Thursday, 10 March 2016

Sign up for Sweet Norwesterly - the new blog!

Hi friends!

This is a quick post for those of you who subscribe by email to this blog. Thanks for keeping up with the bakey news here at Irrepressible Baking Syndrome! I really appreciate that, although you could look at any baked goods anywhere on the internet, you choose to view my humble blog :-)

If you've caught up with the announcement from my last blog post you'll know that I've decided to change blog platform and blog name to better reflect the 'brand' of my caking and baking hobby. My new online home is here at Sweet nor'westerly, where you will find ALL my existing blog posts plus new ones rolling in at a similar pace. I'd love for you to come and join me there!

For those of you who have been signed up by email to this blog at and want to be subscribed to the new blog, you will need to sign up for the new blog. You can do this easily by navigating to (either click on that URL or copy it into your browser window) and scroll down until you see 'Follow Sweet nor'westerly via Email' on the right. Then click the icon that says 'Follow', and you'll be all sorted.

At Sweet nor'westerly you'll see my latest post about the cute and colourful baby shower cake below - you can read about how I got all those 100s and 1,000s to stick, and how I lined up those rainbow stripes here.

So, this is the end of my last post at this blog - bittersweet indeed! It's been a great starting point for me as I learn more about my baking and caking style. I hope you join me over at Sweet nor'westerly to keep learning with me!
Claire xo

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Pretty in Pastel Pink Wedding Cake. Fruit Cake Recipe + NEW BLOG NEWS!!!

Summer is well and truly here (although someone should really tell the temperature to keep up!) but the wedding season has been going for a few months longer. I'm playing catch-up with posting about this cake which I made in November for a lovely couple - an engineer and an architect. 

For those not familiar with the irony of such a pairing, it's an unwritten expectation in the industry that engineers and architects don't get along! Engineers often get annoyed with what they see as the 'impractical' plans of an architect. I'm sure you can imagine that architects would be frustrated by what they perceive to be an engineer's desire to suppress their creativity in design by emphasising only practical/safety needs and not aesthetics.

I've enhanced the colour here a bit as most of the images didn't show the pink ombré effect so well
But this couple knew what they were getting into and worked superbly to design this gorgeous cake - structurally sound (putting my engineering skills to practice!) while looking delicate and pretty :-)

The bride has kindly allowed me to share their profesh photos taken by the talented Peanut Productions - click on their name to see their work and get in touch. I've credited their images amongst those below, and the rest are by yours truly!
Love those sparkly fairylights! Photograph credit: Peanut Productions

Photograph by Peanut Productions
I love this shot of the roses posy - so romantic! Photograph by Peanut Productions
This shot makes me so happy - a beautiful, happy couple. Photograph by Peanut Productions
The cakey details were...
  • Bottom tier: three layers of 12" chocolate cake made using pastry chef Jenny McCoy's recipe from this Craftsy class. I can't find it available anywhere on the intertubes, and in the past I've used this one from Sweetapolita (re-blog) but I needed a slightly firmer cake to hold up with that many layers and Jenny's recipe does the trick. The layers were filled with chocolate buttercream from i am baker's recipe (there's another, similar choc cake recipe at that link, too).
  • Middle tier: three layers of 9" lemon yoghurt cake √† la Chelsea Sugar's recipe, which I tested along with a couple of others and came out trumps in terms of texture and stability for holding up in a big cake like this. I 'soak' the cooked cake layers in lemon syrup (also from recipe) by poking holes in the cake while it was still hot and squirting the syrup all over it. Paired with lemon curd mixed through basic buttercream, what's not to love for the lemon lover?!
Photograph credit: Peanut Productions
  • Top tier: three layers of 6" fruit cake filled and covered with white chocolate ganache, to seal the cake for later, when the bride and groom could enjoy it at their one year anniversary.
Now here's the thing... this was the first time I've been asked to make a rich, solid, like-your-gran-makes-at-Christmas fruit cake. Fortunately my lovely MIL (Mrs Adams) was happy to share with me the fruit cake recipe she had, which had been given to her by her MIL (also Mrs Adams) who had probably gotten it through her Cake Decorators Guild. 

After a trial run it was clear that it did the trick deliciously. Now I am able to continue the sharing of this recipe by posting it here for the benefit of the blogsphere.

Mrs Adams' Fruit Cake

The quantities below make sufficient batter for a 10 inch square cake, but I only needed a wee 6" round cake for this wedding. So I multiplied the ingredients by 0.4 to make 4 eggs' worth of the recipe and split it evenly between two tins, and it cooked in 3 hours to produce 2"-high cakes.

450g butter at room temperature
450g brown sugar
680g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c golden syrup
10 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp almond essence
1.8kg fruit mix (store-bought or of your own concoction: raisins, glace cherries, peel, ginger... whatever you like!)
1 & 1/2 c sherry or ginger ale
3/4 c orange juice

Soak the fruit in the sherry/ginger ale and orange juice for 8 hours or overnight.
Lin your tin(s) with baking paper. Place a thin sheet of cardboard onto an oven tray and put your tin(s) on top. Cut a narrow strip of cardboard and wrap around each tin, securing with masking tape. Roll up sheets of newspaper into flat strips that reach around each tin, securing with masking tape (over top of the cardboard strips) then tie cooking twine (e.g. cotton, not plastic!) around each tin - see image below.

 Pre-heat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius (yes, really that low!!).

Place the butter and sugar into a stand mixer (or use a handheld one) and cream until combined and lighter in colour.

Add golden syrup and eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and lastly beat in essences.

Sift flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, then fold into the batter.

Lastly fold in the fruit mix with its 'juices'.

Fill cake tin(s) with batter, making sure to press batter right into corners and edges of tin(s). Level with a spoon or off-set palette knife and tap the tin(s) against your kitchen bench to knock out any air spaces.

Bake for five (5!) hours until a skewer comes out clean.

~ // ~

Given the veritable 'institution' that is the making of fruit/Christmas cake, I was surprised at how easy the whole process was: cream butter & sugar, fold in flour and fruit, nothing unmanageable. The only bit to really worry about is not rushing the baking - it really does take that long to cook, so patience is the virtue in question.

Now, there was something else.... ah yes, the NEW BLOG NEWS!!!

After considering my options on Blogger (who currently host this blog) compared to Wordpress, I've decided to make the jump to the latter.

I'm also taking this opportunity to do a little 're-branding' (if that's even what my little baking-dom qualifies for!!). As much as I resonate with this irrepressible baking syndrome that happily ails me... it isn't the easiest title to plug into a search bar, and doesn't give me the scope that I'd like. 

So I've chosen something that reflects my desire for desserts and all things sugary/baked, with a bit of a tip-of-the-hat to my inspirational locale in Canterbury, New Zealand, where the warm northwesterly wind heralds the summer here (and many a cakey thought!).

From February, this blog site will therefore redirect to where all my original posts will (hopefully) be presented in an easier-to-follow layout! Bear with me as I organise everything, it will be a bit of a mission to sort out the past couple of years of blogging...

Thanks for checking out this post, and happy summer (or summery thoughts at least!) to you wherever you are!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Berry and Orange Zest Christmas Mince Pies

'Tis the season to be baking! Nothing quite compares to the variety of treats specific to the Christmas season to motivate me to drop all other projects. And to indulge in a bit of nostalgia...

Over the years the way I've celebrated Christmas has changed as the family that I spend it with changes. A combination of others and me growing older and moving through different life stages, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who experiences that!

But we all have things that just seem indispensable to the season: "it wouldn't be Christmas without..."

For me those things would be... the smell of real pine on the tree decorations (even though Mum has had a fake tree for years!); giving hints for months about what gifts I would like to whoever would listen; listening to Clement C. Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' on Christmas Eve with my sister; singing 'O Come All Ye Faithful' while carolling for the elderly with my Grandma, and biting into her Christmas fruit mince pies on Boxing Day.

Image from

I do miss some of those old Christmas traditions, most especially Grandma's pies! 

I recently found out how divisive fruit mince pies can be: several of my workmates denounced them for their fruitiness and another called them "fly cemeteries"! However I refused to be discouraged and finally decided this year to bring back these humble pies back into my Christmas celebrations.

However, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make them more appealing: berry-based fruit mince from Anathoth with boysenberries and blackcurrants, and some tangy orange zest and spices for the pastry.

For the shortcrust pastry I wanted a rich, thick, crisp pastry like my Grandma would make, so I minimally adapted Jamie Oliver's sweet shortcrust recipe. The recipe in full is below so that it's easy to follow. While my Grandma used to make fully-encased fruit pies, I was enchanted by the star-topped mince pies that I found on Nigella Lawson's website, so I made mine like that, but you would have enough pastry to give yours proper lids if you doubled ingredients for the pastry.

The key to pastry, it seems, is keeping it cold; use cold butter, keep your hands cold by washing them in cold water before touching the pastry, refrigerate the pastry before using (and even at stages while making it if you like).  I was lucky to have a cooler day to make it! Jamie's comments for his recipe encourage you not to over-work the pastry to make sure it results in a flaky crust. It was lighter/less rich than my Grandma's version, but with all the sweet goodies around at this time of the year I'm probably better off!

I hope you get a chance to create your own homemade Christmas treats, and that you're inspired by this recipe to add some tangy flavours for memorable mouthfuls.

Berry and Orange Zest Christmas Mince Pies

250g plain flour (approx. 1 & 1/2 c) plus extra to flour bench and rolling pin
50g icing sugar (approx. 1/3 c) plus extra to dust pies with
125g unsalted butter, cold and cubed small
zest of one orange
1 & 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 large egg
Splash of milk
One 435g pottle of Anathoth Fruit Mince Berry Fruits (or your own homemade fruit mince concoction!) 

Sieve the flour and icing sugar "from a height" into a deep bowl.

Add the cubed butter and use your (cold!) hands (or a pastry cutter to start with as I did - though if the cubes are small enough you might not need to) to rub the butter into the flour and sugar. Use your fingers and thumbs rather than your palms, as they are warmer.

Keep going until the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Add the orange zest and spices, using your fingers to combine these ingredients, especially to make sure you don't get clumps of orange zest. At this point I put the bowl in the fridge to firm up the butter within it again.

Combine the egg and milk in a small jug/cup/bowl. Make a well in the centre of the butter-flour mixture and pour the milky egg into it. Use a metal spoon to mix together until it gets too thick to continue, then use your hands to work the mixture into a dough by kneading it lightly to combine all the dry crumbs into one ball. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Lightly flour a 12-hole muffin tray or tart tin. Remove the dough from the fridge and knead with floured hands for a minute on a floured surface, long enough to make it *just* easy enough to roll out but still cold. Rub flour on your rolling pin and roll out the dough to approx. 5mm thickness.

Cut out 12 rounds from the pastry dough using a round cookie cutter (which could be a cup like the one I used!) with a diameter a couple of centimetres wider than the base of the muffin/tart cavities in your tray.

Push each round into each floured muffin/tart cavity - the pastry will only come up the sides a short way.

Spoon one tablespoon of fruit mince into each pie case.

Re-knead the remaining pastry, roll out and cut 12 stars using a cookie cutter(s) no wider than the diameter of the round cookie cutter used for the pastry cases. Place one on top of each fruit mince pie.

Bake at 200 degrees Celsius (conventional oven) for 15 minutes. Cool a bit before removing from the tins with a fork. Eat warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar.

Note: The instructions above produce 12 pies. If using the Anathoth fruit mince, you will have enough mince to make around 18 pies; you can double the pastry ingredients and have enough pastry to make 18 pies with some pastry left over. Alternatively, double the pastry ingredients anyway and cut rounds instead of stars to encase the fruit in the pies, using a fork or your fingers to attach the top rounds to the bases.

The past few years I've been with my husband's family at Christmas time and really enjoyed getting to know their traditions for the holiday season, and even making my own traditions.

In addition to making these pies, my favourite new tradition is to attend our church's Christmas Eve service to marvel at how the God who made the world came to earth as a tiny, vulnerable baby, to be the Saviour of the world. The stars on these pies make me think of the bright star that led the wise men that first Christmas, and the wonder they must have felt when they met the King of kings. My hope is that, amidst the happy trappings of the season this year, you're drawn to ponder that first Christmas and how it might shape your history.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Three Weddings and A... (Birthday) Cake! {B-Day Cake At Last}

I try to publish something on this blog at least once a month - and my biggest motivator is my lovely MIL who asks me regularly when my next post will be up :-) Even though I've ended up on Oct 31sh with a not very Halloween-y post, I'm glad for the inspiration from my family to keep blogging regardless of the season! 

For my MIL's birthday last year (celebrated along with two other family members' birthdays), I made my first two-tier cake.

For the trifecta birthdays this year, I made three spring-themed tiers (slightly early, as it was the end of July). Finally, here is the birthday cake that brings this seriously long-spanning four post series of 'Three Weddings and A... (Birthday) Cake! to an end - just in time for the next wedding season...
Bursting into spring on a sunshiny day...
I'm pleased to say that the design for this cake was my own, with a lot of inspo from a set of craft stencils that I scored from a newsagents' in Fairlie.


I'll keep the details as to-the-point as my detail-loving brain will allow: the top tier was chocolate (I think, although my notes say carrot...) with Swiss meringue filling and icing, and decorated hand-painted fondant clouds - thanks to my happy helper E!

The middle tier was red velvet, poorly covered in white choc ganache - I say poorly because the red velvet leakage that ensued could have been prevented if I had been more careful and not left any gaps! The escaped moisture also made the outer layer of fondant soft and prone to mishaping (as seen in image below)... My near-despair was topped off by my lack of consideration for the thickness of the fondant in the overall design, meaning this tier was almost the same size as the bottom tier.

Well, I guess if everything was done right the first time then the world wouldn't be such an interesting place ;-) At least the hand-painted little birdy looked happy with his outlook! I traced the stencil design onto baking paper which I then stuck onto the fondant surface and lightly traced over to leave an indentation for painting. Gel paints mixed with cake decorator's fluid did the trick to colour between the lines. 

Lastly the bottom tier was made of delicious preserved ginger cake covered in chocolate ganache with green grass done with royal icing (by eye).

Whew! It was a big effort, and the unseasonably hot weather on the day of the birthdays celebration was an unexpected challenge for the buttercream to keep its shape. But sunshine like that and a cake like this, how could we not have been hopeful for an early spring?!
I'm looking forward to next year's birthday cake challenge - though in future I'll try not to challenge them all to eat so much cake (sorry guys, quality not quantity!) ;-)


Saturday, 26 September 2015

The name's Blond - Caramel Blond {Salted Caramel Chocolate Blondies}

Why am I attempting silly Bond-jokes and (seemingly) infatuated with light hair colour? I don't mean blond(e) in the hair sense, but in the confection sense. In case you haven't encountered it before, blondie is a dense slice similar to brownie except without cocoa and instead with a vanilla or butterscotch flavour. 

Yeah, I've obviously been trying hard to think of a clever story about this recipe, but I don't have much to work with... However it is my own recipe, so I do feel clever about that, having combined and refined my fave choc brownie recipe (Whittakers) plus Donna Hay's salted caramel and choc brownie (which really seems like a blondie to me).

I wanted the denseness of choc brownie along with the sweet-and-salty flavour of the caramel brownie. Did I succeed? My workmates were certainly very complimentary when I brought some to work for a farewell morning tea. But I'll let you decide... hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Blondies

250g butter (regular is fine - if you have butter salted with sea salt that's perfect, but I rarely do!)
3/4 cup caramel (I buy canned caramel as I'm hopeless at making it, but if you prefer to make it yourself then I won't stop you...)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 & 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (if you want a slightly more cakey and less dense blondie)
1 block of chocolate with caramel filling (e.g. Cadbury's Caramello, Whittaker's Milk Chocolate Caramel)
sea salt to top it off

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees fan bake). Line a 7" x 11" (approx) tin with baking paper. Here's an easy way to do this: cut a rectangle of baking paper wider than the tin... 

Push the paper into the corners of the tray. 

Take out the paper and cut from its corners to the indented corners on diagonals. 

Fit the paper back into the tray and bend the corner flaps so they overlap and fit the corners. You can spray a bit of oil into the tray before lining to help keep the baking paper in place.

For the blondie, place the butter, caramel and brown sugar in saucepan over a moderate heat. 

Only the best butter in the world.

Stir the mixture occasionally until all the butter has melted then remove from the heat.

Sift the flour and baking powder (if using) into a bowl. Crack the eggs into a separate small bowl or jug. Add the flour and eggs to the sugary butter mixture alternately, ending with the flour, and mix using a whisk or spatula.

Pour the batter into your lined tin. Chop up the block of chocolate and space the pieces across the batter, pushing them down gently. Sprinkle sea salt across the top of the batter.

Ideally you will have more self-control and more caramel chocolate to use... :-|

Bake for 30 mins then test the cookedness of the blondie with a skewer - if it comes out with liquid still on it then check 10 minutes later. For a dense, fudgey blondie you will want to see moist crumbs on your skewer. 

Personally I prefer to let blondie cool - and even refrigerate overnight - before digging in to ensure that fudgey texture, but this would be nice served warm for dessert also!