Category: How to…

Cake kit: The Side Scraper

I’ve decided to start a series of posts on my essential cake decorating kit. When I first started decorating cakes I only had a few tools of the trade, but as time goes on, and you get chatting to other decorators and helpful shop assistants  and you learn about these clever little gadgets that make a job much easier and your cakes look more professional. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing my favorites with you with the hope that they will make your life easier too!

The Side Scraper

side scraper

Have you ever tried to do a buttercream coating on a cake and wanted to get it perfectly straight? By straight I mean at a 90º angle.  I am totally useless at seeing if things are straight – you should see the shelves I put up at home! So I find it really hard to see when a cake looks right. Well ,this nifty tool does it for you. What’s more it’s less than a fiver. Money seriously well spent.

I hadn’t seen one of these before. I always used my Plain Edge Side Scraper  but never really got the hang of getting the cakes to be really straight. There’s far too much room for error! My local cake shop(Cake Craft World)  has a You Tube channel which I found out about in their newsletter. I checked out the video on ‘How to cut and fill a sponge cake on YouTube and saw Louise using this metal edged side scraper and knew I had to have one.  It took me about 5 trips to the cake shop to remember to buy it as usually I go into the shop with a list for boxes, boards, icing and cutters for whatever cake I am about to make and I kept on forgetting to buy the scraper. Then by luck I was chatting to Sue and I remembered and I haven’t looked back since. Sue also showed me a taller scraper for the really big cakes. I really wished I had bought it as I had a 7 tier cake to decorate last weekend and it would have been really useful.

Anyway, the way the scraper works is simple.

Side scraper

Give your filled cake a layer of buttercream on the outside edge.

Press the side scraper against the cake and drag it around the circumference, ensuring the bottom angle is flat on the surface the entire time.

Side scraper

Look how easy that is!
Side scraper

Et Voila! A nice and straight edged cake without any fuss.

Side scraperI mean really. This is as 90ºs as it gets!

You can get a ‘Perfect Angle side scraper’ from your nearest cake decorating shop or check out my fav cake shop for theirs. Here’s the link to it on their website!

enjoy.

EmmaMT

The RG’s breakfast pancake recipe. Sugar free and delicious

 

Breakfast pancake recipeYou may remember me talking about my brother and his wife having the same RG initials and subsequently calling each other “RG”, well this is their recipe for breakfast pancakes.

The first time I tried one of these was on our family camping trip to Hastings last summer. Family camping is always good fun and to make it even more enjoyable we had 5 kids with us, Beau,9, Darcey,5, Asher,4, Sara,2 and Lital 10 months (Yes you read that right 10 MONTHS old!) We love a group outing as I am sure you can imagine.

On the first morning my mum and Dad brought out their little gas stove and Mrs RG brought out her pancake ingredients and frying pan (or was that mums?). This is a pretty ingenious way for a 10 month old baby to feed herself as the pancakes are nice and thick, so there’s plenty to hold onto. They are naturally sweet – so you don’t have to add nutella/cream/sugar / honey etc. They are filling and DEEELISHHHHH. Needless to say they couldn’t be made quick enough for us all!

My sister made a batch just last week and I just so happened to pop round as they were cooling on her worktop. Lucky for me Shell got a phone call and while her back was turned I wolfed down 5. I’d like to say that they were small. But they weren’t!

Rg’s pancake ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas – this is a great way to use up brown bananas as they are the sweetest ones. 
  • 100g raisins or sultanas ( I soak mine in boiled water for 30 minutes so they are fat and juicy- which is how Darcey likes them best)
  • 3 eggs – at room temperature
  • 75g oats (you can add more if you want)
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 200ml milk

My sister soaks the oats in the milk so they are really soft but I just blitz all the ingredients with a food blender adding the sultanas at the end.

Heat a frying pan with a little oil. Add a small amount of pancake mix. Don’t touch it or try to turn it over until little bubble holes start to appear throughout the pancake, then gently lift and flip it over. Heat them until they are golden brown on each side.

 

As with most pancakes anything goes. Last week I had some cherries left over from a Black Forrest Gateau cake and I popped them in. They made the pancakes amazing. I had to squish down any larger pieces of fruit so they would cook properly. Next I’m going to try with raspberries.

 

 

RG pancakes

enjoy!

The Cake Decorating Bible – book review

The Cake Decorating Bible- book review

If you’re into baking and cake decorating then you’ve probably heard of Fancy Nancy. She (Juliet Sbear) is so amazing. Her cakes are simply stunning which is why  The Cake Decorating Bible: Simple steps to creating beautiful cupcakes, biscuits, birthday cakes and more, by Ebury Press is such a great book. She shares with us all her hints and tips and makes it all look soooo easy. After doing a short course at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, Juliet went on to work at The Little Venice Cake Company. After 18 months she set up her own cake business from home and the rest, as they say is history.

” Above and beyond everything this book is full of practical know how on creating shop quality cakes in your own home” Juliet says and boy is she right.

 

So, what’s in the book?

The Contents

Introduction, Cake Jargon and supplies, Equipment and tools. Preparation: Cakes and cookie basics.

As you would expect these sections are bursting full of tips and advice from how to line a cake tin to what different terms are.

The Cake Decorating Bible- piping bag

Recipes

Juliet’s sponge recipes are devised so that the cakes are firm and can take the weight of marzipan and icing. Perfect for decorating.  They include Very Vanilla, (complete with measurements for different sized tins) Rich Belgian chocolate truffle cake, Lemon Drizzle sponge, Rich boozy fruit cake, Chocolate cup cakes, zesty orange cupcakes, and basic vanilla cookies (which I will be having a go at this weekend).

book review

Fillings and coverings

When you see a picture like this bowl of fresh raspberry and strawberry buttercream don’t you just want a spoon to lick? The recipes in this section are just mouth watering – lemon, orange and belgian chocolate ganache buttercreams. There are also tips and advice on using Royal icing and fondant icing, pouring ganache and chocolate paste.

Buttercream. Yum Yum

Layering and contructing cakes

I wish I had this book years ago as I had no idea how to slice a cake in two when I started. I had so many lopsided cakes! The detailed explanations and clear steps with the photos here would have made my life SO much easier back then.

These pages make this book worthwhile more than anything else. It’s one of the hardest things I find to do.

Cake decoration book

Icing cakes

Here you’ll find a really handy chart for how much marzipan or sugarpaste you’ll need for different sized cakes. Fab steps showing how to cover a cake with marzipan, buttercream, Royal icing, as well as how to cover cupcakes – whether smoothing or piping. There are also lots of clever hints and tips for when dealing with chocolate paste and ganache.

Decorating cakes and cookies

Whether you are making cookies covered in royal icing, a wedding cake covered in flowers or big celebration cake bursting with cookies, this is where you’ll find the right technique to use – not to mention the inspiration. There’s a section on moulding -including silicone push moulds (as seen below) embossing, how to make roses and other types of flowers as well as ideas for cookies, cupcakes, mini cakes, single tier cakes, modelling and multi-tier cakes

Moulded flowers

This is just one of the cookie inspirations that I have fallen in love with (below) in the book. These cute dress cookies use edible printed sheets. Such a simple idea – yet so effective. I’m dreaming up a design for in the future. I have to use them.

Printed icing

I love the simplicity of the stacked cake designs. I have a cake stand like this one below. I just wish I could get married again (to Tim of course!) so I could have another wedding cake to decorate just like this! Stacked cake

Roses cake

Caketastrophies

The last chapter that I have to mention is the Caketastrophies. As Juliet mentions, not many books like this give you advice on what to do when it all goes wrong. It happens to all of us at some point or another and the tips here are really useful. Like – do you know how to remove a rogue air bubble? Or what to do when your cake developes hairline cracks? Well Juliet shares all in this chapter.

 

So to sum up

This book is a great all rounder. It has plenty of advice for a novice and expert baker alike. The cakes and cookies are original as are the recipes. It’s very inspirational. I also really like the way the page headers have been shot. It’s the care and attention to detail that makes this book practical and beauful all in one.

8/10

 

EmmaMT

Chocolate Madeira Cake Recipe

 

I love Madeira cake. I mean REALLY love it. It’s part of my past. So when I was asked recently “How do you convert your Madeira cake recipe into a chocolate cake?” I thought it would be a great recipe to share with you all. I also still had the Morello Cherry and William Pear compote and Belgium chocolate ganache from Tesco’s to try out so they were a perfect fit!

 

This cake is really easy to make and is slightly firmer than my previous chocolate recipes, yet it’s still moist – making it a perfect foundation cake (as my mum would say). In other words it’s perfect for covering in sugarpaste for a celebration cake and the best thing is the fact that it doesn’t crumble like other chocolate cakes do. I do hate a crumbly cake, especially when you’re trying to get a crumb coating of buttercream on it!

Madeira cake recipe 

(Makes an 8″ cake – 1 ½” deep) 

75g butter at room temperature
75g margarine (Flora is best) at room temperature
 200g caster sugar
1 tea spoon vanilla essence
3 eggs (large) 
175 g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
 1 ½ teasp of baking powder
3 tbsp milk
 
  1. Line an 8″ cake tin with silicon paper and pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan).
  2. Blend the butter, margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs slowly until they’re really well mixed in.
  3. In a separate bowl weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Mix them so that you have a light brown dry mixture. This will prevent you having any cocoa lumps in the mix. Sieve into the butter and sugar mix and blend.
  4. Add the vanilla essence and milk and mix well.
  5. Pour the cake mix into the tin and smooth with the back of a metal spoon.  Bake for 45 minutes in the centre of the oven. The cake is ready when you can smell that delicious chocolate cake aroma filling your kitchen. The cake will come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer will come out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack
  7. When completely cool cut into two halves and fill with compote/ buttercream /jam. I loved the Tesco’s compote. It would be great for making a black forest gateau.
  8. Cover the top of the cake with a dusting of icing sugar or a really decadent chocolate ganache (if you want a ganache recipe you can find mine on this post)

 

I re-heated the Tesco ganache in a saucepan and poured it all over the cake till it just dribbled down. There was a little left over which Tim said could not be wasted! He scooped it up with a spoon.   I then placed the finished cake on the kitchen table to cool. Actually, it was to bribe the girls to do their homework before the Sunday evening witching hour! No homework. No cake!

It worked!

Enjoy!

How to make a Mario and Yoshie Birthday Cake

Mario cake

When my friend Nicole asked me if I would make her son Oliver a Mario and Yoshi birthday cake I of course said “yes”. Then I quickly scoured Google images to find out exactly who Yoshi was!  I’ve had a few cake requests recently for computer games I’ve never heard of ( I know who Mario is) but Yoshi? Minecraft? If it’s not Rock stars or dressing up games (both proper girly ones) the chances are I won’t have heard of it.

Nicole told me what Oliver liked about the game and I got to work doing some drawings so she could choose which design was best. She liked the giant toadstool which I have to admit was my favorite of all the styles I had in mind too.

How to make the toadstool cake

I baked two round madeira cakes – a 7″ -for the base and a 10″ for the domed top.

For the dome

Mario birthday cake

This cake (the 10″) came out of the oven very domed but for this design that was just fine! I evened out the lumps and bumps with a bread knife to create as smooth a dome as possible, then cut it in half and filled it with raspberry jam and buttercream. Give the whole cake a thin crumb coating of buttercream. Pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.

Mario and Yoshi cake

Once the crumb coating is firm add another slightly thicker buttercream coating and smooth it as much as possible. Place the cake on a thin 10″ cake board and secure in place with a small amount of royal icing.

Knead the red sugarpaste till it is nice and malleable. When ready place the cake on a tin which is smaller than the 10″ cake board so that the rolled out icing will hang over the edge.  That way you can cut off the excess and tuck the bottom bits of sugarpaste under and the cake board  won’t show at all.

To make the baseMario cake


Take the 7″ cake and cut it in half so you can add the buttercream and jam filling.  Level the top off so that is it VERY flat. Use a spirit level to check that it is otherwise you will either have a) a lopsided toadstool, b) it will fall over or c)your husband will walk in while you’re finishing off your iced cake and say “You know it’s not level, don’t you?” like Tim always does! Either way this is the time to make sure it’s really level. My cake was level – it’s just on a slanted plate! 

Give the cake a crumb coating and then a nice smooth buttercream coating before you cover it with white sugarpaste. Cut off the excess sugarpaste then get the sides as smooth as possible.

Position the base cake on your cake board, securing with some royal icing.

How to decorate the Toadstool cake mario birthday cake

To stack the dome on top of the base cake first insert some dowels. I use Plastic Cake Dowels  like these ones from Amazon. You only need around 3 to support the top cake. Before I added the dome I decorated the side of the cake so that I could do all the fiddly bits without it being in the way, like adding the blades of grass, eyes and flowers. Only then did I add a little royal icing to the top of the base cake and then positioned the dome on top.

I usually make the models when I cover the cake boards  – a week before the cake needs to be finished, but if I am completely honest I really avoided this one as I had no idea how I was going to make Mario actually look like Mario! but once I got started I was off and really enjoyed it. The little toadstools and stars were also fun to make.

The last job was to add the circles to the top of the toadstool which I did by dampening the white sugarpaste circles I had cut out.

Sugarpaste Mario and Yoshi

Yoshi, Mario and the mini toadstools were all secured in place with a little sugarpaste. Then the wording was iced and the ribbon was added to the cake board.

Mario birthday cakeThe cake was a big surprise for Oliver and I think he was chuffed to bits when Nicole presented it to him.

EmmaMT

Some seriously chocolatey cookies

SHELL 4

It was my sister Shelley’s birthday on Monday and I wanted to make her a little treat. Just a little one – as I know she has nearly as much chocolate left over from Christmas as we do!

I decided to make her some vanilla and chocolate cookies covered in thick milk, dark and white chocolate. You could say it was a chocolate overload.

The inspiration for decorating these cookies came when we were messing around with the sprinkles last week. Shelley had come to pick up my nephew Asher while we were mid way through decorating biscuits and she helped Beau to create this pattern on her cookies with royal icing. I haven’t done this effect for years. It’s really easy to achieve, but is a little time-consuming and pretty messy… or that might be just me.

How to make these seriously chocolatey cookies 

  1. Bake your cookies. I made Vanilla cookies from this recipe and chocolate cookies from this recipe.
  2. Melt your chocolate in a pyrex bowl over simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water though.
  3. Place a piping bag in a glass and fold the edges over the outside so you can pour your chocolate into the bag easily.
  4. Add a clip on the end to keep the melted chocolate in the piping bag and not running down your hands/arms/worktops.SHELL 1
  5. To make cleaning up a doddle. Lay some clingfilm over your work surface and position your wire rack over the top.
  6. Pour some melted chocolate over one cookie at a time.
  7. Smooth it so that every bit of the cookie is coated (there’s more yumminess that way)
  8. With your piping bag (with a different type of melted chocolate) pipe lines in one direction across the whole cookie. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t that straight. You’re going to be messing them up anyway. SHELL 2
  9. Use a toothpick to drag across the cookie. As you drag each line is pulled in that direction creating little peaks.
  10. When you have done a few lines in one direction drag the toothpick in the other direction – in between first lot of lines. (Please note that I had to turn the cookie around so I could take the picture- but in other words the first lot of dragging was done from left to right, the second was from right to left- I hope that makes sense!)
  11. Once you have finished leave them alone for at least an hour. They take a long time to fully set. After an hour move them very carefully across the wire rack  with a spatular or by giving them a gentle push with a toothpick so that they don’t permanently stick to the rack, then leave them to fully harden overnight (or for at least 6 hours). They are then ready to wrap or eat.

SHELL 3

Happy Birthday Shelley. Love you. xXx

SHELL 5

enjoy!

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