This is my first guest blog and something a bit different :) I will publish the recipe shortly but for now hear from a baker's better half....
'As the end of 2011 approached, my girlfriend boldly announced her new year's resolutions every couple of days (I think, to make sure we couldn't forget them and could hold her to account). One of those resolutions was to start a baking blog. I've known Ruth since 2008 and she's always spoken about wanting to have cafe, specifically to have a cafe specialising in sweet, baked, deliciousness. Countless times she has presented me with her creations; marvelous cakes, dainty macaroons, crumbly biscuits, warming tarts and of course the dazzling cupcakes. It's hard work having to try and keep it all off the waistline, but I know (trust me - I really do know) how hard she works to make everything she does the best it can be, as all skilled perfectionists do. I'm very proud of her and when she got her current job as a full time baker I was really overjoyed. It's boosted her confidence massively and given her a great new lease of life so thanks for being part of that and reading her blog!
All that said - I have NO idea why she does it. I understand I'm guesting on a baking blog here, but I really don't get what makes people bake. The mess, the time, the stress...it's mental! With that I think i should get on and talk about my own baking experience, what took me there, and where I'm going with it now (I think you can already guess that part).
A few weeks ago one of those pan-office emails went out about "The Great *************** Bake-Off". It was around the time The great British Bake-Off was in full swing, and was being arranged by one of the sales team. It invited everybody from the 150 strong events staff to submit a bake of any kind that would be judged, with prizes to be awarded in the following categories:
- Best Looking Bake
- Most Original Bake
- Best Technical Bake
- Best Overall Bake (I think this is a sort of judgment on general pretty/yumminess)
Our team, which sits seperately from most of the company briefly discussed entering. For no other reason than I thought it would be lazy not to, seeing as I know, oh too well, how our cupboards are clogged with all the ingredients and instruments i could possibly need, I piped up, declaring that I would enter and make some cupcakes. Of course, this initial verbal commitment didn't actually mean that I'd do it (or so I thought). So I went about repeating it and thought that eventually I'd just casually make up a reason that I couldn't. However, as it drew closer i realised that I was now in danger of letting people down, particularly the three ladies I work closest with, who were not going to let me off.
So, now comfortable with actually having to do it, I decided on Salted Caramel cupcakes, which Ruth had given me a few weeks earlier and were just delicious. Ruth had some caramel left over from being a prop at her latest market stall and the rest of the general cakey-ness was all in the house already so I didn't even have to go shopping - amazing!
The bake-off judging was on a Friday morning so the Thursday night before I settled down and began following Ruth's recipe to the book. I've not baked, let alone written about it before so my style might be a bit unorthodox but here we go:
MIXING - Fun Rating 6/10
I took sugar and butter (equal weights) and sort of mashed them together which took a little while but was strangely pleasurable. Then I put in some eggs and was left with a yellow mixture. I sieved in flour until it looked like cake mixture. Then I added a tin of caramel and salted the mixture to taste. I wasn't sure what it was supposed to taste like - but I just put in quite a lot of salt and it sort of always tasted good so I thought it would be okay.
SPOONING - Fun Rating 5/10
I spooned the mix into regular cupcake tins. I enjoyed trying to make sure they were all the same size but Ruth didn't seem to think it mattered.
BAKING - Fun Rating 2/10
This doesn't really involve doing anything, except for remembering when to take the cakes out which I did quite well. The oven was around 170 degrees C. Whilst I did that I made the salted caramel buttercream to ice the cakes with.
MIXING THE ICING - Fun Rating N/A
This was by far the worst bit. I had to cream some butter which actually was just a bit frustrating and quite painful. Once that was done, I had to add icing sugar, using and electric whisk to mix it all together. Again, I added a tin of caramel and salted the icing to taste. This was a terrible job as the whisk just chucked icing all over me every now and again.
FILLING - Fun Rating 6/10
I punched some holes in the cakes (which had cooled first) using a little device that Ruth has. Again, she mentioned i didn't have to be so precise but I actually thought that was quite fun. I filled the holes with yet more caramel, to give the cupcakes a delicious "melty" centre.
ICING - Fun Rating 7/10
I piped the icing onto the cupcakes and though it took me a while to get used to the required technique, I eventually managed to make them all look pretty good (in my opinion!). This was enjoyable because I was allowed to be precise. I sprinkled some edible glitter on the top and broke up some DIME bars to place on the top, sticking up jaggedly.
I boxed up the cakes and took them to work in the morning. To my surprise, people were genuinely shocked and many thought I'd just bought them from Hummingbird or something. I actually had a meeting that morning in St Pauls so I had to leave the office and walked there because it was a really nice day. I tubed back to the office and when I arrived I was desperate for the loo so I went into the Gents. A workmate came in as I was washing my hands and blithely announced that I'd just missed "my presentation'. I asked if I'd won something and he announced I'd won "Best Cake or something".
I was pretty pleased to have won, and when I went to the part of the office where people had gathered to purchase the goods (this was a charity bake off of course!) I quickly had it confirmed that I'd won Best Overall Bake. I was presented with a framed certificate (now proudly displayed on my desk) and generally with the congratulations and good-will of the office. It was a bit weird because I had never baked before but now I'd actually baked something good and been recognised!
Of course, now I get to the part of the blog about where I'll be taking my baking from now on. To be honest, I don't really want to bake again, It turned out that none of my team had actually got any of my cakes as they'd been hoovered up too quickly. So I made them some more the week after the bake-off (exactly the same) but this was more stressful and less enjoyable than the first time and that is enough for me.
I love Ruth's baking and she will always be able to provide me with doughy sweetness so I feel no burden to continue or develop my skills. If you are an amateur or professional baker, hats off to you. Not only do you create delicious food but I know from experience you do it even though it's hard and boring!
Thanks for reading, and for supporting Mixing Bowl Magic!'