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!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ombre Cake

Hi everyone,
I haven't been feeling too inspired in the baking department recently .. probably down to lack of time ...  but last Saturday my good friend Christine had her 40th birthday so I thought I should take this golden opportunity to branch out and try something different ... preferably with a bit of  a "wow factor"!

I had seen various blog posts about "rainbow cakes" and liked the idea in one sense, though in another the thought of eating such vibrantly coloured sponge made me feel a little apprehensive ... so I decided to compromise by trying a pastel ombre cake.

I wanted multiple layers, so I decided to purchase and have a go with Wilton's Easy Layer Cake Pans, from Lakeland.

The set will make a 5 layer 6 inch cake. It also has a recipe leaflet which included a rainbow cake; but as this was an egg-white cake (which I've never made before) I decided to play safe and use a Victoria sandwich cake mix instead, so I used a 4-egg mix based on the number of eggs used in the set's recipe leaflet.  I also decided to go for a buttercream icing rather than my first choice of cream cheese frosting, on the basis that this would be less problematic for transportation if the birthday girl wanted to go round visiting friends and relatives :-)

Ombre Cake

For the cake:
4 eggs (weighed) - mine weighed 236 g
Same weight as eggs for each of self raising flour, caster sugar and butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Up to 40ml milk
Food colour pastes (I used Sugarflair pastel pink and lilac)

For the icing:
500g icing sugar
250g butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Edible decorations (eg. hundreds and thousands) to finish.

1 * Wilton Easy Layers Cake Pan set, or 5 individual 6" sandwich tins.

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/160 C(fan)/gas mark 4. Prepare the cake tins by greasing and possibly lining the bases with baking parchment.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy.

3. Add the beaten eggs to the mixture a little at a time, beating well to combine. Add the vanilla extract, then gently fold in the flour (do not overbeat or the cake will be tough). Add the milk a little at a time and combine gently until the mixture reaches "dropping" consistency. 

4. Divide the mixture evenly into 5 bowls, and add the food colouring to achieve the shades you desire. Spoon mixture into baking tins and smooth the tops. Bake in the preheated oven until firm and springy to the touch, and a toothpick comes out clean (approx 12-13 minutes).

5. Cool cakes in tins for approx 5 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. 

6. Meanwhile, make the buttercream icing by beating the butter until very pale, light and fluffy, then adding the icing sugar in stages and beating well. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.

7. Before assembling the cake, cut off any browned edges if necessary to reveal colour of sponge. Place a small swirl of buttercream on serving plate or  board and then place darkest coloured sponge on top. Spread thinly with buttercream then place the next sponge on top, and repeat until all 5 sponges are neatly stacked.

8. Using a large offset palette knife, spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the sides and top of the assembled cake to form a "crumb coat". Chill in the fridge for an hour.

9. Spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake to completely cover, and swirl with a large palette knife. This is best achieved using an icing turntable. 

10. Sprinkle with edible decorations (I used pastel confetti dots) to finish.

I thought that the Wilton cake pan set was a really good idea; but having tried it I'm not so sure. The sides of the tins aren't very straight which made it difficult to line even the base; and the sides of the cake did burn a bit. The recipe leaflet in the pack was not very helpful as the recipes in English all used American cup measurements, so I had to find a French or Spanish equivalent and do my best to work out the equivalent grams! :-(    In the end I didn't actually use a recipe from the leaflet; thought their suggested cooking times of approx 17-20 minutes were WAY over the top ... I looked after 12 minutes and could already see some browning!

Essentially this cake was very easy to make if somewhat fiddly, and it's fair to say it generated more washing up than anything I've ever baked before!! The most difficult bit was stirring in the food colouring ... I had read that I must definitely use gel or paste to get a good and consistent colour, but I found it extremely difficult to distribute evenly and was rather worried that I was beating all the air out of the batter!  On reflection I also didn't get much of a colour difference between layers 4 and 5, even though the batters looked a bit different in the pans before going in the oven. 

I tried using an old icing turntable inherited from somewhere but it wasn't very successful as it couldn't really take the weight of the cake ... so a new one is now near the top of my baking wish list!

I did get to try a slice of this cake as Christine very kindly saved some for me, my husband and my dad :-), and if I'm totally honest I would say it was a bit more dense than I would have ideally liked ... but not so much so as to make it a failure and it certainly did look very pretty and have the wow factor!! Overall  I was pleased with this as a first attempt, and my friend did make some very kind comments about my efforts :-)

I'd like to enter this into this week's Bake of the Week hosted by Linzi, whilst Helen at Casa Costello is on holiday.

Casa Costello

Also I would like to enter my effort for this week's #CookBlogShare hosted by Lucy at Supergoldenbakes

That's all for today ... 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Baileys and Chocolate Miniature Cheesecakes

Hi everyone,
I've not been around over the past few weeks for one reason and another ... mostly on account of work, but also because I've had some persistent sinus trouble for the past three months which is not the best recipe for baking!!  I've also done one or two repeat bakes plus had the odd baking disaster (my recent albino Battenberg may have tasted good but it certainly wasn't ready for its close-up!!) so I decided to draw a blogging veil over my recent efforts!

Anyhow I'm feeling quite a bit better right now, and also I've got a bit of a boost to my mojo with the start of series 5 of Bake Off .... so I thought I would make some miniature cakes like they did for this week's showstopper challenge!! Not 36 though ... much as I like cake, I don't think that me and my husband could get through that many lol!!

I have a bottle of Baileys in the cupboard which needs finishing, so I decided to use it to make some miniature cheesecakes, also using my Lakeland 12 cup mini sandwich tin as seen on this week's Bake Off (oh how I would love one of those gadgets that Norman invented to make all the cakes pop out at once ... Lakeland why don't you patent it??)

By the way, please excuse the pictures ... it's been a while since I took pics of my baking, and today I forgot to set my macro on, so the close ups are a bit blurred!!

Baileys & Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes

Taken from: Lakeland website

100g butter, plus extra to grease
250g digestive biscuits, crushed
600g soft cream cheese
25ml Baileys liqueur
100g icing sugar
300ml double cream, whipped
100g good quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Lakeland 12 Cup Mini Sandwich Tin

1. Grease the Mini Sandwich Tin with a little butter (I used Cake Release).

2. Crush the biscuits, either in a food processor, or (as I did) by placing in a freezer bag and crushing with a rolling pin.

3. Melt the butter in a pan, add the crushed biscuits and stir well until the biscuits have absorbed all the butter. 

4. Remove from the heat, divide the mixture equally between the cups in the cake tin and press firmly into place. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for one hour.

5. Lightly whip the cream cheese then beat in the Baileys and icing sugar. Fold in the whipped cream and roughly half of the grated chocolate. 

6. When smooth, spoon evenly onto the biscuit bases. Refrigerate and allow to set for at least two hours.

7. Once set, carefully remove by running a knife dipped in hot water round the edge of each cheesecake and gently pushing up the tin’s loose bases. Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining grated chocolate then the chopped chocolate over each cheesecake.

I  made half the recipe amount listed above, with a view to baking a manageable (for eating!) 6  mini cheesecakes ... but it actually made 7, and had so much cheesecake mix I wished I had divided my biscuit base into 8!!  I also found that I needed considerably less than half the amount of chocolate listed in the recipe.

This was only my second ever attempt at cheesecake (my first was a baked cheesecake) and it was incredibly easy  .. the most difficult part was getting it out of the tin.  After 2 1/2 hours it was set enough (just!)  to get  2 out of the pan to eat with our evening meal; but I left the rest in the fridge overnight to firm up more.  I was very pleased with the flavour and texture of the cheesecake mix though .. absolutely delicious!

I'd like to enter this for a couple of baking challenges ....

Firstly, this month's Treat Petite challenge, hosted this month by Stuart at Cakeyboi, and alternate months by Kat aka The Baking Explorer. This month's theme is No Bake - perfect for these little desserts.

Secondly, I'd like to take part in Lucy from Super Golden Bakes' #GBBO Bake Along (Episode 1)

I am of baking along with this week's showstopper challenge of  "miniature British classics". I doubt I'll be troubling the Bake Off tent any time soon, but I still really enjoy it. ... nonetheless I have also tweeted this post to #Extra Slice ... you never know!!

Update: I have just spotted August's Baking With Spirit challenge hosted by Janine at Cake of the Week, which is to go crazy  and do whatever you want with alcohol (oo-er!).