March 2014

March 2014

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fondant garden flowers

What a fun morning I have just had making fondant garden flowers as cupcake decorations with skillful expert tutor Julie, aka Angelina Cupcake.

Her workshop was inspiring - I have never attempted such creations before - and all materials for this workshop were provided. My one and only requisite was to watch, learn and create whilst, of course, nattering with my fellow learners and stopping, from time to time, for a mug or two of coffee whilst nibbling on freshly baked madeleines. How lucky was I!
As you will see from the photographs, and thanks to Julie’s encouragement, the resulting beautiful creations were amazing – almost too good to eat - and all participants on this morning’s course were astounded at their efforts.

I would thoroughly recommend Julie’s fun cupcake decorating classes and for full details of this, and other courses from Julie, see her website

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chocolate sourdough cake

For the weekend I now regularly bake sourdough bread on a Friday night. After its use, I usually ‘feed’ my ‘starter’ and then pop it back in the fridge for a few days, only bringing it back to life in the warmth of the kitchen on a Wednesday or Thursday to feed, nourish and grow again ready for baking once more on a Friday evening. This week, however, I wondered what else I could possibly make with the sourdough, other than bread. To my amazement, after doing some internet research, I discovered all manner of baked items can be made using sourdough starter. In particular, there are many American ‘Amish’ recipes and I hope to try some of these in the months to come. However, on this occasion I opted for a Chocolate Sourdough Cake, only adapting it a little from its American roots.

1 cup ‘fed’ sourdough starter
1 cup whole milk (I used a small tin of evaporated milk)
2 cups plain flour
1 ½ cups caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I used ‘Mrs. Middleton’s’ Rapeseed Oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used ‘Ndali’ vanilla powder)
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa (I used ‘Green & Black's’)
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 large eggs – beaten slightly

I combined the ‘fed’ starter with the milk and flour in a mixing bowl and left it, covered, at room temperature for a couple of hours. It didn’t ‘bubble’ but it certainly expanded a little.

In a separate bowl (I used my stand mixer) I beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, bicarb, coffee and cocoa. The mixture looked grainy.
I then added the eggs a little at a time – beating well.

I poured the batter into a prepared (greased and lined) brownie tin – approx. 10 x 8 - and baked for 40 minutes at 180C/170C fan.

The resulting cake had ‘domed’ and cracked a little but looked and tasted fine once iced and sliced. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

'Showstoppers' at The Royal & Derngate Theatre

On Monday, 15th April, the stage was set for an epic performance by our Northants CCC members and, to say the least, our ‘Showstoppers’ brought the house down with cakes in every size, shape and flavour.  Thanks to member Lorraine, we met at The Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton Town Centre. The room size was just perfect for the 35 or so that attended and we even had our own staffed bar. Before delving in to the amazing display of show-stopping bakes, the theatre’s Operations Manager, Rich, welcomed us and, quite unexpectedly, told us that they had also arranged a special ticket discount for us on a variety of future shows. Such a nice surprise! 

So, on to the stars of the show, our cakes! We had a Lime and Green Madeira, a Coffee, Chocolate and Hazelnut cake, a Lemon and Raspberry cake, a Black Forest Gateau, a Popcorn cake, a Toffee Shock cake, a Caramel cake, a Chocolate Rocky Road Cake, a German Chocolate cake, an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ cake, a Dark Chocolate Orange & Marmalade cake, a Chocolate and Strawberry Trellis cake, a Victoria ‘Over the Rainbow’ cake, a Chocolate Raspberry cake, a Box of Chocolates cake, a Chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting, a Belgian Truffle cake, a Chocolate and Caramel layer cake and an Almond Bakewell with Raspberries cake. 

Oh I do hope I haven’t left one off the list - and a HUGE round of applause must go to everyone as they were all so scrumptiously show-stoppingly spectacular!

(Further photos taken at this event may be seen shortly on

Saturday, April 13, 2013

'Cake Making' by Ruth Clemens

Hands up, if like me, you like photos of the finished article in recipe books? Perhaps unwisely, I have often rejected an interesting cookbook simply due to the lack of clear instruction and good illustration. However, I am pleased to say, that The Pink Whisk Guide to ‘Cake Making’ by ‘The Great British Bake Off’ finalist, Ruth Clemens, really does fulfil all of my criteria when deciding to buy yet another baking book.

The book is divided into sections following cake preparation methods, like ‘creaming’, ‘melting’ or ‘whisking’. Each clear step of the recipe – together with numerous tips – has accompanying photographs right through to the completed result and it was difficult to choose something to try from the mouth-watering selection of recipes. In the end, I decided upon a ‘’Jewelled Fruit Loaf’ and a ‘Jam Bakewell ‘Cuppa’ Cake’.

Ruth’s slightly different additions to classic recipes proved to be delightful. The completed fruit cake was sweet, very fruity and moist; as I didn’t have the suggested ‘nibbed’ sugar for the topping, I used glace cherries. Likewise, the Bakewell cake baked superbly and I used it as a hot pudding with custard, as well as a welcoming slice with afternoon tea.

This is a book I would wholly recommend for novice bakers, in addition to experienced cooks who would welcome quirky flavour suggestions and I am looking forward to any further books in this series from Ruth in the future.
The Pink Whisk guide to ‘Cake Making’ by Ruth Clemens is a David & Charles book and is priced at £12.99.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I am not a bread maker – and really shouldn’t eat it due to the calorie content - but sourdough has always held a fascination for me. Of late, it seems to have become ‘rediscovered’ and ‘fashionable’ despite its origins dating right back to ancient Egyptian times. The dough is produced by using natural ‘wild’ yeasts. These organisms transform components in the flour into a simpler form that is more easily digested and produces carbonic gas causing the dough to rise. The resulting bread should have a crusty coating, with a soft and holey texture inside, and has a wholesome and rich aroma and flavour.

So, not to be outdone by several friends regularly making sourdough bread, I begged a little ‘starter’ from them - several methods to make this culture or ‘starter’ can be found on the internet - and set to this weekend to make my own.
I used 300g of starter, 500g white bread flour, 200ml warm water and a pinch of salt and mixed and kneaded the whole lot together using a dough hook in my stand- mixer. After about 5 minutes, the resulting dough was smooth, stretchy and slightly sticky. I left it in the bowl to rise for a couple of hours.

At this point I realised that I would have to improvise the vessel used for raising or ‘proving’ the dough as I don’t possess the traditional ‘banneton’ mould. After scouring the internet for possible alternatives I came up with the idea to use a kitchen colander, lined with a clean linen tea towel and dusted liberally with semolina. It was worth a trial. I shaped my half-risen dough, placed it in the colander, covered it, crossed my fingers, and then left it overnight to rise.  

To my delight, by morning, the dough had risen to the top of the colander and I carefully turned it out onto a hot baking tray and baked my bread at 220C (fan oven) for ½ an hour.

Et voila!  My very first delicious golden sourdough loaf had been produced. It wasn’t the perfect shape nor has it a hugely holey crumb but I am happy that it’s certainly acceptable and this novice bread maker – after feeding and nurturing my ‘starter’ from Monday to Friday – will certainly have another practice session next weekend.