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Carly and Ryan’s semi-naked cake at Clock Barn, Tufton Warren.

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Clock Barn, Tufton Warren, Hampshire

I first met Carly and her mum at a County Wedding Events wedding showcase at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands, Surrey in March 2019. Carly had pretty much everything in place for her September 2019 wedding apart from the cake and the wedding cars (she also found those at MBW, the lovely Jake and his dad at Oxted Classic Cars).

They had a family friend who was a baker and had made the cake for Carly’s sister, but she only made certain flavours and Carly didn’t want to compromise on the flavour profiles of her cake. She was drawn to the picture I had on display of the naked cake I had created for a wedding at Burnham Beeches Hotel in Buckinghamshire. We had a lovely chat about the cake and other aspects of their wedding, and she went away with some ideas to consider.

After an exchange of emails, I met Carly, her mother, and Ryan at Carly and Ryan’s house. I was armed with cupcakes in the four flavours they had decided to try. They chose lemon and elderflower (Carly had been adamant from the start that this would be one tier of their cake), salted caramel, classic vanilla and Devon Fudge. Eventually we settled on definitely having lemon and elderflower and vanilla. The salted caramel and the fudge caused much debate. They are similar in lots of ways, with Carly initially being drawn to Salted Caramel. But Ryan also had strong family connections to Devon, so was reluctant to give it up. They had chosen it as the fourth flavour for their taster after seeing it on my flavour menu. Therefore, I suggested a compromise: salted caramel cake, salted caramel buttercream and sauce with fudge pieces scattered amongst the layers. It was a winner!

The couple wanted a semi-naked cake with green and white foliage provided by their florist. In order to keep the smear of buttercream on the outside of the cake as white as possible I suggested all the tiers were covered in the same white vanilla buttercream (my salted caramel buttercream has caramel sauce stirred through it, so is naturally darker in colour).

They also ordered six gluten-free cupcakes for a relative with a gluten intolerance (they were happy that my kitchen is not gluten free, but she didn’t need a specialist free-from baker to make the cakes for her). Carly chose Harry Potter themed decorations for the cupcakes, to tie in with their theme. They only thing left to decide was which tier of the cake would be in which flavour …

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Gluten-free Harry Potter-themed cupcakes

I knew from the start that Carly would ask for Lemon and Elderflower as the biggest tier. It was the first flavour she had mentioned to me at Mercedes Benz World and the first flavour she had chosen to try. Lemon and Elderflower has become popular since the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however it is a flavour with history. I remember my gran making Lemon and Elderflower cake, and growing up in the country it is almost the law that when the elder is in flower you harvest the delicate blooms, steep in water and sugar and make elderflower cordial (or elderflower wine). The flavour is subtle and floral and balances beautifully with the tartness of lemon, so I can see why it is so popular and making a comeback.

So the final decision was lemon and elderflower for the bottom tier, salted caramel with Devon fudge pieces for the middle and vanilla with raspberry jam for the top.

The key to a naked cake is that, unlike a fondant covered cake with the icing sealing in the freshness, they need to be baked, filled, decorated and dowelled at the last minute. Semi-naked cakes, particularly the style Carly and Ryan had chosen, meant there was enough of a buttercream coating to stop the edges drying out, however they still benefit from being made last minute. As I also had to drive the cake to a venue almost an hour away in Hampshire, I didn’t want to risk delivery of it already stacked. I have every faith in my ability to firmly stack a cake, but cakes without fondant are not as predictable.

The day before the wedding in late September had been a glorious late-summer day. Unfortunately, the day of the wedding dawned thundery and wet. So, the rain hats (cellophane) went on the cake boxes for transportation. Luckily, by the time I delivered the cake (timed to be set up between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, to minimise the time the cake was sat out in the air) the sun had come out.

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Cake boxes with rain hats, non-slip mats and air cushions – every precaution taken!

The Clock Barn looked absolutely breath-taking. It is a beautiful venue anyway, but the couple’s florist, Kimberley Shaw Flowers, had done an absolutely stunning job with the flowers. She had also left me some beautiful roses and foliage to add to the cake.

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Beautiful décor at The Clock Barn

Setting up a cake doesn’t just involve bringing it in from the car and plonking it on the table. The little touches from your baker will make sure your cake sees out the day until cutting time and looks immaculate in all your photos.

I was given a log cake stand provided by the couple. I have one that I hire out to couples, but Carly and Ryan had their own, again used at Carly’s sister’s wedding. Using a cake stand you are not familiar with, especially sliced from a log is always nerve-wracking. Enter my favourite tool in my toolbox (and yes, I have a proper tool box for all my cake set-ups) – my spirit level. Not only do I use it to check my individual tiers are level, that the dowels are level, but I also check the table (always be prepared to prop up a wonky leg with a bit of card or paper) and the cake stand. There is some leeway with a bit of wonk. I can usually turn things slightly to compensate for one side being higher than the other, but the ideal is that we start off with a level surface. Once that was done, I could start stacking the tiers. I had already dowelled them at home, but the spirit level was brought out again and one or two were swapped over or trimmed to make sure it was completely level. Although covered in buttercream, the best way to stick tiers together is with royal icing. I had a Tupperware already made up for this. Next from my toolkit was a crank-handled spatula and piping bags with spare buttercream. I used this to fill in any gaps between tiers and repair any dents from handling the cakes.

Next was the flowers. I had an image I had discussed with Carly about how she wanted the flowers, but in many ways, this is the most nerve-wracking bit. Once you have put them in the cake there is no taking them out again – you will leave holes in the cake. I selected foliage and roses to make little posies which I then wrapped in florist tape and placed in posy picks or bubble-tea straws, so they weren’t making direct contact with the cake.

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Floral detail on the semi-naked cake

Finally, Carly had left me with a wooden topper to go in the cake. A nod to the Harry Potter theme with a Deathly Hallows symbol and their initials. I placed a posy behind it to emphasise its presence on the top of the cake.

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Carly and Ryan’s wooden topper

“I wanted to send you a MASSIVE thank you for our amazing wedding cake on Sunday. It was absolutely stunning and tasted delicious! All of our guests commented how beautiful and yummy it was too.

Thank you so much, you really did put the cherry on top for us! You’ve been very professional and friendly throughout, reassuring my silly stresses and overall just have been great. I will be recommending you to all of my friends should they be getting married.”

I loved the flavours and the simple beauty of this cake. The setting was absolutely gorgeous, and Carly and Ryan were a pleasure to deal with from start to finish. I was so happy to receive the amazing feedback they took the time to give me. If all my weddings were this easy, I would be a very happy baker!

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Carly and Ryan’s semi-naked cake

Clare

 

 

Hot Cross Bun Scones – Bake along with Betty Bee

In the same way that I am firm believer that mince pies shouldn’t just be for Christmas (my mum makes mincemeat tart all through the year), these scones are delicious at any time, not just Easter.

Making proper Hot Cross Buns is a labour of love. Enriched dough is not an easy process, consequently they take soooooo long. So, late one Good Friday when I had been working all day in my other job, I came up with this genius mash-up idea. Nowhere near as long to make as Hot Cross Buns, but with the same delicious flavour and smell. Oh my god, they smell divine (holy puns intended!).

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Arty shot of some ingredients (I’ve secretly always wanted to be a Home Economist on a cookery show or a food photographer!)

This is what you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 200C fan (gas mark 7). To be honest, with scones, the hotter the better.
Lightly grease a baking sheet (you can use butter or spray oil, both work)

Put 225g self-raising flour and 1 level teaspoon baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir them around a bit then add in 50g softened butter. Rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Now, at this point those of you who know me well will be asking “Where’s the mixer?” “Can’t I use a food processor?” (Maybe I should rename my page The Lazy Baker?) The answer is yes, but actually the amount of butter in this recipe is so small that it really doesn’t take long to rub in by hand, and it will save on the washing up.

Stir in 25g caster sugar, 75g dried mixed fruit, 1 tablespoon mixed spice (I like it fragranced, but you can add less if you don’t want so much oomph) and the zest of an orange.

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There looks to be a lot of mixed spice, but it’s worth it, trust me. 

Break 1 large egg into a mixing jug and top up with enough milk to make up to 150ml. Stir into the dry ingredients until it makes a soft, but not sticky dough (you might not need all of the egg/milk mixture – save it for brushing over the top).

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and give it a bit of knead, to bring it together. At this point some people roll out their scone dough with a rolling pin, but I do like my mum does and just pat it down to about 1 inch thickness.

Dip your cutter into some more flour, then cut out your scones. I used a 7cm cutter, which is quite large. But you can use smaller. I got 6 generous scones from my dough, a smaller cutter will get more, obviously. If you don’t have any cutters then use a glass, or just make the dough into a rough rectangle and cut into even sized squares. Gently push together any leftover dough and recut.

Put your scones on the baking sheet. Make sure they are spaced out in case they spread a bit during baking.

Before putting them in the oven, cut a fairly deep cross in each one with a serrated knife. Then brush with the remaining egg/milk mix, f you have any, or just a bit of milk if not. If you want a proper Hot Cross Bun cross then mix 75g plain flour with 75ml water and pipe or drizzle across the top.

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Score a cross in the top and brush with milk

Bake for 10-12 minutes until pale golden brown and risen a bit. As soon as you remove them from the oven brush on a bit of apricot jam for that HCB final look. If you don’t have apricot jam (I only usually have it for sticking marzipan to Christmas cakes, I’d never put it on my toast), then any jam you have will do, or carry on the orange theme with marmalade instead.

Cool on a wire rack, but these are best eaten just a little bit warm, so that bit of butter you spread on melts in slightly. Yum! The house will smell like Easter, the only thing missing is the chocolate (But if you wanted to add in choc chips to replace some of the fruit, that would work.)

I had one for breakfast on Easter Saturday, delicious!

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A sticky apricot jam glaze and a slather of butter. Delicious!

I’d love to know what you think if you give these a go. Drop me a comment below, post a picture on my Facebook page, or tag me on Instagram with #bakealongwithbettybee and #bettybeebakes.

Enjoy, Happy Easter, or just Happy Baking Day!
Clare

Lemon Cupcakes – Bake Along with Betty Bee

These are really easy and a zingy little number to brighten up anyone’s day, but especially good for Easter. The recipe is my basic vanilla cupcake recipe with added lemon, so you can adapt these to any flavour you want. I’ll give you some tips for changing up the recipe at the end.

Lemon is a flavour which reminds me of spring and early summer. It’s perfect for an Easter celebration, balancing out all of the chocolate we consume, despite trying not to!

All my sponge cake recipes are made using the “equal quantities” method. This is where I weigh the eggs in their shells and then have equal quantities of butter, flour and sugar. For the purpose of this recipe I have given an estimation of what these quantities will be if I was using my usual large, free-range eggs. Feel free to follow the quantities given or use your own eggs to decide the weights of the other ingredients.

I am not a fan of artificial flavours in my bakes, and try not to use essences when a natural flavour would do. Therefore these cakes are going to get their lemony-ness from actual lemons/lemon juice, not from an artificial flavouring.

This recipe is adaptable. I have given substitutions so you can still make these even if you don’t have the exact ingredients to hand.

A note about the cupcake cases and tin I use: I don’t make small, fairy cake buns. My cupcakes are substantial in size. I use Lakeland muffin cases and a muffin tin for all my cupcakes. After much experimentation I have found that these are the best cases for me and a good size for my recipes. If you don’t have these sizes then use what you have. The trick is to make sure you are generous with your filling of the case, but not too generous. If you fill the cases to two-thirds full the batter should rise to the top of the case without overflowing in the oven (messy). If you don’t put in enough batter the weight of the case will pull it down when they’ve baked, and the cases will peel.

So I’ll stop waffling (oooh, waffles … I need a recipe for those too) and get on with it!

You will need:
A 12-hole muffin tin
12 Paper cases to fit your tin (if you have a smaller tin and cases you will make more than 12 cakes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!)

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160C fan.
  • In a stand mixer (or in a bowl if you are using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon) cream together 200g of softened baking spread or softened butter with 200g of caster sugar. When it’s light and fluffy add in three beaten eggs, one at a time, beating in between. Add in 200g of self-raising flour a bit at a time until incorporated. Finally, add the zest of a lemon and enough lemon juice to make the batter a soft dropping consistency. If you don’t have a fresh lemon then lemon juice from a bottle will work just as well.
  • Put the batter into the cases, filling two thirds of the way up (a heaped dessert spoon works well as a guide, then add in a bit more as necessary).
  • Bake in the centre of your pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes. Check they are risen and spring back when touched. If not, then leave in for another 5 or so minutes until cooked. They should be flat-topped, not domed (if they are, your oven is too hot) but because the oven is at a relatively low temperature, they might take longer than 25 minutes to bake.
  • Once baked remove from the oven and transfer from the tin to a cooling rack as quickly as possible (mind your fingers, they’ll be hot!). I do this so that the cases don’t sweat in the tins as the cakes cool – another reason why some people find their cases peel.

Whilst the cakes cool you can make the butter icing. Basic butter icing is easy: 250g softened butter (you need real butter for this, unless making dairy-free. Marg/baking butter doesn’t work), 500g icing sugar and a drizzle of slightly cooled boiled water to adjust consistency.

  • For these cakes I beat the butter by itself until pale and fluffy (this can take at least 5 minutes in my Kitchenaid, so don’t underestimate how long it takes).
  • Once it is almost white in colour add in the icing sugar. At this point I wrap the top of my mixing bowl with cling film otherwise I an enveloped in a cloud of icing sugar. Beat in slowly until combined.
  • Add in the juice of half a lemon and beat in until combined. Check consistency and lemon-flavour. If it needs more zing add a few more drops of juice. You could also ripple in some lemon curd. I also like to mix in a bit of slightly-cooled boiled water because it helps with consistency if the icing is a bit grainy.

When the cakes are cool use an apple corer (or a knife if you don’t have a corer – but supervise little fingers) to hollow the centre of each cake. Using a teaspoon, fill the hole with lemon curd.

Ice the cakes with the buttercream. If you have a piping bag and nozzles then you can do fancy swirls, but you can just as easily dollop some icing on with a spoon and smooth it around a bit. Drizzle over a bit more lemon curd to finish, although this isn’t obligatory.

If you want to properly Easter up your cakes make a dip in the centre of your icing and nestle in a few mini eggs.

Make a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy!

Changing up the flavours:
Lemon and raspberry works well. Add freeze-dried raspberries into the batter after the flour has been incorporated, scoop out the middle and add some raspberry jam r stick a drizzle of jam or a fresh raspberry on top. Fresh raspberries in the batter will be a bit soggy and sink to the bottom, but if they are all you have then go for it – it’s an ooey-gooey surprise at the bottom!

Lemon and elderflower is still massively fashionable (even if the royal couple that brought about its resurgence have fallen out of favour (and royalty) since then). You can see my review of the flavour profile here, in my wedding flavours blog. I use neat elderflower cordial in the batter, spike the cakes with a skewer when they are just out of the oven and brush over a bit more cordial (not too much, you don’t want soggy cake) and add neat cordial to the buttercream too. It’s a subtle flavour, but I like it.

St Clements, a drink my gran was partial to, a non-alcoholic cocktail of orange juice and bitter lemon. In cake form this is a mix of orange and lemon. Make cupcake batter using orange juice and zest of oranges and lemons, and a core of lemon curd then make the icing with orange and lemon juice.

 

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Orange Drizzle Cake – Bake Along with Betty Bee

I rustled up this cake the other day when I was in desperate need of something to do, had satsumas and yogurt that needed using and just had those itchy fingers that needed to bake something!

I posted it on my facebook page asking if people wanted the recipe and the response was overwhelming (incidentally, if you don’t follow my facebook page then click here and give me a thumbs up).

This cake is very dense and gooey. The addition of the yogurt gives it a slightly stodgy texture (not in a bad way) but makes it perfect for a pudding.

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Betty Bee Bakes Orange Drizzle Cake insides

A couple of notes about ingredients, given that I am writing this during the Covid-19 lockdown and some of you are struggling to find certain things in the shops: • You don’t need to use butter, you can use baking spread instead. It works perfectly well either way.

• This recipe doesn’t use a massive amount of flour or sugar, great in these current times of shortage. If you don’t have self-raising, then use plain flour and add in a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of baking powder. If you only have plain flour, then give the butter/sugar a really good beating. The cake will still work, but it will be even more dense and pudding-y in texture.
• Use whatever eggs you can get hold of. Eggs, like flour, seem to be rarer than a six-year-old wanting to do home schooling (I speak from experience, on both counts!). Don’t stress about whether or not they are medium or large. You can balance out the consistency of the cake mix with the orange juice and the yogurt.
• Granulated and caster sugar are both just sugar at the end of the day. If you only have granulated it will still work in the cake. You can blitz it down in a food processor first, to get caster texture, but to be honest, I wouldn’t bother. As it bakes it dissolves in the batter just the same. If you only have caster for the drizzle, then just plonk it in. It works just the same.
• I used quark in my cake – it was the yogurt I had and mine was a couple of days out of date. I’m stealing a leaf from my mum’s child-of-the-wartime-era cooking. If it smells ok, isn’t mouldy and isn’t curdled, it’s fine. The same principle says that slightly sour milk makes the best scones. Obviously I don’t use this principle for orders I sell, but this is for personal consumption and is the responsible thing to do in these current times.
So here it is:
You will need a 2lb loaf tin, lined (I use pre-formed loaf tin liners from Lakeland, but normal greaseproof or baking parchment will do)

Pre-heat your oven to 180C fan (gas mark 4)

In a bowl beat together 150g caster sugar and 100g softened butter or baking spread. They need to be pale and fluffy. This will take 3-4 mins in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer. If you are doing it old-skool by hand then it will take a lot longer – make sure your butter is nice and soft before you start!

Beat in two eggs – I used large free-range, but medium will do.

Add in 150g self-raising flour and combine well.

Grate in the zest of 3 satsumas/tangerines/clementines, or 1 large orange and the juice from them (I added in some of the pulp too, for an extra orange hit). Add half a teaspoon of lemon juice too, if you have it. It brings out the orange flavour even more.

Finally add in a generous dollop of plain yogurt. A generous dollop is a heaped dessert spoon (and maybe a bit more). You’ll know if you need more if your mix is not a soft dropping consistency. Give it all a good mix and see how you feel.

Pour it into the lined loaf tin and put on a middle shelf in the oven for 45 minutes. It’s a squidgy cake, so test it with a skewer and if it’s still a bit doughy then put it in for another 5-10 minutes.

10 minutes before the cake is due to come out then make the syrup: put 50g of granulated sugar and the juice and pulp of 2 satsumas in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat and let it cool in the saucepan.

When the cake is cooked bring it out of the oven, and whilst still in the tin stab it all over with a skewer. Don’t be too hard on your tin though! Pour over the syrup and make sure it is spread evenly over the top of the cake. You don’t want to miss those corners!

Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin. When cool, remove, peel off the paper and slice.

We had ours with ice cream for pudding, but as long as you are happy with squidgy cake, eat a slice with a cuppa.

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Betty Bee Bakes Orange Drizzle – great with Ice Cream as a pudding!

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Drop a comment here or share it on Instagram with the hashtag #bakealongwithbettybee and tag in @bettybeebakes

This cake will freeze well. I would suggest portioning it up first and then freezing in a Tupperware. You can just get out a piece at a time as a treat. It will defrost in a few hours.

Happy Baking,
Clare

Last-minute Christmas cake

I absolutely love Christmas Cake. I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I could eat a boozy, marzipan covered bit of fruit cake any day! In fact, when Mr B asked what cake I would like for my 40th Birthday, I requested a stollen Christmas cake taken from a recipe in Sainsbury’s magazine. Because, extra marzipan, obviously!

In an ideal world I would follow in the footsteps of my mum and bake my Christmas cake in August, definitely no later than September. However, I am not always that organised (and who wants the oven on for hours in the middle of a heat wave?). If I am baking Christmas cakes for customer orders or market stalls then I will bake in October, to give plenty of time for feeding and maturing. However, with our own cake I am not always so prepared.

The process of baking my bespoke fruit cakes starts anything from 3 days to 3 weeks before the actual bake, when I soak the fruit. I make both traditional alcoholic fruit cakes as well as a non-alcoholic variety.

For the alcoholic version I put the dried mixed fruit into a bowl, then add in some generous sloshes of alcohol. It doesn’t matter what alcohol you use, as long as it is a spirit of some sort. Brandy is traditional for a European cake, but in the Caribbean rum or spiced rum is the spirit of choice. I am a fan of sloshing in whatever I have, in whatever combination. Our family Christmas cake is a mix of brandy, sherry, rum, spiced rum, bourbon, flavoured vodka, Gran Marnier, cherry brandy and anything else I can find lurking in the cupboard! We sound like big drinkers, but in reality, most of these bottles gather dust in the cupboard all year, only coming out for the annual Christmas cake making ritual. The Gran Marnier came from my mother-in-law’s house with about half of it gone. We’ve just marked the fifth anniversary of her death, so that tells you how long that bottle has probably been open!

Fruit soaking
Fruit soaking overnight

The trick is not to drown the fruit – I made that mistake one year, the cake was delicious and squidgy, but the marzipan and fondant just melted off it! You want to soak the fruit in just enough liquid to coat it, but not so much that it is swimming in the bowl. This is not your morning cereal! My trick for not pouring half a bottle of brandy on it? Add some freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice to the mix, and if you still don’t have enough liquid, pour on some tea too (hot or cold, but without any milk, obviously). Give the mixture a good stir, cover with clingfilm (or mix in large Tupperware) and leave to macerate for as long as you have.

For the non-alcoholic version I make up some black tea, add in the squeezed orange and lemon and leave the fruit to soak. It works in exactly the same way. It’s a myth that you need the alcohol to preserve the cake, dried fruit is so full of sugar it will happily sit in its tea/juice bath and still make a totally delicious cake that will keep for months if stored correctly.

“But how is this last minute, Clare?” I hear you cry. “I don’t have 3 hours, let alone 3 days!” Do not despair. The Christmas cake fairy is here to help!

Phase 1
Have you ever made a tea loaf or a boiled fruit cake? Well the same principle applies. If you can let the fruit soak even overnight, then do so, but if it really is last minute then bung the fruit and soaking liquid in a saucepan and put over a VERY low heat. You aren’t cooking it, you aren’t trying to reduce a sauce, and if you are using alcohol you definitely aren’t trying to burn off the booze! It just needs a gentle heat, stir now and then and watch the fruit plump up before your eyes. Phase 1 is complete. Let the fruit sit and cool a bit, then make your cake as per the recipe (I’ll share mine below).

Fruit warming in saucepan
Gently heat your fruit and alcohol/tea until plumped up

Phase 2
You have baked your cake, the kitchen smells like Christmas, full of warm spice aromas and that festive cake smell. You’ve opened the back door because the oven being on for 4+ hours has heated the downstairs to furnace-like temperatures (or is that just our house?). You have carefully removed your precious cake from the oven and set the tin on a rack to cool and now sat down for a well-deserved cuppa. STOP – switch the kettle off for a moment. Phase 2 commences when you take the cake out of the oven. Whilst it is still hot in the tin get stabbing with a skewer (carefully, you don’t want a dented tin) and pour over a tablespoon (or two) of alcohol (or tea/fruit juice). Let it soak in whilst the cake cools (go and have your cuppa now, these cakes hold more heat than a nuclear reactor). Once completely cool, remove from the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and then cling film or a large reusable plastic bag. Then freeze.

Feeding straight from the oven
Feed with alcohol/fruit juice straight from the oven

Phase 3
Yep, you read that correctly. Freeze that bad boy. Even if it is just overnight. With some sort of wizardry unknown to all except Santa’s Elves, freezing the fruit cake speeds up the maturation process and makes the cake taste like you have been diligently feeding it once a week for months. To defrost, remove from the freezer and leave wrapped up on a rack for a few hours (time will vary depending on the size of the cake and the temperature in the room). Don’t be tempted to unwrap it to defrost. As the cake warms up condensation forms on the surface. You want this on the wrapper, not the actual cake. (That was the science bit, did you spot it?)

Et voila! You have a rapidly matured Christmas cake. Will it work if you don’t have time to freeze the cake? Absolutely. Just whack on a bit more alcohol or tea whilst it cools.
So now you have no excuse for not making a Christmas cake before the big day. There is still time.

So here (with a grateful nod to Queen Mary Berry, whose classic rich fruit cake recipe I have adapted) is my recipe for a last-minute Christmas cake:

This will make a 6” round cake – perfect size for a family gathering.

Line a 6” round, deep cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof. If making all on the same day then preheat your oven to 120C Fan (Gas mark 1). If not, then do this when you are ready to start your mixing.

To start off put 375g dried mixed fruit, 50g Glace cherries, the zest and juice of a lemon and an orange and the alcohol or tea into a saucepan (or a bowl or Tupperware if soaking overnight). Heat gently until the fruit is plump then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl or a stand mixer cream together 100g of softened butter and 100g of soft dark brown sugar. Once creamed add in 2 large eggs and a big dollop of black treacle. I love black treacle, hence the unmeasured dollop, but it will also add a nice rich flavour to your last-minute cake. Mix in well, then add in the fruit and its liquid.

Finally add in 25g of chopped almonds (if using, if not then omit) and a teaspoon each of cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger and half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg (you don’t have to be exact; it depends how much you love Christmas spices).

Give it all a thorough mix with a wooden spoon (your mixer would break up the fruit and nuts). If you want to start a family tradition, give everyone a chance to mix the cake, making a wish as they go. Pour into your tin and put in the oven. It should take 3 and a half hours to cook, but after 2 and a half check that the top isn’t browning too much. If it is, make a little hat for the cake with a folded piece of greaseproof resting on top. You will know the cake is nearly done when the kitchen smells amazingly festive. If a skewer comes out clean, then take it out and leave it in the tin to cool – don’t forget to skewer it and spoon on another soak of your chosen liquid.

When it is completely cool, follow phase 3. When you are ready, cover in marzipan (if using) and icing of choice. Decorate and enjoy. Try serving it with a tasty bit of cheddar – honestly, trust me. Totally delicious!

All-white bas relief cake
All-white bas relief cake by Betty Bee Bakes

 

I’d love to know if you try this. Pop me a comment below if you have.

Merry baking!
Clare

Wedding Cake trends 2020

As 2019 nears it close (and what a completely insane year this has been!) and we start to look towards next years’ nuptials I thought I would give you my take on the wedding cake trends for 2020.

 

Naked or Semi-naked cakes

This trend has been here for a few years and is not going to go away. I already have bookings for semi-naked cakes for 2020. Barns, marquees and outdoor venues are still massively popular and these cakes are perfectly suited to that setting. They can also double up as dessert, with the addition of fruits and berries. This appeals to a lot of couples these days. Not everyone likes fondant, or the formal feel of a “traditional” cake. A sweep of buttercream on your cake is a great alternative. Which leads to the next trend …

Semi naked cake
Semi-naked cake with natural flowers and foliage by Betty Bee Bakes

 

Naked cake
Naked cake with berries by Betty Bee Bakes

Faultline cakes

These are everywhere on Pinterest or YouTube. A buttercream cake, with a “Faultline” exposed round the middle. Fill the faultine with co-ordinating sprinkles, sparkles, piped flowers, pressed organic edible flowers, a coordinating colour, a metallic – anything you can think of! More often seen in single tiers for celebration cakes be prepared to see this style elevated to multi-tiered glory!

 

Nudes and Pastels

Think peaches, ivories, champagnes, pale golds, pale gingers and macaron hues (pistachio is going to be big in bridal wear, apparently. It’s my favourite flavour ice cream but see my superstitions blog here to see why I’m a bit anxious about this one!). I have already had bookings for 2020 cakes in these shades, and they are going to be beautiful.

 

The Roaring 20s

It’s back! 100 years after we first saw Art Deco, geometry, monochrome with gold highlights, Egyptology, The Great Gatsby and All That Jazz we can fully embrace the flapper girl again. As I browsed the Mac counter the other day I noticed one of my absolute favourite lipsticks, a gorgeous scarlet called Ruby Woo, is once again one of their best-sellers, evoking that opulent 1920s look. Even if your cake isn’t going to be 20s themed, I urge you to dance to some Post-Modern Jukebox at your reception. The 20s was all about glamour, decadence and excess – if you can’t have that on your wedding day, when can you?

 

Black

Another trend that has been here for a couple of years and doesn’t look like it is going away. It embraces the Roaring 20s theme but can also be edgy and more fashion-forward. Black cakes lend themselves to non-traditional shapes too – mix and match square and round tiers, stack at an angle, or think 3-D geometric cakes. Accent with metallics or one theme colour and think architectural pieces that guests will mistake for a sculpture.

Black and coral
Black and coral cake with gold accents by Betty Bee Bakes

Sustainability

In total contrast to a black cake, and more about how the cake is made than how it looks. Sustainability in all areas of weddings is going to be huge news in 2020 and onwards. It is having a particular impact in floristry, where foam oasis are being swapped for more traditional and natural methods of arranging flowers. People born in 2000 are now fully-fledged adults and on the cusp of massive social and political change. These millennials (I hate that terminology – sorry) want weddings that reflect how they live the rest of their lives – recyclability, pre-loved, no single-use plastics. The impact this is having on the food they choose for their wedding can’t be underestimated. From using locally sourced produce or re-imagining “waste” food into an extraordinary feast, to going free-from or completely vegan to cater for all guests needs, this means that couples will be asking their cake maker to provide an environmentally friendly cake too.

 

2020 is a leap year

Once every four years the wedding industry goes into a post-valentine’s day flurry of excitement – it’s a leap year, this means, ladies, that you can propose to your man! But as we all know, in this day and age, women can propose to whoever they like, whenever they like. 2020 may be the year that the leap year proposal starts to lose its mystique. But be prepared for all wedding industry social media to be marketing that February 29th proposal date for all they are worth! Although, if you are going to propose, then I have a cake or cupcakes to help you with that …

 

Are any of these on your wedding planning radar? What else do you think is going to be big in 2020? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Clare

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

We all know the rhyme, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Even if you are not superstitious in your everyday life, you have probably thought about this when deciding on what you will wear on your wedding day or what you will have as décor or wedding party outfits. Anything with as old a tradition as a wedding ceremony will come with numerous superstitions attached to it. But what are the other superstitions around weddings?

 

My Gran was a dressmaker by profession. She was also a superstitious woman. Some of those have rubbed off on me. Never eat a mince pie before the 1st December, and its bad luck to speak to anyone during the course of eating that first mince pie! (Even as I type it, I know it’s ridiculous, but I still abide by it!). Don’t put new shoes on a table and don’t put a new hat on the bed. I have no idea where most of these came from, but there is one relating to weddings that she strongly believed, and it had sound reasoning behind it:

 

It is bad luck to wear green at a wedding.

I’m often surprised by how many people haven’t heard of this one, but it is something I must have picked up from her when I was little and it has stuck with me. Even when friends have had teal or emerald green bridesmaid dresses (I attempt to hide the shudder this prompts in me). I will never wear a dress to a wedding where green is the predominate colour. And this extends to décor, and yes, cake too. If you asked me to make you a green wedding cake, I would make it for you, but it would make me feel very on edge. She also maintained that Emeralds were unlucky, particularly in an engagement ring.

So where did her superstition come from?

Once upon a time, green dye was created using lead, a dangerous and noxious substance. Bad enough for the dyers creating the cloth, obviously. But for a dressmaker like my gran, this could prove lethal if asked to sew yards and yards of green cloth with thread also dyed with lead. Think about how you thread a needle. You lick the thread. Now imagine doing that for hours a day, over a long period of time, when your thread was covered in poison. Asking a dressmaker to sew you a green dress to wear on your wedding day (so probably also heavily embroidered or embellished with beads) was tantamount to asking the dressmaker to eat lead. As with many superstitions, it was born out of fact.

 

Peacock feathers in the house are unlucky

Another thing my gran also believed was that it was massively unlucky to have peacock feathers in the house. I found a beautiful example of peacock feather on a school trip once. I hid it in my bedroom so she wouldn’t see it. But in a lot of cultures peacocks and their feathers are symbols of luck or opulance, and particularly feature on wedding cakes.

 

So back to the wedding superstition we all know:

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a sixpence in her shoe

I have to admit, I didn’t know about the sixpence, and apparently it should be worn in your left shoe. The Victorians (instigators of so many traditions we still abide by) added in the last line, to bestow prosperity on the couple. The other items are there to invoke fertility and protect them from evil – presumably leading to a happy marriage.

When I got married, I wore a new dress and shoes, a sapphire bracelet for something blue and borrowed something old, the horseshoe my mum had carried on her bouquet at her wedding 46 years earlier! Which brings me to another wedding superstition.

A horseshoe

I remember when I was probably 13 or so, a cousin got married and I carried a horseshoe on a ribbon which I then gave to the bride after the ceremony. I didn’t know why, my mum just made me! Apparently, it is again about making sure the marriage is prosperous in the chid-bearing department, as female members of the family present horseshoes to the bride to wish her fertility. But remember to hold it the correct way up (ends pointing up) so the luck doesn’t run out! (Another one of my family’s traditions, we have lucky horseshoes everywhere – but then again, we are from the country, I used to ride and horseracing is a family affair).

 

Rain on your wedding day is good luck

This is another one that I think was probably invented to placate an anxious couple before their ceremony. We all hope for a beautiful day, with no inclement weather to spoil photos, hair dos or ruin shoes. (In my case, rain for a cake delivery is always a breath-holding moment and involves a large amount of cellophane and a prayer to the cake-delivery-gods). Certainly, it was not lucky on my own wedding day. It was so wet and windy that we had to have the post-ceremony photos inside the church and missed hearing the bells being rung (the bells we had paid extra money to have rung). We did get married in December though (I was secretly hoping for snow, I’d bought flowery wellies just in case).

 

Throwing the bouquet

This is one I didn’t do, because a) most of my guests were already married, or not in the slightest bit interested in getting married, so there would have been no one to throw it to and b) my bouquet was made of glass and crystal beads – bit heavy to lob at a crowd!

Apparently this superstition comes from medieval times, when the bride would throw her bouquet over her head at the crowd of women chasing her, to distract them. Why were they chasing her? Because it was good luck to tear a piece of her dress off as a keepsake. Yeah, I’d run too! Thankfully we don’t have that superstition anymore!

 

Saving the top tier of your cake

We had to come back to cake at some point, right? This is a cake blog, after all.

This tradition is one that has fallen by the wayside slightly recently, as wedding cakes are created from different flavours of sponge, rather than the more storable booze-soaked rich fruit cake. The idea was to save the top tier to use as a christening cake for your first-born. If you’ve borrowed something blue, been given a horseshoe and abided by the other superstitions, you should be lucky enough to be blessed with a child within the first year of your marriage. The fruitcake, if it’s been properly stored, can then be cut at the christening.

Many couples these days keep their top tier for their first anniversary. Couples marry having already had children, or not wanting to have children in the next few years, or at all. It is possible to keep your sponge top tier for your first anniversary. Ask your cake designer how to store it correctly. But sponge cake is best eaten fresh, so enjoy your cake on or soon after your wedding day, then ask your cake designer to make a new cake for your anniversary (you can replicate design elements from your wedding cake) or make a christening cake for your children.

But if you do want a fruit cake top tier and want to save it then the best way is to strip off the fondant and marzipan, give it another feed of alcohol, wrap well in greaseproof and then foil, put it in a sealed plastic bag and pop it in the freezer. When you want to use it again it can be defrosted and recovered and will taste even more delicious as it will have matured even whilst sitting in the depths of your freezer.

 

What do you think about these? Have you got any superstitions you follow? What superstitions will you abide by on your own wedding day? Or do you think there is no room for these sort of things in this day and age? Leave me a comment and let me know

Touch wood and fingers crossed,

Clare