Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A June Birthday Cake

My Mother-In-Law's birthday falls at the end of June and as they are going on holiday in a few days time, I made her birthday cake for her at the weekend to enjoy.  I was very impressed with the Hummingbird cake so I decided to make one for her birthday cake as well as I think it looks rather impressive.  Instead of the usual pecans, I added various sized blossoms all over the cake in white, pale pink and bright pink fondant.

This time I have remembered the recipe!

Hummingbird Cake
300g caster sugar
3 eggs
300 ml vegetable oil
270 g mashed bananas (about 3 large ones)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g tinned chopped pineapple
100g pecans (or walnuts) chopped (or mixed nuts) plus extra to decorate if doing the plain version (I used mixed chopped nuts in the cake & just pecans to decorate on the previous cake)
2 quantities of cream cheese frosting * See later recipe

Preheat oven to 170°C or Gas 3 - I do 160°C as I have a fan assisted oven.
Put the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, oil, banana & cinnamon in a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated (don't worry if the mixture looks slightly split).  Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda & salt and continue to beat until everything is well mixed.

Stir in the chopped pineapple and chopped mixed nuts by hand until evenly dispersed.

Pour the mixture between 3 prepared cake tins (greased).  Don't worry the batter is quite liquidy but it will go amongst 3 tins.  Place in oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back.  Leave to cool slightly in the tins and then turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.

When the cakes are cold, place one sponge layer on a cake stand or whatever you are going to use (plate, board etc) and spread an amount of cream cheese frosting on top.  Then place the next layer on top and repeat until all 3 layers have been used.  Top the last cake on top and then spread the frosting down the sides to cover.  Make the 'lines' on the cake by running a palette knife up and down the sides.  Finish with either the pecans arranged on top or fondant cut outs, which ever you prefer.

Cream Cheese Frosting
300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter at room temperature (soft)
125g cream cheese, cold (Philadelphia or supermarket equivalent)

This makes up one amount of the frosting.  This is enough to do about 12 cupcakes.  For the Hummingbird cake you need to double these amounts.  You will have some left over though but it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Beat the icing sugar and the butter in a freestanding mixer until well mixed then add the cream cheese and beat on a medium speed.  Continue to mix until the frosting is light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes) but take care not to over beat as it can quickly go runny.

This frosting also works really well with red velvet cakes.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Hummingbird Cake

This cake is the signature cake from the Hummingbird Bakery, London and I have been wanting to try this cake for ages but kept finding I had parts of the ingredient list missing.  Eventually I had everything I needed so on Saturday afternoon this was on the baking agenda.
What a simple cake to make!  Very much along the lines of a carrot cake in taste & texture but with a few added ingredients (and no carrots!).  The addition of pineapple chunks and bananas keep this cake super moist and the cream cheese frosting works really well to complement the overall taste of the cake.
I made this for my Dad for Father’s Day and it looked very impressive indeed.  There is plenty of mixture for 3 tins as it is quite a liquid batter so don’t worry that you are going to run out.
If you are making a cake for a special occasion and don’t want to go down the fondant icing route then I would thoroughly recommend you make this cake as it both looks great and tastes fab!

(Oops, forgot to take down the ingredients list for this cake as well!!  ....will re-post tomorrow with the details)
You can see the pineapple chunks in the cake which keep it lovely & moist.  Sandwich all 3 layers together with the cream cheese frosting

Decorate with Pecan nuts. The lines were done with a small palette knife

Arty shot!!

Humming Bird Bakery Coffee & Chocolate Loaf Cake

As a big fan of The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook I had been eagerly awaiting their next recipe book called Cake Days. It was described as “recipes to make every day special”.  I bought it as soon as it came out some months ago now and so far it has not disappointed me.   Cake Days is crammed with cupcakes, whoopie pies, muffins and special occasion cakes. All split into handy sections; Spring, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Halloween, Easter, Bonfire Night etc. 

There are loads of recipes and beautiful pictures to accompany them and the best bit is they show you how to ice the cupcakes their way by showing you in pictures, which is really handy for anyone who has attempted to try to recreate their signature swirl that you see in their cookbooks.  Well worth looking at!!
There are a few good recipes for Whoopie Pies which seem to be enjoying a whole craze all to themselves.  I have to admit though I am not a big fan of them to be honest.
There are a few cake loafs and layer cakes as well. The coffee and chocolate loaf was very easy to make as I did it at the weekend and it tastes lovely.  I split the mixture into 2 loaf tins quite easily but it is more like a thick sponge mixture rather than a batter as the recipe states which suggested to me that it would be runnier. Nonetheless, it’s still delicious and rather than being overpowering in coffee flavour (which I am not a fan of), it subtly brings out the rich chocolaty flavour of the cocoa in the cake.
Chief Taster, Jess stated it would go perfectly with a cup of tea or as a dessert with cream and was very pleased when I gave her half the loaf to take home and Ve, Chief Taster Number 2 said, and I quote,…..”Amazing and in heaven!!” (think she liked it!!).  It’s a very light cake and lovely eaten just slightly warm.  Me & the OH also had it with some Chantilly cream that I made (whipping cream, icing sugar & vanilla whipped up) and that was just as nice as well.

Will post the recipe tomorrow as I forgot to jot down the ingredients from the recipe! (Duh!!)**

**  Recipe is as follows:
Coffee & Chocolate Loaf Cake
190g unsalted softened butter
130g plain flour
190g soft light brown sugar (or light muscavado if you prefer)
3 large eggs
60g cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon baking powder
20ml milk
1 tablespoon strong coffee (brewed and cooled)

Loaf tin*

* I split this mixture between 2 loaf tins to get 2 slightly smaller cakes, you can of course just fill one loaf tin.  I also use loaf tin liners as I find they are far easier to get the cakes out and its less faffing with greaseproof paper etc!

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (I do it to 160°C as I have a fan assisted oven).  Then grease and flour your loaf tin(s) if you are not using liners.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a freestanding mixer until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and making sure you scape down the sides of the bowl after each addition and mix well.  The mixture should be quite fluffy and almost 'moussey' when you have finished.

Measure the milk and add the cooled coffee to it.  Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients and two batches, alternating with the coffee mixture.  Mix on a low speed until everything is incorporated, remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Once everything is well mixed, increase the speed to medium-high and give a quick blitz to make sure you have a smooth batter.  This mixture is not very liquidy and is more like a regular sponge batter.  Spoon into the tin(s) and bake for one hour or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.  Allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This is lovely eaten slightly warm.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Week Day Breakfast Treat

Decided to get up a little earlier this morning...(ahem, ok I didn't and it was all a bit rushed, but I can pretend I got up early!).  OH is a dab hand at making a fruit loaf for breakfast in our little Morphy Richards bread maker (lots of lovely cranberries, raisins & cinnamon in it....lovely toasted) and we decided that we were going to use it for French Toast.

It worked well actually; just mix a couple of eggs together with a splash of milk and a sprinkling of cinnamon, whisk all together and then place your bread slices in to soak for a 30 seconds each side and then fry for a couple of minutes.  Serve drizzled with honey or maple syrup and a lovely cup of tea!!  Shame we had to go to work afterwards!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Boozy Grown Up Rice Pudding

I love rice pudding.  No scrap that for I love a well made rice pudding.  I had an amazing one at either the Three Fishes or The Clog & Billycock that was served with sultanas soaked in mead.  Just lovely......

I was watching a marathon of Barefoot Contessa programs yesterday afternoon; the weather was horrible & dreary, OH was out torturing himself in a football tournament all day and good old Ina did a perfect recipe for cheering yourself up on a miserable and somewhat cold day......rice pudding.

Not your typical nursery style pudding that everyone fondly remembers, but a far more adult affair.  We weren't eating till late and I had a few hours to kill so I went in search of pudding rice...

Pudding rice located at the back of the cupboard, I began with soaking a good handful of raisins in rum for a couple of hours until they were all plump and juicy with the alcohol and I then set about working on the pudding itself.  It took about 2 hours all in all, but it just basically sat there on the hob with me giving it an occasional stir, so not much hardship.  Some people bake a rice pudding in the oven, but it doesn't really make much difference either way.

Basically, put the rice in a pan along with the sugar and milk & cream, a good slug of vanilla and keep it on a low simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once the mixture starts to thicken as the rice cooks, add the raisins (excess liquid and all) to the mix and stir in.  Just before the end I added chopped pecans which give a nice crunch and a good measure of maple syrup along with another tablespoon of cream.  To serve I added another dollop of cream on top with a drizzle of maple syrup over.

Spoon at the ready and dive in........perfect way to round off a damp and cold day, even though its blummin' June and it feels like winter! OH settled down in the chair with a nice contented sigh and proclaimed its was very good.....very good indeed!

Boozy Grown Up Rice Pudding Recipe
150g pudding rice (or basmati can be used or even risotto rice)
75g caster sugar
600 ml milk
250 ml cream (or you can use all milk or more cream just so long as it adds up to 850 ml of liquid)
2 tsp vanilla extract (try not to use essence if you can help it)
handful raisins soaked in about 30ml of rum (or any other alcohol you have to hand, brandy, whisky etc)
handful of pecan nuts chopped
1 tbspn maple syrup (optional), plus extra for drizzling

Total Cooking Time - About 2 hours on a low heat.  Will sit quite happy for longer, just add a little more liquid if you feel its getting too 'sticky'

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Banana Pudding

Who doesn’t love a quick & simple sponge pudding? I think these types of puddings were made for chilly winter days but then again I could eat them (and do) anytime! 

I have been watching a series on one of the food channels called Perfect....... where each episode is dedicated to what the 2 chefs competing decide is their perfect recipe for different things, i.e. Perfect....Roast Dinner, Perfect.....Pasta etc and this particular episode was about puddings and featured the Aussie chef Bill Grainger.  

He made the simplest of puddings using banana's & it looked so delicious, (even the OH wants me to make it!) OH pointed out last night that there are 2 banana's in the fruit bowl that had seen better days so I have decided I am going to give Bill's pud a try tonight!  

Apparently the recipe also appears in Rachel Allen's book, Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home but is originally from Bill Granger’s book, Simply Bill 

It is a self-saucing, all in one pudding that is baked until the sponge has risen and set, while underneath is hiding a luscious sticky sauce. Apparently If you fancy something sweet, sticky and utterly yummy, you can’t go wrong with this pudding, especially served with good-quality vanilla ice cream.  Can't wait to try it!

Banana Butterscotch Pudding
Serves 4
IngredientsFor the pudding:
125g/4½ oz plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
125g/4½ oz caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 banana, mashed
250ml/8fl oz milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g/3¼ oz butter, melted

For the topping:
100g/4oz soft brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
150ml/5fl oz boiling water

To Serve:Vanilla Ice cream or softly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).
Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking and powder into a bowl.
Add the mashed banana, milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract and whisk together until well combined.
Pour into a greased 1.25 litre baking dish.

To make the topping, place the brown sugar, golden syrup and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.
Pour the boiling mixture carefully over the pudding, then bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.

'sponge' mixture - layer of banana on bottom of dish

Pour the hot syrup over

finished result

Serve with custard, cream, ice cream - up to you!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Birthday Blossom Cupcakes

My latest new cutter is a lovely blossom one.  These cupcakes have the medium sized cutter placed on top.  I put a pattern to the icing and dusted with lustre dust so it picked it up more to make them stand out a bit more.  I used a mix of two shades of pink for the icing, one light and one dark to give a bit of contract.

These were for my friend's mum Mary as it was her birthday at the weekend.

Retirement Cake

A last minute order was placed by my friend the other day to do a retirement cake for her Aunt.  I had been wanting to try out making my own star cake topper as I am always surprised as to how much they are when they look so simple, effective but simple, so thought this was an ideal moment.

I now realise why they are expensive!!  They take forever to do as they are so fiddly!  Trying to get the stars to stay on the wire; making sure the stars are not too thin and then trying to put glitter on everything, well.......lets just say it was a challenging task and next time I will give myself a little bit more time go do everything.  I thought the feathers were nice and 'bulked' out the topper.  They were from Hobbycraft and the wire was from Ebay.

I was doing the letters of the cake till quite late one night and I think I was a bit tired, as I was looking at the board I had all the letters on, I suddenly realised that I had the letter O and E missing.  I couldn't figure out where they had gone as I had definitely cut all the right letters out.....it was very strange.

I then felt something on my arm and there they were!  I had leaned over to get something and they had stuck to my arm.  I decided enough was enough for one night!

I used a textured sheet to make the pattern on the white icing.  Simply place the sheet over the top of your rolled icing and rub over with your rolling pin.  You have to be quite firm to get the indentation and I then dusted over with a white lustre dust just to give a sheen that picked up the pattern.

The sheets were in a packs of 4 and were £4.50 per pack.  There are 5 sets all in all.  They have patterns to make bricks, stars, lace, scales and more.  I also have just purchased a rolling pin set of 2 rollers; one with a bark pattern on and the other with a floral type print which was £5.50 for the 2.  They are only small but do the job.  They were all from a website called www.makeawishcakeshop.co.uk  They have some quite good bargains on their site and are not too badly priced for their cutters.  The food grade cake picks that the wires go into were from Ebay and I think they were only a couple of pounds for a pack of 10.

All in all, Ellen liked her cake as it was a surprise for her & everyone was happy!