Tag Archives: cupcakes

Battle of the Birthday cakes

December is always a busy month for our family, what with birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas to celebrate and squeeze in alongside the end of term and all the added demands that that almost always inevitably brings. As well as the last-minute rush to make sure cards have been written (and sent) and that presents have been bought (and wrapped), I also have to make sure I have time to bake the perfect cake to help us celebrate G’s birthday in style.

Over the years I have tried my hand at all sorts of cakes and I love spending the time to let my creative side really come out, though Mike might disagree as some of my more complicated masterpieces have kept us up into the early hours as I strive to get every detail just right. Last year I attempted a gluten- and dairy-free red velvet cake for G, which tasted great, but didn’t look as appealing as I’d have liked and so this year I was determined to create her a special treat that looked and tasted the part. G is a definite chocolate lover, something that can be a little tricky when you’re dairy-free, but there are lots of great dairy-free options available and I was determined to use a mix of them to make G a cake that the whole family, including M, could enjoy.

The obvious starting point was the beautiful chocolate mayonnaise cupcakes that I had perfected for Mike’s birthday and which I knew I could turn into a fantastic 2 layer cake. I wanted to create a really sumptuous filling and to my delight discovered this salted caramel flavoured icing mix as I wandered around our local supermarket. Mixed with our regular dairy-free spread, this made the perfect buttercream filling and topping for G’s cake. I finished it off with handfuls of Freedom mallows, shavings of Moo-free chocolate and sprinkles of Sainsbury’s Free From White chocolate chips. The final cake was a huge success: gooey, delicious and everything my chocolate-lover could have wanted for her 15th birthday.

Once G’s birthday celebrations finally came to an end, I was then on to my next birthday cake project, which was to bake a cake for my Aunt for her birthday on December 23. This year was her first celebrating without my Uncle, who sadly passed away earlier in 2018 and the plan was for a family gathering at my Mum’s house to mark the day. Mum was keen for me to bake some more of the chocolate cake that I had made for G’s birthday, but I wanted to do something a little different, especially with Christmas right around the corner, and instead settled on one of M’s firm favourites, banana bread.

When it came to making the cake, G was a huge help and offered to bake a dozen cupcakes, whilst I decided how to decorate them. She did a great job and by the time I’d found the perfect design and all the necessary ingredients, there were 12 wonderful looking cupcakes waiting and ready to go. I took inspiration from the front cover of a fantastic cupcakes cookery book that I’ve used before and gave a nod to my Welsh heritage with a plateful of sheep cupcakes. Safe buttercream icing, a small supply of Freedom mallows, safe cocoa powder and a little fondant icing was all that was needed to create these fun birthday treats,which were not only enjoyed on the 23rd, but saw G and M through Christmas too.

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Something sweet for the weekend

If there was one thing we were all in need of last weekend, it was a sweet treat and I really wanted to bake something that I hadn’t made before. M was keen for me to make an entry for Delicious Alchemy’s own version of the Great British Bake-off, the Gluten-Free Magic Bake-off, so I needed something that would feed both children as well as hitting the brief he gave me of “something spectacular Mummy“. Hiding in the kitchen cupboard was a packet of Delicious Alchemy’s Gluten and Dairy-free Vanilla sponge cake mix, an item I’d bought on something of a whim to go with the 5 bags of their Rice flake porridge that would keep da_bake_off_logo_2016M going for the next few weeks. I pondered on whether I could use the mix to bake similar cupcakes to those I would be making for M and settled on the classic flavour combination of pear and ginger that has served me so well in the past. I haven’t made pear and ginger cupcakes before, but combining my recipe for pear and apple cupcakes with that for pear and ginger cookies, I was certain that I was onto a winner.

I started with a batch of M’s cupcakes and carefully tasted the batter mix to make sure that the ginger wasn’t too overpowering, something I’ve been guilty of in the past. Satisfied that the flavour combination was exactly what I wanted, it was time to move on to G’s cupcakes and I couldn’t wait to try out the sponge mix. Such mixes are a convenience I don’t use very often, usually because they don’t meet our complicated allergy needs, but given our last 2 Decembers with M disappearing into hospital and missing G’s birthdays, I figured that anything that could make the whole cake-baking experience a little easier for whoever ends up making her a cake can only be a good thing. I was really impressed with the sponge mix and how easy it was to use. I followed the packet instructions precisely, including using an egg  –salted-caramel-1 I can’t remember the last time I used an egg in my baking – and then added my own twist of pear and ginger. A quick taste reassured me that the flavour was good and then, with M’s cakes already out and cooling on the rack, popped G’s batch in to bake. The results looked and smelled delicious and soon joined M’s to cool, whilst I moved on to think about the icing.

Now this was where I wanted to venture into something completely new. I perfected coconut oil icing for M about this time last year, so it was time to take that knowledge and use it to create a different flavour. I turned to my ever faithful companion on these allergy-friendly recipe hunts, Google and discovered this great recipe combining ginger cupcakes with a salted caramel icing. I’ll be honest, salted caramel is not really my thing, but a couple of months ago, M had asked if I could make M-friendly caramel for him and I decided that there was no time like the present to take on that challenge. Rolling my sleeves up, I followed the recipe carefully, tweaking and swapping out ingredients as necessary to meet our allergy needs. I started with making the caramel and was delighted with the result. It does have a slightly unusual flavour because of the rice cream used to make it, but it wasn’t bad for a first attempt and I was certain that M and G would both love it. Once the caramel had cooled, I mixed it in with the coconut oil icing and then piped it onto the top of my cupcakes. A sprinkle of crystallised ginger added the final touches and I ended up with some beautiful cupcakes to serve. G and M both loved the look of them, but to my surprise the icing proved to be just a little too sweet for my sugar-fiend, M. Nevertheless, they’ve been a hit in our household this week and it’s great to have found a way to make tasty dairy-free caramel.

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A Wild 10th birthday!

This week I’m planning to take a break from any suggestion of a complicated bake – after 3 sets of birthday “cakes” last week and croissants the week before, I really think I deserve it. IMG_1731I have to confess to keeping it simple on the big day itself as M had huge ambitions for the day of his party and so a cake-stand full of rice krispie treats seemed to fit the bill. I did jazz them up a little by splitting the batch in two and adding chopped apple to one half and crystallised ginger to the other. The birthday boy seemed delighted with my choices and with that success firmly under my belt, I moved on to the next phase of my baking challenges for the week: the party cake!

M has been fascinated by the natural world for as long as I can remember, hence the arrival of Leo in our household just after Christmas. He loves watching wildlife programs on television, reading nature-themed books, be they novels or factual, and appears to absorb the facts he hears in a sponge-like fashion, ready to share at any given opportunity. So when Mike suggested a wildlife party for his birthday, M leapt at the chance and immediately asked if I could make a bearded dragon cake for it. I tentatively agreed, with my usual proviso that I couldn’t guarantee anything before the day itself and he would just have to accept it, no matter the end result. I researched and found a company who would bring a selection of reptiles and insects to our party location and would teach the children about each one as well as allowing them to touch and hold them if they wanted. It wasn’t my idea of a perfect birthday treat, but M was hugely enthusiastic and so I booked the party session, having somewhat madly decided to hold it at our house to make life a little easier.

12670399_10153297404071123_3934501200587725837_nParty booked and themed party favours ordered, next came the matter of the cake. For once I decided to learn from previous experiences and didn’t leave decorating the cake to the last moment as I usually do. The prospect of a 2am finish really didn’t appeal, especially if I was battling with creating the perfect bearded dragon cake topper and so planned to start a week earlier, with the hope of finishing at a much more reasonable time the night before. I found some images on-line and, with “Les Miserables” blaring in the background, carefully copied the individual body parts before attempting to put them together. Given Leo’s rather vivid orange skin tones, I chose to make a bright orange dragon and whilst it might not have been the most realistic coloured one, I was thrilled with my crafted copy. I carefully covered and stored it away from peeking eyes, determined that M would be left guessing until the last possible moment.

Fast forward a week and Saturday afternoon found me whipping up a batch of stone grey coconut oil icing to recreate a rock, having already baked a M-friendly pear and apple cake, which was now sitting on a bed of brown sugar “sand”. With icing, dragon and cake now all ready and waiting to be assembled, I turned to the matter of some un-birthday birthday cupcakes for G. As you may remember, for the second year in a row M was in hospital over G’s birthday and we were unable to celebrate the day with her. Last year we held a joint party for them both and had a lot of fun at their Cluedo-themed extravaganza, but I wanted to do something separate for G this year. Taking advantage of our tradition that each child has a friend at the other’s party, 12790894_10153315764351123_4961913402772457111_nwe decided to hold a small event on Sunday afternoon for G and invited her 2 friends to M’s party in the morning as well as 1 of his to hers in the afternoon. Given it was a very much belated birthday celebration, of course we needed more cake and I decided a batch of cupcakes would hit the mark and decorated them with some rather glamorous silver icing and snowflake patterns for my December baby.

10441207_10153315937021123_5876452706470659349_nSunday dawned with the most glorious weather and an anxious countdown to the party starting by M. The 8 boys and 3 girls spent their time racing around our back garden, bouncing on the trampoline and admiring the varied animals that arrived to entertain. M, of course, held all that he was allowed and G beat her fears to hold the tarantula, despite shaking hands and the occasional tear. The cakes were greatly received and M declared my bearded dragon the “best cake ever!

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