Sunday 22 September 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

I've been meaning to make these for ever such a long time, and although I know it's not an original idea, we seem to be having a mini heatwave reminiscent of summer and so it's probably the right time to share them. I took advantage of a recent day of leave from work to make the cakes and take them into work in the car. One of my difficulties with this recipe is that it's pretty difficult to transport the finished product for me - they're too tall for my tins and have a propensity to fall over and I had serious concerns about a successful bus journey with them. So my day off seemed like the perfect time to attempt them.

I was a little nervous because I've tried making these before, a couple of years ago. I can't remember which recipe I used but suffice it to say that the attempt was not successful. Overflowing and overdone does not make for a happy baker. And it was impossible to trim off the overflow without damaging the cones so I gave up and didn't attempt them again. Until now, when I saw the recent (well, relatively so) BBC Good Food magazine cover and remembered that I needed to conquer this recipe. I looked at their recipe which calls for 200g each plain flour, butter and caster sugar, 2 eggs, 4tbsp custard powder and vanilla (but no raising agent) and decided not to trust them (my loss probably - I guess with no raising agent that amount of mixture would fit into the cones) partly because the recipe states that it makes 10 yet calls for 12 flat bottomed cones...

Anyway, I decided to use a standard victoria sponge recipe and go carefully when filling the cones, which worked admirably. And then make a lovely soft, whippy white chocolate buttercream to top them with, along with the obligatory flake and chocolate sprinkles.

Vanilla Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
125g softened butter
125g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
125g self raising flour
1-2tsp vanilla extract

For the white chocolate buttercream
105g butter, softened
175g icing sugar
70g white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I used Green and Blacks with lovely vanilla seeds in it)
small splash hot water

To decorate
Chocolate sprinkles
Flakes (I used full size Cadbury Flakes, chopped into thirds. You'll need 5 flake bars and I had a piece leftover)

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Stand 14 flat bottomed cones in a 12 hole muffin tin, placing two on the top of the tin (or just stand them on a baking sheet).
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and vanilla and continue to mix until well combined. It will be quite thick, this is ok.
- Divide evenly between your cones. I had intended to make 12 but found myself with too much cake mixture. I think 14 was right because 12 would have been too full or overflowed. There was just one cone that I thought was slightly underfilled.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes then allow to cool on a wire rack while you make the buttercream.
- Beat the butter until it is very soft. Add the icing sugar in two stages, beating well until it is smooth and creamy. Add the melted white chocolate and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. I added a small splash of water to make it easier to pipe and used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe the buttercream. 
- Decorate with sprinkles and flakes and admire your handiwork!

My colleagues were really very impressed with these and there was some discussion as to how the cake managed to get inside the cone... not many people knew that cones bake quite happily without burning and it was a source of wonder!

I'm pleased to have finally managed this recipe successfully - I made these a good few weeks ago before changing jobs and they were a final farewell to my lovely and much missed colleagues (although I am lucky enough to be working with lots of lovely new people now too).

I guess this is the explanation for my blog absence too - moving to a new job with more responsibility on the other side of the country, settling in and getting to grips with the job and people haven't left me much time to blog. Added to which I've sort of only half moved house - I am renting somewhere and simultaneously trying (currently unsuccessfully - anyone fancy a nice three bed semi with potential to develop?!?) to sell my house means that I'm back and forth and parted from most of my baking equipment for much of the time. Time to bring out the violins! I probably won't be around much for a while (certainly not until I get an internet connection in the new place - I'm sorry I haven't been commenting much recently, I'm still reading) but I'm still alive. Thanks to all the people out there still reading ;-)

I'm going to enter these into the Calender Cakes challenge, as I'm just catching the end of National Cupcake week and the challenge this month is cupcakes. Hosted this month by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and co-hosted by Rachel of Dolly Bakes.

Thursday 18 July 2013

Yeo Valley Blueberry Yogurt Cake

Quite often I do something I think is fairly sensible but then doesn't really work out... what am I talking about I hear you thinking. Well, I buy fresh berries with all good intentions of eating them and then when I realise that I'm not going to manage it I freeze the berries. All well and good, but they then stay in suspended animation in the freezer for a very long time. Too long. 

I need to clear the freezer(s) out in a reasonably short time frame (I'm not going to manage it, but I'm going to try) and since a large amount of fruit is currently resident in the freezer it seems sensible to try and use some of it up. Whilst browsing the internet recently I came across a recipe for Raspberry, Lemon and Yogurt Tealoaf on the Telegraph food and drink website. The recipe is by Sarah Mayor and has been published in the recent cookery book from Yeo Valley - well known for making yogurts. 

As it happens I currently have a fridge full of yogurt too (another of those healthy things I buy but don't always get round to eating!) and so this seemed like the perfect recipe to use up some ingredients. I didn't want a loaf though, as I wanted the cake to cook more quickly and I also didn't bother with the lemon, and substituted blueberries for raspberries. 

You can find the original recipe here. I defrosted the blueberries in the fridge overnight, and they were only just defrosted which probably helped because the cake batter was incredibly stiff, really, really thick and I didn't think I'd actually get the blueberries to mix through, but managed eventually. I ended up using Total 0% fat greek yogurt rather than the specified wholemilk yogurt and used 1tsp vanilla instead of the lemon. I used 25g extra flour instead of the almonds for allergy reasons and didn't do the topping, but aside from all these changes (!) followed the recipe!!!

My cake took about 70 minutes to bake in an 8" round tin and although I had been concerned that it might be a little dry as the batter was so stiff I was pleased to find it was soft and moist with lovely blueberry hits throughout the cake. The stiff mixture prevented the berries all sinking to the bottom, giving a good distribution through the cake. Next time I think I'd take the time to add the lemon because I think the cake would definitely benefit from that added flavour lift. I finished with a dusting of icing sugar (the cake hadn't quite cooled by the time I needed to take it to work so I didn't want a fancy topping). A very successful cake and one I'd make again.

This month's No Waste Food Challenge, started by Kate at Turquoise Lemons is being hosted by Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Kitchen and is titled 'Freezer Stash'. This cake made great use of some of my many blueberries and is my submission.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Chocolate Cashew Cookies

Chocolate Cashew Cookies

I was recently contacted and asked if I would like to take part in the Aero Perfect Pairing challenge. With the offer of Niki Segnet's book 'The Flavour Thesaurus - Pairings, recipes and ideas for the creative cook' I was definitely in. The book arrived along with a big bag of Aero's Chocolate Orange bubbles (which I didn't manage to get a picture of) and a bar of Aero mint chocolate. 

I made some chocolate orange cupcakes using Nigella's Storecupboard Chocolate Orange cake recipe (one of my standby recipes) and topped them with some chocolate frosting and the chocolate  orange balls. Unfortunately, making cakes in the morning before work isn't really conducive to having enough time to allow them to cool, so they were still warm when I put the chocolate frosting (which was itself still warm and runny) on them and the chocolate orange bubbles kind of melted. Sorry, no pictures!

I have to confess that I wasn't quite sure which flavour combination to go for - I wanted something I thought would work, but which isn't too widespread and well known. The brief stated that the recipe didn't have to include either Aero or chocolate but being a bit of a chocoholic, I decided that I would include dark chocolate in my recipe. 

A cookie recipe that I'd bookmarked ages and ages ago from the Hungry Hinny sprang to mind as being an interesting one in which to incorporate different flavours. The recipe is for cream cheese cookies and doesn't use egg at all. I increased the amount of flour slightly and hope that the Hungry Hinny doesn't mind me reproducing my attempt at these cookies. Very unusually for me, I made these by hand - only a bowl and spoon required - no need to make washing up and use the stand mixer!

Creamed butter and cream cheese

Chocolate Cashew Cookies
85g cream cheese (I used full fat Philadelphia)
85g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla extract
105g light muscovado sugar
150g plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp salt
30g cashews, roughly broken/chopped
50g dark chocolate, in small chunks

- Preheat the oven to 160C. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
- Beat the cream cheese until softened, then add the melted butter and vanilla. Keep beating - it will turn from curdled looking lumpy mess into a beautifully smooth batter (I had serious doubts when I saw the initial mixture but it all turned out fine). 
- Beat in the sugar and then the flour, bicarbonate and salt until a dough forms.
- Fold in the cashews and dark chocolate. 
- At this point I ignored the instructions to leave for 30 minutes to chill and just dolloped small blobs onto the lined baking tray, spread well apart. (For my mixture putting it in the fridge didn't really seem to make much difference - I put the rest of it in the fridge while the first batch of cookies were baking, but actually preferred that first batch slightly - the second batch appeared 'grainy' - no idea why)
- Bake for 15 minutes until very light brown. Allow to sit for around 10 minutes once removed from the oven to make it possible to transfer them to a wire rack (they'll be very soft once they come out of the oven).
I made 22 cookies from the mixture.

Soft cookie dough

Verdict? Actually, personally I wasn't all that keen on this cashew chocolate combo - I couldn't really taste the cashews and think I should have toasted them before adding them which would have enhanced their flavour and made them crunchier - cashews are quite a soft nut really. Otherwise successful and colleagues liked them more than me. The actual cookie dough part was very soft and far more cakey than I was expecting. I'd like to try the recipe again though. I'm wondering about using some golden syrup sugar from Tate and Lyle I bought recently and using dried fruit like cranberries along with the chocolate. An interesting recipe to play with.

And my colleagues finished up all of the Aero chocolate orange balls quite happily!

Cakey cookies

Disclaimer: I received a copy of 'The Flavour Thesaurus' and some Aero products. All views expressed are my own. Thank you Sophie.

Monday 10 June 2013

Easy No-Churn Banoffee Ice-Cream

Well, it appears that warmer weather has finally found the UK over the past couple of weeks (although I am nervous to say it for fear of driving it away again!). So to celebrate the warmth I thought I'd make ice-cream. I thought it would be nice to make something quite quick and easy and a little cheat-y too but that doesn't mean that this won't be delicious.

Inspired by Kavey's Bloggers Scream for Ice-cream challenge many months ago (July 2012) I have been intending to make no-churn ice-cream for a long time. Using sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream as the base for the ice-cream means that you don't need to churn it to get a smooth, crystal free ice-cream, perfect for people without an ice-cream machine.

Easy No-Churn Banoffee Ice-Cream
300ml whipping cream
200g (half a tin) condensed milk, chilled to speed the freezing process
150g Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel (or use Nestle's Carnation Caramel)
2 small to medium ripe bananas (or large, depending on taste)
You'll also need a freezer-proof container or two depending on size

- Whip the cream until it reaches the soft peak stage, don't overwhip.
- Whisk in the condensed milk until you have a combined mixture with soft peaks.
- Chop the bananas into the mixture.
- In order to get a caramel swirl you have two options
      - if your freezer-proof container is big enough you can pour the banana mixture into the container, then add the caramel and swirl carefully.
        - if you're going to be tight on space, swirl the caramel into the mixture in your mixing bowl but then don't mix too much more as you pour it into the container to freeze.
- Freeze for at least three hours or until solid. (I left mine overnight)

Serve with extra caramel (for more luxury) and extra banana (for more health!). If the ice-cream has hardened too much, allow it to soften a little in the fridge or at room temperature to make it scoopable.

I was recently contacted by Fruitdrop - a company who deliver boxes of fruit to workplaces and asked if I wanted to develop a recipe for them. I used bananas to make my ice-cream. They delivered one of their fruit boxes to my house (although the driver looked most confused - he said he'd never delivered to a residential property before!) and were very accommodating about having to work around me leaving the house at a rather early hour.

A Fruitdrop fruit box - with rubbish lighting - sorry!

I wasn't asked to review the contents of the box, but actually, I want to. As well as being very helpful to work with the quality of the fruit in the box was very high indeed - all of the fruit was fresh and unblemished - it had obviously been packed and transported with care (including nectarines!) and I think the quality was probably better than equivalent supermarket fruit. The box contents were as follows: 16 bananas, six pink lady apples, ten satsumas, two nectarines, three peaches, four gala apples, six packham pears and a huge bunch of grapes. The nectarines, peaches and pears were under-ripe, but this is understandable given that they cannot be transported ripe and given a couple of days would have been fine. You can find out more about Fruitdrop boxes for offices here - there is pricing information and I think my box was a 'Seasonal' one. 

Selection of fruit from the box

As I'm not such a fruit bat that I could have eaten all of the fruit before it went off I took the box to work to share with colleagues and quite a number of them commented about the high quality of the fruit. They were also very pleased to have a refreshing change from cakes!!! Sadly the organisation I work for does not have the capacity to take this idea on, but if it did I'm sure it'd be well received.

Thank you to Fruitdrop and Alice for the box.

This is a sponsored post, however I was not required to write a positive review; all views expressed are my own (or my colleagues'!).

Sunday 2 June 2013

Rhubarb Cupcakes

I keep seeing rhubarb in the shops at the moment and decided to buy some to bake with. The only way I've ever really had rhubarb in the past is in crumble and not for years and years. For some reason I can't recall, I had convinced myself that I didn't really like it very much. It seems that's not really true! 

The rhubarb I bought is the outdoor variety (the forced kind having gone out of season months ago) so the colour is more towards green rather than the pretty bright pink kind you see in the winter/spring months, but the flavour is still good.

Reduced rhubarb syrup - pretty in pink

I decided to make rhubarb cupcakes from one of my less-used baking books, The Primrose Bakery Book, which is the second from the Primrose Bakery (yes, I do have the first one too, and have actually made quite a lot out of it!). I can't find a legitimate copy of the recipe on the internet, but it involves chopping and stewing the rhubarb first to cook it and then draining the cooking syrup. This is then reduced to make a thick sticky syrup to add to the buttercream. The stewed rhubarb is added to the cupcake mixture. The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the 1tsp ground ginger called for and replace it with 1tsp vanilla extract. I found that after the specified 25 minutes the cakes were pretty much cooked but because I'd been a numpty and set my oven too low they weren't coloured at all (note to self: check oven temp) so I turned the oven up and left them a bit longer to colour. This meant that I was a little concerned they'd be dry and so used some of the reduced rhubarb syrup as a glaze.

Glazed cupcakes before buttercream

The buttercream recipe wasn't my most successful attempt. The recipe in the book calls for 110g butter and 500g icing sugar, along with the reduced rhubarb juice from stewing the rhubarb. I thought this sounded unbearably sweet and started out with 110g butter and about 200g icing sugar. Unfortunately the buttercream split slightly when I added the rhubarb juice and a little warm water to slacken the mixture, I'm not quite sure why. 

Buttercream in the making

I ended up trying to rescue it by adding more sugar (to about 300g total), whisking like mad and I also added about 30g melted white chocolate (as the chocolate is supposed to stabilise the fat/sugar emulsion). It worked out in the end and the buttercream didn't split again but it was too sweet for my tastes. I think I'll add more white chocolate and less sugar next time. Because the rhubarb syrup is added to the buttercream you get a natural, very pale pink colour. 

These were ok, not the best thing I've ever made - the cakes were on the moist/heavy side and as above the buttercream wasn't my favourite. I also found I couldn't really taste the rhubarb but I did discover that I like the smell of rhubarb cooking, which is a good thing!

Since these are an 'R' bake I'm going to enter them into Alphabakes, hosted this month by Ros of The More than Occasional Baker and cohosted by Caroline of Caroline Makes. I haven't managed many challenges over the past few months, but I'm off to an early start here!

Monday 27 May 2013

Chocolate Chunk Banoffee Cake

The last time I was casting around for ideas to use up the inevitable overripe bananas sitting in my kitchen I saw one of my more recent cookery book purchases, one which definitely deserves more of my attention. The book is 'The Birthday Cake Book' by Fiona Cairns, and is full not only of amazingly decorated cakes and biscuits (many of which are around different birthday party themes) but also really interesting cake recipes. I sometimes find that books can concentrate too much on the decoration of the cake and the actual cake itself is neglected. Which is slightly daft because however good the cake looks, ultimately it is going to be eaten!

One of the cakes in the book is a Banoffee Cake - in the book this is baked in two 13cm (6") square cake tins, which are then stacked and decorated to look like playing dice - very clever. I used the basic recipe as I wanted to use up my ripe bananas but made a few small changes. I left out the spices (nutmeg and cinnamon) and added a 100g bar of 70% dark chocolate, broken up into small chunks. I also wanted to bake it in an 8"/20cm round tin. This meant that the cooking time was 60-70 minutes (longer than I had expected really, so perhaps check slightly before this time if you make it).

I had intended to add either a chocolate frosting or some other kind of decoration, but ended up running out of time to do this so the cake went to work naked. It was really successful though - banana cakes can sometimes be heavy, dense and almost wet and although this one was quite dense, it was in a pleasant way. It felt substantial and I think the banoffee of the name comes from the toffee flavour imparted by using light muscovado sugar in the recipe. I enjoyed the chocolate chunks in it very much - the bitterness of the chocolate contrasted well with the sweet cake and I would definitely make it again. 

This is not a sponsored post - I bought and liked this book!

Saturday 18 May 2013

Jaffa Cupcakes

I do enjoy a jaffa cake or two (although it's been a while since I bought any) and the chocolate orange flavour combo is generally a successful one. I decided to combine the flavours by using a chocolate cupcake base, marmalade to add orange, chocolate buttercream flavoured with orange extract and then topped with a mini jaffa cake.

The cupcake recipe is my adaptation of the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe - I've altered the quantities to give me 12 reasonable sized cakes instead of 12 tiny ones. 

Jaffa Cupcakes
150g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
200g sugar
2tsp baking powder
60g unsalted butter
200ml milk (I used semi skimmed)
1 large egg
pinch salt
1tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream (and as I'm typing this I realise I can't actually remember how I made the buttercream, but if I were to do it again these are the quantities I'd try)
90g unsalted butter, softened
75g dark chocolate, melted and cooled (see later comments)
140g icing sugar
1tsp orange extract

For filling and decoration
Marmalade (I used Tiptree's Orange and Tangerine - it's not as bitter as some marmalades)
Mini Jaffa cakes
Chocolate sprinkles if desired

- Preheat the oven to 170C. Place 12 paper cases in a muffin tin.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and butter in a mixer and blend. The mixture will not form any kind of coherent mass, but the butter should look fairly distributed rather than huge lumps.
- Add the egg, milk and vanilla extract and beat well until combined.
- Divide between cases and bake for 18-20 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool.

- When cool, cut a cone out of the cake (this is more difficult than with some other cake recipes as the crumb is so soft), blob a little marmalade into each hole and replace the top of the cake you cut out. See photo above - coincidentally this is why you don't usually get in-process shots from me - I'm usually doing this late at night and the light is truly rubbish. Apologies!

- For the buttercream - firstly melt the chocolate and allow to cool - this is slightly tricky because you want it cool enough to not melt the butter in the buttercream, yet warm enough to avoid it recrystallising into lumps. I learnt the hard way that my chocolate was too cool.
- Beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, add the chocolate and orange extract and continue to beat. If the mixture is too stiff to pipe easily add a little hot water (from a kettle).
- Pipe onto the cupcakes, taking care not to dislodge the lid of the marmalade.

- Add a mini Jaffa cake and sprinkles if you want.

This chocolate cake recipe is really, really soft and light. It's quite sweet and structurally very delicate - perhaps not the most robust container for the marmalade but delicious anyway. The combination of soft chocolate cake, slightly tart, bitter marmalade and sweet orange scented buttercream was gorgeous and these were really popular at work. I'll definitely make this recipe for chocolate cupcakes again - they're so soft and moist!

Exhibit number one - cupcakes piped with a blocked star shaped tip. I was trying to use a Wilton 2D here, and the cupcake on the right is fairly ok. As I mentioned earlier, I found out to my cost that my chocolate was too cool - it has formed micro-blobs of chocolate in the buttercream mixture, making it impossible to pipe. The cupcake on the left shows what happens to your pretty rose when the tip is blocked - a bit of a mess. Hence the smooth-piped look in the rest of the post. I usually avoid this and especially with chocolate buttercream, but actually with the mini Jaffa cake it looks quite acceptable!

Ignoring the holes in the buttercream if you look directly at the centre of the picture above you can see a darker bit - that's one of the (many) bits of chocolate to clog the nozzle...

Monday 13 May 2013

Banana and Blackcurrant Cupcakes

I wanted to say Banana and Blackcurrant Buns because that's how I think of these (and who doesn't love a bit of alliteration!) but then I wondered if the wider world would be confused by the use of 'bun' to describe a small cake. So I went with cupcakes. But if I start referring to buns, that's what I mean.

Anyway, enough musing on descriptions. I had ripe bananas. Quite a lot of them so I knew that I needed to use some to bake with. I quite fancied a simple little recipe, with the addition of banana and after a little searching came up with this BBC Good Food recipe for Dotty Banana Fairy Cakes. And then I wondered how I could make them more interesting. A while ago I bought some 'Fruit Flakes' which seem to be marketed to the parents of small children as a lunchbox addition. At least that's the way it seems to me. I don't think these are a particularly wholesome treat, in that they're fairly highly processed, but there's nothing too spooky (the usual sugar, thickeners, flavour, colour....) on the ingredients list either. I forget why I ended up buying them. I had some blackcurrant ones and decided to add them to my recipe too, to see whether they'd work or not.

Banana and Blackcurrant Cupcakes
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
150g self raising flour
1 very ripe banana, mashed
50g fat free yogurt
2 packets of blackcurrant 'Fruit Flakes'
For the icing
65g blackcurrant jam (I used Bonne Maman)
130g icing sugar

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Place 11-12 cupcake liners into a muffin tin. I got 11 from this mixture, but you could make 12 slightly smaller ones.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and mashed banana and beat again.
- At this stage my mixture looked quite dry so I decided to add 50g fat free yogurt.
- Fold in the fruit flakes and divide between the cases.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.
- Allow to cool.

For the icing, mix the jam and icing sugar and very, very carefully and slowly add water to your desired consistency. Dollop the icing onto the cakes and spread it around. It will slowly spread on its own too....

I had lots and lots of positive feedback about these from colleagues, one of whom said these definitely ranked among the best cakes I have made. I thought they were good, but perhaps not quite that good! The icing worked really well - the blackcurrant jam (although sweet) meant that the icing wasn't sickly sweet as the blackcurrant bursts were slightly sharp (I love blackcurrant jam, I can eat it off the spoon...) and the cake was good too, light and moist. The banana flavour was in the background and the fruit flakes worked well. Because they're processed, the flavour is concentrated and therefore not lost on baking. They didn't melt away during baking and provided a nice burst of blackcurrant flavour in the cake. I have also (ages ago and haven't got round to blogging the experiment) tried the strawberry fruit flakes the same way and they're equally successful. According to their website the available flavours are strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, tropical and raspberry. I've seen the orange locally but would be interested to find the raspberry (not that I've made a particular effort to find them!).

Unadorned strawberry version

This is not a sponsored post, I bought this random stuff myself!

Saturday 11 May 2013

Frozen Chocolate Bananas and an idea for the 5:2 diet

Frozen Chocolate Bananas with chopped ginger or butterscotch pieces

This is literally as simple as it sounds - frozen chocolate bananas. But don't make the mistake of thinking that something so simple must somehow be underwhelming; these are fabulous. I can take no credit for the idea as I first saw it in a booklet for Comic Relief produced by Delia Smith, over ten years ago. I've made these many times since but had forgotten the recipe until recently when looking at the chocolate dipped bananas on Jac's Coconut and Mango fool. It occurred to me that it was time to revisit this favourite idea.


The frozen banana is a revelation - it's so creamy and smooth and utterly delicious. As Delia says, the snap of the chocolate followed by the creaminess of the banana is a great combination. She suggests that the chocolate dipped bananas can then be dipped in chopped nuts, but in my case I decided to go for very finely chopped stem ginger (drained of its syrup) or butterscotch pieces. Both were great choices. 

Sliced banana, ready to freeze

As for the 5:2 diet, the banana alone is seriously delicious. Having it frozen really makes it taste like ice-cream and it also means it'll take you longer to eat the banana rather than just eating it straight up. I obviously can't provide a calorie count because that will depend on the size of your banana and how much of it you eat....

Melted chocolate plus chopped ginger and butterscotch pieces

You don't need an ingredients list or method for this really but...
Bananas - as ripe as you like, as many as you like
Chocolate - your favourite - dark, white, milk, flavoured
Cocktail sticks - to allow you to pick up your treat
Nuts/Ginger/Butterscotch/popping candy/whatever else you fancy - optional

- Slice the bananas, insert a cocktail stick and open freeze on a piece of parchment paper on a tray until fairly solid
- Melt the chocolate and prepare optional dippers if necessary (I chopped my ginger finely)
- Dip frozen banana into chocolate, then into dippers if desired.
- Return to freezer until you want to eat them. Store frozen.

Final product


Sunday 5 May 2013

Funny Face Jam and Cream Sandwich Biscuits (Cookies)

I often wish that I had stronger willpower when it comes to resisting things I see that I could use to bake with. I'm sure I'd be a lot better off without some of the things I buy, but it'd also be a lot more boring! That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. 

Anyway, I recently saw some biscuit (cookie) cutters in Lakeland and couldn't resist buying them. I  then made the leap from buying them to actually using them (this happens less often than it should!). Having seen Ros of the More than Occasional Baker using them very successfully I decided I would use her simple sugar cookie recipe for my own attempts. You probably wouldn't guess from the content of this blog, but I actually eat more biscuits than cake, it's just that I don't make them very often. I have a tendency to burn biscuits and they just never seem very successful so it was with some trepidation I set out to make these biscuits.

I needn't have worried though, the recipe was easy to use, and along with Ros's tip about chilling the dough they were very successful, thanks Ros!

Bulging slightly!

Vanilla Sugar Cookies
125g butter
125g white caster sugar
1 egg
2tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour

To fill
50g butter
70g icing sugar
30g white chocolate, melted and cooled

- Preheat the oven to 175C/Gas 4. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat again.
- Add the flour and fold in. Divide the mixture into two flat discs and refrigerate for around 30 minutes.
- Roll out to your desired thickness (a few mm is fine) and cut out your cookies. Place on a parchment lined baking tray.
- Return to the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
- Bake for around 10 minutes, until going light brown. Mine took a few minutes longer, but watch like a hawk because they'll overcook quite suddenly.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

When cold sandwich together with white chocolate buttercream (50g butter, creamed with 70g icing sugar and then 30g cooled melted white chocolate added) and the jam of your choice - I used blackcurrant.

Generously filled

These were great - I'll definitely have to make my own biscuits more often. They were a lot easier than I was expecting and the dough was really easy to work with too. It was easier when still chilled though, and when it warmed up and started to soften it became more difficult to work with. 

They went really well at work - the crisp biscuit worked well with the soft, sweet buttercream and the slightly sharp jam. In essence, very posh jammy dodgers! Some of my colleagues were greatly amused to find that when bitten into jam oozed out of the eyes of the biscuits - what can I say, I have colleagues with a slightly twisted sense of humour.... (They were right though, the eyes do tend to bulge a bit!)

I'm entering these into Teatime Treats, the theme this month being biscuits/cookies hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage, cohosted by Kate of What Kate Baked.

I'm also entering them into Jac's Bookmarked Recipes - I was pleased to have made these quite quickly after bookmarking them and even more pleased that I got round to using my shiny new biscuit (cookie) cutters!

Sunday 28 April 2013

Nigella's Buttermilk Birthday Cake - A Sunrise

I've seen quite a few brightly coloured cakes around recently, on the Pink Whisk and then BBC Good Food published their recipe for a Rainbow Cake too. Dan Lepard has been in on the act with his Rainbow Cupcakes too. I decided that I didn't want to go the whole hog and do a six or seven layered cake and decided instead to stick to three layers. I decided to go for red, orange and yellow - a sunrise. I know this isn't the best set of photos ever but I really had to mess around with the white balance to even get this far!

I wanted a reliable cake recipe and I've made Nigella's buttermilk birthday cake recipe quite a few times (the original recipe has three eggs and I can see from the scribbles in my book that I've scaled it to two and four egg versions) and it's a good recipe for adapting to different tin sizes.

Batter divided with food colouring added

I made the recipe just as stated (there's a copy from the Guardian as a PDF here, which I assume is reproduced with permission so I will link to it) and then divided the mixture into three (I handily remembered to weigh my mixing bowl before adding the ingredients so it was easy to divide the mixture exactly). I added the food colouring and mixed well before dividing between tins and baking for around 20-25 minutes (although I can't remember exactly how long). Although I have far too many 8"(20cm) round tins, I have two sets of two which are the same within the set but annoyingly don't match each other. So I baked two whilst one set of batter waited and then baked the final cake.

The cakes were quite thin, but this was perfect because three full thickness cakes wouldn't have given a very good cake: buttercream ratio. 

After letting them cool I made a white chocolate buttercream, sandwiched the cakes together with some of it and then spread the rest over the top and sides of the cake so as to hide the interior colour. A scattering of pearlescent hundreds and thousands (very pretty, stocked by Waitrose) finished the cake in style.

Pearlescent hundreds and thousands

All round very successful - it was very well received at work and this is a great cake mixture to work with. I was pleased with how it turned out but next time will be braver with the food colouring because my colours were a little on the subtle side.

I'm entering this into the Forever Nigella challenge, founded by Maison Cupcake. The theme this month is 'Colourful' and is being hosted by Elizabeth of A Girl in her Kitchen. I think this fulfils the brief!


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