Monday, 31 January 2011

Nutella self-frosting cupcakes...

So.  I'd been wanting to include Nutella in my baking ventures for quite some time now, purely because I think it is a food sent from heaven.  I'd say I developed a minor addiction to it at one point. Thankfully for my teeth and waistline I managed to get that under control.

I had read a few articles about these 'self-frosting' cakes and was waiting for the right opportunity.  The idea behind them is that you add the Nutella before baking so when you take them out the oven, they're already iced and ready to eat.

This weekend some friends and I went to the New Forest to celebrate our birthdays and had planned to have a winter picnic (yes. i know) so I thought, these would be perfect as it wouldn't matter if they got bashed around because there was no icing to spoil.

I used my trusted Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe and filled each case two thirds full.  My first attempt at swirling Nutella through the batter failed as it was too hard and the batter was quite thin, so I heated the Nutella for a few seconds and it was loads easier.

All you have to do is place a spoonful of the chocolatey goodness on top of the batter, then use a cocktail stick to swirl it.  To do this, push the cocktail stick down until it touches the bottom and then swoosh and swirl about until you think it looks pretty.

And that is IT. Well, apart from baking them in the oven.

I decorated mine with some little pink hearts because I couldn't resist.  They tasted delICIOUS.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Christmas gift boxes

Again, better late than never.

I attempted to make some of my own gift boxes which turned out nice, but I came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth the effort and didn't really work out much cheaper.  So in the end I found some snazzy (!) hologram-ish boxes and filled them with all the goodies I had made.  As Christmas presents go, these went down very well and seemed to be much appreciated by all those lucky enough to receive them.

Inside the boxes, from the top left hand corner, we have:
A selection of christmas cookies, a blue santa chocolate lolly
(next row) A christmas pudding double chocolate cake ball, a white chocolate truffle, a mint oreo truffle
(next row) A chocolate marshmallow, more truffles, a christmas tree cake pop and more cookies!

christmas cookies

Yes I know I'm pushing my luck still writing christmas blogs, but, there just wasn't time in between all the presents and eating and cooking and eating and do them as I went along.  So if you think it's just too post-christmas for you to read this, perhaps bookmark it for next year.

Nothing much to say here, except I used the trusty Hummingbird bakery sugar cookies recipe for my cookies and sugarpaste, writing icings and glitter to decorate....

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

christmas sweetie kebabs

Recently I have gotten a bit interested/obsessed with a few party-planning blogs.  I'm not talking British jelly and ice cream parties, I'm talking extravagant, over the top, excessive, beautiful, American parties. Have a look at some of the absolutely gorgeous spreads over on the Blowout Party Blog  I mean, look at this one:
Have a click on it to see more close ups.

It was here that I stumbled across 'Candy Kabobs', which, translated into English becomes sweetie kebabs. I think i got a few cavities in my teeth by just looking at this incredible site, Sweets Indeed.  It worked out quite expensive to source the ingredients to make anything too crazy so I decided to make some mini christmas trees, using just red and green sweets.

I ordered myself a load of astro belts from Whirly Pop and picked up a bag of Haribo Super Sour Monsters and set to work making these pretty things...



Christmas Tree Cake Pops

For those of you who have not heard of the goddess that is Bakerella, I suggest you pop on over to her site and let your jaw slowly fall open.

When I saw her christmas tree pops, I just had to have a crack at it myself.  It's all been a bit hectic over christmas, baking-wise so I don't have many photos of the actual processes, but I reckon it's quite easy to figure out....or you could pop over and see how Bakerella does it!

I took a load of leftover cupcakes that were still good to eat, but a few days old and chucked them in my mixer and kept adding buttercream until they the mixture was at a consistency where I could mould it into little cone shapes.

I then stuck a lollypop stick in the end of each one before placing them on some baking paper on a tray and into the freezer where they remained for a few weeks, until it was time to dip!

When I took them out of the freezer, the sticks weren't quite secure enough so I pulled them out, dipped them in melted chocolate and then stuck them back in.  The chocolate dried instantly as the cake was still frozen.

To coat the cake, I used white candy melts which I melted in the microwave and then coloured green using gel food dye.  If you're not familiar with candy melts, they come in all different colours and and flavours and look like giant chocolate buttons.  They have the consistency of chocolate but they are much easer to use and melt because they don't need tempering like normal chocolate does, so that it dries shiny.

When this was ready, I took a cone of cake and dipped it into the chocolate, making sure that the whole thing was completely covered quite thickly.  I imagine there are a number of ways to achieve the spiked effect, but I found I got it looking best when I used the back of a spoon which I kept tapping lightly around the chocolate.  You've got to be really quick with this bit because the chocolate dries really quickly.

Then finally, I stuck on some sprinkles for lights, a dash of glitter and a little star, on the top.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Christmas Chocolate Marshmallows

I'm not sure how the idea for these came to me, perhaps it's because I've become a bit obsessed with cake pops recently and feel like I want to try and put everything on the end of a stick now. These were incredibly simple to make but looked so effective inside my christmas treat boxes!

To make these, you will need:

White chocolate or white candy melts
lollypop sticks
christmas trees/snowflakes etc cut out of sugarpaste and left to dry

Begin by melting your chocolate either in a bowl over some boiling water or in the microwave. I used candy melts. Take your lolly stick and dip the end of it into some boiling water and then push it up into your marshmallow. It should slide in and then stick there.

Next, tilt your bowl of chocolate so that you can dip your marshmallow right into it, twist the lolly stick as you pull it out of the chocolate so that the excess comes off and you're left with chocolate swirled all the way round the marshmallow.

Then, sprinkle whatever you have chosen to decorate your marshmallow with and press on your christmas shape.

Press the stick into a block of polystyrene to allow it to dry.


If you're interested in going the whole hog and actually making the marshmallows yourself, check out this post on the wonderful An American Cupcake in London blog

Mini Christmas Cakes

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone had a wonderful break and I also hope everyone over-indulged in all of the beautiful foods that we only seem to rustle up at this time of year.  Turkey, brussels, pigs in blankets and chocolate oranges are all just some of my weaknesses.  The bathroom scales have been hidden until further notice.

I decided to go for mini christmas cakes this year as I thought they would make nice gifts as well as nice puddings.

I followed a wonderful recipe for the fruitcakes which I found on the trusty BBC Good Food site. 

200g dark muscovado sugar
175g butter , chopped
700g luxury mixed dried fruits
50g glacé cherries
2 tsp grated fresh root ginger (I used ground ginger)
zest and juice 1 orange
100ml dark rum , brandy or orange juice
85g/3oz pecan nuts, roughly chopped (I used flaked almonds)
3 large eggs , beaten
85g ground almonds
200g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon

Tip the sugar, butter, dried fruit, whole cherries, ginger, orange zest and juice into a large pan. Pour over the rum, brandy or juice, then put on the heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently to melt the butter. Reduce the heat and bubble gently, uncovered for 10 mins, stirring every now and again to make sure the mixture doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Set aside for 30 mins to cool.

Stir the nuts, eggs and ground almonds into the fruit, then sift in the flour, baking powder and spices. Stir everything together gently but thoroughly. Your batter is ready.

Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Scoop the cake mix into 12 deep muffin cases (an ice-cream scoop works well), then level tops with a spoon dipped in hot water. Bake for 35-45 mins until golden and just firm to touch. A skewer inserted should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

I learnt for next time, to flatten the batter as much as possible while it's in the cupcake case as these cakes don't rise very much and so you end up with quite an uneven top, which is fine if you don't want to ice them.  I ended up slicing off the odd bit here and there and really using my smoother to get my icing flat.

To ice the cakes, I rolled out my sugarpaste and then used a cookie cutter to cut out rounds that were roughly the same size as my cake.  I then let down some sugarpaste and placed a small amount on top of the fruitcake. Next, I carefully placed my circle of icing on top and used my smoother to gently flatten it.

Of the people that i knew would be eating my christmas cakes, about half loved marzipan and about half hated it and so, as I'm not particularly partial to it myself, I decided to leave it out.  If you're making these and want to add marzipan, all you would need to do would be to layer your sugarpaste on top of your rolled out marzpian before cutting out your circles and it should stick.

Finally, I decorated the tops of my cakes with snowflakes and holly which I had cut out and left to dry a few days before using my lovely new plunger cutters.

I was absolutely delighted with how these came out!  They tasted fantastic and because they're fruit cake (as long as you brush them with alcohol every few days and keep them in an air tight container) they are incredibly soft and moist. Not forgetting how pretty they look too!