Tank Cake

It’s September and my partner’s birthday is getting close… I usually bake him a massive cake to celebrate it but I have no idea what to bake this year. He likes tanks and anything WWI and WWII related so last year I made a huge tank cake. I want to share it with you as it’s a pride and joy of mine.

For the ingredients I just baked 2 recipes of vanilla sponge cakes and 1 chocolate sponge.

I had the idea to create a sort of camo pattern cake so I separated the vanilla cake mix in two and added some green food coloring to one half. That gave me 3 colors to work with: natural sponge cake, colored green and the brown of the chocolate cake.

I baked 3 sponges using 3 different cake tins. The large rectangular one will be the base, the big round will be the body and the small round will be the top. 

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Once the cakes cooled down I piled them up sticking them with buttercream and proceeded to cut the shape of a tank. Once I finished cutting bits off (and eating them) I covered it all with green buttercream. It looked like this:

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I added some Oreo biscuits to create the wheels of the tank and Kit-kat bars to create the tracks covering the tank wheels. I think they look really good!

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I added some more cookies and other biscuits to add more detail and then I piped on hinges, bolts, plaques and other details with butterceam to make it look more “real”

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And here is the result!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I crushed half a pack of digestive biscuits to create the sand underneath the tank and I forgot to take a picture of it but I also bought green plastic soldiers to put all around the tank as a decoration. Ta dah!

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Make your own cookie cutters

I can’t believe I never thought of that!

Cookie cutters sometimes are so ridiculously expensive that you want to think it twice before buying a design that you might only use once a year… Well, this is the solution to our problems my friends!

You will need:

A can of larger (who hasn’t got one of those around?) or any other drink, but lager cans tend to be taller therefore you’ll get more cutters out of it.

A pair of kitchen scissors.

Super glue and maybe some electrical tape.

And here’s the process!

1. First of all you need to wash your can thoroughly. 

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2. For this step you might want to use garden gloves or any other kind of protection for your hands as tin can cut really easily through your skin. So proceed to cutting the top and bottom of the can, very carefully!

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3. Then cut the rest of the can in even stripes.

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4. Now you just need mold the stripes into the shapes you desire (down side is that you can’t really make any crazy shapes so you want to keep it simple) To tie the ends together you can either use super glue or electrical tape. You can also tape all around one of the edges of the cutter so you won’t cut yourself when pressing the cutter onto the though.

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5. And now you just need to use your cutters to get your desired cookies! 

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Steps 6+7 cook and enjoy!

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A word of warning…

The information in this photo might sound random and out of the blue but I think it’s important to share:

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My dad has an allotment and I remember helping him to pick up potatoes at the beginning of every summer. I also remember he pretty much made me throw away the potatoes that had a green coloured skin. He said: “Potatoes grow under the soil to protect themselves from the sun, when a potato sees the sunlight they go green. It’s like when you go to the beach without sun cream and you go red, and it’s painful. Now we don’t want that, do we?” Wise works daddy…

 

Mojito Cupcakes

Summer is pretty much gone and I hate cold drinks in winter, so I had to work out another way to have a Mojito cocktail without ice… So what better than cupcakes???

These are delicious and they are very original, outside the typical chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cupcakes you see everywhere. Let’s start with the ingredients!

Ingredients

125ml milk

10g mind leafs (crushed)

190g flour

1 1/2 tsp rising powder

114g butter

250g sugar

2 eggs

2-3 tbsp white rum (2 if you want it soft, 3 if you want it porpper! Your choice)

The zest of 1 1/2 limes

A pinch of salt

You might want extra mint leafs and an extra lime to decorate.

For the buttercream

170g butter

250g icing sugar

1 tbsp of lime juice

1 1/2 tbsp white rum

 

How to proceed

Preheat your oven at 180ºC

Pour the milk in a saucepan with the crushed mint leafs, heat it up and take it off the hob once it start boiling. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes, then sift the milk and leave to cool for a further 30 minutes or until completely cold.

Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately and then combine together.

Add the completely cool and sifted milk to the mix and combine until uniform.

Prepare your cupcake tray with liners and fill them 3/4 in.

Put in the oven until golden or until an inserted screwer comes out clean. Usually it takes 20-25 minutes depending the oven so keep an eye on them!

Once cooked leave them to cool on a cooling rack. Meantime you can prepare the buttercream.

Mix all the liquid ingredients together and add the sifted icing sugar little by little while combining together. You can add few drops of yellow or green food colouring to give them a more vivid appearance, like this. But in this case I haven’t.

When the cupcakes are completely cold proceed to pipe the buttercream on them, use your favourite nozzle or simply do it with a spatula giving them a smooth finish. Add some mint leafs and/or slices of lime to decorate and you’re ready to go! You can also use lime candy like this to decorate them in a more sweet manner.

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Victoria Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

The Victoria Sponge Cake is a British classic, I twitched this all time favourite to add one of my favourite ingredients of all: CHOCOLATE! So instead of filling the cake with cream or buttercream I made chocolate buttergream. Om nom nom…

This traditional recipe is also one of the easiest cakes to make as you just have to add all the ingredients together without worrying to much about the result.  For this recipe you will need two 20cm/8” cake tins. Let’s start:

Ingredients

4 Eggs

2 tsp Baking Powder

225g Caster Sugar

225g Self Raising Flour

225g Butter

Ingredients for the filling

Raspberry or Strawberry jam 

75g butter

225g icing sugar

60g good dark chocolate (melted)

 

How to proceed

Preheat the oven at 180ºC.

Add all the ingredients together: start with the eggs, then the sugar, baking powder, self raising four and finally the butter.

Mix thoroughly until well combined, do not over-mix.

Divide your mix evenly between the two tins, level the surface of the mix so it’ll cook evenly.

Put in the oven for 25 min at 180º

When cooked -you will know the sponges are cooked when they separate from the edges of the tin and when an inserted screwer in the middle comes out dry, you will eave them to cool down. Leave them in the tin for few minutes and then take them out to cool completely.

Meantime you can prepare the filling: Sift the icing sugar, melt the butter and the chocolate together and mix everything well. If the icing seems too dry you can add few tablespoons of milk one at the time making sure it doesn’t become too runny.

When the sponges are completely cold spread some jam on the bottom half of the cake, then carefully spread the chocolate buttercream on top of it (you can pipe it on to avoid spreading away the layer of jam) put the other sponge on top of the spread and press lightly to set the two halves together (don’t push too hard or the filing will spill through the edges!)

Your Victoria cake is nearly ready, now you just need to sift some icing sugar or cocoa powder on top of your cake and you’re read to go!

You can use some sort of stencil when putting the sugar on the top to create nice patterns. Like for example: this flowery one, or this less feminine more “trendy” stripy one. I’d really like to try something like this some day, but I didn’t have the time nor patience today so this is how mine turned out:

 

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And as one of my favourite architects used to say…

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Coffee Cake

I am a big fan of coffee. There was a time in my life I had coffee running through my veins instead of blood. Unfortunately this had to change… I’m on only 3 cups a day now, it was hard work!

Anyway, let’s get to it! This is a really deep luxurious coffee cake, very delicious. The recipe serves 8 (or 6 if I’m included) and I got it from Mary Berry’s book One Step Ahead.

Ingredients

225g very soft butter (plus some extra to grease the tins)

225g light muscovado sugar or caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 large eggs

4 level tsp instant coffee (dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water)

For the coffee icing

175g soft butter

350g icing sugar

4 level tsp instant coffee (again dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water)

How to proceed

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Butter and line the base of two deep 20cm (8in) sandwich cake tins.

Measure all the cake ingredients, except the coffee, into a large mixing bowl and beat together until smooth.

Stir in the dissolved coffee until thoroughly blended.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared tins and level the tops.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25–30 minutes until golden brown, shrinking away from the sides of the tin and the sponge springs back when lightly pressed.

To make the icing

Mix the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl and beat together until smooth.

Beat in the dissolved coffee and divide into four.

When the cakes are cold, slice each cake horizontally in half, giving four layers of cake.

Sit one base on a cake stand and spread with a quarter of the icing mixture. Continue layering up with cake and icing so you finish with icing on top and swirl to give an attractive finish. Or of course you can pipe it in any fancy way if you prefer so, perhaps something like this?

This cake is great, it can be made and iced up to two days ahead, just kept it covered in the fridge. And iced or un-iced, it also freezes well.

It should look something like the photo below. If you are worried about cutting the cakes in half, you can just sandwich the two sponges together with half the icing in the middle and half the icing on top.

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Now, where did I put my coffee pot…?

Rosemary Gravy

A quick trick to make the most of your Bisto gravy:

Just add 1 or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary to the mix, it will give your gravy a really nice fragrance and home-made-like flavour. Easy peasy!

I’m sure there are many proper recipes of Rosemary gravy out there but unfortunately I really have no time to make nice home-made gravy…

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Minced Beef Pie

This tasty super-easy and economical pie recipe served with mounds of mash and peas and rosemary gravy will quickly become your favourite. Mouth watering!

Ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil

500 g beef mince

1 onion

1 tbsp tomato purée

1½ tbsp plain flour (plus extra for dusting)

75 g mushrooms

250 ml stout (or use beef stock if you’re not a fan of beer… who’s not a fan of beer???)

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

400 g shortcrust pastry (1 or 2 ready-made rolls)

1 egg yolk (lightly beaten)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 200 ºC

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the beef mince for 4-5 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it browns.

Dice the onion and add it to the pan, cook for 2-3 minutes, stir in the tomato purée and cook for 2-3 more minutes, then stir in the flour and cook for a further minute.

Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, also add the stout (of beef stock) and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.

Set aside and leave to cool. Meantime roll out the pastry on a floured work surface until it is slightly larger than the pie dish. From here you have two options:

  • Option #1: just turn the meat mixture into a one litre pie dish and gently drape the pastry over the dish.
  • Option #2: (you will need 2 rolls of shortcrust pasty for this option) Line the pie dish with one roll of pastry, pour the meat mixture in the dish and then cover over the mixture with another roll of pastry. 

Press firmly onto the edges, trim them and then shape the edges into a fluted shape.

Cut some shapes out of the pastry trimmings and decorate the top of the pie, sticking them to the pastry with the beaten egg yolk. (I’ve cut out lovely heart shapes) ❤

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Make three or four slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape, then brush the pie with the rest of the beaten egg yolk and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Slice pie into wedges and serve with loads of marsh potato, peas and rosemary gravy. Delicious! 

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*We used puff pasty for the pie on this picture -hence the “puffiness” but it turned out as tasty!

Béchamel (white sauce)

This is a very easy and really good white sauce recipe. My mum thought me how to make this béchamel sauce and I have never used any other recipe, let alone pre-cooked packs! Allez allez!

Ingredients

50 g unsalted butter

25 g plain flour

1 glass of cold milk (1/4 litre)

Salt & black pepper

Nutmeg (optional)

Procedure

Melt the butter in a sauce pan at low heat.

Add flour and whisk constantly until it becomes lightly golden (not brown!)

Little by little add cold milk whisking constantly in an 8 motion around the pan until it thickens.

Add salt and black pepper and if you want freshly grated nutmeg to add spice to the sauce. Et voilà

You can use this sauce for infinite recipes: pasta, lasagne, cannelloni, stuffed vegetables, cauliflower cheese, meat… Virtually whatever you want. You can also add some cheese at the end and make it a cheesy sauce that will go great with any pasta or a potato gratin. Bon appétit!

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Stuffed Aubergines

This is a great recipe of stuffed aubergines because it’s slightly healthier than other recipes without compromising the awesome tastiness of stuffed aubergines. This recipe makes 2 servings.

Ingredients

2 aubergines

200 g chicken or turkey mince

100 g diced bacon

80 g tinned chopped tomatoes

70 g onion

30 g green pepper

30 g grated cheese to grill

250 g white sauce

olive oil

Salt & black pepper

Procedure

Preheat the oven at 180ºC

Cut the aubergines in half vertically and make several deep cuts into the meat of the aubergine without breaking the skin. Like on the image below:

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Put them in the oven with drizzled oil and salt for 20 minutes.

While you wait dice the onion very finely and cook in oil for about 2 minutes.

Meantime dice the green pepper also very small, add to the onion and cook for further 4 minutes.

Add the salted  minced chicken/turkey to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.

Cook the bacon in another pan until golden brown and add it to the pan with the other ingredients.

Take the aubergines out of the oven and (very carefully because they are really hot) scoop the inside of the aubergines and add it to the pan, cook for further 5 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, cook for another 5 minutes, add salt and pepper and turn off the hob.

Prepare the white sauce. If you want to make it from scratch this is my recipe.

Put the aubergines in a glass/ceramic pan suitable for the oven and fill the aubergine halves with the mix.

Cover the aubergines with the white sauce and sprinkle cheese on top.

Put it in the oven for about 10 minutes. For the last 10 minutes change the oven settings to grill so the cheese will get golden and crispy.

And they’re ready to go!

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