Saturday, 24 December 2011

Gingerbread Christmas Cake

I don't really like Christmas cake, its low down on my list of Christmas foods. I find it dry and heavy, tough with the density of the fruit. So this year I decided to put a gingerbread house on top of the cake so I'd have something nice to eat! I can't ignore the kitsch factor here either, I mean the house is totally adorable! You can fill it with goodies, pipe on decorations, use sweets and jellies to make window sills, roof tiles, pathways, figurines etc. Go for it!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Last Minute Peanut Butter Fudge

Fudge can of course be eaten all year around but there is something especially Christmas-y about soft melt in your mouth golden fudge. It also makes a great edible gift which have become so fashionable recently. Everyone from Nigella Lawson to Donal Skehan are embracing the kitsch and stocking up on jars and ribbons. Edible gifts are of course, recession friendly but I think even with cost-savings aside they make a lovely personal gift. Sometimes its too easy to go into a shop, pick up the first thing you see and give it as a Christmas gift. In fact with the internet now you don't even have to leave your couch to get someone a gift. When you make your gift the receiver knows that you've put time and energy into it. And for people who don't bake, the gift could be the best thing they've tasted all year!

This fudge takes ten minutes to prepare and a half hour to cool. Perfect for the rush of Christmas eve!

From The Delicious Miss Dahl 
125g butter
500g dark brown sugar
120ml milk
250g peanut butter
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
300g icing sugar

1. Melt the butter over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and milk, stir once through, then bubble for 5 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat, stir in the peanut butter and vanilla seeds. She recommends crunchy peanut butter but I don't think I would like the shards of peanut so I used smooth.
3. Place the icing sugar in a bowl and beat in the melted butter mix until smooth.
4. Pour into a 20cm square baking tin. Allow to cool in the fridge until hard. Cut into squares and store in an airtight tin. Will keep for at least a week.

Mammy's Mince Pies

My sister loves mince pies and I have to say after the Christmas pudding (which I love lathered in Bird's Custard, I know its nasty but its my achilles heel) I am partial to a mince pie and a cup of tea. I've seen recipes for fancy twists on the old traditional, like topping mince pies with frangipane and marizpan but I like mine plain and simple, sweet pastry top and bottom. People make a big deal out of making pastry, but abide by two key rules and you'll be set:

1. Keep everything for the pastry cold,except the margarine
2. Don't overwork the pastry.

Alternatively buy good quality sweet shortcrust pastry.

Rich Sweet Pastry 
225g plain flour
50g icing sugar
150g stork margarine (at room temperature)
1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp ice cold water and 1/2 lemon juice beaten together.

1. Sieve the flour and icing sugar together.
2. Place one third of the flour mixture in a mixing bowl, together with the Stork and the beaten egg mixture.
3. Cream with a fork until well mixed.
4. Add the remaining flour and mix to a firm dough with the fork until the flour is just absorbed. Bring the crumb together with your fingers, turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead lightly and quickly until smooth. Leave in the fridge for about half an hour.

Hints and Tips: Use a non stick cupcake tin but you won't need to use the cupcake liners. Roll your pastry out nice and thinly, about the thickness of a coin. Use a large round cutter for the bottom (or the mouth of a glass), pressing gently into tin. Only fill the pastry two thirds full with mincemeat, otherwise it will bubble up and burn giving a bitter taste. 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Pecan and Marmalade Cupcakes

I am HORRIFIED at the number of people who don't like marmalade and eat jam on bread for breakfast. At elevenses I'm the only one eating marmalade on my scone/toast. The cafe at work doesn't even serve marmalade! I sneak a little jar in in my handbag.... Leads to a very sticky mobile phone/lipstick/other random contents of said bag but worth it. Marmalade has a delicious balance, the sweet sticky syrup is cut by the tangy orange peel- wake up sleepy!!

I was delighted to see the awesome marmalade honoured in the Cupcakes from the Primose Bakery book. A light fluffy sponge hides crunchy pecan pieces. Best eaten on the day made!

Makes 12 regular cupcakes

55g unsalted butter melted and cooled
125ml corn oil (I replaced this with the same amount of unsalted butter because I don't like oil in cupcakes, I find it leads to greasy, overly dense cupcakes)
60ml orange juice
grated zest of 1 small orange
80g thick cut marmalade
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
180g golden caster sugar
60g pecan nuts, toasted for 3-4 minutes in a hot oven and chop

1. Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a 12 hole muffin tray.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine butter, corn oil, orange juice, orange zest, marmalade and vanilla extract. Set aside.
3. Combine the flour, bicarb and salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
4. In a third bowl beat the eggs and sugar with an electric hand beater until the mixture is light and fluffy and quick thick. Slowly add the butter mixture, keeping the beater on a low speed until it is all combined.
5. Add one third of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Pour in another third of the flour and beat again. Repeat with the last third and gently fold in the pecans.
6. Fill the cupcake cases one third full. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until slightly raised and golden. Insert a skewer and ensure it is clean.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The 'Perfect' Loaf of White Bread

I hate when recipes say 'The Perfect....' How dare anyone be so presumptuous! No one recipe is 'perfect' to everyone's tastebuds. And I see the Good Food Channel have made a whole series of 'Perfect' recipes. Hrumph (read indignatious noise). The cheek! So I have put the 'perfect' in the title of this white loaf recipe in interveted commas because I think, in my humble opinion that this loaf is perfect. I always find that when I make white bread it tastes too yeasty with little other flavour. This loaf uses only a sachet of dried action yeast to 700g strong white flour so the yeast flavour doesn't come through so strong. The cooked dough is soft with a nicely browned crust. I sprinkled mine with poppy seeds, I like the contrast of the dark seeds and the crunchy texture.

From the Great British Bake Off Book
700g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action yeast
about 450ml lukewarm water- the water must be lukewarm to activate the yeast.

1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the lukewarm water. Mix the water and flour together to make a soft but not sticky dough. I use the dough hook on a food processor as I find the large quantity of flour difficult to fold into the water.
2. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured worktop and knead for ten minutes until smooth. Alternatively put on a low speed in the food processor for about 4 minutes and let the dough hook do all the work! Embracing modern technology is fun.
3. Gather the dough in a ball and transfer to a clean oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and allow to rise for about 2 hours. Don't rush the rising process or you will lose the flavour.
4. Punch the dough down, cut in two and roll into two round loaves. Place on non stick baking paper and cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour. When rising time is oven, cut a cross in the top of the bread, brush with milk and sprinkle on seeds of choice.
5. Bake in a 230oC for 15 minutes. Place a small roasting dish full of cold water on the bottom of the oven. This will create a nice crust. Turn down the oven to 200oC and bake for another 15-20 minutes until hollow when tapped.

Penguins on shortbread!

If you are looking for some seriously beautiful edibles, check out What this girl cannot do with a cookie! I've spent hours just pooching around the site, ooh-ing and ah-ing at pages of emaculate icing and unbelievable piping skills.

I sadly recognise that this is a standard that I will never reach. I'm rubbish at art. After years in school I've conquered the stick man and the two-up-two-down house.  But the site is just so adorable and cute (check out the Hello Kitty cookies!) that I had to give fancy cookie decorating a bit of a go. I wanted to add more detail to these but I just didn't get a chance.

I watched David Attenborough's Frozen Planet a few weeks ago where they went into the water and filmed penguins shooting up out of the water and bellyflopping onto the ice, their speed underwater leaving vapour trails like airplanes in the sky. They were unperturbed by the camera man and seemed almost to be reveling in the attention. So I decided to celebrate the penguin in a cookie!! The red background gives the cookies a Christmas-y vibe.

For the cookie base I used the shortbread recipe in my strawberry shortcake post. I find sugar cookies so tasteless and hard, even if you try to liven them up by adding essence/zest. This shortbread is easy to make and roll and is crumbly and buttery.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Instead of stingy, grumpy misers, our modern day Scrooges are economic analysts and opposition politicians. This week I was under the cloud of economic doom and gloom, a smothering depression after a particularly vicious forecast I heard. So naturally I went straight home and enveloped myself in sugar and butter. These cupcakes were just the ticket. The cupcake is sweet but with an orange tang. I don't know who originally put these two flavours together but congratulations to Terry's for maximising on the chocolate orange combo!

From Primrose Bakery Book

110g butter softened
225 caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g self raising flour
125g plain flour, sifted
90ml milk
2 tbsp orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange.

1. Cream the butter and sugar for about 3-5 minutes until smooth. Add a tbsp of the egg at a time with a tbsp of the flour to prevent curdling until all the egg is gone. Beat well after each addition.
2. Pour in half the milk and beat well. Add a third of the remaining flours. Beat in the remainder of the milk and orange juice.
3. Finish with folding in the rest of the flour and orange rind.
4. Fill the cupcake tins two thirds full and bake for about 25 minutes until slightly golden brown.
5. Allow to cool.

Chocolate buttercream
175g chocolate melted
225g butter softened
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar

Beat the butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar together for about 3 minutes until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate.

Monday, 28 November 2011

'Paw in the jar' Granola

Breakfast cereals are my necessary evil. I hate leaving the house without breakfast (thanks for all those years of nagging Mom) but I find no joy in eating sugar coated cardboard. I know this won't win any favours from those who think cornflakes should have their own level on the food pyramid, the Mr Mushroom hater in my life being one of them (he actually gets WITHDRAWAL symptoms from having no cornflakes), but the only nutrition you are getting is probably from the milk which is infused with the sugar and suspect 'added vitamins'. So I've started making my own granola and have been really happy with the results. I love it with yogurt and fruit or with milk. The best thing is that you can add whatever dried fruit/nuts that you like. Pop to the health food shop for linseed and wheat bran (although you can leave them out if you are on a budget). This recipe doesn't use any oil and leaves the porridge oats nice and crispy. Keep an eye on your granola in the oven. If your oven cooks even slightly higher you could have an incinerated granola on your hands... Probably still better for you than a bowl of cornflakes though...

Adapted From Sophie Dahl's Volumptuous Delights

2 cups porridge oats
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1/4 cup pecan nuts chopped
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 maple syrup or honey
2 tbsp apple juice
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
pinch of ground ginger
1/2 cup dried apricots/sultanas/mango/bananas/dates/whatever you like
3 tbsp linseed
3 tbsp wheat germ

1. Heat the oven to 180oC.
2. Mix the vanilla, maple syrup/honey/apple juice and spices together in a jug. Put the porridge oats in a bowl, add the wet ingredients and mix until the oats are covered. Pour into a greased baking tray.
3. In a separate baking tray arrange the nuts and seeds. Place both trays in the oven, porridge on top for about 20 minutes or until golden. Check after 10 minutes and stir around.
4. Take out the trays, allow to cool and then mix in the remaining ingredients.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Sticky Pecan, Maple and Cinnamon Buns

As well as being the official smell of Christmas in my opinion (well maybe ranking only behind the smell of Christmas tree), cinnamon is such a lovely Winter flavour. It has a warmth and spiciness that banishes red noses and shivers. These buns are a delicious combination of soft hot-cross-bun-like dough wrapped around a cinnamon butter topped with a maple and pecan caramel.

From the Great British Bake Off Book

200ml milk
75g butter
500g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 x 7g sachet yeast

For the filling
50g butter
75g brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

100g butter, softened
75g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
100g pecan pieces

1. Gently heat milk and butter until the butter just melts then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool add the egg and mix.
2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients. Using a dough hook work until a soft dough and then knead on low for 4-5 minutes.
3. Leave to double in size for about 1.5 hours.
4. When doubled, punch down and roll out to a rectangle 24 x 48cm.
5. Mix the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a little bowl. Spread over the rectangle but leave 2cm border around the rectangle.
6. Roll up from the long side like a swiss roll and pinch the edge together with your fingers. Try to keep the rolls tight enough so the filling doesn't seep out. Cut the 'log' into about 12 even sized thick discs.
7. Beat the sugar, maple syrup and muscovado sugar together until soft and creamy, just a minute or two until it is the consistency of a paste. Spread onto a lined baking tin 20cm x 22cm approximately and press the pecan pieces into the paste. Place your dough swirls cut side up on top of the paste, evenly spread apart. Allow to rise against for about an hour.

8. Bake for 25 minutes until the dough is golden. Be careful when taking out of the oven, the pecan caramel may be hot. Allow to cool in the tin then invert and gently pull the swirls apart.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Amaretto Cupcakes

I've been commuting to my new job this past few months. It was fine at the start (well I'll be honest and say the early mornings were an interesting adjustment from my college routine!) but since I've gone back to studying it has been difficult to juggle everything.

Now after three years of 'independent living' in college I've had my fair share of 'quirky characters', mold-on-the-walls-squalor and run-in's with the landlord. Enough to tell the grand-kids a few stories anyway. I'm too old (and grumpy) for that kind of malarky and was delighted to get an offer to move in with two girls from work. They are both really nice, but you just never know when you are living with other people. I mean, I know them but I don't KNOW them. And of course I think I'm so easy to get along with but I would think that wouldn't I?! Maybe I'm actually really irritating.... ANYWAY I've gone on a tangent to nowhere- back to the point. I moved in last weekend and was pretty nervous, sitting in the kitchen trying to look at home when I saw *Gasp* the Primose Bakery Book. I knew then that I'd get on fine!

Amaretto is a sweet almond liqueur, the kind you could imagine the models sipping in a Chanel perfume ad. A bottle is fairly expensive (near €30) so unless you are going to treat yourself to a few drinks over the holidays I'd recommend using good quality almond extract. You won't get exactly the same sweetness, but that delicate almond flavour will come through.

I thought the recipe made way too much icing and syrup. I iced two dozen buns with the same quantities the recipe said would ice 12. I also thought the icing was too light with the amount of milk in the recipe so I reduced the milk here.

For the cupcakes
220g butter softened
360g caster sugar
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
240g plain flour
250ml milk
1 tsp amaretto

75g caster sugar
125ml water
1/2 tsp amaretto

55g butter
20ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar  

1. Beat the sugar and butter until pale. Sift the flours in a separate bowl. Add the eggs one at a time with a generous tablespoon of the flours, beating well after each addition.
2. Mix the milk and amaretto in a jug. Add slowly to the cupcake mixture with the beater on slow. Finally fold in the flours until incorporated to make a light batter.
3. Spoon into cupcake pans (the recipe should make around 24).
4. Bake at 180oC for 15-20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile make the syrup by slowly heating all the ingredients in a pan. Allow to cool. When the cupcakes are golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean, take them out of the cupcake pan and leave to cool for around 5 minutes. While still warm dip the tops in the syrup for a few seconds. Leave to dry.
6. Now make the buttercream. Cream the sugar, butter and milk with an electric beater together for about 4-5 minutes, no less, unless pale and there are no butter lumps.
7. Pipe or spread over the cupcakes.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dark Chocolate Sacher Torte

Some year I'm going to the Christmas market in Vienna. I'm going to get lost among the twinkling lights in cobble stoned streets, snowflakes glittering my hair, gloved hands wrapped around homemade hot chocolate. The air will be spicy with the smell of pine trees laced with cinnamon and cloves. I'll eat to be happy and be happy to eat. Christmas will be like it was as a child, full of the belief of fantasy. Because Christmas is a time when the barrier between the real and unreal becomes hazy. Miracles happen, reindeer fly and snowmen come to life.

Sigh.... for now Vienna will have to come to me. This rich little 'cake' was said to be invented by the chef Franz Sacher in Vienna. This version is quite bitter as the ganache is made from dark chocolate. Use milk chocolate instead for those with a sweeter tooth.

A Mary Berry creation

150g plain chocolate (39% milk solids)
150g butter
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs separated
75g ground almonds
55g plain flour

For the ganache
200ml double cream
150g dark chocolate

To assemble
4 tbsp apricot jam sieved
20g milk chocolate melted.

1. Preheat the oven to 180oC. Melt the chocolate either other a pan of boiling water or in the microwave, stopping even 20 seconds to stir.
2. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and very pale. Add the melted chocolate, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth then fold in the ground almonds and flour.
3. Beat the egg whites with a handheld blender until stiff. Add about one third to the chocolate mixture, mix quite vigorously then fold in the other 2/3. Ensure there are no flecks of white, while at the same time folding gently.
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.
5. Heat the apricot jam slightly and brush over the cake with a pastry brush. Leave the jam to set until sticky.
6. Next make the ganache. Heat the cream in a pan until just about to boil. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth. Leave the ganache to set for about 10-15 minutes until quite thick. Smooth over the top and sides of the cake.
7. Melt the plain chocolate. Either fold some greaseproof paper into a piping bag ( or use a writing nozzle. Write Sacher on the tart. Allow to set and serve in thin slices.

Excuse the bad joint handwriting!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Vegetarian Christmas Mincemeat

In our house Christmas baking consists of three main 'food groups': pudding, cake and mince pies. Forget the three wise men with their fancy gifts - these three are the holy trio of Christmas. And they have got to be homemade, especially mince pies. I cannot stand that thick lumpy jar bought version. Homemade mincemeat has got so many lovely flavours, the heat of the spices and the citrus burst of orange and lemon. Mincemeat is so easy to make too, literally it's just mixing the ingredients together. And because butter is used instead of suet it is vegetarian friendly. Stay posted for the final product in a few weeks time when I use this mincemeat encased in a sweet shortcrust pastry.

For the mincemeat (From Neven Maguire- 'Home Cooks')

350 g cooking apples, peeled and diced
225g raisins
225g currants
225g sultanas
110g candied citrus peel
225g butter, melted
6 tbsp brandy
110g flaked almonds
175g dark brown sugar
1 orange, rind grated finely
1 lemon, rind grated finely
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl until all the fruit is glossy and covered. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight. Mix well the next day and pack into clean dry jars. Seal and store in a cool dark place for 3-4 weeks before use.

Makes 5-6 regular jam jars.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

After Eight Cake

Birthdays on weekdays are STUPID! I like to spend a whole day messing around perfecting a cake, trying out weird ideas but I can't do that if I have to work most of the day. And day-before birthday cake just isn't the same... So this was a thrown together birthday cake for my mother who turned a mystery age today. She is not a fan of the over indulgent- sweet cake and the 'After Eight' idea is something I've been wanting to try out for ages on cupcakes. Peppermint and dark chocolate is a great sophisticated 'adult' combination. The chocolate cake here is lovely. The almonds add richness and keeps the cake moist.

For the chocolate cake
225g butter
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp almond essence
50g ground almonds
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50 g cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs with the milk and almond essence lightly in a cup. Add a quarter of the egg mix at a time with a tsbp of flour. Finally fold in the rest of the dry ingredients. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180oC.

For the buttercream
75g butter
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
2-3 drops of peppermint essence

Cream all the ingredients together until smooth and white with an electric hand held beater.
The decoration is fairly self evident from the pictures above. I just smoothed the buttercream on top and used the after eights to spell out Happy Birthday.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween Chocolate Cola Cupcakes

The cupcakes are from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. I'm not going to win over any foodies by saying that I'm not a big fan of Nigella. That part at the end of every episode where she goes down to the 'larder' in her dressing gown and starts eating like she's in a Snoop Dog video is just too cheesy for my tastes. But I won't fault her on these cupcakes! The batter is very light (so much so I was sure I had added too much liquid) and this gives a lovely moist cupcake. The cola flavour is subtle, but a nice additional to the traditional chocolate cupcake. She makes a glaze but I didn't bother and just served with a traditional buttercream coloured black and my halloween decorations that I've been blogging about the last few days. Pretty cute I think!

For the cupcakes
125g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
2tbsp cocoa
175ml coca cola
200g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg lightly beaten
125ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the butter gently until almost melted. Add the cocoa powder and cola and warm gently until all the butter is melted. Whisk quite rigorously until combined, the cocoa powder especially will take some whisking to incorporate.
2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the salt. Mix to combine.
3. In a jug mix the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together.
4. Add both sets of wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Make sure all the flour is incorporated but don't overbeat.
5. Pour into cupcake cases and bake for 15 minutes at 190oC fan oven or until a skewer comes out clean.

40g butter softened
200g icing sugar sieved
1 tbsp coca cola
Blob of black food colouring

Beat all the ingredients together with an electric whisk until the icing is creamy and there are no lumps of butter (about 3-4 minutes, you really cannot overbeat). You may need to add a tbsp more of cola if there is still dry icing sugar inthe bowl but beat well before you make any additions. The icing may seem too dry but after beating it may be the right consistency.


Roll icing into two thin sausage shapes using a small glass (this gives nice flat edges where your hands won't). Using a cocktail stick push two incisions into the icing at either end to give that two ended bone shape. Using one finger roll the bone so it is thinner in the centre.

Zombie hands

Shaun of the Dead is a great movie, the best of silly British comedy. These decorations are zombies crawling out of the ground (if you use your imagination!) Colour a weird green for that extra effect.

Dip one end of a cocktail stick in green food colouring (I just used the cheap liquid variety). Rub the end of the cocktail stick in a ball of white ready roll icing and knead until the colour is fairly evenly distributed.

Roll into small balls on a piece of clingfilm and flatten into discs. Cut fingers out with a sharp knife, placing the disc flat on the clingfilm. Remember to leave a gap between the thumb and the next finger. Round the fingers out fingers by squeezing them gently.

Cut a piece of a drinking straw about 2cm long. Push 1cm into the zombie hand very gently leaving 1cm out for pushing into the cupcake so the hand 'stands up'.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mask from the Movie Scream/Skeleton

Roll the icing into white balls. Flatten the balls with your thumb into thick discs. Squeez the bottom the disc gently to give the 'chin'. Use a cocktail stick to carve out empty eyeball sockets, two small lines for the nose and a horizontal line for the mouth.

Easy Halloween Decorations -The bloody eyeball!

I have hazy childhood memories of Halloween, it was never really a big event. We bought pound-shop gaudy masks and cut eye holes out of black plastic bags and white sheets. There was no fancy dress shops or elaborate costumes. I remember one year going around the village with my best friend. We went into the pubs (it was more innocent times) and were rewarded with a bag of King crisps each  (you may need to be Irish to get this reference- they are the best cheese and onion crisps ever!).

In the in-between years dressing up was unfashionable and childish and it wasn't really until last year when Mr Mushroom Hater had a fancy dress 21st party that I embraced the holiday. Over the next few days I hope to put up some ideas up for using ready roll icing to create easy cupcake decorations.

The Bloody Eye Ball 

1. Dye a small ball of icing green or blue. Dye a very small ball of icing black.

2. Roll a ball of white ready to roll icing and flatten under about 1cm thick. Roll the blue or green icing into smaller balls and squash on top of the white discs. Finally squash the small black balls onto the discs for pupils.

3. Using a cocktail stick dip the stick into the colour and drag across the white disc to make bloody eyeballs.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Book Review- Planet Cake

Cake decorating books are my current craze. This book is a true beauty from the world famous bakery Planet Cake, the Elle magazine of cake decorating books. The pages are thick and glossy with exquisite pictures. However I am highly skeptical of the claim on the blurb that this book appeals to beginners. I'm no beginner but I wouldn't be able to attempt some of the cakes or cupcakes in this book. Some of the creations require more artistic than cookery skills.

The beginning of the book is useful. It has step by step pictures of basic techniques using fondant and ganache, e.g. covering a cake, making bows.

And it also features a good troubleshooting page, e.g. how to deal with stains and air bubbles. For me though it is more of a feast for the eyes than a practical book.

Princess Cake

Leopard Print Boot


I mean, amazing right? No doubt, but not very do-able at home. Unless you are really artistic and have a heck of a lot of time and patience. In the book's defence they don't skimp on detail and have plenty of step by step sketches but I still don't think that would get me through.

I did find a few decorations I thought I would attempt:

Monster Cupcakes

The instruction page for monster cupcakes

Bow Cupcakes