Last weekend whilst Ciaran was cycling through the rolling hills of Scotland I had the house to myself and decided to enlist Anna, my baking partner in crime, into round two of our cake decorating adventures (if you missed our first attempt at a two tier celebration cake you can see the results here).
First we whipped up a carrot cake using a recipe from one of my favourite baking books - The Great British Book Of Baking (made to accompany the TV series The Great British Bake Off). The cake is springy and moist and might be my favourite carrot cake recipe so far. I tend to go heavy on the spices...
Ingredients for the cake...
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
225g soft light brown sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
100g walnut pieces
3 medium free range eggs, beaten
150ml sunflower oil
250g carrots (about 3 tasty carrots)
Ingredients for the cream cheese icing...
200g full fat cream cheese
50g unsalted butter, softened
150g icing sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
2 teaspoons orange juice
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Sift the flour, baking powder and all the spices into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, orange zest and nuts followed by the beaten eggs, sunflower oil and grated carrots. When thoroughly combined, divide the mixture between the prepared tins and spread it out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
To make the icing, beat together all the ingredients until very smooth and creamy. Pop the icing in the fridge for a few minutes if its very warm so that it's firm enough to spread. Spread almost half the mixture onto one of the cakes and sandwich the two together, spread the rest over the top and you're ready to decorate!
We decided to try our hand at making buttercream roses - they look so delicate and pretty and are a lovely way to decorate a cake without having to resort to fondant icing.
To make buttercream roses you will need...
200g unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
400g icing sugar sifted
Couple of drops of natural food colouring
Piping bag fitted with a petal tip (this looks a bit like a crescent moon on an angle with one end more rounded than the other)
Place the butter and icing sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on a fairly high speed until light and fluffy. Whilst the mixture is beating add the food colouring a tiny drop at a time - be careful not to add too much or this will change the consistency of the butter cream. If you find that you've got the colour as dark as you want but the mixture is still too dry you could add a tiny drizzle of milk but proceed with caution as the mixture will turn to liquid very quickly!
It took a bit of practice to get the butter cream to the correct consistency - it needs to squeeze easily from the piping bag but be stiff enough to hold it's shape and not slide off the skewer. If in doubt make it a bit too stiff as it will quickly warm up in your hands as you work with it.
The technique for making the roses looks hard but is really easy! It's definitely something that needs to be seen rather than read about, I checked out the following video on youtube before giving it a go myself...
Once we had made a few roses we were happy with we dotted them on the top of the cake. I think they look really pretty against the cream coloured icing but you don't have to restrict yourself to just making a few - why not make a whole load and cover the entire cake with an abundance of pretty flowers. You could even make them in different pastel colours so it looks like a bouquet!
You can purchase the Great British Book of Baking via Amazon here.