Sunday, 26 June 2011

Welcome to my nightmare

I was asked by the infamous curator of cake and chaos, Miss Cakehead, to make some blood splattered cupcakes as part of a 'disturbing’ edible experience at the Alice Cooper Freak Show auditions at Hyde Park this Monday 27th June. Yes that's right, cake for metal legend ALICE COOPER!!

The cakes themselves were pretty much a given - what else could they be but (blood) red velvets? I added a little extra red colouring and a little extra vanilla to combat any taste this may add. 

The blood proved a little trickier. I first opted to make the cherry 'blood' as featured in A Zombie Ate my Cupcake, but alas it was more like clotted blood and a very odd grey colour so put my thinking cap on and came up with my own blood - raspberry coulis, thickened with a little icing sugar and a bit of red food colouring in it to ensure we got the right colour. Fabulous.

The raspberry coulis blood really added a nice tartness to the red velvets and I really enjoyed it. I'm not usually that much of a fan of cream cheese frosting (ie I can't eat more than one) but the tartness of the raspberries again helped with that, and I would happily include raspberries in these again. Have been thinking of reasons for bloody cupcakes - Mortician cupcakes anyone? 

Finally, just wanted to share the centrepiece of the Silent Hill themed exhibition with you all. The nurse cake was made by Laura from Mamma Jamma Cakes and is 100% edible (except for a centre rod to keep her upright - take that Duff!) 

Copyright Mamma Jamma Cakes 
Isn't it awesome!

You can read more about the event here.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Best ever chocolate cupcake

Today is Mr I Heart Cupcakes birthday and as he is a total chocolate addict I decided to make him some double chocolate cupcakes. I originally thought of doing a boozy ganache to stuff them with, making them triple chocolate but thought that might be too much. (I can hear Manny screaming 'nooooooo' as he reads this).

The cakes are based on a recipe from Chocolate by Donna Hay and the frosting is from British Baking by Oliver Peyton.

These are definitely the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever made and went down a treat for Manny's birthday breakfast this morning - they were incredibly moist, very chocolaty and the frosting was amazing!

Happy Birthday Manny!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Peggy's Favourite Cakes & Cookies

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of the gorgeous Peggy's Favourite Cakes & Cookies, by Peggy Porschen, some weeks ago and had been planning for some time to bake something magnificent. I'd had my eye on a beautiful heart cake as it seemed apt for the blog, however last weekend when I was due to bake I felt awful and just couldn't face the mammoth task it appeared to be, so...I made some cupcakes and used Peggy's book as inspiration. A bit simpler but just as pretty I think.

I first made some chocolate cupcakes with ganache frosting using Peggy's recipe. The cakes were very flavoursome and very moist, however the ganache was a bit thick so couldn't be piped.  I added some Bailey's to thin it out, and although it still wouldn't pipe I liked the Bailey's kick, so I spread it onto the cakes rather than piped, and added some lovely giant flowers I made. The next day we went to photograph them and learnt that sugarpaste does not react well to boozy ganache. I have pictures but they're too heartbreaking, and oozy, to share.

So I decided to start again and make some vanilla cupcakes instead and opted to decorate them with Peggy's favourite themes of butterflies and flowers.

I tried to use Peggy's vanilla cake recipe, but alas it called for medium eggs and I only had large eggs in the house, (infact they were the much derided (on Twitter) Ella Valentine Baking Eggs - seriously the name might be silly but the eggs are great quality and cheaper than a lot of others - and they come in a pink box - I'm easily pleased), so I made my own vanilla cupcake recipe using the large eggs.

The frosting I made again using my own recipe as Peggy's called for half icing sugar, half butter which I found would not form into pipe-able consistency. I've never made frosting with these ratios - has anyone? I've got Peggy's recipes from her Cupcake Masterclass in Sainsbury's Magazine and her frosting calls for my usual ratio of 1/2 butter/cream cheese to icing sugar. I wonder is this an error in the preview copies of the book?

Despite these niggles, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to make prettier cakes. It is not particularly a book for people looking for recipes, there aren't many in here at all, just a few basic ones that you can adapt for each project, but the book is beautiful and full of great ideas for cookies,miniature cakes, large cakes and cupcakes. Each project whether it is a cookie or a giant tiered cake has detailed instructions on what items you require to make it and there are lots of diagrams for larger projects. The book also includes quantity guides for cake making, which is helpful if you only wanted to make one of the mini cakes, rather than 18, and some really helpful tutorials for making sugar roses and other decorating items. This book is definitely for the cake baker who wants to progress slightly further - you will need to buy some equipment, such as cutters, boards, and specialised items, but if you want to make cakes as pretty as Peggy's it is worth it. She even has a two page spread of the equipment you are most likely to need which I found very helpful.

As well as the book, Quadrille were kind enough to allow me to ask Peggy a few questions via email.

1. How did you get into baking, and what are your favourite things to bake?

I was always given a fabulous cake every year on my birthday as a child growing up in Germany which is a nation that loves cake! The cake was always the highlight for me and even then I was incredibly passionate about both the taste and the look. When I was 14 yrs. old I decided to make my own and it really just started from there. After finishing school I moved to London in 1998 to study at the internationally renowned cookery school Le Cordon Bleu. After successfully completing ‘The Grand Diploma of Cuisine & Patisserie’, I worked as a pastry chef at London's Lanesborough Hotel and celebrated caterer Rhubarb Food Design, followed by a position as cake decorator for German master-baker Gerhard Jenne, proprietor of Konditor &  Cook. I set up my business in 2003 from my home in Battersea, which I eventually had to move out of as the business grew and grew.

My passion still lies with wedding cakes and my favourite I have ever made was my own wedding cake which was perfect. It was absolutely beautiful, elegant and incredibly pretty, intricate without being over the top, the classic and traditional was softened with a satin bow. I designed it and was helped by one of my team to make it. It tied in perfectly with the wedding and was actually inspired by my laser cut wedding stationary and flowers.

Bryn and Peggy's wedding cake (sent by Peggy Porschen PR)

2. Apart from your own cakes have you any other favourite bakeries?
  • Wendy Kromer for her original, innovative approach. She uses unusual tools and materials and you get a real sense of her Parisian patisserie background and European flair just by looking at the designs.
  • Ron Ben-Israel for the most outstanding sugar flowers I have ever seen – he is simply the best.
  • Sylvia Weinstock – she deserves a lifetime achievement award for her contribution to the industry, just consistently incredible
3. What are the five kitchen essentials you recommend for any budding bakers?
  • A good mixer such as Kenwood or KitchenAid
  • Always use good quality butter, it makes a real difference to the end product
  • I find PME
  • Squires Kitchen Flower Paste
  • Cake Smoothers I couldn’t live without for that professional flawless finish.
4. What is your favourite flavour of cupcake and frosting?

My cravings change with the seasons but at the moment I am obsessing over my sticky toffee cupcakes which are sold at the Peggy Porschen Parlour, they are incredibly comforting, with a gooey toffee centre and nutty sponge - I just can’t resist.

If you'd like to visit Peggy's Parlour I highly recommend it - it's the most perfect little cupcake cafe I've been to. You can read about my visit here.

Peggy's Favourite Cakes & Cookies is out on June 6th.

Oh and I will make that heart cake - it's too pretty not to!