I often get asked how I get my cakes so smooth and I have to tell you that it’s a bit like DIY. It’s all in the preparation. If you don’t sand and fill in the holes on your walls before you paint then you are always going to see those lumps and bumps. Well with cake decorating it’s all about the crumb coating.
What’s a Crumb coating
Basically it’s a thin layer of buttercream that you apply to a cake to stop the loose crumbs from coming off of the cakes outter edge before you give it a really good layer of buttercream. The cake is coated in a thin layer which is smoothed as much as possible. This needs to be done gently as very fresh sponge can so easily crumble- especially my chocolate cake recipe. The cake is then popped into the fridge for 20 minutes to harden up. This gives the cake a kind of coat of armour. When you take the cake out of the fridge the buttercream crumb coat has firmed up enough to prevent crumbs coming off when you add a proper layer of buttercream. This second layer can be smoothed perfectly. It’s also where you can hide any inperfections. If there are deep holes, wonky layers or uneven fillings you can add buttercream and smooth it to hide everything. No one will ever know!
Once the second layer of buttercream has been applied and smoothed you can pop the cake bake in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden again or go straight to the sugarpaste/ marzipan covering.
I don’t like to leave cakes in the fridge for a long time as it alters the taste and consistency, but by adding these two buttercream coats the sugarpaste has a really firm and flat base to sit on. Since mastering this technique my cakes look much more professional. It’s also an essential step when decorating a shaped cake. It makes life a whole lot easier.
How to do a Crumb coating.
Here are the steps to doing a crumb coating from the cake I made for Dahlia (you know the one that fell over!)
1. Once your cake is stacked and filled or shaped add a thin layer of buttercream to the outside edge. I used buttercream to ensure where each layer was filled looked nice and flat. I then scraped off the excess. Pop the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the cake from the fridge. The crumb coating is now firm to the touch and acts as a base for the real buttercream coating. This coating can be for decoration or as a base for marzipan or sugarpaste.
3. Use a side scraper to give a perfectly smooth finish even if you are covering it in sugarpaste and no one will see it. The better the finish here the better the final result will be.
4. Pop the cake in the fridge for a little longer so handling the cake is easier then complete your decorations.
Good luck crumbless bakers
Every now and again I come across a cakey gadget that I just HAVE to have. I’m sure you’re the same. So, when I saw these letter stamps I really couldn’t resist them. I was in Hobbycraft gathering up loads of supplies for a mammoth Christmas crafting shoot I was working on and out of the corner of my eye I spotted these cute little letter stamps.
Now, they’re not really meant for cake decorating. They’re meant for ink, but with a quick soapy wash I think they are fine for a bit of cookie stamp action. The reason that they’re on my radar is because my sister in law sent me a link over a year ago to an American website with this really cool cookie letter press set that had a frame to put the letters in and create nice and even words. It was really expensive to buy when you considered the postage costs but the set was always at the back of my mind.
But. this little set was a bargain. Probably one of the biggest cake decorating bargains I have ever come across. Guess how much it was?
£2.00! Yep, just £2.00. How amazing is that?
So, I had a bit of a play with them on some vanilla cookies and they came out pretty well. I think I’ll be trying them out on some sugarpaste next. The results should be even better.
As I sit here at my Mac typing away my family has just left my house. Tonight was the start of Rosh Hashanna – the Jewish New year and I was lucky enough to have everyone over for Dinner. Normally Tim does the cooking when we entertain and I make dessert but as it was a school day (first day back actually) he was knee deep in bricks and timber so it was up to me.
I don’t really enjoy cooking. I have this theory that you can either cook or bake and I think you can guess which camp I’m in! I was flicking though Feel Good Food magazine looking for some inspiration and I found a great recipe for Salmon cooked with honey and a sweet chilli sauce. The tradition for the Jewish New Year is to eat lots of sweet things so we encourage the next year ahead to be sweet and healthy. We dip bread and apple in honey so this recipe sounded perfect. And it was. It went down a storm.
For pudding I made this tart. I was inspired by one of the recipes in Couture Chocolate William Curley’s dessert was way beyond my talents or patience but the apples sounded amazing so I decided to give them a bit of a twist and pop them in a tart. My family all seemed to enjoy it and I am looking forward to having the last slice for breakfast tomorrow. Well, it is the new year after all!
Caramelised Honey Apple tart recipe
- 8 Apples – I used gala but you can use cooking apples if you prefer.
- 250g caster sugar
- 100g runny honey
- 2 tbsp ginger ale
- 1 pack of puff pastry
- Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and place in a pie dish. Prick the bottom with a fork. Set aside.
- Heat your oven to 180ºC
- Peel and core the apples and cut into wedges.
- Take a heavy based pan and place half the sugar in it on a low heat. Make the caramel by stirring continuously until it is a golden colour.Gradually add the rest of the sugar stirring as you go.
- Add the honey and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Place the apples in the honey caramel, pour in the ginger ale and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat and leave to cool for at least 25 minutes. As the apples cool down they suck all that lovely caramelliness into them. They turn a deep brownish colour.
- Fill your puff pastry case with the drained apples. Set aside the left over sauce
- Bake the tart for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven then remove and cover the apples and pastry case with the remaining sauce- apply it gently with a pasty brush. Bake for a further 10 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown.
- Serve with ice cream- the perfect accompaniment.
Chag Sameach (Happy New Year) to all my lovely readers.
I have made these cupcakes so many times and not once have I taken a photo of them so that I could share them with you guys. I’m not quite sure how that’s happened but this time- for my mum’s birthday, I was determined. The recipe is adapted from The Great British Book of Baking (never one to steal a recipe without a proper credit!) and they really are the best around! I’m pretty fussy about cupcakes. I like them to be light as a feather, moist and most importantly super tasty.
These were made to take with to a picnic with my family to celebrate my mum’s birthday. Now, there are two things I am very thankful for.
No.1. That I spoke to my sister the night before to discuss arrangements as I was planning on making a Victoria Sponge cake and she had already made one, and
No.2. That I took photos of the cupcakes at home and not just at the picnic as planned. The reason? Because neither the fairy cakes nor the Victoria Sponge cake made the 30 minute car journey unscathed. The Victoria sponge went it’s own way in the container and the cupcakes did a bit of a dance and landed on each other. Chocolate gloop everywhere!
Did it matter? Not one little bit. All were devoured (including the banana cake and bread pudding that mum made too).
Chocolate ganache cupcakes
(makes 18 cupcakes)
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
300g self raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
4 tablespoons milk
For the Ganache topping
200g dark chocolate- broken into small pieces
200g crème fraise (or you can use whipping or double cream)
How to make Chocolate Ganache cupcakes
- Heat your oven to 180 ºC. Line a cupcake tray with cases.
- Mix the butter and the sugar together until well blended (for about 2-3 minutes)
- Add the eggs slowly
- In a separate bowl sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Stir it all together then mix into the butter and sugar mix.
- Add the milk slowly and blend.
- Spoon the cake mix into the cases till they’re ¾ full. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they bounce back when pressed lightly with a finger.
- Leave the cakes in the tin for 3-4 minutes then remove from the tin and cool completely on a cooling tray.
- While they are cooling place the crème fraise in a bain marie (glass bowl set above a pan of boiling water) until it is hot, then remove from the heat.
- Place the chocolate in the crème fraise and stir continuously until all the chocolate has melted.
- Pour the chocolate ganache over the cupcakes till the cake is completely covered. I found that popping the cakes back into the cooled cake tin helped keep the shape. Add any decoration (we used flowers- see them here) before the ganache sets then leave them to set overnight.