War on Betty.

Dear readers, I have committed the most shameful act a baker can do. I used a boxed cake mix. But I had to, both for my own intrigue and to save you the pain of ever having to do so.
I chose of course Betty Crocker’s infamous range of cake mixes for which you need only add 1 egg!
I felt ashamed as I peeled open the box and took out the mixture of god knows what accompanied by the squashed cupcake cases. If ever you needed a reason to bake from scratch, Betty Crocker has put it in a box.
Here’s all you’ll need…
Who needs to cream butter and sugar when you can add water to some brown powder?
The Egg.
Egg, mix, and water.
Having mixed my 3 ‘ingredients’, there is no sense of achievement in mixing together an egg, water and some powder. None of the sense of time, effort and love that goes into making a cake from scratch. There’s no weighing of ingredients, sifting, beating or creaming. It’s a completely souless experience.
I’m all for saving time, but really once you have your flour, sugar, eggs and butter, baking at its most basic is mixing them all in one bowl. In fact in the time it took me to get Betty’s Box open, cut open the plastic bag and tip it in to a bowl, I could have me a delicious home made cake mix…
The mix at this stage is quite grainy and bland, with, and I stress, a hint of chocolatey taste. So no fear of eating all your mix before it hits the oven…
And of course Betty was kind enough to squash some cupcake cases into the bottom of her box…
To be fair to Mrs. Crocker…it does make 6…
Ahem…Tudaah…
So texture wise, not too shabby. Moist…muffiny…tasteless. They really were like chewing on a muffin with literally no taste. Again, there was a whiff of chocolate in the air, but it really was just largely chewing on something that really wanted to be a muffin, but grew up to be a sad little chewy thing.
If you want to bake some muffins, or a cake, because you want to show people what they look like, or you want to poison your worst enemy, I’m Betty all the way.
But if you want to really bake a muffin, or a cupcake, or a cake, then I urge you to bake from scratch! The pennies you’ll save buying Crocker’s Box of Wannabe-Cake really isn’t enough to justify not spending a few more pennies and another 10 minutes baking real cakeage the real way.
Down with Betty’s Boxes!
Posted in December 2010 | Leave a comment

Rabbit Cake

I see how the title of this post could be misleading, but I assure you I have not turned my hand to incorporating game and poultry essences to my cakes, as I don’t think ‘Chocolate cakes with a hint of the Easter bunny’ would go down very well at a children’s party….

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Whilst leaving my delicious chocolate cakes to cool, something decided to take a running jump head first into my cakes. And so I present to you my take on Easter through cake, with an inspired title: ‘Rabbit stuck in a Chocolate Cake’. Enjoy!(No rabbits were harmed in the making of these cakes)
Posted in January 2010 | Leave a comment

Fish and Chips!

Don’t worry, I havn’t suddenly gone mad and started cooking that rare and elusive food called ‘sav oury food’, I’d never write about such offensive items. Why eat savoury foods when there are so many delicious sweet items to be consumed?! Savoury foods just get in the way and fill up precious shelf space where more cakes could be…

So yes! Do not fear, for of course I have not simply cooked some fish and chips, I have simply cooked cake and biscuits and shaped them in such a cunning way as to appear as Fish and Chips! So now you may sit along side those strange people who eat their dinner safe in the knowledge that whilst you appear to be tucking into a wholesome plate of fish and chips, you are in fact enjoying a much more satisfactory plate of biscuit ‘chips’, cakey ‘fish’ and buttercream ‘ketchup’ all wrapped up in a handy tuille!
My diet? Replace all savoury foods with delicious cakes and biscuits, good for the soul, not so good for that bikini body… who ever really enjoyed a lettuce leaf and asked for seconds?!
Posted in May 2010 | Leave a comment

An Interview with…Queen of Hearts

This week dear readers in the run up to this festive time of year, I interviewed Valeri who works with close friend Christina at Queen of Hearts who specialise in all things cakey and bakey!

As well as making beautiful cupcakes…

and the not so beautiful…(but still very cool!)

QoH also makes these brilliant Cake Pops; which as I discovered were their first attempt! Wish all my first attempts went this well…

Now to get us all in the festive spirit, have a look at QoH’s incredibly intricate Christmas Cookies…

And my favourite Christmas staple…Gingerbread houses!

I love the roof!

Queen of Hearts also creates these stunning Couture Cakes…

       

 

Tell us about your passion for cake. How did it lead to starting a business?
Queen of Hearts Cupcakes is run by me and my best-est friend Christina. We both have so much passion in baking and cooking. Last Mother’s Day, we thought of giving our 2 very good friends (whom we consider our second mums) something special but not too expensive. So we said, we’ll cook for them.. I was just browsing the internet for recipes..I went to youTube and stumbled upon a tutorial on how to make a sunflower cupcake using  ziplock bag improvise. I tried it and thank God it turned out to be a sunflower. Few more clicks then I found cupcake bouquet. And we said THAT’S IT! The cupcakes were hard and some were coming off the wrappers, icing was horribly sweet..but when we presented them, they just loved it! Our friend Aida was the one who encouraged us make it into business. It seemed as though she had a vision (haha) that it will be a hit because it is so unique. So every payday, we buy some baking stuff. It became an addiction to learn how to pipe other flowers so we never stopped since.
How did you decide on the name?
My second name is Quiencen (pronounced as queen-sen) and most of my friends back home (Philippines) call me Quien..and since for the kind of designs that we do requires so much effort, patience and passion, that is LOVE. So Quien + LOVE = the birth of Queen of Hearts =)

What’s your favourite cake to bake and decorate and why?

We love doing all our flower cupcakes..but just recently, we took a big leap and started doing Couture Cakes (tier cakes) and we just love it because it gives us a bigger canvas and play around with flavours. I must say our favourite so far is our Stained-glass inspired cake. It is very unique, intricately hand-painted (plus of course our signature flowers) and yes, 100% BUTTERCREAM which makes it even more special and even more unique.


Your Japanese kimono and ‘Ruffles’ cakes look stunning, what were they like to create?
To be honest, it takes longer to smooth the cake than to decorate it. haha Here’s a secret..The ruffles cake didn’t really turn out the way we planned it because it was supposed to be gradient yellow. I forgot about it when I was mixing the buttercream and put yellow food colouring in the whole batch! haha So to make contrast, I just put violet flowers. The Kimono cake is challenging as well. If you look at the background closer, the purple buttercream has 3 shades. It was tricky to get those shades and we had to mix few different colours into it and we have to be careful at the same time because if it goes wrong, then the whole batch of buttercream becomes a waste.

If cake weren’t your career what do you think you would be doing?

Well, me and Christina still have our “other” jobs as a nurse but we are hoping that next year we can be full-time bakers and cake artists. (ooh that sounds so posh! haha) fingers-crossed!

Do you invent any of your own cake flavours?

No, we just sort of mixed and matched some of our flavours but we have few flavours that we are developing now that we can call our own. We will launch them next year =)

What is the most cupcakes you’ve ever made in one day?

The most number of cupcakes we ever did in one day was 250pcs..that was when we had our first ever Summer Fair. We got over excited (haha) but luckily we sold most of them and we were left with only 16cupcakes and few cakepops.

Your snow flake and bauble cookies are so intricate! What’s the longest amount of time it’s taken to decorate just one?

It has to be the first batch of cookies we did for a wedding, 10-15min a cookie. We were still learning then so hands weren’t steady and we had to try over and over and the royal icing recipe we were using before takes ages to set.

What is the best way to eat cake?

hhmmm.. Take the wrapper, break the cupcake in half and put the other half on top like a sandwich! In this way, the icing wouldn’t get to your nose! haha

What’s your best baking tip?

Don’t do shortcuts, measure your ingredients properly (and sift your flour and icing sugar)- it makes a big difference. Add cream of tartar for your royal icing recipe so it sets quickly (haha) and if you have a big event or need to make a special cake/order that you haven’t done before, do it ahead of time or if possible, do a sample so it will be perfect on the day you have to make it.

Any tips or words of advice for those starting out a cupcake business?

Always aim to be better and INNOVATE your designs.. Keep looking for something that will make you different from the rest so you are not going to be JUST another cupcake company/business.

Are you interested in opening a retail shop at some point, or do you intend on focusing on the custom orders?

It is our dream to have a shop and/or a mobile shop  =) ..and still do custom orders.
What’s next for queen of hearts cupcakes?
Next year, we will aim to join more fairs/festivals and will have more days for our Flower Buttercream Master Classes. We will also introduce online tutoring for those who live abroad those who couldn’t come to join our classes – convenient and affordable.
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Thank you to Queen of Hearts for sharing with us their beautiful creations and for a brilliant interview!
You can find out more about Queen of Hearts here
Posted in January 2010 | 1 Comment