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

Comparing Flower Pastes

As a teacher of sugarcraft I think it is really important for me to know about new and innovative products and techniques. I also believe in value for money. Sugarcraft can be a very expensive hobby. Admittedly once you have invested in a particular flower cutter or piece of equipment, it is yours for life but it is all the other little bits that add to the cost. For example, a pot of colour gel is approximately £2.50, depending upon where you buy it from. Yes, they last a relatively long time but that is still £2.50 for just one colour.

This was really brought home to me the other day when I was teaching a workshop to a High School Year 11 class. Although the school provided the bulk of the consumables I still took my tray of colour gel pots, dusting powders and spare sugarcraft tools with me. During our tea break I was sat talking to some of the most keen pupils and explaining what various tools were for and giving a rough cost estimate for various bits of kit. One of the boys then shocked me by telling me that I had in 68 pots of colour gel in the tray which, at approximately £2.50 each, meant that there was roughly £170 worth of equipment in that single tray of colours! I didn’t like to tell him I had even more at home!

I am very conscious when I am writing my sugarcraft courses that we reuse cutters as much as possible. For example the daffodil and freesia cutters are almost identical so I tell my class to buy one or the other, not both. I do not see any point in wasting money on cutters that are essentially the same. It is with cost in mind that I turned my thoughts to flowerpaste.

When I first started sugarcraft Squires flowerpaste was pretty much the only one available. Over the last few years. however, baking and sugarcraft has become the new Rock’n’Roll. Everywhere you look there are cake decorating magazines and cookery programmes. As a consequence the availability and variety of flowerpaste and sugarcraft equipment has significantly improved. For the purpose of this blog, however, I am going to concentrate upon the three “Big Names” in flowerpaste; Squires, the new kid on the block, Beau Products and our American friend, Satin Ice gum paste. There are, of course, many other manufacturers of flowerpaste, some better than others!

DSCF5301DSCF5302DSCF5303

For this blog, I looked at value for money, how easy it is to work with and how well the product keeps in the manufacturers packaging. Here are my findings:

Value for money

Manufacturer

Pack size (g)

Cost per unit (£)

Cost / 10g of product

Squires

200

4.25

21.25p

Beau

200

4.09

20.45p

Satin Ice

2500

20.99

8.4p

How easy is it to work with?

Manufacturer

Malleability

Ease of use

Drying out time

Squires

Paste is quite stiff until well kneaded

Rolls out well but dries out very quickly and cracks easily

Very quick. Most flowers are completely dry within a couple of hours

Beau

Very sticky paste as it is freshly made that needs a dusting of cornflour

Quite sticky to roll out but with cornflour you can roll it very thin.

Generally requires overnight to dry completely

Satin Ice

Lovely smooth paste. It feels tacky but not sticky

A little sticky to roll out but with cornflour you can roll it very thin.

Several hours

Packaging

Manufacturer

Type of packaging

How well does it keep?

Squires

Thin foil package with a press seal at the top.   Vacuum packed

Difficult to open and then difficult to seal   effectively. The paste dries out very quickly.

Beau

Small transparent plastic tub

The pot seals well and can be reused. As long as   the tub is not cracked and the lid is on tightly the paste keeps very well.

Satin Ice

Large white plastic tub and then wrapped in   plastic bag inside

As long as the lid is on tightly the paste keeps   excellently.

Any other information

Manufacturer

Other relevant information

Squires

Good range of colours.

Widely available

Brilliant for demonstrations and for beginners

Beau

Good range of colours that keep very well.

The finished product has a porcelain-like feel   to it.

Satin Ice

Smells of vanilla.

Very light weight finished product.

Only available in white so you have to colour it   which can be difficult for dark colours.

Not readily available in the UK as yet although   the number of suppliers is increasing.

DSCF5306

My recommendation

Having taken the time to assess these products, I feel that each has its own merits and downfalls. I have preferred to use Beau Products but in light of this blog, I think I will be using Satin Ice gum paste for all my future sugarcraft. It is good value for money and easy to work with. I just wish it was available in a range of colours.

UPDATE:

I have had a lovely conversation with the lady from Beau Products today. She has asked me to remind people not to use any Trex or fat with her products as it affects how they perform. If like me you use a lot of flowerpaste, Beau Products also offer very competitive prices if you open an account with them.

http://www.beauproducts.co.uk/

Father Christmas cake topper

DSCF4973

Equipment:

  • Red, Black, Brown and White sugarpaste
  • Gum Tragacanth or CMC
  • Dried Spaghetti
  • Lollypop sticks
  • Royal Icing
  • Silver wire
  • Brown Florist tape
  • Flesh, Autumn leaf, Liquorice, Egg Yellow and Baby Blue colour gel

Instructions:

  1. Knead a small amount of gum tragacanth into the red sugarpaste.
  2. Take 1/3 of the red paste and roll into a fat sausage shape, making sure to leave the middle section slightly fatter. Bring the ends around to form the legsDSCF4952
  3. Take half of the remaining red and form into a cone shape (a fat cone if you want a tubby Father Christmas). Insert a lollypop stick through the cone and attach to the legs. Mark where the belt should go.    DSCF4954             DSCF4956        
  4.       Colour some of the white paste with the flesh colour gel and knead in a little gum tragacanth. Roll some of the paste into a ball to form the head and add a small ball for the nose.
  5. To form the hat, take half the remaining red paste and roll in into a cone shape. Thin out the bottom until the cone resembles a mexican hat. Attach to the head.DSCF4962
  6. To make the arms, half the remaining red paste and roll it into two long thin cones. Hollow the fat end out slightly to insert the hands.     DSCF4959
  7.      Attach the arms to the body using a piece of dried spaghetti. Add brown boots, a black belt and white trimming to the suit. To make the white paste look like fur simply stab it with a shell tool.   Add blue eyes.    DSCF4964
  8.  Colour a little royal icing with liquorice colour gel and add hair and a beard.         DSCF49669. An extra finishing touch is to add wire glasses.       

How to make an edible Robin

DSCF5083

This little Robin is not one of my designs by one from Frances McNaughton from her book “20 to make Sugar Bird”. If I am honest the book is a little too basic for my own needs but it is great for absolute beginners. My one criticism of the book is that the actual stages of construction are not shown, simply text and one overall photograph which is fine it you know what you are doing but not so great for the novice.

I thought I would have a go at making the robin, partly because it is really cute but also because I have been asked to do a demonstration for the W.I. and I thought this would be something seasonal for them that they can then try at home.

One  omission from Frances McNaughton’s book, is the inclusion of either Gum Tragacanth or CMC in the sugarpaste. It is really important that you knead the powder into the sugarpaste prior to modelling as it is needed to strengthen the paste and helps to maintain the shape of your finished piece. If you don’t include it you may find that your Robin looks like he has been at the Christmas Sherry Trifle!

Equipment:

  • 25g brown sugarpaste strengthened with gum tragacanth or CMC.
  • small amount of white and red sugarpaste
  • heart cutters
  • dried spaghetti
  • Dresden tool

 

Method:

  1. Reserve a small ball of brown sugarpaste for the wings and face then mould the remaining into a teardrop shape. Flatten the narrow end and squeeze the fat end to form a headDSCF5065
  2. Roll out the white paste and cut out a heart shape and attach to the breast of the bird.DSCF5066
  3. Repeat with the red paste but remove the point of the heart with the cutterDSCF5067
  4. Add the inverted heart to the robin breast.DSCF5069
  5. Form two small cones of brown paste then flatten them. Score the wings with a Dresden tool to look like feathers.DSCF5072
  6. Add the wings at a jaunty angle.
  7. Add the eyes and a small cone to form the beak. You might need to attach the beak with a small piece of dried spaghetti or you may find that his beak will be down by his knees!                                                                                                   DSCF5083

 

Florentines

I have spent a lovely afternoon pottering around my kitchen. It is at this time of year that I usually start planning what Christmas presents that I am going to make. In the past I have made miniature Christmas pudding truffles, various chutneys, summer fruit vodka and, of course, Christmas cakes.

I have had my “Christmas head” on for a few weeks already. as I will be teaching my night school sugarcraft class how to marzipan, ice and decorate a fruit cake for Christmas. I have come up with four different designs for my students to learn. Obviously I will be demonstrating to my students so that will take care of a few presents!

 

 My personal favourite to make is chutney. I made a gorgeous chutney last year which was literally Christmas on a spoon. It smelt like Christmas and tasted like it. Absolutely gorgeous! I was planning on making some more this year but I currently have a 15 year old begging me not to make any chutney at all! Ben simply cannot stand the smell of it cooking! I have even tried in the past to make it during the day whilst he is at school with all the doors and windows wide open. Even that didn’t work! He opened the front door and literally wretched from the residual smell. He is such a wimp!

So this year I thought I might try my hand at something new hence the pottering in the kitchen. Being a scientist I do like to experiment a bit and as all scientists will tell you not every experiment is a success. A couple of things went straight into the bin but I have had a couple of successes today too. I have to say my florentines are gorgeous and ridiculusly easy to make! They also contain my favourite ingredient, conny onny milk!

Florentines that you buy in the shops simply do not compare to these! They are crispy on the outside with a lovely chewy centre and a backing of rich dark chocolate that cuts through the sweetness of the condensed milk. The ones I have made  today are really simple; almonds, cherries and raisins but you could add allsorts instead. I quite fancy using different coloured glace cherries or maybe dried cranberries and toasted cocnut. It is entirely down to individual taste.

Similarly you can alter the chocolate backing. I used dark chocolate because that is my favourite but you could just as easily use milk or even white chocolate. In fact a selection of florentine with different chocolate backings in a fancy box would make a really special Christmas gift.

Ingredients:

25g butter

25g light brown sugar

100 g condensed milk

150g almonds and dried fruits  

chocolate of your choice, melted

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C / 160°C fan.
  2. Melt the sugar, butter and condensed milk together in a saucepan and heat until the mixture just starts to bubble.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and mix well togteher.
  4. Onto a parchment paper lined baking tray drop teaspoons of mixture. Don’t be too generous with the mixture as they spread. Leave plenty of room between each.
  5. Bake until the outside edges of each florentine are golden brown, 6-12 minutes depending on the size of your florentine.
  6. Leave to cool completely on the tray then peel away from the parchment paper.
  7. Dip the backs of  the florentins into your chosen chocolate. allow the chocolate to set.

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

Making a sugar teddy bear

Equipment

Sugar paste

Cocktail stick

Spaghetti

Edible glue

  1. Colour your sugarpaste as you wish. 
  2. Take an A sized ball and shape into either a slightly flattened ball (for a short fat “Forever Friends” type bear) or a long cone (for a “You and Me” type bear) 
  3. Insert a long piece of spaghetti through the ball. 
  4. Take a B sized ball and slightly flatten it. Secure it to the body using the spaghetti spike and a little edible glue. 
  5. Take a B sized ball and roll into a long sausage. Fold it in half and cut along the fold. 
  6. Shape the uncut end into a foot. Secure both legs to the body with glue. 
  7. Repeat this with a C sized ball for the arms. You may need to use spaghetti to anchor the arms to the body. 
  8.  A flattened F sized ball is used to make the snout 
  9. A dented F shape ball can be cut in half and used for ears. 

10.    Shape a small ball (I or J) of black sugarpaste into a triangle and glue to the snout.

 

Adding details really bring these bears to life. Try one or more of the following:

  • Foot pads and toes
  • Thumbs
  • Eyebrows
  • Clothes
  • Stitch lines

*The Size guide: You can buy plastic size guides but there really is no need. All you need to do is draw yourself a series of circles, labelled A-K, that decrease in size from A which has a 4cm diameter to K which has a 0.25cm diameter. If you are not sure what I mean just send me a message and I will email you my guide. (I haven’t worked out how to insert objects into WordPress yet otherwise I would have included a guide in this blog!)