17 September 2016

Baking & Faking for Macmillan Coffee Morning

It's Autumn, which can only mean one thing. No, I'm not referring to the return of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, nor am I referring to Halloween. I'm referring to the Macmillan Coffee Morning, which makes a sugar-fuelled, spectacular return on Friday 30th September. But what if you can't, y'know, bake?

On a Monday evening, I was invited to a masterclass in partnership with Macmillan and Marks and Spencer (2016 marks the seventh year of their partnership) on how to fake it or bake it come the end of September.

It was held at Borough Market, foodie hub of London.

We went upstairs and were greeted by the team and our host - Charlotte White of Restoration Cake.

Charlotte, looking very glamorous in green, colour coordinating with Macmillan

With our ingredients all prepared and everything very much under control (the complete opposite of how I normally approach baking and cooking of any sort), we were treated to a drop of fizz.

After a brief introduction to the evening, Macmillan and the coffee morning in general (more info here) the night got underway with some baking, courtesy of Marks and Spencer's baking mixes (just added butter). Nope, I didn't know these existed, either. And I couldn't be more pleased they do...

They are pretty much idiot-proof - like it says, you literally just need to add butter - but that didn't stop me panicking about how to use the electric whisk ("What setting do you have it on?" "Is the mix meant to look like this?" "Am I doing it right?").

It was a really powerful whisk, okay?

Being the blogging basics we are (sorry girls), we all opted for the chocolate cookies with salted caramel sauce, whilst Charlotte took one for the team and made the strawberry and white chocolate version.

As they are described as "thumbprint cookies", we were required to split the mix into 12 balls (another cause of panic for me - how do you separate the mix into 12? Answer, break the mix in half, then quarters; roll into a sausage and split into 3. Voila!) and then press our thumbprint into it.

They were popped into the oven, and in the meantime we made a start on our baking "fakes", which promised to be equally delicious.

Step one, buy a plain (but yummy) Victoria Sponge Cake.

Step two: if you're really lazy, you can buy PRE-PREPARED BUTTERCREAM. I KNOW. It exists.

Dollop a hefty amount on the cake, and using a knife, make figure of eight movements until the icing levels out the top of the cake (I failed on this. Just add more icing and hope for the best).

Step three: the fun part - piping. We pimped our icing with some concentrated food colouring (apparently the watery stuff is a waste of time), making stripes up the piping sleeve and adding more of the good stuff.

It shouldn't surprise you to hear I managed to also mess this up (I unravelled the sleeve fully and then attempted to drop the icing down the length of the plastic, which meant things got messy) BUT despite my faux pas, it came out okay. I feel like there are some serious life lessons to be learned in baking.

My purple-hued rosettes. A bit runny because it was hot in the room!

After this, all rules went out of the window. Step four: It's all about the decoration. We were utterly spoilt with various sprinkles, freeze-dried raspberries, pistachios, even glitter.

I tried not to get too carried away but the glitter just had to be done.

So pretty! So glittery! 

And don't tell me this wouldn't sell well at a coffee morning, because I know it would. And that's how to fake it whilst still making a contribution to charity. So simple, and so much fun.

Here are our efforts.

At this point our cookies were cooked, but they needed to cool for a while.

Mini sandwiches, anyone?

Suitably stuffed full of sandwiches, cake and fizz, it was time to finish our cookies.

The cookie mix comes with two packs of sauce - dreamy - so all we were required to do is snip the corner of the packet and distribute the sauce into the thumbprint pools.

The final part was heating the chocolate sauce - white chocolate for Charlotte, milk chocolate for us - which you can do in the microwave or in boiling water in a mug. Unfortunately the latter didn't work too well for us, so my chocolate was a bit gloopy. But who cares about how they look, really? It's all about the taste.

Oh, and the glitter came out again. This time, GOLD. The aim was to make my salted caramel sauce look like golden pools of delicious and I think I did an okay-ish job...

*So* good.

At this point in the night I was struggling with the fall out of an (undiagnosed at this point, just very painful) muscle spasm in my back, so I had to make a swift exit. But not before thanking the team and Charlotte for a brilliant evening. I never block out time to bake, mainly because I think I'd suck at it, but this evening proved that baking really is accessible to just about anyone.

Macmillan Coffee Morning is on Friday 30th September. Whether you bake something extravagant with all the trimmings or fake it with a ready-made cake, do your bit and get involved. And don't be stingy with the icing, okay?

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