Tag Archives: baking

Adventures in Baking: Paralympic Swimming Cake

Earlier this year I became involved with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the sport of swimming in particular.

When another charity cake sale came around at work, this time for Sport Relief, complete with sport-themed showstopper challenge, there was really only one way to go. I decided to make a swimming cake!

It’s a simple five (?) layer vanilla sponge like my Pink Rainbow Cake and a piñata cake like the one I made for my friend’s wedding. People seem to love the surprise centre in these cakes; certainly I have witnessed some very excited adults when the sweets tumble out!

The blue of the ‘water’ was achieved with a mix of blue and small amounts of yellow gel colour. The fondant was purchased in blocks of white and red and then coloured with a ‘fleshtone’ gel colour for the swimmer’s body.

(Please accept my apologies for the dodgy phone photos – my phone at the time was utterly past it and I didn’t have any batteries for my DSLR.)

Onto the pictures!


The basic cake waiting for the exciting bits to be added



The whole cake complete with Paralympic ‘agitos’ made from royal icing


Royal icing piped ‘waves’ (an experiment which happily went well)


The confectionery contents specially chosen to match the IPC logo colour scheme of red, green and blue


Adventures in Baking: An unexpected wedding cake

My lovely friend Sarah (a prolific commenter on these pages) got married to her Lovely Man recently, and asked me to make a cake for the post-ceremony tea-and-cake gathering. I actually made a selection, including marshmallow rice crispy cakes, my famous banana bread, and a popular sticky sugary lemon drizzle traybake.

However the piece de resistance was the ‘wedding cake’ (there was a ‘proper’ iced fruit cake too). Sarah basically gave me free rein to do what I liked! I enjoy surprising people and incorporating as many little things that I know they’ll like into whatever I’m making for them. With that in mind, I sent off a quick questionnaire to Sarah and her fiancé with questions like, ‘what is your favourite colour?’, ‘what are your favourite sweets?’, ‘what is your favourite type of cake?’.

Eventually I came up with this. It was inspired by the pink rainbow cake I made a while back, raspberri cupcakes’ pink and white layered sprinkle cake and about a hundred different ‘piñata’ cakes (particularly this rainbow one and this sophisticated blue one from Betty Crocker). I put all of the couple’s favourite sweets on the inside, and added sprinkles in their favourite colours (blue and green) to their favourite kind of icing (buttercream). Then I topped it with a custom laser cut topper made of mirror acrylic inspired by their favourite song!

You are shining light


From the outside of course it just looked like a normal, if very tall, speckly cake, so people were amazed when it was cut open to reveal pick’n’mix sweets. Now that the secret’s out, I’m going to have to think of other surprises to hide inside cakes!


Adventures in Baking: Lemon Drizzle Traybake

People know that I bake, and that I’m pretty good at it (and modest), so when it’s their birthday or a special occasion, they like to request cakes from me! This one is no exception: lemon drizzle cake, requested by a colleague in honour of their birthday. I’ve made loaf-shaped lemon drizzle cakes before but although they turned out reasonably well, they just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor. So this time I decided to try doing it as a traybake, following the recipe from the Queen of Baking, and judge on The Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry. Although I’ve used her basic recipe, I’ve made some little modifications to it here and there.

Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle Traybake


275g self raising flour
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar (I used 110g golden caster sugar and 115g normal caster sugar)
2tsp baking powder
4tbsp milk
4 large eggs
grated zest of 2 lemons

For the topping:
Juice of 2 lemons
175g granulated sugar

1. Lightly grease and line a 30 x 23cm tin. Preheat your oven to 160°C.

2. If you have an electric mixer, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. If, like me, you don’t have an electric mixer, start by creaming the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and milk and mix well, then add the flour, baking powder and lemon zest and continue to mix well for a few minutes.

3. Empty the mix into the tin and level the top with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula.

4. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until golden and the sponge springs back when pressed lightly.

5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes. (I didn’t remove my cake from the tin but if you want to then you can remove it from the tin using the baking paper. Carefully remove the paper and allow the cake to cool on a wire rack.) Prick the cake all over the top with a fork. This will allow the topping to sink into the cake a little way and imbue it with lovely lemony sugary mmmmm-ness!

6. While the cake is cooling, mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle the topping over the cake while it’s still slightly warm. When the cake cools, this ‘syrup’ forms a crunchy lemony sugary glaze.

7. Cut into squares once completely cooled. Grab some for yourself before it all disappears!

What’s your favourite go-to cake recipe, or your favourite cake?


Adventures in confectionery: Vegetarian Marshmallows

As I mentioned in this post, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 is to make macarons, madeleines and marshmallows; specifically, vegetarian marshmallows (normal marshmallows contain gelatine which is derived from animals).

Well, my mother asked for vegetarian marshmallows for her birthday (which is today) so a couple of months ago, I started to scour the internet for recipes. I stumbled across this comprehensive recipe and method for making them, but decided that the likelihood of getting hold of all the ingredients was pretty low, as it’s an American recipe. I would probably have to spend a small fortune getting them sent over the Atlantic!

I noticed a few links to commercial mixes in the above link and duly investigated. I liked the look of Angel Foods NZ the best (and I love anything to do with New Zealand so it was always going to be the winner in this case!). They also have a very helpful instructional video so after watching and establishing that the marshmallow-making technique is unusual but not particularly difficult or complicated, I decided to take the plunge and buy some mix. Alas, Angel Foods NZ cannot ship to the UK but they very helpfully directed me to Ananda Foods, who sell the same mix but manufactured in the UK.

I made the marshmallows following the instructions in the box (which are slightly different from the Angel Foods video), using icing sugar to line the containers, and a generous dash of vanilla extract for flavour. I thought I’d keep it simple to start with! The recipe itself was pretty simple, and I enlisted help to whip up the contents of one sachet while I stood by the saucepan with the agar/syrup mix and stirred it as it reduced down to a thick brown syrupy concoction. Mixing the two together was luckily not as splattery as I’d feared, and the resulting marshmallowy mass was easily poured into the waiting containers. Removing the contents after they’d set proved similarly straightforward, and I cut them into squares and tossed them in icing sugar to take the edge off their stickiness. After a few hours, the individual marshmallows had formed a lovely crust and were ready for sampling:

Vegetarian marshmallows

I haven’t eaten ‘proper’ marshmallows in over a decade but these little squares of loveliness tasted almost exactly how I remember proper ones tasting. They were a little gloopier, but that’s the nature of products containing agar or similar seaweed-based gelling agents as opposed to gelatine. The recipient of these freshly made vegetarian marshmallows thought they were brilliant, so I’d say that my initial attempt at marshmallow-making was a success!

There are two lots of mix in the box from Ananda Foods, so I can have another go and perhaps try making a different colour or flavour of marshmallows next time. Any suggestions?


New Year’s Resolutions 2013

Last year’s New Year’s Resolutions were a bit ‘floaty’ in nature, so this year I’ve decided to make them a bit more tangible. It seems to be a little tradition of mine now to have five, so I’ve gone for the same number again. Any less and it’s too easy, and any more and it feels like a chore rather than self-improvement. This year my younger brother has taken a leaf out of my book and gone for eleven, which is pretty impressive:

My brother's New Year's resolutions for 2013

My brother’s New Year’s resolutions for 2013

This year, my resolutions are:

1) Make marshmallows, macarons and madeleines. I’ve got out of the habit of baking, mostly because I can’t find anyone willing to eat the results of my endeavours in the kitchen! Not because they’re bad, of course, just because everyone’s a bit health-conscious these days, and I tend to make things in large quantities (cf my epic pink rainbow cake). This year I thought I’d attempt three slightly more advanced treats. I’ll be attempting to make vegetarian marshmallows, courtesy of this UK stockist of ready-mixed ingredients, and this instructional video; macarons, inspired by this amazing baking lady whose blog I recently discovered (she makes a lot of macarons); and madeleines, because they make sponge cake look pretty and sophisticated, and I’ve only ever eaten shop-bought versions.

2) Make fewer excuses. I’ve been working hard on this one already, but I’ve decided to make it an official NYR this year to really help me sort it out. I’m a great one for making excuses: ‘Oh, I can’t take amazing photos because I don’t have the right camera’, ‘I don’t have the time’, ‘I don’t have the funds’, ‘I don’t do such-and-such’… you get the idea! This NYR is all about arguing back with the little excuse-making voice in my head that tells me that I can’t do things. I can!

3) Work on becoming very healthy and fit. I had a similar NYR a couple of years ago which was all about exercise. This time, I’ve got stuff going on which means I need to be super-fit *and* working hard to have a healthy, balanced, nutritious diet. I’ve been a bit lax over the last few months with both diet and exercise so I’m using the New Year as a springboard to launch me back into being virtuous and enthusiastic again.

4) Make my own clothes (or modify more). The nature of fashion is such that every few seasons, there will only be clothes in particular styles and shapes in the shops, and woe betide you if you’re not the right shape for them! I’ve really struggled to buy any new clothes this year, for the simple reason that I don’t suit skinny jeans, peplums, drop-hem chiffon skirts or shirts, or playsuits, which is all that I seemed to find. I got so frustrated towards the end of the year that I have vowed to make my own clothes this year, in styles that suit me and fit me. I also used to buy clothes in sales and charity shops, and modify them to suit me, and I need to get back into doing this sort of recon – this board on Craftster is particularly inspiring for reconstructed clothing.

5) Do a photography project. I’m signed up to Photojojo’s mailing list and they send a newsletter out the other day that encouraged people to start a new photography project for the New Year. This got me thinking that I should refamiliarise myself with my camera and get out and take some photos! I think a photo-a-day project might be asking too much, with everything else that I’ve got going on this year, but a photo-a-week project is eminently doable. Shall I follow some kind of theme for my photos, or just see where the muse takes me?

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?


PS I’m also doing something that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest. Usually I think this kind of thing is a bit naff but this particular task struck a chord with me. The idea is to take an empty jar and fill it up with notes about good things that have happened during the year. I always get reflective at New Year, and often have trouble remembering all the things I’ve done or achieved, so this will hopefully be a good memory-jogger! I’ve made little kits for myself, my brother and my friend consisting of a jar, assorted scrap paper (it looks better in the jar when there are lots of colours) and a clip to hold the paper together. Here’s hoping I’ll have lots of notes in the jar by the end of the year!

Jar of good things

Pink Rainbow Cake

I seem to have become the resident baker at my place of work, and as one of my colleagues was turning 18 (so young!) this week, I decided to make an extra special cake. She’d requested a sponge cake with butter icing in the middle and white chocolate and sweets on the top. So that’s what she got – but with a twist. I’d spotted this beauty (the blog is in Swedish but English text is below the pictures) on Pinterest and decided to have a go at making a pink rainbow cake myself. I could have made a standard rainbow cake but my young colleague loves pink! Continue reading

Day Three – 30 Days of Creativity 2012

You might notice that so far I’ve pretty much followed the inspiration calendar provided by the 30 Days of Creativity crew… well, today’s no exception. The theme was ‘corn’ as in ‘sweetcorn’, which gave me an instant craving for these sweetcorn fritters, which I’ve made many times before. Not particularly ‘creative’ in the popular sense of the word, but as I ‘created’ them from raw ingredients, I like to think that this counts as creativity:

Sweetcorn fritters

75g rice flour/ground rice
50g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1tsp lemon juice
~350g tinned sweetcorn, drained
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried cumin
pinch turmeric

Sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl. Add the egg, 120ml water and lemon juice. Mix to a smooth batter. Add the sweetcorn. Fry tablespoon sized dollops of the mixture in a little sunflower oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on kitchen towel, and then serve, with sweet chilli dipping sauce if you’re feeling adventurous! I’ve also made this recipe with just rice flour ( 125g instead of 75g) and no wheat flour, as a gluten-free version.

In the same ‘corn’ theme, I could also have gone with this rather more-ish Sainsbury’s recipe for cheese and sweetcorn cupcakes (less weird than they sound), but given that I ate all 12 of them last time I made them, I decided it wasn’t such a good idea!

Cheddar and Sweetcorn Cupcakes

small tin of sweetcorn (approx 200g)
190g self-raising flour
55g Cheddar cheese, grated
pinch paprika
pinch thyme (or 1 1/2 tbsp fresh leaves)
1/2 tsp baking powder
55g butter, chilled
2 medium eggs
120ml semi-skimmed milk

– Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Line a 12-hole cupcake tin with paper cases

– In a large bowl, mix the flour, 40g Cheddar, paprika, thyme, sweetcorn and baking powder. Grate in the butter and mix well with a butter knife.

– In a jug, beat the eggs and milk together until combined. Pour into the flour and cheese mixture and stir well. Spoon into the cupcake cases and sprinkle over the remaining 15g cheese and a little extra paprika. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden.