Friday, 26 April 2013

Sofia's Cherry Blossom and Vanilla Birthday Cake

In my eyes, spring starts in April, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
The light pinks to delicate white flowers take me back to childhood. I have no idea why, but cherry blossoms  would fascinate me. I could have stood for hours just dreamily staring at all the dainty little flowers. 
To me those flowers are magic and will always make me smile. Even today as an adult I still smile at the sight of a cherry blossom tree.
The start of spring is special to both me and my friend Sofia, as we both celebrate our birthday's in April!
Born just 4 days apart, ever since we met 12 years ago, we have always celebrated our birthdays together.  

This year, I struggled to decide what to make my dear friend as she knows what she likes. Stumped for ideas, I was taking a walk and saw a beautiful pink cherry blossom tree and just stared for a moment....
Then it hit me!
A Cherry Blossom Cake! First I texted Sofia to double check if she liked cherry:
I love cherry!

Awesome, now to find some cherry blossoms to bake and decorate the cake. I sadly did not succeed.

I tried so very hard to find Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom) jam and when I found some on the internet, it was too expensive to purchase for a single cake. My luck changed when I stumbled upon a recipe in a cookbook for cherry and almond cupcakes!

I adapted the recipe to make a cake instead of twelve cupcakes. I would say that next time I make this cake I will be using two 7 inch sandwich tins, instead of one 23 inch cake tin as it turned out really flat. I think a good cake has good height.

Recipe: The Cake (Adapted from Making Cupcakes with Lola)
  •        100g self-raising flour, sieved
  •        70g plain flour
  •        ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  •        95g butter, at room temperature
  •        150g caster sugar
  •        ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •        2 eggs
  •        85ml whole milk
  •        90g morello cherry jam
  •        2 tablespoons flaked/slivered almonds

Recipe: Cherry Blossom Frosting
  •        75g Morello Cherry Jam
  •        125g butter, at room temperature
  •        1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  •        250g icing sugar
  •        Decorations of your choice like writing icing and glitter. I made   my own cherry blossoms made from royal icing which I will soon publish soon! Promise!

  •        Bowl x 2
  •        Electric hand-held whisk
  •        Sieve
  •        Scraper
  •        Saucepan
  •        7 inch sandwich tins x 2 lined with silicone paper
  •        Measuring jug

    1. Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 5/375f/190c. Grease and line the sandwich tins.
Step 2. Sieve the dry ingredients.
    2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, and salt together in one bowl.
Step 3. Cream the sugar and butter.
    3. Cream sugar and butter together with an electric whisk, in a separate, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at the time and then add the vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.
Step 4. Mix the dry and milk alternatively 
   4. Add the sifted dry ingredients and milk alternatively and beat on a low speed until the cake mix is combined.
Step 5. Heat the jam for 30 seconds
Step 5. Pour the jam into the cake mix
Step 5. Roughly swirl 
   5. Put the cherry jam in a saucepan and heat gently for about 30
    seconds or until slightly runny. Pour the warm jam into the cake mix and roughly swirl in with a spatula.

Step 6. Sprinkle the almonds on top
   6. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tins, sprinkle the almonds on top of cake batter and bake for 35-40 minutes. 
   7. Make sure that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer or a knife into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean, it’s cooked. Once baked leave in the tray for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack.
   8. To make the icing, put the cherry jam into a saucepan and heat gently for 30 seconds. Strain the warm jam and discard any bits.
Step 9. Beat the frosting until smooth
   9. Put the butter in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer, until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla and sift half of the icing sugar in the bowl, beating until all of the frosting is smooth.
Step 10. Creamy and Pink frosting
   10. Add the other half of the icing sugar as well as the smooth jam and beat for 5 minutes until thick creamy and pink. Add a tablespoon of milk, if the frosting is stiff.
Step 11. Sandwich the frosting between the two cakes
   11. To assemble the cake, place one of the cakes on a cake board and spread a layer of frosting.
    12.  Place the second cake, with the flat bottom pressing down on the frosting, on top of the first cake.
    13. Spread some more icing on top with a palette knife. Decorate as desired. 

I know it turned out very flat but the birthday girl was happy. She was a little embarrassed when the staff at Prezzo sung happy birthday to her, before cutting the cake and enjoying a slice. 
I hope you had a wonderful birthday Sofia and thank-you for my pressie as well. Of course, that will be mentioned on the blog soon!

Bake On!

Bake On! Penny x

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mad Hatter Tea At Sanderson Hotel

As mentioned  in a previous blog post, I took my mum for a 50th birthday to a Mad Hatter Tea at the Sanderson Hotel in Goodge Street London. 
I have been lucky enough to go to a Mad Hatter Tea with my friend Naomi for her 21st Birthday, which I knew my mum would enjoy.
When walking to the hotel, it looks like it's hidden, almost in disguise as on the outside it looks like a office building. It adds to the mystic and the intrigue.
Entering the hotel, the door was swiftly opened for us both.
Along the marble corridor was the reception and to the right was the modern, slick, very cosmopolitan bar. 
The Cake Stand on the outside terrace.
We were led to the outside terrace, which was busy but not overcrowded or closed in. It was open, airy and yet well covered. 
We were shown to our seats and this was the moment when the head waiter revealed that we were going to have. He pointed to the book perched on top of a jewellery box. The book contained the menu, which described the delights of the afternoon.
I was struck by the designs of the mis en place, the cutlery, plates, cups and saucers. Quirky, fun and whimsical are the words that came into my head when I examined the china designed by Luna and Curious.
Plates Designed by Luna and Curious
The staff were polite and welcoming and took the time to explain about the 3 bottles on our table labelled Apple Pie, Rubarb and Custard and Mint Choc Chip. 
Mum reading the menu. The loose tea leaves in the glass bottles.
These were loose tea leaves which were served in traditional tea pot and strainer. We had unlimited refills and managed to try them all, each really tasted like desserts. However, I would say that the Mint Choc Chip tea was my personal favourite.
Me pouring tea
Once the cake stand had arrived and we were presented with a selection of goodies, we started from the bottom to the top. We couldn't wait to get stuck in!
The Cake Stand.
The Bottom Tier. From left to right- Various sandwiches, savoury scones, drink me bottle, sweet scones.
The Savoury bits-Quiche in top left and savoury scones.
We started with the savoury bits. The sandwiches were had main components baked into the bread and were rolled into circles rather then cut into squares or triangles. Our sandwich selection included: ham on mustard and sun dried tomato bread, smoked salmon with lemon butter and dark rye bread, egg mayo and watercress served on sea-salt bread and cucumber and chive cream cheese on bread. Some of the flavours were subtle such as the lemon butter and some were even lost such as the salt bread but all were beautifully presented and were mouth-wateringly tasty. We moved onto the quiche which I believe was a mushroom quiche. It was light, not overpowering and adorable! Look how tiny it is!! Next we had the savoury scone that was laced with mozzarella cheese and spinach, which was served with creamy herb butter. 
The Savoury Tier
Next we had the sweet cranberry scones slattered with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The scones had a crumbly pleasant texture, this contrasted with the smooth clotted cream and jam. 
The Top Tier with the carrot meringue and strawberry and cream marshmallows
I must say I didn't get the strawberry and cream flavour in the mushroom marshmallows, I just tasted marshmallow, which I guess is vanilla. The meringue carrots were well made and disappeared like magic on the tongue, I could have eaten a plateful!
The Melting Mango Cheesecake and Raspberry Victoria Sponge
I have never been a huge fan of cheesecake, I mean I haven't really found one that I truly like. I loved mango it really burst on the tongue  but I wasn't a fan of this cheesecake. I want to make it clear there was nothing wrong with the cheesecake. I have issues with all cheesecakes . 
The Three layered drink me bottle.
The 'Drink Me' bottle with layers with 3 fruity layers including pancotta, tropical fruits and I think hints of coconut. It was such a laugh trying to tell the difference between the flavours and drinking through the straw.
The Middle Tier.
The Clock Cake was simple yet divine. It was a traditional Victorian sponge layered with sharp raspberries and freshly whipped cream. The cake was moist and a sweet pleasure. 
The Macha Green tea chocolate cup.
The Macha Green tea chocolate cup which was the hero of the day for me.

My hero of the whole day was the macha green tea with a chocolate mousse served in a chocolate tea cup. The green tea mousse was just the end of perfect afternoon tea. The dark chocolate was crisp but didn't provide a bitter after-taste as the green tea mousse provided just enough sweetness to counter it. 

Mum's Birthday Platter.
The whole afternoon was perfectly rounded and was made exceptional by the staff who even made the effort to wish my mum a happy birthday by providing a mini raspberry cake that had white chocolate script:
Happy 50th Birthday Mum

Mum said it herself: I have had a perfect birthday. It's been special.
A very happy mum!
Wondering if it's for you?
What to Expect: A happy friendly welcome, high quality food with a twist and personalised service if requested.
Occasion: Needs to be special birthday or a good catch up with a good friend. Maybe even a surprise romantic gesture.  
Tips: If it's a birthday or an anniversary when booking mention it, they can provide a special dessert plate. 
Price: £35 (not including 10% Service Charge)

Go with: Mum, sister, good friend and group of friends or a date

But try not to look as scared as I was when drinking tea!
Bake On!

Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

50 Cupcakes for a 50th Birthday

First of all, I hope all my readers had a Happy Easter.
This Easter weekend has been the most challenging, baking wise, ever. Not only did I need to make something nice for Easter, but it was my mum's 50th birthday!
I mean it was on the same level as the Burger Cake as I had to stay up late putting the finishing touches on the 50 cupcakes
I know 50 isn't really a huge number compared to the professionals, but making the decorations like roses and buttons as well as paint them with edible paints is a tough job to do in one go. Nevertheless, I managed and they went down a treat. 
Lemon Cupcakes with a Lemon Buttercream 
Mum had no idea what she wanted, the only clue I was given was: "chocolate or lemon maybe... I'm not sure just make something nice for my 50th." 
By the end of the night I was covered in buttercream, icing sugar and glitter. I also had a fair amount of chocolate buttercream. It was just 'taste tasting'.

I would recommend that, since this is a large amount of cupcakes, that you use a mixer like a Kitchen Aid. It makes things a little easier. However, if you half each recipe you can use a small hand held whisk (Lemon cupcakes 12 and Chocolate cupcakes 16). 

Recipe: Makes 24 cupcakes (Adapted from Cupcakes from The Primrose Bakery)
·       220g unsalted butter, at room temperature
·       550g golden caster sugar
·       4 large eggs
·       300g self raising flour, sifted
·       350g plain flour, sifted
·       180ml semi-skimmed milk at room temperature
·       4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
·       2 tablespoon natural yoghurt
·       Grated zest of lemon (About 2 teaspoons)

Lemon Cupcake Ingredients
·       220g unsalted butter, at room temperature
·       8 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
·       Grated zest of 2-3 unwaxed lemons about 4 teaspoons
·       1kg icing sugar, sifted
 ·      Glitter, sprinkles, decorations and even candles!

·       Bowl x3
·       Mixer
·       Grater/zester
·       Measuring Jug
·       Sieve
·       Tablespoon
·       Muffin tray lined with cupcake cases x 2 
·       Palette Knife 

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan/180c/350f/Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.
Step 2. Cream the Butter and Sugar together.
Step 2. Add the eggs and beat well
2.    In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and smooth, which should 3-5 minutes using an electric mixer. Add the eggs into the creamed mixture, beat until incorporated
3.    Combine the two flours in a separate bowl and combine the milk, lemon juice and sour cream in a jug. Add one-third of the flours to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one-third of the milk mixture and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk has been added, incorporating the lemon zest with the last third with the flour. Don’t worry if the mixture begins to curdle: simply add another spoonful of plain flour and beat well.
Step 3. The lemon cupcake cake batter once all the ingredients have been added. 
4.    Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until slightly raised and golden brown. To check they are cooked, insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes-it should come out clean.
5.    Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in their tins for about 10 minutes before carefully placing on a wire rack to cool. Once they are completely cool, you can ice the cupcakes.
6.    In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, lemon juice, zest and half the icing sugar until smooth-this can take several minutes using a electric hand mixer. Gradually add the reminder of the icing sugar and beat again until smooth and creamy.

 There were quite a few cupcakes....

Ok, there were a lot of cupcakes and that's just the lemon ones!

Chocolate Cupcakes decorated with sugar paste buttons and butterflies. 
Chocolate Cupcakes (Adapted from Cupcakes from The Primrose Bakery)
Recipe: Makes 32 cupcakes
·       230g 70% good-quality dark chocolate
·       170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
·       350g golden caster sugar
·       4 large eggs, separated
·       370g plain flour, sifted
·       1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
·       1 ¾ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
·       500ml semi-skimmed milk at room temperature
·       Large pinch of salt
·       2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
·       344g 70% good-quality dark chocolate
·       2 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk at room temperature
·       450g unsalted butter, at room temperature
·       2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·       500g icing sugar, sifted
·       Bowl x3
·       Mixer
·       Electric hand mixer/whisk
·       Measuring Jug
·       Sieve
·       Tablespoon
·       Teaspoon
·       Large Metal spoon
·       Muffin tray lined with cupcake cases x 3   
·       Palette Knife/Icing bag fitted with a star nozzle

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 170c fan/190c/350f/Gas Mark 5 and line the 12 hole muffin trays with cupcake cases.
Step 2. Melt the chocolate in 30 second bursts mixing well in between 
2.    Break the chocolate up into squares and place in a microwavable bowl. On a medium heat, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stir and microwave for a further 30 seconds until smooth. Make sure not to burn the chocolate!
Step 3. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well. 
3.    In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and smooth, which should 3-5 minutes using an electric mixer. In a different bowl beat the egg yolks with a fork for several minutes. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture and beat well. Next, add the melted chocolate to the mixture and beat again.
Step 4. The cake mixture with the flour and milk mixtures all added. 
4.    Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a separate bowl. Put the milk and vanilla extract in a jug. Add one-third of the flours to the creamed mixture and beat well. Pour in one-third of the milk mixture and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk has been added.
5.    In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Carefully fold in the eggs whites into the cake batter with a metal spoon. (Don’t beat or you’ll take the air out of the mixture.)
6.    Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full. (You may find it easier to put the mixture into a jug to pour into cupcake cases, as its very liquid batter!) Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. To check they are cooked, insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes-it should come out clean.
7.    Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in their tins for about 10 minutes before carefully placing on a wire rack to cool. Once they are completely cool, you can ice the cupcakes.
Step 8. Add the chocolate once all the other ingredients have been mixed.
8.    To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate as in step 2. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and the icing sugar until smooth-this can take several minutes using an electric hand mixer. Add the chocolate and beat until all of the chocolate has been incorporated. This should be easy to pipe in a piping bag or spread with a palette knife. 
Chocolate buttercream in all it's chocolatey glory! Taste test required.
I'm gutted that I didn't take more pictures of the method process and the party guests having fun eating the cupcakes. But I was told by everyone, including the kids, that they were pretty damn yummy! But I got few pics of the chocolate cupcakes.

The most important thing is that mum had a good 50th birthday. I'll be posting really soon on where we went and what we did. It has something to do with baking (or at least eating baked products). For now I'll have to keep you guessing.

Bake On! Penny x
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