Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Chocolate hazelnut fudge (sort of)

Now I say this is a 'sort of' fudge as it actually began as chocolate icing for a cake. I had a little excess icing and rather than just eating it as I normally would (terrible I know) I thought I'd make something useful (although I'll now just be eating it in a different form so I guess that's not any better!)

Anyway, all I did was cook the icing a bit further so that it would set properly once cool, which worked okay even though it is a little overdone and hence crumbled when I tried to cut it- oops! I oven roasted whole hazelnuts which gives them a glorious golden brown colour and really enhances the flavour, which I then roughly chopped and stirred into the fudge.

As delicious as this is (I just love the combination of nuts and chocolate) I may stick to an actual recipe for fudge next time as I feel the texture just isn't quite right. I'm already thinking about what other flavours I could try.....

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Apple and blackberry bande aux fruits

I recently picked up some lovely plump blackberries from my local fruit and veg shop and I just couldn't resist making something sweet with them. I went straight to one of my favourite books by Claire Clark (a fantastic pastry chef I'll have you know) and came across a recipe for this tart. It consists of a sweet shortcrust pastry base and frangipan filling which is layered with plenty of apples and blackberries. Claire recommends using Cox's Orange Pippin apples but I decided on Bramleys as they are my apple of choice when it comes to baking. Now this tart is baked in oblong tin, so I had to pinch my mum's (teehee) but I'm sure it would work perfectly well in a standard round flan tin. 

After making my sweet pastry, I gave it a couple of hours in the fridge to relax the dough and to ensure that it wouldn't shrink whilst baking. I really took my time with this bake, as I was determined to get it as close to Claire's version as possible. I believe you can turn a simple classic, such as an apple tart, into something really special by using good quality ingredients and taking your time- patience really is a virtue! In my case, this definitely payed off, as I was very pleased with the results.

As you can see from my photos, the recipe quantities were a little generous and so I was able to make some extra tartlets too- never a bad thing! I found that they went down rather nicely with my homemade vanilla ice cream, but a bit of custard or single cream would do!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Beautiful Bunting

I recently received some lovely bunting from one of my favourite online shops, Dot com gift shop. I love their range of gifts and homewares, and I often use their products at my place of work, Tiffin Tea House. Now if you have ever visited Tiffin, you will know that we always have a string of pretty bunting on display and it forms quite a key part of our image. The bunting I was sent is made of a variety of different materials, each with a different design on each flag. I found this to be a nice change from the plain pastel coloured materials I am used to seeing, and it still matched our vintage English tea room theme that we have at Tiffin.

This English Rose design bunting is made of cotton and measures 800 cm- long enough to stretch quite a fair distance which is perfect for a street party!

Dot com gift shop have a great range of bunting available on their site, perfect for any occasion. Choose from paper or fabric, spotty or lace, patterned or plain- you can even buy a 'make your own bunting' set which is brilliant for the crafty ones amoungst us!

I also love this cute baby bunting which would make a great decoration for a child's bedroom, party or even a baby shower.
As much as I love all this bunting, I am all about the baking, and so I was very happy to come across this mini bunting made especially for decorating cakes-perfect!

To check out the full range of bunting available, please click here!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Looking back on 2012...

Happy New Year to all my lovely readers!

I thought I'd begin 2013 by looking back at some of my best cakes from 2012, so here are my favourites:

Mum's Fred Astaire 1940's inspired birthday cake
My most challenging novelty cake yet- Thomas the Tank Engine!
Lydia's childhood toy Ducky- made into a cake!
Tea party cake to celebrate the success of Tiffin Tea House

Kirsty & Daniel's wedding cake

An artic inspired wedding cake for a couple who love polar bears!
One for a shopoholic...

...and another...
...and if you can't afford the real bag, why not have one made out of cake!
Giant cupcake for Grandma

A cake for a 50th birthday celebration
..and to round off the year, a cupcake feast for an engagement party-nice!
Phew, what a year! 2012 has definitely been a good one for celebration cakes and I hope that 2013 brings many more. If you're interested in ordering a special cake this year for any occasion, big or small, then you can contact me at clairey_1988@yahoo.co.uk or visit my website at http://www.claire-elizabeth.co.uk/
I think I'm now going to spend a little (or a lot) of time browsing the January sales- I certainly feel like treating myself to something new! If you're like me and are too lazy to actually go to the shops, then there are some great online offers and deals about- one of my favourites being the brilliant sale at dotcomgift shop. There are some fantastic bargains to be found, so check it out by clicking the link below:
I'll be back soon with my first bakes of the year!
-Claire x

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Late seasons greetings!

Hello and seasons greetings to you all! I apoligise that this post is a little late and the big day is now over- but hey it's still the festive season so I thought I'd update you all on what I have been doing over the past few weeks!

I started by decorating our family Christmas cake, which is something I like to put aside a whole day to do. I decided to do something a bit different this year, and used my recently purchased dome shaped mould to make an igloo cake, complete with an edible family of little penguins dressed in appropriate winter gear!

Inside the igloo hides a deliciously moist and rich dark fruit cake which I covered in marzipan and roll-out icing. It's actually a fairly simple cake to make, although rather difficult to remove from the tin once baked (I admit that I did have to 'glue' the top of the cake back on since it got stuck in the mould-oops!).

Since I moved out into my own flat earlier on in the year, I now have my very own Christmas tree to decorate and so I thought what better to do than to make some homemade edible tree decorations. I found a Hairy Bikers recipe for speculaas biscuits, which are a traditional continental Christmas biscuit according to the BBC.

Basically they are lovely little crisp biscuits lightly spiced with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. I cut mine into snowflake shapes and drizzled them with a little glace icing once baked- I think they make give the finishing touch to my tree, what do you think?

I really have been rather busy this December. Mince pies, shortbread, florentines, truffles, rocky road, panetonne, gingernuts, crackers, cupcakes and biscotti-I have gone baking mad this Christmas (as if I wasn't already)! Unfortunately I just haven't had the time to photograph everything and write about each bake but here are just a few snapshots that I did manage to get!

2013 is nearly upon us and I look forward to seeing what the new year brings. I can't wait to try out some new recipes and I welcome your thoughts and comments for anything new and inspirational-any ideas?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Edible Pressies!

Well lets face it, now that Halloween and Bonfire night are both over, it's pretty much all about the lead up to Christmas and so I thought I'd start off the festive baking with the classic Christmas cake. I love a bit of boozy rich fruit cake at this time of year (or anytime of year actually!) and boozy my recipe certainly is as I soak my fruits in sherry a week before baking my cakes, and feed them with more once cooked and cooled- nice!

This year I have been making lots of individual cakes to be part of the Christmas hampers for sale at my work place Tiffin Tea House. Icing and decorating over 30 little cakes certainly takes its toll but they really do make lovely little gifts and it is something one can do in advance since a good rich fruit cake will actually improve and 'mature' over time so it's always good to make them early!

To make these little gift cakes, all you need is a large deep square baking tin and your favourite fruit cake recipe. Once baked, you can cut your cakes into any size you like- I did mine 3" by 3" to make perfect little cubes. For those of you who are not a fan of a fruit cake (and I know many who aren't!) then you can of course use any cake recipe you like-genoise sponge with butter icing and jam works well and I find that this generally goes down well with most people, even the fussy ones!

To cover the cakes you can colour your own sugar paste which is available in most supermarkets, or buy it already coloured which is certainly the easier option! I chose to decorate mine with handmade sugar paste bows and stars but other shapes are available (!) so let your imagination go wild!

Once you have let the icing dry out a little, wrap each cake in cellophane and finish them off with some pretty ribbon or stickers- I love these cute little stickers from dotcomgift shop.
Now all you need to do is to give your gift cakes to the special (most deserving) people in your life- just wait until you see the smiles on their faces :)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

No tricks, just treats

I've been back in the kitchen again (although did I ever leave?) baking some sweet goodies as one likes to do at this time of year. Last year I took some classic recipes and jazzed them up with a Halloween twist- remember my haunted gingerbread house? This year I began by trying something new and tried a new twist on the famous Battenberg cake by making a chocolate orange version.

I discovered how well chocolate and marzipan go together when I once covered a chocolate cake in marzipan rather than icing. I don't know what it is but I just love the combination of the two flavours. As a fan of chocolate orange (it's not Terry's, it's mine) I added orange zest to half of my cake mixture and melted dark chocolate to the other to create that two-toned chequered pattern that the Battenberg traditionally has. I thought the dark brown and orange colours would fit in quite nicely with my Halloween theme, but I also decorated my cake with mini pumpkin faces that I made from coloured sugar paste just to finish it off!

Although I'm sure many of you would rather just stick with the traditional pink 'n' yellow chequered cake, I love this version and I now have more ideas for other flavour combinations I can't wait to try!

Okay, so now back to some classic everyday bakes- cupcakes and biscuits. Both are very easy to make and the possibilities for different decorations one can do are endless! This makes them perfect for when you want to create something yummy for a particular occasion.

I made a batch of my all-butter vanilla biscuits, cut out in Halloween shapes, which I then iced with royal icing in appropriate colours and designs- simple but effective!

Now I made cupcakes last Halloween and I thought I better not do the same decoration (I wouldn't want to bore you all now) so I had a little think and came up with these!

They did involve little more work but I think I prefer this years cupcakes more than the last, although they may turn your tongue purpley green....nice!

Happy Halloween everybody!