Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Tale of a Sunken Banana Loaf…

So this week, I was officially defeated by a recipe.  There.  Said it.

Mr WhatClaireBaked had been dropping hints about the lack of banana loaves appearing from the oven for while.   Given we had a surplus stock of bananas in the fruit bowl, this was the ideal opportunity.

I always make banana loaf with over-ripe bananas.  Not only are they incredibly easy to mash, they have a great sweet flavour and gooey texture.  Perfect for a moist loaf.

After a quick search online, I found a Mary Berry recipe, which at 9pm, was an all in one method was ideal for a pre-bedtime bake. If you’d like to try it, here’s the recipe link: Mary Berry Banana Loaf
All in one mixture ready to go!
 I decided to go wild and throw in 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (hey, it’s ALMOST Christmas… no… too soon?!) because I love its intense flavour.

All going well so far.  Ingredients chucked into my Mason Cash, hand mixer on for two minutes, mix together etc etc.

All set for the oven
Followed instructions to the letter, poured into a fully lined silicone loaf tin and bang, into the oven for an hour.   The kitchen began to smell of a delicious mix of banana and cinnamon. The loaf was rising and looking beautiful.  Inner Claire was dancing the victory dance.  Nailed it.

An hour later, Ginge, my friendly kitchen gingerbread man timer beeped.  Metal skewer out of the cutlery drawer and into the middle of the cake (I removed it from the oven first, just in case the alarm bells are ringing…) and it came out of clean. Result.
Straight from the oven... Definitely loaf shaped!

 That’s when I got cocky.  The rise in the tin was good.  It was 10.30pm and I was hungry.  After a few minutes, I took the loaf out, peeled off the greaseproof paper and left it on the rack to cool.  A few minutes later, the loaf began to spread outwards.  Became more foccacia than floury cob.  Now, it wasn't quite pancake flat but it was definitely wider than when it went into the oven.

Still, it looked cooked and smelled great.   Then disaster two.  I cut the first slice and the second and the third.  There was a gorgeous half centimetre through the bottom that could only be described as Mary would say “under baked.”

 I came home from work tonight and low and behold, the Tupperware tub only has one slice left.  Mr WhatClaireBaked told me: “I know I shouldn't love it. But I could easily eat four slices at a time.”

So I've learnt some lessons this week.  Be patient.  Let the cake cool in the loaf tin for longer so it holds its shape.  (Try 20 minutes… not 5).  If you’re even slightly unsure about the bake, go with your instinct and leave it in the oven an extra few moments (provided it’s not turning to charcoal on top). Lastly, sometimes things don’t quite go to plan.  But stay calm, try again, or find a willing cake tester who pats you on the back for making the effort to make their favourite cake.  They’ll love it regardless.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Butterfly Birthday Cake

Post number two... finally.   Sorry there's been a bit of a delay. The last few weeks have disappeared before my eyes.

My latest bake was a classic birthday cake. Gorgeous vanilla sponge, sandwiched with lashings of buttercream filling and Mackays Strawberry Preserve with Champagne on top.  I also used this to glaze the cake before icing (heat for 20 secs in microwave and paste on with a pastry brush).   

I originally bough two 10in springform tins for my cakes, but discovered that with a small family, the cake ends up too big to be finished.  I downsized to a couple of 8in loose bottomed tins purchased at Morrisons and they've so far delivered on all occasions. 

Creating the filling

Getting the ingredients prepped before starting!

I'd be lying if I said I used a family recipe handed through the generations.  It's not.  It's James Martin's Victoria Sponge recipe for BBC Good Food, which you can find here.

I always make sure my cakes are properly cooled before I start to assemble them.  Taking your time is key! 

I am a big fan of Renshaw coloured icing for my cakes. It's easy to work with and comes in so many amazing colours.  I chose purple for my base colour.  Rolled it out to fit the cake, trimmed, then finished with an icing polisher from Hobbycraft.  These things are a godsend to get your nail marks and blemishes out of the icing! I also used a rotating  icing turntable which is perfect for small cakes.  It allows you to check everything is neat before trimming and check for any short pieces of icing. 

I kept the decoration simple.  Purple all over, then used a daisy cutter, to cut out individual daisies from hot pink icing.  I used white gel icing to dot the middle of each daisy. 

Cutting out the daisies 
 I covered the whole of the top of the cake with the pink daisies, for a really striking effect.  Then finished with wafer butterflies, a hot pink bow and using some of the leftover purple icing, decorated the board with them!  Ta daaaaaaa...

The finished cake!
It may have taken over 3 hours to pull together, but I was delighted with the finished cake.  Mr WhatClaireBaked's Mum was the recipient and couldn't quite believe I'd pulled off something like that home baking. 

I've learned though, if you're not gifted, keep designs simple.   Use the tools that are available to make your life easier and don't be frightened to buy additional ready made decor for a really professional finish.

I hope all my readers like this cake - stay tuned for the next baking installment...

Friday, 2 August 2013

Welcome to What Claire Baked


So after a few months of pondering, researching, baking up madness in the kitchen and contending with a house move, I've made the call to start a baking blog. 

I've blogged before, when I was self employed, but never really understood the whole concept of blogging, until I got involved in work project and thought "I could do this for myself!"

So here were are.  Welcome to What Claire Baked.   I'll aim to post as often as I can and keep you up to date on my latest baking exploits. 

I know it's soooooooo 2012, but cupcakes are kind of my thing. I've tried to get over my love for these tasty little cases of gorgeousness, but I just can't.  I'm sorry.   My love affair started at the Magnolia Bakery in New York in 2009, during the Carrie years, and it's never left me. I also enjoy making the odd birthday cake and I plan to challenge myself to make new and challenging bakes in the future. 

I'll keep you all posted on the challenges which lie ahead and the difficult questions that I face daily... Sugarpaste or fondant flowers?! 

Claire x