Saturday, March 31, 2012

Simnel Muffins

When I started blogging it was with the intention of trying new recipes and being a little more adventurous with my baking. I certainly think it has helped me to achieve this...however, with regard to these simnel muffins, I've made them for the last 4 years in a row and they really are delicious and a firm I thought that I'd share them with you!

As the recipe says traditional simnel cake can be a bit too rich - instead, try these light little muffins with a gooey nugget of marzipan baked in the centre. Now I'm not the biggest fan of marzipan but these muffins just taste like they have a soft almond paste inside. They're also beautifully spiced and the fruit is infused in orange juice and the icing has orange juice in too. It all marries together perfectly to give a muffin that will surprise your friends and it will be sure to bring you compliments...have I sold them to you yet? ;-) Why not give them a try...there's still a week until Easter!

250g mixed dried fruit
Zest and juice of one medium orange
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 tbsp milk
175g marzipan


200g icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice
Mini eggs

Put the mixed fruit and orange juice and zest into a bowl, you can then either leave it to soak for an hour or pop it into the microwave for 2 minutes on medium. Heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4.

Mix the sugar, flour, butter, eggs, milk and spices together in a separate bowl, the mixture should be nice and light and fluffy. This could take around 3-4 minutes. Once you reach this stage stir in the fruit.

Half fill each muffin case with a little mixture and then place a disc of marzipan on top of each. If you want to be really accurate/pedantic each ball of marzipan will be about 14g... but I think 10g could also be sufficient if marzipan is not your favourite. You should roll the marzipan into a ball and then flatten into a disc with your thumb. Make sure your marzipan isn't too close to the top, otherwise you'll end up with a marzipan volcano flowing out as they split asunder! Finally, spoon the remaining cake mixture over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes...your muffins should be golden in colour.

Once cool you can then add the finishing touch. Mix the icing sugar and orange juice together, it should be a fairly thick consistency. Drizzle over each muffin and then top with a cluster of mini eggs.

* Adapted from 101 Cakes & Bakes (Tried & Tested Recipes) from BBC Books and GoodFood Magazine

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Butterscotch Cake with Caramel Hazelnut Wisps

This cake is somewhat weird and wonderful and looks a little like something out of the Alien movies...however, it certainly has the wow factor and is just a little bit different. The addition of light muscovado to the sponge mixture gives it the butterscotch flavour and the mascarpone frosting is a nice alternative to buttercream...although it's probably not for everyone!

This is the second outing from The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns, following on from Alice's Teapot Cake last week. It was fun to make and tasted good...although I'd say for my taste the sponge was a little bit dry...or maybe it was just my baking!! :-)

I wanted to give this one a go as I was keen to try making caramel again, following the Weekly Bake-Off Hokey Pokey Coffee that's a mouthful to say. I think I was a bit too keen when making my caramel for the hokey pokey cake as I didn't wait for it to turn a really deep amber, so this time I didn't make the same mistake and the caramel wisps are a lovely deep colour.
So if you have a friend who likes butterscotch and something a bit wacky, this could be the cake for them!

175g unsalted butter
175g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
3 eggs
100g golden caster sugar
75g light muscovado sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
500g mascarpone
1 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp light muscovado
Caramel Whisps
30 blanched hazelnuts
Wooden skewers
110g caster sugar
Heat your oven to 180c/170c fan/gas 4 and prepare two 20cm sandwich tins by buttering the sides and lining the bottom. The cake is then easy to make, just sift the flour and baking powder together before adding the remaining ingredients. Mix well but don't over-mix and then divide between the sandwich tins and cook for 20-25 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
To make the frosting you just literally just need to beat all the ingredients together. This frosting might not be for everyone, so you could also use toffee buttercream.
For the wisps, put the sugar and water into a heavy based saucepan and then put over a low heat, stir with a metal spoon until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and then turn up the heat so the sugar mixture is boiling, at this stage who should not stir it at all. Leave to boil until the caramel turns a deep amber colour. During this process just pop your hazelnuts onto a baking tray and put them in the oven for 5 minutes on 170c.

When cooled, insert a skewer into each hazelnut. When the caramel is ready you can then dip each one in and ensure it is liberally covered. Place the end of the skewer under a heavy board and a long whisp should form which will take about 5 minutes to harden. One tip though...make sure you place some newspaper on the floor!

* Adapted from The Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Crunchy Citrus Ricotta Scones

This month's theme for Teatime treats is Scones which is quite fortunate as scones are one of my all time favourite things...give me an afternoon tea with jam, clotted cream and a cuppa and I'm happy...incidentally the scones have to be fruit but that's another story! However, it would be a fairly boring challenge if everybody made run of the mill scones...we were encouraged by the teatime treats hosts, Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked, to think about slightly more unusual offerings.
I didn't go as far as savoury scones as I'm all about the sweet things in life but I did make a slightly unusual crunchy citrus scone with the main ingredient being ricotta cheese. Sounds like a very strange combination but I can confirm that they were indeed crunchy and citrusy...with no hint of the ricotta! The recipe also produced a scone round as opposed to individual scones. The crunchy part comes from a liberal sprinkling of demerara sugar on top before baking.
Although, these scones won't be winning any beauty contests they tasted pretty darn good, especially whilst still warm and with a little lemon who cares! :-)

175g ricotta
Zest of 1 orange - finely grated
100g golden caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
50g  butter
1-2 tbsp milk
1tbsp demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6. Mix the ricotta, orange zest and half the caster sugar in a bowl until well combined. In another bowl, sift the flour and add the other half of the caster sugar, finally add the butter which should be cut into small cubes. You should then rub this flour mixture together until it resembles fine bread crumbs.

Add the ricotta mixture to your flour mix and bring it together to form a dough, you can add the milk at this stage if necessary but be careful not to make the dough too sticky. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple of times, so it is not so craggy but don't over knead. The dough should then be pressed out to a depth of 4cm and form it into a neat round.

Then using a knife mark 6 wedges across the top. Finally, brush the scone with milk and if necessary sprinkle a little flour on top before sprinkling over demerara sugar to give the crunchy top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until brown on top.

These scones taste delicious warm and served with a little lemon curd. Enjoy!

* Adapted from BBC GoodFood

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Alice's Teapot Cake

This post is a double whammy...not only is it my entry for this month's Random Recipes hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen, but the cake was also my contribution to the inaugral Wandsworth Clandestine Cake Club.
To choose a random recipe for the month of March, we were instructed to count along our bookshelf to cookbook number 17, then flick through with our eyes closed and whichever recipe you land on you should make. Well, it seems Random Recipes is here to challenge me, as after making a flaky pastry fruit slice in January, this month I randomly selected 'The Birthday Cake Book' by Fiona Cairns, who made the Royal wedding cake no less.

Having flicked to the page with Alice's Teapot Cake, I hummed and harred over whether to join in. Then a couple of days later I saw a new Clandestine Cake Club advertised in Wandsworth...and the theme...Mad as a March Hare, cakes inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Obviously, Alice's Teapot would be perfect for this. A very fortunate coincidence...and I promise there was no cheating involved in choosing my Random Recipe!

As the cake is round in shape, I used an Alan Silverwood spherical pudding mould. However, I did have to make the cakes twice...the first time they stuck to the mould, despite the instructions saying that a liberal covering of butter would result in them turning out didn't! It did however, taste lovely and light. The second time I didn't take any chances, I used Wilton Cake release and lined the tins a little.
The cake itself is a lemon madeira which was really tasty. There was lemon juice and zest in the sponge and then the cake was brushed with lemon sugar syrup, and finally there was also zest and juice in the was certainly zingy! To decorate the cake it was covered in sugarpaste which was decorated with blossoms and then finished off with piped royal icing. The spout and handle were made in advance out of Mexican modelling paste as they needed sufficient time to harden. The final product is a lovely little teapot, perfect for Alice!
So, now to the Clandestine Cake Club. If you haven't heard of it before then check out their website. Every month in locations around the UK, CCC groups meet up. There's always a theme for your baking and the idea is you take your offering along and sample all of the other delights on offer. Since, appearing on the One Show last month, more and more CCCs have sprung up, including a number in London.
The theme for the first Wandsworth meeting, as already mentioned was cakes inspired by Alice in Wonderland...and I have to say there was an amazing array...the Queen of Hearts, a drink me bottle, a clock face, the white rabbit, roses painted red, a catepillar and many more. You can check some of them out below.I thoroughly enjoyed my first cake club experience, everyone who attended was lovely and the cakes were divine as there was also an array of flavours. I'm looking forward to next month already!

* I've just found a new decorating challenge too, the theme is 'Anything Goes' so my teapot has been entered into the Decorating Challenge 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mother's Day Cupcake Bouquet

Say it with flowers...this cupcake bouquet is a really sweet alternative to the traditional bunch of flowers on Mother's Day. I've always wanted to try a bouquet, so I thought Mother's Day was the perfect excuse. If you fancy trying one, there are loads of tutorials available online. This one is made up of mini and regular sized cupcakes, and the larger cakes have piped buttercream roses. To pipe a rose is fairly simple, just use a 1M nozzle and then start piping a swirl from the inside out.

However...don't do what I did...having worked so carefully, I got a bit overjealous pushing the cupcakes onto the bouquet...and I actually managed to push the whole thing over, squishing most of my lovely they're now shabby chic roses! :-( I'm already planning my next bouquet complete with neater flowers!
Once you've made your cupcakes it's not too difficult to assembly...just a little fiddly. Making a cupcake bouquet requires a flowerpot and an oasis ball that fits snugly in the top. The oasis should then be covered with clingfilm and wrapped in tissue paper, just in case any of the ball is visible at the end. The cupcakes themselves are attached with cocktail sticks, 2 in the small cakes and 3 in the large ones.

For some finishing touches, butterflies and ladybirds can be added which look really cute! So overall it was easier than I thought to make a cupcake bouquet...just don't knock it over squashing all your carefully piped roses!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

High Heel Shoe Box Cake

What woman doesn't love shoes and what woman doesn't love cake? Therefore this must be the perfect combination a gorgeous high heel shoe sat atop a shoe box of cake. A great design for any budding fashionistas, in this case the recipient was a Sweet 16.
I made this cake on a one day course last weekend. I went to the Cake Parlour in Wimbledon which is a gorgeous cake shop run by Zoe Clark, who is a well known cake designer.
To make the shoe box the cake was cut and filled before being covered in a crumb coating. Just for a bit of variety I used a rhubarb jam instead of a raspberry jam which is more common place.  An initial layer of icing is used to cover the cake, and then to make the lid a contrasting colour was draped over the top and then cut to size.
The board was covered before placing the cake on top. Once covered in black, a ruler was used to indent a squared pattern. In the corner of each square a cross was marked to make it look quilted, and the finishing touch was a gold dragee in each corner.
It's worth making the shoe in advance to give it time to set. You can buy shoe sets online with cutters and a heel mould but this one was produced with a homemade sole template and the rest was trial and error. To make the shoe you would need a strong paste, such as flowerpaste. The finishing touches were the inlay of the shoe which was brushed with lustre dust and edged with a stitching tool to make it look realistic. There is also a little label inside the shoe that you can personalise, this was also finished with a stitching tool so it appeared sewn in.
This is a really cute cake with a touch of glamour! Next time I might make a pair of Louboutins...or maybe some Jimmy Choos!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekly Bake-Off: Hokey Pokey Coffee Cake

This Hokey Pokey Coffee Cake is my entry into the Weekly homage to the great Mary Berry herself. Each week a different Mary Berry recipe challenge is set, with all participants baking the same recipe and then submitting their results.
When I saw that the recipe was Coffee Cake, I wasn't sure that this recipe would live up to my fail-safe Delia recipe. However, I must say I've been proved wrong...Mary's cake was utterly delicious, everyone thought it tasted great and the hokey pokey certainly elevated it above your average coffee cake. It also had a fabulous rise, making for a very impressive cake! So it's definitely a recipe to keep and make again.

The only thing I would say is that maybe there could be a bit more advice on how to make praline for the uninitiated. The recipe doesn't mention the fact that whilst the sugar is dissolving you should only stir it once or twice and then once you get past this stage and it starts simmering you should never stir it as this will lead to a praline catastrophe. At this stage you should really only swirl the pan occasionally. It also doesn't mention that this process can take quite a while, probably around 20 minutes.

Interstingly, the recipe also refers to the walnut praline as Hokey Pokey which is well known in New Zealand. However, a friend who is from NZ always refers to honeycomb as Hokey Pokey, so I googled it and it is indeed honeycomb...but who am I to argue when the cake tastes this good!

225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee in 1tbsp hot water
75g chopped walnuts

Walnut Praline

2 tbsp water
50g caster sugar
50g walnut pieces

Butter Icing

75g butter
250g icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee in 1 1/2 tbsp hot water

Heat the oven to 160c/140c fan/gas 3 and line two 8 inch sandwich tins. This cake is easy to make, just put all of the cake ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly before dividing between the two sandwich tins and level the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool in the tins for a minute or two before turning out on to a wire rack.

The cake was the easy bit now for the praline! Place the sugar and water into a pan and put over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, the solution should go clear. You should then continue until the praline turns a deep amber colour (watch very carefully during the whole process as it can burn). Once ready, take it off the heat and mix in the nuts. This should then be poured out onto non-stick baking parchment.

Once the hokey pokey is cooled it can be broken up. Large bits should be kept for the decoration on top, with the remainder being broken up and added to the icing which will be sandwiched between the two cakes.

To make the icing, the butter and sifted icing sugar should be placed in a bowl, along with the coffee and then mixed to give a light and fluffy coffee buttercream. Finally, take the two cakes and place the least attractive one upside down on the serving plate. Spread the icing with the hokey pokey in on this cake and then place the other cake on top. To finish icing the top cake and cover with the remaining butter icing. The finishing touch, lovely pieces of hokey pokey decorating the top.

* Adapted from 100 Cakes and Bakes by Mary Berry

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Marmalade Loaf Cake

In case you don't already know, this week is the first ever National Marmalade Week (25th Feb- 3rd March), so what better excuse to make this gorgeous marmalade loaf cake. I am also entering this into the March AlphaBakes challenge hosted by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker. The letter for this month is 'M', so this marmalade loaf is perfect!
"This delicious preserve was invented in Scotland, in the port of Dundee in the late 18th century when a local victualler, James Keiller discovered a cargo of oranges being sold cheaply. Thinking he could sell it for profit in his shop, he bought the whole cargo, only to discover the oranges were bitter and therefore unsellable.

In despair his wife took them home with the idea of making a jam. The resulting “jam” was hugely successful and was named Marmalade after Marmelos, a Portuguese word for a quince paste similar in texture to the orange spread. Marmalade is still produced today by the Keiller Company in Dundee" (

There was much Mmmmming from the taste testers upon receipt of their slice, and as one pointed out what's not to like about this cake! It was extremely easy to make, it's really marmaladey, very moist and extremely moreish...this is destined to be a firm favourite, especially when short on time. So in other words, it's highly recommended...delicious!
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
100g golden caster sugar
zest 1 orange
zest 1/2 lemon
100g mixed dried fruit
140g butter
5 tsp marmalade
125ml mil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Preheat your oven to 160c/140c fan/gas 3.
Prepare a loaf tin (2lb) with greaseproof paper. Then take the dry ingredients, flour, caster sugar, mixed spice, zest, dried fruit and a pinch of salt and mix well.

Put the butter and 2 tbsp of marmalade into a saucepan, melt together before adding in the milk. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, mix well and then add the white wine vinegar and mix again. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour.

With about 10 minutes to go, you need to start on the marmalade glaze. This can be made using 2 tbsp of icing sugar and 2 of water and the final 3 tbsp of marmalade. Bring it to a simmer and let it bubble for a minute or two, it should become thick and syrupy. Finally, remove the cake from the oven and pour the glaze over the top and sprinkle with demerara. Leave to cool in the tin and then enjoy!

* Adapted from BBC GoodFood Magazine (March 2012)