Is Life A Cake Walk?

In a country where they take their baking so seriously that they have a prime time TV show about it – why is it so hard to find a decent baker to make a MOIST cake for a birthday? It’s like trying to find El Dorado without a map!

It’s times like these where I dream of Piece of Cake – my favorite Atlanta bakery.  I can close my eyes and see their white chocolate layer cake with the nuts around the top… holy wow they are so good! Must remember to buy one next time I’m in Atlanta.

But back to Berkshire and cakes or lack thereof. There are some bakeries – big national chains and smaller ones, but they either a) charge a fortune – I’m talking £100+ for a single cake or b) they have a very limited menu that only involves dry victoria sponge cakes. Don’t get me wrong – there are days I love a nice VS, with the fresh cream and jam in the middle. Not too sweet and is perfect with cake. But not at a party with drinks!

At this point I am seriously considering ordering a costco cake (feeds 48!) for a whopping £16! I’ve never had a costco cake before, let alone a UK Costco cake. As much as I adore Costco here, it’s like a little slice of america, I’m not sure I trust them to make a moist american cake.

This is what I was really hoping for –

A really pretty and simple 3-4 tier cake with some sprinkles. A nice pink champagne flavor, or white chocolate or some other yummy flavor, no jam, no cream. Just a nice, moist cake. That won’t cost me a fortune. I’ve resorted to going to wedding fairs every weekend hoping to find a baker who can do this and not charge me the earth. So far – nothing. Just dry, overpriced cakes.

So here in Reading, I think it’s safe to say life isn’t a cake walk.

 

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The Great British Bake Off

Unless you live under a rock, or maybe not on this rock in the middle of the sea, you know that last night GBBO returned to our TVs. This year, however, its being aired on channel 4 and we had a new judge and two new hosts.

The Great British Bake Off is a staple of british culture – its a little bit like the Super Bowl in the US except its multiple episodes and no one likes the commercials. And its not a sports ball game… so what I’m getting at is its really nothing like the Super Bowl. It’s like GOT – without the death but all the drama.

These are the new faces of bake off – Noel Fielding, Sandi Toksvig, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith.

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You can tell they are working very hard to live up to Mary Berry, Sue & Mel. Noel and Sandi were funny but not Mel and Sue funny, but that chemistry (note the baking pun) takes time to rise (I’m full of them!).

The first challenge – the fruit cake, was a bit of a let down. I was hoping for some classic british cake – one of those checkerboard ones or something a little more out there. But a fruit cake is a fruit cake!

gallery-1503395538-chris-gbboThe technical bake – can we just talk about that? Hello yuck! I am a massive chocolate peppermint fan but those little role things just looked awful! It’s like a british take on the twinkie’s brother the swiss role. They don’t have any flour in them (is that even a cake without flour?) and that one older guy in the back who just couldn’t get it right… bless him.

This week’s showstopper challenge was on point – that’s for sure! Making a lifesize replica cake is crazy for week one! I for one was very excited and nervous for the bakers as they had 4 hours for their challenge. What they came out with was amazing – did you see the bowl of ramen? Or the champagne bucket? The loaf of bread and BLT Steve’s made was crazy realistic!

Final thoughts – I will continue to DVR previous season of GBBO to get my Mary Berry, Sue and Mel fix but I think since channel 4 didn’t mess with a good thing I will be a dedicated watcher this year again. Besides – if I’m not, what will I talk to my co-workers about on Wednesdays?

Patriotic Treats

This year I really got into the red white and blue spirit and made 2 different patriotic desserts. Neither one was a perfect success but they were both yummy – and when it comes to sweets thats what counts right?

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My first USA themed dessert were my blue velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese icing and fresh raspberries. I made the for Steves & my offices as a special treat to celebrate our heritage.

Unfortunatly my favorite blog – The Pioneer Women didn’t have a recipie for this particular treat so I went to food.com for my recipie which you can find here. As you can see I had to adapt the recipie from cakes to cupcakes – which is normally straightforward but I learned with any velvet cake – the instructions are critical. Unfortunately I didn’t follow the step by step instructions (blame the sunshine) so my cupcakes didn’t rise like they should have and they were more gray than blue.

I didn’t have butter milk – they sell it here but its expensive and I never remember to get any, so I use the vinegar trick. Measure the amount of buttermilk you need but leave it a little low. Then fill it up the rest of the way with vinegar – about a teaspoon or so. Let it sit for a few minutes for the magic to work and voila – buttermilk.

My other patriotic dessert was my red white almost blue rice crispy treats. These are pretty self explanatory to make but in case you dont know how here is the recipe. Me being the crazy lazy blogger I am didn’t snap a photo of mine – but I borrowed this one from google so you can see what they’re meant to look like.

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These are what they should look like

1 bag of large marshmallows equally divided into 3 bowls

1 large box of rice crispy cereal – or any other crunchy cereal

3 tablespoons of butter divided into 3 equal parts

red & blue food coloring

Start by spraying your baking tray with non stick coating – get every nook and cranny or these babies will not come out of the pan!  Put 1 bowl of marshmallows in a pot over low-medium heat and add the butter. Stir until melted – adding red food coloring until you get it to the color your like. Remember it will disperse with the cereal so make make it a little extra intense. If your pan is big enough pour your cereal into the pan (heat off). Mine wasn’t so I poured the melted marshmallows into a bowl with the cereal and used a spoon to mix it all. It will cool quickly but its still very pliable. Spread the red batch in the will greased pan.

Repeat the above steps but this time no food coloring – this is your white layer of your dessert.

For the last layer do the same thing, replacing the red coloring with blue. Layer on top of the white later in the greased pan and allow the whole pan to cool before cutting – an hour or 2 should do it.

Cut and serve!

You can get creative with adding sprinkles to the mix or different kinds of cereal – maybe red white and blue cereal and skip the food coloring. This is such an easy treat to make and you can let your imagination run wild!

 

Happy 4th of July

Today marks our 3rd 4th of July here in the UK. It’s a bit odd being here for the 4th, since its such a big deal at home. Not that I’m expecting it to be a big deal here – I’m not one of those expats. I think its seeing all the festivities at home – parades and lake trips, 10ks and fireworks. Plus there is no UK equivalent. They don’t celebrate St George’s day (English version of St Patrick’s day), they never gained their independence from anyone because they were always the tyrants.

Regardless of the fact that we never made a big fuss over the 4th in the US, we do now that we’re here. I’m wearing my red white and blue with my flag scarf and listening to the USA spotify playlist. Steve’s wearing our american flag like a cape today to the office. And of course I baked.

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4th of July cupcakes

Unfortunately my blue velvet cupcakes look more like gray/brown cupcakes, but they’re pretty yummy! I’ll post the recipie I used later this week.

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I was given the nicest USA themed gift basket from my co-worker today to celebrate the 4th of July. Its full of yummy things like cookies, reese’s peanut butter, m&ms, beef jerky & patriotic oven mitts and apron!

I can’t wait to wear the apron this weekend at our 2nd annual 4th of July bbq!

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The Best Little Sheet Cake In Texas

Everyone knows Texas

Almost everyone loved Texas

And we all know everything’s bigger in Texas

So it comes as no surprise that the most decadent, chocolaty, gooey dessert I make is from Texas. Its called the Texas Sheet Cake.

It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s pretty cheap to make, doesn’t require any fancy ingredients and it’s easy to serve and clean up after. I whipped one up in under an hour on Saturday before we had some friends over for the first BBQ of the year.

sheet cakeI may be chefy – but I know where to turn for some of my favorite dessert recipes- a woman who knows her way around a ranch and a kitchen – Ree. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “don’t mess with perfection” – this is one of those times. I follow her recipe to the letter. I’m sure you could elevate it with fancier ingredients or some wow display – but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is a gooey, chocolate mess and should be enjoyed that way!

IMG_0537[1]Since this weekend was a 4 day weekend (hello UK bank holidays!) we hosted our first BBQ at the new house. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as warm as it’s been the last few weekends but then again – bank holidays are notorious for so so weather. We invited Steve’s friend from his D&D group Ed and his lady Jess as well as our neighbors at our favorite cafe Richfields – Dan & Suzie and their chefs Jeff and Quiey. Dan was nice enough to be grillmaster so I could hang out and chat (you read that right – in our house I’m the head chef and grill master).

 

Cadbury Egg Blondies

Since next weekend is Easter I decided I would bake something yummy for the office this weekend. I found this recipe for Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies online but I decided to alter the recipe a little bit. I know I wanted to use Cadbury Creme Eggs because they’re my favorite easter treat but I also wanted to make something that was easy to grab since it was going to be an office treat.

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This is the recipie I used, adapted from the one above

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 frozen cadbury creme eggs – chopped up

Put your cream eggs in the freezer for a few hours.

Cream the melted butter and sugar together till it’s a sticky paste. Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together and mix into sugar mixture.

Chop up the cadbury eggs and fold them into the batter.

Grease and flour a 9×9 pan (or any smallish pan you have. I wanted mine to be thick, but small)

Pop into the oven at 325 / 180 for 50 min – check at 40 min, depending on how thick yours are.

Voila – yummy treats for work, or your family!

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