With Royal Wedding fever now in full swing, and only 4 days left until the big day I thought I’d share a few cupcakes decorating ideas I put together. Here in the UK we’ve been lucky enough to be given the day off as a national holiday (thanks Will & Kate!), so there will be thousands of viewing parties and the occasional street party going on so we can all help share in the celebrations. But – those parties just don’t apply to the people living in the UK. That’s right, all across the world friends will be getting together to watch the Royal Wedding and share in the festivities. And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes!
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I don’t know of a cake that’s any more British than the Victoria Sponge cake. When I first moved to the UK and started visiting cute little coffee shops I noticed the Victoria Sponge cake everywhere. It jumped out at me for 2 reasons. Firstly, because I’d never seen it before, and secondly, becasue it wasn’t covered in a thick layer of rich buttercream icing like all the cakes were back home. When I started talking to people about my love of baking I’d often ask them what their favourite cake or dessert was, and Victoria Sponge was the one mentioned most often. I didn’t really get it. I mean, the Victoria Sponge cake looked rather plain and unimpressive, and I’d seen plenty of other cakes that were more rich and decadent that I’d rather try. But then I realised something – UK tastes are totally different than North American tastes. Overly sweet things just aren’t as popular here. Sure, they have loads of sweet and delicious desserts here, but the Victoria Sponge cake is considered more of a lighter option. Something that you could enjoy with a cup of afternoon tea, and that wouldn’t leave you feeling overly heavy after you’ve eaten it.
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.
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!
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!
Photo courtesy of Nancy Brown
Way back in February I received a copy of the book Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns. I’d never heard of Fiona at the time, but quickly learned from the inside cover of her book that she’s been baking and decorating cakes for over 25 years. Fiona started selling cakes from her home, and now supplies them to major stores including Waitrose, Harrods and the iconic Fortnum & Mason. And get this – she’s recently be given given the prestigious task of making the royal wedding cake for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. So if you’re like me, and had never heard of Fiona Cairns before, I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the weeks to come.
2. If your hazelnuts aren’t already toasted, now’s the time to do it. You’ll need to roast them in the oven on a sheet pan for 5 – 10 minutes watching carefully so they don’t burn. Set the roasted hazelnuts aside to cool, and then grind them finely using a food processor.
In a double boiler place the chocolate, butter and just under 1/3 cup (70g) of the sugar together and melt together gently. Remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg yolks together until they change to a pale yellow colour, and then mix them into the cooled chocolate mixture.
3. In a separate bowl (make sure it’s very clean with no grease!) whisk the egg whites until frothy, slowly add in the remaining sugar and continue whisking until the egg whites form soft peaks. Take a large spoonful of the egg whites and gently fold them into the chocolate mixture to lighten it up a little. Now very gently fold in the remaining egg whites until combined into the chocolate mixture.
4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 – 15 minutes, and then gently run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Once the cake has cooled, flip it onto your serving plate so the base of the cake is now the top.
5. To make the chocolate ganache, break up or chop chocolate into small pieces and put into a small to medium sized stainless steel bowl.
7. Once the cream and sugar has come close to boiling, pour it over top of the chocolate pieces (the chocolate should be mostly covered by the cream). Let the cream sit on the chocolate for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, start to stir the chocolate and cream together using a metal spoon. Start from the inside and stir clockwise working your way to the outer edge of the bowl. Stir until the chocolate and cream mixture is smooth and combined. There shouldn’t be any lumps of chocolate left. Leave the chocolate ganache mixture to cool for about 5 – 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.
8. Pour the ganache on top of the cake and spread it around using a spatula or knife until it evenly covers the top. Don’t worry if it flows down some of the edges. Garnish the top with fresh raspberries and serve.
There you have it! A fabulously rich, moist and dense chocolate cake that’s worthy of being on any top restaurant’s menu. Seriously – give it a try!
And what did I think about the rest of the book aside from the Flourless cake? Well, to be honest my initial thoughts were that there was a lot of nice looking recipes in the book, but the decorating techniques weren’t quite what I was expecting. I had expected there to be more decorating techniques in it such as those using fondant etc, but I don’t think this is what Fiona was aiming for in her book. The decorating techniques are really more decorating ideas. There’s nothing fussy or intimidating about them. They’re simple, and perfect for a beginner – things like candied flowers, ribbons tied around cakes, and candy arranged in pretty patterns. As for the recipes – I found most of them to be fairly traditional English recipes. Things like Victoria Sponge Cakes, Fruit Cakes, Battenberg Cakes etc. They’re not covered in sweet icings like most American cakes are, which makes them much lighter tasting than what I’m used to making. I needed a good book with some traditional English basics. After all – I’ve only ever had a slice of Victoria Sponge cake once! For those people outside of the UK, I would say that the Victoria Sponge is probably the most popular cake in the UK, but it’s virtually unknown in North America. It’s a true classic, and I’ll be baking Fiona’s version of it very soon.