Valentine Baking Ideas

Cupcake heartsWith 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.

Red heart cupcake wrappers_Just Bake2. 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?

heart shaped macaron from Vera's Cookbook blog5. 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

7. I also liked the look of these jam filled heart shaped butter biscuits from BBC Good Food and you can buy the cutters here

red velvet cupcakes photographed by Kimothy Joyeates8. 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!)

10. And finally…a red velvet cake…here’s a US recipe from SomethingSwanky or try the cupcakes recipe from Hummingbird High. To read my 2015 Valentine Baking Ideas, you can find them here.

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Cake Days: Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate and Salty Caramel Cake Recipe Review

salty chocolate and caramel birthday cakeI 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.

Birthday cake from Cake Days by Naomi Longworth

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!

Photo story: Squires Baking Exhibition – part 1 – wedding cakes

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.

hearts and love wedding cake by The Pretty Cake Company, photo by Naomi Longworth

Wedding cake with purple background and white petals - photo by Naomi Longworth

Second anniversary of the Cake takes the biscuit blog

ImageTo 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.

Mary Kilvert, colourful sheep

Interview: Just Bake’s founder Jo Shaw reveals her business start-up tips


On a summer evening last year, Jo Shaw came up the idea for Just Bake over a glass of wine with friends. Six months later the website launched selling beautiful cake decorations and cupcake accessories. Mumpreneur Jo explains how Just Bake came to fruition and gives us her best business startup tips. 

CTTB: Why did you decide to start the Just Bake website? 

JS: I always wanted to have my own business but it wasn’t until last year that the idea came to me. I do lots of baking with my two young children and at the same time I couldn’t find the cake decorations I wanted off the high street. When I looked online I found a lot of poor quality websites were around. I realised what was missing was a simple, easy to navigate website which was appealing from the outset where people could buy pretty decorations.


Pretty flowers cupcake wrappers from Just Bake

CTTB: What advice can you give to someone else who is thinking about starting up their own cake business?

JS: Research the market properly, the product range you’re going to offer and who your target market is.

I did lots of anecdotal market research – speaking to various people about the products they like and the products they couldn’t find easily. I carried out lots of competitor research too like ordering from competitors to understand the customer journey. I also ensured I hired a good quality web agency. Finally, I checked that the cupcake boom wasn’t about to dive. However, I was still careful to give the business a more generic name ‘Just Bake’ so it was insulated from any cupcake trend changes.

CTTB: Have you any tips on how to secure funding, especially in these tough times? 

JS: I looked at the costs of borrowing from our bank and using our own investments – weighing up which was the best option with the lowest risk. The two big costs were the website and branding plus buying the products.

Just Bake cupcake cream wrappers

CTTB: What have you learnt whilst setting up Just Bake?

JS: One thing I did learn along the way is that until you can buy bigger quantities of product, the supplier firmly has the upper hand. I spent a lot of time trawling through supplier websites until I found the best deals and understanding the quantities of stock I needed. I also had to pass an environmental health assessment to ensure all the products were in a hygienic space and kept at the right temperature. It’s not easy setting yourself up as self-employed and learning about the tax regulations – I’m going on a course run by HMRC so I can make sure I’m compliant.

CTTB: Best piece of advice given to you that would help others?

JS: One of my friends said you don’t need to do and learn everything at once – work on one aspect of the business at a time and you’ll build it up from there. He was right and it really helped me to stop worrying and focus.

Union jack cupcake wrappers on Just Bake

CTTB: Are there any big trends you can foresee for 2012 based on what people are browsing for on Just Bake?

People are searching for daffodils and Easter decorations now that Valentines Day is over. I’ve also started noticing people buying Jubilee products already like white, blue and red sugar strands.

CTTB: And finally, cake or biscuit?

JS: Definitely cake.

Afternoon tea review: Dean Street Town House Hotel

Afternoon tea at Dean Street Townhouse Hotel by Naomi Longworth

Yesterday I went for afternoon tea at the Dean Street Town House Hotel for my friend’s birthday. It’s a great location for a winter afternoon tea as the low lighting and cosy furnishings are perfect for hiding away on a cold winter’s day. They were incredibly busy and we had to wait for our reserved table so we were offered a free glass of champagne at the bar which cheered us up. We were then seated at a big table by the window on low green armchairs and comfy cushions. We did have to wait quite a while before our order was taken and the afternoon tea came a lot later than our teas and coffees. However, the food was very good – the sandwiches were very fresh and tasty – egg and cucumber which was subtle and delicious, ham and mustard – again very tasty and the mustard wasn’t too overpowering and smoked salmon and cream cheese. As you can see, we gobbled the sandwiches down before I remembered to take a photo! We opted for one afternoon tea between the two of us which costs £16.75. Depending on how hungry you are, this is about the right size but you probably need to order another set of sandwiches as you only get three sarnies each time.

We then started on the plate of fancies – a cake with thin layers of choc sponge and choc coating – it tasted divine, a lemon macaron which was zingy and had the right amount of crunch and chew and then a fairy cake with cream piped on top which was average and not as adventurous. Finally, we tucked into scones which were very fresh and slightly warm, followed by homemade strawberry and raspberry jam and clotted cream. It tasted delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d recommend the afternoon tea but the service was slow so bear that in mind.

Christmas Cake Moulds & Cookie Cutters

Christmas cookie cutterTo get in to the Christmas spirit, I thought I’d do a quick run down of festive cake moulds and cookie cutters. Marks and Spencer have a good range including this Christmas Tree mould which I featured last year, star cupcake cases and Christmas cookie cutters.

If you fancy a Christmas tree made out of cookies, this 3D cookie set could be the thing for you. I know these aren’t cutters or moulds but I also love these snowflake decorations. I’m putting these on my baking list right away! Lakeland also have a fun snowflake cookie cutter set featured below.

Snowflake cookie cutter setCakes, Cookies and Crafts have a full range of Christmas cookie cutters and they also have a  Santa cake tin.

If you want to try your hand at chocolate making, then these chocolate Christmas wreath moulds are a bit different. And OK, these aren’t moulds, but I do love these Santa mini muffin cases from the Funky Muffin shop.

KitchenAid Artisan Cake Mixer

KitchenAid mixer

For my birthday my boyfriend surprised me with the mother of all presents – a cream KitchenAid Artisan Cake Mixer. I had lusted after one in a nearby department store but told him it was way too expensive. He knew I loved it though and so he was really generous and gave it to me as an early birthday present on Wednesday! As you can see, the mixer had quite an entrance, standing between a sea of pink, cream and pearlised balloons.

The mixer is SO sleak and trendy and looks really swish on the kitchen work top. We had Chinese takeaway so I could get to the baking straight away and in no time at all I had whipped up a lemon drizzle cake. I couldn’t believe how quick it was to make in the mixer and I didn’t even read the instructions; the mixer is very easy to use. I took the cake into work as it is tradition to bring in cakes on or near your birthday. My colleagues said the cake was light and fluffy and was a great hit! Apparently, the deal with the mixer is I have to make cakes every week so hopefully I’ll be posting a lot more from now on! Whilst I was out at my birthday afternoon tea yesterday (another post to come!) my boyfriend also used the cake mixer and baked me a lovely red velvet birthday cake from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook with lashings of icing. I couldn’t believe he had made me a cake and I was bowled over!!

Lemon drizzle cake and KitchenAid artisan mixer

Edwardian Garden Party – afternoon tea treats

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!

Pip Studio Cake Plate

Raspberry courting cake close up on Pip Studio plate

This is one of my most prized cake possessions – the Pip Studio cake plate. I saw it in a little gift shop in Edinburgh last year but didn’t buy it straight away as it was a bit of an extravagance. I decided I had to go back to the shop to get it, and almost missed the train home with my friend! She is used to my being very late for things! I’ve used the cake plate before but never been able to get a good photo of it. I made birthday cupcakes and displayed them on the plate last year but before I could get my camera, all the cakes had gone! Here, I made raspberry courting cake – the perfect summer treat – for my boyfriend’s parents. The good news is it went down well and seconds were requested! After much searching as it is sold out across most outlets, I found you can still buy it on the Selfridges website. Yay!

whole raspberry courting cake on Pip Studio cake plate

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