Sunday September 16 2012
I grew up with peanut butter & <grape> jelly sandwiches in Virginia & California, & love anything with peanut butter (PB) even now. When I first moved to the UK over a decade ago, I have to say that people were like, “Whaaaaat?” Having now served PB variations of cupcakes, macarons, brownies, cookies, etc. at various parties, it seems I have converted a few peeps & now PB & Marshmallow is my most-requested/ordered flavour. YAY! I personally love my choc/vanilla cake, filled with caramel & marshmallow, topped with PB <& sometimes jelly> frosting, but that might be a bit much for some. LOL. But here is the recipe for my basic PB cupcakes & PB & marshmallow frosting, which will make a dozen large cupcakes…
The ones pictured below are topped with my mini-oreo filled white chocolate lips.
Here is the RECIPE:
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (no sugar added)
- 1/3 cup room temp/softened butter
- 3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups regular (all-purpose) flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt (optional)
…and the METHOD:
Preheat oven to 175 Celsius/350 F. Line a 12-muffin/cupcake tin with greaseproof cupcake cases.
Mix together butter, PB & caster sugar in a large mixing bowl until light/fluffy/creamy. Then add 2 large eggs & mix until eggs fully incorporated. Sift in the flour & baking powder, & alternate with adding in the 3/4 cup milk. Add the pinch of salt if it needs it.
Fill your cupcake cases to about 2/3 full with the batter, and bake for 20-23 minutes, until done. Let cool, then frost…
For the FROSTING:
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/2 cup crunchy PB (I prefer the crunch in the frosting, but you can also use smooth)
- 2 -3 cups icing/confectioners sugar
- optional: dash vanilla extract &/or pinch of salt
- AND/OR add 1/2 cup full-fat Philly cream cheese to get a creamier frosting when creaming the butter & PB together
Cream butter & PB until smooth & creamy. Add icing sugar gradually until the frosting is light and fluffy…
Pipe as you wish, but I normally leave a “hole” in the centre of the PB frosting so I can add the marshmallow filling inside….
For the MARSHMALLOW FILLING: Cindy Palcwyn offers the best recipe as part of her “Campfire Pie” instructions. Alternately, you can use Marshmallow Fluff.
…then voila! PB & marshmallow cupcakes. Yummmm! Enjoy!
Wednesday August 22 2012
So, I made my favourite chocolate cake again tonight, and thought I should share the recipe. This recipe produces a really rich, most cake, which couples well with creamy fillings/frostings. As it’s not an overly sweet cake, I find it accompanies fruit quite well, but can also “take” sweeter fillings like caramel, marshmallow, peanut butter (& grape jelly).
These pictures show my “Almond Joy” cake, just to provide an example of one way this recipe can be used.
You will need a big bowl for this recipe, as it yields a lot of batter, enough for 2 x 8 or 9 inch pans.
Here’s the RECIPE:
- 1 cup espresso (or strong coffee like Starbuck’s via) – prepared & cooled
- ½ cup plain vegetable oil
- 1 cup soured cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or I use a little less vanilla bean paste)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon good quality sea salt, depending on how salty you want your cake (I use a few pinches of Hawaiian red sea salt)
- 1 cup Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups caster or superfine sugar
And, here are the INSTRUCTIONS:
- Preheat oven to 350F/175C
- Prepare your espresso & let cool to room temperature
- Mix your oil, soured cream, eggs, coffee & vanilla in a bowl until combined and smooth
- Add in your sugar and salt and mix until blended
- Sift in your cocoa powder, flour, baking soda & baking powder
- Mix until just combined and smooth
- For cake: bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
- For cupcakes: bake for approx 18-22 minutes depending on the size of your cupcakes
This is my favourite cake filling, which is a mascarpone & whipped (double) cream mix of 250g mascarpone + 250 ml double cream + 1 tsp vanilla, which you whip up with a hand blender until it’s thick and fluffy… then fold in the filling(s) of your choice. I have added “almond ding” & coconut here. This type of frosting must be kept cold due to the dairy content.
Then, I normally cover with a dark chocolate ganache, which is 200g dark chocolate + 200g double cream. I didn’t even smooth the ganache (LOL!) as I knew it would all be covered up…
…with coconut. In case you don’t know how to do this: you put your cake in a deep & wide pan and just “throw” the coconut onto the cake (this cake is too big to roll in the coconut), but you must do this whilst the ganache is still wet.
Then, decorate as you wish…
And, serve and enjoy! This type of “filled cake” can be achieved by using the Wilton Tasty-Fill Pan: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=2105-157
Monday August 20 2012
How much fun would these be for a bridal shower or hen party? These are chocolate covered Oreos, and I swear they’re not too difficult to make.
You need to find the right moulds. Mine are from the US, and I did find a supplier / seller who will ship these “Oreo Lip Chocolate moulds” internationally. This is what they look like: deep enough to completely cover Double-Stuff Oreos.
Oh yes, you’ll need some white chocolate, milk or dark (or I mix a semi-sweet chocolate), and a packet of Double-Stuff Oreos.
So, STEP 1: I used white some melted chocolate and coloured it with a bit of Sugarflair gel paste colour (1 set in red and 1 set in pink). Fill the lip part of the mould first and let it set.
STEP 2: Once your white chocolate lips have set, pour a small amount of your milk or dark chocolate (or more white chocolate) over the lips and “stick” your Oreo flat against the chocolate. This will stop your Oreo from rising up…
STEP 3: Once your Oreo is stuck to the “bottom” chocolate, pour chocolate over the top to completely cover the Oreo, and nearly to the top of the mould. Be sure you tap the moulds against your countertop to get rid of any air bubbles.
STEP 4: Allow your chocolate covered Oreos to set completely at room temperature. I would not recommend putting them into the fridge, as they will lose their gloss. Once they’re set, they will just pop out of the mould.
You can use a bit of royal icing to pipe special messages along the side of your chocolate covered Oreos. Enjoy!
Tuesday August 7 2012
I’ve had a few requests for additional macaron-ing techniques, & the cool thing is that you can use my original macaron recipe/technique to achieve these…
Those who have visited my Jen’s Just Desserts Facebook Page know that I have tried all different kinds of macaron techniques: food-coloured, hand-painted (with gel paste food colour + vodka), and/or shaped into fun characters & other shapes. Oh, & sprinkled, decorated, etc. etc. There are soooo many things you can do with macarons, above & beyond the de-luscious flavour combinations you can achieve! Here are just a few examples of my previous macaron madness:
But one thing at a time, right? So here’s one variation to start with already: chocolate macaron shells. Again, you just start with my original macaron recipe/technique & add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the recipe.* Be sure you sieve the cocoa powder along with the almond flour (finely ground almonds) & icing sugar. (Please be sure you discard the yucky stuff that doesn’t make it through the sieve). *Some may tell you to reduce the amount of almond flour by the amount of cocoa powder you’re adding, but I don’t do this, as I find I am discarding this amount of coarse almond flour anyway…
So just follow the recipe… yada yada yada & here’s the important part: the macaronage stage. Fold the macaron batter around 40-50 times, or until it “plops” back onto itself with no lumps or bumps. If you want to add food colouring to some or all of the mix – separate the batter into separate bowls – depending on how many colours you want to mix - once you have folded around 30 times. This will allow you to fold an additional 10-20 times to incorporate the food colour(s) into the batter(s). You just want to ensure that all of the batter is of the same consistency…
Here’s a hopefully helpful tip: To prevent your batter from oozing out of the piping tip before you’re ready to pipe, I put a bit of tape on the end…
If you are using a secondary colour to “overlay” or pipe accents onto the first batch of batter, don’t use a piping tip; instead, just snip off the end of the piping bag: approximately 1/4 inch in diameter. (& Once you are done with the accent work, you can cut a bigger hole to pipe full-sized macarons).
OK, so here’s a fun technique (& if you don’t have the time or inclination to pipe shapes &/or paint your macarons after they’re cooked). I piped regular round macarons, then added the accent colour by piping right over the round. This has to be done before the round/base shape has time to start drying.
You’ll know that your batters are the right consistency if the accent colour blends smoothly into the base shell; the accent colour should be “flush” with the base. This should happen on its own, but may be encouraged when you do the “tap-tap” of the tray on your countertop.
You can also pipe various shapes. My tip here is to make “exaggerated” shapes, because the batter will spread a bit.
And then here’s the TA-DAAAA moment of the accent colour baked into the base shell, so no further decoration required.
A few other notes that you may or may not find useful: Almond flour is the same as ground almonds. You can grind your own almonds or almond flakes; just be sure to ground them as finely as you can. (OK, now addicted to Crazy Jack, but Waitrose’s almond flour also seems to be a finer texture). And here are the infamous pastel eggs I favour. They’re organic/free-range & awesome!
Here’s the inside of the pastel egg. Look at the colour of these yolks! Oh, & don’t throw your yolks away after macaron-ing. You can make curd, or custard, or other yolk-y things.
Tuesday July 31 2012
Sheesh! Now that I’ve put together all the steps, I can see how actually long and involved this recipe and process may seem. But seriously, once you get the hang of making macarons from scratch, you may become as addicted and as macaron-mad as me! I can’t promise perfect results on your first, or even 2nd or 3rd try, but I swear – after having tried dozens of recipes over the years, and after having made hundreds, if not thousands, of macarons – this is one of the easiest, requiring the least amount of ingredients, and believe it or not, the least amount of effort. (Umm, hello! The Laduree recipe uses 7 eggs!?!) So, here goes the “magic”…
This recipe will yield anywhere from 15-20 macarons, depending on how big you make them. OK, here are the ingredients you’ll need – in the order you’ll use them…
- 2 large egg whites (at room temp)
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (a pinch will do)
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 1 cup icing or confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 cup finely ground almond flour
Additional supplies you will require:
- 2 baking sheets covered with baking parchment
- 2 mixing bowls
- hand blender or stand mixer (I prefer the hand blender to better “feel” the batter with, my dears)
- additional flavours & food colourings as desired
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Make sure your rack is on the lowest shelf possible.
Sift your 1 cup icing or confectioners’ sugar +3/4 cup finely ground almond flour together in your first bowl. Discard anything left in the sifter & set the bowl with the sifted flour & icing sugar aside to use later.
Then, in your second bowl, whip your egg whites until they start to foam. Add your pinch of cream of tartar.
Whip your egg whites further until they reach soft peak stage.
With your mixer on a low speed setting, gradually sprinkle in your 1/4 cup of caster sugar.
Once all of your caster sugar has been added to your egg whites, set your mixer to high and whip until your egg whites reach stiff peak consistency. This will take anywhere from 2 – 5 minutes, depending on the speed settings of your mixer.
Gradually sprinkle in your sifted almond flour and icing sugar mix from your first bowl into your second bowl with the stiff-peaked egg whites.
MACRONAGE STAGE: gently fold in your almond flour with your spatula. This is the tricky and critical stage. You need to be sure to complete around 40-50 folds until the batter is just the right consistency. This is where you really need to “feel” the batter. I can tell when it’s “right” for me when I lift up the spatula, let a bit of the batter drip into the bowl, and the “drip” doesn’t form a tip, i.e. that it kind of plops back into the batter smoothly. If you want to get technical, there is lots of information on Bake It Off.
This is the stage when I add my flavouring(s) and/or food colour(s). The critical thing to note here is that any wet ingredients will affect the consistency of your batter. So when I reach the 30th or so “fold,” that’s when I add any additional ingredients, as they will also need to be folded in. Be careful not to overbeat your batter, otherwise it will be too runny and not pipe or bake properly.
Use any batter leftover on your spatula…
…to paste down the corners of your parchment paper onto your baking trays.
Now for piping. I don’t “template;” I just eyeball the sizes of the macarons so they’re about the right sizes. If you want each to be uniform and perfect, you can draw perfect circles on the back of your parchment paper, about 1-2 cm apart. I use a round, 1 cm tip.
You can also pipe other shapes, like hearts, or I’ve even done lips before… (also note that this batter was not folded sufficiently, so you can see that they have not piped as smoothly / flatly as the green round macarons above).
Once piped, tap your baking sheet on your workspace a few times to get the air bubbles out, then allow to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of your macarons are dry to the touch.
After the macarons have dried, reduce your oven temperature to 165 degrees Celsius, and put your baking sheet in for the first 5 minutes. You should see the “feet” of the macarons formed after these first five minutes. Then, turn the baking sheets a half turn to ensure even baking – for a further five minutes.
After the full 10 minutes of baking time, remove from the oven and let the macarons cool on the tray with parchment paper for about 10 minutes. Then gently peel the macs off the parchment paper and allow to cool further and dry out on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes before filling.
* Note: these are all from the same batter, but I accidentally/on purpose under-folded the half of the batter used for the hearts & pink macs to the left. You can see the difference that makes to the final product…
You can fill with ganache, or any other fillings of your choice, but here’s an easy one that I often use because you can add any flavours/colourings you wish…
Then, serve and enjoy! *Note: If you are not serving immediately, be sure you store them in a solid container in the fridge, but allow your macs to come back to room temperature before eating.
Saturday July 28 2012
Let me preface this by saying that I REALLY wanted this to work. (A) Because I know quite a number of people who have struggled with making macarons from scratch, so I thought this could be something I could suggest as an alternative, and (B) I love this brand so much so that I couldn’t bear to name & shame them (You’ll notice I covered the brand name in the first image below). But, I should have known from the misspelling of MACARON on the box (c’mon peeps – macaroons are the coconut desserts, macarons are the French almond meringue based ones here)… and the fact that the only required effort is adding hot water and then mixing, that this was not gonna end well.
Still, my baking buddy, Fiso, of Wokingham Cakes and I were excited to try these. We followed the instructions to the T, and here’s what happened:
Like I said, I really love this brand, and was so determined to make this work. So, I tried another box, followed the instructions ver batim, and even sifted the mix despite instructions to just add hot water, but the end result still very minimal feet, and weird, lumpy, bumpy shells.
Well, after these failed box mix attempts, I went back to my handy-dandy, trusty macaron from scratch recipe and I was not disappointed.
Thursday July 26 2012
Have you ever met someone who truly inspires you? Someone who is always so helpful and positive…that special cakey friend who usually has fresh-baked goodies on offer when you visit her, as well as baking supplies?! (I know, right!? How lucky am I to live just down the road from her!) Well, allow me to introduce you to the lovely Fiso of Wokingham Cakes & Olive Cake Craft Supplies. That’s right – she has TWO businesses!
“I just wanted to do something that would allow me to stay home with my two, young sons.” This is what has always been the driving force behind Fiso’s journey from babies, to baking, to businesswoman…
This is Fiso – the multi-talented baker/decorator/proprietress of Wokingham Cakes.
As this blog goes to post, July 28th will mark the 1-year anniversary of Fiso’s last day of full-time work. In her former life, she was a Clinical Application Specialist, specialising in ultrasound equipment in the London area. In many ways, it was her dream job, something she had been highly trained and skilled in, but it actually did require a fair bit of travel, and time away from her husband and two, young sons.
A friend had asked once asked her: “If money were not an issue, and you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?” It clicked immediately for Fiso that she just wanted to spend all her time with her family AND IN THE KITCHEN! So, as soon as she handed in her resignation, she started Wokingham Cakes.
What’s so inspiring about Fiso is that she had only taken one actual decorating course about 5 years ago. With the combination of a few other courses since opening Wokingham Cakes, and the “learn-as-you-go” methodology, her natural caking talent blossomed. Check out her gorgeous royal icing work! YES – that is floating royal icing around the edges!
“But baking cakes alone didn’t provide a steady stream of income.” So Fiso looked to diversify her offerings, and so her idea for Olive Cake Craft Supplies was born. Since she loved making flowers, petal cutters were one of the first things she started to sell. Since then, her stock has grown to include so many caking/decorating supplies, some of which she stocks at home… so people like me can come begging when we’ve run out of cake boards and boxes, cupcake boxes, even palette knives! Fiso’s always there with a friendly smile. And, no, she does not judge me and my poor stock-taking skills. LOL!
Just to give you an idea of how busy Fiso has been with the supply-side of her business, here she is literally buried beneath just half of a typical day’s shipments.
…and the other half of her daily shipments:
With two successful companies on the go, can you believe this ever-entrepreneurial businesswoman is determined to take it that one step further!? With a very supportive husband and family/friends backing her, the sky really is the limit. I, for one, am so excited to see what she comes up with next!
You can contact Fiso at: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07738119666 or via links to her sites: http://www.wokinghamcakes.co.uk/ and http://www.olivecakecraft.co.uk/ or Facebook pages as above.
Tuesday July 24 2012
Those who know me know I have a “thing” for marshmallow. I LOVE IT! Seriously, I’ll put it on, or in, or around, anything and everything! I’ve done homemade versions of marvelous marshmallow in all its guises: for piping, for frosting, for filling, for toasting, for eating, and/or for licking (always!)
And whilst I do take pride in trying to make what I can from scratch, I can’t take all the credit here. It’s not like I “invented” strawberry marshmallows, so credit where credit’s due – THIS is the best recipe and set of instructions for strawberry marshmallows I have come across! So read/print the original recipe, but please note my tweaks:
- I used a 9 x 9 inch square cake tin (springform), which yielded 40+ mallow squares.
- It’s 28 grams of gelatin powder that you’ll need (I just weighed out the powder from some Dr Oetker gelatin sachets).
- I used slightly less than 1/2 cup of strawberry puree, (& added a bit of caster sugar & balsamic vinegar, as in my recipe below) as I have found that excess liquid in your mallow mix can really mess it up.
- I also reduced my puree until there was no liquid left.
- Using this puree means no food colouring. (Woot-woot! They turn out the most gorgeous shade of pale pink with bits of fresh strawberry poking through).
As there were no pictures to accompany the original recipe, I snapped some of the process, which I’ve included below. OMG how tricky was that – pouring hot, molten sugar into a glass bowl whilst snapping away with a big-ass DSLR?!
You will know that your marshmallows are “done” once the mix has (a) more than doubled in size, and (b) it actually feels like a light, soft, marshmallow-y goo.
Then, you pour it into your foil-lined & grease-sprayed pan (I used a 9-inch square cake tin), and leave to set at room temperature for 10+ hours. I know – it’s such a loooooong wait, but soooooo worth it!
Sunday July 22 2012
I’ve done this a few times now, and I think I’ve finally cracked it! I read the Lorraine Pascal recipe for “Graffiti Cake,” but had not actually ever seen it done. So without any pictures or any YouTube clips to help, I had to figure it out through trial and error (isn’t this how we used to do it in the olden days)? And anyway, this recipe makes enough to give you 2 – 3 tries, and isn’t trying half the fun?!
Some additional tips you may find useful:
- You may wish to measure the height and circumference of your cake and score this on your parchment paper if you want a more exact fit.
- Though I would always pour a little more at the ends of the circumference / length of your pattern to have a bit for testing.
- Be sure to peel it off the parchment paper whilst it’s still really flexible. It will still be warm.
- You can use any food colour you wish, but remember that you are colouring brown, so the darker the colour the better.
- This sugar syrup tastes like candy apple coating.
- …and ENJOY!
Sunday July 22 2012
My “postcards” from the delightful The Vintage Cake House: No. 5 Downing Street Farnham, GU9 7PB. Phone: 07891 034382
Kismet. It’s a wonderful thing. Just as I was planning a visit to the Squires shop in Farnham, I saw a post from Nicola (Fairy Cakes & Faces) about a charming vintage tea shop she found in – you guessed it! – Farnham! Well, it didn’t take much effort to convince my bake date, Fiso, to come with me to check it out. Did you say CAKE!? Admittedly, we were walking and chatting (& chatting!) so we somehow got lost on Farnham High Street – LOL! After walking a few unnecessary miles, we finally found The Vintage Cake House, and it was so worth it!
They serve proper tea in proper china, whimsically, vintage-ly-mis-matched! And the scrumptious delights are also a treat for the eyes and taste-buds. This coffee-walnut cake was amazeballs! Fiso and I were literally fighting over it.
We also got to meet and chat with the lovely owner, that’s Natalie below in front of her shop, which features some of the gorgeous wedding cakes she creates.
You can visit The Vintage Cake Shop virtually at: http://www.thevintagecakehouse.co.uk/vintage-weddingcakes.html, but I do hope you visit the actual shop ’cause you might see me and/or Fiso there again