Friday, 30 November 2012

Baking Without Butter - Lemon Sponge Cupcakes

  • 3 eggs (divided)
  • 115g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 45g flour (sifted 4+ times)
  • 20g corn flour (sifted 4+ times)
  • icing sugar (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 150 °C and line your muffin/cupcake tray with paper liners.
  2. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt together on a high speed for around 4-5 minutes until light in colour and fluffy in texture. In the meantime, continue to sift both types of flour. This will make the texture of your cupcakes much lighter.
  3. Sift around 1/3 of the flour onto the yolk mixture and mix in on a slow-medium speed. Repeat until all the flour is combined.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed and then fold the egg whites gently into the batter; be careful not to over-fold the mixture. 
  5. Spoon into your cupcake liners and bake for around 20 minutes, or until the surface of each cupcake springs back when touched.  
  6. Place on a cooling rack and subsequently dust lightly with icing sugar.
* Makes 12 cupcakes.


These cupcakes are only mildly lemony. This is a personal preference. Feel free to add more lemon zest if you like. 


- Double the recipe if you choose to opt for a cake rather than cupcakes. Bake in two unbuttered 7" cake tins for 25-30 minutes.

- Substitute the lemon zest/juice with orange zest/juice for an orange sponge. 

- Alternatively, replace the citrus flavours with cinnamon or cocoa powder. In such cases, be sure to swap the 1 tbsp of juice with an equivalent amount of water.

Monday, 22 October 2012

BOOK REVIEW! Professional Cake Decorating - Toba Garrett

I like cake decorating and I bet you do too. 

Garett's ginormous book guides readers through a multitude of diverse cake (or indeed cupcake) decorating skills which range from basic to advanced; from simple to complex. 

It is in this light that her 'Professional Cake Decorating' is both an encyclopaedia-like reference book as well as a source for all kinds of inspiration. In my opinion, leafing through 'Professional Cake Decorating' is one pleasant affair. The layout of Garett's book is similar to that of a textbook as the contents are sectioned off into 'Lessons', and 'New Skills' are highlighted and then followed by 'Quick Prep' lists which feature all ingredients as well as equipment needed. Instructions are carefully worded and 'Decorator's Hint' bubbles are never excluded. In addition to all of the above, Garett makes use of many visual aids such as step-by-step photos with captions as well as hand drawn illustrations. I must admit that the latter are virtually indispensable. Finally, each lesson ends with an 'End of Lesson Review' as well as a 'Performance Test'. One best not have an obsessive compulsive disorder to complete each and every performance test or one will be at this book for months (years) at a go.

Garett dedicates whole lessons to different piping skills (basic, floral, intermediate and advanced), the art of writing and painting, royal icing piped flowers, royal icing design skills, hand modeling skills, marzipan and chocolate modeling, rolled icing design skills, pastillage construction, gumpaste flowers, miniature cakes or petits fours and decorated cookies. 

It's worth noting that the aforementioned 'decorated cookie' skills chapter is a nice addition to what I initially imagined to be a solely 'cake decorating' oriented book. I thus learnt how to flood cookies with royal icing and to subsequently create unique and interesting designs. 

Lesson 17, the 'Cake and Confectionery Gallery', is an all-time favourite as Garett includes finished or completed projects (works of art) that can be accomplished using skills that were developed in the preceding chapters or lessons.

Finally, the book ends with an assortment of recipes such as buttercream (french vanilla buttercream, amaretto mocha buttercream, white chocolate and dark chocolate buttercream to mention a few), as well as a number of different glazes, simple syrups, modeling pastes and types of rolled fondant. A few cake, jam and cookie recipes are also included. 

In brief, I turn to this book time and time again.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Take me to London! BOOK REVIEWS! Tea & Cake London - Zena Alkayat and London's Afternoon Teas - Susan Cohen

It's time to bin those London travel guides. My advice? Fill the gaps in your bookshelf with either of Zena Alkayat's 'Tea and Cake London' or Susan Cohen's 'London's Afternoon Teas', and begin to replace the usual attractions with tea shop after tea shop after tea shop.

'Tea & Cake London', a compact yet comprehensive guide to the diverse cafes in London, covers both 'Everyday Specials' (ch1) such as Peggy Porschen, Fleet River Bakery and Primrose Bakery, as well as more lavish 'Grand Affairs' (ch2) such as The Ritz, Fortnum and Mason and The Savoy. Next, Alkayat writes of a number of 'Pop in, Take out' (ch3) bakeries and patisseries such as The Hummingbird Bakery in Portobello and Clarke's in Kensington. Finally, the last section of the book is dedicated to pointing out a good number of vegan and allergy-friendly specialty cafes and cake shops in London. 

Similarly, 'London's Afternoon Teas' spans both traditional and formal tea related locations, although they are not divided into any particular groupings. Cohen manages to include a brief history of the establishments and what they have to offer in terms of foodstuffs as well as decor and overall ambiance. Moreover, essential information for potential visitors is presented as Cohen includes contacts (tel, e-mail, web), the time at which tea is served, tea sets available (Claridge's, for instance, is noted to stock 'Rose Champagne Afternoon Tea), as well as the nearest underground station and places of interest in the vicinity. 

'Tea & Cake London', and 'London's Afternoon Teas' are both compact enough to fit in a visitor's (or indeed a local's) daybag, and, as both books feature luscious photos of venues as well as baked goods (such as cakes, scones and other tea accompaniments), these two books serve as perfect light reading throughout the day. 

* Black Dog Publishing are kind enough to run a readers offer on 'Tea and Cake London'. Simply email Diana at '' with your delivery address and quote 'The Mixing Bowl Offer' for a 40% discount. 

Renewed thanks to Black Dog Publishing as well as to New Holland. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

White Vanilla Bean Layer Cake

I watched the Olympics, designed my future bedroom and read a little. And all of a sudden, the sun began to rise. I didn't pull an all-nighter throughout the whole of my BA degree (studying throughout the year rather than cramming right before exam period surely has its benefits), yet last night somehow passed by without my realising. 

I re-watched an episode of Downton Abbey for the fourth time. It was still 7 o'clock. I barely ever experience 7 o'clock. I baked a cake. And at exactly 8 o'clock, I crashed. Boom Bam. I 'napped' until 3pm. I woke up, watched the Olympic artistic gymnastics (this, along with swimming, is my absolute absolute favourite), and was in bed by 8pm. Of course I woke up at 2.30am. Woot woot for summer holidays. Imagine this madness whilst at university.

So here's the cake I baked. I had been looking for a good white vanilla cake for weeks, if not months. (White cakes are those cakes in which no egg yolks are added).

Beauty, yes?

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 4 egg whites (150g) brought to room temperature
  • 180ml whole milk - divided and brought to room temperature
  • 2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 285g sifted "OO" flour
  • 350g sugar
  • 1tbsp + 1tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 170g unsalted butter brought to room temperature
Method for the cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 °C and grease two 6" tins. I use a non-stick baking spray rather than butter.
  2. Combine the egg whites, half of the milk (90ml), and the vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk slightly.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into your mixing bowl, add the sugar and salt, and pulse sightly until all is evenly dispersed.
  4. Add the butter and half of the milk (90ml), mix on a low speed until just moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for exactly 90 seconds.
  5. Add 1/3 of the eggy mixture and beat on a medium speed for no more than 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat step 5 twice more.
  7. Divide the batter between two cake tins. I like to weigh them to be precise. Level with an offset spatula and pop into the oven for 25-35 minutes. Mine took 30 minutes to bake, but as oven temperatures vary, be sure to check yours every 2 minutes or so after the first 20 minutes have passed.
  8. Leave cakes to rest for 5-10 minutes, and then tap out onto a wire rack to cool off completely. 
* Adapted from Sweetapolita 'Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting' (here) who in turn adapted the vanilla cake slightly from Baking Bites 'Classic White Cake' (here). Both of the original recipes call for more liquids (egg whites or milk) but I have reduced the amount to prevent the batter from curdling. Moreover, both recipes refer to two 9" cake tins, though I chose to use two 6" cake tins as I prefer a smaller yet higher cake.

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 150g unsalted butter brought to room temperature
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (scraped)*
  • 3 tbsp milk*
  • food colouring (optional)
Method for the frosting:
  1. Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat the butter until perfectly pale and fluffy. This should take around 8-10 minutes.
  2. Sift the icing sugar into your mixing bowl and begin to cream the two together on a medium speed.
  3. Add the vanilla bean seeds and milk and turn the mixer onto a medium-high speed. Your frosting should have a light and smooth consistency. 
  4. Frost as you wish! I chose to divide my frosting into two. I left one part white and tinted the rest a light sky blue. Other than that, I used a Wilton 1M piping end to decorate.

* After scraping the vanilla seeds out of the pod, it may be a good idea to let the outer part soak in the milk (rather than disposing it immediately) so as to extract all the vanilla flavours.