Friday, 30 April 2010

Birthday baking: A Double Chocolate Smarties Layer Cake!

I feel like I haven't stopped baking all week! Byron turned 24 on Monday and so that called for a layer cake. I've only made one once before but I had big plans for this one! Byron had asked for smarties, so I had a quick look on google images for some inspiration. I found a cake that had circular layers of different coloured smarties, it looked quite cool so I thought I'd have a go at making coloured stripes on my cake. The first part of the process was separating out all the smarties, this was not a quick activity!! I bought 22 tubes of smarties to ensure I would have enough of all colours needed!

I used the chocolate cake recipe from my Primrose Bakery recipe book. They said it was their go to birthday cake recipe and so I was expecting big things! I had a quick taste of the mixture pre-oven and wasn't jumping up and down so I was pleasantly surprised when it came out of the oven and tasted incredible!!! 5 days later and it's still as moist and delicious as it was on day one - I am definitely impressed!! The recipe said it would make 2 layers, maybe my cake tins were small but I could see straight away I could make far more so I split it into 3 cake tins. In between each layer I put some vanilla buttercream (I dyed it green for one layer and blue for the other - By's fave smarties colours) and then covered the whole cake in the Primrose's chocolate buttercream which I hadn't ever made before but it was so light and fluffy I will defo be using it again!!

My sis had sent me a chocolate disc she had made at work that said 'Happy Birthday By' on it so I stuck this in the middle of the cake and then began decorating with stripes of coloured smarties.

The birthday boy was very happy. It was certainly a more impressive looking cake than last year's and far more delicious too! Here he is blowing out his candles!

Double Chocolate Smarties Layer Cake:
Serves 12-14
From Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery
For the cake:

230g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids - I used Lindt)
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs, free range or organic, separated
370g plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
500ml semi skimmed milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract

For the Chocolate frosting:

175g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids - I used Lindt)
225g unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tablespoon semi-skimmed milk, at room temp
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
250g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
To make the cake: Break the choc into pieces and melt in 30 second intervals in a glass bowl in the microwave.  Set bowl aside to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl for 3-5 minutes until the mix is pale and smooth.
Put the egg yolks in a separate bowl and beat them for several minutes, slowly add the egg yolks to the creamed butter and sugar and beat well. 
Add the cooled chocolate to this mixture and beat well again.
Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.  Add one third of the flour to the creamed mixture and beat well.  Pour in one third of the milk and beat again.  Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form.  Carefully fold the egg whites into the main batter using a metal spoon (Do not beat or you will take the air out of the mixture).  
Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and bake for about 30 minutes.
Insert a skewer in the centre of one of the cakes, it should come out clean if cooked.  Leave to cool.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, make up a batch of this frosting:

Vanilla Frosting:

500g icing sugar, sifted
160g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50ml whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract

Beat half of the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer.  Once it has all been mixed together, beat the remaining butter and sugar for about 3 minutes. 
Turn the mixer down to slow speed, combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and add it to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.  Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

I split it in half and coloured one half blue with gel colour and the other half green.

I used a palette knife to spread each batch of frosting on top of the cakes until the stack consisted of cake, blue frosting, cake, green frosting and then cake.  I put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up and made the chocolate frosting in the meantime.  

To make the chocolate frosting: Melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals in a glass bowl in the microwave until smooth.  Leave to cool slightly.  In a large mixing bowl beat the butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth - this can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer.  
Add the melted chocolate and beat again until thick and creamy.  

Take the cake out of the fridge and cover it in the chocolate frosting.  It doesn't have to be especially neat because the smarties will cover up most of the frosting.  Split your smarties into colours and starting at the base of the cake start making coloured rows up the side and onto the top of the cake.  I had a chocolate disc on top so I stopped placing smarties on when I reached the disc. 

It took quite a while to put each smartie on, but it was definitely worth it! 

We also went out to Gourmet Burger Kitchen for some burgers and oreo shakes. We were a bit disappointed with the amount of Oreos in our shakes as it had a very weak flavour, I actually had a pack of 4 Oreos in my bag at the time and joked we should have crushed them up and put them in but I'm not sure it would have blended!!! We make our Oreo shakes at home super Oreo-y so the ones we have elsewhere never quite compare! Here we are enjoying them:

The burgers were delicious though and so we were so full up by the time we got home that we couldn't even manage a piece of cake!!! how disappointing! So we cut it the next morning and took some to work for lunch, I 'accidentally' cut my slice too big and so had to eat the rest for breakfast ...shh! don't tell Byron! Here is what the inside of the cake looked like with the coloured icing:

On Tuesday night Byron asked me if I could make 40 mini cupcakes for him to take into work so I whacked out the old Martha Stewart Brownie cupcake recipe which I just fall more in love with everytime I make them and I did a few different decorations on top. Most were chocolate cream cheese frosting, some with smarties, some with white maltesers, and some rocky roads and the rest were Oreo cream cheese frosting with a mini Oreo. Not quite adventurous as my last mini's I made for the tea party but I was pretty worn out by this point!

Cupcake parties are a no-go

So my lack of blogging does not mean there has been a lack of baking, in fact the opposite - there has been so much baking I had no time to blog! so get ready for a few posts.

I did a cupcake party for my 8 year old cousin. It's something I've thought about before and alot of people have suggested I should do. I did think it would be a nice little earner for when we move to Bangor...but after testing it out I decided I'm not a fan! It was sooo hectic and just such alot of preparation that probably wasn't really appreciated by a load of 8 year olds!

I made 60 cupcakes (half vanilla and half chocolate brownie) and 5 different types of frosting and really the quality of both went un-noticed! they would have been better off with a pack of tesco bought fairy cakes and icing sugar and some smarties etc which would have certainly saved me about 3 days worth of work!

I also should have known better than to leave my assortment of various sprinkles and edible decorations on the table for them to have free reign over because once they finished decorating their cupcakes they started pouring the rest of the sprinkles in their mouths/guzzling everything they could by the handful which completely diminished my supplies!!

So I've learnt my lesson and I won't go there again! unless maybe I set an age restriction, 10 years old or over or something like that - I think I could handle that!

Some of their creations

Their cute cupcake aprons

The cupcake cake

Sunday, 11 April 2010

I couldn't resist!!!

So I lied...Byron has decided to play call of duty which leaves me free to blog about my cupcake ventures! You don't have to wait in suspense after all. This is what you get when you mix all those yummy treats from the picture in my last post:

I used Martha Stewart's Brownie cupcake as the base for all the cupcakes, as I have been so impressed with it recently and one of my friends commented it was the best cupcake she'd ever had so I think they went down well!

I did five different frostings (from left to right: Chocolate Oreo, Vanilla with sugar hearts, White choc & raspberry)

Mint chocolate, Rocky road and Vanilla again - this time with sprinkles

I made the vanilla ones first (started with the easiest and worked my way up to the ones that took more time!). I dyed half the icing pink and half purple and layered it in the piping bag so it came out two tone, and then decorated each side of the icing with the opposite colour heart decoration. I also did some with sprinkles because the cases I used for these ones my sister got me in Brighton last week and they were covered in hundreds and thousands which I thought was fun, unfortunately case patterns don't always show up so well with chocolate cupcakes.

The second batch were white chocolate with raspberry. Pretty standard really, I just whipped some white chocolate into vanilla buttercream and finished off with a fresh raspberry. I melted down some milky way buttons for the white choc because last week whilst trying to make easter egg cake pops I tried to melt some green and black's organic white chocolate and that stuff did not melt at all so I've come to the conclusion the cheaper the choc the easier it melts!

The third were rocky road. I started off with a vanilla buttercream and whipped some melted dairy milk in. I then decorated them with chopped up dairy milk buttons, white buttons, maltesers and mini marshmallows. I finished off by drizzling some white choc over the top.

The fourth creation was mint chocolate. I started with green tinted vanilla frosting as a base. I rolled the sides of the cupcake in green sanding sugar. I then melted some mint aero down and whipped that into vanilla frosting. I did a mint choc swirl on top of the green frosted base and then finished off with a chunk of peppermint crisp dairy milk (which is no longer available in this country, I bought this from the South African shop!).

Finally no cupcake fest is complete without the beloved oreo! I did my usual trick of putting half a mini oreo in the cupcake liners and then baked the brownie cupcake on top. I then whipped up some chocolate cream cheese frosting with crushed oreos in. By this stage I was beyond washing the bowl in between each new creation because I was running slightly late so the icing also had a hint of mint due to some leftover melted mint aero from before! I topped off with a mini oreo and the baking sesh was complete!

They were for a 'Mad Hatters' themed tea party. I had googled Alice in Wonderland cupcakes and come up with a vast array of options. However, most of them involved fondant and I was considering making some with card suit decorations on top and character decorations but at the end of the day who actually likes to eat fondant icing? not me! So I figured there wasn't much point in spending hours making decorations that would just be taken off to leave some boring icing behind...and that is why I came up with a crazy amount of frostings to make the tea party a bit 'mad' but in a good and tasty way!!

Brownie Cupcakes a la Martha Stewart
(Makes 12)

225g milk chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup sifted cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until just melted, about 4-5 mins.
2. Remove bowl from heat.  Whisk in sugar and salt until mixture is smooth, whisk in eggs to combine.  Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth (do not overmix).
3. Fill cupcake cases until 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a cake tester inserted halfway in centres, comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 25-30 minutes.

Guess what.... can make with all of these goodies:

I just came back from an amazing tea party in Harpenden with all my friends, it was a welcome home tea party for a friend who's been living in Singapore. I had a hardcore baking session earlier as I took cupcakes along and am pretty tired now so will blog all about it tomorrow but thought I'd leave you with a little teaser of what's to come.

Check back tomorrow to find out what I made with them.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Fondant is not my friend

I have just arrived back from dropping the cakes off at the church for the wedding this morning. I took my inspiration from the wedding cupcakes featured in Martha Stewart's cupcake book.
I baked 50 vanilla cupcakes (using the Hummingbird's recipe) and frosted them with vanilla (from the Primrose Bakery...just to mix it up a little!) Each fondant heart was imprinted with a letter: either R or N (the initals of the bride and groom). I searched the internet high and low for some stamps to use for this purpose, they weren't easy to come by! Eventually I found these and they seemed to work well.

I frosted them last night and stuck the little fondant hearts in the icing, as I thought it was best to do this whilst the icing was fresh to help them stick. This was where it all went wrong and why fondant is not my friend. This morning I woke up and went to check on the cupcakes and imagine my horror when I found that all the hearts had flopped over!! Disaster, there was of course not time to make a whole new set of hearts since they take so long to try out. I could have cried! So I had a play around with them and tried to prop them up some more with minor success, but lesson learnt I will always add the decorations on the morning so this doesn't happen! I can only assume that the moisture from the buttercream softened them up again.

You can see a floppy one in the background here! I arranged the cupcakes in layers with 2 layers of the bride's initials and 2 layers of the groom's and then I finished off the top layer with cupcakes of both initials (uniting them together!).

So now I'm ready to enjoy the Easter weekend!! I've had a pretty hectic few weeks of baking so am hoping my sister who works for the English Cheesecake company will provide the desserts this time round, and I'll have a little rest!

Brownie & Cream Cheese Cupcakes (Minis)

It was Stake Leadership on Wed night and our department were in charge of refreshments! Of course I made cupcakes. I had planned to use my chocolate cupcake recipe from the Primrose Bakery but when I went to turn on my electronic scales the battery had died!!! so I had a minor panic and then remembered that good ol' Martha Stewart measures everything in cups! So I had a quick flick through her book and settled on the brownie cupcakes. My sister made these before and we decided they were too rich for our liking, they require dark chocolate and cocoa. I decided I would use milk chocolate instead, but when I looked in the baking cupboard I didn't have any! So I used half dark choc and half white choc to balance it out and I was really pleased with the taste this time around. I finished off with some cream cheese frosting (Hummingbird's recipe) and topped with a smarties chocolate egg.


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