Sunday, 17 November 2013

Missionary Send-off Cake

This week  I made a cake for a wonderful young man in our ward who is leaving for his full-time mission in a few days.

He loves "all things chocolate," so I baked my favourite rich chocolate cake and filled it with smooth, creamy chocolate icing. The giant missionary badge is made of black modelling chocolate and the lettering is piped on in white chocolate. The little missionaries are also made of modelling chocolate (except for their shirts which are pure white fondant), so this is an "All Things Chocolate Cake!"

We wish you well and hope that you have an amazing couple of years serving the Lord!! 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Dragon atop a Castle - a Medieval Cake

I was asked to make a medieval cake for a surprise 40th birthday party. I was given completely free reign to design the cake, as long as it fit the medieval theme (to match the venue) and the budget. As soon as the word "medieval" was mentioned my mind went to dragons, I was also asked to make cupcakes with flag toppers, so I though those should be represented in the cake somehow.

So I put pencil to paper and came up with a quick sketch of a dragon perched atop a tower. The client loved it, so the work began.

For ages now I have been dying to try using modelling chocolate, but I just never seemed to get around to it, so I decided that the time had come. I bought some chocolate, made some bright red modelling chocolate (following varied online advice), and began to play. I sculpted a little red dragon in the style I wanted for the cake and was very, very pleased with the result!

Modelling chocolate is a wonderful medium! (Once I figured out how to stop it turning into an oily mess). It sets quickly, but can still be worked and changed, and it is easy to blend different parts seamlessly. It is also very structurally strong, and elastic enough that it can take reasonably hard knocks without breaking. Why did I take so long to try it?!

Next came the baking and assembly of the cake itself. The main tower of the castle is made of rich dark chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing, the small tower and dragon are both vanilla cream cheese pound cake (which stands up to carving very well) with vanilla buttercream and rice krispy treats. The completed cake stands just over 2 foot tall (65cm), the structure is stabilised by two large vertical dowels firmly screwed to the cake board. This worked exceptionally well, the cake arrived at the venue (a 2 hour car journey away) completely intact.

I wish I had taken more (and better) photos of the whole process!
Crumb coating and final icing was done with my trusty vanilla buttercream. The castle, and all it's details, are crafted from fondant, while the dragon is made of modelling chocolate, dusted (and painted) with gold lustre dust.

At about this point I decided to add some little figurines - a knight and a damsel in distress. These had been mentioned in the 'consultations,' but I hadn't yet included them in my vision. Looking at the nearly finished cake, it was crying out for some extra detail towards the bottom of the cake to balance the 'busy-ness' of the dragon sitting atop it.

I love how this cake turned out!

A 360ยบ video of the finished cake:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Flying Pig Cookies {tutorial}

Last weekend our ward participated in our local Stake Roadshow, the theme this year being "Don't Stop Believing." Our script writers came up with the story of a little girl who believed that her pig could fly, and no matter how many people told her how ridiculous that was, she did not stop believing in her little pig and went on to show the world, on a live TV talent show, that he could indeed fly. We had a wonderful time putting our little production together, and it really paid off because not only did we win (joint with another ward), but we also took home half of all the other awards, including best theme/content, best music, best scenery, best pre-show act and my daughter won best actress!

As a thank you to all the cast and crew involved (as I was the director), I decided to make them all some flying pig cookies. And here is how to do it.

Prepare a batch of Gingerbread Cookie Dough, then cut out little flying pig cookie shapes using two different cutters - a pig and an angel's wing. The wing is a very simple shape and could be cut by hand if you don't have an appropriate wing cutter to hand.

I decided that I didn't like the shape of the angel's wing, so I cut it off to a point.

Bake the cookies and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, mix up some pink and white 20 second royal icing and get it into piping bags or bottles. Once the cookies are completely cold, you can begin icing them.

  1. Start with the pink icing and a size 3 tip. First outline the pig (1a), going around and missing out the wing area, and immediately fill in (1b). Use a toothpick to pull the icing into corners and tap the cookie firmly on the counter a few times to get a smooth finish. Repeat for all the cookies and leave to set until the icing no longer looks shiny (if you are doing quite a lot of cookies, by the time you have completed this step, the first ones will be set enough to proceed with the next step.)
  2. Outline the wing area with the white icing using a size 2 tip (2a), then fill in (2b). Allow the icing to set as before.
  3. Using a size 2 tip and the pink icing, outline the pig's body, completely avoiding the wing. Add details, including a snout, ears and a curly tail.
  4. Now outline the wing with the white icing and size 2 tip. Add eyes with an edible marker.

Package in a cellophane bag and tie with butchers twine or a ribbon.

Gingerbread Cookies {recipe}

I bake trays and trays of gingerbread cookies through autumn and winter. These are perfectly spiced cookies with a good balance between crunchiness and chewiness. They make the perfect base for decorating with royal icing and are particularly good for both Halloween and Christmas cookies.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (depending on thickness and size of cutters)


350g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 Tbsp ginger
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
100g stork margarine / butter (room temp)
175g soft dark brown sugar
4 Tbsp golden syrup
1 large egg, beaten


Mix flour, bicarb, ginger, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl. Add marg/butter and rub it in with your fingers until it resembles crumbs. Add sugar, syrup and egg and mix well until a firm, evenly mixed dough forms. Don't over work. Form into ball and wrap in cling film. Leave in fridge over night if possible, otherwise for at least an hour.

Set oven to 180C

Roll dough out to about 1/4" (6mm) thick on top of a piece of floured greaseproof paper. Cut with cookie cutter and place on a baking tray that is either lightly greased or lined with greaseproof paper or a silpat mat. There should be at least 1/2" between cookies.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, until you can see the edges have become a nice golden brown. The darker you let them get, the more crunchy they will be, and less chewy.

Remove from baking tray and place on cooling racks as soon as they come out of the oven. Once they are cool, decorate as you please.

Here are some more Halloween cookies I have made:

Happy Halloween!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Pumpkin Pie {recipe}

It's that time of year again: Autumn, my favourite season! I love the smell of Autumn, and watching the leaves turn bright colours, feeling the air grow chill and cuddling with my hubby. And with Autumn comes pumpkin pie! I love pumpkin pie! This is quite unusual for someone who lives outside of the USA, I make pies and dish them out everywhere I go, and most people have never tried them before. But I spent my first 8 years of my life in Boston, so I grew feasting on delicious pumpkin pie every Fall. I can still picture my Mom, in the kitchen, making pumpkin pie, spooning the thick orange filling from a jar. So, a few years ago, having lived, from the age of 8, in South Africa and now, as an adult, in the UK where pumpkin pie was all but unheard of in either place (and you certainly can't buy bottled filling) I decided to try and make my own. To be honest, my first few tries were terrible, inedible in fact. But I persevered, longing for that smooth spiced pie that I remembered and finally I had it! And now I am going to share it with you.

Until this year, I generally have had to make my own pumpkin puree from scratch, but now Tesco has started stocking canned pumpkin, so my recipe calls for canned pumpkin. If you would like to make your own pumpkin puree, just substitute it in weight for weight. My favourite way to make the puree is as follows:

Pumpkin Puree:

Chop pumpkin up into large wedges and remove seeds and stringy bits. Place, shell down, on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes at 180C, until you can quite easily stick a fork through the flesh (don't add any oil or butter). Peel the skin off (or scrape the flesh off the peel) and bung it all into a food processor or blender, with just a little bit of water to get it going (or do in batches if you have a lot of pumpkin) until you get a reasonably smooth puree (don't worry if it isn't perfectly smooth, we are going to cook and blend it again later.)

Another alternative it to peel and chop the whole raw pumpkin up into smallish bits, removing all seeds and stringy bits. Put it in a large pot with a little bit of water and cook it until it becomes soft (only enough water to steam the pumpkin as it cooks, you don't want to boil the pumpkin) then blend it as above or with a stick blender. This method can be quicker, if you are good at peeling pumpkins. You can also move straight on to the pie recipe with the pumpkin already in the pot, cooking.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Makes 2 10" pies or 3 dozen mini pies.

Prepare sweet shortcrust pastry (see recipe below). You can also use ready rolled shortcrust or sweet shortcrust pastry, or even use pre baked shells.

For mini pies:
Grease 3 muffin trays and line with pastry (either roll out pastry and cut discs to fit cups, or take a ball of pastry and press it into the cups). Put in the fridge for about 30mins. Do not blind bake. (You can do one tray at a time, just repeat the process once you have completely finished a tray of pies.)

For 10" pies:
Grease 2 pie dishes and line with pastry. Place baking paper over pastry and fill with baking beads. Blind bake pastry for 10-20 minutes at 200C, until it is just cooked, edges only slightly golden in colour.

Prepare the filling:


822g Pumpkin puree (large can)
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup soft dark brown sugar
1 cup demerera sugar
360ml milk
360ml double cream
7 eggs


Set oven to 200C

Put pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt in large pot, over medium heat. Beat together with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the pumpkin begins to bubble.

Mix in the dark brown and demerera sugars, scraping down the sides of the pot. Once it begins to bubble add the milk and double cream, mix thoroughly and scrape down the sides of the pot. Once the mixture begins to bubble again, remove from heat.

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and blend with a stick blender until they are pale and creamy.  Pour the hot pumpkin mixture in to the eggs while blending. If you couldn't get all of the pumpkin mixture in to the bowl, return it all to the pot and continue blending until the mixture is very smooth. (If you wish to use a jug blender, do this step in two parts, first with 4 eggs, then with 3, and mix it all together again once blended.) A bit of food colouring can be added to get a more orange colour.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie cases, just below the top of the pastry, and bake (the mixture can be used hot or cooled).

For mini pies: 15-20 minutes
For 10" pies: 25-30 minutes

Pies should be baked until they are set, but still a bit jiggly in the middle (like a jelly). The surface of the pie puffs up and gets little cracks in it.

The large pies can be chilled in the dish, but it is best to remove the mini pies from the muffin pans while they are still hot (but handle-able), the filling should have sunk down below the top of the pastry. Make sure that they are free all around the edges by running a knife between the pastry and the pan. Either carefully lift them out of the pan with a blunt knife, or gently place a board over the muffin pan and flip it round, upending the pies on to the board. Quickly move the pies on to a cooling rack (right side up) so that they can cool without becoming soggy.

Pumpkin pie is best served chilled.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry Recipe:

Makes enough pastry for 2 10" pies or 3 dozen mini pies


450g plain flour
100g icing/powdered sugar
220g stork margarine or butter
2 large eggs, beaten
pinch of salt


Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in the stork/butter with a pastry blender or your fingers, until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Mix in the eggs until it forms a smooth and very soft dough, don't overwork it.  Flatten into a rectangle, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling out and lining pie dish. Put in the fridge to chill again for 30 minutes, before baking.

I hope you enjoy your delicious pumpkin pies as much as I do!