Tuesday, 29 December 2009

White chocolate Christmas cupcakes


I’ll concede that cupcakes aren’t a traditional Christmas tea time item but these seemed too pretty to leave out. Plus, Christmas is a time of serious eating and it’s nice to have something spongier and lighter and generally more manageable with a cup of tea!

These cupcakes had a lovely taste to them; the white chocolate wasn’t over powering but gave a subtle creamy taste to both the sponge and buttercream.

Alas, I cannot claim the chocolate coin idea as my own. It was Marie, one of our super-imaginative entrants at the Christmas Iron Cupcake London event who gave me the idea. Basically, it’s taking the tradition of the silver coin in the Christmas pud and bringing it into a more modern baked good. The bonus being that every cupcake has a coin so everyone wins! The key thing to remember is to put the coin in the sponge AFTER baking it – sorry if that sounds patronising but I’d hate anyone to misunderstand and end up with a mess in the centre of their cupcake.

Here are the cupcakes with the coins inserted – they go in very easily without disturbing the sponge or altering the shape of the cake:

Voila! A cupcake with a coin promising good luck for the coming year!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
50g white chocolate buttons

For the buttercream:
75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g icing sugar
50g white chocolate buttons, melted

Optional inclusion: chocolate coins

Method

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

- Line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.

- Start by making the cupcake sponges: Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

- Gradually beat in the eggs.

- Beat in the flour.

- Stir in the white chocolate buttons.

- Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out cleanly. Mine took 17 minutes.

- Leave to cool on a wire rack.

- Now make the buttercream: beat together the butter and icing sugar until well combined.

- Beat in the melted chocolate.

- If using, now is the time to make an incision into the cooled cupcake and slot a chocolate coin into the sponge. It’s more effective if you leave the foil on the coin.

- Spread the buttercream over the top of the cupcake and decorate as required; I used fondant Christmas decorations.

- Warn anyone who has metal fillings that the coins are in the cake!!!

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A roll call of Christmas favourites

Happy Christmas to you all! If Christmas is a time for feasting and abundance I don't think I've done too badly....

It’s nice to try new things, but Christmas is often a time to revisit old favourites and follow tradition. This post will round up all the items I made this year that have featured on my site before, and will include links to the recipes. My new bakes will appear in later posts over the holiday period.

Christmas cake

My Christmas cake (recipe here) was a totally homemade affair this year with rich fruitcake, almond paste and fondant icing.

The reindeer decorations were made from leftover almond paste.

Medley of mince pies

The recipes for all these mince pastries can be found here.

These are the most traditional of the three variations with simple pastry decorations:


Here we have a shortcrust pastry roll, cut into slices and baked:

Finally, a frangipane topped mince pie:



Gingerbread men

A cup of tea at Christmas just doesn’t taste right unless it’s accompanied by a gingerbread man. I made these really hot this year – they definitely blew away any Christmas cobwebs! You can find the recipe here.


Almond cake

This was the first cake to ever feature on my blog – check out the recipe here; it remains one of my favourites. It’s a delicious light almond Madeira that keeps for days in an airtight container, and just seems to get tastier!



Chocolate dipped strawberries

A little bit of decadence for after dinner. They couldn’t be simpler – strawberries dipped into melted chocolate and then left to set. Even if you don’t have room for pudding I bet you can manage a couple of these!

I love the way that the chocolate takes the shape of the paper case when it sets:

These were my “tried and tested” items. I’ll post again soon with my debut items .

Finally, I hope you'll permit me to boast a little. The CCBF (Caked Crusader's Boyfriend) bought me the most gorgeous copper mould for Christmas - forget Santa, it's the CCBF I clearly need to keep sweet! We'd seen it on a day trip out in the summer and I'd fallen in love with it but I couldn't justify buying it even though it was possibly the most beautiful piece of kitchenalia I'd ever set eyes on. What made this such a special gift - apart from being gorgeous, have I mentioned it's gorgeous? - was that the CCBF had to drive to the specific shop over an hour a way to purchase it. Sometimes you're given something and you just know you'll own it and treasure it for ever - this is such an item. Thank you CCBF!

Hope you’re all having a lovely Christmas!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Vouchercodes.co.uk competition results


Thank you for all your entries. I printed them all off, cut them up, folded them so they were all similarly sized and placed them in a box for the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) to pick the two lucky winners, who will each win a fabulous Wilton Giant Cupcake tin kindly donated by Vouchercodes.co.uk

Here are the two winners:

If that’s too small to read here they are:

Margaret said...

How wonderful!
I love ginger cupcakes with lemon icing.

Jo said...

Foir me it has to be a citrus flavour, a tangy orange, or lemon.
Yumm I feel quite hungry reading all the flavours.

Thanks

Well done ladies. Please email me your full names and addresses using the “email me” button on the right hand side of my page and I’ll send your wonderful prizes off straight away.

Congratulations, and thank you to vouchercodes.co.uk for donating the prizes.

Sticky toffee cake


One of THE foods of Christmas must be the humble date. Big fat juicy medjool dates with the texture of fruit but the taste of toffee – heaven!

I have made a couple of versions of sticky toffee pudding but this is a sticky toffee cake. The difference is that instead of toffee sauce you have toffee buttercream. This is a seasonal cake without being obviously so – a nice option for those who are fed up with fruit cakes and mince pies.

The smell of the dates when you boil them is gorgeous. I made the cake on a freezing cold snowy day but inside my home it was paradise! Here’s the dates when they’ve broken down in boiling water:

Look what happens when you add the bicarbonate of soda – it’s alchemy!

What surprised me most about this cake, was the texture. It was light and spongy – just like carrot cake, but the flavour was unmistakably sticky toffee. It’s quite one of my favourite cakes that I’ve made recently.


Ingredients

For the cake:
225g stoned dates (I used Medjool)
300ml water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g self raising flour

For the toffee icing:
90ml (6 tablespoons) double cream
80g soft light brown sugar
25g unsalted butter
25g golden icing sugar

Optional decoration: toffee nuggets

Method

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

- Line a 20cm square loose bottomed tin with greaseproof paper.

- Using scissors (I find this the least messy way) snip the dates into pieces – about the size of a small grape.

- Place the dates and the water in a saucepan. Pick a large saucepan because the mix will bubble up considerably when you stir in the bicarbonate of soda.

- Bring the dates and water to the boil and then boil, uncovered for 10 minutes.

- Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda.

- Leave to cool.

- Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, pale and airy. Don’t skimp on this stage.

- Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

- Fold in the flour and the dates.

- Spoon into the prepared baking tin and level the surface.

- Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out virtually clean – it won’t be perfectly clean because of the gooey dates.

- Check the cake 10 minutes from the end to ensure that the top is not burning – the dates can catch. If necessary, cover the cake with foil for the last 10 minutes.

- Leave to cool in the tin until you can comfortably handle the tin and turn the cake out. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

- For the icing heat the cream, brown sugar and butter over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves i.e. you cannot see the granules on the back of the spoon.

- Bring to the boil and cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes until it turns golden. Do not stir. If the mixture darkens too quickly simply remove it from the heat before the 4 minutes is up.

- Leave to cool.

- Beat the icing sugar into the icing until smooth.

- Spread over the top of the cake – you might find this easier with a wetted palette knife.

- Decorate as required.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

Christmas cake



Fruit cake is perfectly, if a little matter-of-factly, named because it is fruit and cake. I love the way that this type of cake is so packed with fruit that it’s as if the cake is only there to hold all the fruit together; it’s definitely the supporting artiste!

I like this Australian Women’s Weekly recipe as you don’t particularly have to soak the fruit in advance, nor do you have to make the cake weeks ahead of Christmas for it to mature. However, it tastes like you’ve been nurturing it and feeding it for months!

This was the first fruit cake I’ve made where I didn’t have arm and shoulder ache all day. Why? Because the CCBF (Caked Crusader’s Boyfriend) stepped forward to demonstrate his cake mixing prowess. He also cut the glace cherries.

Unlike previous years I have made the almond paste and icing. Usually I don’t bother with this but the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) requested it. To strike a happy balance between paste and icing haters and lovers, I only put it on the top.

Here’s the almond paste:

The cake won’t be covered in fondant icing until later next week, or cut until Christmas day so I’ll revisit this post with some photos then.

I used some leftover almond paste to make my reindeer decorations:

You get a lot of slices out of a big cake like this:


Ingredients
For the cake:
500g sultanas
375g raisins
140g glace cherries, chopped coarsely
110g currants
2 tablespoons marmalade
125ml rum or brandy, plus 2 extra tablespoons
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
200g dark brown sugar
4 eggs
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice

For the almond paste (this quantity will comfortably cover the top of a 20cm cake. To completely cover the cake i.e. the sides too, double these quantities):

175g ground almonds
90g icing sugar
90g caster sugar
2 eggs, medium size – separate one of them
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon brandy

For the fondant icing (Delia Smith gives this quantity to cover a 20cm cake. I found it sufficient to cover the top of my cake - in other words, I reckon she's being mean. If you want to cover the whole cake consider doubling the quantities):

450g icing sugar
1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon liquid glucose

Method

- Combine all the fruit, marmalade and the rum/brandy in a large bowl and leave to stand for as long as possible.

- Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/Gas mark 2.

- Line a 23cm round springform tin with three layers of baking paper, ensuring that the baking paper comes up 5cm above the height of the tin – this will help to bake the cake evenly and stop it browning too much.

- Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined. It won’t ever become fluffy when you’re using dark sugar.

- Beat in the orange and lemon rind.

- Add the eggs, one at a time beating until well combined. If it starts to curdle add some of the flour.

- Stir in the flour and spice.

- Stir in the bowl of fruit making sure you scrape out all the booze!

- Spoon the cake into the prepared tin and level the surface.

- Bake for approximately 3 ½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. I’d check the cake after 3 hours as mine was done.

- As soon as the cake comes out of the oven brush the additional 2 tablespoons of rum/brandy over it then, wrap the tin tightly in foil. This means that the cake will steam as it cools making it ultra moist.

- The next day, remove the cake from the tin and wrap it in baking paper and foil, storing it in an airtight container. It will keep like this for months.

- Make the almond paste and cover the cake with it a week before you top it off with the fondant. This is because the almond paste will ooze almond oil and you don’t want this bleeding into your snowy white fondant.

- Place the icing and caster sugar into a bowl and stir in the whole egg and egg yolk.

- Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water – ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water – and whisk for approximately 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

- Stand the bowl in 5cm of cold water (I did this in my sink) and whisk in the almond extract and brandy.

- Whisk until the mixture cools.

- Stir in the ground almonds and knead to form a paste. It will be very sticky at first but let it stand for 5-10 minutes and it firms up.

- Dust a sheet of baking paper with icing sugar and place the paste on it. Dust the paste with more icing sugar before placing a further sheet of baking paper on top.

- Roll out until you can cover the top of your cake.

- Brush the egg white that you didn’t use earlier over the cake. Place the cake face down onto the paste and using the cake as a guide, cut around it.

- Turn the cake back to the right way up and you should have a very neat topping of almond paste.

- Any leftover paste can be re-rolled to make decoration or simply just eat it – cook’s perks!

- Wrap the cake back up and let the almond paste settle down for a week before you ice it.

- To make the fondant icing place the icing sugar in a bowl and make a well in the centre, into which place the egg white, vanilla and glucose.

- Stir so that you gradually incorporate the icing sugar into the wet ingredients.

- When it is too stiff to stir, turn it out and knead until it becomes completely smooth. If it’s sticky add a dusting of icing sugar; too dry wet your fingers under the tap.

- Roll the fondant out on baking paper that has been dusted with icing sugar.

- Cover the cake as soon as possible and then store in an airtight tin.

- You can make the fondant up to 3 days in advance of rolling it out but then must keep it wrapped up and in the fridge. (The iced cake shouldn’t be refrigerated).

- Decorate as desired.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Vouchercodes.co.uk fantastic giveaway!


Vouchercodes.co.uk is a fantastic website. What is does is gather together all the discount codes and vouchers floating around the internet meaning that you need never miss out on an offer again!

Since discovering it, it’s become my “go to” site before I order anything online or visit any restaurants. It doesn’t just have internet codes, but also ones you can print off and use in restaurants and shops. When you think about it, it’s mad NOT to use it – particularly in the run up to Christmas.

One of the most popular current offers is £15 off Wine and Champagne orders over £50 at Tesco. You will be taken straight to it by clicking here. The expiry date of the offer is the same as the competition so just think – you could shortly be baking your dream giant cupcake and sipping bargain top brand champagne or wine! How decadently festive!

As if all this wasn’t reason enough to love Vouchercodes.co.uk the lovely people there have given me TWO cake tins to give away as prizes on my blog. Yes! Two lucky winners will each win one of these gorgeous Wilton giant cupcake tins (retailing for anything upwards of £25 each!)

All you need to do, to be in with a chance of winning, is to leave a comment to this post telling me your favourite cupcake flavour. Due to the weight of the tins (and hence the postage costs!) this competition is limited to entrants living in England, Scotland and Wales.

Closing date for entries is 10am Sunday 20th December when the two lucky winners will be selected by way of lucky dip - I’ll post the results later that day.

Good luck!