The First of Many Cakes…

Having been gone from my blog for goodness knows how long, I thought I would start uploading my recent works which I have been doing over the last few months!

I had the privilege in making a wedding cake for two lovely friends who I met through university whilst doing my Primary PGCE. Both extremely hard-working and dedicated individuals to their professions and I genuinely couldn’t be happier to see a more deserving couple!

They had decided on a rustic theme together with a touch of mint and had asked me to make them a cake which was covered in buttercream.

Having been shown a design that they liked I decided to give it a go using two colours, mint and cream.

Buttercream vintage Cake

As you can see, the buttercream has been worked with to create the rustic lines across the tiers. This was done using a small palette knife and simply swiping it across the tiers whilst the buttercream was still somewhat soft as I didn’t want to do it afterwards once the buttercream had hardened purely because the buttercream would crumble off and leave an untidy finish to the cake!

Have you ever made a cake similar to this? How did you find making it?

Chocolate Ganache and turning your cake upside down!

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I know… ganaching is a completely new concept to many people. But let me tell you something!… You will NOT regret it!
It is the best thing ever I promise you!
Not only that. Chocolate Ganache is a million times easier to work with than buttercream when crumbcoating! Why? I will tell you…

Buttercream:
First things first, it is lovely to work with (kinda), hardens in the fridge relatively quickly, and has a nice buttery taste although it can become rather sickly if eaten too much!

However, I have found that once you bring it to room temperature (and even if its still cold and hard) and try to cover it with fondant, it is a nightmare to work with if you end up smoothing the sides longer than you need to. I have done this on many occasions as I was trying to get a ‘sharp edge finish’!
I ended up ruining my cake and having to rip off the fondant to cover it again due to the buttercream oozing out from the layers of cake and the crumbcoating becoming too soft.

Ganache Crumbcoating:
I cannot tell you how in love I am with this stuff! First time around I got it completely wrong. This was a few months ago when I attempted to make a Great Gatsby themed cake. I didn’t let the ganache rest overnight to harden and that was my biggest mistake as you NEED to let it sit overnight for at least 12- 24 hours. Yup, its annoying having to wait that long but it allows the sugar crystals in the chocolate to crystallise which helps it to form the hard outer shell. In turn this makes it so much easier to cover in fondant as it is far less likely to melt or ooze if you’re working to get super sharp edges.
Obviously, do NOT work too the fondant too much or else it will melt the chocolate underneath! But the thing is, you won’t even need to work too long with the fondant as the edges are so razor sharp from the chocolate ganache alone that it automatically helps to form a sharp edge on your fondant with some careful smoothing. By the way, I do highly recommend Bellissimo Flexi Smoothers to get the perfect edges which you can buy from here. You can also make your own and I will show you a tutorial on how to do that very soon!
Another positive is that the taste of the cake altogether is great as you have this wonderful chocolatey sensation as you bite into your cake. Chocolate is sweet, but not as overpoweringly sweet like buttercream is. It makes your cakes stand out a mile from the rest by far!

As I was saying, the main downside is the long waiting time but it just means you can ganache and leave it whilst you get on with your other work or decoration preparation!

I made this cake (pictured below) using ONLY chocolate ganache and did so by ganaching the cake UPSIDE DOWN! Woahhh! Yup, it was so scary but so worth it in the end as I doubt I could get that type of a finish on my first attempt using any other method!
It’s actually a lot simpler than you may think and it does also help you to get amazing sharp edges hence why it is now my chosen method of crumbcoating!
As you can see from my picture I didn’t cover the cake with fondant as it was a simple chocolate cake and I’m glad I didn’t cover it to be honest as it just looks stunning just as it is with the edible silver leaf!

Squires Magazine 1

Would you like to see a step-by step tutorial on how I ganached upside down? Have you ever made a cake using chocolate ganache and did so by using the upside down method?

Nel
XxX

Duffins bandwagon

Duffin Edit 7

Yup, that’s right, I’ve joined the duffin craze that’s been going around the Great British baking community!

The first time I heard of these strange little things were on a Facebook group that I am a part of called Cake Baking Chat. Now there’s a good 7,000+ of us on there and it’s a lovely place to find and meet new friends as I have done over the past few months. I just couldn’t believe it took me so long to find it!

During the times where the hubby is fast asleep snoring away together with the melody of my daughter’s snoring next to the kitchen, I’ll be up at silly hours of the night finishing off an order, there’s always someone on this brilliant Facebook Group to keep me going and provide somewhat of a presence if that makes any sense! I’ll be taking pictures and posting them up to ask if I need to change anything or add/takeaway something and there’s always a good handful of people offering me great tips and advice!

So like I was saying, I was on my Facebook App on my mobile when I just kept seeing posts about duffins coming up on my news feed.
I was sooooo confused. What on earth is a DUFFFFFINNN? Initially I thought the first few posts had made a spelling mistake. But 8 posts stating the word duffin surely can’t be wrong?

This called for some research. I discovered that these duffins were a cross-breed of a doughnut and a muffin. Makes sense. I also found out that the infamous Nigella Lawson first plated up this wondrous doughy goodie. Click here to see her recipe.
However, it was the Beas of Bloomsbury who brought the duffins to light. The Guardian even did an article on how Starbucks started selling them as duffins whereby Beas hadn’t copywritten their recipe and name. Anyway, if you’d like to visit one of their three beautiful tea rooms and order a said duffin you will need to pre-order these as they don’t sell them anymore. They sell two flavours, Nutella filled duffin and raspberry jam filled duffin. At £2.70 each or 12 for £30, I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting your money’s worth as they have been well recognised as one of the best tea places in the UK.

Duffin Edit 1

So, there I was, with all this duffin knowledge floating around in my brain, and then I decided to give it a go. I wish I hadn’t as I really didn’t do them justice 😦
I clearly over baked them and I knew I should have gone with my gut instinct and baked at 180 degrees instead of the suggested 190, but no. I just had to follow the instructions exactly as it said. Which of course is always recommended but seeing as my bakes never turn out right when a cakey recipe instructs to be baked at 160 or 190 arghh!!

Duffin Edit 4

I baked them anyway and I made them especially for my hubby as he loves jam doughnuts, and like me he loves the conserve pictured above! I thought that seeing that he was poorly and hadn’t gone into work, I would be the domesticated wife and bake him some fresh duffins for breakfast with this delicious conserve YUM! Oh how he would love to bite into one of those soft delicious fluffy duffins once I made them. I couldn’t wait!
However, like I had said earlier, I baked at 190 degrees and i ended up over-baking. Most recipes call for them to be left in for 25 minutes but by about 15 minutes I could tell they looked perfect but I thought to myself “NO Nel, don’t take them out, it clearly cant be ready with 10 minutes still to go?” So I left them in until at 20 minutes, they started to look extra brown and a little overcooked smell was coming out the oven. You know, the one where it doesn’t smell burnt yet but almost there kinda smell? Yea, that smell.
They were as hard as rock and I even ‘trialled’ it’s rock-hardedness (if that’s even a word?) on my head haha. Yup, that sure was rock hard!

I let them cool and eagerly waited for the hubby to wake up.
I heard footsteps coming up the hallway into the living room. Excitement was brewing so fast I felt like I would burst with pride as soon as he walked through the door.
“I MADE YOU DUFFINS!!! EAT IT NOW!”
“But I need to wash my face first, I still feel ill!”
“These will make you feel better I promise”…. Really regret saying that now!
“Ok, but why do they look like that and hang on a sec what on earth are duffins?”
“They’re a ermmm a cross-breed of doughnut and muffin, they are unique and they look like that because they are special in their own right.”
Hubby looks at me with his eyebrows raised.

Duffin Edit 6

He eventually tried them and as I was fasting that day I couldn’t really try them but All I can say is that whilst he ate them he made no such effort to make them look tasty at all despite making all the effort to ‘dress them up’ as pictured above hahahaha!! Couldn’t help but laugh as I had a feeling they would not taste right seeing as the one I hit on my forehead almost left a bruise!
After all that, his response was:
“Nel, thank you for making these, the thought was really nice, BUT, and this is a big BUT… Please do not ever mix a doughnut and a muffin together. A doughnut is perfect just the way it is, don’t ruin it for me!!!”

When I opened my fast in the evening I tried it and they didn’t taste too bad to be honest. I liked them. But you must also remember that I hadn’t eaten the whole day! Anything will taste nice when you’ve not eaten. Was a little dry but the jam inside helped bring in some moisture!

Duffin Edit 5

I will be trying these again but at my mum’s AND on a lower heat setting as I know if hubby sees me making these again he will be in complete shock and just confused lol!

Here’s the what you need to know:
Equipment
2 bowls. One for wet ingredients and one for dry.
Mixer/Hand Blender/Whisk/Fork
Sieve – For the Self Raising Flour
Muffin Tray
Muffin Cases (if you would like… I would highly recommend it!)

Ingredients:
Sunflower Oil
Vanilla
Self Raising Flour
Milk
Caster Sugar
Egg
Jam of any kind.

Melted butter
Caster Sugar
Icing sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius
  2. Mix the following ingredients together in one bowl:
    85ml Sunflower Oil
    1 large Egg
    125ml Milk
    Quarter Tsp Vanilla
  3. In your second bowl, mix the following:
    200g Self Raising Flour
    100g Caster Sugar
  4. Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients and mix until all has been incorporated.
  5. Place your muffin cases into your muffin tray and fill the cases with HALF of the mixture.
  6. Now place roughly half a tsp of jam into the centre of each of your muffin cases which are filled with duffin batter.
  7. Cover the jam with the left over batter. See Picture below…
  8. Place into oven for 25 minutes OR until risen and springy
  9. Leave to cool and then either dust them with icing sugar as I did, or melt some butter and dip the tops of each duffin into the butter and then into a small bowl of caster sugar to give a sugared doughnut effect!
Duffin Edit 3
You can see the delicious conserve oozing out here. So making sure to use a muffin case instead of plopping them in like I did, this is how they should look 🙂

 

Remember to keep an eye on them as you don’t want to overcook them like I did!

Have you ever tried to make these duffins? How did they turn out? I would love to hear your duffin stories!

A complete and utter throwback

Bright, cheerful, and uniform cupcakes.
Bright, cheerful, and uniform cupcakes.

Recently I’ve been looking through many beautiful cake pictures on both Pinterest and Instagram. For some silly reason I could feel my insecurities surfacing. I couldn’t understand why… and then I realised when I asked myself “arghhhh why can’t I make flowers like they do? Why can’t I do stunning masterpieces like these amazing cake designers?”
I realised then and there that I was becoming very aware of the fact that I thought I couldn’t do these grand cakes. But of course, such things are not impossible if we set our minds to it, it’s all a matter of setting your goals and taking the steps to achieve them.

After soothing these silly insecurities, I reminded myself of where I started. A bit of buttercream here, a few fanned strawberries plopped on there there and there, a little dusting of icing sugar and VOILA my masterpiece is finished. Always felt ecstatic and beamed with pride at how stunning I thought my finished piece was!
Now I can’t stop finding flaws in every single one of my cakes.
I. Just. Want. Them. To. Be. PERFECT arghhhh!!! There’s no such thing as perfect I do know that yes, but I just want to achieve the best finish for my customers.

My first "professional"  selection of cupcakes!
My first “professional” selection of cupcakes!

When you find yourself doing what I tend to do. Just take a step back, have a nap, go for a walk, play with your kids, eat the leftovers (lol!), watch some TV. Anything really, just something that will help to take your mind off it for a while. I happened to do this the other day when decorating but instead of doing any of the suggestions listed above, I started looking through my old photos on Facebook. My cupcakes and cakes were far from perfect but at the time I made them I was dead proud!… Bless, it’s quite cute actually considering some of my piping work looked like white cow pat as pictured above! That day I made so many different frostings, buttercreams, and sponge flavours in such a short space of time I just rushed with the piping work as we had to leave but I was bursting with excitement and was looking forward to showing them off! They were for family members and I can confirm that they were chuffed to bits upon receiving these!

Glitter sprinkled cupcakes
Glitter sprinkled cupcakes

Here, I was invited to do an exclusive stall at a Bollywood Night event in Cambridgeshire. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I decorated these to be honest but I just remember sitting at my mum’s and throwing the glitter on top then ‘neatly’ chucking a few silver dragees over!

My Mich Turner inspired miniature cakes
My Mich Turner inspired miniature cakes

The miniature cakes in the middle were inspired by Mich Turner and I remember looking in the book thinking, “WOW, these are so pretty and they look so easy to make!”. Boy was I in for a shock that weekend. After downing countless energy drinks, I was buzzing around the kitchen and dining room where I had laid out all my cake equipment like a lunatic… or so my mum said! Never again I told myself, never again! But I’m actually quite up for the challenge now that I know how to go about doing it and after doing so many cakes I’m pretty sure I can get the ribbon to stay at the bottom and avoid the fondant cracking!

Vanilla sponge cake with fresh cream and strawberry jam filling. Covered in white chocolate buttercream and topped with fanned strawberries
Vanilla sponge cake with fresh cream and strawberry jam filling.
Covered in white chocolate buttercream and topped with fanned strawberries

Now this baby really was my baby as this was what I started off with when I first started baking.
The day my husband and his family came over to my parents house for the first time to bring forth their proposal, I baked this but not as neatly. It was this very cake that started Nel’s Cake Boutique!
4.5″ tall and I used to sell this piece for £15!!! I thought I was really rolling in the big bucks not realising I was making a huge loss as I never bothered to check my finances properly back then lol!
Unfortunately, I do not sell at this price any more (sorry guys!) and nor do I sell fresh cream cakes or use fresh cream to cover my cakes.

And now....
And now….

Can you see the difference?
Other than the photography as I’ve started to use a DSLR (no, I’m not a pro despite trying to ‘act’ like one when taking pictures!), but the difference in covering and the finish is much cleaner.

My first picture at the top of this post were some cupcakes made during the summer just gone.and I’m pretty sure you can see the difference in design and uniformity from my Bollywood Night cupcakes!

That being said, I will leave you on this note. I’ve been doing cakes for roughly 4 years now but I would say most of my time and effort has been invested in my cake making and decorating in the past 2 years even whilst doing my PGCE! It has taken a lot of hard work, love, dedication, time, support, perseverance, practice, and of course patience to get to where I am today! There’s still a VERY long way for me to go and I intend to keep learning new skills to make great things for you all!
On the days where you just want to throw in the towel… don’t! Don’t ever give up if it’s something you are really passionate about and remind yourself to keep reaching for your goals. Keep practising and you will automatically see that you are getting better!

Do you decorate cakes or do any other craft? Do you feel that you too have come a long way?

Nel xxx

Paisley Cake Tutorial – FINALLY!

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Phewwwww! After spending a little time editing these pictures, I have finally sat down to get this tutorial ready for you.

I will keep it short and simple as I am sure you don’t want to be sitting here reading me waffle on and on like I normally do!

1. The Wilton Paisley Cake Tins, as you can guess, do not have their own specific cake boards made for them. This just meant that I had to go out and purchase thick cardboard to cut around the shape of the tins and then cover with either aluminium foil or silver board cover.

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Cover the cardboard in aluminium foil or silver cake board covering.. (
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Using an edible ink pen, draw around your cake tin onto the cardboard and then cut out.

2. Once cake has been baked, let it cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to turn it out. Then when the cake has cooled down, start to level it. You can do this free-hand, by using a leveller, with an agbay, or by using the cake tin. To use the cake tin method, you can view my amateur (lol!!) video tutorial here. (This was a very old video, so I will be making a new one very soon!)

Very slowly, cut through the cake using a serrated knife.
Very slowly, cut through the cake using a serrated knife.
As you can see, there's very little that has needed to be cut off.
As you can see, there’s very little that has needed to be cut off.
I like to use a spirit level to check every angle of the cake to make sure that it is as level as possible.
I like to use a spirit level to check every angle of the cake to make sure that it is as level as possible.
Voila, spirit level in the middle :-)
Voila, spirit level in the middle 🙂

3. Now you need to start assembling your layers on top each other by filling them with your desired filling.

Using your buttercream or frosting (I used frosting here), make a dam to keep the filling from spilling out,
Using your buttercream or frosting (I used frosting here), make a dam to keep the filling from spilling out.
Many cake decorators like to pipe on their dam, but it doesn work well for me as I just found that the jam used to push the dam off! So I now scrape it on using my spatula.
Many cake decorators like to pipe on their dam, but it doesn’t work well for me as I just found that the jam used to push the dam off! So I now scrape it on using my spatula.
Fill your dam with jam or whichever filling you desire.
Fill your dam with jam or whichever filling you desire.

4. When you place your last layer on top, make sure to lay it on with the bottom of the cake so that it is facing the top. This is because it is the most flattest and will help you to get a lovely smooth finish when doing your crumb-coating and when laying over the fondant.

5. Start to do your first layer of crumb-coat using buttercream/frosting.

After levelling, making a dam, and filling all your layers. Do your crumbcoating.
After levelling, making a dam, and filling all your layers. Do your crumbcoating.

6. Smooth it over using a stainless steel scraper, spatula, and hot water (video tutorial to show this very soon!).
And just wanted to tell you guys… WOW. Just plain WOW!! This product alone has made a huge improvement to how my cakes are decorated you seriously need to get one now!! Honestly, I don’t know how I have coped so long without this product in my life! I will be putting it onto ‘My Essential Cake Items’ page. In the meantime, you can purchase it from here.

7. Place it in the fridge until the frosting has become somewhat hard. So when you touch the cake lightly, the frosting does not come onto your hands.
Do another layer on crumb-coat just to make sure it is completely level on the top and around the sides. Leave it in the fridge once again to harden over. (But not too long!)

8. Your cake is now ready to be covered.
Measure the dimensions of your cake and make sure that you roll out your fondant wide enough on every angle so that it is covered! I had to roll mine out twice as the first time I didn’t even think about measuring it!

Cover with fondant and carefully smooth the sides down.
Cover with fondant and carefully smooth the sides down.
You can tell I did this tier at night can't you lol?!!
You can tell I did this tier at night can’t you lol?!!
Using a sharp knife, cut the excess fondant off.
Using a sharp knife, cut the excess fondant off.
Using some smoothers, make sure that the sides and the tops are nice and smooth with no odd bumps. If you get air bubbles, just carefully pop them with a sterilised pin.
Using some smoothers, make sure that the sides and the tops are nice and smooth with no odd bumps. If you get air bubbles, just carefully pop them with a sterilised pin.

9. After they were covered and smoothed over. I let them rest for a couple of hours to let the fondant harden as I knew I would be doing a lot of piping work and didn’t want to take the risk of leaning onto it and leaving marks! Arghh! Just thinking about the possibility of that happening makes my stomach churn!

10. Make your royal icing for the piping. Now, really you are supposed to use egg whites when making royal icing to pipe. But I have made it in the past without it and got the consistency correct to work with. Plus I am a little funny about using raw eqq whites. I did once buy some imitation powdered egg whites but just didn’t like the results that I got from it!
As I was saying! I made the royal icing with icing sugar, water, and Sugarflair “Autumn Leaf” colour paste. I can’t give you the exact recipe I’m afraid as it’s a secret recipe! Joke! As if! Pffffft!
On a serious note, I just kept adding water and icing sugar until I thought I had the right stretch! Next time I will definitely keep note of how much I am adding so we can all benefit from it hey?! :-p

11. Draw on your desired henna pattern directly onto the cake tiers. You don’t have to do this part if you feel you are confident on piping freehand! My cousin who is a make-up artist can do freehand as well as one of my husbands’ cousin. You must see their work it is just stunning! I have no idea how they can do it so fast! My hubby’s cousin does half an arm within a matter of minutes, it’s just crazy talent!
I used Sugar Art Pen in “liquorice” to draw on my designs. I didn’t use one design, I actually gathered inspiration from a selection of designs that I found on Google Images!

Take your time drawing the design! Seriously! Don't take the risk rushing, it's not worth it!
Take your time drawing the design! Seriously! Don’t take the risk rushing, it’s not worth it!
I'm sure you can tell which design I used from here?
I’m sure you can tell which design I used from here?
I used this one more on my green tier.
I used this one more on my green tier.
one of the final images.
The final image.

And of course, I MUST give credit to where it is due!

My customer gave me a design to work with and it didn’t have any watermark on it so I just couldn’t figure out who the original cake maker was. But last night whilst I was on Instagram, one of my favourite cake makers based up north in Liverpool called Sprinklez Liverpool… (Check her work out right now! Do. It. Now. It is a must! You cannot leave this page until you have seen her work. Your jaw will drop just like mine does every time some new material is uploaded. It’s not just her amazing cake artistry, but her photography is mind-blowing!) As I was saying, she shared a page called Say it with Cakes. I was admiring her beautiful work when I saw the paisley henna cake picture that my customer gave to me! Woohooo! Success!
So here it is, the original cake that inspired my own paisley cake!

Say it with Cakes Mehendhi Paisley Cake. https://www.facebook.com/SayitwithCakes
Say it with Cakes Mehendhi Paisley Cake.
https://www.facebook.com/SayitwithCakes

12. Okay, Pipe the royal icing on very slowly and once it has hardened, go over it using Rainbow Dust’s Click & Twist Pen in ‘Metallic Light Gold’.

13. Place some buttercream on your covered cake board where you have decided to place your cake tiers.

Buttercream smeared into position for the first cake tier.
Buttercream smeared into position for the first cake tier.

13. Place the ribbon on around the cake using either piping gel, water, or edible glue. And then use some double sided sticky tape which you can buy from most stationary shops for cheap. I bought mine instore from Hobbycraft for 50p for 50 metres!

place double sided tape on first.
Place double sided tape on first.
Now place the ribbon on.
Now place the ribbon on.

14. Add on any finishing touches that you would like to add such as lettering, any extra flowers around the board etc… and VOILA! Finished!!

Now sit back, and admire your work. Or if you’re anything like me, keep looking for flaws to attempt to fix/hide/cover!

Birds-eye view of the finished cake.
Birds-eye view of the finished cake.
From an angle
From an angle.
Angle from the mustard yellow tier.
Angle from the mustard yellow tier.
Close up on the work done on the mustard yellow tier.
Close up on the work done on the mustard yellow tier.
Close up on the green tier.
Close up on the green tier.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did making it for you. I know there are probably many more things that I have missed out on which you would like to know about so please do ask! This is my first tutorial so go easy on me 😉

Nel xXx