A wedding cake or two

“Yes of course I’ll bake your wedding cake!”

This has recently been spoken by me twice, despite in no way thinking I can actually do such a thing. It also doesn’t help my confidence that I have certain family members who really can and do make stunning wedding cakes! However, I did make this chocolate wedding cake for a lovely friend and her new husband. (Gorgeous cupcakes not by me!)

 

It happened because the beautiful bride won the cake I made to raffle off at a Macmillan coffee morning last September, they loved it and wanted the same thing for their wedding. Who am I to deny them that? The cake was made up of three layers of chocolate silk cake, with a ganache filling and iced with chocolate buttercream roses. I did end up feeling like I was on the Bake Off, really nervous it would all go wrong, but I got it done in the end!

Chocolate cake with buttercream roses and purple butterflies

 

The wedding came together with the help of our church community all getting stuck in, with a very organised bride-what better way to begin married life! So here’s to doing our bit for each other, using the skills we have, however we may feel about them, and celebrating life together.

Chocolate wedding cake with chocolate roses and purple butterflies

Stay tuned for wedding cake number two later in the summer, and also, the happy demise of my awkward gas oven!!

Oma’s Christmas biscuits

My dear Oma-in-law (German for Grandma) is known for her delicious and traditional stollen and her classic Christmas biscuits which I think she used to give out (I’m pretty sure we got them sent in the post at least once!) on St Nicholas’ day, December 6th.

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This year is the second time I’ve made them, and I’m not sure I have permission to give out the exact recipe! It’s basically a plain biscuit dough that is then split into two and then various other ingredients are added, so you get two batches of slightly different biscuits. This is obviously where the magic happens-I was given fairly vague ideas: add some finely chopped hazelnuts, or some ground almonds, or some cinnamon…so I guessed the amounts and added cinnamon to both.

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The dough is then left to rest at room temperature before being rolled out and christmassy shapes cut out. Oma gave me two ancient looking metal cutters in the shape of Father Christmas and a star. They are better than any other cutters I’ve used, and are perfect for these biscuits. An egg and milk wash is brushed over the biscuits, which makes them turn lovely and golden when baked, then the nuts and sprinkles are put on top before being put into the oven for 10-12 minutes at about 170 degrees celsius.

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As the recipe makes many, many of these buttery and moreish biscuits, we will have to get most of them out of the house as we will eat them all! Perfect for the teacher’s Christmas gifts and for the neighbours.

Merry Christmas!

Raspberry ripple cheesecake

We did manage to make this cheesecake in the end, and put those digestives to good use! This is fairly quick to do, as it’s a no bake recipe, and again, you can use whatever you prefer to sweeten it with. I looked around a bit for sugar free cheesecake inspiration (ideas here and here) and came up with this.

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Ingredients

200g digestive biscuits (see previous post)
50-75g butter (see note below*)
250g cream cheese
250ml double cream
85g rice malt syrup (or maple syrup etc.)
Approx. 100g raspberries, frozen

Method

Crush the biscuits with the end of a rolling pin or in a food processor or blender. Add the melted butter. *Note on the butter: I found this was too much and I ended up adding a load more biscuits to dry out the crust, so it ended up pretty thick. So, reduce the butter to 50g and see how you go from there. Press the biscuit mixture into the base of a cake tin or pie dish (can use an 8 inch tin). We pressed a few raspberries into the base, just for funsies. Place this into the fridge to chill.

Sugar free digestive biscuit base

Make a raspberry puree by gently cooking the frozen raspberries in a saucepan until bubbling and then cool slightly and blitz if you fancy it. It would then be sensible to sieve the mixture to remove the seeds. One day I will do this and reap the benefits, but for now, we will just pick the seeds out of our teeth!

Making raspberry puree

Whisk the cream until it is thick, with soft peaks, add the cream cheese and mix. This is less cream cheese than is normally called for, but it was the size of the pack I had, and it produced a lighter flavour which was a welcome change, no-one moaned about it anyway!

Pour half of the cream cheese filling over the chilled crust and then dollop some puree over it before pouring on the rest of the filling. We then had to attempt to make it look like the picture in the kids cook book, so messily spooned on lines of puree (this is where blending and pureeing would have been useful) and the little one attempted to do feathering on top. I was very good and let her do it all herself, and it was just as she wanted it. Put the cheesecake back in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, then use a sharp knife to cut the slices.

Cream cheese filling layer oneAdding raspberry puree to the cheesecakeSugar free raspberry cheesecake

Raspberry ripple sugar free cheesecake

Good try at feathering kid!

Digestive biscuits (sugar free/low sugar)

Depending on what you want to sweeten these with, they can be sugar free or refined sugar free, either way, a very good alternative and just what we need this week. My eldest has been dying to make a raspberry ripple cheesecake ever since someone bought her a children’s cookbook with a recipe for it in. As an aside, this cookbook has some very dubious recipes in it, involving muchos sugar and taking stuff out of packets but still thinks it’s really good and nutritious for kids, hmm. Good job she can’t read yet and I can tweak the ingredients! Anyway, these biscuits are going to make the base to this cheesecake, but I’m sure I’ll make them again just to enjoy dunking into tea.

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The recipe is here (scroll down a little), and uses maple syrup, a whole 150g of it to 200g each of butter, oats and wholemeal flour. This sounded like a lot to me so I just finished what was left in my rice malt syrup* bottle-50g-and then added 40g of stevia as I thought I’d make the biscuits friendly to those who aren’t low sugar eaters, so they would taste sweet enough for them. Turns out I could probably have done without the stevia but maybe that’s just my tastebuds. I’d have a go and then adjust for yourself.

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I don’t know about you, but I am Bakeoff ready, here’s to the new series and hopefully a yummy sugar free raspberry ripple cheesecake to go with the first episode! Oh and maybe a sleeping baby…pretty please?

*If you’re interested in rice malt syrup and other non fructose alternatives, have a little look here.

Picking Strawberries

We came home with three kilograms of strawberries from the lovely pick your own fruit farm at the weekend. Yes, there was an offer on I couldn’t refuse! It was worth it as they were cheaper than the supermarket, and tasted infinitely better! So we put these many beautiful strawberries to good use: on their own, with chocolate beetroot cake (sugar free!) and a dollop of Greek style yoghurt, in a strawberry tart, strawberry and meringue ice cream made by 4 year old and Dad (only added sugar was in the meringues, sadly it was eaten too quickly to get a photo!), and a freezer stash for smoothies or pink milk and I’m pondering throwing some in a sugar free brownie. Yummy summer times.IMG_20160709_202051P1100136P1100140P1100143P1100149P1100148

Chocolate beetroot cake is this one, but with a squirt of rice malt syrup as the sweetener.

For the tart, I made the shortcrust pastry from the chocolate tart recipe which I then blind baked. I made creme patisserie (like this) for the filling, and chilled it before spooning into the pastry case and decorating with the strawberries. If you want to make it a little shiny, heat some jam with a little water and brush over the strawberries.

Simple Bunting

There has actually been some baking going on here, three special birthday cakes and various not so sweet treats, however I can now share this make what you want post as the birthday girl has received her bunting!

I recently had some time to do a bit of sewing: turning holey leggings that had been in a few too many adventures into shorts, hemming a cot sheet and making pretty bunting for a very special little girl. I’m a low key kind of sewer, I like simple things I can do fairly quickly, I’m still learning, so fabric that behaves itself is a must. I had lots of leftover curtain fabric to make this bunting with, you only need about half a metre to cut out your triangles, so I just used the odds and ends. I made it about 2m long with 8 bunting triangles on it.

You will need:
Approx 1/2 metre fabric (cotton is great for easy sewing and long lasting bunting)
Thread
Bias binding approx 2 metres
Pins, scissors, sewing machine etc.

Start by making a bunting shaped triangle on paper or card to cut round, the size is really up to you, but mini bunts are the cutest if you’re low on fabric or want to use up scraps!

Marking out bunting fabric

Iron the fabric flat then cut out your triangles using the template, I used the same fabric for the front and back pieces. Pin each bunting triangle right sides together and sew down each side, leaving the top open so you can flip it the right way round.

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Once you have sewn them, trim the sides and turn the right way round and poke out the bottom point of the triangle with a pencil. Then you can iron them flat and you should have some good looking bunts.

Bunting right side out

Measure out your bias binding and fold in half and iron flat. I use quite wide bias binding to make this easier. Trim the tops of the triangles if needed and insert them into the fold of the binding and pin down. I find it helpful to lay everything out so I can space the triangles well.

Pinned on bias binding

Then sew all along the bias binding, as straight as you can, and voila! I chose non matching thread so it stands out and my wibbly sewing is obvious, but you can always hide it with matching thread. So there we go, very cute girly bunting for a frilly, ribbon, pink loving four year old!

Bunting

Make What You Want-Soba noodles

*New feature!* I fancy blogging about things other than baking, as my not quite getting round to it problem seems to encompass other interests in my life. So here’s the first make what you want post, not exactly far from baking, I grant you, but there is no oven involved! Keep your bloggy eyes peeled for a make based outside of the kitchen soon!

Soba noodles

Soba noodles seem to be a new thing around here, (not in Japan, obviously) and I wanted to give them a go. This Asian crispy beef recipe was crying out to be made; I love Jamie’s Superfood book, it’s a tome of healthy goodness!

Spring onion and chillis

So, what’s all this soba based fuss about? Well, soba noodles are made from buckwheat, so are gluten free and I find that alternatives to the usual are always good to have around. However, these ended up a bit, well, slimy. A small voice across the table said quietly, ‘I think I like the other noodles, normal ones.’ Me too, little girl. I so wanted to love them, and I made my way across my plate, eating them with the crispy beef which was amazing, so the meal was still a win. I think I need to experiment with them a bit more, maybe serve them with a sauce/soup type thing, as the noodles managed to be bland yet an odd, acquired taste at the same time. Any ideas?

Asian crispy beef with soba noodlesAsian crispy beef with soba noodles

Choccy choccy choccy tart

Chocolate tart. Need I say more? (Well, I’m going to…) Thin, crisp pastry, holding the rich, dark filling accompanied by softly whipped cream. I’m salivating just thinking about it. This was a special occasion treat which was well worth relaxing the no sugar diet for. Yes, you heard that right, the bake what you want household is now sugar free, maple syrup and everything. No I’m not having a mid life crisis, but it’s been an interesting six months of recalibrating tastebuds (especially the mini baker’s) and feeling more wholesome and healthy. But I won’t bore you with the details, back to the tart! I followed this recipe, with Mary Berry guiding the way as always, I’m pleased to say that I managed to produce my best shortcrust pastry to date.

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It was so thin and crisp! There were the usual few holes that needed patching but the texture was the perfect accompaniment to the smooth, creamy chocolate filling.

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Some hasty decoration later (it was Valentine’s after all) and it was complete. Probably the best bake of maternity leave, with two joyful mini bakers by my side.

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Pomegranate and blueberry sorbet

I’m going on maternity leave from the blog, so this will be my last post for a while. There is no baking happening at the moment because of all the decorating, cleaning, sorting, washing and re doing all these things after a whirlwind messes them up behind me! Also, it’s been a bit too hot to have the oven on and just thinking about it takes me to the freezer searching for ice to crunch on. For anyone local who’s been trying to get their hands on a bag of ice from the supermarket, look no further, they are here. All of them.

Frozen blueberries

So, naturally my last post for a while had to be something quick, easy and refreshing; pomegranate and blueberry sorbet. How summery, with a beautiful rich colour, that may or may not have led to eating this outside to avoid staining anything! I used a recipe from the Waitrose Kitchen magazine, which also provided last year’s peachy ice cream relief. The recipe says fresh or frozen blueberries can be used, I went for frozen ones which worked well but took a little longer to blend (even in a KitchenAid blender!) with only a little pomegranate juice. It got there in the end and I couldn’t be bothered to push it all through a sieve (despite the photo!), so I just added the cooled sugar syrup and poured the mixture into a tub.

Blueberries and pomegranate juice blended

I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I just got out the sorbet a few times during the afternoon and mashed it all up instead of churning it. This probably doesn’t give the best texture, but as long as you remove the sorbet from the freezer a good ten minutes at least before you serve it, it’s easy to scoop out.

blueberry and pomegranate sorbet

Thankfully this sorbet was exactly what I was hoping for; cool, refreshing, and slightly tart. Perfect for hot afternoons in the garden, pondering the next phase of life in the bake what you want family 🙂

Blueberry and pomegranate sorbet

Chai tea spiced banoffee pie

My friend is organising a banoffee off, where lots of people make pies and judge them to see whose pie reigns supreme. Sadly I am going to miss it (bridesmaid duties, yay!), but it made me really want to make a banoffee pie, it’s been years! We were discussing the merits of a pure banoffee pie, no frills just made really well, and then something a little different. I decided to experiment a bit and add chai tea spices to my pie and see what happened.

Crushed digestive biscuits

I used this Mary Berry recipe (controversial spelling of banoffee!) because it was the right size for my flan dish but I changed the ingredients. I thought that a ginger biscuit base, although delicious may overpower the chai flavours, so used plain digestive biscuits and added a tea bag’s worth of chai into the mix. I used a pestle and mortar to grind the tea before adding it, as it was a bit too coarse.

Chai tea

Not convinced that this was going to be strong enough to cut through the very sweet caramel filling and cream topping, I added another tea bag of chai to the caramel. This, I feel gave the right balance of banoffee and chai and gave it a rather appealing speckled look.

Biscuit base

Caramel filling in biscuit base

The recipe definitely needs some work, as the base was too crumbly, a tad more melted butter was needed to hold it together. Also, the caramel filling was too runny, I was somewhat distracted by an impatient toddler, so next time I’ll cook it for longer to thicken up and help the pie keep its shape when sliced. I’m quite pleased with how this turned out, although it’s not quite banoffee off ready!

Chai tea banoffee pie