Wednesday, 24 July 2013

In Training For My First Wedding Cake

I have always loved cake. As a child at family weddings, I was always eager to run ahead for a look at them (though the frilly 80s wasn't the most exciting time in cake-history) and I looked forward excitedly to see what mam had chosen for my birthday each year (invariably a plain cream sponge but I lived in hope that she might get me one of the lurid, fondant-iced Bart Simpson head cakes from the window of The Upper Crust on Main Street. Alas it was never to be *cue violins). Cake means good times, happiness, celebration. What's not to like?

A three tiered fake cake with gumpaste peonies, orchid and rose I decorated in a recent class (dent down to Mr Taxi Driver).

Cakes and Sugarcraft are something I keep coming back to. I completed a pretty basic City and Guilds online course a few years back and have recently completed the PME Professional Diploma in Sugarcraft.  It is like an itch I have to scratch . And that is what I have decided to do over the next few months -  the time has come to see how well I can improve and where, if anywhere, it takes me.

A carrot cake from the PME Diploma, covering some basic techniques

I haven't been baking as much as I would like recently. That is mainly down to the issue of waste and my hatred of it. Keith isn't a big cake eater and I will and have ended up polishing off wedges of cake to save it going in the bin which is all noble enough until your jeans start to feel tight!

A cake I made for a colleague 

But I now have something very exciting to work towards. My good friend Anne is getting married on New Year's Eve and has decided to set me loose on her wedding cake.Cheers Annie! In preparation, I have decided to try to bake and decorate a cake for any occasion I can up to then.

30th Cake

A cake should taste as good as it looks. I (and I'm sure you) have sampled enough dry tasteless sponges over the years to know that. It also has to be quite solid to give the cake structure/take a bit of abuse. An am still very much in the process of finding the perfect recipes. For example, the (chocolate) ones above and below were yummy but very soft. So the search goes on.

Hen Party Cake

I am hoping to document my ongoing experiments here. I am sure some will be better than others but hopefully there will be an overall improvement and I will learn more and more techniques as the months progress. (no doubt spending a small fortune on tools in the process). Hopefully I will then be at least ready for my first wedding cake. Will it be my last? who knows!?

Because sugarcraft is basically playdough for adults -  And whats not to love about that?!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

I'm back (with Soft White Bread Rolls)

I've been a very bad blogger, having not posted here in almost a month!(*slap on wrist). This I will blame on the time I have been spending completing my PME Professional Diploma in sugarpaste and the beautiful weather we have been having (during which the call of the beer garden has proven too hard to resist.)

I promise to do better from now on.

I have had quite limited success with bread making to date which I blame in part on our rubbish climate preventing the yeast working properly. But today, with the sun high in the sky in D6, there were no excuses in that area and so I thought I'd give it another go with these soft white rolls.

After wrapping the bowl up very well in clingfilm to keep out the garden nasties, I felt suitably wholesome and old fashioned as I plonked the dough on the windowsill to prove in the hot sun. They are pictured above after their second prove (their flatness is down to me wrapping them too tightly).

A glaze of beaten egg gave them a pleasing golden gloss and I must say I was more than a little bit chuffed as they came out of the oven. I made sandwiches today but think they would also make a really good burger bun.

Summer means salad but my heart used to sink when my mam gave us that for our dinner, The plate always looked full but it was generally made up of little more than a couple of huge lettuce leaves,  some strategically placed scallions , a tomato, halved and perhaps a slice or two of ham laid flat across the plate (sorry mam)....all in all not nearly enough for a little porker like me. But it was always improved tenfold by being stuffed into a couple of rolls with a slick of salad cream - and that was just what I did this evening.

This is a lovely recipe, one I've had in an old binder for so long I don't remember where it came from. And the rolls were so nice I think my up to now substandard bread-making skills are yet another thing we can definitely blame on the Irish weather!

Soft Bread Rolls (yields 4 large rolls or 6 normal-sized)
240g strong flour
1tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
7g sachet yeast
170g warm water

Mix water with sugar and yeast.Leave aside to develop until a thick foam forms on top.

Add the flour, salt and olive oil, mixing well until bound together. Add a little more flour if necessary.

Knead for 5-6 minutes until a finger print bounces back.

Place in a bowl and oil lightly before covering with clingfilm. Leave to prove in a warm place (In the absence of a warm summer windowsill, a very low oven should suffice) until doubled in size.

Knock back down and knead slightly. Divide into required number of rolls and place on baking tray. Oil lightly and cover very loosely with clingfilm until doubled in size again.

Bake for approximately 20-25 in an oven preheated to 180 degrees celsius.

Enjoy (80s salad optional).