Monday, 14 March 2016

All About Naked Cakes

I've been making cakes for my family for as long as I can remember. Whether for birthdays, anniversaries, or 'just because', I've always tried to find some kind of excuse to try out a new recipe, style or technique. As an amateur baker, I consider myself extremely lucky; my family have always been willing to encourage my crazy ideas, test my bakes, and even ask me to create things for their own special occasions. In three weeks, my eldest brother will be marrying his girlfriend of six years, and they've asked me to make their cake.

After throwing a few ideas back and forth, Helen (the lovely bride) decided on a naked cake, something simple and rustic but extremely pretty to go with their 'no-fuss' ceremony and reception. A quick search of 'naked cake' on pinterest will return you thousands upon thousands of beautiful results. Very popular at the moment, naked cakes are exactly that - layers of sponge sandwiched with fillings but not iced on the outside, decorated instead with fruit, flowers, and icing sugar. They're the perfect choice for a rustic or vintage wedding, and are incredibly simple to put together (yay!). Naked cakes can be assembled relatively quickly with minimal stress, making them prefect for beginner occasion cake makers.

These pictures are from a test run I did when home from uni for my birthday (which then incidentally acted as my 21st birthday cake). The sponges are my standard vanilla recipe, which can be found here. I filled the larger tier with vanilla buttercream and lemon curd, and the smaller tier with buttercream and a home-made strawberry compote. The outside is decorated with cherries, strwaberries, and a small bunch of miniature roses/carnations all found at my local asda. Nothing professional was used in this cake, no fancy tools, tins or ornaments. All in I think it cost me about £15 to put together - a small price for such a pretty result. The cake was finished with a liberal dust of icing sugar, and, honestly, I couldn't have been happier with the result.

The beauty of naked cakes is that, really, anything goes. The piles of fruit, flowers and icing sugar really will hide any mishaps or mistakes. The side of the larger tier crumbled away when I took it out of the tin, and the strawberry compote began to bleed into the white vanilla buttercream, but I think it all just adds to the 'rustic' style. This style of cake is extremely forgiving, and I'd highly recommend giving it a go.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

New Year, New Me, New You...

It has been, I feel, a criminally long time since I last visited my poor little blog to write. So long, in fact, that I find myself quite unfamiliar with the layout and mechanics of the blogger site. The 'revamp' process, intended to take only a few minutes, took several broken hours over many days, and tragic levels of frustration. Regardless, though, returning to my pet project after all this time and seeing it still gets regular views makes me incredibly happy.

I will not offer excuses, but instead an explanation as to why I return, out of the blue, in the middle of February (I am under no illusion that we are actually still in the 'New Year', never fear), two years after my last recipe. The explanation has three parts:

1. Baking at uni became incredibly difficult; I didn't have the equipment (the beloved KitchenAid!), money, or a proper camera to do justice to the recipes I had planned. I could say that I didn't have the time either but that would be a downright lie. Everyone knows students don't actually do any work.

2. Changes; things in life keep you busy, when they're not in your life any more, they don't. Finding myself very unbusy at the moment, I thought now would be the perfect time to make my (triumphant) return to The Vanilla Crumb.

3. The Future; almost three years have passed since I started university, and now people are starting to ask what I will do when I graduate. The short answer is, I'd love to be able to do something like this...wishful thinking, perhaps, but it can't help to get in some practice, especially as I'm a little rusty.

Over the next few months, I'm hoping to get back into sharing my baking recipes, tips and tricks. Thanks for bearing with me while I find my feet again.