All things baking and cake decorating

Baking and cake decorating posts

My Apologies……..

 

I am so sorry that I haven’t posted on here for such a long time, I have no excuse other that I fell out with my computer! The reason being that OH, very generously, bought me a super-duper new laptop in August and it has Windows 8 on it. I have found it so hard to get used to that I use my iPad instead when at all possible. My embroidery software still doesn’t work with Windows 8, although I have tried everything, I still get my dear old Sony Vaio out when I want to digitise embroidery designs.

Well, what has been happening in Cobbie’s little corner of the world since my last post? In September we celebrated my sister and brother-in-law’s diamond wedding with a wonderful family party in my niece’s garden. My lovely son and daughter-in-law came down from Cambridge for the weekend and we had great time. Pat and Alan were picked up from their home by a beautiful vintage Bentley, which was a complete surprise to them and had been arranged by their daughter Annie. I was privileged to make their cake, a three tier diamond shaped cake with a tier of fruit cake, a tier of carrot cake and a tier of lemon drizzle. Annie’s husband, Phil, did all the catering and the food was five star, the baked cheesecake was to die for!

 

The vintage car that picked Pat and Alan up

 

 

 

 

The three tier anniversary cake

In October, OH and I took off for Las Vegas once again. We had a whale of a time and I managed to find even more fabric and quilting shops.

November came and went in the usual round of Christmas preparations, I did manage to make quite  a few of my Christmas gifts this year, which was very satisfying.

December had us celebrating again, this time my older sister’s eightieth birthday, and guess what, I completely forgot to take a photo of her birthday cake!  Oh well, it all got eaten so I guess it was OK. We had an early Christmas day in Cambridge with Colin and Allyson, then spent Christmas day proper with my darling niece Boo and all of her family. A dear friend of ours celebrated his 60th on Christmas day and his family arranged a surprise party for the Saturday after Christmas. Brian is a great Kyle fan and his daughter asked if I could make a cake shaped as Kyle’s butt in those famous hot pants?!!! This was the resulting cake,

We also celebrated my great nephew’s thirtieth birthday the Sunday after Christmas, another cake made!

The new year came in with one more cake to make, my lovely neighbour celebrated her seventieth birthday on New Years Eve. Got to say, I was pretty ‘caked out’ by then.

January and February passed by very quickly and, at the beginning of March we headed off to New York to celebrate our pearl wedding anniversary and my birthday. We had the most amazing time and enjoyed every minute of it, despite temperatures of -13 C, in fact the temperature never rose above zero for the whole week. On my birthday we made a visit to the 9/11 memorial gardens. this was the most moving experience, made more poignant by the fact that a white rose was placed by the names of victims who would have been celebrating their birthdays on that day. This is something that is done daily. There were eight people who would have shared my birthday.

 

One of the eight who shared my birthday.

 

 

Our hotel in New York

By the way, our lovely Kate is doing the London Marathon next Sunday, she is raising money for a child bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish. If you would like to sponsor her, here is the link; http://www.justgiving.com/Kate-Jones88

Now Spring is upon us once more and the blossom is looking beautiful, I have been busy dressmaking, OH is getting the garden up to scratch (when he’s not tinkering with his motor bikes), and I feel truly blessed.

I promise I won’t disappear from the blogasphere again, I have (almost) mastered Windows 8!

Take care and enjoy the sunshine,

Jenny xx

How do you cost a cake?

Well,  after many years of making and decorating celebration cakes, I have the answer! I found an amazing excel programme through Twitter. I had been following a lovely fellow cake decorator and found she had developed this programme to assist in the pricing of cakes, it’s a Cake Calculator and is so easy to use, at £2.99 it’s a great investment.

The Cake Calculator is spreadsheet which enables you to input all your ingredients, how much they cost and in what quantity they are purchased. You then go through the cake recipe, putting in the actual amounts used and it calculates the cost of each item, before giving you the grand total. Boards, boxes, hourly rate etc, are all on there. It can be adapted to suit your own needs. How I wish I’d had something like this many years ago, it has always been every cake decorators nightmare, trying to work out prices to charge. Because you always want to be fair, it is so easy to under charge, but with the Cake Calculator, I’ll not be in that position again, and when somebody says, ‘How much?’ I can show them a complete breakdown of the costs, BRILLIANT!

For other cake decorators out there, here is the link www.cakecoachonline.com  I will definitely be recommending it to my cake decorating students at Pipedreams.

These are the sheets I used this week

These are the sheets I used this week

 

The cake I made this week was an eightieth birthday cake for my nephew’s mother-in-law. It had handmade sugar carnations and roses. I hope Audrey enjoys it.

Eightieth birthday cake
Eightieth birthday cake

 

I am now going to tell you about two wonderful, caring, young people………my great niece and goddaughter, Kate is doing the Windsor half marathon next month and she is doing it to raise money for a local charity, Berkshire East & South Bucks Women’s Aid. My great nephew Jamie is taking part in the London Bikeathon, (100 miles), also next month, and he is raising money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. We very proud of them both and if you feel you would like to support them they have ‘just giving pages’; www.justgiving.com/Kate-Jones01 and Jamies is here 

Well, there’s been nothing going on in the sewing room this week……..the cake sort of ‘took over’, but I will be in there next week getting some bunting made in readiness for my sister and brother-in-law’s diamond wedding celebrations!

Till next time, happy sewing, baking, crafting or whatever else you may be doing.

Jenny xxxxx

Too hot for chocolate?

I didn’t think I would ever utter the words ‘too hot for chocolate’, being a self confessed chocoholic, but when the weather changed bringing real summer heat, I must admit to saying this quite a few times in the first week of this glorious July. Why? I was teaching a class at Pipedreams on the 6th, the workshop was…….A chocolate cake, covered with ganache and chocolate cigarillos, topped with roses made from modelling chocolate. Well, we had three delightful ladies booked in for the day, all keen to learn how to work with chocolate. Frank had pre-cooked rich chocolate sponge cakes for us  and the first thing I did, was to dispel the fear of making ganache. This was always a laborious task as cream needed scalding, taking care not to boil it, then this is poured over good quality chocolate and stirred until the chocolate has melted. This seems fairly straight forward but if the cream is too hot, it isn’t possible to achieve a really good gloss on the ganache. Joy of joys, I experimented  with chocolate and cream a few days before the workshop, and produced beautiful ganache in the microwave! It was sooooo easy, and not a fluke as I repeated the process twice to make sure.

Well having demonstrated the making of ganache, using the microwave, we proceeded with the decorating of the cakes.  An hour into the class and already the temperature in the classroom was a bit on the warm side. The cakes were sliced and sandwiched together with the ganache frosting I had made the night before, then they were coated with the fresh, cooled ganache, giving a very rich, glossy finish. Once this was ‘tacky’ chocolate cigarillos were placed all round the edge…………I didn’t say this was a cake for the calorie conscious among you.

Having got this far, we started on our chocolate flowers, by this time we were all feeling the effects of the heat and handling modelling chocolate was not going to be easy.  The only way we could work successfully was to keep popping the flowers into the freezer every few minutes, to firm the chocolate up. My three lovely students all worked patiently and steadily, achieving some beautiful roses, rose leaves and cutter flowers, which, once finished, were ‘gilded’ with edible lustre dust. The flowers were placed on their cake and a ribbon tied around the cigarillos, producing a very pretty, if very fattening, chocolate cake.

My three lovely students and their finished cakes

 

My demonstration cake

At the end of the workshop, we had half an hour to spare so I showed the group an alternative top decoration for a chocolate cake. Using some of the cooled, whisked ganache, I roughly spread this over a cake board. Using pink marzipan, I then made some little pigs and placed these in the ‘mud’. It was a fun idea and one that children would love on a chocolate cake. Each of the ladies had time to make a couple of little pigs to take home.

Pigs in mud.

 

So struggling in the heat was worth the effort and perhaps it wasn’t too hot for chocolate after all!

I hope you are all enjoying the glorious weather. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Jenny xxxx

 

My Little Christmas Pies

The mince pies are cooked

And they’re ready to eat.

The kitchen is warm,

And the smell, you can’t beat!

 

Little Christmas Pies

Another one of my favourite things about Christmas, making my little Christmas pies. This recipe was given to me by  Sue Bridger, who I met when I enrolled on a short cookery course at my local college more than thirty years ago. It was Sue who encouraged me to get my City and Guilds Cooks Professional qualification and then go on to get a teaching certificate. Some years later I took another teaching qualification that allowed me to branch out and that’s how I ended up teaching young people with learning difficulties. Anyway, I digress!

These little mince pies are made with a sweet short crust pastry base and topped with a piped Viennese topping. The topping means that the pies are lovely and light (so you have an excuse to eat more than one).

Here is the recipe if you want to have a go;

LITTLE CHRISTMAS PIES

Ingredients;

8 oz/230g plain flour

4 oz/115g butter

1 egg yolk, mixed with a little cold water

2 oz/60g caster sugar

Good quality mincemeat with a little brandy added

Viennese topping;

8 oz/200g soft tub margarine

2 oz/60g caster sugar

8oz/200g plain flour

1-2 drops vanilla essence

Method;

  1. Make up the pastry and line patty tins.
  2. Fill with approximately 1 teaspoon mincemeat mixed with the brandy.
  3. Using the creaming method, make up the Viennese mixture. This should be a soft piping  consistency.
  4. Place Viennese mixture into a piping bag with a medium star nozzle.
  5. Pipe a ring around the top edge of the pies.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated oven, 200 C/Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes.

             Serve just warm, dredged lightly with sieved icing sugar.

Makes 24 pies.

To vary this recipe, use orange juice instead of cold water to make the pastry and add the rind of an orange to the pastry. Instead of brandy, add a little cointreau to the mincemeat.

Enjoy! 

Jenny xxx

 

 

Another step closer to Christmas.

Well, it’s been a busy week but a very productive one. Starting with a Christmas cake workshop at Pipedreams.

There were four very enthusiastic and lovely ladies on the course and they all completed four mini Christmas cakes decorated in different styles.

My ‘Blue Peter’ cakes, made prior to the workshop

I’ve also been able to spend quite a bit of time in the sewing room this week so thought I’d share a couple of my projects with you.

This was my first project of the week and was made from white fleece, machine embroidered around the edge and decorated with snowflakes cut by my Slice Fabrique cutter. It’s to hide the legs of an artificial Christmas tree.

Christmas tree skirt.

I also made this for the grandson of one of my dear friends. I downloaded the tutorial from Fabric Worm, a lovely site, really worth a visit; www.fabricworm.com

A Christmas stocking for Allison’s grandson

Have you visited Pinterest? www.pinterest.com Another great place to browse, type my name into the search box and you will see my pin board, it will give you a little insight into what I like! The only trouble with Pinterest is that it can become a time consuming pastime if, like me, you want to see what everyone elses interests are.

OH has put the outside lights up today and Father Christmas (on my iPhone app) is telling me it’s 23 days and eight hours to Christmas so I’d best get on. Enjoy your Christmas preparations and keep warm.

Jenny xxx

 

Colin and Allyson’s wedding cake(s)

A quick post as I have been asked to show a photo of Allyson and Colin’s wedding cake here on my Blog.

I thought you would like to see the cake that I carried to Cyprus in my hand luggage as well as the more traditional cake that we took up to Cambridge for the reception on Saturday. It caused a little bit of a stir going through security at Stanstead because, as it went through the xray machine, the little couple sitting on the suitcase were clearly visable. A few of the security staff gathered at the machine to look at it and one young man came across to ask about it as I picked the bag up from the conveyer belt. They seemed to be fascinated by the sugar models. To make it easier to transport, I used silk  flowers on the small cake, these were the same as the flowers that Allyson and the bridesmaids carried. However, on the three tier cake I handmade the flowers in sugar, to match the flowers in the bouquets.

Hope you like them,

Jenny xxx

Traditional three tier cake

 

 

 

Baking and Bunting

Well it’s been a funny week, not least because we should still have been on holiday but also because my darling man came out of hospital last weekend and will be off work for a few weeks yet. This seems ‘funny’ as he usually works a six day week so having him home 24-7 is most odd. Having said that, with one week down, we are still the best of friends! This is probably as much to do with him being such a good patient as my enjoying giving him plenty of TLC and having an excuse to cook lots of nice food for him (he lost his appetite and a lot of weight during his stay in hospital). I have filled the house with the smell of fresh baked bread and his favourite cakes, this was my way of encouraging him to start eating again and this ploy has started to work in the last few days. Bless him, he is beginning to look more like his old self again, although he does get very tired, but I realise it is very early days. We are still filling in forms galore to claim our holiday insurance and once that is all settled we will look to book again. So lots to look forward to.

Apple and almond cake made for OH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve spent some time in my sewing room this week as well. I had a play with a new toy that OH bought me a few months ago. It is called a Slice Fabrique and is a lovely piece of technology that cuts fabric shapes out using designs that are on an SD card. It allows you to cut very intricate designs as well some good basic shapes to use in quilting, applique or embellishing all sorts of fabric items. I decided to make some bunting to hang in *Tiny Tots playroom. I had some lovely, bright coloured fabric that will hang beautifully. When OH’s is well enough, we will be going up to Cambridge so will get to see the bunting in situe.

*Chidcare in Cambridge

Tiny Tots bunting.

Until my next blog, remember, if you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours!

Jenny xx

Oscar themed birthday cake

Well, as promised, a couple of pictures of the cake I’ve made for my great-niece’s Oscar themed birthday party.  It is a rich fruit cake (from a Mary Berry recipe), covered in marzipan and sugarpaste. The Oscars are made from Mexican paste and coloured with rich gold edible dust that I mixed with confectioners glaze, enabling me to paint them and give a more intense gold colour. The clapperboard is also made from Mexican paste, which was coloured black before rolling it out and cutting the shape. The rose was made from sugar flower- paste, as were the rose leaves. The red and gold chord around the cake was bought from my  local craft and sewing shop, Sew Crafty in Maidenhead.

I thoroughly enjoyed making the cake and hope it will add to the atmosphere on the night!

HAPPY THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY TIFF!!!

Jenny xx

another view of the cake.

Tiff’s birthday cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pittas and party cake.

Well, a busy day today, but a very enjoyable one.

I decided to have a go at making my own pitta breads today. OH and I both love pittas filled with salad so I  found a nice recipe in one of my bread machine cookery books. I have to tell you, these were the easiest things I have ever made, with the help of my Panasonic. The ingredients are all store cupboard staples so I didn’t have to pop out to get any extra bits and pieces (I have been known to make as many as three separate visits to my little local supermarket for items needed when trying new recipes!)

Once the ingredients were in the bread machine I had to turn it to the ‘pizza dough’ setting, press the start button and leave it to it’s own devices to knead away and, after 45 minutes, there was the springiest, smooth dough waiting for me to knock back and shape into pittas. Once this was done, I left them to prove for ten minutes before putting them into a hot oven for five minutes. Result? Not bad pittas, I will definately make them again.

My first attempt at pitta, thnk they could have been a little more coloured!

While the kneading and proving was going on, I made a start on my great-niece’s birthday cake. Tiffany will be celebrating her 30th. birthday with an Oscar themed party next week. I had already made a nice rich fruit cake so today the marzipan went on, ready to be iced on Friday. Very pleased that I was able to get some chocolate moulds for an Oscar statue, from an ebay site. There are now a dozen sugar Oscars drying on my dining room table. My plan is to paint these with edible gold liquid and have them standing around the outside edge of the cake. Hoping to get some gold chord from Sew Crafty, to drape between the statues. I have also made a clapperboard from mexican paste and, once dry, I will decide what to write on it, something along the lines of Breakfast at Tiffany’s maybe? I’ll post a picture on here once it is finished.

Couldn’t get any further with the cake, as everything is in the drying stage, so took the bull by the horns and tackled some ironing this afternoon.  Those of you who know me well will have long since realised that this is my least favourite chore!! Oh well it does mean I can spend tomorrow at my sewing machine without feeling guilty!!

Jenny xx