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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Elvis Sandwich Cake

Sun, sea, cake and coffee – I’m not sure there’s much else you need to make a mid-week day off work basically the best thing ever…

This week I treated myself to said day off, in the name of Clandestine Cake Club. Taking place at the Blue Tomato Cafe in Rock, Cornwall, the theme of course had to be ‘Rock n Roll’.

It took me quite a while to decide what to bake, mainly because I was debating the different between generic rock music, and the much more specific rock n roll. Luckily, I knew exactly who to turn to for advice – the fabulous Miss Charlotte White, of Restoration Cake.

Charlotte (who’s first book, Burlesque Baking, is out now, just in time for my birthday, hint, hint, HINT) suggested going down the Elvis route with a peanut butter, banana and salted caramel cake, in honour of the King’s favourite sandwich, and decorating it to look like a record.

I’m not sure my cake entirely lives up to Charlotte’s vision, but I was pretty happy with it nonetheless. Had it spent any longer than half a day out of the fridge the layers may well have been sliding all over the place, but it held up for long enough to look fairly respectful on the table of delicious cakey delights.

It was a pun-tastic cake club, with a Chuck Berry Bundt, Rock n Roulade, Rocky Road, Mint Aerosmith and my personal favourite, ‘Gums n Roses’ cake, adorned with wine gums and Cadbury’s Roses – brilliant!

We were also treated to some barista training from the lovely Mat, who showed us how to make the perfect coffee, create hearts on top of lattes, and even demonstrated the infamous ’12 inches of Italian pleasure’ – a thick and rich hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, whipped cream, a chocolate flake, giant meringue, more whipped cream and a malteser. Amazing!

I’m not going to write out the whole recipe for this cake – the sponge is exactly the same as this one, only increasing all of the ingredients by 50% to fill three 7″ cake tins instead of baking it in the smaller 6″ tins.

I used the caramel recipe from my Millionaire’s Shortbread, and made a peanut butter cream cheese icing by beating 200g cream cheese, 200g smooth peanut butter and 400g icing sugar together until well combined.

I spread a layer of peanut butter icing on the bottom and middle layers, topped with thin slices of banana, and then spread caramel on top. I stacked the cakes, spread more peanut butter icing all over, and then made the record by rolling out black sugar paste and using the cake tin to cut a circle. The lid of the peanut butter was used to cut a circle from the middle, and to cut another circle out of cream coloured icing, which I decorated with a gold icing pen. Done!

Big thank you to the wonderful Sean for all the good photos on this post – you can see all the other cakes on the round up over on the Clandestine Cake Club website. Can’t wait for the next one!

Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

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!