Butter 4 small ramekins or oven-proof cups.
 
Break the chocolate into rough pieces and put it in a bowl suspended over gently simmering water. Melt without stirring.
 
Separate the eggs then beat the sugar with the egg yolks until thick & creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until airy and stiff.
 
Stir the butter into the chocolate and leave to melt, then gently stir in the hazelnut spread.
 
Fold the chocolate mixture into the yolks and sugar, then carefully fold in the beaten egg whites with a metal spoon. Take care not to overmix. Make certain there are no floating bits of egg white.
 
Scoop into the four dishes and place on a baking sheet.
 
Bake for 12-15 minutes, till risen. The tops should be cracked and the centres still wobbly. Should you open one too early, it can go back in the oven.
 
Serve with double cream in a jug and be ready to pour extra cream in once you've started eating!
 
 
 


Monday, 21 October 2013

Cake and Caching


Last weekend we left the Back Of Beyond and went to visit our friends in South Gloucestershire for the day. We get together 3 or 4 times a year taking it in turns to host and enjoy each others culinary skills. As Mr SG used to be a chef he often does most of the cooking at our weekend get togethers. This time Mrs SG made pudding, which she admitted she hadn't practiced before so we were her guinea pigs, and very lucky guinea pigs indeed! Her white chocolate and raspberry bread and butter pudding was fantastic, topped off with a trickle of double cream, and I was in food heaven. So much so that I had to get a picture and the recipe so I could share it here!

After the delicious lunch we decided to do a bit of Geo-caching which the SG family had introduced us to earlier in the year. Our initial reaction to Geocaching was lukewarm, but after a few goes during the long summer holidays (when we were looking for cheap activities to entertain Master Vander-Cave and some friend) we caught the bug and is very much on our to do list for free time fun. Geo-caching is like a treasure hunt using GPS and the internet. A "cache" is hidden, something small and innocuous looking, along with a log book(for people to sign to say they found the cache) and sometimes little treasures to collect or leave,then the cacher put clues and co-ordinates to where it is hidden on Geocaching.com . When you find it, you log it on the website. Mr SG has become a Geocaching Jedi over the last year, finding a cache most days, and has even hidden a few himself.  He had selected three caches to find, all within a short walk of each other. We managed to find all three fairly easily (although one did require a 4pt bottle of water to access it), have a lovely walk and explore an area we wouldn't have visited if it hadn't been for the Geocaching.  I have to say I find it fascinating that this activity is going on all around the world and mostly you wouldn't think that someone might have hidden things, in a global treasure hunt, on your street or local park and that other's will be looking for these silly inconsequential objects just for the fun of finding them. And actually it is a real sense of achievement when you have searched for ages and finally find something that is almost hidden under your nose! So thank you SG family for introducing us to Geocaching and for such a lovely day. Hope to see you again soon!


White chocolate & raspberry bread and butter pudding
12 slices white bread, crusts removed
50 g butter, softened
250 g fresh or frozen raspberries
200g white chocolate, chopped, or white chocolate chips
4 eggs
450 ml double cream
225 ml milk
125 g caster sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar, for sprinkling
cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve


Butter the bread and arrange four slices, buttered side down, in a single layer in a 20x25cm ovenproof dish. Scatter over half the raspberries and white chocolate, then cover with four more slices of bread, buttered side down again. Add the remaining raspberries and chocolate, followed by a final layer of bread, placed buttered side down.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs with the cream, milk, caster sugar and a pinch of salt, pour this mixture over the bread. Cover the dish with cling film and leave to stand for an hour, or in the fridge overnight – this will allow the bread to soak up the egg and cream mixture.

When you’re ready to bake the pudding, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the pudding, and then prepare a bain-marie. Place the pudding dish in a large, deep-sided roasting tin and pour in enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the pudding dish. This regulates the heat in the oven and ensures the eggs don’t scramble.

Carefully transfer the dish and bain-marie to the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the pudding is crisp and golden on top and just set in the centre – a skewer inserted into the middle will come out clean.


Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Summertime fun

 
As usual I will need to start this post with an apology for my tardiness in keeping up with this blog.  A special apology goes to Nanna who has been missing my blogging particularly. Sorry Nanna! I am regularly updating my cake photos but beyond that life and two jobs has given me precious little time off! Having said that we did get our annual trip to sunnier climes where I did little more than work hard at getting a tan. ( I worked very hard at this, lying still for hours under a blue sky and a sea breeze!). Sadly the lack of WiFi stopped me blogging so I had no choice but to relax.
Anyway I am back and finally have a few moments to update you all on my latest cakey escapades!
The summer seems to have flown by with lots of cake challenges for me to get my teeth into.  The greatest of which was the bird cage cake, with 40 cupcakes, all decorated with teapots and tea cups. As my first paid wedding cake I felt extra pressure to get it right! Thankfully, with lots of time and effort (and a few expletives) it was alright on the day and the feed back from the bride was very complimentary (pictures of these cakes are on the cake creation picture page.) Now finally cake orders have settled down (for the next couple of weeks) so I have been able to try out a new recipe. I have had the Hummingbird Home Sweet Home book for 6mths now and have managed to try out 3 recipes from it! (I know it's not good enough!) I think part of the problem has been a lack of cake testers and the recipes I've wanted to try have been ones I know Mr Vander-Cave wouldn't like, and Master Vander- Cave and I can only eat so much cake without starting to look like Violet Beauregard after eating the chewing gum! Anyway I digress.  Last weekend it was the 3rd Christine Wilde Foundation charity cricket day which we fielded a team for, comprising of my two Vander-Cave boys Gem from life with Katie's husband, my niece's new fiancé Geordie and his bff Pricey and a couple of old friends. Considering this team had never played before they did well to reach the semi finals but the day wasn't really about winning, it was about having fun and raising money for a wonderful charity. My contribution to the day (other than donating to the bar's profits) was  a lemon and raspberry cake for the cricketers tea, well most of it for the cricketers as I had to test it obviously! This recipe is a three layer cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting, which I think may be my favourite frosting ever. I have since used the leftover frosting on some vanilla cupcakes.  Divine!
 
Lemon and Raspberry Cake

Ingredients:
For the sponge:
110g unsalted butter, softened
380g caster sugar
320g plain flour
4tsp baking powder
320ml buttermilk
Zest of 2 lemons
3 large eggs
80g raspberry jam
For the frosting:
900g icing sugar
Zest of 1.5 lemons
150g unsalted butter, softened
375g full-fat cream cheese
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
A few raspberries

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line the cake tins with greaseproof paper.
  2. With a hand-held electric whisk, mix the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder together until it forms a sand-like consistency.
  3. In a large jug, mix together the buttermilk, lemon zest and eggs.
  4. With the whisk on medium speed, gradually pour half the liquid into the crumb mixture.
  5. Mix thoroughly until the batter is thick and smooth. Once the lumps have gone, add the rest of the liquid.
  6. Mix until combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the 3 tins and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  8. Meanwhile, make the frosting by gradually mixing the icing sugar, lemon zest and butter together on a low speed with the electric whisk until combined and there are no large lumps of butter.
  9. Add a little cream cheese to loosen up the mixture and beat until smooth.
  10. Add the rest of the cream cheese and beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy.
  11. Once the sponges are cool, assemble the cake by placing one layer on a large plate.
  12. Spread with a layer of raspberry jam and top with 3-4tbsp of frosting, smoothing out with a palette knife.
  13. Sandwich the second layer on top and frost the sides and top of the cake so no sponge is showing.
  14. Decorate with a few raspberries, some lemon zest and a sprinkling of icing sugar.
Enjoy!