Blueberry Bluebird Cake

While I haven’t been doing a lot of general baking recently (brownies, cupcakes, cookies etc) I have done quite a few cakes for special occasions, which I’ve really enjoyed as not only does it mean they’re out of my kitchen and I can’t eat them all myself, but it’s also given me a chance to try out some different types of decorating.

Back in June, the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club held a meeting in Truro, the town where I live, at a small cafe/cake shop called The Baking Bird.

The theme, naturally, was ‘free as a bird’, which could either be interpreted as being free to make whatever you want, or as I took it something with a avian link.

It took me quite a while to decide what to make, but in the end I decided to go for a bluebird theme, with a blueberry flavour to match.

I didn’t write down the exact recipe, but I based it on several ‘blue velvet’ cake recipes I found online, with fresh blueberries added in to the batter, a lime sugar syrup brushed over the sponges, and a layer of cheesecake in the middle (that came from this recipe).

To finish it off, I made a white chocolate buttercream and decorated it with fondant icing cut out birds, in three different shades of blue using templates I drew and cut out myself.

The blue velvet sponge didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped – I think I had the wrong shade of blue food colouring and it was more green than blue – I really loved the flavours and the addition of the cheesecake layer, and I thought the decoration worked well too – people could at least tell it was meant to be birds!

I have quite a few more fancy cakes to post, which I’ll try to do interspersed with actual recipes, but hopefully the photos will help if you need some decorating inspiration!

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Chocolate and raspberry cake for National Chocolate Week

chocolate and raspberry cake

What kind of baker, blogger and all round chocolate lover would I be if I didn’t mark the first day of National Chocolate Week with something ridiculously over the top and full of chocolatey goodness?

This chocolate and raspberry cake hopefully fits the bill – three layers of chocolate sponge, dotted with raspberries, sandwiched with a raspberry sauce and whipped milk chocolate ganache, smothered in dark chocolate ganache and finished with dark chocolate panels and raspberries on top.

This cake was a request from a friend, to make his girlfriend a 30th birthday cake. He wanted me to recreate a cake I baked about two years ago, which she apparently declared ‘the best thing she had ever eaten, anywhere, ever’. Pretty high praise!

The only problem was I didn’t write the recipe down at the time, and consequently had to guess at what exactly it was I did. Luckily the birthday girl was pleased with the result, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out looks-wise although I didn’t have a chance to taste it.

If you haven’t already started to celebrate National Chocolate Week, do it now! I will be eating it fairly moderately during the week, but going all out at the weekend when I attend Salon du Chocolat, which is coming to London for the first time. If you don’t hear from me for a little while it’s fine, I’ll just be lying in the corner in a chocolate induced coma…

Chocolate and raspberry cake

For the sponge ingredients and method, see here – just add 100g fresh raspberries and divide between the three cake tins, lightly pressing into the top of the batter, before baking.

For filling, icing and decorating:

  • 125g rasberries
  • 50g raspberry jam
  • 10g cornflour
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 90ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • Red or pink sprinkles/shimmer sugar
  • 100g raspberries

To make the raspberry sauce, heat the raspberries and jam together in a saucepan until the raspberries break down and the mixture comes to a boil. Add in the cornflour, keep stirring, then remove from the heat. Press the mixture through a sieve to get rid of all the lumps and seeds, then return the liquid to the saucepan and simmer until thickened. Leave to cool.

For the whipped milk chocolate ganache, heat the 90ml cream until almost boiling, then pour over the milk chocolate. Stir until no lumps of chocolate remain, then chill for at least three hours, or preferable overnight. Once cool, whisk for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes light and airy and peaks start to form.

To make the dark chocolate ganache, heat the 150ml cream and pour over 200g of the dark chocolate, again stirring until no lumps remain. Leave to cool at room temperature until thick enough to spread (you can always re-heat a little if it becomes too thick).

For the chocolate panels, heat the remaining 100g dark chocolate until just melted – this in theory should help it keep it’s temper, or you can temper properly if you’re feeling fancy. Measure a piece of baking paper a couple of inches higher than the cake will be, and long enough to wrap around the outside of the tin. Spread the chocolate in an even layer over the paper, then sprinkle the decorations all over. Before the chocolate sets, wrap it around the outside of a cake tin or something of a similar shape, so it will set with a curve. Once completely hardened, remove and break into panels – they can be neatened up later.

To assemble the cake, place the first sponge on a cake card then spread half of the whipped milk chocolate ganache on top. Spread half the raspberry sauce on the underneath of the next layer and place sauce side down on top. Repeat with the top layer of the cake, using the remaining whipped ganache and sauce to sandwich.

Spread a thin layer of the dark chocolate ganache all over the outside of the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread the rest all over the top and sides. To make the panels, use a hot knife to cut them to the same height as the cake and to straighten up the sides, then gently press into the ganache going all the way around the cake. Finish by arranging the remaining raspberries on top of the cake, and placing on a cake board or serving plate.

Vintage Clandestine Cake Club

Vintage black forest cake

After several months of no Clandestine Cake Club action, as soon as Cornwall’s September event was announced I knew I wanted to go, but the fact it was to be held at a winery made it 100% essential that I did.

Knightor Winery is the only winery in Cornwall with it’s own restaurant, which was our venue for the morning. Sadly with work to go to I couldn’t sample the wines, but I’ve heard extremely good things, especially about their sparkling wines – a must-try for the future for sure.

The theme was vintage, either as in wine or as in retro, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt to recreate the stunning cake demonstrated by Charlotte White at the Cake and Bake Show.

Burlesque Baking with Charlotte White

Compared with Charlotte’s it was far from perfect, but overall I was definitely pleases with the result, especially considering it’s only the second time I’ve properly attempted a full iced and decorated cake like this.

Inside were three layers of chocolate cake, sandwiched with a cream cheese icing and my special cherry jam, given to me by one of the host families I stayed with in Romania earlier in the year.

It seemed to go down pretty well with the other cake-clubbers and there wasn’t a lot left to take home at the end of the day which is always a good sign!

There were some super tasty cakes on offer, I think my favourite was the coconut and berry, or maybe one of the coffee and walnut… although the two red wine chocolate cakes were delicious too! Here are some of the treats I had to choose from:

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Thanks again to Ellie for organising, and to Knightor Winery for hosting – can’t wait for the next one!

Cake and Bake Show, London 2013

Cake-and-Bake-Show-13th-15th-September_trend_main

When I was approached by the lovely PR team behind the Cake and Bake Show to ask if I would like a pair of press passes, it took me all of a second to fire back an email saying ‘yes!’

I’d never been before, but from what I’d heard it would be a baker’s heaven – all the sweet and savoury treats you could wish for, baking supplies and equipment to set you up for life, tonnes of expert demos, and a great opportunity for spotting the rockstars of the baking world.

Ok, so I had to get up at 4.30 in the morning, drive an hour and a quarter to get a coach to London, then get the coach back at 11.30 at night, and not arrive home until 7 in the morning, but it was SO worth it.

My brilliant friend Becky was willing to go along with my insane travel plans, so we turned up at Earls Court and were pretty pleased to see that despite the show being sold out on the Saturday there weren’t any big queues to get in.

While trying to track down the press room, we caught a glimpse of all the amazing goodies on offer – it was pretty overwhelming!

We were kind of hungry when we arrived, so took advantage of the bread, cheese and cakes in the press room. After scoffing down some food, I turned around to see none other than baking GOD Dan Lepard sat at a table. Internally, I was ridiculously excited about this, but for some reason too embarrassed to just go over and say hi – massive wasted opportunity!

The celeb spotting continued throughout the day – pretty much everyone from the current series of Great British Bake Off was there, along with previous winners John Waite and Edd Kimber, and loads of top professional chefs.

We were offered the chance to take part in one of the ‘Classrooms’ – private demonstrations for groups of around 50 people on a wide range of different topics.

Burlesque Baking with Charlotte White

‘Burlesque Baking’ immediately caught my eye, so we went to the session hosted by Charlotte White of Restoration Cake, who was absolutely fabulous – I’ve never seen anyone look quite so glamorous or wear such skyscraper heels to bake in but she totally pulls it off!

She showed us how to ice and decorate a cake in her signature vintage style, which takes inspiration from burlesque artists. Her tips were brilliant, everything from the best way to pick up the sugarpaste and lay it over the cake to piping perfect strings of pearls around the sides – I was inspired, and am going to be attempting to recreate her cake here very soon!

Charlotte White dessert table

Charlotte was also one of the bakers to create a dessert table for the show – basically a showcase of each bakers signature style. Along with the cake catwalk and the ‘wedding cake of the future’ area, this was the place for professional bakers to really show what they can do, and Becky and I were both stunned by just how creative, intricate and fabulous they all were.

Here are a few of my faves…

A lot of the food stalls at the show were giving away free samples, which combined with the food we found in the press room meant we didn’t actually have that much room for buying and eating anything on the day.

Paul A Young brownies

One of the things we just had to try though was Paul A Young’s now infamous marmite brownie, just to see what all the fuss was about.

Becky was definitely not convinced, and to be honest I still haven’t quite made up my mind – on first taste I thought the marmite was way too overpowering, but it was also strangely addictive – put half in the fridge but couldn’t resist going back for sneaky extra bites…

On Cafe macaron

I also bought some macarons from On Cafe – passionfruit and mango, cassis and my favourite, champagne pink peach, as well as a couple of water ganache truffles from The Chocolatier.

We left the Cake and Bake show feeling absolutely stuffed, but also inspired to bake – for anyone with even a slight interest in baking, I would highly recommend you go! Whether you want to stock up on equipment, gape at stunning sugarcraft, learn from the experts or just gobble up some freebies, it’s well worth a visit – I’ll certainly be going back next year!