Month: November 2012

Peggy Porschen knows how to make a Christmas cookie…or two!

Look what just arrived for my Christmas tree shoot for tomorrow! Two bags of Peggy Porschen goodies. To say I was excited was an understatement.

Bauble cookies

Amongst all the boxes of Christmas trees, fairy lights and mountains of baubles sit these two pretty bags. I couldn’t resist having a quick peek at what was inside. They truly are the most beautifully iced biscuits. I just had to share them with you!

You can only  buy the cookies in the Parlour, unfortunately they aren’t sold on line so you’ll have to make your own.

Luckily, Peggy does sell the cutters. How cute are these? They start at just £3.25 for the drop bauble cutter and go up to £14.95 for the giant snowflake cookie cutter. They’d make great gifts for the girls teachers for Christmas! If only they didn’t have to go back to the shop after the shoot.

Visit www.peggyporschen.com to see all the other gorgeous gifts ideas and cookie cutters they sell as well as the classes you can take. If anyone wants to tell Tim about the beautiful pink Milk Glass cake stand that I have my eye on for Channuka I would be very grateful!

Peggy Porschen cookie cuttersEmmaMT

How to make a Lego Birthday cake

Beau is really into Lego. I mean REALLY into it. It’s all she want’s to do first thing in the morning. We bought her Olivia’s House for her birthday a couple of weeks ago and she has been dressed and ready for school by 7am every morning so she can play with it until it’s time to leave.

She’s always liked the regular ‘old school’ stuff that Tim used to play with when he was kid, but since the prettyLEGO Friends  girly Lego came out she has a new-found love. What was a collection of red, white, brown and black bricks has now been added to with pinks, lilacs, purples and oranges. So much more femme.  She creates houses, hotels, beds, kitchens. You name it for a house and she has probably fashioned it out of Lego. So for her 9th birthday it was no brainer what she wanted her cake to be.

The Lego cake

I decided that as there weren’t too many friends coming along to her cinema trip birthday celebration I would do what I did with her cake last year and make individual cakes for all the guests. One large purple Lego brick was for Beau and each friend had their own smaller (but still decent size) mini cake to take home.

How to make a Lego cake

The Cake Board

For this cake I decided the best way to set it out was to have one large rectangular drum board (16″x 14 “) for all the small thin boards (4″x4″) to sit on. I only iced the top half of the board so that the smaller ones would sit perfectly alongside each other without moving around too much.

To get the Lego look on the cake boards I tried out a few techniques but the one I had the most success with was using the top of a Lego base board to imprint divits into the sugarpaste. Ideally I would have liked to have had those little Lego dots sticking out on the top but the sugarpaste just wouldn’t come out of the board evenly and it just looked messy. So I used the reverse look. No-one seemed to mind- not even Beau.

Once the icing was rolled out and adhered to the board with a damp sponge I placed the largest Lego base board I could get my hands on and pressed it into the sugarpaste. (I should mention here that I did give it a really good clean first. You know how mucky kids can be!) I measured 8” from the non-sugarpasted side and cut a straight line across, removing any excess before leaving it to dry out.

For the smaller boards I used the same method only I placed the cake board under the sugarpaste and smoothed it with my hands. The excess was only removed after the Lego imprints were made as the sugarpaste tends to squidge out at the sides as you press or roller the divits in. 

To shape a Lego cake

I started off with two square cakes, which were leveled and sliced into even rectangles. 

When shaping chocolate cake it can be a bit of a nightmare. My recipe is so fresh that it just crumbles as you touch it. I often try to leave a chocolate cake over night before I shape it or add buttercream to avoid the crumb nightmare that usually ensues!

But I made this cake in the morning and had to decorate it in the evening. To combat the crumbling effect I placed the shaped cakes in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes to let them firm up a little.

I made sure that the chocolate buttercream was softer than usual by adding a little extra milk. This makes it easier to apply to the cakes with a pallette knife. I didn’t worry too much about making it neat. I just covered each cake and popped it in the fridge to firm up.

In hindsight I wish I had placed a layer of buttercream in a middle layer but I have a sneaking suspicion that the cakes really would have ended up as mush! 

Once they have been chilled cover each cake with sugarpaste. Smooth each side and make each corner as square as possible. Remove the excess and set to one side. 

To make the tops of the bricks I used my circle plungers and ‘stuck’ each one down with a touch of Royal icing.

Each Brick was positioned onto it’s baseboard with some Royal icing. Some facing front, some to one side to add a little interest. 

Names were added to each cake.

I then positioned the mini boards onto the large one, again using royal icing to hold them in place.

At the very last minute I decided that the cake needed something else so I made a Lego Beau. She loved it and she is sitting on our kitchen window sill right now.

After we sang happy birthday each cake was individually wrapped up and given with the goodie bags.

I like doing these individual cakes for birthday parties. It feels extra special for everyone to have their very own cake. Don’t you think?

EmmaMT

The dinosaur birthday cake

Last week I had a reader asking if I had ever made a dinosaur cake and if I had any advice on how to approach one. It took me back to one of the very first large cakes I ever made. Now I know that I keep saying that “this was one of the first cakes that I made” but this really was! I checked the date and I made it in September 2009!

It was back when Tim suggested that I offer to make cakes for any birthday parties the girls were invited to. I didn’t really plan my cakes back then. I just baked and hacked them into shape. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes Dinosaurs had wonky mouths! Up until this point all the cakes I had made were pretty small. This one just grew and grew, but it is a dinosaur so it should be pretty big! Don’t you think?

I decided that the easiest way to get the shape and have lots of cake to eat would be to have the dino lying down. I made the red spines and left them to dry over night. After shaping the Stegosaurus (just in case you can’t tell that’s what it is!) and covering him in green sugarpaste I tried to attach the spines. They just wouldn’t stick in place. So I had to use tons more royal icing than I had planned just to get them to stick and stay upright. In the end I used long pieces of scrunched up cling film to position the spines and keep them in place while the royal icing dried. I taped the cling film to the table at each end and left it to dry over night. When I lifted the film out of place I held my breath. It worked.  Phfew!

All that green royal icing kind of spoilt the look, so I used a cake decorating paint brush and brown food colour to draw on scales all over the beast. This gave him a more rugged look. Then all I had to do was add his eyes and mouth.

When it came to the cake board I wanted him to be sitting in a kind of forresty nest, so I cut up some ivy leaves in sugarpaste with plunger cutters in two or three different shades of green and laid them so it looked like they were sticking out from underneath him.

I also made a nest complete with marzipan eggs. I did this by creating a ring of marzipan which was covered in ivy leaves. Then the eggs just sat in the centre.

It’s funny when you look back at cakes you made at the beginning of your learning.   I see lots of things I would do differently now. But, that’s hindsight and a whole lot more experience for you isn’t it?

EmmaMT

Mini measures

Have you ever tried to measure really small amounts of liquid, sugar, almond essence or alcohol before? It can be tricky can’t it? Measuring jugs nearly always start at 50ml or 100ml. What if you need 30ml of brandy?  Or you have tripled a recipe and need 6 teaspoons of vanilla essence? I know you can just measure it out individually, but wouldn’t it be easier to just pour and measure in one go? Well now you can.

Eddingtons

Last night I was on a cake propping mission at Sainsburys for a photo shoot I am doing this week and I seemed to wander away from the flour and eggs and found myself in the kitchenware department. I had popped into the Savercentre in Sydenham which is their flagship store so this section is pretty large and there is a lot to whet your appetite. It took all my will power not to buy another sieve/spatula/cookie cutter!

No sooner did I see this shot glass than it was in my basket. It’s by Eddingtons. It has four measurements on the sides (as you can see in the photos)  teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces and millilitres. It’s a steal at just £3! I bought one for my mum at the same time as we have often discussed this mini measuring dilemma. I used to use the girls baby bottles when they were little and no longer needed them as they had small measures on the side, but they’re long gone now.

This little glass made me very happy. What’s the saying” Simple things amuse simple people!” I rest my case!

EmmaMT 

My rainbow birthday cake

Last week was my birthday and in true Emma tradition I got so crazy busy with work and kids and other stuff that I was  running out of time to make the ‘Dr Pepper drink can’ shaped cake that I’d dream of making for my party? (I’m addicted to the stuff – but that cake will have to wait till next year!) So, what did I do? In a word (or two)  I kept it simple!

I decided that as time wasn’t on my side I would just make a really tall Madeira cake with different coloured rainbow layers inside. It was inspired by Dahlias 1st  birthday cake. When each cake came out of the oven it looked just like the one before! The outside had browned and I had no idea what the colours were going to look like on the inside. I just hoped that they would be pretty different. As it turned out they were, but, when you’re adding the food colouring you never know!Once I had stacked the cake and given it a layer of buttercream I covered it with the pale blue sugarpaste and added dots all over it with a few ’40’s’ for good measure. I got these circle cutters at the Bake show earlier in the year and I can’t stop using them. They’re great for jazzing up a plain cake in a jiffy and are so easy and fun to use.

The cake sat on the food table all night until the “Happy birthday” chorus began.  When I cut into it there was such a great reaction from the crowd. It really made me smile! Gasps of “Look at the colours/layers/size!” came from my friends.  Well, I couldn’t have the cake completely plain, now could I? Thank goodness the colours worked and actually turned out much prettier than I expected!

The slices were so tall that each piece had to be cut in half. And guess who didn’t even get a crumb? Yep me! It’s a good thing that my Mum made me a cake for my family celebration meal the following night. I had plenty of that cake and as I’ve said before. My Mum’s Madeira cake really is the best in the world, but mine looks pretty good too!

So, who knows what’s in store for the year ahead? As they say life begins at 40, so watch this space!

EmmaMT

Mary Berry and the best butter tip ever!

Did you catch the Great British bake Off Masterclass program? It was on the week after The Great British Bake Off final. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood showed us how the technical challenges from the show should have been made. They made it look so easy!

I picked up a ton of tips in that one program (you can watch it here) but the tip I have used the most and think is sooooo useful is Mary Berry’s butter tip.

Room temperature!!!!

How many times have you gone to bake a cake and found that you’ve forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge to let it get to room temperature? Or you’ve decided that you need just a smidge more buttercream, but your butter is all still chilled and hard. Well, not anymore. Mary’s tip for quickly softening butter is  ingenious.

Simply cut it up into cubes straight from the fridge and place it in a bowl of tepid water (not hot- trust me, hot water makes a BIG mess!). Leave for just 10 minutes -usually the time it takes to measure out the rest of a cake ingredients, drain the water away and it’s perfectly soft and ready to use.

I’ve done this so many times since the program. Tonight I felt like making a warm and wintery apple cake, so I softened up the butter in less time than it took to slice and core the apples! You can see from the picture above that the butter became nice and soft and left a finger sized dent when pressed after it’s warm soak!

One thing I would recommend is that you measure out the butter you need for your cake before softening it up. Otherwise you have to re-chill it and that’s not a good idea!

EmmaMT

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