The cake and bake show: in pictures

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

The lovely GBBO contestants

Then came the marketplace, full of sumptuous displays, clever designs, and playful decoration.

Gorgeously gilded gold

Gorgeously gilded gold

Luxury cake pops

Edible gardening

Edible gardening

Tree stumps never looked so tasty

rose cake

Of course, things got even tastier upon discovering the gingerbread village.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

The stars of the show

The stars of the show

Sugar cane heaven

Sugar cane heaven

And then came the wedding cakes, quirky baking delights, and a CAKE CATWALK!

Inspiration for your big day

Inspiration for your big day

An artist at work...

An artist at work…

A little Mad Hatter, don't you think?

A little Mad Hatter, don’t you think?

There were no skinny offerings on this catwalk!

There were no skinny offerings on this catwalk!

Up close and personal with the models

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

The baking guru in full swing

Pretty as a picture

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.

Love Emma xx

The great Bupa bake off

Please vote for me! I'm so tasty!

Please vote for me! I’m so tasty!

Bupa Care Homes has launched a search for the best homemade cake to become the official ‘sweet bake’ for Communi-tea Week 2013, which brings elderly people together over a cuppa.

As this is such a wonderful cause, and because baking is my passion, I have entered my green tea loaf cake with lime and coconut buttercream.

It would be bloomin’ marvellous if you could spare 15 seconds of your time to vote for me. Simply click here and you’ll be taken straight to my recipe; then just click ‘vote’. It’s as easy as that.

Thank you for your baking support 🙂

Love Emma xx

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a cake stall

cake stall

Presiding over the cakes…

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).

Business cards

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
  • Coffee cake
  • Chocolate and peanut butter brownies
  • Carrot cake
  • Gingerbread men
  • Lemon cake
  • Ginger Christmas cake with brandy buttercream
  • Coconut cake
  • 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

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.

cake fayre

Let the selling commence!

The fayre was incredibly busy, and it was great to see so many people enjoying our handy work.

eating cake

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!

Same time next year then?

Love Emma xx

Amazing lemon curd muffins with a zesty sugar top

More than a little bit tasty!

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.

You’ll need:

For the muffins

  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 300ml milk
  • 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

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C, and grease and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases
  2. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and mix in the golden caster sugar

    It gets more exciting, I promise

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together yours eggs, sunflower oil, milk and vanilla extract
  4. 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
  5. 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

  6. 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
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen, firm and golden, then leave the muffins to cool
  8. 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!

  9. Immediately dip the tops of each muffin in the sugar

    Kids would LOVE this bit!

  10. Then leave the muffins to set

    Oh, do I have to share?

  11. 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.

Love Emma xx

Perfect Victoria sponge cake with Harrods’ rose jam

Oh cake, you never fail to make my mouth water

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…

Ingredients

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

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line two wobbly bottomed cake tins
  2. Cream together your butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy (see above)
  3. Beat four eggs and add them to the mixture one at a time, along with the vanilla extract, whisking as you go
  4. Sift in your flour and gently fold; if the mixture is stiff, you may need to add a few drops of water
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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)

Enjoy with a cup of Laura Ashley English rose tea.

Love Emma xx