Monday, 8 July 2013

Baby you're a firework (or something like that)

Yes, it was our American expat friend's annual 4th July party at the weekend - and we all rocked up to help them celebrate casting off the shackles of British oppression all those years ago (or something like that!)
4th July Celebration Cake

So, happy to join in the fun, despite the colonials having unceremoniously kicked us Brits out,  we donned our red, white and blue (H in his subversive Union Jack pants!) and mucked in.

As ever, the dilemma of what to take arose - all we seem to do is eat and drink at every event we go to (but it's not all that bad!) and, as ever the tables were groaning under the offerings of all the guests. The main event, the barbecue was being taken care of by our hosts - and the lovely Global Attitude had provided a range of American treats, from home cooked beans, to chocolate chip cookies and brownies, to lemon pie and jello shots (laced with a slug of vodka for the grown ups) Kettwigefrau provided the British classic of sausage rolls - in a wonderfully ironic Union Jack tin (just to wind the Americans up of course!).  That left me then - so I thought I'd push the boat out a bit and aim for a surprise 4th July cake - a centrepiece for the table.

An afternoon browsing the web threw up a number of ideas - but in the end I plumped for a hidden flag cake.  The theory being that you make a red, white and blue sponge and layer/cut to resemble the US flag upon cutting the cake.  So, a rather large batch of sponge cake was prepared using the usual 2:2:2 per egg ratio - and then split and coloured - roughly 2/5 each of red and plain and 1/5 blue and baked in sandwich tins. I think I ended up with 7 individual cakes (3 red, 3 plain and one blue).

I then layered the first pair of red and white tiers (sandwiching with buttercream - that's a 2:1 sugar:butter recipe).  Then, having sought a suitable size cutter - in this case a cappuccino mug, I cut a circle out of my blue cake - and matching circles from the final red/white cakes - which were then placed inside the circle cut out of the blue cake to form the top layer.

So far so good, it was built and holding up!  The trouble being of course is that you can't check what the inside looks like until the big reveal so I was a little apprehensive as to whether I'd got the levels right.  A coating of plain white fondant icing on top and no-one would know  about the flag inside until it was cut(well no-one would have known if I hadn't got a bit tiddly at book group the night before and spilt the beans - ho hum!)

A plain white cake was however, a little dull - so over a few glasses of rose the night before the girls and I had decided to add bunting and sparklers (pretty much the only fireworks you can get away with without a permit here I think).  So, slightly overhung the next morning, I set about making some bunting from the fondant icing I had - but forgot to put the sparklers on...... oh well, you win some you lose some!

Anyway, by all accounts it went down well - the big reveal was a lovely surprise for our hostess and the cake seemed to be well received both visually and more importantly in terms of taste!!
The stripes could have been a bit more even, but as a first attempt at creating a 'surprise picture' inside a cake, I'm pretty pleased at how it turned out.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A taste of home...

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that my life here seems to be one social whirl of parties and associated baking!! With the odd bit of culture thrown in - oh and perhaps some wine (more of that later I'm sure!)

Not to disappoint, here's another post covered in chocolate, as I was when baking for a friend's recent housewarming party.

This friend - a fellow expat - hails originally from Scotland and so, to make her feel right at home in her new corner of the Fatherland, I decided to attempt a Scottish tea-time treat - the Tunnock's Tea Cake.  It is a thing of great beauty - crisp biscuit base, soft, gooey marshmallow centre, all lusciously draped in thick milk chocolate.

Now I had googled extensively (as one does) and came across the GBBO version - which was a bit ambitious for my liking and too perfectly round.  I'm not known for my attention to detail - nor my artistic abilities so steered well clear of that one!  Anyway, it turns out that a morning lost on Pinterest came up trumps and I found a few ideas of how to proceed.
Biscuit base

I came across a recipe on this blog, which seemed to work for me in terms of what was in the cake and how to make it - although I did need to put out an emergency call to the expat ladies as I'd run out of golden syrup.  Cue another big UK/US debate about what it is and what is not substitutable - anyway a UK friend kindly lent me some in return for being a taste guinea pig at Mahjong the next day.

Anyway - as usual I digress......  The biscuit recipe was straightforward enough - but I think next time I'd make one sheet of biscuit then use a cutter to make smaller, mouthful size bites.

Marshmallow mix over bain marie
The marshmallow mix was a bit of a leap of faith for me - I'm used to meringues and whisked egg whites hold no fear for me, but the marshmallow is only lightly cooked over a bain-marie and so knowing when it's done enough was a bit of a stab in the dark - but I think I got it right.  It held its shape on the biscuit and (as far as I know) I didn't poison anyone!!

So two of three components ready - and assembled - no problem!  Now, I just need to cover them in chocolate - well, I was covered - the kitchen too - and then the phone goes..... oh well in for a penny in for a pound, that too was lightly coated.  In fact so many other things than the tea cakes got a covering that I ran out of chocolate!

Pre Chocolate Coating
Anyway, they turned out OK in my opinion and were not as tricky as I'd expected - so would definitely do them again.  The proof is in the eating as they say, well I didn't have one (or even lick those chocolate covered hands) as I'm lo-carbing.  But they went fairly quickly at the party and I like to think they were a wee taste of Scotland for the Hostess - oh and of course the other present - a bottle of the 'Rusty Stuff' - Irn Bru - a Scottish soft drink. It was apparently good for clearing the hangover the next day!
Homemade Chocolate Teacakes!

We had a great afternoon (and evening once we'd sent the menfolk home with the children) and lots of Sekt was consumed...... Oops!