No bake lemon cheesecake

It has been the most glorious day here in North Wales today! Blazing hot sunshine, beautiful blue skies and a lovely warm breeze to stop you getting too hot and sticky. Unfortunately I haven’t really been able take advantage of this heavenly weather, other than a quick whizz around the park with the dogs, because my poor, fourteen year old son has both legs in plaster up to the knee. Needless to say I can’t leave him for too long unless he has someone with him. 

Ben suffers from Chronic Pain Syndrome and is an idiopathic toe- walker which exacerbates the pain. He is physically unable to put his heels to the floor hence both legs being in plaster. It is a very crude and I would go so far as to say barbaric method by which the legs are forced into the correct position and then plastered very quickly. The tendons are forced to stretch and so will lower the heel. It is a very painful process for him and very tiring for us both. At 14 he is 6 inches taller than me (not difficult as I’m only 5 foot 2!) and a big lad. Unfortunately we  have hardwood floors or quarry tiles throughout the ground floor and three boisterous whippets! It is rather like watching Bambi on ice with 3 very unhelpful Thumpers!

The upside to being stuck in the house is that I can experiment in the kitchen. This recipe was one that I really fancied playing with. I first came across it on one of the rare occasions that my previous career as a high school teacher and my current career collided. I was asked by my son’s cookery teacher to run a sugarcraft workshop for a group of Year 10 pupils from several local schools and then to stay on a mentor /judge a “Master Chef” competition with the same pupils later that day. 

The level of skill these 15-year-old kids had was truly astounding. One young man even made his own puff pastry from scratch just because he could! One pupil, however, caught my attention with her cheesecake recipe. Firstly she used one of my favourite ingredients, condensed milk, then she simply added cream cheese and lime juice to it! I admit I was very dubious but I have to say it was gorgeous!

This recipe uses lemon juice instead of lime and since I have a bit of a thing for lemon and ginger together, I thought I would use gingernut biscuits to make the base. The added bit of zing is provided by a light topping of my homemade lemon curd.

Ingredients:

 275g gingernut biscuits, crushed

125g butter or margarine, melted

397g can condensed milk

300g soft cream cheese

juice of 2 lemons

half a jar good quality lemon curd

Method:

  1. Mix the biscuit crumbs and melted butter together. Tip into a 20cm loose bottomed, Springform tin. Press the mixture down firmly then chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the condensed milk into a mixing bowl, beat in the cream cheese then add the lemon juice.
  3. Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base and level it.
  4. Spoon over the lemon curd and spread it across the top of the cake.
  5. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. 

OK, so I might have overdone it a little with the lemon curd but it is absolutely heavenly! You could simply dot a few blobs of lemon curd on instead or simply grate a bit of lemon zest on the top but I do love my lemon curd!

Advertisements

Smash the Cake Photo shoot

I was recently asked to make a cake for a photo shoot. The cake in question was for a little boy called Logan who was turning 2. His mum is a fantastic photographer, Photography by Buckley, who recently photographed my whippets.

Sue explained to me exactly what she wanted to do and has kindly given me permission to share her images with you. Everytime I have shown anyone the photos their reaction has been quite extreme. I either get “Wow, that is amazing!” or “Oh my God, look what they have done to your cake!”

Take a look and tell me what you think.

Cherry and Almond Breakfast Bars

I don’t know about you but these days I never seem to get a minute to myself. I seem to be permanently running on adrenaline. To top it all, I get so busy and so engrossed in what I am doing that I regularly forget to eat! It is nothing for me to get to 2 pm and realise all I’ve had is 3 cups of coffee! Not good! The beauty of this recipe is that, although they are called breakfast bars, you can just as easily grab one for lunch. They are full of slow release carbohydrates and taste gorgeous! They are so simple to make and use one of my favourite ingredients, Condensed milk.

Why condensed milk? I hear you ask. Well, it reminds me of my Nan. She is 83 years old and is an absolute demon for “conny onny milk”, as she calls it. Nan was born and brought up in Devizes, Wiltshire and  joined the army at 16. My Grandad was Nan’s PT instructor and after they married they moved to Worcester and raised three children. Considering that Nan has lived in Worcester for over 60 years her accent is still as broad Wiltshire as ever and the phrases she comes out with, literally reduce us to tears of laughter. For example;

“Ooh, that come sharp, that did!” translates to “My goodness, that hurt!”

“That was a right rip-snorter!” translates to “Oh dear, I seem to have passed wind!”

“Were’s your fog baffler?” means “Please may I use your toilet?”

Nan is a character and a half, that’s for sure! Her language is disgusting and her manners shocking but she is still my Nan and I wouldn’t have her any other way. I have actually just spoken to my Mum to ask for “Nan-isms”. Unfortunately everything we came up with was completely inappropriate or just downright crude! So you are left with the 3 above and even they are a bit dodgy!

I will at some point share my recipe for “Potty Dotty’s Wacky cake” which is another of Nan’s favourites.

So, now you know why condensed milk makes me smile!

Ingredients

1 x397g can Condensed milk

275g rolled oats

100g glace cherries

125g mixed seeds (I used a mixture of pumpkin, linseed, pine nuts and hemp)

150g flaked almonds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 110°C fan/ 130° C
  2. Line a 12 inch  x 8 inch swiss roll tin with baking parchment
  3. Very gently warm the condensed milk in a large saucepan until runny.
  4. Tip in all the dried ingredients and stir really well until all the dried ingredients are coated with the milk
  5. Tip into the swiss roll in and press down. I wear gloves and do this by hand.
  6. Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown.
  7. Leave in the tin for 10 – 15 mins then cut into pieces.

They keep really well in an airtight container. You can adapt your recipe to suit whatever is to hand. I have made it with cranberries and peanuts, dates and pecans and if I don’t have quite enough oats I throw in some coconut instead. No two batches are ever the same.

Let me know how you get on and what flavour combinations you use.

Enjoy!

Love

Ali xx

Making sugar roses – the no cutter method

Sugarcraft, whilst very creative and satisfying, can be a very expensive hobby. As a teacher of sugarcraft I try, when writing my courses, to ensure that my students do not incur too may costs. Where possible I use the same cutter for more than one type of flower or do away with cutters all together. This method for making sugar roses does not use a cutter at all.

 

Equipment

Flowerpaste,

Edible glue,

2 Polythene sheets

  1. Form a cone shape with a flattened bottom from flowerpaste.

2.   Roll out balls of flowerpaste and place between the polythene sheets. A plastic document wallet is perfect.

 

3.  Flatten the balls between the sheets then thin one edge of each ball with your thumb or the end of a small rolling-pin.

4. Wrap the petals around the cone, ensuring the cone is completely covered. Overlap each petal.

 

 5.  Continue to add petals until you have a full rose, usually 7 petals will suffice.  Pull the petals into the desired shape then cut of the excess flowerpaste under the rose with a sharp knife.

 

 

 

  • This type of rose is generally used then the roses are being applied directly to a cake.
  • You do not need any cutters unless you want to add a calyx.
  • You can make these roses with sugarpaste instead of flowerpaste but they tend to be more brittle and fragile if you do.

This method for making roses is very simple and produced some very rustic, natural roses. The draw back with them, however, is that no two roses are the same. This makes it very difficult for you to work out how many flowers you will need to make for your chosen design.  Having said that, they are simple enough to make if you don’t have enough!

Hope you find this blog useful!

Love

Ali xx

Wedding cakes – So many to choose from!

I think might have mentioned before that I used to be a Science teacher and only really ever baked for fun. It was actually a form of stress relief therapy especially after trying to teach photosynthesis to bottom set Year 9!  It was only after a friend asked me to make her wedding cake and I foolishly agreed that I started to take baking seriously. I enrolled in a night school to learn sugarcraft so that my first wedding cake wasn’t a complete disaster.

I have come a long way since that first wedding cake (shown above) and have made a fair few wedding cakes since, some of which are included in this blog. Making a wedding cake is a huge responsibility and one that I take very seriously. That first meeting with the bride and groom is so important and one during which I ask dozens of questions and write copious notes.

“What sort of things do you need to know?” I hear you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you!

  • What sort of wedding is it? Traditional, contemporary or themed?

  • How big do you need it? Basically how many people does the cake need to feed?
  • Is the cake being served as a dessert or simply being given as a piece of wedding cake? If it is the former then the slices need to be considerably larger.* Many brides are choosing to serve the cake as dessert thus reducing catering costs. Be aware, however, that some venues will still charge you to cut and plate up the cake.
  • Do you want a round or a square cake? You get more slices from a square cake than from the equivalent sized round cake.
  • What kind of cake do you want?  Traditionally wedding cakes were always fruit with marzipan and Royal icing. These days anything goes! I recently made a wedding cake that had one tier vanilla sponge with jam and buttercream, another chocolate fudge and the top-tier was lemon damp cake with homemade lemon curd! Not a fruit cake in sight!

I am quite often asked if the top-tier cake be a  fruit cake because “Granny and Great Aunt Mabel have to fruit cake otherwise it is not a proper wedding!”  They are quite shocked when I say “No!” The weight of a fruit cake is far too heavy to place on top of a sponge cake, even if the cake is properly dowelled. As a compromise I often provide a separate fruit cutting cake.

Similarly, a lot of brides want the look of a big wedding cake but are desperate to keep the cost of the cake down. I have made several cakes recently where at least one tier was a dummy cake made from polystyrene but iced to look like the real thing. Well, I won’t tell if you don’t!

  • what colour do you want the flowers / ribbons? They usually match the bridesmaids’ dresses or bridal bouquet. I ask for a swatch of fabric so that I can match it as closely as possible. Do you know how many shades of fuchsia there are? The cake below reduced me to tears at times when trying to match both the ribbons and handmade roses to the watermelon coloured bridemaids dresses!

  •  Where are you getting married? This may seem like a silly question but I have been caught out by not asking it! The cake and cupcakes below were  for a vintage style wedding upon the Llangollen Railway. What I hadn’t realised was that the train would be moving! Doh! Needless to say the cupcakes had to be stuck to th cakestand to prevent them from flying across the carriage!
  •  Do you want the cake personalised in any way? Quite often I am asked to include children on the wedding cake. I was also asked by a couple who had “done the big white wedding” in their first marriages to make their cake about them, their interested and their relationship. She was a primary school teacher and he was a fireman. They both loved snowboarding and wine! They were absolutely thrilled with what I came up with.
  • What colour do you want your cake? More often than not they reply either white or ivory but every now and then you get a bride that surprises you. As I said anything goes these days!

Now you can see why I ask so many questions! So, what are my words of advice for bride-to-be looking for their dream cake?

  1. Find a cake maker you like and trust.
  2. Listen to their advice regarding what can and can’t be done.  (You really can’t have fruit as your top-tier if the rest is sponge! Honest! ) A good cake maker will not brow beat you into having something you don’t want.
  3. Know your budget and the maximum number of people the cake is for. That way the cake maker can give you all the options in your price range.
  4. Remember this day is about the two of you, not Great Aunt Mabel or keeping up with Jones. Your cake should be what you want!
  5. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!

I hope you have found my rambling useful!

Love from

Ali xx

* A portion guide is available on my website:  www.thecakedoctor.vpweb.com