Sunday, 30 October 2011

Spiderweb Cupcakes

I was planning on baking and blogging these delicious halloween cuties earlier in the week, but then a certain little lady came into our lives and took all my attention.

Nico the kitten likes feather teasers, purring loudly, cat milk and having her stomach stroked. Now that she's sleeping I can press on with blogging my halloween cupcakes. but allow me one more photo please before I do. Aaaah the blissful life of a kitten.

Cupcake base recipe my own.
Chocolate icing adapted from the recipe Death By Chocolate Cupcake by Lisa Harris at Good Food Channel, see the recipe online here.
Spiderweb topper idea and design by Jessica Dodell-Fedder at, see it here.
Makes 12 large cupcakes.

for the batter:
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
200g self raising flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100ml milk
80g dark chocolate (70% solids)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1. Turn oven to 180C (160C fan ovens). Fill a 12 hole muffin pan with medium sized cupcake cases.

2. In a large bowl, throw in all the batter ingredients except the milk, chocolate, and cocoa powder, and beat well until combined.

3. Next add the milk, and stir again.

4. Melt the chocolate over a low heat in a saucepan before leaving to cool for a moment. Add the cocoa powder and stir carefully. Then pour in the melted chocolate and continuing stirring gently until the batter is smooth and combined. 

5. Spoon the chocolate batter into the cases. Fill until they are two thirds full.

6. Put the muffin tray in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. You'll know they're done when a skewer comes out clean.

7. When done, leave the cupcakes for a couple of minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool, and you can get on with the icing.

for the chocolate icing: 
50g cocoa powder
325g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp whole milk
225g unsalted butter, room temperature

8. Mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. When combined, beat in the butter.

9. Add the milk, and whisk briskly for at least 2 minutes until smooth and the colour has lightened.

10. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to spread the icing over the cupcakes, before adding the spiderweb toppers.

for the spiderweb toppers:
150g white chocolate, broken into small pieces

11. Melt the white chocolate gently over a bain mairie (a bowl placed over a pan of almost simmering water). Once melted, take off the heat and pour into a piping bag with the smallest circle nozzle. If you don't have this you can make a piping bag by snipping a hole in the corner of a freezer bag.

12. Print out the spiderweb toppers template that you'll find here. Next line a baking sheet or tray with parchment or baking paper, and slip the spiderweb template underneath the paper. Pipe white chocolate onto the paper over each template, making sure that all the lines join up. It's worth practising this, if like me you've never made chocolate toppers before, as the first few may be a disaster. Continue until you're created 12 toppers, then place the sheet into the fridge to chill for 10 minutes.

13. Using a spatula, gently lift the toppers from the paper, and place one atop each iced cupcake.

These cupcakes were idly baked while listening to the Kings of Leon album Only By The Night.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Apple & Berry Danish Pastries

If like me you adore all things pastry, then I warn you, you may find that these are so good, so moreish, that you'll need to put a lock and key on them. I had one freshly baked and hot out of the oven before supper, one for breakfast the next day, then one for lunch, and I've got my eye on one for tea if Mr Eve doesn't get there first. What's great about these Danish Pastries is that, unlike the ones found in shops, these are neither too sticky nor too saccharine. Instead the golden fluffy pastry and sweetly spiced fruit compliment eachother to create a more subtle and gorgeous delight. And have I mentioned that you don't have to make the pastry yourself? What more could an idle pastry lover want, eh?

Serves 8
Barely adapted from the Danishes recipe by James Martin. See the recipe at

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 sharp not sweet eating apples
4 tablespoons demarara sugar
half a teaspoon cinnamon
half a teaspoon allspice or mixed spice
75g blackberries or blueberries
juice of half an orange
500g puff pastry pack
1 egg, beaten
1 handful plain flour, for rolling the pastry

1. Turn the oven to 220C (200C fan ovens).

2. To make the pastry filling, peel and core the apples. Then either slice them finely or dice them into small chunks.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons of the sugar and all the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.

4. When the butter is melted, add the apples, orange juice and spices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, before taking off the heat and stirring in the berries.
5. To prepare the pastry, roll out the ready made puff pastry onto a floured board, until it's about the thickness of a pound coin. Then cut out 8 squares 11cm each (or do what I did and misread the recipe, cutting rectangles 8cm x 11cm, it just depends whether you fancy your pastries square or rectangle).

6. Prick the pastry pieces all over with a fork and place them on a baking tray or two.

7. Carefully spoon the filling in the centre of each square or rectangle, turning over the edges. Brush egg all over the pastry to help the Danishes turn golden in the oven.

8. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar over the Danishes, then place them in the oven to bake for approx 20 minutes until golden.

These Danish pastries were idly baked while giggling and chatting with my dear mate Kate

Friday, 21 October 2011

Toffee & Hazel Loaf

Moist dense and nutty heaven, this loaf cake is delicious served hot or cold. The delicate toffee flavour works brilliantly with those rich and smokey roasted hazels to make the loaf taste extra special.

Adapted from the Toffee Cake recipe by Aaron Maree in his wonderful book from the early 1990s, Cakes, Tortes & Gateaux of the World. Buy the book on Amazon here.
Serves 8

250g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g light muscovado sugar
1 and a half teaspoons vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
3 eggs
125g hazelnuts
125g dark chocolate
for decoration: 1 tablespoon cocoa powder & 1 tablespoon icing sugar

1. Turn the oven to 190C (170C fan ovens), and grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.

2. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake in the oven for approx 4 minutes to roast them. Take out of the oven and leave to cool, before removing their skins and cutting the nuts into small pieces.

3. While the hazels are roasting, break the chocolate into small chunks and melt gently over a low heat hob. Take off the heat as soon as all the chocolate is melted, and leave to cool slightly.

4. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, before adding the vanilla extract.
5. Beat in the first egg, beating until well combined. Add the 2nd egg, plus a third of the sifted flour, and combine. Beat in the 3rd egg.

6. Then pour in the cooled melted chocolate, stirring it into the batter quickly.

7. Add the rest of the sifted flour, stirring gently to combine, before finally throwing in the chopped hazelnuts and mixing them into the batter with a wooden spoon.

8. Pour the batter into the tin until it reaches the top (you may find you have a few spoonfuls leftover as a cook's perk!) and bake for 40-50 minutes. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

9. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

10. When cooled, remove the cake from the tin and place on a plate. Dust with cocoa powder and icing sugar to decorate.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Lauren Laverne's radio show on BBC 6 Music

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Orange & Pistachio Cake

This cake is my own recipe, and it's really delicious. The light crumb is threaded with sweet orange zest, and it has a pretty toasted pistachio ring decoration which looks so autumnal with the rich nut purples browns and greens. A great cake to eat with a warm cup of tea after a long walk in the woods. Everything I make has a rustic look to it (ie. I'm too idle and too wedded to a love of imperfection to make things 'just so'); I've no doubt you could make this cake look prettier still if you had a go.

Serves 8 -10

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
200g plain flour, sieved
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground almonds
grated zest of half an orange
juice of half an orange
3 eggs

1. Turn the oven to 160C (140C fan oven). Grease and line a 20 inch round baking tin.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add 1 egg, the orange juice and zest, and beat well. Add the 2nd egg, plus the baking powder and a third of the sieved flour and combine. Finally, fold in the 3rd egg along with the rest of the flour and all the ground almonds. Mix gently until the batter is totally combined.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and put in the oven for approx 50 mins. It will be done when a skewer comes out clean and the top bounces back when you touch it with your finger. Take it out of the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes, before carefully turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the icing:
2 tbsps freshly squeezed orange juice
100g icing sugar, to decorate
300g unsalted pistachio nuts, shelled

1. When the cake is cool, roast the unsalted pistachios in a medium heat oven for approx 4 minutes.

2. Put the icing sugar in a bowl and add the orange juice, whisking with a fork until the icing is a good thick but runny consistency.

3. Spoon the orange icing over top of the cake.

4. Place the pistachio nuts in a ring over the icing and leave to set for at least 20 minutes.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of The Kinks' album Something Else

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Nutty Apple Betty

I love this pudding so much, at this time of year I even prefer it to a crumble, which is really saying something. A divine mix of lemony sugary moist cooking apples topped with buttery toasted bread and walnuts, it is hard for anyone to resist. What's more it's a fantastic way for me to use up our apples from the garden. The perfect quick and soothing pudding for a cosy autumn supper.

Adapted slightly from Rick Stein's recipe in Food Heroes.
Buy the book on Amazon here.
I've added the walnuts and turned her from an apple betty to a nicely nutty apple betty.
Serves 4

50g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
450g cooking apples, peeled cored and thinly sliced
175g crustless white bread, cut into small cubes
100g unsalted butter
2 handfuls of walnut pieces
100g demerara sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens) and find a suitable large ovenproof dish.

2. Peel, core and slice the cooking apples, before combining them with the peeled lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl.

3. Spoon the apple mixture into the ovenproof dish so it's covering the dish base evenly.

4. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan. When melted, add the cubes of bread and stir them carefully so that they're well coated in the butter. Add the walnuts and then sprinkle the bread and nuts with the demerara sugar, stirring carefully again to give them an even coating.

5. Next pile the buttery nuts and bread cubes over the apples in the dish, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve hot with a good dollop of westcountry double cream.

This pudding was idly baked to the sounds of Miranda Hart's Joke Shop on Radio 4 Extra

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Raspberries in Red Wine

I'm very busy with work at the moment, and as I run my own business that means that there's little time for baking. Boo. But while I might not be able to bake this week, I can still make something scrumptious out of the basic ingredients in the fridge. Raspberries in wine is a lovely quick little recipe which would work well with any autumn berry, and it's brilliant served with whipped cream, over plain yoghurt or vanilla icecream, or simply eaten on it's own.

Serves 4 moderate eaters or 2 greedyguts

2 large handfuls of raspberries, washed
240ml red wine
65g sugar, or more to taste
half a teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a large bowl mix the wine, sugar and lemon juice together.

2. Add the raspberries and stir in gently, before covering the bowl with a plate and leaving it to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

3. Finally chill the bowl in the fridge for 20 minutes, before serving with whipped cream, icecream or yoghurt.

This was idly made while listening to Radiohead's album King of Limbs

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cinnamon Toast Fingers

Sweetly spiced and gloriously crunchy, this recipe is easy peasy and great for breakfast, lunch or tea. Use thick white bread for the naughtiest cinnamon toast, or healthier wholegrain bread if, like me, you're guilty of having eaten too much cake. I ate this today with a cup of flowering green tea as a delicious brunch.

Makes about 7 cinnamon fingers

2 or 3 thick slices of bread
2 tbsps caster sugar
50g butter
1 tsp cinnamon, ground

1. Turn the oven to 190C (170C fan ovens).

2. Mix the butter, cinnamon and sugar together in bowl.

3. Cut the crusts off the bread and cut into fingers.

4. Spread the cinnamon mixture onto the bread fingers.

5. Bake them on a baking tray in the oven for 5-10 mins.

6. Alternatively, you could toast the bread, then cut it into fingers and spread the cinnamon mixture over them.

7. Serve with your favourite cuppa.

This cinnamon toast was idly baked while listening to the News on BBC Radio 4