Saturday, 24 March 2012

Healthy (er) carrot cake

Whilst I am generally in favour of eating healthily, 'healthy' cakes don't usually feature on my radar as I would normally have the full-fat, full-flavour version without sweeteners and without cutting down on the taste. However, for a friend's birthday I decided to try out this 'healthier' version of carrot cake as she has been doing really well losing weight and we didn't want to make her feel bad about eating cake! Each month, Good Food magazine makes over a dish to produce a healthier version without cutting back on taste, and this carrot cake had really good reviews.

The cake mixture should contain rapeseed oil, which is considered to be healthier than other varieties, although I didn't have any so I did use vegetable oil. There is a lot of grated carrot, plus orange juice, to keep the cake moist without adding more fat, and some of the flour is replaced with wholemeal four. The icing is also a healthier version, using low fat cream cheese and quark, as well as a small amount of icing sugar and lemon juice.

Whilst I love the full fat version of carrot cake, I would quite happily eat this instead. In fact, I might even choose this over 'normal' carrot cake. The reason for this is that it has so much taste, but it's less rich and therefore easier on the stomach! The cake is delicious - full of flavour and extremely moist. The icing is a bit runny due to not being whisked to death with masses of icing sugar, but this does mean that it isn't over sweet like so many types of icing.

It was also really easy to make and didn't involve fussing around with odd ingredients like some 'healthier' recipes do. I realise I say this often, but this is definitely a make-again cake!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Chocolate sponge cake

I make a lot of chocolate cakes, but I'd be hard pushed to have a favourite recipe. I do like rich, moist, gooey chocolate cakes but a decent chocolate sponge cake is not that easy to find. Well, at least I hadn't found one. However, I tried out a recipe from a cake decorating book my other half had bought me called The essential guide to cake decorating and it is fabulous and has immediately become my favourite chocolate sponge.

The sponge contains buttermilk and I think it might be this which makes all the difference. It is moist without being dense and gooey, holds it shape and isn't too crumbly, and not too sweet, rich, or tasteless. It is an excellent chocolate sponge and I will definitely be using it again. The recipe called for a deep 20cm round tin (at least the quantities I wanted to use fitted into this; the book is actually very helpful and provides ingredients quantities for all different tin sizes) and I didn't have one, so I made it in two 20cm sandwich tins. I baked it at a lower temperature and had to watch the time a little, but it worked brilliantly.

Unfortunately, I did realise when making the cake that although I had enough cocoa powder to make the cake, I didn't have enough to make chocolate buttercream as I had intended. However, I'd been shopping earlier in the evening and had, on a whim, bought the new Cadbury's chocolate Philadelphia as it was on offer and I wanted to see what it is like. On a side note, it is quite nice - not sweet and thick like chocolate spread but more like something you'd imagine on a cheesecake. Anyway, I mixed roughly equal quantities of this and chocolate spread (the non-nutty version) and used this instead. I spread a layer of apricot jam in between the cakes, then the chocolately mixture, and used the Philly/chocolate spread combo all over the outside of the cake. I only used a thin layer, as I also used Dr. Oetker's chocolate ready-to-roll icing to cover the cake. Despite my original slight disappointment at the icing not being more chocolately, I used it as it needed to be used!

In the end, I loved the icing. Maybe it was the combination of cake, spread and fondant or something that was different and it just worked better. In any case, I will be buying both the Cadbury's Philadelphia and the Dr. Oetker chocolate fondant again!

The flowers were made at my cake icing class using flower paste. I cut them out, used a ball tool to shape the petals then left them to dry. After that I coloured the flower paste a little more so it went darker, added this as a centre, then dusted some silver lustre dust over the top.

The cake was a very very belated birthday cake for my friend and we ate a lot of it over a weekend! As I said before though, definitely worth doing this recipe again!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sugar roses - first attempt at using the cutter method

For Christmas I was given the International School of Sugarcraft Book 2, and this includes instructions for making sugar roses using cutters (rather than my previous attempts, which involved squishing bits of icing into petal shapes). Unfortunately I had no cutters, so I actually used a knife to cut petal cutter shapes! I wanted to see if I could do it before spending money on cutters. I'm pretty happy with the results, so think  I might invest in some cutters now! They took a long time to make (partly due to me doing a bit, then doing nothing for several days/weeks) but here's a rundown of the stages involved.

Stage 1:

Make buds, hook wires onto them.

Stage 2:

Add three small petals to the bud, wrapping them so that they overlap each other.

Stage 3:

Add five slightly larger petals, making sure they all overlap each other.

Stage 4:

Add six even larger petals, again ensuring that each overlaps the previous one.

Stage 5:

Add calyxes and then wrap the wires with florist's tape and ta-da!

Now I just have to think of something to do with them. I think I'll probably wire them all together, either into a bouquet or a long string of roses then use them for something special... just have to think of an occasion now!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Superbowl cupcakes

I realise that I'm posting this a little late... approximately a month ago would have been good, in preparation for the superbowl. However, I haven't been that organised, so here are my superbowl cupcakes which I made at the beginning of February to celebrate the NFL match.

I never used to even really know anything about NFL, however my other half loves it and after kind of being subjected to it most Sunday evenings last season, I sort of ended up taking an interest in it and actually quite enjoy it now! It's really a pretty good game... anyway, back to the cupcakes!

We were supporting the Patriots, but in the interest of fairness, I made cupcakes for both the Patriots and the Giants. The recipe is for a chocolate cupcake and is from the Dr. Oetker website. I used the icing recipe which is part of it as well. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised as I don't generally like buttercream that much and this one was really good!

The tricky bit was making the logos.

The Patriots have a complicated logo so this is a simplified version thereof! I was pretty pleased with how they turned out though. I made them out of modelling paste (half normal fondant icing and half flower paste) so that they would dry out a bit and hold their shape. 

The Giants logo was a bit easier to recreate, although keeping the letters even was difficult. The colours aren't really quite right, but I think they're okay for some novelty cupcakes which were only to be eaten by me and my other half!

After making two Giants logos and two Patriots logos, enough was enough! I decorated the rest very quickly and simply with, what else, glitter!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Chocolate dinosaur cake

The beginning of January saw my other half have his birthday and, as he is trying to ignore the fact that he is getting older, a children's birthday cake was in order. I saw a video on YouTube detailing how to make this cake and thought it was cute, so decided to have a go. You can find the video here and there is a link to the paper templates used as well.

I made the Easy Chocolate Cake from BBC Food (which I also used for my cricket pitch cake) and, since neither my other half or I like butter icing particularly, I also made the ganache from the BBC Food recipe - I figured it may as well all be chocolate since it wasn't going to be green!

The thing I disliked about this cake is that due to cutting out various parts, there are bits of cake left over. It wasn't really a problem, we just ate those as well, but they weren't iced and in general I prefer to use as much of the cake as possible. In any case, it was fun to make and disappeared very quickly.

The cake is only one layer high, and with the recipe I used this is really enough as the cake is moist and dense, almost like chocolate brownie. Plus it has the chocolate decorations (generic version of Smarties, and you can't really see but there are white chocolate chunks along the back of the dinosaur) for the ultimate chocolatey experience!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A little Valentine's day baking...

I'm not really a Valentine's day fan - I have no problem with it and think it's quite cute really, but the red/pink/teddy/heart gifts are all a little bit over the top for me. I think it's nice to celebrate it a little though, and it is definitely a good excuse to bake a cake!

For a while now I have been wanting to try out a recipe I found in Good Food magazine for the Ultimate Chocolate Cake. I have been resisting, waiting for a special occasion, as there is a reason this is the ultimate - 400g sugar, 200g butter, 200g chocolate and that's before you get to the icing! However, the time had come and, in addition, I wanted to try out my heart-shaped springform tin which I have actually had for ages but hadn't yet used.

You can find the recipe here on the Good Food website if you want to try this yourself.

The cake is very rich and moist - it's almost a little like chocolate brownie, which perhaps isn't so surprising if you look at the recipe and the quantities of the various ingredients. It made me worry it wasn't cooked through, but I think it's okay! Mine did sink quite a bit which was disappointing - I think I might have opened the over a bit early. It wasn't early according to the time, but I had reduced the temperature on my oven since we have a fan oven and I suspect I shouldn't have turned it down so much. I think I just about managed to hid the dip by filling it with chocolate ganache though!

What do you think of the chocolate fingers around the sides? I quite like them, I just about got the effect I wanted. I had toyed with using whole fingers then putting actual chocolates (truffles, for example) all over the top so it looked like a basket of chocolates but especially with the cake dipping (and me not being able to find chocolates in time!) that didn't happen. I'm quite pleased with the result though.

Definitely one to try again! I think I'll try it in a normal round tin though and see whether this makes a difference. If you're craving chocolate, this is the ideal solution...

Happy Valentine's day!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A quiet month...

So January was a quiet month on the baking front - I had to ban myself given that we still had Christmas cake and lots of biscuits and chocolate left over from the holidays. I did make some shortbread, as I had butter that needed to be used as well as a stressed team at work! I also made my other half a birthday cake, which I will get round to posting about!

February should be a bit busier on the blogging front, again it's just a case of getting round to it. I have just made some Superbowl cupcakes for tomorrow, so I will be posting about those. In addition, I have been learning to make different types of sugar flowers at my classes so I will blog about those too - bluebells, winter jasmine and snowdrops to come!