Tuesday, 20 August 2013

So tired... Must finish post...

Hello lovely people!

This weekend has been a long one (in a good way!)...

We've had a few days off work as we've just adopted three adorable rescue kittens, so we wanted to take some time off to settle them in. (Also, it is our anniversary today so we didn't want to be at work...) And believe it or not, over the actual weekend I didn't bake anything at all! (That has since been rectified.) Since we had some time off anyway, we decided to do a detox - so I wasn't allowed to eat anything I would have baked! However, as it was only a three day detox I have now clambered back on the cake-wagon...

L-R Rei, Asuka, Shinji

On Sunday night I made some bread dough, but since I wouldn't be allowed to eat it until Monday I let it rise overnight in the fridge - something I've not tried before. I was a little skeptical that it would actually rise but the loaf turned out very well, and gave a soft, tasty bread which was delicious buttered while still warm.

Since today is our anniversary, I decided I wanted to bake a cake. Mr Hatter wanted a lemon cake and we had some leftover blueberries from the detox so I threw them into the mix too. The result was a moist, crumbly cake with a slightly squidgy blueberry bottom and a zesty lemon drizzle of icing on top. Seeing as I bodged it together from what I had in the cupboard rather than planning ahead (I know, how lazy for our anniversary?!), I'm pretty darn pleased how it turned out. Although I would have liked the blueberries to be distributed a bit more evenly throughout the cake - they ALL sank to the bottom, even though I dusted them with flour before mixing them in, to give them a bit more hold. I think next time I will pour the cake batter into the pan and then add the blueberries, so they can sink as the cake rises around them. I'll have to try the cake again so I can get my recipe written down properly!

It was also my sister-in-laws birthday today and she (plus parents) came over to see us. By "us", I of course mean "the new kittens". However, she's only young and doesn't like fancy cakes yet so I made a little cake just for her - plain vanilla with purple incing (and secret apricot jam to hold the icing in place but don't tell). The cake was a little lumpy as it didn't want to come out of the pan properly and for some reason I didn't flip it over to the smooth side before I iced it. Don't ask me why... kitten-brain? Is that a thing? Anyway, excuse the lumpy bumpy cake - she didn't seem to mind!

And with that, I think it's time for me to sign off and go play with the kitties once more before bed. Or we'll have Kittie Race Team running through the house all night.

Who am I kidding? There's no stopping it...

Anyway. Bedtime!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Iron Cupcake: Leeds - DISNEY!!!

This weekend I tried something new. I visited Iron Cupcake: Leeds for the first time and I'm so very glad I did! I will definitely be going back!

Iron Cupcake: Leeds is a cupcake competition held at The Adelphi in Leeds where cake lovers can gather and indulge in their passion for cake. Whether you like to bake, eat, or both there is something for you! (Being vegan, I decided to stick to the Baker option as I would only have been able to judge my own cakes as an Eater!) To my astonishment, I won Best in Show!!! Check out the other entries here.

I stumbled across the website a few months ago and thought it was a nice idea. "But how could I compete with all these ever so fancy cakes on the website" (a recent picture showed a cupcake decorated with a slab of chocolate emblazoned with a golden butterfly!!), I thought to myself. "No, I'll just look at the pretty pictures and see who wins the next competition - maybe I'll be good enough to enter sometime in the future." The entries all looked so professional!

And then one word changed everything. That word was Disney.

How could I pass up the opportunity to make a DISNEY themed cupcake? Disney movies have been in my favourites for as long as I can remember, how could I possibly not enter?

So, full of trepidation and excitement, I bought my first Baker ticket. And so the planning started. Which Disney film should I take my inspiration from? What would translate well into cupcake form? What would stand out from what everyone else would be planning?

My first thought was that seeing as Pocahontas is my favourite Disney film, I would do a cake based on that. Simple enough. The idea sounded good on paper. I wanted to make a fizzy lemonade cupcake with sherbet frosting, dusted with pink and blue lustre dust and small flowers and leaves for a 'Colours of the Wind' cupcake. So I did my research and amalgamated some recipes into how I wanted mine to be. But it just didn't taste right. The sponge was nice and light but the icing didn't quite pop how I'd hoped it would. It wasn't up to competition standard (although I think I will give it another go sometime as it was almost there...). See my taste test batch below...

So my Pocahontas idea went out of the window. I brainstormed a few ideas and landed upon the idea of a Disney Villains cake. The villains are always so much fun - I could get away with doing a sinful cake! I remembered a recipe in one of my cookbooks (Lilli Vanilli in A Zombie Ate My Cupcake) that I had wanted to try for a while - Devil's Food. However, as with a lot of cake cookbooks it was full of non-vegan ingredients. Challenge time!

I replaced the sour cream with yogurt and adjusted a few measurements to get the right consistency. To replace the eggs, first I tried using flax seeds but it made the cake a bit stodgy so instead I used the reliable old soy milk & apple cider vinegar trick. It worked perfectly!

Ursula was always one of my favourite villains. She's big and bold and a bit repulsive but at the same time she has such pretty colours! (And I thought tentacles would be fun to make...)

So I made my cupcakes and iced them and packed them up to take to Leeds. And I was pretty proud of them. I didn't think they were award-winning but I was pretty damn happy that they had turned out how I had imagined. And then I got to Leeds, opened the box and I could have cried. My tentacles had started to melt. What could I do? I wasn't about to give up and go home. The only thing I could do was set up and treat it as a learning curve. And text my hubby to tell him how I'd messed up while I sat and waited for the judging to start. 

It turns out people loved the melted tentacles!! It made them look wet and I had a few people ask what they were made out of as they no longer looked like standard sugarpaste. Massive sigh of relief!

After that initial panic, the rest of the evening was very enjoyable. I even had the courage to talk to a couple of people I didn't know! I can definitely see this becoming a regular event in my calendar. Maybe I'll even convince the other half to come eat some cake next time. Maybe.

Before I knew it, results time rolled around and we all anxiously gathered around Charlotte to hear who had won the prizes. The cakes are judged on taste, decoration and how well they fit the theme - as well as a Baker's Choice, judged by bakers, and an overall winner who received the most votes across the categories. I had my fingers crossed for theme (if anything!) as I was happy that my villains cakes fit the theme well. But I didn't win taste. I didn't win decoration. I didn't win theme or Baker's Choice. "Oh well, I tried. I'll just have to try harder next time."

But then came the announcement for best in show - Jessie's ("it'll be the other Jess that's here") Ursula's Tentacles ("wait, what? You mean I have to get up in front of all these people?!"). So chuffed! I text hubby something along the lines of "I WIN BEST IN SHOW!!!"... See my swag below... (The menu for Out of the Woods looks yummy, can't wait to spend my voucher!)

Thank you to everyone who's said nice things about my baking and been supportive with my crazy experiments - without you, I wouldn't have the confidence to enter things like this!

For those of you still reading (apologies for the length of be post), here is my recipe if you want to have a go for yourself... (More pictures after the recipe)

Ursula's Tentacles Devil's Food Cupcakes
(adapted from Lily Vanilli's recipe in A Zombie Ate My Cupcake)

1/4 cup non-dairy margarine
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup soy yogurt
4 tbsp strong coffee, cooled

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. 
2. Mix together the soy milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to curdle. After 5-10 min it will look thick and a little lumpy - this is good. 
3. Use an electric mixer to cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the soy milk mixture, vanilla extract and 1/4 cup flour and beat until fully combined. 
4. Sift the remaining flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a separate bowl. 
5. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time, alternating with the soy yogurt, and stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the coffee 1 tbsp at a time, stirring in gently until smooth. 
5. Use an ice-cream scoop to spoon the batter into the prepared cases, filling around 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 min until the tops spring back when lightly pressed and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
6. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 min, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

100g semisweet dark chocolate 
100g dark chocolate with min 70% cocoa solids
1/2 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup soy yogurt
1/4 tsp lemon juice

1. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (without letting the water touch the bowl).
2. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar and salt. Quickly add the soy yogurt and lemon juice, stirring until combined. Make sure you add it before the chocolate starts to set! Set the mixture aside to cool (or pop on the fridge for a few minutes if you can't wait). 
3. Once cool, spread over your cooled cupcakes in a haphazard fashion to create chocolate waves. Decorate with sugarpaste tentacles (see below). 

Sugarpaste Tentacles (no measurements as I judged it by eye - sorry!)
Sugarpaste in black, dark purple and light purple in a ratio of 6:3:1
Gum Tragacanth
Edible glue

1. Knead a small amount of gum tragacanth into each colour of sugarpaste. Wrap in cling film and leave overnight. 
2. Knead the sugarpaste again to loosen it up, as it will be firm now. 
3. Divide your black sugarpaste into 48 pieces and roll into balls. Repeat with the dark purple.
4. Take one black ball and begin to roll it so that the end tapers. Do the same with a dark purple ball. Roll the two tapered balls together until you have a tentacle shape. Set aside and repeat until you have 48 tentacles.
5. Divide the light purple into 144 pieces and roll into small balls. These will be your suckers so you may need to make more or less depending on the size of your tentacles. Make a small dimple in each ball. 
6. Leave to dry out a little (I left mine overnight). 
7.  Stick 3 suckers to each tentacle, securing with edible glue. Stick 4 tentacles into the icing on each cupcake. If you want them to have a melty, wet-look then do this a few hours before serving. For firmer, upright tentacles do this just before you serve. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Grey Cakes and Rainbows

Normal rainbows that is, not grey ones. Gay ones in fact! (We'll get to that later...)

Today was the big day for Depressed Cake Shop Leeds and it was brilliant! There were lots of fantastic grey goodies, and I even managed to buy myself a slice of vegan cake that I didn't make! Thank you, That Old Chestnut! Popped in a few times throughout the day and each time the supplies seemed to drastically diminish. When we went an hour or so before the end, almost everything had gone! Success!

These were my contributions - unhappy Oreos, raspberry surprise brain cakes, grapefruit & olive oil loaf:

And now for the rainbows. We ended up at gay pride while we were in Leeds! It was fun. I felt like I should have had a flag though, we felt a bit left out without one... Next time! Randomly, Sophie Ellis Bexter was performing while we were there...

Now that all my grey baking is out of the way, I can show you what I made last weekend!

We had our second showing of Drifters by Grim North Theatre in Halifax and to make a bit of extra money we decided to have a raffle. As I like any excuse to bake, I took the opportunity to make some space-themed cupcakes! I did one batch of vanilla and one of chocolate, both with vanilla icing topped with icing planets and stars:

And so ends a busy, tiring, exciting weekend. More fun to come soon...