Spiced pumpkin cakes decorated to look like a quaint toadstool house set in its own plot of land.
Equipment and preparation: for this recipe you will need a giant cupcake mould, a grass piping nozzle, a 1cm/½in plain piping nozzle, piping bag, small paint brushes and a large presentation board.
350ml/12fl oz rapeseed oil, plus extra for greasing
350g/12oz light muscavado sugar
6 large free-range eggs
280g/10oz grated cinderella pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and grated
1½ tbsp stem ginger in syrup, chopped
350g/12oz self-raising flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1½ tsp ground ginger
65g/2¼oz chopped shelled walnuts
500g/1lb 2oz white sugarpaste, for modelling and covering the board
gel food colouring in brown, red, blue, yellow, orange, green and black
liquorice pebbles (available online)
50g/1¾oz cocoa nibs
2 tbsp cocoa powder
500g/1lb 2oz marzipan
500g/1lb 2oz ready-to-roll fondant icing
500g/1lb 2oz royal icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
edible wafer butterflies (available online or from cake decorating shops)
Grease both parts of the giant cupcake mould with a little oil and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking between each addition until combined. Stir in the grated pumpkin and stem ginger. Sift in the flour and fold until combined. Fold in the salt, bicarbonate of soda, spices, raisins and walnuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake moulds and bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150C/275F/Gas 2 and bake for a further 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
For the buttercream, beat the spread and maple syrup together in a bowl until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth and completely incorporated. If required, add a teaspoon of hot water to loosen the mix. Set aside until ready to use.
Take half of the sugarpaste and add green colouring. Knead until the colour is even then roll it out and cover the presentation board. Make small lily pads with any trimmings.
Take a third of the remaining sugarpaste and add a little brown food colouring. Knead to work the colour evenly through the paste to make a light-brown colour. Shape the paste into a 5x6cm/2x2½in door, a 4½x6cm/2x2½in picnic table, stools and logs. Use the tip of a knife to mark a wood grain effect on the models and paint with food colouring to enhance the effect. Any remaining brown sugarpaste can be used to make lintels that sit above the windows on the toadstool house.
Knead in a drop of red and blue colouring into a small piece of sugarpaste to make an even purple colour for the windows. Mould into 3x4cm/1x1½in windows. Set aside.
Use the remaining sugarpaste to make a yellow pathway, a blue pond and a picnic with sandwiches, plates and other picnic paraphernalia to go on top of the sugarpaste table.
Place the path and pond on the presentation board (leaving room for the cake). Place liquorice pebbles around the edge of the pond. Mark out an area for vegetable beds and fill with cocoa nibs and cocoa to resemble soil. Use the sugarpaste to make orange pumpkins and flowers to sit in the vegetable patch.
Place the picnic table to one side of the presentation board and arrange the plates and picnic paraphernalia on it.
When the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and set aside for five minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove from the tins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
When the cakes are completely cool, use the marzipan to fill in the ridges in the sides of the cake base and create a smooth finish ready to apply the final layer of icing.
Cover the other cake with a smooth coat of buttercream for the roof of the toadstool house.
Add enough water to the royal icing to make a smooth, spreadable paste. Spoon a small amount into a piping bag with a 1cm/½in plain nozzle attached.
Roll out half of the fondant icing into a piece large enough to cover the base of the toadstool. Drape the icing over the base and use your fingers to smooth it into shape. Trim any excess icing and place the cake on the presentation board.
Use the royal icing to fix the windows, doors and lintels to the base.
To decorate the top/roof of the toadstool house, colour any remaining fondant icing red, roll it out as before and use it to cover the roof.
Rub the vegetable shortening between your hands to warm and soften it. Spread it over the rolled red icing to create a sheen. Sprinkle with edible glitter.
Pipe a small amount of royal icing on the top of the toadstool base to help the roof stay in place, then carefully lift the roof into position. Use any leftover fondant icing from the base to make small circles to decorate the roof with. Attach to the roof using royal icing.
Colour the remaining royal icing green and use the grass piping attachment to create a grass effect around the base of the toadstool.
Decorate the scene with edible wafer butterflies.
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The bakers create pithiviers, fondant fancies and chiffon sponges in their final tests.
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