The Great Birthday Bake Off

It was The Man’s birthday this weekend and as my most trusted taste tester, I thought I’d spoil him with a selection of goodies. Carrot Cupcakes, Melting Moments, a Chocolate & Salted Caramel Layer Cake (and cupcakes – I’ll explain in a minute!) and not forgetting his breakfast of choice – american style pancakes topped with crispy bacon. I spent the majority of the weekend in the kitchen. All well and fun, except for the 22,000 loads of washing up!!!

Then there was the other downside. I am of the opinion that all raw mixtures/doughs/icings should go through a thorough testing process before being served up, and who better to test than me. This weekend however, I might have bitten off more than I chew in terms of bowl licking. Yep, 6 packs of butter, 3 blocks of dark chocolate, a large pot of double cream and a kilo of sugar later  and I am officially caked out.  I don’t even want to think about cake…Well for today at least.

Me Vs. Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcake

Carrot Cupcake

I’m usually hyper critical of everything I bake. Always finding a flaw, no matter how many people rave about my creations. But these Carrot Cupcakes left me lost for criticism, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that these are the best cakes I have ever baked. What’s more, The Man (a self-confessed chocolate fiend who generally believes carrot cake to be too healthy to be considered ‘real’ cake) agreed!

 

Of course, I can’t take all the credit. I took the recipe from The Primrose Bakery Cupcake Book, and followed it to the letter.

The mixture uses carrots (well, durrr!) raisins, orange zest and cinnamon, is easy peasy to make and turns out the moistest little morsels of cake you have ever eaten. The topping is cream cheese icing with orange zest – deliciously smooth and creamy yet also zingy – totally moreish!

Me Vs. Melting Moments

Melting Moments

Melting Moments

Also known as Viennese Swirls. For these, I used a recipe from the Series 1 Great British Bake Off book.

The biscuit is made by first creaming butter and sugar, then adding flour, cornflour and vanilla essence. Then, in theory, you pop the mixture into piping bag and effortlessly pipe out  32 pretty little swirls. In reality however, it went something like this…both hands on piping bag squeezing, twisting, pushing, grimacing, shouting, shaking, swearing, sweating, grrrrrrrrrr… until eventually I gave up. This mixture was IMPOSSIBLE to pipe. Determined not to give up,  I scooped the sticky mixture out of the piping bag and back into the mixing bowl, and beat in some milk to make it more ‘pipeable.’ Then I clumsily piped out 24 misshapen and inconsistently sized swirls. After 15 minutes in the fridge to set, I put them into the oven to bake with little hope.

When the timer went off I despondently took them out the oven and set them on the side. Imagine my shock when I look down to see 24 pretty little, neat, golden, crumbly looking biscuits sitting proudly on the baking tray….

It was a total ‘here’s some I made earlier’ moment, except there was no one in the house to see.

So either a) I have a magic oven or b) some elves/fairies/sprites took pity on me and sneaked into my kitchen whilst I wasn’t looking and replaced the tray of dodgy ones with these beauties.

I whipped up the buttercream-esque filling in a flash and waited impatiently for the biscuits to cool. Seriously though now, why do baked goods take so damn long to cool?!

These were a big hit and I can understand why, I mean, look how cute they are!

However, I do think that perhaps the milk made them just slightly softer in texture than they should be. Still, I’ll be trying these again so watch this space…

Me Vs. Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

I’m all for a towering cake, but when I found the recipe for this online and read the ingredients list (yikes!) I felt that, maybe,  just maybe, 3 layers might be a tad too much. So instead of messing around with reducing the mixture, I filled 2 cake tins, then used the rest to fill 12 cupcake cases.

To begin with, you have to make 2 batches of caramel sauce. Attempt number one resulted in a kitchen full of noxious smoke and an old jar filled with what I can only describe as black tar. Whoops! Fortunately though I managed to save the sauce pan. A little bit of research (better late than never hey!) confirmed my mistake – you shouldn’t stir the syrup whilst it is boiling. Armed with this information, my next two attempts were a success. I added sea salt to one batch and set aside to cool for later.

The other batch is used to make the chocolate caramel buttercream icing. You add no less than 450g of quality dark chocolate to the hot caramel sauce to melt, then whisk continuously for 10 minutes or until the mixture is cool. Then, as if this icing isn’t naughty enough already, you add 450g of butter!!!! The finished result is absolutely mountains of buttercream icing. Although, I have to confess, I’m not totally sure it was worth the effort….Good old fashioned chocolate buttercream is probably just as good. Lesson learnt the expensive and time consuming way.

Once the cakes have cooled, you spread with salted caramel sauce and buttercream icing and sandwich together. The recipe suggests covering the entire cake in the icing, but again, I decided to scale things back a bit. I topped with more salted caramel sauce, one layer of buttercream, a sprinkle of sea salt and some chocolate chips, then called it a day.

The verdict from The Man was that it was good, but not the best. The sponge was tasty and moist, though next time I might turn the oven down a touch as the edges were just slightly more done than I would have liked. I just felt a little let down that the salty taste didn’t come through as much as I had hoped. Luckily, there is a jar of the stuff sitting patiently in the fridge, just screaming out to be used in another recipe!

Now to avoid the scales for a couple of days….