Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Malt Choc Cheesecake

Planning a New Year's Eve buffet or lunch on January 1st? This cheesecake would be great for either occasion. It's a malt chocolate cheesecake with a milk chocolate and malt (Horlicks!) layer and a white chocolate layer on top of a malted milk biscuit base...and what else could you decorate a malt cheesecake with, other than malteasers!!

A lovely easy cheescake which will certainly help you win friends and influence people!! ;-) It's not strictly a bake but it's definitely a winner.

  • 200g malted milk biscuits
  • 100g salted butter
  • 5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 600g full fat soft cheese
  • 300ml double cream
  • 300g white chocolate
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 2 tbsp malt or Horlicks powder
  • Bag of white malteasers
Bash the biscuits until they resemble crumbs... I blitzed mine in the food processor but there's always the traditional method of plastic bag and rolling pin if you wish to take out some aggression! Melt the butter in a pan and then add 2tbsp of sugar and the biscuit crumbs and mix before pressing the mixture in to a 23cm loose bottom or springform tin and chilling.
Take two bowls and divide the cream cheese and the cream between the two. Add the Horlicks, milk chocolate and remaining sugar to one and the white chocolate to the other, mix well, it may be best to do this with an electric whisk.
Spread the milk chocolate mix over the biscuit base in an even layer before adding the white chocolate mix on top. Gently smooth the white chocolate layer, making sure you push it right to the edges of the tin so there are no gaps between the layers. Finally, decorate with Malteasers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Lovely Little Gingerbread House

Having heard all the stories of blood, sweat and tears whilst making a gingerbread house, it was with some trepidation that I began my construction. There were a few hairy moments along the way (not literally!) but nothing an awful lot of royal icing and sweets couldn't fix! My favourites are the chocolate button roof tiles! The house also comes complete with a gingerbread man in lederhosen!!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Penguin Party Christmas Cake

This year I decided to hijack my mum's Christmas cake for a spot of decoration! She made the cake a little while ago and then covered it in the marzipan and royal icing... the only credit I can take is for the decoration. However, any geography teachers out there will have to excuse the geographical faux pas...the penguins are just on their Christmas vacation to the North Pole!!

This design is in Good Housekeeping's Christmas Collection magazine. It is designed for a 13 inch cake but mine is an 8 inch, so it's a little crowded but still very cute! I made the penguins entirely out of regular sugarpaste in the following way:
  1. Roll a small ball of black for the head and an oval shape for the body.
  2. Roll out a small amount of black and then cut a straight edge down the middle. Using a suitably sized round cutter, cut out slightly less than a semi-circle down that straight edge...this will give you the wings.
  3. For the feet roll out two small balls of orange and flatten slightly. Using a mini pallette knife mark in two indents to give 3 toes.
  4. To make the beak, make a small yellow cone and then using your pallette knife, gently cut in to it to seperate the top and bottom of the beak.
  5. For the white stomach area, take a small ball of white paste and gently roll flat in to an oval.
  6. To assemble use edible glue or water. Put the feet next to each other and sit the body on top before attaching the white oval for the stomach. Glue on the wings and then gently insert a short piece of spaghetti into the top of the body, upon which the head can be attached. Glue on the beak and then for the eyes, take two tiny balls of white icing and press them into position. Finally, dip the end of a cocktail stick into black paste colour and insert into the centre of each eye.
The method for making the sea pool was quite interesting! It required Fox's Glacier Mints to be melted in a foil cup in the oven for around 20 minutes. Blue paste colouring was then immediately swirled through with a cocktail stick before pouring the mixture quickly into a recess on the cake... it does set very quickly. The fishing rod is just a cocktail stick and some florist wire. The finishing touch was a little disco violet edible glitter to give it that snowy sparkle!

These are just very simple penguins but if you'd like more detailed instructions then check out
May Bakes Cakes on Facebook as she provides a photographic guide to penguin construction!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

These tasty chocolate orange cupcakes are my entry for Chocolate Log Blog's monthly 'we should cocoa' competition...and yes, you guessed it, all entries must include the magic ingredient...chocolate! Every month there is also a special ingredient which must be added. This month it was orange.

In terms of chocolate and orange, these cupcakes tick all the boxes and then some! The cakes themselves are chocolate sponges, made with melted chocolate rather than cocoa and then when cooling an orange juice and sugar syrup is drizzled over each one.

Finally, to top it off the buttercream has melted white chocolate in it, along with grated orange zest. The finishing touch is grated orange chocolate sprinkled over the completed cupcakes and a segment of Terry's Chocolate Orange... phew that's a lot of chocolate and orange!

The recipe for these cupcakes came from Jo Wheatley who baked them on the Great British Bake Off and you can find the recipe here.

I do like a good cupcake and these seemed like the perfect combination. However, if you're going to attempt them, here are some of my thoughts on the recipe as the methodolgy was slightly unusual!
  1. The dry ingredients are pulsed in a food processor before adding the wet ingredients... they didn't mix very well and left little lumps which took a little bit of mixing in.
  2. It only made 12 smaller cakes, so if you want to fill the bigger cupcake cases I would probably go for 10... and it's quite runny, so helpful to use a piping bag to fill the cases.
  3. Don't be too hasty to add the white chocolate to the I was too quick and as it was quite hot, caused it to melt a little.
  4. Wait a few minutes before piping the icing on... again I was too hasty and because it was very loose, my piping swirls didn't hold as well as they usually do!
The cakes were well received and I would certainly recommend the recipe, although it is slightly more time consuming than your average cupcake.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Alternative Mince Pies...The Sequel!

Ok, so they're not exactly mince pies as there's no pastry! However, these do provide a good alternative to mince pies if you fancy a bit of a change! They're very light and not too filling...that does however mean that you might be prone to eating more than one!! They also look super cute with a dusting of icing sugar for the snow and these lovely reindeer and snowflake toppers which I ordered from the Cake Craft Shop.

  •  175g self-raising flour
  • 100g light muscavado sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 175g softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Roughly 140g mincemeat
  • Icing sugar for dusting
Heat your oven to 190c/170c/gas 5. Then put all of the ingredients in to a bowl, except the mincemeat, and mix with an electric hand mixer for around 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be nice and fluffy. Place the cake cases in to the bun tin and spoon a little of the mixture in to each one, followed by a teaspoon of mincemeat. Finally, cover the mincemeat with the remainder of the cake mix and smooth over.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. The cakes should be golden brown and when cool dust with icing sugar. These can be served cold or warm.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Spiced Pecan, Apple & Cranberry Cake

What could be more Christmassy than a Spiced Pecan, Apple and Cranberry Cake? This is completely delicious and it tasted great straight out of the oven whilst still warm. It is easy to make and is great to serve to visitors dropping off cards and presents... it will definitely put you in the Christmas spirit. I have therefore decided to use this as my entry to English Mum's Big Christmas Bake Off . Why not try it for yourself!

  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 braeburn apples, cut in to 1cm chunks
  • 50g fresh cranberries (I used the other 200g in the packet to make a Apple & Cranberry sauce for Christmas Day)
  • 75g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp apricot jam
Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4 and line an 8inch loose bottom tin with baking parchment. Then using an electric whisk, mix up 150g of the butter along with the flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder and milk. Mix for about 5 minutes until fluffy and pale. Put the mixture into the tin and bake for 10 minutes.
Before the cake goes in the oven ensure all your apples have been peeled and chopped, as well as the pecan nuts roughly chopped. It is important this is all ready to go before your cake goes in. Then heat the remain 25g of butter in a frying pan until melted and then add the chopped apples and cinnamon and cook for 3 minutes until they start to soften. Take off the heat and add the pecans and cranberries and stir thoroughly.

At this stage take the cake out of the oven after 10 minutes* and gently spread the apple mixture ofver the top. Return to the oven and bake for around 40-50 minutes. Finally, once done the cake should cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing it and brushing over the top with the apricot jam which has been gently heated. This cake is delicious served warm immediately or it can be served later when cooled.

* I made the mistake of not preparing my apples and pecans in advance so I didn't add them on the top until the cake had been in the oven for 20 minutes... however, this seemed to work as instead of sinking in to the cake, most of the topping remained on top and it gave it a really impressive finish, with just the right amount of apple and cranberry in the cake!
* Adapted from Good Housekeeping - The Baking Book

Friday, December 16, 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged...

Who didn't enjoy a game of tag in the playground? Well this is the cyber space equivalent! 

I've been tagged by the more than occasional baker to answer the questions below... helping you 'get to know the personna behind the blog'. Started by A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate the idea is to answer the 10 questions before tagging another five food bloggers. So here goes...

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

I’ve always been a keen baker but I tended to stick to the same old things so I thought that by starting a blog it would provide good motivation to bake more often and to try new things. Since I started blogging I have to say there has been a serious increase in production in my kitchen!!

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?

Mmmmmmm this is tough but I do love Mary Berry...she'd make a great Grandma! The quintessential English baker, concentrating on the classics. Alternatively, I'd be quite happy to be like Nigella...why is it that she seems to have a midnight snack at the end of every episode?

3.   Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?

My long suffering laptop...I get a lot of recipes off the internet...and my laptop is batter splattered!! For quick and easy bakes I have used Good Food: 101 Cakes & Bakes. However, recipe books can be quite as addictive as baking… so I have a vast array and tend to mix and match!

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Not so much a single thing but a meal at the Le Cochon Dingue in Quebec, Canada. Some delicious maple ribs.

Or any patisseries in Paris!!!

5.   Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?

Ooooooo how could I possibly choose! But if you're twisting my arm maybe Rising to the Berry so we can share our love of the Berry!!

6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

Well Santa has already said that if I’m very very good he will bring me a K-Mix stand mixer… I’ve tried to be good, so only time will tell!

7.   Who taught you how to cook?

No one in particular, although my mum used to bake when I was younger, so I guess osmosis is responsible.

8.   I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?

I tend to cook different things each time as I like to experiment but if you’re coming round for Sunday lunch… a slow roast chicken with garlic, lemon, white wine and rosemary!

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?

Well as it's Christmas, I think I'll have to go for Birds triffle. I know triffle aficionados will be horrified but I love's my favourite part of Christmas Day.

Otherwise I'd probably go for fish finger sandwiches with tomato ketchup.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I gave up eating chocolate and sweets 5 years ago this New Year and haven’t eaten any since! However, strangely I still love making chocolate cakes for other people and I’m considering going on a week long chocolate course!!

Finally...tag 5 other food bloggers with these a hot baked potato...pass it on!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mince Pie Rings

Pastry purists look away now! For this recipe I used ready made, ready rolled puff pastry *gasp*. If you want delicious mince pies with a bit of a twist, then give these simple mince pie rings a go. They're quick and easy so you can whip some up in no time, and they provide a bit of alternative to the standard mince pie. The puff pastry also gives you a lovely satisfying crunch as you bite into it...
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 12 tbsp mincemeat
  • Milk to brush
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 gold lustre dust or Dr.Oetker's Gold Shimmer Spray

Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Roll out the puff pastry in to a rectangle and then slice in to 12 7cm x 23cm strips. Zest the orange and lemon and then sprinkle both over the pastry along with the ground almonds. Leaving a 1cm border, spread a tablespoon of mincemeat down each strip of pastry. Using a pastry brush, brush milk down one of the long sides of each mince pie ring before folding the other side over to meet it. Thoroughly seal the edge by pressing down firmly.

Brush the end of each tube with milk and then pinch one end before inserting it in to the other open end to form a ring. Gently, move the rings on to a baking sheet with baking parchment. Finally, brush again with milk and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. When cool, mix the icing with a small amount of water to make a drizzling consistency. Then use either a teaspoon or a piping bag to drizzle over the mince pie rings. The finishing touch is a dusting of gold lustre or alternatively use Dr. Oetker's Gold Shimmer Spray... and you end up with festive gold rings!

* Recipe adapted from Delicious Magazine

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mad About Macaroons

Yesterday I attended a much anticipated Macaroon course at Cakes 4 Fun in Putney. It was a great day of Macaroon madness! When we arrived we watched a demonstration of how to make the macaroons using the Italian method, before setting to work on 3 batches of our own. By lunchtime we were surrounded by trays and trays of macaroons, raspberry, lemon and chocolate. On top of that our lovely tutor made us pistachio, as well as some cinnamon flavoured macaroons. Before they went in the oven we were able to add some decorations to our pink macaroons, including little coloured balls (dragees), pink sugar and royal icing flowers.

In addition, we then made some Swiss meringue buttercream to which we added a variety of flavours. At the end of the day we all ended up with:
  • Lemon macaroons with lemon curd buttercream
  • Chocolate macaroons with ganache
  • Raspberry macaroons with raspberry jam buttercream (white chocolate ganache also goes well!)
  • Cinnamon macaroons with buttercream
  • Pistachio macaroons with pistachio paste buttercream
If you consider that a single macaroon at that well-known French macaroon patisserie costs £1.40…then all of a sudden this course seems like extremely good value. We left at the end of the day with around 50 macaroons… which would cost you about £70 if you bought them in a shop… and they were just as delicious but with the added satisfaction of being homemade!

So what were the top tips from the day?
  • Use the Italian method rather than the French method
  • Don't bother to draw out circles to pipe your macaroons
  • Leave your macaroons to rest for at least 30 minutes once piped before putting in the oven - until they go dull and form a skin

So what did I do with all my macaroons? Well I popped a few in these fab Christmassy gift bags and gave them out with my Christmas cards today, along with yesterday's biscotti! Although, I may have also sampled one or two myself!! ;-)

I would thoroughly recommend this course if you have a penchant for Macaroons…although, I already have a little bit of a Macaroon addiction and I’m sure being able to make them at home can only make it worse!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fruity Christmas Biscotti

Making home-made gifts is all the rage at the moment, so I thought I'd try these Christmasy biscotti to give to some of my friends and family. They were surprisingly easy to make and they live up to their fruity billing! I particularly enjoyed making these as they're a bit different from your normal bake. I also used Lakeland's Magic Non-Stick Liner to line my baking trays which worked a treat and is completely reusable...just wipe it down and use again next time!

350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
250g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 orange, zest coarsely grated
85g raisins
85g dried cherries
50g blanched almonds
50g shelled pistachios

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4. Then mix the sugar, flour, baking powder and mixed spice together. Beat up the eggs and then pour in to the dry mixture and add the zest. Combine with a spoon until the mixture starts to clump together, at which point you can use your hands to bring the dough together. Finally, add the fruit and nuts and mix until they are evenly spread throughout the mixture.

When ready, turn the dough out on to a floured surface and split it into 4. Each piece can then be rolled into a sausage, roughly 30cm long. You will need 2 baking trays lined with baking paper, put 2 sausages on each tray, well spaced. The biscotti then go in the oven for 25-30 minutes, the dough should rise and spread but still be pale.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack. Turn down the oven to 140c/120c fan/gas 1. When the biscotti are sufficiently cool, cut them on the diagonal into slices of around 1cm thick. Lay them back on the baking sheets on their sides, bake on the first side for 15 minutes before turning them over and baking on the other side, again for 15 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and then store in an airtight tin. They'll last for up to a month. Alternatively, package in a gift bag tied with ribbon and give as gifts to your nearest and dearest!

If you wish they can be frozen at the end of the first 25 minute bake. Freeze flat on a baking sheet before bagging them up. They'll last 2 months in the freezer and when you wish to complete the baking it will just take 20 minutes on each side from frozen...simple!

* Adapted from BBC Good Food

Friday, December 9, 2011

Little Banana Cakes with Maple Pecan Icing

These little treats are just the thing to whip up when you're short of time, they're delicious and look impressive... in a cute sort of way, and yet they take no time at all! They were lovely and moist and banana-ry which was helped by very ripe bananas, and the maple icing and pecans finished the cakes off perfectly to give a very tasty treat... and one that I will certainly be making again.

As you can see in the picture the cakes came out of the oven quite rounded, however the recipe calls for them to be served upturned... as you can imagine this would give quite wobbly, odd looking cakes! Therefore I cut the top off each cake before turning it over to give a stable base... and as I don't like waste, I obviously had to eat the off cuts...I was performing a public service... honest! ;-)

In order to ensure your banana cakes come out of the muffin tin in one piece is to make sure the holes are well greased. A top tip is to use Wilton's Cake Release oil which they claim 'works everytime'.

Happy baking!

50g butter, softened
85g caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 large egg
1 ripe banana
11/2 tsp baking powder


100g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp maple syrup
A drop of vanilla extract
18 pecan halves (toasted if you wish)

Pre-heat your oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5 and grease a muffin pan (I made double the quantity and used a 12 hole pan). Add all the cake ingredients in to a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until you've got a smooth batter. Divide the mixture between the muffin pan holes and bake for around 15minutes, check with a cake tester. Once removed from the oven, leave for 5 mins in the pan before cooling on a wire rack. At this stage you can also freeze these cakes!

Once cool, to make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and then add in the maple syrup and vanilla and then mix to a smooth, thick icing which is suitable for drizzling over your cakes. Then finally, turn your cakes upside down (cutting the tops off if necessary) and drizzle the icing over the cakes, letting it run down the sides before topping each cake with 2-3 pecans.

* Adapted from BBC GoodFood 2012 Calendar

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cute Christmas Cupcakes

These cute cupcakes could be a case in point when it comes to how addictive baking and cake decorating can be. I decided last night that I would whip up a "quick" batch of Christmas pudding cupcakes, but 6 designs and several hours later this was the result! I have to say I was a little cross-eyed by the end!

The cupcakes are vanilla using my new favourite cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. The result is a lovely moist sponge, probably due to the addition of milk:
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5. Then slowly beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together until they form a fine breadcrumb consistency. Next beat together the milk, vanilla essence and eggs. With your whisk on a slow speed, pour three quarters of the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well before adding the remaining milk mixture and beating to a smooth consistency. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

For regular cupcakes the recipe calls for the cases to be two thirds full but for these cupcakes you don't want the cake to rise too far above the top of the case so I filled them a little less. You should be able to make 12-16 cupcakes from this recipe, if not more.

To decorate I buttercreamed the top of each cupcake and cut out circles of sugarpaste using Ateco circle cutters before adding the embellishments. For one or two of the elements, regular sugarpaste would be too soft, so I added some CMC to the paste in advance which causes it to set harder and therefore allows you make things such as the robin's wings and reindeer's antlers! The antlers also have a spaghetti support inside!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... 12 yummy cupcakes and a partridge in a pear tree!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Afternoon Tea: The Langham Hotel

Another Sunday…another afternoon tea! It may be a tiny bit extravagant but my excuse is that it’s all in the name of research!! So today’s tea was at the Langham Hotel which is on Regent’s Street. It certainly is an opulent setting…very art deco. Expectations were high for this tea as it was awarded the Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea 2010, the Oscars of the tea world! So what did we eat, well we enjoyed the Festive Tea with the following patisseries: 
  • Mini mince pies
  • Festive eggnog cream
  • Christmas chocolate log cake
  • Mini gingerbread house
  • Spicy mandarin orange
  • Cranberry and morello cherry macaroon 
The spicy mandarin orange was particularly tasty, along with the macaroon! We also had a selection of cakes from the special Bijoux Tea which are based on the designs of jeweller Stephen Webster. These included:
  • Crystal Clear Diamond - Lightly perfumed Guinness macaroon with blackcurrant jelly
  • Poison Apple - Red peppercorn and dark chocolate shortbread
  • Razor Ribbon Ring - Silver needle jasmine mousse with apricot
  • Armadillo Ring - Roasted green pistachio Chantilly with airy meringue sponge
  • Dagger Done - Valrhona white chocolate creme with strawberry and white balsamic
All these delights were washed down with champagne and a special festive blend tea. As you can see all the cakes looked spectacular and they were very tasty... however, I think I must be an old fashioned girl at heart as they were all a little too fussy for me... as were the sandwiches!! The scones however, get top marks...they were the best I've had in a long time... and I've had a few!! ;-)
So was it better than Fortnum and Mason last Sunday... in a word 'no'. At Fortnums you can while away the hours and enjoy some smart but tasty favourites. At the Langham hotel we were rushed out for the next sitting!!
However, I would recommend it as the patisseries looked fabulous...little works of art and they did have this amazing gingerbread house in the entrance which gets extra bonus points!