Tuesday, 15 November 2011


As you may be able to see, transporting this cake, did not do it the best of favours!  I really need to find a better way to move my cakes.  

I made this delightful little cake from vanilla sponge, with a layer of white chocolate fudge icing to make the inner banana the right colour.  The skin is dyed fondant, which came off a little worse for wear after an hour in the car.  Then some fancy decorating with an icing squeezy drizzle bottle, and some food colouring.

My other half's Dad can't stand bananas, so this was a good trick to play ;) 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes and Blackberry and Apple Crumble Muffins

This week I have traded my cake sculpturing and such designs for some more interesting flavoured cupcakes.

I love cupcakes!  They are fun to make, and when placed on a decorative stand they just look wonderful.  Everyone loves a cupcake.  So for my other half's Mum's birthday cake, I thought I would do her some cupcakes. 

Not just any cupcake will do though, on no, my reputation would be at stake!  So I decided I would make her cupcakes flavoured with two of her favourite desserts - Lemon Meringue Pie and Apple and Blackberry crumble.

I used a basic cupcake mixture and adapted it to get the right flavours with the cakes.  Then added bits and bobs to make these cupcakes resemble the original dessert it was being based around.

Lemon Meringue Pie cupcakes


125g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
4 eggs
125g caster sugar
125g margarine
zest of 2 lemons
juice of one lemon

lemon curd

3 egg whites
175g caster sugar

Preheat the over to 180 centigrade, and line a tray with cupcake or muffin cases.
Cream the butter and the sugar together in a large bowl or mixer.
Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each.
Add the lemon juice and zest and mix well.
Sift in the flour and baking powder into the bowl and mix to incorporate.
Scoop a large teaspoon of the mixture into your ready lined trays, then add a small dollop of lemon curd to the centre, cover with more cake mixture.

place in the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes if you are using cupcake cases, and about 20 minutes if you are using muffin cases (until a skewer inserted into the middile of the cakes comes out clean).
Allow the cakes to cool, so that when the meringue mixture is added, it doesn't move or melt from the heat.  Once you have finished baking the cakes, turn the over down to 110 celsius.
Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, whisk your egg whites in a clean bowl until forming stiff peaks, and the mixture does not move in the bowl when turned upside down.
Add the sugar a little at a time, whisking a little in between each addition.
When the cakes are cool and the meringue mixture has been made, place a 1cm thick dollop of meringue mixture on to the cupcake, swirl it, so that it is slightly higher in the middle (I put the meringue on with a piping bag and small nozzle which made this nice and easy and gave a good shape)
Place in the over for 15 minutes to dry the meringue out and cook it mostly, then switch over to a high grill for approximately 2-3 minutes until the meringue is just starting to turn golden.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble Muffins


175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
4 eggs
125g caster sugar
125g margarine
1 large cooking apple peeled and cored
200g blackberries

crumble topping

50 grams of butter or margarine
75 grams of sugar
100 grams of plain flour

Preheat oven and prepare tin as in above recipe
Blitz the apple and blackberries in a food processor until they have been chopped finely.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large clean bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time whisking in between each egg.
Add the fruit and mix through
Sift in the baking powder and flour and mix thoroughly.  You may wish to add a little extra flour if you feel the mixture is too runny.
Prepare the crumble topping in a separate bowl, by rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add more flour to acheive this if neccessary.
Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake cases.  Then sprinkle a generous amount of crumble topping over each cake.
Bake in preheated over for 25 minutes, they will remain a little soft because of the cooked apple and blackberries, but the crumble topping should be nicely golden brown.
Place on a wire cooling rack to cool.

These were a big hit and very much enjoyed by all, especially enjoyed as there were so very many of them! Yum yum yum cake!

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Continuous Plankton Recorder and peanut butter and chocolate creamy icing

Although recently a lot of my kitchen creation efforts have been diverted towards some other projects, including copious amounts of jams and chutneys (I am planning VERY FAR ahead for christmas this year), I have managed to get in a little creative caking of late.

The latest project was a very interesting, and for the marine geek side of me, a very exciting one!  

I was asked to create a cake in the shape of a Continuous Plankton Recorder (or CPR) a piece of machinery, used by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) to record the different plankton found in water around the world, when towed behind ships.

Yes I realise I am very uncool that I got very excited about this, but oh well, I shall live on! 

Since I realise that unless you are a marine geek, this all probably means nothing to you, here is what a real CPR looks like ...

(picture from SAHFOS.ac.uk)
And here ... is my creation to look like the above

This cake was to celebrate the 80th year that the CPR has been used (which explains the candles!).  

There are a couple of things I think I would have done differently next time.  I would have preferred to have matched the fondant colour to the card better, unfortunately this didn't come off as well as I had hoped.  I think next time I will also need to remember to trim the cake better before adding the fondant so that it lies against a flatter surface and avoids that bumpy look.

There were a few moments where I had cause for concern with, not so much the cake itself, as the attachments added to it.  The card at the back was somewhat flimsy, and upon set up, I found that it was not standing up straight.  Luckily some bits of card from a handy thorntons' chocolate box, and a little sellotape to provide stability, and we were good to go, with the card now holding upright happily.  

I also had a brief movie moment, when the tube-shaped part sitting at the front, overbalanced and rolled sideways off the cake.  I watched from a few feet away from the table, as it made it's inexorable way towards the edge, and inevitably the floor .... I took a hollywood stunt-woman style dive accross the table, and with the tips of my fingers, thank goodness, just managed to catch it as it went for a diving lesson.

Once, all of these little incidents had been overcome, all in all the cake went down very well!  I enjoyed making this creation and I am looking forward to a new challenge.  Now all I need is some inspiration for a new theme with which to go!  ..... hmmm so many possibilities, only one cake to be made at a time!

Happily, at the end I also had a couple too many sponges left over, which was fantastic as I decided to experiment with peanut butter in buttercream icing.  I chose to make peanut butter and chocolate icing, and oh wow has it gone down well!  If you like reese's peanut butter cups, this is like melting them down and smothering cake with them!  What could possibly beat that?!

Peanut butter and chocolate buttercream recipe:

50g peanut butter (whether you use smooth or crunchy is up to you, I used crunchy but as I use a blender to make my icing, it ended up pretty much smooth anyway)
50g butter or margarine
300g icing sugar 
50g cocoa
1 tsp vanilla flavouring
1 tbsp water

Its really simple if you have an electric mixer or blender.  Just pop all the ingredients in the bowl and blend or whisk until smooth and well mixed.  If the mixture is very runny, add extra icing sugar until a thicker consistency, that spreads easily but doesn't run is achieved.  Conversely if the mixture is too thick to spread you can add water (a very small amount at time!) to thin it out a little.

If you don't have an electric mixer, I suggest whisking the butter, peanut butter, vanilla and water together until creamy.  Then add the remaining ingredients and whisk until they are all combined.  Follow the same instructions above to ensure a good consistency.

Then, if you can stop yourself from eating the icing on its own!  Stick it on a cake of  your choice.  I had spare vanilla sponge, which has worked a treat, but I suspect a chocolate, or even peanut butter related sponge flavour, would be superb also.

Until next time!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Part 2 ... It's finished!

After many hours work, I had the finished product! Ta da!

I realise that the tower at the back is ahem, a little bit wonky, however, happily I have learned a few things from this adventure.  Namely, I probably should have used something like a swiss roll to make the tower as it might have been straight!  Or if not that, then I should have rethought the layering etc.

But before I get ahead of myself here's what I DID do ...

The base was made of two layers of chocolate sponge, held together with a filling of chocolate buttercream.  I cut a corner off of the cake and gave it some jagged cliff type edges.  This was done very roughly, as when I coated it with chocolate fudge icing, which was nice and thick, gave additional rocky texture.  I then stuck some decorative blobs around the place to make a few more "rocks" (which my boyfriend decided he should even out by trying to pick them off and eat them, before the cake was given to the birhtday girl!!).

Once this was in place I made 2 layers of vanilla sponge using an 8" circular tin, from which I cut several layers using an upended mug, for the tower at the back (this used all of one of the layers, bar the various off cuts).  The first was iced at the bottom then placed on the base.  I then layered them by adding buttercream on top, then iced around the edge of each piece as I added it .... I would suggest NOT following this method to create something tall and circular, everytime I added a piece it all slid and the buttercream was gently sinking towards the bottom, so the tower was wider there.  It gave a fun, oldy rustic look, but could also have been described as a bit crap.  

I would suggest only a very small amount of buttercream in the middle of each layer to hold them together, to layer larger pieces than you will need, then use something like a cookie cutter to get the whole lot to the right size together.  You can then place the uniced tower on the base and add the vanilla buttercream icing all around the tower.

The remaining base sections were made up of two layers of sponge and also iced with vanilla buttercream.  The windows and other similar details were made up of black or grey fondant, rolled and cut to the correct shapes.

The turret tops were made of card with fondant added ... there is no way that back tower could have held any more cake!  Copious numbers of straws and other reinforcements were already used to try to keep what was already there in place.  The tiles were simply roughly rolled out fondant cut into squares/rectangles with no real finesse at that point (curved edges etc around the edge of the rolled section were left as they were).  The turret top was created from a circle of card with a slit, curled around to make a cone.  A thin layer of buttercream was then put all over the card, and working from the bottom up, I simply covered the whole thing with the "tiles" a layer at a time, each higher layer overlapping a little with the one below.

The two turrets on top of the great hall, were also made completely from card and fondant.  The roofs were made in the same way as the larger one, and the turret bodies were made from small card tubes covered with fondant which had been coloured to match the buttercream.

Once this was all done, I placed all of my little pre-made characters in various locations around the castle.

And the final part, was to add the lake to the cut away area.  

Here I took some blue fondant, and added a very small amount of black fondant, mixing the two gently until they gave a marbled effect, but before the whole thing went completely grey.  I then rolled this out and placed it to fit around the bottom of the base, trimming and moving the off-cuts to better locations as I felt was necessary.

My top tip, would definitely be, use cornflour to stop your fondant sticking, it is so very very much easier when you aren't trying to transfer fondant that is completely stuck to something!

I had a great time making this, and when presented with it, the birthday girl was very happy with her cake.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about it!  

I will make my next cake creation in a few weeks, all suggestions for themes and ideas are welcome.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The start of a new project ... but it's all under wraps! part one.

So it's my partner's, brother's, girlfriend's (phew!) birthday on Thursday, and with some level of what you might perhaps refer to as "obsession" being present in both my life, her's and my housemate's, I felt that this occassion would be a superb opportunity to start a new project...

... a Hogwarts castle cake, complete with Harry, Hermione, Ron, Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore figurines.  Yes, we are all that cool.  Harry Potter is my shameful (not so) secret.  My housemate and I have come to own it and take a strutting, we don't care what you think style of approach, and have been present at the earliest possible viewing of all of the films since we had our own money to spend on such things! And the birthday girl, also loves Harry Potter, so what better opportunity, to create a cake that will have both me, and said housemate all weak at the knees with excitement and anticipation, before the cake even makes it to the birthday girl! So shhhh it's still all a secret as she doesn't know I'm making her a cake yet!  I'm sure you will promise not to tell her .....

I will be creating a Hogwarts castle after I finish work this evening (pesky job getting in the way!), but have spent some time up until now creating the figurines which will sit in various locations of the castle.  I wanted to pop up a few pictures up for these as I think they are rather cute, and I'm very excited about continuing the creation of the remaining characters, and the cake itself.

From left to right; Hermione, Harry and Ron, who need a little work, as Hermione is currently perhaps a little tall, and I think it is rather mandatory that Harry has at least a pair of glasses and a scar added.

I have also created a snape, on the far left in the picture above, and started working on Professor McGonagall, the two pieces on the far right make up her body, and hat. 

These figurines were inspired by those used in this birthday cake:


I made them using fondant icing, which I have rolled into slightly elongated balls, for the bodies, which I then flattened the bottom against a board.  I then rolled out fondant from which I cut the capes, ensuring a neat and tidy finish.  The heads are small balls of fondant, which I have then added, rolled out and cut pieces too, to create hair.  Professor McGonagall's hat was made from a flattened ball with a rolled cone shaped piece of fondant stuck on top, I then folded over the top edge of the cone, to give the hat a slightly more worn look.  I will be adding her head with some hair tied in a bun later this evening, before placing the hat on top ... fingers crossed! 

These figures will be quite dried out when the cake is eaten, so they probably won't be edible, but I am enjoying the cute look that they will bring to the finished cake.

Watch this space for part 2 when I will post up the final pictures of the whole cake!  Castle and all .... I am very excited! 

Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Welcome to Bake me a picture

Wow, my first blog, and with it a daring new adventure into a different world!  Or at least a fun new way to spend my evenings and weekends.  If you are reading this, please bare with me as I work out what on earth it is that I am doing, as I go along.

My day job as a data assistant within a marine data centre has left my creative abilities feeling somewhat untapped, and since I like to be let loose in the kitchen, this has over the years resulted in some interesting experiences, both good and bad.  My favourite is perhaps a flour mishap, which resulted in a biscuit thin, exceptionally solid cake, iced with excessively over-flavoured rum icing, and served when 95% of those eating the cake were somewhat worse for wear from the activities of the night before!

On the upside however, there have been plentiful, much, much more positive outcomes, and so with a burning desire to expand my cake making creative talents, I have decided to share my adventures, triumphs, and (hopefully few!) failures on the all reaching web!

I hope that my baking forays will entertain, and perhaps even motivate a few people to try something new, and fun, and I hope that anyone reading this will enjoy all that is to come...

For a little taster the future of Bake me a picture, I would like to include some of the previous work I have done.  Here are a few little pictures of bits and bobs, usually birthday cakes created for people at work.  Happily I like my colleagues so they get some good cakes.

1) Super-hero stack
My Mum, in her glory, and infinite wisdom, happily gave me a fantastic cupcake stand for a Christmas present this past December.  As a result I have become a woman obsessed, and whip this little piece of equipment out at every available opportunity!  I love how neat, and beautiful it can make a set of either plain, or decorated cupcakes look. 

And so it came to be, that on my boss's birthday this year, a new occasion arose on which I was able to once again.  His favourite super hero is batman, a fine choice I think, and so my colleague had the idea that we should make him super-hero cupcakes.  A fine plan I thought and to work I went to create these little gems, with Batman, Superman and Spiderman symbols, beautifully stacked and arranged on the amazing stand.

My boss was thrilled, and despite being in his 30's had a facial expression much closer to those normally witnessed on the faces of those aged around 5 when presented with money, and a sweet shop.

2) A van too small to camp in
Recently a colleague spent a month away travelling in Europe in a van.  She chose the month of her birthday to do this, posing the dilemma of when to make her birthday cake.  This was easily solved with the unbreakable will power I apply where cake is concerned, by simply convincing all parties involved that her birthday had in fact moved forward two weeks and refusing to accept any protests otherwise.

This little cutie was whipped up really quickly with a  bread machine chocolate cake recipe, covered in copious amounts of chocolate butter cream, and a little vanilla butter cream piped on for the decorative bits. 

The birthday girl and I share the trait of being die-hard chocoholics and so this cake went down very well.

3) The giant Jaffa cake
Possibly one of  my favourites, and very nearly one that didn't make it.  This cake, was a sad occasion cake, as a leaving cake.  However, any reason to bake something fun is still a silver lining!  

I had a conversation with the guy in question many months previously, where we discussed whether or not making a giant Jaffa cake would work.  He very much wanted one, and thus a request for a birthday cake was put in ... sadly he left before his birthday, however as I said any excuse!  

As I mentioned, it nearly didn't make it, there was a slight incident with moving  the thin, moulded chocolate onto the cake and adding warm melted chocolate, I very nearly had a melty chocolate mess all over my kitchen floor, thankfully I managed to spot my mistake in time, and papered (with chocolate) over the cracks so it came out OK.  The pictures below show the finished product and the inside jelly goodness.

Well I certainly hope that you have enjoyed reading about my past cake baking exploits!  And I look forward to working on my next project ready to post it up here.

Any and all ideas for inspiration on what kind of cake art I should make my next project are greatly welcomed!

Thanks for reading.