With a few small tweaks, you can take your everyday bakes to the next level with these clever recipes by Mich Turner MBE.
The bank holiday Easter weekend is the perfect time to begin the social calendar - a time to invite family and friends for coffee as the first flowers bloom and the weather is finally a little warmer and certainly brighter.
Everyday bakes: Marbled Easter biscuits
The traditional Easter biscuit is a lightly spiced butter biscuit with currants, dredged with sugar and eaten plain with tea or coffee. I like to make these simple iced biscuits for added colour and flavour. Makes 30-40 For the biscuits 200g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar 1 medium free-range egg, beaten 1 tsp vanilla powder or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste 400g (14oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting 1 heaped tsp baking powder For the glace icing 300g (11oz) icing sugar 2-4 tbsp lemon, lime or orange juice yellow, green and orange food colouring gels To make the biscuits 1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.
2. Add the beaten egg and vanilla until fully incorporated, then add the flour and baking powder. Mix just until the dough comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper.
4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface, then roll out gently to a thickness of 3-4mm (1/8in). Stamp out shapes using Easter-shaped cutters. Place on the prepared baking tray, leaving a little space between the biscuits.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, then lift onto a wire rack with a palette knife to cool completely.
To make the glace icing
Mix the icing sugar with the lemon, lime or orange juice to a free-flowing consistency, but not too stiff or too runny. Divide into 4 bowls and colour 3 of the bowls yellow, green and orange, leaving one white.
To decorate the biscuits
1. Spoon the coloured icing into 4 piping bags. Place the biscuits on a wire rack over a sheet of non-stick baking paper.
2. Working one colour at a time, snip the end off the piping bags and gently swizzle icing over the biscuits. Take the next colour and fill in more of the biscuit. Repeat until all the colours are used and the biscuits are covered.
3. Use a cocktail stick to gently marble the icing and clean around the edge of each biscuit. Leave to set. The biscuits will keep for up to 14 days once decorated if they are stored in a cake box or lightly sealed container.
Showstopper: Hand-decorated Easter biscuits
These fully hand-decorated Easter biscuits are a fabulous way to showcase your skill and creativity. Cute, fresh, fun and frivolous, they bring joy and a sunny smile to your Easter table. They can be presented individually as gifts or even made into an Easter wreath.
1 quantity of Easter biscuits (see recipe, above) For the decorations coloured sugarpaste (allow 30g (1¼oz) per biscuit) royal icing in different colours sugar flowers (optional) colour dusts mixed with a little rejuvenator spirit or cooled, boiled water, for painting (optional) yellow coloured gum paste To decorate the biscuits
1. Once the biscuits are cool, roll out different colours of sugarpaste. Cut out shapes using the same cutters as you used for the biscuits.
2. Dot royal icing on the biscuits and fix the sugarpaste cut-outs in position.
3. Add extra coloured hand-piped pearls around the edge of the biscuits using a No.2 nozzle and your chosen coloured royal icing.
4. For the daisies - pipe a series of white pearls joined together with a yellow centre.
5. For the chicks - pipe the eyes and feet with black royal icing and add a hand-piped orange beak.
6. For the swirls - starting at the centre of the biscuit, with one colour, hand pipe a thick swirl to the outer edge. Fill between with a second swirl in a contrasting colour.
7. For the daffodils - hand mould the daffodils from yellow coloured gum paste using a daffodil cutter. Leave to dry overnight. Blend the colour dusts with the rejuvenator spirit or water and brush long leaves and stems onto the biscuit. Fix the daffodils in position with royal icing.
8. For the buttercups - make tiny yellow 3-petal bud flowers from sugarpaste and leave to firm. Pipe 3 green leaves using a leaf-nozzle and position the flowers in the centre. The biscuits will keep for up to 14 days once decorated if they are stored in a cake box or lightly sealed container.
Everyday bakes: Warming ginger loaf cake
As soon as you mention ginger cake, I think warming, rich, spiced cake with sticky, tickly, caramelised undertones and this cake certainly delivers. For this everyday loaf cake, I have added a ginger syrup poured over the cake as it is baked warm. It would be just plain rude not to serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, too.
Makes 1 x 2lb loaf cake
For the cake 60g (2½oz) unsalted butter, plus extra melted for greasing 125g (4oz) golden syrup 1 large free-range egg, beaten 125ml (4floz) milk 125g (4oz) plain flour 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp baking powder a pinch of salt 1 heaped tsp ground ginger ½ tsp mixed spice 100g (3½oz) soft brown sugar 40g (1½oz) finely chopped stem ginger For the syrup 2 tbsp syrup from stem ginger 2 tbsp golden caster sugar 30g (1¼oz) chopped stem ginger juice of ½ a lemon or 1 lime To serve vanilla ice cream To make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.
2. Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan over a medium heat until melted. Remove from the heat, then add the egg and milk and stir until smooth
3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
4. Make a well in the centre, pour the liquid into the centre of the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Stir in the chopped ginger.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
To make the syrup
1. Meanwhile, make the syrup for the loaf by placing all the ingredients in a small saucepan and gently warming through until dissolved and thickened.
2. Spoon over the cake and serve thick warm slices of cake with vanilla ice cream. Any additional syrup can be served on the side.
The cake will keep for 3-5 days in a suitable sealed container. Suitable for freezing.
Showstopper: Ginger cakes with lime buttercream and pineapple sunflowers
It’s nice to put a little more care and attention into individual cakes and these tropical cakes certainly showcase additional patience and skill. I’ve baked the ginger cakes inside individual mould tins with removable bases - quite clever and time-saving! The cakes form a natural crust on the top so turn them upside down to decorate.
1 quantity of Warming Ginger Loaf Cake mixture (see recipe, above) For the fresh lime buttercream 200g (7oz) unsalted butter 400g (14oz) icing sugar grated zest of 3 limes juice of 2 limes For the pineapple sunflowers 1 small pineapple, trimmed, peeled and cut into the thinnest rounds possible gold lustre spray (Alternative: instead fo pineapple, use ready-made dried banana chips!) To make the cakes
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Brush the insides of a 12-hole removable-base cake tin with melted butter (or spray with quickrelease spray).
2. Divide the ginger cake mixture equally among the 12 holes (about 40g (1½oz) in each) and bake for 40 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
To make the fresh lime buttercream
1. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth and light.
To make the pineapple sunflowers
1. Preheat the oven to 110°C/Gas Mark ¼
2. Pat the pineapple slices dry with kitchen paper. Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper and lay the pineapple slices on top. Bake for 1½-2 hours, turning the pineapple over every 30 minutes, until the pieces are slightly shrunken and dry.
3. Transfer the pineapple pieces to the holes of a cupcake tin to encourage the pineapple to set in the flower shape and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until they are dry and the edges are starting to curl. Leave to cool in the tin, then spray with gold lustre.
To assemble the cakes
1. Once the cakes are baked and cooled, turn them upside down - they will be quite sticky.
2. Fit a large piping bag with a star nozzle and fill with the lime buttercream. Pipe a generous swirl of buttercream on the top of each cake and press a pineapple flower on the top at an angle so they are all facing in one direction - a little like natural sunflowers in a field when they all turn to worship the sun.
The cakes will keep in a container with a lid for up to 3 days.
These recipes are taken from Everyday Bakes to Showstopper Cakes by Mich Turner MBE (£20), published by Frances Lincoln.