Leveson Inquiry cake pops

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food with tags , , , on 28/05/2012 by libbyplummer

Leveson cake popsUnless you’ve been living on the moon (or simply in another country, where the state of the British tabloid press is not high on your list of priorities) you’ll know all about the Leveson Inquiry.

If you haven’t heard, it’s a public inquiry into the ethics and practices of the British press led by Lord Justice Leveson and fueled by the News International Phone Hacking Scandal, which led to the closure of the News of the World.

What the deuce has this got to do with baking? Well, Miss Insomnia Tulip has taken it upon herself to concoct a range of Leveson Inquiry cake pops. As you do.

Leveson cake pops

The selection includes likenesses of British Prime Minister David Cameron, ex News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks and antipodean media mogul Rupert Murdoch. My favourite has to be Grand Inquisitor (not his actual job title) from the News of the World committee hearing, MP Tom Watson…

Leveson cake pops

You can check out the full range of cake pops over at Miss Insomnia Tulip’s Flickr page.

Via: Miss Cakehead/Eat Your Heart Out

Ma’amite to toast the Queen’s Jubilee

Posted in English food, Gifts, Savoury with tags , , , , on 07/05/2012 by libbyplummer

Ma'amite Marmite for the Diamond JubileeMarmite is toasting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a suitably patriotic version of its yeast-based toast topper and British breakfast staple.

Known as Ma’amite (the joke really only works in an English accent), the jar sports the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, rather than the familiar yellow and red.

I’ve bought myself a jar from Sainsbury’s already to sit alongside my, er, collection of special Marmite jars that includes a black and white Guinness-flavoured version that the company brought out for St Patrick’s Day a few years back….

Sainsbury’s launches baking website with Dan Lepard

Posted in Baking with tags , , , , , , , on 15/04/2012 by libbyplummer

Diamond Jubilee cupcake casesIt seems you’re no one nowadays unless you’ve got your own baking website which is why UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has got in on the act with www.sainsburys.co.uk/baking.

Joining the likes of Renshaw, Dr Oetker and Allinson Flour’s BakingMad.com, the new Sainsbury’s site will include recipes (obviously), along with techniques and tips, advice on food intolerances and a regular Q&A from from baking guru and Guardian columnist Dan Lepard.

Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases

To celebrate the launch, the nice people at Sainsbury’s sent me some goodies to try out including a new set of  Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases featuring Union Jacks and marching soldier designs. I knocked up some vanilla cupcakes to try them out and they’re pretty good (ie. the cases don’t go transparent and make the designs disappear when put in the oven, as some cheaper cases do).

Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Events, Recipes with tags , , , , , on 12/03/2012 by libbyplummer

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercreamI’m not Irish. Not even remotely. But that’s no reason not to make some garish green-tinted biscuits (or cookies, if you insist) in celebration of St Patrick’s Day on 17 March, especially when there’s Bailey’s buttercream involved (last year I made whoopie pies with bright green filling).

I was given a cookie cutter set shaped like the British Isles for Christimas (thanks mum!), hence I have a cutter shaped liked the Emerald Isle. If you haven’t got one, you can just make your own template from grease-proof paper and cut around it with a knife.

Apologies for stating the bleedin’ obvious, but thanks to the Baileys, these biccies contain booze so may not be suitable for the nippers.

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream 2

Makes 16-20 biscuits (8-10 when sandwiched together)

What you’ll need:

For the biscuits:
90g/3oz unsalted butter
100g/3.5oz caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g/70z plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Green paste food colouring

For the buttercream filling:
225g/8oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar (sieved)
100g/3.5oz softened unsalted butter
1tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

What to do:
First, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, using a fork. Next, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the original mixture. Stir together until it’s all combined. Lastly, add some green colouring, a tiny bit at a time, until you’ve got the colour you want. Once all mixed in, roll the dough into a ball, squash into a flat disc and wrap in clingfilm. If the dough feels a bit too sticky, then add a touch of flour. Leave the dough to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C (fan oven)/gas mark 4. Roll out the dough between two large sheets of greaseproof paper. This avoids you having to add any more flour to stop it sticking, which can make the dough too dry. Cut out your shapes and place onto a lined baking sheet (make sure they’re well spaced, or they’ll fuse together in the oven when the dough expands). If you’re using an asymmetric shape (such as the outline of Ireland), then you’ll want to flip half of the biscuits over as you’ll be sandwiching two together to form a sandwich.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are slightly golden around the edges and slightly soft in the middle (they’ll firm up while they cool). Once out of the oven, transfer them to a wire cooling rack and after they’re fully cooled down then you can make a start on the filling.

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream

For the buttercream, sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and cream in the butter using a fork. Once it’s all combined and smooth, add the Baileys and mix in. Pop into an icing bag and pipe a blog into the centre of half your biscuits (on the flat underside), then sandwich together with the remaining half (with the flat side touching the buttercream).

Finally, sit back with your ‘Oirish’ snacks, and listen to some suitably Celtic rock, like this ditty from the Dropkick Murphys. They’re not from Ireland – they’re from Massachusetts, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a good tune…

London Baking – Big in Japan

Posted in Baking, Out and about with tags , , , , , , on 11/03/2012 by libbyplummer

Japanese snacksI was recently lucky enough to be taken on a work trip to Tokyo for a week by the nice folk at Sony. Along with a busy week of checking out the latest TV tech at Sony HQ, we also managed to find time to stuff our faces with plenty of Japanese food. As you can see from the photo above, I managed to build up a sizeable snack haul to bring back to Blighty.

Aside from the standard Pocky, matcha powder and Panda-shaped biscuits, the highlight for me was the ludicrous selection of weird Kit Kat flavours including green tea and cherry blossom. My personal favourite was the wasabi flavour – they’ll definitely be a white chocolate and wasabi-based recipe on London Baking in the near future. Other highlights included…

…The ninja star shaped crackers at the ninja restaurant, where you get served by ninjas. (Despite it being our first night in the Far East, we instigated a drinking game where everyone had to take a swig every time the word ‘ninja’ was spoken. Such fun)…

Ninja star biscuits

Stumbling across a fantastic bakery at Shibuya station following a wander round Harajuku and Tower Records with Kat

Shibuya station bakery

…this is just one of the snacks I bought there, a custard-filled pastry thingy…

Japanese cake

…a night in Bauhaus (possibly the best bar in the world) – that’s me with the Strat on the left…


…and of course, the purchasing of a Totoro toy…

Totoro toy

Bauhaus image: Kat Hannaford

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

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!

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 18/12/2011 by libbyplummer

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuitsTime for more festive baking, this time in the form of a 3D Christmas tree made from star-shaped gingerbread biscuits. I used a set of 3D Christmas cookie cutters that  my dear old mum picked up for me from Lakeland, but you can always make your own templates or go freestyle if you’ve got a steady hand. After a week of Christmas booze-ups, my hands were anything but steady during the making of this intricate biscuit-based structure so I stuck to using the cutters.

Tenuous Youtube link ahoy! Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…

What you’ll need:
350g/12oz plain flour (sieved)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
100g/4oz butter (softened)
175g/6oz light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

For the icing:
200g/7oz icing/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
some not-quite-boiling water
edible glitter/sprinkles  etc for decoration

Please note: You’ll need two of each star shape. I didn’t use the largest three cutters from the set, but if you want enough dough for those as well, then double the quantities given above.

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

What to do:

Mix the flour, bicarb and ginger together in a large mixing bowl. Chuck in the butter and rub the mixture between your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup then pour onto the flour mixture and use your hands to form it into a dough. Divide the dough into two large blobs and flatten into discs. Wrap them in clingfilm and bung in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°/170° (fan oven)/375°F/gas mark 5. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment to prevent it from sticking. Roll out to a thickness of about 4mm and cut out your shapes. You’ll need two of each size star. Place on a lined baking sheet and stick in the oven for 12 minutes until the biscuits begin to turn golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool on the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

When the biscuits are completely cool you can have a crack at the decoration. Obviously you can add whatever icing and decorations you like, but here’s what I did:

Using a fork, mix together the icing sugar with 2 tbsp of not-quite-boiling water from the kettle. Add a little more water if the icing is too thick. Spread the icing on over the smallest two stars and cover one with edible glitter and the other with festive hundreds and thousands (on nonpareils). Take each biscuit and spread a small amount of icing to the tips of the star. After icing each biscuit, sprinkle the hundreds and thousands on before the icing sets. Leave to dry for an hour or so.

Finally, it’s time to construct your tree. Place one of the largest two biscuits on whatever you intend to serve the tree on (it’s a bugger to move once it’s all put together). Add a tiny bit of leftover icing to the centre and put the second biscuit on top, turning the star so that the points create the effect of branches. Build up the rest of the tree in the same way, using the small star with the hundreds and thousands on top. Lastly, secure the glittery star on the top using a good dollop of icing.

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!