Thursday, 21 June 2018

Apple Pie for a Birthday Cake


Nowhere does it say that you can't have an apple pie for your birthday cake!  I asked my daughter what cake she'd like for her birthday this year and the only reply I had was "Can I have an apple pie instead." 

Check out her last year's cake here

Now, this is why I stick to cake! As you can see, it doesn't look the best, a few dark bits here and there. However, I did make this after all, and I know for a fact it's going to taste delicious.  I have a number of toppings: custard, evaporated milk, fresh cream or clotted cream. So she has a choice.


Two generous sized Bramley Apples and, wait for it ... Frozen pastry! Yes, I know, I could have made my own, but why bother when you can buy frozen. It's quick, easy, less messy, sometimes it costs less and tastes just as good.

Peel, core and slice the apples and lay them around in the baking dish that you have already placed some pastry in, then sprinkle with some sugar or a sweetener of your choice. I don't trim the sides until I place the pastry topper on.  Before placing the pastry top on, brush the edges with water to seal the top to the bottom layer.

I can't decorate this so the 'Happy Birthday' letters were cut out from the spare pastry and a few stars with her name.

Brush the top with milk or egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at Gas #6 for 15 minutes then reduce the gas down to #4 for a further 30 to 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and serve. Serve with:
  • Fresh cream
  • Ice cream
  • Condensed milk
  • Custard
  • Clotted cream
Now, my daughter's birthday is not until tomorrow, so she can sit and stare at it for the rest of today.

All that's left for me to say is:
Happy Birthday Yve
Have an awesome birthday


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Lemon & Elderflower Half Naked Cake


This deliciously fresh scented half naked cake was created for a "Guess the weight on the cake" competition I always run when hosting a Cupcake Day fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Society.  

This one is a six inch, five-layered cake which contains a total of three whole lemons. The zest and the juice were divided between each of the layers. Extra lemons and zest were used to flavour the buttercream that sandwiched the layers together as well as half cover the outside.


I foraged for the elderflowers on a walk with my daughter and then, two days later, turned it into elderflower cordial and used some, with addidional sugar, to make elderflower simple syrup.

My fantastic floral cake topper maker did me proud with this complimenting topper.

The cake was won and, hopefully, enjoyed by one of my regular supporters who guessed the weight with less than 75g out.

To find out how the fundraiser went or to make a donation, please click the image below.


Thank you to all my faithful suporters again this year ... you did awesomely!

Homemade Elderflower Cordial


This sweet, little flower grows in hedgerows and woodland and flowers at the beginning of the summer. It also makes a wonderful, refreshing cordial.  The best time to forage for these is on a warm day when the flowers are dry, never when they're wet from the rain or any other water.  They are also best collected when some of the flowers haven't quite opened fully.

Always remember! Only take what you need and leave some for insects and to mature into berries later on. 
You will need:
  • About 20-25 Elderflower heads
  • 1.5 litres of water (boiled when needed)
  • The zest of three unwaxed lemons
  • 150 ml of lemons juice
  • 1kg sugar
How to:
  1. Make sure you shake the heads to remove any little insects.
  2. Trim as much of the green stalks away as you can.
  3. Place in a large pan / bowl with the lemon juice
  4. Bring the water to the boil and pour over the flower heads and lemon juice.
  5. Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
  6. The following day, strain the mixture into a clean pan (preferably through a muslin cloth.  But, if you don't have any muslin, strain through a very fine sieve.
  7. Heat the liquid up gently and stir in the sugar.
  8. Once dissolved, allow to simmer for a few minutes further.
  9. Pour into sterilised bottles. I've used a flip-top bottle, but you can also use a corked bottle or a screw cap
Serving suggestions:
  1. As a refreshing drink: Dilute 50 / 50 and add a slice of lemon (optional)
  2. As simple syrup for cakes: For every one, boiling cup full, add a further half a cup full of sugar - It would usually be a 50/50 mix, but there is already 50% of the sugar in the liquid when made into a cordial
  3. Fruit salad dressing: Add a dash of undiluted liquid to your fruit salads
  4. Don't forget, Ice Lollies! Dilute 50 / 50 then freeze

Cupcake Day Fundraiser - 12 Different Cupcakes


Twelve different flavours of cupcakes made for Alzheimer's Society fundraising Cupcake Day this month. This was my third, annual fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Society and, for the third year in a row, my supporters helped me beat my target. Check out how much I have raised so far this year here.


This cause is one of only a few I regularly support and I hold it in memory of my dear friend's husband, Alan, who passed away with the disease a few years ago. 

Now, I could have written 12 separate blog entries here, one for each cupcake, but I'm not going to. I want to include them all in one entry because each one, without the other, would not have made the day so special.

I'm going to write a short piece about each cupcake, starting at the top left and working clockwise around the image above. The centrepiece will be written in a separate blog entry though. This is not going to be a short entry, but at least it will be punctuated by pictures ...

Classic Vanilla

What self-respecting cupcake fundraising day would be seen without the classic, crisp attire of the classic vanilla cupcake? Well, not mine, that's for sure. Adding quality, pure vanilla extract is always the key to success for any good cupcake. I use Nielson Massey brand which is, by far, the best I have found to date. Not the cheapest, but certainly the best. 

Topped off with equally good vanilla flavoured, and uncoloured classic frosting, some multicoloured candy sprinkles and the outfit is complete.

Lemon

Almost like the classic vanilla, this simple lemon flavoured cupcake is always a welcome and refreshing guest. Made using the same brand extract as the vanilla, just to add a little extra something. The zest and some of the juice of the lemon was added to the mix but, to prevent the mix from becoming too watery, the extract was added to give that punch of lemon.  

The topping of frosting was flavoured with the same zest, juice and a little extract plus a complimenting pale lemon colour. Topped with golden sugar sprinkles, this cupcake was the quiet, unassuming guest that shone throughout the day.

Gin and Tonic - 0% Alcohol 

These naughty little beauties were a last minute decision. I saw G&T flavouring in the supermarket and, not far away was G&T flavour frosting!

So I baked the cupcakes with the flavouring, that worked great, but the frosting was something else. When I opened the tub of shop produced frosting, I knew it was going to need a little 'watering down' and re-whisking in order to be able to pipe it.  Little did I realise how awful the frosting would taste!  With that in mind, I added the juice of a freshly squeezed lime to it and whisked it up. Oh boy! That frosting 'bit' me right back! Perfect! Decorated with zest strands and they were ready to go!

Turkish Delight

I've made these every year I've been baking for this cause and they never last long! Once again, using good quality essences,  Nielson and Massey rose water essence.  This was used in the cupcake with a little good quality pink colouring, plus some milk chocolate chips.

The basic buttercream frosting had some essence added and also had the delicate pink colouring added. Topped off with grated milk chocolate and some pink sugar sprinkles - as I said, they never last long! They're gone before I even have one!

Banana

Made using my banana bread recipe, these cupcakes were different from last year. Last year they had a fondant disk on top. This year I made the banana frosting.

Using the frosting recipe, I used half the amount, in weight, of banana compared to the butter or margarine that would usually be used. Mash them us exceptionally well and mix just like you would if it was frosting. I added no flavourings at all. The frosting was not pipeable so I just drizzled it on a spread it about and topped it off with half a walnut.

Tripple Choc-Chip

Made using a quality cocoa in the mix, and some quality dark chocolate chips. Before frosting, I scooped out the centre and filled it with rich chocolate sauce and then frosted with chocolate frosting, then added a few chocolate sprinkles on top.

Total chocolate overload!

Red Velvet

I made so many mistakes with these this year! I made my own red velvet mix, without any issues, but ended up making 24 instead of the 12 I wanted to bake! But no one was worried!

The frosting was my next mistake! I purchased ready-made cream cheese frosting! Compared to my own, it was terrible. But I had to use it as I had not prepared to make my own from scratch.

I didn't pipe the frosting on, I swirled it on and added some chewy red sprinkles. They looked the part, but I wasn't happy with the flavour!

Carrot Cake

What cupcake day at my house would be good without these? Well, none!  I used my carrot cake recipe, which can be found in my 'recipe book' under 'index'.

The frosting ... Well, as I was not at all happy with the cream cheese frosting on the red velvet cakes, I used a plain vanilla and topped them off with some chopped walnuts.

Jaffa Cake / Chocolate Orange

Yet another one of those flavours that never stay long on cupcake day! Chocolate sponge, using quality cocoa with orange extract, once more by Neilson and Massey. Once baked and cooled, the centre was scooped out and filled with orange jelly/jello - suitable for vegetarians.

The frosting was also made with cocoa and the orange extract. Dusted off with some gold lustre dust and some gold candy balls for sprinkles.

Strawberry and Raspberry

Another new cupcake this year. For these, I added a good quality strawberry extract to the mix, not a lot though, because I added a handful of fresh raspberries to it during the whisking period.

The frosting also had a delicate amount of strawberry extract added to one half, and fresh raspberries added to the other half. Don't make the same mistake as I did though! I didn't crush the raspberry seeds out and they made a mess when trying to pipe them.  I'm guessing that piping these at gone midnight and not thinking straight just didn't help me either!

Salted Caramel

Time to 'come clean' ... whilst these were baked by me, they were also 'faked' by me! There's absolutely no shame in buying packet mixes for your cupcakes. This mix came as a 'kit'. It included the batter mix, the frosting, the drizzle and fudge pieces. All I added was the salted caramel disk on the top once they were complete.

Mint Choc-Chip

I've saved the best until last! Well, I think they're the best.  Into the mix, I added quality peppermint extract, some pale green food colouring with dark chocolate chips.

The same extract and colouring were used in the frosting then they were topped off with grated dark chocolate and After Eight chocolate thin mints, which were cut in half from corner to corner and placed on top. Yumm, but, alas, I didn't get to eat one - again. They all went far too quickly




Check out my fundraiser here, where, if you wish
it's never too late to make a donation

Before I sign off on this blog entry, I want to say Thank You to all the amazing people that made Alzheimer's Society Cupcake Day an amazing success again this year!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

21st Birthday Strawberries Drip Cake


The recipient of this cake is not 21 for another few days, but the gifter needed the cake for an earlier date. Which means ... I needed to bake on my own birthday!

However, it's not every day that you're 21, so this time, I didn't mind so much. I simply postponed my own birthday plans to get this extra special drip cake, for an extra special birthday, completed for when it's needed.

The simple, vanilla sponge was stacked five layers high, coated in classic complimenting vanilla frosting then dripped and drizzled over with brilliant white candy melts. Which didn't quite work as well as usual, but it still looks great

The classic vanilla sponge was baked over three six-inch tins. Each mix was adjusted to ensure that two of the tins had a mix adjusted down to a three egg mix and one tin adjusted down to a two egg mix. These would then be trimmed into the five layers and laced with vanilla simple syrup.

The basic, but still delicious, frosting mix, was almost tripled for this cake.

Now, the taller these cakes get, the harder it is to get a wide enough side scraper or bench scraper to smooth off the sides, so here's today's tip for you...
Get yourself one of these - It's a drylining trowel, used in the building trade. Remove the handle and give it a good scrub and sterilise it.  Make sure this is dedicated to only ever cake making and also ensure it was purchased new for this purpose.

Back to the cake ...

The personalised topper was purchased from a shop on eBay as is made from laser engraved mirror acrylic.
The fresh strawberries were dipped in the same bright white candy melts/buttons as was used for the dripping and then drizzled over with some dark chocolate.  There are also some strawberries where the coating was mirrored i.e. dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled over with the white
Once they were affixed to the cake, any space left was crammed with full or halved French Fancies
To give the cake a little extra flair, some feathers, a champagne bottle and glass decoration (available at all good cake deco stockists) were added along with some silver pearls. I will probably be finding these in all the hard to reach places in my kitchen for days to come. The little blighters roll everywhere!

Oh! I almost forgot! Check out the little tiny football decoration hidden at the top below the feathers. This recipient also had a cake made by me last year, the Blue Football Cake. I just hope she still likes a little footie theme.

Once everything was completed, I added a touch of magic by way of edible silver luster dust.

Hopefully, she's going to have a fabulous birthday and all that's left for me to say is ...


Happy 21st Asha
I hope you have an amazing and memorable birthday 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Lemon & Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes


Sometimes, a whole birthday cake can be just a cake too far. So, what better way to share your birthday with others than a dozen, totally shareable cupcakes?

These cupcakes were half in classic vanilla and the other half in delicious lemon.  The lemon ones were made different to what I usually make them, I wanted them to be absolutely lemony!

I added one sachet of Dr. Oetker "Ready Zest" to the classic vanilla sponge mix but left out the vanilla, but the batter wasn't lemony enough to taste. To this I added one teaspoon of lemon extract, I think that did the trick!


Once baked and cooled, I drizzled some of the Ready Zest, I had previously added to some boiling water and cooled, over each cupcake and then, yes, and then, I added a sachet of this to the frosting and decorated the cupcake with golden glitter pieces and some lemon jelly diamonds.

As for the vanilla cupcakes ... well, you just can't mess with the best, simple and elegant is how the classic vanilla is best served.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Wedding Cake


This is only the fourth wedding cake I've made in my life and the biggest cake project I've ever made! The whole project was a family affair team effort.

  • The topper was brought over from America, by my other son and is a gift for his big brother from him and my daughter-in-law.
  • It has five tiers - 12 inches, 10 inches, 8 inches, 6 inches and 4 inches.
  • The bottom three tiers are made from Red Velvet sponge (tier one and three) and classic vanilla sponge sandwiched in between (tier two).
  • The top two tiers are dummy cakes because of the weightiness of them on the sponges below.
  • Then we have the three 'side' cakes:
    • A rich fruit, brandy soaked, six-inch cake - which was too heavy to sit on the main cake
    • A red velvet, six-inch cake, that is fondant free and decorated in buttercream only (the groom's little brother, the best man, doesn't like fondant)
    • And then a gluten-free six inch, red velvet cake, for the dietary requirements of the couple's friend and guest
  • The monumental cake stand was handcrafted, by my daughter's boyfriend, to fit over the handcrafted rose dome, which was a specially commissioned gift for my son and daughter-in-law from my sister and her family.
  • Rose garlands, chosen by the bride and groom and handcrafted by Centre of Attention in Brecon, Powys
  • Then there's the personalised ribbon, commissioned from The Radiant Ribbon Co, via their eBay shop.
  • But let's not forget the other team projects that have gone into making this wedding and complimenting the wedding cake:
    • The wrapped wire tree sculptures in glass bowls, table decorations handcrafted by my daughter, the groom's sister
    • The handfasting ribbon lei, made by me.
    • The rose posy cake toppers, for two of the smaller cakes, made by my sister, the groom's aunt. 
    • The small glass rose dome topper, on the third smaller cake, the dome purchased by the groom and the rose decoration inside also made by my sister. She usually doesn't like public credit, but today, she's getting some!
  • And then! And absolutely then! The whole project was transported from the Welsh Valleys, all the way to Suffolk for the wedding!
But let's not forget the other people involved here:
  • My daughter-in-law, for helping me put all this together at the venue the night before. We had already spent almost seven hours traveling, due to traffic etc, but I'm glad we did ... We were there until about midnight.
  • My significant other, for driving us all there with care, and getting this stuff there without incident.
  • Three members of the Facebook group RCT Rocks, who painted three wonderful rocks to commemorate the day, which will be hidden for people to find out and about and share on the group, then re-hide them for others. And then ...
  • The Wedding venue staff at The Grange Country House Hotel for pulling it all together for us on the day
For the rest of this blog entry, what I'm going to do is, show the completed piece (above) followed by the separate pieces, layer by layer.  If you'd like to see the individual blog entries for each tier, click the link below each image further down the page, and for all the individual projects, click the big red button at the bottom of this entry.

I might be a Crafty Welsh Grandma on this blog, but after this, I'm definitely a Proud Welsh Mam!






Having gone through two taster sessions, one session using cupcakes for taste only, and the second session to trial different frostings and how the cake would taste after it had been frozen, prior to the final fondant coat, I think we cracked it. 

Check out the link to the wedding magazine article:



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