Monday, October 7, 2013

Prize-winning cake

We had a local event called the Best of Bedminster here. It's a local event that showcases local produce, jams, kids fun, etc. Once I saw a cake competition was being held, of course I had to enter. And no half-hearted effort, I wanted needed to wow. After much discussion with the husband, I decided to make the Tobacco Factory (a mixed use cafe/bar/event/theatre space) that is well known in South Bristol.

I decided to go further into local love and use Bristol beer from the Bristol Beer Factory. I made a chocolate stout cake with the Ultimate Stout and a vanilla cake using their Independence Ale (American pale ale). Chocolate stout cake is delicious and I don't even like beer. It's so rich and has a real depth to it. I've made it I think 4 or 5 times now. Vanilla beer cake is kind of boring though.

I counted the exact number of windows (a lot) on both sides and decided to make them out of wafer cookies. This involved cutting said cookies in half lengthwise and using a sharp knife to cut them out. Then I piped Wilton candy melts to make the windows. I actually wound up cautting all of them smaller since apparently 4 layers of cake is still not high enough. And I'm annoyed because there are actually tiny windows on top, but i didn't have enough room. I had to have this in the show by 1PM, we literally left the house at 12:40PM. So the detail was not as good as I would've liked.

It was a big hit & everyone loved it. Afterwards they kept some of it there for people to taste. Then I took the rest to the actual Tobacco Factory for people to eat. Lots of people ate it & liked it (some came up to me & said so). But sadly I didn't have any business cards so it was a real missed opportunity there.

The mayor (George Ferguson) actually lives on the top floor here and he walked in to the cafe. I was sitting with my sister-in-law & she said go up to him. So I did and showed him my cake. He ate some & said he liked it & asked about the show (he had a previous engagement or would have come). So it's mayor approved! Sadly, I didn't think to take a pic of him eating it...

My first English prize for my baking. I once won 'best cake' back when I worked at MySpace in LA. I also think it's strange that first place is red here, and not blue. Their second place was blue. Maybe it's an English thing?

Look at my happy face!

Posing in front of the actual Tobacco Factory.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

treasure chest cake

My neighbor(u)r wanted me to do a cake for her her 5 year old Lois. Lois requested a pirate cake and not too girly so I made a treasure chest. We did it during a Playing Out session - which is when they close the street for 3 hours so kids can play, it's a fab idea. Her Mom wanted cupcakes as well since our street has so many kids.

I googled and Pinterested treasure chests and here's my final product. The only thing I really took away from my googling was the Curly Wurly as a metal type brace. Genius idea I think, and I sprayed it with gold food coloring spray.

I think I spent more time googling graphics for the cupcake picks and then fixing them in Photoshop so I could print them out.

I knew about this one a month out so I had time to search for stuff. At the .99 store I got candy necklaces, skull lollipops & the pirate candles. I got the pirate cupcake wrappers at Asda & the gold coins at Sainsbury's. The coins are white chocolate buttons sprayed with my gold spray (also from the .99 store, I love that place, it's £2.97 elsewhere).

I used (soft) gold dragees (also on offer for .99 at Aldi) for the studs on the chest and some weird blackjack aniseed taffy thing for the lock & hasp, which I sprayed gold. It faded which added to the effect.

Happy birthday girl & happy kids!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tiki cake

Our street party was a few weeks ago & it had a Hawaiian theme. Usually everyone makes a cake of their house but of course I wanted to wow them since I'm new here. I came up with the idea for an island cake, primarily so I could make the ocean a cupcake cake. I'm usually not a huge fan of those, but they are unheard of here. Also I figured mini (blue) cupcakes would be fun for the kids to pull off & eat.

Here's the final project:

Setting the scene:

I thought about what would make a thatched type tiki bar and came up with the genius idea of shredded wheat! I was cutting up those biscuits trying to find the right sizes (without breaking) in my kitchen til late. The sand is smashed malted milk cookies. I should say the end product was so pretty, everyone was afraid to cut it up.

The full visual. Surfboards are sour strips (mounted on cardboard so they would stay up). Tiki details are melted candy melts. The shark fins are marshmallows I painted with food color. The flowers are made from a candy called Winders (fruit rollups), I brushed edible glitter on them and added a white decor ball center.

The tea & cake table (impressive!):

Aloha! I got the chance to bust out my $1 vintage Hawaiian jumpsuit. This beauty used to be worn regularly when I lived in Los Angeles. Forgot I had it. Everyone loved it.

England baking and adapting to ingredients here

I mentioned before about getting used to ingredients here in England. One is butter, it's yellower (not ideal for vanilla frostings), and has a higher fat content.

I also just found out egg sizes here are bigger than America. I feel like I had an epiphany when I read this post on Nigella's site. Makes sense, the large eggs here are equal to US extra large - all my recipes seem to respond differently here. At least I can make sure my eggs are medium from now on, we'll see how far that gets me.

I'm still working on getting an adapter for my KitchenAid. I've broken 2 hand mixers in 2 months. And I wasn't even mixing that much. But hand mixers don't have a low and my kitchen gets covered in either confectioners sugar or flour every time I bake. I really miss my precious mixer. I didn't want to spend the money on the converter, but after breaking 2 mixers, it's time to spend the £70 and get it.

I've done a lot of baking, even without my big mixer. Much to my father-in-law's delight, I make something new every time we go for Sunday lunch.

Blackberry pie using local berries we picked. For the crust I used half butter, half Trex (UK equivalent of Crisco, but all natural). It's very flaky. Almost too flaky, if that's possible?

Cinnamon sugar pinwheels using leftover crust. I swear I preferred these to the pie, mostly because they remind me of my childhood, my mom used to use these same pans to make hers.

Mini apple pies using my father-in-law's neighbor(u)r's 'fallers' from her apple tree. I saw these on pinterest and wanted to try it. Very fussy for apple pie but appealing to people I suppose. I prefer a normal pie.

Le Creuset bread (tasty!) and a treacle tart. Also a request from father-in-law.

Plum frangipane tart using my father-in-law's neighbor(u)r's plums. Delicious. Also, another bread test, not as good as the above bread though. I used 1/3 whole wheat flour, not sure if that made a difference.

My neighbo(u)r gifted me a (marrow/zucchini/courgette), so I made my recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread. This recipe makes 2 loaves and uses 4 cups of zucchini. Very rich & delicious - gave some to 2 neighbors plus my father in law and saved some for us.

Mille Crepe cake. I've always wanted to do one, they look so pretty, but man what a chore. As you can see, the final product is gorgeous.

In process, I screwed up the first crepe, so I only had 19 to layer. That annoyed me, only because 20 crepes sounds more impressive. I started writing on my wax paper so I could see progress. See how tiny my kitchen is?

I made a vanilla pastry cream and topped with chocolate ganache. If I were to ever repeat this tedious dessert, I'd use chocolate ganache inside because it would be richer I think. It kinda tasted like a soggy eggy thing. I suppose that's how it's supposed too, but for all that effort I'd rather make a real cake.

The inside!

Zombie themed cupcakes for my first real Bristol commission (a city council leaving do). They were a hit I hear. Hoping I can get more work out of it. Red velvet, chocolate and vanilla cakes. The vampire one has sour cherry jam inside too, wish I could've seen people's faces when they bit into it.

Details on my prize winning cake next...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Spending spree / new life

Hi again. 

Long time, no post. I'm now on the other side of the pond in Bristol, England. So far my only baking has been 2 batches of cupcakes (man oh man is the butter different, my buttercreams have been so soft). I think they have more fat in it. So yes, lots to test out and in my teeny kitchen - but I will tackle that in my next post.

So while I've been getting settled and following all kinds of Bristol/UK people on twitter to find out the goings on over here, I found out about Britmums. Makes sense since I'm at least an hono(u)rary Brit now and a Mum (Mom).

So Britmums has a new challenge with The National Lottery to show how we would spend £20,000. Since we've cashed in our life savings to move here and be closer to my husband's side, with £20,000, I could start my cupcake truck here.

First, I would book us all a trip back to Cincinnati for Christmas though. I've never not spent one with my family. EVER. And I miss them a lot!

Then, I'd put maybe £5,000 aside for a rainy day, because a nest egg is nice.
And ours is gone.

And finally, the rest would go towards my cupcake truck/American sweets truck dream. Ideally it would be as American as an Airstream (we toured the Ohio factory before we moved to England, amazing), but they are very expensive! Now Austin, Texas has one but I'm quite sure England does not.

I've been to Bristol foodie shows and scoured the internet and sampled the products here. I do think there is a place for me, and I KNOW my stuff tastes better & is fresher. Plus I think my American accent (charm) might just help sell my delicious treats.

The dream is just waiting for me...

This post is an entry for BritMums #Spend20K Challenge sponsored by The National Lottery, with more ways to win more money on the new Lotto game. Find out more about new Lotto, which starts in October, here –

#Spend20K challenge badge with National Lottery

Monday, May 20, 2013

keg cake

My good friend Tricia was turning 40 and I offered to make a cake. She said she liked chocolate & beer. I had done the beer mug cake for her husband so I knew it had to be better, or at least different but still a beer theme. Talk about difficult!

So I decided on a keg, albeit a short fat keg. :)

It's chocolate stout cake with an ale buttercream. Everyone loved it. I highly recommend chocolate stout cake for beer lovers - it's rich & delicious & definitely tastes like beer!

I decided to make poured sugar ice and beer bottles for the top. I saw Target had a cute ice cube tray for beer bottles in their dollar bin so I used that. Looks damn cool I think. And all done with buttercream, except the medallion was made from fondant.

The birthday girl!

I love how it turned out. I used edible glitter on the medallion and numbers.

Detail of ice and bottles

 I wanted better lighting so I tried an inside shot

Here's to another 40+...

Monday, April 29, 2013

pinball cake

My good friend Gary was having a birthday and my only guidance was pinball theme. Oh, and margarita flavored (with booze, of course). 

I googled all kinds of pictures (& cakes) and then decided on a pinball machine cake.

I had leftover fondant from my son's cake so I used that for his decor. I went crazy because I knew he would like it and it's a pinball cake, pinball machines ARE crazy and over the top. The only non-fondant decor is the red balls (Gobstoppers). If I wanted to, I could've used Sixlets which would have been a better size but I didn't have the energy to go to a specialty store to get them.

The black writing is edible marker

Everyone loved it (& the fact it was a tasty boozy cake), so I consider it another success.

checkerboard baby shower cake

The day before Spiderman was due, I had to make a baby shower cake for the same person, an old colleague. She didn't know the sex of the baby so I used both blue and pink, and (pink & blue) velvet cake was the request.

I wanted to try an ombre frosting technique for awhile so this seemed perfect. There are so many cool ways to make ombre frosting these days so I want to experiment more when I can.

If you read this blog you know I love cake surprises inside. So alternating layers of velvet wasn't good enough for me. I wanted checkerboard. I learned a lot from my American flag cake last year so I applied it here. Find 2 circles that are even in size in relation to the cake size. I used a kiddie plate from my son's kitchen and a cornstarch lid. 

Using a serrated knife, cut around the circle in a straight up and down sawing motion. Separate layers.

Layers laid out. I will mention that any velvet flavor cake has a TB or so of cocoa powder. So these layers came out a deep pink and teal since blue + brown = teal. FYI. :)

Put layers back in alternating colors.

all 4 layers

The cake is assembled.

 I made pink & blue onesies and feet, one side is pink, the other blue since she didn't know the sex. (It was a boy!)

 I found these cute candy feet at Michaels so I used them for more punch.

Detail of ombre

 Inside pic (it's a dark pic, but it's all I have) - you can see the checkerboard though.