Friday, 24 December 2010

Cake Decorating

Today is Christmas Eve and so my final day for blogging this week. I thought I would leave you with something a bit different. I know a few of you have asked me for various recipes and please keep an eye out as these will be following in the New Year. However, for today, I give you...

How to make a Penguin

Please forgive me, this is my first attempt at something for YouTube. I'm hoping between the three of us we will show you how easy it is to make these delightful little characters. My girls are only 2 and 4 years old, so if they can do it you can surely give it a go!





Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Making the most of your Double Cream!

So today is about my lunch. I fancied bread today and as I considered the option (it being late in the morning and so yeast bread wasn't an option) I landed upon the idea of soda bread! It's not as easy as that though as soda bread is traditionally made with buttermilk, something i didn't have. So today I give you...

Making the Most of your Double Cream!

Buttermilk
Take one 300ml pot of double cream and beat! That's it! It will start off by thickening and then all of a sudden separate. Strain this through a sieve and it's ready to use. Take the butter that is left over and squash into a dish. So now you have you own butter and butter milk!  


Brandy Butter
100g Soft Brown Sugar
100g Butter
6tbs Brandy

Cream sugar and butter together until combined. Slowly add brandy a spoonful at a time making sure thoroughly combined. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.


Soda Bread
200g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
100 ml Buttermilk

Preheat Oven to gas mark 6 (200)
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and add the buttermilk (you can always add milk if you run out!)
Kneed gentle to make a dough and shape into a ball
Flatten slightly to about 5cm high and flour all over
Place on baking tray and cut a cross in the top almost through to the bottom
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
Cool and scoff with your own butter!


And so now when Christmas is done and you are wondering what to do with all that cream in your fridge, wonder no longer! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Muffins

Today is the turn of my Christmas Muffins (click here to print out the recipe) 


This makes a lovely gift, so if there is someone you need a last minute present for just buy a jar and layer the dry ingredients. Then pop a note on the gift tag explaining how to make them! 



Christmas Muffins
stacks_image_BFD5A101-3669-4915-BA8A-CE5F837054AC
Ingredients
300g Self-Raising Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice
25g Ground Almonds
150g Mixed Dried Fruit (Raisins, Sultanas, Mixed Peel, etc.)
100g Dark Brown sugar
2 Eggs
300ml Milk
100g Butter (melted)

Preheat oven to gas 4 (180C/350F)
Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, almonds. mixed fruit and sugar) together in a mixing bowl
Combine wet ingredients (milk, eggs and butter) in a separate bowl
Pour wet ingredients into the centre of the dry mix bowl, combine quickly, but do not over mix
Divide between 12 muffin cases and bake for 20-25 mins

Enjoy!!


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lebkuchen

When I was growing up my gran used to make these. It's something that really reminds me of Christmas. what I didn't realise was that across Germany, Austria and Switzerland each region has it's own variation so trying to recreate the recipe myself was not easy! After searching long and hard and making nice biscuits but not Lebkuchen, I bring you the closest thing to my Austrian Gran's recipe..


Lebkuchen


Ingredients


350g Flour
250g Brown Sugar
100g Ground Almonds
75g Mixed Peel (blitzed in food processor) 
1/2tsp Baking Powder
2tbs All Spice 
50g of honey
2 eggs
Rice Paper (not completely necessary but traditional and stops them sticking!)
1 egg yolk


Topping
50g Melted chocolate 
or
100g Icing Sugar
1 Egg White


Preheat oven to gas 4 (180C/350F)
Easy recipe this! Mix everything (except egg yolk) together until a dough is formed 
Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 mins, preferably overnight
Roll into balls about the size of small golf balls and place on top of a circle of rice paper, squash slightly
Brush with egg yolk
Bake for 20 mins


For topping 
Mix icing sugar and water.
Dip each biscuit in mixture and spread all over
Leave in warm place to dry









Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas Count Down

So here we are on the Monday before Christmas. With snow piling up, here's hoping Santa isn't relying on Amazon this year! I have recently been asked for a few recipes for the Christmas period so I thought this week I would give you something new each day to try. 

Today, I would like to start with something for my gluten-free friends...

Chocolate pudding

Ingredients




100g Divine Dark chocolate with orange and ginger
(Please note this may contain traces of gluten so if needs be switch to something completely gluten free)
100ml Warm Water
100g Butter
1tsp Vanilla Extract
75g Caster Sugar
3 Medium Eggs separated
25g Rice Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Mixed Spice
Icing sugar to dust

Serves 4

Preheat Oven to gas mark 6 (200°C/400°F)

Melt butter and chocolate by breaking into small pieces and placing in a bowl over simmering water. Once this is done add water, sugar and vanilla extract and mix until throughly combined and smooth.
Lightly beat egg yolks and add
Sift flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold into mixture
Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks and fold gently into mixture.
Pour mixture into pudding basin or 4 ramekins
Place into a bain marie of hot water and bake for 10 minutes (for the single bowl), then reduce the temperature to gas mark 3, 325°F, 170°C, for a further 20-30 minutes. If you are using ramekins, the puddings will be cooked in about 15 minutes without reducing the temperature. The pudding should be firm on top but still soft and fudgy underneath. Dust with icing sugar and serve hot with cream.



Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Lexmark printer cake?

Recently I was caught chatting at #BitsyBreak on twitter. This is a wonderful tread that gives homeworkers a chance to take a break between 11 and 12 each day. Now I have to stress, as much as I like this I don't get to join in every day but today was my day!

Whilst catching up with everyone I noticed a competition on Freelance Advisor's website where you could win a Lexmark printer. Now I really should know better than to enter something when the company chats on #BitsyBreak too! The next thing I knew it was being suggested that I made a cake in the shape of the printer! Of course agreeing straightaway then led me to start having nightmares! How would I make such a monster? What would I do with it? Could Freelance Advisor each that much cake? And then the answer came... Children's Adventure Farm Trust, my charity of the year!

So here you have it! A large vanilla sponge with strawberry jam printer! I hope you like it. £1 from every slice will be going to CAFT who are an amazing charity and rely solely on donations. Also if you order anything from Amazon through my website (just click on the link) the referral fees are going back to them too!


Click here for your slice of the action


Slices cost £3.99 + £0.96 postage

If you are feeling generous or aren't in the mood for cake, please make donation.


Monday, 8 November 2010

What to get...?

Christmas is a tricky time of year. From buying presents for your nearest and dearest to Gt Aunt Edna that you only see once a year, it's hard to get something that is entirely right and wont cost the earth. We live in a society today that people buy things they want when they want them, we have all become the person that has everything, so I thought you might like some help from me, after all who doesn't like cake?

A Piece of Cake, much tastier than a card! Perhaps this would be a good place to start with people you don't see often and can't afford to spend a lot on but want to show you care and have thought about them.  A sumptuous piece of cake delivered to their door!  

Or if you are looking for something a bit more how about enrolling them in one of my clubs. Then they can get a Piece of Cake every week/month for as long as you like! I'll happily send you a gift certificate so you have something to give on the day, just ask!

Bigger? How about posting a whole cake? Obviously I have fruit cake on offer but maybe you want to offer something different. Don't get much more different than a Peppermint Chilli Chocolate Cake! 

I also have cake balls - balls of cake dipped in chocolate, just like truffles but cakey, how decadent! I do jars of bitesize ones or baskets of golf ball sized, either of which are very moreish and will make you very popular! 

Worked out your present list now? Included something for yourself ? Relax and leave the rest to me! 

And for all those other things check out Amazon. Follow this link, won't cost you anymore but will help make some children smile as all referral fees will be going to my charity of the year Children's Adventure Farm Trust!


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Bonfire Night


I love this time of year. The night's draw in and the fire gets lit. Ok so I admit I'm not so keen on the cold rain on the walk to school but on a crisp autumn morning, there is nothing better than kicking through the leaves with the kids.


Bonfire night marks a change of season to me. We all get wrapped up warm and cosy ready to go to a firework display. If you are anything like my family, you will have some treacle toffee in one pocket and cinder toffee in the other! It's the one time of year where we embrace the sweet tooth properly I feel. What I always make sure of is some well matured parkin waiting for us when we get in too.

Parkin is a special treat that I feel is very much underestimated. It is one of the biggest comfort foods you can eat, made with oats, ginger golden syrup and treacle to name but a few of the ingredients. It is then left to mature for several weeks - the longer the better. All those lovely liquids are drawn into the oats making it even more scrummy. I  know this is a northern thing and many people past Watford Gap may not have even heard of this but try it and I'm sure you will be converted! Serve it spread with butter or slightly warmed with ice cream or just on it's own the choice is yours!

Try a slice!



£2.99 + £0.96 postage


Or be bold and go for a whole one!
The family will love you!



£7.99 + £2.24 postage


Or if it's all a bit too rich how about a lemon and golden syrup sponge instead?



£3.99 + £2.24 postage

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Thank you

I can't put it any more simply than that. When I started my business 12 months ago it was with the help of my wonderful family. Mr Cake said go for it and has held my hand the whole way. No it wasn't easy and I made a few mistakes along the way but as learning curves go, I've enjoyed it for the most part!

So in celebration of The Cake Nest's first anniversary, I want to say thanks to everyone that has helped me along the way, so now where to start!

Louise Thomas of The Chocolate Consultancy Ltd, my sister and introducer to twitter. In February, I held a Valentine Market to raise money for Action Medical Research and she told me that twitter would help me promote it. I had no idea what it was all about and it took me a while to but now I'm hooked! The market did really well and we managed to raise £1441 in the end over the year as Mr Cake cycled from London to Paris. This year's charity is Children's Adventure Farm Trust, an amazing local charity who rely totally on donations.


There are some people that have helped me a lot on twitter too, so if you tweet make sure you follow them and if you don't they all have websites too so check them out!

@MrsLJHall You are a true star! You have given me hints and tips along the way but just as importantly you love my cake and tell people! Your blog though is truly inspiring from marmite to car parking you have made me laugh and cry, your courage amazes me.

@chocablog because you were the first people to review me, for which I will be for ever thankful for. I was so scared wrapping up a few slices and sending in so much bubble wrap you must have been slightly disappointed when you opened it! Thank you, your words helped start A Piece of Cake - with a lot sleeker packaging! Cheering up the nation with A Piece of Cake in the post! (And your review is framed on my wall.)

@mydaddycooks because I love Archie and watching him (and his dad) make my mini simnel cakes was fantastic! It was great to see them at Harvest at Jimmy's too. A big thanks for telling me about this. it was the first festival we had taken the girls too and now we are planning where to go next year! Watch this space they may be stirring up something else of mine too soon!


@busyhobs for all the help and advice he gave me on my website and more so for being a good friend!

@e_nation for #watercoolermoment office banter for homeworkers! Some days I really don't think I could by without it and if you think this is exaggerating picture me baking away all day with no adult company just two small children asking me what my favourite colour is over and over again! The conversations that circulate there are fab from #techtuesday to #cake

@littlesunflower for inspiration and encouragement. I love you shop and aspire to the awards you are up for! Gorgeous clothes and accessories for the small people in your life!

@TChocolateC for the afore mentioned but also for advice on chocolate, obviously, and for organising The Great Brownie Bake Off (google it!) an amazing day of tasting non professional cooks brownies - the winning recipe will be on my website shortly! I had a fantastic day and loved watching all the demonstrations from people like Gu puddings and Edd Kimber, to name but a few.


This may seem long but is not nearly everyone that has kept my head up. Thank you to all my customers, without you I would be nothing! Cringe worthy? Maybe. Who cares! Cheers here's to The Cake Nest's next anniversary. And a little extra for you... sign up to my newsletter and I'll let you know a secret!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Stretching the tinsel round the tree!

The government wants to take away Child Benefit from you "rich" people, whilst at the same time those lucky enough to have jobs are suffering pay cuts just to keep them. Christmas time is approaching and money is tight. Does the C word fill you with dread? Ok so if you are like thousands of others and are panicking about how to cope with Christmas, stop. Recession has hit hard. I think it's time we looked outside of the box. Do you have a wish list? No i don't mean to win the lottery or that big 50" TV. What about a Christmas cake, stockings to hang by the fire and time with the family? 

4 years ago when our eldest child was born we canceled Christmas and it's not been on the cards since. Shocking I know but not as bad as it sounds. We still buy presents for the children and have a lovely meal. What we don't do is buy presents for each other or anyone else. Don't shout at me! We told everyone at the start, we expect nothing in return although I do make Christmas cake for everyone so we are still embracing the tradition. We do also give a donation to charity, this is a way I feel can make a difference rather than me buy lots of smellies that no one wants or other such things that end up on Ebay by New Year.

The best part is we go into the season without the dread and general build up to disappointment. Don't get me wrong, for a long time Mr Cake and I spent a fortune on each other (and other people) and built up the festive period. We found ourselves running round trying to please everyone else and being exhausted at the end. Now we don't, we have our own family and so thanks for the invite but we will be staying at home this year (we say this every year). We are part of the Tesco christmas club so our vouchers arrive in time for the big day and we buy things for the children - I now enjoy this as i'm only buying a few things and can pick up bargains throughout the year.


However, I do realise this is not for everyone and even close friends have given us funny looks. Even so it doesn't have to be so hard, look around you, what can you do? How about asking people to do swaps? It may mean a little more of your time but not your money. So the kids aren't likely to get the latest gadget but you can still have a great holiday. I'll shut up, I'm just saying if you need a cake but can't afford it or just want to keep the costs down, ask! Offer me something else as the mother of two small children there is usually something i need! Let's work together and enjoy this one!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cake Britain

Every once in a while an idea pops into my head that I can't ignore! This time it was Cake Britain! Let me explain. My customers are spread far and wide as I post slices of cake all over the UK but what happens when they need something bigger? Ok so you can buy whole versions of my cake slices but these are rectangular lovelies and maybe not what you want for your wedding cake! So here the seed is planted...

A customer calls or emails and asks what I can do. I explain that, for large novelty and wedding cakes, I hand deliver. Now, don't get me wrong, I will deliver if you live in Cornwall but would you want to pay my delivery charge? No of course not. And do you want to be cheeky and ask if I know anyone closer? Again probably not. So what happens now? You hang up wonder who else you can use? Ask friends, family, Twitter? Or ... What if...there was a map you could click on that brought everyone up locally?

Now I realise you could go to Yellow Pages or some such thing too but to be honest most of us don't pay for advertising, as word of mouth is a lot better. This is not to say we want to be hidden away, we want a way to work with you.

I have now designed Cake Britain, a user friendly map that you can just pop in your postcode and your local baker pops up! I don't charge anyone for registering their details and it is made up mostly of small businesses specializing in homemade cake of superior quality. What's the catch? Why do I want to advertise other people? Why does anyone want to go on a map that shows someone else who lives round the corner? Simple because not one of us can provide for everyone. We share tips, business links and friendship, because like our customers we are normal everyday people who mostly work from home and so things like Twitter become our coffee room. So bookmark it now ready for the next occasion, don't forget I'm still always here to help you with the new birthday card!


View Cake Britain in a larger map


If you bake yourself email your postcode, description and contact details to Info@thecakenest.co.uk and I'll add you on, the more the merrier! Spread the word, this is Cake Britain!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is something of a favourite in this country but I wonder if you know how it came about, you know throwing veg into a cake?

Although a relatively simple cake made individual by the type of oil and spices used, the history of cake dates back to ancient times. The first cakes were very different from what we eat today. They were more bread-like and sweetened with honey. Nuts and dried fruits were often added. According to the food historians, the ancient Egyptians were the first culture to show evidence of advanced baking skills. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the English word cake back to the 13th century. It is a derivation of 'kaka', an Old Norse word. Medieval European bakers used vegetables regularly in their puddings, often making fruitcakes and gingerbread. These foods could last for many months.

According to the food historians, the precursors of modern cakes (round ones with icing) were first baked in Europe sometime in the mid-17th century. This is due to primarily to advances in technology (more reliable ovens, manufacture/availability of food molds) and ingredient availability (refined sugar). At that time cake hoops (round molds for shaping cakes) that were placed on flat baking trays, were popular. They could be made of metal, wood or paper. Some were adjustable. The first icing was usually a boiled composition of the finest available sugar, egg whites and, sometimes, flavorings. The icing was poured on the cake and returned to the oven for a while. When removed the icing cooled quickly to form a hard, glossy covering. Many cakes made at this time still contained dried fruits (raisins, currants, citrons) and are the predecessor of our rich fruit cake.

It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake as we know it today (made with extra refined white flour and baking powder) arrived on the scene. Butter-cream frostings (using butter, cream, icing sugar and flavourings) began replacing traditional boiled icings in first few decades 20th century.

However, it was the second world war and rationing that saw a true revival of this cake as again sugar was scarce. And it wasn't until the 1960s that it became popular in America, possibly reaching its peak in the 1970s but still a true tea room favourite today!

If all this has made you hungry, help yourself to a slice! My weekly club will be receiving this today themselves so look out for reviews on twitter!





Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New Website!

The new website is finished! Tell me what you think! 

What can I say? I like cake!


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Christmas Tips

It has suddenly struck me today, how close we are to Christmas! I know it's 108 days away but that is nothing. My children are going back to school this week after the school summer holidays, now 6 weeks ago 6 weeks felt like a long time but it passed in a flash and now the house is empty again. So I've been thinking...! Tips for making Christmas pass smoothly and enjoyably, here goes!



  1. Prepare! Keep your eyes open, if you see a present that you think someone would like BUY IT! Don't wait till christmas eve to go round getting a load of 3 for 2 things that no one uses. Best thing is you will seem like the most thoughtful person on the day! You are also likely to spend less money as instead of bulk buying and then finding you have forgotten someone or have something spare you will know in advance and they won't have sold out!
  2. List. Keep a check on who you have bought for and what. Bought granny something? Great tick her off! You will feel like you are achieving something too.
  3. See what you can get out of the way well in advance then the sting of Christmas won't be so bad. Think how gloomy January is after you have over spent in December. Little things like ordering you cake early will mean that you can spread out the costs and really enjoy the day.
  4. The most important piece of advice is to decide what your budget is and stick to it. If the kids what a trip to the moon learn to say "no". The pressure of kids is immense, they want the latest in everything and that comes at a cost so...
  5. Give the kids a budget. Tell them how much you have to spend on them and let them decide what to do with it. Better still, give them chores and make them earn it!

Need a cake? Just ask! I make a 7" fruit cake which is well matured, then marzipaned and iced. It costs £40 plus £10 delivery but will see you through till New Year with contented smiles all round and will be delivered shortly beforehand, one less thing for you to think about!


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Great Brownie Bake Off



Last week I was asked to be a judge at The Great Brownie Bake Off on 9th October at Look Mum No Hands in London. More importantly, I was asked to offer part of the prize, the chance for the winning recipe to be used as part of my "Piece of Cake" range. This is something I am really looking forward to. A chance to taste lots of different brownies (who would argue with that!) and a chance to see the differences in what makes a pleasing brownie to an individual. Brownies are not something that I do at the moment, they are saved for baking with the children, but as I look through what types are out there I begin to realise the size of the task in hand. How will I choose between a sticky gooey cake and a crusty one, how will my own taste compare. When I Google "brownie" I can see how seriously people take this cake and how their interpretation of recipe is vital to the enjoyment. So now my task is to help find a winning recipe that you will all enjoy but is original. I'm hoping to find someone who has taken their passion and tweaked it to perfection.


Now I need your help... do you have the winning recipe? Are you a home baker/non professional cook? Do you fancy winning 6 months supply of chocolate from Divine Chocolate as well as your name being given the credit on  as soon as it goes live? On the day you will have the opportunity to sell your goods on the day with 10% going to the Wheels for Wellbeing Charity. There will also be a variety of excellent demonstrations going on from baking with Edd Kimber to chocolate tasting with The Chocolate Consultantancy ltd. Interested? I'll look forward to seeing you then!


The Great Brownie Bake Off.
Date: Saturday October 9, 2010
Time: 10:00 – 18:00
Address: Look Mum No Hands, 49 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HX – www.lookmumnohands.com
Tube: Old Street
Price: £1.70 entrance fee, which includes re-entry.  Income from entrance fee will be donated to cycle charity, Wheels for Wellbeing.
Twitter hashtag: #GBBOchoc
For more information about the event, please visit: The Chocolate Consultancy Blog



Monday, 23 August 2010

Charity Ladies Lunch with Childrens' Adventure Farm

In June, I had the privilege of holding a stall at the Childrens Adventure Farm Trust’s (CAFT) ladies lunch at Mere Golf and Country Club in Cheshire.  A big event with nearly 300 people attending and something I wanted to do justice to, to boost the charitable donations of the day (you can also donate on my charity page).  I plotted and planned the best things to make for my stall, I am a cake maker by trade, mainly doing large birthday and wedding cakes locally, so I needed something different to sell on the day.  I work a lot with Divine chocolate in the slices of cake that I sell on my website nationally and have recently started doing cake balls… delicious balls of cake dipped in chocolate.  This was my plan! I thought jars of cake balls would be something unique, attractive and ultimately yummy on my table so I placed my order to stock up with Divine’s chocolate to make sure I would have enough for all.  Unfortunately, my order did not arrive in time, so I shot down to the shops and got some from good old Morrison’s!  Not as much as I would have liked but it had a mysterious impact on my day…!  As the ladies arrived and looked over the many things I had to offer including cupcakes, lemon and syrup cake and parkin they also partook of some samples. The most popular of which were the cake balls. Many people were surprised at the taste and texture but also that they were enjoying dark chocolate. Now, although it is something I generally swear by, I know many people enjoy milk chocolate.  Many people commented on how rounded the taste was and not at all bitter.  I directed them to my Piece of Cake and told them if they enjoyed that they would love this!  The moral of the story?  Let them eat cake!  A chance to combine many lovely things in many different ways.  Why not send a slice to a friend and see what they think too!  I’ve only ever heard good reports about how Divine chocolate works with my cakes.  Divine is an inspiration to many, thank you for inspiring so many at such a wonderful charity event!



And with the help of naked butlers and chocolate CAFT managed to raise an astounding £17,000 that day! They are my chosen charity of the year so you can donate now if you would like too!