Category Archives: Cake decorating

Halloween treats – no tricks allowed

Happy Sunday morning!?

Hopefully your day is going slightly less downhill than mine!

Husband has been in America on a “work” trip (they call them conferences – I’ve seen the pictures – there’s not a lot of working going on…), and gotten snowed in in the freak October Nor’easter.    I would like to say this is the first time such an occasion has presented itself, but he got snowed in in Switzerland just before Christmas last year (we had over a foot of snow over here – and I got to shovel the drive with a 2 year old – three times – and we have a long drive…), and delayed somewhere else also last year.  This is the man who drove to France in his 2-CV (her name is Florence ) during the volcanic ash cloud – for work.  Bless.

This has not stopped the Halloween baking, but has certainly meant that by the end of the day, I’m simply knackered, and dinner has been mostly simple, heat and eat.

We did, however, go all out for pancakes this morning:

It looks like a mix between a cat and a pig – covered in Stawberry spread and raisins (forgot to get grapes this weekend!)

I have to say it was nice having the recipe on hand in the blog from earlier!  No more googling with a desperate toddler who wants to do cooking!

The Halloween treats have been made in stages – given the limited attention span of a 3 year old, and the limited spare time of a mummy with no daddy to take the heat off (or anyone else for that matter).  So it started on Friday whilst the lady was at Kindergarten / nursery.  With the baking.  She doesn’t like to help with some of the baking because mummy is a control freak who doesn’t let her stir all over the counter.

We went for cupcakes (so she could help decorate), and some ogre finger cookies (for another post) – made in tandem, because it’s always best to multi-task, and I do have extra arms (comes with child birth, I think)…

Spooky (ish) Halloween cupcakes (makes 12)

For the cupcakes:

Based on The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook recipe:

  • 120 g plain flour (about 4 ounces)
  • 140 g caster sugar (about 5 ounces)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 40 g unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 120ml (about 4 ounces again) milk

1.  Melt butter completely in the microwave, leave to cool
2.  mix dry ingredients
3.  add egg to cooled butter and whisk
4.  make a well in the dry ingredients, then add the butter and egg until it looks like a dough

5.  Gradually mix in milk until a batter forms (this keeps the mix from getting lumpy – and I don’t think anyone likes lumpy cupcakes!)

6.  Pour into cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases (like these!!!)

7.  Bake at 170C / 340 F until the cupcakes are lightly browned and firm to the touch (about 20 -25 minutes – mine usually take the former)

8.  Decorate as desired

We did these:

I now need to go and entertain a very kind little girl who has very patiently waited for me to finish…

Severed smushed fingers later.  Promise.

Fingers crossed that our neighbour can take the little one to nursery tomorrow morning (else I will have all the Halloween treats at home, and no one to eat them – the pink cupcakes are for us), and that the airport is fully functioning in whatever part of the US the husband is currently located (we clearly do communication on a totally different level).

Have a great weekend!



A different kind of pumpkin pie

The Americans came, they saw and they had cake!  All was superb.

Whilst I know it was only by brother and sister-in-law visiting, they still came an awful long way to see me, (even if it was a stop over on the way to Switzerland –  I won’t hold that against them – yet), and that kind of effort deserves at least a similar cake effort.

As I noted earlier, my brother was mightily impressed when I did Beantown Baker’s Red Velvet Cheesecake cake (, so I wanted to recreate, but add a bit of a spin.  So out went the red velvet to make room for something more autumnal and Halloween-y!  (I love Halloween – more so since I’ve been over in the UK, as they just do it so poorly here – and it could just be sooooo good!).  In came Buttermilk spice cheesecake cake, with a Halloween twist – so here goes:

Buttermilk spice cheesecake cake – adapted from the Beantown Baker (


2.5 c all purpose flour
1.5c sugar
1 tsp. baking soda / bicarb.
2Tbsp (or to taste) cinnamon
.5 Tbsp ground ginger
.25 Tbsp mace
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1.5 c vegetable oil
1 c buttermilk
Optional mix of yellow and red food colouring to turn the cake orange (or keep it the warm brown shade if preferred)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar

575g cream cheese (I always use light, but not ultra light – adds more nutrition and I think the taste is nicer)
0.75 c sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
2 eggs
0.5 c sour cream (again, I go for reduced fat here – it’s an indulgent cake, but why can’t it be indulgent and a bit more nutrient dense?)

– 500 g cream cheese (don’t go with light here, unless you want to up the butter content to compensate – you need the fat to make the frosting stiffer)
– 150g butter
– 900 g icing sugar (I’ll need to buy more before I can make my Christmas chocs this year :-()
– food colouring to tint – as desired


Cake (make the cake first!):

– oven to 350 F / 170 C
– line two baking tins – I  use spring-form pans
– mix together dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another (excluding food colouring)
– make a well in the dry ingredients and combine in wet stirring until smooth
– add food colouring to desired colour saturation
– divide batter evenly between the greased and lined cake tins (mine are non-stick – you may want to flour yours)
– bake 30 minutes, rotating half way through, until top feels firm and toothpick test is confirmed
– set to cool
– once cool, remove from tins and wash up tins
– once absolutely cool, wrap in clingfilm / plastic wrap and pop in freezer (this is not a one day bake!)

– oven to 160C/ 325F
– get a large roasting tin out which will fit the same pan in which the cake was made inside it
– line the cake tin, then wrap the outside in foil (you’re going to put it in a water bath, so wrap appropriately!)
– Beat cream cheese until it loosens, add sugar, lemon zest and juice, salt, eggs, and lastly, sour cream – beat until well combined)
– pour into prepared cake tin already sitting in roasting pan (or similar)
– pour boiling water in to roasting pan so that it comes to about halfway up cheesecake tin
– Bake 45-50 minutes, until the cheesecake looks set in the centre (it will still be wobbly, but not runny)
– Remove from water, and let cool for 20 minutes before running a knife around the sides of the tin, and releasing sides of springform pan
– let cool completely, then pop it in the fridge for a night’s sleep
– in the morning, or whenever you get a chance the next day, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer, base still attached

Assemble and decorate

– no earlier than the day before you’re ready to serve, get your cakes out of the freezer, remove wrap, and set on a wire rack to defrost
– although I didn’t do it this time, I would certainly go ahead and make your frosting at this point (start by mixing the butter and cream cheese together, then add sugar until the desired consistency is reached, then add colouring if using, adding sugar if it becomes too loose)
– when fully defrosted (important that they defrost all the way or your layers will get mushy when put together), take your cheesecake out of the freezer, unwrap, and start to defrost briefly (about 20-30 minutes)
– lay your bottom layer of cake on a plate, and apply a layer of frosting (didn’t do this, but should have done – would have been really visually fantastic!)
– prepare to detach cheesecake from base of tin – it should still be sufficiently firm to manage some manhandling at this point.
– if the cheesecake has defrosted just enough, you should be able to release it by simply turning it over, running a knife along the edge of the cake and tin base, placing it on top of the bottom layer cake, and pulling slightly – if this doesn’t work, wait a bit longer, or consider getting a hair dryer out to warm the base a bit
– once tin is removed and cheesecake is in place, peel of parchment/ greaseproof paper from base of cheesecake (which has now become the top), and top with another layer of frosting, then second cake
– frost and decorate!

<– there’s a view of the inside (pumpkin brains!) – I’m not genius at cake slicing…

Things I would have done differently:
– the frosting both under and on top of cheesecake – I only put it on top of the cheesecake
– my frosting was too runny – I should have gone full fat / more butter, although I got a smoother finish as I could use it as more of a glaze than a frosting
– put crushed nuts or chocolate sprinkles up the sides – would have looked great, but I am dealing with fussy eaters, and I don’t want to be the only one eating this cake (been there, done that)

The Americans are coming!

And that’s a good thing 🙂

My big brother and sister in law are coming for a quick visit next week on their way to Switzerland.  I haven’t seen my brother since their wedding, over two years ago now.  The picture is from our trip over – we stopped in Savannah on the way back to the airport – really great city.  I’m really excited.  And a little apprehensive.  But that’s life!

They’re both huge foodies, so I’ve been racking my brain over where to take them, and what to make them.  We won’t go out for all our meals, because we just can’t afford that.  And it would be a shame not to bake them some sort of treat (they would do it for me anyway!).  So I’ve been thinking of something that will really hit the mark.

For Monkey’s last birthday, alongside the Ben & Holly cake, I made Beantown Baker’s ( Red Velvet Cheesecake cake – (hers was the first food blog I started visiting, and her cooking is just AMAZING).  I like to make something for the parents as well as the kids, and I just wanted desperately to try it!  I skyped my brother for Monk’s birthday hello, and brought the computer over to the fridge to show him the cake.  His response was along the lines of “Oh, dear G-d, that looks as good as a fried Mars bar.” (Another long story about that one… My brother and I have had some good times!).  So I think I’m going to make something along the same lines.  But I’m thinking cinnamon cake instead of the red velvet, because I love the taste of cinnamon alongside cheesecake.  Won’t necessarily be so visually stunning once cut, but I’ll think about that.

I’ll post the finished product next week (I’m going to make the layers and freeze them this weekend, then assemble when they get here!).  Then the only issue I’ll have is what to do with the leftovers (I ended up eating over half of that red velvet cheesecake cake all by myself because I didn’t have anyone to share with – husband only had one piece, and parents only took a few slices).  I get all anxious and pernickity when it comes to food hygiene and safety, so I’m concerned about bringing the cheesecake bit in to work, but they would eat it – so I’ll have to consider that point as well….

Otherwise, husband has requested a simple sponge (my Englishman has very English tastes – give him fine cuisine, and he wants sausage, mash and sponge…) or lemon cupcakes.  At least he’s buying!

A plus tard!

I’m “that” kind of mother…

So in my “about” bit, I state that I’m a bit of an extreme baker, but I have yet to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.  So I thought I’d better show you the goods, and fess up to how it came about.

I can blame it all on my daughter (because I know she will be blaming things on me for the rest of her life, so it’s only fair play).  It started with the second birthday parties (not the first – oddly enough).  Here’s a quick pictorial stroll through the last three years of her birthday cakes:

Year 1 – Store bought caterpillar








Year 2 – Home made 3-D Elmo

Here’s where it starts to get interesting.  One of Monk’s friends mother’s did an Angelina Ballerina cake, and although the cake was the same as the previous year, the decoration was really nice.  Another mother did home made cupcakes with special butterfly decorations – again – really pretty.  So I took the challenge and went with it.  Ergo, Elmo.

And took it to the next level.  Elmo’s body is made out of madeira / pound cake, and his head, eyes and nose are made of sculpted rice crispie treats covered in fondant. He’s sitting on a three layer red velvet cake.  And all that buttercream was also made from scratch.  Took a few weeks to bake the cakes (bake and freeze to sculpt later), then about two days to assemble.

Seeing that I was feeding a small group of two year olds, there was a lot of cake left over.  I had very appreciative co-workers, who also got a bit fed up with the cake after a while.

Year 3 – Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom cake

When my daughter asked for Ben and Holly (a cartoon about an Elf and a Fairy, broadly), I thought it would be easier than Elmo, so readily agreed.  How wrong I was.  And of course, after a teddy bear cake, some lovely chocolate cupcakes, and cherry blossom cupcakes, and of course, expectations from Elmo, I had to take it to a little bit of an extreme.  And fortunately, in a way, I was “between jobs” for a few weeks during this time so time was not a factor.  Good thing too, as this took me the better part of a week to decorate, baking aside.

The base cake is a standard two layer rainbow cake with basic vanilla buttercream (always good to go with basic flavours for the under 6 crowd, I think).  The flowers are store bought, however.  Ben, Holly, and their pet ladybug/ladybird were modelled out of fondant icing blocks with toothpicks to secure the parts and act as skeletons.  The base of the castle is a few layers of a simple sponge cake, whilst the tower is made out of a buttermilk cake that was amazing from The Joy of Cooking.  I wigged out with the top of the tower and just covered some cardboard in purple fondant.

I also make a second lemon cake, one layer, simple lemon frosting, with a fairy princess on top, to share with the family only on her actual birthday.

Due to the whole between jobs bit, the cake stayed at home – I was out of work for 5  weeks, and spent the first two of those getting a new job, one and a half weeks baking and decorating, and the last week and a half just eating cake.  Needless to say, I started my new job rather heavier than I was when I left my previous position.

Birthday 4

We are already in the planning stages for birthday four.  At the moment, it will be a little mermaid cake.  As her birthday coincides with my company’s year end, I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out time wise.  I can only promise that, as I have no idea, and little inclination to figure out, how to sculpt a mermaid out of cake (and how appropriate would that be with four year olds – can you imagine strategically placing shells?), and similar zeal for sculpting her out of gumpaste or fondant, I’ll be turning to a store bought Little Mermaid doll, which she can play with later, to put on a more simple layer cake … Or at least that’s what I’m saying now.  Fourth birthday season hasn’t yet begun, and I just don’t know when the evil gremlin that tells me it must be best, will rear it’s head and take over…