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Posts Tagged ‘cupcakes’

It’s nearly time to go…

I’m finally off to get married in Gozo and then use my honeymoon to eat my way around Sicily. So because I might not be able to post anything for a month I decided to write one final bumper post – a collage of pictures and recipes from the last two weeks of last minute chaos which have stopped me writing all the things I wanted to post on their own.

I did somehow find time in amongst work and wedding preparations to eat a lot of delicious things and even make a few of them myself. So this is my week in pictures…

Roseleaf – Ruby red risotto and a Madhatter!

Great little restaurant down near the docks in Edinburgh which has hats all over the walls, serves cocktails in teapots and produces some seriously good food. The Madhatter cocktail is brilliant!

Cheese and Cherry Scones (adapted from Goodfood magazine)

Not together, a batch of half cheese and the other half cherry. Remember that amazing scone recipe I mentioned…

  • 450g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g cold butter, diced
  • 284ml buttermilk, halved into two portions
  • 2 tbsp milk plus extra for glazing
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g glace cherries, chopped
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and bicarb and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Put half this mixture in another bowl.

For the cheese ones, add the rest of the salt, cheese and paprika. For the cherry ones, add the cherries, sugar and vanilla. Now mix in half the buttermilk and milk into each one and bring together to form a soft dough. Press out on a lightly floured surface to about 2cm thick and cut out with cookie cutters to form rounds. Place on a floured baking tray, brush the tops with milk and bake for 12-15min until golden and risen.

Chocolates, Calissons, Marzipan Fruit & Marron Glacé

A very generous gift of Puyricard Delicacies in return for the cakes I bring in to work when I’m in the mood bake.

Cherry & Coconut Cakes – made these as a birthday cake for Dawn last week

  • 225g butter
  • 225g self  raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 4 tbsp warmed cherry or strawberry jam
  • 100g desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 hole muffin tin. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. add the vanilla. Fold in the flour and chopped cherries and pour into the muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove and turn out on to a wire rack to cool. Dip the tops into the warmed jam and then the coconut.
And last but not least… The Daddy Steak Sandwich
  • 2 large rump steaks
  • 2 long ciabatta rolls
  • 1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1tsp english mustard powder
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2tbsp mayonnaise

Fry the onions and mushrooms together until soft. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue to fry gently until the liquid has evapourated. Season and fry the steak until medium rare (usually a couple of minutes each side, depending on how thick your steak is). Combine the mustards and mayonnaise and spread on both halves of the warmed rolls. Add the steak and top with mushrooms and onions. Ta da!

Speak to you all in a month, wish me luck!

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A wedge of cake or a crumbly biscuit and a hot mug of caffeine to dunk it in can sometimes do wonders to lift the spirits… and if that cake can  raise some money for a charity that helps people who are really in need of a helping hand then the good feeling it brings is multiplied ten fold.

This post began with two biscotti recipes.  Seriously good biscotti recipes… but first I have to show you these cupcakes which were brought in for the comic relief bake sale at work because they really deserve to be given their due, as does the baker who made them.

I had such a horrible week that I didn’t even have time to bake anything this time and any amateur offering I might have touted in the name of charity would have simply paled in comparison so in a way my ego is glad I didn’t (I should point out that the biscotti were long gone by this point, I’m not that selfish).

The cupcakes were made by the wife of one of my colleagues at work, who has her own cake business called Regency Cakes and is clearly an amazing baker. Besides the fact that there were boxes upon boxes of the things, each one was perfectly and professionally formed and identical to its little neighbour so I can only imagine how many hours of sifting, beating, piping and sprinkling must have gone into making them all. I was so impressed and I thought putting so much effort into something with no personal financial gain, deserved a little recognition.

So if you need a cake fix or you just want some inspiration, stop drooling on my blog thank you and go and have a look at Lisa’s website.

Now… onto some other clever bakers.

I found these two biscotti recipes on completely separate internet wanderings but both immediately peaked my interest and when I finally got around to making them I landed up combining both. The first one from Tastefully Done grabbed me because it was so simple and the picture looked so delicious. The second from Yum!Therapy looked a little more complicated ingredient wise but had me sold from the minute I saw the words “lemon” and “white chocolate drizzle” (as you’ll see from the over excited exchange I had in the comments history!). Oddly enough, both recipes were adapted from  Giada De Laurentiis so that must say something about my tastes (and her baking).

A couple of weeks ago I decided I couldnt wait any longer to make the lemon ones but I didnt have any cornmeal in the cupboard or any almonds for that matter. Thankfully the dark chocolate recipe didnt need either so I decided to use that batter recipe and split to make a light and a dark version. I also had some pistachio nuts that were going to land up in the bin and they look so delicious on a dark chocolate background so they filled in for the almonds on one half. As it turns out, the dark ones go really well with coffee and the white chocolate go really well with tea so your dunking needs are covered no matter which beverage you’re in the mood for.

Without further ado, here’s my version of the two recipes combined and ever so slightly tweaked…

Dark Chocolate with Pistachio & White Chocolate with Lemon Biscotti

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 140g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (or 3/4 cup toasted almonds)
  • 140g white chocolate
  • zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 170°C.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, butter, and salt in a large bowl to blend and beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in e thalmond extract. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended.

Split the dough into two and add the lemon zest to one and most of the pistachios to the other (keep a few for sprinkling on the top).  If you are using almonds then add half to each dough or add them before you split it.

Place the two dough balls onto the baking sheets and shape into two flattened logs, about 20cm long and 5cm wide. Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned and cool for 5 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 2cm thick diagonal slices. Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the same baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn off the the oven, but leave the biscotti in for approximately 10 minutes longer. The biscotti should be pale golden. Let cool completely.

Melt the two chocolates in bowls set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts (I did mine one at a time so that the second one could melt while I was using the first). Spatula the dark chocolate on to the tops of the pistachio biscotti and sprinkle with the extra nuts. Leave the lemon biscotti on their sides on the tray and drizzle over the white chocolate. Put them all in the fridge for about half an hour for the chocolate to set and then store in an airtight container (they keep well if you can make them last long enough).

If you have any melted chocolate left over I suggest spreading it out on some kitchen foil and sprinkling over any left over nuts. Set in the fridge and break into shards to use on top of deserts or as a snack when your biscotti run out (they make good writing fuel when you are typing up the results of your baking expedition!).

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I always think about volunteering for a charity in my spare time but I never seem to have any spare time. The one thing I can always find time for though is cooking so I’ve started sticking my hand up when they are looking for volunteers to bake for the charity bake sale at work – the charity gets a small contribution and I get to try out new recipes and polish my halo.

Besides good karma and the warm glow that comes from a successful experiment, I have another recipe to share with the readers of my blog. This week you get chocolate toffee saltines and lemon meringue cupcakes!

For those of you unfamiliar with the saltine, it’s a salted cracker. Something that is normally friends with things like cheese, caviar, smoked salmon… well if these are its friends then chocolate and toffee is its lobster (i.e. soul mate, slightly confused food analogies there). I wish I had discovered ages ago that I could make what amounts to edible heaven, from a few store cupboard ingredients and some left over crackers. I found the recipe during a late night stumble (I should point out I’m not referring to a drunken wander round the cookery section of Waterstones, if you haven’t discovered Stumble already, click here) and although tempting, I didn’t jump straight out of bed but saved the link for my ‘to make’ list and decided to try it out on some charitable work colleagues. The recipe belongs to Lisa of With Style and Grace and was her grandmother’s. Delicious, and so simple – just crackers, butter, sugar and chocolate. This woman is a genius.

The finished product tastes something like a daime bar with a sophisticated hint of saltiness. Rather than clashing as you might imagine, the hint of salt is just brings out the flavour of the toffee and the chocolate in a way that’s difficult to describe. You just need to make these and you’ll understand.

I had no need to adapt or fiddle with Lisa’s recipe so if you are sensible enough to want to make them yourself just click on the link to her blog where you will find all the details (and a much better photo than mine of the finished biscuits, in case mine was making you wonder what all the fuss was about).

The second recipe is my own, although I was a little dejected to discover that I’m not the first person to think up the idea of a lemon meringue pie turned into a cupcake. Although I wont be able to trademark the first LMC, I’m still very proud of the result and I like to think mine have a little edge. In my humble opinion, the edge comes from…

a) a layer of home made lemon curd sandwiched between the lemon cupcake and the meringue, which oozes deliciously into the sponge and

b) a toasted caramel finish on the meringue by attacking the finished cakes with a blow torch to get the same effect as baking the pie in the oven.

If you have a love of cakes (i.e. you are human) and you have a love of lemons then I can  recommend these babies.

Home-made Lemon Curd

  • 75g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 230g caster sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons and a pinch of zest

Melt the butter in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Lightly beat the eggs and whisk into the butter (I take the butter off the heat while I do this to avoid scrambled eggs). Whisk in the sugar and then slowly whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Cook over the simmering water for about 20 min until the curd thickens, stirring often. Pour into a jar and cool before using.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Sponge

  • 225g butter
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons (minus a pinch for the curd!)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour and lemon zest and pour into lined muffin tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 min until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Meringue frosting

(this version turned out to be fluffier and richer in flavour than the one I used for my gingerbread latte cupcakes so I’m afraid the last one gets the boot)

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups castor sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put egg whites, sugar, water and syrup in a heat proof bowl and beat until mixed well. Place over a pan of boiling water and beat constantly with an electric beater while it cooks for about 7 min or until it will stand in peaks when the beater is raised. Remove from the heat and beat in the vanilla.

Spread each cupcake with lemon curd (to cram in extra curd, hollow out the top of the cupcake with a knife and pour the curd into the hole) and then pipe the meringue on top. Use a blow torch to gently caramelise the frosting and serve.

Ta da!

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If Christmas had a smell, it would smell like a gingerbread latte.

I wait all year for the red cups to arrive in Starbucks so I can finally get my paws on a gingerbread latte and when they disappear in January I go into a prolonged period of mourning. This year I started thinking about buying the syrup so I could make my own at home all year round but I decided it would take some of the sparkle out of the whole thing, like chaining up Santa on the roof and forcing him down the chimney every weekend.

While I was pondering this criminal master plan, I came up with the idea of making a gingerbread latte cup cake instead. One that would pay tribute to the original drink in its different elements, but translated into an edible cake that would happily go side by side with a normal old cup of coffee on an un-christmassy and dreary afternoon. So although its already February and very nearly March, I decided it wasnt too late to try out my fiendish idea and since I was blessed with a bout of gastric flu last week that left me on a diet of rich tea biscuits for several days (a poor substitute for the South African Marie biscuit but I had to make do), I thought I deserved a treat to celebrate my return to normal food.

The basic elements of the gingerbread latte are coffee, ginger, whipped cream and caramel sauce. I decided my cupcakes didnt need the coffee element as despite the name, coffee is not the main flavour of the drink that I love so the cupcake is a fairly standard ginger sponge. I wanted something more special than whipped cream as the frosting so I’ve used a vanilla meringue frosting instead, drizzled with caramel sauce and a dusting of grated nutmeg, which is the final end note of the latte itself. I’ll play around with the recipe each time I make it to make sure I’ve tested every potential improvement but in the meantime, here’s my de-constructed gingerbread latte for those of you who are suffering from the post Christmas blues…

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar (or plain castor sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, mix together flour,spices, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter and then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk in three batches, beating until smooth.

Pour the batter into the paper liners and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Meringue frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Boil sugar and water over heat to soft ball stage (120°C). Meanwhile beat egg whites to stiff peaks in a large bowl. Slowly pour syrup into egg whites beating constantly and then beat until smooth and stiff enough to spread (the bowl should no longer feel hot). Pipe onto the cupcakes and drizzle with caramel sauce (for the recipe see my last post). Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg and serve!

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Inside Out Snow Cakes

I have lived in Scotland for six years and before that I had only seen snow as a texture-less white cap on very far away mountains… so in snow years I am only six years old.

If you have ever been in snow more than a foot deep and you haven’t tried running full pelt and launching yourself on to your back or tummy, I seriously recommend it. You can get bored of making snow men but you can’t get bored of the arctic belly flop.

Having said that, the novelty of wading through it all to try to get to work is wearing off. I baked some inside out fairy cakes on Sunday which I was planning to feed to everyone at work as part of my avoid-eating-them-all-myself tactic but when I opened the front door on Monday and realised that the only way I was going to get to work by car was write to Santa and borrow his reindeer to tow it there, I decided lugging a massive bag full of cake boxes on foot wasn’t such a smart idea. So because I suddenly had a surplus of cake and no means of distributing them I decided to sacrifice a couple in the name of art and take them out into the snow for some pictures.

As luck would have it Julia Parsons of Slice of Cherry Pie decided to have a Snow Day Bake off at the same time so I’m submitting them to the bake off as well as you cant get more into a theme than this! The cakes are inside out cakes because the icing is on the inside rather than the top. I like the idea that you can add any flavour to the sponge and fill them with anything, depending on the occasion. I flavoured the cakes with coconut and a hint of cinnamon this time because they go so well with strawberry and chocolate. I stuck to butter cream icing and some cherry jam because they needed to keep (and I had strawberry butter cream and chocolate and orange butter cream in the freezer looking for a home) but if I had been serving them straight away I would have tried whipped cream and jam or fruit which I think would be delicious – feel free to try out some ideas and let me know if they work.

I have also been trying out some tricks to make the cup cakes rise with rounded tops which you do need for this recipe to really work (conversely, flatter tops are better if you are going to pipe icing in a swirl). These are the things I think helped finally produce a suitably voluptuous cup cake:

  • Fill the papers or tin holes 3/4 full so that they have enough surface area to climb up when they are rising
  • Start the oven on 190°C for about 7 min and then turn down and finish at 160°C
  • Don’t over beat the batter (I used a wooden spoon instead of the electric blender this time)
  • Don’t over fill the oven – the baby cup cakes I put on the bottom shelf to finish up the batter didn’t rise anything like the ones on the top

Overall I think the climbing room is the trick that has the most effect.

Inside Out Cakes

Cake sponge

  • 1 and 2/3 cup cake flour (385ml)
  • 250g castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs separated and 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup butter (114g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Filling

  • roughly 1 cups of strawberry butter cream icing (see my strawberry cupcakes post for a recipe)
  • roughly 1 cup of chocolate butter cream icing (see my chocolate cake post for a recipe)
  • 6 tsp black cherry jam
  • 3 tsp desiccated coconut
  • icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease a 12 hole muffin tin (I did this instead of using muffin papers and they seemed to rise better, as long as your tin is deep enough). You might need a second tin depending on the size of yours (I got 6 extra small cupcakes out of my batter which I just iced normally and topped with coconut).

Beat the butter sugar and vanilla essence with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until creamy (you could use an electric beater for this bit but I was too lazy to wash mine for the egg whites so I just stuck to the spoon, good for the bingo wings too). Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Add half the flour then half the milk and gently combine. Repeat with the other half but don’t over beat. Now fold in the cinnamon and coconut or any other flavourings you are adding.

Beat the egg whites in a separate clean bowl until they form soft peaks and then fold into the batter. Fill the muffin tin holes 3/4 full and place in the oven for 7 min. Then turn the oven down and bake for another 13-18 min until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack and then cut the tops off with a bread knife as carefully as you can. Pipe or spread the strawberry icing on to half, sprinkle with coconut and put the lids back on. For the other half, spread with cherry jam, top with the chocolate icing and then replace the lid (if you are trying whipped cream instead then I think cherry jam topped with whipped cream and grated chocolate would be even better). Dust them all with icing sugar and serve!

Or get your wellies on and go trundling round the garden with them taking pictures in the snow.

Warning: your  neighbours will look at you very strangely.

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Strawberry Happiness

If these cup cakes don’t make you happy, whether you are making them or eating them, its official…you have no soul.

To all those of you who do have a soul and want the recipe, you can get the cake recipe here and the icing recipe here. It turns out the recipe actually makes just shy of 50 cupcakes (they must have bigger muffin papers in America – I had to force feed my friends at work to get rid of them all) so I emerged from the kitchen about 4 hours later, having baked in batches and lovingly iced each one. By the way, this is made slightly less laborious if you use a spatula to trowel the icing on.

Warning: consistent accidental ingestion of icing during application causes extreme nausea.

I’m fairly sure the butter cream icing is lethal in large doses but the cupcakes are really light and fluffy because of the whipped egg whites, even with the little chunks of gooey strawberry through them and because its real strawberry and not flavouring they are a bit more grown up than your average strawberry cupcake. Mine don’t look as sophisticated as Huy’s but I didn’t use the whipped icing on his recipe because I knew it wouldnt keep long enough to eat all the cupcakes so I chose the Martha Stewart one instead for this batch (yes I used a Martha Stewart recipe, I am officially a nerd. Delia next).

Enjoy ♥

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