20 Dec 2014

3 Quick Ways to Soften Butter

quick ways soften butter

So. You're in the mood for baking and you're mind is on cake. It's like your lucky day as all the right ingredients are ready and waiting! You get your measuring scales ready and start on your first ingredient only to read: "160g butter, softened"Darn, you only just removed that butter from the fridge, so it's stone cold!

Believe me, I've been there. Sometimes, I just want to bake something spontaneously and waiting for butter to soften at room temperature is not on my mind. So, it's only fair I share a few ways I go to get that butter the right temperature.

  1. Dice the butter into squares and put into a bowl of warm water. Carefully remove the butter after ten minutes, by which time it should be soft. This is my favourite method as it gets good results all the time. 

  2. Use a rolling pin and bash the butter on a hard surface like a chopping board until flat and squidgy.

  3. If you trust your microwave, evenly dice your butter then slowly heat in the microwave on a 'warm' or 'defrost' setting for a few seconds, but do keep an eye on it.

Ultimately, if you can reach the gold standard of forward thinking and remove your butter from the fridge hours before, then do so and happy days to you! I always find a post-it note seen early in the morning is a great reminder!

9 Dec 2014

5 tips for perfect banana cake

5_tips_banana_cake

Look on the internet and you're sure to find plenty of recipes for banana cake. It's probably one of the easiest cakes to make with satisfying results. It's pretty much my go-to recipe and was the very first cake featured on this blog back in 2012! So I must have got better at making it since 2012, so here's what makes a perfect recipe for me:

1– Get that butter out of the fridge early enough. Your butter should be nice and soft at room temperature so that it creams well with your sugar. I tend to measure the required amount out first and cube it into smaller pieces so that it doesn't take all day to soften.

2– Speaking of sugar, leave the caster sugar alone. Use soft brown sugar instead. I find it produces more of a rich flavour that goes well with banana.

3– Blend the bananas! If you can blend your bananas instead of mashing with a fork the taste of the banana is spread uniform throughout the cake.

4– Make it pretty. Loaf cakes can look fashionably rustic or just down right dull. Decorate with some walnut pieces to really finish off.

115g unsalted butter, softened
140g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
230g self-raising flour, sieved
4 ripe bananas
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
handful of walnuts to decorate

24x10x6 cm loaf tin


Pre-heat your oven to 170°C/ 340°F.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar. Whisk your eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the mixture. With a hand blender puree your bananas into a consistent pulp and then stir into the mixture until well combined.

Sieve the self-raising flour into a separate bowl, followed by the cinnamon and nutmeg. Add these dry ingredients to the mixture and combine well.

Spoon your mixture into a pre-greased 24x10x6 cm loaf tin. Once done, scatter your walnut pieces over the top of the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes at 170°C, then reduce the temperature to 150°C and bake for another 35 minutes.

Leave the banana cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve in thick slices.

Result: Yum.

25 Nov 2014

Ultimate Carrot Cake

Ultimate Carrot Cake 2014


Hey there. Ultimate Carrot Cake. I've called it "Ultimate" as it's not shy of flavours! And today, I wanted one that I could taste the carrot and orange without it being too over-powering. I loved every last bit of this carrot cake and you will too! My photos don't do it justice. Sad face for that  :-(   I took an extra day fussing over the pics and just decided to go with what I got, otherwise this post was just not going to get written!

Carrot cake is wonderfully moist, so keeps well. So you can... eat a little, save some. Eat some more, save a bit. Eat the piece that's just fallen off onto the table, save the rest. Eat a tiny bit more, save the last bit... there's no point leaving a small bit, so just eat the lot!
I'm sure you get the picture  :-)

21 Oct 2014

How Not To Decorate a Cake


How not to decorate cake


I’m one of those people that believes with the right tuition and enough practise, I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m quite good at picking things up and am a fast learner. So I had a go at decorating cake!  As you can see from the exhibits above, it didn’t go too well but I’m at a stage now where I can laugh at myself and mock my futile attempt! And I don’t mind if you have a laugh too.

Those lob-sided strips are meant to be frills and the side of the cake isn’t meant to be lumpy, I swear! I think the top surface is probably the best bit as I got a near smooth consistency there, so let’s just say that part is promising. If you read my last post, you'll already know my reason for attempting!

My hat goes off to the real cake makers and decorators out there who decorate cake every day! Just rolling that icing out without it sticking to your work-top is a challenge in itself! And then getting it over the cake so not only does it not tear but falls in the right place? – Don’t get me started!

Anyway, I cannot leave without showing you which stuff I chose to do the [bad] job… Renshaw Ready-to-Roll Icing was easy enough to use. Just a shame I have No skillZ in using the stuff! Yet.


7 Oct 2014

Nigella's Victoria Sponge

Nigella victoria spong

Nigella victoria sponge sandwich

It's my little one's Christening in a few weeks and I've been battling with the decision of whether to make the cake for the Christening or not. Part of me cannot be bothered with the added pressure that a cake for a celebration brings and the other side of me feels it will be an absolute sin to have a shop-bought sponge cake sitting on my table, to those who know I bake! What will the people say, when my apple-crumble fans or my cheesecake fans ask if I baked the cake and I say, 'no, Marks & Spencer did'. That's not going to help my street cred' now, is it. But on the other hand, I've got so much other stuff going on, do I really have the time? Not really.

You see, baking the cake is NOT the problem, it's the decoration! It's all that icing and fondant stuff! I've not done that stuff before! I see loads of people posting their cake decorating tutorials online, making it seem so simple, but I know I will find it a faff and just an extra step before you can eat the darn cake.

So you know what, I'm going to see how it goes. Take it a step at a time and if my practise runs go well, I will go ahead and make the Christening cake! Take baby steps! So, to start off with, let's get practising on the perfect sponge, in my opinion. This one below keeps winning for me. Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.