Saturday, 13 April 2013

Citrus fusion: an orange marmalade cake with lemon glacé icing

I've made this orange cake before but I've never combined it with lemon glacé icing before. It turned out to be the perfect combination. The cake is dense, rich and syrupy, and the tangy, thin icing cuts through the richness perfectly.

I decorated it with a few fondant flowers. This is a simple, plain sort of cake, and you don't want to get too fancy with the decoration. A few flowers are fine.

This recipe is very simple:

3 eggs
100g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
175g orange marmalade

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a loaf tin. Beat the eggs with an electric beater for five minutes, until they are thick and creamy.

Then add all the dry ingredients and the marmalade, and fold through the egg mixture until well combined.

You should end up with a foamy, loose mixture. Pour into the tin and put into the oven immediately. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer stuck into the centre comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too much on top before being ready, cover its top with foil and reduce the oven heat a little.

The cake will rise, then sink in the middle - to get a flat top on the cake, reverse it when taking it out of the tin.

Glacé icing:

200g icing sugar
1 -2 tblsp lemon juice
lemon zest (if desired)

Mix the juice in with the icing sugar and stir until smooth. Adjust for desired thickness/runniness by adding more juice or more sugar.

When cake is cold, dollop the icing onto the cake and smooth it out with a spatula. I like mine to run down the sides of the cake in some droplets and look a little home-made and rustic - use lots of icing for this look.

For the fondant flowers, if using, you'll need some coloured fondant, a small rolling pin and some flower shaped cutters.

Roll out a small piece of fondant, using cornflour to prevent it sticking. Stamp the fondant with the cutters, then add a cachou to the centre of each flower, fixing it with a drop of water.

Once made, these flowers will last for months in an airtight container. Make sure they're completely dry before sealing the container, though, or the flowers may go soft.

A small amount of fondant will make lots of flowers, so it's worthwhile doing a big batch once in a while and keeping them for use in decorating.

That's it for the orange marmalade cake - good luck and happy eating from Dr Cupcake!

Friday, 12 April 2013

How to make the perfect peanut butter macaron

I was delighted with my first attempt at peanut butter macarons, so I'm being very bold and calling them 'perfect'.
A perfect macaron should have two crisp, shiny circular biscuits that are smooth on top and have a bubbly, risen 'foot' at their lower edge, sandwiched with a smooth cream.

Macarons should be a triumph of both flavour and texture: Flavour should be delicate and the sweetness of the biscuit should be balanced by the smooth, creamy filling. The crisp and crunchy surface of the biscuit should also be balanced texturally by a chewy centre in the biscuit and the silky texture of the buttercream.

I have made chocolate, rose, coffee and pistachio macarons before, but until now I had never been adventurous enough to try a peanut butter flavour. It worked beautifully.

The links above give you lots of tips and trick, but since it's been a while, I am going to run through all the steps.

Firstly, the ingredients:


200g ground almonds
200g icing sugar
160ml egg whites, divided equally into two lots of 80g
200g caster sugar
75 ml water


100g softened butter
100g smooth peanut butter
100g icing sugar
2 tblsp milk

To make the macarons, start off by tipping the ground almonds and the icing sugar into a food processor and blitz it for about a minute - you want it to be very, very fine. Then sieve this mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Place the caster sugar and the water into a small saucepan and, without stirring, boil the mixture until it starts to thicken into a syrup, You can see this stage taking plac when  the texture changes, the mixture becomes thick and syrupy, and the bubbles become slow and sticky.

As the syrup boils and starts to thicken (it will take five minutes or so), beat 80g of the egg whites to hard peak. When the eggs are at hard peak and the sugar syrup is thickened but not coloured, pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, beating constantly. Continue beating for a few minutes while the mixture cools down a little.

Mix the other 80g of egg whites into the ground almonds and icing sugar mix. Beat until combined, then add any flavourings.

For this recipe, I put in a capful of Café Trablit, a French coffee flavouring, because I thought this would go well with the peanut butter flavour, but you could use vanilla essence or not add any flavouring at all.

Tip a quarter of the meringue into the almond and sugar paste and stir briskly to lighten and thin this mixture. Then gently fold the other three quarters of the meringue into the mixture with a spatula. Take care not to over stir.

Scrape the mixture into a piping bag (I use disposable plastic piping bags, but you could use a sandwich bag with one corner snipped off).

Holding the bag vertically with the point downwards, pipe even circles onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Do this by squeezing the bag firmly straight downwards and allow the mixture to spread outwards from the middle.

Try to keep a bit of distance between each macaron. These are slightly too close together, and some of them swelled and ended up joined. It's annoying when this happens, because it can really affect the look of the macarons.

I had a mini-whoopie pie pan that I wanted to try for macarons. I thought the size of the indentations was about right, so I thought it was worth a try. Unfortunately, it didn't work - I'll show you the results below.

After piping all your mixture out, DO NOT put the tins in the oven!! Leave them to set and form a 'skin' at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to 150C to heat up.

....And you may wish to start on the clean-up.

Yes, this is the state in which my hand, the piping bag and the bench ended up after piping the mixture out.

This is a close up of the bench. And no, I don't really know how so much mess is even possible.

Do I remember piping a macaron straight onto the bench top? No, I do not. Nevertheless here it is.

Annnnd these are the stacks of dishes.

Suffice to say, by the time you have cleared up, it will be just about time to put the macarons in the oven.

Put them in the oven for 14 minutes. At the end, the macarons should be 'risen' with the tops glossy and hard, and the 'feet' sitting a few millimetres shy of the base. The 'foot' is the part of the macaron that looks rough and bubbly, at the base of the biscuit.

Take out of the oven and slide the entire sheet of baking paper off the baking sheet and onto a dampened bench top. Leave it for a few minutes before peeling the macarons off the baking paper and putting them on a rack to cool - the slight moisture underneath helps them to un-fasten from the paper.

I knew the mini whoopie pie tin ones wouldn't work as soon as I saw them. They were clearly going to be an odd shape...

And indeed it was the case. They looked... well.... they looked a bit like whoopee pies!

Added to which, many of them did not come evenly out of the pans....

And the ones that did looked so awful that I had to discard them.

The finished macarons should look rounded and regular, not grainy. I work off the principle that about 15% of any batch will be discarded - each batch makes heaps, so it's worthwhile being discriminating and only bringing to the table the most perfect ones you have!

As the macarons are cooling, you can make up the peanut butter-cream. Combine the butter, icing sugar and peanut butter and beat until you have a stiff cream (I do this by hand - the old-fashioned way). Add enough milk to make a smooth, pipe-able buttercream.

Scrape the buttercream into a piping bag and snip the end off.

Arrange the cooled macarons in pairs, taking into account the need to match them for size, and pipe a circle of buttercream onto one half of each pair. Then sandwich the pairs together by pressing the top down gently on the cream to join it to the bottom.

The cream should spread out to the edge of the biscuit, but not bulge over the edge.

You should end up with lovely, even, sweet and texturally-beautiful macarons.

They can be stored in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

What else can go wrong? Well, there are a few errors that can creep into any batch - but hopefully, if you've followed the instructions carefully, your problem will be minimised.
My macarons are cracked or misshapen. 

This can happen when you don't leave them to form a skin at room temperature for long enough. But I always get a few in each batch that look like this. If it's a problem with more than a few, leave to set for longer next time.

My macarons have stuck together. 

Next time, pipe them a bit further apart. If they are not too fully joined, you can separate them with a sharp knife - if they are very fully joined, they won't look good even if separated.

Hope that helps!!
Best wishes from Dr Cupcake!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Carrots in a garden bed cake

I have to thank The Partiologist for this wonderful design of a garden bed......

... which, when cut into, reveals carrots growing underground!

My 'carrot' seems to be a little lopsided and possibly even a bit fragmented.

You can see The Partiologist's original here ... and I admit hers is better! 

This is what you need to begin (the full recipe is at the bottom).

I used a basic pound cake mixture divided into one quarter / three quarters - one quarter has to be dyed orange and baked as a sort of half cake:

You need enough to get a line of 'carrots' from it.

I cut the carrots by hand to be as long as the baking tin was deep.

Oil the pan, then stand the carrots, points upwards, in a row down the middle. Help them to stay in place with some baking paper, then freeze them in the tin.

When the tin is frozen, pour the other three quarters of the mixture (flavoured and tinted with cocoa) around the carrots and pop it all in the oven.

When the cake comes out of the oven, upend it - you should be able to see the tops of the carrots through the base.

I made a boiled chocolate icing and poured it generously on, so that a lot of it ran down the sides.

The toothpicks that you see in this pic were the result of The Partiologist's advice that you should mark where the tops of the carrots are. But it seemed to me, after doing it, that it wasn't really necessary, as I had put in an unbroken line of carrots. So I took them out.

Next comes the dirt for the garden bed! This is wonderfully easy, thanks to the qualities of the 'accidental vegan cookie', the Oreo. Yes folks, the makers of Oreo, in trying to make a cheap all purpose cookie, somehow managed to use absolutely no animal products. Therefore the Oreo has gained a totally undeserved (because accidental) cult status amongst vegans.

All you need to do is halve the Oreos, scrape off the yucky fake cream centre, and blitz the cookies in a food processor for 20 seconds. The result is incredibly like grains of dirt.

Sprinkle your Oreo dirt all over the chocolate icing and heap it up at the bottom for a realistic garden bed!

Next you need some leaves for the carrot tops. As you can see in this pic, I dyed some fondant icing green, rolled it out and used a Christmas holly leaf cutter to cut some leaves. Then I cut off the distinctive 'holly' spikes to make a smooth-edged leaf.

I gave them a bit of shape by draping them over the side of a big saucer to dry.

The leaves then need to be assembled on top of the cake to form little clumps. The idea is that you should be able to cut through the leaf clumps and get....

...To reveal the carrots beneath the soil!

Happy eating from Dr Cupcake!!!


One large loaf tin, greased, floured and the base lined with baking paper

Chocolate/Vanilla Pound Cake 

240g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
12 tbsp milk
350g self-raising flour
50g cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
orange food colouring
1 x packet Oreo cookies
one quantity boiled chocolate icing (see below)
one quantity fondant leaves (see below)

Boiled Chocolate Icing 
*Makes about double the quantity you'll need - you can freeze the rest almost indefinitely and use it for another cake

150g caster sugar
150ml water
300g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I use 70% cocoa - the greater the cocoa mass, the more chocolatey the taste)
Sugar thermometer or a glass of iced water

Fondant Leaves
*Makes about 30 leaves, each approximately 6mm long

30g white fondant icing
1/4 tsp green gel food colouring
cornflour for sprinkling
small rolling pin
leaf cutter
small knife
latex kitchen glove x 1

Set oven at 175C.

Cream butter and sugar (butter should be at room temperature). Beat in the eggs and essence and mix well.

Sift half of the self-raising flour into the mixture and stir; then pour half the milk in; follow with the other half of the self-raising flour and the other half of the milk.

Scoop about a quarter of the mixture into another bowl and add enough orange food colour to make it bright orange, then scoop it into the baking tin and bake for 20 mins or until it springs back in the centre. Turn out and cool on a rack.

When cooled, cut as many uniform 'carrot' shapes as possible - the 'carrots' need to be about as long as the loaf tin is high. Wash out the tin, grease and flour it again, and line the base with baking paper. Then place all your carrots upside down in a straight line down the middle of the loaf pan, and stuff the sides with spare baking paper to hold them in place. Put the tin in the freezer for at least an hour.

With the rest of the mixture (you should have about three-quarters left of your original batch), sift in the cocoa, then add a little more milk to get the consistency back to a thick 'ribbon-like' consistency (it should be able to be poured or dolloped easily, but not too liquid-y).

Check the colour. Is it dark enough to look like earth? If not, add a little more cocoa and a little more milk, or use brown food colouring to get the mixture dark enough.

Take the loaf tin with the carrots out of the freezer, and remove the excess baking paper. Then pour the brown cocoa mixture around the carrots. You should have enough to just cover the tips of the carrots and fill the tin. Smooth the mixture out as well as you can and place in the oven. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, but start checking it at 25 minutes (check by sticking a skewer into the cocoa bits of the cake - if the skewer comes out clean it is ready. Be careful not to 'test' the orange carrots because obviously they are already cooked!

Leave the cake in the tin for 10-15 minutes when it comes out of the oven to allow it to firm up a little, then run a sharp knife around the edges of the tin to loosen. Carefully upend the tin into a clean teacloth, then place it upside down on a baking rack to cool. At this point, you should be able to see some orange dots or an orange stripe down the middle of the cake - these are the carrot tops showing through. Leave to cool completely. Depending on how much the cake has risen you may need to 'trim' the top of the cake, which is now sitting on the bottom - to do this, wait until the cake is completely cool, then use a very sharp bread-knife to saw through the bits you want to remove. Remember that all the parts of the cake that have risen up out of the tin will not have any 'carrots' in them, so you may wish to cut the cake back to the level of the top of the tin. When you have done this, turn it back over so that the 'bottom' of the cake becomes the top of it.

Now for the icing. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir very gently foe a few seconds to make sure the sugar has dissolved, then continue heating without stirring until the mixture comes to the boil. Add the chopped chocolate and whisk or stir briskly until the chocolate melts completely. Continue to heat the mixture while stirring until it's bubbling. It needs to reach 110C (if you have a sugar thermometer) or 'thread' stage, just before 'soft ball' stage (if you don't).

To test for 'thread' stage, dip your thumb and forefinger into the iced water, then get a little mixture in a teaspoon and dip your thumb and forefinger in it, then pull them apart. If a thread forms between your fingers as you pull them apart, the mixture is ready.

As soon as the mixture is ready, pour it generously over the cake. It should be smooth, thick and glossy. The idea is to have the icing coat the entire top of the cake and cascade over the sides in generous streams. You may need to 'encourage' the mixture to flow down the sides by smoothing it gently with a spatula, to avoid the top getting too weighed down with chocolate icing!

To make the Oreo 'dirt', scrape the cream filling from the cookies and put all the cookies in a food processer. Blitz for 20 seconds or until you're happy with the size of the crumb. Then sprinkle the 'dirt' generously all over the cake and all around the base.

To make the leaves, knead the white fondant a little to soften it, then, using a latex glove on your mixing hand, mix in the green gel colouring, kneading it in until you have an even colour.

Sprinkle some cornflour on a clean surface and roll out the fondant as if it were pastry, being careful to pick it ip and turn it and add more cornflour on both sides occasionally to prevent it sticking. When it is about 1.5mm thick, use a leaf cutter to cut out leaf shapes. My cutter also embosses the leaves with veins - if yours doesn't you can mark the veins on with a small knife. Cut as many leaves as you can, remove them with a spatula and leave them to dry, then re-roll the remaining mixture to cut more leaves. Continue until you have used all the fondant.

Arrange the leaves in little clumps on top of the 'dirt garden bed' (i.e., the top of the cake). Serve immediately, or keep in an airtight container for up to four days. *This cake will last even longer if refrigerated, but take the fondant leaves off before putting it in the fridge because they will become soft and tacky. Reserve them in an airtight container at room temperature and put them back on when serving the cake.