Thursday, 31 January 2013

2012: the rest

I was happy to see a few others do blog posts recently with some 'leftover' bakes that they'd forgotten to blog and I thought it would be a good idea to do one myself. I have a few bakes that I can't really justify individual posts for - for various reasons, including not having too much to say about them, not having very many pictures, and to be honest, baking them so long ago that I can't remember much about them at all!

So here are three bakes that didn't quite get a blog post to themselves, through no fault of their own!

Banoffee whoopie pies...

These came about due to a whoopie pie obsession that never quite got off the ground. After the success of the mint ones they were all I could think about for about a week and I made these due to some bananas left skulking in the fruit bowl. Considering I don't really like bananas, I really liked these and writing about them now has made me want to rekindle my brief love affair with whoopie pies. The recipe for these was from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and I know there were some other yummy looking whoopie pie recipes in there. I really am surprised I don't see more whoopie pies in the blogosphere, if you've never tried one, you're missing out!

Chocolate orange drizzle loaf...

This was on my 'to bake' list after seeing it on Jo's blog, and one weekend I just fancied baking something that was quite low on the faff-o-meter. I made the loaf version and it was absolutely gorgeous! Lovely and light and fluffy and chocolate orange is one of my favourite flavour combinations. This misses out on a post of its own because I made it while Mike was watching the final F1 race of the season with some other petrol heads, so I had no photographer! By the time they had gone, there was only two slices left so this was the only picture we got! Definitely one to make again.

Reese's brownie cupcakes...

I've gone from hating peanut butter to actually really liking it - I don't think I'll ever be spreading it on my toast (that is exclusively Marmite territory) but I love it in sweet things - I had a peanut butter kit kat chunky at the weekend mmm! This recipe is from Cupcake Crazy Gem and I'd had it bookmarked for a while. Not really sure what prompted me to make it all of a sudden though! I was disappointed as I slightly overdid them, so I really want to try these again. Peanut butter in the batter, peanut butter in the frosting, Reese's cups lurking at the bottom and Reese's pieces sprinkled over the top - so much peanut buttery goodness!

Phew! So finally I can make a start posting about 2013's bakes - which has just given me a jolt of panic as I've realised I've only made one thing so far... I guess that's the advantage of being behind with blogging, there's a nice sense of security in having loads of draft posts lined up! Need to get my game face on now!

Friday, 18 January 2013

East Coast Cake

Mike's sister's birthday is always a good one on the cake calendar. In the past she has had a sweets covered victoria sponge and ice cream cupcakes, and this year I decided to try a cake based homage to a dessert that is something of a family favourite - the East Coast Sundae from Frankie & Benny's.

On a side note, I think the Frankie & Benny's sundaes have taken a nosedive recently - for some reason they keep lashing everything in red berry sauce... I like a bit of it drizzled on my 99ers but I don't want it in my sundaes thanks! I just don't think it goes that well with things that are more chocolate based, and the F&B red berry sauce is too tangy and gloopy and well really there's just too much of it. UGH!

Happily, the East Coast Sundae is one that has escaped the recent invasion of excessive red berry sauce. For those of you unfamiliar with it - it is toffee and chocolate ice creams, with marshmallows, chocolate covered honeycomb and malteser balls, topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Simple, but oh so good.

So this cake was a straightforward chocolate cake (used the choc cake recipe from this by the Pink Whisk which is now my go to choc cake!) filled and covered with caramel frosting (recipe from the caramel cupcakes in Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days). Sprinkled some bashed up Crunchies, Maltesers and mini marshmallows in the centre and all over the top. Looking back I should have probably drizzled with chocolate sauce aswell to be more authentic, and we'll gloss over the fact there's no whipped cream...

I also really like using things to line around the base of cakes with. Not only does it hide sloppy frosting around the base but it also creates a handy slicing guide!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Skinny lemon cupcakes

Now for something that's a little bit more January friendly! Since August, I've been on a very little bit of a diet. Nothing drastic, but I've been following a low fat plan to try and make my day to day eating habits a little more healthy, so I could feel a little less guilty about eating out at weekends or chomping my way through large bags of crisps in front of the X Factor. This is the problem with living with a skinny boy with a sweet tooth - he can eat what he likes. I can't.

It hasn't affected the baking that badly because I've always been more of a 'feeder' with my baking and usually try out recipes with others in mind rather than myself. But some Hairy Dieters recipes in the October issue of Good Food caught my eye and I had earmarked the Skinny Lemon Cupcakes to try out - just 175 calories a pop!

It can be a bit risky making anything low fat for people in case they think you're trying to make some kind of point, but one of my work colleagues had just had an operation and was going to be out of action for a couple of months. She was saying that people kept bringing her chocolates and she was worried about the effect this would have on her waistline since she wasn't going to be able to get up and about for a while yet. But I wanted to take her something home baked and decided that these cupcakes would be perfect as a less guilty pleasure.

They were delicious! I didn't think the sponge tasted any different to a usual cake except it had that slightly firmer (almost towards rubbery?) texture that I find cakes made with oil often have. The only giveaway was the icing - it was lovely, but there just clearly wasn't very much of it! That doesn't really bother me as I often scrape the icing/buttercream off cakes anyway, I'm a plain sponge kinda girl (and it may also have something to do with my butter intolerance...!). Anyway, I would most definitely recommend whipping these up for a guilt free bake.

200g self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g golden caster sugar
100g blueberries
grated zest of 1 lemon
150ml low fat natural yoghurt
2 tbsp semi skimmed milk
50ml sunflower oil
100g icing sugar, sifted
4 tsp of the juice from the lemon

1. Pre heat oven to 200c and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Stir together the flour, bicarb, golden caster sugar, lemon zest, and blueberries in a bowl.
3. Beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the oil, yoghurt and milk and beat until combined.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the eggy mix. Stir in with a metal spoon.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 14-16 minutes until golden and risen. Cool on a wire rack.
6. To make the topping, simply mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a bowl until smooth and drizzle over the cakes. Leave to set for around 30 minutes before serving.

I'm entering these low fat lovelies into January Calendar Cakes hosted by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes, with Laura Loves Cakes doing the hosting this month - the theme is New Year, New You.

Homemade Christmas gifts

Every year I try to give a few homemade gifts here and there. This Christmas I had some grand ideas to make jams and chutneys but with starting a new job just before Christmas, I had to knock that one on the head and resolve to do it next year instead. I did manage to make a few homemade treats though!

Firstly I made some Gingerbread Latte cupcakes to take round to our friends when we went over for a Christmas get together. It was a good job that I did a practice run of these first which was a slight disaster since I only remembered about adding the cream when the buggers had been in the oven for 15 mins! Without cream though they just tasted like gingerbread and so my Mum's office were the happy recipients of the test batch! So I was very careful to add the cream on the second run. I cannot recommend this recipe - or the Lola's book - enough. All the cakes I've made so far have come out beautifully. I see that someone else has enjoyed this recipe and you can see it online here.

Next up were some mulled wine kits. I first made one last year as part of a gift box, but made a few this year to give on their own and I think they make a really nice gift. Even if people can't be bothered mulling the wine, at least they still have a nice bottle of red to drink! I got the instructions from BBC Good Food. All you need to do is put 85g demerera sugar, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 12 cloves onto a 25cm square piece of butter muslin (I got mine from Hobbycraft but I noticed that Lakeland were selling the individual squares this year), gather the sides together and tie into a pouch. Attach a cinnamon stick to the neck of the bag with some festive string, and tie the pouch around the neck of a standard bottle of red wine with some festive ribbon. Write the instructions on a gift tag and attach aswell: "Tip the contents of the bag into a pan with the wine and the cinnamon stick. Add a sliced orange and 300ml water. Simmer for 5 mins, then serve."

Finally, I made some Cookies in a Jar seen on The Pink Whisk's blog. I've seen a fair few of these on blogs over time, plus a lot of them in the shops too. I think these are a great idea but my problem is always that I don't really have anyone to give them to! Most of my friends who have an interest in baking do it regularly anyway so I thought there wouldn't be much point in this as a gift! I decided to make one for Mike's sister since she has made a few things here and there but as far as I know isn't a hardened baker. I think they make lovely gifts, and you can really play around with the ingredients to suit who you're giving it to. I definitely want to make these again! Plus I have two kilner jars to use up as I got a set of three!

That's it for the Christmas baking. I think another New Year's resolution for me should be to post about Christmas *at* Christmas this year...

Friday, 11 January 2013

Gingerbread cupcakes with clementine buttercream

I hate blogging things out of order, but as Christmas is becoming more and more of a distant memory I had better bosh out my Christmas bakes first.

I started a new job just before Christmas, and as is tradition with my old colleagues, had to endure a leaving buffet in the meeting room! I'm really not ungrateful, but these kinds of things are up there on the anxiety-o-meter at the best of times, and so when they're for ME it tips me off the scale! Anyway, as is also tradition I had to bring some cakes along and I wanted to make something festive, but that was relatively quick and un-complicated because I had an absolutely horrendous last week trying to finish everything off.

I looked back through some past recipes and decided to re-visit these Gingerbread cupcakes with clementine buttercream. I was a bit hesitant as I didn't remember raving about them particularly at the time, but they were made during the whirlwind of baking that was Christmas 2010 and so I'm not surprised really that some things I made then might be a bit hazy in the old memory bank.

It was a good choice. They were dead simple to make - just a standard cupcake with the addition of clementine zest and spices, and a standard buttercream plus clementine zest and juice. But the effect was really striking - tastes of Christmas without being overpowering or too rich. I could probably have done with a bit more clementine juice for the buttercream as it was pretty stiff to pipe but other than a bit of mild hand cramping, no complaints.

Here's the recipe, seen online here:

150g butter (I used Stork)
150g caster sugar
150g self raising flour
3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
zest of two clementines

To decorate
160g unsalted butter, softened
500g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
zest of one clementine
juice of 4 clementines

1. Beat all the ingredients together in a bowl and divide between 12 cupcake cases.
2. Bake on 190c for 20 minutes until risen, firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
3. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
4. To make the buttercream, beat together the butter, icing sugar, vanilla extract, clementine zest and a small amount of the clementine juice until all combined.
5. Add the rest of the clementine juice a little at a time until the pipeable (I used all the juice and could have done with a bit more, but I could have just been stingy with my juicing!). Note this makes A LOT of buttercream so you can be very generous with your piping!

I will definitely be busting these out again next Christmas as a nice lighter alternative to all the Christmas stodge! Plus, I hate most things Christmassy such as mince pies, Christmas pudding etc so it's nice to have something festive that I can actually stomach!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Matcha and pecan cupcakes

Happy New Year! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and your 2013 is being good to you so far. I've been rather quiet on the blogging front again lately - I just never can get into the swing of things anymore. I'm planning some big blog changes this year, but knowing me it will take the best part of the year to get anything sorted, so I will soldier on for now with sporadic posts about things that I baked months ago and are now totally unseasonal. These are from September....

Ever since seeing the Matcha Chocolate cupcakes in the Lola's book, I've wanted to get my mitts on some matcha tea. For some reason I had never been able to find any that was cheap enough to justify buying. So I was happy to pick up some cooking grade matcha tea when I was at the Cheshire Food Festival in September!

I also bought a matcha cookbook at the same time and saw a recipe for Matcha and Pecan cupcakes, and since I already had a spare bag of pecans lying around I thought it must be fate...

I loved the green colour that the matcha gave to the cakes and the topping, but there was something that was just not right about the topping. I did think that 3 teaspoons seemed a bit much to be mixed into 100g of mascarpone cheese, and as suspected it was too much and I ended up using the whole tub of cheese to get it to a spreadable consistency, and even that was saying something. Tasting it, it was waaay too tea-y and bitter.

I pressed on anyway because I was pushed for time as we were going out for lunch, so we shared a cupcake before we left as a starter! They were actually quite nice - the sweetness of the cake balanced out the bitterness in the topping, and the cake was light and moist and gently fragranced by the tea.

We were going to sample another when we got in, but the frosting had gone all weird and discoloured around the edges - not sure why this was, whether it was natural or maybe the tub wasn't properly airtight, but either way it put us off from eating any more.

So sadly, my first venture with matcha wasn't as brilliant as I'd hoped, but I'm going to give it another whirl soon, probably with the matcha chocolate ones. Here is the recipe for these if anyone fancies giving it a try (and why wouldn't you, after my glowing review?!) or telling me what the hell is up with the recipe...

175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
3 tsp cooking grade matcha powder
75g pecans, chopped

100g mascarpone
3 tsp cooking grade matcha powder
12 pecan halves

1. Preheat oven to 180c. Beat together the cake ingredients (except the matcha and nuts) until smooth and fluffy. 
2. Fold in the matcha and chopped nuts.
3. Divide between 12 muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool.
4. Whisk the mascarpone and matcha powder together until smooth.
5. Spread over the cakes and top with a pecan half.

I wish I'd used the Lola recipe for my first go with matcha, so that's the one I'm going to be trying next. Please let me know if you have any good matcha recipes!
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