Winter Walnut Sandies

I love cookies. And one of my favourites are pecan sandies. I have an old recipe from this blog which I’ve amended slightly to make them a bit festive and turn them into Winter Walnut Cookies. These are probably the most loved cookies that I have ever made. People eat them and make lots of ‘ooh ahh’ noises, and then they are snaffled up in minutes.

Winter Walnut Cookies

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Jack Skellington Cupcakes

Jack Skellington Cupcakes

My six-year old daughter, Moozles, is beyond excited at the prospect of Halloween. So this weekend we put up some decorations and did some baking. I have recently renewed my relationship with Pinterest. And after a browse, Moozles decided that these Jack Skellington cupcakes were what she wanted. There is obviously not much instruction there, so I thought I would share what we did.

Whenever I ask what kind of cake we should make, everyone asks for chocolate. So, I make my Husband’s favourite chocolate cake recipe (if I make chocolate cake for kids, I use a more kid-friendly recipe). Since my family members are chocoholics, they can handle this fudgey cake. This cake is easy to make, and easier to decorate – perfect for baking with kids.

Chocolatey Fudge Cake
175g self-raising flour
280g caster sugar
100g butter (room temperature)
3 large free-range eggs
50ml whole milk (I use Lactofree)
40g cocoa powder
6 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven 160C (fan-assisted)/190C. 
Mix all the ingredients, apart from 
the last three. In a separate bowl, 
blend the cocoa powder and the boiling 
water, then add to the rest of the mixture. 
Add the baking powder and mix.

This can be baked as 12-15 cupcakes or in two 8-inch cake pans. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan before icing.


Buttercream Icing
180 icing sugar
90g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix half the icing sugar with the rest of the ingredients. 
Once that is blended, add the rest of the icing sugar. 
I use a hand blender for icing. 
I use a tea towel to cover the bowl so that my kitchen 
isn't covered in icing sugar. Spread  the icing onto the cupcakes.


To decorate the cupcakes:
You could use black gel food colouring to make the eyes, nose and mouth.
I happened to have leftover Renshaw   ready to roll icing, from Lakeland. 
I cut it up into bits and let Moozles add them to her cupcakes. 
The beauty of these cupcakes is that  they do not need to look perfect.

Jack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesIMG_7653Jack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington Cupcakes

 

 

 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake is Husband’s third favourite kind of cake. So a couple of weeks ago, when I wanted to butter him up for something, I baked a loaf. The recipe is based on Mary Berry’s recipe, but with some tweaks. My son is barely two years old, so he was not much help. He did enjoy sucking some lemons while I did all of the work. And when Husband arrived home that evening, he was putty in my hands. Cue evil laughter.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
175g margarine/soft butter
250g caster sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
250g self-raising flour (sifted)
3 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp whole milk (I use Lactofree milk because my son and I have lactose sensitivities)
1 level tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted). Grease and line 2 x 1lb loaf tins. Cream butter and sugar and mix in all ingredients. Divide between the two tins and bake for about 35 mins – test that it is ready by seeing if a toothpick comes out clean.
Let loaves cool for 10 minutes, then prick all over with a toothpick.
Mix 70g granulated sugar with the juice of one lemon. When you squeeze the lemon, it should be room-temperature. If it’s cold, cut it in half, pop into the microwave for 5-10 seconds, then you can squeeze the lemon much more easily. Spoon lemon and sugar mixture over the 2 cakes. Leave to cool in the tin.
* I take the remaining lemon and cut it into wedges, then freeze it. Perfect for adding to gin/vodka tonic, Pimms or even to some hot water.

IMG_1214 IMG_1220 IMG_1225 IMG_1240Lemon Drizzle CakeLemon Drizzle Cake

 

Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes

The only thing my daughter loves more than baking cupcakes, is eating cupcakes. So when the people over at Flora asked me to bake with their new Flora Great for Baking Block and to blog about it, how could I refuse?! I was able to get the Flora baking block with my Tesco grocery delivery at the weekend. I was pleased with the price, £1.00 for a 250g block. For baking, I normally buy the Waitrose Essential block of salted butter, which costs £1.32 for a 250g block. 

Though price matters, ultimately taste is what we care about in our cake-crazed household. So my six-year old daughter, Moozles, and I put on our matching aprons and began baking. I let Moozles pick what kind of cupcake and icing we made. I had her look through a couple of recipes books, but she said she wanted to make a Mary Berry recipe because Mary Berry has the best cakes. Yes, I am teaching my daughter well. Moozles chose vanilla cupcakes and chocolate buttercream icing (we are die-hard buttercream fans). The chocolate icing is a recipe I have used for years, but adapted, from the BBC cooking website. It is my favourite icing recipe.

So, how did it turn out? Both the cupcakes and icing turned out quite well. Moozles had loads of fun decorating the cupcakes. I think she did a fab job! I would like to say that my two-year old, Dubz, was helpful too. But he basically just spooned icing onto his face and tried to climb over the table to grab more. Husband, who is a proficient bowl-licker, told me that it was the best icing I had ever made. Hand on heart, he asked if I had used a new recipe or whether it was the Flora. He wasn’t kidding, he scoffed three cupcakes in about five minutes. Moozles said it was ‘delicious’ (she only had two). Who can argue with those reviews?!
Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes
100g Flora Baking Block (or butter)
150g Caster Sugar
150g Self-Raising Flour
3 tbsp Whole Milk
2 large Eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
 
Preheat oven to 160C for fan-assisted (or 180C). Cream sugar and Flora (or butter) then add the rest of the ingredients. Moozles and I mixed everything with a spoon. Spoon into cupcake or muffin tin, bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.
 
This recipe makes 12 small fairy cakes or 8 proper cupcakes (American-size). We made nine this time, and there just wasn’t enough batter.
 
 
Chocolate Buttercream Icing
110g Flora Baking Block (or butter)
180g Icing Sugar
40g Cocoa Powder (sifted, but not a big deal if it isn’t)
2 tbsp Whole milk
I actually halved this recipe to accommodate the small amount of cupcakes being made above
 
Use a hand mixer to mix it all up. It should only take 30 seconds. My top tip for mixing icing–place a big tea towel over the bowl before you start mixing so that icing sugar does not fly everywhere. 

 

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Do You Wanna Build a Birthday Cake?

 
My daughter really loves this Disney movie called Frozen. Not sure if you have heard of it. So of course Moozles wanted a Frozen-themed birthday cake. Being a novice baker, not to mention a novice mother, I was a bit worried. I am trying to make the birthday cakes for as long as possible (before the kids realise that cool cakes aren’t my forte). I still have the scars of a mother who never baked me a birthday cake, therefore I try to force myself out of my comfort zone.
 
I debated whether to get edible or non-edible Elsa and Anna figurines for the cake but decided to try an edible picture topper. I found a nice one on ebay that was personalised with my daughter’s name (which was been erased for the blog) that was already cut in the shape I wanted. I also ordered edible snowflakes. I am quite happy with how the cake turned out. It’s not the most spectacular, but when Moozles’ friends saw the cake they all oohed. And Moozles herself said it was the coolest cake. She’s barely six, so it’s not like she’s an expert on cake making. But her appreciation made me feel pleased.
 
I made a 10-inch chocolate cake for the first tier of the cake and a 6-inch vanilla sponge for the second tier (I thought two tiers would make the cake look more impressive). When you cut into the cake, you get both chocolate and vanilla sponge which looks very enticing. 
 
Moozles was desperate to help, so I let her crack the eggs and mix the batter. Her favourite part was licking the spoon. Husband normally has the honour of licking the bowl, but as the ever-dutiful dad he shared the batter with the kids. Mary Berry forgive me, but I used Betty Crocker vanilla icing as a cheat. 
 
Chocolate Cake (originally Mary Berry’s Iced Chocolate Traybake)
275g self-raising flour
225g golden caster sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
4 large eggs
4 tbsp whole milk
225g salted butter
4 tbsp hot water
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 160C fan-assisted (180C). Mix ingredients, adding baking powder last. This is not essential as I started to bake the cake and realised that I had forgotten the cocoa powder. Whoops. I emptied the batter and mixed in the butter and started again. It was fine. I baked it for 40 minutes in a 10-inch cake pan. 
 
 
Sponge Cake (Basic All-in-one Sponge Traybake)
225g caster sugar
225g salted butter
275g self-raising flour
4 large eggs
4 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 160C fan-assisted (180C). I baked it for 35 minutes in a 6-inch cake pan.
 
 
After both cakes were completely cooled, I iced them, put the smaller one on the bigger one and put them in the fridge to set for an hour. I then iced the cakes further and decorated them. Easy peasy Frozeneezy.
        

 

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Blow-your-mind Brownies

 
Now these brownies are seriously good. I have previously noted my adoration of Mary Berry. And this recipe is a prime example why. It is easy (that’s right, another one spoon/no electric whisk recipe). And it will impress any guest. Husband loves it, so I make it whenever I want to keep him sweet. 😉 Anyway, the recipe hasn’t been modified much. I’ve used golden caster sugar instead of normal caster sugar. Some cooking goddess on the telly (can’t remember which one) extolled the virtues of golden caster. I like it. It has a richer taste. I wouldn’t use it for all my baking, but for most. You could also add walnuts (I am such a walnut fiend but I often go without to please the rest of my damn family).   
 
As for the actual baking, I don’t know why people always bake brownies in a rectangular pan. I used a heart pan cause I thought it would be cute. It was. I made half the recipe, as I have previously noted my inability to stop eating baked goods. But reducing the recipe by half can be quite helpful when you’re making a new recipe as it can lead to less waste if there’s a mishap. Here’s the full recipe:
 
Chocolate Brownies
275g softened butter or margarine (I prefer using salted butter)
375g caster sugar (golden or the regular kind)
4 large eggs
75g cocoa powder
100g self-raising flour
80g dark chocolate chunks (or chips, but chunks make the brownie gooier)
20g milk chocolate chunks/chips
Optional – add 30g of chopped walnuts for yummy walnut brownies
 
Preheat oven to 180C/Fan 160C. Grease the baking tin. Cream butter and sugar. Add and mix the rest of the ingredients, with the chocolate chunks/chips going in last. Spoon the mixture into the tin, ensuring that the surface is as flat as possible.
 

Bake for 40-45 minutes. The top of the brownie should look a bit crusty. Stick a skewer in the middle and if it comes out clean then the brownie is ready. Once cooled, you can store them in an airtight container for about five days. If you are having a piece later, pop it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds for more gooey loveliness.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips

 

I used to make Banana cake quite often when it was just the three of us. But my son, who is now 21-months old, loves bananas so we rarely have over-ripe bananas languishing in the fruit bowl. I haven’t baked banana bread in ages and I had a bit of a craving yesterday so I decided to use some just-ripe bananas.
 
A few months ago I found a recipe on the Guardian website for ‘How to Cook Perfect Banana Bread‘. I love The Guardian’s ‘How to cook the perfect…’ series (I can also vouch for their ‘perfect’ chocolate chip cookies). I have adapted the recipe a smidge as I used all my walnuts making Walnut Sandies two weeks ago. I substituted the walnuts for pieces of cooking chocolate. I also halved the recipe to make a one-pound loaf rather than the normal two. If I make the full amount, everyone gets a serving but I eat five servings on my own tonight. A one-pound loaf means the kids have pudding tonight plus I get a serving tonight and one for tomorrow. Husband doesn’t like banana bread (weirdo) so he won’t have any.


Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
175g ripe bananas
90g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
80g soft, light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp melted butter
45g of plain or dark chocolate (chips or pieces)

Preheat oven to 155C Fan-assisted or 170C Electric. Mash the bananas. Mix all the ingredients together, adding the salt and baking powder almost-to-last. I just use a spoon to mix it all up. I add the chocolate at the very end (if it’s mixed in too much it will sink to the bottom of the cake). I popped the mixture into a loaf tin, with a liner (so I don’t have to worry about greasing the tin). Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Then banana cake yumminess.
 

 

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Coconut Loaf and Muffins

I came down with a cold on Wednesday night and by Thursday morning I was feeling pretty rough. I knew I would need to take a break from my healthy living as I needed a sweet pick-me-up. I have some desiccated coconut in my cupboard as I am planning to make a coconut cake soon, so I thought I’d use some of that to make a loaf cake/bread. I adapted a couple of recipes to get something not too coconutty nor too sweet. This takes 10 minutes to prepare. The loaf takes 45 minutes to bake and the muffins take 35 minutes.


Coconut Cake/Bread
120g butter
200g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh or not, doesn’t make a huge difference)
2 eggs
200g self-raising flour
pinch salt
5 tbsp dessicated coconut
12ml whole milk (but can use semi-skimmed) *I use lactofree milk as both my son and I are lactose-intolerantPreheat oven to 160C (fan-assisted) or 180C. I always use a tin liner so that I don’t have to worry about greasing the loaf tin. Plus, it makes it easier if you’re taking the loaf to a friend’s. I made a 1-lb loaf so that I would have extra batter to make cupcakes. Once I’ve baked the muffins, I can put them in the freezer and then defrost for last-minute visitors or treats for the kids.

1. Cream sugar and butter.
2. Add lemon juice and eggs.
3. In a separate bowl, add flour and salt.
4. Add to creamed mixture. Add milk. Add coconut.
5. Pour mixtures into one-pound loaf tin and into cupcake tin. 
6. Bake loaf for 40-50 minutes. Don’t let the loaf get too dark/well done. Remove from the oven and cool.
7. Bake muffins for about 35 minutes.

Variations: 
1. Substitute milk for coconut milk, for more of a coconut flavour.
2. Once baked, add raspberry jam on top of the loaf then sprinkle with dessicated coconut.
3. Halfway through baking the loaf, add desiccated coconut then bake for the rest of the time.
4. Once the loaf has been baked and cooled, mix 50g sugar and the juice of one lemon (2-3 tbsp lemon juice) and drizzle over loaf.

Ready for the oven…

Looking good…

 
Cup of tea and a slice of coconut loaf. Just what the doctor ordered.
 

Moves Like Mary (Berry)

As a Stay-At-Home-Mum, I feel like I should be a able to bake lovely cakes and biscuits. My five year old, Moozles, loves baking. I say baking, but really she likes cracking eggs and mixing everything up. For years I have tried baking, and always fallen short. Earlier this year, a mummy friend gave me her recipe for a lemon drizzle cake. It came out perfectly the first time I made it. This was my first introduction to a Mary Berry recipe. I had watched Mary Berry on The Great British Bake-Off but never knew why she was such a legend. After making the lemon drizzle cake, I bought one of her baking cookbooks. I have made several of the recipes and am almost-always pleased by the results.

 

Being American, I had never eaten a Victoria Sponge cake until I moved to the UK. I’ve always been more of a chocolate cake type of gal. At the weekend I attempted my first Victoria Sponge. It was okay, but not as light and fluffy as I would like. I tried again today. Even though the recipe was in my cookbook, I used this recipe as it gave me the measurements for my six-inch cake pans (btw, success in looks and taste!): 
I am feeling quite proud of myself. So I thought I would share some of my tips for a better bake:
1. Use room temperature butter or margarine.
2. First put in all the dry ingredients, then add wet ingredient last before mixing.
3. Mixing by hand take a bit more time and effort but means you can avoid over-mixing (which leads to a denser cake).
4. Grease cake pans first so that once you’ve mixed the ingredients you can start baking right away.
5. Get used to your oven as your timing might differ from the recipe. I find that I normally have to add an extra five minutes to my bakes.
6. Never open the oven before the very end. Opening the oven cools the temperature which affects how much time the cake requires to be cooked.
 
Happy baking!