Saturday, 30 December 2017

Oi Frog! cake

"Oi FROG! Sit on a log!" said the cat. "But I don't want to sit on a log," said the frog. "Logs are all knobbly and uncomfortable and they can give you splinters in your bottom". 

Oi frog birthday cake

So opens my little boy's favourite book - it may be his favourite possession in the world. I've lost count of how many times he's brought it to me to read just this morning. When it came to his first birthday I wanted to make him a very personal cake - something that he'd recognise and may understand was for him and we couldn't think of anything he'd enjoy more than an "Oi Frog!" cake.

Unfortunately my son has allergies to dairy and eggs. It's not really been that much of a problem whilst he's so little. He doesn't know he's missing out and we'd obviously rather he generally didn't cake anyway. But for his birthday he deserved a treat and so I needed to learn how to make a cake suitable for his allergies.

It took a lot of practice. Vegan cake just doesn't behave like I'm used to from many years of making traditional cakes. I was aiming for a chocolate cake as I expected the extra flavour may mask the fact the butter and eggs were missing. I started with a copy of 'Ms Cupcake "The naughtiest vegan cakes in town"' and developed on their recipe for chocolate peanut butter cupcakes (did I mention that he has a peanut allergy too...).

With regular cake it's basically the same recipe for cupcakes and full size cakes. I learned the hard way that there's a reason this book has different recipes for cupcakes and cakes. When I used the cupcake batter in a 8" cake tin it burned at the edges whilst it was still raw in the middle. I tried using the cake recipe in the 8" tin and that baked ok but it wasn't as light and tasty as the cupcakes had been. Probably all just my inexperience.

In the end this is what worked for me:

Wet ingredients:

200ml soya milk
20ml cider vinegar
80ml rapeseed oil
1tsp vanilla extract
50g smooth hazelnut butter

Dry ingredients:

170g self raising flour
200g caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 c. Grease and flour a log tin such as this one.

Add the vinegar to the soya milk and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

After 10  minutes add the rest of the wet ingredients to the soya milk mixture and mix really well so the hazelnut butter is fully combined.

In a separate bowl sieve all the dry ingredients together and mix really well so everything is combined.

Now working quickly because as soon as the vinegar hits the raising agents the magic chemistry will start to happen, add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix for no more than 10 seconds. A few lumps are fine. Pour into the greased tin. Give it hard tap on the work surface to pop any bubbles then put it straight in the oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

I'd struggled to picture how to bring the frog to life in a 3D model when I found a fantastic example from Vanilla Frost Cakes. Massive kudos to them for the inspiration here.

I added Tylo powder and green and yellow food colouring to some supermarket sugarpaste and sculpted it into the frog's body. I then added extra food colouring to a little paste and made the spots which were stuck on with edible glue made from Tylo. The limbs were extruded through one of these nifty devices. I'm particularly proud of the writing which was done using some edible white tint powder mixed with a little neat alcohol to make a paint that would dry very quickly and give the chalky effect.

Thanks to Kes Gray and Jim Field for creating this book that our little boy loves. Euan had a lovely birthday and really enjoyed his surprisingly tasty cake.

Oi Frog book cover

Monday, 6 February 2017

Lactation Cookies

I've recently given birth to our first baby and whilst breastfeeding is going reasonably well I've been keen to increase my supply to give us the flexibility of his dad feeding him expressed breastmilk from a bottle. This allows dad and baby to bond and gives and me a little independence.

Anecdotally one of the ways to increase breastmilk supply is to eat 'lactation cookies'. Their ingredients of brewers yeast, flax seed (aka linseed) and oats are apparently lactogenic and increase the production of breastmilk.  I'm not sure if their effect is just placebo but if they taste ok then there's no harm in trying!

The original recipe that I tried didn't taste great; it was quite a scone-like texture and I could taste the yeast. I decided to tweak the recipe to make it tastier whilst maintaining the 'active' ingredients.

Here's my version of the recipe;

  • 1 tbsp flaxseed/linseed
  • 110g softened unsalted butter
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 1.5 tbsp brewers yeast powder. 
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 140g plain flour
  • 65g oats
  • 80g Crystallised stem ginger finely chopped 

Preheat oven to 180c
Blitz linseed to a powder in the blender. If your blender's not powerful enough to do this you can buy milled flaxseed but it's much more expensive. I tried a pestle and mortar and a cheaper food processor and neither were powerful enough.
Combine linseed powder with 2 tbsp water in a mug and leave for 5 mins. It should turn into to a jelly like goop.
If your brewers yeast is in a tablet form then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar.
Meanwhile cream butter and sugars together in a food processor.
Add to that the egg and linseed goop and mix.
Add brewers yeast, flour, salt and ground ginger and mix well.
Add oats and stem ginger and mix till evenly distributed.
Line two baking trays with baking parchment
Take heaped desert spoonfuls of mixture and place on baking sheet, flattening as much as you can. Space the cookies we'll as they spread. You should get about 12 large cookies.
Bake for 10-12 mins till golden then allow to cool on the baking tray till firm.

Monday, 1 August 2016

King of the Mountain Cycling Jersey Cake

King of the mountains cycling jersey cake

My dad's favourite hobby is cycling, and when it came time to make a cake for his birthday we knew that it needed to have a cycling theme. I've unsuccessfully tried to make bicycles from sugar before so quickly ruled out designs that needed any kind of bicycle. In the end I settled on this more achievable jersey\t-shirt shape.

This cake was very much a family affair - made in collaboration with my mum with even some decorating assistance from my husband. We settled on the template style from this blog which seemed to both minimise the amount of off-cut wastage and also involved joining few pieces so the cake would still have some structure.

The left image below shows the template and how the jersey can be cut from a 12" x 10" cake - the largest we could make in a 12" adjustable cake tin. The right image shows the proportions on a 14" cake board.

King of the mountains cycling jersey cakeKing of the mountains cycling jersey cake

Mum baked the two massive sponges and soaked them with syrup before allowing them to firm up in the fridge overnight. This step was really important given the cakes were to be carved. They needed to be cooled properly or would have been be too crumbly. The next day she sliced the cakes into layers and filled them with jam and buttercream. Mum then cut around the template and rounded and softened the edges to make a less angular shape and finally coated with a generous layer of buttercream.

I decorated the cake whilst Mum got on with preparing the rest of the food for the family barbecue.

As usual I covered with a layer of marzipan then a layer of sugarpaste. As the shape was weird this didn't go around the arms smoothly but with a bit of trimming, coaxing and polishing then it eventually looked good.

I've struggled in the past to make really deep black or red icing so to keep things simple I bought Squires Kitchen ready coloured icing from the supermarket. I added some Tylo powder to the coloured icing so that it could be rolled really thinly. For the black decoration I simply wrote out 'DAD 50' in a word processor and printed that out. I used scissors to cut out the letters as templates that I placed on the icing to cut around with a knife. The circles were cut using a round cutter. After cutting I left the shapes to dry for 10 minutes to firm up before transferring to the cake and sticking down with edible glue made from more Tylo.

King of the mountains cycling jersey cake

King of the mountains cycling jersey cake