Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cupcakes - The Weekly Bake Off

This weeks bake off is Cupcakes (pg 52 Mary Berry's 100 cakes and bakes). There are so many amazing cupcakes out there and I am truly impressed with the things people can do with buttercream. I think this is only my second attempt at buttercream. My first being when making Nigella's red velvet cupcakes and the buttercream didn't go so well at all.

One of my friends runs her own cupcake business and hers (as you can imagine seen as she does it every day) are works of art. So I was quite disheartened the first time I tried to manipulate buttercream in to something pretty.

I wasn't at home this weekend I was at a friends (house of man) for their birthday so making cupcakes seemed like an acceptable thing to bake this weekend at his house.... apart from there are no electric whisks, or piping tubes, or cake spatulas. Not a great start.

I have some piping nozzles at home that would have been perfect for cupcakes... But I forgot to take them with me.

I had the cupcakes in the oven easy enough, I did try to hand whisk the batter with the flimsiest whisk ever, but this was proving too hard and I found a hand blender in the cupboard so I thought I would give that a try.

The recipe calls for a deep muffin tin to be used for the mixture which is supposed to make 12 cupcakes. As you can see it does make 12 cupcakes but they are very small cupcakes not the ones we have become accustomed to and what these cases are tailored for.

I bought some butter from Aldi in Manchester city centre thinking I could keep costs low... I have now learnt never to buy cheap butter. It just didn't seem to want to soften! I made the first lot of buttercream by hand... and this took me quite a while, with the never melting butter.

I had a few practice runs but despite making twice as much buttercream as recommended I still couldn't cover all 12 cakes.

Here are the first batch....

Ice cream cupcakes...

Jewelled cupcakes... 

Group shot... 

My friends cupcake- he used the new piping bag I bought on the way, very narrow nozzles that are perhaps better for cake decorating. 

Lonely ice cream cupcake...

I already had a second batch of cupcakes baking in the oven so I decided to make some more buttercream, using Mary's suggestion of adding some cocoa powder to make chocolate buttercream... this did not go so well. By this point I had rummaged around in the cupboards a bit more and found a food processor... so I put all the ingredients in there are began whizzing away... The food processor became quite warm and my butter melted quite a bit and went all greasy and sat in the top. I tried adding more icing sugar.. this didn't work... I tried adding more cocoa... this didn't work. So I snapped a picture and put it on twitter. The responses from twitter was to put milk in it... this didn't work. Put it in the fridge? This just made the grease on top solidify. I added more icing sugar... desperately tried to scrape it on a cupcake...

I don't think anyone is going to eat that cupcake.

Thinking that it was already pretty much destroyed.. I added some more cocoa and icing sugar. What I ended up with in the end is some strange sort of chocolate fondant icing.. I thought what the hell and put it on some of the cakes.

They sort of look like brown bakewell tarts...

The cupcakes have gone down very well in 'house of man'. They were quite fascinated to see a woman baking in their house, and kept asking me questions about why I was doing this and why I was doing that and when could they actually have a cupcake!

Not sure I would use Mary Berry's buttercream recipe again but the cake was nice enough. I will also be glad to get my own baking equipment back when I try this again!

Bill's Basics - A Book Review

A few months ago whilst in Waterstone's I flicked through this book whilst browsing in the cookery section. A few recipes caught my eye and it was straight on my Amazon Wish List. Lucky me I got a few things from my Amazon Wish List for Christmas this year and Bill's Basics was one of them.

I have made 5 recipes from the book so far and there are still some I am eager to try out.

The book is really good for after work meals as they are relatively simple and require few ingredients. Also you don't need to be a master chef in order to make any of the recipes, the steps are easy to follow and require no special gadgets.

These are 'Bill's' basics so don't expect to find a Delia bible of basics in here but basics with slight adaptations. For those of you unfamiliar with this chef, Bill is Australian so there is a lot of Australian influenced foods and Malaysian/East Asian influenced food, things I would never have thought about making until I saw it here in this book.

I haven't remembered to take a picture of everything that I have made... but here are the ones I have.

This is Chicken Parmigiana, chicken cooked in tomato sauce topped with mozzarella. Tasted lovely.

This is my attempt at Chickpea Burgers..

Be careful when making the above as you are required to shallow fry the burgers... and oil splashed out of the pan when I turned them...


Scared for life with a little man on my hand...

There was so much mixture left over as the recipe is for 6 people and there are only two of us... so I bagged it up popped it in the freezer and used it again... this time adapting the recipe a little. I made a few little balls and shallow fried them so we could have them in wraps instead. I still have a ball of it left ready to make another couple of burgers or wraps.

(Accidentally burnt one)

This is a picture taken from the book... Cake for a crowd. I baked this cake for New Years Eve as I was going to a friends house for a dinner party. The cake went down very well, and I'm sure if I hadn't of been so tipsy by the end of the night I would have taken the left overs home with me! I had some raspberries stored away in the freezer and whilst they looked great on the cake when I first put them on.. because they had started to defrost they went really juicy and the red juice ran all over my crisp white icing. I pointed this out to my friend and apologised who in turn said if I hadn't of mentioned it he would have thought it was supposed to look like that...

I have also made 'Fried' Chicken (twice) a great Friday night food and so easy to do. The chicken is baked not fried but still tastes amazing and reassuringly more healthy than those buckets of chicken you can buy from fast food outlets of the freezer isle in most supermarkets.

I tried out Bill's meat free lasagne which uses ricotta as a filing instead. It was nice but I think I prefer it to have meat in there!

Recipes I still want to make include:
  • Shakshouka
  • Singapore fried noodles
  • Nasi Goreng (although I'm finding it difficult to find kecap manis?)
  • Polenta Bolognese Gratin
  • Bucatini all'Amatriciana
  • Roast Chicken with Chestnut Torn-Bread Stuffing
  • Bill's Coq Au Vin
  • Chicken Burritos with coriander and green chili
  • Chicken Satay
  • Crisp Pork Belly with Apple Sauce
  • Lamb Curry with yogurt and tomatoes
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Lentil and Spice Pasties with yogurt dressing
  • Peach and Blueberry Pudding
  • Chocolate Mousse Cake
Think that should keep me busy for a while!

A great starter book for those who are just starting out on the cooking scene (Christmas/Birthday present for a student perhaps?) or like me if you want some alternative ideas for basics or some easy recipes for those nights after work when you're not quite up to making a recipe which lists 25 plus ingredients and about 5 pans.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Lemon Drizzle Traybake

I happened to stumble across another baking blogger challenge this week and it happened to tie in to exactly what I wanted to bake. Handy. The challenge is held by two different bloggers each month this month's blog host is The more than occasional blogger. 

This month's letter is 'L' and my chosen bake last weekend was a Lemon Drizzle Traybake.

This is the first time I have ever made a lemon drizzle sponge. It was really easy. I used the recipe from Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes, my tray is a little larger than the one recommended in the recipe... but I do seem to struggle to find some of the tins suggested in the book.

You can also find the recipe here...

Even before the cake was baked I was lapping it up from the bowl, one of the most delicious cake mixes I've ever tasted.

The 'drizzle' made a little bit of a mess and you need to drizzle it over whilst the cake is still warm, it is incredibly running and sticky! Table cloth needed washing afterwards!

The tasters (family, friends and co-workers) said it was amazing and went down great with a cup of tea or Mocha in one person's case! It was a quick bake and big pleaser so great for events or parties when you need something quick and tasty!

Homemade Guacamole

Originally Posted on Breadsticklers 22/11/2011

Guacamole brought to us by the Aztecs, translating to quite simply avocado sauce.

I love Guacamole, whether it be in a fajita, burrito, or simply dolloped on top of some nachos. It seems to be more expensive than other Tex Mex dips, and that combined with a thought pattern of 'how hard can it be?' inspired me to start making my own.

It is actually really simple and I don't know why I have never done so before!

This recipe makes about two ramekins worth of guacamole, you can eat it straight after making it - or if you prefer chill and save for later.


Half a red onion
2 Green chillies
3 Ripe avocados (they need to feel slightly soft when you press them, but not overly so that they have gone past ripe and gone off, and not too firm that they are too hard to crush).
1 Lime
Tbsp of fresh coriander- finely chopped
2 Tsps of salt
Touch of black pepper


- Finely chop your onion (the finer the better) and de-seed and finely chop your chilli. With a pestle and mortar grind these up with your salt until it is a paste. This takes the most effort as you will need to give it some welly to make it into a paste.

- In a bowl add your avocado (removing the stones) and crush up with a fork until it starts to become smoother and 'dip like'. Then add in your onion and chilli paste along with juice from the lime and the coriander. Merge this altogether and add the pepper to taste plus a little more salt if you prefer.

- Give it a bit of a taste, dependent on the size of your lime you may need to add another one here but don't add too much as I have made that mistake before now and all I could taste was lime, or add some coriander. The best thing about making your own guacamole is that you can adapt it to your own taste.

Other ideas for guacamole:

Add some garlic crushing it with the chilli and onion. (I prefer to add garlic but it's not to everyone's taste- you can cheat by adding garlic paste)

Add some garlic and tomato, again crushing the garlic with the chilli and onion and then add a de-seeded ripe tomato at the very end.

Add spring onions instead of red onion - about 2 will do

Spice it up by adding cayenne pepper and cumin to the chilli onion and garlic paste.

You can also use soured cream to make it bit smoother or cool it down if you've over done it with the spice.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Appeltaart - Dutch Apple Pie - Recipe

Previously Published on Breadsticklers 13/11/2011

After tasting the most amazing apple pie ever in Bruges I had to try my hand at making one just as good. I did a bit of research and found that there is a difference between English apple pie and Dutch apple pie.. for one thing they call it Appeltaart. It's a lot sweeter than English apple pie and it is absolutely amazing. There is no need to sweeten it up with custard, just a side of ice cream to give it that lovely hot cold contrast.


For the pastry:

250g plain flour
175g softened butter
80g caster sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp of ground cinnamon

For the filing:

Kilo of Bramley apples
60g caster sugar
70g sultanas
3 Tsps of ground cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon
25g ground almonds
Flaked almonds


-Grab a bowl and add the flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon and 1 and a half of the eggs. Stick your hands in and mix the ingredients together needing it in to a dough adding a little more flour as and when you need to.

- Once you have a nicely even and smooth dough take a quarter of it away and set aside. Flour your (clean) surface and start rolling out your dough. My tin is a spring form 22.5cm tin but I think this mixture will fit up to 24cm.. this seems to be a more popular size of tin? If you haven't got a spring form tin butter the sides so the pie will slide out a little easier.

- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees (150 if fan assisted) and start prepping your filing.

- Peel, core and slice your apples. In a bowl add the sugar, sultanas, cinnamon, lemon juice, and ground almonds and mix together. Then add in your apples and cover your apple slices in the mixture I prefer to do this with my hands so I don't break up all my thinly slices apple pieces trying to do it with a spoon.

- Layer your apples and sultanas in the tin. You might have a bit of liquid left over drizzle this over your filing but don't add too much as you don't want your pie to be soggy. Then sprinkle over some more sugar (optional) cinnamon, and your almond flakes.

- Grab your left over dough and cut it in to thin strips. This is the first time I had ever done a lattice and I think it will need a lot of practice to make it look perfect but I think for a first attempt mine came out rather well. I started doing all the strips going across first and then once I had made sure they fit I peeled them back and started threading through the other side. I made a pathetic attempt to search youtube for the perfect way to do this but found it no help.

- Once you are satisfied with your lattice... whisk the remaining half an egg and brush it on the top of your pie, use it to stick and fold down the edges to seal your pie.

- Pop it in the oven for about an hour, you may need to turn it to make it even all over, once it's golden brown all over on the top take it out and leave it to cool.

- Once those agonising 30minutes are up slice up you pie and serve with creamy ice cream. Dust with lots of icing sugar to give it that extra Dutch touch.

The result was perfect, better than I could of hoped for. Absolute heaven in my mouth. The sweetness of the dough combined with the tart apples, moist on the inside crunchy on the outside, warm apple pie with cold ice cream- my ideal dessert. I can't wait to eat some more of it!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Magic Faraway Tree Toffee Shock Cake

Originally posted on 22/10/2010 on Breadsticklers.

Last month I discovered a new blog.. and I loved what I found.

This is the Magic Faraway Tree Toffee Shock Cake....

I decided after reading @wannabefoodie76's blog that I NEEDED to make this cake.

So I did.

This is how it turned out.

I did accidentally put the cakes in the wrong order but I quite like the zebra affect too.

It's such a big cake I probably put on half a stone from the amount I ate... and I had to give a lot away to some very eager volunteers... and they all loved it too. The sounds coming from people whilst eating it were bordering on pornographic.

Want to make this cake? You really should! Here's the recipe on @wannabefoodie76's original blog post.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Spicy Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup

Previously Published on 17/10/2011 on Breadsticklers

It's not very often that I make soup, but when your poorly and it's cold there is nothing better than a big bowl of piping hot soup and crusty bread. This soup really will clear your sinuses as it's a bit spicy! To tame this down a bit just simply add less spice or more butter milk.

It's really simple to make too... just five steps!


175g Sweet potato
175g Butternut squash
750ml Chicken Stock (Vegetable stock if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ginger
pinch of pepper
Tablespoon of buttermilk

The above measurements for the sweet potato are a rough estimate don't go wasting any trying to get the exact measurements!


1. Peel and dice the sweet potato and butternut squash in to cubes(ish).

2. Put the diced butternut and sweet potato in a saucepan with the hot chicken or vegetable stock along with the spices... just add a little at a time if you're unsure you can always add more later.

3. Let it get to boiling point and then simmer for 15 minutes, until your vegetables are soft.

4. If you have a hand blender great. I don't it broke. Blend your soup with your hand blender or big blender... be careful not to let it explode everywhere... Keep blending it until it's soup like.

5. Pour in to two bowls and swizzle in your buttermilk.

Easy Peasy!!!

Too simple? Make your own bread!?

Fruitful Baking - The Weekly Bake Off & Valentines Bakes

Previously Posted 05/02/2012 on Breadsticklers.

I hate wasting food, but I also like my fruit to be just ripe not overly ripe. I like bananas but they don't seem to last very long before they start to go brown and spotty. To accompany this weeks Weekly Bake off entry I thought I'd follow the theme of fruit in cake and make chocolate and banana heart shaped cakes... Valentines day is not far away after all.

Firstly though... here is my entry in this weeks bake off.

Farmhouse Orange Victoria Sandwich.

I think I should have let my cake cool a little longer, or perhaps put the cream on the bottom layer then put it in the fridge to let it harden before I put the top layer on? It seemed a bit sloppy but still tasted awesome. There isn't a massive amount of cream but you really don't need a thick layer of it (in my opinion) as the cream was really rich. I deviated from the recipe a little bit by spreading a layer of the fine cut marmalade on the base before adding any cream.

The cake has gone down very well in my house, I only made it a few hours ago and there is less than half of it left!

Here's some more pictures of my cake. I will definitely make this cake in future as it is truly delicious.


If your interested in trying out the weekly bake off see the website here. Mary Berry's 100 Cake and Bakes where this recipe was taken from is available from Amazon for a bargain price of £4.

Happy Birthday to Me.... The Weekly Bake Off

Originally Posted on Breadsticklers 29/01/2012

It was my birthday this week, I had just received my copy of Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to join in with The Weekly Bake Off.

I found out about the weekly bake off a couple of weeks ago through another blog I follow. It seemed like a really cute idea, every week there is a new bake from the book (only £4 on Amazon... bargain!) the bake is announced on Monday and everyone has to submit a picture of their bake by Sunday via twitter @WeeklyBakeOff. Each bake is judged (sometimes there is a guest judge) and a winner is announced! It's great to see how other people have fared and each person's own interpretation of the bake.

I let it slip that it was my first time taking part and that whatever the bake was that week was going to ultimately end up being my birthday cake! So the lovely organiser (Amy) of the Weekly Bake Off said she would dedicate this bake off to me *blushes* and the bake for this week would be Divine Chocolate Birthday Cake.

If you haven't got the book the recipe is posted online here.

I didn't follow the recipe to the letter... instead of adding coffee granules (I don't like coffee) I just mixed some cocoa with a teaspoon of vanilla essence to make it EXTRA chocolatey! Also the recipe recommends you use 39% cocoa solid plain chocolate for the icing... well, I couldn't find 39% in my crappy local supermarket (they don't even sell buttermilk!) so I had to make do with 44%. Every thing was laid out on the work tops ready for me to ice it... a couple of hours later I returned to find that some cheeky unknown person within my household had decided to have a nibble of my chocolate. The only thing I had in the cupboard was some milk chocolate, so my icing has about 10% milk chocolate in it too....

The edges of my cake weren't the neatest and I tried to neaten them up with the icing but in a cold kitchen it sets very quickly!

As it was my birthday I decided to add a bit of sparkle with gold and silver balls with matching candles.

So this is my bake!

First stage....

Miss a few...

Cake in the pan ready for the preheated oven...

Et Voila!

For my first flourless cake I think it turned out rather well. The book says the cake should be 'fudgey' in consistency and I feel it is, I probably need to work on my decorating skills however! Tastes yummy... so yummy that I had to have a piece whilst writing this post!

I'm looking forward to the many more weekly bake offs!

UPDATED: The results came out 30.01.2012... and I won! Whoooooop!!!