Month: November 2014

How to make your own vanilla essence

Vodka! Love it or hate it, it’s the super secret ingredient to making your own delicious vanilla essence and it’s super easy to do too! If you’re quick you could even have some ready to give as a gift this Christmas. I’ll show you how to make your own vanilla essence in under 10 minutes ….. plus a few weeks!

U’Luvka Vodka You can use any vodka but when it comes to a gift or when you want a really amazing flavour I suggest using a better quality one. I’ve used U’Luvka which is a super premium vodka (It’s won over 60 awards for its smooth, sippable and full flavoured taste) so you know you’re getting a top notch flavour. It’s also got this really cool bottle. Don’t you just love it?

 

How to make vanilla essence

How to make vanilla essenceStart off by cleaning and sterilising your bottles. I used miniatures of the U’Luvka Vodka so I just added the pods straight to the liquid.

How to make vanilla essenceVanilla pods are quite expensive from the supermarket costing around £2-3 for two pods. I bought 20 pods for £8.75  from  Amazon.co.uk and they are big and fat and full of seeds. Even when the packaging was sealed shut I could smell them! How to make vanilla essence

Take out two to three pods per 100ml of vodka and cut a slit down the centre so the seeds can escape. Scrape out the seeds from one pod and add it to the bottle. Now all you need to do is re-seal the bottle and store it for 4-6 weeks shaking it regularly so that the vodka really infuses with the vanilla seeds. How to make vanilla essenceAnd this is what it looks like after 6 weeks of shaking and infusing.

How to make vanilla essence

I would like to thank my lovely friend Cristina from Free Cakes for Kids  for this recipe. She very kindly gave me this beautiful bottle full of her home made vanilla essence (as you can see above) and I have to say that it’s still going strong-  and you can imagine how much baking I do! There’s still some left in the pretty bottle and she gave it to me back in July!

I didn’t believe Cristina when she told me how easy it is to make this vanilla essence as the taste is so much better than shop bought essence and it works out so much less expensive but it really is that easy.

So what have you got planned to make for Christmas gifts this year? I’d love to know!

EmmaMT

x

Special thanks to LOVEDRINKS.COM for sending me their cute mini bottles  U’Luvka vodka.// All opinions are my own.

Best for Baking: Silicone piping bag

 Silicone piping bags. Why I’m a new convert to after making these chocolate cupcakes

Silicon piping bag

Silicon piping bag

I must have walked past these silicone piping bags a ton of times. They sell them at Hobbycraft (a regular haunt of mine) and they’re available on Amazon too. I’ve always just used disposable piping bags in the past as I think they’re really easy to handle and just chuck away rather than clean up all that greasy butter cream when you’re done. But I figured at £5 it was worth a try. Good decision.

I had some cupcakes to make for Free Cakes For Kids so I thought that it was the perfect testing opportunity. When I make cupcakes for outside friends and family I measure the cake mix into each cupcake case. I know that sounds a bit OCD but it’s the only way I can get them almost even. I do try to be professional! The way I do this is by measuring each cupcake as I go. When using this piping bag it was a doddle.  The silicone piping bag has a smooth inside so the ingredients can be squirted out easily but it has a lightly textured outside so your sticky/wet hands can still grip it firmly. I have to admit I was surprised how easy it was to handle and control.

Silicon piping bag

When I fill a piping bag with cake mix I place it in a large jug, fold the edges over the top and then fill. If I’m filling a smaller bag I simply use a tall glass. This has been the easiest and cleanest way to fill a bag. Make sure that the bottom is folded up so no mixture can escape while you’re filling and if you need to stop half way through filling or decorating you can just pop it back in the jug or glass. Silicon piping bag

You can see how easy it is to fill cupcake cases using the silicone piping bag below. See? Not a drop out of place! Silicon piping bag

Once the cupcakes were baked and cool I added the buttercream topping. Test number 2. Again I made up the chocolate butter cream and filled the bag. This time I added a piping tip. As it’s a large tip I had to cut quite a bit off the end of the silicone piping bag so I think I would need to buy a second bag if I wanted to use it with some of my smaller royal icing tips but as I don’t use them that often I’ll see how I go.

Silicon piping bag

I was really happy with the end result. I think these are probably some of the most even looking cupcakes I’ve ever made and I put that down to using the silicone piping bag. So marks out of 10? I’d give it 8. Silicon piping bag

The end result was 24 pretty and yummy cupcakes boxed up and ready to deliver.

Super-flex silicone piping bag is available from Amazon.co.uk

Do you have and use a silicone piping bag? What do you think about them compared with disposable ones? I’d love to know.

EmmaMT

Cakes in Bloom: Peggy Porschen book review

Cakes in Bloom by Peggy Porschen Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomThis post has been a long time coming! I received this book ‘Cakes in Bloom Peggy Porschen‘ back in May when it was released and one thing and another (mainly a chance to take part in one of the Peggy Porschen flower master classes- which you can read about in the next post) it didn’t happen. It’s been on my to do list since then and it’s November! Where has the year gone?

About the book

So, this is a different kind of book to the others that Peggy has written. Yes, there are cake recipes – at the back (including Victoria sponge, rich dark chocolate cake and a luxury fruit cake) but it’s all about sugarpaste flowers. The flowers are so beautiful and shot so close up that when I showed my mum the book (I did get a bit over excited when I got my hands on it) she didn’t believe that the flowers weren’t real. They are the most realistic sugar flowers I have ever seen and I’ve seen these up close and in the flesh.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in Bloom

So what’s the best thing about this book? Or rather why is it a winner in my eyes?  Well, apart from the stunning flower creations by Peggy – it has to be the photography. Georgia Glynn Smith you are a pro! The shots are sheer perfection for a complete sugar flower making beginner like myself. I’ve never really gone further in detail than with a simple rose or a rose bud and maybe a few blossoms cut out with a plunger cutter. These flowers look so complicated and like you need so much equipment but that isn’t the case. Now, I know that I have quite a lot of equipment and cutters are a big part of my collection but I found a ton of blooms I could make straight away without having to purchase anything else.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in Bloom

I’m going to be completely honest here. I’m not much of a flower on a cake sort of a person. But I was so intrigued by the book I had to have a go and just as the book landed I had a cake request with loads of flowers on. Funny how that happens isn’t it? The first bloom I attempted from the book was a Dahlia. It looked okay. I used sugar paste instead of flower paste. Flower paste is much sturdier and can be rolled out so it’s see through and thin like paper. It makes really delicate flowers. Sugar paste still makes a good flower but no where near as realistic. Sugar paste also takes an age to dry out.

My Dahlia took me absolutely aaaages to make. I hadn’t planned this into my cake design and I was up all night because I was enjoying making the flowers so much I wanted to make three to five of them. But I loved every minute of it. Had I read the instructions before I attempted to make them for a cake I would have realised that I needed to make some parts the day before so they had time to dry out. Oh well- I knew for the next time.

So, back to the book….Cakes in bloom by Peggy Porschen

 

Contents include:-

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomSugar flower basics

How to get started, the basic tool kit and specialist tools that are a bit new to me too. There’s also a whole section devoted to flower paste.

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomFlower designs

Okay- deep breath. The flowers covered are Spring blossom, purple Pansies, Frangipani, Carnation Pomanders, Roses and Lily of the valley, Snowballs, Dahlias, Daisy wreath, tumbling hydrangeas, roses and violets, Iceland poppies, White rose and petals, Ombre petals, Sweetpea posy, English garden roses, Climbing Cosmos, Peonies, Chrysanthemum trees, white Orchids, Blush Anemones, Vintage blooms, cherry blossom, Camellia Lace and Floral cascade!!!

Peggy Porschen - Cakes in BloomBaking and icing basics

I really like the ‘planning ahead’ section on what you should do on each day. I need to adhere to this a bit more. There’s also details on baking tools, how to line a cake tin, the cake recipes including butter creams, how to layer cakes, covering cakes with marzipan and sugar paste. How to dowel a cake, ice a cake board, then there’s a whole section on royal icing.

Quantity guides

These pages show you how much ingredients you need for different cake tin sizes, how much sugar paste, marzipan, ganache etc you need for different cakes.

Sugar flower glossary

Just in case you don’t know how to do a technique Peggy explains it in full in this section. Dusting anyone?

Suppliers

Where to buy Peggy’s tools and equipment

The book is really beautifully laid out. Loads of space and load of amazing pictures. The step by step shots for each arrangement are really, really thorough. I’ve been sent quite a few ‘how to make flower’ books for review here on CakesBakesAndCookies.com but none of them have been good enough to feature. I have to say that EVERY step is covered in this book. There’s no guess work. Anyone can make these flowers – just make sure you leave yourself enough time!

So armed with all of this information don’t you just want to have a play at flowers? I reckon this book will be a good Christmas present so if you have a list (well it is November after all) then I would pop this on it. You won’t be disapointed!

Oh and just in case you wanted to see my cake with my first attempt at Peggy Porschen flowers on it. Here it is. Not bad for a first attempt.Flower cake

EmmaMT x

Cakes in Bloom: Exquisite Sugarcraft Flowers for All Occasions by Peggy Porschen, £25 published by Quadrille

Disclaimer: The product in this post was provided by  Quadrille Publishing All thoughts and opinions and entirely my own.

Peggy Porschen Vintage Flower Masterclass

The only way to learn how to make sugar paste roses is at a Peggy Porschen vintage flower masterclassMe and Naomi

As a keen baker and a passionate cake blogger I don’t think you would be surprised to hear that a call from The Peggy Porschen Academy was enough to make my day. But when that call is asking if I would like to take part in one of their Peggy Porwchen Vintage flower  masterclasses you can imagine how big my grin was! Enormous!

At the time I was in the middle of trying to get an interview with Peggy for a feature I was writing for AchicaLiving, so I thought the call was about that. The lovely PR asked which course I might be interested in doing and as I was reviewing the new book Cakes in Bloom she suggested that I do a masterclass to create one of the arrangements from the book. Being cheeky I chose the two day Vintage Blooms class. It was a great choice!

The two day course was small and friendly. Just five students, some of whom travelled from Germany and Switzerland to take part. The Vintage blooms we were learning to make included one rose bud, one medium rose and one big open rose complete with leaves and some hydrangea petals. It doesn’t sound a lot but trust me- these are very delicate and detailed blooms. 

How to make roses

The tutor – Naomi took us through each step needed to make each petal and leaf from kneading and rolling out to veining and securing with wire.

1. the buds

 Rolled out petals: Peggy Porschen
As you cut out the petals keep them soft in a plastic sleeve.

We started with a polystyrene bud which we covered with one petal. To make the petals for the rose we used two size cutters. Each petal was stretched and frilled with the end of a curved rolling pin. This makes it look realistic. We used edible glue to secure the petals onto the bud. I found this really difficult to begin with. I wasn’t used to working with flower paste and it kept cracking or I rolled it too thin. 

3. cut out and frilled petals
Two petals. The one on the right has been frilled

4. Naomi demonstrating

Each rose starts in the same way. One petal to cover the polystyrene bud then three petals- with their edges curled over, wrapped around. If you stop there you have a rose bud.

Rose bud: Peggy Porschen

To continue making a medium rose you roll out and cut seven more petals. The flower paste dries really quickly so you only roll out what you need and keep the rest wrapped up in a zip lock bag. The petals are kept in a plastic sleeve (the kind used for paper documents) till they’re ready to be used. Each petal is thinned and frilled with the rolling pin and the edges are rolled over a cocktail stick then set in a palette to firm up a bit. Rose petals taking shapeAfter half an hour you add edible glue to the base of the petals and then position them around the rose bud. This was tricky as most of the students had them going in different directions (an easy mistake to make!) The idea is to have the petals running in the same direction throughout. So left side under the previous petal and so on.Adding the petals to a sugar rose Naomi showed us how to assemble the petal and hold the rose up and look at it from underneath to check it looked right. Easier said than done! Once you’re happy the petals are pressed firmly into place and the rose is rested upside down on some foam to dry. At this stage you leave it overnight to harden so you can handle it the next day without pieces breaking off.Checking the petals on the rose are in the right order

To make the large open rose you continue adding petals (nine for the last layer) if not you have the medium rose. Once the nine large petals are cut and frilled they are set in the palette again, this time they are only just in the palette so the bottom edge takes the curved shape of the wells – this is what gives the open petal shape on the rose. Leave for half an hour and secure onto the rose as for the middle layer. Leave to harden.Petals just in the palette

The large roseOnce dry each rose is given a touch of pink coloured powder. We used more powder throughout the buds and inner petals than on the rest of the rose. This is what brings the rose to life making each one look different.

Leaves

To complete the roses a calyx is cut out in pale green for each rose. It too is thinned and then little cuts are made in the sides to make it look realistic. These are added onto the bottom of each rose and secured neatly so no edges are sticking out. Green coloured powders are used to add definition to the calyx.

To make the leaves we cut out the shapes then pressed them between two veiners to give them definition. Wires were inserted into the spines and they were left to dry. Once dry coloured powders were applied with small paintbrushes. You only need the tiniest amount of powder and each leaf is brushed from the outside in with green and then pink powder. The pink is what gives that vintage tone. 

The Hydrangeas

Hydrangea kitThe hydrangeas were made in the same way as the leaves only the wires were threaded through the middle of each flower and were then set over some foam to dry. Hydrangeas set over foam to dryThe flower paste was green and we dusted them with pink powders once dry. To hide the wire going through the centre of each flower a dot of royal icing was added.

hydrangea petals

The end result: a box full of beautiful blooms.

My blooms- I was very proud!

To say I was proud of my vintage blooms would be an understatement! I showed them to anyone who happened to come to my house. So that they were on show and not hidden away in a cupboard I placed them in a vintage tea cup and saucer and now display them in a (dust free) terrarium in my living room where they are on show to this day.

Peggy Porschen Vintage Flower Masterclass

The course ran from 11.30am – 4pm on both days and it took that long to make all these flowers. If anyone asks why wedding cakes are so expensive this would be why. The amount of time, care, attention and detail taken over each and every flower, petal and leaf is amazing. The course was so much fun. Some of the students were on their second and third masterclass and you can see why. Peggy Porschen’s academy is just that little bid addictive!

Classes run throughout the year covering all aspects of baking, cake decorating, piping and sugar crafting. For more information and inspiration visit  www.peggyporschenacademy.com

EmmaMT x

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Peggy Porschen Academy for inviting me to take part in their masterclass. I loved it. All opinions here are my own.

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