Thursday, 31 May 2012

May Foodie Penpal Reveal

This was my second month as a Foodie Penpal, and I received a great little box of goodies from Fiona of the blog Fee Hates Rain.  I told Fiona how I liked snacky type stuff as well unique things or ingredients that I don't come across in my regular mainstream supermarket.  Fiona did a great job selecting some unique products - none of which I've ever tried or seen before.  

Along with a pretty note card, Fiona sent me some Lap Snacks - these are roasted broad beans coated in a spicy batter, and they are delicious!  They've got just a hint of spice in them without being too hot,  They're great to snack on at my desk - nice and crunchy!

Also included was some Scrummee brand Yorkshire Rhubarb, Lemongrass and Ginger dessert sauce.  I haven't tried this yet, but it sounds absolutely amazing.  I can't wait to try it - either in a recipe or on top of some vanilla ice cream.  

Fee also sent a really unique bar of chocolate - Madecasse Pink Pepper and Citrus Chocolate.  The label says it's 63% cocoa with pink pepper and combava fruit.  I've never heard of combava fruit before!  I haven't tried this yet.  It's so unique I don't know what to expect, but I love the fact that she managed to incorporate Pink into it! 

Last but not least, she sent a fancy little packet of Peri-peri chicken spice that I cannot wait to try!  My husband and I both love peri-peri chicken, and I'm saving this for a special meal when we can both sit down together and enjoy it - something we rarely get to do!

A huge thank you again to Fiona for sending me such a great package that was so thoughtfully put together!  

As for myself, my Foodie Penpal was Sarah from the Blog North West Nosh.  Sarah told me that she ate a lot of Eastern foods, and was really into spices like cardamon and cinnamon, as well as rose flavours, and also like snacky stuff too.

Sarah's package suggestions gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the new Asian market that recently opened up near my office.  It was filled with so many neat products I hadn't seen before and many that I'd used before, but needed to make a special trip to another store far away to find.

I bought Sarah some Moroccan spiced couscous, rose flavoured Turkish delight, several different types of nougat and 4 different flavours of sesame snaps.  

Waitrose had recently sent me a package filled with a selection of their Jubilee goodies, but I decided to pass some of them along to my Foodie Penpal this month as an extra little bonus because it was so near to the Diamond Jubilee.  I had been sent so much Jubilee product that there was no way I could ever use it all. Hopefully Sarah can have fun with it this weekend.  The Waitrose Jubilee items were: cupcake cases and toppers, 4 different tubes of festive icing and some street party Royal Trivia cards.

If you're new here and haven't heard of Foodie Penpals you can check out my first Foodie Penpals post here.

If you'd like to become a Foodie Penpal you can find more information and sign up through the Rock Salt Blog here if you're in the UK & Europe, or through the Lean Green Bean Blog here is your in the US & Canada.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Queens Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies

When I was living in Canada I was always a little envious of our patriotic American neighbours.    To many outsiders their patriotic enthusiasm seemed overly excessive and brash, but as a Canadian kid I looked on in amazement.  They took any opportunity they could get to plaster their flag on anything and everything, and I often wondered why Canadians didn't do the same. 

The patriotic differences really became apparent when July rolled around.  Canada celebrates their birthday with a national holiday on July 1st, while the US celebrates theirs on July 4th.  The Americans always seemed to have loads of festive activities going on like parades, barbecues, block parties and amazing firework shows, while Canadians seemed relatively unfazed by their national day.  Don't get me wrong - Canadians definitely do celebrate Canada Day with a few fireworks and the odd picnic, and as Vancouver showed during the Olympics, Canadians are extremely proud of their country, but we don't always shout about it from the rooftops like our southern neighbours do.  

Some of the patriotic things that always caught my eye were all the fun American themed desserts and products that seemed to pop up during the weeks approaching July 4th.  A large part of it I'm sure, was a result of savvy marketing, but the other part was down to sheer patriotism.  

I remember flipping through magazines (most of the magazines were American) and watching programmes like Live! and Martha Stewart and thinking how pretty the desserts and crafts that they were featuring looked in red, white and blue.  For some reason red and white (Canada's colours) never seemed as much fun.  

With the upcoming Queen's Diamond Jubilee (marking the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth) in a few weeks, it appears that the whole of the UK has gone jubilee crazy.  And I couldn't be more excited about it!  It's such a nice feeling to see Union Jacks everywhere - on grocery packaging, home decor, magazines and loads and loads of CAKES! 

It's so nice to see the whole country getting excited about their heritage and celebrating it with a little red, white and blue.  And I especially love it because it's the perfect excuse for me to do some fun and festive baking - just like I always wished I could have done when I was younger!

I've come up with a few Jubilee themed desserts - one of them was this Jubilee Dome Cake with red and blue flowers and a golden crown that I posted last week.  

I've also made these little Jubilee hat cookies inspired by the Queen herself!  It's no secret that the Queen is a fan of her hats - they even took bets here in England on what colour hat she would wear to Will and Kate's wedding last year!  

I got the original idea for these cookies from the fabulous book Cookie Swap, and then borrowed a few tips from Bakerella who also made them a couple years ago for Easter.  

I loved making these cookies - they were so fun and easy to make, and I really think they're just perfect to help celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  Seriously - how cute would they  look alongside a nice cup of tea, or arranged together on a stand at your local street party.

Queen's Diamond Jubilee Hat Cookies

To make these cookies you'll need a few things:

Sugar cookie dough - I use Peggy Porcshen's recipe that can be found in this post here.
A small amount of Royal Icing - Peggy Porcshen's recipe that can be found in this post here.
Double sided pastry cutters - I used these.  
Mini flower plunger cutters - I used these
White fondant - I used white Renshaw brand
Sugar paste / flower paste - I used Squires Kitchen Sugar Floral Paste
White nonpareils 


1.  Make your sugar cookie dough according to the recipe and instructions here.  Once your dough is chilled, roll it out to the appropriate thickness (about 4 or 5mm).  Using the scalloped edge of the 68mm (2 5/8") round pastry cutter, cut out as many circles as you think you'd like hats.  These will be the base of your hats.  I think you could make at least 20 hats with the cookie dough recipe - probably more.  Next, use the 38mm (1 1/2") plain edged round cutter to cut out twice the number of circles as you did with the scalloped cutter.  These will make up the top of your hats, and each hat top requires two smaller circles. Bake according to the instructions in my original recipe post, and then cool.

2.  While your cookies are baking you can start to make the little sugar paste flowers that will decorate the brim of the hats.  Take a small amount of the Sugar Floral Paste and tint it whatever colour you'd like - I used Wilton gel paste colours.  Roll the sugar paste out, and use the flower cutters to cut out various sizes of flowers. It's easy - honest!  I used some royal icing to attach the white nonpareils to the inside of the flower, but if you don't have any nonpareils, then a dab of royal icing will do just fine. Set the flowers aside to dry.

3.  Once your cookies are nice and cool you'll need to start building your hats.  First you'll need to roll our your fondant, and use the same sized scalloped edge pastry cutter you used for the base of the cookies to cut out the fondant circles that will sit on top.  Use the end of a paintbrush or chopstick to make small indents around the scalloped edge.  Put a little royal icing on the scalloped cookies and then place the matching fondant pieces on top making sure to line up the scalloped edges.

To make the second part of the hat you'll need to glue two of the smaller circles together by adding a dab or two of royal icing on the top of one of the small circles.  Next, use another dollop of royal icing to fix the bottom of the smaller stacked circle to the scalloped fondant covered cookie base.  Using the small cookie cutter, cut out enough fondant circles to cover the tops of the smaller circle stacks.  

Next you'll need to cut some fondant strips to wrap around the stack of small cookies - use a small ruler to make sure the fondant strip is the same width as the cookie stacks, and long enough to wrap around them.  Fix the strips around the cookies using royal icing.  Use your fingers to smooth out the fondant strips and blend them into the fondant tops.

Lastly, it's time to add your sugar paste flowers - simply glue them on in whatever arrangement you like, and there you have it - little Queen's Diamond Jubilee Hats!

I'm sure it's pretty safe to say that these hat cookies will likely end up inside your tummy - but I'd really like to know what's happened to all of the Queen's own hats?  Seriously - Buckingham Palace must have one gigantic room filled with 60 years worth of the Queen's hats!

Because my hat cookies have flowers on them, I'm also sending them over to The Tea Time Treats monthly challenge hosted this month by Karen of the blog Lavender and Loveage, and other months by Kate of What Kate Baked.  This month's theme is floral, so I think they're a perfect fit!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee Dome Cake

The other day I posted my review of Peggy Porschen's new Boutique Baking book.  I was so excited when it arrived, I couldn't put it down.  I flipped through the pages over and over again, examining every recipe trying to decide what to make first.  

The recipe that stood out the most to me was a very simple, yet elegant dome cake that Peggy calls her Raspberry & Rose Dome Cake (pictured below from her book).  This cake isn't your typical cake - it's made up of a thin layer of jaconde sponge and then filled with a delicious custard butter cream that's been studded with raspberries.

I'm not going to lie - this cake is fairly labour intensive.  There's a lot of steps involved and it's best to do them over two days, but the step by step pictures are a huge asset and really do help to reassure you that you're doing things correctly.

Peggy's version of the Raspberry & Rose Dome Cake (above) is covered in pastel fondant and decorated with pretty sugar paste flowers.  I choose to decorate mine in a royal theme to help celebrate the upcoming Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  I used the same sugar paste flowers that I made last year on my Royal Wedding Cupcakes, and I also made some cute little crowns from a mould that I picked up a few months ago at the Squires Kitchen Cake Decorating Exhibition.


I've decided not to post the recipe for this cake because it's very long (approx 4 pages in the book) and requires a lot of steps (see the pictures above).  I don't want that to detour you from making it though.  It's not hard to make - especially the jaconde sponge (I made a similar one here, and they only take 8 minutes to bake!), it's just the assembling of the cake that takes the time.  So if you think you'd like to try baking your own dome cake, then please buy Peggy's Boutique Baking book - you won't regret it!

To make the crowns you'll need a mould like this one here from Squires Kitchen that I used.  First I took some Mexican modelling paste and tinted it a light golden colour (I used golden yellow from Wilton).  Next I brushed some gold metallic lustre dust inside my mould which helped to give it the golden colour, but also to prevent the modelling paste from sticking.  

Firmly push the modelling paste into the mould and trim off any excess with a sharp knife,  To remove the crowns simply turn the mould upside down and tap the back of the mould firmly with the handle of a knife to help shake them out.

To give the crowns their nice golden colour I mixed a bit of the gold lustre dust with a tiny bit of vodka to create a shiny gold paint and used a paintbrush to coat the surface of the crowns.  The red and blue gems in the crowns are actually just shimmery sugar sprinkles that were given to me by Waitrose in a goody bag a few months ago.

This cake calls for a dome mould (Peggy uses half of a ball pan) to give the cake it's perfect shape, but I didn't have a dome mould, so instead used a bowl.  Although the bowl worked, it didn't turn out exactly as I'd imagined.  It was a bit deeper and not as perfectly domed as I'd hoped, but I think I could have done a better job of lining my bowl with the jaconde sponge to get a better shape.  I get a bit annoyed when my baking attempts don't turn out exactly as they do in the pictures!

This cake, like most traditional UK cakes is covered in both a layer of marzipan, followed by a layer of fondant.  I'm not a huge fan of marzipan, and I honestly don't see much of a point in using both layers of covering (other than the fact that the marzipan layer makes the fondant layer a little easier to smooth out).  I almost did't bother using the marzipan, but I wanted to make the cake exactly as it's shown in the book.

I had intended on using the same fondant boarder around the base of my cake that was shown in the book, but the red fondant (Renshaw brand) I'd bought a month earlier had dried into a rock hard block before I even got a chance to get it out of the package!  Instead, I kept things simple and just used some red and blue ribbon.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my dome cake - even if it didn't turn out perfect.  Although I've done a few, I'm still fairly new to covering cakes in fondant, and really just enjoy tinkering around in my spare time making flowers and sugar paste decorations.  I've always wanted to improve my cake decorating skills, and I'm very pleased to announce I will get that opportunity this week!  

You see, last summer after I made my Peggy Porschen Baby Shower Cookies I was absolutely thrilled to receive an invite from the Peggy Porschen Academy inviting me to attend one of Peggy's cake decorating courses!!!  The only thing was, they had invited me to a course that was taking place 3 weeks after I was due to give birth to baby Jayden.  I knew there was no way I could attend a cake decorating course and leave my 3 week old at home. Luckily, Peggy's team was very understanding and told me to contact them when I was ready to take one of her courses.

A few months ago I got back in touch with Peggy's team and we decided on my course.  I'm so excited to tell you all that this Tuesday I will be spending the day with Peggy learning how to make this absolutely stunning Black and White Anemone Cake!!

I'm sooo looking forward to learning how to make this stunning cake and picking up tips from the master herself.  I can't wait to share my cake with you all when I'm done, so keep watching, and I'll post it soon!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Peggy Porschen Boutique Baking Review

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Peggy Porschen's new book titled Boutique Baking.  It's no secret that I'm a huge Peggy Porschen fan.  I've made several  recipes from her books including these baby shower cookies last year.  

Boutique Baking is slightly different from Peggy's previous books which focus more on decorating projects using several key recipes.  Instead, Boutique Baking is filled with recipes - each with their own decorating ideas and techniques that Peggy clearly guides you through with written instructions and visual steps.  

Boutique Baking is made up of 7 chapters:  Sweet Treats, Beautiful Biscuits, Cupcake Heaven, Luscious Layer Cakes, Classic Cakes & Bakes, Delicious Drinks, and The Icing on The Cake. 

Notable recipes include:

Springerle Cookies - I've always wanted to make these, but have never found an authentic wooden mould. 

Chocolate Heaven Cupcakes - I've made these and they're delicious, so keep an eye out for the recipe.  I'll be posting it soon!

Summer Berry Cake - this has a beautiful pattern on top that's created by a simple dusting of cocoa powder over a patterned stencil

Raspberry & Rose Dome Cake - An absolutely stunning dome cake accented with delicate sugar paste flowers.  I also made this, and will be posting it shortly!

Minteani - A light and refreshing iced mint tea and vodka cocktail

Out of all of Peggy's books (she has 5), Boutique Baking is my favourite.  The recipes are all mouth watering and accompanied by stunning photos, not only of the finished product but also of the steps needed to get you there.  Boutique Baking has something for everyone.  Novice bakers and decorators need not shy away, as there's recipe and decorating idea to suit every skill level.

With thanks to Quadrille Publishing for my review copy of Peggy's book.

Boutique Baking is available on Amazon UK here and Amazon US here  

** Now here's some exciting news for you - if you live in London and you're a fan of Peggy Porschen you'll be pleased to know that she'll be signing copies of her new Boutique Baking Book in her parlour this Saturday May 26th between 3pm - 5pm.  Directions to Peggy's pink parlour and additional information can be found here.

And finally, I've also got some VERY EXCITING Peggy Porschen news to share with you later in the week, so keep an eye on my blog, facebook and twitter to find out what it is!!! Until then I'll leave you with a few more pictures of Peggy's book party.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hanging Mug Sugar Cookies

A few months ago I was walking through Clapham Junction - an area just south of London that I don't really frequent that often. It's a pretty area lined with cutesy shops and funky eateries. It's also where I found the cutest little cookie cutters.  You see, I was walking along when all of a sudden I noticed a pink store.  Yes, a PINK store!  How could I not take notice of a pink store?!?  It wasn't just any pink store either.  It was one of Jaime Oliver's Recipease stores.  Recipease isn't just any old store - it's a cooking school, a kitchen store, a cafe and a prepared food store all in one.  How did I not know about these before??? Note to self - I must go back and take a cookery lesson there.  The pasta making ones sound like great fun! 

image source 

I had a little wander around the store which sold loads of cool things like freshly baked bread,  food storage containers with pastel flip lids, kitchen gadgets and the cutest little cookie cutters. Cookies cutters which I just had to have!  

These weren't just any cookie cutters - they were hanging cookie cutters!  Don't laugh.  I'm easily excitable when I find cool new kitchen "thingys".

The cookie cutters are sold in a set of 6, although 2 of the cutters are a pair.  There's a heart, a star, a circle, a little bird and a pair of angel wings.   And they're all designed to hang on the side of your coffee mug or tea cup.  

I've never been one to fall into the English habit drinking a cup of tea, alongside a biscuit (cookie) but lately I've found myself wanting to enjoy just a tiny treat with my afternoon coffee.  These little cookies are the perfect solution.  Simply make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and hang one (or two!) of these fun little cookies on the side of your mug, pop yourself in your favourite chair, put your feet up, relax and enjoy!

You definitely don't have to go crazy and decorate them like I did, but I saw a fun opportunity and I took it!  I used royal icing to flood all of my cookies, and then I did something a bit different to each of them.  I shook some opalescent edible glitter on one pair of angel wings while the royal icing was still wet, and I used a silvery pearl lustre dust on the second pair once the icing was dry.  I kept the birds fairly basic and just added some yellow beaks and drew on black eyes with a food marker.  I used gold lustre dust on the star and I pink lustre dust on the hearts and circles, and tried out a new royal icing painting technique that I'd been wanting to try for ages now.  

The painting technique is so simple and just involves piping a curved line of royal icing on your cookie, and then taking a dry paint brush and dragging the royal icing inwards.  Although I thought my first try turned out ok, I wasn't entirely happy with my painted cookies as I think my icing consistency was a bit off.  Coincidentally the weekend after I made these cookies I saw this same painting technique being demonstrated at the Cake International Show, so I picked up some tips there.  I will definitely be making some more of these pretty painted cookies that I'll share with you soon.  I think my pink one matches the flowers on my mug!

I used Peggy Porschen's sugar cookie recipe which is a favourite of mine.  Her dough holds it's shape and doesn't spread while cooking, plus it tastes great too.  You can get the recipe for the sugar cookie dough along with Peggy's royal icing recipe and all my cookie decorating tips and tricks  here

Friday, 4 May 2012

Ultimate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a confession to make.  I'm a hoarder.  No, not one of those crazy hoarders that you see on the show actual TV show Hoarders (no offence to anyone reading this who is!).  I'm a hoarder of baking stuff.  Mainly things like chocolate chips, M&M's, Jello, Oreos, marshmallows, etc. Things that I see on my travels that I can't get in the UK, so when I see them I kind of go into this panic buying mode as if I will never ever see them again.  So then I buy them.  And then they sit there.  On my baking shelf waiting to be used.  Sometimes for months and months.  

During a recent trip to the US a few weeks ago I found some super cute little mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups - prefect for baking.  I had to have them!  Chocolate, peanut butter AND mini!  What's not to love?  

When I got back home from my trip, I started unpacking my new purchases. I lined them up alongside the stuff I already had and started thinking about potential recipes.  I noticed a theme - mini Reese's peanut butter cups, mini Reese's pieces, peanut butter and chocolate chips, and a GIANT jar of peanut butter.  Cue light bulb moment!  I had been wanting to make some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for ages, but had never got around to it - until now.

I call these the Ultimate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie.  They're amazing.  I love them.  And I think you'll love them too!  

UK residents!!! I realise that this recipe's main ingredients are sourced from the US, but you can also get them here now in the UK at your local supermarket.  They won't be the mini versions of the peanut butter cups and pieces, but YOU CAN BUY the regular and small sized versions of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and the regular sized Reese's Pieces at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda.  It's fine to use regular sized peanut butter cups, just cut them into smaller chunks (approx 9 pieces).  If you'd prefer to use the mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that I used you can buy them here and you can also buy Reese's peanut butter chips similar to the ones I used here.

Made With Pink's Ultimate Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 20 large cookies


2 1/2 Cups (310g) Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 Cup (210g) Smooth Peanut Butter (not natural)
1/2 Cup (115g) Butter, softened
1 1/4 Cups (250g) Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup (55g) Castor Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Corn Syrup or Golden Syrup
2 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Peanut Butter and/or Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
1/2 Cup Mini Reese's Pieces


1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).  In a small bow combine the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. 

2.  In a large bowl combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and white sugar together.  Cream together with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in the eggs one by one.  Add in the milk, syrup and vanilla.  Stir the flour mixture from step 1 into the peanut butter mixture.  Fold in the peanut butter and chocolate chips, Reese's Pieces and peanut butter cups.  Drop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet by 1/4 cup fulls and flatten slightly.  

3.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are just slightly golden.  Leave the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to firm up before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

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