Friday, 28 September 2012

Cherry Almond Clafoutis


Ahhh cherry clafoutis.....  Sigh.  Why have I not made you before?  This post is somewhat embarrassing to write.  I've been wanting to make a cherry clafoutis for years. Literally.  I'd seen them time and time again on foodie sites like Food Gawker and Taste Spotting, and always thought they looked so good.  I don't know what on earth took me so long to make one, but it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I'd have to pit a gazillion cherries.  Plus, I was under the impression they were extremely time consuming and difficult to make.  My bad.  They're super easy.  In fact, it's probably one of the easiest things I've made in ages.  I think I'll make this my default dessert for when company comes around.   

Like I mentioned before, part of what was really holding me back from making a cherry clafoutis was pitting all those cherries.  I'd been buying cherries all summer for Jayden and I to eat.  I was pitting them in a couple of different ways - by scoring an "x" on the top and bottom with a knife, and then pushing out the pit with a straw or chopstick, or by simply cutting them in half and picking the pits out with my fingers which was horribly messy and forced me to get my hands dirty.  I hate getting my hands dirty.   

Just when I thought I was going to have to resort to trying out another DIY cherry pitter method (there's a bunch of suggestions here on my Pinterest board), I was contacted by the folks over at OXO Good Grips to see if I'd like to try out their new version.  So thank goodness for my new OXO Cherry pitter which made the whole pitting process quick and easy.


The cherry pitter made doing the job so much easier!  And I was really impressed with how well it was designed - there's a little switch at the back that locks the pitter into a closed position so that the spikey bit doesn't get caught on everything in my gadget drawer.  It's also got a splash guard on it, which I think should be essential on every cherry pitter no matter what brand it is.  The splash guard was amazing and confined all the splatter and mess  which meant that my Julia Child recipe book I had sitting near by was spared from any straying cherry juice.  And rather than taking 20 minutes to pit all the cherries, it only took about 2 minutes. 

Splat!

Even though I'd been wanting to make a cherry clafoutis for ages, I'd never really settled on a recipe.  Sure all the clafoutis photos on Food Gawker and Taste Spotting looked delicious and I'd probably "favourited" about 50 different pictures, but I couldn't decide on which recipe I should try.  So, I went back to basics and decided to go with Julia.  You really can't go wrong with a Julia Child recipe can you?  


I had done a tiny bit of research on cherry clafoutis before I made mine, and the one thing that stood out was that the really authentic French recipes told you NOT to pit your cherries.  Why?  Because supposedly once baked, the cherry pits release a subtle almond flavour that gives the clafoutis a really nice flavour.  I opted to pit my cherries, and then add a bit of almond extract to compensate.  The result was absolutely delicious.  The almond flavouring really complemented the sweet juicy cherries and syrupy clafoutis.  I was amazed.  Why on earth had I not made this before?  It's seriously easy to make.  Pit your cherries, throw the rest of the ingredients a blender for a couple minutes, pour and bake.  That's pretty much it.


Cherry Almond Clafoutis
(Slightly adapted from Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 Cups (295ml) milk 
2/3 Cup (150g) Sugar, divided 
3 eggs 
1Tbsp Vanilla Extract 
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
1/8 tsp salt 
2/3 Cup (83) Flour 
Butter for greasing 
3 Cups Pitted Cherries
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Instructions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC), and lightly butter a 7- to 8-cup baking dish or pie plate. Wash and pit your cherries.  Set aside.

2. Place milk, 1/3 cup (75g) sugar, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, salt, and flour in a blender and blend at high speed for 1 minute.  Pour a 1/4-inch layer of batter into the greased baking dish. Place the dish in the hot oven for about 7-10 minutes until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat.  

3.  Place the cherries evenly over the batter and sprinkle the remaining sugar over top. Slowly pour the rest of the batter over the cherries and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon if needed.  Place the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for about 45 - 60 minutes until done. The clafouti is done when it has puffed with a golden brown top, and when a toothpick or knife is inserted into its center and comes out clean.

Let the clafoutis cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes) before sprinkling top with powdered sugar just before serving.  


The clafoutis is best served warm, but I'll admit to eating a left over slice straight out of the fridge and it being equally delicious as it was warm.

I realise that cherry season is nearing an end, but if you can get your hands on some I would definitely suggest making this dessert.  I plan on making it once more before all the cherries have completely disappeared from my local supermarket.  But if you're too late you can also substitute the cherries for pretty much any other fruit such as pears, plums, apples etc and make a different version of clafoutis.

With thanks to OXO Good Grips for the cherry pitter, which will now double as an olive pitter during the winter months!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Cake and Bake Show - What I Really Thought

This past weekend finally saw the highly anticipated Cake and Bake Show come to London. The Cake and Bake Show was labeled as "the first live event dedicated to the world of cakes, breads and the art of baking."

The show had a star studded line up of demonstrators and guest speakers set to appear including British baking royalty Marry Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mitch Turner, Eric Lanlard, Peggy Porschen and more.

I hadn't actually planned on attending The Cake and Bake Show as I'd already attended two cake and sugarcraft shows (Squires & Cake International) earlier in the year, and acquired enough new equipment, lustre dusts and colourings to last me at least a year.  


The two day Cake and Bake Show had been sold out for weeks.  As I hadn't intended on going I didn't arrange for a press ticket, but then didn't want to appear cheeky by requesting one at the last minute.  So when I got an email two weeks before the event stating that additional tickets for the Sunday show had been released, I bought one and decided that attending another cake show couldn't hurt.  In addition to my entry ticket I also bought a "classroom" ticket to the Hand Painted Cakes session.  I'd missed out on some of the free classes at the Cake International show that allowed you to decorate cupcakes, and learn new cookie decorating techniques amongst others.  I thought that by booking a space in the classroom I would be guaranteed a seat and also be supplied with some materials to practice on during the class.  I was wrong, but I'll come back to that part later.

First things first. I arrived at Earls Court around 10:30am, and was cheerfully ushered inside by a venue staff member.  I was really excited to see there weren't any long lines to get in, and assumed I would be able to walk straight into the show.  Nope. Upon walking down a small flight of stairs and turning the corner my heart sank when I saw the excessively long line to enter the show.  In fact I couldn't see then beginning of the line and I couldn't see the end either.  I ended up waiting in line in the dimly lit basement corridors of Earls Court for nearly half an hour before I got into the show.

The crowd to see Marry Berry.  Don't worry - you're not the only one who can't spot her!

When I did finally get in, I wasn't prepared for just how busy the show would be.  It was packed.  Marry Berry was on stage doing a demonstration, but the crowds were so thick I couldn't even see the stage.  I had no idea where to go or what to see, so I tried to find a printed map of the show I could take with me, only to discover that I would have to pay £3 for a show guide and map.  I didn't buy it incase I needed the cash later in the day.   I walked past the stage to explore the  and ventured into the classroom area, which was quite bare and quiet compared to the main part of the show.   It was here that discovered the class I booked, wasn't in fact an interactive class, but just a seat I'd secured in a demonstration area.  I was beyond disappointed, and genuinely felt that I'd been "had".  Especially when I noticed non-paying onlookers watching the exact same demonstrations while standing just outside the classroom paid "VIP" area. 

To avoid paying £3 for a show guide I had to take a photo of the map on my phone. Notice the confusing floor layout

I made my way back to the main room to explore what was on show, but found the layout to be extremely confusing.  I ended up wasting a lot of time wandering around looking for specific booths, and even ended up needing directions via twitter on where the book store and signing area was.  In the end I ended up taking pictures of the classroom schedules and show layout on my iphone from one of the 3 large display boards that were scattered around the show so I'd have something to refer to because I didn't fork over the £3 for the show guide.  

Marry Berry (a tad blurry) seconds before she was escorted away by security

Apologies for the horrific quality and lack of photos from the show, but it was so crowded I didn't take many.


One of the "classroom" areas - £8 to sit down inside the "VIP" area, Free to stand and watch outside

I really can't comment on the rest of the show because it was so ridiculously crowded and poorly laid out that I couldn't muster up the energy to push my way through the crowds. In the end I spent the majority of my time waiting for and watching a couple of the smaller demonstrations, which also allowed me to sit down.  I did explore the retail stalls nearer to the end of the show once the crowds had thinned out.  The retails stalls were a lot of the same ones I'd seen at Cake International earlier in the year, but with a much smaller selection of products and mainly geared to cupcakes, and a bit of sugarcraft.  Aside from a few specialty flour sellers, I saw very little in the way of baking anything other than cupcakes.  I will say that I was very impressed with the colour range of the Squires Kitchen cupcake cases though.


I sat in on Peggy's hand moulded rose demonstrations which was excellent


Peggy demonstrating how to make her signature "vintage bloom" sugar flowers

Negatives aside, I accomplished what I wanted to get out of the show.  I managed to purchase Edd Kimber's new book, and have him sign it.  I even got to see Marry Berry up close before she was whisked away by her team of security (15 minutes prior to the scheduled end of her book signing I might add).  I got to sit in on two excellent flower demonstrations by Peggy Porschen and her team - both free, and in a more private setting with better lighting than the rest of the paid classrooms.  And I really did enjoy the hand painted cakes class instructed by Natasha Collins of Nevie-Pie Cakes.  I came away with a clear understanding of what materials and techniques are involved in order to create gorgeous hand painted cakes and cookies, but I only wish we would have had a chance to put some of those techniques to use on a fondant covered cookie.


Natasha's hand painted cakes demo - she made it look sooo easy!

The Goods: 

- If you're willing to brave the crowds, you had the chance to get up close and personal with your favourite celebrity bakers.
- There looked like there was a lot to keep kids occupied (cupcake decorating, demo watching, etc)
- If you were looking for funky cupcake cases there were TONS available
- There were some excellent free demonstrations, although seating was very limited
- The retail stalls allowed you to see and purchase physical products rather than ordering them online. 
- The Book People were selling a great range of recipe books at online prices - I was thrilled that I was able to purchase Edd's book for £10 rather than the £19 cover price

The Bads:

- Tired venue and very confusing layout. It was also very poorly lit.
- Too much focus on cupcakes
- The lines for the bathrooms were crazy long.  I had my first drink of the day at 3pm in order to avoid having to go to the bathroom
- Ticketed demonstrations were easily watched by onlookers for free & we weren't given the opportunity to practice what we learnt.
- The crowds.  I'd recommend the organisers look to extend future shows to 3 days
- There was a lack of actual cake & snacks that were available to purchase and eat on the spot.  The venue cafe actually ran out of sandwiches, so all the was available to eat were crisps and brownies that weren't even supplied by any of the independent businesses involved with the show.  I ended up spending £4.10 on a small glass bottle of pepsi and a bag of crisps.

Top Tips:

- Bring cash - a lot of the independent stalls only accept cash
- If your making larger purchases, ask the stalls to keep them behind the counter for you (with your name firmly secured on them to ensure they're not re-sold!) until you're ready to leave
- Wear comfortable shoes and light clothing
- Bring your own water bottle, and a light snack in your handbag
- Arrive early (and I mean early!) to ensure you bag a good seat for any of the free demonstrations
- Go with a plan of what you want to see, and when & where they'll be appearing in order to avoid wandering around aimlessly

I really hope the organisers of the Cake and Bake Show will take all of the reviews that are being discussed and blogged about at the moment into consideration in preparation of the next Cake and Bake Show this April Manchester.

So what about you guys?  Did you go to the Cake and Bake Show?  What did you think?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Peggy Porschen's Heavenly Chocolate Cupcakes



First things first.  It's national cupcake week.  So obviously you know what that means. Cupcakes. Cupcakes, and more cupcakes.  They've been everywhere this week.  On Twitter, on TV, and online - even more than they already were before.  

So as we near the end of cupcake week I figured it was only right that I provide you all with some cupcakes for your viewing (and baking!) pleasure.

But I do have a confession to make. I actually made these cupcakes for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.  I just never managed to post them until now. 

Both the recipe and the decorating idea for these chocolate cupcakes comes from Peggy Porschen's latest book Boutique Baking.  I'm a huge fan of this book - it's got a load of great recipes and decorating ideas, and it's one of the prettiest books I've come across lately.  If you're interested, you can read my review of Boutique Baking here.  


As is the case with every recipe of Peggy's that I've tried, these cupcakes were delicious.  The chocolate cake was so soft and fluffy, and the chocolate cream cheese icing was as well. 

I've found that all of the icings on the cupcakes I've purchased from Peggy's parlour are so soft and fluffy that they don't fair that well in the heat or while being transported home on the train.  While the icing is absolutely delicious, it is very soft and tends to slide off the cupcakes while I carry them around London in their box.

The icing on these cupcakes was so yummy, but it was very soft.  You can see it in my pictures here - the icing started out stiffer, but softened up and started "drooping" a bit while I was taking the pictures because it was so hot in our living room.  But don't let that detour you from making these - they're really delicious, so just make sure you keep them in a cool place and don't bounce them around if you need to transport them anywhere.  Besides, you'll probably want to keep them all to yourself anyway!

The other thing I loved about these cupcakes was their little decorations.  Aren't they cute!  And guess what - I made them!  Well, kind of.  They're made out of sheets of candy paper (rice paper) which is widely available here in the UK.  I picked up a big package of multi coloured sheets in Top Shop of all places.  


I sprayed the candy sheets with a coating of silver lustre spray, and then used a craft punch to punch out the little crowns (in honour of the Diamond Jubilee - although I've always been a big fan of crowns in general which is why I had the punch).

I do have a few words of caution before you make these cupcakes - see my notes at the bottom of the recipe.


Peggy Porschen's Heavenly Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the Frosting:

140ml whipping cream 
160g plain chocolate, chopped (min. 53% cocoa) 
1 tbsp glucose 
200g full-fat cream cheese (I used the new Cadbury Chocolate Cream Cheese instead)
200g salted butter, softened 
450g icing sugar, sifted 

For the Cake:

125g plain chocolate, chopped (min. 53% cocoa) 
165ml milk 
285g light brown sugar 
105g unsalted butter, softened 
2 large eggs 
180g plain flour 
pinch of salt 
½ tsp baking powder 
½ tsp baking of soda 
8g cocoa powder

For the Decorations:

2-3 Sheets of rice paper
Edible Pearlised Lustre Spray
Craft Punch

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven 320ºF (160ºC) and prepare your cupcake pans. Set aside and make the icing.

To Make the Icing:

1.  Heat the cream in a small sauce pan until barely simmering. Place the chocolate and glucose into a bowl and pour the hot cream over the top. Whisk carefully until smooth, shiny, and all the chocolate is melted. Leave to set at room temp. The ganache should have the consistency of soft chocolate butter.

2.  Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy, set aside. 

3.  Cream the butter and icing sugar together until very pale and fluffy. Add the ganache, a little at a time, to the buttercream mixture, and mix on medium-high speed until combined. Gently stir 1/3 of the chocolate buttercream into the cream cheese. Slowly whisk the remainder of the buttercream, and add the chocolate cream cheese in two batches.  Make sure not to overwork the frosting, or it will split. Chill until set!

To Make the Cake:

1.  Place the chocolate, milk, and half the sugar in a saucepan and gently bring to a boil while stirring. 

2.  Cream the butter and the remaining sugar until pale and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).  Lightly beat the eggs together then slowly mix into the butter mixture, making sure they don't curdle.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa together, and then add them to the butter mixture in two batches. Mix slowly until just combined. 

4.  Slowly add the hot chocolate mixture into the batter and mix. Scrape the bowl down with a spatula to make sure it’s well combined. The batter should be liquidy.  

Pour into the cases so they're 2/3 full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cupcakes fully cool before icing and decorating.

To Decorate: 

1.  Spay the smooth side of your rice paper sheets with a  thin, but even coating of lustre spray.  It might help to weigh the ends of your paper sheets down with butter knives so they don't curl up because of the moisture.

2.  Let the rice paper sheets dry, and then use your craft punch (mine was from Martha Stewart) to punch out shapes from the edible paper like you would a normal piece of paper.  Set your punched decorations aside.

3.  Pipe the chilled frosting onto your cupcakes using a piping bag and a large star tip, or simply spread it on top with a knife or off set spatula.  Place your edible paper decorations on top.

These decorations are the funnest, and easiest things to make.  What a clever idea - I love that you can make so many different designs!


**  A few notes:  The book says this recipe will make approximately 24 cupcakes, but I only got 16, and I made them the exact same size I make all of my cupcakes.  I can also confirm they were almost identical in size to the ones sold in Peggy's Parlour, so I'm not sure why the recipe estimated they make 24.

Also, I'm pretty sure I had to bake my cupcakes for closer to 20 minutes before they were fully cooked.

Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing.  They're delicious, and I highly recommend making them.

If you do make Peggy's Heavenly Chocolate Cupcakes and decorate them with a rice paper punch out, I'd love to see a picture of them.  Feel free to leave a comment below with the link, or you can also post them onto my Facebook page here so I can see them!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Shimmery Pink Bow Sugar Cookies


It's amazing how much your life can change in a year.  It wasn't long ago that I was able to bake whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  I had time to roll out sugar paste and make fiddly little flowers.  And I didn't have to worry about leaving them on the table to dry for a day or two.  I could take my time playing around creating new recipes, and then take pictures of the finished product for you all to see.  I could make pretty things.  I had the time.

Things aren't like that anymore.  As most of you probably know, I'm now mum to a one year old little boy.  He's perfect in every way, but he does take up a lot of my time.  But it's time that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.  

So now if I want to have a little time to my self experimenting in the kitchen I have to do so between the hours of 7:30pm and 11:30pm.  And then I have to find some available space in our little flat to store my creations, otherwise a pair of little prying hands will quickly demolish my handiwork.  

As a result of my lack of time I've been sticking to relatively simple projects, and have found myself resorting to using boxed mixes as the base for some of recipes in order to save a bit of time.  I don't have anything wrong with boxed mixes. Quite the contrary actually, but I just prefer to bake things from scratch in an attempt to tick off another recipe from my ever growing "to bake list".

But as much as I enjoy whipping up quick and delicious desserts, I enjoy making pretty things even more.  But making pretty things can be time consuming, so I've had to learn to adapt and make them over a few nights, rather than on a Saturday afternoon.  


I've been on a bit of a cookie decorating kick lately, so I wanted to use one of the new cookie cutters I'd bought during a recent trip home to Canada.  I'd also been wanting to experiment with some of the decorating techniques that I've seen online, and at cake shows.  

I thought these bow cookies would be the perfect project.  I made the cookies on the first day, iced them the next and let them dry over night.  Then, on the third day I painted them with a mixture of lustre dust and alcohol.  If you don't have small kids running around demanding your attention, you could probably combine all the steps into one day.  I actually liked coming home from work knowing that after I finished the daily bath, bottle and bed routine that I could sit down and relax and just focus on decorating my cookies.  Some people may find the whole process extremely tedious, but I find it really relaxing.  Is that weird?

If you want to know how I made these pretty pink bow cookies, then follow the steps below.  If you don't care, then scroll down quickly and just look at the pictures.  I won't be offended.



Shimmery Sugar Cookies Bows

You will need:

Bow Cookie Cutter
Pink Lustre Dust
Purple Lustre Dust 
Craft Paintbrushes
Piping Bags - fitted with no. 2 & 3 tips

Sugar Cookie Dough - recipe is in this post 
Pink Royal Icing - recipe in this post, although I used a boxed mix to save time

Instructions: 

1.  Prepare your dough according to the recipe in the link above.  Roll out the dough, cut out, and bake your cookies according to the directions in my sugar cookie post here.  Let your cookies cool fully (or over night) before you start decorating them using royal icing.

2.  To decorate the bows, use a number 3 decorating tip to pipe around the edges in pink royal icing that's thick enough to hold it's shape, but not too dry.  You should be able to tell if your icing consistency is right if you run a knife through your bowl of icing and it comes back together in about 10 - 15 seconds.

3.  Next it's time to flood your cookies using the same number 3 tip - you can do this in two ways:  fill them immediately after you've piped the outline, or allow the outline to dry for several hours and then fill.  I prefer it when the outline blends in with the rest of the icing, so I flood my cookies immediately after I pipe the outline.  Give the cookie a gentle shake from side to side a few times to help smooth out the icing.  Set the flooded cookies aside to dry for an hour or two so they're dry to the touch, and then use a number 2 tip to pipe the outlines of the bows.  Leave the cookies to dry fully over night.

Let your flooded cookies dry before painting them with lustre dust

4.  Mix approximately 1/4 teaspoon of pink lustre dust together with 1.5 teaspoons of vodka, or other clear alcohol in a little dish (I use alcohol because it evaporates quickly).  Using a paintbrush of an appropriate size, dip the brush into the pink lustre dust mixture and brush over top of the royal icing to give it a pearlised finish.  Let dry for 15 - 30 minutes.

Once painted your cookies will be darker in colour

While your cookies are drying, mix together 1/8 teaspoon of purple lustre dust and 1/8 teaspoon of pink lustre dust together with 1.5 teaspoons of vodka or other clear liquid.  Use your paintbrush to coat the lustre dust mixture around the piped edges, and then set aside another half hour until fully dry.

Aren't they pretty?  


So next time you feel like it's been a while since you've taken some out time for yourself, do what I did and choose a project that you can make over a few days. Unlike cakes, cookies are fine to sit out for days, and they won't go bad.

You can even divide the dough in half and use one half straight away, and freeze the other half to use later for another project.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Baker Days Letterbox Cake Review


These days we all lead pretty busy lives.  It seems like the topic of every conversation I have with friends and co-workers some how involves just how busy we all are.  Even finding a suitable date in the calendar for two friends to get together for a cup of coffee can seem like a challenge.  And don't even get me started on trying to find the time to purchase a birthday gift, or flowers to celebrate the birth of a new baby.  If you're like me, you can often find yourself scrambling a few days after the big event, and then trying to come up with some excuse as to why the present is so late.  

I know.  I hang my head in shame....

Sooo, for all of us procrastinators out there I think I've found the answer to avoiding the last minute gift buying run around. 

I was recently contacted by Baker Days to see if I would be interested in sampling one of their celebration cakes.  How could I say no to that? 

The cake wasn't just any old cake, it was a cute little cake that could be completely personalised by me and then delivered in the post straight through the letter slot in my door.   


Baker Days have created a range of cakes specifically designed to be sent through the mail and delivered into your post box or letter slot.  Each madeira cake sells for £14.99 (specialty flavours are available at an extra cost) and can be personalised from hundreds of different designs, many of which include the option to upload a photo of your choice. A cute little party package consisting of ballons, candles, a party horn and a card are also included with each cake.  Shipping is included with the price, so when you consider that everything is included with the price, I think it's a really unique gift at a fair price.  

Every element of the cake can be personalised.  There are literally hundreds of designs to choose from, and you can even upload a photo of your choice on some of them.  There's designs for every occasion, from birthdays and anniversaries to new babies and weddings.  


You start out by choosing a cake design.  I was really curious to see how the designs on the website actually looked once transferred onto the cake so I choose a more complicated design rather than one of the simpler ones.  Next you'll get to choose your cake flavour - I choose lemon because that's my husband's favourite and I was going to be nice and share it with him :-)  For some reason the lemon flavour is no longer available on the website, but they still have 3 or 4 others to choose from.  Finally it's time to choose the message you'd like printed on the cake before approving the final cake design.  Click the button, process your payment and your personalised cake will be delivered through the post to the lucky recipient in a matter of days.

The online preview of what your cake will look like.
 
So what did I think of the whole process?  Well, I had a great time choosing my design and flavour.  I ended up having it delivered to my office because my 5 pound Yorkshire Terrier is known for violently attacking the post as soon as it touches the slot, but I can assure you that it definitely did fit through just fine - I made sure.


The cake is delivered in an unassuming plain white box, so you can just imagine the look on your friends face when they realise they've been sent a cake through the mail!  Inside the box is a nice little yellow tin that contains the cake.  The cake was extremely well packaged, and I was genuinely impressed that it wasn't damaged at all during the shipping process. 

The cake is also quite a good size - enough for 2 - 4 people depending on how hungry you are.  As for the cake it self, it was moist and the flavour was really nice.  It didn't have an overwhelming lemon flavour, but you could definitely tell it was lemon.  


My only point of criticism was that the design colours (which is printed on edible paper that covers the cake) were much darker than the picture shown online, and seemed to somewhat blur a tiny bit, but the person receiving it would be none the wiser.  

The final verdict: would I recommend the Baker Days Cakes?  Yes!  I'd definitely re-purchase one in the future to surprise a friend for a special occasion. I really do think they're a fun and novel product . And if I had to rate them, I'd give them an 8/10.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Raspberry Ripple Fudgesicles


Have I mentioned before that the summer weather in the UK has been relatively non-existant?  I'm not lying, it's been dreadful.  Thankfully I managed to escape the clouds and rain with a few holidays to sunnier destinations (unfortunately not the ones with palm trees).  

Most recently I returned home from my annual birthday trip to Paris, which just happens to be my favourite city in the world.  I just love it.  We go every year and spend the entire time just wandering around through all the different neighbourhoods, stopping every few minutes to press our noses up against the window of yet another patisserie shop to admire the beautiful cakes and pastries on display.  Paris pastries are a thing of beauty.  I love them, and plan to try and recreate a few that really caught my eye while we were there.  



We've been lucky enough to have a few hot days in the UK recently, so I thought I'd break out my Zoku Quick Pop Maker while I had the chance.  For those of you not familiar with the Zoku, it's a popsicle (ice lolly) maker that allows you to make your own frozen pops in under 10 minutes.  The flavour combinations you can make with the Zoku are endless. And because they freeze so quickly, you're able to layer them and even make filled ones like the creamsicles that were my favourite when I was a kid.

Another of my favourites were fudgesicles - a dense and chocolatey frozen pop, chock full of deliciousness.  They don't have fudgesicles in the UK, and I'd been dying for one every summer since I moved here.  I'd also been dying for a slice of a raspberry and chocolate tart that I'd seen in one of the patisserie windows while I was in Paris.  Except I'd only been "dying" for a slice of that for a week, not four years like the fudgesicle.  With all that dying going on it's amazing I'm still alive.  I'm so dramatic. 

In the end I combined my two death wishes into one, and came up with something pretty amazing.  I'm calling it the raspberry ripple fudgesicle.  It's the perfect combination of slightly tart raspberries and fudgey chocolate.  



The only thing I have to caution you about with these raspberry ripple fudgesicles is that they don't freeze as quickly as most other popsicle recipes, but that's what makes them fudgey.

To make these you'll need to freeze your Zoku pop maker for at least 24hrs as recommended by the manufacturer, and then follow the recipe below:

Raspberry Ripple Fudgesicles
Makes 6 Zoku Pops

Ingredients:

20g Dark Chocolate
1 1/4 Cups Chocolate Milk
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp Corn Syrup (or Golden Syrup)
6 Tbsp Sugar
1/8 tsp Vanilla

1 1/2 Cups Raspberries (fresh or thawed from frozen)
3-4 Tbsp Sugar 

Instructions:

1.  Chill Zoku Pop Maker for a minimum of 24hrs in the freezer

2. Melt the dark chocolate over medium heat in a small saucepan, and then add the chocolate milk, cocoa powder, corn syrup, sugar and vanilla.  Stir until well combined and continue to heat until all the ingredients are well dissolved.  Do not bring to a boil.  Pour into a sealable container and refrigerate until cold - approximately 3 hours (this will speed up the freezing process).

3.  While your chocolate mixture is chilling, combine the raspberries and sugar (feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste) together and puree using a blender.  Set aside.

4.  Once your chocolate mixture is fully cool, get your two mixtures ready and take your Zoku pop maker out of the fridge and place the sticks in as your normally would.  Pour approximately 2-3 tablespoons of  the chocolate mixture directly into the bottom of each cavity of the Zoku maker.  Wait several minutes until the chocolate mixture is thoroughly frozen.  Next your 1-2 tablespoons of the raspberry mixture into each cavity and wait for them the freeze.  Repeat the same steps as your did previously  in order to create the frozen layered pops.  Make sure your pops are thoroughly frozen before attempting to remove them.  If they're not frozen enough the pops will not release from the Zoku pop maker properly.  Repeat above steps with the remainder of your ingredients.

*If you are impatient like I was and don't wait for each layer to freeze fully before pouring the next, you'll get the wonky pattern that's shown in the photos.  The first time I made these, I waited longer in between pouring each of the layers which resulted in perfectly flat and level layers.



So there you have it - my own twist on a French and a Canadian classic, both blended together to make one delicious frozen treat.  Now all we have to do is wish for the sun to find it's way back to the UK!
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