Friday, 30 September 2011

Macmillan Coffee Morning Cupcakes

There's a really great little toddler group that I've started going to since moving to Rainford (one of many!), they held a Macmillan Coffee Morning today so I baked these last night to add to the collection they'd be selling:

Very Berry and Almond Cupcakes (for the grown ups)
Vanilla and Raspberry Jam Cupcakes (for the children)

Left: Very Berry /  Right:Vanilla and Jam
Don't ask me why I decided to make two different kinds of cupcake at 8pm on a Thursday night for this thing... talk about hard work! My reasoning was that I'd make some nice ones the kiddywinks and then some nice ones for the adults. Anyway, despite the hard slog of picking two less than simple types o'cake, they turned out lovely and went down really well at the coffee morning. Well, they all sold (30p each - beat that! LOL) anyway so I'm taking that as a good thing!

I even got to use my new favourite piece of equipment...wait for it... duuurn de, duuuurn de, de de duuuurh (yes, that's the Jaws music)....


My new cooking syringe
Just how sinister does this thing look exactly? That's Jam in there in case anyone wondered (you never know). It looks like something I might my able to use on my thighs for a bit make-shift lipo? The irony of somthing meant for filling cakes used to remove my lardy bits... anyway... yes. I'll stop with the grotesqueness now.
I used this for filling the vanilla and jam cupcakes, it worked well - once I'd realised that I should use jam that has been sieved of all it's pips first. This thing get's blocked so easily, it took me an age to actually fill all, 6, yes only 6, cupcakes. Think I might stick to my piping bag next time. This would be good for other things though, maybe marinades or smoother substances than jam. Jam's just too thick for this?

Well, both of these recipes are listed below should you like to try them :)

Coop's Very Berry and Almond Cupcakes

These are also really nice to make at the moment as they're all in season still.

Ingredients (makes 8 big cupcakes):

175g of butter (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
140g caster sugar
2 eggs
a small punnet of blackberries
a small punnet of raspberries
a small punnet of blueberries
50g flaked almonds
100g plain flour
40g self raising flour
60ml full fat milk
Vanilla sugar
125g cream cheese
300g icing sugar

(so not much then eh...!)


Firstly I'd start off by preparing the decoration for the top of the cupcakes (see below)

  • Take 8 of each berry (blueberry, raspberry and blackberry) and place in a sieve.
  • Run them under the tap and then carefully shake off any excess.
  • Roll them in the vanilla sugar very carefully then place on one side to dry.

Tip: You can make your own vanilla sugar by placing any old vanilla pods you might have used in a jar of ordinary caster sugar - after a few days you'll have lovely vanilla sugar (great for crumbles)

n.b you can also use egg white to coat the berries before covering them but I always like to take the side of caution and steer away from raw egg in anything uncooked.

Now the cakes:

  • Preheat the oven a relatively low heat (I found 120 for a fan oven was appropriate) - this is due to the dense mixture used, I feel a slower bake cooks them evenly and without explosions!
  • Line the cake tin (a muffin one obvs) with you chosen pretty cupcakes (one of fav things to buys!)
  • Place the 125g of the butter, the vanilla extract, sugar and eggs in an electric mixer (or use a handheld) and beat until light and fluffy and well combined.
  • Now fold in the flours, and milk - mix well.
  • Fold in a couple of handfulls of blueberries and add all the almonds - mix until evenly mixed.
  • Evenly distribute the mixture between the cases until they are half full.
  • Now place a raspberry in the centre of each and push until covered with mixure, repeat with blackberries. You can add more if you think they can take it.
  • Now smooth over the top of the cakes and add the remaining mixture on top.
  • The mixture should be quite high in the cases but not to the top.

  • Bake for around 35 minutes.
n.b you'll notice the mixture is quite thick but this really helps suspend the berries so they dont sink to the bottom.

Make the cream cheese frosting:
  • Using either an electric mixer or a handheld, beat the butter into the icing sugar.
  • Add all the cream cheese to this and beat on a medium speed until light and fluffy.

  • Using a spatuler (or knife) spoon on the mixture (be generous, this stuff is lovely! And much lighter than regualr buttercream)
  • Place one of each sugared berry on the top.
Et voila! :)

Now, here's the vanilla and raspberry jam ones:

Vanilla and Raspberry Jam Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 8 large cupcakes):

120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of bakinng powder
120g unsalted butter at room temperature
150ml whole milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Jar of smooth raspberry jam
250g icing sugar

Make the cakes
  • Preheat the oven to a moderate heat (around 150 fan)
  • Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and 40g of the butter in an electric mixer or use a hand-held on a medium speed until a sandy consitency is reached.
  • mix the vanilla extract with 130ml of the milk and the whisked egg and then slowly pour into the mix bit by bit until just incorporated.
  • Spoon the mixture evenly into the cases.
  • Bake for approx 25 mins then turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  • Warm the jam in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds and sieve to remove pips if necessary.
  • Place in a cooking syringe or piping bag and fill the cakes with as much jam as you'd like.
Make the buttercream icing
  • Place the icing sugar and 80g of the butter in a mixer and beat until just mixed.
  • Add the milk, beat again until light and fluffy.
  • Add any food colouring you may like. (a couple of drops will do) and beat really well.
  • Place in a piping bag with your chosen nozel (I find a start nozel gives that lovely traditional whipped effect)
  • Pipe onto your cakes!
  • Add any other decorations you may like, I added little sugar butterflies I bought on-line.

Coops xxx

Friday, 23 September 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes

Using my trusty Hummingbird Bakery cookbook as inspiration, I created some strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. Here's what I did:

The recipe - as I did, not strictly going by the book.

Makes: 8


125g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
115ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range egg
9 large strawberries, chopped into small pieces
100g digestive biscuits
12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

For the frosting:

300g icing sugar, sifted
50g quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold (make sure it's a quality cream cheese like Philly)


1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and unsalted butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or use a handheld electric whisk, and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

2. Pour in the milk and beat on a medium speed until all the ingredients are combined. Now whisk the egg with the vanilla extract and add to the mixture, beat well for a few minutes to ensure the ingredients are well mixed.

3. Divide the chopped strawberries between the paper cases:

then spoon the cupcake mixture on top until two-thirds full

and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to25 minutes. Leave them to cool in their tray for 5 minutes before putting them on a wire rack.
4. Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating the icing sugar with the unsalted butter together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or use a handheld electric whisk on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. I found that my handheld mixer worked wonders here!
Add the cream cheese in one go and beat it until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least five minutes.

5. Roughly break up the digestive biscuits and put them in a food processor. Process until finely ground. When the cupcakes are cold, spatuler on the cream cheese frosting on top and finish with a sprinkling of finely ground biscuits.

So there you are! I loved making these, they looked so pretty and the finished result tasted much better than I would have imagined (and I imagined they'd taste pretty good anyway!) The frosting used was a cream cheese one, something I've mentioned having issues with on here before. But, after ditching the electric mixer in favour of my hand held mixer for this recipe I am a complete convert now! The frosting turned out brilliant, almost nicer than a straight-up buttercream. So, unless I get that fancy £300 mixer for Christmas, I'm sticking to a handheld mixer from now on.
The addition of the digestives on top definitely gave them a lovely cheesecakeyness too.
One thing I was concerned about was the how soggy they might be with all those strawberries on the bottom, and, they were a little 'moist' but I think these are more of a desert cupcake anyway - best eaten with a plate and fork so that didn't matter.


I would definitely make these again, one of my favourites.


Friday, 16 September 2011

Spanish Orange Cake

I'm eating a Terry's chocolate orange while I type this. I'm obviously hooked on sweet treats of the orange variety at the moment?

Last Saturday my sister-in-law (well almost) had a 'Spanish night'. She and her husband provided lots of tapas, sangria, olives and home-made spanish fare :) So my mother-in-law provided a trifle (not very spanish but no-one would complain, her trifles are amazing!) and I provided a desert with the Spanish element, a very aptly named 'Spanish cake'.

The Spanish cake recipe I used was somthing completely different to anything I've done before, it doesn't really sound like a cake when you read the ingredients and method, but it really works so well and tastes delicious. The bulk of the cake consists of beaten eggs and alot of ground almonds, with a generous amount of whole oranges, and, no flour whatsoever making it a great cake for anyone who may be wheat intolerant or sticking to a gluten-free diet.
The cake was wonderfully moist, yet quite dense too, but that was no bad thing. This cake would be greatly suited to an afternoon tea type thing, with some whipped double cream :P

The trick to getting this cake right is the whisking of the egg whites and folding of the mixture. You need a nice stif fluffy base of egg white for which to add your other ingredients or the cake will end up too dense and a bit flat.

Here's the cake:

And here's how you make it:


2 oranges, about 280 g cut into eights, including the skins!! (Maybe this cake would work really well with lemons too??)
5 large free-range eggs, separated

200 g caster sugar

220 g ground almonds

2 tbsp flaked almonds to decorate

sifted icing sugar to decorate

1.Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4)
2.Place your chopped oranges in a medium saucepan, discarding any pips. Add 1 tbsp of water, then cover and cook gently for 30 minutes or until the oranges are soft. Make sure you cook off any excess liquid. Now leave to cool.
3. Line the bottom and sides of a 20 cm springform cake tin with baking parchment. It's really important to do this, no matter how lazy you're feeling butter alone just won't do. You definitely need a tin with a bottom that pushes up with this to make it easier to remove as well. 
Now take the cooled oranges and finely chop them in a food processor or blender until they're almost mushy.

3.Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Or use a food processor with a whisk attachment. Maybe wipe a little lemon juice on anything you're using for your egg whites with this to ensure no grease / fat inhibits your fluffy peaks! Now gradually whisk in half the caster sugar, whisk thoroughly.

4. Now whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar in another (large) bowl for a couple of minutes or until pale and quite thick. Whisk in the finely chopped oranges, then carefully fold in the ground almonds with a metal spoon.

5.Stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the whisked egg white to loosen the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites with a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

6.Bake for around 50 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake half way through, and cover lightly with foil if it's browning too quickly.

7.Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn it out, peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
The cake can be kept in an airtight tin for up to 2 days.
Anyway, the cake went down a storm (though secretly you know everyone was loving that trifle more, it's so good!).

Saturday, 3 September 2011

My go at a village show...

Yep, one of those lovely villagy shows where people see who has the biggest marrow, the most spherical onions, the perkiest sweet peas, the most perpendicular tarts. That kind of thing. Oh, and the nicest cakes of course.
Having just moved to the area, I found out the village in which I now live was holding a 'village show', so I thought I'd try my luck! And boy, I think I'd need a lot of luck to impress these judges! Lots of lovely cakes on offer and I was the inexperienced newbie.

I mean the Rainford village show isn't like a lot of other vilage shows in the country, no, much more friendly by the sounds of it. But still, it's hard to know the un-spoken etiquette for these things isn't it?
The only info I was given for my chosen category, 'Domestic', was a choice of the following:
Banana Bread
Apple Pie
Victoria Sandwich
and that they had to be home-made and the judges decision was final. Right. well that wouldnt be too bad. I thought 'Hey, I'll do the old classic Victoria sandwich then!" and then I thought I'd do a bit of research on-line, you know, what they might be expecting and stuff. I heard all-sorts. "bicarb is frowned upon" "never use cream" "caster sugar is the preferred decoration" icing sugar is the preferred decoartion" "a doily should be used" "don't use a cake stand, it's showing off, they don't like that" ARRRGH! So then from what I suddenly thought would be a nice little thing to do totally stressed me out because I didn't want to end up a complete obvious failure when I pride myself on being an alright baker! I had visions of my cake sitting there, glaringly covered in the wrong type of sugar with a placard next to it saying "disappointing" LOL!

Anyway, after having a word with myself I just decided to get on with the following:

3 egg mix
Strawberry jam
No cream (though I do love cream in a victoria sandwich!!)
Icing sugar on top

Here's how it turned out:

Not great, and a bit boring to look at if you ask me. I think it needed to be a smidge thicker and with whipped cream in the middle. But hey ho, I had no idea what to expect and just wanted to experience entering.

I turned up on the day with my offering, paid my 20p entrance fee and laid my little 'beauty' for all to see:

Yeah, it's even worse here, right? Argh! And with the bloomin' great beast of a sandwich behind it too. I really did have no chance. Anyway, I came back after the judging and here was the table:

Mine is the first on the right, top row. To be fair, looking at them lined up like this I thought mine looked pretty alright in the end. Alas, no ranking. :( and from the looks of things they didn't even taste it. But then they didn't taste the winner either, but did some of the others. I don't get it? Am I being thick here?
Here are the winners:

1st Prize
So, it looks like caster sugar to decorate, a smaller tin, a thicker sponge and a lighter bake then? Errr, so I only got all of it wrong then?!

2nd Prize

Kinda looks like mine, but with caster sugar?

3rd Prize
Well, this just confuses me. It has cream (which I thought was a massive no-no at these things), it's massive, and has icing sugar on top (so obviously they don't mind which).

So there you have it, my first little competition, I didn't win anything but I loved doing it anyway! I'm going to enter a chutney and a couple of cakes of next year I think.

Just in case you're interested, here are some photos of the rest of the show.

The apple pies

The village hall

They are some seriously big cabbages.