Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Tiny bit Marvellous...

Rather than try and explain this book to you and do a shoddy job of it, I will let the Author Dawn French explain it...
I finished this book about 3 days ago and have been glowing from the warmth of it since. It comments on family life amazingly, it's humorous but in a subtle way, it's sad and scary at the same time. Absolutely brilliant. I know your wondering why i'm writing about it on here, a baking blog but cake features a lot in the book as the gran 'Nana Pamela' bakes a different cake for each family member, which wittily reflects their very different personalities. It is also a source of comfort during difficult times in the novel. Dawn French actually thanks cake in the acknowledgments.

I finished the book one groggy morning on the tube and was delighted to find 4 cake recipes on the very last pages of the book, recipes for Nana Pamela's cakes! I knew straight away I had to make one. I decided to make the main characters cake 'Mo', which is a beetroot cake. The way Mo described the cake intrigued me from the off to make it "This time I gave her plenty of warning that I was coming, so she had made me a beetroot cake. No second-rate biscuit substitutes today. The icing was bliss - bright pink and utterly delish."

From Nana P's recipe book - Mo's Beetroot Cake -
180g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
180g plain flour
180g ground almonds
50g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
200ml sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g raw, peeled and finely grated beetroot

170g icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons water
1/4tsp cream of tartar
1 medium egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extraxt
drop of pink food colouring
Hazelnuts to decorate, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm tin with vegetable oil and line the base with baking paper.
  • Whisk together the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes with an electric whisk, until light and fluffy. Add flour, almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Beat to combine. 
  • Beat  in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the grated beetroot and fold into the mixture. 
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 minutes. Remove and cool on wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, make the icing. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water until the sugar dissolves, stirring occassionally. Remove the pan from the heat and place on a heatproof surface and with the bowl still standing over the pan, whisk on high until the mixture forms stiff peaks. 
  • Cover the top pf the cake with the icing and scatter iver the chopped hazelnuts. 
  • Take a swig of home-made sloe gin. For cook.

Making this cake made me feel as if I really was part of the story, the cake isn't too sweet and has an earthy flavour from the beetroot which also helps it be so moist. A Tiny bit Marvellous is available to buy now at Waterstone's or your local bookshop.

Birthday cupcakes for Erica...

This week I had an order for 20 chocolate and 20 vanilla cupcakes for a lovely woman, Erica. It was her birthday and she was having a party at her beautiful home in Islington. As it was an adult party with both men and women the brief was "sophisticated" and "not girly" as you have probably noticed by my previous posts of 'happy hippo cupcakes' and 'cake burgers' sophistication isn't exactly my speciality, but I was up for the challenge. I decided to keep the cakes simple but use really good ingredients and keep all decoration to a minimum e.g. no glitter or pastel coloured icing (sad face). I really enjoyed making these cupcakes as the quantity was manageable and the recipes were simple, I could just let my mind wander and let my hands do all the work. However, this tranquility was short-lived.

The next day I had to deliver them, they had to be in Islington by London rush hour. Everything was going smoothly until I got to the Victoria Line platform of the Underground, the platform was unusually squashed with people and the board said "TRAIN HELD". 40 chocolate-based cupcakes in stifling heat waiting for a train to not be held isn't a great combination and one that was frankly starting to panic me. I crammed on the tube and this lovely old man with a walking stick guarded the cake box from one side and I straddled it from the other, we were a magnificent team. I leaped off the train at Highbury and Islington station and made my way to Erica's house, in the hullabaloo of everything I had forgotten to put my glasses on and proceeded to walk straight past the road I had to turn down. I got directions off a traffic warden and speedily walked to Erica's house, with about two minutes to spare. When I arrived the house was absolutely overwhelming, mansion-like and immaculately decorated I plonked the cakes down on a very large table and Erica, noticing how out of breath I was kindly gave me a glass of water. Luckily the cakes were well received and only one had got slightly mushed in transit.  

Hummingbird Bakery re-launch party

I managed to get an invitation through work for the Old Brompton Road re-launch party for the Hummingbird Bakery. As an invitee I was promised mini-cupcakes that had cocktail themes and champagne, Hummingbird delivered on both!
The Champagne was very nice, sweet and bubbly which is always good but the cupcakes were sublime. I am not a massive fan of Hummingbird cupcakes, I find them a bit sickly and overly sweet but the cocktail theme gave them an edge and the alcohol gave them a kick. I had predicted at work that the 'strawberry daquiri cupcake' would be the best and my goodness I was right! It blew my socks right off, it had fresh strawberries layered at the base of the sponge and a zingy frosting with more fresh strawberries to top. There were other flavours such as mojito, chocolate and brandy and pina colada and of course the classics such as red velvet and vanilla, but the strawberry daquiri was definitely my favourite. 
The shop is still absolutely tiny and I could only stick around for an hour before I was sweaty and had toothache, the new d├ęcor is brown and pink, with shiny mosaic tiles lining the walls and fresh pinks dotted around.

As I left I was handed this little box with a Hummingbird Bakery label stuck to the top, I waited to get home to have a look what I had received, it was a chocolate cupcake which I left for my sister as I couldn't face any more cake!

More photos and info at

Monday, 24 January 2011

Goodies for Grab Graphics...

When I first started taking my baking seriously Georgia and Ant, my very good friends at Grab Graphics helped me out at Chop's Cakes by making me a website, unfortunately at that time I had not a penny to my name so I promised to pay them in strip teases and cake, this is the cake part.

I knew Georgia had a certain weakness for macaroons and last time I made them Ant took them in their Tupperware slumber to the corner of the room and devoured them within minutes, this gave me a slight hunch that they may appreciate some more...the only problem is they are a bit of a ball ache to make, but I love these guys so it was necessary.

I had also heard about their recent whoopie pie discovery in Brick Lane market and wanted to try and make them (venturing out of my cupcake comfort zone just a little) however I will be calling them cake burgers because I think whoopie pie sounds like a smelly bodily function.

The art of the perfect macaroon is to achieve the little foot or 'pied' on the macaroon which looks like a rim around the base of the macaroon, I've only achieved slight pieds but won't dwell on it. Armed with Hisako Ogita's 'I ♥ Macaroons' book (which I initially bought for the pretty pictures) I decided on a flavour combination which in this case was cranberry and white chocolate and got baking.

Cranberry and White Chocolate Macaroons

Macaroon Ingredients
85g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
65g granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
30g dried cranberries

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, draw circles onto paper, this will help you get macaroons all the same size so they sandwich together better.
  • In a food processor whizz together almonds, sugar and cranberries then sieve twice.
  • In a large bowl, beat egg whites together until they are foamy, gradually add the sugar, add vanilla and stir gently, when the meringue mixture is firm and glossy its ready.
  • Add half of the whizzed dry ingredients to the egg whites and fold, then add the rest and mix lightly, continue to stir until the mixture drops slowly off the spatula.
  • Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe onto your prepared baking sheet, when piping the circles pipe slightly smaller than what is drawn, as the mixture settles it will spread slightly.
  • Leave in a cool place to dry, should take about half an hour, they are ready when you can touch the top and your finger comes away clean.
  • Sprinkle a little chopped dried cranberries on the top of the macaroons, then bake on 190°C, Gas mark 5 for 15-18 minutes until crisp and slightly cracked on the top.
  • When macaroons are completely cool remove from baking sheet.
White Chocolate Ganache filling

You will need:
100g white chocolate
100ml whipping cream

  • Break chocolate into small chunks and place in bowl.

  • In a saucepan bring the cream to a boil, the pour onto chocolate while whisking.
  • Cool mixture to room temperature and then pop in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Once cooled add a teaspoon of ganache to a macaroon and sandwich with another. 
A ball ache? yes, but I think you will agree it's well worth it!

Chocolate Cake Burgers with Marshmallow Filling

There is something very satisfying about eating cake like a burger, I don't quite know what it is but its feels brilliant!

I recently found this chocolate shop called Artisan du chocolat near where I work and had popped in previously with the sole intention of getting a free tester before braving the tube ride home, as I sunk my teeth into a truffle and pretended I was looking round the shop I noticed they sold cocoa powder, I knew it would come in handy as I was already pretty certain I was going to make chocolate cake burgers for Grab Graphics. 

Chocolate Cake Burger Ingredients
175g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
125g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
225ml buttermilk (There seems to be a shortage of buttermilk at the moment, if you can't seem to find it just mix up some natural yoghurt with some whole milk to the same quantity as the buttermilk)

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. 
  • Sift together flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and baking powder and put to one side. 
  • In a seperate bowl cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, slowly add egg, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. 
  • Mix in dry ingredients and chill for half an hour. 
  • Drop big tablespoons of mixture onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes, cakes are ready when you can make a dimple in the tops with your finger.
  • Leave on wire rack to cool completely.
Marshmallow Filling
It is REALLY important you dont get any yolk in the mixture, if you do the mixture will not bind and you wont be able to stick your two burgers together.

You will need:
3 egg whites
150g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
Pinch of salt
1tsp vanilla extract

  • Put all ingredients in a heatproof bowl and put bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, whisk continuously for 15 minutes until sugar has completely dissolved, frothy and mixture turns opaque.
  • Remove from saucepan and whip vigorously until mixture turns white and forms soft peaks.
  • Spread generously onto cake burgers, you can roll the edges of the burgers in mini-marshmallows if you want an added naughtiness.  

Grab Graphics enjoyed the cakes very much and are now awaiting their strip tease...eek!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Happy Hippo Cupcakes

I had my friend Lod over this weekend and we decided in advance that we were going to bake cupcakes together. We both love Kinder's Happy Hippos and used to buy them for each other in Secondary School to cheer one another up (girl's school was tough). I also wanted to incorporate Nutella as it is 'World Nutella Day' on 5th February and I wanted to get some practice in, plus it has the same hazelnut flavour as Happy Hippos but with the bonus of gooey chocolateness.

Chocolate Chip Sponge
The sponge is chocolate chip which is a light base for the intense Nutella icing.

This recipe makes 12, for the sponge you will need:
100g butter, softened
150g self-raising flour
1/2tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
3tbsp whole milk
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
100g chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4. Line your cupcake/muffin tin with cases, or grease and lightly dust with flour your silicone moulds.
  • In a mixing bowl beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, slowly incorporate the eggs whilst beating.
  • Sift in self-raising flour and baking powder.
  • Add whole milk and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Spoon mixture into your prepared moulds/cases.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until tops are golden and spring back to the touch.
  • Allow to cool on wire rack. 
Nutella buttercream icing

This buttercream is intense and unbelievably moreish, its very hard not eat it straight from the bowl.

250g icing sugar, sifted
80g butter, softened
25ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
90g Nutella
  • Pour your milk into a jug and add the vanilla pod to it (sliced in half lengthwise) leave overnight or for a couple of hours, covered in the fridge.
  • Cream together butter and slowly add sugar, cream in nutella until smooth.
  • Remove vanilla pod and gradually add milk until required consistency is reached.
  • Pipe onto cupcakes and top with Happy Hippos and toasted hazelnuts.

    Cupcakes for Lulu and Lush

    This week I had an order for 150 mini chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream icing as the theme was black and white. I decided to add a little sparkle to them as well.

    The order was from a lingerie boutique in the heart of Spitalfields called Lulu and Lush, the lingerie is vintage inspired and made from the most exquisite materials, the kind of underwear you put on and instantly feel as if you are a 50s pin up girl. As I arrived at the shop I was welcomed by the warm glow of chandeliers and visually enticed by the luxurious purples and reds and the sensual silky materials. All the girls in the shop were immaculately dressed with doll-like faces, as I stumbled into the shop struggling most inelegantly with the massive cake boxes, I was greeted with a chorus of "CUPCAKES!!!" which was lovely.

    Visit Lulu and Lush's website at
                                               Thanks Lulu and Lush, Love Chop x

    Sunday, 9 January 2011

    Bowzer's Birthday Bake!

    Oh what a lovely bit of alliteration...I thought I would start this blog with a bang with this 'Big boy' cupcake. Beware this is not for the New Year dieters or the diabetics. This is a very special cupcake I designed for my friend Becca's Birthday. She has a weakness for Reece's cups (American peanut butter and chocolate delight)  I generally stick to British recipes but this was a special occasion recipe and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Okay, take a deep breath...The Bowzer Cupcake is a chocolate encrusted peanut butter sponge filled with strawberry jam and topped with a fluffy peanut buttercream icing, with chocolate peanuts to decorate. (Hense it's big boy reputation)

    Chocolate chip and Peanut butter Sponge Recipe

    To make 12 cupcakes you will need:
    145g light brown sugar
    155g plain flour
    1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1 tsp cream of tartar
    1 pinch of salt
    50g butter, softened
    130g crunchy peanut butter
    100g chocolate chips
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    178ml whole milk
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    Strawberry Jam to fill

    Preheat your oven to 175°C, Gas Mark 4. Line your cupcake/muffin tin with cases, or grease and lightly dust with flour your silicone moulds.
    • In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy.
    • Slowly beat in the egg, whisking inbetween. 
    • In a jug mix together the vanilla and milk.
    • Mix flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt together and sift into mixture slowly alternating with vanilla infused milk until everything is combined and mixture is smooth.
    • Fold in chocolate chips.
    • Spoon into your prepared moulds/cases.
    • Bake for 18 minutes, until tops are golden and spring back to the touch.
    • Allow to cool completely on wire rack. 
    • Once cool fill with jam using a filling nozzle on your piping bag.

    Fluffy Peanut buttercream icing

    This buttercream is really light which allows the sponge to be a bit heavier. 

    115g butter, softened
    250g smooth peanut butter
    45ml whole milk
    250g icing sugar

    • Beat the butter and peanut butter together well, gradually sift in the sugar, when mixture gets stiff add milk a tiny bit at a time until the cicing is spreading consistency. Then beat vigourously for about 3 minutes until the icing is very fluffy.
    • Pipe onto cupcakes and top with chocolate covered peanuts/crushed peanuts.

    P.s. Becca loved them!