Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Easter. Show all posts

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Bunny Cream Cheese Pound Cake


I haven't been this excited about Easter for nearly 20 years.  It's the first year we're in our new house, the first time we're having friends and family over for Easter dinner, and most importantly, the first year my little boy will really understand what the Easter Bunny is!

I've gone a bit overboard with the Easter goodies this year.  I'm pretty sure I've got enough chocolate foil eggs to stock a Tesco Express.  When I came home last weekend with yet more Easter stuff, my husband remarked "I've never seen anyone with so much Easter stuff before". I've got Easter baskets, Easter bubbles, Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, bunny ears, bunny bubbles, chirping chicks, and tissue grass.  You name it, I've got it! 



The only thing missing was an Easter cake.  I needed something for dessert to serve our guests, and I had settled on making a strawberry pie but I knew my husband would never forgive me if I didn't have a second option. He hates fruit. Seriously - who hates fruit?!? I wasn't quite sure what to make, but after careful consideration I settled on the most appropriate cake choice I could - The Easter Bunny!  


This was the first carved cake I've made, so I also had to decide on new cake recipe that was moist and flavourful, but still dense enough to carve easily. A regular sponge cake like a Victoria Sponge is too light and fluffy to carve, and would likely crumble if you tried.  I needed something with a nice tight crumb structure, so after much deliberation I settled on a cream cheese pound cake recipe (similar to a UK Madeira cake) from Southern Living Magazine.  It was perfect.  The recipe made just the right amount for my Easter Bunny cake (three 6 inch shallow rounds, and one extra deep 5 inch round, plus  a 6 inch square pan for my husband to pick at).  The pound cake carved like a dream, and allowed for me to shave off the thinnest of pieces until I got the exact shape I was looking for.

I'm not going to lie, the whole process for making this cake took ages - it took me about 3 days from start to finish (I'm obviously not a professional cake decorator lol!)  On the first day I made the icing (Malibu lemon), and baked the cakes before popping them in the fridge to firm up before carving.  On the second day I filled the cakes with the icing and some lemon curd in between each layer, and then carved the cakes until I was happy with the shape. I covered the iced cake in fondant, made all of the little flowers and Easter eggs, and then made my bunny's ears. After all, no Easter Bunny is complete without a set of big white and pink bunny ears! On the third day I finished off the cake by making an adorable little fondant chick - complete with floral Easter bonnet, a fondant carrot, I pipped the grass onto the base, and attached the bunny's nose, eyes, ears and fluffy tail.



This cake really was a labor of love.  It was a great excuse for me to bake a cake and try out loads of new techniques.  I'm most pleased with my adorable little Easter chick!  I didn't actually stick her down to the fondant cake board, so I'll be placing her in my china cabinet once we finish eating the bunny cake.  



Traditionally pound cake is either baked in a bundt or loaf pan, and served on it's own or with a side of berries and whipped cream.  It's a wonderfully dense and flavourful cake that goes  perfectly with a cup of tea.  I just know you're going to love this cake as much as I did, whether you bake it in a regular cake tin, or carve it into something spectacular.


Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Originally from Southern Living Magazine, 2001

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups (340g) Butter, softened at room temp
1 (8-ounce) Package 
(225g) Cream Cheese, softened at room temp 
3 Cups (675g) Sugar
6 Large Eggs
3 Cups (375) Plain Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC). In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt together and set aside.

2.  In a large bowl beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, and beat well (about 4 mins) but make sure not to over beat.

3.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined before adding the next egg.

4.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until just blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

5.  Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan, or parchment lined cake tins (if using).  Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, and then remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

The cake went down a treat with everyone, and even though it was a bit of a shame to cut my little bunny's bum off, I loved how easy it was to slice, and that I could see each delicious layer!





If you're looking for more Easter treats to bake, why not try my colourful Mini Easter Egg Cakes baked inside of real eggs!




Friday, 6 April 2012

Making Your Own Easter Chocolates

A couple of weeks ago while I was away on holiday introducing my 7 month old son to his grandparents in Canada, the lovely folks over at Lakeland contacted me to see if I'd like to try some of their new Easter chocolate making supplies.  Heck yeah!  I love making my own chocolate, and used to do it all of the time back in Canada.  In fact, one of the places on my "to go list" while I was back home was my local cake and chocolate supply store so I could pick up some chocolate making supplies.  So you know what that means - obviously the people at Lakeland are mind readers!  


What a nice surprise it was coming home to a big box full of chocolate making goodies!  There were several different chocolate moulds - little ducks (complete with bow ties), bunny pops, bunnies, ducks and eggs, and an extra large egg mould.  There was also a chocolate melting pot, some cute little treat boxes and a super helpful silicone spatula with a built in thermometer - intended for chocolate making, but I think it would be perfect for custard type recipes.  I didn't even know such a thing existed! 



There was so many fun goodies to play with, it was hard to decide what to make first.  I settled on the little ducks so that I could play around with the coloured Wilton candy melts that I had accumulated over the past few months.

The green duck mould is a Lakeland exclusive.  The ducks themselves were quite a bit larger than the ones in the mixed Easter shape mould (containing bunnies, ducks and eggs) by Silkomat.  The design of Lakeland's green duck mould gives a more childish feel to the characters compared to the Silkomat mould.  It also provides a bit more depth to the ducks as well, which means that you can have some real fun decorating the chocolates using different colours of candy melts like I did.  



I often use little brushes to paint the coloured chocolates into my moulds, but I couldn't find any laying around so instead I just used some toothpicks to "paint" the small areas with the coloured candy melts and this seemed to work just fine.  I used some regular chocolate in the red melting pot to fill the bunny and smaller duck moulds.  It was really quite useful, although a bit small so I would have to refill it numerous times if I used it for some of the larger chocolates.


Both of these moulds had a nice smooth silicone finish on the inside which allowed for the chocolates to come away effortlessly, and also provided a smooth and shiny finish.



I packed the ducks and bunnies into the little treat boxes that Lakeland sent so I could give them for the kids at the BBQ we're going to on the weekend.  Each treat box holds about 3 of the larger ducks, or 5 of the smaller bunnies.


As for the bunny pop mould....  Well to be honest the design kind of creeped me out a bit with it's squiggly mouth, so I changed the mouth design using some melted chocolate into something a little less off putting.   I was also surprised to discover that the mould was made of metal.  I've never seen a chocolate mould like this one before - it was almost like a teeny tiny non-stick baking pan of mini bunny heads (I forgot to take a picture of this).  I made half of the bunnies using plain white chocolate melts and the other half using a combination of white melts and confetti melts. When it came time to remove the bunnies from the moulds, they didn't come out nearly as easily as the ones from the silicone moulds.  In fact, out of the 6 bunnies I made only 3 came out in tact as the top layer of the other 3 stuck to the mould.  If the mould was made of silicone or clear plastic it would have been flexible enough to twist and release the bunny pops.  Oh well, the kids that I'm giving them to won't even notice!



The giant Easter egg mould, and trays of mini eggs were closer to the types of chocolate moulds I've used in the past.  I like these types of moulds the best because they're see through which allows me to look at the bottom of the mould in order to ensure that my chocolates don't have any air bubbles in them.  There's nothing worse than an air bubble on the surface of your chocolates.  You can get rid of air bubbles by tapping your filled chocolate moulds on a hard surface like the counter top.  Do this several times and you'll be able to see them rise to the surface and pop.  This will also help to level out and spread your chocolate to all areas of the mould.



The giant and mini eggs were easy to make since I was only using one type of Chocolate.  I used Waitrose own brand milk chocolate because it would taste a lot nicer than the Wilton candy melts.  The only issue was that it was that the chocolate quite soft, especially considering my flat was so warm that it was hard to touch the eggs without them starting to melt.  I filled my giant egg with some of the smaller eggs, a few ducks and I threw in some Easter Peanut Butter M&M eggs for a bit of added colour.  


After I took these pictures I re-chilled my giant egg and made a few more ducks and chocolate mini eggs to put inside before I glued the 2 halves together with some meted chocolate.  I wrapped a blue sheer ribbon around the egg to hide where the two halves met, which really polished off the look.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture!  I didn't use the thermo spatula this time, but I can definitely see it coming in handy for loads of other things so I will let you know how I get on with it soon! 


Thanks again to Lakeland for letting me have a play around with all their fun Easter stuff! I had a great time making these chocolate, and my family and friends will no doubt have a great time eating them! 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Easter Egg Surprise Cakes


What kid doesn't love Easter?  With the promise of dozens of little chocolate eggs left scattered around the house, Easter is like a pastel version of Halloween.  You're pretty much guaranteed to get a whack load of chocolate, but you don't even need to go knocking on doors to get it!

When I was a kid one of my favourite things to do around the Easter holidays (in addition to eating chocolate), was dying Easter eggs.  There was nothing funner than mixing up mugs of coloured water and dunking plain boring white eggs into the dye, only to watch them emerge moments later looking fun and colourful.  Within a half hour period we would have a dozen or more hardboiled eggs lined up on the table in a rainbow of colours. What fun!  I'm sure what wasn't fun was the fact that my parents were stuck with a basket full of hard boiled eggs to eat (I didn't like hard boiled back then!)

Photo source

So when my first Easter in the UK rolled around a few years ago, I decided to try and re-create the fun I had as a kid and dye some Easter eggs.  To my surprise I could not find white eggs anywhere!  I mean no where.  I called around to all my local grocery stores, free range egg farms, specialty farm shops, and even Selfridges in London and no one sold white eggs.  Except for duck eggs, and I didn't want a dozen hardboiled duck eggs hanging around.  Even if they were in pretty colours.  After an exhaustive search across the greater London area I discovered that white eggs are pretty much an extinct species in the UK.  It all comes down to a hyped up urban legend way back in the 1970's that brown eggs were healthier than white eggs. Lies I tell you!  All lies!!  White eggs eventually fell out of favour here, which means that the chickens that lay white eggs are no longer kept in the UK - so no more white eggs! :-(

I've since been told that Whole Foods in Kensington, and now Selfridges stock white eggs around Easter for Americans (and Canadians!) so they can dye them just like they do at home.

I haven't had the time to actually get to Whole Food or Selfridges this year, but I still wanted to make some pretty coloured eggs for Easter so I came up with a solution.  Last year I had the idea to bake cake inside eggs.  Yes, that's right.  I baked cake inside of egg shells.  I got the inspiration for my egg cakes from baking cake inside of oranges - something I used to do when I was a kid in girl guides.  This year I went one step further, and instead of baking just a boring white cake inside of my eggs I decided to dye my batter pretty colours in order to fill my coloured Easter egg void.  


I loved the way these turned out!  Just by looking at them you'd never guess that they weren't your regular run of the mill brown egg.  Only up closer inspection will you find the hole in the bottom of the egg where I poured the cake batter.  Try and crack them, and you'll be in for an even bigger surprise!

These eggs are really fun and easy to make, but they are a bit time consuming to empty out before you can fill them with cake batter.  I decided to try out a white cake recipe from a new cupcake book that I had just bought.  While I did really like the flavour and texture of the cupcake (I made a dozen egg cakes and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes), the batter itself was a bit thicker than I had imagined which meant that it was a bit tricky to actually get into the egg - but I came up with a solution for that (I'll explain below).

What I think the best part of these cake eggs is (aside from the fact that they're cake filled eggs) is that they're basically a mini cake in it's own container!  How cute would these be to include in your kids lunch box!  They'd probably think you'd gone mental packing a hard boiled egg inside their lunch and not a cookie or something like that.  Come to think of it, I should have got this post up for April Fools Day!  (Lack of sleep and a 2 week holiday have resulted in a bit of a blog delay).  Oh well, ho hum.  Make them now and surprise your friends and family with them this week instead.


To make these cake eggs you'll need a few things - eggs (duh!), something sharp to poke a hole in the shell (I started off using the tip of a meat thermometer, but found a corkscrew worked better), food dye, and cake batter either from scratch or a mix. You decide.


Easter Egg Surprise Cakes

Classic White Cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 3/4 Cups (345g) Flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup (170g) Butter
1 2/3 Cups (375g) Sugar
5 Egg Whites
2 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract (I used Coconut Extract)
1 1/4 Cups (295ml) Whole Milk


12 Eggs (or more if you'd like), emptied
Food colourings of your choice

Instructions:

1.  First you'll need to empty out your eggs.  Start by holding a raw egg firmly in your hand with the bottom (the wider end) facing up.  Using a corkscrew or something else sharp and pointy, carefully but firmly start to make a hole in your egg by twisting / "drilling" into the shell.  Once you create a small hole, you can gently pry little pieces of the shell up and off of the egg until you've got a hole wide enough to get your batter into.  


Next you'll have to actually empty the egg.  Do this by holding the egg upside down over a bowl** and give it a few god shakes.  The egg white inside will start to drool out of the hole.  You can basically pull the liquid egg out from the shell by poking a toothpick through the liquid white dangling out of the egg and pull down.  Do this a few more times, give the egg another shake or two and it should be totally emptied out.  Set your egg aside and continue to empty all of your eggs in the same way.   

Once all of your eggs have been emptied, give them a rinse by holding them under the tap and filling them with water.  Cover the hole with the tip of your finger, give them a few shakes and dump the water out.  Turn your eggs upside down and set them aside in a large bowl, or on top of a tea towel so all of the water runs out.

**Tip: To avoid wasting the eggs, use a few small bowls and empty 2 - 3 eggs into each bowl. This makes them easier to use in recipes later on.  Have a think about what you'll be making in the next day or so, and portion out your eggs accordingly.

2.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  In order to prepare your cupcake pan to hold the eggs, you'll need to twist strips of tin foil into circles and place them in the bottom of each section of the pan.  This will ensure that your eggs stay in place and don't lean on the side of the pan.  Line another cupcake pan with regular cupcake liners.  Set both pans aside.

3.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the butter for 30 seconds using an electric mixer.  Gradually add the sugar 1/3 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  Continue to beat for 4 minutes longer.  Add the whites, one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  On low speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternating between the two.  Beat until just combined.

4.  Decide on how many colours of cake you would like to make, and set out a small bowl for each colour.  Assuming you are making 4 colours, pour about a 1/3 cup of batter into each bowl and add a few drops of food colouring to each until you achieve your desired colour.  Pour each bowl of coloured batter into a piping bag (or ziplock bag with the corner cut off).  Fill your hollow eggs by inserting the tip of the piping bag into the hole and squeezing the batter into the egg so it fills the egg 1/2 - 2/3 full.  Place the filled eggs into your prepared cupcake pan, hole side up.  Use the rest of the batter to make regular cupcakes (unless you want to make more egg cakes!)

5.  Bake the egg cakes for about 10 minutes, or until they're done - you can insert a toothpick into them if your not sure.  Bake your regular cupcakes for 18 - 20 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before moving to wire racks. 

**Don't panic if the batter overflows from your egg cakes and bakes onto the outside of the shell.  You can easily peel the baked cake off the outside of the egg shell, and use a damp cloth to wipe off any remaining cake and crumbs.  Some of mine looked more like egg volcano science experiments before I wiped them clean. 

That's it really!  These are a bit time consuming because you have to hollow out the shells, but they're pretty cool once they're baked.  Hand them out to your unsuspecting family and friends, and watch their amazement as they crack open and peel these little cakes!


I took my egg cakes one step further and used a straw to hollow out the centre of a few of them so I could fill them with a lemon curd yolk!  You could do the same with icing if you wanted, but I thought a lemony yolk was a nice surprise.
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