Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Red, White and Blue Cupcakes

Apologies, I have been a very bad blogger recently. I have lots to catch up on so there will be a few short posts to come.

A while ago I blogged about my first foodie pen pal package. Elisabeth Bell at Everyday Yummy send me a wonderful array of goodies amonst which were some union jack mini cupcake cases. I had a week off following the jubilee weekend so in true patriotic style I decided to make red, white and blue mini cupcakes.

I made a red velvet cakes and cream cheese frosting which swirled some blue food colouring into. And there I had it: some bite-sized jubilee celebrations which disappeared rather quickly!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Happy Birthday!

I was quite excited when I realised that my birthday would fall on a Friday this year – I thought the whole weekend would be all me ! Then my dad booked for us all to go to West Wales to see puffins for my mum’s 50th birthday. On my birthday weekend. I’m not going to lie, I felt a little bit like my thunder was being stolen but still it would be a nice weekend full of yummy food that I wouldn’t be paying for! Then I found out that I would have to leave the house at 7.30 on my birthday in order to make the 5 hour train journey to Fishguard. I was not happy.

Seeing as I would be away for the weekend I decided to have a casual dinner with a few friends on the Thursday night. I love Brixton village and have been wanting to try French and Grace for a while. It is a tiny restaurant (I think there are just three tables inside) which started it’s life as a supper club by the girls behind The Salad Club. The special (a barley risotto with blue cheese) sounded delicious but I had been looking forward to houmous and halloumi! We shared mezze to start with which (I think) consisted of houmous, baba ghanoush, a yoghurt dip and a carrot and beetroot salad all served with flat breads. Almost everyone then had an uber wrap (halloumi and merguez sausage) which were stuffed with the same salad. They were delicious (not quite a Magic Wrap but nothing is!) and very filling.

I have to say I think we made a mistake having the mezze then the wraps as it was essentially the same thing twice. If When I go again I think I’ll have the mezze with lamb and whatever special they have on. The restaurant is unlicensed but you can bring your own alcohol for £1.50 each which helped to make it a fairly inexpensive evening (not that I paid – well it was my birthday-ish!)

We then went back to our flat for drinks and birthday cake. I had considered not making a cake as I thought it was very sad to make your own birthday cake but was told in no unceratin terms that I had to as no-one else was going to make me one! So, since it is never a chore for me, I provided cake.

I'm a big fan of the Great British Bake Off and I remember marvelling at the patterned sponge on Mary-Anne's mousse cake. I am not a fan of mousse cake but I thought this sponge was amazing and must be the result of some sort of magic. I follow Mary-Anne on twitter so I took a look at her blog and found the recipe for the cake. It turns out it was a joconde sponge and the pattern was made with a joconde paste. The paste is made from butter, icing sugar, egg whites and flour. The pattern is piped onto greased baking paper on the bottom of the cake tin and then put in the freezer to harden. Cake is then poured over the pste and baked. I felt that piping 'Happy Birthday' on my own cake might be taking it too far and seeing as my friends have been known to forget my real name, I piped my nickname 'Millers'. My housemate then pointed out that it was wierd that I'd piped my own name on my cake but I decided I didn't care and wanted to try it out.

I didn't colour the paste and used red velvet cake for the sponge. It all went well except that I lost the 'r' to the baking paper which clearly wasn't greased well enough. I decided to make a three layered cake with thin layers of red velvet at the top and bottom and vanilla sponge in the middle. The layers were sandwiches together and sides covered with a baileys buttercream that I coloured red.

I wanted to wrap the side of the cake with a sheet of chocolate so I melted plain and white chocolate and using a piping bag and small nozzle drizzled onto a long piece of greased baking paper. I left it to cool and was hoping to wrap it round the cake using the buttercream to hold it in place. Unsurprisingly this didn't work, I'm not sure whether it would have worked if I'd done it whilst the chocolate was warm or if it was doomed from the start. In the end I broke it up into pieces and used them to cover the sides of the cake. The result was this:

The only thing that was going to get me up at 6.30am on my birthday was the promise of a delicious breakfast so I had a bit of a picnic planned. I am definitely a breakfast person and NEVER leave the house without tea and breakfast. Doing so makes me very moody and irritable as my boyfriend discovered havignm arrived at Paddington after only one mug of tea and nothing to eat. We bought coffees and a pastry to share which was devoured within seconds of settling down on the train. Onmce we were moving I cracked open the cava and we tucked into oat cakes, cream cheese and smoked salmon (me)/pancetta (him). Feeling much better but unable to finish the cava so early, we hen slept for the remainder of the journey!

I recieved a wonderful array of cooking and baking goodies for my birthday:

Can't wait to use them all - I've have already been pestling in my mortar!

Sorry this is quite a long waffly post and not really about baking - back to nomral soon I promise!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cake Pops

I am not very good at sticking to recipes but I have been trying to writing them down and post them a) because people had said they would like to see recipes on the blog and b) because it helps me when I make a recipe again. However when it came to these I'm afraid it was very much a case of chuck it all in and see what happens.

I have seen cake pops 'popping' up everywhere but not given them a go yet. I had some cakes leftover from various things which weren't going to get eaten and some buttercream from where I'd overestimated quite how many mini cupcakes I needed to make and I thought this would be a good way of transforming it all into something more special. I crumbled the cake (mainly red velvet with one cucumber cake) into a bowl. I then added the buttercream (I used cream cheese frosting because that's what I had leftover) and mixed until it all stuck together. It's probably worth adding the frosting a bit at a time until you get the right consistency - you want it to stick together but not be too sloppy. Now put the bowl in the fridge and leave it for 30mins - 1 hr (longer is fine).

I then melt chocolate and dipped in the ends of the sticks (I didn't have lolly stick so used kebab ones)then left to cool/set. I moulded the cake mixture into balls and push the sticks into the balls. I think my mixture was a bit too sloppy so I put the pops in the freezer to set. Once firm I dipped the cake pops in the melted chocolate so that they were covered. Let the chocolate set and voila!

They went down very well but are extremely sweet! I think next time I would use plain chocolate to counter the sweetness. A lot of recipes use candy melts - I don't really know what these are to be honest but can't help thinking they must make them even sweeter.

Next I need to practise decorating the cake pops!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Brix Mix Market

I enjoyed the Brixton Bake Off so much that I signed up for the next one off market. Unfortnately it happened to be that ridiculously hot weekend we had - you know the one right before the heaven's emptied for the Jubilee?! The ice cream weather sent me into a bit of a panic about my butter icing so I put it in the fridge for a bit before icing the cupcakes. By doing this and keeping the cupcakes in the shade the icing held together surprisingly well.

This time I went for boozy cupcakes, wheat-free brownies, flapjack and bakewell tarts. I've already blogged about the flapjack so I'll skip that here.

Rum and Ginger Beer Cupcakes 

These were so popular at the Bake Off that I decided to make them again (plus I had some rum in the cupboard!)I found the ginger beer cupcake recipe on raspberriecupcakes blog and added a bit more ginger as I wanted it to have a real kick. It is a great recipe and produces very moist cakes - make sure you use proper fiery ginger beer as opposed to American style ginger ale.

200g/7oz light brown sugar
125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
2 eggs
250g/8.75oz self raising flour
2 tsp ground ginger
250ml ginger beer

Preheat the oven to 160C. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well mixed. Add 1/3 of the ginger beer and stir well. Sift 1/4 of the flour anf ginger and fold into the mixture. Repeat until all the ingredients are well combined. Divide the mixture betwen 12 large cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden on top.
* Test whether the cupcakes are done by inserted a skewer or knife into the centre if it comes out clean they are ready to come out of the oven. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Rum and Lime Frosting:
3oz/85g butter
11oz/310g icing sugar
juice of one lime

Sift 250g of the icing into a large bowl and cream with the butter with the back of a wooden spoon. Use an electric whisk to whisk for a few minutes. Sift in the remaining icing sugar, add the lime juice and whisk further. If needed add more icing sugar until firm enough to pipe.

Baileys Cupcakes
I started baking with baileys a while ago and it always goes down well!

8oz/225g self-raising flour
6oz/170g caster sugar
6oz/170g unsalted butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of Baileys

Preheat the oven to 160C. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egss one at a time. Sift the flour and fold into the mixture. Add the Baileys and stir until well combined. Divide the mixture between 12 large cupcake cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden on top.
* Test whether the cupcakes are done by inserted a skewer or knife into the centre if it comes out clean they are ready to come out of the oven. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

3oz/85g butter
11oz/300g icing sugar
2 tablespoons Baileys

Sift 250g of the icing into a large bowl and cream with the butter with the back of a wooden spoon. Use an electric whisk to whisk for a few minutes. Sift in the remaining icing sugar, add the Baileys and whisk further. If needed add more icing sugar until firm enough to pipe.

Gluten-free Brownies

This is a Nigella recipe that I started making because my Mum and Grandma are gliten intolerant but then I realised that it is one of the best brownie recipes ever - gluten free or not! They are very gooey and need to be baked slowly and left to cool completely. Below is the basic recipe but they are best with walnuts/cherries/whatever's in the cupboard added.

8oz/225g dark chocolate
8oz/225g butter
2tsp vanilla extract
7oz/200g caster sugar
3 eggs
5.3oz/150g ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 160C and grease a baking tin. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the vannila essence and sugar.Leave the mixture to cool a little before beating in the eggs. Fold in the ground almonds and nuts/cherries if using. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is set. Turn off the oven and leave the brownie until the oven has cooled. Remove the brownie from the oven and leave until completely cool until cutting up and enjoying with from fresh strawberries :)

Bakewell Tart

This was by far my best seller - it seems people love a traditional bake! I used Mary Berry's rich shortcrust pastry and I rolled it thinly. I think three batches did about 20 tarts using 8cm (base measurement) tins.

175g/6oz plain flour
15g/1/2oz icing sugar
75g/3oz diced butter
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture is like breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and water and mix well until you have a firm dough. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for about 30 mins.

4.5oz/125g butter, softened
4.5oz/125g caster sugar
2 eggs
4.5oz/125g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time then fold in the almonds and flour. Mix together well.

Other ingredients:
Raspberry jam
Flaked almonds
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry very thinly and cut into the vague sizes of the tins you are using. Grease the tins with butter. Place the pastry in the tin and press into the tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and trim the edges with a knife. Place baking paper over the pastry and fill with copper coins. Bake for about five minutes then remove from the oven. Take the coins and baking paper out of the cases. Spread a layer of raspberry jam in each pastry case then divide the frangipane between them. Sprinkle each tart with a few flaked almonds and brush the edges of the tart with beaten egg. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

To find out more about Brixton Markets visit

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Homemade by Fleur Jubilee Baking Competition

With all the excitement surrounding this weekend celebrations, there has been many a jubilee baking competition or challenge popping up over the past couple of months. I am entering this post into the Homemade by Fleur Jubilee Baking Competition - Homemade by Fleur is on of my favourite blogs and you can find out more about the competition here. It is sponsored by Appliances Online

I have seen many wonderful jubilee creations on blogs and twitter; red, white and blue cupcakes, macarons and even battenberg! I wanted to step away from the union jack theme however and focus on the ingredients - something that would scream 'British' in some way. Unfortunately when I started brainstorming I seemed to come up with a lot of fish and chips, roast beef and shepherd's pie! I had the idea of incorporating a traditional ingredient from each of British nations but in the end I decided to go with something a bit simpler.

My recipe is inspired by afternoon tea, the Queen herself and my own love of a good cuppa! As such it definitely represents England more than Britain but the Queen is English so that's ok right? I really wanted to make something that I'd never seen or eaten before. I love afternoon tea and really wanted to use that idea in some way so I came up with the rather cliched idea of Tea and Cucumber Cake. Obviously taken from our supposed love of tea and cucumber sandwiches and on this occasion and I happy to satisfy this stereotypical image of us!

This post and bake has been a long time coming and I did a bit of an experiment with the cakes - should they be sweet, minty, have a citrus twang? And how the get the tea flavour into the frosting?

Originally I didn't want to make cupcakes but once I'd settled on this recipe the only way to serve the cake was in tea cups! To keep the flavour of the tea I made the icing thinner than I would usually and poured int onto the cake to replicate a nice cup of tea - finished with a white chocolate crown and mini teaspoon!

So here is my recipe and final creation:

Cucumber cakes

6oz butter
6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
9oz flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large cucumber, peeled and grated

Preheat oven to 160C. Cream the sugar and butter. Beat in the two eggs and add the vanilla extract. Fold in the sifted flour. Drain the water from the cucumber by pressing it through a seive. Pat dry with kitchen paper and stir in until well mixed. Divide the mixture between well greased tea cups and bake for 30 mins or until golden on top.

Tea icing

6oz butter
loose tea
500g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the loose tea and continue to heat for a few minutes. Seive the mixture in a bowl to remove the tea and allow the butter to cool. Using a different seive (or clean and dry the same one) sift the icing sugar into the butter and whisk. Add the milk and continue to whisk. Add tea/more icing sugar until you get the desired consistency and taste (can be quite running but the taste will depend on how strong your tea is)

White chocolate decorations

100g white chocolate

Break up the chocolate into sqaures. Melt half the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until it is all melted. Allow to cool a bit but whilst it is still runny and pipable pour the chocolate into a piping bag with a small round nozzle. Pipe the patterns onto baking parchment (if it helps you can draw the patterns on the back and trace over them) and put in the fridge to cool and harden.

The cucumber was obviously not a strong taste but it made the sponge very moist and had quite a light taste. This was contrasted by the sweet tea icing which really made me feel I was having a cuppa! Overall I was happy with the cakes, especially as I created the recipe from scratch and was pleasantly surprised with how well the crowns turned out.