Monday, 16 April 2012

Baking for the Kids - Snack Bars

It's been a long break since I last posted. I was feeling in need of a rest and so stepped back from everything I was able to for a bit of R&R. I still find my mind is buzzing with creative ideas for cakes and cookies, so I am sure it won't be too long before I'm bringing all those ideas to fruition...but in the meantime, I am trying to focus on the family and have been thinking up nice treats for the kids.

For those of you with children, you will know the insatiable appetite they have for snacks. I had been trying to buy good healthy brands and stay well clear of 'junk', but brands such as Organix (very tasty and no added rubbish) cost a fortune and my boys could happily go through a box or two in a single day if I let them get away with it!So I have been searching for a home made 'bar' to keep them satisfied without breaking the bank. I've tried a few things, but today's creation was a resounding success - M exclaimed it to be "scrumdidillyumptious" and P countered that with "it's yummy"...and much debate then ensued between the pair as to whether scrumdidillyumptious is better than yummy...

I used Nigella's Breakfast Bars recipe as a starting point, but adapted it to our tastes.


1                   tin of light evaporated milk (405g)
300g            rolled oats
100g            desiccated coconut
50g              dried cranberries
100g            raisins
50g              dried mixed berries
handful        mixed seeds (poppy, sesame,

This is an incredibly simple recipe to follow. I simply mixed all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, heated the evaporated milk in a suacepan and then poured it into the bowl. Once everything was mixed, I popped it into a well greased baking tin, squidged it all down flat and then baked it for an hour on 140 celcius - simples!!!

One word of advice, cut it up before it has had a chance to completely cool...I had to rush out to do the school run so it was cold by the time I got back and it was quite hard work!

Extremely easy to make and extremely delicious...this is a real winner. The only downside is that I've got a bit of a taste for them myself, so I'm not sure how many the kids will actually get to see ;o)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

How to Pipe Two-tone Swirls on Cupcakes - Tutorial

I love the look of the two tone buttercream piped onto cupcakes, especially when using the rose swirl, as it is very effective and very pretty.

 When I first wanted to try doing this, I asked Mr Google and he told me to put the food colouring down one side on the inside of my piping bag. The more I thought about this, the more I was worried that it would be easy to use far too much colouring and also that it could easily produce a very uneven look to the colour. So I came up with the following way of doing it.

 First I put half of my uncoloured buttercream onto a piece of clingfilm:

Then I coloured the other half and put it on top of the uncoloured pile:

I then folded the clingfilm over the top and squished the two piles together:

I tied one end of the clingfilm into a knot to stop the buttercream squeesing out, and I cut the other end up close next to the buttercream. I then put the 'package' into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tube and started piping. Simples!!

 The effect is quite random (the first swirl had hardly any pink in it) but that is the beauty of the two tone swirl - each cupcake is individual.
 There's no reason why you couldn't adapt this technique to do a third colour, although I fear that four or more colours might look a little 'busy.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

How to Make a Parcel-burst Cake - Tutorial

I have always been impressed when I have seen cakes with 'things' apparently bursting out of the top of them and I thought I would share with you how I put one together recently.

I decided that I would airbrush the cake afterwards, rather than colour the fondant beforehand. I'm not sure that was such a great idea now, but I was happy with the end result so it all turned out OK in the end.

So first of all I rolled out some fondant and used the tin I baked the cake in as a 'cutter' to make a circle the right size to go on the top of the cake.

I then cut out a circle of greaseproof paper, using a smaller tin as a guide, and popped that on top of the fondant circle, before covering the cake properly.

I then lightly placed the smaller tin on the top of the cake which left a slight indentation that I could use as a guide to cut slits into the fondant. Be careful when doing this. The greaseproof paper acts as a guard to stop you from cutting through the second layer, but if you put too much pressure on the knife/cutter then it will pierce the paper and the layer underneath. Once I'd cut the slits, I peeled back the pieces and gently curled them into a nice shape.

I then was able to remove the greaseproof paper to reveal the perfect layer of fondant underneath to protect the cake. I had thought that I would be able to simply 'pinch' the paper to pull it out, but it proved more difficult than I anticipated. In the end I used the point of a knife to gently hook it out, strategically choosing a place where I knew the topper would be inserted so that any blemish wouldn't be visible.

I then set about airbrushing the cake. As the fondant still  had a little flexibility at this stage, I was able to place a sheet of paper towel under each of the pulled back pieces to protect the main body of the cake while I airbrished it in red. I then did the rest of the cake blue and managed reasonably sucessfully not to get blue contaminating the red parts. Obviously it would be easier to do this with pre-coloured fondant, but I don't seem to like doing things the easy way :o)

I think the end result is quite effective, and it certainly adds an extra dimension to a cake.

This is just the way I worked out how to do this - if you have other tried and tested methods, I would love to hear about them!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Two Baby Girls - an Excuse for Decorated Cookies

I have just been to my first ever baby shower (for a little baby girl who will be arriving imminently), and we also welcomed a new baby girl into my extended family, so I thought this was a great excuse to immerse myself in all things pink!

I had brilliant fun making the cookies and am starting to feel more comfortable working with royal icing as a medium; It is so versatile.

I hope you like the pictures.

In the next couple of weeks there are some charity events which I have promised to contribute raffle prizes to, and given the closeness of Easter I think that'll be a great excuse to practice some different cookie designs.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Guest Blog - Interview with Nadine Snijders

I'm not sure when I became aware of Nadine's blog, but from the moment I first laid eyes on her stunning creations I was hooked! She has such a beautiful, feminine style executed with such amazing precision, I challenge anyone not to be bowled over by her work.

I mean, just how stunning is this?!?!

I decided to chance my luck and approached her to see if she would guest here on my little blog and I was over the moon to find that she really liked the idea!! In the end we settled on doing an interview as this would give you all an opportunity to get to know her as well as appreciate her amazing creations. So here goes...

Hi Nadine, a very big welcome to Sarah's Cake Blog!

Thank you so much for being my guest today.

So let's jump straight in - When did you first start decorating cakes? Is it something that you have always loved or is it a more recent thing?

Before I started making cakes, I made cupcakes. In March 2009 I made my first cupcakes, for my own birthday, just for fun. I then began looking on the internet for inspiration and products.
After a while I started thinking about making cakes, but I found it hard as I had never had any lessons and didn’t know where to start. Again, I used the internet to find all the "how to’s" and I made two cakes for my sister‘s birthday in May 2010. She loved them and didn’t want to cut them... seeing her reaction made me happy and was the best reward.

How did this develop into making cakes for other people?

The perfectionist in me wants everything to be, almost, perfect. The details have to be right and I think people notice that. More and more people asked me to make them a cake and that’s how it started...

How do you juggle the demands of everyday working and such a time consuming pastime as cake decorating?

Until recently, I was living with my parents, so I could make time for cakes next to my full time job. Now, I’m living in my own house and next to my job, there is the housework.
After moving in, I wanted to take a break, making time for my house. Now, after a few months, there’s some time for cakes, but I can’t make as many as I did before.

As with anything else, cakes are subject to the influence of fashion and trends. From trawling the internet it is also obvious that styles of cake differ from country to country. Would you say that your classical style is typical of the Netherlands?

I would like to say that I have my own style, as do many people. Of course there are differences, such as colours (red-white-blue are often used in the Netherlands), use of piping royal icing etc., but the internet allows us to see cakes from all over the World and people inspire each other. So, I wouldn’t say there’s a typical Dutch style.

You describe your style as being inspired from the Victorian/Marie Antoinette periods; what is it that captures your imagination so much?

The gorgeous dresses, the soft colours and the use of lace and pearls. Which woman wouldn‘t be inspired?

What do you find most challenging about decorating cakes, and also what is the most enjoyable?

The design of the cake is always a challenge. I never have, and would never, make the same design twice.
In the beginning I had so many problems with getting the fondant smooth and without cracks on the sides. After trying out different fondants, I’m now very happy with the Satin Ice fondant I started using recently. In the Netherlands you couldn’t buy it until a few months ago.
The thing that’s the most enjoyable, is the decoration part, working on a smooth base and finishing it with the right decorations.

What interesting projects do you have in the pipeline?

I still have so many cake designs/elements that I want to use…
Next week it’s my birthday and I will have a high tea for my closest girlfriends, so I‘m making two mini cakes. In May there’s my third birthday cake for my sister and in June I will be making a wedding cake.

What would your dream cake look like?

Oh my, I think there a several dream cakes…
I love white on white, the combination of pastel blue and white, pastel pink with white and gold…. Things that are often recurring themes are pearls and lace, so my dream cake would have to contain these two.

How has using social media (such as your blog and facebook) helped you, both in terms of exposure for your cakes and inspiration for making them in the first place?

The internet is great! At first, I placed my pictures on Hyves (a Dutch version of Facebook) and a Dutch cake forum. People seemed to love my cakes and gave lovely comments. From then on unknown people started to ask me to make cakes.
I also placed the pictures on Flickr and enjoyed it when foreign people commented on my cakes. I started using Facebook and more people added me on Facebook - a lot from outside the Netherlands.
I met a close friend of mine, Tessa (of Cakes By Tess), on the Dutch forum. We have the same style and love the same colours and decoration. People on the forum noticed this and mentioned us in topics.
We thought it would be fun to have a Facebook page together. Now, after almost a year, we nearly have 1670 members and we still find it hard to believe that so many people like our cakes. Knowning that every cake we make will be seen by so many people is such a delight!

Thanks so much Nadine for being my guest today and sharing with us the photos of your beautiful creations!

If you would like to see more of Nadine's beautiful work then check out her blog Nadine's Cakes & My Little White Home. She has decorated her home just as exquisitely as she decorates her cakes! You can also follow her on the Facebook page which she shares with her equally talented friend Tess at Tess' & Nadine's Cakes.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Most Popular Cake?

I frequently am asked if there is a particular cake which I have requests for time and time again. Unsurprisingly, I think, chocolate cakes are very popular and I am often given the remit of 'chocolate, chocolate & more chocolate'.

In these instances I usually suggest this design of cake. It is eminently adaptable and so can be individualised to each client depending upon their budget and degree of 'chocolateyness' required. The ultimate is to use Belgian chocolate cigarillos around the edge of the cake and this has become a popular choice for wedding cakes; but for occasions with smaller budgets, there are plenty of alternatives available which still give a stunning looking cake. It is also a good design option for cakes for men, who obviously don't want anything frilly & fussy! 

In the picture above the client chose chocolate fingers and crushed flake, but I have seen many different chocolate snack bars used for the edging and it is always effective. The version of this cake that I have done with the biggest 'wow factor' has to be this three tier birthday cake:   

The lines on the cafe-curls really add to the impact of the design and are a nice contrast to the concentric circles created by the chocolate balls used for the topping. The chocolate sponges were filled with chocolate ganache to give a really luxurious edge to the mouth-feel of the cake - yum yum! 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Cheese and Bacon Plait - Baking with Kids

Although it isn't cake, this fits in with my baking with kids theme that I am currently running with. I love pastry, particularly savoury puff pastry dishes. So one lunchtime last week we decided to make a savoury plait. It turned out to be really easy and absolutely DELICIOUS!

We grated some cheese and chopped up some onions, and then rolled out a sheet of puff pastry.

Then, using a sharp knife, we scored the pastry along its length (being careful not to cut right through it) so that it was marked into three sections. 

Starting with the bacon, we put the filling in the middle section and then cut diagonally along the two remaining sections (cutting right through this time).

Using a little beaten egg as 'glue' we then folded a strip over from each side to give the impression the pastry had been plaited.

Finally, we brushed egg over the finished plait and popped it in the oven at approx 180C for half an hour.

There were no left-overs!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

American Style Cheesecake - Baking with Kids

...or, if my son had been naming this post, it would be

How to Make a Munchy-Crunchy-Cake

which is what he decided to call the cake half way through making it.

A little while ago I discovered Renee's blog (Kudos Kitchen by Renee) and was particularly intrigued earlier in the week when she posted a recipe for malted Milk Ball Cheesecake. In the UK cheesecake recipes aren't usually cooked, but it seems that American style cheesecakes are a baked delicacy. I love malty flavoured things, so I thought this would be a brilliant recipe to try out with the kids. I've changed it slightly...Europeanised it a little I guess, but hopefully not enough that it's untrue to its origins.

You can see Renee's original recipe here; my recipe is below:

For the base:

choc chip cookies (2 packets - approx 400g total)
white OvaltineTM powder (1 tablespoon )
melted butter (85g)

For the filling:

mascarpone cheese, softened to room temp (500 g)
self raising flour (1.5 tablespoons)
MaltesersTM (a 230g pouch)
white OvaltineTM powder (2 tablespoons)
caster sugar (225g)
crème fraiche, at room temperature (100g)
vanilla extract (few drops)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
grated chocolate for topping

Renee's recipe tells you to put the cookies in the food processor & whizz them up, but it's much more fun to put them in a bag, arm your three-year-old with a rolling pin and tell him to whack them to bits. In this photo it looks like he's rolling them but he was actually perfecting a two handed smashing action!!

We then combined the cookie bits with the butter and the OvaltineTM powder in the food processor and blitzed them until the mixture started to come together in clumps. We then squished it all down into a 9" baking tin. We popped it in the oven at approx 170C for around ten minutes and then set it aside to cool a little.

Meanwhile, we got on with making the filling. With Mrs B's help we whipped the mascarpone, flour, OvaltineTM powder and the sugar into  a lovely creamy mixture. We then added the crème fraiche and vanilla and lightly mixed them in (although there is a certain lack of finesse in a three-year-old controlling the on-off button of a powerful mixer!). 

We then added the eggs one at a time, slowly mixing them well in, before adding the MaltesersTM. Renee's recipe calls for the balls to be chopped in half...however, the unbridled enthusiasm of my son resulted in the whole pouch being emptied straight in to the bowl and mixed in:

We then poured the mixture into the tin and popped it in the oven at somewhere between 170-180C for an hour. I'm guessing that had we chopped the balls they wouldn't have all floated to the surface...

After an hour it came out looking like this:

and smelling DELICIOUS!!!

Although unplanned, the fact that the MaltesersTM formed a lovely caramelised layer on top of the smooth creamy-cheesy layer really made this for me, and I think it suits the munch-crunchy-cake title quite well! I think I am definitely a convert to baked cheesecake. It is quite different to what the British would usually call cheesecake, but it is worth the extra time and effort to make it - yum!!   

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Chocolate & Date Brownies - Baking with Kids

It's half term this week which means I have the children at home with me. Luckily I don't have any cake orders this week! The boys always show a great deal of interest in my baking, so I thought they would probably enjoy having a go at making brownies and decided to make it our 'project' this morning. So after a bit of a protracted amble down to the village shop (sucessfully fending off the numerous pleas for a 'special treat' - obviously making brownies wasn't a special enough treat in itself!) I managed to install them in the kitchen.

It's fitting that the gorgeous little apron and chef's hat set that we have says 'I love Santa' as it seems to be Christmas all year round in our house...after 12 months of trying I still haven't managed to sucessfully remove the Postman Pat Christmas Stories CD that tortures me every morning in the car, and the boys are frequently known to be humming and singing 'Jingle Bells' in the height of summer. The recent snow had them utterly convinced that Father Christmas was going to be putting in a reappearance at any minute because 'It always snows at Christmas!'

This is the recipe we were following:

Unsalted butter (250g/9oz)
Dark chocolate (275g/10oz)
Caster sugar (275g/10oz)
Three large eggs
Vanilla extract (1 tsp)
Plain flour (225g/8oz)
Salt (0.5 tsp)
Chopped dates (a 'handful')

First we melted the chocolate and the butter together and set the mixture aside to cool slightly. In the meantime, we beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract together in Mrs B my trusty mixer (named after none other than Mrs Beeton).

Mrs B causes no end of fascination to my eldest - he could spend all day watching things whizz around in there!
We kept mixing on a medium speed until the mixture was pale and fluffy. Then we added the slightly cooled chocolate mixture

and mixed it all in. Finally, we stirred in the flour using a metal spoon. We cooked the mixture for about 30 minutes at 180C until it was just set. We left it to cool in the tin for about 10 to 15 minutes and then turned it out onto a cooling rack to finish.

We were all delighted with the end result - despite the concerns of the boys that I was somehow contaminating their creation by insisting upon the addition of the dates!

Of course then, as far as the boys were concerned, it was the best bit - licking out the bowl! And the worst bit for me - the washing up...

 Thankfully he took his hat off first!!!