Saturday, 31 March 2012

Elderflower & Lemon Easter Cupcakes

Let me show you these super easy cupcakes, which I made last spring before the idle blogging had begun. Sweet and fresh tasting, they're light on the tongue, and - dare I say it - very moreish! A lovely contrast to all the big chocolate eggs and rich cakes of Easter.

My own recipe.
Makes 12 medium muffin-sized cupcakes

125g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
125g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon elderflower cordial

1. Turn the oven to 180 (160 fan) and place large cupcake cases in a 12 muffin baking tray. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, until smooth and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in. Then pour in the lemon zest and tablespoon of elderflower cordial, stirring well.

3. Next sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture, stirring gently until the batter is combined.

4. Spoon the batter into each cupcake case, until they are approximately two-thirds full (you want to leave enough room for the cakes to rise).

5. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done if a skewer comes out clean.

6. Take out of the oven and leave for a few minutes, before moving the cupcakes in their cases to a wire rack or plate to cool.

for the icing:

1 or 2 teaspoons of elderflower cordial
100g butter
100g cream cheese
410g icing sugar
food colouring - at the time I used liquid pink colouring, which made the icing a bit too runny, so now I'd recommend tint pastes (such as Dusky Pink by Sugarflair) 
mini chocolate eggs, little chicks, sugar flowers or anything else you fancy to decorate

7. Combine the butter and cream cheese. Stir in the teaspoon or 2 of elderflower cordial and mix together.
8. Sift half the icing sugar into the mixture, and stir thoroughly, before adding the other half and continuing to stir until it is a thick paste. Take care stirring the icing sugar, as this is a bit messy, I tend to wear an apron as I've been known to accidentally drench myself in it when stirring too vigorously!

9. When the icing is combined, the only thing left to do is to colour it. With colour tint pastes you only need to add a pin prick amount before stirring it in to give the icing a beautiful pastel colour.
10. Get a pint glass (or 2 if you're icing 2 different colours, in which case just follow the same method for each individual colour). Place a piping bag with a nozzle inside the glass, so that the nozzle is on the bottom of the glass. Fold the piping bag edges over the glass rim. Spoon the paste into the piping bag, then carefully take the bag out of the glass and twist the end of the bag so that the icing is well contained.

11. Pipe the icing over the cupcakes and add any mini chocolate eggs, sugar flowers and chicks you fancy to decorate.

I idly baked these whilst looking outside at the gorgeous spring blossom in the garden last easter.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Orange & White Chocolate Mouse Cake

No, you haven't misread the title, this really is a White Chocolate Mouse cake. I've always loved the kitsch look of chocolate mice, and the idea of using them to decorate my friend Jules's birthday cake made me smile. The home made mice sank into the scrumptious white chocolate icing to make it taste especially, naughtily, rich. This is a very sweet cake, so to add a sharper note and to balance the chocolate I layered the orange cakes with a good marmalade.

Appropriately enough, the whisking for this bake was interrupted by Nico our kitten bringing in a live mouse, which I then chased around the house to save from her clutches. The half beaten eggs were not happy about their neglect, and declined to help the cake rise, but you'll be pleased to know that the mouse survived to live another day. Unlike the chocolate ones which were gobbled up by us in no time!

Serves 8-10

White chocolate mice and cake base recipes my own. White chocolate icing recipe taken from the one by Barney Desmazery for his Orange & White Chocolate Sponge Cake recipe given at see the recipe here.

for the 3 white chocolate mice:
100g white chocolate, broken into pieces

1. Make the chocolate mice in advance. Gently melt 80g of the chocolate over a bain mairie, a heatproof bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Stir the chocolate, and when melted, add the extra 20g, taking it off the heat but continuing to stir until melted.

2. When all the white chocolate has melted smoothly, carefully spoon it into the silicone white mice moulds (I got mine from Lakeland). Place the filled moulds on a plate in the fridge for half an hour, before unmoulding. Don't touch them too much when unmoulding as the heat of your hands may soften them. When unmoulded, place the mice back in the fridge until ready to use.

for the cake bases:
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
225g flour
4 medium eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons half fat creme fraiche, room temperature
zest and juice of 1 large orange

3. Turn the oven to 170 (150C fan ovens) and grease and line two 18cm baking tins.

4. Cream the butter and sugar together with the orange zest.

5. Add the eggs, with a spoonful of flour, and beat well after each addition.

6. Sift in the flour, and stir until well combined, before gently folding in the creme fraiche, and orange juice.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared tins, and bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done when the tops bounce back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.

8. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 15 minutes before placing on a wire rack or plate to cool fully.

for the filling and white chocolate icing:
300g/340g good marmalade
200g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
200ml half fat creme fraiche
the prepared white chocolate mice to decorate, optional
Queen dark chocolate fudge writing pen to decorate, optional

9. To make the white chocolate icing, gently melt the chocolate pieces as before over another bain mairie. Stir the chocolate and take off the heat as soon as it has melted, putting it one side to cool.

10. Whisk the creme fraiche until it thickens. Then pour in the cooled white chocolate, stirring until smooth.

11. When the cakes have cooled, place one topside down on a plate and spoon a thick layer of marmalade over the top. Next spoon over half the chocolate icing, before sandwiching with the second cake.

12. Take the white chocolate mice out of the fridge ready for use, and spread the rest of the icing over the top cake, before adding the mice and any other decoration such as the dark chocolate eyes and tails to the mice if you like. Place the cake in the fridge for an hour to let the icing set.

13. Take the cake out of the fridge a few minutes before serving. Trust me, with this one you won't need cream!

This cake was idly baked while listening to I'm A Good Woman: Funk Classics From Sassy Soul Sisters such as Gladys Knight, Laura Lee and Patti Jo

Friday, 23 March 2012

Gluten Free Sticky Lemon & Poppyseed Cake

This is a beautiful gluten free cake: fluffy and moist, with a sticky lemony topping and a crunch of poppyseeds in the crumb. Best eaten at tea time with a good cuppa and the sun on your face.

My own recipe.
Serves 6-8

for the cake:
3 large eggs, room temperature
50g poppyseeds
200g golden caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g gluten free self raising flour mix (Dove's Farm recommended)
100ml creme fraiche
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 handful demarara sugar

1.Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan oven). Grease a 20cm round baking tin and line the bottom with baking paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar together for at least 3 minutes in a large bowl until fluffy.

3. Add the first egg and a tablespoon of the gf flour, and beat well until smooth. Repeat the process with the other two eggs one after the other, adding a little flour with each and beating until smooth.

4. Throw in the lemon zest, and the lemon juice. Stir into the butter mixture, before adding another spoonful of the flour, the poppyseeds and the creme fraiche. Stir gently until combined, before throwing in the rest of the flour. Gently mix with a metal spoon.

5. Pour into the baking tin, before sprinkling the demerara sugar ontop.  Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean and the cake springs back under your touch. The top may have cracked a little, which is part of its charm.

6. Remove from the oven and leave the cake in its tin for 20 minutes before carefully turning it out onto a wire rack or a plate to cool.

for the lemon syrup:

juice of 2 small lemons or 1 large one
100g caster sugar

6. Heat the lemon juice and sugar gently in a saucepan, until the sugar dissolves. Stir and take off the heat.

7. While cake is still warm, pour the syrup over the cake and decorate with more grated lemon rind or anything else you fancy! Bear in mind if you're adding cut daisies as I did, that these are not edible flowers so should be placed over the lemon rind and not touch the cake itself.

This cake was idly baked while listening to Radiohead's album In Rainbows.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mother's Day Pavlova with Strawberries & Passion Fruit Whipped Cream

This sumptuous pavlova was a real pleasure to bake, and I owe it all to my food mixer's high speed whisk! For me a pavlova evokes sunshine and birdsong, both of which we enjoyed as we sat with my parents this afternoon, glass of cava in hand, to celebrate Mother's Day. The strawberries and passion fruit suit eachother perfectly, the soft sharpness of the passion fruit pulp cutting through the heady sweetness of this heavenly berry meringue.

Adapted from the recipe given by Olive Magazine, see it at the BBC Good Food website here.

Serves 6

4 large egg whites
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1. Turn oven to 180C (160 fan ovens), and grease and line a large baking sheet or tray. If you like a neat meringue then you can trace around a 20cm cake tin base, in pencil on the back of the parchment paper, before placing the paper pencil side down on the greased baking sheet.

2. In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Bear in mind the bowl needs to be totally clean - any little piece of dirt or dust could stop the whites stiffening.

3. Next add the sugar, a tablespoon at time, and once all used up beat again for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is glossy and stands up in stiff peaks.

4. Whisk in the cornflour, vanilla essence and vinegar.

5. Spoon the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking tray, spreading it out to be a circle of about 20cm diameter, making a hollow in the centre of the mixture to form a nest.

6. As soon as the meringue goes into the oven, turn the oven right down to 120C (fan 100C). Bake in the oven for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven. Leave the meringue to cool in the oven, and only remove when totally cool. I baked mine in the evening and left it to cool overnight in the oven ready to eat the next day.

7. Once cool, gently peel off the parchment paper and place on a plate or dish. It doesn't matter if the meringue cracks a bit.

for the topping:
285ml double cream (I had to use a little less thanks to the packet of cream opening out onto the floor when I got home - Nico kitten got her first taste of cream)
400g strawberries, washed hulled and halved
3 passionfruit, pulp only

8. Whip the cream with two of the passionfruit pulps, then spoon the cream into the hole of the meringue nest, spreading out to cover the middle of the meringue.

9. Spoon the strawberries over the passionfruit cream, and drizzle the pulp of the third passionfruit over the top. Serve the pavlova immediately!

This pavlova was idly baked to the sounds of Dean Martin's album That's Amore

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Leek, Devon Blue Stilton & Pine Nut Tart

Here it is, the recipe that has finally helped me lose my savoury tart virginity. Until recently, I was frightened of tarts. They look so impressive I assumed they must be complex and demanding to bake. But this rustic Leek tart, using ready made puff pastry as I'm far too idle to make my own, is remarkable for its simplicity, and makes for the best ever lunch. Try it and you'll see what I mean. So very tasty!

Adapted from the great recipe given by Good To Know magazine, see their recipe at their website here.

Serves 4 (or 2 total greedyguts)

375g ready rolled puff pastry
500g leeks
handful of sorrel
half a handful of lemon thyme
100g-135g of Devon Blue (or other variety) Stilton cheese
50g pine nuts

1. Crumble the cheese and put to one side.

2. Wash and trim the leeks, cutting the large ones lengthways into halves or quarters, before drying on kitchen roll.

3. Spread out the ready rolled pastry, to fit a large baking tray or sheet.

4. Place the leeks and herbs onto the pastry, leaving a border around the edges free.

5. Next sprinkle the stilton cheese and pine nuts over the top.

6. Brush the pastry edges with beaten egg if you like (I didn't bother), and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the pastry has risen and the edges are golden.

7. Serve warm. We ate ours at the garden table in spring sunshine with a green salad and last night's leftover sweet potato mash.

This tart was idly baked while listening to the beautiful sounds of Arvo Part's Fratres and Tabula Rasa played by Gil Shaham and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Gluten Free Fruit Jam & Toasted Almond Cake

This sweet spring cake is so easy and cheap to bake, a handy recipe to use when there's nothing more than a bit of jam and a few almonds in the kitchen cupboard. Marrying a gorgeous taste combination of a fluffy soft almond interior with a crisp, sweet crunchy exterior, it has all the hallmarks of a classic british tea cake. Plus, if you bake it in a special decorative cake tin, as I did, then it looks as if you've gone to so much more effort than you really have, a big thumbs up for an idle baker. Feel free to add more jam than I did - we only had a spoonful left in the bottom of the jam jar.

My own recipe
Serves 8-10

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
200g gluten free self raising flour mix (Dove's Farm recommended)
1 teaspoon baking powder (Barkart recommended)
1 teaspoon almond extract
80g toasted flaked almonds
1 and a half tablespoons cherry or raspberry jam

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan ovens), and grease a decorative non stick baking tin (mine came from Lakeland), or grease and line a normal baking tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together for at least 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

3. Add the first egg to the creamed mixture, then sieve in a little of the flour and beat well. Once combined, add the 2nd egg one with tablespoon of flour, and beat again. Add the last egg, beating hard until the mixture is light and frothy.

4.Next sift in the rest of the flour, and almond extract a bit at a time.

5. Throw in the toasted almond flakes. Stir gently until the flakes are just combined into the batter.

6. Spoon half the batter into the prepared baking tin. Then dot the cherry jam into the batter, using a skewer or teaspoon to swirl it around. Spoon the rest of the batter ontop, before smoothing it down evenly with a spatula.

7. Place in the oven to bake for about 45 minutes, checking it briefly after 35 minutes. Cover with foil if the top is browning too quickly in the final 10 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.

8. Once baked, if you're using a decorative tin leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once cool, use a spatula or a fork to gently prise the cake away from the tin sides, before placing onto a plate.
If you're using a normal greased and lined baking tin then you can take the cake out of the tin after 20 minutes, to continue cooling on the rack.

9. Dust the top with caster sugar, plus any fresh or glace cherries if you like. Serve lukewarm or cold, with cream or vanilla icecream.

This cake was idly baked while listening to the REM album Out Of Time.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Dark Chocolate, Rum & Almond Birthday Cake

Birthday cakes come in all shapes and flavours, so for my younger brother's 30th birthday I decided to make a special boozy variation of his favourite childhood chocolate cake. Laced with rum and almonds, and topped off with a gorgeous rich dark ganache, this is a fabulous cake for any celebration, plus a lot of fun for an idle baker and little helpers to decorate.

Serves 10-12
Recipe adapted from the Ultimate Chocolate Cake by Angela Nilsen at the BBC Good Food website, see the recipe here

for the 2 cake bases:

300g light muscovado sugar
200g butter, room temperature, chopped into small pieces
4 eggs, room temperature
25g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids, broken into small pieces
85g ground almonds
85g self raising flour
quarter of a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons dark rum
75ml half fat creme fraiche

1. Turn the oven to 160C (140C fan ovens), and grease and line two 18cm or 20cm round baking tins.

2. Stir the chocolate pieces, butter, and rum in a pan over a low heat until melted. Put to one side to cool.

3. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients (sugar, cocoa, almonds, bicarb and flour), stirring until combined. Make a well in the centre of the ingredients.

4. In another bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy, before adding the creme fraiche.

5. Next fold in the chocolate mixture and the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until just combined, to create a smooth batter.

6. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 prepared baking tins, and bake in the oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes. You'll know the cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean and the tops spring back under your thumb.

7. When baked, take the cakes out of the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes in their tins, before placing on a wire rack or plates to cool further.

for the chocolate ganache icing:

300g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids, broken into small pieces
378ml double cream
3 tablespoons golden caster sugar
180g flaked almonds
Queen white chocolate fudge writing pen to decorate, optional

8. To make the ganache,  place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl.

9. Heat the double cream and caster sugar gently in a pan over low heat until it is about to boil, then quickly pour the mixture over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the ganache has come together smoothly. Cool briefly.

10. Meanwhile, place the flaked almonds in the oven to lightly toast for 10 minutes and then take out to cool.

11. When ready, place the first cake base upside down and spread a quarter of the ganache over it. Then sandwich it with the second cake, before spread the rest of the ganache around the sides and the top of the cake.

12. Press the toasted almond flakes around the sides of the cake, before piping ganache rosettes around the edge of the top using a piping bag. Leave the icing to set. If you want to hurry this process along just place the cake in the fridge for a while.

13. Just before serving, you can use melted white chocolate to write Happy Birthday if you wish to, but I cheated and used a simple writing fudge pen from Queen which I thoroughly recommend to all similarly idle bakers.

14. Serve with whipped cream. Keep any leftover cake in the fridge.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of The Black Keys album El Camino.