About my baking challenge

I discovered the joy of baking for the first time ever in 2013, shortly after my dear mum passed away from cancer. During 2014 I tried to bring these two things together in a positive way , have fun and raise some money for Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield where my mum passed away. Throughout the year I tried out new techniques and recipes from time to time ... and then sold some of my bakes for charity in my workplace. Since then I have continued to bake with some ups and downs .. and this blog charts my baking experiences, good and bad!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Testing ... testing ... look what Santa brought me!

I think that either I must have been a very good girl all year during 2013, or otherwise Santa  brought me more than I deserve ... cos I looked under the tree on Christmas morning and found this ...

... which on closer inspection turned out to be this ...

... and all these ...

(brand new flexi-beater tool, K-beater and dough hook)

(Balloon whisk)

Woo hoo!!!

OK, so Santa was given some very specific hints, not to mention a steer to the best shop in which to load up his sleigh lol!! But I really was beyond delighted to receive this Kenwood KMix mixer, and must also thank my darling husband for giving Santa a hand to get it down the chimney!!

I also feel I rather got a bargain from John Lewis ... this machine was being advertised as having three tools but came with four, including a new flexi-beater for soft mixtures such as sponges or buttercream. It is now being advertised as having four tools but has gone up by a whopping £45 since Christmas !! I'm sure this will reignite the debate about Kenwood KMix versus Kitchenaid Artisan, as the Artisan has now come down in price so the price gap between the two has narrowed considerably!

Despite the fact that most people are rather "caked out" right now following from the Christmas festivities, I just HAD to test out this cutie before any more time had gone by .... So I decided to start with a simple vanilla cupcake recipe, with just a slight twist :-)

Vanilla surprise cupcakes

Makes 12 medium size cupcakes (increase quantities in proportion to make more ... I used a 4 egg mixture to make 15 cupcakes)

Taken from The Cupcake - Love Food (with some adaptations)

170g (6oz) softened butter
170g (6oz) caster sugar
170g (6oz) self-raising flour
3 eggs (medium), lightly beaten
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tbsp milk
Approx. 6 teaspoons seedless raspberry jam (or whatever filling you prefer)

For the icing:
150g (5 1/2 oz) softened unsalted butter
280g (10oz) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

12 hole muffin pan
Cupcake corer (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 180°C /160°C fan / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
2. Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat until very pale, light and fluffy. I did this using my K-beater ... OMG it was so exciting starting up the machine for the first time!

3. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating thoroughly after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract.
4. Add the sieved flour and gently fold into the  mixture. This is where I was able to use the KMix's specialist  "fold" function - it whirrs around gently then pauses, then whirrs gently some more - absolutely brilliant to watch :-)
5. Add the milk and fold in gently as above. The mixture should be smooth and drop easily from the spoon / mixer beater.
6. Spoon mixture into cases, filling each one approx 2/3 full. Be careful not to overfill them.
7. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until cupcakes are risen, golden, and a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean.
8. Cool in tray for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Meanwhile, make vanilla buttercream icing - place butter and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat until very soft and pale. I did this using the KMix's new flexi-beater.

10. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat thoroughly to make the icing fluffy and light.  Add the milk and beat in to give a softer consistency for piping.
11. When the cupcakes are completely cool, cut out a small well from the top of each one using a sharp knife or cupcake corer. Sample the offcuts in the interests of research!!

12. Spoon approx half a teaspoon of jam into each cupcake. Tip: I found this easiest using my Lakeland slimline measuring spoons ... even though I'm fairly cack-handed the jam didn't slop outside the wells as it would have done with a normal sized spoon!

13. Spread or pipe the buttercream onto each cupcake, and decorate as desired. I decorated mine with pastel coloured sugar strands and some edible rice paper butterflies ... simple but quite pretty, I think!

... and here's a closeup of the finished article.

The original recipe for these cupcakes stated that  a 2-egg mixture (with 4oz of butter, sugar and flour) would make 12 cupcakes. the first time I ever made them I was amazed to find that the mixture only made 7!! I have since realized that I was using large cupcake cases .. but even with medium cases you really need a "3 egg" mixture to make 12 ... 2 eggs would only make 12 VERY SMALL fairy cakes. I think it would be helpful if recipe books gave more of a clue to beginners about what size of cupcake case they should  be using, as it also affects the cooking time Now I tend to use a 3 egg mixture to make 12 medium size cases (baking for approx 18 minutes), and a 4-egg mixture to make 12 large cupcakes (baking for approx 20-21 minutes). 

I was quite nervous about trying out my new Kenwood KMix but it all seemed to go pretty smoothly. I was careful to try all the attachments in the mixer first to ensure they would fit, and I also fitted the splashguard which proved to be an absolute godsend when mixing icing sugar as I no longer had a cloud of it all over the kitchen!! The one downside is that you can't really sift straight into the KMix's own bowl as a sieve won't fit over the bowl when the tools are attached; so you need to sift in advance and then either tip into the bowl with the head raised, or spoon in through the "hatch" in the splashguard cover. Both attachments I used worked very well though, with minimal scraping down of the bowl required.

The one thing I still haven't got the hang of (after approx 3 attempts now) is getting my buttercream the correct consistency for piping ... I know you are just supposed to add more icing sugar, but I feel a bit gross if I add too much!! I think I still need to work on that one!

Anyhoo, at the end of all this I assembled some darling little boxes that I had picked up from Poundland, and took most of my cakes to work to give out as Happy New Year treats. 

The cute boxes actually received more comments than the cakes inside them lol!

That's all for now.

Update 15/1 - I have just found a fab baking blog called Dollybakes, with a Calendar Cakes challenge - I think I'm ok to enter this into the January Calendar Cakes challenge so here we go!  :-)

Calendar Cakes Challenge


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