Baking Bonanza!

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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.

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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!

Hummingbird Bakery Cupcake Challenge

Angel Cupcake_Naomi Longworth_compressed2To 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!

Angel Cupcake by Naomi Longworth

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!

Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Fondant Cupcakes

iPhone app Hummingbird BakeryFellow baking blogger Boom Bakery recently tipped me off about the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days app for iPhone. I had been on the look out for a decent cake app for a while so I was excited to give the app a try! The photography and layout of each recipe is great and I love being able to access the recipes even when I’m offline on a train. I think the split of recipes by summer, spring, mother’s and father’s day is a bit arbitrary though. Recipes I’m keen to try are the blueberry crumble loaf, summer fruit cheesecake, and summer berry muffins (you can read the recipe review on Boom Bakery’s blog).

Chocolate sponge cupcake with chocolate ganacheThe boyfriend was in the mood for something chocolatey so I found the most chocolatey recipe on the app – chocolate fondant cupcakes. It’s a simple choc cupcake recipe but once cooled, you have to cut out a 2-3 cm deep and wide part of the sponge. You then fill it with the chocolate ganache which is pure indulgence – 200g dark choc and almost a pint of double cream! I did follow the recipe carefully and ensured the cream came to the boil before I poured it on top of the choc pieces. However, the ganache was rather runny. I put a good dollop in the middle before adding the centre of the sponge. I then poured a lot of ganache on top. I found that you could see the top of the cupcake poking through the ganache which made it look untidy. Once set, the cupcakes are yummy. I’d def recommend leaving them overnight though as it takes a while to set. When I looked at the photo again on the app, it looks like they have actually used frosting rather than ganache. I think it would be worth experimenting with the ganache ingredients/method as it was too runny to decorate with. Nevertheless they tasted great! Not for the calorie faint hearted 🙂

Hummingbird Bakery – animated pop-art cake video

When having a look on the Hummingbird Bakery website a little while ago, I stumbled across this animated pop art cake video. The video is by Tarmak Films. Take a peak! Oh and I just found out that HBB have a new store open on the great named street Frying Pan Alley near Spitalfields! I will have to go and visit soon when I’m heading eastwards…

Cupcakes and cake plates

This week I made a small batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. There is a new Hummingbird recipe book publishing on 17 March which you can pre-order from Amazon. I used concentrated sugar paste colouring to make the purple frosting – it lasts a long time as you only need one tiny blob using a cocktail stick. I used a variety of fun decorations including hundreds and thousands, shiny mini balls and blue edible glitter. The cupcakes went down a treat and all my friends had two.

Recently, I was given a vintage cake plate for my birthday from eBay. I did a lot of research before finding the one I wanted and found that it’s actually quite hard to find a nice one at the right price.

You can also buy it here for the same price on ‘Say No  To The Highstreet‘ or Amazon. My friend found a lovely one at a vintage sale so you may find them at car boot sales, charity shops or on vintage websites.

You can buy modern ones like this single tiered cake plate from Amazon or this other Portmeiron one from John Lewis. I also like Cath Kidston’s three tiered cake stand and at House of Fraser, this one layer cake stand is currently on offer. Happy cake plate hunting!

How to make a Frosty the Snowman cake

Hummingbird bakery red velvet cupcake

This weekend I made a Frosty the Snowman cake and surprised my boyfriend with it as part of his Christmas present. The cake is made with the Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cake recipe (same as the cupcakes) and their cream cheese frosting. I used a six inch cake tin for the head and a 10 inch cake tin for the body. I found TK Maxx and department stores like House of Fraser are good for finding cake tins of varying sizes.

The Hummingbird Bakery recipe says to use Dr. Oetker red food colouring as this gives a deep red colour for the sponge. I used Dr. Oetker’s artificial cochineal food colouring as I couldn’t find the recommended one in my local supermarkets. I would be interested to know if it made a difference to the taste. It did give a great colour to the sponge as you can see from the photo but personally, I think this could taste a bit more chocolatey and less bland. I suggest adding 1-2 extra tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder to taste. The cream cheese frosting tasted sweet and complemented the sponge well. I did get a few lumps in the icing so I would suggest that, however difficult, try mixing the butter and icing sugar as much as possible before you add in the soft cream cheese.

For the decorations I used smarties for the eyes, nose and buttons and mini smarties for the snowman’s scarf. For the lips I used fizzy strawberry laces from Sainsburys. The cake turned out well but personally I think this would taste better with a chocolate sponge. You could also increase the recipe size slightly to give the sponges a little more depth. The cake certainly went down well with my boyfriend and he ate atleast half the snowman in two days with a little help from me!

Hummingbird Bakery cafe review – Old Brompton Road

Last night, I visited the Hummingbird Bakery on Old Brompton Road (nearest tube is South Kensington). I went there with a friend back in February but had poor customer service and emailed the bakery to let them know I had been disappointed. Their customer services team were very good, made some changes, apologised and offered me and my friend complimentary cupcakes and coffee. We decided to give it a shot yesterday and I had a red velvet cupcake and my friend had a choc chip cheesecake cupcake (hard to say!). I thought the icing on my cupcake was delicious but the sponge was rather dry. I tried a bit of my friend’s and hers was nice and fresh and she really enjoyed it. It was a little sweet for me but then that’s what cupcakes are all about! The staff were OK but still slow to clear tables and bring drinks. On a Monday evening this could definitely have been a bit swifter. I’d like to return for take-out to keep trying their different cupcakes and cakes but I still think the ambiance of the cafe is missing that bit of sparkle.

Hummingbird Bakery Halloween cupcakes recipe review

Hummingbird bakery chocolate cupcake with pink frosting

Last week I made these scary chocolate cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book for Halloween. I doubled the quantity making 18 cupcakes (they make 9 rather than 12 in a batch). I had run out of caster sugar so used golden sugar which went well. One batch of the vanilla frosting (250g of icing sugar) is enough to ice all the cupcakes. Split the icing into two bowls and add some cocoa powder. I added red and yellow food colouring to the vanilla icing. I was hoping for orange icing but without any orange food colouring I was struggling! It ended up being a deep pink instead. Next up came some scary eyeballs and pumpkins wrapped in foil, sold by Marks and Spencer.

Hummingbird bakery chocolate cupcakeThe cupcakes went down very well with my taste testers and I particularly liked the eyeball ones in the end! I did find this cool baking website – Cakes, Cookies and Craft Shop in the process which sells great cupcake decorations. I thought their Halloween selection was fun, I just didn’t have time to order them before Halloween!

Hummingbird Bakery lemon cupcake recipe review

Lemon cupcakes with lemon frostingLast week for the Cupcake Break cake swapping party, I made lemon cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. I did tweak the recipe for a number of practical reasons and so I thought I’d share my experiences.  First up the recipe says to use 2 tablespoons of grazed lemon zest. In my experience, that’s a hell of a lot of lemon zest! After grating 3 lemons, I decided that had to be enough! It wasn’t two tablespoons worth but when I tasted the mixture it tasted very lemony indeed.  Next up, I thought it a bit odd to have a lemon cupcake recipe without any lemon juice in it. Not to mention it being a bit wasteful having lemons with no zest and no use for the juice. So instead of using whole milk in the recipe I replaced half of the quantity with lemon juice.  For the frosting, the first common sense thing to note is that if you put icing sugar and butter in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer, regardless of speed, the icing sugar will go everywhere! For this reason I added some of the liquid at the same time as mixing the butter and icing sugar to avoid this.  Again, instead of using whole milk, I replaced this with lemon juice. I find that the recipe makes 9 cupcakes so I do a double quantity of the recipe.  Also I find that you only need to do one quantity of frosting (250g of icing sugar) to ice 18 cupcakes. I didn’t put any lemon zest in the frosting as this would be total overkill.  Lemon juice did the trick nicely instead.

To summarize the tweaks I made (taking into account the double quantities):

Sponge

  • zezt of 3 lemons
  • 120ml lemon juice
  • 120ml semi skimmed milk

Frosting

  • 25ml lemon juice rather than milk
  • No lemon zest

The verdict? I had quite a few taste testers at the cake swapping party and there were lots of yums and ooos.  I take this to be positive feedback. I also made a batch of these for my flatmate’s birthday last weekend and my cake connoisseurs thought the sponge was very moist and the icing lovely and lemony. Here’s to a successful tweaked recipe! Let me know how you get on trying the recipe out! Oh and what’s on the cake blog next week? A review of the new afternoon tea at the Wallace Restaurant – will it stack up? You’ll have to wait to find out…

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