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!
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!
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.
After first meeting renowned food photographer Jonathan Pollock (you can read his food photography tips here), he has very kindly given me one of his most recent photographs for the blog – a Peggy Porschen wedding cake. Both the image and the cake are exquisite. The gold detail and flowers are absolutely beautiful and I’m in awe! Alas, the cake is no longer stocked through Fortnum and Mason but you can of course contact Peggy if you have any wedding cake inquiries. Hot off the press today – Fortnum and Mason have launched their own range of wedding cakes. The range includes six wedding cakes inspired by Fortnum and Mason’s heritage which began in the 1700s. You can check out the range here and their delightful brochure. I’ll be posting some piccies of the cakes in the next couple of days. I will be making part of my friends’ wedding cake later this year so I will be on the look out for more inspirational wedding cakes. Watch this space!
On Friday I met Jonathan Pollock, a London based food photographer. He showed me his fantastic portfolio which ranged from florentines for Fortnum and Mason (pictured here) to sausages and mash for a leading supermarket and foodie dishes for the Onion Council. I also love his meille feuille pic here. He was kind enough to give me some tips on how to take great food photos which I’ve summarised below.
- Use natural light wherever possible – that means I need to be photographing my baking either outside or by the windows – not using the overhead lights or underlighting by the cupboards
- Use a DSLR if you can so you can have a lot more control over the exposure, shutter speed and aperture – I am going to have to get a new camera soon! Jonathan recommends the Nikon D90 with a 15-105 lens
- If you can photograph outside on a cloudy day or use the light one hour before sunset it should work well
- Don’t use the flash on close up shots (which I try not to) but adjust the exposure to +1 if the photo looks too dark
- If you don’t want to use flash then 400 ISO should be about right in low-level lighting (it has a faster shutter speed)
- To take crisp shots and avoid blur, rest your back on a wall or your elbows on the table and slowly breathe in before you take the shot and then gently press snap!
- If you want some basic principles on how to use a camera, then John Hedgecoe’s Guide to 35mm Photography is a good book
- For food, it’s good to take tight shots and remember to have the food at the front of the plate
- Composition wise, remember to visually split the picture into three and take the interesting part of the pic in the left hand third
- 50 ASA/ISO is good quality but has a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) so you need to use it in an environment with higher light levels
I also asked Jonathan for some anecdotes about what it’s like to be a food stylist. He said you have to have incredible patience – each shot takes about two hours – and it’s more like being an alchemist or perhaps an illusionist? For instance, to get a frothy cup of coffee with marshmallows bobbing on the top, gravel is used for 90% of the cup with coffee poured through it. Then a bit of milk is added on top and the marshmallows can sit nicely on the gravel. Who knew!
This month, I visited Slovenia and had a wonderful holiday there. It is very beautiful, full of forests, lakes and mountains and totally unspoilt. Food was a big part of the holiday too and along with savoury dishes such as goulash, pate, bratwurst with sauerkraut, venison medallions and half a loaf of homemade bread each at mealtimes, dessert was a firm favourite. We sampled apple strudel on our first night in our hotel which was lovely but the real find was Cacao, a cafe cum dessert restaurant, set by the Ljubljanica river in the city Ljubljana. We skipped lunch and instead, later on in the afternoon, had chocolate ice cream, tiramisu or this fabulous chocolate and raspberry torte accompanied by beer and chilled white wine. You can see I tucked into it before I remembered I needed a photo for the blog! It was divine just eating dessert and looking at the picturesque cityscape.
The second dessert I managed to get a snap of was this delicious baklava. We stayed in a self catered apartment in Kranjska Gora in the north west of Slovenia and our hosts gave us this absolutely mouth-watering delicacy. Our host said the baklava was a Bosnian dessert and it oozed honey, booze, and ground walnuts. Although we were about to go out for dinner, after a three hour walk, I couldn’t resist but cut quarters off it until unsurprisingly it disappeared in moments!
I have finally got back to the blogging after a little reprieve during the holidays but rest assured I have been baking and have lots to update you on! I have also been watching the Great British Bake Off and it has inspired me to do more baking. I thought the tarte au citron from Mary Berry would be a great recipe to try soon.
Back in June I was invited to an Edwardian Garden Party. It was great fun and full of delicious afternoon tea goodies. I managed to get a few snaps of the raspberry and champagne jelly and these little lemon and mini cupcake treats on vintage crockery! This year Lili Vanilli has been researching the Edwardian High Tea so you can see her photo story if you’re feeling inspired!