Friday, 28 October 2011

Turtle Wedding Cake - congratulations David and Inessa

I love it when people ask for cakes that are a bit different - it's really rewarding for me to make a cake that not only stretches my creativity and also one that's completely original and personal to the customer.
So I was really excited to make this turtle wedding cake for happy couple David and Inessa:

The story behind the design, is that the turtles represent that it has taken a long time for the couple to finally get married, and it matches the design on their wedding invitation.  As the groom is not a fan of white icing, the couple plumped for a chocolate orange cake covered with chocolate sugarpaste and filled with chocolate and cointreau ganache.  Yum.

I started about a week before making the toppers to give them plenty of time to dry and harden - a drooping bride and groom on top of a wedding cake would be a disaster!  I used modelling paste, which is simply regular sugarpaste with gum tragacanth added and left overnight.  I started with the bodies, which I made out of yellow modelling paste and a small amount of chocolate brown paste:

I rolled the brown paste into thin sausages and wrapped that around a fat yellow sausage.  I then rolled this round and folded it over a couple of times to get the marbled effect:

Using the same technique, I used a slightly darker brown to make the legs, stretching it and folding over 3 or 4 times to get the thinner marble effect.  So that each pair of legs matched, I made four sausages about half the size of the body and cut each sausage into two to give eight legs.  I shaped the hind legs into an "s" and cut in the claws using a craft knife:

I fixed the legs on using a short piece of dry spaghetti (yep - it works a treat!) and some edible glue.  I added a tail which I made from an offcut:

I made the neck and head using the same technique again, with a piece about half the size of the body for each.  I inserted a longer piece of dry spaghetti nearly all the way down the neck and left enough at the end to push right into the body and secured with edible glue to make sure it stayed put.  I then supported the necks while they dried:

I actually kept them supported this way for about a week to make sure they were as strong as possible.

The day before the cake was to be delivered, I baked the cake and while it was in the oven I finished off the turtles.  Having tried one technique for the shell I wasn't happy with it so I took it all off and started again.  I added a small lump of paste on top of the back and then covered with a circle of chocolate sugarpaste.  I added the textured effect using the end of my edible pen! 

I added the eyes and cut a slit with a craft knife for the mouths.  I made a top hat from black modelling paste and the bridal headdress from white paste which I shaped at the bottom using my scallop tool (I knew I'd find a use for that tool at some point!).  I added lots of details - daisies cut from flower paste filled with handmade edible pearls, some tiny yellow roses I made using a new mould I recently bought and yellow teardrop jewels and more edible pearls to finish it off:

They really came to life once the hat and headdress went on.  I was so pleased.  I left them overnight again, with a support, just in case.

The next day, I had until 3.30pm before I had to deliver the cake.  Plenty of time, or so I thought.  I had a bit of a disaster with the first batch of ganache filling, so it was about midday before I had the cake cut, filled, iced and in the fridge to firm up before covering.  So much for an easy relaxed day just adding the finishing touches...

Once the cake had firmed up in the fridge for a couple of hours I covered it with chocolate sugarpaste:

I also covered the drum in chocolate sugarpaste and secured the trimmed cake on top with some royal icing:

Next it was ready for the lilypads.  I made these from green sugarpaste mixed with a little chocolate paste rolled into a circle.  I then texturised the edges using a toothpick:

I cut a triangle out of each of the lilypads and shaped the edges a little to make them look more realistic before adding to the cake using some edible glue:

Time to add the turtles and a message piped in royal icing:

I finished the cake off with some yellow ribbon round both the cake and the drum, secured with a flower detail to tie in with the bridal headdress:

Congratulations David and Inessa - I hope you had a fantastic day yesterday and wish you a long and happy life together xx

Monday, 17 October 2011

A week of ups and Sussex downs...

This last week we really seem to have been on a rollercoaster with the Brighton Bakery. 

At the start of the week I made a footballer birthday cake for our friends David and Denis that they both really loved and said it looked and tasted amazing (thanks guys). 

While I was in the middle of making their cake, the phone rang and I took our very first wedding cake order.  I'm so excited to make it and really proud we've reached this milestone, especially considering the website's only been up for 6 weeks!

On Thursday we got an email from Brighton Council to say that we've been allocated an allotment at the top of Whitehawk Hill.  There's a great community atmosphere there and a fantastic view over the Marina.  One day we'll be able to offer cakes with fillings made from our very own fruit trees :o)  Unfortunately the allotment is currently an undulating patch of brambles, weeds and rubbish... but Melissa and I aren't afraid of hard work and this allotment is going to be a huge part of the lifestyle that we dreamed of when we decided to move down to Brighton.

Yesterday we took part in the first ever Indulge Sussex Sunday in Hove.  We spent almost two full days preparing and baking our hearts out and were looking forward to finishing the week off on a high with a successful stall day. 

We set up our stall at the Hove Town Hall, and in pride of place was a Christmas showcake I made with carol singing penguins:

We had high hopes that we could get some pre-orders for our luxury Christmas Cakes as well as selling plenty of our regular sweet treats and cake slices.  We had some of our regular favourites plus new additions of Autumn Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes (completely yummy and totally vegan), Banana and Butterscotch Muffins (a great flavour combo) and a Seriously Good Chocolate Orange Cake (which definitely lives up to its name).  The weather seemed perfect for the indoor event - bright and sunny to get people out but with a cold wind to drive people indoors.  As the only cake stall and a potential for 2400 visitors surely this one was a sure thing?

The event started slowly at 11am but that's not unusual.  We'd learnt from experience that prime cake time is 3pm-5pm so we weren't too worried as it was sure to pick up later. 

At about 1.30pm at was still kinda quiet, but we figured people were having Sunday lunch and were probably going to come afterwards, plus it still wasn't quite cake o'clock.

It reached about 2.30pm there just still weren't many people coming through the doors. 2400 people?  We reckoned the total was more like 240.  The chances weren't looking that good for us to make much money.

At 3.30pm we still had an hour and a half to go when we realised that a couple of stalls behind us had already packed up and gone.  Ten minutes later the stall beside us (the excellent Lurgashall Winery) was also packing up.  The event organisers decided to wind up an hour early, right in the middle of caking hour.

Oh dear. Well it had to happen sometime - Sunday was our first market stall flop.  Two days of both Melissa and me working solidly (plus me preparing all the day before that too) and just taking into account our stall fee, ingredients and parking we came out with a loss of £7.64.  And we can't exactly sue ourselves for not earning the minimum wage...

But at least we did sell something (some stalls didn't even sell a single thing), we got our name out there and the people that did buy our cakes really seemed to enjoy them.  We've got a couple of leads for Christmas cakes and birthday cakes too so it's not all bad.  If you see it as a marketing exercise, £7.64 isn't a big price to pay. 

Plus we were home and unpacked by 4.35pm, so we walked up to our new allotment site and then considered our plan of action over a well earned pint looking out onto the sea as the sun went down.  We might not make much money, but I think Melissa and I are living the dream.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

How to make a footballer cake

Sometimes I feel like I'm breaking the magician's code when I show how I make my cakes but so many people have said they love seeing it come together that I can't help sharing it on the blog.
Today here's how I made a footballer cake for my friend David's partner Denis:

You will need:
Round cake (madeira cake works the best)
Rice Krispie Treats (recipe below)
Sugarpaste (fondant) in white, green, peach, black, red and blue
Gum tragacanth to turn sugarpaste into modelling paste
Edible glue
Cocktail sticks
Dry spaghetti
Tools - large & small rolling pins, serrated knife, sharp knife, cone tool to make holes (or you could use a cocktail stick), small brush for applying edible glue, pastry brush for applying glitter

I started off with an 8" round lemon madeira cake, which I left wrapped in the fridge overnight to settle.  This make it easier to cut into layers and less likely to crumble.  The next morning I cut into layers and filled each layer with lemon curd buttercream and fresh raspberries.  I finished it off by covering the top and sides with a thin layer of buttercream, making sure it was as smooth as possible to give an even surface for the sugarpaste.  Then I placed the iced cake in the fridge to firm up the buttercream.

While the cake was in the fridge, I got straight onto making the 3D numbers.  So they aren't too heavy to stand up on the cake, they are made from Rice Krispie treats which need time to set before you carve them.  They are easy peasy to make:
1. Gently melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan.
2. Add a 225g bag of marshmallows and stir until melted.
3. Quickly stir in 2 cups of Rice Krispies.
4.  Press well into a tin pre-lined with silicone paper.  I find using another layer of greaseproof on top then pressing down with another tin gives the best result.  Once cool, refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Once the Rice Krispie treats were set, I cut out the numbers with a sharp knife using paper templates as a guide:

To give a smooth surface I applied a thin layer of buttercream, then covered in red sugarpaste.  I added some edible glitter with a brush to make the numbers sparkle:

I had the option of just laying the numbers flat on the cake, but I thought I'd be brave and try and make them stand up vertically.  I pushed cocktail sticks into the base of the numbers and left aside to add to the cake once the cake was decorated and the footballer was in place.

I had planned to cover the whole cake in green sugarpaste to make it look like a football pitch, but when I read the back of the pack of green sugarpaste it said "although not harmful, due to the high levels of colour concentration this is not suitable for covering whole cakes and should be used sparingly."  Oh dear.  So I had a quick rethink and instead I decided to cover the cake in white and use just a thin circle of green to cover the top.  I even mixed in about 1/3 white sugarpaste into the green so it was less strong but still had a good colour.

I used the bottom of a 7" cake tin to mark out the circle of green and rounded off the edges before adding to the top of the cake.  Using the offcuts, I rolled out a long strip of green and cut in a random jagged edge to look like grass. 

I added this in small strips about 4" long to make it easier to apply to the cake, teasing a few of the ends over to make it look a little more realistic:

I kept the offcuts and squished them together to form clumps of grass, which I left to dry out before adding to the cake later:

Note to self:  next time leave them to dry on a bit of silicone paper so that you can move them without crushing them!

Then came the final and most important part - making the footballer.

David had sent me a picture of Denis in his football kit, and I also found a picture on the Stonewall FC website to work from:

When I'm creating a figure in sugarpaste I like to take the key features of the person rather than try and create a realistic replica.  When he's off the pitch, Denis wears some distinctive glasses so I wanted to add these to the sugarpaste figure as well as matching up his football strip.

I started off by making the body in blue modelling paste.  I always start with this as it's easiest to measure the size of all the other body parts from the torso.  I made a sort of flattened cone shape and used a cone tool to create holes where the arms would go:

I then rolled a long sausage shape and cut to size for the arms.  Starting from the sausage shape, I slightly tapered the bottom, formed a notch to secure to the body, and cut a small 'v' from the middle so that the arms would bend more naturally:

I used a tool to make a hole in the end of each arm for the hand to fit.  I then made the hands from peach coloured modelling paste, starting with a teardrop shape, then flattening slightly and cutting a notch for the thumb:

I made a football from white sugarpaste with small pentagons cut from black sugarpaste added, then put the body together using edible glue.  I added extra details of the sponsorship logos, white stripes and captain armband to bring it to life as a football shirt:

Next I made a pair of shorts from white modelling paste.  I started with a fat sausage shape and cut a 'v' in the middle so that it bent round.  I secured it straight onto the cake with a cocktail stick which would also stick up into the body to secure it:

The legs were made from peach modelling paste, rolled into a tapered sausage, again with a 'v' cut out so that the leg would bend.  I then covered the shins in a thin layer of navy sugarpaste for the socks:

The legs were secured with short lengths of dry spaghetti and edible glue.  I propped them up while I made the shoes out of black sugarpaste and added a small green block underneath to keep everything from falling apart.

I made the head using the instructions on this video (I advise you to turn the sound off though because the music is really annoying!):

In hindsight maybe his eyes should have been just a little bit smaller....

I secured the body onto the shorts then pushed a cocktail stick through the neck ready to attach the head.  Sugarpaste footballer - done!:

The final element was adding the 3D numbers.  This was a bit trickier to make them stay up than I had thought, and I ended up having to push a long stick of dried spaghetti all the way through the 4 into the cake to make it stable!  I finished off the numbers with the grass clumps I made earlier, secured with a little edible glue and the cake was done!

I was really pleased with how it turned out - it's well proportioned and really makes an impact.  If I could make one change, it would be to have the footballer on the side of the cake next to the 3D numbers - it looked great in front of you, when you could see all around it, but in photos the number gets lost behind the figure.  Still, I make cakes for people first and foremost, not for the website, and it makes absolutely no difference to how it tastes!

Hope you enjoyed the post, don't forget to become a follower (near the top on the right hand side of the page) if you'd like to see more of my cake creations :o)

Happy Birthday Denis - Footballer Cake

Melissa's good friend David asked me to make a cake for his partner Denis's birthday.  Denis is a great footballer and a player for the Stonewall Football Club, so what better than a cake with him in his football kit?  The last few orders we have had have been for quite simple cakes just with piped messages so I was really excited to do something a bit different that allowed me to be creative. 

David originally asked for a chocolate cake, but after trying one of my lemon and raspberry friands that he pinched from Melissa's lunchbox he changed his mind.  So inspired by this, I used my ever popular zesty lemon madeira cake filled with lemon curd buttercream and fresh raspberries. 

The cake would have Denis in his Stonewall Football Kit sitting on the football pitch.  To complete the design I added his age in 3D numbers with a sprinkle of edible glitter to make it pop.

And here's the final cake:

And amazingly, it survived the journey all the way to London on two bumpy public buses and the train - result!  We delivered the cake to David yesterday morning and he loved it.  I hope Denis liked it too - if you're reading please leave a comment and let me know!

Up next - the making of....

Monday, 3 October 2011

The best everyday brown bread recipe

Part of the reason Melissa and I moved down to Brighton was because we wanted to make a major change to our lifestyle.  We wanted to lead a more simple life, taking less for granted and even though we would have a much lower income, we wanted to spend our money with local businesses and eating local food rather than blindly pushing a trolley down the aisles in the Saturday morning supermarket rat race.

Several months on, we've realised we can't cut out the supermarket completely - it's just not practical or affordable - but we certainly make more informed and considered choices about the food we buy.  We buy most of our eggs, fruit and vegetables from local greengrocers The Park Farm Shop, we only buy sustainably sourced fish, fairtrade chocolate and coffee and we have boycotted nearly all processed food in favour of making everything from scratch. 

Occasionally we do slip, but one rule we've stuck religiously to is our pact not to buy supermarket bread.  It's not always been easy, especially because I'm a total toast fiend and breadmaking takes a long time, but we've not bought a single loaf since January.  So I have now had plenty of practice to perfect my favourite bread recipe, which I thought I would share with you.

This loaf is my ultimate sandwich bread - it's got a lovely springy soft crumb, subtle malty flavour, and it always turns out lovely and light.  Some bread recipes can be fickle, but this one always seems to turn out perfectly every time - it's pretty foolproof. 

Everyday Malted Brown Bread Recipe
Makes 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 8 rolls

700g brown or wholemeal bread flour
200g white bread flour
80g malt extract (you can find this in heath food stores or Holland & Barratt)
80ml sunflower or vegetable oil
4 tsp dried active yeast (I use Allinson's)
30g demerara or light brown sugar
3tsp maldon sea salt, crushed (if you use regular table salt you will need to add more - try 4tsp)
540ml water

1. Dissolve the sugar in 180ml boiling water in a large jug, then add 360ml cold water so you end up with a 540ml lukewarm sugar solution.  Sprinkle over the yeast and give the mixture a good whisk then leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes.  This gives the yeast the perfect wake up back to life ready to spring into action and create a lovely springy loaf. 
2. If you have a mixer with a dough hook then this recipe is a cinch.  While your yeast is reawakening, measure out the flours and salt into the bowl of your mixer and give it a quick mix.  Make a well in the middle and add the oil and malt extract.  Once your yeast mixture has a nice frothy head of about 1-2cm add this in as well and mix until combined.  Leave the mix to stand for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid into the flour before kneading.
3. Knead the mixture using the dough hook on a low setting for 10 minutes.  I'm sure you could do this by hand if you don't have a mixer, but it's quite a wet dough so be prepared to get your hands messy and try not to add much more flour during kneading.
4.  Shape your dough into a round, then place into an oiled bowl and cover with a teatowel or dark plastic bag.  Leave somewhere snug and draught-free to rise until doubled in size (mine usually takes less than an hour but will depend on the temperature of your room).
5. Once the dough has risen, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and press down all over with your fingertips to knock out the air.  You can then form into a round and leave to rise a second time to improve the flavour and texture, but it's not essential.
6. Split the dough evenly into two and shape into rounds (or rolls if you prefer).  I like the River Cottage Bread Book method which you can see here.
7. Place your shaped loaves onto a well floured teatowel and coat liberally all over with flour. Cover and leave to prove until nearly doubled in size (this usually takes about 20 minutes, but keep checking regularly). 
8. Preheat your oven to 210C (195C fan assisted) and stick a large baking sheet in to heat up.  When your loaves are ready to bake, it's best to work quickly!  Get the hot baking sheet out of the oven (shut the door quickly to keep the heat in) and cover with baking parchment or sprinkle with flour to stop the bread from sticking.  Transfer your loaves to the hot tray and slash the tops with a serrated knife - this helps the bread to rise evenly in the oven.  Put the loaves straight in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (15-20 minutes for rolls), or until you hear a hollow sound when tapping on the base of the loaf.

The bread keeps well in the bread bin for a few days and also freezes very successfully.  It's not too dense (unlike many homemade brown bread recipes) so makes it perfect for sandwiches.  It does take a while to make, but if you have a mixer with a dough hook it really takes very little effort and is far better than any supermarket loaf. 

As always, I love to hear your comments so if you give this recipe a try please let me know how you get on :o)