Birthday mega cookies
I do love a work birthday and this week was the turn of Alison our lovely Comms Exec. The office was unusually quite due to a mass holiday exodus so I decided to make some cookies rather than bake a cake. The first thing I did was bake a batch of eggless cookies.
I added fudge chunks and chocolate chips to the mix and because I used real butter not margarine they had a really short texture which made them quite crumbly rather than chewy. After they were baked and chilled in the fridge I melted a pack of dark chocolate orange and dipped half the cookie. They looked scrummy (to use a Mary Berry term) but not special enough for a birthday treat so I turned to my trusty friend; iridescent glitter. It didn't let me down and transformed them into a riot of sparkles. Happy birthday Alison!
Brooklyn Blackout cake
I was tasked with making a birthday cake for my office colleague and friend Neal this weekend. Now Neal is not fussy when it comes to cakes, doughnuts, pastries etc - simply put he eats anything. Despite this I thought quite hard about what I was going to bake because I wanted to be a very manly cake, fondant wasn't coming near this project!
A couple of years back my bestie Laura made our gang a cake from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook - Brooklyn Blackout cake. The history behind this cake is that is was originally made by a local bakery in Brooklyn during the war years when they regularly practised blackouts. I remember when Laura made this cake i was hesitant as heavy chocolate cake really is not my kind of cake but it was light and absolutely delicious. The cake was perfect for Neal as the dark frosting and crumbled cake topping make it look very blokey.
The secret behind this cake is that it actually does not contain any chocolate! I know, hard to believe but the flavour and colour comes from cocoa powder. The incredibly shiny filling and frosting is eggless chocolate custard. This is made from a combination of boiled sugar, cornflour and cocoa powder with a splash of vanilla and some butter mixed in. I had never made it so was slightly nervous of the process but it came out perfect with a super high gloss shine.
The recipe did not give the cake quite the height I was after, but the quantities of mixture in the recipe were never going to produce a 4 inch high cake. Next time I would add half the quantities again to produce a taller cake. Conversely the eggless chocolate custard element of the recipe gave me double what I required so I had way too much leftover!
Neal was very pleased with his bloke cake and general feedback from the office was overwhelmingly positive. Alison even had a second slice... Happy birthday Neal!
Chris' choc orange cheesecake No.2
Remember a few weeks back Chris made me a chocolate orange cheesecake? I still haven't worked out what he was buttering me up for but another cheesecake arrived which had peaked my suspicion further but for now let's focus on the food...
Upon presentation I immediately noticed this cheesecake was paler. Last time Chris used milk and dark chocolate orange but I guessed this time it was all milk. I was correct; a combination of melted Terry's chocolate orange and orange Aero with mascarpone and cream cheese had been combined on a digestive biscuit base. The effect was subtler, less rich, more of a mousse topping compared to the truffle like topping previously. We decided next time a combination of the two would be good, adding a small amount of dark chocolate to the mix to give the taste more depth.
I still don't know what he's after/done wrong/preparing me for but I'm happy to live in blissful ignorance with my cheesecakes...
Today it is raining. Chris is out for the day so Eloise and I have been entertaining ourselves with our latest eBay purchase (The Little Mermaid DVD), napping (Eloise), laundry (me) and baking. Well not quite baking. More melting, mixing and refrigerating. I don't remember making these as a child but I remember eating them!
Baking with Eloise is still a challenge but she is getting better and enjoys filling up the cases now. The only problem is i have to make double as she eats so much along the way! Luckily her wares only get eaten by the family...
I really like fridge cakes. One of my favourite is a mixture of crushed digestive biscuits, melted butter, golden syrup, melted chocolate and a good slug of Cointreau. Mix the lot together, spread in a baking tray lined with cling film and cover well. Freeze (yes, freeze) chop up into wedges and enjoy.
Top tips for fridge cakes:
And remember to leave enough mixture for spoon licking at the end!
Can't wait to enjoy these together tomorrow. Perhaps we may even get enough sun to sit in the garden (not holding my breath!)
Oh no! It's a gruffalo (cake)!
Before i start this post i shall hold my hands up and admit i haven't shared Eloise's second birthday cake with you all yet. Terrible of me as it was 2 months ago now but i promise to this week. In the meantime it was Eloise's BFF Ben's second burthday last weekend. You may remember his mum Laura (my BFF) and I made Ben's first birthday cake together. This year Laura flew solo and made Ben a cake representing his favourite storybook character The Gruffalo;
For those of you not familiar with The Gruffalo it is a very popular childrens book. The main character is a little mouse who during a walk through a forest encounters dangerous animals who all intend to eat him. The mouse invents a character called The Gruffalo to scare off the predators. Imagine the mouse's surprise when he stumbles on a real Gruffalo! To avoid being eaten by the Gruffalo the mouse claims to be the scariest creature in the forest. To prove it he walks back through the jungle with the Gruffalo and all the animals he met along the way run away and the Gruffalo believes the mouse really is the most feared creature in the forest and doesn't eat them.
So it is a childrens book about cunning and deceit (and how not to get eaten).
Laura wanted to make a cake which represented the Gruffalo himself but the design was tricky. She didn't want to fall into the trap of ending up with a sloppy brown mess (there are a few pretty shocking Gruffalo cakes found on Google search, hopefully they are homemade not professional disasters but if they are i'll leave it to Cake Wrecks blog to publically shame them) The best thing to do was to simplify the design down to a few key features which would instantly be recognisable as the Gruffalo without being too fussy or complicated. Laura decided to make a brown cake and add on the big orange eyes, hairy eyebrows, big ears and horns. She then used food colouring to detail around the eye area. Finally she covered the board in green fondant to represent the forest.
I was very impressed with Laura's fondant finish covering the cake. It was only her second cake and she didn't even need to ribbon the bottom of the cake as it was so neat. The modelling also was very effective and Ben instantly recognised his cake as a Gruffalo! Despite a false start with a silicone baking tray disaster (mental note not to try turning out until cake completely cool) the chocolate cake inside was deliciously moist and tasty. Happy Birthday Ben and well done Laura!
Old skool Easter cornflake cakes
The long Easter weekend is finally here! I have been baking lots lately and have loads to share with you over the next few days. I have also been experimenting with my new DSLR camera so hopefully you'll like the new photography (but remember I'm still learning!)
In the meantime I thought I'd share some quick iPhone snaps of this morning's family Easter activity - cornflake cake making! We melted Casbury Dairy Milk chocolate and added a few teaspoons of honey (you could use golden syrup) to make the chocolate a little thinner and to provide a glue element. Once cool we poured over the cornflakes and mixed until thoroughly coated. Eloise had her own mixture, bowl and spoon but most of her cornflakes ended up in her mouth rather than the cupcake cases!
Once we had finished mixing we popped them into bright butterfly cases and added a couple of mini eggs to match the Easter theme. A few hours in the fridge should set the mixture... and off to an Easter hunt we go!
My closest friends will tell you there are a few things which really bug me. There now only being 4 members of the band 5ive, Sky Sports News and Daniel Radcliffe are up there, but when it comes to a rant there is one subject which beats them all - chocolate bombes.
I am very specific about what a chocolate bombe should be and variations on the classic bombe don't sit too kindly with me. A chocolate bombe should have a core of rich chocolate sauce wrapped in a layer of cold vanilla ice cream. The whole thing should be encased in a thin, glossy chocolate shell which should crack nicely when tapped with your spoon. This is the pudding of my childhood I always ordered when we went to a restaurant called Pizza Piazza in Farnham, may it RIP.
Nothing winds me up more than a dessert masquerading as a bombe or restaurants deciding to mess with the classic vanilla and chocolate combination. I once had the displeasure of being served a mint bombe (yes, you read right, a mint bombe) which to the naked eye looked like a perfectly acceptable bombe until the first bite revealed mint ice cream. This plagued me everytime I visited this establishment as they clearly had not marked up which bombes were which in their freezer.
I also regularly question the need for triple chocolate bombs (chocolate core, chocolate ice cream and chocolate shell) Where is the contrasting taste? Why not just order chocolate ice cream with a flake and be done with it.
I hesitantly ordered the chocolate bomb in my local Italian restaurant a few weeks ago. It looked promising when it arrived and I could cope with the dusting of cocoa and crushed hazelnuts on top as they were not interfering with the structure of the bomb itself but I struggled with the interior. Instead if ice cream it was a semifreddo which is half ice cream, half whipped cream so it is only semi frozen. It was passable as a bombe. Just.
So, imagine my horror when last night I was told about a restaurant serving a chocolate bombe which isn't a sphere, involves no ice cream and includes sponge...
My friend Alex sampled this dessert and claimed it was delicious. It clearly started life as a dome shape which they cut into and served as a slice. This in my eyes makes it a cake not a bombe but we'll come back to that later. The base was a vanilla sponge which was piled high with a cold chocolate cream which may be a semifreddo (unconfirmed) the top appears to be dusted with cocoa powder.
Whilst i recognise they have stuck to the chocolate vanilla combination rule I have found several major flaws in this bombe. Firstly, a bombw should be presented as a whole bomb not in a slice. This completely defeats the point. Secondly, sponge in a bombe... one word. No. Thirdly, dusted cocoa powder is a very poor substitute to a poured, crackable chocolate shell.
I have no doubt this dessert tasted delicious, however, I would accuse the establishment of false advertising over the bombe description.
So there you have it, possibly my most passionate blog post. Think twice before you order a bombe.
After the disasterous house warming cake of last week we did finally visit Jon and Shelley's new home (well at least Chris and Eloise did as I was making a wedding cake - blog post to follow!)
This time I went for some luxury chocolate muffins! The chocolate sponge had a secret chocolate ganache core which I injected after baking using a medicine syringe and were topped with a silky vanilla buttercream icing.. Melted ganache was drizzled over the top for decoration.
Jon has reported that all the muffins did make it to the new abode. I was a little nervous Chris and Eloise may have got hungry on route!
Chocolate sponge treats
I am off for a girly night with my NCT friends tonight and i have just whipped up some mini sponges dipped in ganache to take along with me.
Here is a picture of them mid production. Once the ganache had firmed up I popped them into mini cupcake cases and sprinkled with silver shimmer dust to finish them off.
I hope the girls enjoy!
18th chocolate heaven
What do cake do you get a boy for his 18th? Answer: A giant chocolate cake!
This 18 shape cake was made from chocolate sponge filled and iced with a chocolate ganache. To decorate i dusted with gold shimmer and added some silver stars.
The board was iced with white fondant (try keeping that clean when chocolate ganache is about) and more silver stars.
Mum. Wife. Artist. Baker.