Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Dude.. I've done it again.

ok! back to the good stuff

It's Margey's birthday. or it was.. when i made this cake.

My mother is the absolute legend who uttered, 'Cecily.. do you think we'd be happier people if we just... liked cake?'

Well the times they are a-changing. When I made Loll's birthday cake, she was a fan. I even managed to overpower her inexplicable hatred of cinnamon! 
These are a couple of snaps of Loll's cake. MAde to Emma's famous carrot cake recipe, the one loll has being talking about since the age of 5 or so.

But there's more. more revelations. EVEN I LIKED THIS ONE!!! Due to the fact that it was a mini cake and i am me, there was massive excess of cake batter and subsequent sponge so not ONLY were there cake pops (like the ones that accompanied the last mini cake) but there was a whole spare tray bake!! That's what the one below is (in the round tin) and I ate the whole thing. that's right. the whole thing.

So what is this cake of great wonder? i hear you ask.
It is an Italian cream, pecan and coconut cake. lots of ingredients. lots of deliciousness.
Original recipe was found here, the home of my heart. but I added 'Sarlanoix' - a walnut liqueur from the Perigord region of France... which I've decided is the shit. 

Chapter 1

So any readers of this post will recognise much of this. This was an individual cakelet so I made it mini. I used my largest biscuit cutter to get 2 perfect little discs of cake.

Then I absolutely smothered them in the 'frosting' (sorry Loll - [who feels that word is 'Pretensh']). Which had coconut, pecans, amaretti, cream cheese (obviously), and a healthy slosh of Sarlanoix as well as some vanilla and almond essences. This may sound like mega overload but pretty much all those ingredients taste of nuts.. so it all comes together. Unless you're allergic, in which case the only thing coming together will be the sides of your trachea...

That was the little cakelet all ready to be chilled in its thick jacket of nutty frosting.. (i'm never going to be able to use this word again now!)

so my decorations of choice were more mini amaretti, pecans, crushed amaretti (looks like gold dust/ cinder toffee.. is there a difference?) and gold edible stars.

I sang a lonely, one voice chorus of Happy Birthday

And there she is looking lovely (wearing my apron!). We both agreed that it was a cake worth eating, the HIGHEST of praise, however what REALLY stole the show was my choice of candles. These loooong thin ones are rather elegant. Same ones as i used on Loll's birthday cake. She rhapsodised about them!

She insisted on watching the candles burn down to the very end. 

Fuck me sideways. Recipe of the Gods. 

I'm a convert.

Part II

Waste not want not. Or in this case, waste --> WANT!

Some how the little stars I made out of Nell's red velvet cake have become know as 'Sex in the Mouths'. Although I think it was me that called them this, using a phrase I once heard Cameron Banks (friend from South Africa) use.. but now that the name has stuck, i really don't like it. These little delights are meant to be cute! they need a suitable cute name. I'm yet to decide on one. Let me know if you've got an idea.

Same idea as before. blitz your sponge leftovers with your remaining..... buttercream. then form into balls.

This time i was going to make the traditional 'Pop' shape so i shoved a straw fragment in them whilst they were still soft.

ok, ok, lots of photos. but they're kinda pleasing.. doncha think?

Then, after I'd frozen them solid, I coated them in melted white chocolate.

i have been somewhat hypocritical on the subject of melted chocolate. First i did a whole post on tempering and how technical it is and how i seemed to know all about it. Later i confessed that I had pretty much NEVER successfully melted chocolate. it ALWAYS clumps up, burns, crystallises, basically does ANYTHING IT CAN to foil my attempts at perfection. and my first batch of cake pops was no different. White chocolate is especially impossible because it's so sugary. This means it burns a lot more easily (see! there I go again! now you know how i managed to bluff my way through an oxford interview). So despite my determined use of all the tricks, using high quality chocolate, putting over just simmer water, not stirring etc. I STILL MANAGED TO BURN IT! WHAT THE PIE?!?!?
so, yeah, don't bother with that stuff.
In the end I used the bits of the chocolate which weren't touching the bowl sides and so hadn't burnt to coat the first batch.

That was the first batch. Can we all please take a moment to appreciate my EXTREME innovation, using the plate separator from my dishwasher to hold them up. I was so inordinately pleased with myself when I thought of that. I just couldn't believe i was alone and noone could congratulate me... seriously.
But then!! Mummy came home! I was mid chocolate coating mish, and she said, 'That was clever!' pointing at my appropriated cake pop stand. to which i modestly replied, 'I. KNOW!!!'

As with the last bunch, the sponge balls soften up VERY quickly once removed from the freezer. This becomes a problem when trying to coat them as they start to melt into the chocolate (remember they're held together using butter and cream cheese) and the straws fall out. That meant I had to do the second half the following day.
This ended up being a REALLY GOOD THING because i found a way to melt chocolate safely!!!!!

Now I know a lot of Delia-Smith-Mary-Berry fans will weep at this statement.. but sometime technology really does bitchslap the old school out of the way. This is one of those times. If you want to melt white chocolate, put it in a plastic bowl (I used a charming one from my childhood with Noddy 'in his red and yellow car' on the inside) and microwave it in very short bursts, stirring after each burst.. yes stirring. It worked!! i couldn't believe it!

 more innovation for the nation.
The dishwasher was in use this time so i used an old egg box for the next lot. Less stable but equally effective. 

They were good. I'm not gonna lie, they weren't AS good as the red velvet ones.. but the greatness of the cake itself made up for that. I think what made the RV ones so intensely awesome was the layer of cream cheese frosting each one had on top and the ratio of cake:frosting:chocolate.. also, these were a little harder to eat.

but still, a success without doubt.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Things I've done lately that aren't cake.

Well it's been a VERY long time! I haven't been nearly as productive as usual in the last few weeks. a combo of more people at home and more shifts at work have meant either my mind has been somewhere else.. or i have.

However! I have got a few little things to show you.

Most of these things have been presents. I decided to make presents for all my teachers as opposed to the boring bottle of wine option.. it just seems a little more heartfelt. I am, however, on one of the narrowest shoestrings of all time (think those posh brogues you can buy in Oxford with little holes in them, rather than Vans) so I had to work pretty much with what I already had at home.

The first gift was a bracelet for one of my RS teachers, Ms. Salak, who is a bit of a hippy. She's all arty and world culture-y so i thought she'd like some bright colours.

apologies for veiny hands, they don't always look like that! Vasodilation innitz!

Not particularly ground breaking, just some bright beads and buttons on stretchy elastic.

This next one was for my Mechanics teacher. She's a lovely lady with very good taste and dress sense. She goes for a lot of greeny glassy stuff so I thought simple and elegant was the key.

see? I wasn't lying about my hands.

Here they are ready for presentation. I hope they like them :)

I have 2 English teachers, both of equal magnificence. As previous blogs have suggested, English classes on Fridays mean 'Cake Days' so I thought a cup of tea and a slice of cake was symbolic.

Obviously you can't wrap a slice of cake, so I went for the cup of tea instead.

A little of the ol' ceramic paints on mugs bought from the amazing Wilko.

I did put her name on it too but I don't have a picture of that because I had to do it a full week after I finished the rest of the mug. This was because I didn't actually know her name!! she's been 'Ms. Gregory' since year 7 and, although I knew it began with a Y, I didn't know if it was Yvonne, Yvette etc. so i had to phone the school and ask!! they thought I was a bit weird... but they probably thought that already anyway.

Mrs. Salkeld's mug was bedecked with Snakeshead Fritillaries, one of my favourite flowers. I remember one BAD moment when I unwittingly harvested our entire spring's crop of fritillaries for a guest bedroom JUST after they came out for the first time. My mother was NOT impressed as she'd spent a bundle on them and had been eagerly awaiting their appearance all spring. oops.

This next one I'm particularly proud of. I took a photo in france last summer of the tabac sign outside our favourite bakery. It's so quintessentially french and pleasing in it's bright-redness... and i have a thing for lanterns, so it was a photo close to my heart. I attempted to reproduce it as best I could and this is the result.

Below is the original. Probably not a wise move to put them side by side but I shall sacrifice my vanity for your sakes.

That painting was sort of a follow up to one I completed aaaaaaaages ago. I started painting a great picture of a french Metro sign about 5 years ago and didn't pick it up again (too daunted by its complexity) until I was under house arrest in hospital with literally NOTHING else to do. It then became a bit of a labour of love which I finished after I'd come out (of hosp.. not the closet) and gave to Loll as she'd been giving me not so subtle hints that she'd like it for a while. I wrapped it up in the left over wall paper from my bedroom (blue and white stripes, very distinctive) and whacked a huge bow on it, as that makes everything better, and got Tim, my mother's wonderful boyfriend (seen in this post) sneakily delivered it to the lodge at Lincoln College (her college) so that when she next went back through the lodge she saw my familiar wall paper and and knew the large present was for her.

This is the painting today. She's no longer a Lincoln girl so it's back at Danish Perch whilst she's in transit between abodes.

Another gift for Loll was this box.

I painted this one in hospital too. It's just a box file but the addition of the blossom makes it ever so pleasing.

Finally we have the pi├Ęce de resistance. This final painting is for Mr. Abbotts. My appropriately named RS teacher. It was to his class that I brought the Easter cake, you may remember. 

Mr Abbotts is... beyond amazing. He is the reason why I'm doing Philosophy and Theology at uni. He could not be more dedicated or brilliant at his job and I worship him, and not in a small way. 

He is, in fact, Ms Salak's husband so is equally prone to the hippy lifestyle. He ADORES anything amethyst or beady and has long wavy locks and would probably wear tie-dye if it were allowed at school. His speciality is in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. That is what led me to paint Tibetan prayer flags for him.

I don't know if I've mentioned this already but I have a massive love of prayer flags. The idea is that, because they are inscribed with prayers, when the wind blows them the words of the prayers are blown around the country and can be spread to everyone. I saw some spectacular prayer flags strung up in the mountains of Dharamsala went i went to India (a school trip masterminded by Mr Abbotts) and the following picture (of my taking) inspired the painting below. 

I finished it THE DAY AFTER term finished. Meaning it is still waiting to be given to him. I won't lie, I'm looking forward to it.

So there you go. Life has gone on in Calstock.

 WHOOPS! How did that get in there?!?

Over and out x

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Any Excuse.

Sooo I've been revising for what seems like MY ENTIRE LIFE and it's getting a little old. There is nothing like copying page after page of increasingly familiar information onto the entire Amazonian rainforest's worth of paper to inspire all sorts of ideas of things that are MORE EXCITING THAN THIS.
It's a long list. 
I seem to have developed a new found interest in a) the economy b) ceramic painting (ok, that was an old interest c) gardening d).... you can see my point. My mother's classic example of this syndrome was when she became suddenly fascinated by cricket whilst she was studying for her a levels.. 

I've not sunk that low yet, but give me time.

Of course, what this is all leading to is the inevitable conclusion of a cake.

If I'm really bored and kinda depressed.. there will be cake.

So I then was faced with the problem of whom to palm it off on (loving the juxtapositioning of whom and 'palm it off'). I no longer have lessons to take it to. It's no one's birthday... hmm 

BUT! I do know one fabulous pregnant girly who had a really shitty day or two in a row (up all night puking, couldn't take her final RE exam).

Well that sorts that problem.

What you have just witnessed in photo form was the creation of butter cream. I flavoured it with fresh raspberry this time.

I can't really provide a recipe for this particular cake because i literally made it up on the spot and I didn't keep track of anything I did.. at all. I have no idea how it came into being really

What I can tell you is that the vanilla layers were made using only egg whites to keep them as white as possible. We don't get cake flour in the UK (which is a little bizarre seeing as the entire population seems to be obsessed with cupcakes currently) so I couldn't get that white white white look... but it wasn't too bad. The colourful dots are sprinkles a la traditional american birthday cake.

I know what you're thinking. Where did the chocolate one's come from?!
Good question!
They're a great chance for me to say 'here's one I made earlier'. I made these the day before in the company of my husband to be, Joe Gallacher. As I was overwhelmed with my pleasure at being in his company, i didn't take any photos. completely forgot. *sighs wistfully* oh joe, i do love you.

I split the white layer in half and began the stacking process.

With the afore mentioned buttercream

on a super classy Spontex Moppit.

That's the crumb coat. not sure why the butter cream looks so lumpy.. oh yes! it wasn't lumpy it was just full of air bubbles which i beat away before doing the outer layer. 

So that's the cake covered in butter cream and chilled for a loooong time. I knew I was gonna be pouring warmish chocolate ontop so i needed it cold enough that it wouldn't melt.

This is dark chocolate cake covering which is ideal because a) it's a little sweeter than that mega posh 600000% cocoa stuff people are always harping on about and b) because it cools and sets A LOT quicker than straight chocolate.

and you don't need to temper it for it to set shiny.

aaand I've concluded (as mentioned in previous post) that Melted Chocolate + Cecily --> dog's dinner.

Now before you suggest that this is pretty... rustic.. anyway, i will excuse my poor presentation.


it really was. I was trying to copy a look I'd seen on

but also, I had underestimated quite how quickly the chocolate stuff would set. It was setting literally AS it hit the cake, meaning it didn't get a chance to smooth out much. Also, I ran out. Otherwise I would've done a thin messy layer then a neat one over the top.. but alas, I was once again foiled in my constant striving for aesthetic perfection.

Nevermind. it did the trick. I got a well earned (if i may say so myself) break from revision and made one preggo a little happier.

ha! the picture below is evidence of how I managed to get butter EVERYWHERE in the making of this cake.

My kenwood has broken recently meaning i have to find imaginative ways of whisking things. These methods never fail to coat my entire kitchen in ingredients.

So there you have it.

and WHAT'S THIS?! A proper cake caddy!!!!!! My mother bought me one! 

In fact it was the one i very nearly bought.. then decided was far too expensive.

Which, if you know my Ma is hilarious. She never settles for second best.


Oh my sweet jesus, the sun's out. 

Quick! capture THAT moment before it passes!!.. oooh no wait.. it just did