Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympic Mascot Cupcakes

Were you ringing bells at 8.12am this morning? I was, although the only bells I could find in the whole of my cottage were two very tiny ones on my 'Christmas' earrings - they made a jolly little sound though - couldn't hear anything when I stepped outside my front door though.  Also enjoyed seeing the flame being carried on the Royal Barge this morning (albeit on the television this time) - it is an exquisite vessel.

For our Olympic Opening Ceremony Tea I had promised PB another cakey creation - I think he had visions of me building the Olympic Stadium out of cake - but I wanted to create some of my own cupcakes to compliment the ones I made for the Torch Relay.  I wanted them to be mascot themed - but decided that I would have to concentrate on their face rather than trying to create a 3D mascot.  First of all I drew the face of each mascot onto scrap paper, when I was happy I traced it on to thin card - both the head and then a eye for each mascot. (I shall add some more photo's when I've uploaded them from my camera!)  With my templates ready it was time to choose the flavour for my cupcakes - I wanted to do chocolate, but also make them both with a twist, so came up with Mint Chocolate for Mandeville and Chocolate Orange for Wenlock :-)
I used a simple chocolate cake recipe from Rachel Allen's 'Bake'and substituted the plain chocolate with either the mint chocolate or orange chocolate - the smell was delicious, but I was nbsp;good and didn't eat too much of the mixture.  Whilst they were cooling I kept both batches separate so they wouldn't get muddled up.  Then on to the icing - normal butter-cream with added colouring and a few drops of mint essence for the Mandeville cupcakes, I was also going to add orange juice to the Wenlock ones, but I'd forgotten to pick up an orange.  After choosing an open nozzle for my piping bag I was ready for icing - not until I had iced all of one batch of cakes when I'd realised I'd just iced the chocolate orange cupcakes with mint icing  . . . I could have cried! However, I managed to scrap off nearly all of the icing and ice the correct cupcakes the second time round.

The mascot were made from cutting round my templates on rolled out royal icing, dusting with silver dust before attaching the eye made from a thinner piece of royal icing.  I thought they needed a little bit extra so used food colouring and painted on some accents - this has run a little bit, but adds to the overall impression.  Then I stuck the finished mascots on to the corresponding cupcakes. I am rather pleased with the overall look of the cupcakes . . . think I may have overdone it when it's only tea for two!!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Wenlock and Mandeville Cupcake Toppers

Whilst doing my weekly shop in Morrisons I couldn't help picking up two sheets of Olympic Mascot stickers - a bargain at 58p each.  I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do with them, but hey those one-eyed monsters are rather cute - so I knew that I would find a use for them.

After pondering for a few days, I had a idea to make my own cupcake toppers (not sure if that is what they are - kinda just made up the name!).  After I had finally remembered where my cocktail sticks were and had located some scraps of pretty orange and blue paper I could begin. They are the easiest thing ever to make - I stuck the cocktail stick in the right place on the back of the sticker and then the sticker on to the plain side of my backing paper.  Then I just had to cut the sticker out - I found this was easier the closer you could put the bottom of the sticker lined up with the bottom edge of the paper.  Ta-dah! All finished, they didn't take very long at all - just enough time to watch The One Show.  Thinking of making a blue jelly to put the water stickers in . . . .

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes

As well as being sent back with a few sticks of rhubarb this weekend, I also picked a Tupperware box full of home grown raspberries from PB's garden! They smelt delicious and rather than just eat them on the train, which I was rather tempted to do, I decided to hunt out a cake recipe.  I'd half decided on this Apricot and Raspberry Buckle cake during my train journey . . . but I then found a very pretty recipe for Coconut and Raspberry Cupcakes.  The perfect reason to use the 79p sale cupcake cases I'd picked up in Lakeland at the weekend :-)

The recipe is really easy - a throw everything in the bowl (apart from the raspberries!) and whisk until smooth.  Everything was done in the half hour that I had spare between the two episodes of Eastenders last night - very exciting to see the Olympic Flame appear on the set and a treat of live broadcasting! The icing is rather scrummy and I did eat rather a lot of it before I even started icing the cupcakes - oops! The pink of the icing is made from a few left over raspberries.
I really need to stop baking so many cakes and finish the various half-finished crafty projects - watch out for some more tea cosies!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Chocolate Decadence Cookies

This weekend's baking definitely had to be something chocolatey, as PB had been complaining that I only bake chocolatey cakes when visiting friends . . . he has kind of got a point, but I'm sure baking chocolate cakes and cookies all the time would have a detrimental affect on our waistlines - at least by baking fruity cakes I pretend they are 'healthy'. . .

I bought 'Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies' by Alice Medrich a year or so ago, after being sucked in by the name of the book.  The book is okay, although I've only done a handful of recipes from it, as there is a distinct lack of pictures.  I always find to easier to measure the success of bake if there is a picture to compare it to at the end - this might be why I've only baked the cookies that have pictures in the book (although this does run the risk of me having a grump if they they don't turn out like the picture).  A set of cups is needed for the easiest use of this book, as all measurements are American and working out British equivalent to 'sticks of butter' is essential.

I made the Chocolate Decadence Cookies - in the book they are called 'Bittersweet Chocolate...' however, I used supermarket value plain chocolate and they were still very yummy!  I also swapped the pecans for walnuts, as they are cheaper and I'd already used a whole bag of pecans in the Banana and Pecan Fudge cake I made last week.  I made half as the recipe suggested and then the second half I mixed in some dried cranberries - rather scrummy.

The recipe said it yielded 30 - 36 cookies and I nearly halved the quantities.  I'm glad I didn't as I only managed to get 23 cookies - think I may have made mine on the larger size, but they were no means giant.  Still small enough to have at least two with an afternoon cuppa and not feel guilty :-)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Banana and Pecan Fudge Loaf Cake

I really can't stand ripe bananas and I had two in my fruit bowl this week that were nearly all black - oops, either I'm not eating enough or buying too much! Ah well, it meant that I could hunt down a new banana cake recipe . . . after mooching around the BBC GoodFood website, I found an easy looking recipe for Banana and Pecan Fudge Cake - it looked delicious, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I made a few changes to the ingredients - for some reason, the only small tub of toffee yoghurt I could find was low fat - but this didn't seem to make any difference.  After reading some the comments below (always a good source inspiration on the GoodFood website!) I also decided to buy the cheap own brand toffee rather than something more expensive - worked well too! Plus, this meant that I got to use my hammer in the kitchen again, smashing up the toffee - after placing in a bag.  I may of got a bit carried away, as most of the toffee disappeared into the cake on baking, but I think I prefer it that way. I decided against putting chopped up pecans on the top, but instead picked out the 'pretty looking ones' and had a line down the middle - well it was until on baking the cake rose and made it wonky.

This was a very yummy cake and highly recommended - I've only got a few slices left - oops!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Apple Whole Wheat Muffins

There was a day last week where everybody on my facebook newsfeed was baking cakes.  Thus,  I was inspired to go home and do some baking - I had a fruit bowl full of apples that were steadily becoming past their best.  So I hunted down a recipe for some Apple Muffins that I wouldn't have to buy too many ingredients for - I found this fabulous recipe on the Smitten Kitchen website and picked up a carton of yoghurt on my way home, as I thought this was the only ingredient I didn't have.

Almost had a disaster, when I realised that my jar of cinnamon was up in Wolverhampton (the curse of baking in numerous kitchens!).  All was okay when I found I had a stick of cinnamon in old mulled cider spice pack.  Then I had to work out how to make it into a powder without the aid of pestle and mortar - my options, I decided were to try the small side of the cheese grater or a hammer from my tool kit.  In the end I started off with the grater and then finished off the rest with the hammer :-) great fun! Although my guinea-pig was not impressed with all the noise ...

Disaster averted, I carried on with the recipe, deciding to use my silicon cupcake cases.  Although I had to give them a good wash first - however hard I try to wash and dry the cases, they always seem to grow mould whilst in the cupboard, not quite sure why!  Any one else have this problem?  I had some mixture left over, so filled a few paper cases as well.  This was a very quick bake - 15-20 minutes - forgot to set my timer, so nearly had crispy Apple Muffins! When I got them out of the oven, the the cakes in the paper cases had risen beautifully, but the ones in the silicon cases had not.  Now, this might have been because I didn't fill the silicon cases with enough mixture, but I didn't think I did, as I wouldn't have made the extra ones if I could have shared it out between the original cakes.  Or maybe it had something to do with the silicon cases themselves - ah well, still not convinced on the silicon cake case front.  Also you have to watch people like a demented hawk to make sure that they don't throw away the case and that you can retrieve it in order to use again.  Ah well, perfect excuse to keep buying pretty paper cases when I see them.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Olympic Torch Weekend part 2

So I'd found the perfect cupcakes to make for PB's Olympic Torch BBQ - I just needed a stand to display them on . . . A bit of hunting around and I found I could buy all sorts of cupcake stands in all sorts of sizes.  Just before I purchased a read-made one, I had a fab idea - I should make my own in the shape of the Olympic Torch!!  A bit of thinking and sketching out of different ideas and I was ready to make a miniature, a series of triangles and use of a protractor (haven't used one of these since school - I guess all that geometry drawing finally came in useful!).

Although I was rather pleased that it worked, there were far too many sections to cut out for my liking and the top didn't look very 'flame-like', so I had a few alterations to make to the full size version.  I was rather pleased with the result though.

Then came the fun part of spraying everything gold - plus I didn't use the whole can, so I guess I shall be keeping my eyes peeled for things that 'need' a coat of gold paint!  After waiting the recommended 30 minutes for it to be touch dry - why does paint always seem to take AGES to dry. I assembled my cupcake stand - okay maybe the paint wasn't quite dry enough, as I did get rather a lot of gold paint on my hands . . .
Next was the tissue paper and glue stage - I had SO MUCH FUN - adding yellow dye from the tissue paper to my already gold hands! Thankfully, as the cardboard was very sturdy I didn't need the tissue paper to add any strength, just the flame effect, hence why I had also sprayed the flame bits gold.  So that the gold would show through the tissue paper and not because I got carried away with the spray paint - I promise!  I finished off the tissue paper flame with some gold and red glitter glue I'd got especially.

Whilst the flame was drying I needed to work out how I was going to attach the punchinella (the posh name for the rolls of 'sequin waste') to the torch bit of my cupcake stand.  I decided in the end to attach it horizontally - this did involve some interesting folding at the corners to get it lie flat, due to the triangular shape.  Each strip was held in place with staples.  The finishing touch was to add a 2012 logo to the front of Torch (more spray painting!).

PB and I decided that to add to the suspense that the cake stand would transform half way through the BBQ - therefore, when people arrived it looked like this:

Then when everyone was ready for pudding (thankfully there was a sunny patch and I sent everyone outside) I added the flame and piled up the Olympic Torch Cupcakes on top.  I was rather pleased with the result, although do fear that from now on PB is going to expect three-coloured iced cupcakes and a personalised stand for every occasion!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Olympic Torch Weekend Part 1

This past weekend the Olympic Torch passed through the West Midlands - therefore it was a packed weekend  of sightings and celebrations.  The Saturday started VERY early (i.e. before 7am, not recommended!) as I had got tickets to go and see 'Blue Peter's Big Olympic Tour' in West Park in Wolverhampton - all in the name of research, yet I did get PB to find us a child to take, so that we didn't look like complete nutters!  Borrowed child was nearly 13 and I think we were more excited than she was - ah well, I think she enjoyed herself.  Although watching Blue Peter live was an interesting experience, the highlight of the morning was watching the 'Horrible Histories' crew perform 'Flame' - a song about the history of the Olympics set to the music of 'Fame'.
After returning borrowed child, we set off to the Black Country Museum as I had won tickets in the ballot to watch the Torch pass through the museum.  As there were only 1500 on site it was delightful experience and no need to stake out a spot as we had all been allocated an area to stand in, with enough room for everyone to be one deep! Although PB had already seen the Torch, this was my first live viewing of the relay in action - it was amazing, although these Torch Bearer's run fast!

After this packed day it was off home to bake some cupcakes for our Olympic Torch BBQ on Sunday - I had found this amazing tutorial for Olympic Torch Cupcakes at the Blue Door Bakery.  After my practice with my Jubilee Cupcakes and hunting out of EDIBLE GOLD GLITTER and gold cupcake cases, I felt very prepared!  We decided that the cupcake/icing/flavour ratio wasn't quite right on the Jubilee Cupcakes and thought that Lemon and Poppy Seed would be a good combination for the Torch Cupcakes.  I used the Lemon and Poppy Seed recipe on the Good Food website - although I always add in more poppy seeds, as I don't think a tablespoon is enough.  Plus, I never bother to toast the poppy seeds - I did the very first time I made them and burnt the poppy seeds!
I also experimented with using 'Flora Cuisine' instead of butter - worked fine, although it was very tricky to see how much I had squirted into my mixture as it's a thick liquid that takes a while to settle.  It would have been fine if I had been in my own kitchen with my digital scales!
 The cupcakes did rise rather more than I was expecting, but this worked out well in the end, as it helped support the icing.  I spooned in the three colours - red, orange and yellow - into the icing bag and then swirled them onto the tops of the cupcakes.  Then the decorating with glitter and suitably coloured sprinkles could begin! This was rather fun and I think that I can foresee my cupcake glitter collection growing considerably.