Monthly Archives: September 2009

National Cupcake Week 14 – 18 September

Despite the odd start to cupcake week with the Sunday Express article (!) I still had a few friends to make cakes for and of course to help celebrate National Cupcake Week.

Firstly a friend in the office asked me to make a few cakes to help a celebration of a member of the public winning a competition.  Part of the prize was to have tea with Dame Tani Grey-Thompson and I said I would give them a few cakes to help with the afternoon tea.  So I gave them a box of a dozen cakes, gluten free vanilla with courgette and apple and cinnamon. P1060305 I went with vanilla and courgette considering a healthier option for an Olympic Athlete. But I also added some apple and cinnamon cakes in case diet wasn’t a factor at the moment.

Day 1 of National Cupcake Week was gluten free apple and cinnamon.  P1060313I made a pured of apples stewed with a cinnamon stick stired through the cake batter. The buttercream as vanilla.  They went down well. I asked for feedback giving catergories such as cake texture and flavour, icing texture and flavour, overall appearance, should it go on a stall (when I get one!) and price. Generally all the feedback was incredibly positive with some obvious subjective comments about flavour and in particular strengths of flavours.  I think the Apple was lost and needs beefing up more.

Day 2 was gluten free pina colada.  I made stewed pinapple in pinapple juice to add to the top of the batter just before cooking. The batter also had pineapple juice in it as well.  The icing was buttercream made with coconut milk and then sprinkled with desiccated  cocnut and topped off with a bit of dried pinapple and a straw.IMG_0098P1060323

Again some great comments, particularly around presentation and not overpowering the coconut. I think again the cake was so subtle that I perhaps need to get a more concentrate pineapple flavour to really pick this up. But I was very happy with this gluten free little cake. 

Day 3 was also a friends’ daughter’s birthday cake which was a chocolate and chocolate ganache cake and some cupcakes. This gave me endless worry over transporttion and it did suffer slightly so I think I’ll stick to cupcakes. Hopefully she liked it though.P1060328 P1060332


Day 3 of the cupcake challenge continued with a triple chocolate cupcake.  This was a light chocolate sponge with a dollop of chocolate ganache in the centre giving a gooey, moist cake.  All topped with a generous swirl of chocolate ganache and grated 100% Venezuelan Black cocoa.  P1060339

Really good feedback that this was extremely moist and the chocolate gooey centre was a nice surprise. I used slightly smaller cupcakes and a couple of people commented that there could have been more!!! As I felt that I had probably peaked too soon with the chocolate, I decided to give the decision on the last cupcake to my audience so offered them three choices of Strawberries and Cream, Lemon Meringue and gingerbread.

Day4 and my final contribution. I was slightly surprised to see gingerbread winning the poll but I guess people are gearing up for autumn and winter and the taste buds are crying out for some heart warming winter concoctions such as mulled wine, spiced pears and of course, gingerbread. IMG_0136-1

 Personally I felt most happy with this cupcake. The sponge was light and airy (perhaps because it wasn’t gluten free?) and was made with ground ginger and grated fresh ginger.  The topping was cream cheese and icing sugar with ground ginger topped off with crystaline ginger and mini gingerbread men. It was just lovely, and will certainly feature a lot more.





I love it when they’re all the same and lined up. I’ve also chosen to depart from some of my ‘usual’ toppings as this is what I’m more interested in rather than sugarpaste.  Also I decided to get over my hang up of the ‘poo’ nozzle as I like to call it (I still won’t use it with chocolate or coffee though) and I quite like this smooth swirl even if it does still look a bit like anaemic poo.

Phew, it was a mamouth week and was also finished by another quick box of cakes for a friend to take to her friend’s baby shower. She just wanted something completely un-babyshowerish so i decided to use the same decorations as the cupcakes at the beginning of the week as the bright colours look so lovely together. I added the names of the parents to be and step daughter and hopefully they all had a lovely weekend. IMG_0137

Seb Coe’s twitter got me in the Sunday Express!!!

The Twitter posted by Seb Coe about my cakes caused a bit of excitement in one tabloid gutter press…The Sunday Express picked up on it and wrote this article…– I’m sure this will be the only time I’m ever featured in the Sunday Express. I don’t know anyone who reads the paper, but if you do and can get hold of a copy please send it to me as I’d like to frame it as my first ‘press story’….If you could call it that…

New addition to the family

We finally have a new addition to our family. Oven

I was so excited to try out the new oven but it seems that all ovens are not made the same.  When this one says 150C it’s actually cooler than my previous oven so I’m experimenting with temperatures at the moment. I’m gald that I didn’t have it when I had to do Jon’s wedding and Clare’s 40th as I would have been even more stressed.

So, a bit more fiddling and I’m sure I’ll get used to it. My old oven must have been really hot!

Healthy cakes…

I’ve been thinking for sometime now about what I want to bring to the Little Bird Bakery as the unique selling point, or something that is important to me and can become part of the brand. Immediately I started thinking about what is important, such as local fresh produce, home made, and that cake can be incredibly unhealthy! So I started thinking about the golden ‘5’ a day and wondered if I could incorporate this into my cakes in some way.

As I was in a supermarket this week I noticed a new book on the shelves called Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache. I picked it up and was, in minutes, convinced that I too should have written this book. Harry Eastwood, who did write it, and has also written ‘Eat yourself Thin’ has a philosophy that is very akin to my own. Harry EastwoodCakes should be eaten and not seen as a once in a blue moon treat. Cakes, to that end, can and should be healthier versions than the cholesterol sandwiched, processed, nutritionally void, diabetics death wish on the supermarket shelves. Eastwood agrees that when you can’t taste the butter, why use it? Soft, bouncy, moist cakes can be made by whisking sugar and eggs, you don’t need the fat. Cakes can also, as she has proven in her book, be made out of a vast array of vegetables, from the ‘water’ veg including courgettes and marrow to the ‘woody’ veg including pumpkins, potatoes and carrots. We also know carrot cake has grated carrot in it, but a simple vanilla sponge can also be laced, gracefuly and subtly with courgettes. Red Velvet for instance should always have beetroot in it, why on earth wouldn’t it?

So, I have recently made a couple of gluten free cakes and although I haven’t had time to experiment with vegetables yet, I have definitely decided to try some out on some unsuspecting colleagues next week for National Cupcake Week!

Here’s a couple of images of the plum and almond and chocolate and almond cakes I made last week.IMG_9993-2IMG_9994

The Olympic Park in cake

Last week I was asked to make some Olympic inspired cakes for a friend at work’s birthday. I decided, after discussing with Phil, that one venue didn’t pose enough of a challenge and went for the entire Olympic Park in cupcakes.

I was asked to write a blog about this for the London2012 website which you can see here:
London2012 Olympic cakes

The also mentioned me on twitter too
London2012 Olympic cakes on Twitter

Great exposure for me and also I’ve made a new set of friends in the New Media team who have invited me to contribute a regular baking blog….So all possible suggestions on an cupcake shaped postcard to me please!

Apparently there are over 200 competing Olympic Countries – that’s a lot of cupcakes…

Millie’s 4th Birthday

It was our daughter’s 4th Birthday party on Sunday so cake number 2 of the weekend was this rather kitsch mermaid lounging on a rock by the sea.  Our lovely neighbour Lizzie made the mermaid and some of the little sea creatures.

Millie's cake

It was covered with buttercream and we put on lots of candles and mini sparklers which all the kids enjoyed. Thanks to our mums and dad/partner who helped us so much over the weekend. A big thank you to my lovely lovely dedicated friends Lizzie and David and Hannah.  Without you all life wouldn’t be nearly as sparkly.

For the party goodie bags I practised my sugar cookie icing.  They looked really lovely in their little bags with ribbons.

birthday biscuits

40th birthday party

The weekend started off with a friend’s 40th Birthday party in Farringdon.  I found this lovely image on google of 1969 and showed it to my friend who loved it so this became the theme.  She had quite a few people to cater for in a pub with a 1969 themed pub quizz so I made her a big cake and 92 cupcakes.


She was so lovely and bought me a bunch of flowers to say thank you.  Totally unnecessary but very appreciated.  I think her friends enjoyed them, I loved the colours.

At this point of the weekend, this was the biggest cake I had ever made. 28cm diameter, chocolate with chocolate ganache buttercream inside and out.



Here’s the cakes set up at the venue.Birthday cakes on table

Little Bird Bakery

So the big piece of news for the week was that I have finally chosen a name for when I set up my business.  The Little Bird Bakery has had very good reviews from friends and family, it encompasses what I can see from my kitchen window and also has the added advantage of having a neat strap line ‘ a little birdie told me about your cakes’ which is what is currently happening! So I’m really happy and all thanks go to my sister for the brain wave. She wins the box of cakes.

You know when you decide upon something and then all of a sudden everything becomes connected to that thing? I took Hettie for a tour round IKEA on Sunday and saw many references to little birds.

The first was this lovely kitchen tray, which I had to buy…

Ikea tray

And the second was this lovely fabric which they have unfortunately sold out of at the moment but I might be tempted to go back and buy it next time.

Ikea fabric

I also bought this lovely cake stand

IKEA cake stand

And have to go back and buy this one too

IKEA cake stand with lid