This weekend has been full of baking, decorating and eating cupcakes! I made these Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting for my best friend’s birthday yesterday. They went down a treat! I can definitely recommend using Green and Black’s cocoa powder and the decorations were from Just Bake and I also received the other sugar flowers in my Christmas stocking. A few people have asked me where I get the boxes from – you can buy them online from Cakes, Cookies and Crafts.
Since I had made a double quantity of chocolate frosting for 20 cupcakes (I doubled the sponge recipe) I still had some left so tonight I russled up some more vanilla cupcakes. This time they’re for Easter and I’ve used Smarties eggs. The one in the middle is for a colleague who has given up chocolate for Lent. I used caramel dipping sauce from Waitrose – it’s a bit like dulce de leche and tastes delicious. Last weekend I baked some shortbreads from the Great British Book of Baking and it tastes fab to add a dollop of caramel to those! If you’re wondering how I’m not the size of a house making these cupcakes, I made it to my first spin class tonight in eight years. I think the endorphin kick spurred me into baking again tonight!
To celebrate the third anniversary of Cake Takes the Biscuit, I decided to invent my own cupcake and enter the Hummingbird Bakery Cupcake Challenge to boot. I started researching my ideas for American home-style baking whilst on a recent trip to Australia. My American friend out there talked about her childhood memories of angel food cake, a super light fluffy cake made with egg whites. So I set upon creating Angel Cupcake – a light and fluffy vanilla sponge, reminiscent of angel food cake, with a lemon curd frosting to symbolise luscious Californian lemons and topped with a sprinkle of strawberries, one of America’s most important fruits.
After three nights of baking perfecting the sponge recipe, making lemon curd and trying out different backgrounds for the photograph, I finally managed to submit Angel Cupcake to the Hummingbird Bakery Cupcake Challenge with two mins to spare. Look out next week for the full list of ingredients and method so you can try out the recipe yourself! My colleagues and friends thought the cupcake was a hit because it was super light and the lemon curd frosting was delicious. So glad it was worth all the long hours of baking!
With only two weeks to go, it’s time to bring some inspiration to Valentine Baking and purchase some cool baking decorations or cupcake cases before it’s too late! Here is my top 10 list of Valentine Baking Ideas:
1. Make some delicious chocolate cupcakes (aka Hummingbird Bakery) and wrap them in these decadent red cupcake wrappers. Then sprinkle with cupcake decorations like these ones from Just Bake. You can view their full Valentine range here.
2. If you don’t think you can bake then this really is laid on a plate for you. Heart shaped cutter, cookie mix and Emma Bridgewater gift bag from John Lewis – no excuses boys!
3. From today, Peggy Porschen’s Valentine cupcakes are available to buy and feature a heart or a luscious pair of lips, for £3.50 each.
4. Or how about doing a Valentine Baking course together which Primrose Bakery are hosting on Sunday 17th Feb?
5. If anyone made these heart shaped macarons for me then I’d be pretty bowled over. Here’s a video to guide you through how to make them from Vera’s Cookbook blog. Macarons are notoriously hard to make but I think even if you managed to produce 3 perfect ones that would be impressive and show your appreciation for someone!
6. Or you could make heart shaped cupcakes with these silicone cases from Lakeland
8. How about baking something in these mini heart shaped ramekins from Le Creuset?
9. If you prefer to bake with cups then this is a useful double chocolate heart shaped cake recipe covered in raspberries and you can buy heart shaped pans from Cakes Cookies and Crafts (BTW they’ve got an updated website since I last went on there – looks good!)
Last week I was one of three judges for the ‘Brands2Life British Bakeoff‘ at work to raise money for Byte Night - the IT industry’s sleep out to raise money for Action for Children. Along with fellow judges @goldenbrown01 and Lucy, we judged the cakes on three criteria – flavour, the bake and presentation. We had a huge selection of cakes to choose from – Mississippi Mud Cake to Sachertorte to chocolate swiss roll and Chocolate and Guinness cake. All but one entry was chocolate – a brave banana cake.
I have never eaten so much cake in one sitting!! It was really fun to judge the cakes and sachertorte came in first place for its glossy finish, tasty sponge and jam, icing and sponge combo. It looked very professional too. In joint second place was the chocolate and hazelnut cake for doing well across the board and the refridgerator cake for being particularly ‘scrummy’. Well done to everyone that entered! We then sold the cakes to raise money for Byte Night and made over £100!
I saw this recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and it immediately sprang out at me as a great birthday cake. I made it yesterday for my
boyfriend’s ex’s birthday and it went down really well with him and his colleagues today! It’s a three layered chocolate cake with a salted caramel and chocolate frosting. The good news is it tastes great although this cake is not for the faint hearted. Definitely big appetites are needed as it is pretty sickly but yummy too. A word of caution – it takes ages to make the cake! Because it is three layers of cake you need to cook the sponge in two batches so that you can put each cake on the middle shelf of the oven. Of course if you have a third cake tin (unlike me) then this will speed things up. It’s also quite a complicated recipe as you have to faff about with alternating adding flour with the soured cream and cocoa powder to form the sponge. I must say though that the sponge baked really evenly and consistently. The cake definitely needs a full 25mins in the oven and for the last sponge I made it needed 27 mins.
The other thing is that it makes WAY too much frosting and caramel. The recipe only needs six tablespoons of caramel. You could have probably quartered the recipe and still had left over but you would need a small measuring jug to cope with the smaller measurements. Now I am left with loads of caramel. My plan is to buy some Rice Krispies tonight and see if I can make some little cakes so I don’t waste the mixture. I still have about a third of the frosting left – again you could easily pare down the recipe. I am also left with quite a bit of buttermilk and soured cream so if you have ideas of what to do with it then let me know! BTW on the top of the cake I sprinkled caramelised cocoa nibs from Artisan du Chocolat and coarse sea salt. If you want to create a cake that’s a bit different and yummy then this is a good one to go for. Just make sure you have about four hours time to make it!
At the Squires Baking Exhibition (you can read part 1 here) they had some fantastic competitions going on. One included a baby cupcakes competition and the amount of detail which went into the decoration was fantastic! From teddy bears to Beatrix Potter characters, plenty of imagination was used! Check out my pics below to give you inspiration for your own baby cupcakes.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Squires Baking exhibition in Farnham with @MissV1ss and we had a fabulous time wandering round seeing beautiful wedding cakes, cake competition entries and watching demonstrations like macaroon making by Mark Tilling. The pics speak for themselves so check out the wedding cakes below. There will be more tips and photo stories to come from the exhibition so watch this space! We also purchased a load of goodies from the Squires shop up the road from the exhibition.
On Saturday I went for afternoon tea with my friend at Beas of Bloomsbury in St Pauls. We originally went a month ago for coffee and cake but hadn’t found the service very good. Having been in touch with Bea herself, we were invited back for afternoon tea to recreate first impressions. We were greeted with a table upstairs where all the afternoon teas take place and the table was set out with fresh baguette portions and a cake stand adorned with cupcakes, scones and mini cakes. I liked the lights which were teapot shaped – thought it was a fun touch to the atmosphere.
We were offered a selection of teas and coffees and iced water which came quickly. The food was very fresh and it was good to have baguettes rather than sandwiches to be a bit more substantial. Flavours included brie and ham, salami, and my friend had a soft cheese and veg one. It turned out my friend was cutting out sugar for Lent so she only tried a few bits of the afternoon tea. I, on the other hand tasted everything! I most enjoyed the millionaire shortbread square, nut and choc brownie and the pistachio macaron was to die for. The food was good quality and tasty. The only cake that let them down was the mini meringue which was a bit tough to bite in to. I wasn’t a massive fan of the homemade mango marshmellow because of the texture but thought it was something a bit different. There were so many other mini morsels to try that it didn’t matter too much if there was one you didn’t like. The scones were also fresh and broke in two easily and they went down a treat with strawberry jam and clotted cream. We had a lovely afternoon and really enjoyed it.
Couple of things to note: there are only four tables for coffee and cake downstairs in winter, double that capacity on sunny days. If you want to go for afternoon tea then you need to book by email in advance. Everything is made to order based on the number of afternoon teas that day – this is to reduce food wastage and keep the price of the afternoon tea more affordable – £17 for full afternoon tea which I do think is good value. However, because of this sandwiches aren’t on the menu at weekends for those not having afternoon tea, nor are scones. Beas of Bloomsbury are looking into what they offer customers who aren’t coming for afternoon tea so you never know this might change.
I would recommend the afternoon tea – it was a lovely atmosphere and great fresh food plus good service. Hopefully the service is mirrored downstairs from now on and if you’re only wanting cake and drinks anyway then it’s not a problem that sandwiches aren’t provided.
To mark the second anniversary of the Cake takes the biscuit blog, I decided it was time to give it a makeover. Having set out on a journey to tweak recipes and review cupcakes and cafes, my mission hasn’t changed, I’ve just added in a few extras like reviewing afternoon teas and photo stories with fantastic images from the likes of Jonathan Pollock. I have met some great people along the way writing the blog and I hope it continues!
My illustrator and designer friend Mary Kilvert very kindly offered to design my new logo and background. I hope you like them – I certainly do! I have also given the blog a fresh look with a new layout. Hopefully this is more appealing with the content categorised by theme. If you like Mary’s work, she will be exhibiting at the Country Living Magazine Spring Fair on stand M69 on 21-25 March. Mary will be launching her new Spring Lambs, woolly eggs and colourful sheep egg cups at the show. If you can’t catch her at the show, Mary’s lovely products can be found on her website.