Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Project round up and shameless promotion

Jen: So that completes the Upper Cut Cakes 3rd birthday celebrations. Hopefully you've enjoyed the concoctions we've brought to you in this project. Maybe you'd like to tell us which combination you'd try first? We love getting your comments.

We'll continue to bring you tempting treats to tickle your taste buds. As you know any excuse! And do feel free to get in touch if you'd like us to do something special for you.

If you're looking for a picture to brighten up your kitchen/dining room some of my cake photography will be on show and available to buy at the Makers Gallery Bistro in Alloa this April and May.

And if you haven't had enough of my cake chat, pop on over to The High Tea Cast for my column focusing on Sweet Things. I'll be sharing lots more info about baking including recipes and some fun experiments.

Elanor: Now that's real commitment to cake, Jen.  Thanks, everyone, for helping us celebrate and for reading our blog.  Happy cake baking and cake eating to you all!

(Top: Layers of strawberry butter cake and white chocolate sponge cake filled with fresh strawberries and white-chocolate buttercream, and topped with even more buttercream and hand-dipped white chocolate strawberries.

Middle: strawberry butter cake filled with roasted strawberry white balsamic vinegar gel and basil buttercream; outer frosting and piping also of basil buttercream.

Bottom: white chocolate sponge filled with caramelised peaches and cardamom buttercream dusted with icing sugar and dotted with delicate fondant flowers.)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Herbs and vinegar with your cake?

Elanor: Now onto the final cake of the trio.  My concept of a strawberry-basil cake is unusual but not wildly novel; many a flavours-loving baker has baked one before.  But most often, basil is in the cake and strawberry in the frosting, and I needed the reverse to make the joint cake idea work.  Turns out it's surprisingly challenging to find a good recipe for strawberry cake that doesn't include boxed cake, custard, or jello mixes and that incorporates berries into the cake itself (rather than as a glaze, topping, etc.).  Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen came through.  And though I've made herbal frosting before with good results, this time I wanted a smooth buttercream that offered up herbal essence but not pieces.  Adding milk simmered with fresh basil and then steeped overnight to the basic buttercream recipe from Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days worked well, though I'd still like to find a way to make the basil flavour come through even more strongly.

To be honest, stopping there would have yielded a delicious cake.  Yet somehow, I couldn't resist adding one more dimension to the mix (pun intended).  Hence a filling layer of roasted strawberry and white balsamic vinegar gel.  My intent was to cut the sweetness of the buttercream but hopefully without taking away from the more subtle basil and strawberry flavours.  And yes, to make the cake even more interesting.  We'll have to wait to hear whether the other cake tasters thought I went off the deep end or if the gel layer is worth making again to work out the kinks (a bit tart on its own, and prone to leaking pink juices through the outer frosting layers).

(Two layers of strawberry butter cake, filling layers of roasted strawberry and white balsamic vinegar gel and basil buttercream, and outer frosting and piping of basil buttercream.)

Monday, 25 March 2013

Naked cake with falling flowers


Jen: Those who know me or have been following the blog will realise that I’m a very prolific baker (not just for the past three years but actually for as long as I can remember). Having family and friends around to bake for has been a great help.  I’ve baked for birthdays and anniversaries galore and have even had the privilege of baking a 3-tiered wedding cake.

My tastes and ideas have developed over the 3 years. I’ve tried to challenge myself with each project so that I’m always learning new skills (that said I do have my favourite stand-bys for when time is tight). Other people’s opinions are also very important to me and I try to create cakes to suit the recipients’ tastes as well as being mindful of allergies.

My philosophy is keep it simple and I certainly tried to stick to that here. Having watched a steady rise in the popularity of naked cakes recently this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. After a fun day of sampling some amazing cake flavours around Edinburgh I wanted to up my game on the flavour front and create something more unusual. I don’t know if I managed but it certainly tasted good!

(white chocolate sponge filled with caramelised peaches and cardamom buttercream dusted with icing sugar and dotted with delicate fondant flowers)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Musings on baking and chocolate-covered strawberries

Elanor: For those who have followed the blog, you'll have seen that my baking is usually about two things.  First, the idea that the cake needs to fit the occasion or the recipient.  Sometimes there's a cake in my existing repertoire that's a perfect fit.  Other times this means experimentation and a one-of-a-kind recipe or design.

Second, the flavours.  Sure, I love the classic ones like decadent chocolate.  But more often than not I'm drawn to combinations not found in the bakery aisle of grocery stores.  I am, after all, the girl who fell in love with cucumber ice cream at first taste (which, unfortunately, has also been my last because I moved and no other homemade ice cream shops seem to have thought it as good an idea as it is).

This current project needed to focus on the blog's 3rd birthday and celebrating individual and joint efforts alike.  Seemed like three cakes, two created individually and one jointly, would certainly fit the occasion!  The flavours in the joint cake, though, also had to marry well and not clash.  So I suggested a joint cake based on the well-loved treat, the chocolate-covered strawberry.

One white chocolate cake layer, one strawberry cake layer, sliced fresh strawberries nestled in a white chocolate buttercream filling, and jazzed up with Jen's hand-dipped chocolate covered berries.

Jen's individual cake would then be based around white chocolate cake, and mine around strawberry cake.  Over to you, Jen!

(Layers of strawberry butter cake and white chocolate sponge cake filled with fresh strawberries and white-chocolate buttercream, and topped with even more buttercream and hand-dipped white chocolate strawberries.)

Saturday, 23 March 2013

We are 3!

Elanor: Happy birthday to Upper Cut Cakes! The blog's been a joint effort from the start, so we thought it appropriate to make the celebratory posts a joint effort too.  We have lots of cake, lots of photos, and lots of details to share, so we'll be posting a bit every day for the next few days.

Jen: If we told you everything that we went through to create these mini cakes to celebrate the blog's 3rd birthday you probably wouldn't believe us. You'd think that after 3 years of baking decorating and blogging we'd have it down to a fine art. We don't. But we have learned that baking requires patience, time and the ability to make light of accidents (happy and unfortunate).

Without giving you all the gory details, the plan for this project was to each bake three layers of cake and use two of them to decorate a 2-layer cake. The two spare cake layers would then be joined to co-create a 3rd 2-layer cake (are you still with me?)

Elanor: Hope we've tantalized your taste buds so you'll join us tomorrow to hear more about each cake!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Keep it simple

Perhaps a more elaborate cake would have seemed appropriate to celebrate the milestone of 70th wedding anniversary. However Upper Cut cake gal Jen made the right choice here as Great Granny enjoyed not 1, not 2 but 3 slices (one after the other) of her celebratory sponge. Congratulations to the happy couple.

(vanilla sponge with raspberry jam filling decorated with water icing, a giant milk chocolate heart with piped white chocolate 70)