Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Halloween Cake

This Chocolate Pumpkin Cake is my entry into this month's Calendar Cakes...and no surprises for guessing that the theme is Halloween! I was quite intrigued by a cake with pumpkin puree in as I've never baked with pumpkin before so I thought I'd give it a go.
The recipe for this cake also includes nutmeg, cinnamon, buttermilk and soft dark brown sugar, so overall along with the pumpkin the resulting cake was really moist. It also wasn't overly chocolately and the nutmeg and cinnamon gave it a nice warm flavour. It was slightly reminiscent of a ginger cake.
I used tinned pumpkin puree which you can get from Waitrose or even Amazon if you can't find it in the supermarket. If you've got the time or inclination you can also make your own pumpkin puree using a recipe such as this one.
Inbetween the cake layers is a tasty orange cream cheese frosting, you can find the recipe here. I really like the frosting and would certainly consider using it with other cakes. To make sure my cake wasn't wonky I also levelled the two bottom layers using a cake leveller which you can see above.
To finish off the cake I made some chocolate leaves which you can see in the second picture. They provided nice decoration and also added to the autumnal feel of the cake. The recipe for the cake and frosting can be found on the Country Living website.
If you're making a Halloween bake in the next couple of days then we'd love for you to enter it into our Calendar Cakes challenge. Calendar Cakes is hosted jointly here at Laura Loves Cakes and also by Rachel over at Dolly Bakes. Rachel is hosting this month so check out the details here.
I'm also entering this cake into The One Ingredient Challenge hosted this month by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen and alternately by Laura at How to Cook Good Food . The ingredient this month is pumpkin and squash.
Finally, I'm also entering into Simple and in Season which is hosted by Fabulicious Food and the guest host this month is also Nazima at Franglais Kitchen.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bramble Marshmallows

This month's Random Recipes is something a little bit should more appropriately be called 'Random Ingredients' as the idea was to reach into the deepest darkest recesses of our kitchen cupboards and pull out the first thing we touch.
I stretched into one of my very full baking cupboards and pulled out Gelatine. Now I'm not even sure why I have gelatine in my cupboard and was initially a little bamboozled as to what to make with it but after a little look through one of my recipe folders I came across a recipe for Bramble Marshmallows. As it happens I was quite excited about making Marshmallows as I'd been admiring the Marshmallowists stand at the Cake and Bake Show a few weeks ago and I also have so many blackberries which I collected during September.
My Random Recipe this month is from the BBC GoodFood website. I often print off the recipes I like and put them in a folder with others I've ripped out from various food magazines.
To make the marshmallows was actually simplier than I thought...and even more surprisingly they actually tasted like marshmallows! The first stage involved preparing the gelatine by dissolving 9 of the sheets in 150ml of water. 
The other slightly more unusual ingredient in this recipe is Liquid Glucose but you can now buy it in the baking aisle at most supermarkets. The liquid glucose was added to a pan of water along with granulated sugar. This mixutre was then heated to 125C/256F.
Whilst the sugar syrup was heating the egg whites were whisked until stiff and then when ready the sugar syrup was added to them. To add the syrup continue to whisk the eggs and pour in the syrup in a steady stream. A teaspoon of vanilla was also added at this stage.
After whisking for 10 minutes the marshmallow was ready and half the mixture was poured into a 20 x 30 cm baking tray which had been sprinkled with a mixture of icing sugar and cornflour.
The blackberries were then sprinkled over the mixture...mine were a little more 'arranged' to make sure of an even spread.
The marshmallow must then be left in a cool place for at least 2 hours to set until firm. I left mine overnight to make doubly sure.
Finally, the whole thing was turned out on to baking paper which was sprinkled with the icing sugar/cornflour mix. The marshmallows easily cut into squares and to finish they were rolled in the sugar mix.
 The finished product was really yummy and the blackberries give a really great fruity hit.
If I'd realised before how easy marshmallows were to make I'd have tried them well before now. I've already had a look at lots of other marshmallow recipes online, so watch this space!
Random Recipes is hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen. It's a great way to find new recipes and try things you wouldn't normally why not join in next month!


50g icing sugar
50g cornflour
9 sheets gelatine
450g granulated sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g blackberries

Start by lining a 20 x 30cm baking tray. Then sift together the icing sugar and cornflour, sprinkle some of this mixture into the baking tray and then set the rest aside in a bowl. Measure out 150ml hot water and add the 9 sheets of gelatine, these should dissolve into the water but you may need to give it a stir if necessary.

Put 200ml of water into a heavy based saucepan (it shouldn't be non-stick) along with the granulated sugar and liquid glucose. Heat over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved but do not stir, you can however swirl the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat and boil, continue to heat until you reach the firm ball stage, this is 125C/256F on a sugar thermometre.

Whilst the sugar is getting up to temperature, whisk the egg whites until they're stiff. When the sugar syrup reaches 125C/256F then carefully pour it into the jug with the gelatine water. Be very careful as the water will bubble up vigorously when you add the sugar syrup.

Resume with the egg whisking and pour in the sugar syrup in a steady stream as you whisk. Try to avoid pouring the syrup near the beaters otherwise it can splatter. Next add the vanilla extract and then continue to whisk for around 10 minutes. The mixture should be shiny and it will go very stiff.

After 10 minutes pour half the mixture into the prepared tin and then scatter with the blackberries...I was a little less haphazard and 'arranged' the blackberries to ensure even distribution! Pour on the rest of the egg mixture and leave somewhere cool and dry to set for at least 2 hours until firm. I left mine overnight.

To make the squares place some baking parchment onto a chopping board and sprinkle with the remaining icing sugar/cornflour mixture. Turn out the marshmallow and cut into squares and then roll in the sugar mixture. The marshmallows will keep in an airtight jar but are best eaten within a day or so.

* Adapted from BBC GoodFood

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nanaimo Bars for Alpha Bakes

This month's randomly generated letter for Alpha Bakes is 'N' and coincidentally I've wanted to make these Nanaimo bars for a while this was the perfect opportunity. This is also a no bake recipe which was ideal for me as I've just moved home and haven't quite fathomed out how to work the oven yet!
A Nanaimo bar consists of three layers - the bottom layer is made from crushed biscuits, butter, cocoa powder and eggs, these also have walnuts and desiccated coconut. The middle layer is a combination of icing sugar, butter, custard powder and cream, then the whole thing is topped off with a layer of chocolate ganache.
You may be wondering where the name Nanaimo comes from, it is in fact a town on Vancouver Island, Canada. You can just about see on the map below that is across a stretch of water from the city of Vancouver...and I have in fact actually visited Nanaimo...but I don't remember trying a Nanaimo bar!
The recipe first came about in the 1950s when a Canadian housewife submitted her recipe for inclusion in a WI cookbook. When published the recipe became extremely popular and the coffee shops in Nanaimo started to sell the a result they then became known as Nanaimo bars and since then their popularity has spread all over Canada and beyond!
These Nanaimo bars were well received by the taste testers, although they're very rich and you only need a little square. Making all the layers coupled with the chilling also takes a little time but they were worth the effort.
Alpha Bakes is a monthly challenge hosted by Ros at the More than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes.



300g digestive or rich tea biscuits
170g butter
75g caster sugar
45g cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g desiccated coconut
75g roughly chopped walnuts


85g butter
345g icing sugar
3 tbsp custard powder
100 ml double cream


225g dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa) chopped
200ml double cream
40g unsalted butter

Use a 23 x 33 cm baking tray and then line the base and sides with foil.

Firstly, crush the biscuits (either digestive or rich tea), you can do this in a food processor or alternatively in a bag with a rolling pin. Put this to one side and begin melting the butter in a medium to large saucepan. Once fully melted remove from the heat and mix in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually beat in the eggs. It is maybe advisable to have all the ingredients weighed out beforehand. At this stage I also used a balloon whisk to blend the ingredients. Return the the saucepan to the heat and whisk continuously until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat again and stir in the vanilla, biscuit and coconut. This mixture is then ready to press into the bottom of the baking tray. It should be firmly pressed in and the top should be even. Chill for at least 1 hour.

For the next layer make sure the butter is nice and soft. This can then be beaten until really light and fluffy. Once at this stage the icing sugar can be beaten in until smooth. To prevent the icing sugar flying everywhere cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Finally, add the custard powder and cream and beat again on a high speed until the mixture is lovely and fluffy. Spread this layer over the first again making sure it's even. Chill for 30 minutes.

To make the third and final layer, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a bowl. Then gently head the cream in a saucepan until it is just boiling, when it reaches this stage pour it over the top of the chocolate and leave for around 2 minutes. You can then gently stir the mixture until it is smooth. Add the butter and stir again, this should give you a smooth ganache. Pour over the custard layer and spread evenly. Chill again until it appears set.

Once the whole thing has set you can cut it into squares with a sharp knife. This recipe can make up to 40 squares depending on how small you cut them! A top tip is to dip the knife in hot water for a few seconds (and then wiping it dry) before cutting as this will give a nice clean cut.

* Adapted from the Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace

While away an afternoon in Hyde Park with afternoon tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace.
This weekend I've been indulging in my favourtie pastime...afternoon tea! It was something a bit different this time though...instead of visiting one of the big hotels in London we went to the more informal Orangery at Kensington Palace.
We ordered the 'English Orangery Afternoon Tea' which includes a round of sandwiches, two scones (one sultana and one orange scented) and an assortment of pastries and tartlets. This is a very traditional tea and whilst everything is light and tasty it doesn't have the wow factor of some other afternoon teas. However, sometimes the cakes you are served at some venues can be over-engineered to look good and they forget the most important bit...the taste! The cakes at the Orangery do what they say on the tin...they're tasty and traditional as this is a quintessentially English location! It's also half the price of some other fancy London teas at £19.95. Claridges and the like can now charge upwards of £50 for afternoon tea as the concept grows in popularity.
The good thing about afternoon tea at the Orangery is that you don't have to book...and you can also wear your need to dress up here. Some of the big names in afternoon tea are booked up months in advance but if you decide you'd like to indulge on a whim then this is the place for you. However, if you are planning a visit make sure you arrive early. Service starts at 2.30pm and there was already a queue when we arrived at 2.45pm. We were seated within 15 minutes but as we enjoyed our tea we watched the queue get longer and my advice the earlier the better!
The mark of any good tea is the scones and the Orangery scones were certainly tasty! But what about the great scone debate...jam or cream first on your scones? Which way round do you prefer?
Apparently in Cornwall it's jam first and then cream...and in Devon it's cream first and then jam. Personally, I'm a fan of the Cornish way and it seems 57% of Guardian readers agree. Generally, I also can't see the point in a scone without sultanas!
So if I've convinced you to give the afternoon tea a go, why not combine your tea and scones with a visit to Kensington Palace. Kensington Palace has recently undergone a £12 million facelift and was recently reopened to visitors. Whilst there you can visit the King's State Apartments, the Queen's State Apartments, the sunken gardens and special exhibitions about the lives of Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. Kensington Palace is open 10am to 6pm and entrance is £14.50 but children go free! Well worth a visit. To get there you can catch the Central line tube to Queensway and then it's only a short 5 minute walk if you turn right out of the station and into Hyde Park.
And if that little lot isn't enough to lure you...there's also Hyde Park to enjoy! It's over 350 acres of parkland in the heart of London and this is the perfect time of year to visit as you can take a stroll and watch Autumn in all it's technicolour glory. Apparently the Autumn leaves are supposed to be particularly spectacular this year due to lots of early rain, late sunshine and something to do with sugar levels...that's about as scientific as my explanation gets. The leaves are just starting to turn, so combined with a visit to Kensington Palace and afternoon tea...I have to conclude a lovely day out!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lemon & Blueberry Surprise Pudding

Today's offering is not a cake but a pudding...I thought I'd branch out a little! :-) This is a lovely light pudding that would be perfect after a big meal, the lemon also gives it a bit of zing so it's quite refreshing too.
The surprise element of this dish is the lemon curd layer underneath the unassuming sponge exterior. It's one of those puddings where you mix up all the ingredients together and then when you bake it, it seperates out into two layers - one of sponge and one of lemon curd. You may have tried a lemon surprise pudding before but the blueberries here add an extra tasty element.
The reason this pudding is so light is the method. Egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, butter, sugar and a little flour are mixed together and then egg whites are whipped up and folded into the lemony mixture. Whipping the egg whites puts lots of air into the pudding which means it's not too heavy.
This pudding is really summery but would also be great at this time of year after a roast or when you want something warm on a cold day. This is certainly one that could be made on a regular basis as it's so quick and easy too!


100g butter (plus extra for greasing)
175g golden caster sugar
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
4 eggs
50g plain flour
125g blueberries
500ml milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4 and prepare a 2 litre ovenproof dish by lighting greasing it with butter. Put the softened butter and golden caster sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it's really pale and fluffy, this could take a good 5 minutes. Next add the lemon juice and zest to this mixture, along with 4 egg yolks. The yolks should be added one at a time until well mixed. There is a good chance that it will look curdled at this stage!

Next sift over the flour and stir before adding the blueberries and milk, again give it a good mix. In a seperate bowl whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, don't overbeat them. Using a large metal spoon gradually fold these whisked egg whites into the lemony mix. Be gentle and ensure you fold until they are just combined. Finally, pour the pudding mixture into the prepared dish and place it on a baking sheet. It should take about 40-45 minutes to cook and will be risen and golden when done.

This pudding serves 6 and can be eaten immediately but it also tastes good the next day!

* Adapted from Ainsley Harriott's Meals in Minutes

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sew Yummy Guest Post - Sew Inspired Cupcakes

I'm really excited to be taking part in the 'Sew Yummy' guest series over at Craftstorming. The host Laura has come up with the brilliant idea of sewing projects inspired by baking and baking projects inspired by sewing as these are two of her favourite things!
Why not hop on over to Craftstorming to check out my haberdashery cupcakes as well as all the other great guest posts.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Calendar Cakes September Round Up - Cupcakes

If you like'll love our Calendar Cakes round up this month. We've got a bumper crop of baked loveliness to celebrate National Cupcake Week. So sit back, relax and enjoy...
Our first entrant was Sophie from Totally Caked Out with these Chocolate Thunder named due to the fact that they were whipped up during a thunder and lightning storm!
As ever Caroline from Caroline Makes was quick off the mark this month with our first caketails. Caroline made these Pina Colada which she took as an offering to a barbeque during the summer. The recipe was adapted from one by Xanthe Milton (aka Cookie Girl).
These Fruit and Nut Cupcakes came from Ryan at Baked with Kindness who won a food hamper in a blog giveaway and then used the contents to make these original bakes. They have a peanut praline on top and both chocolate chunks and dried fruit inside.
Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker entered these Painkiller Cupcakes...I thought they might be so named as they provide a hangover cure...turns out it's because you can drown your sorrows with them! A Painkiller cocktail is made from dark rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut cream, shaved iced topped with nutmeg.
Next a gorgeous flavour combination from Susie at Fold in the Flour ...Sticky Toffee Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream. I really want to try one of these, they look delicious! Susie made her own caramel after being inspired by the Great British Bake Off and the recipe for these cupcakes comes from Fiona Cairns.
Here's our first entry from Mummy's Little Peeps...pretty sugar rose topped cupcakes. The sugar roses are from Cake Craft can find them online. A really girlie cupcake that looks really appealing.
Another origianl recipe up next. Cherry Coke Cupcakes from Lost in Austen. I've heard of baking with Cola but I've never thought of using Cherry Coke to give a different flavour. There's even a hidden surprise inside...Bonne Maman Cherry Jam! The decoration is fab too.
Helene from I Cook With Butter made these great Red Velvet Cupcakes for her boyfriend after falling in love with red velvet following a visit to the Hummingbird Bakery. Red velvet is always a favourite, so I'm sure these cupcakes were very well received. They're topped with a cream cheese frosting.
Our next entry provides a little bit of indulgence, these Butterscotch Chocolate Cupcakes are from Caroline at Cake, Crumbs and Cooking and they're made from Green and Black's Butterscotch Chocolate which has little butterschotchy pieces dotted through it. They were made for a colleague who was leaving...all I can say is lucky work colleagues!
Next up another caketail entry...Pina Colada Cupcakes from Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen. These cupcakes came about as Janice was testing an Oxo Good Grips Pineapple Slicer, you can check out the video on her blog. If you can wait long enough they also improve after a day or two in an airtight container.
For my own entry I thought I'd try something a little bit different and something that's been on my 'to bake' list for a while...Croquembouche Cupcakes. They're a combination of vanilla cupcakes with a caramel sauce centre, topped with little profiteroles filled with cream and finished off with caramel.
These strawberry cupcakes are a delicious entry from Johanna at the Green Gourmet Giraffe. There are little pockets of strawberries baked into the cakes and they were perfect for decorating with kids.
It's onwards and upwards with an entry from Easy Peasy Cooking, these ice-cream cupcakes are a novel idea as they're baked in an ice-cream cone. They're great fun and would be great at a kid's birthday party...or for big kids at a summer barbeque!
I love the next entry...medical cupcakes from Cat Haslam...perfect if you're feeling under the weather. I'm sure patients and doctors would both appreciate these...lovely sugarcraft skills too!
Next up...not one, not two, not three but four entries from Angela at the Charmed Cupcake. We have Nutella Cupcakes, Black and Gold Cupcakes, Sun-dried tomato Cupcakes and my particular favourite ...Magarita Cupcakes. All are beautifully presented and you can check out Angela's blog for many more fabulous cakes.
Another stunner from Sarah Mcilveen ...Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes with a glittered marzipan chilli...brilliant! Again a novel idea with the chilli inspiration coming from Cox Cookies and Cakes. The glittered marzipan chilli on top looks perfect!
It's onto our second entry from Mummy's Little Peeps...Vanilla Rose Cupcakes...these are pretty as a picture and wouldn't look out of place in an English country garden.
Next up a double dose of caketails with Pina Colada and Strawberry Daqiuiris from Lucy at Vanilla Frost. These were made for a 40th birthday cocktail party and were served alongside boozy jellies. The recipe for the Strawberry Daiquiri cupcakes came from the Hummingbird Bakery 'Cake Days' book and involved soaking the strawberries in a rum and sugar syrup...yum!
A twist on the cupcake theme with a 'Cupcake Cupcake'. Coffee cupcakes with a walnut cookie shaped like a cupcake! These are from Rachel at Blissfully Scrumptious and they were inspired by the Sweet Bitesize Bakes book from Maison Cupcake.
Anyone for may be Pimms O'Clock! Olivia from Liv a Little Bakery made these lovely Pimms Cupcakes which just make you think of summer...they're light, fresh and fruity and perfect served with what else but a jug of Pimms!
An unusual bake next...Hibiscus cupcakes from Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes. The flavour comes from Hibiscus tea. The icing also has Hibiscus in it...these are definitely very interesting and I wouldn't mind giving them a go!
Lemon Meringue Pie is one of my favourite what better than a Lemon Meringue Cupcake. These are from Maggie at Kitchen Delights and they're vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd on top and then finished off with a swirl of meringue...incidentally Maggie managed to set light to a couple of the cakes whilst she was browning the meringue with a blow torch...sounds like something I might do! ;-)
It's more tangy curd cupcakes next but this time Orange and Passionfruit Cupcakes from Angela over at Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me. Angela found the passionfruit and orange curd at Mikes Homemade and the cupcakes themselves have both orange juice and orange zest baked inside.
Ruth from Mixing Bowl Magic has been baking up a storm with a new job in a Cupcakery and you can check out some of her creations over at her blog. Ruth made Chocolate Orange Cupcakes and Amaretto Cupcakes for her last day in the office.
Fudgy Cupcakes with Fudge Icing from Helen at Fuss Free Flavours. These little beauties are topped with proper frosting made with Trex (vegetable shortening) and icing sugar, Helen even makes her own fudge sauce which was combined into the frosting. These look like fudgy perfection!
These Flower Garden Cupcakes are the third entry from Mummy's Little Peeps...they're so cute and if you want to recreate the grass effect you can whip up some green buttercream and use a 233 piping nozzle. To complete the garden theme, little flowers and butterflies were added to the top of each cupcake.
The penultimate bake is from Chocolate Log Blog with Chocolate Mint Rum caketails. You can find the great 'We Should Cocoa' monthly challenge over at Choclette's blog...unsurprisingly it is a chocolate challenge and this month the theme was cocktails to celebrate We Should Cocoa's second birthday....hence these cocktail inspired cupcakes. Create the authentic straw effect with Elizabeth Shaw Mint Batons.
Finally the award for cutest cupcakes this month goes to Caroline of Caroline Makes. These are her second entry this month...Puppy Dog Cupcakes. The shape is made by using marshmallows which are then covered in icing and the ears are chocolate'd definitely want to take one of these puppies home! :-)
So there we have it, a spectacular cupcake round up! Thank you to everyone who took part, we really appreciate you taking the time to share your creations with us.
If you'd like to join in with this month's Halloween Cake Spooktacular then check it out over at Dolly Bakes who is hosting October's Calendar Cakes Challenge.