Month: April 2012

Cake International’s ‘Cake decorating and baking show’

Cake inspiration

Tea pot and bunting cakeNow, I had no plans to write this post tonight but after my visit to Cake international’s ‘The Cake decorating and baking show’ at London’s Excel today I just had to share with you some of the inspirational cakes I saw!

head cake

I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it to the show as I have been shooting a lot this week and had family commitments all weekend, but it all worked out perfectly for me and mum to go to the exhibition and have a bit of a cake shopping spree. (Gosh I hope Mr MT doesn’t read this! If he does I didn’t spend that much…really!!  And Poopah nor did mum….Ahem)overhanging decoration cake

The exhibition has been at Birmingham’s NEC in the past and this was its first time in London and judging from the crowds (and serious elbow pushing – manners ladies please!) it was a resounding success!

Zebra cake

Mum and I were really impressed by all the great and new decorating equipment on offer (more on that in future posts – loads more actually. I can’t wait to share them with you) but it was the cakes that we were really in awe of. There were loads of categories in the competition including two tier or more cakes (with no height restrictions!) shaped cakes, shoes and handbags,  cupcakes, classic cakes and there was even an under 12’s category (one for Beau next year I think). The standard was so high and we couldn’t believe how some of the amazing cakes were only awarded silver, bronze and merit of achievement awards when they were so fantastic.

I should point out that all the cake decorations had to be completely edible. The details on some cakes were just amazing. They looked like plastic toys. The tiger below actually had tonsils!tiger and dragon cake

tiger and dragon cake

tiger and dragon cakeWe spoke to one of the judges and even saw judges talking to some of the younger entrants explaining what they look for when judging and where they could improve for next time. They even turned the cakes around to look at the back and see if any areas that would normally not be seen were neat. They were looking for originality, skill and neatness. Our hearts went out to all the entrants. They must have put in so much time and effort.

Nova's gold cake

One of the entrants was a lovely lady called Nova. She works in my local cake decorating shop in Bromley – who also had a buzzing stand at the show Cake craft world. When I popped into the shop last week Nova was telling me that she had entered the hand bag and shoe category. I was really looking forward to seeing her design and I was completely bowled over when I saw it. It was INCREDIBLE! I have never seen such life like shoes. Nova’s were so detailed with a snake skin look, detailed laces on the trainer and the cake board detailing was amazing too. The bag looked like you could just pick it up and go out for a night on the town with it. She got a very well deserved GOLD !!!!!

Nova heel cake

Nova's heelNova shoe cake

Learning new tricks

There were loads of demonstrations going on at the stands and that’s where we bought the most stuff. We bought letter cutters, imprint rolling pins, square plunger cutters, to name just a few, but it was on Karen Davis stand that we really had to hold our selves back. She has the best silicon moulds ever. She showed us how to create a head using one and how she gets the eyes to look so cute and glisteny. We loved these! The teddies were really cute too!

Karen Davis demo

Karen head demo

More great cakes we saw

I really wish that I had taken my DSLR to take proper photos rather than these snap shots taken with my phone, but then again  I also wish that I hadn’t dropped my camera and broken the lens last week!

Anyway, here are some more of the amazing cakes we loved.

handbags and shoes cakeBritish cakeMario cart cakeTinkerbell and fairies cakeElephant cake5 tier wedding cakeDog cakeIndian cakecupcakesKaren Davis teddiesJubilee cake

The highlight

As if seeing all these cakes and buying tons of new toys wasn’t exciting enough, I also got to meet Ruth Clemens from The Pink Whisk. You might recognise her from the first series of ‘The Great British Bake off’.  I’ve been following her fab blog for ages and last Thursday I tweeted that I was excited to have just received her new book to review here on  (that will be later this week) and I had to say hello and she remembered me. That made my day! She’s was so lovely and so slim and tall! How does she stay so slim whilst coming up with all those amazing recipes! I need to know her secret!

So, I hope you have enjoyed this little whirlwind tour of the show. There’s another show in Birmingham in November, but I am definitely going to be entering the competition in London next year, hopefully with Beau. Time to put my thinking cap on I think!


How to make a Rocket birthday cake light up.

Rocket birthday cake
This is a cake I made for my lovely friend Karen. Karen and I played tag maternity leave when we had our kids. As I went back to work after having Beau, she left for maternity leave to have Dylan. Then it happened a few years later with Darcey and Ewan. We hardly saw each other for three years!
Our four kids get on really well and Beau has a special soft spot for Dylan. Marriage has been discussed. They are 8!
Karen worked in the art department at Woman and Home so she’s super talented and creative. When it was Dylan’s 5th birthday she designed a rocket party invitation and asked me to make him a birthday cake to match.
Of all the cakes I’ve made this is one of my favourites. I love the simple design and bold colours. I think the wording works well (thank goodness ‘Dylan’ is a short name!) and the fire coming out at the bottom just adds to the rocket theme. I think this was the first cake I made that I actually was happy with and wouldn’t have changed a thing!

The jokes on me!

One of the guys in the Art department is Glen. Glen is an amazing photographer on the side (check out his fab website here) Karen was talking to him about the party and how I was doing a rocket cake and he suggested that the stars on the cake should light up. Never one to shy away from a challenge I set to planning and working out how to do it. Little did I know that he was actually joking! I didn’t find that out until after the party though!
Light up the rocket birthday cake

Lighting up the night stars

I decided that the easiest way to make the stars light up was to use battery operated fairy lights. I had just finished shooting the christmas interior features and it was the first time they were so readily available. I was a bit addicted to them!
 I started by  drilling large holes into the cake board which were sealed up with cellotape. Each side edge of the cake board was set up on thin strips of wood so the battery pack could be hidden underneath, whilst still  being easy to switch on. I used a ton of tape to position a fairly light into each of the holes in the board. This meant that when the lights were turned on the holes in the board lit up.
The top of the cake board was covered in blue icing sugar. Different sized star cutters were pressed into the icing on the board and the blue icing where each star was was removed. A corresponding yellow or white star was then cut out and popped into the space on the board. I then carefully smoothed the whole board so it was nice and flat. The stars with lights behind actually had thinner icing sugar than the rest so that as much light as possible could shine through. I added the moon in the same way.Then I could add the cake to the board and the wording to finish.
So all that’s left to say is thanks Glen for an original idea. Now I need to think of where else I can add lights!!!


‘The Great British Book of Baking’ book review

The Great British book of bakingThis book accompanies the first BBC series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ TV series. It’s fantastic, which is probably why it’s been in the top 10 best sellers list for ever! It’s got over 120 savory and sweet recipes from around the British Isles. Loads that you’ve heard of and some you may not.

So what’s in the book?

These are the headings for each chapter and a glimps of what’s included.

  • A word from Mel & Sue The very funny duo who present the programme
  • Tips from the Judges. I’ve mentioned I’m a big fan of Mary Berry – She is the Original Guru, and Paul (I’ve got the bluest eyes on TV) Hollywood. Great tips from them both.
  • Introduction
  • Biscuits and tea time treats– Annetha’s moulded shortbread, brownies, all the classics I love- chocolate banana bread, Jewish honey cake, scones oooh and Welsh cakes. Yummarge!Annetha's moulded shortbread-The Great British book of baking
  • Bread– Farmhouse soda bread (I love this with eggs Benedict so much) Jasminder’s Focccia- do you remember it from the programme? Looks just mouth-watering. Four plait Challah (another Jewish one – Now I REALLY have to have a go at this one. No excuses!) Bagels, Naan, hot cross buns, Mark’s sticky Marmalade tea loaf. Too much choice!
  • Tarts and Flans– There is a great section on how to make pastry and fill a flan case and plenty of recipes for savory tarts to whet your appetite, like Blue Shropshire and broccoli tart, but it’s the sweet ones they really float my boat. I want to try Westmorland tart which is packed full of dates and raisins. But there’s all the classics too. Bakewell tart anyone?Cherry Pie-The Great British book of baking
  • Pies– If you want to make a pie you have to make a rough puff pastry (apparently!) so this is where you get the low down. There’s chicken, beef as well as apple and Cherry pie recipes, individual plum cobbler (Mmmm). I really want to give the Apple pie with cheddar crust a go. I had never heard of this before but it’s been around for 300 years.Apple Pie with Cheddar crust-The Great British book of baking
  • Cakes– Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Cherry cake, Lea’s Pistachio and cranberry cake, Lemon drizzle, Jasminder’s parrot cake- don’t worry there’s no parrots in it, just loads of exotic fruit, Cornish clotted cream cake and of course a victoria sponge to name just a few! I could go on and on but as there are 50 pages of cakes I think you get my gist. There are tons!Lea's Pistachio and cranberry cake- The Great British book of baking
  • Puddings – I don’t feature anywhere near enough puddings here on CB&C considering how much I love them. The pudding recipes in this book are of course lush. Loads of traditional ones including bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding, Baked Alaska, Apple and cinnamon Charlotte and Queen of puddings. I hadn’t heard of quite a few of these recipes till I watched the TV series so it’s great to find a book that not only gives the details but where they come from too!
  • Fancy pastries In this chapter you’ll learn how to make puff pastry and choux pastry. There’s plenty of savory recipes like sausage rolls and Little goats cheese and tomato tarts but for me a pastry is all about the sweetness of the Honeyed Baklava, cream puffs and Millefeuille!Millefeuille-The Great British book of baking

What I love about this book

There’s so much background information about all the foods and where they come from throughout this book as well as cute little cameo’s from local bakers and tea room owners. It’s so much more than a recipe book. I’ve been sitting reading it all. Things I ordinarily wouldn’t consider making take on a whole new meaning and I am so much more interested in them. It’s almost like a food history lesson.

Although this book is from The Great British Bake Off and has Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood and the contestant’s recipes throughout I can’t review it without mentioning the very talented Linda Collister and Sheila Keating who wrote it. They’ve done a cracking job and I think it is going to become a very dog eared/ stained book on my bookshelves in the years to come.


Which whisk?

Great group of whisks
I’ve got a bit of a thing about whisks. You see I’m obsessed with eggs. I’m sure I eat way too many. I have them for lunch practically every day so, I’m always using whisks to cook with, let alone bake with.
I have quite a few now and I’m sure I could do all my whisking tasks with just one, but where’s the fun in that?
So, in no order particular order here are my whisks…

The modern designer one

Normann Copenhagen.Normann Copenhagen

I was recently sent a press release for this really cool whisk designed by Normann Copenhagen from the Caroline McGrath website (it’s a treasure trove, well worth checking out!) I had to have it! The thing is although it’s a really good whisk I just can’t help having it out on display. You can close it up and hang it from the really clever hook that appears from the end, but I like to leave it open and sit it on it’s prongs. At the moment it lives on my kitchen window sill next to my radio but I’m sure Tim will make me put it away properly soon.

The one I use every day

Nigella Lawson

I was given this whisk at the very first press launch for Nigella Lawson’s beautiful kitchen products. It has stood the test of time as that was about 12 years ago. It still looks like new. I have to say it’s my favourite one. It really beats air into eggs effortlessly, it’s small and very ergonomic and it comes out of the dishwasher clean as a new. Unfortunately it’s no longer available but you can get a similar one on Amazon for next to nothing!
By the way I did meet her at the launch and I can tell you she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. Her skin is perfect!

The electric one

Lakeland whisk

This is one that I tested for a kitchen gadgets feature for Woman and Home magazine a few years back. I was looking for an electric whisk with attachments which was inexpensive but really did the job. And It does!
The biggest selling point with this Lakeland stick blender whisk for me is that it comes apart for cleaning, has a blade and whisk attachment and that is has a tall cup for using to whisk anything in. The cup has an anti slip rubber base and a lid incase you need to store the food afterwards. There is also a chopping attachment with cup.  All that for just £29.99  Usually when you get extras with a gadget they end up at the back of the cupboard somewhere, but I use every piece of this set.
Lakeland whisk set
The only criticism I have about this whisk is that you have to hold the button down the whole time you are using it. That can be a long time when you are making meringues, but I assume it’s a safety thing and it’s not really that big a problem.

The built to last one

OXO Good grips

I reviewed this OXO whisk a few months back now and I still use it to this day. I have to admit that it’s a good one for the kids to mix up batters with. I just love the ‘old school-ness’ of it.

The one I haven’t got, but really want!

I used to have an electric hand held whisk but since it died I haven’t replaced it. My mum has a Moulinex one that is over 30 years old and it just keeps on going. She makes everything with it. I want one like that. Built to last!

Kenwood kMix HM792 Hand Mixer, Almond Cream

When I was at Woman and Home magazine the food team were always complaining that hand held whisks just aren’t man enough for the job anymore. They tried all sorts but they all seemed to fizzle out in the end.
I’ve got my heart set on this Kenwood one (above). It is heavier than standard hand helds and really packs a punch. Failing that it would have to be the Dualit design (below). How good does that look in black?
Dualit 88425 Hand Mixer in Black
Oh well, I better start saving those pennies!


How to make a pirate ship birthday cake

Pirate ship birthday cake

Little boys like pirate ships. Fact!

The little man in my life (aka as Asher my gorgeous four year old nephew) is seriously into them. So when I asked him what he wanted for his cake this year I had a pretty good idea of what the answer would be – as he brandished his tin foil hook!

He had been given a pirate ship model by Grandma and had glued it together and painted it and that was what he wanted for his cake. ‘His pirate ship’ So I set to work.

Asher's model pirate ship
Asher’s little model pirate ship

How to make a Pirate ship birthday cake

The cake was a Madeira, (find the recipe here) I wanted to get the whole design from two cakes so I made two square cakes that were 12″ and 10″ (which are my two largest square tins). My plan was to get the larger top half of the boat out of the big cake with the base of the cake out of the smaller one. I knew I was going to shape the cake inwards where the boat touches the sea, so it worked out perfectly. I also used the off cuts from the large cake to create the cabin on the top deck.

(Apologies for the blurry photo here!)

boat pattern- Pirate ship

This is how they looked when cut out. There was very little waste with this design (not that there is ever waste! Off cuts taste great, especially when you are decorating a cake late at night!) The cake here is upside down  to make the shaping easier.

Pirate ship cake

Each cake was filled with butter cream and raspberry jam

Pirate ship cake

I tried not to make the front of the boat have too much of an angle inwards underneath as I know that can be a nightmare to cover with icing.

Pirate ship cake

Once shaped, the whole cake is covered in a thin layer of buttercream.

Pirate ship cake

Make sure you roll out plenty of fondant icing to cover the cake and tuck it in underneath. I used a chocolate fondant which tastes even better than just plain old fondant.

Pirate ship cake

Gently lift the fondant over the cake then smooth lightly with your hands to get any air pockets out. (How much icing sugar is on my arms!?!)

Pirate ship cake

Once the whole cake has been smoothed over with your hands, use a smoothing tool to get it absolutely perfect. I always smooth the top before I move on to the edges. The last bit I smooth are the corner edges which I do with my hands.

Pirate ship cake

Once nice and smooth, remove the excess fondant with a pizza wheel. Aim to leave a 2mm lip at the bottom.

Pirate ship cake

Use a side scraper to tuck the icing into the cake.

Pirate ship cake

One pirate ship cake ready. Time for the fun part.

Pirate ship cake

The Cake board

I love to make a big a deal of the cake boards on all my cakes. There’s always room to add extra details and with a pirate ship it was a shark. I thought a crocodile was a bit too Peter Pan!

The round cake board was covered with a thick (5mm) layer of blue fondant which was rolled and covered in the usual way. I then used my fingers to create the waves, gently pushing into the icing to create a rippled effect. I made the shark out of grey icing and both the board and shark were left to dry. I did this a week before I made the cake so they would set.

Pirate ship cake

The cake was positioned and secured to the board with a little Royal Icing underneath.

Pirate ship cake

To make the deck a perfect fit I cut a slither off the ship’s paper pattern and used it as a template to cut out the yellow wooden decking.

Pirate ship cake

I positioned it on the cake by dampening the icing a little.

Pirate ship cake

The cabin was covered in the yellow fondant icing and was positioned on the middle of the ship’s deck with a little Royal Icing.  The edge of the deck is surrounded with two long pieces of chocolate fondant otherwise the pirates would have fallen overboard!Pirate ship cake

I wanted to add a plank so I left a gap at the back Pirate ship cake

To create a wooden look I used a paring knife to score lines around the ship. Pirate ship cake

Add a few vertical lines every now and then and add screw marks next to each one.Pirate ship cake

For the port holes I cut out black circles, then added red ones on top. I left these to dry overnight as I wanted them to be firm enough to handle, but soft enough to be able to stick to the side of the ship neatly.

The anchor and chain were made with a little bit of grey fondant.
Pirate ship cakeThe portholes were stuck on with royal icing. I had to hold them in place for a minute or two so that they didn’t fall off.
Pirate ship cake

The Sails

For the masts I used skewers which I painted with a brown food colouring. I then made a red flag with a Jolly Rodger on the front (from fondant) and  placed it over one of my modelling tools so when it was dry and positioned in the cake it would look like it was blowing in the wind. I left it for a few days to dry. It needs to be pretty firm as it will be handled quite a bit when the sails are made. I wrapped the red flag around the top and back of the skewer and also made sure that the top was wet so it would really stick in place.

Pirate ship cake

I cut the sails out of paper and did a drawing of the Jolly Rodger then added Ahser’s initials. You can download my template for the sails here Pirate ship Sails template I used a hot glue gun to stick the sails to the mast.

Pirate ship cake

For the smaller sails I attached small sections of the painted skewers to the backPirate ship cake

This is what they looked like when they were ready to be added to the ship. Pirate ship cake

The smaller sails need to look like they are billowing. To do this glue the top part in place first and when it is really stuck fast you can stick the second on. Then all you have to do is pop it in the centre of the cake.

Pirate ship cake

The details

I love to personalise cakes, especially when I know the birthday boy so well. Asher loves Captain Hook so I made one to stand on the cake complete with peg leg and shiny hook. But the peg leg wasn’t happy about being made to stand up so he was resting on a barrel of whisky.

I also made rope to wind around the mast. It looks like a dodgy snake in this picture but it looked good in real life. I had the first mate winding it up.

Pirate ship cake

I couldn’t resist having a pirate hanging out of one of the port holes. Pirate ship cake

Tim had to show me how to make a pirates hat as all my attempts made him look like a cowboy! Where’s Jonny Depp when you need him? Do you like his stubble? I thought it would make the grown ups laugh!Pirate ship cake

The first mate with his rope and spiky hairPirate ship cake

I made the plank by cutting a thin cake board to size then covering it with fondant and creating a wooden effect. I then forced it into the cake. The naughty pirate hanging off it was made a week before the cake was so he would be dry. I was actually planning to have him hanging off the ship but he was too long, but I think this works so much better.

The shark’s teeth were the very last thing to be created. I used a tiny cut in an icing bag of royal icing to make them look nice and sharp.Pirate ship cake

So there you have it. One mamoth long blog post! and one very happy Asher. Last year I made him a Fireman cake so I think next years will be even more diffucult! We’ll have to wait and see!


The Ultimate Chocolate Cook Book – Couture Chocolate

The book!As, promised in my post from Easter, I wanted to share with you this yummy book.

I’ve had lots and lots of cook books sent to me to review here on Cakes, Bakes and Cookies, but none of them have the amazing chocolate content of Couture Chocolate, by William Curley, Jacqui Small publishers.

This book has EVERYTHING! It’s totally jam packed full of helpful advice on how to handle chocolate including how to temper chocolate properly and tons and tons of recipes.

William Curly may not be a household name yet, but I am sure he soon will be. He started his career at the Gleneagles Hotel and has worked under some of the biggest chef names around including Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Marco Pierre White at The Restaurant in Knightsbridge and Marc Meneau at L’Espérance in France. He also worked as Chef Patissier at the London Savoy.  He’s won a ton of awards and in 2004 teamed up with his wife, who also just so happens to be a Patissier, to open their shop in Richmond Upon Thames as well as one in Belgravia. They sell box after box of their delicious chocolates and truffles as well as run master classes and courses for kids and adults. I think I may need to go on one of these!

So what’s in the book?

The chapters are…

  • An approach to Chocolate– A word or two by the main man himself.
  • Chocolate essentials– Loads of background info on the ‘Origins of Cocoa’, how it’s transformed from ‘Bean to bar’ and the all essential how to temper.
  • Truffles – great tips on how to make a truffle from piping them to rolling, with nine delicious recipes including how to make ganache, which is essentially what truffles are!  I’ve made loads of truffles in the past – usually as gifts at Christmas time, but these looks so much more high end. (Mental note to self – make the Yamazaki single malt whisky and Dacquoise truffle this year!)
  • Couture chocolates– These are something else! I mean where else will you find how to make layered chocolates, jelly layered chocolates, how to emboss, decorate and add flavour to chocolates? I mean I haven’t heard of some of the ingredients but they still sound delicious! How is that so?
    Couture Chocolate book review
    Piedmont Hazelnut , Szechuan Pepper, Chauo, Pistachio Toscano, Juniper berry & blackcurrant, Raspberry Toscano and passion fruit & name but a few!
  • Bars & Bites – This is where the diet HAS to go out of the window. Florentines, Cerises au Kirsch (Tim’s favorites) Walnut brittle and the most delicious bars of chocolate I’ve ever seen. I have an unhealthy love of salt so the Rosemary and Sea salt bars are the one for me, but I can’t resist these fruit and nut bars. If there’s fruit on them does that count as healthy?

Couture Chocolate book review

  • Bouchées– The word ‘Bouchées’ means ‘little mouthful’ in French and normally refers to a vol-au-vent type pastry, but here they are mouth watering delicacies including Millionaires shortbread, sea salt caramel mou, chocolate meringue, chocolate or coffee macaroons, the list goes on and on!
Couture Chocolate book review
These look way too good to eat! Just look at the chocolate on these Millionaire's Shortbread. It's so shiny!

  • Cakes & Biscuits– How about chocolate Madelines to start, Chestnut and sesame brownies for main and a chocolate cake made with dark chocolate not cocoa powder to finish?
  • Patisserie– This is where the artistry comes in. Knowing how to get chocolate to do what you want in order to create a decoration, whether that’s in hoops, curls, waves, balls or twists. There’s a fine artistry to the assembly of these deserts. William takes the classics and gives them a modern spin. You’ll find chocolate tarts, a classic Mille Feulle, chocolate and apricot roulade and Chocolate tiramisu in a casket (as seen on the cover of the book)

    Couture Chocolate book review
    He makes it look so easy.
  • Ice cream, sauces and drinks– If I say chocolate & raspberry sorbet, Almond milk ice cream lollies, chocolate & praline spread and black Forrest milkshake, you’ll get a small hint of what’s in store in this chapter. Something to tickle every taste bud!

There’s also a glossary of ingredients and equipment at the end of the book. I love this as it’s always fascinating to see what other people use as their tools of their trade. William also gives his advice on what to look out for when buying equipment and how to care for it,  eg you should clean chocolate moulds with cotton wool to ensure that you have a shiny surface on your chocolate.

On my ‘To do list’

Oh my goodness, there’s too much to choose from. I can’t stop flicking through this book and although I would normally switch off the moment a thermometer is mentioned, these recipes look too amazing not to try. They have the most incredible ingredients and combinations. Just one look at the Blackcurrant tea cakes ( you know the kind of marshmallow tea cakes you get in M&S!) and I’m hooked. I’ll also be giving the Matcha (green tea) & chocolate shortbread and a whole selection of couture chocolates a go.

This book is a definite keeper. The knowledge and tips and advice make it worth it alone but with all the delicious recipes. I think it’s a winner all round.



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