Coconut Macaroons

DSCF7636[1]

Making these macaroons brings back bittersweet memories for me, mainly due to use of conny onny milk (condensed milk). Conny onny was one of my Nan’s favourite foods. She would eat it with a spoon straight out of the tin or have it on butties.

Unfortunately we lost my Nan just over a year ago. She had been poorly for quite a while with vascular dementia so in many ways we lost her a while ago. Dementia is such an insidious illness, not just for the sufferers but for family and friends too. My Nan was quite a character so to see her so diminished was very hard on us. I like to think wherever she is now that she is causing her usual mayhem!

I think of my Nan every day at 6 o’clock, our scheduled phone call time, whenever I use condensed milk or see a chocolate éclair. She once had me convinced that I was losing the plot. I thought I had repeatedly forgotten  to take my homemade chocolate eclairs out of the freezer. What I hadn’t realised is that Nan had been stealing them as soon as they defrosted!

She really was quite a woman!

Ingredients

45g Plain flour

Pinch of salt

225g desiccated coconut

170ml condensed milk

1tsp vanilla extract

rice paper

a little melted chocolate (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 160 C fan
  2. Line sheets with rice paper
  3. Mix all the remaining ingredients together to make a vey thick paste
  4. Using a dessert spoon or a small ice cream scoop place heaps of mixture onto the rice paper, leaving a little space between each.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes  or until golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool on the tray.
  7. Snap off the excess rice paper around each macaroon.
  8. Drizzle with melted chocolate. 

Greek Coconut cake

13659186_10210361800549605_2882827562212495949_n

We all have those people that enter our lives, becoming firm friends then through no fault on any part drift apart. There is nothing better than rekindling those friendships years later. I have one such friend, Angela. This blog is dedicated to her.

Last Saturday, Angela hosted a Greek themed dinner party. Whilst Angela provided the main course, I provided the dessert, Baklava and Ravani or Greek Coconut cake. The meal was accompanied by several bottles of prosecco and lots of laughter. To round the evening off we put on the Sing-a-long version of Mama Mia and belted out some classics! Gimme, gimme a man after midnight will never be the same again. Not to mention Angie busting out her clubbersize moves to Voulez Vous! We might be over 40 but we know how to party!

You know it is a good night when you find yourself confronted by your son and grounded for being late home!

This cake is a light, refreshing dessert and an absolute doddle to make.

Cake Ingredients

4 eggs, separated

2 cups of margarine

2 cups of caster sugar

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups of desiccated coconut

2 tsp orange oil

 Syrup Ingredients

1.5 cups of icing sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

0.5 cup of water

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C  / 160C fan
  2. Grease and base line a 10 inch round deep cake tin.
  3. Cream the marge and sugar together until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in the egg yolks and orange oil
  5. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until you have stiff peaks.
  6. Fold a third of the egg whites and dry ingredients into the batter
  7. Continue until all the whites and dry ingredients are incorporated.
  8. Bake in the prepared tin for 1 -1 hour 15min or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.
  9. Allow to cool slightly in the tin.
  10. Boil all the syrup ingredients together for 5 -10 minutes or until the syrup is slightly thickened.
  11. Spoon the syrup over cake, allowing each spoonful to be absorbed into the cake. I find spreading the syrup over the cake with a pastry brush stops the syrup pooling at the edges.

This cake is gorgeous with vanilla ice cream but would work just as well with Greek yogurt.

 

 

Peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes

DSCF6949

It has been a long time since I’ve had a minute to write a new blog. It has been a tad chaotic here. I have gone into partnership with one of my friends, Leanne, who is also one of my sugarcraft students. We have opened our own Sugarcraft school! Everything happened really quickly! From making the decision, getting the funding and then literally building our kitchen and classroom from scratch!

It has been really hard work but I love it! I have space to work on my cakes and we can teach what we what, when we want!

This little recipe is a personal favourite of mine. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a fan of cupcakes but this one I like. The peanut butter frosting is absolutely divine!

The combination of soft, rich chocolate sponge and the salty, sweet peanut buttercream is very reminiscent of Reese’s Peanut Buttercups. Naughty but nice!

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes
  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, free range
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 75g plain flour
  • 50g good quality cocoa powder
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 140g peanut butter (smooth is easier for piping)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
  • a splash of milk
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan
  2. line a muffin tin with cupcake cases
  3. The cupcakes are made with the all in one method so shove everything in a bowl and mix together until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Use an ice-cream scoop to portion the mixture into the cupcake cakes
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool completely before icing.
  7. To make the buttercream beat all the ingredients together and mix until lovely and smooth. You may need to add a touch more milk if the icing is a little on the stiff side.

Apple Crumble Cupcakes

DSCF5686

As it is is National Cupcake week here in the UK, I thought I would treat my sugarcraft class to some. I’m not really a fan of cupcakes. I can’t see the point of all that buttercream and I get bored when I’m asked to decorate them.  I can, however, see the point of a really good apple crumble. I’ve always said that if I was on death row my final meal would be apple crumble and custard!

This particular recipe is a bastardization of one by Eric Lanlard and Patrick Cox from their book, “Cox, Cookies and Cake”. I liked the idea of this cake because not only does it feature the flavours of my favourite pud but it also doesn’t have any buttercream topping.

The original recipe calls for 2 Bramley apples but I found the apple flavour a little lacking and dominated by the cinnamon. Having tinkered around with the recipe a little, I think I may have hit apple crumble gold! I tried it out on my class last night and was bombarded with requests for the recipe. So this one is for you, Janice!

 Ingredients

For the crumble topping:

50g plain flour

50g soft brown sugar

0.5tsp ground cinnamon

40g butter

For the cupcakes:

1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 – 2 eating apple, peeled, cored and diced

1tsp ground cinnamon

0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g butter

200g soft brown sugar

2 free range eggs

350g self-raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with cupcake cases
  2. Make the crumble topping by rubbing all the ingredients together. Set to one side for the moment.
  3. Place the Bramley apple into a saucepan with the cinnamon and 0.5Tbs water. Heat gently whilst stirring until the apple becomes soft and mushy.
  4. Allow to cool then push the apple through a fine sieve or ricer.
  5. Weigh a total amount of 250g of pureed apple and eating apple. Ideally you should have equal amounts of each but it really is just to personal taste.
  6. Stir the bicarbonate soda into the apple and leave to rest.
  7. Beat together the butter and sugar.
  8. Beat in the eggs
  9. Fold in the flour and apple sauce.
  10. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases using an ice-cream scoop. This makes between 12-14 cupcakes.
  11. Sprinkle the crumble topping over each cake
  12. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

These cupcakes are lovely served with a cup of coffee but they are truly gorgeous served warm from the oven with a dollop of custard!

1231594_10200767207205075_1269824562_n

Amaretti biscuits

Amaretti biscuits
Amaretti biscuits

I’m sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that my big weakness is biscuits. I can take of leave cake and don’t go overboard about chocolate but biscuits! Oh, my goodness! I have no self-control at all.

As a child I only ever got “posh” biscuits at Christmas and that was because Mum was a nurse. As you might expect her ward would be inundated with tins of biscuits for the nurses at Christmas. The ward sister would do a “lucky dip” so the nurses all had a fair chance of getting the expensive biscuits as well as the less expensive. So Mum might come home with a box of chocolate fingers or a really posh box of Marks and Spencer’s Continental biscuits! You can imagine my excitement!

One year, however, she came home with a box of individually wrapped amaretti biscuits. I had never seen them before and was intrigued by them. Unfortunately, one bite and I’ve been hooked on them ever since!

This particular recipe is from The Hairy Bikers’ Big Book of Baking. It is so easy to make but I found that I couldn’t pipe the biscuits as Si and Dave suggest because the dough was simply too stiff so I rolled them into ball instead.  They are crisp on the outside with a slightly soft centre and taste absolutely gorgeous.

Ingredients:

2 large egg whites

200g caster sugar

0.5 tsp almond extract

300g ground almonds

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/ 150C fan (the bikers suggest 190 c/ 170C fan but I found they browned too quickly)
  2. Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer
  3. Slowly add the sugar, whisking constantly
  4. Add the almond extract
  5. Fold in the almonds. It will form a stiff dough
  6. Pipe or roll into small balls.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

 

 

 

Traditional Fruit Cake Recipe for a Celebration cake

I am asked time and again for my fruit cake recipe. More and more brides are choosing to have sponge wedding cakes but many still require a small fruit cake for cutting (Don’t get me started on why you can’t have a small fruit top-tier – just read my wedding cake post!).

To make a really good traditional fruit cake, it is essential that you have enough time to allow your cake to mature before it is eaten, at least 6 weeks if not longer. I personally like to get my Christmas cakes made over the October Half Term holiday so that they will be ready for Christmas.

Most fruit cakes contain some form of alcohol. The alcohol of choice is down to personal preference. I always use whiskey because I think it compliments the earthiness of the fruit whilst my best friend swears by brandy and even know someone who uses Armagnac. The alcohol is important because it acts as a natural preservative whilst the cake matures and, of course, adds another flavour dimension.

Traditionally the cake was always painted with boiled apricot jam before the marzipan was added but nowadays most bakers prefer to paint the cake with more of the alcohol used in the cake. This “sterilises” the cake surface before the marzipan is applied and so eliminates any potential microbial growth. Boiling the apricot jam is simply not as effective a method.

The recipe I use has been in family for years. It belonged to my Great Aunt Olive. She was the most amazing cook! I spent many an hour standing on a chair beside her whilst she made a batch of homemade fudge or mince pies. She didn’t have any children of her own so upon her death I inherited her cook books. This particular recipe came from a dog-eared copy of a now out of print Stork Recipe book.  This is one of the few recipes that I have not altered because, in my opinion, it is perfect as it is. If it was good enough for Auntie Ol then it is good enough for me!

I will be sharing my last-minute fruit cake recipe shortly  for those of you who leave everything to the last-minute (the cake is on the cooling rack as I type!)

The following amounts shown will be enough to make an 8 inch cake.

Ingredients:

365g currants

250g sultanas

150g raisins

90g glace cherries, halved and washed

90g mixed chopped nuts

90g mixed peel

zest of 1 lemon or 1tsp lemon oil

250g plain flour

1.25tsp mixed spice

0.5tsp nutmeg

60g ground almonds

225g margarine

225g brown sugar

1 tbs black treacle

5 eggs

Spirit of choice – whiskey, brandy etc

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C / 130C fan.
  2. Grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin
  3. Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs, treacle and lemon oil.
  5. Stir in the dried ingredients and the ground almonds
  6. Fold in the fruit.
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 2.5-3 hours.
  8. The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly.
  9. Remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. Stand the rack over a tray.
  10. Stab the cake all over with a skewer then apply alcohol liberally with a pastry brush. I tend to stop when the alcohol starts to drip into the tray under the cake.
  11. When completely cold, wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and place in an airtight container. Store for at least 6 weeks.

This cake should not need to be “fed” with more alcohol whilst it is maturing but I do paint it liberally with alcohol before I marzipan it. 

Last minute fruit cake

I have taken a number of phone calls over the past couple of years where I have been asked to provide a fruit cake for the following weekend  or even the following day! I have felt so mean having to turn people down especially when they start to tell you how their friend promised to make the wedding / birthday cake and then let them down at the last-minute or how Mum insisted on baking the wedding cake only to find that it is not as easy as it looks in the magazine! Since fruit cakes are not as popular these days with brides-to-be I tend not to keep maturing cakes in stock, only making them when specifically ordered.

I did, however, stumble across this little beauty of a recipe in a compilation of recipes from Australia‘s “Woman’s Own” magazine. It is a boiled fruit cake! I have made a boiled Chocolate Orange fruit cake in the past which boils the fruit in Tia Maria and results in a darkly decadent, rich fruit cake. This recipe is a little bit more down to earth and uses Sherry.

My best friend was kind enough to be my guinea pig for this recipe when she asked me to make an Olympic themed birthday cake for her husband. I asked them to give me their honest opinion but instead they saved me a piece and said try it yourself! I have to say that this cake is absolutely gorgeous! It is packed with fruit, 1kg in fact, and the sherry and orange zest /oil adds a beautiful citrus note without it being too cloying. 

I am so impressed with this recipe that I have decided to switch to using this for all of my wedding / birthday cakes. It really is that good!

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries, prunes, mixed peel etc)
  • 250g butter
  • 275g light brown sugar
  • 250ml sherry (plus extra for spiking)
  • 60ml water
  • zest of 2 oranges or 2 tsp orange oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 165g ground almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C / 130C fan.
  2. Grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin.
  3. Place the fruit, sugar, butter, sherry, water and orange into a large saucepan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until all the butter and sugar has melted then bring to the boil.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  5. Beat in the eggs into the cooled mixture then fold in the dry ingredients.
  6. Turn into the prepared tin and bake for 3 hours. (I needed to put some foil over the cake about half way through to prevent it from getting to dark)
  7. Remove from  the oven and whilst still hot paint liberally with extra sherry.
  8. Allow the cake to cool in the tin then turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Wilton 3D Skull cake tin – product review

I don’t know about you but I have a stupid amount of cake tins. Admittedly I do make wedding and birthday cakes for a living but there are some tins I have only ever used once. I have either bought them for a specific cake or it was an impulse buy because it looked nice! I mean, do I really need a beehive shaped tin or a Christmas wreath tin? What can I say in my defence? Nothing!

There are some shaped tins that I own, however, that I wouldn’t be without; my giant cupcake tin and a spherical tin are both used regularly. I have a feeling that this Wilton 3D Skull tin will be another. In fact I have already taken an order for a 60th birthday cake in January! I think this cake tin will pay for itself!

I am always a bit wary of shaped cake tins because invariably it does not do what the manufacturers say it does. The most common complaints being:

  • their example recipe is either in terms of shop bought cake mixes or if is simply inaccurate in terms of how much mixture is actually needed to fill the tins.
  • the cooking times are wrong or you have to cook each section separately because they each have a different cooking time.
  • the cakes stick to the tin which makes turning the cakes out very difficult and often results in the cake shape being damaged.

This particular cake tin had pumpkin spice pound cake as its suggested recipe to use. I personally am not over keen on pumpkin and certainly wouldn’t want a pumpkin flavoured cake. On review of their recipe and by converting cups to pounds and ounces I decided that my 6 egg maderia cake recipe should be a suitable alternative.

I made sure that the tin was well-greased and given a dusting of flour, preheated the oven and away I went. I split the mixture evenly between the two sections even though the one side does look like it needs more (it is a bit of an optical illusion!) and popped it in the oven at 160 C/ 140 C fan for 1 hour as per the manufacturers instructions.

Well, my first surprise was that they cooked perfectly in exactly 1 hour!

I left them in the tin for 5-10 mins then decided to turn them out onto a cooking rack. I fully expected to have to do battle with the tin to release the cakes but, surprise number 2, they turned out perfectly with no intervention from me!

Obviously the intention is for the two sections to come together to create a 3D skull shape but, as with all cakes,the tops are not perfectly flat. Wilton, however, have thought of that! They have designed their tins to have a “cutting” ridge. That means that once the cakes are cooked and completely cooled you can trim them using the cutting ridge as a guideline. The 2 sections will them fit perfectly together. I did find it necessary, however, to push a dowel through the cakes to stop the “face” cake sliding once I sandwiched them together with buttercream.

I cannot fault this cake tin! It is absolutely brilliant! I am sure that this tin will be escaping from cake tin purgatory on a regular basis! Well Done, Wilton!

 

 

 

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.

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