Easy tray bake (with icing)

This is a very easy tray bake/birthday cake/bake sale type of cake.  I made two this morning for my son’s birthday party tomorrow, but they are so easy you could easily rustle one up as a pud or a snack.

To make the cake, I preheated the oven to 160ºC and greased/lined a 20x20cm baking tin.  Then I mixed together (I used kitchenaid with paddle) 110g self-raising flour, 110g caster sugar, 110g softened unsalted butter, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 large eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract (don;t smash it on the kitchen floor like I did…).  Whizz it all together and spoon into the pan.  Try to level it out as best you can and get it into the corners properly.  Bake for 16 minutes then turn out, top side down onto a wire rack to cool.  This gives you a nice flat surface for your icing to go on.

To ice it I mixed 200g icing sugar with 55ml of boiling water then added a pinprick of gel colouring.  I find it best to dollop it all into the middle of the cooled cake and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon to the edges.  Whilst the icing is soft, scatter your favourite sprinkles/edible glitter and leave to ‘set’.  I cut it into 9 squares, but you can go bigger or smaller according to your needs.  To fancy it up, sometimes I put a square in a cake case to make it look more presentable but you can, of course, sneak a slice and eat it from your hand!
To adapt mine into birthday party cake I coloured my icing pale blue (although it looks white on the photos), sprinkled sugar strands and edible glitter over it and later added a ribbon to hide the sides and stuck in a few candy coloured candles.  Easy to make, easy to cut up and easy to eat makes it a good option for those manic toddler parties….

Mario birthday cake

My son had a last minute change of mind about his birthday cake.  Since he was born he has always had a dinosaur cake, as his bequest.  Again, this year it was his cake of choice.  Excellent, thought I, done it before – easy peasy!  

Then last week he announced he would like a Mario cake.  He didn’t notice the look of mild panic on my face as I said ‘Mario!  Yes, ummm, well I can certainly try.’  For the first time ever I have actually planned out what I am going to do.  I am cheating on the icing and use ready rolled and I fear with my colouring skills Mario might look a little sunburnt, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So, this morning I baked a vanilla sponge, using my cupcake recipe but doubling the mixture.  I had plenty of mixture left over and made 20 small fairy cakes, which I might just ice and send in tomorrow for his class rather than the lemon cakes I had planned.  In my experience as a mother and a teacher, kids only eat the icing anyway and leave the beleaguered sponge cowering at the bottom of the discarded case.  So I may cheat (sssh!) and grab a tub of Betty Crocker icing, give it a swirl and a jelly diamond and send those in instead. (postscript:  I did!)

I am currently waiting for the whole lot to cool and will be back later with the next instalment….


Well.  I did it.  Not well, but I did it!  My hands are dyed Christmas Red and Mario looks a bit like he should really be called ‘Charlie’, he’s covered in so much white powder…BUT he is at least recognisable and if you don’t look too hard you can’t see all the dodgy icing.

Having made the two sponges, I cut around a template I made and then sandwiched them with buttercream filling and spread a thin layer over the top and sides of cake to secure the roll icing.  

I had all sorts of ‘fun’ dying the icing pink, red and blue and rolled it out about 6 times only to rip it as I picked it up.  Then I thought about putting a layer of clingfilm down to roll it on (with yet more icing sugar) and this did the trick.

I iced the face first and made the nose.  Then I did the hat, the eyes and the emblem.  Then I did the moustache and stuck the nose and blue eye bits on.  The red ‘M’ was fiddly, but I got there in the end.  For his hair I used chocolate buttercream icing with a grass nozzle to pipe it on.  

I haven’t worked out how to de-powder him yet, but he looks OK…from a distance!
Cake-making is such a skill (not one that I have much of) from the baking to the icing and I am in awe of those who turn out perfectly presented cakes without a crack or speck of icing suger to be found!  To give you an idea of ‘behind the scenes’ I have included a photo of the carnage left behind.  And this is just the icing bit!  I can’t face clearing it up yet….I need a cup of tea and a sit down.

Carrot Cake

My husband loves carrot cake, so what better thing to bake him for his birthday cake?  As aforementioned, we are going to be cupcaked out by the end of next week, so I thought it would be better to make his cake a bit different from the endless sponge that is to come go for something he’ll enjoy.  I hope.  This is a new recipe for me and involves a triple layering.  Not for the faint-hearted!  Or for the poor in skill (that’ll be me then…).

The cake-making bit was fine apart from the endless grating of carrot which I managed without serrating any of my digits (but through luck more than anything else).  I always use a kitchenaid to make cake, so unless instructed otherwise, assume all beating is done with the help of a mixer and not by hand.  
I beat 3 eggs, 300g of soft light brown sugar and 300ml of sunflower oil until well-mixed then added 300g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarb of soda, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and mixed well.
Then I added 300g of (laboriously) grated carrot and 100g of chopped walnuts.  This bit I’d do by hand else you’ll end up with smush.
I divided the mixture into 3 x 20cm cake tins and baked for 20 mins at 170ºC.  
To make the icing I sifted 600g of icing sugar and mixed it with 100g soft unsalted butter (using the paddle attachment).  Then I added 250g of cream cheese and mixed on a medium speed for 5 mins.  
Then…the tricky bit.

As you will see from the photos, icing is not my forte.  Especially a triple layered cake.  The only other attempt I made at one of these was exactly the same, a big splotty cakey version of The Leaning Tower of Pisa!  Possibly I should level off my my cakes before I ice them, but that would mean a lot of nifty and straight knife work.  Anyway, I ploughed onward iced each layer with 1/4 of the icing then used the last quarter for the sides.  I ended up with a somewhat wonky, but nevertheless iced cake adorned with walnuts and shortly afterwards a plastic golfer and three birthday candles.

The result was a good.  Not excellent, not poor but good.  The icing was creamy and delicious but rather over powered the cake.  Perhaps next time I will try two thicker layers rather than three thin ones.  The cake was SO moist – fantastic!  The taste was fine, but for me I would perhaps increase the cinnamon and ginger to one teaspoon for a bit more ‘kick’.  As predicted, the kids hated the cake and only liked the icing.  No change there!  But Husband and I enjoyed it and he is taking the leftovers into work tomorrow for further devouring.

Lemon Cupcakes

It’s competition day.  That is, ‘send your child in with cakes for their birthday and out-do all the other mums’ day.  I am mildly competitive.  OK, very.  So adorned in my fav Cath Kiston apron (yes, I have two!) I set about making lemon cupcakes for my son to take into school.  Thier elegance was somewhat dampened by the football cake cases into which they nestled their lemony bottoms, but nevertheless they held their own.

Birthday Boys

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday and then 3 days later it is my son’s birthday.  Next week it’s his party. So this week I shall be blogging about fusion food.  
Only joking, it’s all gonna be about cake, cake, cake!
In the next 10 days have to make:

1 grown-up birthday cake
20 cupcakes to take into school
1 dinosaur cake
12 jubilee cupcakes (with the added hazard of being ‘helped’ by my kids)
1 large traybake cake, decorated for a party of 16 ravenous children
I have just put a Waitrose order in and the amount of sugar and butter that’s on there is embarrassing.  It’s one of those orders that makes you want to explain yourself to the delivery man as he heaves it up the garden path.  Like when I order about 9 bottles of wine because it’s my fav and on offer.  I’m sure he clanks it down on the doormat and thinks ‘luuuush!’.  Which is, perhaps, not without merit, but I feel I need to chirp up with ‘It’s not all for me!’ which means exactly the opposite.  Just not all at once.
I digress; so back to the mountain of cake I have to make this week.  I will of course do my best to document the baking frenzy that will engulf the house and try not to lick ALL the bowls I use (this is my little guilty pleasure).  Lord knows what they’ll turn out like and with all the glorious sunshine we’re having I am sure they will be a gooey mess by the time we get around to lighting the candles.  To make it worse, I am on dieting (again) and cannot partake in the eating part which, let’s face it, is the best bit.  Maybe a slither….a good cook should always taste their food after all…..