Search Results for: Halloween

Happy Halloween!

I just wanted to put up a quick post to wish everyone a very Happy Halloween, and to thank those of you who turned out today for Cupcake Camp London.  It was a really fun event and we had a great turn out with thousands of cupcakes (nearly 2,500!) and loads of eaters.  There were so many amazing cupcakes, I don’t know how people decided on which ones to get!  I baked four different flavours for the event: Pink Champagne, Blood Velvet (aka Red Velvet), Cookies & Cream, and Apple Spice, and sold out in just over an hour!  All proceeds from the day went to the North London Hospice Society, and although I don’t know the total amount raised I’m sure it was a lot!  I’ll do a full re-cap of the event soon, but in the mean time I’ll leave you with a picture of my Halloween inspired brain cupcake.  Beware – it’s pretty gruesome!

Yes!  That is a cupcake!  Inside my fondant brain is a delicious “Blood Velvet” cupcake with cream cheese frosting.  I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Very gruesome indeed!

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table

When you’re a kid the day of your birthday party is pretty much the most important day of the year (ok, maybe aside from Christmas, and Halloween).  There’s always such a build up of anticipation leading up to the big day.   What presents will you get?  What will your birthday cake look like?  And worst of all, what if you’re friends forget to come?

My favourite thing to do in the days leading up to my birthday party was going to the cake decorating store with my mom to pick out a Wilton character cake pan.  There were dozens of pans to choose from, and they lined the walls of the shop.  I’d stare at the walls for ages choosing my pan, carefully studying the designs over and over.  I’d choose a different pan each year, and over the course of my childhood I had cakes that ranged from disney characters, to dinosaurs, to a big orange Garfield.  
 
The pans would come with a full sized colour decorating guide that my mom would carefully follow, ensuring that the final cake looked equally as perfect as the one in the guide.  When it came time to make the icing I’d sit in the kitchen while she’d whip up a big batch of buttercream.  Mom would hand me a beater to lick while she divided the icing into tupperware bowls so she could mix up all of the individual colours that were required for the cake. 
 
The decorating technique for these cakes was simple but effective, and consisted of piping hundreds of little stars in various colours all over the cake.  Thinking about it now, this technique is actually quite similar to following a cross stitch pattern. Nothing could beat the taste of those birthday cakes, with their crusted buttercream icing and a scoop of ice cream on the side.
 
Even after all the years that have past since my childhood birthday parties a level of excitement still remains whenever a birthday cake is brought out and presented to everyone at a party – no matter what their age.    

A very hungry caterpillar cake

And it’s that level of excitement that I love to re-create when I decorate cakes for other people – especially my little boy.  He turned two this year, and although he’s not quite old enough to choose the design for his cake, I was pretty sure a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake would make him a very happy boy indeed.  And a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed dessert table would make me even happier!  Instead of only featuring a variety of shades of green, I also opted for a rainbow theme to tie all my desserts  together.  

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
The decorations were just as fun to put together as the desserts were.  I made good use of my elementary school craft skills by making an ombre green tissue paper “2”, and accordion fan circles which I turned into a Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I also made some little menu cards to label all of the yummy desserts which included:

– Rainbow Birthday Cake with a Very Hungry Caterpillar on top
– Chocolate Cupcakes with matching fruit and leaves from the book
– Vanilla Cupcakes
– Rainbow Jello
– “Caterpillar Food” aka mixed fruit candy
– Lemonade 

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party

One of my favourite little details were something I didn’t even make!  The folks over at DotComGiftShop were nice enough to send me some red and white paper straws, and some adorable little vintage style 1/2 pint milk bottles to display my drinks in.  The bottles were the perfect size for little hands to hold.

In the coming days I’ll be posting the recipes and tutorials for some of the desserts I made, but for now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the party. Enjoy! 

 12142797583_8c4f4bf605_c
 cake dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
 A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
That’s the end of the party.  Time to clean up!
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Chocolate and Vanilla Layer Cake

Firstly let me just say I totally get that Halloween has passed, and that we’re now quickly approaching Christmas but I just had to post the Halloween cake I made a few weeks ago.  I know it’s late, but please don’t let the black and orange scare you!  You can totally customise this cake for Christmas, and I’d recommend doing so by switching the orange coloured icing to a milk chocolate one, and then sprinkling on some edible gold flakes on top of the ganache instead of the Halloween sprinkles.


That being said, I’ve wanted to make a big tall layer cake like this for a really long time now but I never really had a good excuse to make one until the other week.  The thing with cakes like this is that they’re big. Like really BIG. So when I found out my cousin was having a little get together at her place, I knew there would be plenty of mouths there to help eat it.

I knew I wanted to make an orange and black triple layer cake for Halloween, but I’d need to use a recipe that produced a cake dense enough to stack and support all three tiers.  I turned to my copy of Sky High Cakes in order to find a suitable recipe since triple layer cakes feature prominently in the book.  I settled on the Vanilla Buttermilk Cake which I dyed orange, and the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake which I died black.  I had originally wanted to swirl the two cakes together, but since I was using two different recipes I figured it was best to cook them separately just incase they required different baking times.

Since I was baking the two cakes separately I decided to try something else new in order to try and avoid having to level off my cakes. I hate levelling cakes! I can never seem to get them level or all the same height.  BUT – I found a solution to this, and best of all it’ll only cost you pennies!  At first I thought about buying these Wilton Cake Strips, but I didn’t want to fork out £10 for them, and then wait for them to ship.  So I had a bit of a search on google and discovered that I could make my own using an old towel and some safety pins.  All you need to do is take an old towel and cut it into strips that are long enough to wrap around the outside of your pan. You also want the strips to be about double the height of the pan so you can fold them in half length ways so they become the same height as the pan.  One you have your towels cut to the proper length and width, then simply soak them in cold water for a minute or so and gently wring them out so they’re still quite wet, but not dripping wet.  Put them in the fridge to chill until you’re ready to pour your batter in the pans.  At that point, take the towels out of the fridge and wrap them around the outside of the cake pans.  Secure the towel with a safety pin, and then pour your batter in and cook as you normally would.  Your cakes will likely need to stay in the oven longer than they would normally since the wet towels slow down the cooking process, allowing the cakes to cook more evenly.


After I prepared my towels and got them chilling in the fridge I set out to make my cakes.  The first one I made was the Vanilla Buttermilk cake which I tinted orange.  I was really impressed with this recipe.  The cake had a nice tight crumb, and was perfect for stacking one on top of the other.  I scaled down this recipe so that it made two cakes instead of three since I was making a 3rd layer from a different recipe.  And that different recipe used mayonnaise.  YUCK!  I hate mayonnaise with a passion.  It’s my nemesis, and the main reason why I don’t eat the store bought sandwiches that are so popular here in the UK.  Almost every single one contains mayonnaise.  Thankfully the chocolate in the cake camouflaged any mayonnaise flavour that may have come through.  I do have to say that the mayonnaise in this cake really helped to keep it incredibly moist, because in reality mayonnaise is mainly eggs and oil.

The wet towels really helped to keep my cakes nice and level so I didn’t have to flatten them at all before layering them and assembling my cake.  Once my cake was ready to ice, I covered it in a layer or orange buttercream.  In situations like this most people would use an Italian Buttercream which is something I probably should have done, but I didn’t want to mess around with the egg whites.  So in order to get my buttercream perfectly smooth I used a large flat edged metal cake lifter that I’d heated in warm water to help achieve a really smooth finish on my cake.  Lastly I made a chocolate ganache that I poured directly on top of my iced cake, pushed it towards the edges and really just hoped for the best. I was really pleased with the way my ganache “drips” turned out.  I added some Halloween sprinkles using my fabulous new sprinkle shakers courtesy of Brabantia, which I blogged about here.    I’m really picky about stuff like that, and admit to placing sprinkles on one at a time in order to get them just right, so I was pleased with the fact that these shakers really distributed my sprinkles so evenly.


I loved the way this cake turned out, so do yourself a favour and bake it for your friends and family this Christmas.  Leave out the orange and black food colouring, add on some golden glitter and you’re set!

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake 
Slightly adapted from Sky High Cakes

Ingredients:

4 Eggs + 2 Yolks, room temperature  
1 1/4 Cups (295ml) Buttermilk, room temperature 
2 tsp (10 ml) Vanilla Extract 
3 Cups (360 g) Cake Flour, sifted 
2 Cups (475 g) Sugar 
4 1/2 tsp Baking Powder 
1/2 tsp Salt 
1 cup (227 g) Butter, room temperature
Orange Food Colouring (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F (175ºC).  Grease two 8 inch (9 inch will work as well) round cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper. 

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the whole eggs and yolks, along with 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, the vanilla and the food colouring and mix until well combined. Set aside.

3.  In a separate large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixer bowl and whisk to blend. 

3.  Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Pour the egg mixture in 3 equal parts until thoroughly incorporated. 

4.  Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared pans, and bake the cakes for 30-40 mins for the 8 inch cakes, or 28-34 minutes for the 9 inch cakes.  If you wrapped your cake pans in the wet towels like I did, then they may take longer to bake so just make sure your cake tester or wooden toothpick comes out clean and that the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans before you remove them.


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Halved from the original recipe in Sky High Cakes

Ingredients:

1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (150g) Flour 
1/2  Cup (60g) Cocoa Powder 
1 1/8 tsp Baking Soda 
1/2 + 1/8 tsp Baking Powder 
1/2 tsp Salt 
1/4 tsp Cinnamon 
1 1/4 oz (36g) Dark Chocolate, chopped 
1/2 Cup (125ml) Whole Milk 
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp (185ml) Hot Strongly Brewed Coffee 
1 Egg 
1/2 Cup (110g) Mayonnaise* (NOT low fat or fat free) 
3/4 tsp Vanilla Extract 
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp (255g) Sugar
Black Food Colouring (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Grease one** 8 inch (9 inch will work as well) round cake pan, and line bottoms with parchment paper.  

2.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together and set aside.  

3.  Put the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the milk to a simmer. Pour the hot milk and coffee over the chocolate and let it stand for a minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly.  

4.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, mayonnaise, vanilla and black colouring together until well blended. Gradually beat in the sugar. Then add the dry ingredients and mocha liquid alternating in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth and well blended. Pour into your prepared pan(s)

5.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pans before you remove them. 

Notes:  *Do not use Miracle Whip or low fat mayo – you must only use full fat mayo due to the oil content.  ** I cut the original recipe for this cake in half – the full recipe made three 8 inch cakes, but I used all of the recipe above to fill one 8 inch pan so it was quite thick.  I would recommend wrapping the pan in a wet towel as I explained in the previous Buttermilk Cake recipe to help the cake bake evenly.  If you decide not to wrap the pan in wet towels then I would suggest either dividing the batter between two 8 inch pans, or using some of the batter to make six cupcakes so that the 8 inch cake isn’t too thick. If you look at the pictures you can see that the middle chocolate layer of the cake has sunk down in the middle slightly.  This happened after the cake was done baking because it was so moist.


Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients:

1 Cup (250g) Butter, room temperature
5 3/4 Cups (700g) Icing Sugar, sifted
2 – 4 Tbsp Milk
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
Orange Food Colouring

Instructions:

1.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on high until creamy (approx 1 – 2 mins).  

2.  Add the icing sugar one cup at a time, beating on medium speed until each cup of icing sugar is fully incorporated before adding the next.  When the icing starts to stiffen, add in the orange colouring, vanilla and half of the milk, continue to mix.  Continue adding the remainder of the icing sugar bit by bit, alternating with the remainder of the milk as necessary. If you find that the icing is still too stiff, add an additional tablespoon(s) of milk until the icing is a nice soft and fluffy consistency.


Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

6 oz (170g) Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
4 oz (120ml) Whipping Cream
1/2 oz (14g) Castor Sugar
1 tsp Butter

Instructions:

1.  Place the finely chopped chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl and set aside.

2.  Combine the whipping cream and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it has reached a simmer.  Remove from the heat, add in the butter and stir to combine.

3.  Pour the hot cream mixture directly on top of the chopped chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir from the centre until completely smooth.  Let the ganache sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, or until it reaches a thick but pourable consistency.

While the ganache is setting, follow the directions below to assemble the cake.


To Assemble The Cake:  

Tools:  

8 inch cake drum (or drum the exact size of your cake) 
Small offset metal spatula 
Wilton Cake Lifter (or large metal scraper) 
Large bowl of very hot water (wide enough to fit the edge of your cake lifter) 
Decorating turntable 
Sprinkles of your choice  

1. Once cool, remove your cakes from the pan and set aside.  Place the cake drum in the center of your turntable.  Smear a dollop of buttercream across the top of your cake drum (this will ensure your cake does not slip off of the drum).  Then place the first layer of your cake on top of the buttercreamed drum ensuring that the flattest side of the cake is facing upwards.
2. Spread a layer of buttercream across the top of your first cake making sure that the icing is pushed all the way to the top edge of the cake.  Place the second layer of the cake on top of first so the buttercream is sandwiched in between.  Follow the same steps above until you’ve got all three layers nicely stacked on top of each other.  

3. Start covering the cake in buttercream by using your offset spatula to coat the top and sides of the cake.  Use quite a thick coating on the sides, and don’t worry about it being messy – we’ll fix that later.  I found the best technique for coating my cake was to start with the top and spread the icing across the top of the cake, and out past the edges.  Then do the sides by taking a big dollop of icing on the top of your offset spatula and coat small side sections before going back for another dollop of icing (make sure to scrape off your spatula each time you go back for more icing to avoid getting crumbs mixed in).  Repeat this until the cake is fully covered, making sure to also cover the edges of the silver cake drum.

4. Once your cake is fully covered, smooth out the top so it’s nice and level by holding a clean offset spatula in place on top of the cake at a 45 degree angle, and rotate the turntable so the cake is turning but your spatula is not.  This should get the top of your cake fairly smooth, but don’t worry If it’s not perfect.   

5. To get the sides of your cake nice and smooth you’ll need to use the metal cake lifter or scraper.  Start off by dipping the end of the lifter in a bowl of hot water.  Remove the cake lifter from the water and quickly dry it with a towel.  Hold the scraper with the bottom edge resting against the turntable, and the widest end edge against the side of the cake at a 45 degree angle.  Slowly rotate the turntable a full 360 degrees.  The heat from the metal scraper should warm the icing enough to give a smooth finish.  Do not stop rotating the turntable until you’ve made one full turn in order to avoid messing up your smooth finish.  If you’re not happy with the finish you can always go back and repeat the process until your happy with it.

6. To finish off the top of the cake use a clean offset spatula held at a 45 degree angle to smooth down any edges around the top.  Start from the outside edge and work in towards the center ensuring that your top is now as smooth as possible.  Your cake should be very smooth, but don’t worry if the top or edges aren’t perfect because they’ll be covered with the chocolate ganache.  Place the cake in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes, or until the icing is firm.  

7. If you plan on displaying your cake on a cake stand, use a clean cake lifter to carefully slide the chilled cake onto the stand.  Now you’re ready to decorate the top!  Make sure your chocolate ganache is a thick, but flowing consistency.  Carefully pour about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the ganache directly in the center of the top of your cake.  Use a clean offset spatula to help spread the ganache to the very edges, and then corss your fingers and hope for the best as it drips it’s way down the cake.  The key here is to use just enough ganache so that the drips stop within the top half of the cake.  If you use too much ganache you risk having it drip down and pool at the bottom of your cake.

8. While the ganache on top of your cake is still melted, add on your sprinkles of choice.  I used a selection of mini white bones and some orange and black sprinkles that I shook on using my new sprinkle jars.  The jars were brilliant at evenly distributing just the right amount of sprinkles on top of my cake.    


Like I mentioned above, I think this cake would look amazing if the orange icing was replaced with a milk chocolate icing, and chunky gold fakes were used on top rather than the Halloween sprinkles I used.  A perfect treat for Christmas!

Mini Orange Cakes for Bonfire Night

Remember remember the 5th of November………..


Well, tonight is officially bonfire night in the UK, although the majority of bonfires were probably over the weeekend, there will still be quite a few going on tonight. 
I’ve made up a cute little treat for bonfire night, and best of all they can actually be cooked right in the bonfire! I had made these look like little “carved pumpkins” for Halloween, but wasn’t able to get this post up before then, but ultimately they’re best for bonfire night.
I’d first mentioned these cakes way back in the spring when I made some similar mini cakes baked in Easter eggs. I’d gotten the idea for my Easter egg cakes way back when I was a kid in Girl Guides. We’d all gather around the camp fire and hollow out our oranges before our guide leader came by to pour the cake batter into them. We’d then wrap them in foil and place them in the fire and wait patiently for them to cook before sitting around our toasty warm campfire eating a nice warm little cake.
What fun!
What you’ll need:
– Some large oranges
– Cake batter of your choice – I just used ½ a boxed mix. Vanilla or chocolate will taste the best once combined with the flavour of the orange.
– Nutella or Icing of your choice (optional)
There isn’t really a recipe for these – they’re super easy. Simply cut the top part of a large orange off to create a little lid, and then set that part aside. Next you’ll need to hollow out your orange with a spoon. I used a knife to cut down the insides of my orange in order to help separate the flesh from the peel. Then use the spoon to scoop out the fleshy bit which you can eat. To get your orange really “clean and tidy” inside, use the sharp edge of a spoon to scrape away all the left over fleshy bits from the inside of the peel. I got my oranges perfectly cleaned out so that no fleshy remains were inside, but it really doesn’t matter that much. The less orangey bits left inside, the more room for cake! I also scooped the flesh out of the tops I cut off.
Next fill the cakes about 2/3 full with your prepared cake batter. Use any left over cake batter to make some regular cupcakes. Place the little orange tops back on the oranges and wrap them rightly in foil.
Carefully place the foil covered cakes around the outer edge of your bonfire, making sure that they are surrounded by hot coals, but still easily accessible because you’ll eventually need to get them out!
Alternatively you can cook these at 180ºC (350ºF) in the oven like I did (I couldn’t have a bonfire on the patio of my flat!). I set the foil covered oranges on a cupcake pan to prevent them from rolling around my oven.
The cakes took about 20 minutes to cook in my oven, and they should take about the same in the bonfire. You can check to see if they’re done baking the same way you would a normal cake, but just unwrapping them and sticking a toothpick in to see if it comes out clean.
Once they’re baked and cooled you can take a permanent black marker and draw little faces on them like I did. If you wish, you can top them off with some icing or nutella, but they taste just as good plain.
Enjoy, and have a fabulous bonfire night!

Sprinkle Storage

I have a confession to make – I lost my mojo.  My baking mojo.  That kind of explains the lack of posts over the past month.  I got caught up in other stuff that was far less fun and exciting (aka: work), but I’m pleased to say that I’ve picked myself up, dusted off my trusty pink KitchenAid and got back into the kitchen and baking again.  It felt good.  All I needed was a a little nudge to get me back in there.  


And that nudge came in the form of some awesome spice jars sent to me by Brabantia.  To be honest I didn’t know a whole lot about Brabantia before they sent me the spice jars, except for the fact that they made really swanky garbage bins.  I even thought I had one (my husband bought it before I moved here to the UK from Canada), but when I looked online to see about getting a replacement bin for ours which is now broken I quickly (and disappointedly) realised that I in fact did not have one.  I still needed a replacement so had a play with Brabantia’s really cool online tool that allows you to completely customise the colour of your bin from over 200 colours.  I’ve been trying to find a light pink bin that matched all of my pink KitchenAid stuff for ages, but every one I’ve seen so far has been really tacky.  Not these!  But when I saw the £325 price tag that went along with them, I realised I was going to have to continue my search.  Don’t worry though, their bins aren’t all that expensive


The good news is, the spice jars are much more affordable and they’re still super stylish as well.  They come in a set with 5 jars and a nice matt stainless steel rack that can be fixed directly onto the wall or hung on a specially designed rail that can also accommodate several of Brabantia’s other kitchen products.  But I had no intention of using these spice jars for spices.  You see, on a recent trip back home to Canada I discovered a bulk food store that I quickly became obsessed with.  It was called Bulk Barn, and I made at least 5 visits there in 3 days.  This place has everything you’d need to decorate a birthday cake or kit out a party.  And best of all, it was all in BULK!  Sprinkles, Merckens Candy Melts, Royal Icing Roses, Callebaut Chocolate, even piping tips and buttercream!  I was in heaven.  I made sure to stock up on every colour of sprinkle my heart desired.  But unfortunately this has left me with at least a dozen plastic bags filled with sprinkles that I’ve had to tuck in a drawer.  


So last weekend instead of going out to dinner or a movie, I stayed at home and organised my sprinkles in my new spice jars like a total dork.  And I loved it!  So now rather than bags and bags of sprinkles that sit tucked away in a drawer or cupboard, I can proudly hang them in the jars on the mounted display rail above my kitchen counter.  I had so many different colours and types of sprinkles that I didn’t even have enough jars.  I had a rainbow of colours to suit every season, so that meant I had both black and orange sprinkles.  And you know what that means….. a Halloween cake was beckoning to be made!

I ended up making a 3 tiered chocolate and vanilla cake covered in orange buttercream and dripping in chocolate ganache.  And of course, it was topped with lots and lots of sprinkles.  

The spice jars came with two different inserts that worked great for sprinkling just the right amount of sprinkles onto my cake.  


The entire cake was an experiment – I’d never made anything like it before.  There was two different cake recipes involved, neither of which I’d tried before.  I also tried wrapping my cake tins in cold wet towels which really helped to keep my cakes perfectly flat and level.  Then I iced the whole cake in buttercream with a super smooth finish, rather than using fondant.  And finally I covered the top of the cake with a dark chocolate ganache, pushed it right to the edges and hoped for the best.  I was really pleased with the results of this cake.  But because there are so many different elements that were involved in making it, I’ve decided to post the recipe and instructions in another post.  So if you’re interested to find out how I made this cake, then please check back for the full post and recipe tomorrow.