Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Special II: Forever Nigella: Trick or Treat biscuits

Following on from yesterday's Halloween themed post, where I ended with announcing I am a scaredy-cat wimp when it comes to Halloween I feel I ought to provide further example....

a) When I was 13 I watched Interview with the Vampire at a friend's sleepover. I did not get a full nights sleep for the next five years...

b) I check under the bed in new places just, in case, you know, there are scary monsters there...

c) When I saw the new Halloween Cadbury's Screme Egg, I thought 'Hmm....must be possessed'...

Despite this, I sure am happy to use Halloween as a darn fine excuse to get busy in the kitchen. Today, inspired by Maison Cupcake's Forever Nigella Halloween Horrors Challenge I've been baking these trick or treat biscuits. Although, to be fair, they are really just a treat.

As per the rules of the challenge I won't be reproducing the recipe verbatim, but they are based on Nigella's Edible Christmas Tree Decorations from her fantastically festive 'Nigella Christmas'.

Baker's notes...
  • A big, humongous fang you very much to a very good friend of ours, Anna, who kindly bought me these great, ghoulish Halloween cutters. They are available at Jane Asher's Cakecraft Shop.
  • Inspiring Halloween themed bakes can be found on Channel 4 Food, BBC Good Food and Waitrose Inspiration
  • Despite my fear all things spooky this time of year, ironically, we'll be spending Halloween in the Cotswolds in a village aptly named Upper Slaughter. I'll definitely be checking under the bed...


Saturday, 29 October 2011

Halloween Special I: Creepy Crawly Custard Cream Cupcakes

This weekend, to celebrate Halloween are you:

a) Finding a freakily frightening fancy dress costume to act out your inner Wicked Witch of the West or ghoulish Ghostbuster?

b) Getting creative in the kitchen and carving up your pumpkin to ward off the evil spirits?

c) Scaring yourself silly working your way through the top 10 Best Ever Horror Films?

d) Embracing the Afterlife with a trip to these deadly Dungeons?

d) Drinking to All Hallows Eve with a Halloween Cocktail?

e) Making the most of our macabre past with a haunted ghost tour

f) Trick or treating your neighbours, hoping for at least a sweet or two, rather than an unanswered door with the distinct sound of the X Factor credits rolling from inside a darkened house (while reassuring yourself that No.23 are really very nice people and surely they can't be ignoring you...)?


g) none of the above?

If you're answering, firmly, e) then may I say hello from one scaredy-cat wimp to another. 

Rather than embracing all things horror and Halloween, this scaredy-cat wimp will be eating these, staying in doors and thinking of happy, cheery things such as...cakes.

Creepy Crawlie Custard Cream Cupcakes

(Dan Lepard, The Guardian Magazine, June 2011)


175g caster sugar
50ml oil
50g unsalted butter, softened
3 medium eggs, beaten lightly
2 tsp orange extract
100ml double cream
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
For the icing
225g icing sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
For the custard cream
2 egg yolks
200ml double cream
3 tsp cornflour
2 tsp vanilla extract
25g caster sugar
1) Line the pockets of a muffin/cupcake tray with cases and heat the oven to 160C/140c fan-assisted/320F/gas mark 2½. 
2) Beat together the sugar, oil and butter until light in colour, then add the eggs, beating one at a time until smooth. 
3) Pop in the orange extract and cream, beat well again, then add the flour and baking powder, and beat a further time until smooth. 
4)Fill each muffin case about two-thirds full with the mix and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are neatly domed and golden. Leave to cool.
5) For the custard cream, pop all the ingredients in a saucepan and beat together. Bring to a boil on a gentle heat, whisking often. Once bought to the boil remove from the heat and beat again until smooth. Cover and leave until cold.
6)Pipe the custard with a plain 8mm nozzle deep through the top crust and into the cupcake. Or, if you haven't piping bags scoop out a little of the cake with a small knife, spoon in a little custard and replace with the top you've scooped out.
7) Finally, beat the icing sugar, zest and enough juice (I used almost all the juice from the orange) to make a thick icing and drizzle over the top of the cupcakes, thereby covering your tracks. 
8) Decorate with suitable scary Halloween inspired decorations!

Baker's Notes...

  • These can be stored in an airtight container but are best eaten within 24 hours of baking
  • These have a great orangey tang- I've upped the orange extract volume from the original recipe
  • The 'Happy Halloween' is from Jane Asher's Sugarcraft Shop and the scary spider from a joke shop

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Finder's Keepers...Plum Celebration Cake

Does anyone remember the early 1990s Children's TV series 'Finder's Keepers'? 

Hidden in each room of a huge house* were objects that the two teams of children had to find. Each room was trashed in the excitement that followed, while a great big blue arrow on the screen showed viewers at home where the objects were actually hidden. I now shout at Strictly on the television ('Nooooo, she deserves way more than a four Craig, did you not see her heel turns?!'**), then I'd be shouting at Finders Keepers ('Looooook...its there, no there, there!, Noooo..'). 

My search for the ingredients for this recipe reminded me of this show, arguably the highlight of Neil Buchanan's illustrious Children's Television Presenting career.

I was sure I'd plenty of caster sugar. I definitely had more than one large egg left. And could I find the vanilla extract? Could I heck. It took the best part of the final Great British Bake Off Masterclass, involved emptying out all the cupboards and included the discovery of three half opened jars of mixed spice***.

If only I'd had a bit of encouragement from Neil and a great big blue arrow. 

Plum Celebration Cake
(adapted from Good Food magazine)


175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsps soured cream
5 plums, stoned and cut into small segments

For the cream cheese topping:

150g full fat cream cheese
75g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/160 C (fan)/ Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a loose bottomed 22cm round cake tin 
2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and baking powder  in a bowl and beat with an electircal whisk until combined
3. Beat in the soured cream and stir in the plum segments with a large spoon
4. Tip the mixture into the tin and spread it level. Bake for 50 minutes until risen and springs back when touched. Cool in the tin for ten minutes then remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Leave to finish cooling on the rack
5. The frosting is made by beating the soft cheese and icing sugar until smooth and creamy. Spread over the cooled cake and decorate

Baker's notes...
  • The cake can be frozen, uniced
  • Keep in the fridge until ready to eat but do remove one hour prior to serving

*Well, I was nine years old when I was watching it; I don't suppose I noticed that the 'huge house' was made from plywood, sticky back plastic and located in a cold draughty Scottish Television studio. 

** That is a tiny lie. Despite nine series, I still haven't a clue what a heel turn is.

*** Only two of the jars were out of date. Result.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Autumnal Baking Challenge and Giveaway: The Round-Up and Winner!


I was absolutely thrilled to see the entries for the Autumnal Baking Challenge pouring in. All absolutely delicious and all resulting in a very strong desire to be teleported to a comfy sofa, infront of a warming, roaring fire with a grand selection of each and every entry infront of me to sample

First off, here's a round-up. Taste buds at the ready...

Chele, from Chocolate Teapot, sent in this yummy Blackberry and Apple Bakewell Pudding. It was so good, everyone wanted seconds. I think I'd have been begging for thirds Chele!

Apple Brown Betty.jpg

Chocolate Brown Betty arrived courtesy of Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog. Spicy, chocolatey, crunchy and perfect for these chilly Autumnal evenings.

Combining two of my favourite things to eat, cake and crumble, Vicki, aka The Cake Fairy, sent in this glorious Apple Crumble Cake.


Suelle, from Mainly Baking, who shares a similar love of this time of the year (hurrah!), made this delicious Pear and Ginger Cake from pears from her Mother's tree and hazelnuts from her own tree.


Michealmas Dumplings, complete with a celebration of  traditional Autumnal festitvites came winging its way across the Channel from Karen from Lavender and Lovage Karen also very kindly sent two other entries, which can be seen here and here on her wonderful blog: Plum and Almond Traybake and Harvest Apple Cake.

At this stage, wishing I got to taste all the entries, Nelly from Life, Dreams and Cupcakes sent in Autumn in Muffin form, otherwise known as Toffee Apple Crumble Top Muffins. A treat for Bonfire Night methinnks...

To celebrate her birthday (happy birthday!) Shu Han from Mummy I Can Cook baked this lovely Five Spice Moist Apple Cake. It received a big thumbs up from her room mate and most certainly receives a big thumbs up from What Kate Baked...

The first savoury entry came from Dom from Belleau Kitchen, whose lovely (if slightly barmy- Dom's words not mine!!) neighbour June supplied the freshy dug veggie bounty that formed the basis of this comforting Leek, Fennal and Summer Squash Cheesy Bake, inspired by one of our favourite food writers, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

A second savoury recipe arrived hot on Dom's heels from Gary from Exploits of a Food Nut. I'm a firm believer Autumnal recipes should be of the nurturing, warming type, and this fits the bill perfectly: Creamy Chicken and Pumpkin.

Meanwhile Working London Mummy made these absolutely delightful Beetroot and Bitter Chocolate Cupcakes (just look at the spun sugar!)

pumpkin and gorgonzola lasagne collage

Hannah, from Home Baked, made this divine Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Lasange, from a book I've heard many a great thing abuout: Spooning with Rosie. Thank you for sharing this one Hannah!

The next to arrive was an inspired entry: Galina from Chez Maximka, making the most of her apple trees and sent in a recipe for a scrumptious Apple Jelly

I cannot wait to bake this entry, courtesy of Ren over at Fabulicious Food, who baked these gorgeously gooey Pear and Chocolate Brownies...

This next bake screams 'Eat Me!'- it is a delicious Apple and Blackberry Frangipane Tart from Hungry Hinny, who has also made up a brilliant new word to add the the dictionary: Autumnalness!


Baking Addict over at The More than Occasional Baker is also a huge, huge fan of the Autumn (there seem to be quite a few of us!)  and to celebrate baked this soft, crumbly and crunchy Plum and Almond Crumble Slice

At Corner Cottage Bakery, Hanna describes her apple and cinamon galette as 'humble', but I beg to differ, this bake would be a star of any Autumnal feast

I was really excited to see this next entry, from Kim at Cakes from Kim. It is the Spiced Toffee Apple Cake from the cover of this month's Good Food magazine, a recipe I've bookmarked. It was with real pleasure that I read Kim describing it as probably one of her favourite recipes. Guess what I'm baking this weekend?!

This stunning Pomegranate, Fig and Pistachio Tart (complete with chocolate stripes!!) is perfect for 'cardigan-weather' as Foodiva (aka 'the yummy fig tart lady') fondly remembers calling this time of year when she lived in Europe

C, from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking baked this delicious Ginger Pear Cake from the new Primrose Bakery cookbook. As I read C's description of the subtle pear flavour, sticky caramel and warm ginger, well, its fair to say I know exactly which recipe book I'll be asking for this Christmas!


Jean (Baking in Franglais) has captured the Autumn weather perfectly in her Pear and Walnut Chutney post, describing the lovely sunshine bolstering us against the chilly evenings. Roll on one month's time when the first tangy, sweet spoonful can be enjoyed...

The Sugar Apothecary made these oh-so-sweet and yummy Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Vegan Donuts and promises they will make you very happy!

These light, flavoursome blackberry muffins, a delicious twist on the traditional blueberry muffins, scream 'Autumn' to me...and to BrownievilleGirl. I think I'll be craving these for breakfast tomorrow...

My final entry comes from my good friend Abi, who baked these delicious Plum Cakes, which I've put in a request for next time we meet up for a natter over a coffee!

Thank you to everyone for the delicious, wonderful entries.

Each entry was written on a piece of paper, they were then popped in my favourite piece of kitchen equipment (no, not the dishwasher), my Magimix. With the aid of the dough hook, the entries were jumbled up and A, in his new role as Master of Ceremonies (arguably a demotion from Chief Taster) picked the winner at random.....

Many, many congratulations to...

Chocolate Teapot

...who will be receiving a book of her choice from Amazon.

And again, a huge, huge thank you to everyone who entered!

Coffee Matching and Chocolate Bark

Last week I attended a coffee-matching and tasting event, hosted by Cafédirect.

Think, but with coffee and desserts.

Now, its fair to say, I'm a bit rubbish at tastings. Don't get me wrong, I am very, very good at thoroughly tasting sweet things (otherwise known as why I need at least a second helping).

However, I am not one for producing elaborate and poetic tasting notes. The last time I went to a wine tasting for example, my insightful comments ranged from 'Ohh, I like this one, its a little like a boozy Ribena, right?' to, later on in the evening, woozily claiming 'Thhish one is verrrrry nicesh'.

Just as well Thierry Akroman, Cafédirect’s tasting expert was on hand. He provided a really informative coffee tasting and matching masterclass, during which I really, really didn't say I thought the coffee tasted 'burnt'. Honestly. Anyways, the key, it appears, is to make a really loud noise when slurping the coffee... Promise me you'll be doing that next time you visit your local Coffee Shop?

Since it was founded, Cafédirect has been sourcing coffee from the most stunning coffee-growing regions in the world – from the volcanic slopes of Kilimanjaro to the dizzying heights of Mayan Palenque. Along with a bunch of other food bloggers, we were also set the challenge to create a dessert to match each of Cafédirect’s single origin coffees. We took over the kitchens at L’atelier des Chefs: there are photos from the challenge right here

Myself and Sarah from Food for Think created Chocolate Bark, which Sarah had made to huge success last year at a Christmas Market. There were some brilliant, brilliant other recipes. But the winning recipe came from 21st Century Housewife and Rhubarb and Rose: delightful Spiced Vanilla and Honey Cakes.

This is roughly how we made our Chocolate Bark

200g Chocolate (we used Divine Dark Chocolate)
50g chopped dried apricots
50g hazelnuts, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped
25g raisins
25g sultanas

1. Prepare a baking sheet by greasing and lining the sheet with parchment paper
2. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl suspended over a gently simmering pan of water
3. Once melted, pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet
4. Lightly scatter the fruit and nuts over the chocolate
5. Place the chocolate in the fridge to set (this will take approximately 1-2 hours)

Baker's notes...

With many thanks to Cafédirect for a great evening. Photos courtesy of Cafédirect

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Final call for Autumnal Baking Challenge entries and Apple Cinnamon Crumble Cake

If this blog were an airport (bear with me), a crackling, nasally-toned announcement would come over the tannoy right about now:

'This is the final call for all entries to the Autumnal Baking Challenge. Could all entries please proceed to What Kate Baked, this challenge will be concluding in 48 hours'

Yep, only 48 hours to enter your comforting crumbles, seasonal bakes, fruity cakes, warming pies and flavoursome Autumnal feasts! The rules can be found right here.

Need a bit of inspiration? How about this, an apple cinnamon crumble cake? A delicious combination of Autumn's Favourite Pudding* with cake.

For the crumble:
50g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
50g light brown sugar

For the apple layer:
1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small segments
1 tbsp cinnamon

For the cake:
150g self raising flour
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
a little dash of milk, if needed

1. Firstly, prepare the apple: place the apple segments in a small bowl and liberally sprinkle over the cinnamon. Set aside. Grease and line a 8 inch round tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C /160C fan/350F

2. Secondly, prepare the crumble: place the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers rub the butter and flour together until the mixture forms bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside

3. Thirdly, for the cake: cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs. Fold in the flour. Add a dash of milk if required to achieve a thick consistency. 
4. Dollop the cake mixture into the prepared tin, smooth over the top and gently place the apple segments all over the top. Sprinkle with the crumble and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The crumble should be golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean
5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before placing on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving

Baker's notes...

  • Eat as pudding, warm from the oven, drowning in custard. Or serve a slice or two as part of afternoon tea
  • Variations could include adding a handful of blackberries or raisins to the apple segments. Pears, cherries and plums could also be drafted in as replacements for the apples 
  • I've entered this into The Pink Whisk's October Baking Challenge: Apples

* by 'Autumn's Favourite Pudding' what I really mean is 'My Favourite Pudding'

Sunday, 16 October 2011

National Chocolate Week: The Great Chocolate Cake Off

It is National Chocolate Week.

It is basically a watertight excuse to eat chocolate. Celebrations have included the World's Largest Chocolate Bar. It weighs almost six tonnes, but all I want to know is... who got to eat it?!

And the grand finale was this weekend: Chocolate Unwrapped, an extravaganza of all thing chocolate. And venue for the Great Chocolate Cake Off.

I haven't entered a cooking competition since...well, ever. I don't think entering the 'Vegetable Animal' class at Capel Banger Village Show circa 1989 counts.

If I were writing an Official Inquiry into my entry, it would go a little like this:

Poor. Made partly during the Wales v France Semi-Final of the Rugby World Cup. Nerves on a knife-edge, emotions gone hay-wire. Concentration on cake = 35%.

Poor. Cake transported from North West to South East London on the tube in state of High Anxiety, not least when large group of French schoolchildren jumped on at Baker Street in Jostling, Excitable State. Stared daggers at them in manner of deranged woman carrying large cake on tube, not to be messed with. 

Poor. Outright panic at sight of other entries. Impending sense of doom when clapped eyes on spun sugar creations. Cold fear at fellow contestant's chocolate tampering and acetate decorations.

Judging took place behind closed doors. Did not win. On plus side entry to the Festival involved considerable sampling of chocolate. Therefore, definitely a winner.

A Celebration of Chocolate (Cake)

This cake would like to meet a serious chocolate lover, with a good sense of taste and greed (one slice will never, ever be enough.)


For the cake:

225g plain flour
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
90g Valrhona Cocoa Powder (available from Paul A Young stores)
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 tbsps buttermilk
110ml oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Union coffee granules

For the ganache:

200g Lindt Excellence 70% dark chocolate, chopped
250ml double cream
2 tbsps light muscovado sugar

For the decoration:

40g Thorntons White Chocolate Buttons
50g Hotel Du Chocolat White Chocolate batons
50g Divine Milk Chocolate


1) Preheat the oven to 170C
2) Grease and line 2 x 8 inch/20 cm round tins, also greasing the inside of the pan
3) Sift the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, bicarbonate, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine
4) In a second bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until throughly combined
5) Mix the coffee granules into a cup of hot water and with the electric mixer on 'low' slowly mix to combine with the dry ingredeints. Add the buttermilk mixture to this and mix again on a low speed until all the ingredients are combined
6) Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean
7) To make the ganache: Pop the chopped chocolate into a bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan, add the sugar and heat, stirring gently until just about to boil
8) Take off the heat, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the chocolate. Mix well until glossy and smooth and set aside for an hour or two to thicken
9) Sandwich the two layers together with the ganache
10) For decoration: To make the 'star' chocolates, melt 75g of the white chocolate batons in a small pyrex bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water on a gentle heat. Pour into star chocolate moulds and leave to chill in the fridge until set
11) Meanwhile, using a microplane, firstly grate the milk chocolate over the cake and, secondly, using a star stencil, grate the white chocolate to form the central star
12) Finally, use the stars to decorate around the cake

Baker's notes...

  • The cake is based on a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa
  • A chocolate chef (my favourite kind) at Chocolate Unwrapped recommended using honey rather than sugar in the ganache, as the granules of sugar can be a little gritty. He also suggested using a handheld blender once you've mixed in the cream and chocolate to ensure an extra smooth ganache.
  • This was the brilliant winner and here is a sneaky picture of the other entries

Commiseration World Cup(cakes)

So you may have heard there was this rugby match on yesterday.

Wales, thought widely to the team of the tournament, were playing France in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

After an extremely controversial refereeing decision in the seventeenth minute of the game, when captain Sam Warburton was sent off, leaving just fourteen Welshmen on the pitch, those left played with more heart than any Welsh fan could ask of them.

We lost by a point.

Very saddened but so very proud of the team for an astonishing and heroic World Cup campaign.

This cupcake recipe is the best I've come across. The best recipe for the best team.

I haven't changed the recipe in the slightest. It comes from BBC Good Food Magazine, June 2007 and can be found right here.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

We Should Cocoa: Chilli Chocolate Cupcake Bites

With all this baking (that should really read: 'eating of baked goods') I sometimes wonder that my diet should be based less on cakes and more on erm, vegetables for example.

When I have these moments I panic. And as a result I have a graveyard of half-used vitamin bottles and a dusty archive of magazine recipe clippings with titles such as 'low-fat, low-calorie, low-sugar, low-fun* weekday meals'.

I have half opened packs of all manner of seeds, pulses, lentils and dried beans, with use by dates from the last century.

I have a panic-bought ginormous jar of Omega 3 supplements, hurriedly bought one afternoon in Holland and Barrett when I realized I couldn't remember the name of Postman Pat's cat any longer. 

Then I had a brain-wave (Ha! Those Omega 3 must have worked!).

I could incorporate healthy stuff into my baking! See for example this post on healthy chocolate pots a few weeks back. Brilliant. 

And this week's healthy-ingredient-in-a-bake happens to be chilli, which also happens to be this month's We Should Cocoa ingredient, chosen by Chocolette from Chocolate Log Blog. And the health benefits? Apparently, the capsaicin (which gives the chilli the kick) has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. Phew!

Chilli Chocolate Cupcake Bites

(for twelve mini-cupcakes)

50g good quality dark chocolate
55g unsalted butter at room temperature
50g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
1 egg
70g plain flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half a tsp pure vanilla extract
50ml buttermilk

For the chilli chocolate icing

50g dark chilli chocolate (for example, Lindt)

50g unsalted butter at room temperature
75g icing sugar, sifted

For the chilli pepper decoration:
Red regal icing (ready made)
Green regal icing (ready made)
Red giltter (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole mini muffin tin with paper cases
2. Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a small pan of boiling water, then set aside
3. Cream the sugars and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
4. Fold in the melted chocolate
5. Sift the flour and bicarb and gently fold into the creamed butter mix until well combined
6. Add the vanilla and buttermilk until just well combined
7. Fill the cases three quarters full and bake for 10-15 minutes or until they spring back to touch. Cool on a wired rack
8. To make the icing: melt the chocolate in a pyrex glass bowl over a small pan of boiling water and allow to cool
9. Cream the softened butter with the icing sugar until soft and creamy. Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat for the further minute or so until combined
11. Spoon, spread or pipe the icing on top of the cakes. Decorate with the chilli pepper decorations

Baker's notes...

  • Another recipe for a similar style chilli cupcake can be found in 'Cox, Cookies and Cake' (Mexican Chocolate Cookies)
  • * I may have made up the 'low-fun' bit...
  • PS: Is it just me or do my chillis look a little like red carrots?? Be honest, I won't be offended.