Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Halloween Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes!

I have confessed before about my love of cookery books, am always happy when I have a lovely new one to look through and a cup of coffee in my hand, throw in a slice of cake and I may as well be in heaven! The Great British Bake Off arrived during the week and what a gorgeous book it is, loads of stuff in it that I want to make and eat. Isaac (3) thinks that John our postman is brilliant as he is always bringing parcels to us, he has not quite grasped the whole middle man situation as of yet! Well I hope wherever you are that you have just as generous a postman as we do!

Chocolate muffins are always a big hit here with adults and kids alike so when I spotted the recipe for Chocolate Velvet Cupcakes I decided that I would try them. I have never used melted chocolate in a cupcake recipe before its usually cocoa powder however I don't think there is any going back after trying these!

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 175ml semi skimmed milk
  • 150g self raising flour, sieved
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Place cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin
Heat milk, chopped chocolate and one third of the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat
Remove from heat as soon as it is melted and give it a good stir to combine
Beat the butter until creamy
Add sugar and vanilla and beat till light and fluffy
Gradually add the beaten egg
Next add a third of the flour and stir, followed by a third of the melted chocolate mixture and so on until everything is in the one bowl.
Fill the cases with a ice cream scoop
Bake for 15-18 minutes until well risen
Leave to cool for two minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack

Buttercream Icing

When i make buttercream icing I never really measure anything but just combine in a bowl until I achieve the taste and texture I am looking for so all measurements here are approximate and to my taste.

100g butter
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add the cocoa powder and beat to combine

At this stage you can smear the cupcake with the buttercream or else level of the top of them and pipe it on. I used a Wilton 1m nozzle to decorate mine. I started off on the outside of the cake and worked inwards to the middle then piped another swirl on top of this. I used little plastic Halloween figures to top some of them which the kids absolutely loved and I left the rest plain. Totally delicious and most definitely on the "make again" list!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rainy Day Cookies

 After my adventures in macarons last week I had my fill of sieving almonds. Six batches of them in seven days is enough for even Pierre Herme I would think. I love making cookies as they are so easy to throw together and the kids absolutely love helping me with them. Miserable wet day in Clara so its always handy to do something like this with the boys when they cant get out to work of their energy on the trampoline. Its always nice to have a treat as a bribe to help make the job of eating their dinner a little more attractive, I know some people frown upon using treats in such a way but bribery is most definitely my favourite type of parenting!


  • 200g plain flour
  • 125g margarine
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 50g chocolate chips
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa (sieved)
  • 1 egg


Grease a baking tray and preheat oven to 180 degrees
Beat the margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar and cocoa in a bowl until well blended
Add the egg and mix well
Gently stir in flour and chocolate chips until mixture forms a dough
Roll dough into walnut size balls and press down onto baking tray
Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven
Cool on a wire rack before drizzling with melted white chocolate

So apart from the usual rows about who got to stir the mixture for longer than the other a lovely afternoon was had by all. Wont be long till there is another little pair of hands looking to help but for today she was happy to hang onto my leg!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apprenticeship in Laduree here I come!!

After my first batch of macarons yesterday did not quite go to plan I decided to give them another go with a different recipe, a new spatula, a new piping bag and a new nozzle! Of course it wasn't just these new implements that helped it was the fabulous folding motion that I have perfected from watching online tutorials! I read and watched so many things online yesterday I actually dreamt about macarons last night. Yes I know I am quite sad! This recipe came from Delicious Magazine and I am thrilled with the results.


  • 175g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 75g caster sugar
  • food colouring of your choice
For the filling
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 75g icing sugar


Preheat oven to 160 degrees
Whizz the almonds and icing sugar together in a processor till really finely ground then sieve into a bowl.
Whisk the egg whites with pinch of salt till soft peaks form, gradually add in caster sugar until thick and glossy. Add drop or two of food colouring at this stage.
Fold half the almond mixture into the meringue and mix well.
Add the remainder and cut/fold until it is shiny and falls like a ribbon from spatula.

Spoon into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
Mark out parchment on baking sheets with 3cm circles to guide you as you pipe mixture.
Once piped bang the sheets quite sharply against counter tops to get rid of excess air.
Leave trays to sit for 15 minutes or so to allow a skin to form before baking.

Bake for 15 minutes.
Transfer parchment to a wire rack and allow to cool.
Meanwhile beat the butter until creamy then beat in the icing sugar. You can then add a drop or two of colouring to this as well if you wish. Sandwich the macarons together using this mixture.

Well I have to say I impressed myself with these little beauties! The 8 year old declared them the nicest things he has ever tasted and the dog is in danger of canine diabetes (if there is such a thing) from the amount of spilled icing sugar he licked up from the floor. If anyone can guide me in the direction of a macaron book I would be delighted as I think my adventures in macarons are only starting!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Macaroon or Macaron? Whatever you like to call them they are delicious!!

Am kind of sad that I have only just discovered the delights of macarons. The idea of ground almonds has always put me off, probably as a result of the cloying taste of almond fingers that my mother was always so fond of. It used to drive me mad that anything in the same box as these fingers would have an almond flavour to them, yuck! After watching Zumbos at the weekend I knew I had to give them a try and see what I had been missing out on. Zumbos is based in a bakery in Australia where macarons are their speciality, people queue up before the shop even opens to buy these little discs of yumminess. Form an orderly queue at the kitchen counter please.....

This recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and featured in The Guardian.


  • 125g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 165g ground almonds
  • 3 egg whites
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache

  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and mark out 24 circles of approximately 4.5cm.
Sieve icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in the ground almonds.
Whisk the egg whites and gradually add caster sugar until stiff glossy peaks are formed.
Stir in half the almond mixture then add the rest along with the vanilla. Fold until just combined.
Transfer into a freezer bag and snip of one of the corners before piping onto baking sheets.
Tap the sheets against worktop to get rid of air bubbles.
Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly firm.
Transfer the parchment to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the ganache by heating the cream until simmering then pour onto the broken up chocolate.
Leave for 2 minutes before stirring until cool.
Sandwich the macarons together with the ganache.
Refrigerate until required.

To make life a little easier I put the freezer bag into a pitcher jug before scraping in the mixture. I must invest in some proper bags and nozzles as I would love to perfect these little discs. These have a gorgeous chewy texture and surprisingly I could not get an almond taste from them just luscious chocolate. Would love to attempt some pink and green ones so watch this space!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Humble Scone!

To me a scone is like a bowl of cornflakes, I forget how nice they are until I taste them. When I started baking a few years ago I made these so often I can almost make them in my sleep! I sometimes like to add dried fruit to them which has been presoaked in orange juice to plump them up but the eight year old requested plain ones so how could I not fulfil his wishes! After a week of dull grey days a bit of comfort was required along with a nice pot of fresh coffee so I made these little beauties! So little effort but such a lovely reward of buttery, sugary goodness.


  • 250g self raising flour
  • 120g butter
  • 5 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt


Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in middle and add in salt, milk and beaten eggs.
Mix to form a dry dough. Add more milk if required.
Turn onto floured surface and roll out. Use a small glass to cut out approximately 15 scones.
Brush scones with milk and dip into some cinnamon sugar. I make this by combining 2 tbsp of caster sugar with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon and combine in a pestle and mortar.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Eat with lashings of butter, jam, honey, cream or whatever takes your fancy!