Saturday, 19 April 2014

Decorating Ideas #1...

Just thought I'd post a couple of decorating ideas, I often think this part is  the best - It's all up to you to do what you want! Here are a couple of ways that I've decorated my sponges recently.

This is really simple, I've used small cookie cutters to cut the words and imprinters to make the flowers on different coloured sugarpastes - it's ridiculously simple!

I mixed together some icing sugar, water and green colouring to create the chain and then placed the daisies around it. Again, very quick and very simple!

I always use a ribbon around the base of my cakes as I feel that it just gives a good finish overall (and if there are any cracks - it covers them too!) 

Hope these give you a little inspiration! Happy Decorating!

How to Cover a Sponge Cake with Fondant...

Basic as this may be, once you can grasp this technique succesfully - your cakes will look really professional and have a brilliant finish.

To cover an 8" cake, you'll need:

  • Two Cake Sponges (you're choice of flavour - I've used a basic Madeira)
  • 200g of very,very soft Unsalted Butter
  • 400g of Icing Sugar and extra for dusting
  • Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 1 kg of Icing Fondant
  • Optional filling of your choice - I've used Strawberry Jam

Begin by making up a batch of buttercream, this is really simple - just cream together the butter, adding a spoonful of icing sugar at a time and a dash of Vanilla Bean Paste, then pop this to the side. 

Then inspect your sponges, if one has risen in the centre, it'll make the cake unbalanced, so using a serrated knife - level the cake. You want to keep both sponges bottom side down, as these will be the flattest sides - it'll make sense in a minute!

Smother one of the sponges in the jam, but don't go right up to the edges, remember when you put the sponges together, the jam will be pushed out. 
Then using about a third of the butter icing, cover the other sponge. 

Carefully position one sponge onto the other, look directly over the top, to make sure they are aligned.

With the second third of your butter icing, you need to form a 'crumbcoat' this will lock in any crumbs on the edge of the cake -ensuring you don't end up with scattered crumbs on the fondant. 
This crumbcoat, should be scarce but effective, using a palate knife, carefully cover the edges of the cake and spread the buttercream down the edges of the cake.
Then pop the cake in the fridge for about an hour - this will harden the buttercream edges!

Once your crumbcoat is slightly harder, use the remainding butter cream to create a final buttercream coat - this will be your cake glue!

On a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, knead the fondant for a couple of minutes and when soft, use a rolling pin to roll out. When the fondant is about an inch thick, and is long enough to cover the edges of your cake tins, fold it over the rolling pin and drape over the cake. (See How to Ice a Marzipanned Cake for photos if you're stuck! )

Using your hands smooth the fondant down the sides of your cake.

Trim the excess away from the cake and use a fondant smoother to create a shine on the fondant and smooth down any air bubbles.

Make a final trim close to the edges of the cake and smooth over once more.

And there you have it - an Iced Sponge Cake!

It's best to leave the cake for about a day before decorating, just to make sure the fondant has firmed up, after that - happy decorating!

  • If you're fondant keeps splitting, you're probably rolling out the fondant too thinly, start again and roll out carefully.
  • Any small cracks in the fondant can be solved by smoothing it over with your thumb.
  • If the fondant keeps sticking to your surface, you need a little more icing sugar! 

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Chocolate Cherry Love Bites..

With Valentine's Day looming, I present you with the most seductive Valentine's baking treat possible. These beautifully moist black cherry cakes are smothered in a silky ganache and one bite is just enough..!
These are the perfect present for your Valentine - so crack out your bakeware and enjoy!

To make 12 of these beauties, you'll need:
  • 125g of Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 125g of Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 175g of Self-Raising flour
  • 25g of Cocoa Powder
  • 1 x 425g Tin of Dark, Pitted Black Cherries
  • 150g of Dark Chocolate
  • 75ml of Double Cream
  • 75 ml of Whole Fat Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. of Golden Syrup
  • 100g of White chocolate
Drain the cherries from their tin for about an hour before beginning.

Preheat the oven to 180C Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6  and line your baking tin - I used a 23 cm square baking tin, but the choice is yours.

Then quarter your cherries and pop to the side.

Begin  your sponge by creaming together your butter and sugar until soft and creamy.

Add the eggs one at a time, don't worry if it looks curdled - keep adding them and mixing them into the sugar - butter mixture.

Then sieve the flour and the cocoa and stir into the mixture.

Finally add your cherries and stir into the mixture. Turn out into your lined baking tin.

Pop into the oven for about 30 -35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Turn out immediately onto a clean board and leave to cool to room temperature.

Then using a heart cookie cutter, cut out your sponge hearts, press the sponge down to compact it a little if you are finding it all a little crumbly.

Pop to the side whilst you make your ganache.
Heat the milk, cream and golden syrup in a pan until just below boiling.

Then pour the mixture onto the broken chocolate pieces and leave for a minute. then stir the mixture thoroughly until you have a glorious chocolate mixture.

Now the ganache must be left for a couple of hours until it is spreadable, it's a tricky wait  - but it'll be worth it! (In the meantime eat the left over sponge!)

Then smother each sponge heart with the ganache - it'll be a messy job!

After covering the sponges, melt the white chocolate and place into a piping bag with a No. 2 piping nozzle attached. 

Pipe a heart around the outline of each chocolate bite.

And there you have it.. your very own Chocolate Cherry Love Bites - Happy Valentine's Day! 


  • If your sponge is very crumbly and it's tricky keeping the heart shape, leave the sponge to dry out for a couple of hours - it'll become much easier!
  • If your chocolate ganache appears to split, it's likely the cream/milk mixture is too hot - bung the mixture in the fridge and it should keep together
  • Remember that you cover the sponge heart with the ganache - it'll hide a multitude of sins!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Custard Tart..

I'm a complete sucker for a Custard Slice, you know - the ones you get in those quaint little patisseries -  with the crisp pastry and thick icing, which is impossible to break without the custard oozing out..! Therefore, I've reshuffled the good old Custard Slice and I present to you the Custard Tart! This has everything wonderful about the Slice but bigger and easier to share (although if you didn't, it would be understandable..!)

Therefore to serve up this beauty, you'll need:

  •  1 x batch of Perfect every time Shortcrust Pastry
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 60g of Caster Sugar
  • 125 ml of full-fat Milk
  • 150 ml of Double Cream
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Bean Paste
  • 200g of Icing Sugar
  • 1 tbsp of Water
  • 50g of Dark Chocolate
  • Baking Parchment
  • Ceramic baking beans or dried out lentils - for the blind baking
Preheat your oven to 180C Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.

You'll need to start off by blind baking your pastry, I use this really handy pastry mat, so I know roughly how far I'm rolling my pastry out to.

So dust your surface with flour liberally and place your chilled pastry in the centre. Start to roll out the pastry and try to keep a circular shape (it'll make life easier!)

When you've rolled your pastry out to about half a centimetre, place your rolling pin in the centre and flip the pastry over it.

 Then lift and cover your tart tin.

Using a bit of excess pastry, gently push your pastry into the grooves of the tin, so the ridged pattern should be fairly visible. 

When you're happy that your tin is well covered, using your rolling pin, firmly roll the pin across the top of the tin - this will cut the edges and give you a neat finish.

 Ta-dah! Now prick the base with a fork - this will prevent the pastry from rising too much.

Then line your base with baking parchment and pop in your baking beans.

Pop your lined tart into the oven for 12-15 minutes, then remove the ceramic beans and greasproof paper and pop back in for another five minutes.

Then pop to the side and you start on the custard!

Whisk the Eggs and Caster Sugar together in a bowl until paler in colour and  well mixed.

Then pour the Milk, Cream and Vanilla Bean Paste into a saucepan and pop onto the hob. Now you want to heat this until it is almost boiling - but not quite, so keep an eagle eye on it and remove from the heat as soon as its about to boil!

Then adding little by little, pour the hot Cream/ Milk mixture onto your whisked eggs and continue to whisk the mixture carefully.

When the whole mixture is incorporated, pop back into the saucepan and on a low heat. Keep stirring it until it becomes a thicker mixture, it will take about 15 -20 minutes, but eventually it will thicken and you'll have a beautiful custard!

It should just cover the back of your spatula - hurrah!

Carefully pour the mixture into your pastry case and pop into the oven (at the same temperature as before) for about 30 -35 minutes or until the custard is set but has a little wobble in the centre. 

Leave your rather delicious Tart for an hour or two, so that its fairly cool before you ice it. 

Pop your Chocolate into a disposable piping bag and zap in the microwave for about thirty seconds until its all melted, then snip the end of the bag - I find this a really hand way to reduce washing up and you don't lose any Chocolate!

Then in a large bowl, add a couple of drops of water to your icing sugar and work together until you have a thick consistency.

 Pour this icing onto your Custard tart and using  the back of a spoon, spread all over and up to the edges.

Then with your melted chocolate, pipe some rough circles into the icing (Don't worry if it's not neat - mine were ridiculously clumsy!)

 With a cocktail stick draw lines from the centre outwards (cleaning the stick after each line) repeat this the whole way around your tart.

And there you have it - one incredibly tempting Custard Tart!

  • If you feel that your custard is really not thickening turn the heat up slightly, but keep stirring - it'll turn quickly!
  • When you add the warm Cream/Milk to the egg and it appears to have split - your mixture is probably too hot and you've added it too quickly - the best thing to do is to start again 
  • If when you drag the cocktail stick from the centre of the icing out, the icing is starting to form slight ridges, your icing is starting to set - you can continue with feathering it but it may be a little resistant!