My hugely talented colleague Nat Melia passed his viva this week (whoop whoop), so as has become the tradition in Reading Met now he got a thesis themed cake. As he looks at the opening of shipping routes through Artic sea ice* I of course couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bake this one:
*Note the accurately diamond shaped sea ice floe rheology ( or ‘the shape the ice goes when there’s lots of it in bits’). My supervisor was the internal examiner so this was super important.
I almost feel that this post should be categorised under ‘ice’ as well as ‘icing’ as if there’s one thing that gets me through research it’s definitely tea. So what better way to enjoy tea than in cake form?
These use a standard sponge cake recipe and buttercream frosting. However, the difficulty is getting the Earl Grey flavouring to come through. I find it’s better to use tea leaves rather than bags and also to add the Earl Grey to the icing too.
Makes 12 cupcakes
(for the cake)
3 tea spoons Earl Grey tea leaves
3 table spoons boiling water
200g self raising flour
1 tea spoon baking powder
(for the icing)
500g icing sugar
1 tea spoon Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 table spoon boiling water
1/2 table spoon whole milk
1. Brew the tea leaves in the boiling water for a good 10 minutes. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C, gas mark 4.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, and mix in the eggs.
3. Strain the tea leaves from the water and add the water to the mixture.
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder.
5. Two thirds fill cupcake cases with mixture and cook for around 20 minutes, until the cakes begin to come away from the cakes and are springy.
6. Brew the tea leaves for the icing as before.
7. Mix together the butter and icing sugar for the icing. Strain the tea leaves from the water and add the water to the milk.
8. Add the milk mixture to the icing slowly until you have the desired consistency for decorating the cakes.
9. Enjoy with a cup of tea, naturally.
8/10- Nice and simple but a little overpriced for what it is.
£5.60 Cake Craft World
I got this little gadget at the Cake and Bake show 2015, mostly because they let you try it out first. You can get it from Cake Craft World who had the stand online for just over a fiver, as well as from other online retailers.
I was sold on the ease of use and just how pretty the roses looked but I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to reproduce it at home with my own rolling pin/ no fancy foam mat like the had at the show. However I was pleasantly surprised.
Instead of buying the whole expensive kit they were flogging at the show I made my own glue by mixing a little of the fondant with water, made a soft mat out of a tea towel and cling film and used a sieve and cornflour to keep things dry.
Once I’d put together my own replica of the kit needed (see caption above) I was ready to go. The cutting was straight forward but the shaping with a rolling pin was less easy. You do need something a bit more foam like than a tea towel and a wooden rolling pin is no good as it leaves a pattern, you do need a plastic one or something else round and smooth.
The rolling however was just as easy as advertised and soon I had plenty of roses of various sizes ready to go:
Overall I’d say the £20 kit they sell (with foam mat, rolling pin etc.) is very overpriced but the cutter on its own isn’t too steep and it certainly works. the roses are pretty effective and looking at the design on the website I’d certainly have them on my wedding cake…
Disclaimer: I had a free ticket for this and the masterclass that I attended but I’ve tried to judge it as if I’d paid for it
.2015’s London edition of the Cake and Bake show had relocated to a new venue this year, the Excel Centre. A smaller venue meant the event felt much more crowded and I found it quite disorienting and struggled to work out where things were. Although it was a nice easy trip up the DLR to get there.
Rosemary Shrager can always be relied upon to provide entertainment.
The slightly chaotic Bake Off performances of last year were replaced by previous contestants doing individual demonstrations which seemed to be much better on the learning techniques front. The entertainment front was definitely still covered in the form of Rosemary Shrager, who started her demonstration singing several versus and choruses of a self composed baking song.
Less entertaining were the paid for masterclasses. At £6 each I would have expected a bit more than a not great view (it was filmed but the screens were pretty small), sound that wasn’t working for most of the class . Emily Leary who was presenting the class did very well to overcome this. She’s now working for Dr. Oetker and there was a little too much advertising of their products, but Emily was great for people that came and asked her questions afterwards and let us have a go and a taste- it would have been nice if the whole class could have had this.
The view from the 2nd row of about 8 during the masterclass.
One real improvement front last year was the amount of interaction and free samples available. A really clever idea was the Cake Craft World stand who had a ‘try before you buy’ table for their ‘easier ever rose cutter’. At a fiver for a single cutter it’s something I wouldn’t have looked twice at but sitting down one on one with a member of staff and seeing that it did actually work meant that they were selling like, well, hot cakes…
My rose! Nice opportunity to test that something works before you pay out for it and definitely got people over to the stand.
London Earl’s Court- 3rd-5th September
The best part was definitely the demonstrations, here Eric Lanlard shows off his sweet pastry.
What was there:
- Demonstrations: Sadly no Paul or Mary but a lot of others- all the GBBO winners plus Eric Lanlard, Rosemary Shrager, Racker Khoo and erm… Wendy Peters… We saw Eric Lanlard and the Fabulous Baker Brothers- all really good and lots of good tips. The competition arena had all 4 GBBO winners baking at once. It was chaotic and as it was the last day I think they were all going a bit mad but it was fun. Style over substance may well still be a thing though judging by France’s “Madelines in Chelsea”.
- Stalls: A mixture of bakes and equipment, mostly a bit overpriced but not too horrendous. As long as you don’t mind borderline offensive sales patter.
- Classes: Classes at £8 each didn’t seem worth it- you didn’t get to do anything just watch in a smaller area than the main demonstrations so we opted not to do any. There was a free class where you could make fondant figures but the queue would have been the best part of an hour.
- General baking celebrities: We saw the majority of GBBO class of 2014 wandering around, including Richard looking slightly bemused by all the attention (bearing in mind at this point most people were convinced he was going to win!) and Mr #BinGate himself.
What we learnt:
- Put your chocolate into a piping bag then but it into a jug of hot water to melt it. Much easier than faffing with a bowl over a pan and it’s ready to pipe straight away.
- Put cling film in the fridge to find the end. I’ve done this, it really works!
- Use cling film rather than baking parchment for blind baking. Gets right into the corners.
Some of the display cakes were unique to say the least.
Was it worth it?
For £7.50, yes, but it would have been nice to see some more interactive things to make it worth going again. Or Mary Berry 🙂
- At £10 each it seems a bit pricey for what you get but if you hang on you can get better deals- we got 2 for £15 on Amazon Local, and Money Saving Expert had free tickets for the Friday a couple of weeks before the show.
- The Sunday has some good deals at closing time but don’t expect ridiculous bargains (and don’t get irate with stalls that aren’t doing discounts like someone we saw!).
- The show guide is pretty essential but at £5 it might be worth just printing off the talk times first. You do get a nice bag and a couple of freebies with it though.
- Making your own butter is great. The Fabulous Baker Brothers showed us how easy it is: just whisk double cream for 5-10 mins until it separates into butter and buttermilk. Wash the butter in cold water to get rid of all the buttermilk (which will go rancid if left). You can use the buttermilk in their soda bread recipe.
GBBO winner John Whaite was happy to pose for photos. Bonus 🙂
My rating: 3/10
To quote the great Paul Hollywood this is definitely a “style over substance” book.
In my post about cocktail cupcakes I mentioned that I loved the hummingbird ideas but the reality was too sweet. They have lots of complicated and unhealthy ingredients and to be honest that seems to apply to most of the recipes in this book. The contents are beautiful, fun and original but generally you can do something similar for a fraction of the budget and calories. Some recipes such as the grasshopper pie have a horrendous amount of cream and the result was described as tasting like a bad Vienetta ice cream. I’d rather buy the ice cream, have my afternoon back and save my arteries at the same time.
However, saying that it’s presented in a lovely seasonal way, there are loads of pictures which is always helpful and one recipe I did love is the spiderweb cheesecake: simple and not loads of ingredients for once!
Verdict: Borrow someone else’s or get it out of the library- steal some ideas and create your own versions but the recipes themselves are not worth shelling out for.
My attempt at the spiderweb cheesecake with some other Halloween goodies.
My rating: 8.5/10
Simple and different cakes that anyone could manage.
I buy most of my baking books on recommendation so I thought it might be useful to start posting some reviews on here. I didn’t want to start with anything negative so here is one of my favorites. It’s subtitled ‘little cakes with attitude’ and I wouldn’t argue with that.
Straight forward instructions and plenty of pictures.
The book is divided into low-faff, medium-faff and high-faff so you know what you’re getting but the really nice thing is even the high-faff recipes look acheivable an really not an extreme amount of effort. The pictures don’t all look like the finely decorated immaculate cupcakes you get in many books: they’re beautiful but not unrealistically perfect and that’s what I really like about this book- they look like they’ve been made by a real person and are something that you could realistically copy (maybe not quite as well but at least you’ll get something that’s reasonably like what you expect!). In terms of ingredients and equipment I’d say they’re all pretty low-faff. Lovely.
Things anyone can do…almost.
The flavorings are great and different without being too wacky (although I’ve not investigate the savory cupcakes section yet)- the ‘grown-up’ mocha cakes have become one of my standard bakes and always disappear even when I worked in a office full of weight watchers fiends.
The best thing is this feels like a book written by a real person. Not a company or team. Kate’s sense of humor comes through and her section about free-range eggs and gluten free cakes just makes you like her. I was recommended this by someone who had attended her cupcake classes and I’m sad that I no longer live in Devon and can’t go. Her website is here, I’d recommend a look, just avoid the wedding cakes, they look too good and will make you sad (unless you’re actually getting married in which case GO, GO NOW).
Tip: This book can be found online for just over a fiver but I picked it up in The Works for about £3- definitely a bargain at that price.
My attempt at the star cupcakes. Not the neatest but still not unhappy as was my first time piping with royal icing. My main niggle is the fact that they are stars. Come on Kate, who can even draw a star well let alone pipe one?? Even so, the tip in the book of practicing before putting them on the cake was a very good idea.