Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

What a year it's been! Here's a little video of my best bakes of 2013. 

Happy New Year! 
Jen x

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely obsessed with Bake Off (Great British, Irish, Australian, American... I've watched them all) so I received some lovely Bake Off gifts for Christmas. One of my favourites is this fab book from my little sister! 

The only problem is trying to decide what to make. I handed that responsibility over to my mum and she chose Biscotti. I was wary of these, mainly because I've never had too much success with biscuits, but what mummy wants, mummy gets!! 

Biscotti means 'twice baked', and that's exactly what they are. First you make up your biscuit dough, shape it into a log shape and bake it. Then you slice it up and bake it again. This results in a very dry and crisp biscuit which is what makes them perfect for dunking into coffee. 

To be perfectly honest, these didn't really excite me. They tasted nice and were really chocolately, but I wasn't dying to go back for seconds. I'm blaming it on the texture.... I'm definitely a gooey biscuit girl at heart. Maybe if I liked tea or coffee I'd have a different opinion... 
Scratch that, I'm officially converted. I have been nibbling at these all week! They are so moreish and just a lovely after dinner treat. I will definitely be making these again!!

100g whole blanched almonds
100g unsalted butter
3 medium eggs
200g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
325g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
110g dark chocolate (about 70%), roughly chopped

Heat oven to 180ºC. Put the nuts on a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool a bit, then chop each nut in half and set aside. Gently melt the butter in the microwave (use 10-20 second bursts) and leave to cool slightly. Put the eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until very thick. Pour the melted butter into the bowl and whisk until combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate. Split the mixture in half and place each half on a lined baking tray. Using your hands, mould the dough into a log shape. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until barely firm when gently pressed in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. When cooled, reheat the oven to 180ºC. Using a serrated bread knife, gently slice the log into 1cm slices and place them on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until firm and dry. Remove from the oven and leave for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

You will also need:
150g dark chocolate (about 70%)

When the biscotti has cooled completely, melt some dark chocolate either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Dip one end of each biscotti into the chocolate and then place on a sheet of baking paper to set. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Cake 2013

I had all the intentions of making a proper mammy's Christmas cake this year. I even bought all the ingredients, but somehow it was Christmas Eve and there was still no cake! (Plus the rum may have 'disappeared', but we'll not mention that!!) So, in a bit of a panic, I turned to Google for a quicker recipe. I'm not too pushed on fruit cake, but wanted to use at least some of the ingredients I had bought. And my favourite part of Christmas cake is the marzipan and icing so I definitely wanted to include that. I came across this simple recipe for a Cherry and Almond cake and loved the sound of it! I had the cherries and ground almonds and thought it would taste lovely covered in marzipan.

For the decoration, I turned to Pinterest. I have a Christmas board that I've been adding to throughout the year and chose an insanely cute snowman from it. I'm not actually sure why I chose a fondant design. I rarely use fondant and when I do it's generally only to add little decorations. It turned out pretty good for my second ever fully fondant cake, if I do say so myself!!

(adapted from Odlums)
200g butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
220g glacé cherries, halved

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a circular cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a little bit of the flour with each egg. Stir in the remaining flour and ground almonds. Fold in the almond extract and cherries. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

You will also need:
Ready-to-roll fondant
Ready-to-roll marzipan
Red food colouring
Green food colouring
Orange food colouring

Wait until your cake has cooled complete before decorating. Roll out the marzipan and white fondant as  thin as you can. Brush some honey onto the cake. Cover with marzipan. Brush with a little bit more honey and cover with the white fondant. Make the hat, scarf and carrot nose from fondant. Add malteeser eyes and mouth. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Reindeer Cake Pops

I made these chocolate fudge cake pops last year for our staff Secret Santa party. This was before the days of my cake pop mould, so they took quite a bit of planning. Each part only took a short amount of time but I had to leave enough time in between for everything to cool and set. I made the cake, frosting and cake balls the first day, then let them cool over night. I added the sticks the second day and let them cool for a few hours before decorating them and letting them set overnight before bringing them in to work. So basically, I started making them two days before they were needed (Wednesday for Friday). It's very rare that I'm this organised. Must've been a boring week...

150g butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
125g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line any cake tin that you have (I used a brownie pan). Place the butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together with the milk until smooth. Pour into your cake tin and bake until a skewer comes out clean. Baking time will depend on how thin your mixture is. Mine only took about 8-10 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Fudge Icing
125g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
1 medium egg, beaten 
175g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and microwave until three quarters of the chocolate is melted. Take it out of the microwave and stir it continuously until all the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the egg, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth and glossy. 

You will also need:
Cake pop sticks
Mini marshmallows
Red smarties

When the cake has cooled completely, use a fork to break it up into crumbs.  Stir in the icing until well combined. Using your hands, roll the mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons each) into balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Leave to set in the fridge overnight. The next day, melt a small amount of chocolate (as above) and dip each stick into the chocolate before pushing about 3/4 of the way into each cake ball. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I usually try to wait 2 hours). When the sticks have set, melt some more chocolate in a large bowl. Make sure it is cooking chocolate as this is made from oil, not milk, so will melt and set properly. Carefully roll each cake pop in the melted chocolate until completely covered and quickly stick on two mini marshmallow eyes and a smartie nose. When all cake pops have been decorated, add the pretzel antlers and chocolate dots on the eyes. Return to the fridge to set overnight (or for a few hours) before serving.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread men (and women) are one of my favourite things to make at Christmas time!! I'm usually dancing around to Michael Bublé's Christmas album while making them and the smell of them baking fills the whole house. It really gets me in the Christmassy mood!!

After many, many, many batches (my oven only has one shelf!), I dipped their hands and feet in melted chocolate and gave them jelly tot buttons. The poor guys were faceless this time as I ran out of chocolate.

I made this batch for my class as a little Christmas pressie. We've been reading the story of the Gingerbread Man so they were all running round the classroom with their gingerbread men saying 'Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!'

(makes 30 medium sized Gingerbread Men)
(adapted from Odlums)
250g plain flour
75g butter, softened
75g brown sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g golden syrup
2 medium egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add bicarb, golden syrup and egg yolks and stir well. Sift the flour and spices into the bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into a ball and knead lightly on a work surface until smooth. Wrap and chill for about 30 minutes before using. Preheat oven to 180ºC and line baking trays with parchment paper. Thinly roll out dough and use gingerbread cutters to cut out shapes. Place on baking sheets, leaving a space between each. Bake for about 8 minutes until slightly risen and golden in colour. Transfer to a wire tray to cool.

You will also need:
100g chocolate
Jelly tots

Melt chocolate in the microwave. Quickly dip in all hands and feet. Dip each jelly tot into the chocolate and add to the Gingerbread Men as buttons.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Red Velvet Cake

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted. I NEVER go this long without baking but somehow life just got in the way!! But, Christmas time means lots of baking! We swapped our Secret Santa gifts in work today and everyone always brings in something sweet or savoury to make a party of it! Of course, I chose to make something sweet. 

I got the idea for this cake from my favourite baking blog: Raspberri Cupcakes. I loved the idea of using Red Velvet for Christmas. The colours of the cake are just so festive and the desiccated coconut looks just like snow! I chose to top it with simple candy canes, put together to make hearts. I love the simplicity of this cake. It looks and tastes delicious and is perfect for the Christmas season.

(adapted from Food Network)
560g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cocoa powder
340g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
340ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vinegar
25ml red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
225ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line 2 round cake tins. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa together. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a separate large bowl. In another bowl mix together the oil, vinegar, food colouring and vanilla and then add to the bowl of eggs and sugar and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in batches to the sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Always start and end with the flour. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Tap them on the table to level out the batter and release air bubbles. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of the tin and allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Icing
(adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes)
250g cream cheese, softened
250g unsalted butter, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
750g icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add lemon juice and icing sugar gradually, and beat until smooth.

You will also need:
125g desiccated coconut
6 mini candy canes

Using a spatula, cover the cake with the cream cheese icing. Sprinkle coconut all over the top and sides of the cake. Place the candy cane hearts on the top of the cake.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Australia Cake

This was my first ever fondant cake. I made it last year for my friend who was moving to Australia for a year. I spent ages searching Google and Pinterest to come up with ideas and merged them all together to create this little cake. The main cake is the Australian flag (minus two stars) and then there's a boomerang, surfboard and flipflops on the sand (which is just brown sugar). I then printed out a banner and stuck it into the cake with two cake pop sticks. I was so excited with how it turned out, even though the fondant needed some patchwork repairs!!

125g self-raising flour
125g butter, softened
125g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 180ºC and line a cake tin. Put all ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth. Poor into lined cake tin and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream
150g unsalted butter, softened

225g icing sugar

2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp vanilla

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add icing sugar and water in two batches. Add vanilla.

You will also need:
Blue fondant
Red fondant
Yellow Fondant
White Fondant
Brown Sugar
Cake Pop Sticks

When the cake has cooled completely, cover it with a thin layer of buttercream. Roll out the blue fondant as thinly as possible and lay over the cake. Pull out the edges as you are smoothing down the sides and trim to fit. Make and add whatever decorations are required!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

After Eight Cupcakes

Have you ever had one of those week where you don't have a moment to yourself? Well that was me this week. After a lovely week off work last week, it was like we had to do two week's work in one! I actually made these cupcakes on Monday (my only free evening of the week) to bring into work on Tuesday to help with the Tuesday Terrors.

These are inspired by my favourite chocolates: After Eights. They're a deliciously light and fluffy chocolate cupcake topped with a mint buttercream and decorated with a triangle of After Eight. I got a little bit excited with the peppermint essence so if you're not a fan of mint, these could taste a bit like toothpaste. But I love them!!

(from Donal Skehan)
175g self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
150g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
150 ml sunflower oil
150 ml milk
2 tbsp golden syrup

Pre-heat oven to 180ºC and line a cupcake tin with cases. Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a bowl. Add the sugar and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, eggs, oil and milk. Beat well until smooth and fill your cupcake cases. This is runny mixture so only fill your cases halfway up. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, leave to cool before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Peppermint Buttercream
150g unsalted butter, softened
225g icing sugar
2 tbsp hot water
1-2 tsp peppermint essence
Green food colouring

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the icing sugar and hot water in two batches. Add peppermint and colouring. 

You will also need:
After Eights

Spread buttercream over cooled cupcakes. Top with half an After Eight.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Dark Chocolate and Orange Cookies

I've never really been one for making cookies. They just never turn out right for me. They usually spread and I end up with one giant cookie or they get burnt to a crisp. I decided to change this, and who better to help me that Sophie Morris, founder of Kooky Dough

I love Sophie's cookbook and was so excited to try this recipe and, if I do say so myself, they turned out great!! The recipe said it makes 14 big cookies, but I got 36 medium sized ones (which meant 3 batches in and out of the oven). These were a gift for my two close friends' housewarming so I put them in a Kilner Jar  and decorated with some cute 'Home Sweet Home' ribbon I found at my local arts and crafts shop. 

(adapted from Sophie Kooks)
170g butter, softened
55g caster sugar
220g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 medium egg, beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
180g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in a large bowl, until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the egg until well combined. Mix in the flour, bicarb and salt, until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks. Drop 6 heaped teaspoons of cookie dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving lots of room between them. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Chocolate Fudge Cake

One of my work colleagues asked me to make a cake for her and her family. Her kids love chocolate so I made Nigella's chocolate fudge cake with chocolate fudge icing. This cake is so rich and chocolatey, I almost couldn't give it away.

(adapted from Nigella Lawson)
400g plain flour
250g golden caster sugar
100g light brown muscovado sugar
50g cocoa powder
tsp baking powder
tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
large eggs
142ml sour cream
tbsp vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
125ml sunflower oil
300ml cold water

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line the bottom of two cake tins. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended. Beat together the melted butter and oil until just blended, then beat in the water. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix together on a slow speed. Add the egg mixture, and mix again until everything is blended and then pour into the prepared tins. Bake the cakes for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

Chocoate Fudge Icing
175g dark chocolate (70%)
250g unsalted butter, softened
275g icing sugar, sifted
tbsp vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in the microwave for approximately 2-3 minutes on medium. In another bowl beat the butter until it's soft and creamy and then add the sieved icing sugar and beat again until everything's light and fluffy. Then gently add the vanilla and chocolate and mix together until everything is glossy and smooth. 

Sandwich the middle of the cake with about a quarter of the icing, and then ice the top and sides. Decorate with grated white chocolate.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cake Pops

Exactly one year ago today, my friend had a little baby girl. About two months later I went to visit her and get some new baby cuddles. I bought the gift and, of course, made some cupcakes. But this time I did something different: I used fondant for the first time! I made some little baby faces and put them on half of the cupcakes. 

Looking back, it's crazy how much has changed in a year. But one thing that hasn't changed is my love/ obsession with baking. To celebrate her 1st birthday, I decided to try something else new: my new cake pop mould. I've made cake pops a few times before but they were pretty time consuming so I invested in a mould.

As it was my first time using the mould, I decided to play it safe and follow the recipe on the packet. The recipe said flour. I assumed this meant plain flour and even though I thought this was a little strange, I went with it. They didn't rise at all so I tried again with self-raising flour, and even threw in a little baking powder. They still didn't rise as much as I would have liked, but I went with it.

I let them cool for just over an hour, before sticking in the sticks with a bit of melted white chocolate and chilling in the fridge for 2 hours. I always had trouble with how to store cake pops while they're setting, so a little while ago I bought a polystyrene ball which works great.

When they were completely chilled, and the sticks were solid, I melted some more white chocolate and dipped each pop into the chocolate. I left a few plain and covered the rest with sprinkles. This can be tricky as you have to let the chocolate set a little bit before rolling in the sprinkles, but not so much that they won't stick. It's a timing thing and can take a bit of practice

I added fondant letters to five of the cake pops. These were all done free hand. My next investment will definitely be letter cutters. I used an upside down cupcake box and poked some holes in it to present the cake pops in. I'm really happy with how these turned out and can't wait to try out some new recipes in my cake pop mould.

4oz self-raising flour
4oz butter, softened
4oz caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and flour cake pop mould. Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Fill one half of the mould with the batter and pop the other half on top, making sure it's secure. Put it on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Take off the top of the mould and leave to cool.

You will also need:
300g white chocolate
Cake pop sticks

Leave cake pops to cool for at least 30 minutes. Dip cake pop stick into 50g melted white chocolate and place approximately 1.5 cm into cake pop. Repeat with all cake pops. Cool cake pops for at least two hours. Melt the remaining chocolate and, one by one, dip each cake pop into the chocolate. Turn the cake pop as the chocolate sets. When it is just set, roll it in the sprinkles. Repeat until all cake pops are finished.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Rainbow Cake

I love this cake. If someone was to ask me to show them only one cake that I made, it would always be this one. There's just something about it that's so me. It's deceptively simple. It has that wow factor that people want in a cake, but it can be whipped up in no time.

I went with a vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream for this one and kept the layers pretty thin as I wanted to make sure I included all the colours. I love using chocolate for decoration. It's great at hiding all the mistakes and tastes amazing.

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp glycerine
Food coloring

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line four baking tins. Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egg gradually, adding a teaspoon of flour with each addition. Add the remaining flour and baking powder into the bowl, then gradually whisk in the milk, vanilla extract and glycerine. Split mixture into four bowls and add a different colour to each. Pour the mixtures into the baking tins and bake for approximately 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on them as they are very thin. Cool on a wire rack

Vanilla Buttercream
300g unsalted butter, softened
459g icing sugar
4 tbsp hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar and hot water in two batches. Add the vanilla extract.

You will also need:

To assemble, stack the cake filling each layer with buttercream. Cover the whole cake in buttercream and stick KitKats around the outside. Pour M&Ms on top and tie with a ribbon. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Lemon Drizzle Cake

It was a friend's birthday at the weekend and, of course, she was going to get a cake. I was insanely busy over the weekend so needed something quick to make. I turned to my trusty Lemon Drizzle Cake. I have never had more compliments for a cake than with this one. It is an absolute crowd pleaser every time.

(adapted from The Londoner)
3 large eggs
170g self-raising flour
170g caster sugar
170g unsalted butter, softened
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp baking powder

Lemon Drizzle
Juice of 2 lemons
110g icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180ºC and line a loaf tin. Put cake ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Pour into cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. While the cake is baking, mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar to make the drizzle. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, stab your cake all over with the skewer and pour over the lemon drizzle. Leave to cool in the tin.