Sunday, 22 January 2012

White Russian Cupcakes

These are adapted/inspired by a recipe I saw for White Russian Cupcakes based on the cocktail (Kahlua, Vodka and cream), on Katie Cakes. The flavour is quite subtle, and they don't really taste like coffee, or alcoholic cupcakes, but almost have hints of white chocolate.

I decided to omit the vodka, as it didn't really seem necessary (because of its lack of flavour), and replaced it with more milk and Kahlua.

I found the texture of these cakes to be a little too dense, and would prefer to use a different recipe which provides more light, springy cakes. The recipe I have posted uses a base of the vanilla cupcakes from Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days, with the addition of liqueur


White Russian Cupcakes

Makes 12-16 cupcakes
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
¼tsp salt
210ml milk
2tsp Kahlua
½tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
White Russian Buttercream:
110g unsalted butter
350g icing sugar
1tbsp Kahlua
1 square milk/dark chocolate  
1. Preheat the oven the 190C/375F/gas mark 5, and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then add the flour, baking powder and salt and continue beating until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

3. Mix together the milk, Kahlua, vanilla and eggs in a separate bowl. Beat three quarters of the liquids into the dry ingredients, mix well, add the rest of the liquid and continue mixing until the batter is smooth.

4. Divide the batter between the cupcake cases, up to about two-thirds full and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cakes are springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For the butter cream, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and add the Kahlua. Add as much milk as (about one tablespoon) required to reach piping-consistency. Frost the cupcakes with the butter cream and grate some chocolate over the tops.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Cranberry Blondies

Like most blondies, these are very sweet and so should be consumed in moderation- I used half the amount of the ingredients from Taste of Home, so the one I've written up makes about 18 small(ish) triangles.

The cranberries go really well with these, as they counterbalance the brown sugar and white chocolate with their slight tartness. The sweetness could be reduced a little by using a lighter sugar- light brown soft, brown caster, or even white caster would do the trick, though they wouldn't be as soft or dense.

Cranberry Blondies

Makes 18 pieces

85g butter
160g muscovado (or other sugar)
1 egg
½tsp vanilla extract 
135g flour
¾tsp baking powder 
¼tsp salt
¼tsp cinnamon  
30g dried cranberries
85g white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or chips)
110g cream cheese
55g icing sugar
85g white chocolate, melted
30g dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180◦C/ 350F/ gas mark 4 and line a 7.5 inch/19cm square tin with buttered greaseproof paper (or use a disposable foil tin).

2. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar; leave to come to room temperature.

3. Beat the egg and vanilla into the butter and sugar. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir until well incorporated. Fold in the chocolate pieces and cranberries.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skin has formed and a skewer inserted near to the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes before taking out of the tin and cooling further on a wire rack.

5. For the frosting, soften the cream cheese in a small-medium bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Beat together and add half of the melted chocolate, cooled slightly.

6. Spread the frosting on top of the blondies, then sprinkle on the cranberries and drizzle on the remaining melted chocolate. Place in the fridge and leave for about 15 minutes before slicing into portions.

Store in the fridge

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Hot Chocolate Stirrers

I think these are a fantastic idea. 3 ways to pimp your hot chocolate in one, nifty stick.

Stir one of these in your drink and you will have a peppermint infused, marshmallow-layered hot chocolate- plus, some melted chocolatey goodness.

Around Christmas a couple of years ago I tried dipping one of the surplus candy canes in a hot chocolate, but, unfortunately I found it to be too minty and, frankly, unpleasant. I'm  not sure whether it just took time or whether it was the additional sweetness of the marshmallows, but when I tried one of these in my hot chocolate the other day, I thought it tasted like milky liquid After-Eights; I am completely converted on the concept.

These have been done by quite a few people, but I found them through a version from MyCandyCrafts. Anyway, these are a really neat idea, especially if you have leftover candy canes from Christmas.

Hot Chocolate Stirrers

Makes 10 Stirrers


10 candy canes

20 marshmallows

100g chocolate



1. Skewer two marshmallows onto each of the candy canes.

2. Melt the chocolate and dip the stirrers into the chocolate, rolling to cover the marshmallows. Douse the Marshmallows with sprinkles.

3. Leave the stirrers on greaseproof paper at room temperature or in the fridge to until the chocolate has set.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are by far the best cookies I have made- or bought. A lightly crispy exterior, chewy but soft on the inside with notes of buttery toffee. What more could you ask from a chocolate chip cookie?

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's 'Kitchen'- I modified it slightly.

I made a batch of these cookies for my brother to take back to university; because I wouldn't have time to make the cookies the day, or day before he was leaving, I decided to make and freeze the dough a few days ahead so the cookies would be freshly baked when he would take them. To freeze, I scooped the dough into the appropriate sizes onto some greaseproof paper and placed in the freezer for about 20 minutes, until the blobs were solid. I then put the blobs into a freezer bag and left them until it was time to bake- I added 3 minutes to the cooking time. (Note- more room is needed between cookies for spreading than shown above- this was just for freezing).

One of the best things about this recipe is the use of an egg yolk and the brown sugar; these make the cookies nice and chewy and toffee-y.
Feel free to use chocolate chips (as called for in the original recipe), but I always use roughly chopped milk chocolate, as it is more often to hand and I find the generous chunks are better than little chips- especially for cookies as large as these. I also reduced the amount of chocolate by about 100g, because although I love the chocolate, I actually find that 250g is always enough.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 12

150g unsalted butter
125g soft light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg, fridge cold
1 egg yolk, fridge cold
2tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g chocolate chips

1. Pre heat the oven to 165°C/ 325F/Gas 3. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

2. Melt the butter and let it cool a little. In a separate bowl, mix the sugars together and add the cooled butter.

3. Beat in the cold egg and egg yolk and the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.

4. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda a little at a time and mix together. Fold in the chocolate chips.

5. Scoop the dough into roughly 60ml blobs and plop onto the trays, leaving enough space for considerable spreading (about 2inches).

6. Bake for about 17 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool (and harden a little)on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to continue cooling. Store in a Tupperware for up to about 5 days.

If you are freezing the dough, scoop the made-up dough into 60ml blobs onto greaseproof paper and place in the freezer for 20 minutes, until the blobs are solid. Put the frozen blobs into a freezer bag and return to the freezer where they can stay for up to 6 months. Cook the dough from frozen- the baking instructions are the same, but with an additional 2- 3 minutes.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Chocolate Brandied Raisin Cookies

I made these cookies over the Christmas break after my brother had requested "brandy butter cookies", in jest. Well I looked around on line, but there didn't seem to be anything of the sort. I decided I might make some white chocolate chip cookies with an addition of brandy, but then I found this recipe which looked great (on Chasing Tomatoes - originally adapted from Martha for a cookie a little less mellow. The brandy doesn't come out very strongly, but works well with the raisins.

These cookies are really chewy, but have a crisp exterior, which the cinnamon sugar really adds to. Be sure not to overcook these, as the texture would be lost. I often substitute dark chocolate for milk chocolate, but for this recipe, dark chocolate is definitely the way to go given such a cocoa-rich dough.

Chocolate Brandied Raisin Cookies
Makes 12

75g raisins, chopped
4tbsp brandy
90g plain flour
½tbsp cocoa
½tsp cinnamon
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼tsp salt
55g butter
100g soft brown sugar
4tbsp honey
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Cinnamon Sugar:
50g caster sugar
¼tsp cinnamon

1. Pre heat the oven to 165°C/ 325F/Gas 3. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Bring the brandy and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave  for 20 minutes. Cream together the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl until light and fluffy. Add the honey and continue mixing.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the butter mixture and stir to combine.

4.Drain the raisins and add to the butter mixture, along with the chocolate pieces.

5. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon

6. Scoop two tablespoon blobs of cookie dough and douse with the cinnamon sugar. Press the blobs together, shape into a ball and roll in the cinnamon sugar again, before placing on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, spacing each cookie 2 inches apart on the baking tray/s to make about a dozen cookies.

7. Place the baking trays in the centre of the oven and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until just set with tops about to crack. Leave to cool on the trays for  a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a Tupperware for up to three days.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Gingerbread House

Last Christmas I made my first ever Gingerbread House- a cousin of the above image. I used quite a simple template- four walls (two pentagonal fronts and two rectangular sides) and two rectangular roof panels; for a first attempt, I was rather pleased. I then decided to make one for the following Easter and one each for two of my friends' birthdays in Summer- all using the same templates.
This year I wanted to make a Gingerbread House again, but wished to try something a little different. Unfortunately, I could only find one free template on line which was a little more interesting than my 2010 one. I decided I would use the same template, but have the house facing a different direction (the door was on a rectangular rather than pentagonal wall). I also added an extension to the right side of the house- a simple, four walled section with a perpendicular roof.

For the gingerbread, I used a recipe from the BBC Good Food website, which I have posted below. It tastes great, and the smell during baking is so inviting, but last year- despite it having sat out without a container (or any other coverage) for over a week-, everyone seemed to enjoy the taste all the same. I wouldn't recommend the gingerbread house as a gastronomic delight if you are planning (as I did) for it to act as a visual pleasure for as long as possible, but you needn't worry if you will eat the house within 2 or 3 days after making it. Bear in mind that most of the decorations will also probably become a little stale- chocolate begins to taste almost dusty after a few days, so if you want it to taste really good or use fancy ingredients, the best-before would be only a couple of days. 

To stick the gingerbread together, I used royal icing- the recipe is also from BBC Good Food. This icing is quite stiff and sets quickly, so is ideal for a cement. For the icicles, I thinned-down the icing with a bit of water so it would flow from the piping bag more easily. 

I used various food colourings for the detailing on the walls; as I wanted dark shades (dark green for the holly, red for the berries, black for the door knob), I had to use a lot of colouring, as I only had liquid colouring. I would definitely use a gel or paste in the future, because in order to achieve a dark enough colour with liquid, you would have to make the icing very runny (too runny to pipe) from so much thin colouring.
The log pile is made of some chopped flakes.

Bite-size Shredded Wheat make up the thatch roof tiles.

The snowman is three marshmallows skewered on a cocktail stick, the hat is a fruit pastille and the scarf is Orange zest.
To make the trees, I piped rings of green royal icing stars around ice cream cones- I have seen this on quite a few websites, so you could find tutorials from a Google search.

Doubling the below recipe made enough dough for the house and at least one batch of gingerbread men- you could probably use 1 1/2 of the ingredients for a house of the same size. If you do decide to make more than the quantities below provide, it may be necessary to roll the dough into a ball (or two), wrap in cling film and refrigerate for about 20 minutes before rolling out, as it can be a little difficult to roll out with large quantities.

Gingerbread House


250g unsalted butter

200g dark muscovado sugar

7tbsp golden syrup

600g plain flour

2tsp bicarbonate of soda

4tsp ground ginger
2tsp cinnamon (I usually add this if I am making gingerbread at Christmas)

Royal Icing:

2 egg whites

500g icing sugar


1. Pre heat the oven to 200°C/ 400F/Gas 6.

2. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a large bowl, then stir in the melted mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.

3. Cut out the templates onto greaseproof paper and roll out the dough to the thickness of about two £1 coins. Cut the dough into the shapes of the templates.

4. Bake all the sections for 12 minutes or until firm and a little darker around the edges. Leave to cool a little, cut around the templates again, then leave to cool completely.

5. For the icing, put the egg whites in a bowl, and then sift in the icing sugar. Stir to make a smooth, thick icing. 

6. To stick the walls together, align the four walls and once they are straight, pipe or spread thick lines of the icing along the edges and press the walls together and hold until the icing begins to set. After a few hours (give it at least 3, depending on the stability), add some more icing to the tops of the walls where the roof panels will rest. Push down the roof panels and leave for a few hours before decorating. I usually do this the day before decorating; I assemble the walls in the morning and the roof in the afternoon.

The dimensions for the main part of the house are as follows (you will want two of each shape):
For the pentagonal sides: A 15.2 cm by 10.4 cm square with a triangle on top of the 15.2 cm side with height of 7.6 cm
For the rectangular sides (front and back): A 17.7 cm base by 10.7 cm rectangle
For the roof panels: A 17.7 cm by11.4 cm rectangle

The dimensions for the extension are as follows:
For the trapezium shaped walls (front and back)- you will need two of these: A trapezium with a 10.7cm height on one side, 8cm height on its parallel side and an 8cm base
For the rectangular side: An 8cm by 9.2cm base rectangle
For the rectangular roof panel: An 8.5cm by 8cm base rectangle

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For my first post, I have chosen my mother's belated birthday cake. I saw this cake a couple of months ago on Smitten Kitchen's blog. Because my mum's birthday is only three days after Christmas, it doesn't feel like much of a hardship going without a cake. Anyway, a few days later I decided a cake must be made, as it wouldn't be fair to have an over-a-week-belated birthday cake, and besides, we all wanted some cake. This was when I turned to this recipe.

I edited the recipe only slightly- some of the quantities differ a little, but are mostly the same- and, as I mention below, I reduced the amount of frosting considerably.

The original recipe is a triple layered cake, but I only did a double layered one because it is rather large- and rich, so the serving sizes are relatively small. The recipes I have posted are enough for a triple layered cake; I reduced the ingredients below for the cake by 1/3 and used 2 cake pans. For the frosting, I reduced the ingredients by 1/4, which was a good amount (although it was less than the volume recommended)- though if you're a frosting maniac, you could go for the full amount- roughly 1 1/2 of the listed amounts for a triple layered cake.

I really do recommend making this cake- if you're looking for something deeply chocolatey, this probably will not suffice, so you could use a different recipe for that. But the frosting is great, and very versatile; that, combined with the chocolate cake and topping makes a truly indulgent dessert- therefore it is noteworthy that thin slices are more than enough, and you should probably only do all three layers if there are plenty of mouths to feed. You could even do a single layered cake if you don't think you'll get through more than that-even just make half a batch of chocolate cupcakes topped with the peanut butter frosting. Or, in a bit of a different direction, a vanilla cupcake with jam filling would be pretty cool with this frosting.

As a last point, make sure you freeze the cake before you try to assemble it- it is very fragile.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

280g plain flour
490g sugar
65g cocoa
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp salt
240ml flavourless oil
240ml sour cream
360ml water
2tbsp white vinegar
1tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
Peanut butter frosting:
190g cream cheese
80g unsalted butter

400g icing sugar
100ml smooth peanut butter
Chocolate topping:
75g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
2tbsp smooth peanut butter
1dsp golden syrup
80ml single cream

1. Pre heat the oven to 180°C/ 350F/Gas 4. Butter and line three 8-inch diameter cake pans.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water, then the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Divide among the three cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack and removing the greaseproof paper to cool completely. Put the cakes back into the re-papered (not buttered) pans, wrap in foil, and place in freezer bags and put in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up.

4. To frost, spread about one fifth of the frosting on top of the first cake layer, then place another cake layer on top and spread on the same amount of frosting. Top with the final layer and spread a little bit of frosting over the top and sides as a crumb coat before refrigerating for 15 to 30 minutes. Take out of the fridge and spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides before returning to the fridge while you make the chocolate topping.

5. Melt the chocolate, peanut butter and golden syrup in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring to blend. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Spoon (while warm- reheat if necessary) over the cake once the frosting has well set and spread around the top of the cake, pushing towards the edges to let the chocolate drip down the sides.

6. Return to the fridge, uncovered for about 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set, then take the cake out of the fridge and leave for about 30 minutes to take the chill off.

Store in the fridge in a Tupperware. Take out of the Tupperware and leave for about 30 minutes at room temperature to warm up a little.
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