Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Consultation to Cake~ Part One!

Earlier this year, we ran a competition in conjunction with Society magazine for one couple to win a wedding cake. The cake was won by Laura, on behalf of her sister Beth and fiance Graeme. Their wedding is later on this month, so I thought now was as good a time as any to start documenting the process of designing and making a wedding cake.

A few weeks ago, I met Beth and Graeme at their home for a design and tasting consultation. By visiting our clients at home, we get to know them and their planning and ideas are usually close to hand.

We talked about their plans so far, and I took photographs of their colours, invitations etc to help with the design while Beth and Graeme looked through some cake magazines and previous designs for inspiration.

It's interesting how different each couple is at this stage, both in terms of their involvement in the design and ideas that they already have. Some people have a very clear idea of what they want (or definitely don't want!), others know what elements they would like but are unsure of how to put them together and some people have no idea at all. Some grooms seem to think that their role in the consultation is just to be the chief taster, others are definitely in charge of the design. Whatever the starting point, the process is similar each time- chat, look at pictures, taste and sketch!

What begins to develop during the consultation is a series of sketches and notes that will form the basis of the final design. By the end of the first meeting, we usually have a fairly clear idea of the direction the design is heading. Sometimes it is done and dusted there and then, sometimes sketches are sent back and forth via email and occasionally we have follow up consultations. Whatever happens, nothing is made until everyone is happy with the design.

The next stage usually involves a lot of phones calls and emails to finalise everything, then we can start prepping some of the cake. In part two, I'll show you a bit of cake in progress, followed by part three which will be the big reveal from the wedding itself- can't wait!

Monday, 8 September 2014


I don't know about you, but I have so many egg shells to dispose of that the compost bin just can't cope! Here's a little tip...

Crush 'em up, store in a jar and use as pet friendly slug pellets! My husband swears he's seen the slugs eating them, but I've been assured it's a tried and tested trick- let me know if it works for you!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Jammie Dodgers for grown ups

Ok, so really they're not at all like Jammie Dodgers, but they were certainly my inspiration! These are crisp, sweet vanilla sugar cookies with buttercream and beautiful, tangy passion fruit curd. If you've never tried it (like my husband who is so repulsed by the idea of it that apparently the biscuits sound horrible!) then you are really, truly missing out- passion fruit curd is possibly my favourite cake filling. This brand in particular, though not easy to come by is incredible.

These biscuits are very, very simple. I use a basic sugar cookie recipe, to which I add any extra flavours I fancy.

For the biscuits:
225g butter
225g caster sugar
1 egg, medium/large
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
375g plain flour, sifted

For the butter icing:
250g butter
1kg icing sugar
seeds of one vanilla pod
A few spoonfuls of liquid- water or milk
*This makes FAR more than you will need, but freeze the rest and you'll have it on hand for the next batch. Or keep it in the fridge until the best before date on the butter*

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and vanilla paste and mix well.
Mix in the flour to form a soft dough.
Place a sheet of baking parchment on your work surface, then the dough, then top with another sheet of baking parchment and roll the dough to an even layer about 4mm thick.
Put the sheet of dough into the fridge to set for at least half an hour. Once it's chilled, take it out and cut out circles, then cut a shape from the middle of half of them. I used a heart cutter, but any shape will do! Save the middles- they make lovely little biscuits to serve with coffee.Place the biscuits on a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray.
Remove the trimmings and put the cut shapes back into the fridge for ten minutes. Chilling time is really important to stop the biscuits from spreading in the oven.
Squish the trimmings back together and keep re-rolling, cutting, chilling etc until you run out... then eat the last bit, raw cookie dough is amazing!

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes at 180/160 fan and keep checking until the edges begin to go slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for a few minutes to cool before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Soften the butter (I stick in in the microwave on full for 30 seconds) and place in a mixer or bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla. Add a little liquid (water or milk) and beat slowly to begin with, speeding up as the icing sugar is incorporated into the butter and liquid. If you are using a hand mixer, mix slowly with a wooden spoon to begin with to lessen the effects of the icing sugar cloud!
Beat for about 5 minutes until really light and fluffy. It should be spreadable, but still hold it's shape.

Once the cookies are cold,  spread each whole circle with some buttercream, then a generous blob of passion fruit curd, or jam, or anything else you fancy, then just add the top with the whole. That's it, simple. I warn you though, you won't want to stop at one!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sticky Plum Flapjack

I came home from visiting family a few days ago with a*huge* bag full of plums from my Sister-in-law's farm. My usual fail safe recipe is a crumble cake or muffins, but I fancied trying something different. I turned to Google and discovered a recipe for Sticky Plum Flapjack which you can find here on the BBC Good Food website.

Now, I'm not great at following recipes and I was out of a couple of ingredients, so I made a few tweaks! Don't be fooled into thinking it's good for you because it's a fruit flapjack- it's packed with butter and sugar. Still, everything in moderation! Here's my version. Afterwards, I thought how amazing it would be with an extra 50g or so of crumbled amaretti biscuits over the top. Good job I have lots of plums left!

  • 450g fresh plums, halved and stoned
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 350g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g rolled porridge oats
  • 140g plain flour
  • 100g pistachios
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the plums into a bowl. Mix with the spice, 50g of the sugar and then set aside.
  •  Gently melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan. In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, pistachio nuts and remaining sugar together, making sure there are no lumps of sugar, then stir in the butter and golden syrup until everything is combined into a loose flapjack mixture.
 Grease a square baking tin about 20 x 20cm (I used a tinfoil baking tray from Asda, these I think). Press half the oat mix over the base of the tin, then tip over the plums and spread to make an even layer. Press the remaining oats over the plums so they are completely covered right to the sides of the tin. Bake for 45-50 mins until dark golden and starting to crisp a little around the edges. Leave to cool completely, then cut into 18 little bars. Will keep in an airtight container for 2 days or can be frozen for up to a month.
I couldn't wait until it was cold, so it was very soft when I photographed our afternoon snack. It tasted amazing- sweet flapjack and sharp plums, what's not to love?! But, and there is a but, it is *very* sticky and *very* soft. Almost too soft to eat as a slice. It would be fabulous with a dollop of vanilla ice cream as a pudding though. Next time (there will definitely be one!) I'll fiddle with the amounts a bit and bake for longer to get it a little more firm. If you try it, please do comment to let me know how yours turns out.