Archive for the Cakes Category

Exploding wedding cakes from Bompas & Parr

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Events with tags , , , , on 12/02/2012 by libbyplummer

Ryan Hopkinson exploding jellyJelly experts Bompas & Parr are launching a food explosion service for weddings. Yeah, you heard. Famous for their experimental culinary projects, the team will provide an explosives guru who will lay charges inside your wedding cake (or food of choice) which will then be detonated at an opportune moment.

In celebration of the launch of the service, Bompas & Parr have teamed up with photographer Ryan Hopkinson to document what happens when you blow up a jelly (for US readers, that’s Jell-o), as you can see in the picture.

Ryan Hopkinson exploding jelly 2

Once you’ve booked your explosives expert, they’ll chat with your wedding cake provider to go through the safest way to lay the charges and position the cake. They’ll also attend on the wedding day to set up the explosives and detonate the blast. According to the jelly mongers, “All explosives are transported within containers meeting the MoD’s SEAP 4 security standards as referred to in JSP440”. I’ve no idea what that means, but it sounds pretty cool.

Presumably the cake will be inedible once it’s been blown to smithereens, so you’d probably want to get two made for the big day if you actually intend to enjoy a slice without having to scrape it off the ceiling first.

Images: Ryan Hopkinson

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Judge Fudge brownies

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , on 06/02/2012 by libbyplummer

Judge Fudge browniesI haven’t had much time for baking so far this year, but the snowy weather this weekend was a good excuse to stay at home nursing a mild hangover while watching DVDs and snaffling copious amounts of cake. I named these brownies, in my traditionally tenuous fashion, after the Happy Mondays’ song, Judge Fudge. I always liked the cover of the single – not sure if the words are made from paint or icing (or frosting, for our American cousins), but I like to think it was the latter…

Judge Fudge Happy Mondays

Enough chat – here’s the recipe…

What you’ll need:
250g/8.82oz unsalted butter
325g/13oz caster sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
100g/4oz plain flour (sieved)
75g/3oz cocoa (sieved)
0.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
Dr Oetker Fudge Chunks (2 x85g bags)

Makes 12 brownies

What to do:
Grease and line a square brownie tin (roughly 10 x 10 inches, or whatever you’ve got) and pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C (fan oven)/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and pour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture with a fork in betweeen each one. Add the sieved flour and cocoa powder (actual cocoa, not drinking chocolate), baking powder and salt and mix it all together. Finally, mix in the fudge chunks.

Pour into the tin and spread evenly using a spatula, then bung in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Once the cooking time’s up, remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely.

London Baking: best of 2011

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31/12/2011 by libbyplummer

End of year blog posts tend to be lazy and self-serving and in keeping with tradition, this one is no exception. It’s basically a hastily constructed round-up of my favourite London Baking blog posts from 2011, with some nice piccies along the way. A fitting tribute to the last year or simply a piece of cakey propaganda? It’s up to you.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! Let’s do it all again next year.

Irn Bru cupcakes for Burns Night:

Irn Bru cupcake

Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Rings:

Rock 'n' Roll Party Rings

Cakes for Japan raises £2,000:

Cakes for Japan cakes

Anarchy in the UK cupcakes for the Royal Wedding:

Royal wedding cupcakes

London Baking Batterberg cake:

London Baking Battenberg

Han Solo in Carbonite chocolates:

Han Solo in carbonite chocolate

Kendo Nagasaki cake pops:

Kendo Nagasaki cake pops

Peanut butter plectrum biscuits:

Smashing Pumpkin cupcakes:

Smashing pumpkin cupcakes

‘Razor Blades in Candy’ red velvet cake:

Razor blades in candy red velvet cake

Syrian Victoria sponge cake:

Syrian Victoria sponge

Star Wars Holiday Special chocolate and brandy buttercream cupcakes:

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

Happy new year!

Star Wars Holiday Special chocolate and brandy buttercream cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/12/2011 by libbyplummer

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

Never heard of the Star Wars Holiday Special? Let me enlighten you. After the success of the first Star Wars film in 1977, some bright spark had the idea of producing a Christmas/Holiday-themed TV special. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, that’s what. The story sees Chewbacca trying to get home to his family to celebrate Life Day – a thinly veiled, intergalactic version of Christmas. Highlights include a musical number by Jefferson Starship, a comedy skit in the Mos Eisley cantina (starring the Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur) and a jokey scene in which Chewbacca’s wife (essentially a Wookie in an apron) attempts to cook the Life Day dinner. Oh, and Princess Leia sings a song, too. It’s every bit as preposterous as it sounds. You can find it on YouTube or ebay, if the mood takes you…

For reasons that should be entirely obvious if you’ve read the previous paragraph, the Star Wars Holiday Special was only ever broadcast once in 1978 and has never been officially released. This festive cake-based tribute to what is possibly the worst TV programme ever made is formed of chocolate cupcakes with brandy buttercream icing (the icing method is adapted from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery). I used a Star Wars cupcake decorating kit, along with a Star Wars cupcake stencil set from Williams-Sonoma to decorate mine, but obviously you can use whatever you like.

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

What you’ll need:
3oz/85g self-raising flour (sieved)
4 tbsp cocoa powder (sieved)
4oz/110g caster sugar (sieved)
4oz/110g margarine/unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp milk (any kind you like)

For the icing:
4oz/110g unsalted butter (softened)
60ml milk
2 1/2 tbsp brandy butter (a good quality one that contains actual booze is best)
1 tsp vanilla extract
17.5oz/500g icing sugar (sieved)
Cocoa powder for decoration (if using stencils)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl, then cream in the margarine/butter using a fork. Next, add one egg at at time, mixing with the fork after adding each one. Then, add the milk and baking powder and mix until everything is combined. Lastly, give the mixture a few stirs with a whisk to make sure that it’s nice and smooth. Using a tablespoon, bung the mixture into the cupcake cases (dividing it evenly among them, of course).

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick or skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (with no runny cake mix on it). Once done, take the cakes out of the oven and leave in the tin for around 15 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can crack on with the icing. Cream together half the icing sugar with the butter, milk, brandy butter and vanilla extract using a fork, until smooth. You can add a little more brandy butter if you want a stronger taste, but I found 2 1/2 tbsp to be about right. Add the rest of the icing sugar and combine until you’ve got a smooth icing. Either spread onto your cupcakes using a palette knife or use an icing bag to pipe on and add whatever decorations you have to hand. Happy Life Day!

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 27/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakesThe evenings are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air and I can no longer resist saying “yes please” when the man in Costa Coffee asks if I want marshmallows on top of my hot chocolate. This is basically a recipe for a cakey version of my child-like beverage choice, making use of some Mini Mini Marshmallows (kindly given to me by the chaps at Dr Oetker) along with some suitably autumnal orange cupcake cases. Excellent when served with hot chocolate. Or wine, as it turns out. Here’s what to do…

What you’ll need:
3oz self-raising flour (sieved)
2 tbsp cocoa powder (sieved)
4oz caster sugar (sieved)
4oz margarine/unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp skimmed milk (or any kind of milk you like)

For the icing:
8oz icing/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
3.5oz unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa powder (sieved)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl, then cream in the margarine/butter using a fork. Next, add one egg at at time, mixing with the fork after adding each one. Then, add the milk and baking powder and mix until everything is combined. Lastly, give the mixture a few stirs with a whisk to make sure that it’s nice and smooth. Using a tablespoon, bung the mixture into the cupcake cases (dividing it evenly among them, of course).

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick or skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (with no runny cake mix on it). Once done, take the cakes out of the oven and leave in the tin for around 15 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can crack on with the icing. Cream the icing sugar together with the butter using a fork, then mix in the vanilla once combined. Add the cocoa and mix in until the colour is even and you’re ready to stick it in an icing bag and pipe away. Before the icing sets, add a few mini marshmallows for decoration. Couldn’t be easier.

Syrian Victoria sponge

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes with tags , , , , , , on 18/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Syrian Victoria sponge“What the blue blazes is a Syrian Victoria sponge?”,  I hear you cry. Well, it’s essentially a traditional Victoria sponge containing Syrian rose jam, rather than the usual, boring raspberry or strawberry. Simple.

I made this almost cripplingly sweet cake using some rose jam that my friend Kate brought back for me from her recent trip to Syria. Granted, Syria isn’t exactly a top holiday destination at present due to the wave of demonstrations that are currently rocking the Arab world (also known as the Arab Spring) and the fact that it’s potentially on the brink of a civil war, but Kate was visiting her sister who currently works for the Foreign Office in Damascus. Very brave.

Rose jam

The recipe is totally idiot-proof and is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s dreadfully titled (but brilliant) baking tome How to be a Domestic Goddess. Sorry Nigella, I love your work, but I really hate the excruciatingly twee name of that book.  You should be able to find Rose jam for sale on the web (I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Syria at the moment), or you can use any kind of jam you like. Seedless is best.

Sorry the pictures are bit rubbish – they were taken in dwindling daylight…

What you’ll need:
225g unsalted butter (softened)
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
3 tbsp milk

For the filling:
4 tbsp rose jam
150ml double cream

For the topping:
Some caster sugar

Syrian Victorian sponge 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C (fan oven)/350°F/gas mark 4. Line the bottom of two sandwich tins (approx 22cm diameter) with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter or cake release.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using a fork, then add the vanilla extract. Next, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring the mixture and adding a small amount of the flour and cornflour in between each one. Once it’s all combined, add a small amount of milk at a time to thin out the mixture a bit. I found 3 tbsp was about right.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and even out using a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake start to brown slightly and the cake starts to come away from the tin at the edges. Leave to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Once completely cool, place one layer on a plate/cake stand or whatever you’re going to serve it on and spread with a layer of jam. Next whip the cream in a bowl using a balloon whisk until it’s thickened but still soft and shiny. Don’t over-beat it or it’ll start to curdle. Spread over the jam, then pop the other cake layer on top and sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of caster sugar. And voila – Syrian Victoria sponge.

Smashing pumpkin whoopie pies

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 06/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Smashing Pumpkin whoopie piesHalloween may be done and dusted, but with Thanksgiving on the horizon, there’s still plenty of time for seasonal pumpkin concoctions. I made these pumpkin whoopie pies for the 5th of November or Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night).  For our non-UK chums, this is when we light bonfires and set off fireworks to commemorate the day in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried and failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. Although, to be honest, it’s really all about the fireworks these days. But enough about Catholic rebellions, let’s crack on the with cake and celebrate the fact that I made it through the first paragraph without using the ‘making whoopie’ joke. Oh, bugger…

I’ve already made Smashing Pumpkin cupcakes, so I thought I might as well call these Smashing Pumpkin whoopie pies. Well, why not, eh? There’s a Smashing Pumpkins video after the recipe for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell.

Makes approx 12 whoopie pies. (A tip: stick to using either cups, ounces or grams for the measurements otherwise it’s likely to end in tears).

What you’ll need:
2 1/4 cups/10 oz/280g plain flour (sieved)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 cup/7oz/200g light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 pumpkin puree ( I used Libby’s, from the Stateside Candy Co.)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
1/2 cup/4oz/110g full-fat cream cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
3 1/2 cups/16oz/450g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Smashing Pumpkin whoopie pies 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/160°C (fan oven)/Gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a non-stick Teflon baking sheet. So far, so easy.

Next, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. In a new (and bigger) bowl, cream together the sugar and butter using a fork until it forms a creamy mixture. Now, mix in the pumpkin, followed by the egg and the vanilla extract, stirring in between each addition. Add the flour mixture and mix together until it’s all combined.

You want to make your pies as even as possible, so either use a two-tablespoon scoop (such as an ice cream scoop), or pop your mixture into an icing bag. I used disposable icing bags to pipe out rounds about 2 inches across onto the baking sheet. Make sure they’re well spaced as they’ll expand as they cook. You might need to bake them in two batches, depending on the size of your oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the they’re firm to touch and just starting to turn golden brown. After removing them from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Smashing pumpkin whoopie pie

Once completely cool, you can make a start on the filling. Cream together the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar in a bowl using a fork, and once combined, add the vanilla extract and mix in. Spoon the filling into a piping bag and ice half your rounds with a generous helping of filling, before popping the tops on to make your pies. Easy.

Tenuous link time – here’s a Smashing Pumpkins video: