At long last I’ve had a chance to bake again. There’s nothing like a few months off to get you craving some kitchen time again, or is that just me??
I’m sure to those of you following my home building progress on this blog it feels like the longest kitchen build in the world – it feels a bit like that to me too but there’s been quite a lot involved. I’m pleased to say we’re on the homeward stretch now and I can’t wait to share pictures and details of our finished kitchen soon. In the meantime we’ve been grateful for the good weather as it’s meant the opportunity to cook and eat outside with the kids, above. When my kitchen is up and running I will have the space to teach private baking lessons from home so if you’re interested for a special birthday or event later this year, do get in touch.
I had a rare day off last weekend to take the kids to Hertfordshire County Show, above, about 20 minutes away from us. It’s one of my favourite days out of the year and if you’re a townie like me whose heart is in the countryside, it’s the perfect day out. This time of year you’re falling over country shows so check out your nearest one on this guide here. My old man and I stocked up on some fantastic meat and spiced rum and we had a perfect bank holiday BBQ with my folks and a load of mojitos. Dad’s really helping me out on my kitchen at the moment so can’t wait to host him back over at mine soon.
I also had a great catch-up a few weeks ago with my Baker’s Dozen marathon chums. We went to a fantastic Peruvian tapas restaurant in Soho that we’d really recommend, called Casita Andina. The food on the set menu was out of this world. When you’re friends with a bunch of foodies, the pressure’s on to find good places to eat and we’re hoping to make it a regular catch-up. I’m already feeling really out of condition after the marathon so I’ve got eight weeks to get in shape for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 mile race. I’m riding for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and as they’re the chosen charity for the event this year, the only place you can still sign up for it is with them, here. Let me know if you’re doing it too – I could do with all the training tips you’ve got!
As you might have seen on my Instagram story this weekend, I made a special birthday cake for our friends’ son Freddie. Freddie loves snow leopards, as do I. They’re incredibly endangered and one of the reasons I admire the work of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) so much is because of the conservation work they fund for endangered animals across the world, including leopards. Once I had decorated the cake with fondant, I made fondant ears and paws then marked out the face of a snow leopard on top of the cake, above. My technique for marking out involved cutting a piece of baking parchment to the same size as the top of the cake. I then drew the outline of the snow leopard in freehand in pencil on the baking parchment – this is why a pencil behind the ear comes in so handy when you’re a baker! Once I’d drawn the leopard’s face, I put the baking parchment onto the top of the cake and traced over the pattern again in pencil. The indentation of this onto the baking parchment make the markings you can see in the picture above.
This is one of those times I’m very grateful that my parents live across the road from me as I can use their kitchen while mine is out of action and there are no toddlers at their house in danger of getting their mitts on my bakes! I can plug myself into a TV series (currently Westworld) and get lost in painting. I’ve been going to weekly art classes since last year after getting the ‘Big Painting Challenge‘ bug and it’s really helped with my cake painting techniques too. I used black, sky blue and ivory Wilton gel colours to paint the cake, plus this silver paint for highlighting and diluted the colours with water to get the different shades.
Inside the cake were three 8″ vanilla sponges with leopard print baked into the cakes (see the picture above taken by Freddie’s Dad, Martin) and sandwiched with buttercream and raspberry jam. I followed a few Pinterest tutorials for the leopard print effect on the sponge.
I’d forgotten how much I’d missed cake making, but most of all it was a pleasure to make a cake for such lovely friends. I have three fantastic cakes coming up to make the week after next so check back in in a couple of weeks for more pictures, recipes and tutorials. Until then, Happy Baking!