Monday, 6 October 2014

Rose Cake

As much as I enjoyed making sugar models for my previous two birthday cakes (1 & 2), I wanted to take a break from modelling (it does get pretty intense consuming your life!). And try my hand at something else in the cake decorating world.

I’ve not worked with buttercream decorations much before. With my friend Nichola’s 30th birthday coming up, I fancied having a go at decorating a cake with buttercream roses. I’ve seen these a lot online but didn’t know how to make them. With a bit of research, I discovered that it wasn’t so much a technique but more of an essential piece of equipment! This being a Wilton 1M or Wilton 2D piping tip. So I ordered both and looked forward to making my own buttercream rosettes!

Image taken from Wilton 

As well as purchasing the Wilton piping tips, I got myself a cake decorating turntable. I’ve always wanted to get one and it is the best help!

I started off making my Triple layer chocolate cake with caramel icing. I then gave my cake a ‘crumb coat’ with Vanilla buttercream. This was the first time I’ve covered a  cake as I normally leave them ‘naked’. Not perfectly smooth but I was happy with my first try.

The crumb coat is essential for ensuring that there are no cake crumbs showing when you pipe your buttercream decorations on. It also gives a good surface for the buttercream to stick too. And as I found out, it means you can easily scrape off any buttercream decoration that you’re unhappy with, without taking off any of the cake.

I chilled this for half an hour to help it set. Next time, I’ll go over the crumb coat again after chilling with a hot pallete knife to get it smoother.


I ended up with 6 cupcakes from leftover cake batter. I used these to practice piping buttercream roses.
I planned to have a red swirl effect rose on my cake. I wanted the roses to go with the ‘30’ candles, which were a white colour with red outline. But due to mis-planning of the amount of buttercream needed to cover a three-tiered cake in roses (you need a lot!) - combined with removing roses and starting again several times (I'm a perfectionist!) – I ended up with a peachy pink due to the red food colouring mixing completely with the buttercream. Which ended up being a very pleasant colour!

Anyways, you achieve a coloured swirl by painting lines of food colouring down your piping bag. Add buttercream and pipe as normal.

Gel food colouring is the best and I recommend Squires or Wilton brands. Gel tends to be better than liquid food colouring because you need a lot less, so it achieves a better colour, without affecting the taste or texture of what you are colouring. I have used Squires gel food colouring to colour flower paste for my models/cake toppers. And I used Wilton gel food colouring to colour this buttercream.


It took a bit of practice but once you’ve got the knack - it’s fairly quick and a breeze to pipe buttercream rosettes!



I was pleased with the finished product as it makes for a ‘Wow’ celebration cake without too much work. Nichola and friends were impressed with the cake :-)


I don’t normally pair vanilla buttercream with chocolate cake but found it worked well here. I would use this combo again.




My mother-in-law Sandra has been making and decorating cakes for a long time. You can check out her creations on her FB page here. Anyways, she asked me to show her how to pipe buttercream roses, as she’d never done it before. So, I took round my piping tips and we had a go using cream cheese icing and purple food colouring. The icing was a bit wetter and looser than buttercream so didn’t pipe or set as well. But we managed to get some roses out of it. It was great getting to teach her something new!


Since making this cake, I’ve been looking at other ways of decorating with buttercream. There are a few new techniques that I want to try and I’ve already ordered the Wilton piping tips needed. So, watch this space for hopefully more prettily decorated cakes with buttercream.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Cake decorating: Ron’s 60th

Shortly after making my cousin Carine’s surprise birthday cake, I was honoured and excited to be asked to make the figures for my father-in-law’s birthday cake. My mother-in-law Sandra requested a duck hunting theme and gave me some ideas to work with.

Sandra made the vanilla sponge cake, covered it with chocolate flavoured roll icing and made the bushes. I spent about a week and a half making the different components for the figures. I made Ron (in his Barbour jacket he goes hunting in) with his double barrelled shotgun, his black Labrador Jet and three wild ducks (two ‘in the bag’ and one ‘that got away’).

I am really pleased and chuffed with my second go at modelling. I found I made a lot of improvement since my first attempt on Carine’s cake. I can only keep practicing and getting better! Sandra was over the moon with the finished cake. Ron with the rest of the family were also impressed and delighted! :-D



Read on if you're interested in the process of making this cake figures/toppers...

Like with my first cake decorating attempt, I searched online a lot for tutorials and images of similar cakes/figures that I wanted to create.

I started off by making the ducks first. I thought in terms of scale, it would make sense to make the smallest things first then I would know how big the next things would be. So, ducks first, dog second, and man last.

I found a lot of duck hunting themed cakes but the ducks were mainly sitting on a pond.  Sandra had wanting flying ducks originally so I tried to create my own from pictures of real flying ducks. I tend to do best when I copy of something but in this instance had to make it up myself!

I came across some fondant dogs holding ducks in their mouths and liked that idea. I then decided to have Ron holding a dead duck too. I liked the look of mallard drakes for their multi-colouring. Even though it would have been simpler to make the duller coloured females!

The first duck I made (furthest right below pic) was a tad big, so I scaled down and made a few others until I was happy with the size. It made for good practice.



Next, I tackled the challenge of making a dog. I looked up tutorials and pictures of fondant dogs online but a lot of what I came across looked very cartoonish. I wanted something with a bit more detail and realism. I eventually came across this Renshaw how to make a fondant dog tutorial and loved the look of their work.

The first dog I made was far too large (I see a theme starting to run here!). Ron would have ended up being monstrously big. So I made another one which was smaller. The second dog was more refined than the other – less chunky and cumbersome looking – more realistic. And for some reason, perhaps the placing of the head or the head was too heavy – the first dog’s head ended up drying looking down. So, it was worth trying again!

I have to say, that making the dog was my favourite bit of this whole process. I’m really happy with how it turned out.  Renshaw’s tutorial is excellent. Very easy to follow with a good result. People loved this figure in particular – it reminded them of when Jet was younger and brought back happy memories :-)




And finally, onto making Ron. I mainly used these tutorials part 1 and part 2 to make a standing person topper for Carine’s cake, as well as this one. I also used this figure modelling tutorial for the human figure template, as well as ears and hair for this cake.

For both cakes, I had trouble in getting the human figure to stand securely in the cake. Both ended up falling over!

For Carine’s standing topper, this was due to not having all the right equipment. I didn’t have a suitable base (e.g. styrofoam block) for it to stand in from the beginning of making it. I thought I’d combatted this when I got a floristry block to make this standing topper. I didn’t like how it left a gritty dust everywhere and was difficult to push things and pull things out of it. I was also given dowels from Sandra to thread through the legs to give them extra strength and structure. Unfortunately, I found the dowels didn’t work as the legs fell apart and were squashed to mush when i tried to thread them through. I decided to use candy pop sticks instead as they are thinner (and also used in the above tutorials). These threaded through the legs fine but ended up not being sturdy enough to keep the topper standing.

I also had difficulty with getting the arm to stay stuck to the body that was holding the duck. I ended up having to swap the hands around and stick the arms to the body rather than have a gap and they hold on their own. There was too much weight for the topper to handle. I didn’t want too but had to resort to using super glue to hold bits together, as the edible glue wasn’t strong enough.

I think I need to make standing toppers smaller/shorter, as I’ve been making them too tall and therefore too heavy to be supported sufficiently on the cake. I know this now and will try for next time!


All in all, I spent a lot of time and love in making these cake figures/toppers. And it was worth it. Don’t know when my next cake decorating challenge will be but I look forward to improving and creating some more! :-)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Cake decorating & Butternut squash cake with Vanilla buttercream

I made a surprise birthday cake for my cousin Carine’s 30th last month. It was my first time doing some serious sugar crafting and cake decorating. I was originally going to do just a veggie patch with different veggies. But then decided to go the extra mile and also have a go at making a mini Carine!

The cake was a challenge (it actually caused a few arguments at home!) but I mostly enjoyed the process. A lot of love went into it and I was really chuffed with the outcome. I was itching to get started on another cake decorating project straight after finishing this one! I already have loads of ideas of how to improve and want to challenge myself some more.

Carine was truely surprised at her birthday meal and she was delighted with the cake :-)

Carine's 30th birthday cake

Carine's veggie patch cake

I chose to do a butternut squash cake with vanilla buttercream, as know this is one of Carine’s favourite cakes of mine. It then occurred to me that I haven’t shared this recipe yet. Even though this is one of the first bakes I ever tried that was successful. So here it is, better late than never!

I use this Halloween pumpkin cake recipe but substitute the pumpkin for butternut squash. I then top the cake with buttercream but you could use this cream cheese recipe instead.


For the cake:

150g self-raising flour
150g muscovado sugar
1 + ½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g sultanas, chopped
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
100g butter, melted
Zest of ½ an orange
½ tbsp orange juice
250g butternut squash flesh, grated
For the topping:

8 oz unsalted butter or margarine
16 oz icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 180 Celsius/fan 160 Celsius/gas 4.
Grease and line a small roasting tin with baking parchment.
2. Put the flour, sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, sultanas and salt into a large bowl and combine.
3. In another bowl, beat the eggs into the melted butter, stir in the orange zest and juice.
4. Then mix with the dry ingredients until combined.
Stir in the butternut squash flesh.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes,
or until golden and springy to the touch.
6. Cool cake completely.
7. Whilst cake is cooling, make the topping.
Beat butter until creamy.
Add extract and mix.
Add icing sugar then mix until thick and creamy.
8. Spread buttercream on top of cake.





Saturday, 30 August 2014

Orange Cake with Orange buttercream

A while ago, I tried making an Orange cake which turned out very pleasant to eat. I fancied making it again for a BBQ we had recently. It was a great way to use up leftover oranges from making a carrot cake for my bestie Tor’s birthday. Recipe for Carrot cake with Cream cheese frosting can be found here.


Tor's birthday, 9/8/14


PicMonkey Collage
Orange Cake for BBQ, 23/8/14

I use this recipe for Orange cake with orange butter icing and wanted to share with you! I've tweaked some quantities of the ingredients following recommendations in the recipe's comments. This is a lovely cake with a subtle orange flavour. Something a little bit different but still tasting like a familiar sponge cake.



Orange cake
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
250g caster sugar
100ml milk
100ml orange juice
125ml vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Orange buttercream
85g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
2 tablespoons juice of an orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon zest of an orange

Optional decoration
Orange jelly sweets





 1. Preheat oven to 180°C / Gas 4.
Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins.
2. In a measuring jug, combine milk, orange juice, oil, eggs and orange zest.
3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl.
Mix in sugar.
4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk mixture.
Stir until thoroughly combined.
5. Divide cake mixture between the two prepared tins.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes,
or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Allow to cool.
7. To make Orange Butter Icing:
Cream butter until smooth.
Gradually beat in icing sugar.
Beat until light and fluffy.
Beat in 2 tablespoons orange juice to bring to spreading consistency.
Stir in vanilla extract and orange zest.
8. Spread over cooled cakes.
Sandwich the cakes together.
Decorate with sweets (if using).





Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Carrot cake with Cream cheese frosting

I ended up with a lot of carrots that needed using up. As usual, I look for a recipe to use them up. I don’t usually make carrot cake, as prefer making butternut squash cake (of which i will have to put the recipe up). I fancied a change and the challenge. I haven’t really had good carrot cake before. I usually find them underwhelming and disappointing. Either insipidly dry or horribly dense and wet.

I decided on Angela Nilson’s recipe for Carrot Cake as wanted one that used a lot of carrots and didn’t include nuts. This recipe uses almost 300g of carrots and is nut-free. I do like nuts (such as walnuts commonly used in carrot cake) but have never really enjoyed them in carrot cakes.

For this recipe, I didn’t have any wholemeal flour so used plain flour. The carrot cake turned out fine with this substitution. I also didn’t have any quark for the accompanying topping, so used this Cream cheese frosting recipe instead. The frosting is best made on the day the cake will be eaten as it doesn’t keep well at room temperature. It’s fine however kept in the fridge. You could make the cake the day before and then the frosting on the day. I’m no expert to cream cheese frosting. So am open to any recommended recipes, as I think this recipe, although decent, could be improved.

Anyways, Leigh thinks this could be (possibly) the best cake that I have made so far! I am undecided between this carrot cake and my courgette cake as to which one is top. It probably depends on my mood, like Leigh, he rates the carrot cake for its’ dark flavour. I also do love my courgette cake for its’ light flavour.
I love how moist and light this carrot cake is. For me the texture and taste is spot on. Carrot cakes should be more like this.



For the cake

Zest of an orange
3 tbsp of the juice of an orange
140g raisins
125ml rapeseed oil
115g plain flour
115g self-raising flour
1 tsp plus a pinch of baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
140g dark muscovado sugar
280g finely grated carrots
2 eggs

For the frosting

115g (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
115g (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened
250g (2 cups) icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract



1. Heat oven to 160°C/fan 140°C.Grease and line a deep 20cm square cake tin.
2. Finely grate the zest from the orange and juice the orange.
Pour the juice over the raisins in a bowl, stir in zest, then leave to soak while you make the cake.
3. Sieve and mix the flours with baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.
3. Separate one of the eggs.
Put the white in a small bowl and the yolk in a large one.
Break the remaining whole egg in with the yolk, then tip in the sugar.
Whisk together for 1-2 mins until thick and foamy.
Slowly pour in the oil and continue to whisk on a low speed until well mixed.
4. Tip in the flour mix, half at a time, and gently stir it into the egg mixture.
The mix will be quite stiff.
Put the extra pinch of baking powder in with the egg white and whisk to soft peaks.
5. Fold the carrot, raisins (and any liquid) into the flour mixture.
Gently fold in the whisked egg white, then pour into the tin.
Jiggle the tin to level the mixture.
6. Bake for 1 hr until risen and firm
or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool in the tin 5 mins, turn out onto a wire rack, peel off the paper, then leave until cold.
8. To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese.
Add the icing sugar a cup at a time or half the amount at a time.
Beat until smooth and creamy.
Beat in the vanilla extract
9. Swirl the frosting over the cake and cut into 16 squares.
This cake is even better if left well wrapped for a day or two before icing and eating.
Will keep up to 5 days un-iced in an airtight tin, or in the fridge if iced.









Thursday, 19 June 2014

Apricot cake and tea loaf

I had a bag of dried apricots that expired this month and also leftover caramel buttercream to use up. I looked up recipes that used a lot of dried apricots and came across this recipe for Apricot sticky toffee pudding by Chocolate & Zucchini.

I made a round cake and 5 mini tea loaves out of the recipe. I didn’t make the accompanying toffee sauce and opted to use my leftover caramel buttercream (from my chocolate & caramel cake recipe).



I think this is a decent recipe. They are similar to my Date & carrot loaf but are lighter and less dark in flavour. The only thing was the apricots I used weren’t the best. They were tart and quite hard so didn’t meld in the cake as well as they could. I reckon if I used sweeter, juicier and softer dried apricots then the result would be great!