Monthly Archives: June 2015

Rainbow Layer Cake

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Unassuming and simple from the outside, but when it’s cut into it has the most amazing layers of colour. This cake really does have the wow factor!

I’d been wanting to make this cake for a long time but hadn’t found an reason good enough to actually make it. I waited long enough and the perfect occasion came around – Rien’s brother, Daarek’s birthday. I knew this would be the perfect cake for him and I wasn’t wrong! He is always so complimentary with my cakes so I wanted to step it up for him and make him a birthday cake that was a bit special.

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The inspiration for this recipe came from a lovely blog, Kerry Cooks. Her blog was the first place I remember seeing a rainbow layer cake that actually gave you a recipe to make the cake yourself. A lot of the American recipes  use a boxed cake mix. Her blog has some fantastic tips which I was able to use and adapt slightly to create my Rainbow Layer Cake.

You may look at this cake and feel slightly scared, but there is really no need to be! You need to make sure you have the right equipment and then you’ll be fine. To make this cake as easy as possible, I bought the Easy Cake Layer Pan Set by Wilton from Lakeland. I’m sure there are plenty of places you can buy them online. One tip if you do buy these cake pans; do not believe them when they say they are non stick! I stupidly believed that they were the first time I used them to make an ombre cake and ended up with some cake getting stuck to the pans. I recommend lining the tins with baking paper to prevent this from happening. On her blog, Kerry used disposable pans which you can find in lots of supermarkets and pound shops which is a great tip if you don’t want to buy any new equipment.

The cake pan set is for 5 layers, so the recipe below will make you a 5 layered rainbow cake. Each pan is 6 inches which I think is the perfect size for this cake seeing as you are stacking 5 layers of cake with lots of buttercream. It also means each layer isn’t too thick. If I were to make this cake for myself, I would use cream cheese frosting like Kerry did. However most people, including Daarek, prefer buttercream so that is what I used.

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You also need really good gel colouring to get the fantastic vibrant colours. The liquid food colourings you can buy in supermarkets just aren’t good enough. You need concentrated gel colouring which you can buy online or in shops like Lakeland and Hobby Craft. My favourite brand to use is Wilton because they have a great range of colours an can give you really bright colours without having to use loads of it.

When it comes to icing cakes I think it is definitely worth investing in a cake turntable. This allows you to smoothly turn the cake backwards and forwards when you’re decorating it which is a huge help! I also use a large off-set spatula to apply the buttercream to the cake holding it at a 90° angle. A spatula dipped in hot water and then dried is a great way of getting a smooth finish on your cake. There are lots of different techniques and ways people find help them, but this is what works for me.

What I like most about this recipe is this one cake mix will make enough for all 5 layers so you don’t have to faff around making different mixes. An obviously that it looks pretty amazing!

For the cake 
225g butter or margarine
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Line you cake pans
  2. Add the butter and sugar to your bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time starting on a low speed and increasing it after each egg has been added. I find this helps incorporate the eggs better. Add the vanilla and mix again before finally adding the flour and baking powder
  3. Split the cake mix equally into 5 different bowls. I do this by weighing my mixer bowl when its empty and then taking this away from the weight when it has the finished cake mix in. I then divide this by 5. You can do it by eye but I prefer to be exact as this will help make even layers
  4. Colour each bowl of cake mix a different colour – I coloured mine red, orange, yellow, green and blue but feel free to use whatever colours you like. Start with a small amount of colouring as a little bit goes a long way. You an always add more and make it brighter but you can’t make it lighter again!

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  1. Pour each bowl of coloured cake mix into your prepared tins and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. They’re done when a cocktail stick comes out clean

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  1. Allow the cakes to cool slightly in the pans before turning out onto a wire rack and let them cool completely

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  1. Once completely cooled, level the cakes so that they stack more evenly. I do this with a cake wire which allows you to cut a clean level line using a serrated wire. You can use a knife but I find this works better and reduces the risk of making a mistake! I set the cake wire to the height of the cake that needs the most cut off it to make it level. You’re looking to take the smallest amount of cake off to make the cake flat

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  1. Once the cakes are leveled, you’re ready for the buttercream!

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For the buttercream
420g unsalted butter
840g icing sugar
4 – 6 tbsp milk

  1. Mix the butter and icing sugar together until pale and smooth. Add enough milk until it is a smooth spreadable consistency
  2. Starting with the blue layer, place one layer onto your cake board and then add a generous layer of buttercream. Repeat with all 5 layers

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  1. Once all of the layers are stacked, it is time to apply the crumb coat. This locks all of the crumbs in place so that the final layer of buttercream is smooth and crumb-free. Do this by applying a thin layer of buttercream to cover the whole cake. At this stage it doesn’t have to look pretty. After you’ve applied your crumb coat, but in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for it to set slightly

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  1. Once the crumb coat has become firm to the touch, you can now apply the final layer of buttercream. Make sure you use quite a generous amount of buttercream and take your time!

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  1. You can decorate the cake however you would like. I chose to keep it completely plain on the outside and made some bunting to stick in the top

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Make sure you check out Kerry’s blog http://kerrycooks.com/easy-6-layer-rainbow-cake-step-by-step/

Apologies for the photos not being the best, I always find it hard to take photos of cakes I have made for people. And I can’t take my usual kit with me!

Gym Bunny Mummy

Strawberry Pavlova

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Marshmallowy in the centre with crisp and chewy edges piled high with whipped cream and delicious fruit. Now if that doesn’t scream perfect summer desert to you, I don’t know what will!

I decided to make a pavlova after a trip to Borough Market where I bought the most delicious looking strawberries. I instantly thought they would make a perfect topping to pavlova. It also meant I got to use the whisk attachment to my mixer which I have rarely used. Feel free to make this recipe by hand, but I would really recommend using an electric whisk if possible to avoid your arm seriously aching! Then you won’t be able to lift the fork to your mouth to eat it!

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I’d never made pavlova, or even meringue before, so I thought it was definitely time for me to try. Most pavlovas are topped with whipped cream and then a selection of fruit. You can choose a number of different fruit that work well together or lots of one type like I did here.

Usually when I bake or make desserts I make them for other people to enjoy too so Rien and I don’t end up eating it all. However with this pavlova, over a few days we managed to eat the whole thing! It was so delicious we kept going back for more and of course the strawberries make it healthy…I can definitely see me making this a number of times over the summer, I might even share it next time! I loved the crisp chewy outside of the pavlova mixed with the soft, melt in your mouth marshmallow centre.

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
270g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
2 tsp cornflour

  1. Preheat the oven to 120ºC. Draw a 8″ circle on baking paper and turn it over onto a baking tray so the pencil won’t touch the pavlova

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  1. Whisk 6 egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form

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  1. Gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time as this allows the sugar to disolve. Keep whisking until the egg whites are smooth and glossy with no trace of sugar

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  1. Carefully fold in the vinegar, vanilla and cornflour
  2. Dab a small amount of mix on each corner of the baking tray to secure the baking paper to the tray. Pile the mix onto the baking tray trying to keep inside the line. Shape it like a cake – you can either flatten the top for a more traditional look or spike the top for a dramatic effect

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  1. Bake in the oven for 1 to 1½ hours, you’ll know it it’s done by lightly tapping the top and it’s hard. Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly open. Leave the pavlova to cool completely

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For the topping
300ml double or whipping cream
Strawberries – as many as you like!
2 tbsp sugar 

  1. Hull the strawberries and then put roughly half of them into a bowl. Gradually add the sugar, tasting as you go until the strawberries are the perfect sweetness. Put them aside for 30 mins or so

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  1. Whip the cream using the whisk attachment (or if you’re brave, by hand) until the cream is soft but holds its shape. If you whip for too long the cream will become over whipped and not look smooth and silky

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  1. Add the whipped cream to the top of the pavlova and spread out. The strawberries with the sugar should look glossy and have a thick syrup now. Add these on top of the cream and then add the remaining hulled strawberries

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I got the recipe for the pavlova here –  http://www.theinternetchef.biz/292/how-to-make-pavlova-new-zealand-style#sthash.cFUGO1qd.dpuf

Gym Bunny Mummy

Carnitas

2015-05-24 20.23.32I absolutely love Mexican food, it’s become my new obsession. And pork will always be my number one choice of meat.  Now I’ll be the first person to use a packet mix to season my fajitas for a quick and easy dinner (it’s one of my guilty pleasures); but you would be kidding yourself if you considered that authentic Mexican. So I started branching out using different chilli powders but came a little bit stuck when it came to looking for authentic Mexican recipes. A lot of them I came across seemed to be mixing different tins and spice mixes together which I’m sure can taste nice, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for.

For Christmas I asked for a book which I had read was meant to be one of the best for authentic Mexican dishes – Mexican The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arrote. It is a huge booked filled with different recipes from all over Mexico. Some of the ingredients aren’t going to be the easiest to come across, or may not necessarily appeal to you – grasshoppers and cactus anyone? You can find substitutes or similar alternatives for a number of ingredients though; for example the variety of fresh chillies aren’t readily available in the UK (well not where I live anyway!) so instead you can use dried chilles or chilli powders. Another simple alternative to queso fresco which is a common cheese in Mexico is feta. It is similar as is crumbly, slightly salty and is available everywhere.

I get my dried chillis, chilli powder and tortillas when at Borough Market from the Cool Chile Company stall. They sell a huge variety of Mexican cooking essentials. You can also order online from their website -http://www.coolchile.co.uk/

I really like watching Food Network; it is normally on in the background while I am writing blog posts. One program I like to watch is Diners Drive-ins and Dives (anyone else?) which is an American chef who visits restaurants around the country. I first heard of carnitas watching the program and thinking it looked delicious so I couldn’t wait to try it myself. People may think that Mexican food is all about spices and heat, but this recipe is far from that. It has no chillis in at all, instead has a delicious combination of herbs with a subtle orange flavour.

This recipe doesn’t require much effort at all but benefits from slow and low cooking which is perfect for a lazy weekend. This recipe definitely lived up to my high expectations! The pork was so deliciously tender it just fell apart. I served it with a tasty sweetcorn salad (recipe to follow) which added a little bit of chilli heat.

250ml vegetable oil
1.5kg pork loin cut into bite sized pieces
½ onion
250ml milk
zest of 1 orange
small bunch of herbs (e.g rosemary, thyme)
salt and pepper 
Flour tortillas to serve

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the meat and the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes until browned all over

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  1. Remove the onion and pour in the milk and 250ml of water. Add the herbs and orange zest and season with salt and pepper. Don’t worry it will look a little bit strange at this stage!

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  1. Reduce the heat to low and cook stirring occasionally for 1½ to 2 hours until the liquid has evaporated

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  1. Remove any herb stalks and serve immediately with warm flour tortillas

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