• 60 ‘Maltese’ cupcakes

    Looking back at my Instagram account, it doesn’t look like I have done a huge amount since I last wrote.

    Perhaps the most significant events, although not very significant in themselves, are that I got to bake the 60 cupcakes for the customer order which I mentioned in my last post and I trialed our proposed pizzas for the Coln St Aldwyns fete, which is to be held in September.

    On Friday evening, after an early morning shift at the Coln Community Stores (5.30 to 10.30am), a quick trip to Fairford to pick up some ingredients, a two-hour mow of the lawns to get our garden sort of in order for visitors, I set about making pizza dough, tomato sauce and caramelised onion, and preparing the toppings for 11, eight inch pizza.  You might ask why, 11 pizzas.  Well, we have just purchased a pizza stacker with 11 slots for 11 pizza trays.  Our mission (Jo was in charge of cooking them in our new Uuni Pro) was to see how many pizzas we could cook in a certain amount of time, in preparation of the Coln St Aldwyns fete in September.  We are hoping to cook 60-80 pizzas in two hours at the fete.  Limited by only two toppings (the organiser’s suggestion), pepperoni and  caramelised onion and goat’s cheese, we prepared and cooked 11 eight, inch pizzas, which were tasted by 6 of the fete’s organisers to determine whether they were worthy of appearing on the fete’s menu.  With Jo able to cook 6 in 9 minutes, and a thumbs up particularly to the caramelised onion & goat’s cheese topping (the firm favourite, not surprising given the discerning palates of the organisers), we have been given the go ahead to appear on the fete’s menu.  The leftover pizza dough (I made enough for 16 pizzas), together with the caramelised onion (of which there was loads), tomato sauce and goat’s cheese were made into a delicious calzone with added anchovies and mushrooms.  I think after the trial run and the calzone, we were all pizza’d out for a while.

    If cooking a shed load of pizzas on Friday night was not enough, on Saturday, after 6 days straight at work (albeit between the two jobs), I went to work ready to make 60 cupcakes (actually I made over 80 to ensure that I had 60 decent cupcakes for the customer) along with preparing what else needed to be made for general cafe use.  I didn’t envisage that some of my day would be spent supporting the front of house chef as it was a very busy day at the cafe.

    I made a decision to make the cupcake mixture in two batches as I didn’t want the mixture to sit around for too long before putting it in the oven.  I painstakingly made the first batch of mixture and took my time filling the cupcake cases.  I adjusted the oven to 10 degrees below the suggested 180 degrees Celsius as the recipe I was using did not specify if the suggested temperature was for a conventional or fan oven and baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes (the recipe suggested 20 – 25 minutes baking).  A skewer test suggested that the cakes should be cooked so I took them out of the oven.  In retrospect, I should have taken them out a couple of minutes later but retrospect was too late at this time.  That being said, after letting them cool for a while, and cutting open 3 or 4 cakes just to be sure that they were cooked (the less decent looking cakes) the cupcakes revealed themselves to be of a very light and decent texture.  With my first batch of cupcakes cooling, I set about making my second batch of cupcake mixture.  With time pressure on me, I tried to hasten the cake mixture (I thought that maybe I had been a little too cautious the first time around).  The result was that the second batch of mixture was not quite as good as the first and there were fewer cupcakes in the second batch that I thought were worthy of finishing off for the customer.  In retrospect (there is that word again), I should have made a single batch of cupcake mixture (our industrial mixer needs a lot of ingredients to ensure that it mixes them properly).  Irrespective, I had 60 plus cakes worthy of icing out of the two batches.

    Towards the end of the shift, we started the task of making the icing for and then icing, all the cupcake cakes.  The intention was that my colleague, who bakes and decorates cakes in her spare time would ice the cupcakes, as I never feel that this is my forte.  The first challenge was to get half the icing red enough.  Armed with 6 tubes of extra strong Dr Oetker gel red, food colouring, we attempted to get the correct colouring.  It was a deep pink rather than red.  My colleague made the correct call to try to add some more colouring.  A quick message to my husband Jo, saw the arrival of three more tubes of Dr Oetker red food colouring.  These did the trick.  The second challenge was to ensure that the icing was firm enough to ice the cupcakes (it was sweltering in the kitchen) – a short chill in the fridge did the trick.  The third and final challenge was to get an even swirl of white and red icing on top of each cupcake.  My colleague used a method used by her aunt, which was to wrap the two coloured icings separately in cling film and the place them in a large piping bag to pipe.  This method ensures that the colours do not mix when piping.  Ingenious!

    After all the icing prep, which took much longer than expected we set about icing the cupcakes, 60 for the customer and the rest for the staff.  A test by my colleague and me revealed that I could in fact ice neater than her so it became my task to ice the cupcakes.  80 iced cupcakes later, 60 of which were left neatly tucked in boxes in the fridge (it was too hot in the kitchen to leave them out – it was the right call as the icing on the ones that we left out for staff, melted slightly), we left for the day, praying that the cupcakes would be okay in the morning.  As I had the Fairford 10km run on the Sunday morning, I was not going to be around for the pick up.  To end this rather long-winded story about the life of a cupcake, lets just say that they were picked up and that the feedback from the customer yesterday was very positive.  The customer came into see me personally to thank me for the cupcakes.  She said that they were more than she had expected and that her Mother (whose Birthday it was) had tears (of joy, I should add) when she saw the cupcakes.  The sentiment most probably came from the colouring of the cupcakes, rather than the cakes themselves as the red and white was supposed to represent the Maltese flag and their heritage.

    Going back to the Fairford 10km.  It was a very fast race with the winner averaging a speed of over 18km an hour.  Although we didn’t place well we were happy with out time of 47.22 minutes.  Our goal was to achieve a sub 50 minute 10km, which we did.  After the race I did a short stint in the kitchen at Lynwood & Co (2-3 hours) and then some paddle boarding and canoeing with my husband, sister and nephew.  Needless to say that we were exhausted so resorted to pub meal and a glass for two of wine at the New Inn.  While at the pub, we got talking to Daisy May Cooper, the actress and recent BAFTA winner from This Country.  She was an absolute delight and asked Jo and I for our phone numbers as she thought we were lovely (her words) and suggested that we meet up for a drink sometime.  She is unlikely to call, but I am sure we will bump into her in the pub sometime.

    The last thing I should mention is that I have made some progress in setting up a business from home.  I am now registered as a business with the Cotswold District Council and have an environmental health officer coming to see me on Monday afternoon.  I have one supplier secured, to provide me with ambient goods and for the ingredients for the Coln St Aldwyns Fete.  I now have a few days, starting after breakfast this morning, to get to grips with the Safer Food Better Business document before the meeting on Monday afternoon.  While I say that I have made progress, any progress that I have made may be thwarted if our landlord does not approve of me operating a small business from home.  We will just have to wait and see what he says.  It is not the end of the world though, as our year’s contract is coming to an end in August as we can look for another property if needs be.

  • #Masterbaker, #ColnStAldwyns

    Okay, so the title of this blog is certainly not what I would refer to myself as but these are the hashtags used by the local photographer when he posted a photo of the chocolate cake I made recently.  Not only did he take some lovely photographs of the cake, enhanced by some personal props, but he then took it down to the cafe in the Coln Community Stores to be tried and tested by the customers.  Allegedly the feedback was very good and I received a five star rating from one of the tasters.  Lets hope it was five stars out of five and not five stars out of ten.

    Speaking of tasters, there are some builders in the local area at the moment, working on a Cotswold stone house in much need of transformation, who pop into the Coln Community Stores on a regular basis.  Not so long ago I took in some carrot cake muffins into the Coln Community Stores for my manager to try.  I left them on the fridge in the cafe when I got in, just as the group of builders came in for lunch.  One of them said that he thought that they looked nice.  I deliberated for a while and then decided to give one of the muffins to the builders to try.  I emphasised that they were homemade and had nothing to do with the Stores.  I said that they were welcome to try the muffins provided that they gave me constructive feedback.  The feedback was very positive and there were questions as to when I would be baking again.  Given that they were supposed to be in the area for just one more week, I promised that I would bake again.  Hence the chocolate cake.  Despite positive reviews from the customers at the Coln Stores about the chocolate cake, I don’t think it went down as well with the builders as the carrot cake muffins.  Next time, I think I will use chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa solids so that it is less rich.

    In addition to the chocolate cake and carrot cake muffins, I have been experimenting quite a bit recently:

    • Challah bread
    • Fruit & plain scones
    • Mini cheese cakes in a jar (gingernut, blueberry & lime)
    • Challah French toast with blueberry compote and orange
    • Quadruple chewy chocolate cookies
    • Lemon and polenta loaf cake
    • Lemon slices
    • Fig and toasted hazelnut Dutch oven bread
    • Spelt party bread (bread dough base with multiple toppings)
    • Banana loaf with icing drizzle and dehydrated bananas

    My next challenge is to make 60 vanilla cupcakes for a customer on the 02 June; half with red icing and half with white icing to represent the Maltese flag.  The customer asked for fondant icing but we are keen to encourage her to have buttercream icing instead.  Not only will it have a better texture and taste, but it will look better, especially now that we are thinking of making the icing half red and half white.  I did a trial run of the cupcakes, using both fondant and buttercream icing in white and red.  The owner of Lynwood & Co. and the Head Chef are happy with the vanilla cupcake recipe.  We just need to decide on what’s best for the icing (or encourage the owner to choose buttercream icing) before the big bake on 02 June.  Hopefully the bake will not go on too late into the night as Jo and I are doing the Fairford 10km on the Sunday.

    Speaking of running, Jo and I completed our first 10 km run a couple of weekends ago, the Salming Trail Run in the Forest of Dean.  I was the 5th lady over the line and the 1st lady in my age category, so was quite chuffed.  I also took part in the Hatherop Fun Run last night in support of a local charity.  Although it was a fun run, there was certainly a competitive contingent.  There were some very fast teenagers running the 5 km race – definitely setting a pace that was slightly uncomfortable for me.  I managed to come second out of the ladies (overtaken by the 1st lady on the final hill), albeit that there were two female teenagers ahead of us.  Irrespective, I ran the 5 km in 22 minutes which is the fastest I have ever run a 5 km.  So again, chuffed.