First let me apologise, this is a bit of an everything post. Hang in there!
I think I’m suffering from the after Christmas slump. It’s been difficult to want to do anything but sleep, I think it’s something to do with it still being so freaking cold outside! So what better way is there to perk yourself than cake?!
I took advantage of some of the January sales these past few weeks and picked up some new cook books. The Works had some very good deals and I couldn’t leave without these two!
For Christmas presents I made some rather adorable little hampers for family and friends, which I completely forgot to take photos of in the craziness that is Christmas, but trust me, they were super cute! I bought some gable boxes in the smaller of the two sizes, filled with tissue paper and then added all of my home-made goodness. I really enjoyed making these little gift hamper, I added mini Christmas cake, white chocolate and cranberry shortbread, hot chocolate stirrers, gingerbread cupcakes, chilli jam and a little Christmas candle.
Aside from the candles, everything else was home-made and the reaction you get from someone when they get something so personal is worth all the effort you put in. This got me thinking, what else could I make people as presents? What would people want to receive? I’d rather receive something I could eat or drink than smellies. The Gifts from the Kitchen book is full of some amazing ideas and when I try them out I’ll be sure to let you know.
The Cake decorating book was an absolutely amazing find, it gives some really good ideas for decorations, step by step guides and recipes that have been broken down to ingredients needed for your tin size. I love that idea. Why don’t all recipes come in that way, wouldn’t that be a better idea? Maybe it’s because, like me, they can’t work out the maths involved.
Anyway, I gave two of the recipes a try. I was immediately drawn to the chocolate mud cake. The picture in the book showed a dense chocolaty slab of yumminess, obviously I needed to make it. The recipe was straight forward but the two-hour cooking time was agonising! It was worth it though. Once cooled enough I made the simplest chocolate ganache glaze, that gave an amazing result.
Look at the shine on that baby! It was so easy to make this glaze it’s laughable, if you add this glaze to your cakes then you’re guaranteed to get a reaction that would assume you’d put a hell of a lot more effort into it then you have. All you need to do is bring 250ml of cream to the boil, remove from the heat, stir in 200g of chocolate, I did half dark half milk, stir until the chocolate has melted and pour. That’s it. I used a pallet knife to smooth it round the edges and the top, popped in the fridge for 5 mins and voilà! Take pictures quickly though, I don’t think it will last long!
The second cake I made was a Poppy seed and Orange cake. I wasn’t sure at first. I like oranges and I’ve eaten poppy seeds as well, but together? J had to twist my arm in the end.
The mix of the citrus twang of orange and the popping of the poppy seeds make for a really good flavour combination that I don’t think I would have tried otherwise. With a nice layer of vanilla bean butter cream and you’re left with a lovely cake, ideal to have for tea on a Sunday. Everyone who tried this in my house loved it, noting at how they were unsure of it before.
Another part of the Cake decorating book I found really interesting was the decorating tips. In my earlier post I gave a list of projects I wanted to work on this coming year, so when I saw a tutorial on making roses I knew I had to give it a try. I’ve looked at gum paste rose tutorials and thought I’d have a go at a few different ways to see which ones worked best.
The roses at the top are the ones I tried first. I used a 5 petal cutter and Renshaw flower and modelling paste to make these. I followed instructions from all the tutorials online and made a cone 3/4 the size of the petal and stuck the petals down in the right order but I was left with something that looked a little too bulky. I used a ball tool and foam to thin out the petals but found that they kept tearing. I tried to brush some colour into the roses using powder food colouring, this looked OK, but I think it’s time I bought myself some new brushes.
The flowers in the middles row were a combination of the first method and the one that I’d been taught when I was younger. I rolled out balls of the modelling paste and then flattened them down in a sandwich bag with my finger. The yellow flower was made entirely in this way, but doing this I struggle to make any large roses, so when making the blue rose I started off in this way and then moved onto using the 5 petal cutter. I liked the way that this flower turned out, better than the first two, but there was still a lot of tearing going on.
For my final two roses at the bottom I decided to add some trex, vegetable fat for anyone who doesn’t know (you can find it in the fridges at supermarkets), to the paste to see if I could thin it out, without breaking it. This seemed to work really well and was able to get the paste much thinner and more realistic. When making these two roses I decided to switch to another technique. I rolled my paste out as thin as I could using my cake boss rolling-pin with the 1/8″ guides, then using a my smallest pastry cutter cut out 7 for the pink, and 8 for the red, circles of paste. Using a toothpick, I thinned out the paste, rolling it back and forth over the edge. The first petal I rolled around itself to create the centre of the flower, then using either 2/3 at a time stuck the petals around the centre point, sticking the beginning of one petal inside the previous petal to overlap them.
For the red rose I cut out 3 petals in the next circle size up, thinned and stuck on to the rose, before positioning the rose in a way that the petals curled away and left to dry. I began sticking the petals on with water but moved to edible glue as it worked faster and allowed me to move onto the next part instead of having to hold it in place.
The last two roses were definitely my favourite but I know there is more room for improvement, the two of these alone took me an hour and a half. Could you imagine how long it would take if someone wanted a cake covered in these? I’ll keep practising before then!