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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam filling and Buttercream icing

There’s absolutely nothing new or fancy about these, just my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, but they’re a great basic to have up your sleeve (not literally, they’re better in your belly).  They’re always popular and the jam filling gives them a bit of a Victoria Sponge quality. The recipe makes 12 generously sized cupcakes, so be sure to use muffin cases rather than standard cupcake cases.

Vanilla Cupcakes with a Raspberry Jam filling

For the cupcakes:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180C and prep a 12 hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat in an egg then some of the flour, then another egg and more flour, followed by the last egg and what’s left of the flour and the baking powder, mixing until everything is incorporated. Finally add the milk and give the cake batter a final mix. Divide the mix evenly between the 12 muffin cases (an ice cream scoop is really helpful if you have one – makes it easy to get the same amount in each case) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, a skewer comes out clean or they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; it’s important to quickly take them out of the muffin tray to cool as otherwise the paper cases can peel away from the cakes.

For the filling/icing:

  • about 12 tsp raspberry jam (about 120g but it all depends on how big you make the holes)
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes are cool, hollow out centre so you’re left with a hole that goes to about half way down the cake. You can easily do this with a teaspoon, or there are cupcake ‘corers’ on the market (I have one, but only because my mum bought me one, I was quite happy with the teaspoon method so don’t rush out to buy one). Fill the holes with the jam – I find this easiest with two teaspoons, using one to scrape the jam from the other and guide it into the hole.

Put the softened butter in a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. I’m not normally a stickler for sifting, but it does help with icing sugar as it can get a but lumpy. You need to mix the butter and icing sugar until creamy, but I wouldn’t suggest using an electric hand mixer until you’ve given them a bit of a mix with a wooden spoon first – otherwise you and your kitchen are likely to look like you’ve had an accident in a cocaine plant. Once you’ve got the butter and sugar basically combined, add the vanilla and have at it with the electric whisk. My best tip for making brilliant buttercream icing is to whisk it for longer than you think you need to. When you think it’s done, keep going for a few more minutes. If you keep whisking it becomes light, fluffy and whipped like the kind of icing you’d get in a top notch bakery or cake shop. Use a palatte knife to generously ice your cupcakes; put a big dollop on top of the jam filling and then spread it out to cover the whole of the top of the cake. Or if your any good with a piping bag you can do it that way. There are loads of tutorials online about how to ice cakes, they all explain it far better than I can here; the only way to get good at it is to practice and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a ‘rustic’ looking cupcake. I like to add a bit of edible glitter, but you might want to go for some sprinkles or just leave plain.

You could use this recipe to make smaller cupcakes if you don’t have a muffin pan or muffin cases, but be sure to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so.

Vanilla Cupcakes, filled with Raspberry Jam

Vanilla Cupcakes filled with raspberry jam, prior to being topped with buttercream icing

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Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Moist and sticky Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

One of my favourite things in the world is salted caramel. If you haven’t tried it, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. It’s like normal caramel but the salt intensifies the flavour and makes it less sickly sweet. Whenever I’m shopping I’m constantly on the look out for all things salted caramel flavoured, or just caramel products that I can add salt to. Waitrose came up trumps in the caramel stakes recently, where I bought Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel (caramel spread that I have to use every ounce of will power to not eat straight from the jar) and Vahine Nappage Caramel (a liquid caramel sauce), both of which I’ve used in this recipe. If you can’t find caramel syrup, substitute golden syrup; you can easily replace the caramel spread with Carnation Caramel which is widely available.

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Ingredients:

  • 150g butter
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp liquid caramel or golden syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 large eating apples (I used Pink Lady)
  • 3 heaped tbsp caramel
  • couple of large pinches sea salt

Heat oven to 170C and grease and line the base of a 9″ loose bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter, sugars, liquid caramel or golden syrup and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg, followed by half the flour then the second egg and the remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon and one large pinch of salt. Add the milk and give it another mix until smooth. Grate one of the apples into the mix, stirring until everything is well combined.

Finely slice the second apple and arrange the slices in a circle on the base of your prepared tin (you might find any little off cuts useful for covering the middle of the pan). Dollop the caramel in the centre of your tin and spread out a little with a spatula – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reach the edge of tin at all as it will spread as it heats in the oven. Sprinkle the remaining pinch of sea salt over the caramel and apples in the tin, then spoon the cake mix on top and smooth it out so everything is well covered. Try and spread more of the cake mix towards the edges of the tin so there’s a bit of a dip in the centre – what is currently the top of the cake will become the bottom so you want to compensate for it rising more in the middle so it’s as flat as possible once cooked. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until golden brown. You can tell the cake is done as it will be coming away from the edge of the tin and will spring back when you press it lightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

To serve, turn out of the tin and invert on to your serving plate, being very careful to keep your apples in place when you remove the base. I had lots of gooey, caramel goodness left on my greaseproof so I scraped it off and smeared it back on the middle of the cake – don’t want to waste any! I must also confess that as I like my salted caramel on the heavily salted side, I sprinkled just a little more on the cake just before serving.

This is particularly nice served with a dollop of cold cream or Greek yogurt, or you could warm a few tablespoons of caramel and use that as a pouring sauce.

Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

It starts as the top, but then becomes the bottom of Upside Down Apple and Caramel Cake

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam and Whipped Cream

Family lunch today, and I usually take some kind of cake with me (mainly because I like feeding cake to my nephews). I’ve been a bit obsessed with fruity bakes lately, particularly peaches (see my previous recipe for Peach & Blueberry Swiss Roll) and with the addition of some oranges that were knocking about the fruit bowl having seen better days, here’s what I came up with:

Orange Sponge with Peach Jam

For the jam:

  • 5 peaches
  • 150g caster sugar

Prepare your peaches by scoring a cross in the skin at the top or bottom of the peach. Blanch in boiling water for about 20-30 seconds, then take them out; the skin should peel away very easily, but don’t worry if there are a few flecks left on the flesh. Remove the stones, then squish the flesh through your fingers into a medium sized saucepan, along with the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring regularly to make sure your jam isn’t sticking to the pan. Boil vigorously for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it all the time. Check if it’s done by putting a teaspoon sized amount on a cool plate, leaving it for a minute and then running your finger through it – when it has become jam it should ‘wrinkle’ and it won’t run down the plate when tilted. Place in a clean bowl to cool, transferring to the fridge until needed. If you have any left after topping your cake, store it in sterilised jam jars.

For the orange sponge:

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g self raising flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2 oranges
  • 300ml double cream (for serving)

Heat your oven to 175C and grease and line the base of a 9″ spring form cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in one egg, followed by about a third of the flour, then the next egg and more flour and finally the third egg and last of the flour and baking powder. Finely grate in the rind of both oranges, then add the juice of just one. Make sure everything is mixed well, pour into the cake tin and smooth down with a spatula, bake for 20-25 mins until golden. It’s done when the sponge is starting to come away from the sides, it springs back when lightly pressed, or a skewer comes out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

A few minutes before you’re ready to serve, lightly whip the double cream until it’s just sticking to the whisk; be careful not to over-whip as it starts to become butter which is not what you’re trying to achieve! Put the sponge on a serving plate, top with the softly whipped cream and finish with the peach jam.

Strawberry Milkshake Blondies

Strawberry Milkshake Blondies

Strawberry Milkshake Blondies with White Chocolate Chunks

I’ve been wanting to bake something strawberry milkshake flavour for ages. Today, I did it. I had half a punnet of strawberries in the fridge, some milkshake powder and white chocolate in the cupboard so I settled on blondies. Today the sun is shining (for once) and I’m going to take these little bites of summer to a barbeque.

Strawberry Milkshake Blondies

Ingredients:

  • 200g strawberries chopped into chunks
  • 200g butter (plus a little for greasing)
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 3 tbsp strawberry milkshake powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 150g caster sugar (plus 1 tbsp for the strawberries)
  • 200g plain flour

Heat the oven to 170C and butter and line a tin (approx 25x22cm) with greaseproof paper. Warm the strawberry chunks and tablespoon of sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is just melted and the strawberries are beginning to release their juices. Remove from the heat and set to one side.

Melt the butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add the milkshake powder and 100g of the white chocolate and stir until everything is melted and combined (it might separate a bit on standing but don’t worry). Turn off the heat.

In a large bowl whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and fluffy. Using a spatula, stir in the flour and melted butter/chocolate mixture until everything is well combined. Pour into the prepared tin. Chop the remaining chocolate into chunks and scatter over the surface of the brownie batter. Follow by scattering the strawberry chunks, reserving as much of the juice as possible. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes – they’re done when brown on top but still a little gooey if you insert a skewer. Remove from the oven and drizzle over the remaining few spoons of strawberry juice. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out and chopping into squares.

Gluten-Free Shortbread

Gluten-Free Shortbread

Buttery, crumbly gluten-free shortbread

Today, the very lovely Alice came to help me improve my blog (yes, this one you’re reading) as she is a whizz with all things wordy and bloggy. To show my appreciation for generously taking time out of her day off, I made her some shortbread. Alice’s is the queen of gluten-free (she’s editor of The Gluten-Free Dining Guide) so I made GF shortbread, but you could substitute normal plain wheat flour for the rice flour if you’re not bothered about sticking to a gluten-free diet. Keep the corn flour though, as it helps give your biscuits a short, crumbly texture.

Gluten-free shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 100g corn flour
  • 160g rice flour
  • 175g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together the sugar and flours. Add the butter and rub together with your fingers tips until you’re beginning to get a breadcrumb texture, then add the vanilla and continue to mix and squeeze the mixture until it all comes together as a ball. Roll your dough into a sausage about 2 inches in diameter, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper. Take your chilled biscuit dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Use a sharp knife to cut into discs about 1cm thick and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Make sure you leave some space in between as they will spread a bit. Chill the biscuits again for about 20 minutes whilst you heat your oven to 150C. Bake for 15-25 minutes (it will depend on the size/thickness of your biscuits how long they take), they should be a pale golden colour when done. Allow to cool on the tray as they’ll be soft when you first take them out of the oven. You can either leave them plain, dust with icing sugar or even drizzle them with melted chocolate!

Classic Rocky Road

Home made Rocky Road

Rocky Road – delicious!

There are tons of versions of this and you can customise it to add or leave out whatever ingredients you fancy (apart from maybe the chocolate!) so that it’s got all your favourite tea-time treats in. Generally it’s always a mix of chocolate, broken biscuits and marshmallows – the lumpy appearance when everything is combined giving it the famous name.

Classic Rocky Road

Ingredients:

  • 300g chocolate (I prefer a mix of dark and milk, but either of those on their own would be just fine)
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tbsps golden syrup
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 75g raisins
  • 100g mini marshmallows

Line a 20cm square pan with greaseproof paper (it doesn’t matter if your pan is a little bigger or smaller). Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup together in bowl over simmering water; it’s important not to melt chocolate too quickly so stick to a low heat.

Meanwhile, break your biscuits into pieces into another bowl and add the raisins. Once the chocolate and butter mixture is melted and glossy, pour it over the biscuits and raisins. Use a spatula to scrape all the chocolate from the melting bowl into the biscuit bowl, then stir everything together until everything is coated. Lastly add the marshmallows – this way they won’t melt too much in the warm chocolate. Tip the chocolaty mixture into the prepared tin and use your spatula to press everything firmly into the corners, levelling off the mix; you’ll be left with a lovely ‘rocky’ surface. Chill in the fridge until set, a couple of hours should do it if you can’t wait any longer. Remove from the tin, peel away the greaseproof and chop into whatever size pieces you desire!

White Chocolate and Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats with jelly beans and chocolate mini eggs

A big part of the satisfaction I get from baking is sharing it with other people and seeing how much they enjoy it. This is rarely more evident than when you give sweet treats to kids; they never say they like stuff when they don’t and their unabashed enthusiasm for naughty-but-nice bakes is incredibly rewarding. I certainly don’t recommend plying kids with sugary snacks on a daily basis, but as somebody who generally only sees my friends’ kids every now and again, I don’t see any harm in bribing them into liking me instantly with a few lovingly-made goodies. I’m heading to see a friend and her twin boys this evening, so I made a batch of rice krispie treats to take with me.

White Chocolate and Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats

Ingredients: 

  • 100g butter
  • 175g marshmallows
  • 100g white chocolate, broken into chunks (cheap stuff is best, I used supermarket own brand)
  • 150g rice krispies
  • A couple of handfuls of sweets of your choosing
  • Sprinkles/edible glitter to decorate if desired

Grease and line the base of a loose-bottomed 20cm square tin or a spring form cake tin (the important bit being that the bottom of the tin can be separated to make it easy to get them out of the tin). Melt the butter and marshmallows slowly in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring all the time. Try and use a large-ish bowl if you have one, the important thing being that the bowl doesn’t touch the water in the pan. Once the butter and marshmallows are melted, add the chocolate and continue to stir until everything is melted and well mixed. If your bowl is big enough, add the rice krispies and stir through with a spatula to mix together. You’ll find the mix gets harder to stir very quickly as it cools so it’s a good idea to keep it over the hot water. If your bowl with the melted mixture in isn’t big enough for the rice krispies too you’ll need to work fast to mix them together in a bigger bowl that isn’t over the hot water. Throw in your chosen sweets (I used jelly beans and mini chocolate eggs but feel free to use whatever you fancy) and tip out into your prepared tin. Press down firmly with the back of the spatula, making sure you get it into the corners. If you’re decorating with sprinkles (I used strawberry flavoured sprinkles) or edible glitter, scatter this over now and give it another press all over with the spatula to help it set it. Refrigerate until set (an hour or two) before removing from the tin and cutting into kiddy-size squares.