Sunday, April 23, 2017

Chocolate Star Wars R2D2 40th Birthday Cake

My husband was very lucky for his 40th birthday. As well as some great presents including a 'carvolution' framed picture of all 9 cars he'd ever owned  - interestingly, they seem to have put their prices up quite a bit since I bought it a few weeks ago - and a meal at Hawksmoor, he had two birthday cakes.

We were spending his birthday with some of his family - more on this in another post as I will do a restaurant review.  In the evening after a day out in London we had a takeaway at his brother's house so he could put the children to bed and keep an eye on them. There were six adults but I knew that the following weekend we were seeing more of my husband's family with up to ten people - so I wanted to make him a birthday cake for his birthday but also another cake a week later.

He requested a chocolate cake and I planned a chocolate extravaganza for the bigger occasion, and had an idea for the other one quite some time ago. My husband has mentioned a few times a birthday cake he had as a child in the shape of R2D2 which he thought was brilliant - I thought it would be fun for him to have the same sort of cake when he turned 40!

I bought an R2D2 silicon cake mould for only £5 or so in the Lakeland sale back in January which I hoped would make the cake a doddle, though I wasn't sure how easy decorating it would be. In the end it was actually relatively easy.

The cake mould is quite large and it says on the box to use an 8-egg recipe; but other than that there wasn't any guidance. I spent a while googling 'what recipe to use for Lakeland R2D2 cake mould' and didn't really come up with much, so decided to use my trusty chocolate wedding cake recipe. This is the recipe from BBC Good Food that I used for the middle layer of my wedding cake and when I made the wedding cake of Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker. It works brilliantly every time and is a 10-egg recipe; I scaled it down to use eight eggs but had enough mixture left over after filling the R2D2 pan to make another 9-inch cake which I put in the freezer!

So I recommend that for the R2D2 cake pan you use a six or even five egg recipe; you can basically divide the quantities of the BBC chocolate cake recipe in half. You'd then need to adjust the cooking time and I'd advise keeping an eye on it and testing with a skewer - I think I baked mine for an hour and a half but didn't make a note as I was playing it by ear.

A lot of chocolate

The cake turned out perfectly and as always with this recipe was moist and super-chocolatey.

I had sprayed the pan liberally with PME Release-a-Cake spray, making sure I got into all the nooks and crannies. The cake came out of the silicon mould perfectly and you can see all the details of R2D2.

I wanted these details to show through when I decorated the cake so instead of covering the cake with buttercream, I brushed it with some warm runny apricot jam. I carefully sliced the cake through the middle and filled the centre with chocolate buttercream and then covered it with white fondant, rolled fairly thin, which I smoothed down so the details of the cake still showed through.

I then cut some pieces of blue fondant for the details and before I stuck them onto the cake, sprayed the white parts silver with PME edible silver lustre spray.

Lakeland R2D2 cake

I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chocolate Marbled Easter Meringue Nests

Dr. Oetker came up with some great new recipes this Easter, which you can see on their website here. I liked the look of the tear and share hot cross buns but I didn't really have the time. Instead I made this - I actually thought I'd shared this post over Easter, oops!

Dr. Oetker sent me a selection of their products to try and I was intrigued by the powdered egg white as I don't think I have used that before. It replaces fresh egg white and saves you from ending up with a lot of unused egg yolks if you are making meringue.

I decided to make their chocolate marbled meringues; you can find the recipe on this link. Instead of filling them with fruit I gave them an Easter twist by filling with chopped marshmallows, a couple of Cadbury mini eggs and some whipped cream, and drizzling them with some melted Dr. Oetker Cooks' 72% Extra Dark Chocolate.

The egg white powder was really easy to use - I was worried when I mixed the powder with water as directed that I had left it a little lumpy but the lumps disappeared and it cooked perfectly, and I mean perfectly. The meringues were crispy and chewy in the middle and lifted off the baking paper without problem. They are very sweet so I think the original recipe suggestion of filling them with fresh fruit is a good idea, and I recommend dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate which is sweeter.

I'll definitely use powdered egg white again as I often end up with yolks I don't know what to do with - it costs £1.15 for a pack of 4 sachets from most supermarkets.

Don't you just love glossy meringue?

Marbling with melted chocolate

Ready to go in the oven

And after two hours of baking

 Decorated with marshmallows, mini eggs and topped with whipped cream and melted chocolate

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Red Gingham Mothers' Day Card

This sweet little card was a super-quick make, as most of the elements came from the same pack. I think it was a free gift with a cardmaking magazine and contained the backing paper - which looks like three different papers but it is actually one!

The sentiment in a little frame looks cute - this came from the same pack and I stuck it into the middle of the card. I had some 'happy Mothers Day' sentiments in red in a pack of stickers and placed this on the top of the card.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Restaurant Review: Hawksmoor, Commercial Street, London

For my husband's 40th birthday there was no hesitation when it came to a restaurant for dinner. He absolutely loves Hawksmoor, and since his birthday was a Saturday and we had plans with his family, I offered to take him to Hawksmoor on the Friday night after work.

We've been to Hawksmoor in Air Street near Piccadilly a couple of times; you can read my review here. This time we decided to go to the one in Commercial Street, near Shoreditch, as it is nearer where we both work.

Walking from Bishopsgate and down a side street onto Commercial Street, I looked left and right and saw Nando's one way, the Old Truman Brewery the other and a bunch of shops like Urban Outfitters - nothing that leapt out at me as one of London's best steak restaurants. I had to use Google Maps to pinpoint the location and quickly found it - the restaurant is mainly below ground, with a discreet sign above a door at street level but not much else.

The staff were really friendly and helpful, and I mentioned it was my husband's 40th birthday both on booking and when I arrived, as I got there before my husband and the person in front of me at reception had brought a cake for a surprise birthday for the table he was joining. I didn't have a cake with me as I'd been at home all that day baking a birthday cake to share with my husband's family the following day on his actual birthday!

The atmosphere was noisier and the other diners more 'colourful' (including a drunk couple who spilled a drink over the man next to us and nearly got into a fight), prompting my husband to comment that the Air Street restaurant was a lot quieter and more conservative than the Shoreditch location. I don't know if he's right, but I think the next time we go to Hawksmoor (which we will, because we love it), we will probably choose the Air Street location again.

The steak was beautifully cooked and really tasty - we both had the fillet, pretty steep at £35 but so good - and for dessert, my husband had the sticky toffee pudding (£8) and I'd had my eye on the Crunchy Bar (£8.75, 50p of which goes to Action Against Hunger charity) from the start. As far as I can remember it had a biscuit base, a layer of caramel, ice cream and pieces of honeycomb - it was really good.

I spent ages scrutinising the extensive cocktail menu at the start before my husband arrived, and finally settled upon the Champagne Charlie - so felt a bit silly when I turned to the food menu and printed across the top were their top three recommended cocktails - including the one I had spent ages choosing! Champagne Charlie was described as containing Beefeater gin, lemon, seasonal fruit syrup and champagne. I asked the waiter what the seasonal fruit was and he said beetroot - that isn't a fruit! I was prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt and was actually amazed at how good it tasted!

When our desserts arrived I had hoped my husband's might have had a birthday candle stuck in it and was mildly disappointed that it didn't - and then moments later the waiter brought out another plate, with 'happy birthday' written in chocolate and three of their homemade salted caramel rolos - these are on the menu for £4 for 4, and I've often wanted to try them but never have. The chocolate shell contains almost liquid caramel - they are really good and it was lovely to receive them as an extra treat.

So overall it was an excellent meal and a great way to kick off the celebrations for my husband's 40th birthday.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Follow Your Dreams Shaker Card

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 16

Monday; bank holiday
Lunch- bacon sandwich
Dinner- vol au vents with leftover lamb and pomegranate. A slightly odd recipe as I've had some vol au vents in the freezer for ages that need using up and found a recipe for fatayer - spiced lamb pastry parcels with pomegranate - that I thought I could adapt for vol au vents! I think they would go well with salad.
Lunch - leftover lamb and pomegranate flatbread
Dinner - out at an event, will grab something en route

Lunch leftover vol au vents with salad
Dinner - potentially out with a friend; if not, I will make yogurt-spiced chicken with rice from a Weightwatchers recipe I printed out years ago

Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner -turkey, lime and honey stir-fry from an old M&S magazine
Lunch- flatbread and salad
Dinner - smoked mackerel in mustard sauce
Lunch - on a bbq course
Dinner - crab and chilli spaghetti for me, spaghetti carbonara for him
Lunch - scrambled egg bagel
Dinner - roast beef (unless the weather gets really hot and we don't want a roast!)

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Meringue Nest with Passion fruit Coulis and Cadbury Creme Egg

Passion fruit - indeed fruit of any kind - and Cadbury Creme Egg are two things that I wouldn't have thought particularly go together, but I have been proven wrong.

Cadbury sent me several Creme Eggs just in time for Easter, along with four recipes where they have teamed up with the Rinkoff bakery. I already made these mini s'more brownie cupcakes with Cadbury Creme Eggs which were really good, and I mean really good.

On Easter Sunday I had my mother- and father-in-law over for lunch and cooked a delicious roast lamb... plus chicken for my husband as he doesn't eat lamb, and butternut squash for my mother-in-law who is vegetarian. So with all that, I needed an easy dessert!

The Cadbury/Rinkoff recipe for meringue nests with passion fruit coulis and Cadbury Creme Egg was just the thing as I could prepare most of it in advance. This is the recipe - I will explain afterwards a few tweaks I made. The recipe below says it makes eight meringue nests but they would be pretty small I think as I had to double the quantity of ingredients to make eight.

You need:
For the meringue:
2 large egg whites at room temperature
100g caster sugar

For the passion fruit coulis:
250ml passion fruit puree (thaw if frozen)
240g sugar

For the ganache:
5 Cadbury Creme Eggs, melted
100g butter
8 Cadbury Creme Eggs, cut into small pieces

For the meringue:
Pre-heat your oven to 120C. Put the egg whites into a large clean bowl and whisk on a medium speed. Keep whisking until they form stiff peaks.

Add the 100g caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and whisk until combined. The meringue should be nice and glossy.

Line a flat baking tray with greaseproof paper or a non-stick baking sheet. If necessary use a bit of butter to make it stick to the tray.

Place a star nozzle into a piping bag and spoon in the meringue. Start by piping a dot in the centre of your meringue nest then in one continuous motion go around the dot twice to make a bigger circle, then go round again on top of the outer circle to make the sides. Repeat until you've piped all nests.

NB The recipe didn't state the cooking time so this is what worked for me Place the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and bake for one hour until the meringues are crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the greaseproof paper and baking sheet.

For the passion fruit coulis:
In a medium-sized saucepan mix the passion fruit and sugar together. Bring to the boil on a medium heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Put aside to cool.

For the ganache:
In a saucepan heat up a small amount of water and place a glass bowl on top (like a bain marie). Place 4 Cadbury Creme Eggs (yes I know the ingredients list says 5.... perhaps they expect you to eat one while cooking) and butter in a glass bowl and stir until all the ingredients have melted (this should take approximately four or five minutes). The mixture should have a slight gloss and be quite runny.

Leave to cool for a minute or two. Drizzle the ganache and coulis over the nest and top with broken pieces of Cadbury Creme Egg.

Here are my tweaks:
  • I doubled the quantity so each person had two meringues
  • I couldn't find my star piping nozzle so the sides of the meringue are smooth, which doesn't look as good
  • I actually forgot to build up the sides of the meringues so they are flat which isn't as good either!
  • The recipe didn't give a cooking time, I recommend one hour
  • Instead of making the fruit coulis, as I couldn't find passion fruit puree, I bought Sainsbury's mango and passion fruit coulis and used that in the recipe
  • I layered two meringue nests with passion fruit coulis and Creme Egg ganache, then put half a crushed Creme Egg on top of each portion, so using six Creme Eggs in total.
The chocolate and fruit flavours went together surprisingly well, and I loved the chewy meringue and the smooth chocolate. This made a really good Easter dessert!