24 June 2013

Bake Sale

This weekend I spent a serious amount of time in the kitchen. For the first time ever I was baking to sell my stuff which also meant for the first time ever I was baking for people other than family and friends. I was exposing myself to comments and feedback from people who aren't bound by the rules of friendship to say only nice things. 

I sold my goods at a school event. It was an outdoor summer party, but the weather was so horrendous that it definitely did not feel like summer. When I first volunteered for this, it was expected that 800 people would turn up but the awful weather meant that only around 300-400 came.

I made my best ever chewy cookies, white and dark chocolate chunk brownies, dark chocolate and strawberry blondies and vanilla, lemon and chocolate cupcakes. 

Unfortunately I don't have a huge number of photos because I was literally baking non-stop and didn't have time to many snaps. However, I shall attempt to paint a beautiful foody picture using my descriptive talents...let's see how that goes.

So I started off with the brownies. I followed Nigella's Everyday Brownie recipe from her 'Kitchen' book. I've been using this recipe for years and seriously do not think another recipe lives up to it. Every single time I've baked them they have turned out gorgeous. They are divinely gooey in the middle with a slight hint of chewy crust around the outside. Me and my brothers love our brownies seriously soft, to the point of being almost raw in the middle. 

For this event I baked them about 10 minutes longer which meant they still had the delicious soft chew factor without being so soft that you can't even pick them up let alone eat them from a napkin whilst holding on to any form of social dignity. I made four batches of these but here's the recipe for one batch of 12 really big or 16 more delicate sized brownies:

150g butter
300g light brown sugar
75g cocoa powder
150g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
150g chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to fan 170. Grease and line an 8 or 9 inch square pan.
Start off by melting the butter in a medium sized pan. Once it's all melted add the sugar, still on the heat, and beat quite vigorously until fully incorporated.
Sift in the cocoa powder, flour and bicarb and fold that in. The mixture will look really dry but don't panic. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat in rapidly to avoid scrambling (no one wants eggy brownies).
Add the chocolate chunks and mix briefly to avoid melting. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for anywhere between 20 and 35 minutes, depending on how you like you brownies. Leave them in the tray to cool completely.

Next I baked the cookies. Follow the link above for the recipe. For the bake sale I did three times the amount in that post and ended up with 52 cookies. I should have made more because the kids really went for these and they sold out well before the evening was over.

After cookies I made cupcakes. I started with good old vanilla, then used the same recipe to make lemon, this time adding lemon juice, and then made chocolate but this time adding melted dark chocolate. Here is the recipe for 18 big cupcakes.

230g butter
230g caster sugar
4 eggs
280g self raising flour
2tsps baking powder

For vanilla - 2tsps vanilla extract
For lemon - 4tbsp lemon juice
For chocolate - 75g melted dark chocolate

Preheat oven to fan 160. Line 18 holes in cupcake pans with cupcake cases.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time. If the mixture starts to look a little curdled add a tbsp of the flour.
Fold in the flour and baking powder, followed by the additional flavourings.
Bake for 20 minutes until well risen and spring back when touched lightly. 
Leave them in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

I iced both the chocolate and vanilla with a white chocolate buttercream and iced the lemon cupcakes with a lemon buttercream. I also sprinkled some blue and yellow sanding sugar on the vanilla and lemon cupcakes and shaved a little dark chocolate onto the chocolate cupcakes. 

Last but not least, I made blondies. I roughly followed the Hummingbird Bakery recipe but instead of adding nuts, I threw in a whole load of dark chocolate chunks and dried strawberries, and I added half the caster sugar and replaced the other half with light brown sugar. The dark chocolate added a little hint of bitterness to cut throught the white chocolate sweetness, and the brown sugar adds a hint of toffee-ish depth, making them, in my opinion, crazy tasty. Here's the recipe:

150g white chocolate
125g butter
75g caster sugar
75g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
125g additional chunky goodness (whatever your heart desires)

Preheat the oven to fan 150 and grease and line an 8 inch square tin.
Melt together the white chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan, or in a bain-marie. If you choose to do it in a saucepan, make sure you pay careful attention to not burn the chocolate as white chocolate is really sensitive to heat.
Once it's all melted add it to the sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat well to combine.
Add the eggs and mix again then fold in the flour. Just before the flour is fully incorporated add the chunks and fold a few more times to evenly distribute them. 
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes so that they are slightly golden but the centre is still soft. 

16 June 2013

Moustache Cake

It was my littlest brother's birthday yesterday. This is his birthday cake. There's a bit of a running joke in our family about him and mustaches so when I saw a cake similar to this on pinterest I immediately thought of him.
It was surprisingly easy to do; bake a standard round cake (mine was 8 inches) then cut it in a yin-yang design. I traced the design freehand with a knife first then cut all the way through to the bottom of the cake when I was happy with the shape. 

Once they'd be cut I covered the shapes in a thin layer of icing. This is more professionally known as a crumb coat but I think Cake Boss' 'dirty icing' is a much better name.
Remember, one of them needs to be flipped over so that the final shape looks like a mustache. I forgot this. 

After the layer of dirty icing had set up in the fridge I used the remaining icing to completely cover the cake. A dragged a fork all over it to make it look 'hairy'. It's kinda gross describing a cake as hairy (finding a hair in my food literally makes my stomach turn and I can't eat any more) but that's what this cake is all about so go with it. Make it as hairy as possible.

Until you have something that looks like this

Cake Ingredients:
115g caster sugar
115g butter
2 eggs
115g self raising flour
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to fan 160
Beat together the sugar and butter until really light and fluffy
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully combined. Add the vanilla with the second egg
Fold in the flour, baking powder and vanilla seeds
Pour into a greased and lined 8 inch tin and bake for 30 minutes

How easy is this cake!!??

125g butter
175g icing sugar
80g melted dark chocolate

Cut the butter into small chunks and beat a little until softened
Sieve in the icing sugar and mix until fully incorporated into the butter
Stir in the melted chocolate

Jonny loved it. Not only was it his favorite cake flavors but it also had a bit more a personal meaning and made him smile

3 June 2013

Plum Cake

It's come to my attention that every single one of the recipes I have posted so far includes chocolate in some way! Slightly mad about chocolate? Me? No!

Whilst this recipe doesn't include any chocolate it is still moreishly good. And the fact that it contains fruit means it's totally legitimate to go back for seconds...and thirds. 

Start by slicing up some plums

Then make a caramel to roast these plums in. Fruit's getting real now

Brown sugar and butter...still healthy, right?

Melt it all together and throw in them plums

Meanwhile, whip up a really easy and super tasty cake batter

Spoon the cake batter into the tin and throw the plums on top and bake

In the meantime you are going to want to lick spoons. Of course, there's the obvious cake batter spoon. Now don't get me wrong, cake-batter-spoon-licking is one of my favourite past times but the caramel spoon is sooo good! It's like fruity-jamy-caramelly deliciousness. You're not just gonna want to lick the spoon, you're gonna want to scrape that plan clean (exactly what I did)

Enough caramel talk. Recipe time

6 plums
50g brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
125g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to fan 160
Grease and line a deep 8-inch cake tin
Start by cutting the plums into 6 or 8 slices
In a medium-sized frying pan, melt the brown sugar with the tbsp of butter. Once it has a melted together, add a splash of hot water. It will splutter a lot but then it will thin down the sauce slightly making it better for coating the plums. Throw in the plums and turn the heat down to low and let them caramelize
Whilst the plums are caramelizing, beat together the caster sugar and butter
Add the eggs, one at a time
Fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder
Spoon the batter into the tin
Place the plums on top. You could try to do this in neat concentric circles but I quite like the rustic look. Drizzle over the remaining caramel sauce then bake for about 40 minutes. I started checking mine after 25 but it took 40 minutes of baking for a skewer to come out clean
Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely