Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice

I have covered briefly in a different post that I rather enjoy baking. I have been baking for about a year now in the dedicated sense of the word i.e. buying decent equipment, actively practicing techniques etc. I really think I am beginning to get the hang of it. I can now turn out lovely cupcakes, royal iced birthday cakes and traditional fruit loaves amongst a few other recipes.

In order to celebrate my advances, i have chosen a few images to display how I am developing. First, lets take layered cakes. I started with layered cakes and simply drentching them in normal icing. It looked messy but it tasted good.

As this really wasn’t very pretty, I turned to mastering the Victoria sponge cake instead as it involves no all over icing. I managed to master it pretty well I think. It looked better and definitely tasted batter.

I also invested in a giant cup cake baking pan which basically allows you to bake your sponge into the shape of a giant cup cake before you sandwich it together and decorate as you choose. I firmly believe it would be best to use royal icing on the base and butter cream on the top. The only time I have made one of these cakes successfully, I had not quite graduated to royal icing so I used chocolate fudge icing on the base and created the pleated look by piping slightly thicker rows onto the smoothed out surface. Here’s the finished result.

Not the most beautiful thing but boy it was TASTY. The next time I attempted a giant cupcake, the blooming thing stuck in the pan. As a rescue plan, it was instead transformed into a Super Mario toadstool. The top was covered with white royal icing and then red food colouring painted on. The base was butter cream icing. It was a very very good tasting cake.

As my royal icing had been going so well, I decided to try a whole cake. The attempt was not too good but I learned a LOT of lessons via trial and error e.g. there is NO substitute for a butter cream icing layer over the cake to be iced left in the fridge overnight. Here is the Baby cake i made for this attempt as a maternity leave cake

So, with all these royal icing lessons learned, I applied it to a double sponge cake layers with jam. I covered the whole outside with butter cream icing and refrigerated for an hour or so. This provided the perfect base for the royal icing. Not only did it smooth the cake out, but the butter cream provided the necessary adhesion. I got the icing nice and level by basically stroking it a lot. I cut out and attached the butterflies (also in royal icing) with just a little water. The writing was butter cream icing (of the wrong consistency hence the slightly jerky appearance).

I also created a novelty cake for my own pirate themed birthday party. Here’s my treasure chest stocked with booty! It was made from 2 sponges baked in 2lb loaf tins. They were then trimmed and wedged together before being coated in chocolate fudge butter cream icing. I used the milk chocolate Mikado biscuit sticks for the plank like detail. It was a lot of fun to make!

Overall, I am incredibly pleased with my layered cake progression. Onto the cupcakes!

I began by just baking cupcakes and not decorating them at all. When I did graduate to decorating, it was generally normal icing spread out with sprinkles on. Not too taxing or attractive. Eventually, I got a rudimentary piping set and produced these

They weren’t all that good but I only had a couple of sizes of nozzle and not much experience. I went to a good bakery suppliers and bought a big star nozzle to achieve mega swirls on cupcakes. I also decided to deviate away from the standard sprinkle decoration configuration. As a result, my decorations evolved into beefy swirls and nougat topping

From that point on, my butter cream piping improved more and more. My main improvement came when I purchased a Wilton 1M tip. It is simply the most versatile tip in my piping box. It swirls and flowers very well as seen int he pictures below

And a flower. The 2 tone icing is achieved by painting stripes of food coloring on the inside of the piping bag (disposable sort) before loading your icing in.

As my royal icing had gone so well on the larger cakes, I had a go at cupcakes too. The trickiest part was getting the cakes to bake completely level so that the icing sat evenly. These were made to commemorate my sister and I finally seeing Take That live after 18 years of waiting

The next royal iced cakes were made for a girly girls birthday party. The flowers are pre-bought Dr Oetker wafer daisies, however, the leaves were made by me using green royal icing and leaf cutters, The line detail was completed with a cocktail stick.

My top tips for self teaching are these:

  • Youtube has a WEALTH of information, good and bad.
  • Buy a Wilton M1 Tip if you want to ice cupcakes beautifully
  • Find some good disposable piping bags (I actually don’t mind the Sainsbury’s own brand ones) because you can put any size tip in them and don’t need a coupler
  • Scour car boot sales etc for equipment. I got an amazing rolling pin and other stuff for between 20p and £2 on boot sales
  • Get at least 1 cake stand. It’s a little extra satisfaction seeing something you are proud of on a lovely stand. Charity shops and boot sales are ideal when looking for ones that won’t break the bank
  • Do try off the wall thing, you may well learn something important from your mistakes
  • Natural food colouring is rubbish. I like Sugarflair paste an Silver Spoon colourings
  • Vanilla essence and Vanilla Extract are worlds apart. Always use the extract
  • If you want to use a fruit flavoring in something, use the real fruit and not an essence, essences taste awful when compared to the real thing
  • Taste as you bake! If it’s not quite right, you have a chance to fix it before it’s too late!
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