Thursday, 21 March 2013

More experiment- Popcorn & Tie-Dye!

Hello again! I have been doing more cake experimenting, this time two very different ideas; tiedye/rainbow cupcakes, and popcorn flavour cupcakes! Really this should make two posts, but I didn't really take that many photos of the popcorn ones nor decorate them well, so I'll just have to make them again.

 The popcorn ones really came from my wanting to use the flavouring I bought at the Windsor Crafts store. It advises to use it sparingly, 1/4 tsp should be enough to start, then add to taste. I thought I'd mix up a basic vanilla cupcake batch (omitting the vanilla), then split half and half popcorn and tie dye. Making 2 dozen only means I have to eat/get others to eat that many!
I added a little less than 1/4 tsp, thinking that I had a small mix and wouldnt need so much. The result was that the flavour was strong in some and nothing in others, I needed more flavour and more mixing. I also added some into the buttercream, just enough for one cake (incase I ruined the mix) and THAT was good! It really suited the icing flavour and made a really good topping for both the popcorn and tie dye cakes.
The first one I had actually had a strong flavour, and it was honestly just like cinema popcorn. I'm really impressed with the flavouring itself, and would definitely look into buying more. The company, Beau Products, does loads of flavours, I'm tempted to get Mojito or Cosmopolitan next...

Second recipe was more time consuming, I split the remaining mix into six bowls and coloured each one. I was a bit worried I would have beat all the air back out of the mixes getting the colour in.

 It didn't seem like I really had much of each colour, but it was only half a mix. It was too thick to use it like a zebra cake and hope it spread so I just lumped it in..

 I think it looks like I tried to bake plasticine. They actually came out really well! The colours look very bright but I did think the colour might cook out slightly so I maybe over-coloured. After putting them in the oven I realised I hadn't added any vanilla/any other flavour, so I hoped there wouldn't be an overpowering colour gel taste.

 All in all, I'm pretty pleased with them! The cake rose perfectly, wasn't sticky, and all the colours apart from the pink were really bright! I wouldn't use pink again, it wasn't bright enough and went a bit dull in the oven, but any brighter and it would mess up the red I think.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Iced Biscuits

On Wednesday I made some cute little biscuits. My friend and I swapped very late birthday/christmas presents the day before, and one of mine was a cat shaped cutter! Following my usual recipe but swapping the flour out for gluten free, this time, it finally came together!! Usually it gets much too sticky and I end up adding flour, making the finished biscuit very dry. However, this time, the dough came together like normal dough does, and I set about cutting them. I had my new cat cutter, and a cute bird one I found at the back of the draw.

The little birds came out well, and it was a easy shape to lift. As for the cats.. they didn't fare so well. The tail part of the cutter is just too fragile and compared to its fat body, just falls off. I got a few onto the sheet and pushed the tails onto the others, but quite a few had oven issues!

 Yes.. one has no tail and a 90% decapitated head, oops. I'll blame the fragile gluten free recipe. I bought some squeeze bottles the other day and really wanted to try these out for icing biscuits. I used them for chocolate decorations and that showed me the bottle isnt easy to use unless its really full. My birds are going to a lovely pale blue, and the cats pink..because of the little girls I'm giving them to, who love pink.

 I outlined and then filled them, and while it was good for control when outlining, the bottle is hard to really squeeze. Good for small details I think, but not flooding a cookie. I'll stick to using icing bags (when I get round to buying more).  I tried out some patterns and mixes of colours too, really like the chevron one! The cats colour is a bit patchy on some, I wasn't happy with the dark colour, too much piping gel. These biscuits are stronger when they aren't gluten free, for future piping projects I'll make them with wheat flour!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Vanilla Update

After only a couple of weeks, my homemade vanilla is really getting dark! I can't wait to use it, I put vanilla in nearly everything I bake..

Windsor Crafts, Warrington

I recently met up with my cousins and they told me a huge cake warehouse store had opened right near their house, with all kinds of supplies and cake making things (that I clearly need!) I've had a week off and so I drove up to meet up with her and the two cutest little girls ever so we could shop.Ignore the shop lady in the middle of the photo, she walked right in the way just as I was taking this..
Rows and rows of everything you can thing of to do with cakes/baking/crafts! Off to the left of this there's a cafe, so after the 2 hour drive up, we had lunch and a coffee. The girls were itching to run about and ran down the cafe to tell me you could buy sparkly cakes!
I spent a long time looking around, theres too much to look at (and of course, my little cousins needed to show me everything they found). Theres also this chocolate counter full of yummy looking things, but I didn't actually buy anything from here.
 Here's my haul! I only really wanted the teacup cutter, but the teapot will go with it. The house I wasn't keen on but I can use it for new home cookie presents I reckon! I got some square cutters with a scalloped side, heart shape plunger cutters, a modelling tool, two edible ink pens.. I got a lot! The candy melts I couldn't resist because of the added colour bits, but I don't know what I'm going to use them for..
The best thing I think I got was the little silver bottle in the middle, Popcorn flavouring! I'd never seen these flavours before, and there was SO many to choose from, even cocktail flavoured ones. This one smells amazing, just like fresh cinema popcorn. I think I'll try this one out, see how it bakes, and if it goes well I'll get more online.
I will definitely be visiting again!!!

Mothers Day: Red Velvet!

For Mothers Day this year, my mum requested red velvet cake. I really wanted to make this a special cake, so I decided on a three tier with buttercream piping. It also needed to be gluten free so my dad and boyfriend could eat some.
I hit problems as soon as I went shopping for this! After buying the bottle below, I thought that it didnt sound right, and on opening it, it was horrible and gloopy, not the liquid I wanted.
A quick google told me Dr Oetker don't do the artificial red anymore, just this 'natural red', but that it would cook out when baked, giving an orangey brown colour. Not red velvet appropriate!!
I already have a set of Wilton gel colours, so I spent a good while trying to mash the gel around in water until I thought I had enough..
 After all the mixing was done I did add an extra toothpick full..just incase it wasn't red enough already!
Didnt need to worry, all three sponges came out very red. I only have two tins the same size at the moment, so I was a bit worried the mix would settle too much between bakes, especially being gluten free, I didnt want to lose any air I'd worked in.
Unfortunately I didnt take any piping photos the next morning, but I did make a little Vine out of it!:Vine Red Velvet!
I hate it when I make something where I cant test it before I give it to people, even when I'm confident in the bake! This is my mum cutting it up for everyone at my grandmas, great colour alongside the frosting!

I almost did roses all round, but didn't want to make a mess I couldnt fix, the top seemed much easier. Turns out it was really simple, next time I'll go for the full cake.

The cake itself was really nice, made better by the cream cheese frosting! I never really make it but it was really good, I've seen a lot of recipes with vanilla cream cheese frosting too, something else to add to the list of things to try!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is something I use in nearly everything, and so I end up buying those little Dr Oetker bottles pretty regularly. I've been seeing these recipes for making your own around the internet for a while and finally decided to try it for myself. The pages all boast that the flavour is so much better, and I love the idea of saying my cakes and bakes have my own vanilla in them. 

However, I'm always a little skeptical of new things like this, even when I've read a hundred peoples recipes and experience, so I went quick and cheap. I had an old half full bottle of Absolut vodka sitting on the shelf, and as I rarely drink vodka, thought I'd just use that. In my local supermarket the only vanilla pods were these Ndali organic ones, two in the pack, for about £5.00. Being a cheapskate, I just bought the one packet with the thought that if this didn't work, I was only £5.00 down. (On the other hand, when its all ready to go and I can bake with it, I'll convince myself how much of a good idea this was)

I made a good mess opening up the vanilla pods and attempting to scrape the little seeds out, but in the end gave up pretty quick and shoved it all in and shook it. This was day one:

I'd really like to work out how to scrub the Absolut writing off it so it looks more homemade, but for now its okay, and I'm saving up little bottles to pour it into when its all ready. A lot of reading hasnt really helped me work out when its done though. Most say after two weeks, when its a dark amber colour, I can begin to use it, but the longer I leave it, the better flavour will develop. I'm so excited to use it!
Today, I got it out to have a better look. Its living in my cupboard, so when I go to get something I give it a shake, but I hadn't taken it out yet. Its looking pretty good!

I'm going to try and make myself wait until the end of the month. Had a quick smell and its starting to get a vanilla smell, but it was mostly overpowered by vodka still!
Adding this to my growing ideas for my business too, to be able to say even the vanilla is handmade would be really great, maybe I'd even sell it in store.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A new (organised!) start

So I finally got my act together and started the baking blog I've been talking about for so long! The first post of many! Coming up soon.. cookies and mint choc chip cupcakes...