Sunday, 16 September 2012

We've Got Ears, Say Cheers!

Oh dear, after promising a blog post at least every week I seem to have missed a week already! It was a busy weekend with no time for baking, and then on Monday I attempted a leopard print sponge cake but it was a bit of a fail so I'm still debating whether to share it with the world...

This week's project was an order for Minnie Mouse cupcakes for a little girl's second birthday, and I was SO excited about it. Aside from being a huge Disney addict myself, my baby daughter is already showing the same tendencies and loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and I've already been thinking ahead (way ahead as she's only six months old!) to possible themes for her first birthday party. Pinterest is full of perfectly made Mickey Mouse cakes and themed birthday parties, and these were just a few of my favourites:

For this particular batch the design I used was based on these adorable Minnie Mouse cupcakes from The Cake Bar, I love how simple they are but yet the ears and bow make them instantly recognisable. They were really straight forward to make, just chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream icing, but it's the decorations that make it.

I've had issues when using fondant decorations on buttercream in the past, I think it's the moisture in the butter that starts to break down the fondant and it ends up a soggy mess after a few hours. I was advised that this doesn't happen if you make the decorations in advance and leave them to air dry for a few days before putting them on top of the cupcakes, but unfortunately my forward planning was a bit lacking this week! So I made the red bows the day before and then delivered them separately with instructions to press them into the buttercream on the day of the party. Bows are actually a really easy decoration to make using fondant and are very impressive - this is a great tutorial.

A few white polka dots and a number 2 (for the birthday girl!) finished them off nicely and made them more Minnie-esque. The ears are made from giant chocolate buttons, much tastier than more fondant and easier than cutting out tiny circles. I love how cute these cupcakes are, and they're definitely on the list of possible treats for our little one's first birthday!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Treacle Tart

After watching this week's episode of The Great British Bake Off I really wanted to try my hand at the 'Technical Challenge' of Treacle Tart, except it's a recipe which contains my biggest baking nemesis - pastry. You see pastry and I have never got on well. I'm not sure if my butter is never cold enough, or my hands are too warm, or I'm just a bit too overenthusiastic with kneading the dough, but it just never seems to work. It's never flaky enough, always too chewy, but I was determined to get it right this time.

The recipe comes from Bake Off judge and all round baking queen Mary Berry, so you know it's reliable, and seemed easy enough - there are only six ingredients for a start. I even purchased a new loose bottomed flan tin for the occasion, because I wanted one with fluted edges and it was 70% off so it would be rude not to!

I decided to make the pastry using the food processor, partly because it's quicker than the traditional method of rubbing together butter and flour, and partly so if it all went wrong I could blame it on the machinery! Then it went into the fridge to 'rest' for 20 minutes before I rolled it out and lined the base of my shiny new flan tin. I debated over the best way to construct the lattice pattern for the top of my tart, the recipe states to roll out the pastry and egg wash it, then cut into strips and lay out the lattice once the filling is in the pastry case. But this leaves no room for error because once the pastry strips are on you can't take them off to readjust, so instead I copied a few of the Bake Off contestants and laid out the pattern on cling film first and then transferred it to the tart.

The filling consists of a bottle of Golden Syrup (yep that's right, a whole bottle!), white breadcrumbs and the juice and zest of a lemon. I love how simple it is, just heat the syrup and lemon, mix in the breadcrumbs and dump it all into the prepared tin. Then flip the pastry lattice on top, attempt to fix the edges where it's fallen apart during the flipping process, brush with a little egg wash and bake!

I'd never actually tried Treacle Tart before so don't really have anything to compare it to, but I was very impressed. The crumbly shortcrust pastry is a nice contrast to the gooey, sticky filling, and while my lattice won't win any beauty contests I was actually pretty pleased with it. The recipe said to use the juice and zest of two lemons, but I only had one and even that came through pretty strongly - two would definitely overpower the flavour of the golden syrup. Overall verdict? I wouldn't have got 'Star Baker', but don't think I would be bottom of the list either!