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Step by step guide to make a showstopper cake

Anti gravity cake Making a showstopper cake really isn’t as difficult as you may think. If you follow our simple easy step by step guide you could be wowing your friends and family in no time.

There seems to be a whole host of anti-gravity cakes ‘flying’ around (get it?!) on the internet recently so I thought I would try our hand at making a sweet inspired cake using our favourite chocolate treats.

crumb coatI began with a basic chocolate sponge cake which was filled and crumb coated with a chocolate buttercream. Some of you may have heard ‘crumb coating’ mentioned in recipes or on baking shows. It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds, it is simply covering the outside of your cake with buttercream in order to trap the crumbs so that they don’t stick to your sugar paste icing (if you are covering your cake) or in this case the buttercream is used as a glue to stick the chocolate fingers and sweets in place.

A handy tip when crumb coating is to pop your sponge in the fridge briefly beforehand, this will firm up your sponge and prevent any pesky crumbs escaping into your icing. You must however, never try to crumb coat your cake whilst it is still warm as the icing was simply melt straight off, similar to those disasters that you might see in the Great British Bake Off tent!

choc fingersOnce the cake was baked, cooled and crumb coated I began to stick the chocolate fingers around the outside of the sponge. Remember to leave a gap at the front to stick your sweets giving the effect that they are spilling off the top of the cake. When all of the fingers are stuck on (and a few of them mistakenly popped into your mouth!) you need to begin to stick the sweets in place. I used Malteasers and M&M’s but any sweet (that comes in a packet) would work. Just don’t bin the empty sweet wrappers as you will need these later.

I divided the cake in half using the sweets as an outline; Malteasers on the left and M&M’s on the right and began filling in each side with the sweets. Before the top of the cake was completely covered I inserted the cake dowels which act as the support for the sweets being poured from the packets above. To hold in to place I dipped the bottom of the dowels in melted chocolate before inserting into the sponge. The remaining chocolate can be used later to stick the sweets to the top of the dowel.

melt choc I also smoothed some melted chocolate on to the front of the cake board so that I could add more sweets and keep them in place. This is important otherwise when you move your cake you will end up with Malteasers rolling all over the place like a game of Hungry Hippos!

Once all of the sweets are in place, use the melted chocolate similar to glue to stick the sweets on to the dowel. You may not need to go all the way up to the top as this will be covered by your empty sweet wrappers. It is worth placing these on top of your dowels early to give you an idea how far you need to go.

Once these are in place then your cake is complete. If your sweet wrappers won’t stay in place a handy tip is to fill them with marshmallows which will fluff up the packets making them look more genuine.

A slice of this cake may be more calories than you care to think about but believe me it is worth it. Go on give it a try!

Let’s play Dominoes

domino 2 Our basic biscuit dough is one of the most popular recipes on our website, so I though why not take this opportunity to get creative with fun ways to decorate these biscuits.

Following on from our Scrabble biscuit post, I have kept on the ‘games’ theme and decided to create some domino biscuits. These cute biscuits are incredibly simple to decorate, taste yummy and would make a beautiful gift, perhaps boxed up for a grandad or dad for Father’s Day in June.

biscuit dough I followed the basic biscuit dough recipe and sliced the dough into small rectangles before baking. Once the biscuits were baked, I left them to fully cool on the baking tray. In the meantime, I set about melting some dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. You could use milk chocolate for the decoration if you prefer, however I personally liked the darker colour that this chocolate gave to biscuits, giving a more authentic domino effect.

Once the biscuits were cooled I gently spooned a small amount of melted chocolate on top, using the back of the teaspoon to smooth in to place. You could alternatively dip the biscuits in to the melted bowl of chocolate however as you can imagine this can get rather messy!

domino I left the chocolate to set before piping the dots on to the domino. Once the chocolate had hardened I used a knife to make an indent halfway down the biscuit.

I melted some white chocolate in a bowl and then spooned it into a piping bag fitted with a small piping nozzle. Carefully I piped various dots on the biscuits, left them to dry and then we were ready to play!

Scrabble biscuits

scrabble biscuit Many of us will have grown up being told not to play with food, but I personally think this is half the fun!

If like me you are partial to the odd games night then I have the ideal game-time nibbles for you to try. Forget trying to get to the triple word score the most challenging part will be trying to finish the game without eating all the letters!

These Scrabble biscuits really are simple to make using our basic biscuit dough recipe. The biscuits have a lovely vanilla flavour due to the Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract that we used, however you could swap this with different extracts for an alternative flavour, lemon extract might add a nice taste.

biscuit To make the dough, the ingredients were all mixed together and then wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for approximately an hour. You can leave the dough for longer if preferred or even popped into the freezer if you are particularly in a hurry. Be careful that the dough doesn’t become too hard though. If it does, leave it to thaw out a little to make it a bit easier to roll.

The dough needs to be rolled out to approximately 0.5cm thickness. Using a sharp knife cut into small evenly sized squares, you could use a ruler if you want neatly formed shapes. These are then placed on a baking tray, lined with baking paper and placed back in the fridge.

By chilling the dough in the fridge before baking this will reduce the chance of the biscuits spreading in the oven. If they do spread a bit though you can always trim them back to shape whilst they are still warm.

Whilst the biscuits are cooling, roll out the white sugar paste icing and cut into small squares the same size as your biscuits. You could use royal icing to decorate the biscuits as an alternative, just make sure that you leave the icing to fully set before decorating otherwise you might smudge them.

I secured the sugar paste to the biscuits by lightly brushing with apricot jam. If you don’t have any apricot jam in your cupboard you could use a different flavour however this will give a more noticeable flavour to your biscuit. finished biscuits

I used an edible decorating pen to add the letters and numbers, however this would work equally as well with black royal icing or writing icing.

Once the biscuits were done all that was left was to set up the Scrabble board and it was ‘game on!’

Your favourite recipes this week

Looking for some baking inspiration this weekend? Check out what our most popular recipes have been this week.

mary berry
Mary Berry Chocolate Cupcakes

This Mary Berry chocolate cupcake recipe is pure chocolate indulgence. Children will love to decorate with chocolate strands and chocolate decorations.

brownies
The Ultimate Chocolate Brownie

These brownies are super gooey and delicious, made especially tasty by using Billington’s unrefined dark muscovado sugar.

red velvet cake Red velvet cake

This classic red velvet cake with cream cheese icing is just delicious. To achieve the classic bright red sponge we would recommend that you use red food colouring gel, the gel will hold its colour better when baked, simply add as much or as little as you need to reach your desired colour.

Rocky road Rocky Road

Who doesn’t love a slice of Rocky Road? Fluffy marshmallows, crunchy nuts and chunks of biscuits coated in melted chocolate it’s as simple as that. This cake is great fun to make with all the family and the best bit is you can personalise your cake by mix and matching the ingredients with your favourite sweets and biscuits.It also goes down well in the office too… if it manages to make it out of the house!

shortbread

Homemade Shortbread

This buttery homemade shortbread recipe is so simple to make and delightful to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Once you have tried homebake you won’t want to go back to shop bought biscuits. For an extra twist why not dip half of the shortbread in melted chocolate.

chocolate chip cookies

Simple chocolate cookies

Why not try these delicious chocolate cookies. Ideal to have with your afternoon cup of tea or as a treat at the end of a day.

Cookie, cookie, cookie

Cookie cup Recently, I have noticed a recurring trend on our Pinterest feed of creative ways to jazz up your cookies. One of my favourites is the cookie cup, so I challenged myself to try and recreate this interesting bake using our existing chocolate chip cookies recipe.

Cookies are one of my favourite things to bake as they are so quick and easy to make and only take minutes in the oven before they are ready to serve. I like to have some frozen cookie dough stored in my freezer for when surprise guests pop by for a “quick cuppa” too. If you roll the dough into a sausage shape before freezing you can simply slice into thick circles, pop on the baking tray and you will have fresh homebaked cookies in minutes.

I had seen a photo demonstration on Pinterest on how to bake cookies into a cup shape, so prepared a muffin tin whilst my cookie ingredients were mixing together in the bowl. I chose to lightly grease the muffin tin holes before adding the cookie dough for easy release, however if you have a good non-stick tray then this may not be necessary.

cookie mixtureOnce the dough was ready I began to fill each muffin tin with the mixture (a good tip is to not fill these too full, I made this mistake initially and cookie dough spilled out of the top!) I found it best to partially bake the cookie cup before trying to create the hole in the centre. I baked the dough for about 20 minutes, until they began to firm into shape. I then removed them from the oven and using a small shot glass carefully press down in the centre of each cookie. I found after my first attempt that lightly flouring the bottom of the shot glass will help with the release of the glass without too much dough being stuck to it. <mixture

I returned the cookies back to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes to firm up. I allowed the cookies to cool in the tin in order to hold their shape.

Now came the difficult decision – what to fill the cookie cups with? Melted chocolate, ice cream, whipped cream the possibilities were endless!

Cookie Cups recipe

Ingredients

135g unsalted butter
80g Unrefined golden caster sugar (we use Billington’s)
190g Plain white flour (we use Allinson)
100g Dark chocolate chips
80g Unrefined light muscovado sugar (we use Billington’s)
1 Egg(s) (free range) large
1 tsp Vanilla extract (we use Nielsen-Massey)
½tsp Salt
½tsp Bicarbonate of soda

Method
STEP 1 – Preheat the oven to 170 C (gas mark 3) and lightly grease a muffin tin.
STEP 2 – Cream together the butter and both sugars until pale then add the egg and vanilla extract and mix together well.
STEP 3 – Sift in the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and add to the butter sugar mixture and mix thoroughly until a dough forms, then stir in the chocolate chips.
STEP 4 – Fill the muffin tin holes 3/4 full with mixture.
STEP 5 – Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown.
STEP 6 – Remove from the oven and using a floured shot glass press down in the centre of the cookie to create a hole.
STEP 7 – Return to the oven to bake for a further 5-10 minutes
STEP 7 – Leave to fully cool in the muffin tin before removing.

Facebook baking hacks

mixer We recently ran a competition on our Facebook page (Baking Mad UK) asking our followers to share their top baking hacks. We were overwhelmed with the response and can’t wait to put some of these in to practice. See below some of our favourite tips.

“Always read recipes before you start to make sure you have all the ingredients that you need” Tracey Holden

“Take pics of your bakes to have a record” Claire Greensit

“Always dip mixed dried fruit in flour before adding to the mix stops them sinking to the bottom of the cake” Wendy Jane Proctor

“Listen to the cake if it “sings” to you it’s not ready and stick it back in the oven” Natalie Page

“A sure fire, quick & easy way to separate your eggs! Crack the egg into a bowl – then using an empty plastic pop / water bottle (I keep & use one of those 500ml water volvic water bottles) – squeeze the bottle neck over the yolk, then release the squeeze and suck the yolk up into the empty bottle – squeeze the bottle again to release the yolk into another bowl. Hey presto! No more faffing! “ Deann Rooke

“Buy an oven thermometer. Takes the guess work out and very precise.” Theresa Louise Cooke

“Whenever I’m making a recipe that uses raisins or currants, I cover them in some boiling water mixed with a (large!!) splash of whiskey! Cover the bowl with a saucer or cling film, and let them plump up a bit Delicious!” Louise McGhee

“It’s much easier to grate your butter into the mixture, especially if you need to cream it and you are doing it by hand” Caroline Smith

“If my cake fails, as long as it’s not raw it’s salvageable, break it into chunks & cover with angel delight! Top tip, the kids love it” Jackie Alderson

“Place a slice of bread in a container of freshly baked cookies to maintain their freshness “ Laura Elliott

“I always write the size of my cake tins on the bottom using permanent marker then cut (or at least mark out) a variety of liners and keep them inside each tin so I know immediately which liner fits. I cut yards of side liners and keep that on a roll so it’s easy to get stared on baking very quickly” Debbie Carr

“Put a tea towel across your cooling rack it stops line on your cakes” Jackie Heaton Baking Nanna

“When making cakes make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature, also chill pastry before baking it stops shrinkage, finally LOOK OUT FOR SOGGY BOTTOMS!!!” Helen Huxley

“icing can hide a multitude of sins” Jess Powell

“Sprinkle semolina on the part baked base of an apple pie before filling. It soaks up all the lovely juices and makes ur pie easier to slice. Mmm….” Tina Higgins

“Roll out pastry (or biscuit dough) between sheets of cling film. No need for extra flour and so easy to lift into the tin without it tearing.” Michelle Blane

“I use vanilla extract in cakes to enhance other flavours such chocolate and coffee. It seems to intensify the flavour” Sally Tuson

“I once made a cake that sunk in the middle, I did not have time to make another so cut out the soggy bit and filled it with jelly beans, way before Piñata cakes became popular.” Sheena Dunn

“If cake has started to brown a bit and not cooked inside cover top of cake with foil works every time lovely golden brown cake then cool and cover with icing sugar.” Judy Bradbeer

Making Baking Simpler – Baking Hacks

Ever got half way through baking and realised that you have run out of an ingredient or not got the right piece of baking equipment that you need? Sometimes thinking outside the box and getting creative with other kitchen objects can be the difference between rescuing your baking and an ultimate #cakefail.

We have collected together some of our favourite baking hacks to share with you all.

#1 Can’t find your rolling pin?
A bottle of wine is a great temporary rolling pin (and you could even treat yourself to a cheeky glass afterwards)
eggs

#2 Forgotten to bring your eggs up to room temperature before baking?
Place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to bring the temperature up.

#3 Accidentally dropped a bit of egg shell in your cake mix?
Wet your finger. This will make it easier for the shell to stick to your finger when removing.

#4 Not got enough time to make buttercream?
Place a marshmallow on top of your cupcakes for the last 5 minutes of baking in the oven. The marshmallow will melt and create a deliciously fluffy topping.
muffin tin
#5 Want even shaped cookies?
Spoon the mixture into the holes of muffin tin this will create evenly sized cookies.

#6 Looking for an alternative cupcake decoration instead of buttercream?
Keep a cut off of lace fabric in your kitchen. Lay on top of each cupcake and gently dust with icing sugar to create a pretty design.

#7 Forgot to buy chocolate chips for your cookies?
Place a few squares of chocolate in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to make chocolate chunks.

#8 Burnt cookies/cakes are a thing of the past
If you have accidentally left your bakes in the oven too long, remove any burnt edges by lightly rubbing with a cheese grater.
piping bag 1
#9 Get in a pickle when filling a piping bag?
Place your piping bag in a large jug or glass and peel down the sides of the bag, freeing up both hands to fill the piping bag. When ready, gently roll up the sides of the piping bag and away you go.

#10 Cookies on the go
Make an extra batch of cookie dough and freeze in an ice cube tray for ready to bake cookies for those moments when surprise visitors pop by.
piping bag 2
#11 Run out of piping bags?
Fill a ziplock freezer bag with buttercream and snip off one of the corners for a handy alternative piping bag.

We would love to hear your baking hacks – feel free to leave a comment, post on our Facebook page Baking Mad UK or tweet us at @BakingMadUK.

Sky Badger Bake Sale Competition

sky badger We have teamed up with Sky Badger to share news of an exciting competition with you all.

Sky Badger is a charity that helps disabled children and their families in the UK find help and adventure by communicating the charities and services available through their website, information packs and e-helpdesk. The idea of Sky Badger was inspired by an imaginative little 7-year-old boy with special needs called Max who when playing Superheroes with his dad, used to tie a tea towel around his neck to magically gain superpowers.

If you or your little super-bakers would like to help this fantastic charity and enter the competition all you have to do is create a yummy allergy-friendly cake or treat to be sold at a Sky Badger bake sale and submit your recipe and photo via the online application form. Full competition details can be found here. edd kimber

The amazing top prize consists of £100 Sainsburys voucher for the winner, your recipe featured on BakingMad.com, plus your school or group will receive £50 Sainsburys vouchers and a visit from the fabulous Edd Kimber, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2010.

“I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Baking Mad and Sky Badger to help raise awareness and funds for this brilliant charity and baking is a great way to get people together and make a difference.” (Edd Kimber)

sky badget There are also fantastic 2nd, 3rd and runner up prizes too, so what are you waiting for? Whip out your apron, dust off your mixer and head over to the Sky Badger website to find out more. www.skybadger.co.uk

Plus, don’t forget to check out our BakingMad.com recipes for inspiration.

Easter Baking with Eric

Hello Baking Mad friends! Eric headshot

Yes, it is official, Spring is at our door steps so it’s time to pack away the greys and gloom of the beginning of the year. Like animals that hibernated through the winter we are all welcoming the happy seasons by swapping our dark clothes for much brighter ones! One perfect example was Her Majesty the Queen, who last week wore a chic apricot outfit and hat for the naming ceremony of the new cruise ship Britannia. If Her Majesty is ready for spring we should all be! By the way I was very honoured to be presented to the Queen and have a little chat in French with her as she is fluent, as was her mother and sister!

cheesecake Of course Easter is the unofficial start of the baking year and we have so many reasons to go Baking Mad. For me, I like to stay away from the obvious chocolate recipes as I get so many Easter eggs and treats I crave something fresh and light. So this year on my table I will serve a Vanilla Bean Baked Cheesecake served with a chunky fruit compote of blueberries and raspberries. Every year I also bake a “Pate De Paques”, a savoury pie classic from the Loire Valley in France. I use my grandmother’s recipe, as she was from this beautiful region. It is a mix of pork sausage meat and hard boiled eggs baked into a savoury short crust pastry, a great starter which brings lots of happy family memories! My main course will be lamb slow cooked in pesto and sun blush tomatoes #yum

And remember, if you are lucky enough to have too many Easter eggs or treats, you can gently melt them with some extra cocoa butter to use in your regular baking (you can get cocoa butter now in any Whole Food market or web site).

Have a fabulous Easter and go completely Baking Mad over the weekend to celebrate the official arrival of Spring!

Eric xx

Adding a Dash of vanilla with Eric Lanlard

Eric Salut Baking Mad friends!

When it comes to baking and patisserie, vanilla is certainly the most commonly used flavour. We all love the sweet and smoky flavour that comes from the vanilla bean. It is, of course, an absolutely essential ingredient in custards, sponges, ice-cream and desserts such as panna cotta. But there is so much more that you can do with this essential ingredient. panna cotta

I like using vanilla bean paste and by using a good quality extract or bean paste you are guaranteed a perfect flavour consistency. I adore vanilla and love experimenting with sweet and savoury recipes. A few years ago I discovered that vanilla is not just is a fantastic flavour enhancer, it will elevate the most simple tomato sauce or salsa to another level! It will even bring sweetness and a complex smokiness to smoked salmon. Adding bean paste to a rich gravy made with 99% pure cocoa and serving it with a roast fillet of beef is divine! NM shot with spoons

Of course there are some combinations that are made in heaven – any chocolate with vanilla, exotic fruits, rum cocktails etc. It is important to remember that you should always try to add your extract into a cold product so you don’t damage all the complex flavours and to ensure that your recipe gets the va va voom of your extract or bean paste.

So remember next time you are baking or cooking, just add a dash of vanilla!

Happy Baking!

Eric x