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, 24 March 2014

Charity Bake #4 - Raspberry surprise cupcakes

Hi everyone,
Here I am again with another charity bake. Today I took my inspiration from springtime, which was brought on by the gorgeous pastel spotty and stripy cupcake cases I spotted in Lakeland on Saturday.

Raspberry surprise cupcakes

Makes 12 (I made double quantity)

For the cakes:
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp milk
Approx 60g seedless raspberry jam

For the icing:
150g softened butter
280g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk

1 12 hole muffin tin

1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160°C fan / Gas 4, and place 12 cupcake cases into a cake tin.
2.  Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat until pale and fluffy.
3.  Beat the eggs and then add gradually, beating well to combine. With the last addition add a little flour to stop the mixture from curdling.
4.  Add the vanilla extract and beat well to combine.
5.  Add the flour a little at a time and fold in gently. Add the milk and fold in gently until the mixture is a "dropping" consistency.
6. Fill each cupcake case  1/2 - 2/3 full of mixture; then bake in oven for approx 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and top of capek springs back when pressed gently.
7. Cool in tin for approx. 10 minutes then turn cupcakes onto wire rack to coll completely.
8. Core top of each cupcake using a corer or sharp knife, and fill cavity of each cupcake with 1/2 - 1 tsp of seedless raspberry jam.
9. Make buttercream by placing butter into a bowl and beating til very pale and soft, then adding sifted icing sugar gently, interspersed with a little milk until desired consistency is reached.
10. Ice top of each cupcake with buttercream and decorate as desired ... I used pastel sprinkles to match my cupcake cases - dots for the spotty cases and sugar strands for the stripy!! :-)

I made a double batch of these as they were for a charity bake, and it did mean I struggled a bit with my timings and where was best to place them in the oven. I also didn't have quite enough icing sugar to make double quantity of icing so I had to skimp a bit on that, and still left a couple of cakes uniced! .. and I STILL CAN'T get the hang of piping ... I ended up in a complete mess with a split bag which I then had to try to scrape out and spread on the cakes with a palette knife!! waaah!!

However I DID make good use of the leftover sponge "cores" by having  them as pudding with a spoonful of cream and jam - nice!

I would like to enter these into this month's Calendar Cakes challenge hosted by Rachel (Dollybakes) and Laura (Laura Loves Cake) - the theme for March is spring, and I think these bright pastel colours are very spring-like :-)

Calendar Cakes Challenge

That's all for now ... back later with a fundraising update.

Update: I was amazed and delighted with the popularity of these cupcakes ... they were all gone in an hour and I was beating off disappointed customers (who didn't make it to the kitchen in time) with a mucky stick!! 

Amount raised: £21.00


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Happy birthday with an extremely chocolatey cake!

Yesterday was my darling husband's birthday; and he went out the evening before to a concert so I decided to make him a surprise birthday cake!! As I only started baking last August this is the first birthday of his that I had opportunity to surprise him like this :-)

Here's what I made ...

Mary Berry's Very Best Chocolate Cake

Serves: recipe says 6 (!) but I would say at least 12 !!

Taken from Lakeland website (with slight adaptations as I used sandwich tins instead of pushpans).

For the cake:
50g (2 oz) cocoa
6 tbsp boiling water
3 eggs
2 tbsp milk
175g (6 oz) self raising flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
100g (4 oz) softened butter or baking spread (I always use butter!)
300g (10 oz)  caster sugar

For the icing/filling:
150g (6oz) dark chocolate broken into small pieces
150ml pouring double cream
3 tbsp apricot jam
1 small bar white chocolate (optiopnal) - I used white chocolate curls from the supermarket)

2 * 8" loose-bottomed sandwich tins

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4
2. Grease 2 x 8" sandwich tins and line the bottom with baking parchment.
3. First measure the cocoa and boiling water into a large bowl, and mix well to make a paste. 
4. Add the remaining ingredients and beat again until combined. 
5.  Divide the cake mixture between the prepared tins. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin. 
6. Cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
7. For the icing and filling, pour the double cream into a saucepan and place over a medium heat until just simmering.
8. Remove from the heat, then add the chocolate and stir well until the chocolate is melted and the mixture smooth. Set aside and allow to become cold and almost set.
9. Spread the top of each cake with apricot jam. Sandwich the cakes with half the icing and spread the remainder on top. Shave the white chocolate into curls with a potato peeler and arrange over the top of the cake to decorate.

This was really easy - I think it was actually more or less Mary's tray bake in a different shaped tin! It also had a richer taste as the chocolate ganache was dark rather than milk chocolate, and there was more of it per slice - yum!

This whole baking experience was somewhat hilarious as I was quite late getting started, so I was really against the clock to get everything completed and out of sight before my husband came home ... rushing around madly washing equipment and utensils, and trying to wipe up crumbs from the worktop as I went along!! I finally shoved the last of the washed-up utensils hastily into its drawer and ripped off my apron ONE MINUTE before he walked in the house ...phew!!  Luckily despite the fact that I later discovered I had chocolate on my face (no doubt from licking the spoon!!) he didn't notice anything untoward, and was delighted the next morning when I presented the cake! Apparently it went down very well with his colleagues at work, and he saved a bit to bring home so I also got to sample it :-)

All in all a pretty good outcome ... good old Mary Berry has helped produce another winner!!


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Charity Bake #3 - Mary Berry's Rich Chocolate Traybake

I haven't done any baking for a little while for one reason or another, so I  thought it was well overdue for me to make another charity bake.

One thing I've never tried until now is a traybake ... a couple of weeks ago I identified this shortfall in my baking equipment so I got me a Mary Berry with Lakeland traybake tin ... so what could be nicer to christen it with than a Mary Berry recipe??  This one was in a pull out in last week's Mail on Sunday ... and is taken from Mary Berry Cooks - the book to accompany Mary's new TV series.  I just changed the topping slightly, and made it with gluten free flour for no other reason than I had some in the house, and I know a couple of people in work who can only eat wheat free :-).

Mary Berry's Rich Chocolate Traybake

Taken from: Mary Berry Cooks by Mary Berry.

Serves: recipe says 21 slices, but I cut it into 16 (each slice 3" * 2" in a 12" * 8" tin)

For the cake:
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
6 tbsp boiling water
100g (4oz) softened butter (I used unsalted)
275g (10oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
125ml milk
175g (6oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3-4tbsp warned apricot jam (recipe says sieved, but I didn't bother!)

For the icing:
100ml double cream
200g (7oz) baking milk chocolate, finely chopped.

30cm * 20cm (12" * 8")  traybake tin.

1. Preheat oven to 180°C /160°C fan / Gas Mark 4. Grease traybake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
2. Measure cocoa into a bowl, add boiling water and mix to a smooth paste.

3. Add butter and beat into cocoa until smooth

4. Then add the sugar, eggs, milk, flour & baking powder, and mix until combined.

5. Pour mixture into tin, spread evenly and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until well risen, just firm to the touch and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.

6. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and peel off the baking parchment. Brush the top of the cake with warmed jam, then leave cake to cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, make the icing by warming the cream in a small pan until hot (not boiling) then add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Leave to cool until a thick pouring our fudgy consistency, then spread over the top of the cake with a large spatula or palette knife.

8. I decorated the cake very simply by sprinkling first with dark chocolate spaghetti (which lies flat) then with white chocolate curls. Tip: use the sprinkles while the icing is still wet so they will stick easily.

This really was sooo easy to make ... and the chocolate batter was so delicious that I was tempted to just sit there spooning it all into my mouth and forget about putting any into the baking tin! (I managed to resist but it was a close call!)

This cake is for my charity baking challenge (apart from 1 piece each for me and my husband to sample); but I think I'll be baking this for home before too long ... apparently it can freeze well for up to 3 months though I doubt it would last that long!!

That's all for now ... back later with a fundraising update.

Update: amount raised - £15. This one seemed to go down very well .. I went off to a meeting leaving it in our works kitchen, and when I returned there was just a tray of crumbs left!!