Friday, 29 July 2011

Chocolate Thank You Cake

This Tuesday I really felt like we made it.  The first official day as Brighton Bakery.  The reason being that we had our first commission from someone we didn't know. 

When the phone rang, I was completely caught off guard, I didn't have any prices to hand, but I was so pleased to get the order I agreed to do it for less than I should have charged.  And to top it off, she needed the cake in just two days time.  I was due to be working in London on that day so I made it even harder on myself by saying I would deliver it on Wednesday evening instead.  I had my work cut out but I was determined to do it.

The cake was fairly simple - a 10 inch vanilla cake iced with chocolate buttercream, with a piped message and some handmade sugarpaste roses.  I prefer to cover cakes with sugarpaste rather than buttercream as it gives a better finish, but as they say the customer is always right so I had my first brief to work to.  Just a quick trip to the shops to buy the ingredients and I was good to go.

I used my trusty madeira cake recipe and enhanced the flavour by substituting a tablespoon of the milk for vanilla extract.  Luckily I still had time to make this and leave it overnight to settle ready for filling and icing.

The following morning I started off by making roses out of red modelling paste (I'll do another blog soon showing how I make these):

Annoyingly, I didn't have a tried and tested chocolate buttercream recipe and didn't feel like the one in my book that uses cocoa powder would produce a high enough quality flavour.  I found one on the internet that had rave reviews, but as it contained raw egg I didn't want to risk it.  The one I plumped for was a traditional buttercream with a generous helping of chocolate ganache mixed through.  Delicious.

As with most of my cakes, I levelled the top, then flipped it over and secured it to the cake board with a smear of buttercream.  I was feeling brave and cut it horizontally into 3 even layers and smothered each with the luscious buttercream as I rebuilt the cake. I covered it with a thin 'crumb layer' of buttercream on the top and sides of the cake and put in the fridge to set.  This way, when I did the final layer of buttercream it wouldn't be spoilt by any stray crumbs.

I did the final layer of buttercream on the top and sides and did my very best to make it even, smoothing it out with a palette knife dipped in hot water.  It is so hard to get a good finish using buttercream (if anyone has any tips please let me know!) but I reached the point that I had to stop as I would start making it worse.  Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to get right - if it had a design on top it could have covered any slight mistakes.  But I was working to the customer's brief so I made it exactly how she had specified.  I finished off the cake with a piped pearl edge around the bottom:

After about half an hour of practising my piping technique I had the confidence to pipe the message with plain buttercream on top of the cake.  I then added my sugarpaste roses and the cake was done:

I delivered the cake just a couple of hours later and the customer seemed very pleased, which is all I can ask for.  Let's hope she tells all her friends and the orders start to roll in :o)

Handyman Slim Cake - the making of...

It's been a busy week in the Brighton Bakery house but I've finally got some free time to catch up on some overdue blog posts.  I'm pleased to report that Slim loved his Handyman 30th birthday cake and it went down a treat at his party with people going back for third helpings on the excuse that it was helping them towards their 5-a-day!  I thought that the lovely readers of this blog might enjoy seeing how it was made, so I invite you to pour yourself a hot cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake (it's a longer blog than normal today so you may need extra sustenance) and read on...

The cake was going to be picked up on the Friday, so I had to work backwards when everything should be made:
Friday morning - final decorations to be added
Thursday - make buttercream, fill cake, cover with marzipan and sugarpaste, make decorations, cut and cover 3D numbers
Wednesday - bake cake and leave to settle overnight, make rice krispie cake and refrigerate overnight, shop for ingredients
Although it's not flat out work all day, some people are surprised that it takes 3 days to make a cake, which is why it's important to give any cake maker as much notice as possible so that they can plan to be free for those 3 days!
Making The Cake
Slim has an intolerance to wheat, so I had the opportunity to try out a new recipe for this cake - something I love to do, but always requires a bit of faith and finger crossing to ensure it turns out right!  The recipe I had chosen is for the Autumn Wedding Cake in Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache which handily is already designed for a 10" square cake so I didn't need to worry about scaling up a smaller recipe.  It wasn't perfect though, as the flavours are Orange and Elderflower which was just a bit too girly for this handyman cake.  So I adapted the recipe and changed the flavour to lemon with a hint of orange thrown in for good measure.  Perfect.
The slightly annoying thing about this recipe is that it requires the zest of 12 lemons and 2 oranges which becomes quite grating (excuse the unintential terrible pun) after about the 4th fruit.  Plus you're left with all those zested lemons to use up, but being the frugal housewife I am, I made them into a lovely batch of homemade lemon cordial which I used in the cake and some zingy sorbet - yum. 
What I do love about this cake (and other recipes in Harry's book) is that it's much better for you than your average cake, without comprimising on flavour.  It contains no butter, less sugar than normal and very little (gluten free) flour, instead replacing them with ground almonds and a small mountain of grated vegetables. 

The result is a very tasty, moreish, super moist cake that is sturdily perfect for the job of being covered with sugarpaste icing.  Whilst I'm sure I can convince you on the taste, there's no denying that cake batter itself looks like was beaten with the ugly stick:

Still, don't let this put you off - have faith and you will be rewarded with a delicious cake in a couple of hours's time.

Once the cake is baked I always leave it overnight, well wrapped, to settle - this makes it much easier to cut the horizontal layers the following day.
While the cake was in the oven I made the Rice Krispie Cake for the first time since I was about seven - it was a tip I'd seen on the TV show Cake Boss where you can use layers of Rice Krispie Cake to create trickier shapes than you can create with cake.  It takes just a couple of minutes to make then it must be pressed down firmly and refrigerated to make it nice and firm for carving the 3D 30 for the top of the cake.  Easy peasy.

Assembling The Cake

The following morning, rearing to go, I whipped up a big batch of lemon buttercream to fill the cake.  I levelled the top, then flipped it upsidedown so that what was the bottom of the cake gave a nice flat top.  As it was quite a moist cake I wimped out of cutting into 3 layers and just split it in half and filled with an extra generous layer of buttercream:

And then smoothed a thinner layer of buttercream over the top and sides:

The cake was then ready for a covering of marzipan, which adds flavour and helps give a good base for the final layer of sugarpaste.  I smoothed down the sides and trimmed the edges, then brushed with a little lemon cordial to make it tacky:

Then to colour up some sugarpaste - I used Sugarflair Egg Yellow:

I was always told to use just a very small amount on the end of a cocktail stick.  Well this colour needs a lot of cocktail sticks' worth of colouring to give you a nice yellow.  I got a little frustrated with it so I moved onto the red instead to see if that was any better.  In hindsight I might have been better using a shovel than a toothpick for the red - it took me more than an hour of kneading, adding way more colour than I thought it would need each time and then it still turning out a very disappointing pink.  Tip for next time - buy red ready made!  It will save an enormous amount of time and frustration.

Still I got there in the end and finally covered the cake with the yellow paste and added a red trim to finish it off:
Making the 3D 30

The Rice Krispie Cake had firmed up nicely in the fridge overnight and was ready to be carved.  I made a template out of paper and cut out the numbers:

I did a base layer of white sugarpaste over the numbers to make it smooth, then brushed with a little cordial to make the next layer stick and added pieces of red on top:

I wanted to make it look like Mini Slim had built the 30 so I added some extra cuts to look like it had been made from pieces, then made some screws from grey sugarpaste with the end of a piping nozzle:

I made small indentations with a ball tool and secured the 'screws' in place.  I couldn't find any edible glue in my cake supplies shop so instead I used some vanilla extract and a fine paintbrush.  I then used a small knife to add line for the head of each screw:

Making Mini Slim

I've not made a person out of sugarpaste before but I was really looking forward to this bit.  I thought my original idea of having Mini Slim sawing some wood was a little ambitious for a first attempt, so instead I decided to have him sitting on top of the 30 holding a screwdriver, having finished his handymanning.

Having coloured up some modelling paste in a denim colour (I mixed Sugarflair Liquorice and Ice Blue) I rolled a long sausage shape, cut a triangle out of the middle and folded in half to make the legs.  I made some trainers from white sugarpaste and fixed these pieces in place where he was going to sit:

Then I made his top - to match the blue hoodie Slim was wearing the last time I saw him (the cocktail stick helps keep it sturdy and is for attaching the head):

I then followed this very handy video for making the face (if you do watch it I highly recommend turning off the sound - don't say I didn't warn you...):

I then added some hair (made using a garlic press as I don't have a clay gun), a teeny pencil for behind his ear and a screwdriver for his hand:

I made a few more tools and a toolbox which I secured with a little more vanilla extract the following morning, and the cake was complete.  I then went mad taking dozens of pictures from every angle.  It's a good job Mini Slim is a natural in front of the camera and a very happy model.

Despite being decapitated in transit to the party (darn cake box wasn't tall enough) I hear Mini Slim survived being eaten and is still alive and well back in Preston Park, with his toolkit at the ready for his next DIY job.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Happy 30th Slim! Gluten Free Lemon & Orange Cake

The whole reason that I wanted to start the Brighton Bakery was because I love designing and baking cakes.  Especially big ones for special occasions.  So I was thrilled to be asked by my good friend Laura to bake a cake for her boyfriend Slim's 30th Birthday.
Slim is pretty well known for being a rather handy man.  Along with Laura's help, he has just converted an old ambulance into a campervan called Big Trev (check out the Big Trev blog for how they did it) and when they recently moved down to Brighton instead of buying a bed Slim decided to make one out of wood instead.  Impressive.  So of the 3 ideas I suggested to Laura for the design of the cake it's no surprise she thought that the handyman idea was perfect.
The birthday boy is wheat intolerant so I had a chance to test drive my first gluten free celebration cake.  I knew that Slim loved the luscious lemon trickle mash cake I made a few weeks ago but it's quite fragile and I wasn't sure how it would scale up to a 10" cake.  So instead I plumped for a recipe in my new Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache cookbook (hate the title but love the recipes) that uses a similar mix of ground almonds and vegetables as the base and is designed to be made as a big cake. 

It took a little longer than I thought it would to make, but I have to say I'm really pleased with how it turned out:

Laura picked it up this morning so it's yet to be revealed to Slim but I really hope he likes it.  In my next blog I'll show you the making of....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Apple Mac cake - Happy Birthday Bertie

My father in law has just bought himself a new Mac computer and he loves it.  He even brought it all the way down to Brighton to show it off at his last visit and has an Apple sticker in his car window he's so pleased with it.  So I thought it would be a great craic to make his birthday cake this year in the shape of the Apple logo.  It would also give me a chance to try out carving a cake for the first time which is another skill I want to get under my belt.
It would have been great to make it an apple flavour cake as well, but I thought it was best to stick to a cake that would stand up to being shaped so I opted for a traditional madeira cake, but coffee flavoured as I knew that was Bertie's favourite. 
I started off making a 9 inch madeira cake and left it overnight to settle and firm up.  I used the recipe in my Home Guide To Cake Decorating and substituted the milk for Camp Coffee Essence (note there is the typo in this book and the quantities for plain flour and self raising flour are the wrong way round!).  The next day I levelled the top and cut into 3 horizontal layers, then rebuilt it again upside down - this way, what was the bottom of the cake makes a perfectly flat top level.  For each layer I brushed on a little sugar syrup spiked with coffee licquer for flavour and moistness before smoothing over a layer of coffee buttercream.
I made a paper template of the logo and used that as a guide to cut out the shape of the cake, using my trusty serrated knife:
I realised it wasn't really much of a test of my carving skills and it was pretty easy as all I had to do was cut a straight line down from the paper template.  I think the real challenge is when you do proper 3D carving to create shapes like cars - I'll have to push myself next time.
I covered the carved cake in a thin layer of buttercream, which was a bit trickier than with a regular round or square cake trying to get it smooth and even into the inward shapes:
Next was a layer of marzipan:

Then I brushed the marzipan with a little leftover coffee sugar syrup to make the final layer of sugarpaste stick.   After smoothing on the sugarpaste I brushed with silver metallic lustre dust (I used this one by Rainbow Dust).  I covered a cake drum with white sugarpaste ready for the cake to sit on top then it dawned on me that I hadn't actually thought of a way to transfer the cake onto the drum.  Usually I use a thin cake board under the cake so it's easy to lift, but this one was an irregular shape so I couldn't use one.  So I sent out a panicked cry to Melissa for some moral support, then using two palette knives I lifted the cake onto the board.  Luckily it landed in the right place and didn't crack any of the icing.  Phew!
So here's the final cake - Bertie got the joke and all agreed it tasted great so I was really pleased.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Preserving the Brighton Bakery garden bounty - part 1

It's this time of year that I really love having a kitchen garden.  We've already had plenty of rocket, salad leaves and herbs and a handful of broad beans (no thanks to the slugs) but the first 'proper' crops have now started to appear.  Yesterday Melissa and her mam picked the first harvest of juicy gooseberries from the bush, which I had planned to make into a pie, but unfortunately the crop was a bit smaller than we had thought.  In fact it wasn't even a third of what we needed!  So I changed tack and made a lovely gooseberry compote which we devoured over ice cream last night. 

Gooseberry Compote
makes enough to drizzle over 4 bowls of ice cream

220g gooseberries
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar (or to taste)

Top and tail the gooseberries and pop into a small saucepan with the water and sugar. 
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. 
Taste towards the end and adjust to your own taste by adding a little more sugar to make it sweeter (or a little lemon juice if you prefer it a bit sharper).
Leave to cool and chill in the fridge. 
Perfect on top of vanilla icecream or for breakfast added to a bowl of yoghurt and granola. 

You can also make this into gooseberry fool by gently folding the compote into whipped double cream - divine.

We didn't stop with the gooseberries either - stayed tuned for part 2 and a fantastic relish made from our purple beetroot.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Wimbledon Cupcakes - a birthday gift for Laura

I was a wee bit late with my edible birthday present for my friend Laura this year - mainly because she'd just kindly volunteered to take one of our large carrot and honey cakes off our hands that we had left over from the Kemptown Carnival and I was in danger of enforcing cake overload on her and her boyfriend.

So a couple of weeks later I flicked through my recipe books to try and find something special with a little twist that would match Laura's bubbly personality.  I couldn't see a recipe for a champagne cake which was my initial thought, but a strange connection fizzed in my brain as Melissa had the tennis on in the background and I stumbled upon a recipe for strawberries and cream cupcakes my lovely new Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache cookbook.  They perfectly encapsulate Wimbledon in cake form and I love how the cases look like little tennis skirts.  I have no idea if Laura even likes tennis but hoped that she would love these cute little cakes and they seemed too topical to resist.  I knew the hidden strawberry jam in the middle would be right up her street so tennis fan or not they would still make a great gift for her. 

These cakes also have the added bonus of being better for you - they have no fat added to the cake batter but instead use grated courgette and ground almonds giving them a wonderful flavour and texture.  But what I think makes these cakes special is how all the elements of the cake, mascarpone icing, fresh strawberry and strawberry jam in the middle all balance and work together really well to become greater than the sum of their parts - if you close your eyes you're transported to Wimbledon sitting on the freshly cut grass of Murray Mount eating strawberries and cream - divine.