Jungle Biscuits

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Jungle Biscuits

Another quick post with lots of photos. This time to show the jungle biscuits I made for my nephew’s 1st birthday.

Not sure you find all these animals in the jungle, but who cares?!

The cutters are Ann Clarke zoo ones from Amazon, and I used a heart one for the leaves and a unicorn one for the zebra (with the horn cut off!).

I used my usual biscuit and icing recipes. These were my designs.

And the finished articles

The elephant and hippo were simple. Just a grey outline, grey flooding and then a second outline once the flooding was dry.

The money was also pretty simple, I did a dark brown outline and then an outline of the face and belly in beige.

Then flooded it in the appropriate colour and piped on the face in black when the flooding was dry.

Leaf also simple – outline on the heart biscuit, flood and then pipe the pattern when flooding dry.

The giraffe I outlined in beige, put on some blobs of brown in flooding icing, white flooding on the legs, brown for the tail, nose and ears, and then piped round the blobs with beige flooding. I like the informality of the shapes. If you wanted more precision I would recommend flooding completely in beige and piping on the brown pattern once the flooding is dry.

The last one I did was the zebra. I experimented with adding the black stripes at the point of flooding, and it was a disaster. So I piped the black stripes on one of them once the white flooding was dry. And I’m completely in love with it. Both with and without a black outline.

For the black icing I tried a new experiment. I added this black cocoa to the icing.

It made a lovely dark grey, which I added some black food colouring to. And it made a fantastic black. It has a kind of Oreo taste, which I love, and used a lot less food colouring than normal, which is a good thing.

For the brown icing I added regular cocoa and brown food colouring.

Here they are at the party, plus some of the amazing other jungle themed things my sister made!

Related posts:

40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Pride Rainbow Biscuits

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

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40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Quick post this one! Just thought I would share the biscuits I made for our camping weekend to celebrate my brother’s 50th and my sister’s 40th birthdays.

Links to the biscuit and icing recipes can be found on my other biscuit posts (see end of this post for links)

I like to draw the biscuit designs so I can work out the best way to ice them/ what colours I need etc.

I trace round the cutter, and then draw in the designs.

For all of these biscuits I did an initial outline in the same colour as the flooding icing, then flooded them, dried them in the oven (super low heat – it’s much faster than letting them air dry), and then went over the outlines again in black. It really makes the designs pop.

To make the black (and brown) I added cocoa to the outline icing, then black (brown) food colouring. Means you can get away with less food colouring – and it darkens as it dries, so don’t worry if it’s not the blackest black when you pipe it.

Cutters were from Sweet and Scrumptious

My 9 year old daughter helped me ice these. She’ll be on junior bake off before I know it!

The birthday boy and girl enjoying their biscuits!

Related posts:

Pride Rainbow 🍪

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

40th Birthday Cake

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40th Birthday Cake

Yesterday it was my baby sister’s 40th birthday, and apart from making me feel very old, it was of course and excuse to try out my new cake tin, and some of the pretty cake ideas I’ve been seeing on Pinterest.

My new cake tin is ace! It’s a Countless Celebrations cake pan set by Wilton, which I got from Hobbycraft. You can use it to make any letter or number, and I guess a range of shapes, so I figure I will get a lot of use out of it. It’s a deep rectangle, and then has lots of small bits that you put into the tin to shape the letters/numbers. The bottom of the tin is dimpled to keep the bits in place.

I thought I would do one cake in chocolate and one in vanilla to please all tastes. I used the same victoria sponge recipe for both, just substituting cocoa powder for some of the flour. I like the egg weighing method, and I had to guess how much I would need for the tin (one criticism I have of the cake tin is that it doesn’t give any advice about amount of mixture for the different layouts). I went for 7 eggs per cake, and to be fair, I could have got away with 6. This is how it worked out:

7 eggs

400g caster sugar

400g unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

400g self raising flour (replace 50g of flour with cocoa for the chocolate version)

Enough milk to make a slightly looser batter

You know the score… cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, gradually add the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the flour (and cocoa) and mix till just combined. I use my KitchenAid mixer for all steps, but some prefer to fold in the flour.

With the cake tin you make the letter/number backwards and then flip it over so you have a flat surface.

You have to be quite careful with them when releasing them from the pan, or they break! I will definitely invest in some of that spray on non stick stuff for next time I use them.

I cut mine into two layers and added jam (raspberry in one and homemade rhubarb in the other – which goes amazingly with chantilly cream – a kind of rhubarb and custard vibe).

I put a row of raspberries in the middle and piped blobs of cream round the edge (to make it look pretty). Then out the top layer on. The cream was whipped with a little icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. So yummy!

I found that making them into layers and filling/reconstructing them made them quite fragile. Hence the cracks in the photos below!

For the topping I piped cream blobs on the top and then topped it with a range of delicious goodies.

I used my meringue recipe to make meringue kisses (see here), and painted stripes inside the piping bag with food colouring gel. The gold below was paint not gel, and it didn’t work out so well. But the red worked great! I baked them slowly in a low oven.

I cheated with the rest by buying some chocolates, macarons and cutting some edible flowers from the garden (roses and pelargoniums) – make sure you use edible flowers – you can find a list here.

Fortunately I took these pictures before transporting the cakes to my sister’s. Because they were very delicate, and slipped around – half of the top layer of the 4 fell off in my hallway!! So I would only recommend making these and piling them so high of you are eating the cake in the same place that you make it!

Pride Rainbow Biscuits

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Pride Rainbow Biscuits

London Pride is at the beginning of July, and we chose to celebrate it at work this year with a bake sale. With proceeds going to London Friend, the UK’s oldest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans charity. I’m the head of the D&I practice at work, so it was a perfect excuse to combine my passion for inclusion and my love of baking.

I had seen some great rainbow cookies on Pinterest, and was inspired to make something bright and colourful.

I used my go-to biscuiteers vanilla biscuit recipe (as seen in this blog post, or here on their site) and decided to use the biscuiteers powdered egg white icing recipe (see here), rather than the one my friend gave me and I have used in previous posts. This is largely because I went for a lesson at biscuiteers, and they used this icing, and it was great! It uses less of the egg white powder than the other recipe, so it’s cheaper too! I use meri white powder, which I got from The Vanilla Valley – it was the best priced I could find).

To make things simple for myself, I decided just to do heart shapes. I always find I need to bake the biscuits slightly less time than the biscuiteers recipe.

I made up flooding icing in 6 colours of the rainbow (yes I know there are 7, but who really knows the difference between indigo and violet!), plus lining icing in red. I’m getting much better at gauging the consistency of the icing. For lining icing I just the mix as it comes in the recipe, and for flooding, dilute with water to shampoo consistency).

I always use gel colours, and I love the Wilton range. I bought a big box of different colours from Amazon a while back, and they are great. Though I reckon you could just have the primary colours, and black, and you could mix your own different colours!

For flooding I’ve started using plastic bottles rather than icing bags. Less messy, easy to control and better for the environment as you just wash them. I have them from a few different places. The ones in this kit from Amazon are good because they are easy to squeeze. Biscuiteers also sell some Goode ones – I picked up a few after my lesson, though they don’t seem to sell them on the website. Except on this kit. I use a Wilton size 1 or 2 plain tip. I don’t bother with a tip for outlining, I just cut a small hole in the bag, and make it bigger if I need to.

A top tip if you have the same colour outlining and flooding colours is to make the outline one first, use it, then dilute what is left to make the flooding icing. I did this with the red icing. I also made a bigger batch of yellow, then added blue to a third to make the green and red to a third to make orange.

Icing them was easy, but actually much more time consuming than I estimated. It turned into a pretty late night! I outlined them all in red first, then piped stripes of each colour onto the biscuits.

I started with thicker stripes (two passes with each colour), and then experimented with thinner stripes, and different patterns. I ran a cocktail stick through some to make them a little tye-dye looking.

I then baked them again for a little while on the lowest oven setting (mine only goes to 80 degrees) to set them. I find this much better than just leaving them to dry. It also means you quickly can pipe over the top with additional designs, without waiting for them to dry for hours. Which I didn’t with these. but did with the biscuits I will write about in my next post.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, and they sold straight away at the bake sale!!

Related posts: 40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Fox Cake

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It was my neice’s 11th birthday recently and as we were going away with them for half term, I took along a bunch of baking stuff so I could make her a special cake.

Naturally I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and I kept coming across cute fox cakes that I thought she would love. I’ve also wanted to make a striped zebra cake for ages, so I thought I would combine the two.

I wanted a tall layer cake and this recipe is enough for three shallow 8 inch cake tins, which I cut in half so we had six layers. If you want to get the zebra stripes to work in the best way, it’s probably better to bake one deep cake so the stripes stay in line.

For the white stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Milk

For the brown stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

25g cocoa

Milk

I made them at the same time in two separate bowls.

Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder (and cocoa for the dark stripes). Add enough milk to make a soft, loose mix. You don’t want it too stiff.

I actually mushed down 100g of raspberries and added them to the white stripe mix instead of some of the milk. Made it nice and moist.

Now for the fun bit. Grease and line the bottom of the cake tins.

Add a blob of dark mix in the centre of each tin, allow it to spread a little. Then add a blob of white directly in the centre of the dark one, allow to spread a little, then add dark. Keep on going until the mix has spread to the edge of the tin and all of the mix is used up. This is a good video here that shows how it works. Her mix is very runny, but it doesn’t have to be quite that runny. Mine was reasonably thick and I just encouraged it to go to the edges by tipping the tins.

Bake for around 20 mins at 180.

Once cold I cut all of my cakes in half to make six tiers and sandwiched them together with raspberry jam, chocolate buttercream, and on the middle layer I put fresh raspberries too.

The chocolate butter cream was 1 pack of unsalted butter (250g) a couple of tablespoons of cocoa, a couple of tablespoons of milk and enough icing sugar to make it the consistency and sweetness I like – I didn’t measure!

I then iced the outside with chocolate ganache, which was 400g of dark chocolate and 200ml of double cream. I chopped the chocolate and poured over the cream which I had warmed in the microwave. I managed to split it (eek), but discovered if you warm some milk and beat it in, then it magically goes back to the way it should be! Once the ganache was on I put it in the fridge overnight.

I used bought fondant icing (Mary Berry would be horrified). All Renshaws from Hobbycraft One small pack (250g size) of orange, 1/4 small pack of brown and half a large pack (500g size) of white kneaded together. This was the perfect amount to cover the cake, make the ears and tail. If you like your icing thick then use more as I rolled it reasonably thin.

The ears are triangles with the edges feathered (just cut out little triangles) and stacked them with a bit of black at the top and white inners. I just curled them slightly on my hand, and placed them on top of the cake. I used an egg box behind them to support them until they dried!

The tail is a roll of the main cake colour fondant, with black then white pushed together at the end. I make it look like fur with the back of a knife. This also helped blend the three colours together.

The face is white cut into a shape like the top of a heart and attached to the main cake with a little water on the back.

The nose is a blob of black, and the eyes are thin sausages of black stuck in an arch and then two tiny bits for eyelashes.

As you can see from this slice. The zebra stripes inside didn’t work so well – it looks more like a normal marble cake. It would have been much better as one or two larger cakes sliced and then put back together in the same pattern. Mine got a bit mixed up because it was so many cakes and layers.

All in all though, a successful cake, which tasted yummy and looked cute!

Spiced All Bran Cake

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Spiced All Bran Cake

I don’t remember my grandma (on my Mum’s side) being much of a baker, but she did make a delicious cake made from Kellogg’s All Bran cereal.

I have inherited her cook book, which is filled with her lovely handwriting.

But unfortunately it doesn’t have her All Bran cake recipe in it. I remember it has equal measures of things in it, and, in a completely modern way for a British woman born in the 1930’s, it used cups rather than weights! Perhaps it was an American recipe? She used to make it with a mug as her measuring cup.

Fortunately, there are several recipes online, including on the Kellogg’s website, which I’ve used as inspiration for my own version.

100g All Bran (to be honest, I used Morrison’s own brand!)

100g caster sugar

150g sultanas

300ml milk (if you’re vegan a nut milk would work well I think)

100g self raising flour

1tsp allspice

Mix together the milk, All Bran, sugar and sultanas and leave to soak for at least 1 hour. My Grandma used to leave it overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade

Mix in the flour and allspice, pour it into a loaf tin (I line mine with baking paper). Bake for around an hour.

Leave it to cool a while, slice and serve with lashings of butter. The Danish have a word ‘Tandsmør’, which means ‘tooth butter’, and it’s when you have butter so thick that your teeth leave marks in it. This cake definitely deserves Tandsmør. However, I love it best warm, fresh out of the oven. It is to die for!

Houseplant Heaven – Propagating Succulents

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Houseplant Heaven – Propagating Succulents

Most of my houseplants have been ordered online, and I’ve been really impressed how they have survived their journeys to my house.

However, I have found that the succulents tend to lose a few leaves in transit, which of course I can’t resist trying to turn into new plants!

The baby donkeys tail in particular lost lots and lots of leaves, which is nothing to do with how it was posted, it’s just a delicate plant!

I’ve propagated plenty of plants from cuttings, but have never tried succulent leaf propagation, so I thought I would give it a go.

I put about an inch of cactus compost in a seed tray, misted it with water, and scattered the leaves over the damp compost.

This tray (from left to right) has baby donkeys tail leaves, string of bananas leaves and variegated string of pearls leaves.

I have put them on a sunny windowsill with a plastic lid to keep the heat and moisture in. These photos were taken on the 20th January.

I received the baby donkeys tail plant about a week ago, and I have had the leaves that came off in transit in a plastic bag since then. One of the leaves already has some roots on it, so I’m hoping the rest get roots quickly. If they do, I’m going to have a lot of plants to give away!

Here is an update, on the 8th February, so less than 3 weeks later – some of them have shrivelled and died, but the vast majority are looking fine, with little roots forming on some of them.

I’ve been spritzing them regularly so they don’t dry out, and it’s been quite sunny, so they get quite warm in the daytime.

And another update on the 22nd March (so two months after I put them on the compost)- some tiny plants forming! I think I’m going to separate out the ones with plants forming and put them in their own individual modules.

And again on the 13th April. I’ve taken the largest ones and given them a small plug cell each to stop their roots getting tangled with each other.

The string of pearls has done really well (on the left) – actually better than the parent plant, so I’m glad I have some back up.

Nothing has happened to the string of bananas, just some roots forming, so I’m leaving them in the main tray for now to see if anything eventually happens.

You can see below how big the root systems are on them.

Eventually the piece they grew from will wither and die as they are getting all their nutrients from their root system.

It’s quite remarkable that in just three months I have almost 40 viable new plants for free. My friends and family will be happy, and my daughters schools fete plant stall will do well! If I was minded to try and make some money, the costs stack up well. The parent plant cost £17.50, so even if I just sold the babies in a few months for a couple of pounds each, I would be quids in, for very minimal effort!

Update… these are the plants at the end of June. Time to put them into proper pots. I’m thinking a couple put together in a small pot will soon make a nice little plant.

The ones I left in the original tray because they were too small to pot on have also done well, and one of the string of bananas finally started generating new growth. They have been joined by some leaves from some other succulents that have rooted really well just by laying them on the soil and keeping it moist with a spray. I’ve now turned them over to encourage the roots to grow into the soil. Free plants really are the best.