Sunday, 26 October 2014

Madeira Cake

In the quest for the perfect cake for my friend’s son’s Mr Bump cake, this was my second attempt at Madeira cake (having made this lemon and raspberry Madeira cake and found it a little dry). The recipe is from Lindy’s Cakes and was recommended by several friends. 

Having made a 5 egg monster cake that took forever to bake, I adapted the recipe to a 4 egg recipe to bake in two 20cm sandwich tins, to try and bring the baking time down.

If you are a bit of a perfectionist like me, you can weigh the amount of cake mix that goes into each tin to ensure that both cakes are an even size and take the same amount of time to cook.

As recommended previously, in order to produce beautifully flat and evenly baked cakes, I use my magi-cake strips: these are an investment but they make a huge difference! You soak them in water and then wrap them around the cake tin: this adds an extra layer therefore prevents the edge of the cake from cooking more quickly and drying out. It also prevents the cake from doming and so ensures a nice even top to your cake.

These cakes turned out really well. I froze them so that they could be carved into Mr Bump’s hands and feet later in the week and they defrosted beautifully and kept really well – EHH was eating the off-cuts for over a week after they had been defrosted! I made them with the two teaspoons of vanilla extract and I think this added a nice depth of taste. The cakes were also firm but moist and held up well to being iced with a thick layer of fondant icing.

Overall, personally, I still much prefer a traditional light sponge cake to Madeira, but this recipe does work well and fulfils a purpose in circumstances where one needs a firmer and longer lasting cake.

Madeira cake

Ingredients
  1. 225g (8 oz) butter
  2. 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  3. 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  4. 115g (4oz) plain flour
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 1 tsp glycerine
  7. 2 tsp vanilla extract / zest of 3 lemons

Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Grease and base-line 2 20cm sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light, fluffy and pale (about 5 minutes in a stand mixer).
  4. Sift the flours together in a separate bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add, a bit at a time to the creamed mixture (beating for at least a minute between each addition). Add a spoonful of flour if the mixture starts to curdle.
  6. Beat in the glycerine and vanilla extract / lemon zest.
  7. Sift the flour into the creamed mixture and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon.
  8. Transfer to the lined tins and bake for approximately 1 hour. When the cakes are ready, they will be well risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean. Cover the top of the cakes with foil if they start to brown too much on top.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool then, leaving the lining paper on, wrap the cake in foil or place in an airtight container for at least 12 hours before cutting, to allow the cake to settle.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cake topped with lemon icing and a blackberry

I love blackberry-picking! We used to spend hours picking them as a family on the cliffs of Guernsey and then eating home-made blackberry and apple jam throughout the winter months.

This year’s blackberries seem to be particularly early – I picture blackberry picking as a September, even October activity, but the bushes were heavy with ripe and juicy berries when we went out last Sunday. In a short time, we filled our tub and managed to come home with 2.4kg of blackberries! Now what to do with them?!!

I froze a good pile of them (lay them out in a single layer on a baking tray and freeze them flat before then pouring the individually frozen berries into freezer bags) for future use. A scour of the internet then came up with this delicious sounding blackberry and yoghurt loaf cake on the Pudding Lane blog. I’m rather distrustful of loaf cakes – I haven’t had much luck with them in the past (they tend to end up burnt on the outside and sunken in the middle!) – and so I decided to make use of my favourite Lakeland mini loaf cake tin instead.

These cakes are quick and easy to make. The only slight change I made was dusting the blackberries with cornflour – this tends to prevent them from sinking.  The recipe is designed for a 1 kg loaf tin and so made slightly too much for my mini loaf tin: I popped the extra into 6 fairy cake cases and baked these at the same time as the loaf cakes.

I was really impressed with this recipe – it is very moist and the lemon and blackberry flavours come through strongly and work really well together! Will definitely be making these again!   

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes


Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes on a wire cooling rack

Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 225g yoghurt
  3. 225g caster sugar
  4. 150g ground almonds
  5. 100g self-raising flour
  6. 1 tsp baking powder
  7. 20g cornflour
  8. 1 lemon
  9. 150g blackberries
  10. 150g icing sugar

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 170C.
  2. Spray a mini loaf cake with cake-release spray.
  3. Place sugar and eggs into a mixing bowl, then whisk for 4-5 minutes (less in a stand mixer) until the mixture is pale, airy and forms ribbons when you drag the whisk across the surface.
  4. Add the yoghurt, the zest of the lemon and a pinch of salt, and fold together to mix.
  5. Sieve in the almonds, flour and baking powder, and fold until the mixture is combined.
  6. Sprinkle the blackberries with cornflour and then add two thirds of them to the cake mix.
  7. Pour the cake mix into your prepared tin and sprinkle over the remaining blackberries (reserving 12 for decoration), pushing slightly into the top of the cakes.
  8. Place the cakes in the centre of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are golden and springy.
  9. Cool the cakes in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack.
  10. While it's cooling, mix the icing sugar with enough juice from the lemon to make a thick pouring consistency.
  11. Pour over the cake once cool and top with a blackberry.

To make one large loaf cake: place the mixture in a 1 kg loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake topped with lemon buttercream and raspberries

I’m not a huge fan of Madeira cake – I’ve always found it to be rather dry and bland. However, when my friend asked for help in making a fondant-covered Mr Bump cake for her son’s first birthday cake, I knew that it had to be Madeira cake. We needed to make the cake on the Thursday for the party on the Saturday, which meant that the cake needed to last well and the cake needed to be covered in a decent layer of fondant icing. Sponge is too light and can collapse under heavy icing, and Madeira cake tends to last better as well.

Having never made Madeira cake, I decided that I needed to test some recipes in advance. This first recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food’s Madeira Loaf Cake. When I baked it, I increased the quantities to a 5 egg recipe, however this was huge! Therefore, I have reduced the quantities below to make a 4 egg recipe, which should fit perfectly in a deep 20cm cake tin. I have also added the glycerine to this recipe as it was something suggested in the second Madeira cake recipe that I tried and I think it does help to maintain moisture in the cake.

In order to get a beautifully flat and evenly baked cake, I use my magi-cake strips: these are an investment but they make a huge difference! You soak them in water and then wrap them around the cake tin: this adds an extra layer therefore prevents the edge of the cake from cooking more quickly and drying out. It also prevents the cake from doming and so ensures a nice even top to your cake.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the length of time needed to bake my cake and opened the oven too many times! This meant that the cake ended up sunken in the middle. I managed to hide this under a thick layer of buttercream – as you can see from the picture, you would never know!

To cut cakes in half, I would hugely recommend a cake-cutting wire: this is a lot easier than trying to use a knife!

Overall, I wasn’t sure about this cake – EHH and I both felt that it was still a little dry. However, EHH took it into work and they loved it! Several of his colleagues claimed that it was the best cake that I have ever made!

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake

Ingredients
  1. 235g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  2. 235g golden caster sugar
  3. 4 large eggs
  4. Grated zest 2 lemons
  5. Few drops vanilla extract
  6. 1 tsp glycerine
  7. 265g self-raising flour
  8. 65g ground almonds


Buttercream icing:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 3 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

To fill and decorate:
  1. 6 tablespoons raspberry jam
  2. Raspberries
  3. Mint leaves

Method
  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  2. Grease and base-line a 20cm deep round cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy (about 5 minutes of beating).
  4. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs into the butter/sugar mix, a little at a time, beating well between each addition.
  6. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla.
  7. Fold in the flour and almonds until you have a thick batter. The batter should be loose enough that it falls off a wooden spoon, if it’s too thick mix in a splash of milk.
  8. Tip the batter into the tin and smooth over the top.
  9. Bake for 75 – 100 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover with foil after about 60 minutes to stop the top from burning.
  10. Remove from the oven then leave to cool for 15 mins then remove from the tin, peel away the paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
  11. While the cake is cooling, beat the butter, juice and half of the icing sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth.
  12. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  13. Once the cake is completely cool, cut in half.
  14. Cover one half with raspberry jam.
  15. Cover with the other half and then top with buttercream.
  16. Decorate with the raspberries and mint leaves. 


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Mary Berry's Florentines

chocolate covered florentines on a plate
I first made these luxurious biscuits a couple of weeks ago. I had a bit of spare time on a wet Sunday afternoon and fancied baking something new. I had never made florentines and had always imagined them to be fairly tricky: I was surprised to find that they are actually fairly quick and easy to make. What is also fantastic about them is that the ingredients are fairly standard stock cupboard items - so easy to whizz up without having to go to the shop!

My recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book – except I add a few extra glace cherries, or add stem ginger instead of the glace cherries – which produces delicious florentines!

Randomly, florentines were then the Technical Challenge this week on Great British Bake Off. It was quite handy to hear Mary Berry describe exactly what she was looking for: the thin lattice edges and the crisp crack when you bite into the biscuit.

The trickiest bit of making these florentines is getting the chocolate layer right – cooling the melted chocolate to an appropriate thickness that it can be spread onto the biscuits without dripping through the lattice, and also so that it is thick enough to hold the forked pattern. To make them extra pretty, you can melt some white chocolate and pipe it over the other (non-chocolate-covered) side of the biscuits. Like this, they make lovely presents.

You can vary the nuts / fruit to suit your tastes – as suggested, stem ginger makes a delicious addition. For Christmas, I think that dried cranberries would be lovely.

FlorentinesFlorentines

Ingredients 
  1. 50g butter
  2. 50g Demerara sugar
  3. 50g golden syrup
  4. 50g plain flour
  5. 6 glace cherries  / 25g stem ginger – finely chopped
  6. 50g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  7. 50g mixed nuts, finely chopped
  8. 200g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

Method 
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Line 3 baking trays with baking parchment.
  3. Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a small pan and heat gently until the butter has melted.
  4. Mix the flour, peel, nuts and stem ginger / cherries in a bowl.
  5. Stir this mix into the saucepan of melted butter/sugar/syrup.
  6. Spoon teaspoons of the mix onto the prepared baking trays and spread out with the back of the teaspoon. Leave plenty of room for the florentines to spread further.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown (turn the trays after 6 minutes if your oven bakes unevenly).
  8. Allow the florentines to cool and harden slightly before moving onto a cooling rack to fully cool.
  9. Melt about 150g chocolate in a glass bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
  10. Remove the chocolate from the heat and add the remaining chocolate.
  11. Stir to incorporate the additional chocolate so that it cools and thickens a little.
  12. Use a teaspoon to spoon the chocolate onto the flat side of each florentine and spread out with the back of the teaspoon.
  13. Use a fork to mark a zig-zag pattern into the chocolate.
  14. Leave to cool. 


Monday, 4 August 2014

Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

3 Rhubarb and custard flavoured cupcakes iced to look like tennis balls


Having recently moved my rhubarb into a new position, it has gone crazy! So, as the Wimbledon Ladies’ Final finished disappointing quickly, I had lots of time to try out lots of new recipes to use up my rhubarb!

Having decided to try out a rhubarb and lemon cake, I fancied making something with a Wimbledon theme and so decided on some tennis ball cupcakes. If I were making these for something special, I’d probably have made some more appropriate strawberry and cream flavoured cakes, or maybe even some Pimms flavoured cakes, but as they were just for fun, and I needed to make use of my rhubarb glut, I decided on rhubarb and custard flavoured cupcakes. These also gave me the opportunity to try out my new flavourings from Lakeland.

I followed my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, replacing the vanilla extract with 18 drops of the rhubarb flavouring and filling the cupcakes with rhubarb compote. I replaced the vanilla extract in the buttercream with 15 drops of custard flavouring. The rhubarb flavour did come through gently in the cakes but I think that it could have done with a bit more – I have suggested 20 drops in the recipe below. I’m not completely convinced by the custard flavour – I’m not sure that the custard taste really came through the buttercream – it didn’t taste particularly different to standard vanilla buttercream. I’ll have to try out the flavouring in something else to test this out.

Overall though, I did enjoy these cakes. I wasn’t sure that the grass nozzle (mine came in a set from Lakeland that is incredibly useful!) would give the right effect for the tennis balls, but it worked out pretty well. The cakes tasted good and the slightly sour rhubarb compote was balanced well by the sweet custard buttercream. Will definitely make these again.





Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

Ingredients
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 225g golden castor sugar
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  5. 125g plain flour, sifted
  6. 120ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  7. 20 drops rhubarb flavouring
  8. 300g rhubarb
  9. 1-2 tblsp soft brown sugar

Buttercream:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature and very soft
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 15 drops custard flavouring
  4. 60ml milk
  5. Green and yellow paste food colouring
  6. 100g icing sugar

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  4. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl.
  5. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, a bit at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  6. Combine the two flours in a separate bowl.
  7. Combine the milk and rhubarb flavouring in a jug.
  8. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  9. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  10. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  11. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full (or about 65g each).
  12. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.

While the cakes are in the oven:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the green and yellow food colouring until you reach the desired colour.
  4. Put buttercream into a piping bag with a large grass nozzle.
  5. Chop the rhubarb into approx. 2cm slices.
  6. Place in a small saucepan with a splash of water and 1 tblsp soft brown sugar.
  7. Heat gently until the rhubarb is soft.
  8. Strain off any juices through a sieve
  9. Mash the rhubarb gently and add extra soft brown sugar if needed. 

Once cakes are cooked and cooled:
  1. Use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of the prepared rhubarb and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Pipe short grass-like spikes onto each cupcake until covered.
  5. Leave to firm.
  6. Mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water until it reaches a toothpaste-like consistency.
  7. Place this icing into a piping bag with a small round nozzle.
  8. Use a rounded knife to gently draw on the curves of the tennis ball onto each cupcake.
  9. Pipe over these curves with the white icing.



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tomato tart tatin

Tomato tart tatin

I don’t make many savoury bakes, but this tomato tart tatin is delicious! 

I made this tomato tart tatin for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised how well it turned out! I had friends and family visiting for the day and wanted to make something tasty to accompany the buffet lunch I was putting together. 

I used a mix of medium tomatoes and cherry tomatoes: de-seeding them all took quite a while – but trust me, the faff is worthwhile! I didn’t really know what I was looking for when cooking the tomatoes, but if you keep an eye on them, you can tell when the tomatoes have softened all the way through. You can chuck all the tomatoes in the pan at the same time, but you will need to take the smaller ones out much before the bigger ones. I expected there to be quite a bit of juice, but there wasn’t very much at all – not sure if this was due to the tomatoes I was using. However, I deglazed the pan with the sugar and vinegar and drizzled these juices over the tomatoes. 

Having watched people bake tart tatins on Great British Bake Off and MasterChef, I fully expected the turning out of the tart to be really difficult! I was very pleasantly surprised to find the tart came out easily and looked really quite pretty! 

Overall, I was really impressed with this tart. It was simple, but a little time-consuming to make, and the completed tart was really delicious – light, crisp pastry topped with sweet and slightly sour tomatoes! It was perfect for a light summer lunch, and would be great as a vegetarian offering at a barbeque, or for a summer picnic. A great idea to use up a glut of home-grown tomatoes!

Tomato tart tatin

Ingredients

  1. 25g butter
  2. Splash of good olive oil
  3. 800g medium and small mixed tomatoes, halved across the middle and seeds roughly scooped out
  4. 1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
  5. 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  6. 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or oregano, plus extra to serve
  7. 375g block all-butter puff pastry
  8. Plain flour, for dusting

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C. 
  2. Melt the butter with a splash of olive oil in your widest frying pan. 
  3. Add the tomatoes, skin-side down, in a single layer (you can do this in 2 batches if they won’t all fit) and cook over a low heat until they have softened and have released their juices. 
  4. Lift out with a slotted spoon and rearrange in a tart tin (roughly 23cm), skin-side down – cram them in as they will shrink a little and you don’t want any gaps. 
  5. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan, and cook until the pan juices are reduced and syrupy. 
  6. Drizzle the juices over the tomatoes in the tin.
  7. Scatter with the oregano or thyme and season.
  8. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a good 25-26cm round. Lay on top of the tomatoes, and tuck the edges down. Use a fork to prick holes all over the pastry – this will help the steam to escape.
  9. Sit the tart tin on a flat baking tray and bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. 
  10. Let the tart sit for 10 mins, then run a knife round the edge to release the pastry. 
  11. Carefully flip the tart over onto a serving plate or board and scatter with more herbs to serve.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Carrot cupcakes with orange buttercream

11 carrot cupcakes topped with a swirl of orange buttercream

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of friends and family visiting! I made these carrot cupcakes about a month ago, when some friends were visiting on their way down from Leeds to Cornwall. I fancied making these as I haven’t made them for ages – they are a fairly quick and easy cake to make but they taste delicious.

The recipe comes from my “go to” Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book. I’ve made them before and they work brilliantly well with the orange cream cheese icing in the book, however, they then need to be kept in the fridge. As my friends were travelling onwards, I wanted to give them some for their holiday and so I stuck with a simple orange buttercream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The recipe is simple and these are a very reliable bake. The mixture is a lot runnier than most cake mixtures, but don’t be alarmed by this. If you have time before you start baking, soak the raisins in a mixture of boiling water, orange juice and a bit of cinnamon and they will plump up beautifully.  The recipe calls for 130g raisins, but I usually chuck a few more in.

Carrot cupcakes with orange buttercream

Ingredients
    Carrot cupcake with a swirl of orange buttercream
  1. 225g carrots, peeled and trimmed
  2. 130g raisins
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 130g caster sugar
  5. 120ml corn oil
  6. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  7. Grated zest of 1 orange
  8. 120g plain flour
  9. 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  10. Pinch of salt
  11. 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Orange buttercream
  1. 115g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 4 tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. Finely grate the carrots and drain off any liquid.
  4. Combine the grated carrot with the raisins in a large bowl and set to one side.
  5. Using a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together for several minutes.
  6. Add the oil, vanilla and orange zest and beat well.
  7. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon together in another bowl.
  8. Gradually add these ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture, folding carefully after each addition.
  9. Pour this mixture into the bowl containing the carrots and raisins and mix with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.
  10. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full.
  11. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when touched.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in the tin for about ten minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
  13. To make the buttercream, beat the butter, juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  14. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  15. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag topped with a Wilton 1M piping nozzle.
  16. Once the cakes have cooled, pipe a swirl of buttercream onto the cakes and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon. 


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Key Lime Pie

Key lime pie

A couple of weekends ago, my brother and his girlfriend came to stay for a night. They spent the afternoon helping EHH in the garden and so I thought that I had better put together something good for dessert. I had already baked my mini blueberry and lemon loaf cakes for snacks (which my brother ate straight out of the tin!) and so didn’t want to make something cake-y for dinner. I’ve never made Key Lime Pie before and it is one of EHH’s favourite puds so I decided to give it a go.

I found this recipe on BBC Good Food’s website, but made a few adaptations based on the comments on the webpage. I reduced the butter in the base to 100g – which was plenty – and I used half Gingernuts and half Hobnobs instead of all Hobnobs, just to add an extra flavour dimension. As there were only four of us, I didn’t cover the pie in cream but served it on the side instead – so that we could keep the pie for longer in the fridge.

Making this dessert is fairly simple. Pressing the biscuit crumbs into the tart tin does take a bit of time but it is worth it. Make sure that you don’t end up with a very thick section around the rim rather than properly moulding the corners. I was worried about it coming neatly out of the tart tin - but as you can see, it came out beautifully! You do need to allow plenty of time for the pie filling to cool and set fully once it has been cooked – I didn’t leave mine for long enough and it was still a little runny.

Overall, I thought that this dessert was ok. I’m not a fan of the texture of the biscuit base (but I never am – I don’t like cheesecakes etc with similar bases) and I felt that the filling was perhaps a little sharp (perhaps due to using normal limes rather than key limes). I definitely preferred the lemon tart that I made a little while ago. However, EHH loved this one and my brother and his girlfriend also seemed to enjoy it.

(Key) Lime Pie

Ingredients
  1. 150g Hob Nobs
  2. 150g Gingernut biscuits
  3. 100g butter, melted
  4. 1 x 397g tin condensed milk
  5. 3 medium egg yolks
  6. finely grated zest and juice of 4 limes (preferably Key limes)
  7. 300ml double cream
  8. 1 tbsp icing sugar
  9. extra lime zest, to decorate

Method
  1. Heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Blitz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor (or put in a strong plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin).
  3. Mix with the melted butter and press evenly across the base and up the sides of a 22cm loose-based tart tin.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
  5. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk for a minute with electric beaters.
  6. Add the condensed milk and whisk for 3 minutes then add the zest and juice and whisk again for 3 minutes.
  7. Pour the filling into the cooled base then put back in the oven for 15 minutes, or until set on top.
  8. Cool then chill for at least 3 hours or overnight if you like.
  9. When you are ready to serve, carefully remove the pie from the tin and put on a serving plate.
  10. To decorate, softly whip together the cream and icing sugar.
  11. Dollop or pipe the cream onto the top of the pie and finish with extra lime zest.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream

12 Earl Grey cupcakes topped with lemon buttercream and decorated with a garden theme

Delicious Earl Grey cupcakes with a subtle lemon buttercream, decorated with a country garden theme.

My manager retired earlier this month and so her leaving party was definitely an opportunity for some special, extra-effort cupcakes. I had to make a Sticky Ginger Cake, as this is my signature bake at work and much loved by my manager. To accompany this, I decided to make Primrose Bakery’s Earl Grey cupcakes, as she is a big fan of Earl Grey tea. The following recipe is my version of these cupcakes – I have made them in the past and found that the tea flavour was rather faint, so I added in an extra tea bag to give them a bit more oomph!

The PB book suggests vanilla buttercream, but I decided to go for a lemon buttercream to give a bit of gentle zing to the cakes – and I feel that lemon works really well with the tea flavour. The lemon buttercream recipe below is a bit more subtle than the one I generally use – as I didn’t want to overwhelm the tea flavour, so I added a bit of milk rather than all lemon juice to the mix.

As my manager is a keen gardener, I decided on a gardening theme. I flicked through Pinterest for some inspiration and then sketched out my design. I decided on the simple dirt path, as this seemed much simpler and quicker than making paving stones as I did on my Magic Garden set of cupcakes. I had some Lakeland citrus sugar, a bit like this one, that I used to scatter on the paths, but they don’t appear to sell it anymore, so I have suggested just using a mix of brown sugars instead. For the grass, you will need a grass piping nozzle that looks something like the one pictured. Mine came in a set from Lakeland that is incredibly useful! 




You can save time on the day by making the fondant flowers, leaves and other decorative items in advance. To make the cauliflower and cabbages, I used a 5 petal flower cutter like that pictured. However, don’t buy cutters like this separately, there are some fantastic deals for plunger cutter sets on Amazon or Ebay. You don’t need to add the tiny butterflies, but I had a tub of butterfly sprinkles in the cupboard and I think that they add a lovely touch.

I was really pleased with how these cakes turned out. They did take quite a bit of effort, but I think that they were worth it! The tea flavour came through well and worked nicely with the subtle lemon buttercream. I was a bit disappointed that the Bergamot flavour of the Earl Grey tea did not come through as strongly as I might have hoped. I’m not sure how to intensify this without over-doing the tea flavour – Google does not seem to give me any answers! I can’t seem to find a bergamot flavouring and I’m not sure about adding pure essential oil to cakes! I used Twinings Earl Grey teabags, but I may try an alternative next time – perhaps even using tea leaves rather than tea bags.

Earl Grey cupcakes with lemon buttercream
(single batch of 12 cupcakes)

Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a garden path and flower potIngredients
  1. 175ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  2. 5 Earl Grey tea bags
  3. 110g butter, at room temperature
  4. 225g golden castor sugar
  5. 2 large eggs, beaten
  6. 125g self-raising flour, sifted
  7. 120g plain flour, sifted
Buttercream:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 20ml milk, at room temperature
  3. 40ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  4. 500g icing sugar, sifted
Method
    Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a garden path and wellies
  1. Heat 125ml milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it just begins to boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags.
  3. Cover with clingfilm and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes.
  4. Discard the tea bags and add the extra 50ml of milk.  
  5. Preheat oven to 160C.
  6. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  8. Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  9. Combine the plain flour with the self-raising flour and all of the spices in a separate bowl.
  10. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  11. Pour in one third of the infused milk and stir gently.
  12. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  13. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
  14. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  15. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling. 

While the cakes are in the oven, make up the buttercream:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, lemon juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
To decorate
  1. Food colouring (preferably pastes rather than liquids)
  2. Golden caster sugar / Demerara sugar
  3. Ready-to-roll fondant icing – various colours, including green
  4. Butterfly sprinkles
  5. Writing icing
Method
    Earl Grey cupcake decorated with carrots growing in a vegetable patch
  1. Use plunger cutters to create flowers and leaves and set aside to dry (this can be done several days in advance).
  2. Mould additional decorative items, such as wellies, flower pots and vegetables out of fondant icing (see above for tips on cauliflowers and cabbages). (Again, this can be done in advance)
  3. Use writing icing to add centre to the flowers
  4. Remove ¼ of the buttercream from the bowl and colour this brown.
  5. Colour the remaining buttercream green.
  6. Use a palette knife to spread the brown buttercream onto some of the cupcakes as a vegetable patch and as a path.
  7. Sprinkle a mix of golden and Demerara sugar onto the paths.
  8. Place green buttercream in a piping bag with a grass nozzle attached.
  9. Pipe grass around the vegetable patches, on either side of the paths and onto the remaining cupcakes.
  10. Add flowers, vegetables and other items onto the cupcakes.  
Earl Grey cupcake decorated with a caulliflower growing in a vegetable patch










Lemon Tart

Lemon tart


Lemon Tart is one of my all-time favourite desserts but something that I have never attempted to bake before. With friends coming round for dinner and an afternoon to bake, I searched through lots of my cookery books for inspiration and, as I flicked through my ever-reliable Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, I came across this recipe for lemon tart – perfect!

Well, almost perfect … Having decided to follow this recipe and having made a start on the pastry, I realised that I didn’t have a big enough flan tin (this recipe required a 28cm tin) and, anyway, I really didn’t need to make a tart big enough for 10-12 people! The only flan tin that I own is 23cm and, after some rough calculations with the help of my ever-hungry husband (EHH), I decided to reduce the ingredients for the filling by one-third – fortunately, these quantities worked perfectly! As the pastry is made using one egg, it is difficult to reduce the quantities, so I have retained the pastry quantities: you can freeze the remainder or make some little jam tarts!!

I often avoid making desserts with pastry, or cheat and buy ready-made pastry, but actually, the pastry was easy to make and worked out fairly well. When making pastry, I follow the Biscuiteers’ tip for biscuits and I roll the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment – which prevents me from needing to add lots of additional flour as I roll and this helps to keep the pastry light and crisp. It also makes it much easier to lift the pastry into the flan tin!

Unlike some of my prior attempts at pastry, this pastry did not shrink away from the edges of the tin whilst at the blind-baking stage – which I think was due to very careful placing of the pastry in the tin, pushing it into the side of the tin (taking care not to stretch the pastry and then trimming the majority of the excess pastry, but leaving a 2-3cm overhang.

However, I didn’t roll the pastry dough thin enough and so it was a little thick (although EHH quite likes this!) and, despite following the blind baking rules, the bottom was not as crisp as Paul and Mary would like! Having done a bit more research on “soggy bottoms”, one of the recommendations is that, having completed the first stage of blind baking (with the baking beans), you then remove the baking beans and brush the pastry with whisked egg (or egg whites / yolk) before returning the pastry case to the oven to continue baking. This egg-wash helps to seal the pastry and therefore prevent the filling from seeping into the pastry and making it soggy. I’ve included this instruction in the recipe below and will give this a go next time that I make a tart.

The filling for the tart was quick and easy to make. However, the end result was a little curdled and not perfectly smooth. Some research suggests that this could be a result of the acid in the lemon juice curdling the protein in the egg – the webpages I have read suggest that you mix all the ingredients for the filling and add the lemon juice / zest last – so I have proposed this in my method below.

Overall, despite all my criticisms above, the lemon tart did generally taste good and my dinner guests really enjoyed it. Hopefully, with the improvements discussed above and included in the method below, it will be perfect – I’ll have to make another to test it out! I served it with a very simple summer berry sauce, which would be great with lots of other desserts, and double cream.  However it would also work brilliantly for afternoon tea!

Lemon tart
Ingredients
For the pastry
  1. 250g plain flour
  2. 125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
  3. 60g caster sugar
  4. 2 free-range eggs, beaten

For the lemon filling
  1. 6 free-range eggs
  2. 200ml double cream
  3. 250g caster sugar
  4. 4 large lemons, finely grated zest and juice

23cm flan tin
Baking beans

Method
  1. For the pastry, place the flour in a large bowl; add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the castor sugar then bind together with one beaten egg to make a soft, pliable dough.
  3. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
  5. Roll out the pastry very thinly between two lightly floured pieces of baking parchment.
  6. Use the pastry to line the flan tin, trim away any surplus pastry, leaving a 2-3cm overhang.
  7. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
  8. Line the pastry-filled tin with baking parchment or foil, allowing it to come up high above the rim to make it easy to lift out.
  9. Fill the lined tin with baking beans.
  10. Place on the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven until pale golden-brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and paper.
  12. Brush the pastry with the remaining beaten egg.
  13. Return the empty pastry shell to the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until it is completely dry. Set aside to cool.
  14. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.
  15. Measure the eggs, sugar and cream into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
  16. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
  17. Carefully pour the filling mixture into the cooled baked pastry case.
  18. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and cover the tart loosely with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much.
  19. When ready, the filling will be just set but with a slight wobble in the middle. It will be soufflé like when it comes out of the oven, but will sink down when it has cooled down.
  20. Leave to cool a little or completely then remove from the tin, transfer to a serving plate and dust with icing sugar to serve.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Coffee Kisses

2 coffee biscuits, sandwiched with chocolate buttercream

This is a fab, quick recipe, using store cupboard ingredients, that makes delicious biscuits! Perfect as a snack with your morning coffee, or at any time of day! 

A couple of weeks ago, my in-laws were popping down for the day and I realised the night before that I should probably whizz up something to offer them. I didn’t have the time or energy to go to the shop and so I needed to make something with the stuff that I had in the cupboards. I also wanted to make something that tasted fab, looked like I had made an effort but was actually quick and simple to make! Having made these biscuits a few times before, they came straight to mind and the decision was made.

The recipe comes from the original GBBO book “The Great British Book of Baking”. However, I’ve made a couple of adaptations – added a bit of extra flour and divided the mixture into far smaller balls: they recommend 16 but I’ve followed this recipe and the biscuits are crazily huge! I also rest the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking, which helps the biscuits to keep their domed shape, rather than flattening out.

Give them a go – they’re delicious!

Coffee Kisses

Ingredients
  1. 200g self-raising flour
  2. 100g caster sugar
  3. 100g butter, chilled and diced
  4. 2 tsp instant coffee granules or powder
  5. 1 medium egg
For the buttercream
  1. 75g very soft butter
  2. 150g icing sugar
  3. 4 tsp cocoa powder
Method
  1. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Combine the flour and the sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Dissolve the coffee in 2 tsp of boiling water.
  5. Beat the egg until frothy and mix in the coffee.
  6. Add to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to make a firm dough.
  7. Flour your hands well and then divide the dough into 30 pieces.
  8. Shape each piece into a neat ball.
  9. Arrange the balls on the baking trays, allowing space for them to spread.
  10. Place the trays in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  11. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  12. Take the baking trays out of the fridge and place in the oven.
  13. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden and firm to the touch.
  14. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  15. Beat the butter with the icing sugar and cocoa powder until very light and smooth.
  16. Use the buttercream to sandwich the biscuits in pairs.  




Peppa Pig cupcakes

6 Peppa Pig cupcakes - 2 Peppa Pig, 2 suns and 2 clouds with the number 4

My friend’s little girl is obsessed with Peppa Pig! So, for her fourth birthday, the whole family travelled over from Guernsey for a holiday on “the Mainland” culminating in a two-day visit to Peppa Pig World. First though, they visited us here in Bath, so I decided to make some Peppa Pig cupcakes (and, as my rhubarb in the garden was ripe for picking, some rhubarb crumble muffins) to welcome them!

I had a quick flick through Pinterest for some inspiration and as I didn’t have loads of time, I decided to keep it reasonably simple: decorating 6 cupcakes with the Peppa theme and 6 with a simple pink rose swirl.

I made the Peppa cupcake toppers the night before making the cakes: this allows the icing to dry and firm and means that it is less likely to absorb the moisture from the buttercream and go floppy! Getting the right thickness is difficult – mine were too thick! I’d probably aim for about 1-2mm thick. For the images on top, I used cutters from this set

Tin of fondant cuttersThis set is fantastic! I have a rather huge collection of fondant cutters and plunger cutters, but this set is the one that I use time and time again! I don’t have a set of number cutters (must buy some!) so I cut the number fours from a triangle of icing.

As the cakes were for a four-year-old, I decided to go for a very simple vanilla cupcake, filled with raspberry jam to liven them up and help them last a bit longer. Adding a filling like jam to cupcakes not only boosts the flavour, but it also helps to increase the life of the cakes: as the cakes age, they tend to dry out a bit and so the jam adds moisture.

The final result: well, the Birthday girl loved them (and so did her mum!), which was the main thing! For me, they weren’t the best thing that I have ever made – the red outline on Peppa doesn’t quite work right – it should be pink (but I don’t have a pink food colour pen!) and the blue disks were way too thick! However, the cake was light and fluffy and tasted good – which is the main thing!  

Vanilla cupcakes with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream
Ingredients
    6 Peppa Pig cupcakes - 3 with Peppa Pig cupcake toppers and 3 with rose swirl of buttercream
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 225g golden castor sugar
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  5. 125g plain flour, sifted
  6. 120ml semi-skimmed milk
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 4 tblsp raspberry jam
Buttercream:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature and very soft
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 60ml milk 
  5. Pink paste food colouring
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160C/350F/GM4.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  5. Combine the two flours in a separate bowl.
  6. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.
  7. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  8. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  9. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  10. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
  11. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.
While the cakes are in the oven, make up the buttercream:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Put buttercream into a piping bag with a large star nozzle.
Once cakes are cooked and cooled:
  1. Use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of raspberry jam and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Pipe rose swirls onto all of the cupcakes.
  5. Top cakes with a Peppa disk.


Peppa-themed cupcake toppers
  1. Pale blue, yellow, pink, red and white fondant icing
  2. Black writing icing / black food colour pen
  3. Red food colouring
  4. Pink food colour pen

Method
  1. Roll out the blue fondant icing to 1-2mm thick and cut out 6 circles with a 75mm round cutter.

For the sun cupcakes:
  1. Roll out the yellow fondant to about 1mm thick
  2. Cut out two 25mm circles and 16 small rectangles.
  3. Use a paintbrush and a very small amount of tap water to stick the suns to the blue disks.

For the cloud cupcakes:
  1. Roll out the white fondant to 2-3mm thick.
  2. Cut out two flowers and then carefully roll over each flower in one direction with a rolling pin.
  3. Use a number or a letter cutter to cut out an age or initial.
  4. Use a paintbrush and a very small amount of tap water to stick the clouds to the blue disks and then the numbers to the clouds.

For the Peppa cupcakes:
1 Peppa Pig cupcake
  1. Roll out red fondant to about 1mm thick.
  2. Cut out two triangles.
  3. Use a circle cutter to cut off one corner (to sit the head on) and to round off the opposite edge of the triangle (to sit against the side of the blue disk).
  4. Repeat for the second triangle
  5. Roll out pink fondant to 1mm thick.
  6. Cut out two ellipses.
  7. Use a knife to turn the ellipses into Peppa heads (whistle-shaped!)
  8. Use a paintbrush and a very small amount of tap water to stick the red dress shapes to the blue disks and then stick on the Peppa heads in the correct position.
  9. Roll four very small balls of pink fondant and flatten each slightly.
  10. Stick these flattened balls in place as ears.
  11. Roll very thin sausages of pink fondant and then stick in place as arms.
  12. Use the pink food colour pen to outline Peppa’s head and ears, and define the nose, nostrils and mouth.
  13. Add eyes with the black food colour pen.
  14. Dilute a tiny amount of red food colouring in a tiny amount of water.
  15. Using a paintbrush, use this diluted food colouring to paint on Peppa’s flushed cheeks.