Category Archives: Baking

Jungle Biscuits

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Jungle Biscuits

Another quick post with lots of photos. This time to show the jungle biscuits I made for my nephew’s 1st birthday.

Not sure you find all these animals in the jungle, but who cares?!

The cutters are Ann Clarke zoo ones from Amazon, and I used a heart one for the leaves and a unicorn one for the zebra (with the horn cut off!).

I used my usual biscuit and icing recipes. These were my designs.

And the finished articles

The elephant and hippo were simple. Just a grey outline, grey flooding and then a second outline once the flooding was dry.

The money was also pretty simple, I did a dark brown outline and then an outline of the face and belly in beige.

Then flooded it in the appropriate colour and piped on the face in black when the flooding was dry.

Leaf also simple – outline on the heart biscuit, flood and then pipe the pattern when flooding dry.

The giraffe I outlined in beige, put on some blobs of brown in flooding icing, white flooding on the legs, brown for the tail, nose and ears, and then piped round the blobs with beige flooding. I like the informality of the shapes. If you wanted more precision I would recommend flooding completely in beige and piping on the brown pattern once the flooding is dry.

The last one I did was the zebra. I experimented with adding the black stripes at the point of flooding, and it was a disaster. So I piped the black stripes on one of them once the white flooding was dry. And I’m completely in love with it. Both with and without a black outline.

For the black icing I tried a new experiment. I added this black cocoa to the icing.

It made a lovely dark grey, which I added some black food colouring to. And it made a fantastic black. It has a kind of Oreo taste, which I love, and used a lot less food colouring than normal, which is a good thing.

For the brown icing I added regular cocoa and brown food colouring.

Here they are at the party, plus some of the amazing other jungle themed things my sister made!

Related posts:

40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Pride Rainbow Biscuits

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

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40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Quick post this one! Just thought I would share the biscuits I made for our camping weekend to celebrate my brother’s 50th and my sister’s 40th birthdays.

Links to the biscuit and icing recipes can be found on my other biscuit posts (see end of this post for links)

I like to draw the biscuit designs so I can work out the best way to ice them/ what colours I need etc.

I trace round the cutter, and then draw in the designs.

For all of these biscuits I did an initial outline in the same colour as the flooding icing, then flooded them, dried them in the oven (super low heat – it’s much faster than letting them air dry), and then went over the outlines again in black. It really makes the designs pop.

To make the black (and brown) I added cocoa to the outline icing, then black (brown) food colouring. Means you can get away with less food colouring – and it darkens as it dries, so don’t worry if it’s not the blackest black when you pipe it.

Cutters were from Sweet and Scrumptious

My 9 year old daughter helped me ice these. She’ll be on junior bake off before I know it!

The birthday boy and girl enjoying their biscuits!

Related posts:

Pride Rainbow ūüć™

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

40th Birthday Cake

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40th Birthday Cake

Yesterday it was my baby sister’s 40th birthday, and apart from making me feel very old, it was of course and excuse to try out my new cake tin, and some of the pretty cake ideas I’ve been seeing on Pinterest.

My new cake tin is ace! It’s a Countless Celebrations cake pan set by Wilton, which I got from Hobbycraft. You can use it to make any letter or number, and I guess a range of shapes, so I figure I will get a lot of use out of it. It’s a deep rectangle, and then has lots of small bits that you put into the tin to shape the letters/numbers. The bottom of the tin is dimpled to keep the bits in place.

I thought I would do one cake in chocolate and one in vanilla to please all tastes. I used the same victoria sponge recipe for both, just substituting cocoa powder for some of the flour. I like the egg weighing method, and I had to guess how much I would need for the tin (one criticism I have of the cake tin is that it doesn’t give any advice about amount of mixture for the different layouts). I went for 7 eggs per cake, and to be fair, I could have got away with 6. This is how it worked out:

7 eggs

400g caster sugar

400g unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

400g self raising flour (replace 50g of flour with cocoa for the chocolate version)

Enough milk to make a slightly looser batter

You know the score… cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy, gradually add the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the flour (and cocoa) and mix till just combined. I use my KitchenAid mixer for all steps, but some prefer to fold in the flour.

With the cake tin you make the letter/number backwards and then flip it over so you have a flat surface.

You have to be quite careful with them when releasing them from the pan, or they break! I will definitely invest in some of that spray on non stick stuff for next time I use them.

I cut mine into two layers and added jam (raspberry in one and homemade rhubarb in the other – which goes amazingly with chantilly cream – a kind of rhubarb and custard vibe).

I put a row of raspberries in the middle and piped blobs of cream round the edge (to make it look pretty). Then out the top layer on. The cream was whipped with a little icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. So yummy!

I found that making them into layers and filling/reconstructing them made them quite fragile. Hence the cracks in the photos below!

For the topping I piped cream blobs on the top and then topped it with a range of delicious goodies.

I used my meringue recipe to make meringue kisses (see here), and painted stripes inside the piping bag with food colouring gel. The gold below was paint not gel, and it didn’t work out so well. But the red worked great! I baked them slowly in a low oven.

I cheated with the rest by buying some chocolates, macarons and cutting some edible flowers from the garden (roses and pelargoniums) – make sure you use edible flowers – you can find a list here.

Fortunately I took these pictures before transporting the cakes to my sister’s. Because they were very delicate, and slipped around – half of the top layer of the 4 fell off in my hallway!! So I would only recommend making these and piling them so high of you are eating the cake in the same place that you make it!

Pride Rainbow Biscuits

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Pride Rainbow Biscuits

London Pride is at the beginning of July, and we chose to celebrate it at work this year with a bake sale. With proceeds going to London Friend, the UK’s oldest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans charity. I’m the head of the D&I practice at work, so it was a perfect excuse to combine my passion for inclusion and my love of baking.

I had seen some great rainbow cookies on Pinterest, and was inspired to make something bright and colourful.

I used my go-to biscuiteers vanilla biscuit recipe (as seen in this blog post, or here on their site) and decided to use the biscuiteers powdered egg white icing recipe (see here), rather than the one my friend gave me and I have used in previous posts. This is largely because I went for a lesson at biscuiteers, and they used this icing, and it was great! It uses less of the egg white powder than the other recipe, so it’s cheaper too! I use meri white powder, which I got from The Vanilla Valley – it was the best priced I could find).

To make things simple for myself, I decided just to do heart shapes. I always find I need to bake the biscuits slightly less time than the biscuiteers recipe.

I made up flooding icing in 6 colours of the rainbow (yes I know there are 7, but who really knows the difference between indigo and violet!), plus lining icing in red. I’m getting much better at gauging the consistency of the icing. For lining icing I just the mix as it comes in the recipe, and for flooding, dilute with water to shampoo consistency).

I always use gel colours, and I love the Wilton range. I bought a big box of different colours from Amazon a while back, and they are great. Though I reckon you could just have the primary colours, and black, and you could mix your own different colours!

For flooding I’ve started using plastic bottles rather than icing bags. Less messy, easy to control and better for the environment as you just wash them. I have them from a few different places. The ones in this kit from Amazon are good because they are easy to squeeze. Biscuiteers also sell some Goode ones – I picked up a few after my lesson, though they don’t seem to sell them on the website. Except on this kit. I use a Wilton size 1 or 2 plain tip. I don’t bother with a tip for outlining, I just cut a small hole in the bag, and make it bigger if I need to.

A top tip if you have the same colour outlining and flooding colours is to make the outline one first, use it, then dilute what is left to make the flooding icing. I did this with the red icing. I also made a bigger batch of yellow, then added blue to a third to make the green and red to a third to make orange.

Icing them was easy, but actually much more time consuming than I estimated. It turned into a pretty late night! I outlined them all in red first, then piped stripes of each colour onto the biscuits.

I started with thicker stripes (two passes with each colour), and then experimented with thinner stripes, and different patterns. I ran a cocktail stick through some to make them a little tye-dye looking.

I then baked them again for a little while on the lowest oven setting (mine only goes to 80 degrees) to set them. I find this much better than just leaving them to dry. It also means you quickly can pipe over the top with additional designs, without waiting for them to dry for hours. Which I didn’t with these. but did with the biscuits I will write about in my next post.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, and they sold straight away at the bake sale!!

Related posts: 40th and 50th Birthday Biscuits

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Fox Cake

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It was my neice’s 11th birthday recently and as we were going away with them for half term, I took along a bunch of baking stuff so I could make her a special cake.

Naturally I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and I kept coming across cute fox cakes that I thought she would love. I’ve also wanted to make a striped zebra cake for ages, so I thought I would combine the two.

I wanted a tall layer cake and this recipe is enough for three shallow 8 inch cake tins, which I cut in half so we had six layers. If you want to get the zebra stripes to work in the best way, it’s probably better to bake one deep cake so the stripes stay in line.

For the white stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Milk

For the brown stripes:

175g butter
175g caster sugar

3 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

25g cocoa

Milk

I made them at the same time in two separate bowls.

Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs. Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder (and cocoa for the dark stripes). Add enough milk to make a soft, loose mix. You don’t want it too stiff.

I actually mushed down 100g of raspberries and added them to the white stripe mix instead of some of the milk. Made it nice and moist.

Now for the fun bit. Grease and line the bottom of the cake tins.

Add a blob of dark mix in the centre of each tin, allow it to spread a little. Then add a blob of white directly in the centre of the dark one, allow to spread a little, then add dark. Keep on going until the mix has spread to the edge of the tin and all of the mix is used up. This is a good video here that shows how it works. Her mix is very runny, but it doesn’t have to be quite that runny. Mine was reasonably thick and I just encouraged it to go to the edges by tipping the tins.

Bake for around 20 mins at 180.

Once cold I cut all of my cakes in half to make six tiers and sandwiched them together with raspberry jam, chocolate buttercream, and on the middle layer I put fresh raspberries too.

The chocolate butter cream was 1 pack of unsalted butter (250g) a couple of tablespoons of cocoa, a couple of tablespoons of milk and enough icing sugar to make it the consistency and sweetness I like – I didn’t measure!

I then iced the outside with chocolate ganache, which was 400g of dark chocolate and 200ml of double cream. I chopped the chocolate and poured over the cream which I had warmed in the microwave. I managed to split it (eek), but discovered if you warm some milk and beat it in, then it magically goes back to the way it should be! Once the ganache was on I put it in the fridge overnight.

I used bought fondant icing (Mary Berry would be horrified). All Renshaws from Hobbycraft One small pack (250g size) of orange, 1/4 small pack of brown and half a large pack (500g size) of white kneaded together. This was the perfect amount to cover the cake, make the ears and tail. If you like your icing thick then use more as I rolled it reasonably thin.

The ears are triangles with the edges feathered (just cut out little triangles) and stacked them with a bit of black at the top and white inners. I just curled them slightly on my hand, and placed them on top of the cake. I used an egg box behind them to support them until they dried!

The tail is a roll of the main cake colour fondant, with black then white pushed together at the end. I make it look like fur with the back of a knife. This also helped blend the three colours together.

The face is white cut into a shape like the top of a heart and attached to the main cake with a little water on the back.

The nose is a blob of black, and the eyes are thin sausages of black stuck in an arch and then two tiny bits for eyelashes.

As you can see from this slice. The zebra stripes inside didn’t work so well – it looks more like a normal marble cake. It would have been much better as one or two larger cakes sliced and then put back together in the same pattern. Mine got a bit mixed up because it was so many cakes and layers.

All in all though, a successful cake, which tasted yummy and looked cute!

Spiced All Bran Cake

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Spiced All Bran Cake

I don’t remember my grandma (on my Mum’s side) being much of a baker, but she did make a delicious cake made from Kellogg’s All Bran cereal.

I have inherited her cook book, which is filled with her lovely handwriting.

But unfortunately it doesn’t have her All Bran cake recipe in it. I remember it has equal measures of things in it, and, in a completely modern way for a British woman born in the 1930’s, it used cups rather than weights! Perhaps it was an American recipe? She used to make it with a mug as her measuring cup.

Fortunately, there are several recipes online, including on the Kellogg’s website, which I’ve used as inspiration for my own version.

100g All Bran (to be honest, I used Morrison’s own brand!)

100g caster sugar

150g sultanas

300ml milk (if you’re vegan a nut milk would work well I think)

100g self raising flour

1tsp allspice

Mix together the milk, All Bran, sugar and sultanas and leave to soak for at least 1 hour. My Grandma used to leave it overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade

Mix in the flour and allspice, pour it into a loaf tin (I line mine with baking paper). Bake for around an hour.

Leave it to cool a while, slice and serve with lashings of butter. The Danish have a word ‘Tandsm√łr’, which means ‘tooth butter’, and it’s when you have butter so thick that your teeth leave marks in it. This cake definitely deserves Tandsm√łr. However, I love it best warm, fresh out of the oven. It is to die for!

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

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Tiny Gingerbread Houses

If, like me, you are a Pinterest addict, you will no doubt have seen lots of lovely photos of tiny gingerbread houses beautifully balanced on mugs.

I’ve wanted to make them for ages, so I ordered a set of cutters online from eBay. I think they came from China!

Once they arrived I used the recipe in the Biscuiteers book that I mentioned in the Iced Biscuits (Cookies) post. It’s got treacle, and a range of spices in it, and I doubled the ginger, and added the grated zest of an orange, which was a genius move, because it tasted great. I didn’t want to over mix it so it was a bit streaky when I rolled it out, but it got less so when I gathered up the scraps and re-rolled it. The recipe is here. I also recommend checking the biscuits after 12 minutes (the recipe says 14-18, but I find that a bit long).

I used this new rolling pin with the rubber rings round the end to get an even thickness all round – the only disadvantage is that it’s a bit small, so you can’t do a massive piece of dough all at once.

The cutter is a front/back, side and roof. You need two of each per house. If you’re sensible (unlike me), you will cut an equal number of each so you have complete houses. Of course I didn’t and ended up with a few odd pieces, which were the cooks treat, and good for testing the icing before committing to the houses!

A baker friend recommended using meringue powder to make the icing, so I bought a tub from The Vanilla Valley. It’s known as Meri White. It means you don’t need egg whites, so don’t get loads of left over egg yolks. It was really easy, and once I had followed her recipe (1kg icing sugar, 10tbsp meringue powder, 180ml water) I then added orange juice to water it down to the right consistency – so it enhanced the orange in the biscuit. Note this makes a lot of icing – but you can freeze it, and it works just as well when you’ve defrosted it as it does fresh. Some people use less meringue powder, but my friend recommends the recipe from Sweet Ambs, who says it gives more stability, and stops the icing crusting over so quickly before you use it.

We iced the individual pieces first, and left them to dry before building the houses. My 8 year old particularly enjoyed this bit – not sure how much arrives on the biscuit, and how much in her mouth! I think I cut the hole in the icing bag a bit big, but pretty pleased with the results.

She went off to bed once we had done this bit, and I stuck them together later on.

I just piped thick lines of icing on the joins and stuck them together.

I left them to dry for a while before adding the roof.

And then added extra icing as snow along the ridge and edges.

Here they are decorating the table at my Sister’s before they got rapidly consumed by a load of kids.

And of course the obligatory shot of one on a mug! They were a bit big for that – so check the size of your cookie cutter before you buy it, but they made great table decorations.

Related posts: Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

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Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

I made this for an early Christmas dinner that we had recently. My Sister in Law is gluten free, and I wanted to make something she could eat. It’s also pretty easy, looks great, and tastes amazing. There is alcohol in it, but not so much that anyone is going to get drunk, (our kids ate it), but you can leave it out or replace it with almond essence if you prefer.

Cherry and almond is one of my favourite flavour combinations, in fact anything with cherries is good in my book. Though if we’re being strictly truthful, amaretto is actually made with peach kernels not almonds.

You could replace the almond with chocolate if you want something more Black Forest gateau flavoured.

On top of the eggs and sugar for the meringue, you need almond extract, amaretto, a large pot of double cream (600ml), 400g fresh cherries (pitted), 200g fresh raspberries (you can use just cherries if you prefer, but I like the freshness of the raspberries too) and a jar of Cherries in kirsch. I used these from Lakeland. Sainsbury’s also do some as do Waitrose and probably loads of other places. Drain them and cut them in half. Beware it’s a sticky job.

I used my trusty meringue recipe, which you can find here, added a teaspoon of almond extract at the very end. I use the Sainsbury’s French Almond one, which I think is great – make sure you use extract not essence as essence is not a natural product. I then divided it into three circles of about 20cm – I drew round a small plate onto the underside of some parchment paper. If you want it to be taller – make four smaller circles.

To add a lovely flavour I made a purée by blending a handful of the fresh (pitted) cherries (about a handful) and a handful of the raspberries, sieving them to get rid of the seeds, and boiling to reduce it down a bit.

I then splodged it onto the meringue circles and swirled it around with a wooden kebab stick.

I try and bake meringue on as low a heat as possible. My own only goes to 80 degrees centigrade, so I use that. It takes several hours to dry out the meringue. The cream will soften up the meringue, so I wanted it to be quite crisp and baked for around 3 hours.

Once the meringue disks are cold it’s time to start layering up. If you want the meringue to stay crisp, leave this till just before you serve. I made mine several hours before we ate, and the meringue went very soft (and still very delicious!).

Add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the cream. Whip the cream to soft peaks and add some amaretto to taste. Beware – it tastes amazing!

Put a little bit of cream on the plate you are going to use and stick the worst looking meringue to the cream. This will stop it sliding around. Add some cream and spread it around to the edge of the disk.

I placed a row of kirsch cherries around the edge, and filled in the middle with the fresh cherries and raspberries- push them down a little into the cream the put more cream on the top so the layer is quite smooth.

For the other layer I placed fresh cherries around the edge and kirsch cherries and raspberries in the middle.

Add the final layer on top, add some cream in the middle of the layer (to help the fruit to stick) and make a lovely pile of the remainder of the fruit.

Don’t worry if any of the layers crack (mine did), just stick them back together with a bit of cream. It’s very forgiving!

Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. I left mine a little long, and it travelled in a car, so became a little soft and squishy. But it still tasted amazing!

I will most definitely be making it again when I have some of my home grown cherries and raspberries next summer.

Related posts: Christmas Canapés, Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

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Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

We had an early Christmas dinner in our family this year, as some of us are not going to be around on Christmas day.

I was responsible for starters and desserts, and I came across this blackberry fraisier recipe in a Christmas pull-out in Good Housekeeping recipe, which can be found here.

I’ve wanted to make a fraisier since I saw it in bake-off one year.

There are a lot of different steps and layers to get ready so you can layer it all together at once – it needs to chill for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight, so make sure you plan ahead.

The cake is a genoise sponge where you whisk the eggs and sugar to within an inch of their lives, and then fold the rest of the ingredients in. You do lose a little volume when you do this, as it takes a while to get them properly combined, but it still makes a lovely airy cake.

The next step as creme patisserie (ore creme pat as you always hear it referred to on bake off). I’ve never made it before, and it wasn’t overly difficult, though quite hard work on the arm with all the beating!

I did find that when I left it to cool it became overly heavy and solid, so I emptied out of the piping bag, added some milk – gave it a good beating, sieved it, and it turned out perfect! So I would say that you could reduce the amount of corn flour that the recipe recommends, and it would be just fine.

You have to make a liquid to soak the cake – the recipe has lemon juice, sugar and cassis in it, I skipped the lemon juice, added a bit of water, and used creme de mures (blackberry liqueur) instead – it worked fine!

The second to last layer is marzipan – I used bought, and I recommend using more than the recipe suggests. I found it quite hard to roll the amount recommended out to the right size – so use more, and then trim it off!

The glaze is the final thing – it was a bit lumpy when it cooled (I think it was the cocoa that hadn’t dissolved properly), so I sieved it. I probably use my sieve just as much for smoothing our lumpy mixtures as I do for sifting flour! It ran a little over the edges, so if you want a super professional finish, maybe add an extra sheet of gelatine, which will help it be more set.

It’s fun to stack it all together. You do it in the tin (without the bottom), and then remove it after chilling. I forgot to take a photo of each layer, so here is the beginning and end!

I love how it looks, and it tastes absolutely delicious!

I would definitely recommend it as a Christmas Day or dinner party centrepiece, and you could use a different fruit if you can’t get hold of blackberries (which are not in season in December, so harder to get hold of).

Related posts: Christmas Canapés, Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

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Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

I have long been impressed by those immaculately iced biscuits (cookies to our American friends) that you see on Pinterest and in fancy stores, so I thought I’d have a go and see if I could make some.

I then stumbled across a book by the biscuit geniuses at Biscuiteers in Nymans National Trust second hand bookshop. And it seemed like fate.

So one Saturday, my daughter and I donned our aprons and made the vanilla biscuit recipe from the biscuiteers book (it’s also online here). Except we replaced most of the syrup with honey because we didn’t have much syrup. Not sure it made any difference – you couldn’t taste the honey, and the texture was great.

We split it in two, and rolled it out between two pieces of parchment paper. To about 5mm thick.

We used a random assortment of cutters (obviously mini-me insisted we had to include a unicorn!)

This batch came out just right. The second batch were a little darker. Just as tasty, but a slightly different flavour.

They didn’t take long to cool, and we popped them in a Tupperware container overnight, ready to ice the following day.

We used the biscuiteers royal icing recipe (see here), made with fresh egg whites. My trusty KitchenAid made short work of whipping up a batch, which we then watered down slightly and added a variety of Wilton food colouring gels. We also added some gold lustre dust to some golden yellow icing, which gave it a lovely subtle sheen.

To make the black icing we added cocoa powder to the icing to darken it, before adding black food colouring. It worked really well.

A top tip is to stick some clingfilm directly on top of your icing to keep it from drying whilst you aren’t using it.

There are two main types of icing when you are making biscuits. Line icing and flooding icing. Basically you make a border with the line icing, and flood it (fill the border) with the flooding icing. Line icing is also used for making patterns/detail on top after you have flooded the biscuit. The line icing is stiffer than the flooding one, but some people use the same icing to both outline and flood.

I tried making a mix of line icing, flooding icing, and something in between that could be used for both.

We popped the colours in icing bags, and some white flooding icing in a squeezy bottle, which I had bought online. It works really well, and I’d definitely recommend getting a couple.

You can see in the picture below the outline (which you leave for a few minutes to dry before flooding), and the flooding which hasn’t quite made it to the edge on the head.

Toothpicks are great for helping it spread a little. As is banging it gently on the table, or jiggling it quickly from side to side (yes really!). Though we did lose a few unicorn horns that way!

Leave the flooded biscuit for about 20 minutes to dry before adding decoration on top. Unless you’re doing some marbling, in which case do it straight away. I piped lines on it and then zigzagged through them to create the marble. Be careful not to add too many colours or overmix, otherwise you end up with a sludge colour (see the dress!).

And here are our results. Far from perfect, but I learnt a lot, and I’ve already got some ideas about what I would do differently next time.

I think this is my favourite…

The texture of the icing is absolutely key, and I’m a bit lazy, so am drawn to the idea of having the same texture icing for both outlining and flooding. A bit more experimenting required to get it just right. The teal and gold ones were the closest to this. The orange was too stiff to flood properly. I think if you wanted to do really fine decorating then you would need the line icing texture.

The size of hole I cut in the piping bag was also crucial. Some of them were a bit big.

And you really have to plan ahead in terms of which bits to outline in what colour, what to flood, what to add on top. We traced round the cutters and drew out designs to help us plan things out.

And my final top tip – we spread oilcloth on the table, and it was a great idea. Food colouring is a nightmare to remove!

I loved it, and I think I have developed a new obsession. I can’t wait to try again!

Related posts: Tiny Gingerbread Houses

Harvest Festival Cupcakes

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Harvest Festival Cupcakes

When my daughter has a bake sale at school, we like to make our bakes match the theme (if it’s for the school fete) or the time of year.

In October she had a harvest festival assembly the day before the bake sale, so was insistent that our bake had to be harvest festival themed.

I’m obviously a keen gardener, so a vegetable theme ticked a lot of boxes.

For the decorations I cheated and bought some ready made white fondant, which we coloured with my favourite Wilton gel colouring. Just add a bit at a time to get the colour you want, and the the great thing is that they don’t make icing runny or fondant soft and sticky. Once coloured we had a happy evening in front of the fire making as many vegetables we could think of. I think my favourites are the cauliflower (which I made from rolling small balls of white fondant, squishing them together and then wrapping in green fondant), and the peas.

We then made some chocolate cupcakes and iced them with dark chocolate ganache. To make them extra tasty we dug a little home in each cupcake and put some ganache in the hole, before covering the top in ganache.

Finally we put the fondant veggies on the top. And I have to say, I am thrilled with how they turned out. I took the spare ones to work, and my colleague genuinely asked why I had put peas on a cake. He thought they were real!

The ganache meant they weren’t too sweet – I think a buttercream topping and fondant would have been too much. However, the next day the vegetables had slipped a little on the ganache – they had become a little wet – so definitely one for eating the same day (no hardship).

Unicorn Rainbow Pancakes

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Unicorn Rainbow Pancakes

My daughter had a great love of unicorns, and for some reason, rainbow things are associated with unicorns (I’m sure there is a lovely, sparkly reason, but I don’t know what it is).

She has been pestering me to make rainbow pancakes, and today was the day!

We have our ‘ go to’ pancake recipe, which is from my brother. He is married to a lovely Canadian, and I think he has tweaked her family recipe.

It makes about 24-30 small American (Canadian!) style pancakes, and usually we make a full batch and freeze half of it – it works perfectly well after the batter has been frozen and defrosted. This uses the full recipe.

As I’m a keen baker, we always have food colouring in the house for icing of various hues, so I dig out our trusty box of Colourflair gel colouring. Gels give a much stronger colour than liquid colouring, and don’t dilute the mixture.

Happily we had all the right colours for the rainbow, except orange, and of course that’s easy to make with red and yellow. For indigo we mixed blue with a bit of purple. If lots of food colouring scares you, then this isn’t the recipe for you. Or maybe try some natural alternatives.

Here is the basic pancake recipe:

Mix together:

375g plain flour

16g sugar

16g baking powder

Pinch salt

Then mix in:

3 eggs

350g milk

32g oil

I use an electronic scale that allows me to just keep adding the ingredients.

Whisk them all together until it’s a thick, double cream like consistency.

If you don’t want rainbow pancakes then you can cook it now, if you do.. carry on..

Divide the mix into 7 bowls – I ladle per bowl is almost exactly right to divide it into 7.

Mix in the food colouring.

Heat a frying pan until very hot. If it’s non stick you probably won’t need to add any oil (as there is some in the mix), but test it with a small bit of batter.

Each colour should make 3-4 small pancakes – around 6-7 cm diameter.

Once some bubbles start to show, flip them over. You should see them start to rise a little to make them fluffy.

My pan has a waffle pattern, so the pancakes are never smooth!

I put a piece of kitchen roll on the plate I am using so they don’t go soggy whilst the others cook.

Eat with whatever takes your fancy. We always have loads of fruit. I love a bit of butter and maple syrup, my daughter loves Nutella and raspberry jam.

Enjoy the washing up!

Pizza Party -Uuni 3

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Pizza Party -Uuni 3

I just bought an Uumi 3 Pizza oven from John Lewis¬†(other retailers are available ūüėČ), and it’s the best thing ever!!

It’s small enough to take camping, and cooks the most amazing pizzas. Proper ones like you get in a decent pizza restaurant.

At ¬£199 it’s not cheap, but if you regularly eat pizza, it would pay for itself pretty quickly. I reckon each of my pizzas cost no more than ¬£1.

(Yes that is a pink wheelbarrow and pink football in the background – that’s what you get when you have a house with no men in it!).


There is a Uuni owners forum on Facebook that has some proper pizza geeks on it, and it’s worth a look as there are a lot of helpful tips on there.

I made the dough in my KitchenAid with Wessex Mill pizza/pasta 00 flour using the recipe on the back of the Uuni instruction booklet. I let the mixer knead it for 10 minutes.


Then I cold proved it in the fridge for about 48 hours. This is it before proving.


I then let it warm up outside the fridge for a couple of hours, rolled it into 5 small balls (about 160g per ball), and let it prove again.


You can see the dough in this picture  below to get a sense of how much it rose again.


For the tomato base, I used passata


And chopped in loads of fresh herbs from the garden (oregano, marjoram, Greek basil, parsley, thyme and sage), plus salt and pepper.


I cooked it gently to reduce it down to a nice sauce.

I also made some garlic butter using 1/2 a pack of butter, 3 cloves of crushed garlic and chopped parsley from the garden (both curly and flat leaf). I mixed it all together and created a sausage using cling film. I will keep it in the freezer and chop bits off as I need it. After all, you can’t have pizza without garlic bread.




I chopped up some veggies, sliced some mozzarella and goats cheese and bought some prosciutto for toppings. I also had some fresh Greek basil from the greenhouse.

First up I did a pizza base to test the oven, check out that flame..


and then when it had cooked I brushed on some of the lovely garlic butter. It took just 60 seconds to cook (yes, you read that right, just one minute) and it was amazing garlic bread. It was so delicious it got eaten before I took a picture. I managed to get a picture of the last slice!

The next one was asparagus (which I steamed beforehand), prosciutto, red pepper and mozzarella.

This is it uncooked. It’s sat on the Uuni pizza peel, which you use to slide it into the oven. It cooks on a pizza stone in the oven, which gets incredibly hot, hence the fast cooking time, and gorgeous crispy base.

Lots of people seem to have problems with the pizza sticking to the pizza peel, so I tried semolina underneath. But to be honest I had no problems with sticking, so I reverted to a bit of flour under the pizza as it didn’t slide off and burn in the oven (unlike the semolina).


And here it is cooked.  We added the basil after cooking.

It genuinely only takes a minute or so to cook. You turn it round half way through to make sure it’s evenly done.

There were a few more that didn’t get photographed, and this is the last one we made. We added an egg. A great tip I got off the ¬†Facebook forum was to break it slightly off centre (towards you) as it moves as you slide it into the oven. And look – it came out perfectly in the centre, cooked white and runny yolk. Delicious!



I really can’t recommend this oven highly enough, I foresee lots of pizza parties this summer.

Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

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Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Oh My God!

These might be the best thing I’ve ever baked. I have a secret passion for Starbucks cinnamon buns and I think these are even better! The brown butter was a revelation. I have had a hankering to use it after seeing it on Benjamina from (Bake Off 2016)’s blog.

I made these as a practice for bread week in the work bake off. I need to practice, as bread isn’t really my thing.

I used two different recipes for this, and as they are both from The US, I’ve converted them into metric and made a few tweaks of my own.

Buns and filling were from this recipe here and the salted maple icing from here.

Buns:

175ml milk

60g butter

450g strong bread flour

1 x 7g package instant yeast

50g white sugar

¬Ĺ teaspoon salt

Up to 60ml water

1 egg

Filling:

220g muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

60g butter

Icing:

60g butter

250g icing sugar

3tbsp maple syrup

2-4 tbsp milk

Sea salt flakes

Make the buns:

Warm the milk and melt the butter into it.

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together then mix in the egg, milk/butter mix and some of the water to make a rough dough. I did this in the stand mixer with a dough hook. You might not need all of the water.

Then knead to a lovely smooth dough. About 5-10 minutes.


Put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for around 2 hours until it doubles in size. This is my warm place!


And this is what it looks like when doubled in size.


Whilst the dough is proving make the brown butter. You can do it in a pan or the microwave. I did it in the microwave, but it did spill everywhere! Basically you hear it until it goes brown. There is some good info on making brown butter here on the Bon Appetit website. It really does smell incredible. And when mixed with the muscovado sugar tastes out of this world.


When the dough has risen knock it back and roll out into a 25cm x 30cm rectangle.

Mix together the muscovado sugar and cinnamon.

Brush some of the butter onto the dough. Then mix the rest into the sugar/cinnamon mix.

Spread this over the dough.


At this point it smells amazing!

Roll it up and then pinch the join to help it stick.


Cut into 12 even slices and pop into a baking tray.


Leave to prove again for about 30 minutes.


Until lovely and risen. All cuddled up against each other!


If you fancy you can brush with a bit more melted butter.


Bake for about 17-20 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade until lovely and brown.


Whilst they are cooking, make the icing:

Melt the butter and mix in the icing sugar and maple syrup. It is thick, like this


Then add in some milk until it’s the texture you want. I used about 2 tbsp.


I then spread a little over the buns when they came out


And then the rest when they had cooled a bit more.


Then (if you fancy) sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes.

We managed to let them cool a while before diving in. They might not look so pretty, but they taste amazing amazing amazing.


Cardamon, White Chocolate and Pistachio Cakes

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Cardamon, White Chocolate and Pistachio Cakes

I decided to enter our work Bake Off competition , and whilst casting around for a suitable cake to bake, came across this little beauty in The Cardomon Trail, which is the amazing cookbook by Chetna Makan, who was a contentstant on the 2014 series of Bake Off.

It’s a really gorgeous book, and can be bought here¬†on Amazon at a pretty reasonable price (I think I got it for about a fiver).

If you don’t fancy the whole book, then the recipe is on the Delicious magazine website¬†here

I did a practice run and made a big cake just like in the recipe. And for the bake off competition I made mini cakes with my totally brilliant Lakeland mini cake tin. Each ‘hole’ is loose bottomed, and you basically make mini sandwich cakes with it. ¬†Buy the tin¬†here. I’m completely biased because I grew up just down the road from the original Lakeland factory (once known as Lakeland Plastics), but I do think they do the best bakeware. And I always have a little trip there when I go and visit my folks (fab cafe too!).

The second time I also forgot to include the white chocolate chips, and cut down the amount of cardamon to 3/4 teaspoon as it was quite strong the first time around. They were less sweet without the white chocolate chips, but the icing is very sweet, so it really didn’t matter.

I also recommend getting unshelled pistachios (for the decoration, I don’t think it matters for the ones in the cake) as I did a taste test and they taste 1000% better if you shell them then chop them rather than buying a packet of already shelled ones.

I also used President unsalted butter to make the icing because it’s very light in colour and whips up really white. I used my stand mixer to make the icing and let it mix for quite a while so the icing was gorgeously soft and fluffy.

I also added some (edible) pansies to make it look super pretty.


This really is a fantastic, and very different type of cake, and I really recommend it.

And for those who are curious, yes I won my heat of the bake off. Onto round two – bread week (eek!).

Dad’s Birthday Hamper

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Dad’s Birthday Hamper

I made a lovely little hamper of goodies for my Dad’s birthday recently.

Cute little hamper from Hobbycraft

Labels for the sweets were also from Hobbycraft.


In the basket is:

– Strawberry jam

– Wild strawberry jam

– Raspberry jam

– Fig and onion marmalade

– White chocolate and almond fudge

– two types of dark chocolate truffles

– two types of white chocolate truffles

– dark chocolate covered dried cherries

– chocolate covered salted almonds

Here are the recipes, I made a few adaptations as I went along. And I definitely don’t recommend making truffles on the hottest day of the year!

White Chocolate and Almond Fudge. 


http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2016/07/microwave-fudge-recipes/

This is really delicious. I converted the amounts to grams, and altered it a bit (see below). Other than that I followed her method, except I toasted the almonds.

400g of white chocolate (I used green and blacks)

1 tin condensed milk (I could eat it be the spoonful!)

Pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

See link for the method nits a piece of cake.

Red Onion and Fig Marmalade
This is a Thane Prince recipe from  Perfect Preserves. It is reproduced here:

http://shows.stv.tv/this-morning/food/294321-prepare-perfect-preserves-in-time-for-christmas-with-thane-prince/

I inadvertently bought re-constituted figs (not dried ones) and I only used 250g. I also just used 1 chilli and just the juice of the Orange, not the rind. It’s yum!
Dark Chocolate Truffles (cherry brandy truffles and amaretto truffles)

I made the recipe in full, then split it in half to make two different flavours. I added a good slug of amaretto to one half and a good splash of cherry brandy to the other.

The recipe is in Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes book, and is online here:

http://www.foodwine.com/food/ild/2005/1005/micah.html

I rolled the cherry brandy ones in cocoa powder (with added gold glitter dust for extra bling) and dipped the amaretto ones in melted milk chocolate (after freezing them overnight).
White Chocolate Truffles (champagne truffles and lemon truffles)

Same as above – I made the full recipe, and split it in two. One half I put some Sicilian lemon essence in (from Sainsbury’s). About 3 capfuls. It needs a good stir to incorporate. The other half had Marc de champagne added. Most people think champagne truffles are made with champagne, but it’s usually Marc de champagne, which is a brandy made from champagne.

I researched a lot of white chocolate truffle recipes, and ended up kind of making up my own.

I used 300g of white chocolate and 100ml double cream. I put the cold cream and the unmelted chocolate together in a bowl by mistake, so I just shoved it all in the microwave until it melted, and then gave it a good stir. It worked perfectly fine!

Just cool in the fridge until firm and roll into balls. I covered the lemon ones in icing sugar (with silver edible glitter dust added) and the champagne ones in melted white chocolate (freeze the truffles overnight first so they don’t melt when you dip them in chocolate).

Jam (raspberry jam, strawberry jam and wild strawberry jam)

I have previously blogged about making jam. You can find my blog post¬†here. I’m increasingly a fan of using ¬†jam sugar as it helps jam set quickly and retain its fruity taste and bright colour.

Salted chocolate almonds

Healthier Treat: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds.

Oh my god, these are amazing. I used almonds without the skins on because that was what I had.


Chocolate cherries

I had some chocolate left over after making the almonds, and I had a bag of dried cherries (from Holland and Barrett) lying around, so I chucked those in the chocolate and pulled them out individually with a fork (just like the almonds). They are beyond amazing. If you like Green and Blacks cherry chocolate, then you will love this. Would work equally well with dried apricots (whole or chopped up).

Low fat flapjack

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Ok, so no flapjack is going to be low fat, but I invented this quite a few years ago, and it’s lower fat and sugar than a traditional flapjack recipe. I’ve gone as low as I can whilst still making something that (on the whole) sticks together.

It’s based on a recipe in Leith’s Cookery Bible, but I’ve fiddled around with it quite significantly. I will give the original ingredients too so you can make that too if you want to compare and contrast.

Its in ounces, which shows that I did it a long time ago, as I typically use grams now.

– 6oz butter (same as original recipe)
– 2oz soft brown sugar (4oz in original recipe)
– 2oz golden syrup (same as original recipe)
– 12oz rolled oats (8oz in original recipe)
Plus whatever you like to add in – I used a handful of whole hazelnuts, a handful of sliced almonds, half a pack of chocolate chips, a handful of mixed seeds, and a handful of freeze dried strawberries and raspberries.

Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and syrup until melted.

Mix in the oats and other ingredients until they are well coated. If you are using chocolate chips, add them at the end when it has cooled a little, otherwise they will melt.

Spread into a baking tin and press down.

Bake at 190 degrees centigrade for about half an hour until nicely brown.

Mark into squares when still hot. It will seem very crumbly at this stage but will firm up when it cools.

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Large Raspberry or Chocolate Meringues

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Large Raspberry or Chocolate Meringues

It’s bake-off time again at work, and I wanted to make something different to the usual cupcakes that most people roll out every year. It’s taken three attempts to get this meringue recipe right, but I think I’ve finally cracked it! My own recipe but based heavily on The Meringue Girls and Ottolenghi’s techniques. See here for the meringue girls website. And check out their videos in YouTube – they’re really helpful. They are my new girl crush. Both of them! And this article in the guardian is also full of great advice.

6 egg whites
Caster sugar (double the weight of your egg whites)
Dried raspberries
50g fresh raspberries for purée
100g fresh raspberries for decoration
Double cream for sandwiching together

– Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
– Separate the egg whites and weigh them
– Double this figure and weigh out that amount of caster sugar (in my case my eggs weighed 200g so I had 400g sugar)
– Put the egg whites in a food mixer with the whisk attachment and whisk until stuff peaks. I tried this with an electric hand whisk and it’s much harder work, and the results weren’t as light and fluffy. Using a food mixer makes all the difference in the world!
– Line a deep baking tray with grease proof paper and pour in the sugar, spreading evenly over the bottom. Put the tray in the oven.

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– Wait until the sugar is hot and the edges are beginning to caramelise.

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– Turn down the oven to 80 degrees (or lower If you can) and remove the sugar.
– Turn the food mixer back on and add the sugar a spoon at a time to the mixture, allowing each spoon to incorporate fully. The warm sugar will dissolve more quickly and create a lovely shiny mixture.
– Continue to mix until the meringue is shiny and thick and if you dip your finger in and rub it together with your thumb the mix should be warm and not grainy. It should hold its shape if you take a spoonful and not be runny (otherwise you will get flat meringues like these)

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РIn the meantime, crush the dried raspberries with a spoon so they are little lumps (not powder), and blitz the 50g of fresh raspberries with a hand blender, then push through a sieve to make a smooth purée.

– Take the bowl off the mixer and gently fold in the dried raspberries.
Spoon generous helpings of the mix onto baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. I used a serving spoon; choose a spoon that corresponds to the size of the meringues you want to make. I made 18 medium meringues with the intention of sandwiching them together.

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РDrizzle over a little purée onto each meringue.

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РThen swirl with a cocktail stick (I used a wooden kebab skewer) to mix in slightly. The purée will darken and thicken as it bakes.

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-Bake for around two hours. The idea is to slowly dry them. I then turned the oven off and left them in there to go completely cold. If you don’t like them sticky in the middle , bake for longer. When you turn them over they should be crisp on the bottom. No soggy bottoms here.
– Whisk the cream and use it to sandwich the meringues together, using the fresh raspberries as garnish.
– Eat quickly before everyone else gets their hands on them.

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– To make chocolate meringues, replace the dried raspberry with 50g of chopped dark chocolate ( and fold it in gently).

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– And instead of the raspberry pur√©e, sift a small amount of cocoa over the bowl of meringue, but don’t fold it in.

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– Put spoonfuls of the meringue in a baking tray

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– and bake as above.
Delicious!

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I tried a new version of these chocolate ones today. I added in a tsp of orange essence, made the chocolate more chunky and barely folded it in. I also sifted the cocoa directly over the meringues instead of into the bowl.

The meringues are whiter because the chocolate hasn’t melted so much and mixed in the mixture.


Oh my god, they are amazing! The chocolate is still in chunks (it melted into the mix previously) and you can really taste the Orange. It’s like a Terry’s chocolate orange meringue! I’m going to eat them with the raspberry ice cream I made earlier this week (recipe here).

Dutch Apple Pie

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Many moons ago my brother owned a cafe in The Lake District.

He’s a particularly friendly chap, and visitors would come in just to chat to him. One year a Dutch couple came in every day of their week long holiday. When they returned home they sent him a special pie tin and a recipe for Dutch apple pie. The pie was a massive hit in the cafe. It was about 3 inches deep and we served it hot with cream or ice cream.

In the mists of time the recipe has been lost, but I made it so many times I half remember how to do it.

My cutie as pie daughter and I picked a load of apples at RHS Wisley the other day, so I decided to have a go at making my own version of the famous pie.

The original pie was really deep amd made with a sweet pastry crust, but feeling a bit lazy, I just bought some jus roll frozen short crust pastry and made it a normal pie size. If you are feeling adventurous make some sweet pastry (p√Ęt√© sucre?) and use a deep springform tin.

Peel, core and slice some cooking apples. I used about 5, and i wish i had done another one. Over estimate what you think you will need as there is nothing worse than a skinny pie. Chuck them in your chosen pie dish as you slice them if you want to know how many you need. Then add at least one more (they shrink!).

Mix together some sugar and cinnamon (as much or as little as you like). I guess I used a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

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Put a layer of apples in a bowl and sprinkle over some of the sugar.

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Keep on layering like this until all of your apples are used up.

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Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest. A couple of hours or ideally overnight. The idea is to let the sugar infuse with the apple and to draw out a lot of the juice.

Get a handful of sultanas (as much or little as you like) and put in a bowl. Pour over some rum or other delicious alcohol. I used cherry brandy this time. Cover with clingfilm and leave overnight.

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The next day drain the apple and the sultanas. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Roll out your pastry and fill your pie dish.

Layer in the apples and sultanas. Then top with a pastry crust. On the original version we used thin strands of pasty twisted in a lattice over the top. But this time I just did a normal rolled out top.

Glaze with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut two holes in the top for the steam to escape through. Cook at 200 degrees for about half an hour. Reduce to 180 if it looks like the top is catching but you don’t think it’s cooked. Poke a knife through one of the slits in the top to check the apple is cooked.

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Serve hot with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream. This will be one of the best apple pies you have ever tasted. I guarantee it. And no soggy bottoms.

Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting

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A quick post to share the delicious cupcakes I just made to celebrate the 9th birthday of my nephew Gordon and 5th birthday of my Niece Farrah.

As they live up North we don’t get to see them that often, so I always try and coincide my visits close to somebody’s birthday. With 2 of my 3 siblings, 6 nieces and nephews and 2
parents all living close to each other, it’s not that difficult!

We’re off to a scarecrow festival at Wray in Lancashire tomorrow (see here), all 13 of us. We’re having a picnic,so I’ve made some cakes to celebrate the birthdays.

I’m at my Mum’s so don’t have access to my massive collection of cookery books, therefore I googled and found some good recipes on the BBC website.

The cupcakes one is here

I used self raising instead of plain flour, omitted the baking powder and added orange zest.

For the frosting I used 280g butter, 500g icing sugar and the juice of one orange. I used some of it and them added a bit more juice about 100g more icing sugar and about 20g of cocoa.

It was great to try out my new icing set from Lakeland. The bag is quite small, but the nozzle I used was great. I’ve never iced cupcakes like this, but I reckon I did ok.

I made decorations by piping melted chocolate. The decorations represent the birthday kids names and ages.

They taste yummy, and I will definitely use this recipe again as the cake is lovely and moist.

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Oops one missin

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