Dustbin Tales

Dustbin Tales
            A good friend of ours is one of my favourite types of people, the sort of person who will eat anything. I cannot stand fussy eaters. (I know I contradict myself a bit on this because of not liking cheese but you know what I mean) So of course I am always delighted when he comes round to dinner or drinks and I can palm of some of my latest invention on him. He is always a grateful receiver of any cookies, brownies or cake that are left lying round the house which I baked as a stress reliever and can’t persuade any of our family to eat any more. So I was delighted when I was asked to cater his 21st birthday. I had absolutely free reign on a savoury and sweet canapé spread; I could experiment with mini macaroons, cheesecake bites, three different sorts of dip and mini toad in the hole. I made mini satay chicken, white wine jellies, chargrilled squid and mini apple pies. Most of all I got to make a spread sheet to organise the whole thing – brilliant! The only request was that I make a cake like the one his mum made for him every year for his birthday.

            As I mentioned before this friend was famous for eating everything, so his mum had come up with a dustbin cake. A chocolate cake with the top sliced off, topped with all the disgusting gummy sweets he wasn’t allowed most of the year and then the top of the cake placed over them. Now I wanted to go one step further for this cake. So I planned a 4 layer chocolate cake, of which I cut out a hole in each layer. I filled the hole with gummy sweets, smothered the cake in chocolate icing with a few token gummy worms making their exits down the sides and topped the whole thing off with a pure chocolate disc lid. On this lid I piped lines coming off the centre and added on a fondant handle and there you have it a pure chocolate dustbin. I was later told that this was breakfast for weeks afterwards, ah well better to over cater than under….

Beer Cake: The Yorkshireman

Beer Cake: The Yorkshireman

The Yorkshireman’s birthday approaches. I am invited to a lavish champagne (okay prosecco) drinks reception followed by a meal at Brown’s. So what to give him….. When I have time (unfortunately this is not the case for all of my friend’s birthdays so I apologise – if any of my friends are reading this I promise you, your time will come soon – ) I like to make a cake and/or chocolates. The Yorkshireman is another one of my keen organist friends but since I have already made the organ cake, I turned to the Yorkshireman’s other love, Beer. I made a sheet plain sponge, first time using the brand new bright red kitchen aid!

4 Large Eggs
225g sugar
225g butter
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
225g self raising flour
pinch of Salt 
milk to loosen

Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, add vanilla and eggs. Add flour and salt (TOP TIP: beat on a slow setting first unless you want flour all over your work surface). Add milk until the mixture is still thick but is pale and light. Bake at 180oC for 30mins or until golden on top and cooked through (use a skewer, if it comes out clean.

before carving the sides to resemble a beer glass.  Then I made some salted caramel icing

200g sugar
2tbsp water
60ml cream
250g butter
300g icing sugar
Vanilla extract
2tsp sea salt (proper flakes)

Let sugar and water dissolve over a medium heat and  DO NOT STIR. Leave till it turns to a dark amber and is beginning to smoke, you can swirl it but DO NOT STIR. Take off the heat, leave for 30secs then add the cream and stir. Leave to cool till roughly room temp. Meanwhile cream the butter, vanilla and salt. Add the icing sugar (see flour tip) then half the cooled salted caramel, if too thick add water, refrigerate till needed. 

Then I smothered the cake with the remaining salted caramel before covering the whole thing in the icing. Finally I made some marshmallow frosting

1 egg white
100g sugar or 150g icing sugar

Beat the egg white till stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating till stiff peaks form again and the mixture is thick enough to pipe, put in a piping bag.

Then I piped the icing on top to make the head. The final decoration was melted milk chocolate put in a piping bag which I piped on to try and emphasise the point…. Next time I promise it will be guiness made with Guinness chocolate cake

Cakes in Shapes

Cakes in Shapes
            For a while during year 13 I got momentarily obsessed with a show called Cake Boss. It is set in a New Jersey Bakery, a reality show around Buddy Valstro, an Italian American and his family. The main reason this particular show caught my eye was how they created cakes that were works of art; cakes that had firework displays, cake’s that moved, giant life size people. I wasn’t quite at that stage yet but I gradually began to have a go at making themed cakes. It started when a friend gave me a giant cupcake mould for my birthday, it came out well and I caught the bug. The next cake I made was a bra for a friend who always joked about her boobs. Another idea for a cake was a simple round cake, smothered in icing as a thank you to a show crew, all the cast signed it in edible pen and it ended up looking quite cool.
My sister’s 21stwas a simple 2 and a 1 with black notes, shopping bags and books all over. That September I got another two opportunities to experiment. Firstly I made a goodbye cake for a friend of ours who was going to the Caribbean. I made a tropical version of a carrot cake with pineapple and mango. Then I swirled blue food dye into buttercream icing to create a sea, then I used crushed digestives for sand, made a chocolate palm tree and decorated the beach with chocolate seashells. The other cake was for a joint 90th birthday for two of my grandparents. We were all going on a riverboats so the cake had to be transportable and themed yet not melt. I decided to make a buttercream and fondant covered vanilla sponge. I finished this with smaller cakes in the shape of an aeroplane and scrabble pieces. This is in homage to my grandpa who worked as an aeroplane engineer for years (he helped design the engine for concord) and my grandma who is a scrabble fiend at her nursing home.
The only person I haven’t got round to making a cake for is myself, but with my 21stbirthday coming up I’ll have to bite the bullet and do it.

Organ lessons

Organ lessons

My friend (who happens to be an organist) turned 21 yesterday. His sole wish was to have champagne and smoked salmon on his birthday (you can probably see why we are friends). So of course I selflessly obliged him in drinking his champagne and going for both lunch and dinner with him (loch fyne and cote since you ask) and had a wonderful evening. But what do you give the foodie organist ? an organ cake of course.
Using the time in my latest Early music lecture efficiently I planned a cake with a little help from another organist for authenticity. I figured a proper large pipe organ was a little ambitious so went with a chamber organ. One thing I am struggling with at uni is the lack of food processor (I know, middle class problems) so my chocolate cake ended up with small chunks of chocolates rather than the smooth texture I was expecting but that was a surprisingly tasty addition which I could easily pass of as an intentional clever twist. After making my two square shaped chocolate cakes I cut one in equal halves, and one with a slightly small half so that there was a ledge at the bottom for the seat. Then I levelled each one so that they had flat tops and square edges and sandwiched the layers together with strawberry jam.

After that I covered the whole cake in strawberry jam which stops the icing from getting all crumby when you spread it over and also gives a nice tang to the cake (I didn’t necessarily realise this would happen but on tasting it was pretty good). Finally I covered the whole cake in buttercream chocolate fudge icing, added a Caramac? (me neither) as a music stand, a Twix as the seat, iced a keyboard and pipes on the back and it sort of looked like an organ. Although it’s a good thing my artwork gets eaten almost immediately


Ferraro Rocher Cupcakes

I admit that I do not post enough sweet recipes to this blog despite having an intensely sweet tooth (I would always pick pudding over starter). I love making desserts – desserts is my favourite part of the meal because they give you the scope to be the most creative. You can mix sweet and savoury, you can shape almost anything (see the cake section), there are never constraints what you have to put on the plate and most of all it can have chocolate in it. Desserts are works of art and taste bloody good – I’m afraid this is why I believe food is a much higher form of art than a one off effort on a painting in the Tate modern. Plus I am pretty sure someone will soon come out with proven scientific research that baking is the most effective form of stress release and antidepressant.  So here is a decadent cake for a chocolate lover, not only is it beautiful but it combines probably every good thing god created (minus peanut butter and champagne) plus it has gold leaf on it, who wouldn’t eat anything with gold leaf on it?

Ferraro Rocher
Vanilla Cupcakes, Filled with hazelnut cream, a layer of chocolate, boiled milk nutella frosting with hazelnut pieces, drizzled with white and milk chocolate, sprinkled with wafer and topped with gold leaf.
For the Cupcakes
225 grams granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod
175 grams cake flour, not self-rising (Available in the UK only from American food shops)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
57 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
75 grams full-fat sour cream
60ml vegetable oil
1Tbsp vanilla extract
160 ml whole milk
1.Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C.
2.In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla pod.
3.Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure
to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
4.In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together
cake flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt.
5.Add the vanilla sugar and mix until well combined.
6.Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because
there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
7.In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and
vanilla extract until smooth.
8.Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed
until just combined.
9.Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter
will be liquid. 
10.         Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
11.         Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They
are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
12.         When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the
tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

For the Filling
240ml Whole Milk
2.5 Egg Yolks
55g Sugar
55g Cornstarch
2 teaspoons Hazelnut Liqueur
1.    In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
2.    Place over a low heat whisking gently just until the mixture bubbles, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Stir in hazelnut liqueur.
3.    Press plastic wrap directly on the top of the cream and place in fridge to cool completely, approximately 2 hours.
4.    When cupcakes are cool, cut a small hole in the centre of the cake and fill with the filling.
For the Chocolate Layer
100g melted milk chocolate
1. When the cupcakes are filled, pour over a thin layer of melted chocolate and leave to set, meanwhile make the icing.
For the Frosting
240ml Whole Milk
3 tbsp Plain
A pinch of Salt
225g unsalted Butter
225g Granulated Sugar
1tbsp nutella
2tbsp hazelnuts, finely chopped
1.    Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Cook mixture until thickened, whisking constantly.
2.    Remove from heat and whisk in the Salt.
3.    Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap on the surface. (This will stop the cooking and the plastic will prevent crusting) Set aside to cool slightly.
4.    In a stand mixer, begin creaming the butter and sugar until fluffy.
5.    When milk mixture is slightly cooled; add 1 TB at a time to the creamed butter mixture while the mixer is running on medium speed. Slowly but surely the gluten will pull in the butter into a pseudo emulsion. Add the nutella and mix again.
6.    You should have an extremely fluffy, light and buttery frosting when completed
7.    Toast the hazelnuts dry. When cooled, stir through the frosting
8.    Place in a piping bag and pipe onto the set chocolate
To finish
Wafer crumbled
Melted milk chocolate
Melted white chocolate
Gold leaf
1.    Top the cupcake with the wafer pieces
2.    Drizzle the melted milk chocolate and white chocolate over the cupcake in lines
3.    Finally dab a piece of gold leaf on top