Last week, I was lucky enough to not only be given tickets to Manchester’s cake and bake show for my birthday, but also press passes through my gig as Editor of food website Kitchen Bitching. You can read the write up of my day in full over at KB, but I just had to share some of my amateur snaps from the day on White Rabbits.
The best part of having a press pass was seeing Paul Hollywood, Simon Rimmer, John Whaite, and Cat Dresser ‘back stage’. Baking talent galore!
The lovely GBBO contestants
Then came the marketplace, full of sumptuous displays, clever designs, and playful decoration.
Gorgeously gilded gold
Of course, things got even tastier upon discovering the gingerbread village.
Home sweet home
The stars of the show
Sugar cane heaven
And then came the wedding cakes, quirky baking delights, and a CAKE CATWALK!
Inspiration for your big day
An artist at work…
A little Mad Hatter, don’t you think?
There were no skinny offerings on this catwalk!
Up close and personal with the models
But of course, the stars of the show came into their own in the live demos; with Mich Turner showing us amateurs how to produce the most glorious looking rose covered cake. Heavenly.
The baking guru in full swing
Pretty as a picture
Now, get yourselves along to the London leg in September – you’ll be up to your eyes in icing, edible glitter, and baking gods. Can’t say fairer than that.
Since starting this blog, I’ve cooked more than ever before, and regularly share my offerings with friends and family alike – so it came as no surprise when two of my friends badgered me into having my own cake stall at the Keele Christmas market this year. But I wasn’t going to tackle it alone, and roped my mum (the don of baking) into sharing the sweet responsibility (then promptly ordered some business cards to get the White Rabbits word well and truly out).
I wouldn’t want people to miss out on my recipes now, would I?
The first problem was deciding which cakes to make. I had my heart set on chocolate fridge cake until mum astutely pointed out that without the aid of a fridge, the chocolate would quickly melt (and now you see why I wasn’t doing this alone).
In the end, we settled on:
Oreo cookie cupcakes
Chocolate and peanut butter brownies
Ginger Christmas cake with brandy buttercream
Green tea cake with lime and coconut buttercream
(I will of course be bringing you all of the recipes over the coming weeks!)
Soon into the baking process, we realised that catering for a Christmas fayre was going to be a messy job.
Messy kitchen alert!
By the end of the preparation day, there wasn’t a clear surface in sight. We stayed up until 1 a.m. icing, decorating, and bagging up gingerbread families, and early next morning, we were ready to go and get set up for a festive day of cake.
Let the selling commence!
The fayre was incredibly busy, and it was great to see so many people enjoying our handy work.
A happy customer
It soon became apparent that we should have made a lot more cake! We sold out long before the fayre came to a dusky close – leaving nothing but crumbs in our wake. Success!
In my other gig as editor of Kitchen Bitching, I was recently sent some samples of the new Great British Bakeware to review. Amongst the goodies parcelled prettily on my doorstep was a floral (and utterly gorgeous) muffin tray.
Now, despite being an avid baker, I’d never attempted muffins before, but after a recent trip to Costa (where I discovered their delicious lemon curd muffins), I was keen to better them. And — false modesty aside — I think I have. They’re gooey and delicious inside, and zesty, sweet and sticky on top (with an added crunch from the sugar).
The quantities may sound a little high, but if you want 12 decent sized muffins, rather than 12 teeny cupcakes, throw caution to the wind and get baking up a storm.
For the muffins
400g self-raising flour
200g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
120ml homemade or good quality lemon curd
Juice of half a lemon
For the sugar coating
60ml homemade or good quality lemon curd
50g golden caster sugar
Make the magic happen
Preheat your oven to 190C, and grease and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases
Sieve the flour into a large bowl and mix in the golden caster sugar
It gets more exciting, I promise
In a separate bowl, mix together yours eggs, sunflower oil, milk and vanilla extract
Once combined, make a well in the flour and sugar mix and add a glug of the liquid mix into the centre of the well. Use a wooden spoon to stir this liquid into the surrounding flour and sugar, then continue to add the liquid a little at a time, stirring in more flour and sugar as you go. Add the fresh lemon juice and stir
Fill your muffin cases halfway with batter, then dollop 1 tsp of lemon curd in the middle. Top up with the remaining muffin batter
Tad messy, as baking should be
Once your muffin cases are full, place the tray in a pre heated oven on the middle shelf, being careful not to slam the door
Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen, firm and golden, then leave the muffins to cool
When sufficiently cooled, microwave the lemon curd on high for 1 minute until it’s all gooey and melty. Pop your sugar into a shallow bowl, then take a pasty brush (so much fun) and paint on the melted lemon curd until it covers each muffin
This was SO therapeutic!
Immediately dip the tops of each muffin in the sugar
Kids would LOVE this bit!
Then leave the muffins to set
Oh, do I have to share?
Enjoy with a cup of something hot
Serve with your prettiest tea set
I took these into work today and they were an enormous hit, so I predict your popularity levels will rocket if you’re in a sharing mood.
Top tip: most cakes are made using the 6,6,6,3 rule; I achieve an impressive looking cake by upping this to 8,8,8,4.
When you’re an avid baker, one of the most important things to have in your repertoire is the quintessentially English Victoria sponge sandwich. But because this cake is simple in appearance and taste, there’s no room for error. When you’re slathering something in chocolate buttercream, or disguising it with all manner of fancy toppings, you can get away with quite a lot; but when it comes to the traditional Victoria sponge, it’s all about quality. And the best way to achieve that? With quality ingredients of course.
I’m all for saving the pennies where you can, but this is not the place to scrimp. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean turning to your supermarket’s finest range for everything on your ingredients list, but it’s a good idea to avoid ‘value’ products when baking a simple sponge. I always opt for brands that I can trust — like Tate & Lyle for sugar and Homepride for flour. It also makes a big difference if you use vanilla extract rather than vanilla essence, real butter (such as Lurpack) instead of margarine for the buttercream, and of course, free range eggs (because we all love chickens).
As for the jam, well, Hartley’s never lets me down, but when I visited Harrods a few months ago, I discovered a product that made me squeal with excitement: Harrods Glitterati Rose Petal Luxury Jelly with EDIBLE GLITTER. As anyone who knows me can attest, I have an obsession with glitter that verges on unhealthy, and I’ll use edible glitter in my cooking wherever I can. Add to that the fact that rose is without doubt my favourite ever flavour and you’ll understand the relish with which that jar of jam was snapped up.
Once you’ve got the best possible ingredients in your larder, the next stage to achieving a quality sponge is technique. We all know that we’re supposed to whip our marge and sugar until they’re light and fluffy, but I firmly endorse whipping that mixture until your arm can’t take it anymore; then adding your eggs, and pushing your poor arm even further along the path of baking-induced destruction. When it comes to adding the flour, it’s important to sift it in so that you wheedle out any lumps, and gently fold. Hopefully, you’re so tired by the time you get to this stage that you can’t possibly beat anymore — and that’s a good thing. Beating the mixture with too much relish will knock out all of that lovely air; then you will have destroyed your arm for nothing.
So, when you’re ready…
For the sponge
8oz Tate & Lyle caster sugar
8oz Homepride self-raising flour
8oz Stork margarine (perfect for baking)
4 free range, organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the buttercream and decoration
6oz Tate & Lyle icing sugar (plus a little extra for dusting)
4 tbsp Good quality jam (you can buy the Harrods Glitterati Rose Petal Luxury Jelly here)
Make the magic happen
Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line two wobbly bottomed cake tins
Cream together your butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy (see above)
Beat four eggs and add them to the mixture one at a time, along with the vanilla extract, whisking as you go
Sift in your flour and gently fold; if the mixture is stiff, you may need to add a few drops of water
Once the mixture is combined, spoon equal amounts into your two cake tins and bake for around 30 minutes: never open the oven door before the 20 minute mark, as this make cause your cake to drop and you’ll lose that lovely rise
Whilst that’s baking away, soften your butter in another large bowl, then sift in your icing sugar and beat with an electric hand whisk. Add in a few drops of vanilla extract to taste
After around 30 minutes, you can check that the sponge is cooked through by inserting a skewer in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, you’re ready to go
Leave to cool before filling the sponge sandwich with the buttercream and jam, and dusting with a light sprinkling of icing sugar (and edible glitter if you’re so inclined)