Month: May 2014

Joint 70th Birthday Bunting cake

70th Birthday cake This is a cake I made just this week- Monday to be precise. It was for my lovely friend Issy’s parent’s joint 70th surprise birthday party.

The original plan was to have a two tier Madeira cake but on the last day of term she told me that her daughters were talking about chocolate cake and we switched it as I hadn’t baked the cake yet. So, it became a top tier of chocolate Madeira cake and a bottom tier of regular Madeira cake, both with chocolate buttercream.

To personalise the cake Issy told me what her parent’s passions were and we came up with having models of her parents sitting on top of the cake – Mum knitting and Dad playing the banjo. As they were having a tea party I added bunting around the cake in sugarpaste and I made some paper bunting using skewers for the posts to go on top of the cake that said “Happy 70th Birthday”.
70th Birthday cakeI tried something new with the models this time – I made them in plenty of time to allow them to dry! I must have mentioned before that I made a wedding cake a few years ago and the groom’s leg fell off during the 30 mile delivery journey. Well, I didn’t want any disasters with this one even though it was just going around the corner. So I planned.

I always make my models on a Polystyrene Cake Dummy. They’re the right shape and can withstand a lot of things being poked in them like skewers and cocktail sticks. As you can see I started with the legs. I positioned them so they are sitting with enough bum on the dummy that they won’t fall off the cake. I then use edible glue to stick the feet on the bottom of the legs. I strategically place cocktail sticks in the dummy so that I can rest the feet on one stick and support with the others. I did the same for Mum, only she was wearing a skirt. They only needed to be left over night before I could add the rest of the body without feet falling off.

I also made the heads with noses and eyes on one day then lay them on my Foam Pad  to dry out. (A word about the foam pad – I’ve always used a bit of kitchen paper on a chopping board to dry models and flowers in the past but these pads mean that air can circulate and everything dries so much faster. I kind of love these foam pads!)  I apply a light dusting of pink powder lustre for a rosy cheek then I don’t paint any of the face until the next day when the sugarpaste has hardened up a little.

70th Birthday cake detailsWhen it came to Mum’s neck I wanted to hide the join line so I picked out all the tiny, little white dots from a packet of tiny hundreds and thousands and made her a necklace. When I say tiny I mean TINY! Dad already had a collar so he was sorted.

I made the banjo a day ahead too and coloured the ends of two cut down cocktail sticks with silver edible food colouring. Once dry the knitting needles were pushed through mum’s hands. A drop of grey royal icing on the ends made them look more like real needles. The knitting falling over her lap was a strip of sugarpaste which I textured with a piece of kitchen paper laid on top then rolled over so it leaves an imprint.70th Birthday cake bunting

I tried my hand at icing a line of royal icing along the whole of the side and then in two stages but it kept breaking – I need more royal icing practice I think. So instead I used a little royal icing to stick each triangle onto the cake then added a little line between each one.

Once the cake and icing were complete, Mum and Dad were positioned on top and the bunting was all in place I was done! I was really happy with the colours of the cake. I wanted it to be pretty tea party shades for a spring party. Shame the rain just kept on coming down on the day but it looked like the birthday boy and girl had a great time anyway.

Issy's Mum and Dad


Chocolate cupcakes recipe

Chocolate cupcake recipe - cherries on top

I wanted to make some cupcakes to take to a friends party last Saturday night and after a quick search (in that little box up on the top on the right hand side of the page)  I discovered that I have hardly posted any cupcake recipes here on in the last three years! How strange is that? I mean I’ve made loads but they just never made it onto the blog.

I’ve always said that I’m not much of a cupcake sort of person. When I worked at Woman & Home and we got cupcakes sent in from PR’s I used to give the buttercream topping part to my deputy and she used to give me her cake (well kind of anyway) but what I mean is that I don’t like to gorge on a load of buttercream. So, when I make cupcakes that I am going to be eating and not giving away I tend to make the ones above with my new best ganache recipe. They’re more of a chocolate cup than a trad cupcake.

The cake part of the recipe is one I’ve been using for years but the ganache is from a blogger I met at Blogcamp a few weeks ago. I was looking for a gluten free cake recipe for a cake I am making in a few weeks time and the Free from Fairy told me about her great chocolate cake recipe but it was the ganache that is THE BEST I have ever tasted. It stays soft and firm all at the same time! (Thanks Vicki)

These cupcakes were – as Tim puts it – “a bit extra”. I am a bit extra but I have decided that I actually quite like being a bit extra and so when most people would probably just take a bottle of wine or two to a party we take a bottle of wine, a bottle of Shloer (so I look like I’m drinking wine!) and a dozen cupcakes. And whether they were extra or not they all disappeared pretty quickly!

Chocolate cupcake recipe

Chocolate cupcake recipe

(Makes 12-18)

The cakes

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 175g butter at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

The chocolate ganache recipe

  • 100g chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 100g sieved icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Cherries to decorate
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (160º Fan oven) and fill a cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. To make the cakes start by melting the chocolate in a saucepan with the butter over a low heat. Stir continuously. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add the sugar and vanilla essence then whisk again to incorporate as much air into the mix as possible – this keeps the cakes light and fluffy. Add in the melted chocolate and butter and blend thoroughly.
  4. Add all the dry ingredients and fold in. Add the milk and combine.
  5. Fill the cupcake cases till they are half full. I like the ganache to sit on top of the whole cake so I make quite shallow cakes. If you want a deeper, bigger cake fill up the cases so they are ¾ full.
  6. Bake in the centre of your oven for 15 minutes or until the cake bounces back straight away when you press a finger lightly onto it. Avoid over baking as that’s what makes them dry.
  7. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

To make the ganache

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan. Again stir continuously and don’t let it burn.
  2. Pour the mixture onto the sieved icing sugar and whisk with a hand held whisk. Always start off slowly unless you want your kitchen to resemble a snowstorm!
  3. Add the milk to give a really smooth finish. If you want a softer ganache add a little more milk.
  4. Place in a piping bag and pipe over the cooled cupcakes. The mixture can be quite runny and will settle once left for a minute or two.
  5. Place a cherry on the top of each cake to finish and enjoy!

cupcakes - chocolate



Rhubarb crumble recipe


Rhubarb CrumbleI’m very lucky with my next door neighbours. They’re really amazing at taking in the countless parcels I get for work- which always seem to turn up the moment I leave the house after waiting in all day! – and they have given me some of their home grown rhubarb for years now.

I love rhubarb. It’s got that tangy, sour, zing that just works with so many sweet dishes. This year I’ve been trying out a few new recipes. I’d been wanting to do a rhubarb and chocolate brownie recipe for a while and hadn’t really got it right till now. Tim and I thought they were amazing – but the kids found them a bit too rich. Grown up brownies we don’t have to share!!! Yay! I then went on to try my hand at rhubarb blondies. They were okay but as I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate I wasn’t sold (I think they were too sweet so I’ll have to give them another go some time!)

For some reason I couldn’t get crumble out of my mind so that’s what I made first. It was one of those spur of the moment “I’ve got freshly picked rhubarb sitting on my kitchen table and I really fancy crumble for pud tonight – even though it’s a Wednesday and pudding is usually saved for the weekend!  – type of moments!

I literally threw it all together in 10 minutes and popped it in the oven to bubble away. It was quick, simple and delicious. The sweet, oatiness of the crumble together with the sharp tartness of the rhubarb and the creaminess of the ice cream made this the perfect pudding. 

Rhubarb Crumble recipe

For the crumble topping

  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 75g oats
  • 75g butter- at room temperature

For the filling

  • 10g butter
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 450g rhubarb – chopped into small pieces
  1. Heat your oven to 180ºC (Fan 160ºC)
  2. In a bowl cut the butter up into small pieces and add the sugar, flour and oats. Rub together with your fingers until completely combined but still crumbly. Place in a sandwich bag in the fridge till the filling is ready.
  3. Prepare the filling by melting the butter in a deep frying pan (don’t let it get too hot- you don’t want the butter to burn). Add the sugar until it’s dissolved and then add the rhubarb and cook for 5 minutes. Set to one side to cool slightly.
  4. Place all the semi cooked rhubarb into your pie dish and layer the crumble on top. Bake immediately in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until the crumble starts to brown around the edges.
  5. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream

Rhubarb 2014


FAQ:Recipe for a 14″ Madeira cake

14" Madeira cake recipeI seem to have had a lot of enquires recently for a recipe for a 14″ Madeira cake. I don’t actually have a tin this big (the one above is a 12″) but one of my readers measured the volume of her tin and I calculated the ingredients she would need. She said it as a huge success.

To keep it moist I bake all my Madeira cakes with some baking paper wrapped around the outside of the tin. I also place an ovenproof bowl of water at the bottom of the oven which locks more moisture in. My last trick is to add the flour and water in three separate stages – so alternating the flour then water then flour and water and so on). This makes a huge difference compared with adding all the flour then all the water.

 14″ Square Madeira cake recipe.

  • 310g butter- at room temperature
  • 310g Margarine- at room temperature
  • 830g caster sugar
  • 4 ½ tea spoon vanilla essence
  • 13 eggs-at room temperature
  • 930g plain flour
  • 6 ½ teasp of baking powder
  • 12 ½ tbsp hot water
  • Line a cake tin with baking paper and wrap the outside of the cake tin with paper (see how I do it here)
  1. Blend the butters and sugar together until light and fluffy – this will take 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk in thoroughly. Don’t miss this step and chuck them all in – in one go. Your mixture will curdle. I have also found that a hand held whisk gets better results than a stand mixer
  3. Add vanilla essence and blend.
  4. In a separate bowl sieve the flour and baking powder. Mix 1/3 of the flour into the cake mix and whisk. Add 1/3 of the water and combine. Repeat until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Place the mixture in the cake tin smoothing with the back of a metal spoon.
  6. Bake at 180ºC (160º Fan) for 120-140 minutes but check it regularly as sometimes it needs a little longer.
  7. To prevent your cake from doming place a piece of baking paper with a hole in the centre  over the top of the tin. Remove the paper after 90 minutes so the top can brown up nicely.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire tray.

I hope this has been helpful. If you are looking for ingredients of other sizes of Madeira cakes have a look at this post.


Have fun baking!



Free Cakes For Kids

Have you heard of ‘Free Cakes For Kids’? It’s this great charity that was set up to give underprivalidged kids birthday cakes when they ordinarily wouldn’t get one.

Free cakes for kidsI was approached by my local group after one of the volunteers saw my post about the time when I bought macaroons on Bromley High Street. She thought I must have lived nearby so she contacted me and asked if I would like to be a volunteer too?  Of course I said “yes”.

It’s really sad that in this day and age people are in situations where they find it difficult to provide something as simple as a birthday cake for their kids. One lady didn’t think she was going to be able to give her son a cake but after Free Cakes For Kids stepped in she was able to invite a few of his school friends around to share his cake and make him feel special, and let’s face it everyone should feel special on their birthday.

How does it work?

The Free cakes for kids website explains…….

“Each Free Cakes for Kids group makes individual birthday cakes. The local group matches up the two parties: families in need and passionate home bakers. The cakes are made by local volunteers, who pay for the ingredients themselves. While most Free Cakes for Kids volunteers are amateurs, they enjoy baking and decorating impressive cakes that often even accommodate the child’s favourite theme or style. Recent examples include a Princess cake, a Bob-the-Builder cake, rocket-shaped cakes or the ever-popular football cakes.

Families can call themselves or are referred to local groups by partner organisations. Most local groups have built strong networks in their communities and work closely with organisations like the Young Carers, foodbanks or social services.”

So the  main reason for this post is twofold.

1) To spread the word that we are out there. (There are local charities set up all over the country and if not you could set up your own one.) If you know of anyone who would benefit from a Free Cakes For Kids birthday cake then get in touch here. Visit the website to find your local group and the best person to contact.Where we bake

And 2) To see if you want to be a volunteer. I know you guys out there are AMAZING bakers and cake decorators. You all email me with your questions and queries and say how you have no experience and then you put your finished cake on The Facebook page and they’re FANTASTIC!!!

Come and see us

This bank holiday weekend we have a stand at the May Fayre in Pettswood on Monday 5th May, from 10am – 4pm. There’s tons to see and do from watching the May Queen parade to having a go on the fairground rides. There are also loads of stalls from local charities with all sorts of goodies on offer. So if you’re not too far away why don’t you pop down and say hello. Us volunteers have been busy baking for the event so no one will leave hungry!



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