Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Royal Icing

I wanted to do a quick post on royal icing before I commence with the Christmas baking! I love royal iced cakes but if your just starting out it may be easier to cover your cake with sugarpaste. Either way, both look and taste delightful!

I made this cake and iced it at my baking class, it has 4 layers of icing! I finished it off with some piping around the edges. Always make sure your cake is covered in marizpan before starting to cover it in royal icing!

To make royal icing you need:
2 egg whites
1ml lemon juice
500g icing sugar, sieved
5ml of glycerine

Make sure you have an extremely clean bowl. Place the egg whites and lemon juice into the bowl and use a clean wooden spoon to stir the egg whites and break them up so that they mix with the lemon juice. Add some of the icing sugar and use the wooden spoon to mix together. Keep adding more icing sugar and stiring until you get the consistency you want. I usually beat it until it looks smooth and glossy. Then stir in the glycerine. This helps to keep the icing soft once the cake has been cut. Always allow the icing to rest before using it, usually for about an hour and always make sure it is covered in a damp cloth when not using otherwise it will become dry. When you are ready to use it, give it another stir as this will help to dispearse any air bubbles that may have formed!

I will do another post after Christmas about the different consistencies and other points about royal icing such as piping, flavouring and colouring it. I hope this helps you cover your christmas cake! Let the Christmas baking begin...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Christmas Cake - part two

Okay, so the next you need to do is make sure your cake tin is covered properly. Using greaseproof paper draw a circle around the bottom of your tin and cut it out. Make sure it fits into the bottom of the tin easily. Cut a strip of paper the length of your tin and cut along the bottom little slits so that you can fold them to fit the inside of the tin perfectly. Place the circle in the bottom. I recommend that you also cover the outside of your tin with brown parcel paper and string but I didn't have any string at the time and had to make do without. I did however place 4 squares of the paper under the cake tin when I put it in the oven (as shown above). This is to make sure that the cake doesn't get overcooked underneath or on the sides as it is going to be in the oven for a long time!
Using another large bowl, place the remaining ingredients into it - sugar, flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, treacle, butter and eggs. Stir everything together until it is well mixed. You should use a wooden spoon to do this.
Beat everything together unitl it is well mixed, smooth and glossy. Next, add the mixed fruit and stir it into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of a wet metal spoon. Give the tin a few sharp bangs to make sure the mixture has spread evenly in the bottom. Place it in the centre of the oven (pre-heated, of course to 140c/275f/gas mark 1) and cook for 2 - 2h 15mins. Use a prong to test to see if it is cooked. Allow it to cool in the tin and then turn it out but do not remove the brown paper as it will help to keep the cake moist. Wrap in it foil twice and store it in a cool dry place. Over the next few weeks you can sprinkle more brandy over it if required!
Next, I will upload ideas for icing and decoration. Watch this space!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Christmas Cake Part one

I love fruit cake. It has to be one of my favourite things, i like it even more when it's covered with a lovely soft layer of marizpan and then smeared in royal icing! Heaven. My mum makes the best fruit cakes - I love them - she even made all of my wedding cakes for me! (This was before the days of my obsession with baking began!)

So, no Christmas is complete without a centre-piece for the table, something to offer the guests when they come round to visit - a lovely slice of Christmas fruit cake that has been soaked in alcohol and then a little more drizzled over in the weeks before it gets iced and decorated! It is best to start early with fruit cake. Tonight, I thought I would start with the ingredients, tomorrow I will write up the method and then I will show some decorating ideas!

I only have a 6inch cake tin at the moment and so, this recipe is for a 6inch tin only. It is taken from 'The International school of sugarcraft' and it tastes divine!

You will need:
125g/4oz raisins
125g/4oz sultanas
125g/4oz currants
60g/2oz of dried chopped apricots
90g/3oz glace cherries
30g/1oz cut mixed peel
30g/1oz chopped nuts
5ml/1 teaspoon lemon juice
15ml/1 tablespoon of brandy,whisky,sherry
185g/6oz plain (all purpose) flour
5ml/1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
30g/1oz ground almonds
125g/4oz soft dark brown sugar
125g/4oz butter or margarine
7.5ml black treacle
2 medium eggs

The best thing to do is take a large bowl and add in all the weighed out dried fruits. Add the lemon rind juice and the alcohol (I used brandy and whiskey but you can add all three if you prefer), give everything a good stir and then cover and leave to sit overnight while the fruit soaks up all the juices! Yum!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sugarcraft exhibition

I have been a very busy girl recently, I always seem to be busy and often feel I do not have enough hours in the day to do everything I would like. Yesterday, however I did find time to travel to Birmingham and go to the NEC to visit the Cake decoration exhibition. My, my it was amazing! I had such a great time there and would recommend anyone who likes baking and cakes to go next year. There were lots of stalls selling everything from cake tins, to cookie cutters to modelling tools and sugarpaste. It was great - I had a mini shopping frenzy stocking up on all the tools I need for cake decoration! There was also a vast amount of cakes being entered into the annual competition and the standard was out of this world, I have never seen cakes so exquisitely created with such detail. Some of them must have taken hours! Many of the stalls also had people demonstrating, I learnt how to make some acorns out of flower paste, how to model with sugarpaste and how to use patchwork cutters. I came away totally inspired and excited!

I have made so many cakes over the past few weeks at my course! We've had cake coming out of our ears! Mrs B's Kitchen is about to get even busier with Christmas coming along so fast - I am ever so excited - in the run up to Christmas I will be making many Christmas bakes - starting this week with Christmas Cake - Christmas isn't Christmas without a centre piece of delicious fruit cake covered in marizpan and royal icing! In my opinion of course!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sugar biscuits

I made these biscuits for Halloween and Bonfire night. We went to watch fireworks last night in London and they are very extragant and sparkly! In fact, sometimes they seemed to fill the whole sky, I love the ones that twinkle and sparkle in the sky and shoot across like shooting stars. My friend even brought along toffe apples (vegan style for our vegan friend).
Some of the exciting things I got up to on Halloween was baking these biscuits and taking them to work, participating in the pumpkin carving competition (I came second) and best of all, watching 'The Women in Black' at the threatre. It was so spooky, I must have jumped out of my seat a dozen times. The acting was amazing and I loved the story. I would recommend this play to anyone, it was great to watch it on Halloween!
I made these biscuits following the 'basic sugar cookie' recipe from Peggy Porschen's 'Pretty Party Cakes' book. I then covered them in a black icing glaze (though it looks more purple!) and covered them in coloured sugar or sprinkles - everyone at work loved them!
I also made cinder toffee - I could give you the recipe if you like but there are no pictures as most of it got stuck to the parchment paper! I missed the bit where it said to pour it onto greased foil - oh well - maybe next year! Happy Bonfire night! Don't forget to make lots of yummy parkin cake too!