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Tag Archives: Cakes and Cake Decorating

Biscuit Cake with Leftover Gingerbread

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A few posts back on Curiously, Creatively Verity talked about her gingerbread reindeer kit from Christmas. But what do you do with the remains of said confectionary item when it goes slightly soft and looks to have passed its eat-by date? The answer to that question is that you turn it into a chocolaty slab of biscuit cake. Actually, I probably should mention here that various un-named persons had taken off and eaten all of the Smarties and royal icing, leaving an almost naked reindeer looking rather forlorn in the cake tin. It was time to do something about the reindeer remains. In sum, we wanted to turn the soggy gingerbread reindeer into another tasty nibble and the idea of creating a version of tiffin or a biscuit cake seemed to be the way to go.

For a biscuit cake recipe, I rooted through the recipe drawer, but in the end, I settled for one that I found in my Rosemary Wadey Cakes and Cake Decorating book. There are two quite similar recipes in the book and a version of the one below is the recipe that I used:

Chocolate Quickies

Biscuit Cake

In the tin ready to finish

100g/4 oz butter/margarine
2 TBS cocoa powder
1 TBS demerara sugar
2 TBS golden syrup
200g/8 oz crushed semisweet biscuits
100g/4 oz plain or milk chocolate, chopped (for topping)

Naturally, we tweaked the recipe a little; what else are recipes for, but to inspire you to fiddle around with alternatives? Of course, the biggest tweak was using the remains of a gingerbread reindeer instead of the semisweet biscuits. Having done that, we realised that we had less gingerbread than we thought so we made up the quantity with finely chopped walnuts. This worked well, although the proportion of biscuit to nuts wasn’t quite right. Ideally, maybe a quarter of the biscuits replaced with nuts would have been better. Chopped dried fruit could be a tasty addition to the biscuit base, or maybe a mix of contrasting biscuit flavours. Nevertheless, the result was still very more-ish I must say, and worth trying out again.

Chocolate Topping

Just covered in chocolate

The recipe method is a straightforward melting process, melting the butter, adding cocoa, sugar and sugar and bringing them to the boil. Simply stir in the crushed biscuits (or whatever combination you have) and press the mixture into a lined 7” square tin. Leave to cool and set firm before topping with the melted chocolate. It would be a nice idea to melt some white chocolate to pipe swirls or patterns to decorate to ring the changes. As you can see, we left our cake without adornment this time, with a simple layer of dark chocolate.

The quickies (or biscuit cakes!) passed their taste test, so why not let us know about anything you have tried out and tweaked recently? If you have a food blog, post up a link to your recipe for us to try out..

Finished Biscuit Cake

Ready to sample!

Lovely Lemon Ricotta Cake

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I did another bit of baking recently and tried out a new recipe for lemon ricotta cake. The recipe is out of a supplement from The Observer called Baking with kids. We’ve had it since 2007 but have never used any of the twenty four recipes it contains.Lemon Ricotta Cake

The cake ingredients are lemons, eggs, butter, castor sugar, ricotta, self raising flour and chocolate. I used the zest of one lemon instead of two but the cake was still very tangy. The recipe calls for a 20cm square tin, the one I used was about 24cm square. These recipes are obviously designed for children to mess around with. I got egg yolk in the whites, didn’t whisk the whites up very well, the mixture seemed to separate and I wasn’t sure about the consistency. Despite all this, I still got a soft, creamy yellow cake that looked remarkably like the one in the picture!

Lemon ricotta cake

Melted chocolate and sugar-paste flowers

One other alteration I made was with the chocolate, which is used for icing the top. According to the instructions, only 75g are necessary, but there wasn’t any point leaving 25g in the bag, was there? Come to think of it, 100g was probably better because my cake had a larger surface area than it should have done. The icing is very simple, you sprinkle chocolate drops over the cake while it is still hot and spread them about as they melt. You were supposed to use white and milk chocolate to create a marbled effect but I just stuck with milk chocolate. I added sugar paste flowers in two shades of Primrose that were left over from an earlier project. The cake was delicious with caramel ice-cream.

Lemon ricotta cake

Lemon ricotta cake

Let us know if you’ve tried any new recipes lately…

Baking up a bonfire!

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Tried and Tested: Raspberry and Chocolate Brownies

We recently made another batch of brownies, using the Waitrose raspberry brownies recipe, which we made last Christmas. The chocolate mix was a bit different this time as it was left over from another project. We had the problem of the mixture separating during the melting stage. We put it down to not having the right proportions of milk and dark chocolate. We also added blueberries to the mix, which worked out very well. I think it would be nice to try to add white chocolate for a marbled effect, but it might separate in the melting stage again. The brownies are stickier than usual, although they were slightly over-baked and the crust seems quite hard. Not that we are complaining about oozing chocolate! The recipe made thirty-two pieces, which I think is about average, of which half a dozen were sent off as a birthday present.

                                 Father’s Day cake

It’s a bit late to blog about it now, but we did make a Father’s Day cake which has only just been all eaten up. The recipe was a variation on English Apple Cake. We used rhubarb instead of apple. We also left out the ground almonds and lemon rind. The cake is made using the creaming method. The recipe makes an 8 inch cake although it isn’t very deep, but it was large enough for a good bit of icing. The original recipe calls simply for a glaze on the top but we opted for an under layer of marzipan and white sugar-paste icing over it.

Father's Day cake

Iced rhubarb cake

He Who Put The Shelves Up is fond of hill-walking so the cake was iced like a rocky mountain path. All of the decorations are sugar-paste, the moss in light Holly Green, the flowers in two shades of Primrose and the path in Chestnut. The stones were made using a very small amount of black which wasn’t fully worked in so it looks like streaky grey, the small white parts were meant to represent crystals in the stone. The path was marked and pitted using various tools to make it look more rugged. The flowers were cut using two tiny cutting gadgets. The moss is less high-tech, it was made using one of Chris’s tricks of pushing icing through a sieve and scraping it off the other side to create curled strands. The distance sign is just paper and a short wooden skewer. I tried to make a small dolmen at the edge of the cake as well with the rest of the grey icing.

What have you been baking recently? 

Iced cake

Sugar-paste icing

Iced cake

A sweet hill path

Very more-ish Viennese Tarts

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On a previous Curiously Creatively blog post, I have mentioned an old cookery book that languished at my parent’s house. The book is called Cakes & Cake Decorating by Rosemary Wadey (Octopus Books, 1979, 1981). Well, I finally managed to find room for it in the luggage that we brought back on our Christmas trip (thank heavens that ferries don’t have baggage charges). It’s certainly good to have the book back again, partly I admit for nostalgic reasons as I have baked many items from the book. I used it a great deal when, many moons ago I baked for a market stall and a delicatessen in Birmingham. As I said before, the book has the scars (in the form of plenty of grease stains) to attest to its cookery bible status.

Cakes & Cake Decorating

A real treasure…

Now that I do have the book back, I have a great opportunity to bake some goodies that I have not sampled in quite a few years. I also have an opportunity for some shameless nostalgia in recalling cakes that I made for various people and occasions. One of my all time favourites in this book is a ginger cake recipe that at one time I baked every week for a regular order. However, as I did have a hand written copy of that recipe, I have been able to make it for us and I did use it as a birthday cake base last year.

Where I did start the big re-bake (if that is even a word) was with the Viennese Tart recipe since I have been promising to show Verity how to make them for ages. Not only did I used to make them for my market stall, they were a weekly product at the Birmingham bakery where I worked after leaving college. We used also to make Viennese Whirls from the same basic mixture, where the paste was piped directly onto a lined baking sheet. When cool, the biscuits were sandwiched with buttercream and half dipped in chocolate. Very yummy!

Here are the Viennese ingredients as given in Rosemary Wadey’s book:

200g plain flour
pinch of salt
200g butter or margarine
50g castor sugar
vanilla essence
icing sugar for dredging
1 – 2 TBS seedless raspberry jam

You use a basic creaming method, and you should end up with a light mixture that will pipe easily enough yet still hold a shape in a paper case. According to the book, the Viennese mixture should make sixteen tarts but I only managed fourteen (and I made two batches, each with the same result). I used a half-inch star piping tube to pipe a swirl in each paper case. Bake at 180⁰C/350⁰F or gas mark 4 for about 20 minutes. The tarts should be a light golden brown in colour. Leave them in the tray to cool a little before attempting to transfer them to a cooling rack, as they are quite fragile while warm.

Viennese Recipe

How to do it…

Finish them off with a good dredging of icing sugar and a dot of jam in the centre. For this it is easiest to use a small greaseproof paper piping bag, but you could use a teaspoon and carefully put a small amount of jam in each indent. Instead of putting the jam on top, we did as the book suggested and put a piece of glace cherry on before baking.

You will have to take our word for it that our tarts turned out well since we forgot the photographic evidence. We testify that they tasted very nice….

What have you baked lately? Do let us know.



Butter Shortbread: My Dad’s Favourite

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Cakes & Cake Decorating

A real treasure…

This shortbread recipe has been part of my repertoire for years and I can’t imagine being without it now as it is just so quick and straightforward to make. It’s also a very more-ish nibble to enjoy at any time. The biscuit recipe that I use came from a cookery book that I own, Cakes and Cake Decorating by Rosemary Wadey.  I left it behind at my parents’ house in Birmingham several years ago and I keep meaning to bring it back with me sometime but I never actually do. Not that I’m exactly short of recipes to try out, as my newspaper and magazine recipe stash gets larger by the week.Ingredients

In the meantime, my mum copied out a few of my favourite recipes and this is one of them. In return, I regularly despatch shortbread home to my dad, who is a big fan of this buttery treat. I used to bake from Rosemary Wadey’s book when I ran a market stall and so the book had plenty of use (witnessed by the many sticky and greasy marks).  When I’m baking, I tend to flip between metric and imperial measures. This is one where I’ve always used the pounds and ounces version so I would probably find it completely impossible to make in metric, such is the effect of ingrained habit.

Shortbread Recipe

From the archive….

I usually double the quantities given above and press the dough into a shallow oblong tin (about 20 x 30cm), though I do like the shortbread made in rounds as given in the method above. I used to have a thistle decorated shortbread mould which produced a very attractive shortbread round with fluted edge. Failing a mould, you can pinch the edges to decorate the border before baking and then cut into ‘petticoat tails’. Sometimes I take a circle from the centre before cutting the tails, which also looks pretty. However you cut them, sprinkle with castor sugar after baking and remember to leave the biscuits until cool before handling as they are easily breakable when warm. Be careful not to over bake; the shortbread should be a light golden brown. The flavour can be bitter if you over bake. I find that I have to be really careful with this as I tend to underestimate the time it’s been in the oven (why, oh why do I not use the timer more often I ask myself!)


Ready for the tin…

The basic shortbread recipe is a good one, though you could tinker with it a bit and substitute some of the plain flour with rice flour as suggested. At other times, I’ve added grated lemon or orange zest; dried fruit makes a nice change and I’ve also turned the plain shortbread into chocolate with the substitution of some flour for cocoa powder. I even daringly spread a layer of chocolate icing on top before cutting it into squares. The mixture is versatile enough to roll out and cut into shapes if you want, though you would need to chill the dough and not roll too thinly.

Baked shortbread

Ideal with a cuppa!

I am a great fan of anything that you can bake in an oblong or square tin and cut up into lunchbox or picnic friendly portions. This kind of baking is also ideal for all of those school cake sales that pop up with alarming regularity during the academic year. If I can support a good cause or Transition Year project with a quick tray bake rather than anything more fiddly, then so much the better.

Now I wonder if there are any pieces left in the cake tin to go with my morning coffee….

Let us know if you have any recipes that you return to again and again.


Additional Picture Credits: book cover taken from Ebay (with thanks)

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