cupcakes: pretty paper. true stories. {and scrapbooking classes with cupcakes.}

lovely to meet you Twitter Facebook Pinterest YouTube

Take a Scrapbooking Class

online scrapbooking classes

Shop Shimelle Products simon says stamp shimelle scrapbooking products @ shimelle scrapbooking products @

Reading Material


Rhubarb and Custard layer cakes: my 2015 bake off finale

gluten free rhubarb and custard layer cake - inspired by the great british bake off #gbbo @

Alas, the latest series of the Great British Bake Off has come to a close, and without spoiling the results for those of you watching at a big delay abroad (some of you have reported you’re watching the 2013 season at the moment!), this year my three favourites from the start were the three favourites in the final so it was a real joy to watch because I really just wanted to see them make amazing things and I didn’t mind who won! There was some amazing baking in that final episode, even though the descriptions of the challenges seemed too simple for the final at first – things like iced buns and classic British cakes just seemed like day one of pastry school when earlier weeks had challenged the bakers to such complicated tasks! But seeing how it all came together, it was indeed inspiring to see personal twists on things that home bakers could make rather than just fancy patisserie, and I’m sure that’s really what’s at the heart of a bake off.

I desperately wanted to do all three challenges for this final edition, but there was no such luxury in my schedule. Instead I have barely made the deadline with my one completed bake: the classic British cake challenge, but taken to the rules as much as possible, with plenty of layers and three separate cakes. I’ll save my plans for pumpkin iced buns and making the raspberry millefeuille technical gluten free for another day!

When the 2014 bake off started, I joined in this same blogging challenge and managed one measly post: a very messy rhubarb cake. Rhubarb is such a classic British flavour to me, rhubarb and custard even more so, and having rhubarb cake for the very first time is a delightful memory of my earliest days living in England, so it seemed perfectly framed for my take on the ‘classic British cake’ to be a rhubarb and custard layer cake.

gluten free rhubarb and custard layer cake - inspired by the great british bake off #gbbo @

I set myself two more challenges just for good measure: use at least one new skill I have learnt while baking along with the 2015 bake off and add at least one new skill for this specific project I’m happy to report I met both of those, and they both came in the frosting process. All three cakes are covered in French buttercream, something I had never made before the mokatine challenge, but now I am in love with it. It takes more time, more ingredients, and more washing up than plain old butter, icing sugar, and vanilla, but it also tastes like a dream and has the most beautiful texture. I am sold on French buttercream in a very big way. As for new skills: I tried two things I’ve never done before in icing this cake and they’ve both been on my ‘meaning to do’ list for literally years, so I am giddy to have given them a crack. First was the ombre colour styling with the bottom of each cake attempting to capture that rich red stripe you get in a beautiful stalk of rhubarb, fading up to a pale peachy pink at the top, more like the shade you get after you’ve stewed all the rhubarb in a saucepan until it falls apart. Second was something that came from another happy memory: buttercream roses. My grandmother could make beautiful buttercream roses in her sleep and I think I may have made them with her tutelage when I was a little girl but I’ve never tried them in my own kitchen. A little trial and error and substituting a coffee tamper because I have two of those but I don’t own a rose nail, and eventually I ended up with six passable roses to grace the trio of cakes and a little excitement that I could indeed make a flowery cake should the need ever arise.

Is it too much that one set of layer cakes could be some sort of emotional tribute to childhood afternoons in Grandma’s kitchen and a very British summer tea on the Brighton seaside? Forget emotional eating: this entire process was emotional baking for me, in the very best way.

(Also, I’m really happy that I stuck to blogging something for the whole of the challenge! I managed every week of the bake off this year, even if we were all allowed a little more time for the final and I’m still right down to the wire.)

gluten free rhubarb and custard layer cake - inspired by the great british bake off #gbbo @

The two larger cakes (one eight-inch and one six-inch) were both four layers of rhubarb cake, with as close as I could get to that original rhubarb cake of my memory within the confines of gluten free flours. But between each layer of cake there was also a rhubarb and vanilla jam and a custard-flavoured fresh cream. (Even this made sent me back to that childhood memory, where I was always a little in awe of how ‘torte-ing’ a cake was a verb, slicing cakes into layers and adding the beautiful contrast of filling. Rhubarb cake and rhubarb jam doesn’t have quite the same colour contrast, so I clearly didn’t think that memory through entirely!) The smallest cake was the size of a jumbo muffin but with straight sides, and had just two layers.

gluten free rhubarb and custard layer cake - inspired by the great british bake off #gbbo @

For the rhubarb cake, I made two batches to get all three cakes (plus a little left over for less formal sharing and snacking), so these amounts would make one reasonable but still big cake of about three eight-inch layers rather than enough cake to feed the entire neighbourhood. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and paper three eight-inch cake tins or the equivalent in another size or shape. Stew two stalks of rhubarb with 50g sugar and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, simmering until the rhubarb is soft but not entirely falling to pieces. Set aside. Start the actual cake with 225g unsalted butter and 350g sugar and beat in the mixer until really light and fluffy. Stir in four eggs, one at a time, then add the flours: 150g oat flour, 100g sorghum flour, 50g rice flour, 25g tapioca flour, plus two teaspoons of baking powder, 200ml milk, 2 tablespoons plain yoghurt, 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Mix all that until it’s nice and even then fold in the cooked rhubarb. Distribute the batter into the pans and bake at 180C until golden (with a hint of pink!) and a toothpick comes out clean – this was just shy of thirty minutes in my oven.

For the rhubarb vanilla jam, I stewed two stalks of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces, in a saucepan with 200g sugar, the seeds of one vanilla pod, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Just heat it until it simmers then leave it for what seems like ages, bubbling away on a low heat. The longer it simmers, the thicker it gets, so if they had to make it on the actual Bake Off, it would probably be a twenty minute job, but I let it go for about an hour and it was gloriously thick like a proper jam rather than a sauce. The other thing I’m not sure how they do on the show: cool it enough in time! The next time I make this, I will double the jam recipe so we can have it on mundane things like crumpets because there just needs to be more rhubarb jam in my life and basically anything that involves scraping a vanilla pod into the recipe is going to get a double thumbs up from me.

For the custard-flavoured whipped cream, I could have made actual custard. In fact, I want to try this another time in a tea cake and bake in a layer of classic custard made with a million egg yolks. But I couldn’t make it work with the weight of a layer cake, so instead I looked to that other classic way of making custard in Britain: Bird’s custard powder! Using the kind that comes in the bigger jar that you have to add sugar to (not the instant one in the sachet), I started with two tablespoons of custard powder, two tablespoons of sugar, and two tablespoons of whipping cream and mixed those three into a paste, then added the remainder of the whipping cream – a 250ml pot in total – and blitzed it with the electric whisk until it was thick and gorgeously fluffy. I might also double this recipe next time, because all three residents of this house declared we could eat this from a spoon. On second thought, maybe double this one isn’t really a safe move.

For the French buttercream, I followed this recipe, then divided the results into three bowls to get the gradient of pink to rhubarb red with gel food colouring. I actually did a crumb coat with just ‘normal’ buttercream because it suited the contents of my refrigerator, but I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be possible to crumb coat with the French buttercream, as long as you made plenty. I must admit I often skip the crumb coat step if I’m doing something with a texture like ruffles or stars on cake, but I think I will put my hand on my heart now and say I will always crumb coat a cake I want to have smooth sides. It made a huge difference. As this was my very first attempt at ombre, my cake looks nothing like the expert example, but this post was my starting point for tips. Maybe one day mine will look that pretty!

With the Quidditch cake and the Mokatines both convincing me it’s not possible to actual complete a bake off challenge in the time given to the bakers in the tent, I’m convinced this one was more effort (if possibly slightly less washing up) but it was an effort of the loveliest kind. Baking to a memory is something I’m really starting to enjoy, tweaking a recipe until it’s as close as possible to what I remember – which may or may not be accurate, of course. I found all sorts of things came back to me while making this cake, and I could sit here and discuss the weather on the day I ate that rhubarb cake and indeed the dress the waitress was wearing in the cafe (it was amazing and featured a flamingo, of all things). It brought back the magic of my gran making buttercream roses on the tip of my fingers for me to eat, a bit like Amelie eats raspberries. Scraping vanilla pods with the back of a spoon seems to flood my mind with more sensory memory than measuring out teaspoons from a bottle of extract, so perhaps this is the way forward with connecting a love of baking with all the memory keeping I ordinarily share in this space. However it all came together, this epic amount of rhubarb-infused everything is just the right place for this year’s bake off to come to an end in my kitchen. Until next year, then!

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ final bakes at participating blog, The Boy who Cooked.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

The semi-finals of the Great British Bake-Off have been and gone and taken at least a metric tonne of chocolate in their wake, along with one more baker. Three whole rounds of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate this week: a signature chocolate tart, a giant chocolate soufflé for the technical, and a chocolate sculpture showstopper that went a bit mad really! Flying high in my tiny kitchen thanks to patisserie success with a star baker nod, I desperately wanted a go at that chocolate showstopper, but alas my last two bakes have taken so much time that I really couldn’t bring myself to spend an entire beautiful sunshine-filled family weekend shoved in the kitchen, so the chocolate tart for me this week. But not without a little bit of extra something, because I am apparently incapable of leaving well enough alone. Consider it my tribute to the baker on the show who seems to have the same problem!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

Maybe it is the early Christmas paper crafting this year that has me thinking peppermint already or maybe it’s because someone asked me last week what I missed from America and I replied ‘Other than family and friends, probably Girl Scout cookies’. Anyway, chocolate and mint and an attempt to remember the finer nuances of the Girl Scout Thin Mint were on the agenda. Side note: I was definitely respectable at selling Girl Scout cookies as a small child, and once had someone order thirty-two boxes of Thin Mints all in one go. I have no idea if that was a year supply or her Christmas shopping for everyone else or something else creative. I just said thank you a lot and left with a big smile on my face. Second side note: Girl Scout cookies have come up in conversation a great many times since I moved to the UK. It is a surprisingly high number of people who assume the cookies are actually made by the Girl Scouts, leading many to confusion over why something would be so universally lauded when it would be like any bake sale, and completely a cookie roulette as to whether your local scouts were talented bakers or far from it. Alas, they are made in a factory and the scouting part is the selling and delivering. I know your life is richer for knowing that, yes?

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

For the chocolate pastry crust, I actually started with the same cookie base I used last week, but halved in size, and added extra butter, cocoa powder, and icing sugar to make it more a buttery and crumbly chocolate pastry rather than a cookie. Have to say this is a spot where I can see they are just cutting corners to make drama on the show – I have never met a chocolate pastry that wasn’t improved by a few hours chilling in the fridge. Taking that extra time away, the bakers end up with a sticky and unpredictable mess.

For the chocolate pastry, combine half of this cookie dough recipe with an extra 50g butter, 20g cocoa, 50g icing sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract.

Butter a tart tin and line the bottom with parchment. Roll out the pastry and press into the tin. Pierce several times with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes at 180C. When out of the oven, press into the pan with the back of a spoon or a pastry tamper.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

Then there are two chocolate fillings: a rich, set chocolate mint ganache and a shiny, lighter chocolate mirror glaze. The mint ganache definitely puts this into Thin Mint territory for me. To make it look the part for a Christmas party, I tried making peppermint meringues to mimic peppermint candies, which were easy enough if you have a pretty liberal definition of ‘mimic’!

For the chocolate mint ganache, heat 350ml double cream in a saucepan until it just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add 450g dark chocolate, broken into pieces. Let it just sit in the pan for about two minutes, then stir slowly to mix. Stir in 70g unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Pour into the pastry crust and chill in the fridge.

For the chocolate glaze, I followed this tutorial, with 4 sheets plain gelatine, 125 ml water, 225g sugar, 150g dark chocolate, 30g sifted cocoa, and 65ml double cream. I would suggest going as dark with the chocolate as you can – I made it with 60% chocolate and it is very, very sweet. There isn’t a great deal of it in a single serving, so that might be okay as a contrast to the richness of the ganache, but I think if I was using these steps again, I’d be tempted to go for the 85% chocolate instead. Pour over the cold tart once the ganache has set, and put it back in the fridge to set again.

For the meringues, I tried dried egg white powder for the first time. I used four sachets, which is equivalent to four egg whites, and mixed to the instructions on the packet, which is basically six teaspoons of warm water per sachet, gradually mixed. Then whisked with the mixer with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until soft peaks formed, then gradually added 300g sugar while it continued to whisk away, eventually turning into pillows of white meringue. Meringue takes on flavour extracts to an extreme so it only took the tiniest few drops of peppermint to make a very minty meringue. The red is a gel food colouring drawn inside the piping bag in a few lines, then fill the piping bag with the meringue and pipe circles onto baking parchment and dry them out in the oven on low heat. These small meringues took about 45 minutes at 100C, and kept their white colour. Too high a heat will turn it yellow!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Peppermint Tart - Inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

These amounts actually made a bit too much ganache and glaze and a heap too much meringue, so we also had enough for three little layered chocolate pots, with the remaining double cream mixed up for a vanilla whipped cream to balance all that chocolate and peppermint!

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ bakes this week at participating blog, Baking Queen 74.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Mokatines, or The Day I Used Every Single Bowl I Own on One Recipe

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

After last week’s Quidditch Cake, this week’s bake off brings such excitement! The Quidditch Cake won the honour of Star Baker and Tesco sent me a £20 gift card toward this week’s bake: patisserie week! I’ve often heard it mentioned in terms of hunting or farming or something that if you want to eat meat, you should be comfortable killing your dinner. I don’t eat meat so that entire concept just makes me queasy really. But I’m all about adopting this idea as a new motto when it comes to patisserie. I will make patisserie bakes once a year just to go through the magnitude of the entire dish to then have full respect every time I go into a diabetic coma while looking at a glass cabinet of fancy pastries. (Maison Bertaux, I am looking at you.) This bake required more dishes than I actually own, to the point that I had to wash my mixing bowl three times in the middle of all this, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Patisserie week was the quarter final and filled with three time-consuming challenges in the tent: a signature challenge of two kinds of cream horns, a technical challenge called mokatines, and a showstopper that involved eclairs stood on their ends and layered until they resembled either a nun or a dalek. Seriously. I nearly went for the nun/dalek option, because every year I watch patisserie week and note scornfully that I have never actually made ‘creme pat’ as they are so fond of saying, and surely I should learn to do this. But I couldn’t get over the fact that the nun that remained standing was coating in so much molten-sugar-glue that it just didn’t seem like it would be fun to actually eat. And that technical challenge was mocha flavoured. Coffee and chocolate and cake IN THE SAME BITE. I should never have doubted that this was the way forward. After trying to follow Mary Berry’s recipe for the technical last week and deciding she was a bit out of her tree with the estimation of preparation, I thought I’d take her recipe as more of a starting point and make it my own this week. Well, my own, with a big helping of inspiration from Flavourtown. London has a lot of cupcake bakeries and I have tried pretty much all of them. The only one I love without question is Flavourtown. Giving up my nigh-on weekly treat of a Flavourtown cupcake has been very sad and I have stood there on multiple occasions asking myself if maybe I wouldn’t mind a few days of hives for the glory of that cupcake. (Oh how I hope this is a temporary sensitivity I can grow out of, because I think I might need to just wear long sleeves and a ski mask if it’s going to go on forever. My will power is wearing thin.) They have flavours I dream about, and one of my absolute favourites was a cupcake that combined an Oreo cake with a chocolate ganache centre, and a coffee buttercream. Completely over the top. Completely amazing. Surely I could take that idea and apply it to those dainty little Mary Berry Mokatines? This was the plan, at any rate.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

This is a complicated plan when it requires gluten-free Oreos, basically, which is not a thing we have here. Google tells me they exist in some part of the world, but not here. I read a few recipes and most of them depended on that lovely replacement potato starch, which I can’t eat either. I guessed at some flours I had and came up with a rough draft of my own Oreo recipe. It just seemed to take a million ingredients, and I hadn’t really started with the actual mokatines yet. Oh well.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

These were made with 75g sorghum flour, 95g tapioca flour, 45g corn flour, 50g cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 190g sugar, and a pinch of salt stirred in the mixing bowl, then 115g butter, 1 egg, and 2 tablespoons of cream added and mixed until it came together like a pastry dough, then wrapped in cling film and chilled for a few hours.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Then rolled out and chopped with a cookie cutter and baked for ten minutes at 180C, and moved to a wire rack to cool.

I think I may tweak this recipe over time. Straight out of the oven, they taste a little too much of the tapioca and I’d like the cocoa flavour to be more overwhelming like a real Oreo. The next day, they were a bit softer than an Oreo too, rather than crispy. But they aren’t greasy like a real Oreo, which I presume is because these are made with butter and Oreos are made with shortening… and I think I’m okay with having just the flavour and not the grease! I’m liking these, but I think they can be made perfect with a few tiny changes.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Then time for the genoise sponge to get the actual mokatines started. This takes far fewer ingredients than the chocolate cookies! I liked that this week’s episode let us know a bit about how their technical instructions are written, and apparently it just said ‘make a genoise sponge’. I think I might have given up right then. I wish they would publish the recipe as they give it to the bakers and then also post the full version. It seems they do neither really, as the whole point of a genoise sponge (as they told us several times in the narration of the episode) is that there is no chemical raising agent – no baking powder or the like – it all has to come from the whipping of the eggs. Then I pull up the recipe on the BBC website and it lists self-raising flour as an ingredient. Well, that’s not exactly right then, is it?

I used 40g butter, 3 eggs, 75g sugar, 35g sorghum flour, 20g tapioca flour, and a tablespoon of cornflour, basically following the Mary Berry recipe but no self-raising flours involved. Much egg whipping involved. Many bowls involved. And following my belief that YouTube can provide instructions for pretty much anything, I followed this video for tips…

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

And it worked!

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

What I didn’t have was the specified seven inch square tin, so I used an eight inch round tin, and a pastry cutter to make round cakes. I considered buying a new tin, but the cupboard with the baking tins is already one where you have to kind of push it all into place and let go at the very last second as you latch the door closed. I really shouldn’t buy a new tin for my once-a-year dip into patisserie, I suppose.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Time to make the first of three frostings that make this all come together. I suppose I have only myself to blame, because Mary Berry doesn’t use chocolate ganache. She uses a combination of apricot jam and fondant. The woman is obsessed with apricot jam, from what I can tell. It’s her version of edible glue, and it is in so many recipes. But I don’t actually like the taste of apricot jam. Nor the taste of fondant really. But you know what looks great on the top of a cake AND has the adhesive qualities of apricot jam? Chocolate ganache. There is no room in my life for apricot jam where there could be chocolate ganache.

100g of double cream, 100g of 85% dark chocolate, and 100g of 40% milk chocolate melted together made a pretty good amount for these cakes, and into the fridge it went for more bowls and more frosting.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

I tried to follow Mary Berry’s recipe for the coffee buttercream. In fact, I followed it twice. One of these bowls is the second attempt at that recipe and the other is a coffee buttercream I’ve made so many times I could make it in my sleep. I couldn’t get the instant coffee to dissolve in the butter no matter what, and it just came out a terrible mess and went in the bin. Yet another reason I would have been kicked out of the tent by this point. But making a buttercream with butter, icing sugar, vanilla, milk, and a tiny bit of concentrated espresso? That worked, and I can say with experience that it tastes very nice on a homemade Oreo.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

This post is getting ridiculously long, much like the process of making these tiny cakes. Suffice to say the crème beurre au moka, or coffee-flavoured French buttercream, basically, is really really good. Once again, YouTube delivered all the secrets I needed.

So that is three bowls of different frostings plus a bowl of crushed faux Oreos, ready to turn that light little sponge into something completely and totally over the top.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Delicate sponge rounds cut into layers! Centres piped with delicate coffee buttercream!

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Then came the part where they ceased being delicate in any fashion because they were coated in ganache and rolled in cookie crumbs.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

Delicate is overrated.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

French buttercream piped around the edges, and they are finally complete!

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

It took two days and every bowl I own to make eight tiny cakes. Once a year is enough for patisserie week, I think.

Gluten-Free Oreo Mokatines inspired by the Great British Bake Off @

But it won’t take two days for them to disappear. Cookies and coffee cream and chocolate and cake. It’s all my food dreams in one. Happy (yet dangerous!) times.

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ bakes this week at participating blog, Bluebird Sunshine. Special thanks this week to Tesco, who sent me a gift card, and have a big section of baking recipes on their RealFood site.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Quidditch Cake, or How the Bake Off is for Muggles

Gluten-Free Victorian Quidditch Cake - inspired by Bake Off Tennis Cake @

The seventh week of this year’s Great British Bake Off and we’ve all gone back in time to Victorian Week, apparently. Because everyone is just super excited to enter the tent and find all the power-boost ovens and pastel Kitchenaid mixers replaced by ovens with fire and an old wooden spoon. Okay, they didn’t go quite that far, but there was an antique pie tin! There was also a signature challenge of a game pie (no thank you) and a showstopper that sounds amazing but requires five and a half hours of bake off time, which translates to five and a half years of normal kitchen time, leaving the technical challenge: Victorian Tennis Cake.

Nope, I’d never heard of it either.

I haven’t attempted a technical challenge yet, so off I went with Mary Berry’s recipe, which has an ingredient list so long I could take a photo of it pre-cooking because not only could I not get it all in the shot at once, I couldn’t get it all on my kitchen counter at once. It takes basically all the things no one buys in the grocery store (like glycerin and liquid glucose) plus a farm worth of eggs and a wheelbarrow of sugar and an orchard of fruit. At first I thought if this is roughly authentic to a Victorian recipe, surely it must have been the reserve of the esteemed upper class or something, then I noticed Mary’s timing requirements. She reckons you can prep this cake in thirty minutes, cook it for two hours, and then be done. I can assure you Mary Berry is not a muggle and just guessed at how long it would take a muggle to make this in a muggle kitchen and her guess is not accurate in any way. Therefore, there was no other way forward but to embrace the real Victorian roots of this cake, and shun all things tennis in favour of the far more obvious choice: Quidditch.

Gluten-Free Victorian Quidditch Cake - inspired by Bake Off Tennis Cake @

Should you wish to make this cake, I assure you the rest of Berry’s Muggle instructions work perfectly well. It took me closer to an hour just to chop all the fruit and nuts for a cake that is essentially fruit held together by some flour and egg rather than cake dotted with some fruit. I imagine Mary has quicker ways for this than such simple tools as a chef’s knife and a chopping board.

I changed out her self-raising flour for something I could eat without losing my own magic powers, and subbed 100g oat flour, 100g sorghum flour, 50g rice flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder for her 250g self-raising flour.

Gluten-Free Victorian Quidditch Cake - inspired by Bake Off Tennis Cake @

I made both the marzipan and the fondant. I’d never made marzipan and had no idea it was made with raw egg, but this explains why I could eat it in the same way as cookie dough. Be impressed there is still some left on the cake, frankly. It’s also dangerous knowledge that it was ridiculously easy to make. Hilariously, the recipe calls for the marzipan to be made with that well-known Victorian kitchen gadget, the silicon baking sheet. I used a spatula and it was fine, I swear.

Fondant I had made once before, for a three tier Christmas cake last year that I hoped would look like something out of a magazine and unfortunately I didn’t specify in my hopes that the magazine not be entitled ‘Play-Doh Creations by Toddlers’. This time, the fondant was a huge success and smooth and even! Take that, Tiny Muggle Kitchen!

Then the decoration was royal icing, which I don’t think I’ve made since I whipped up one of these amazing creations for the Johnson County Fair in the summer of 1989. MORE EGGS. Seriously, Mary Berry is keeping chickens in that bake off tent. (Or dare we think there is some sort of chicken animagus possibility?) Anyway, having gone this far with the recipe without resulting to any sort of cheating magic, I embraced the full Muggle experience of piping placing the goal hoops while balancing a curious child with one hand, so they are wonky but not as wonky as some of those tennis courts on this week’s episode. Random trivia: Quidditch hoops became a regulation size during the Victorian Era. Mine may not be to scale.

Gluten-Free Victorian Quidditch Cake - inspired by Bake Off Tennis Cake @

I’ve sent the Quidditch cake off to the city today but made this tiny loaf with a bit of the mix so I could still try it and have a verdict. It works as gluten-free, though it needs a fork! It was strange to make an entire cake without vanilla extract in anything. And also… in a country that celebrates fruitcake, I’m a little confused at the idea of fruitcake without booze. Not that it’s not a nice cake without it, just that the two seem to go together here on so many occasions that it is almost a little unfinished without. This could definitely work for a wedding or Christmas cake with the sheer amount of fruit. But most definitely Mary Berry is completely out of her tree on the timings. Plan for an entire weekend unless you have earned Exceeds Expectations in Potions, I’m telling you.

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ bakes this week at participating blog, An Organised Mess.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Gluten-Free Frangipane with Figs, Pears, and Ginger

Gluten-Free Frangipane with Figs, Pears, and Ginger - inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

This week’s bake off baking went a bit differently in our kitchen. I went through my usual phase of reading eleventy million recipes before coming up with my happy medium somewhere in the middle, with notes on the back of an envelope, because it’s not like I have a single sheet of useable paper in this house. Made a shopping list. Then we went out for one of those family Sundays wherein you try to take part in as many free local events as physically possible (classic boat display with jazz band, Discover Viet Nam festival with children’s crafts and water puppetry, harvest festival at a royal orchard, and still home by 3!) and The Boy volunteered to go get the items on the shopping list while I took a very sleepy Wonder Boy home. Excellent! And then after dinner, The Boy volunteered to prep my pastry. Even better! And after that, he just kept emerging from the kitchen to ask what was next, until he had made the entire dish.

Is this what head chefs do? Shout the recipe out to the next room, then get to eat the first slice without having to actually slave over the hot oven or clean everything up? Because I now see that is a pretty awesome set up. I tip my hat to you all. And to The Boy, because I say without any doubt that this dish was nothing short of epic and the pastry had the perfect finish on the bottom. I’m not even saying that just because he managed to do all of this and leave the kitchen cleaner than he found it. This was just way better than it would have been if I made it.

The trick to the balanced flavour is the layers, I think. The fruit on the top is glazed and sweet (well, sweet for fresh figs, not like candy or anything), the frangipane is like amaretto without the sharpness, and the ginger layer gives it some heat to keep things interesting. I’m so glad they featured this on pastry week this season as it’s never something I would have planned to bake otherwise. Or planned to have someone else bake, for that matter.

Gluten-Free Frangipane with Figs, Pears, and Ginger - inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

For the pastry:
50g finely ground almonds
40g oat flour
60g rice flour
45g sorghum flour
40g sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
70g unsalted butter – cold, and chopped into small pieces

For the ginger glaze:
100g fresh ginger
25g sugar
25ml water

For the filling:
50g unsalted butter
70g sugar
3 eggs
80g finely ground almonds
30g oat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 fresh figs
1 pear
Honey and maple syrup – roughly a tablespoon each

For the whipped cream:
150ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gluten-Free Frangipane with Figs, Pears, and Ginger - inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

Preheat oven to 180C. Prep tart pan with parchment paper in the bottom and butter on the edges.

To make the crust, mix all the dry ingredients in a blender or food processor, then add the butter and pulse until it forms a dough. Press into the prepped tart pan, covering the bottom and all four sides. Use a fork to perf the base every few inches. Bake at 180C for 10-14 minutes, until golden brown. We didn’t bake with weights, but did press the crust with the back of a spoon as soon as it came out of the oven to mould it to the shape of the pan a bit better.

To make the ginger glaze, peel the ginger and chop into fine slices. Simmer with the sugar and water until the ginger is soft and the water starts to become a syrup, either in a saucepan or in the microwave. Place on top of the pastry, so the end result will have a thin layer of sweet ginger between the pastry and the frangipane.

To make the frangipane filling, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the dry ingredients (almonds, oat flour, baking powder, ground ginger) and mix until well incorporated. The batter will be thicker than a sponge cake but more liquid than cookie dough. Spoon into the pastry case and even out to fill.

Slice the figs into thin rounds with the skin intact. Peel and slice the pear into even segments. Arrange the fruit on top of batter in the pastry case.

Cover the exposed pastry with a strip of aluminium foil, and bake at 180C for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the fruit is all cooked.

Once out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack and brush on a glaze of equal parts honey and maple syrup.

Gluten-Free Frangipane with Figs, Pears, and Ginger - inspired by the Bake Off #gbbo @

We served with ginger whipped cream, which is the only part I actually made with my own two hands this week. Whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and ground ginger simply whisked until thick and fluffy!

Now you just need to find someone to volunteer to do all the shopping, baking, and cleaning, and you are set!

As always, if you’ve come to this recipe because it’s free of one thing or another, please know your own tolerances and read your labels.

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ breads this week at participating blog, Nobody Said It Was Easy.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Apple Raspberry Honey Cake, inspired by the Bake Off

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @

Week five of this year’s Bake Off brought a new theme they hadn’t challenged the bakers with in previous years – alternative ingredients. This episode featured signature challenge of a sugar-free cake, a technical of making gluten-free pita (pitta?) bread, and a showstopper involving dairy-free ice cream, and a few stunners and a lot of things going wrong. Great, that just sounds brilliant for baking along, especially after last week.

I’m sure the gluten-free technical is probably what I should learn to do but honestly I don’t miss pita or pitta bread, and it seemed an absolute nightmare to make, so perhaps something less likely to end in another disaster would be useful. I opted for the sugar-free cake and followed the rules of the show, but honestly, I’m not entirely sure how useful this challenge could really be. It seems like the idea of removing gluten or dairy would be to show you could still make something amazing with a diet that restricts those items, but the sugar-free challenge was just to use something other than table sugar. Honey, agave, various syrups and fruits were all fine, so it’s hardly like you could call this the cake to eat if you were diabetic. I think I had a revelation about why they included this challenge once my cake was out of the oven.

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @
This week, I started with less of a plan, so the ingredient photo isn’t particularly accurate. The challenge didn’t require the cake to be gluten-free, but I wanted to eat it, so I ended up working with both restraints. This is what I put on the counter to start and see what I could cobble together! It wasn’t all that far from the real list in the end:

for the cake
2 apples (3 if they are tiny)
handful of raspberries
150g + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
140g honey
85g oat flour
60g sorghum flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 ml (1/4 cup) milk

for the frosting
200ml double cream
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @
Preheat the oven to 160C. Peel the apples and reserve the peelings for the decoration. Chop into bite-size pieces. Place in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Top with the spare tablespoon of butter. Cook on a low heat, stirring now and then to make sure nothing sticks to the pan while the apples soften.

That seemed straight forward enough, but I wondered if honey and butter would eventually get to a fluffy texture similar to normal sugar and butter? So while the apples cooked, in went the rest of the butter and the honey into the mixer for a good five minutes of whizzing round and eventually it was less syrupy and more fluffy. Hurrah.

From there, I stirred in the egg yolks and vanilla, then the flours, baking powder, salt, and milk, until it was all nice and even, but quite thick. One of the big criticisms of plenty of the sugar-free bakes on the show was that it was all too dense and heavy (or ‘close textured’, as they are so in love with saying!) so I hoped the old trick of egg whites could help in some way. But right about this time, the apples were definitely cooked through. I added the raspberries for the last few minutes so that would all caramelise and hopefully bring some depth to the sweetness that wouldn’t just be some sort of injection of honey. (I kept three raspberries back for the top of the cake.)

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @

Egg whites whisked to soft peaks (egg whites and whipped cream are the entire reason I kept my hand mixer after upgrading to a standing one!) and then folded into batter as gently as possible to keep all that air, and then the apples and raspberries folded in as well, and that seemed to be everything.

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @

Into a greased cake tin and into the oven – mine took 40 minutes at 160C for a skewer to come out clean. This is where I discovered what I think was the reason they added sugar-free challenge. I’m convinced it was less about dietary concerns and more about the complexity of baking with something else, because the texture of this cake is so soft. Not at all dry, not grainy, just soft and a bit delicate. But not thinking about that at all, I tipped it out onto a wire rack like I would with any old sponge cake and oh goodness, the cracks. It wasn’t that it wasn’t holding together – it was just a softer texture and it needed more care to stay completely intact. I would let it cool in the tin next time.

And while that was cooling, I made honey whipped cream, which is literally just cream, honey, and some vanilla whisked until thick. Almost all of them made mascarpone or cream cheese frostings, but they would be quite heavy for this cake I think. Whipped cream is light and works well with honey, but probably far too simple for the likes of Bake Off really!

gluten-free apple raspberry honey cake #gbbo @
I might have gone a bit Pinterest here… a rose from an apple peel! I just had to give that a try. It reminds me of making fabric roses for scrapbook pages and it is literally just apple peel, round and round in a loop, and stuck into the whipped cream.

The verdict was this was a recipe worth keeping in our house, and that’s always nice! And the whipped egg whites did seem to keep the fruit from all falling to the bottom! Hurrah. As always, if you’ve come to this recipe because it’s free of one thing or another, please know your own tolerances and read your labels – I am no expert and am just having fun baking for our family and our assorted minor ailments.

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ breads this week at participating blog, Hijacked by Twins.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Baileys Crème Brûlée... a tale of disaster before victory

baileys crème brûlée #gbbo @

Four weeks into the Great British Bake Off and we’re presented with Dessert Week: the first round challenge to put a signature spin on crème brûlée, a technical challenge of the meringue madness that is apparently Spanish Windtorte, and a showstopper challenge of cheesecake, cheesecake, and more cheesecake. Crème brûlée came at an apt time on the calendar, because The Boy and I have a habit of making family announcements over crème brûlée, like when were at a big fancy Christmas meal with all of his family, only for the dessert to come out with a positively terrible crème brûlée that left everyone with nothing else to say, so we decided it was as a good of time as any to tell them we were getting married. It seemed so perfect to make crème brûlée for our seventh anniversary this weekend. I may have missed out a bit of logic though: that announcement and the ensuing long-standing joke all came from a truly terrible creme brûlée. Ahem.

I also decided this week I would save time by just following a recipe for once. I haven’t made this dish from scratch before, so it didn’t seem the right sort of thing to do lots of experimenting to come up with my own signature version. Just pick one that seems like it should be legit, and go. When big companies publish recipes on pages that look all beautiful and well-branded, surely the recipe would be pretty trust-worthy, right? Ahem. Baileys, I am looking at you and your beautiful and well-branded recipe page.

baileys crème brûlée #gbbo @

According to their recipe – presented in both written and video formats – the recipe made six servings and required 4 eggs (1 whole + 3 yolks), 300ml each of single and double cream, vanilla, Baileys, and a mere 750g of sugar. I went ahead and measured out the 750g of sugar for this photo at the start, just so we could all have a laugh at how you could make this recipe but would need to call ahead to your dentist before preheating the oven to the denoted 160C. Double checked to make sure the 750g was indeed the same in both the printed recipe and the video. Yep. And double checked the 750g was all to go into the custard and not a total measurement including the caramel topping too. No, that was listed separately. And double checked we were definitely talking Celsius and not Fahrenheit, since the 160 seemed high after watching the Bake Off episode. Yep, definitely 160C. Oven heating, cream and vanilla warming in a saucepan, eggs and sugar whisking in a bowl, and so on.

It made so, so much custard. I put the regular ramekins away and pulled out six juice tumblers. I thought maybe the people at Baileys Canada just really loved this and thought the portion size should be massive. Except even when I had filled six juice tumblers, I still had enough to fill five regular ramekins too. Oh well, dessert for all!

Into a roasting tin, tumblers and ramekins sitting in boiling water, and into the oven… and a few minutes later, this happened:

baileys crème brûlée #gbbo @

We both sat there staring at this mess, wishing we had something to announce over our very own truly terrible crème brûlée. The only thing we could think of announcing was ‘thank goodness we are going out for dinner tomorrow’!

We pulled up a few more classic crème brûlée recipes. We went to the shops for more cream. We managed to whip up a simple three serving success with significantly less sugar, and have come to the conclusion that the 0 on the end of 750 grams of sugar has appeared from absolute imagination, as 75g would have been enough to make it super sweet. C’est la vie: at least it didn’t use up the entire bottle of Baileys?

Now I have a much better understanding for why the signature challenge seemed to truly be a challenge to many of the Bake Off participants this week! At least we managed to have something nice in the end… now excuse me while I clean up this nightmare of a kitchen mess.

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ breads this week at participating blog, Utterly Scrummy.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.

Gluten-Free Coca-Cola Soda Bread - inspired by the Bake Off

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

Let’s just say this week there is no way I could have coped with Paul and Mary’s tough timings in the bake-off tent. I finished my bread in a flash actually, but right around midday on Monday, plenty of panic bells started going off around here and it’s only now on Friday that I can come back and actually post this and some other fun crafty stuff too. Hurrah for a day that seems much better from the outset, may we all cross our fingers that everyone stays well and safe and happy and let’s talk about fun things now!

Week three of the bake off focused on bread, with a new category of ‘quick breads’ for the signature challenge, classic baguettes for the technical, and bread sculptures for the showstopper round. The showstoppers included an amazing cornucopia that went right past the the producers and much of the audience, I think, as it seemed to be based in a North American Thanksgiving idea, and it was truly the sort of thing Norman Rockwell would have painted with a family around the table. Well, I appreciated it at any rate! But it wasn’t the only thing I found interesting in a lost-in-no-translation sort of way: quick bread has a totally different definition on the bake off than what I grew up knowing. Ask this girl who baked 4-H projects for the county fair about ‘quick breads’ and I’m thinking banana bread, zucchini (courgette!) bread, pumpkin loaf, and poppy seed bread most likely. It’s a cake really… it’s just baked in a loaf tin and tends to have something vaguely healthier than chocolate somewhere in the ingredient list. Were I to bake one of those in bread week, I would have been laughed out of the tent, regardless of cherished purple ribbons of my youth! They meant things more like bread than cake but without yeast. Soda bread seemed to be the thing of the day.

Our local bakery does a lovely soda bread on special occasions (I’ve never figured out the actual special occasions, but it only appears on the menu now and then) that is dense and sweet with a maple edge to it, though definitely still like bread more than cake, and topped with oats and seeds. They have an open kitchen and I’ve never seen bonkers ingredients like cola going into their bread dough, so I’m sure the maple flavour comes by way of things like actual maple syrup, but all the watching and inward amazement of these two lands separated by a common language made me leap to something else that is a pretty American phenomenon, but I see it often now by way of Pinterest and Facebook. It’s the ‘Two Ingredient’ recipe, where a headline claims you can make a cake or something else by just ‘two ingredients’ but when you look at the ingredients, they are a can of soda and a cake mix, or a pre made meal and a tin of soup, or some other shortcut that yes, involves tipping just two items into a single bowl, but in fact probably has eleventy ingredients in the final concoction.

That amazingly scattered train of thought left me wondering: could I make soda bread from Coca-Cola? (And yeah, in order to try it without getting hives, it’s gluten-free. More oat flour. My world is oat flour, I tell you. I’ve ordered something new to try next week before I bore the world and my family to tears with my oat flour.)

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

There are actually more than two ingredients, but relatively few at least!
200g oat flour + extra to dust the outside and any surfaces
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
150 ml Coca-Cola (I’m guessing it needs to be the real sugar stuff and wouldn’t work with Diet Coke, but I could be wrong)
pinch of salt
1 egg
8g chia seeds (that’s how much is in one of those Chia Shot packets, anyway. You could use other seeds.)
10g oats

This makes one small free-form loaf.

As always, if you’re making this recipe due to food sensitivities, know your specific reactions and read your labels.

Preheat the oven to 190C and cover a baking tray with parchment.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, along with roughly half the chia seeds (4g) and oats (5g), and stir through until it’s all mixed. Add the egg and mix on low speed until you have an even but very dense dough.

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

Then add the Coke! Excuse this picture as it’s not the best, but the bubbly reaction is pretty quick! These bubbles will get the air into this loaf and make it rise, so work quickly to get from this stage to in the oven. Stir through until the cola is incorporated and you should shave a dense and sticky bread dough. If it’s exceptionally wet, add more flour at this stage.

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

Form the dough into a ball with your hands and dust with the extra flour. Add the remaining oats and seeds to the top of the loaf, and score an X in the top. Place on the parchment-covered baking tray and bake! Mine took about 35 minutes.

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

I added a pyrex pie plate of water in the bottom of the oven to see if it would produce a crispier bread crust, since they talked about this so much in the episode. Well, the crust of the bread was lovely but I’ve no idea if it was the steam that did it!

gluten-free coca-cola soda bread #gbbo @

I would never be brave enough to bake this on something like the actual Bake-Off, but I also would never have the nerve to apply for the show as I’m not nearly well-rounded enough! It was a fun experiment though and the results were definitely edible: it’s particularly nice hot with butter. It is sweet but more like a bread than a cake, so the sort of thing that seems like a breakfast treat along the same lines as a sweet danish. What it doesn’t have is staying power. Straight out of the oven, it has a caramel flavour that is relatively subtle though sweet. The seeds and oats keep it from being completely over the top. But by evening of the same day, it tastes undoubtedly like Coca-Cola. The texture also goes a bit too gummy with that added time, and I’m sure that’s down to the oddball ingredients of the cola continuing to react with the flour. On the positive though, it is pretty quick to make and bake, so even as a breakfast food it wouldn’t need to be baked the night before necessarily.

Next week, it’s desserts, and I hear someone has made cheesecakes flavoured like sodas?! Well maybe this experiment wasn’t that far removed from the tent after all!

Great Bloggers Bake Off is organised by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. See more bloggers’ breads this week at participating blog, Jo’s Kitchen.
Please no spoilers from the actual show in the comments, for those who watch later than the original broadcast! Thanks.