Monday, 25 April 2011

Royal Wedding Cupcakes


With Royal Wedding fever now in full swing, and only 4 days left until the big day I thought I'd share a few cupcakes decorating ideas I put together.  Here in the UK we've been lucky enough to be given the day off as a national holiday (thanks Will & Kate!), so there will be thousands of viewing parties and the occasional street party going on so we can all help share in the celebrations.  But - those parties just don't apply to the people living in the UK.  That's right, all across the world friends will be getting together to watch the Royal Wedding and share in the festivities.  And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes! 



For simplicities sake I decided to use Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, but really - is there any other way to celebrate than with chocolate cake???  These cupcakes are super easy to bake, and since they only use one bowl you can use the extra bit of time to spend decorating rather than washing up.

The best thing about these cupcakes (aside from the fact they taste amazing) is that you can make all of the decorations yourself - even the little flags!  I've included a printable template for those below.  Instructions for the flowers and glittery balls are also below.


Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup (94g) Cocoa Powder 
1 1/2 Cups (188g) Flour 
1 1/2 Cups (338g) Sugar 
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda 
3/4 tsp Baking Powder 
3/4 tsp Salt 
2 Eggs 
3/4 Cup (178ml) Warm Water 
3/4 Cup (178ml) Buttermilk 
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Buttercream recipe of your choice - I just used plain vanilla


Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 2 - 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

2.  Divide the batter evenly among 2 lined cupcake pans (24 individual cupcakes), filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before icing and decorating.

3.  Pipe big swirls of buttercream icing onto the cupcakes and decorate using one of the below ideas.


Royal Wedding Sugarpaste Flowers



These flowers look a lot harder than they actually are - in fact they're super easy, but you will need a special silicone mold and flower cutters to make them.  I bought my cutter and mold set a year or so ago, but unfortunately I can't find the mold on the company website anymore.   The mold is called the 5 petal blossom veiner, so I'd suggest having a look around your local sugar craft supply store or eBay to see if they have it.  The cutters are a set of 2 different sized petunia cutters - available here

You'll also need a few other things pictured below - edible pearls for the centers of the flowers, edible pearl lustre dust, and sugar floral paste & gel colours - both pictured here.



First you'll need to colour your floral paste with a gel paste, and then roll it out so it's nice and thin before (see here for an example) using the petunia cutters to cut out your flowers.  Next you'll need to dust your flower silicone mold to prevent the flower paste from sticking - if you want your flowers to have a subtle sparkle to them dust the mold with silver lustre dust.  If you'd prefer them not to have any sparkle then lightly dust your mold with cornstarch (corn flour).  Place the flat floral paste flower cut out into the bottom of the mold, then place the top half of the mold on top of the bottom half and press firmly and evenly to create your flower shape.  Carefully lift off the top of the mold, and then gently peel the floral paste flower from the bottom half making sure you keep it's newly formed shape.  Dry them upside down for at least half an hour to ensure they keep their shape.  Lastly you'll need to give your flower a center by adding an edible pearl (or silver ball).  You can glue the pearls into the centers by using a tiny dot of icing.

Once your flowers are dry and your centers are stuck in place you can place them on top of your cupcakes to give them an elegant Royal Wedding look.  


Glitter Covered Balls



Another one of my favourite decorations are glittery balls.  These are so easy!  Simply roll a tiny bit of sugarpaste into a ball using your hands.  Next, brush each ball with a bit of edible glue (not pictured, but available at sugar craft stores & Hobby Craft in the UK).  Once the balls are coated in edible glue, simply drop them into a jar of edible glitter and roll them around until they're entirely coated in glitter.  Use tweezers to carefully pick up the glitter covered ball, tapping off any excess glitter so it falls back into the jar, and then place them on your cupcakes.



Union Jack Cupcake Flags



Now I understand that not everyone has time to order the flower mold before the Royal Wedding, or even the desire to spend the time making those little flowers.  So, if you're one of those people, then these Union Jack flags are for you!  They're seriously easy to make.  I've done the hardest part for you be creating the flag template, which I've attached below so you can download and print it yourself.


** To download - click the orange download button on the top right hand corner of the PDP preview above.




After you've printed off the cupcake flags, simply cut them out along the faint dotted line, use a glue stick to cover the plain back side with glue and then place a toothpick in the middle of the paper & fold the paper over to form the flag.  See!  Told you they were simple!  Now all that's left to do is sit back and enjoy the Royal Wedding!


This post also appears on the fabulously delicious website Cupcakes Take The Cake

Royal Wedding Cupcakes


With Royal Wedding fever now in full swing, and only 4 days left until the big day I thought I'd share a few cupcakes decorating ideas I put together.  Here in the UK we've been lucky enough to be given the day off as a national holiday (thanks Will & Kate!), so there will be thousands of viewing parties and the occasional street party going on so we can all help share in the celebrations.  But - those parties just don't apply to the people living in the UK.  That's right, all across the world friends will be getting together to watch the Royal Wedding and share in the festivities.  And what better way to celebrate than with cupcakes! 



For simplicities sake I decided to use Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, but really - is there any other way to celebrate than with chocolate cake???  These cupcakes are super easy to bake, and since they only use one bowl you can use the extra bit of time to spend decorating rather than washing up.

The best thing about these cupcakes (aside from the fact they taste amazing) is that you can make all of the decorations yourself - even the little flags!  I've included a printable template for those below.  Instructions for the flowers and glittery balls are also below.


Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup (94g) Cocoa Powder 
1 1/2 Cups (188g) Flour 
1 1/2 Cups (338g) Sugar 
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda 
3/4 tsp Baking Powder 
3/4 tsp Salt 
2 Eggs 
3/4 Cup (178ml) Warm Water 
3/4 Cup (178ml) Buttermilk 
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil 
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Buttercream recipe of your choice - I just used plain vanilla


Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 2 - 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

2.  Divide the batter evenly among 2 lined cupcake pans (24 individual cupcakes), filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before icing and decorating.

3.  Pipe big swirls of buttercream icing onto the cupcakes and decorate using one of the below ideas.


Royal Wedding Sugarpaste Flowers



These flowers look a lot harder than they actually are - in fact they're super easy, but you will need a special silicone mold and flower cutters to make them.  I bought my cutter and mold set a year or so ago, but unfortunately I can't find the mold on the company website anymore.   The mold is called the 5 petal blossom veiner, so I'd suggest having a look around your local sugar craft supply store or eBay to see if they have it.  The cutters are a set of 2 different sized petunia cutters - available here

You'll also need a few other things pictured below - edible pearls for the centers of the flowers, edible pearl lustre dust, and sugar floral paste & gel colours - both pictured here.



First you'll need to colour your floral paste with a gel paste, and then roll it out so it's nice and thin before (see here for an example) using the petunia cutters to cut out your flowers.  Next you'll need to dust your flower silicone mold to prevent the flower paste from sticking - if you want your flowers to have a subtle sparkle to them dust the mold with silver lustre dust.  If you'd prefer them not to have any sparkle then lightly dust your mold with cornstarch (corn flour).  Place the flat floral paste flower cut out into the bottom of the mold, then place the top half of the mold on top of the bottom half and press firmly and evenly to create your flower shape.  Carefully lift off the top of the mold, and then gently peel the floral paste flower from the bottom half making sure you keep it's newly formed shape.  Dry them upside down for at least half an hour to ensure they keep their shape.  Lastly you'll need to give your flower a center by adding an edible pearl (or silver ball).  You can glue the pearls into the centers by using a tiny dot of icing.

Once your flowers are dry and your centers are stuck in place you can place them on top of your cupcakes to give them an elegant Royal Wedding look.  


Glitter Covered Balls



Another one of my favourite decorations are glittery balls.  These are so easy!  Simply roll a tiny bit of sugarpaste into a ball using your hands.  Next, brush each ball with a bit of edible glue (not pictured, but available at sugar craft stores & Hobby Craft in the UK).  Once the balls are coated in edible glue, simply drop them into a jar of edible glitter and roll them around until they're entirely coated in glitter.  Use tweezers to carefully pick up the glitter covered ball, tapping off any excess glitter so it falls back into the jar, and then place them on your cupcakes.



Union Jack Cupcake Flags



Now I understand that not everyone has time to order the flower mold before the Royal Wedding, or even the desire to spend the time making those little flowers.  So, if you're one of those people, then these Union Jack flags are for you!  They're seriously easy to make.  I've done the hardest part for you be creating the flag template, which I've attached below so you can download and print it yourself.


** To download - click the orange download button on the top right hand corner of the PDP preview above.




After you've printed off the cupcake flags, simply cut them out along the faint dotted line, use a glue stick to cover the plain back side with glue and then place a toothpick in the middle of the paper & fold the paper over to form the flag.  See!  Told you they were simple!  Now all that's left to do is sit back and enjoy the Royal Wedding!


This post also appears on the fabulously delicious website Cupcakes Take The Cake

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Bubble Tea! Oh How I've Missed You!


Firstly, let me just start off by saying this will likely be one of the only non-baking related posts you'll see on Made With Pink, but I just couldn't resist posting about this!  Why?  Well, for the past 3 years I've been going through withdrawal - Bubble Tea withdrawal!  Bubble Tea you ask? Yes, Bubble Tea!  I'm obsessed with it!  And what exactly is Bubble Tea?  I guess the easy explanation would be that it's sweetened tea, with some added flavouring (usually fruity), shaken with ice and served with dozens of little jellied chewy tapioca balls inside known as pearls.  Oh - and you get to use a crazy big straw so you can suck up the jelly tapioca pearls. 

Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan back in the 1980's, and has slowly made it's way around the world ever since.  It's been available in Canada for at least 10 years, and maybe even longer thanks to cities such as Vancouver having a larger Asian population who brought this fabulous drink with them.  

I hadn't had Bubble Tea since I moved to the UK, so when I found out that London was finally getting a Bubble Tea place of our own I was super excited!  I'd been missing Bubble Tea so much, I'd even resorted to making my own by mixing regular Iced Tea with tapioca pearls that I'd purchased from the Chinese Superstore Wing Yip.  Strangely Wing Yip sells the tapioca pearls in both the rainbow and black varieties (they both taste exactly the same), but they don't sell the flavoured tea mixes, or the large straws to suck up the pearls with, so I have to resort to eating them with a spoon. 

Thank goodness I won't have to resort to making my own every time I have a craving for bubble tea now.  That's because London's first Bubble Tea bar - cleverly named Bubbleology opens this Thursday April 21, 2011.  



The other night I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch event of Bubbleology where I was able to sample different flavours of their bubble teas (which were all amazing by the way!) as well as some of their delicious pastries.  



Bubbleology is run by owner Assad Khan who fell in love with bubble tea while living in New York.  He (like me) went through bubble tea withdrawal when he moved to London, so decided to do something about it and open up his own bubble tea bar. Assad has come up with a totally unique concept to make bubble tea fun and quirky.  Bubbleology is set up like a mad scientists workshop, with the staff all wearing white lab coats while they mix your drinks.





The teas come in 13 varieties and are either fruit or milk based. The fruit based teas are made with green or red tea,  and come in the following flavours:  

Lychee Green Tea 
Strawberry Green Tea 
Mango Green Tea (my favourite)
Kumquat Red Tea 
Passion Fruit Green Tea 
Green Apple Green Tea 
Ginger Red Tea  

The milk-teas, are similar to a watery fun milk-shake, and come in the following flavours:  

Taro  
Coconut 
Almond 
Cocoa 
Vanilla 
Honeydew  



In addition to bubble tea, Bubbleology is introducing something else new to the London scene that I've never seen before - the "Cruffin."  I would describe the cruffin as a designer crumpet or English muffin.  It comes toasted with your choice of spread (peanut butter, chocolate spread, etc), and (gummy bears, nuts, M&M's, etc).  These weren't on offer the night I was there, but basically what I think Assad was going for when he thought of these was a snack that's unique and English - think the English equivalent to a French crepe or a Dutch pancake.  

Bubbleology is a small little shop located at 49 Rupert Street in Soho, close to the Lyric Theatre.  They're open from 8am - 12am so there's plenty of time to get your bubble tea fix. 

Now here's the best part!  If you've never tried bubble tea before and would like to try it, Bubbleology will be giving away FREE bubble tea between 1:00 - 3:00pm on the day of their launch - Thursday April 21, 2011.

But just in case you can't make it to London for a bubble tea, you can always do what I did and try making your own.  You can purchase the tapioca pearls (see below) from Wing Yip locations or order them online.  



You'll need to boil the pearls in water that's been sweetened with sugar until they're slightly soft & chewy.  Once your pearls are the right consistency (take one out of the boiling water & chew it to test them) you'll need to drain them, put them in the bottom of a glass and pour some cold iced tea (such as Liptons) over them.  Add in a bit of ice to help cool the warm pearls down.  The only problem with this is that I haven't been able to find bubble tea straws anywhere here, so I'm forced to eat them with a spoon while sipping on the actual iced tea.  That's about as close as you're going to get to making actual bubble tea at home, but trust me - nothing beats the real thing, so if you do get a chance to visit Bubbleology then I really recommend going!

Bubble Tea! Oh How I've Missed You!


Firstly, let me just start off by saying this will likely be one of the only non-baking related posts you'll see on Made With Pink, but I just couldn't resist posting about this!  Why?  Well, for the past 3 years I've been going through withdrawal - Bubble Tea withdrawal!  Bubble Tea you ask? Yes, Bubble Tea!  I'm obsessed with it!  And what exactly is Bubble Tea?  I guess the easy explanation would be that it's sweetened tea, with some added flavouring (usually fruity), shaken with ice and served with dozens of little jellied chewy tapioca balls inside known as pearls.  Oh - and you get to use a crazy big straw so you can suck up the jelly tapioca pearls. 

Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan back in the 1980's, and has slowly made it's way around the world ever since.  It's been available in Canada for at least 10 years, and maybe even longer thanks to cities such as Vancouver having a larger Asian population who brought this fabulous drink with them.  

I hadn't had Bubble Tea since I moved to the UK, so when I found out that London was finally getting a Bubble Tea place of our own I was super excited!  I'd been missing Bubble Tea so much, I'd even resorted to making my own by mixing regular Iced Tea with tapioca pearls that I'd purchased from the Chinese Superstore Wing Yip.  Strangely Wing Yip sells the tapioca pearls in both the rainbow and black varieties (they both taste exactly the same), but they don't sell the flavoured tea mixes, or the large straws to suck up the pearls with, so I have to resort to eating them with a spoon. 

Thank goodness I won't have to resort to making my own every time I have a craving for bubble tea now.  That's because London's first Bubble Tea bar - cleverly named Bubbleology opens this Thursday April 21, 2011.  



The other night I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch event of Bubbleology where I was able to sample different flavours of their bubble teas (which were all amazing by the way!) as well as some of their delicious pastries.  



Bubbleology is run by owner Assad Khan who fell in love with bubble tea while living in New York.  He (like me) went through bubble tea withdrawal when he moved to London, so decided to do something about it and open up his own bubble tea bar. Assad has come up with a totally unique concept to make bubble tea fun and quirky.  Bubbleology is set up like a mad scientists workshop, with the staff all wearing white lab coats while they mix your drinks.





The teas come in 13 varieties and are either fruit or milk based. The fruit based teas are made with green or red tea,  and come in the following flavours:  

Lychee Green Tea 
Strawberry Green Tea 
Mango Green Tea (my favourite)
Kumquat Red Tea 
Passion Fruit Green Tea 
Green Apple Green Tea 
Ginger Red Tea  

The milk-teas, are similar to a watery fun milk-shake, and come in the following flavours:  

Taro  
Coconut 
Almond 
Cocoa 
Vanilla 
Honeydew  



In addition to bubble tea, Bubbleology is introducing something else new to the London scene that I've never seen before - the "Cruffin."  I would describe the cruffin as a designer crumpet or English muffin.  It comes toasted with your choice of spread (peanut butter, chocolate spread, etc), and (gummy bears, nuts, M&M's, etc).  These weren't on offer the night I was there, but basically what I think Assad was going for when he thought of these was a snack that's unique and English - think the English equivalent to a French crepe or a Dutch pancake.  
Bubbleology is a small little shop located at 49 Rupert Street in Soho, close to the Lyric Theatre.  They're open from 8am - 12am so there's plenty of time to get your bubble tea fix. 

Now here's the best part!  If you've never tried bubble tea before and would like to try it, Bubbleology will be giving away FREE bubble tea between 1:00 - 3:00pm on the day of their launch - Thursday April 21, 2011.

But just in case you can't make it to London for a bubble tea, you can always do what I did and try making your own.  You can purchase the tapioca pearls (see below) from Wing Yip locations or order them online.  



You'll need to boil the pearls in water that's been sweetened with sugar until they're slightly soft & chewy.  Once your pearls are the right consistency (take one out of the boiling water & chew it to test them) you'll need to drain them, put them in the bottom of a glass and pour some cold iced tea (such as Liptons) over them.  Add in a bit of ice to help cool the warm pearls down.  The only problem with this is that I haven't been able to find bubble tea straws anywhere here, so I'm forced to eat them with a spoon while sipping on the actual iced tea.  That's about as close as you're going to get to making actual bubble tea at home, but trust me - nothing beats the real thing, so if you do get a chance to visit Bubbleology then I really recommend going!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Royal Wedding Victoria Sponge Cake


I don't know of a cake that's any more British than the Victoria Sponge cake.  When I first moved to the UK and started visiting cute little coffee shops I noticed the Victoria Sponge cake everywhere.  It jumped out at me for 2 reasons.  Firstly, because I'd never seen it before, and secondly, becasue it wasn't covered in a thick layer of rich buttercream icing like all the cakes were back home.  When I started talking to people about my love of baking I'd often ask them what their favourite cake or dessert was, and Victoria Sponge was the one mentioned most often.  I didn't really get it.  I mean, the Victoria Sponge cake looked rather plain and unimpressive, and I'd seen plenty of other cakes that were more rich and decadent that I'd rather try.  But then I realised something - UK tastes are totally different than North American tastes. Overly sweet things just aren't as popular here.  Sure, they have loads of sweet and delicious desserts here, but the Victoria Sponge cake is considered more of a lighter option.  Something that you could enjoy with a cup of afternoon tea, and that wouldn't leave you feeling overly heavy after you've eaten it. 

I'd always dismissed the "boring" looking Victoria Sponge cake in favour of other sweeter options until one day last summer I gave in and decided to see what all the hype was about.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was actually really nice, and not overly sweet which left me feeling much lighter than a heavy piece of chocolate cake would have on a hot summer day.

For those of you not familiar with the Victoria Sponge cake it's basically two un-iced vanilla cakes sandwiched together between a layer of buttercream icing (or double cream - which is similar to whipped cream), and a layer of strawberry or raspberry jam.  Pretty simple huh?

The recipe for a Victoria Sponge cake is equally simple, and is probably another reason why this cake is so popular.  Anyone can make it!  

I had originally intended to use the recipe from Royal Wedding cake baker Fiona Cairns' book Bake and Decorate (which I reviewed here), but as I read through the instructions I was a little dubious as they said to basically combine everything in the mixer and beat them until they were well mixed.  I'd always been taught not to beat flour, so I started to research a few other Victoria Sponge recipes.  After looking at at least 6 different recipes from various recipe books and online sources, the main thing I noticed what that the majority of them called for equal amounts of butter, flour and sugar.  In the end I decided to come up with my own recipe, and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.  Because there is no liquid in the recipe (aside from eggs), the batter will be very thick, so make sure you spread it around the cake pans equally and evenly to ensure you have a nice looking cake.  Remember - you can't fix any mistakes by covering them in a thick coating of buttercream!!  My top layer came out slightly lopsided, never the less it tasted delicious.  I choose to use buttercream icing and strawberry jam as my fillings, and I used castor sugar (granulated sugar in the US) to garnish the top of my cake.



Traditional Victoria Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp (200g) Castor Sugar
3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp (200g) Butter, room temperature
4 Eggs
1.5 tsp Vanilla extract
1.5 Cups + 1.5 Tbsp (200g) Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Vanilla Buttercream Icing or Whipped Double Cream - enough to cover the top of 1 cake in a thick layer
1/4 Cup (approx 70g) Strawberry or Raspberry Jam 

Castor Sugar or Icing Sugar to finish (2-4 Tbsp)




Instructions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Grease (and if you choose - line with parchment) two round 8" (20cm) cake pans.  Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

2.  Add in eggs 1 at a time to ensure they don't curdle the butter and sugar mixture.  Beat well before adding each following egg.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

3.  Gently fold in the self raising flour and baking powder into the butter, sugar and egg mixture until just combined.  Don't over mix.  Divide the batter equally between the two pans, making sure that the batter is as flat and even as possible.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

4.  Let cakes cool in their pans at least 1/2 an hour before turning out on a rack to finish cooling. *Make sure that the bottoms of the cakes rest on the rack, and not the tops, otherwise you'll have ugly lines going across the top of your cake!  Once your cakes have fully cooled, coat the top of one of the cakes with a thick layer of buttercream icing or double cream, and then spread your strawberry or raspberry jam over top.  Next, place the second cake on top of the other cake so that the buttercream icing and jam are sandwiched in between the two cakes.  Finally, sprinkle with a generous layer of castor sugar or icing sugar to finish off your cake.  



*If you used buttercream as your filling your Victoria Sponge Cake will keep at room temperature for about 4 days in a sealed container.  If you're using double cream, then store your cake in the fridge so it doesn't spoil, although keeping a cake in the fridge will cause it to go stale faster than if you were to keep it at room temperature.



And since the world is gearing up for the Royal Wedding taking place on Friday April 29th, I thought the Victoria Sponge cake would be a perfect cake to bake in celebration of William and Kate's special day.  Here in the UK we've been lucky enough to be given April 29th off as National holiday, so the majority of UK residents will be off work and out of school.  All sorts of Royal Wedding celebrations will be taking place on April 29th so the public can share in the wedding celebrations.  Street parties and picnics are being organised all across the country, and what better way to celebrate the Royal wedding than to bake and share a Victoria Sponge Cake with your friends and family.  



I made some very simple hanging Union Jack flags (called bunting here in the UK) out of paper and attached them together with some thread (ok - I used mint dental floss!) and then tied them to some bamboo skewers that I then stuck in my cake to decorate it and give it a bit of a celebratory feel.  If you'd like to celebrate the Royal Wedding by decorating your own Victoria Sponge cake with these little flags, I've included a printable PDF below so you can make your own.  ** I've also included 3 additional flags in the PDF incase you'd prefer to celebrate the following 2011 holidays:

St. Georges Day - Saturday April 23rd (England's national day)
Canada Day - Friday July 1st (Canada's Birthday)
Independence Day - Monday July 4th (America's Birthday)


">
Flag Bunting


** To download - click the orange download button on the top right hand corner of the PDP preview above.

Simply cut the little flags out and lay them face down on a flat surface.  Take a piece of thread (or in my case dental floss) and lay it across the back of the flags near the top.  Fold the top part of the flag over the thread and fasten with a piece of tape or glue.  When you pick up your thread from both ends each of the flags should be hanging down as shown in my picture above.  Tie each end to a bamboo skewer and insert them into the cake.  Ta Da!!!  A perfect and simple way to decorate your cake - whatever occasion you choose!

A Royal Wedding Victoria Sponge Cake


I don't know of a cake that's any more British than the Victoria Sponge cake.  When I first moved to the UK and started visiting cute little coffee shops I noticed the Victoria Sponge cake everywhere.  It jumped out at me for 2 reasons.  Firstly, because I'd never seen it before, and secondly, becasue it wasn't covered in a thick layer of rich buttercream icing like all the cakes were back home.  When I started talking to people about my love of baking I'd often ask them what their favourite cake or dessert was, and Victoria Sponge was the one mentioned most often.  I didn't really get it.  I mean, the Victoria Sponge cake looked rather plain and unimpressive, and I'd seen plenty of other cakes that were more rich and decadent that I'd rather try.  But then I realised something - UK tastes are totally different than North American tastes. Overly sweet things just aren't as popular here.  Sure, they have loads of sweet and delicious desserts here, but the Victoria Sponge cake is considered more of a lighter option.  Something that you could enjoy with a cup of afternoon tea, and that wouldn't leave you feeling overly heavy after you've eaten it. 

I'd always dismissed the "boring" looking Victoria Sponge cake in favour of other sweeter options until one day last summer I gave in and decided to see what all the hype was about.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was actually really nice, and not overly sweet which left me feeling much lighter than a heavy piece of chocolate cake would have on a hot summer day.

For those of you not familiar with the Victoria Sponge cake it's basically two un-iced vanilla cakes sandwiched together between a layer of buttercream icing (or double cream - which is similar to whipped cream), and a layer of strawberry or raspberry jam.  Pretty simple huh?

The recipe for a Victoria Sponge cake is equally simple, and is probably another reason why this cake is so popular.  Anyone can make it!  

I had originally intended to use the recipe from Royal Wedding cake baker Fiona Cairns' book Bake and Decorate (which I reviewed here), but as I read through the instructions I was a little dubious as they said to basically combine everything in the mixer and beat them until they were well mixed.  I'd always been taught not to beat flour, so I started to research a few other Victoria Sponge recipes.  After looking at at least 6 different recipes from various recipe books and online sources, the main thing I noticed what that the majority of them called for equal amounts of butter, flour and sugar.  In the end I decided to come up with my own recipe, and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out.  Because there is no liquid in the recipe (aside from eggs), the batter will be very thick, so make sure you spread it around the cake pans equally and evenly to ensure you have a nice looking cake.  Remember - you can't fix any mistakes by covering them in a thick coating of buttercream!!  My top layer came out slightly lopsided, never the less it tasted delicious.  I choose to use buttercream icing and strawberry jam as my fillings, and I used castor sugar (granulated sugar in the US) to garnish the top of my cake.



Traditional Victoria Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp (200g) Castor Sugar
3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp (200g) Butter, room temperature
4 Eggs
1.5 tsp Vanilla extract
1.5 Cups + 1.5 Tbsp (200g) Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Vanilla Buttercream Icing or Whipped Double Cream - enough to cover the top of 1 cake in a thick layer
1/4 Cup (approx 70g) Strawberry or Raspberry Jam 

Castor Sugar or Icing Sugar to finish (2-4 Tbsp)




Instructions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Grease (and if you choose - line with parchment) two round 8" (20cm) cake pans.  Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

2.  Add in eggs 1 at a time to ensure they don't curdle the butter and sugar mixture.  Beat well before adding each following egg.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

3.  Gently fold in the self raising flour and baking powder into the butter, sugar and egg mixture until just combined.  Don't over mix.  Divide the batter equally between the two pans, making sure that the batter is as flat and even as possible.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

4.  Let cakes cool in their pans at least 1/2 an hour before turning out on a rack to finish cooling. *Make sure that the bottoms of the cakes rest on the rack, and not the tops, otherwise you'll have ugly lines going across the top of your cake!  Once your cakes have fully cooled, coat the top of one of the cakes with a thick layer of buttercream icing or double cream, and then spread your strawberry or raspberry jam over top.  Next, place the second cake on top of the other cake so that the buttercream icing and jam are sandwiched in between the two cakes.  Finally, sprinkle with a generous layer of castor sugar or icing sugar to finish off your cake.  



*If you used buttercream as your filling your Victoria Sponge Cake will keep at room temperature for about 4 days in a sealed container.  If you're using double cream, then store your cake in the fridge so it doesn't spoil, although keeping a cake in the fridge will cause it to go stale faster than if you were to keep it at room temperature.



And since the world is gearing up for the Royal Wedding taking place on Friday April 29th, I thought the Victoria Sponge cake would be a perfect cake to bake in celebration of William and Kate's special day.  Here in the UK we've been lucky enough to be given April 29th off as National holiday, so the majority of UK residents will be off work and out of school.  All sorts of Royal Wedding celebrations will be taking place on April 29th so the public can share in the wedding celebrations.  Street parties and picnics are being organised all across the country, and what better way to celebrate the Royal wedding than to bake and share a Victoria Sponge Cake with your friends and family.  



I made some very simple hanging Union Jack flags (called bunting here in the UK) out of paper and attached them together with some thread (ok - I used mint dental floss!) and then tied them to some bamboo skewers that I then stuck in my cake to decorate it and give it a bit of a celebratory feel.  If you'd like to celebrate the Royal Wedding by decorating your own Victoria Sponge cake with these little flags, I've included a printable PDF below so you can make your own.  ** I've also included 3 additional flags in the PDF incase you'd prefer to celebrate the following 2011 holidays:

St. Georges Day - Saturday April 23rd (England's national day)
Canada Day - Friday July 1st (Canada's Birthday)
Independence Day - Monday July 4th (America's Birthday)


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Flag Bunting


** To download - click the orange download button on the top right hand corner of the PDP preview above.

Simply cut the little flags out and lay them face down on a flat surface.  Take a piece of thread (or in my case dental floss) and lay it across the back of the flags near the top.  Fold the top part of the flag over the thread and fasten with a piece of tape or glue.  When you pick up your thread from both ends each of the flags should be hanging down as shown in my picture above.  Tie each end to a bamboo skewer and insert them into the cake.  Ta Da!!!  A perfect and simple way to decorate your cake - whatever occasion you choose!
 

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