9 March 2014

Adventures in cheese making...

Since I started Rebecca Bakes Cakes I have always been up for a culinary challenge, in fact the blog was created to chart my progress to create 52 cakes in 52 weeks!  I've tried making my own crumpets, which was a complete disaster.  I've roasted my own coffee beans in a frying pan, thankfully without burning down my friends kitchen.  I've tried to overcome being sponge challenged, but still cannot for the life of me get a Victoria Sponge to rise properly...it is my cakey nemesis!  I've also tried to make my own sushi, which although a relative success, YO! Sushi need not issue a profit warning anytime soon.

Always willing to have a go at making something myself, I was chuffed to receive this fab pressie...


Now I'm not entirely new to cheese making, I did used to work for a dairy company & spent a very fun week at agricultural college in the North West, learning how to make cheese.  But that was a good few years ago & if I'm honest I seem to remember an awful lot of stainless steel kit involved.  


The kit included citric acid, organic sea salt, rennet tablets, a thermometer, muslin square & an instruction booklet.  This was going to be a far more artisan experience!  To make ricotta you start with some whole milk, add some citric acid dissolved in water & some salt.  No rennet needed for this recipe, that's for the other recipe in this kit, mozzarella.

Pan of milk (I know not that interesting!)

I heated the milk slowly & stirred occasionally to avoid scorching until it reached 185F.  By this point you can see that the curds & the whey have separated.  I took it off the heat, popped on a lid & left it to stand for 20 minutes.

Next step was to strain the whey from the curds.  I lined a colander with the muslin cloth & tipped the whole lot in.  I did this in the sink so the whey could just drain away, but I guess you could collect it & use the whey for something else?  I have no idea what mind you :-)


I gathered up the muslin into a bag, then looked for somewhere to hang it to drain!  I left it like this for around 30 minutes.  


Cautiously I opened up the muslin bag to judge my cheese making effort & felt quite chuffed to find this.  Looked pretty ricotta-ish to me!


So what to do with a kilo of ricotta?  I turned it into Jamie Oliver's Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni, ta dah! 

 
The verdict...it was really very tasty.  It was quite rich as I used full fat milk for the cheese as per the recipe, I would be tempted to use semi-skimmed next time for a lighter flavour, but I guess you need the fat in the milk for it to do it's thing & become cheese.  It was so straight forward to make, just needed a little time & patience.  Can't wait to try the mozzarella recipe next, there's a suggestion to add chili flakes to make a spicy version, sounds good to me.  I think I may have been a mouse in a previous life...squeak!  Till next time, Rebecca x 







3 February 2014

Zoom to the moon....it's a rocket cake!

I am not that good at decorating cakes.  Baking them?  Yes.  Eating them?  Most definitely!  But when it comes to decorating them I have always found myself a little lacking.  I even wrote a manifesto for cake a while back that celebrated the fact that my cakes, although very tasty, were no supermodels.  My low cake esteem has never been helped by the beautiful food photography that graces the pages of the food magazines...how do they get them to look like that!?

So I hadn't really given this much thought when I offered to make a cake for a very special two year olds birthday party.  'Rockets & space, that's what she really loves at the minute, do you think you could make a rocket cake?' says her Mum.  'Uhhh sure, I'll have a go' says me!

So here it is...


I wimped out a bit & didn't make an actual rocket shaped cake!  But I did make a rocket cake topper from ready to roll coloured icing & made the cake a star shape.  I just printed off a colouring in template & used that to cut out the rocket shape, then hand (yes hand!) cut a number 2 to finish it off. I added a scattering of stars cut with a mini cookie cutter I have & finally a couple of candles.

Although it wasn't the most technical creation in the world, it was pretty effective & both mum, toddler & party guests seemed pretty please with it!  Also worth pointing out I used a Madeira Cake recipe rather than a Victoria Sponge.  I prefer the richer taste & texture, but there's also the fact that I seem incapable of baking a Victoria Sponge that doesn't resemble a pancake!  Must master that one day...

Have you created any spectacular birthday cakes?  Would love to hear about them.  I'll be back next time with the results attempting to make my own....wait for it.....cheese!

Till then, Rebecca x




8 January 2014

A new year challenge - 100 happy days!

Happy new year to you!  I can't quite believe it but Rebecca Bakes Cakes is now into it's 4th year of existence.  When I wrote my first post back in January 2010 (it was a recipe for Spiced Apple Muffins if you were wondering?) I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it & although I've been a little lax in writing over the last 12 months, I feel quite proud.  It's really nice to look back over the posts, each one reminds me a little of what I was up to at that point in time!  And a lot has changed over the last few years, I've been through a number of jobs, some out of choice some not, we've bought our first house, re-homed a Battersea cat & last but not least got married!  

So it's a new year & without mentioning the dreaded R word, spurred on by a new challenge I made a promise to myself that I would start writing again.  This new challenge isn't cake related this time thankfully (don't think my waistline could take another year of cake!) but related to a topic I have written about in the past, happiness.  Ask yourself.....



100 Happy Days challenges you to do just that, all you have to do is take a photo every day of something that makes you happy & share it making sure you include #100happydays so people can find it.  I love it as an idea, focus on the little things that make you happy & all the boring negative stuff won't seem as bad!

So here's my first happy day captured...

Day 1 - tap class starts again after the holidays

I'll be posting my daily photo on Instagram, click here to follow me & get your daily dose of happiness.  Or why not sign up yourself?  Be great to hear if you take up the challenge too?

If that's not enough happiness for one post, here's a little more before I go, one of my favorite tracks of the moment not least for the fact there are Minions in the video!


I'll be back next time with cake I promise, I'll be sharing my first attempt at a proper decorated kids birthday cake, yikes!  Till next time, Rebecca x



27 August 2013

This summers bakes & makes

Wow, it's been what can only be described as a frantic summer here at RBC HQ & here we are at the end of August & I haven't shared a thing!  It's included redundancy (booo!), job hunting (again), birthdays, weddings, hatching plans for shaking off corporate life once & for all, head scratching as to how to extend our vintage terrace without needing a significant lotto win...

Oh & I've gone a bit Kirsty Allsop, embarking on make & do projects that I'm really quite proud of even if I say so myself!  So rather than my usual waffle I thought I'd make this post a bit of a visual summary of my creations of the summer.  Hope you enjoy the pictures & that they might even spur you on to your own Blue Peter moment.

First bake of the summer was this quadruple layer cake filled with blueberry, passion fruit & raspberry butter cream.  It was possibly the hottest day of the year at that point, so there was a fair bit of swearing when it collapsed for the first time.  (Got it to stay upright on attempt 3!)  I have since discovered that a quadruple layer cake isn't actually expected to defy gravity & I should have used sticks to pin it together.  Anyway it was delivered in one piece for my friends birthday & even though it was no oil painting, it tasted good!


Cake two of the summer was for my Mum's birthday, the much revered Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake.  This did not disappoint!  It was a lovely light texture, complemented perfectly by the cream cheese frosting.  I'm not big on sugar craft so I cheated & found these really cute chocolate carrots from Sainsburys.  No candles…mum doesn't do candles!



This was the point I went a bit make do & mend.  In its previous life this was a pine dressing table stool with a pink velour seat pad.  Some paint, fabric, sparkly buttons, a staple gun & voila a new lease of life.  I had quite a bit of fabric left so I've made a matching lampshade.  I bought a kit from NeedCraft, it was only a little fiddly & the finish was pretty professional looking (lets face it when its 8ft in the air hanging from the ceiling how could anyone tell the difference?) There's even a video tutorial on the website featuring Cath Kidston to help you along.



These little cuties were made as a farewell treat for our dear friends who have gone to live on a rock in the South Atlantic for 2 years.  Much debate was had over who got gummy bears & who got smarties!


I made the cat a castle.

Least said about that the better, I had been off work for 2 months & was having a moment.  She quite liked it!


I made my 8th nappy cake for our lovely wedding photographers who were expecting their first baby.  

(orders welcome!)



My final make of the summer was this delicious Blackberry, Lime & Vanilla jam.  There are a lot of blackberry bushes along the river paths where we live, so off I went a foraging!


Came back with almost a kilo of lovely ripe blackberries, although FYI, foraging in a sundress & flip-flops…bad idea!  I came home with purple feet & between the nettles & the brambles, a right arm that looked like I'd been self harming which is not cool!

Into a pan they went with some lime, vanilla & jam sugar, boil for a bit, jar up & leave to set.  I know, I thought it would have been way more complicated too.


Totally yummy on crumpets!


So there you have it, the summer sum up of what I've been making & baking, looking back I realise I've been quite a busy bee!  I start my new job next week, so it's back to the real world for me for now.  Till next time, Rebecca x 


18 May 2013

DIY coffee - an experiment in roasting!

So you may remember I used to work for a coffee company & I've picked up a fair bit of useless knowledge & tried many different blends & roasts over the years.  However, I'd never even thought about roasting my own coffee beans, so when a friend offered me a bag of green coffee beans, fresh from his Grandparents farm in India, I thought it was worth having a go.

This what the beans looked like when they arrived.  They had been washed, so the outer skin & pulp of the coffee cherry that surrounds the bean had been removed & they'd been left to dry.


For the main event, I enlisted the help of my local coffee geek (otherwise know as Olly, ex-colleague & friend) & we set about our research into how to roast coffee beans at home without having to buy an expensive mini batch roaster!  There are a number of methods, but we went for the straight forward frying pan technique.

First step was to wash the beans in cold water, the little bit of moisture that absorbs into the beans helps them roast & I guess stops them from burning too quickly!

Next was to heat the frying pan so it was HOT!

Tip the beans into the frying pan, keeping the heat high & the beans moving!


Gradually the colour started to change....

Then you hear a crack!  It was around 4 minutes in to roasting, it's almost like the sound of popping corn, at this point turn the heat down just a touch.

Keep the beans moving all the time until you hear them crack again, you'll also start to smell a faint smokiness.

This is the point to take them off the heat, the residual heat will keep them roasting.  By now, they've been in the pan for 7-8 minutes.


Tip the beans into a metal sieve & swirl them around to help them cool down quickly.  It was a freezing cold day when we did it so we stood in the garden to cool them down.  It also helps being outside as the chaff that can come off the beans just blows away.


Once they'd cooled properly, we ground some & brewed up using Olly's posh glass drip filter.


I have to say we were pleasantly surprised by the result.  It produced a very smooth coffee, quite mild, it was very enjoyable to drink straight, no milk or sugar, adding them would have killed the delicate flavours.  Put it this way, I've drunk (& sent back!) way worse cups of coffee from professional outlets!


If you ever get the chance to roast your own, I'd give it a try.  It's really easy & very satisfying in the same way I guess as baking your own bread or making home brew is?  Don't think I'll be doing it all the time though, for the sake of laziness I'll stick to my pods for now.

Thanks to Olly for the use of his kitchen & hurrah to us both for not burning it down in the process! Till next time, Rebecca x


19 March 2013

Hotel Chocolat giveaway to celebrate 100 posts!

I must admit when I first conceived my hair brained idea of baking a cake a week for 52 weeks back in January 2010, I wasn't entirely sure if I'd get through the challenge, never mind still be blogging 3 years later.  But here I am & thankfully here you are, well some of you at least, still reading, commenting & providing the incentive for me to carry on.  I know a 100 posts might not be a lot in the grand scheme of the blogsphere, but for me it's a big deal & worth celebrating.

So what better way to celebrate than with a competition to win some delicious Easter chocolate courtesy of our friends at Hotel Chocolat!  The prize is a Zebra Beastie Egg (yes it has stripes!) from their Easter 2013 collection, it comes with 6 praline & caramel mini eggs...yum!

Lets face it, chocolate makes most of us happy & as tomorrow is the UN's first International Day of Happiness, our competition theme is just that, happiness!  To enter all I'd like you to do is pledge yes to happiness & no to grumpiness, are you with me? You can leave a comment below or email me at rebeccabakescakes@hotmail.co.uk.  Open to UK entries only, the competition will close at 12pm on Wednesday 27th March 2013 & the winner will be picked at random & contacted by the end of the day.  

Good luck!  Rebecca x

Source: www.dayofhappiness.net
I should probably point out that Hotel Chocolat are not at all affiliated with the UN Day of Happiness or Action for Happiness, but given they make such delicious chocolate, I imagine they are all lovely people & like the idea of making the world a happier place. 

24 December 2012

Seasons Greetings!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas
& a Happy New Year!

Rebecca x

The 2012 Christmas Cake

18 December 2012

Deck the halls with popcorn trees!

I saw these lovely little popcorn trees somewhere at some point & thought they looked fab, they're something really different from the usual Christmas treats I make.  I didn't follow a recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along using melted marshmallows to bind the popcorn together.  The trickiest bit was shaping them into trees, I got myself into a right mess, melted marshmallow could be used as a heavy duty adhesive, it sticks to everything!

I melted around 200g of white marshmallows in a large pan, do this over a low heat & take some time otherwise the marshmallows can brown quite quickly.  I then stirred in a dollop of butter just to loosen it up a bit.  Next I stirred in about 200g of sweet popcorn, the cinema style one not the toffee coated one.  Now, how to handle this big old gooey mess?!  I started with dry hands....didn't work, then I tried icing sugar....by this point I was covered in marshmallow & had nothing resembling a tree!  Then I remembered a tip I'd been given in the past & I sprayed my hands with a little olive oil....bingo, I could easily shape my trees!

I used a digestive to make a base for the tree, then decorated them with coloured icing, sprinkles & stars. 


Voila, a forest full of popcorn trees!


If you're looking for ideas for last minute Christmas treats to make, scroll down for a few from the Rebecca Bakes Cakes archive.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas & prosperous 2013!  Rebecca x







28 October 2012

An tribute to my trusted Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

I'm only a few weeks behind schedule, but this morning I finally got the Christmas cake into the oven!  It has previously featured on the blog as Week 39 in my year of cakes, so I wasn't planning on writing another post about it, but as I reached for my trusty cook book, I thought would share the story of where it comes from.


The recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book which my parents received as a wedding present & Mum has since passed onto me.  The book was first published in 1944, my edition I think is from 1976, it is a fabulous book & and I think a piece of foodie history.  I'm not sure cook books of today provide guidance on purchasing whelks or a recipe for creamed brains?  It is not an all glossy cook book, but instead has 64 pictures scattered throughout the book to showcase some of the recipes.  I think this is my favourite part of the book, the pictures really capture the styling of the 70's. 
 
From the vegetable section, Grapefruit & Prawn Salad, Tomato Salad, Green Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mushroom Salad & Cream Cheese & Celery Salad


 Buttercup Scrambles - Scrambled egg & sausage in a bread case

Celebration Cake
There is even a section on entertaining with this fantastic menu suggestion for a wedding breakfast...

Melon & Grape Cocktail
Cucumber Soup
Boned Duck with Orange Stuffing
Salomon Trout
Salads:  Tossed Green, Dressed Mushroom, Potato & Chive, Tomato with Onion
Lemon Souflee or Strawberry Flan
Wedding Cake & Coffee

I have built up a collection of lovely cook books with mouth watering pictures & recipes from all over the world, but I always fall back to my battered green book for all my cooking basics.  When I forget how to make pancake batter, need to work out cooking time for a joint of meat or just fancy making a classic pud, this is what I reach for.  I'm pretty sure Good Housekeeping still publish a traditional cook book that is more relevant for today, but would I want to swap mine for a shiny new one...no.  As well as being a piece of cooking history it's a piece of family history that I wouldn't want to part with.

So back to where we started and the main legacy of this book for the Hodgson household, the Christmas Cake!  It's still in the oven (& will be for a while yet) filling the house with the most amazing smell, M has already complained that we'll have to wait another 2 months before we can eat it.  We've had this cake every Christmas for as long as I can remember & now the responsibility of making it falls to me (no pressure), I hope we'll enjoy it for many more years to come. 

Isn't it strange how you can become attached to a cookery book?  Till next time, Rebecca x  

16 October 2012

Back for Baking Week with Brownies

I have finally retrieved the laptop from the cupboard under the stairs & managed to breath some life back into it.  Please Santa if you're reading this, I'd love a Mac Book for Christmas, PC's are increasingly driving me to violence against technology...well not all technology, just my rather temperamental laptop!  Anyway, I was shocked to realise it has been almost 3 months since my last post.  So much has happened I'm not sure where to start, so to avoid falling into a long winded waffling, here's the edited highlights.

I left my old job & have started my new one & I love it!

I have been a bit poorly so am experimenting with a Gluten Free lifestyle.

Oh & probably the most exciting thing, I have got engaged...yey!

It's been a fairly busy 3 months, I haven't been slacking, so I hope you'll forgive my leave of absence :-)  It's only been in the last week or so that I've felt settled again after so much change, so I'm back for National Baking Week & what better time to test out my first Gluten Free baking recipe.

When I first went gluten free, I guess I thought 'well that's my baking out the window then', along with any other cakes, biscuits & yummy sweet stuff.  I started off trying a few gluten free substitutes, Sainsbury Free From Digestives, lovely, Tru Free Custard Creams....well I'm not quite sure how to describe them.  But then I never did eat normal custard creams, so why I suddenly had an urge to eat a gluten free version, no idea?

This recipe is one from Dove Farms, the people who make a whole assortment of gluten free friendly ingredients.  (It's getting a bit boring constantly writing Gluten Free, I'm switching to GF, ok!)  I've never baked with GF flour, so I thought now was not the time to experiment, stick to a tried & tested recipe.  This one had really great reviews, you can find it on the Doves Farm website.  There are really only 2 ingredients you need to switch for GF versions, flour & baking powder...I know I never thought baking powder had gluten in it either?

Fresh out of the oven, in my Lurpak Brownie pan...fab freebie!

The result, well they look like chocolate brownies, smell like chocolate brownies & taste delicious, I would challenge anyone to tell the difference!  If you have any other tried & tested GF recipes, I'd love to see them.  I'm not sure if I'll have to stay GF, it's all a bit of trial & error really, but I do know I'm feeling better, so I'm not arguing with that!

These will not last long!

Happy National Baking Week everyone, hope you get to enjoy making & eating lots of cake!  Hopefully this is me back into the swing of this blogging malarkey & I will be sharing my food ramblings with you all once more.  Lucky things!  Till next time, Rebecca x

24 July 2012

Java spiced chocolate cake with coffee cream

So you may remember a few months back I shared the news that I'd quit my job!  Well the good news is that I now have a new job (phew!), so for me I'm currently on a rollercoaster of excitement, anticipation & a bit of blind fear.  But it's also tinged with sadness that I am leaving my current company after almost 6 years.  The team I work with are not just colleagues, they are friends & we've been through a lot together.  Engagements, marriages, break ups, sickness, loss, babies & a fair few cracking nights out.  We've pretty much seen the lot, but its a rare day when we haven't at least had a bit of a giggle along the way.

I hope one of the things I'll be remembered for (forget about my ability as a marketer!) is for my baking, lets face it I fed them cake pretty much every week for 52 weeks during my challenge.  Funny how I didn't get many complaints about that!  So it seemed fitting that I should leave them with a cake & a coffee inspired cake at that.

This is a recipe that has been in my scrapbook for a couple of years but this is it's first outing, I'd hand written it, so apologies that I can't source it.  It's a bit of a twist on a chocolate cake which adds cloves, cinnamon & nutmeg, sandwiched together with a coffee cream!

60g cocoa powder
1tsp ground cloves
3tsps ground cinnamon
1tsp grated nutmeg
100g butter
220g caster sugar plus a little extra
3 eggs
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
400ml double cream
1.5 tbsp finely ground coffee beans

1.  Mix the cocoa powder & spice together.  Spoon out 3 teaspoons of the mixture & keep to one side.  Add 200ml of hot water to the remaining mixture & stir well until smooth.

2.  Cream together the butter & sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth & creamy.  Sift in the flour, baking powder & bicarb, mix well, then finally mix in the chocolatey mixture.

3.  Divide between 2 sandwich tins & bake at 180c/GM4 for around 20 minutes until well risen & springy to the touch.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then tip out onto a rack to cool.

4.  Whip the cream with a tablespoon of sugar, then stir through the ground coffee.  Use the cream to sandwich the cakes together, I had enough to also cover the top, then sprinkle over the remaining spiced cocoa.


It smelt amazing when it was cooking, a fabulous mix of chocolate & spice.  Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear what everyone thinks!  I'm not a fan of goodbyes, so instead this is my 'see you later' cake.  So 'see you later' team, it's been a blast.  I just hope they like cake at my new company? Till next time, Rebecca x

1 July 2012

Marmalade cupcakes for Paddingtons Birthday!

Did you know this week it was Paddington Bears birthday?  Well one of his birthdays, as like the queen he has two, Christmas Day & 25th June!  What was one of Paddingtons favourite foods...yep marmalade, et voila this weeks recipe Orange Marmalade Cupcakes.  Ok so this is a bit of a tenuous link but it's been on my list to try for a while & this seemed like a good excuse!

The recipe is also from Cox, Cookies & Cake, the book I featured a few weeks back.  They are a lovely soft buttery cake with a tangy tast of marmalade, topped off with orange butter cream & a final dollop of marmalade if they're not orangey enough for you already! 


So Happy Birthday Paddington (I do realise my excuses to bake cakes are getting a little ridiculous!), here are a few facts you may not know about the bear from darkest Peru...

- The first item to pass through the channel tunnel when the UK broke through to the French side was a Paddington Bear

- The first Paddington Bear book, 'A Bear Called Paddington' was published in 1958. The book series has gone on to sell more than 35 million copies & have been translated into 40 languages!

- 9 different artists have created their own vision of Paddington, but he is always seen with his duffle coat, hat & wellies. 

I loved these marmalade cupcakes, they're a great addition to the repertoire, if you want to try them yourself, just add around 3 tablespoons of marmalade, the zest of an orange & a good dash of OJ to a basic vanilla batter.  Then add some orange zest to a vanilla butter cream, yum!  Till next time, Rebecca x


Our Limited Edition Marmite Paddington, he lives in our fruit bowl!

9 March 2014

Adventures in cheese making...

Since I started Rebecca Bakes Cakes I have always been up for a culinary challenge, in fact the blog was created to chart my progress to create 52 cakes in 52 weeks!  I've tried making my own crumpets, which was a complete disaster.  I've roasted my own coffee beans in a frying pan, thankfully without burning down my friends kitchen.  I've tried to overcome being sponge challenged, but still cannot for the life of me get a Victoria Sponge to rise properly...it is my cakey nemesis!  I've also tried to make my own sushi, which although a relative success, YO! Sushi need not issue a profit warning anytime soon.

Always willing to have a go at making something myself, I was chuffed to receive this fab pressie...


Now I'm not entirely new to cheese making, I did used to work for a dairy company & spent a very fun week at agricultural college in the North West, learning how to make cheese.  But that was a good few years ago & if I'm honest I seem to remember an awful lot of stainless steel kit involved.  


The kit included citric acid, organic sea salt, rennet tablets, a thermometer, muslin square & an instruction booklet.  This was going to be a far more artisan experience!  To make ricotta you start with some whole milk, add some citric acid dissolved in water & some salt.  No rennet needed for this recipe, that's for the other recipe in this kit, mozzarella.

Pan of milk (I know not that interesting!)

I heated the milk slowly & stirred occasionally to avoid scorching until it reached 185F.  By this point you can see that the curds & the whey have separated.  I took it off the heat, popped on a lid & left it to stand for 20 minutes.

Next step was to strain the whey from the curds.  I lined a colander with the muslin cloth & tipped the whole lot in.  I did this in the sink so the whey could just drain away, but I guess you could collect it & use the whey for something else?  I have no idea what mind you :-)


I gathered up the muslin into a bag, then looked for somewhere to hang it to drain!  I left it like this for around 30 minutes.  


Cautiously I opened up the muslin bag to judge my cheese making effort & felt quite chuffed to find this.  Looked pretty ricotta-ish to me!


So what to do with a kilo of ricotta?  I turned it into Jamie Oliver's Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni, ta dah! 

 
The verdict...it was really very tasty.  It was quite rich as I used full fat milk for the cheese as per the recipe, I would be tempted to use semi-skimmed next time for a lighter flavour, but I guess you need the fat in the milk for it to do it's thing & become cheese.  It was so straight forward to make, just needed a little time & patience.  Can't wait to try the mozzarella recipe next, there's a suggestion to add chili flakes to make a spicy version, sounds good to me.  I think I may have been a mouse in a previous life...squeak!  Till next time, Rebecca x 







3 February 2014

Zoom to the moon....it's a rocket cake!

I am not that good at decorating cakes.  Baking them?  Yes.  Eating them?  Most definitely!  But when it comes to decorating them I have always found myself a little lacking.  I even wrote a manifesto for cake a while back that celebrated the fact that my cakes, although very tasty, were no supermodels.  My low cake esteem has never been helped by the beautiful food photography that graces the pages of the food magazines...how do they get them to look like that!?

So I hadn't really given this much thought when I offered to make a cake for a very special two year olds birthday party.  'Rockets & space, that's what she really loves at the minute, do you think you could make a rocket cake?' says her Mum.  'Uhhh sure, I'll have a go' says me!

So here it is...


I wimped out a bit & didn't make an actual rocket shaped cake!  But I did make a rocket cake topper from ready to roll coloured icing & made the cake a star shape.  I just printed off a colouring in template & used that to cut out the rocket shape, then hand (yes hand!) cut a number 2 to finish it off. I added a scattering of stars cut with a mini cookie cutter I have & finally a couple of candles.

Although it wasn't the most technical creation in the world, it was pretty effective & both mum, toddler & party guests seemed pretty please with it!  Also worth pointing out I used a Madeira Cake recipe rather than a Victoria Sponge.  I prefer the richer taste & texture, but there's also the fact that I seem incapable of baking a Victoria Sponge that doesn't resemble a pancake!  Must master that one day...

Have you created any spectacular birthday cakes?  Would love to hear about them.  I'll be back next time with the results attempting to make my own....wait for it.....cheese!

Till then, Rebecca x




8 January 2014

A new year challenge - 100 happy days!

Happy new year to you!  I can't quite believe it but Rebecca Bakes Cakes is now into it's 4th year of existence.  When I wrote my first post back in January 2010 (it was a recipe for Spiced Apple Muffins if you were wondering?) I wasn't quite sure what to expect from it & although I've been a little lax in writing over the last 12 months, I feel quite proud.  It's really nice to look back over the posts, each one reminds me a little of what I was up to at that point in time!  And a lot has changed over the last few years, I've been through a number of jobs, some out of choice some not, we've bought our first house, re-homed a Battersea cat & last but not least got married!  

So it's a new year & without mentioning the dreaded R word, spurred on by a new challenge I made a promise to myself that I would start writing again.  This new challenge isn't cake related this time thankfully (don't think my waistline could take another year of cake!) but related to a topic I have written about in the past, happiness.  Ask yourself.....



100 Happy Days challenges you to do just that, all you have to do is take a photo every day of something that makes you happy & share it making sure you include #100happydays so people can find it.  I love it as an idea, focus on the little things that make you happy & all the boring negative stuff won't seem as bad!

So here's my first happy day captured...

Day 1 - tap class starts again after the holidays

I'll be posting my daily photo on Instagram, click here to follow me & get your daily dose of happiness.  Or why not sign up yourself?  Be great to hear if you take up the challenge too?

If that's not enough happiness for one post, here's a little more before I go, one of my favorite tracks of the moment not least for the fact there are Minions in the video!


I'll be back next time with cake I promise, I'll be sharing my first attempt at a proper decorated kids birthday cake, yikes!  Till next time, Rebecca x



27 August 2013

This summers bakes & makes

Wow, it's been what can only be described as a frantic summer here at RBC HQ & here we are at the end of August & I haven't shared a thing!  It's included redundancy (booo!), job hunting (again), birthdays, weddings, hatching plans for shaking off corporate life once & for all, head scratching as to how to extend our vintage terrace without needing a significant lotto win...

Oh & I've gone a bit Kirsty Allsop, embarking on make & do projects that I'm really quite proud of even if I say so myself!  So rather than my usual waffle I thought I'd make this post a bit of a visual summary of my creations of the summer.  Hope you enjoy the pictures & that they might even spur you on to your own Blue Peter moment.

First bake of the summer was this quadruple layer cake filled with blueberry, passion fruit & raspberry butter cream.  It was possibly the hottest day of the year at that point, so there was a fair bit of swearing when it collapsed for the first time.  (Got it to stay upright on attempt 3!)  I have since discovered that a quadruple layer cake isn't actually expected to defy gravity & I should have used sticks to pin it together.  Anyway it was delivered in one piece for my friends birthday & even though it was no oil painting, it tasted good!


Cake two of the summer was for my Mum's birthday, the much revered Hummingbird Bakery carrot cake.  This did not disappoint!  It was a lovely light texture, complemented perfectly by the cream cheese frosting.  I'm not big on sugar craft so I cheated & found these really cute chocolate carrots from Sainsburys.  No candles…mum doesn't do candles!



This was the point I went a bit make do & mend.  In its previous life this was a pine dressing table stool with a pink velour seat pad.  Some paint, fabric, sparkly buttons, a staple gun & voila a new lease of life.  I had quite a bit of fabric left so I've made a matching lampshade.  I bought a kit from NeedCraft, it was only a little fiddly & the finish was pretty professional looking (lets face it when its 8ft in the air hanging from the ceiling how could anyone tell the difference?) There's even a video tutorial on the website featuring Cath Kidston to help you along.



These little cuties were made as a farewell treat for our dear friends who have gone to live on a rock in the South Atlantic for 2 years.  Much debate was had over who got gummy bears & who got smarties!


I made the cat a castle.

Least said about that the better, I had been off work for 2 months & was having a moment.  She quite liked it!


I made my 8th nappy cake for our lovely wedding photographers who were expecting their first baby.  

(orders welcome!)



My final make of the summer was this delicious Blackberry, Lime & Vanilla jam.  There are a lot of blackberry bushes along the river paths where we live, so off I went a foraging!


Came back with almost a kilo of lovely ripe blackberries, although FYI, foraging in a sundress & flip-flops…bad idea!  I came home with purple feet & between the nettles & the brambles, a right arm that looked like I'd been self harming which is not cool!

Into a pan they went with some lime, vanilla & jam sugar, boil for a bit, jar up & leave to set.  I know, I thought it would have been way more complicated too.


Totally yummy on crumpets!


So there you have it, the summer sum up of what I've been making & baking, looking back I realise I've been quite a busy bee!  I start my new job next week, so it's back to the real world for me for now.  Till next time, Rebecca x 


18 May 2013

DIY coffee - an experiment in roasting!

So you may remember I used to work for a coffee company & I've picked up a fair bit of useless knowledge & tried many different blends & roasts over the years.  However, I'd never even thought about roasting my own coffee beans, so when a friend offered me a bag of green coffee beans, fresh from his Grandparents farm in India, I thought it was worth having a go.

This what the beans looked like when they arrived.  They had been washed, so the outer skin & pulp of the coffee cherry that surrounds the bean had been removed & they'd been left to dry.


For the main event, I enlisted the help of my local coffee geek (otherwise know as Olly, ex-colleague & friend) & we set about our research into how to roast coffee beans at home without having to buy an expensive mini batch roaster!  There are a number of methods, but we went for the straight forward frying pan technique.

First step was to wash the beans in cold water, the little bit of moisture that absorbs into the beans helps them roast & I guess stops them from burning too quickly!

Next was to heat the frying pan so it was HOT!

Tip the beans into the frying pan, keeping the heat high & the beans moving!


Gradually the colour started to change....

Then you hear a crack!  It was around 4 minutes in to roasting, it's almost like the sound of popping corn, at this point turn the heat down just a touch.

Keep the beans moving all the time until you hear them crack again, you'll also start to smell a faint smokiness.

This is the point to take them off the heat, the residual heat will keep them roasting.  By now, they've been in the pan for 7-8 minutes.


Tip the beans into a metal sieve & swirl them around to help them cool down quickly.  It was a freezing cold day when we did it so we stood in the garden to cool them down.  It also helps being outside as the chaff that can come off the beans just blows away.


Once they'd cooled properly, we ground some & brewed up using Olly's posh glass drip filter.


I have to say we were pleasantly surprised by the result.  It produced a very smooth coffee, quite mild, it was very enjoyable to drink straight, no milk or sugar, adding them would have killed the delicate flavours.  Put it this way, I've drunk (& sent back!) way worse cups of coffee from professional outlets!


If you ever get the chance to roast your own, I'd give it a try.  It's really easy & very satisfying in the same way I guess as baking your own bread or making home brew is?  Don't think I'll be doing it all the time though, for the sake of laziness I'll stick to my pods for now.

Thanks to Olly for the use of his kitchen & hurrah to us both for not burning it down in the process! Till next time, Rebecca x


19 March 2013

Hotel Chocolat giveaway to celebrate 100 posts!

I must admit when I first conceived my hair brained idea of baking a cake a week for 52 weeks back in January 2010, I wasn't entirely sure if I'd get through the challenge, never mind still be blogging 3 years later.  But here I am & thankfully here you are, well some of you at least, still reading, commenting & providing the incentive for me to carry on.  I know a 100 posts might not be a lot in the grand scheme of the blogsphere, but for me it's a big deal & worth celebrating.

So what better way to celebrate than with a competition to win some delicious Easter chocolate courtesy of our friends at Hotel Chocolat!  The prize is a Zebra Beastie Egg (yes it has stripes!) from their Easter 2013 collection, it comes with 6 praline & caramel mini eggs...yum!

Lets face it, chocolate makes most of us happy & as tomorrow is the UN's first International Day of Happiness, our competition theme is just that, happiness!  To enter all I'd like you to do is pledge yes to happiness & no to grumpiness, are you with me? You can leave a comment below or email me at rebeccabakescakes@hotmail.co.uk.  Open to UK entries only, the competition will close at 12pm on Wednesday 27th March 2013 & the winner will be picked at random & contacted by the end of the day.  

Good luck!  Rebecca x

Source: www.dayofhappiness.net
I should probably point out that Hotel Chocolat are not at all affiliated with the UN Day of Happiness or Action for Happiness, but given they make such delicious chocolate, I imagine they are all lovely people & like the idea of making the world a happier place. 

24 December 2012

Seasons Greetings!

Just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas
& a Happy New Year!

Rebecca x

The 2012 Christmas Cake

18 December 2012

Deck the halls with popcorn trees!

I saw these lovely little popcorn trees somewhere at some point & thought they looked fab, they're something really different from the usual Christmas treats I make.  I didn't follow a recipe, I kind of made it up as I went along using melted marshmallows to bind the popcorn together.  The trickiest bit was shaping them into trees, I got myself into a right mess, melted marshmallow could be used as a heavy duty adhesive, it sticks to everything!

I melted around 200g of white marshmallows in a large pan, do this over a low heat & take some time otherwise the marshmallows can brown quite quickly.  I then stirred in a dollop of butter just to loosen it up a bit.  Next I stirred in about 200g of sweet popcorn, the cinema style one not the toffee coated one.  Now, how to handle this big old gooey mess?!  I started with dry hands....didn't work, then I tried icing sugar....by this point I was covered in marshmallow & had nothing resembling a tree!  Then I remembered a tip I'd been given in the past & I sprayed my hands with a little olive oil....bingo, I could easily shape my trees!

I used a digestive to make a base for the tree, then decorated them with coloured icing, sprinkles & stars. 


Voila, a forest full of popcorn trees!


If you're looking for ideas for last minute Christmas treats to make, scroll down for a few from the Rebecca Bakes Cakes archive.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas & prosperous 2013!  Rebecca x







28 October 2012

An tribute to my trusted Good Housekeeping Cookery Book

I'm only a few weeks behind schedule, but this morning I finally got the Christmas cake into the oven!  It has previously featured on the blog as Week 39 in my year of cakes, so I wasn't planning on writing another post about it, but as I reached for my trusty cook book, I thought would share the story of where it comes from.


The recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book which my parents received as a wedding present & Mum has since passed onto me.  The book was first published in 1944, my edition I think is from 1976, it is a fabulous book & and I think a piece of foodie history.  I'm not sure cook books of today provide guidance on purchasing whelks or a recipe for creamed brains?  It is not an all glossy cook book, but instead has 64 pictures scattered throughout the book to showcase some of the recipes.  I think this is my favourite part of the book, the pictures really capture the styling of the 70's. 
 
From the vegetable section, Grapefruit & Prawn Salad, Tomato Salad, Green Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mushroom Salad & Cream Cheese & Celery Salad


 Buttercup Scrambles - Scrambled egg & sausage in a bread case

Celebration Cake
There is even a section on entertaining with this fantastic menu suggestion for a wedding breakfast...

Melon & Grape Cocktail
Cucumber Soup
Boned Duck with Orange Stuffing
Salomon Trout
Salads:  Tossed Green, Dressed Mushroom, Potato & Chive, Tomato with Onion
Lemon Souflee or Strawberry Flan
Wedding Cake & Coffee

I have built up a collection of lovely cook books with mouth watering pictures & recipes from all over the world, but I always fall back to my battered green book for all my cooking basics.  When I forget how to make pancake batter, need to work out cooking time for a joint of meat or just fancy making a classic pud, this is what I reach for.  I'm pretty sure Good Housekeeping still publish a traditional cook book that is more relevant for today, but would I want to swap mine for a shiny new one...no.  As well as being a piece of cooking history it's a piece of family history that I wouldn't want to part with.

So back to where we started and the main legacy of this book for the Hodgson household, the Christmas Cake!  It's still in the oven (& will be for a while yet) filling the house with the most amazing smell, M has already complained that we'll have to wait another 2 months before we can eat it.  We've had this cake every Christmas for as long as I can remember & now the responsibility of making it falls to me (no pressure), I hope we'll enjoy it for many more years to come. 

Isn't it strange how you can become attached to a cookery book?  Till next time, Rebecca x  

16 October 2012

Back for Baking Week with Brownies

I have finally retrieved the laptop from the cupboard under the stairs & managed to breath some life back into it.  Please Santa if you're reading this, I'd love a Mac Book for Christmas, PC's are increasingly driving me to violence against technology...well not all technology, just my rather temperamental laptop!  Anyway, I was shocked to realise it has been almost 3 months since my last post.  So much has happened I'm not sure where to start, so to avoid falling into a long winded waffling, here's the edited highlights.

I left my old job & have started my new one & I love it!

I have been a bit poorly so am experimenting with a Gluten Free lifestyle.

Oh & probably the most exciting thing, I have got engaged...yey!

It's been a fairly busy 3 months, I haven't been slacking, so I hope you'll forgive my leave of absence :-)  It's only been in the last week or so that I've felt settled again after so much change, so I'm back for National Baking Week & what better time to test out my first Gluten Free baking recipe.

When I first went gluten free, I guess I thought 'well that's my baking out the window then', along with any other cakes, biscuits & yummy sweet stuff.  I started off trying a few gluten free substitutes, Sainsbury Free From Digestives, lovely, Tru Free Custard Creams....well I'm not quite sure how to describe them.  But then I never did eat normal custard creams, so why I suddenly had an urge to eat a gluten free version, no idea?

This recipe is one from Dove Farms, the people who make a whole assortment of gluten free friendly ingredients.  (It's getting a bit boring constantly writing Gluten Free, I'm switching to GF, ok!)  I've never baked with GF flour, so I thought now was not the time to experiment, stick to a tried & tested recipe.  This one had really great reviews, you can find it on the Doves Farm website.  There are really only 2 ingredients you need to switch for GF versions, flour & baking powder...I know I never thought baking powder had gluten in it either?

Fresh out of the oven, in my Lurpak Brownie pan...fab freebie!

The result, well they look like chocolate brownies, smell like chocolate brownies & taste delicious, I would challenge anyone to tell the difference!  If you have any other tried & tested GF recipes, I'd love to see them.  I'm not sure if I'll have to stay GF, it's all a bit of trial & error really, but I do know I'm feeling better, so I'm not arguing with that!

These will not last long!

Happy National Baking Week everyone, hope you get to enjoy making & eating lots of cake!  Hopefully this is me back into the swing of this blogging malarkey & I will be sharing my food ramblings with you all once more.  Lucky things!  Till next time, Rebecca x

24 July 2012

Java spiced chocolate cake with coffee cream

So you may remember a few months back I shared the news that I'd quit my job!  Well the good news is that I now have a new job (phew!), so for me I'm currently on a rollercoaster of excitement, anticipation & a bit of blind fear.  But it's also tinged with sadness that I am leaving my current company after almost 6 years.  The team I work with are not just colleagues, they are friends & we've been through a lot together.  Engagements, marriages, break ups, sickness, loss, babies & a fair few cracking nights out.  We've pretty much seen the lot, but its a rare day when we haven't at least had a bit of a giggle along the way.

I hope one of the things I'll be remembered for (forget about my ability as a marketer!) is for my baking, lets face it I fed them cake pretty much every week for 52 weeks during my challenge.  Funny how I didn't get many complaints about that!  So it seemed fitting that I should leave them with a cake & a coffee inspired cake at that.

This is a recipe that has been in my scrapbook for a couple of years but this is it's first outing, I'd hand written it, so apologies that I can't source it.  It's a bit of a twist on a chocolate cake which adds cloves, cinnamon & nutmeg, sandwiched together with a coffee cream!

60g cocoa powder
1tsp ground cloves
3tsps ground cinnamon
1tsp grated nutmeg
100g butter
220g caster sugar plus a little extra
3 eggs
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
400ml double cream
1.5 tbsp finely ground coffee beans

1.  Mix the cocoa powder & spice together.  Spoon out 3 teaspoons of the mixture & keep to one side.  Add 200ml of hot water to the remaining mixture & stir well until smooth.

2.  Cream together the butter & sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth & creamy.  Sift in the flour, baking powder & bicarb, mix well, then finally mix in the chocolatey mixture.

3.  Divide between 2 sandwich tins & bake at 180c/GM4 for around 20 minutes until well risen & springy to the touch.  Leave to rest for 5 minutes, then tip out onto a rack to cool.

4.  Whip the cream with a tablespoon of sugar, then stir through the ground coffee.  Use the cream to sandwich the cakes together, I had enough to also cover the top, then sprinkle over the remaining spiced cocoa.


It smelt amazing when it was cooking, a fabulous mix of chocolate & spice.  Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear what everyone thinks!  I'm not a fan of goodbyes, so instead this is my 'see you later' cake.  So 'see you later' team, it's been a blast.  I just hope they like cake at my new company? Till next time, Rebecca x

1 July 2012

Marmalade cupcakes for Paddingtons Birthday!

Did you know this week it was Paddington Bears birthday?  Well one of his birthdays, as like the queen he has two, Christmas Day & 25th June!  What was one of Paddingtons favourite foods...yep marmalade, et voila this weeks recipe Orange Marmalade Cupcakes.  Ok so this is a bit of a tenuous link but it's been on my list to try for a while & this seemed like a good excuse!

The recipe is also from Cox, Cookies & Cake, the book I featured a few weeks back.  They are a lovely soft buttery cake with a tangy tast of marmalade, topped off with orange butter cream & a final dollop of marmalade if they're not orangey enough for you already! 


So Happy Birthday Paddington (I do realise my excuses to bake cakes are getting a little ridiculous!), here are a few facts you may not know about the bear from darkest Peru...

- The first item to pass through the channel tunnel when the UK broke through to the French side was a Paddington Bear

- The first Paddington Bear book, 'A Bear Called Paddington' was published in 1958. The book series has gone on to sell more than 35 million copies & have been translated into 40 languages!

- 9 different artists have created their own vision of Paddington, but he is always seen with his duffle coat, hat & wellies. 

I loved these marmalade cupcakes, they're a great addition to the repertoire, if you want to try them yourself, just add around 3 tablespoons of marmalade, the zest of an orange & a good dash of OJ to a basic vanilla batter.  Then add some orange zest to a vanilla butter cream, yum!  Till next time, Rebecca x


Our Limited Edition Marmite Paddington, he lives in our fruit bowl!

 

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