Category Archives: Celebration Cake

The Multi-Tasking Cake: Amaretti and Apricot Cake

Sometimes you want a cake to celebrate a special occasion  and sometimes you need a dessert at the end of a celebratory meal – so why not make something that covers all bases? This Amaretti and Apricot cake fulfilled both tasks at a recent family celebration, and the leftovers made an excellent accompaniment to brunch the following morning!

This cake is moist and sweet, and with the addition of some stewed fruit, maybe some cream or even a dollop of vanilla ice cream, is transformed into something heavenly to end a meal with. It also feeds about ten people, so is perfect for a large gathering. Best of all, it is a really easy cake to make!

This recipe is adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk

INGREDIENTS: 200g butter or Stork (I used the latter as this cake needed to be dairy-free), 200g caster sugar, 200g self raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 large eggs, 1tsp almond essence, 410g can of apricot halves, 120g amaretti biscuits (for anyone else wanting to make this dairy free, check the ingredients of the amaretti biscuits – some include milk powder but good ones shouldn’t).

All the things you need for this pudding/cake - its quite simple really!

All the things you need for this pudding/cake – its quite simple really!

  • Heat the oven to 160 (fan) and butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
  • Cream the butter and sugar and then mix in the flour and baking powder. It will be quite thick at this stage.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time. I suggest breaking them into a smaller bowl first, just to make sure you don’t get a dud one!
  • Add the almond essence and mix it all quite hard – it should be smooth and creamy and a bit fluffy.
  • Take a quarter of the mixture and set it aside.
  • Drain the apricots and chop them up roughly, then add them to the larger portion of cake batter.
  • Bash the amaretti biscuits into chunky pieces. Add 1/4 of the pieces to the apricot batter.
  • Put the apricot batter into the tin and smooth over. Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.
The first layer of cake ready for the oven

The first layer of cake ready for the oven

  • While the cake is in the oven, add half of the remaining crushed amaretti biscuits to the remaining portion of batter.
  • When the cake has had 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and quickly spread the remainder of the batter over the top. It is easiest to dollop on blobs of the mixture and then work them together. Do this quickly though so that the cake doesn’t sink.
  • Sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top of the cake and pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
The finished cake/dessert!

The finished cake/dessert!

Your finished cake should be two-tone, with a lighter crust from the late addition of the second batch of batter. The top layer had an almond-y crunch and the bottom layer is full of moist fruit.

This was such a winner I think it is going to become a dinner party staple!

Some alternative ideas could include:

  • For more of a pudding feel, save half the apricots and pop the whole halves on the top with the second batch of batter so that they form little igloos on the top of the cake.
  • Toast some almonds and sprinkle them over the top
  • Sprinkle the top with a mixture of icing sugar and gold glitter for a real wow-factor effect.

I hope you enjoy this little gem of a recipe!

Its nearly Christmas folks, so I’ll try and get in a recipe for the holiday season before the end of the year – if anyone has any requests let me know!

Bake well my friends,

BB x

Celebration Cake Part Three: The Icing on the Cake!

Phew – the posts are coming thick and fast, but I knew I’d be leaving you all on a cliffhanger if I didn’t blog about the final result!

In the last two posts I talked about making my gran’s 80th birthday cake, and making the passion fruit curd to fill it with. In this post, I’ll show you how to (really easily) make the buttercream icing and put it all together. The only ingredients at this stage are for the icing and decoration, and there are only three of them!

INGREDIENTS: 750g icing sugar, 375g soft unsalted butter, 100g white chocolate. (‘Happy Birthday’ candles are optional)

  • Make sure the butter is soft and use a hand mixer to blend it a bit in a big bowl. You might find it easier to do this icing half at a time, as moving this much butter around is tough on the old arms!
  • Once the softened butter is mushed a bit, add the icing sugar a little at a time, using the beaters to mix it into the butter after each addition. Don’t be tempted to put it all in at once, you’ll create an icing sugar cloud, sneeze a lot and make a very big mess.
  • When all the icing sugar is mixed in, beat until completely smooth and soft.
  • That’s it! You can add a splash of vanilla essence, a hit of lemon zest or anything else that takes your fancy, but this is the basic ratio of butter/sugar for buttercream icing.

ICING THE CAKES:

  • Cut each cake horizontally through the middle (its easiest with a serrated knife) and spread a thick layer of the passion fruit curd over the bottom layer of each cake.
  • Then spread a layer of buttercream over the curd. It doesn’t matter if they mix a little bit, it’s going to be covered.
  • Put the top of the cakes back on their bases.
  • The larger cake will be your bottom layer. Its easier to pop it on your serving plate/stand before you start icing the exterior, so do that now. I also placed the bottom cake upside down, so that I had a very flat surface to place the next cake onto. It doesn’t matter if the base is a little wonky as you can hide that with icing, although it shouldn’t be too bad if you flattened the top as suggested in part one.
  • Buttercream the top of the bigger cake and then place the sandwiched smaller cake on top. Try and get it central.
  • Now buttercream the top of the smaller cake, then go round the sides of both cakes, making sure they are completely covered.
  • TIP: If the butter wasn’t quite soft enough and you’re still finding the buttercream a bit hard (this can make it tricky when doing the sides) add a tiny splash of boiling water and beat into the mixture. That will soften it nicely but will allow it to harden again when it cools.
  • Make sure you fill in any gaps between the two cakes, and any gaps at the bottom. A good idea is to use palette knife once the whole cake is covered. Dip it in hot water and then run it along the sides to create smooth edged and a smooth top.

FINAL DECORATIONS:

  • To finish it off, melt the white chocolate in the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water if you prefer. While this is melting, get a sheet of baking paper, and place on a tray.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, pour into a piping bag with a pinpoint round nozzle – the sort you’d use for writing letters.
  • Decide on a shape and then pipe outlines onto the baking paper, followed by some patterns inside the shape to connect all the edges (for stability). I went for tall triangles and filled the insides with zigzags.
  • Pop the tray into the fridge until the chocolate has set. The pieces will then come away from the paper really easily.
  • How you use them is up to you. I used my tall shapes to stand on the lip between the two cake layers, but they’d also look great forming a sort of teepee on top if you didn’t have candles.

Ta Da! The finished article. Photographed in a slight blur as I had to capture a quick snap before we lit the candles.

So there you have it. Quite simple really, but very effective. Other ideas could include using milk chocolate for the decorations as a contrast, different colours of icing for each layer or even ombre icing if you were feeling really adventurous!

If you are looking to feed a crowd this is a great cake. By the time we served it everyone (40 plus people) had eaten a lot of food, so we cut it into small squares, like you’d get at a wedding. It probably would have fed twice as many people and several people went home with a chunk! This can also be iced the day before, covered in clingfilm and left somewhere cool. So if you have a big party to plan, you can get this done ahead.

 

There will now be a short break for the baking bandit. Quite a lot to do in the next few weeks. But its my dad’s birthday at the end of the month and we’re having another party, so I’m sure there will be another cake.

Most importantly – a good wedding cake? I am just looking for something small and white to cut, and some of our friends will hopefully provide a few extra cakes so that we can feed everyone.

Sweetness and that fuzzy ‘too much sugar on my teeth’ feeling to you all,

BB x

Celebration Cake Part One: The Cake

My lovely old gran (oooh she’d hate that description) is turning 80 this weekend. We’re having a big old shin-dig in her honour, which wouldn’t be a proper party without a whole heap of food. My cousins and I have been tasked with providing dessert, and I’ll be making the birthday cake. This is a bit of an epic cake build (yes, I used the word build) so I’ll be posting it in three parts, all of which are useful separately for different things. This first part is about the actual cake.

After much debate, I decided on a Madeira cake. I wanted something with a spongey texture and a certain lightness, but I also needed something that could be made ahead, and sponge cakes don’t last well. So whilst Madeira cake isn’t quite as light, its ability to last a week or so in the fridge made the decision. Madeira cake is denser than sponge, so it also cuts better, which is especially good when you want a cake to slice into lots of small pieces without crumbling.

I decided to make both cakes needed at the same time, but I don’t recommend this unless you have very strong arms or a stand alone mixer! Its a lot of mix for one bowl.

Thats a lot of eggs! Don’t be alarmed, it makes two big cakes.

20cm Cake Ingredients: 250g butter, 250g caster sugar, 5 eggs, 185g plain flour, 60g self raising flour, 1 tbsp milk, zest of a lemon

23cm Cake Ingredients: 310g butter, 310g caster sugar, 6 eggs, 230g plain flour, 75g self raising flour, 2 tbsp milk, zest of 2 lemons.

Luscious Lemons!

  • Heat the oven to 150 degrees
  • Make sure the butter is a room temperature and beat together with the sugar.
  • Beat the eggs into the mix one at a time. I find it better to break them into a bowl first (as in the picture above) so that you don’t end up putting a bad egg in your mix.
  • Once all the eggs are in, sift in the flour and stir, but don’t beat out all the air that you’ve just put in.
  • Stir in the milk and lemon zest.
  • Prepare the tin: You need to line the sides and the base as its a relatively long bake and you don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
  • When the oven is at the right temperature, pop the bigger one in for 1 hour and 30, and then check but it will probably need about another ten minutes. The smaller cake will take about 10-15 minutes less, but again just keep an eye on them. Make sure they are cooked through, but don’t let them get too dark.
  • Once they are cooked, pop on a cooling rack, but leave in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out.

Ready to come out of the tins.

When the cakes are completely cool, you might need to give them a bit of a haircut. Mine came out having risen rather violently, and if you want to stack them, they will need flat tops.

Don’t worry if it looks a bit dramatic once you’ve trimmed it, because you’ll cover it with icing. If you don’t intend to ice it, there’s no need to chop its head off!

Off with their heads! The cake tops are off, all ready for lemon syrup.

The final stage of cake preparation is to pour a lemon syrup over the cakes. For this, mix lemon juice and sugar to taste (I like it very lemony but some prefer it sweet) and put over a low heat until the sugar is disolved.

Use a skewer and poke holes all over the cakes but don’t do too many or your cake will fall apart! sprinkle the mixture over the cakes but don’t overdo it, as you don’t want to oversaturate the cake. You want to try and do this while the cake is still warm, as the mixture will soak in better.

When the cake has cooled, wrap in cling film and then in foil. The cakes will last about ten days in the fridge.

In the next post, I’ll blog about the passion fruit curd filling…. yummy!

Bake well my friends

BB x

 

 

Celebrating life with lemons: iced lemon cake

Afternoon all!

Today I am trying to embrace our great British weather and I’m already on my second set of clothes for the day, having taken the dog out in torrential rain earlier! July? Summer?! I laugh in the face of summer…. To combat that feeling, here’s a little injection of summer in cake form.

Yesterday I had the delight of attending a lovely little celebration for two very special ladies. Donna and Kaz were celebrating 10 years of making beautiful jewellery at their Edinburgh studios and what celebration, I ask you, is complete without a cake?!!? Oh, and maybe some wine…. but they had that bit covered.

So I took a little time out on Friday afternoon to make a lovely layered lemon cake. Now I may have had a slight ulterior motive for making them this cake. As well as celebrating their success, I was keen to try out this recipe as a possibility for a lemon cake for our wedding next year. I am liking the idea more and more of a proper cake table, with a variety of smaller cakes at the wedding, so I thought I’d test this one out on some willing guinea pigs!

This recipe was adapted from the excellent Primrose Hill Bakery’s ‘Cupcake’ book.

Cake ingredients: 225g caster sugar, 225g self raising flour (sifted), 225g butter (room temp), 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 25g cornflour, 4 large eggs, zest of 2 large lemons and juice of 3 large lemons.

  • Preheat oven to 170 (fan oven) and prepare 2x 20cm round cake tins. I grease and line the sides and base so that the cakes come out with a smooth finish. This is important for presentation because the sides aren’t covered in icing.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in one bowl, and mix the dry ingredients in another bowl.
  • Add the eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar mix and beat between each addition. Then add the floury mix a bit at a time, mixing after each addition. The mix will seem quite stiff but add the lemon juice and lemon zest and it will be come a bit more runny. Its not a particularly runny cake mix though, so don’t worry.
  • Divide between the two tins and then pop in the oven for 25 minutes. Poke a  cake with a skewer to check they’re done after this time. The cakes will be pale gold but not particularly dark.

Pop the cakes on a rack, still in their tins, for about 10 minutes and then take them out the tins and peel of the paper. You should have two lovely smooth-edged cakes. Now leave them to cool. Don’t be tempted to ice a warm cake – it’ll go horribly wrong!

Icing ingredients: 120g butter (room temp), juice of 1-2 lemons (depends how lemony you like it. About 3 tablespoons works well), the zest of those lemons and 500g sifted icing sugar.

  • When the cakes are cool, place the one you decide to be the base on your serving plate. You can turn the cake over so that you have a flat layer to work on. My cake had risen quite dramatically in the middle, so I cut the top off to make it flatter – it just depends how professional you want it to look.
  • To make the icing, put the butter, lemon juice, zest and half the icing sugar into a bowl and beat. I do this by hand with a spoon to stop the icing sugar flying everywhere, but you can use a mixer or even the food processor. Then slowly add the rest of the icing sugar until its all combined. If you think the mixture still looks a bit stiff add a bit of water or some more lemon juice, but remember you want a thick mix that won’t run.
  • I spread a layer of lemon curd over the first cake, to add another level of lemony-ness and then followed with a layer of icing – about 1/3 to 1/2 of what’s in the bowl.
  • Plop the second cake on top – again you can invert it to get a flat top on your cake, but thats just about preference. Personally, I like the top a little rounded.
  • Spread the rest of the icing over the top of the second cake. Use a palette knife moving in the same direction all the time to create a swirl in the middle of the cake.
  • You can leave it like that, or finish it off with some nice sugared lemon slices.

I forgot to take a photo until I had already put the cake in the box to take with my to the gallery, so this is what it looked like from above:

View from above!

On the night, I didn’t have any (I had eaten the bits I’d had to cut off earlier in the afternoon) but several people at the event commented how nice it was, so hopefully we have a winner! Next time, when I have a little more time to plan, I may make some nice sugared daisies to decorate, just for that real celebration feel.

Have a good weekend everyone – don’t forget your wellies!

BBx

A hearty welcome to my fellow lovers of baked goods

My first blog post and I thought I’d write a short and sweet introduction about the things I’ve been thinking about baking. These are cakey delights that I hope to write about on the blog in the future. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about  wedding cake. Partly because I’m getting married next year, and I am going to make my own cake, and partly because Mr. Bandit and I have been to a lot of weddings this year and – you guessed it – eaten a lot of cake! So rather than making a ‘wedding cake’, I’m going to make several of my favourite kinds of cake, and have a selection. It also means I can make smaller cakes that are a bit more manageable in my kitchen and, more importantly, my little oven! So here are my thoughts on wedding cakes so far (although these would be equally lovely for tea parties, birthdays, other special occasions or just for scoffing!):

CARROT LAYER CAKE: I made a trial run of this at the weekend and it was seriously yummy. I based my cake on a recipe out of the Primrose Hill Bakery book, which my lovely cousin kindly bought me for my birthday. I’ll post my tweaked version of the recipe at some stage. Sadly I didn’t get a photograph of the cake (to be honest it didn’t last long enough to take one) which just means I’ll have to make it again… shame.

LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE: This is my favourite – all summery and light and lovely. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m ummmming and aaaahhhhing about whether to make a cake which just has a drizzle, or proper icing. I might have to try both….

A VICTORIA SANDWICH: The simplest are often the best and if I’m catering to the tastes of 100+ people, you know someone will be a fusspot. Well if they don’t like a Victoria sandwich then there’s something wrong with them!

CHOCOLATE CAKE:  This is Mr. Bandit’s request. Actually I’ve never found a chocolate cake that works to my satisfaction, they are always too dry. Lucky for me my lovely sister-in-law has come to the rescue and will (hopefully) be making this one.

Anyone got any other ideas? I’d love to hear some suggestions for other cakes that would work as part of a wedding cake table. Also, what are people’s thoughts on making them as fairy cakes? This was my mother’s suggestion on the basis that everyone gets a little morsel without someone having to cut them all. I’m not sure how I feel about that, I like a proper cake!

well my lovelies, that’s it for now.

Cheerio

BB x