Decorating a cake with fresh flowers

sceneCakes covered in real flowers are awesome. Naked cakes are super popular at the moment, and with those rustic, cutesy cakes have come flowers – big, small, pastel, bold, spiky, flowing…you get the point. Combining delicious cake with gorgeous flowers is a glorious idea, but the concept can seem foreign to some people, so I’ve put together some tips to help you take your cake to the next level.

Most of these steps are aimed at making sure that your flowers are safe to be placed on a cake – you don’t want nasties getting on your beautiful cake.

Champagne pop rocks cake and New Year’s Eve

aboveThis cake is an occasion cake. It’s two-tiered, it’s got champagne in it, and POP ROCKS! All those components make it just a little bit more special than the average cake. This cake really embodies New Year’s Eve traditions to me – it’s fun and unexpected, it’s got a little bit of champagne in it, and the pop rocks are like little fireworks for your taste buds.

Chocolate basil crinkle biscuits and New Year’s Eve

I’m very excited about 2014 – it will be my first full year of blogging, and things are going to be very busy for Norman and I! 2013 has been fabulous; I started the blog, I tried a bunch of new recipes, and I even convinced my family and The Boy to try some new things too.

My final post for this year is nothing too spectacular, it’s understated, but impressive, which is how I like my New Year’s Eve. The chocolate element of the biscuits has a lovely fudginess to it, which contrasts beautifully with the hard shell that forms as a result of the white sugar.

basilIf you’re hesitant about the mix of chocolate and basil mixture, don’t be. You mix chocolate and mint all the time without thinking about it! I converted a few members of my family, although The Boy was somewhat reluctant to concede defeat. I think that the basil heightens the chocolate taste, he just disliked the green bits that he saw in the mixture.

Lime and raspberry cupcakes and unbirthdays

scene (416x640)I know too many people who were born in the last three months of the year, October is particularly packed. Lots of people, including the Boy, must be celebrated in such proximity to one another that I decided to throw another unbirthday party. It’s not that I dislike birthdays (quite the opposite, actually), it’s just there are not enough days to celebrate people properly!

The last unbirthday party I threw was mainly for one person, whereas this one was aimed at three people. It is worth noting that anyone can claim an unbirthday – as long as their birthday doesn’t fall on the say that it is celebrated!

I feel as though I’m becoming a bit of an unbirthday expert…

please

 

Norman, meanwhile, is an expert unbirthday crasher. He’s got his puppy dog eyes look sorted!

Pear bread and Pinterest

My hunt for pear recipes was inspired by this cuteness, which I found on Pinterest. He is now my lock screen on my phone – he just makes me smile.

pinterest pear

pearMy lock screen did not go unnoticed by The Boy. Despite thinking I was crazy, the boy left me my own little smiley pear. Said smiley pear is now sitting in a display cupboard, I can’t bring myself to eat him.

This recipe was made with his friends though, I’m not sure how to break it to him…

Mini lemon thyme cakes and discoveries

thyme in handLast post I mentioned re-discovering a fabulous carrot and poppyseed cake. I realised that I don’t proclaim my discovery of things often enough. It would be remiss of me to write any further this week without mentioning my two new loves – lemon thyme and cake stands.

Of course, I’ve always known that both existed, but this week I have seen them in a new light. So I guess you could call these sort-of-discoveries It was an abundance of lemon thyme in the garden that drew me to seek out new recipes to harness it. The smell of lemon thyme is absolutely enchanting. It’s like lemon’s cooler older brother – lemon thyme  is a little more mature and mellowed out where lemon is really loud and abrasive, too busy trying to prove himself.

Brownie cheesecake slice and remembering

sliceMother remembered on Thursday morning that she had to take a slice into work on Friday. She left me a note asking me to make one for her. Of course I obliged; being unemployed and sole contributor to my baking blog, this request was perfectly tailored to my situation!

She needed something easy to transport (cupcakes are out), something that would feed a group easily (pots de crème are out) and something delicious. I’ve made brownies before and they’re delightful, but I felt as though she needed something a little more show stopping to tempt her co-workers.

Queen of Hearts Tart (White chocolate cheesecake)

I’ve got a friend’s birthday coming up soon and I’m trying to put together a few recipes to make her party special. It will be a high tea style thing because she’s not a big fan of birthdays. I can’t understand why she doesn’t love birthdays, but I’m loving the challenge of finding recipes that will impress her without seeming too celebratory.

I’m keeping plans a little bit secret, so I won’t blab too much. Keep an eye out for her birthday post later this week, I have a feeling that it’s going to be great!

Before you start the recipe, ensure you’ve got a syringe. Like the ones you give kids medicine with. It sounds odd, but it’s a really simple decorating tool.

I appropriated this recipe from one I found at Cooking Classy.

White chocolate cheesecake tart:punch glass (1024x683)

  • 2 sheets shortcrust pastry
  • 300g cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon juice

Raspberry puree

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • ¼ cup cold water

Grease six tart tins. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
strainPut your frozen raspberries in a small saucepan over a medium heat and sprinkle the sugar in. When the raspberries start to defrost, add the cornflour and water. Stir it often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. When the raspberries have broken down fully, allow the mixture to come to a boil and thicken for about two minutes. Remove your puree from the heat and put it through a strainer to get rid of all the seeds.strained

It’s going to look a little bit like something from a bad horror film – all red and gloopy, but it’s delicious. Set your puree aside, you’ll need it in about ten minutes.

Cut your pastry into squares and fit them into your tart tins. You’ll need to do this in two batches, the recipe makes about 12. Pop them into the oven for 10 minutes so that the pastry cooks slightly – you may want to weight them down with baking weights to stop it from bubbling up.

like creamWhile the tarts cook, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy in a large mixing bowl (this will take about one minute.) Mix in your egg and egg white, then the vanilla and lemon juice. Melt your white chocolate and stir the cream into the chocolate. When the chocolate and cream are completely combined, add them to the cream cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. It should be a similar consistency to whipped cream – don’t worry, it will cook into a more cheesecakey consistency.

Remove the tart cases from the oven and allow them to cool. Take them out of their cases and put your second batch of cases in to cook. When your second lot of tart dough has come out of the oven and cooled, prepare to put your cheesecake mixture in.

syringeSpoon the mixture so that the tart cases are about ¾ full (the mixture will rise slightly as it cooks.) Get out your syringe and prepare to get crafty! Grab your bowl of raspberry puree and suck up as much as you can into the syringe. I’d advise you to keep the nozzle moving so you don’t suck up much air, because air bubbles are annoying. Ensure that the tops of your tarts are as smooth as possible and inject small circles of raspberry into them. Don’t crowd the circles because you’ll elongate them later to make the hearts. Once you’ve put circles in all of them, get a toothpick and run it through the centre of each circle in a continuous line. You may want to wipe the toothpick after each tart to make cleaner lines.spotsswirl

Don’t worry if they’re not completely neat, as long as you run your toothpick through the centre of each circle, they’ll look heart-like. Little tricks like using the syringe or a piping bag may seem fiddly, but get easier with practice, and give your baked goods a professional finish.norman watched

Bake tarts back in the oven for 15-20 mins. Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool completely before serving. They’ll set more as they cool, so don’t rush them by eating them warm!

trio

Smarties cupcakes and nostalgia

This evening’s post was prompted by a request. And I’m so happy that I made them! I’m a solo worker; I choose my own recipes and prefer to make them in a kitchen with as few people around as possible. I love company, just not when I’m bustling about in my own world in the kitchen. My baking is for sharing, always, but the process is a personal one.

So when it was suggested that I make Smarties cupcakes I wondered whether I should acquiesce or not. I hadn’t had a Smarties cupcake since my childhood.

And therein lies their brilliance.

The colouring of Smarties may be less intense than it used to be, but their flavour is still the same. Complemented by a soft vanilla buttercream and chocolatey cupcake, these concoctions just work.

They taste of childhood and nostalgia. I half wished I’d made up lolly bags to go along with these cupcakes, it felt wrong to serve such festive cupcakes without a lolly bag for people to take home!

tiny teddiesSome teddy bears joined me for the photo shoot because it had been a while since they’d been played with. They enjoyed the trip back to childhood and what appeared to be a child’s birthday party.

Cook them for their colour, their easy charm and the memories they’ll bring back for you.

Just make sure you buy extra Smarties.

teddy bear picnicChocolate cupcakes

  • 1 ½ cups self raising flour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 100g butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla

Vanilla butter cream

  • 1 ½ cups icing sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3 tpsb milk

Preheat your oven to 190°C. Grease your muffin tins, or use cardboard cupcake cases like me if you’re feeling lazy.

Cream your butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add your eggs and vanilla, mixing them well.

cookFold in the cocoa and half of the flour flour, adding your milk when it gets too hard to mix. Fold in the next half of the flour and make sure everything is combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl down regularly so that the cocoa reaches every part of the mixture, nobody likes streaky cupcakes!

Fill your cupcake cases or muffin tins about 3/4 full and try some of the mixture, it’s delish!

Norman

Pop them on a baking tray (or not, if you’re using a muffin tin) and bake for 16 minutes or until you can insert a skewer into the cupcake and it comes out cleanly.

smartiesWhile the cupcakes cool, beat the butter until it’s pale and soft. Add the icing sugar and milk and mix until it is smooth. Wait until the cupcakes are completely cook to ice them, you don’t want the icing sliding off.


Toss a handful of Smarties over the cupcakes and feed the waiting children (or sentimental adults.) The Smarties packet had a chef on it – I appreciated the appropriateness of the character on the box!spotty cupcake

bunting

These little gems are perfect for a child’s party – no child is going to turn down a smarties covered cupcake! Add some bunting for decoration if you’re feeling especially fun – mine was made by stringing coloured triangles in between a skewer cut into halves. A little bunting makes a big difference to presentation!

pink cupcake

 

* I doubled this recipe to make a cake – results are here.