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Mulled Wine Cupcakes with Brandy Butter Italian Meringue Buttercream

Friday December 13 2013

I’ve promised this recipe to a few peeps now, but as per usual, my “problem” is that I tend to just throw stuff in a bowl & hope for the best.  I’m mostly kidding, but it is partially true. I have memorized some tried & tested recipes & kinda just add ingredients in quantities that I believe will work.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now & did actually jot down notes can you believe!

Here’s what you’ll need – & this will make about 16-18 jumbo cupcakes, or 2 dozen smaller/fairycakes.


Preheat oven to 350F / 180 C & line with cupcake cases.

As with most cake batters, mix up the butter and sugar until light & fluffy. The dark brown will literally turn to pale brown in a few minutes.  Add your eggs, then alternate your mulled wine with the addition of the dry ingredients.  Mix until everything’s incorporated.  I add in the orange zest and spices at the end.  Spoon or scoop your batter into your cupcake cases & bake for about 2o minutes.

* Note – I have tried this with both “homemade” mulled wine & the bottled mulled wine. Really by the time you buy the ingredients to make your own, it costs about double of what the pre-made stuff costs.


As per usual, I use Mr Brown’s IMBC recipe, which has not failed me yet.  So follow the recipe:

up until you get to the adding in the butter part…

I added in a lil over a cup of unsalted butter (a 250g thing of Lurpak), then used 2 x 150g tubs of ready-made brandy butter. Both Tesco’s finest & Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference worked equally well. **

** Note – again, I made the brandy butter from scratch for one of the batches, which, again, came in at more than the price of the pre-made brandy butters. Doh!

Add in another splash or two of brandy or cognac if you wish.  I wonder if my husband has noticed the diminishing supply of Hine Rare Fine Champagne VSOP Cognac – whoopsie!

Then pipe onto your cupcakes & decorate as you wish.  & ENJOY!!

A fun version :-)

& on display :-)

#Amazing #Cupcakes! (Chocolate & Salted Caramel) a la Jen’s Just Desserts

Tuesday October 8 2013

Dark chocolate / Mocha cupcake, dipped in a salted caramel & chocolate ganache, topped with a salted burnt caramel Italian meringue buttercream…

Yup, people have said these are LIFE-CHANGING CUPCAKES, even THE BEST THEY’VE EVER TASTED. There’s no real secret to this – just a decent recipe producing a light, moist, fluffy cake, that’s not overly sweet. In fact, the cake borders on savoury… with a bit of sweetness coming from the salted caramel ganache, & then complimented with a silky smooth & airy Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC)  flavoured with a little salted burnt caramel. It’s a good balance of flavours & textures <IMHO> & once you get the hang of these recipes, the possibilities will be endless!

So here we go… a few special things you’ll need: CUPS, measuring spoons, a candy thermometer, & your favourite ‘fleur de sel’ or other sea salts… The rest of the ingredients are listed in the order you’ll need them, with the recipes they relate to. It might sound complicated, but I managed these two dozen cupcakes in about 1.5 hours, whilst doing other stuff in between…

I would start with the salted burnt (or burnt salted – ) caramel first:


- dissolve over high heat, make sure sugar is completely melted; use a wire whisk
- once sugar is completely dissolved & golden brown (i wait until it goes a bit darker, to about 360-370 degrees    farenheit on a candy thermometer ’cause i like the ‘burnt’edness)…
- add about 1/2 cup unsalted butter (in chunks) & whisk some more until butter’s all incorporated
- take off the heat
- then whisk in about 1/2 cup double cream & mix till all smooth & lovely
- add your favourite sea salt (s)
- pour into a jam jar & ENJOY!
- you will need to let this cool down enough to use in the IMBC


For the cake, you will need:

quality ingredients do matter…

be sure you brew some good, strong espresso

Now here’s the easy part:

Then I filled the cupcake cases about 3/4 full…  & then bake for 18-20 minutes on the lower shelf.

fresh outta the oven & then let them cool completely

The next part is the salted caramel ganache. Now this bit is totally extra, but I love it & it’s fairly easy, so why not:

Once the ganache is at room temp, you can simply dip your cupcake tops into the mix; it will only take a few minutes for the ganache to set before you can frost it with the IMBC.

So then onto the IMBC: I use “Mr Brown’s” which has not let me down yet. Just follow the instructions, but subtract about 2 tbsp of the butter:

Once your IMBC is “done” – add about 1/2 cup of your salted burnt caramel mix, and whip up until it’s all yumm-azing!

Use the nozzle of your choice (I used a 1D here),  & pipe your IMBC over your ganache-covered cupcake.

Dark chocolate / Mocha cupcake, dipped in a salted caramel & chocolate ganache, topped with a salted burnt caramel Italian meringue buttercream…

Then, decorate as you wish. I’ve used a floral fleur de sel as the ‘sprinkles.’  All that’s left to do is to eat & enjoy, right!?

I’m hoping this picture does justice to how light, airy, fluffy, & yet moist this creation is, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I have over the years…

bitten… yum!

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup + Choc-Chip Cookie + Brownie Amazingness!

Monday May 27 2013

The amazingness that is…. a Reese’s peanut butter cup sandwiched between a chocolate chip cookie & a brownie. *SIGH!*

OK, so the first time my friend Nathalie told me about these awesome treats, I made everything from scratch. Seriously. But that’s so not necessary.  If you buy the ‘box mixes’ you can seriously make a dozen of these in less than 30 minutes, and for less than 5 GBP.


Pre-heat oven to 185 degrees Celsius.

Start with a chocolate chip cookie dough with nice big chunks of dark & white chips. I used Waitrose’s brand.

Mix up a batch of fudge-y brownies & add a few more chunks of chocolate: dark & white or semi-sweet if you prefer.

Press the chocolate chip mixture into the bottom of the cupcake case, about 1 tablespoon full. Then place the Reese’s PB cup on top.

…then add about 1 tablespoon of brownie mix on top of the Reese’s PB cup.

Bake on a lower oven shelf for about 20-25 minutes until the brownie mix rises & cooks through (though I do prefer it a little under-baked).

Allow to cool for a few minutes…

…and then ENJOY! the crunch of the cookie, the smoothness of the Reese’s PB cup, & the chewiness of the deep, rich brownie. YUMM-AZEBALLS!!

Watermelon Cake à la Jen’s Just Desserts (a lil’ Healthy/Paleo option)

Monday May 6 2013

A watermelon “cake”

I’m neither a “Paleo/caveman diet” follower, nor a health fanatic, but this was too good NOT to try :-)

I wish I could take credit for this awesome idea, but it came from PALEO CUPBOARDyou can read their full recipe version on their site, via my Paleo-lovin’ baby sis, Jax.  I hope to be able to give you a few more details on how I did this & some hopefully helpful images.


- 1 large seedless watermelon
- 3 cans full fat coconut milk (left in fridge for 6 hours or more)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup sliced almonds (toasted/browned in a skillet)
- Fresh fruits of your choice

The only things you really need to prepare ahead of time are the watermelon (so it can dry out a bit,) and the coconut cream.  Paleo Cupboard‘s instructions are as follows/below, but please note that I used 3 cans of coconut milk, which produced enough of the cream to make the ‘whipped coconut cream.’  I also used vanilla bean seeds instead of extract.

1. Make sure to place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (or overnight). This will cause the cream to separate from the milk. The cream will be at the top of the can.
2. Open the can of coconut milk and scrape out the cream into a medium sized bowl. Hint: I always open the can from the bottom and pour the milk out into a separate container before scraping out the cream. You can use the saved milk for smoothies and other recipes.
3. Add the vanilla and raw honey to the mixture. Whip the cream with a hand mixer on medium speed and work your way up to high speed until the cream is fluffy. Place the bowl of whipped cream in the fridge until ready to use.

Start with a large-ish watermelon, preferably seedless. My friend, Laura of Enchanted Cupcakes, brought this one over for me (all the way from West Sussex!)

Cut off the sides of the watermelon, so you have the middle section as the biggest piece.

Cut off the rind, keeping a circular shape – like a cake.

I also cut out one of the ‘cake layers’ from one of the smaller ‘end pieces.’ I put both layers onto a cooling rack to dry out a bit.


I ended up using 3 cans of coconut milk, refrigerated for 2 days, to separate the cream from the milk.

I added honey & vanilla once the coconut cream whipped up nice & light.

I then used a rubber spatula to ‘frost’ the layers of watermelon, then refrigerated for about an hour to let it set. (just the smaller watermelon ‘cake’ on top of the other, doweled just down the middle)

& then decorate as you wish, with toasted almonds, your fruits of choice, etc. & then, just enjoy!

Cup-side-down-Cakes a la Jen’s Just Desserts

Saturday March 23 2013

YAY!  My experimental CUP-SIDE-DOWN-CAKES came out really scrummy, moist & delicious & with a ‘top’ or ‘bottom,’ whichever way you serve them… layer of really awesome caramel sauce! This was an experiment resulting from (a) my need to clear out some of the tinned fruit my my pantry, & (b) my excitement to try some of my new Tate+Lyle sugars.  Here goes…

This will make about 6-9 CUP-SIDE-DOWN-CAKES & you can easily double the recipe to make more. You will need:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Farenheit

You can use cupcake liners, or spray your cupcake pan with cake release spray. I tried both methods.

Start by putting about a teaspoon or more of muscovado sugar + a ‘sliver/slice’ of butter (I guess about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) at the bottom of the cupcake liner or cupcake hole bottom.  Then layer your fruit on top of this sugar & butter combo.

Next, mix your batter and then spoon it on top of your fruit & sugar/butter base til about 1/2 to 2/3 full, depending on how much cake/sponge you prefer.  (I filled the cases about halfway full;  the mix directly in the pan about 2/3 full).

TIP: for the mix that you pout directly into the pan, I would use a baking parchment round to prevent the fruit & caramel from sticking to the pan.

Place pan into the oven – lower oven rack -  for 18-20 minutes.  You will see the batter in the cupcake cases rise into a dome; whilst the batter in the pan will raise with a flat top.

As the cakes cook, you will see the caramel oozing over the sides or even through the middle.

Once cooked, allow to cool on a wire rack, and mix the buttercream/frosting/icing of your choice. I used a cream cheese buttercream, made of:

About 3 tablespoons butter + 2-3 tablespoons of full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese + about a cup of icing/confectioners sugar. Mix together until light and fluffy.

You then invert the cakes from the pan; they should pop out easily.

Then, you can frost the ones in the cupcake cases…

…before you flip them upside down to reveal the fruit & caramel layer… hence the “CUP-SIDE-DOWN-CAKES.”


PS – I did not frost the ones that popped out directly from the pan, as they were lovely just as they were…

Salted Pecan & Caramel & Brown Sugar Bites (Tray Bake)

Sunday March 17 2013

OK, so I don’t love shortbread-based tray bakes. I guess I actually don’t really love shortbread. I’ve just been pretending because there are so many shortbread-based sweets here in the UK.  But man!  Do I love those little “Salted Caramel Pecan Bar Petites” at Starbucks (except the you-guessed-it: shortbread base), so I’ve been on a little quest to find a ‘better’ version that I could make at home, with a variation of the normal base. So here goes…

You should have most of these ingredients/supplies at home & these quantities will make 20-24 squares/bites:

Mix the butter & brown sugar until well-combined, then add in the flour. Mix the flour into the softened butter & sugar combo until  a crumbly batter results. You may also want to use your fingers to crumble out any big lumps.

Use your fingers to spread the mix into the pan, and press it in well…

I also used a small rolling pin to flatten out/smooth the batter into the pan.

Bake the base for about 15-20 minutes, or until the top looks like a cooked cookie.  In the meantime, while the base is baking, prepare the topping:

Mix all of these together in a bowl, adding pecans last…

Then pour the mix over the baked base, and cook in the oven for a further 20 minutes.

You’ll know it’s done when the top looks firm/set/crunchy.  Add your sea salt or fleur de sel to taste (just enough so each bite has some salt).

I would eat them ooey-gooey from the oven, but the caramel will be runny. You should leave them to set for a few hours at least, and I promise they’ll be worth the wait… What you’ll end up with is a sweet & chewy brown-sugar biscuit base, with a yummy & salty caramel/pecan topping. I was going to drizzle some dark chocolate on these, but they actually were perfect without…

Valentines Day Sweets 2013… à la Jen’s Just Desserts

Thursday January 24 2013

An alternative to Valentine’s Day chocolates :-)

As I write this, ‘Snowmageddon – the January 2013 UK remix’ has mostly melted away, & up until this morning, I had literally been stuck indoors for a week, unable to get my car out of the garage/driveway/cul-de-sac because of snow and ice. Talk about cabin fever!  I’d agreed to provide a few online publications with photos /ideas /recipes by today’s due date (eek! – talk about procrastination!), but as of yesterday, I literally only had like 7 eggs & two & a half thingies of butter.

Then I remembered I had egg whites left over from my custard-ing & curd-ing, so macarons were definitely an option. So, for the MACARONS, my original recipe & technique can be found here, & information on how to colour & shape them, here. So as not to overcomplicate things, these are basic macs, flavoured with just a dash of vanilla, & coloured with a bit of Sugarflair Ruby & Wilton Neon Magenta gel pastes until my fave shade of hot pink was achieved.

You can see the colour & consistency of the macaron batter here.

& I think most of you know that I normally just freehand pipe, so this is what the hearts looked like piped onto the baking parchment. Just using a 1 cm round piping tip/nozzle (or actually just snip the tip off a disposable piping bag): start at the bottom point, pipe to the left; then from the top right, pipe downwards back to the bottom point. The shape when you pipe it should be quite exaggerated, as it will spread a bit.

They will all match up eventually, she says :-)

Then, pop them into the oven & watch FEET magically develop!


Once the macs are baked & cooled, then you can pipe your messages on them using royal icing, or even store-bought icing gel thingies (but careful because the icing gels don’t dry in the way royal icing does). The royal icing recipe I use is here – just add enough water until it’s a thick enough piping consistency. I used a 1.5mm tip.

& there you have it… Valentine’s Day macarons

Then, the MOCHA CAKE – this part was purely experimental, again, given my lack of ingredients.  (Not gonna lie, the supermarket is only like a mile away, but I didn’t fancy walking back in the snow/ice with hella heavy bags full of eggs/butter/sugar/flour/milk – yeah, why ARE baking ingredients so heavy!?!)  I knew I wanted to save whatever remaining 5 egg whites & most of the butter for the IMBC: Italian Meringue Buttercream. I didn’t have any soured cream or buttermilk, but DID have some left over dulce de leche & some not-so-fancy cocoa powder, & some vegetable oil… so chocolate cake was a possibility.  Ooh but then I remembered the Starbucks espresso powder in the corner. So here’s what I threw in the bowl, and hoped for the best:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit /180 degrees Celsius.

Grease & flour (spray/line, whatever) 2 x 8-inch baking pans

Mix the wet ingredients until fully incorporated & then sift in the dry ingredients.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.

I actually used 2 x 7-inch heart-shaped pans & used the spare batter for cupcakes

Allow the cakes to cool completely & whip up your IMBC: Italian Meringue Buttercream. (Or you can use Swiss, or any buttercream really… I just like how stiff, yet light & fluffy meringue buttercreams are). Colour as you wish…

Once the cakes are cooled, you can decorate the middle with IMBC like so…

… & so when you cut into it, your cake will look like this! Stripes on the inside – woohoo!

Well, after the cake & macarons, I did have like a third of a thingie of butter left (I dunno what you’re supposed to call them in the UK? – a pack? packet? 250g butter square thing), & 2 eggs & a little milk, leftover royal icing from the macarons, & some coloured fondant that had gone hard.

The cupboard was bare…

Then I remembered my new iddy-biddy-hot-diddy-donut moulds from Lakeland for DONUTS!

Ahh, donut batter with cinnamon & nutmeg

OK, so as with the mocha cake recipe, this was an experiment on measurements/ratio of wet/dry ingredients, so here goes – this will make enough for like 40 mini-donuts:

Preheat oven to 340 degrees Farenheit /175 degrees Celsius.

Grease & flour (spray the silicone version with cake release spray) your mini-donut baking pan(s).

Mix butter & sugar together until light & fluffy, then add egg & mix some more. (You can use a wooden spoon or stand mixer).

Add vanilla & salt, & nutmeg & cinnamon.

Add flour & milk & mix until fully incorporated.

Only fill the donut moulds about halfway full. Bake for 10 minutes.

Be sure to liberally spray your pans so the donuts just pop right out

Once the donuts are cooled, you can use this recipe/process for POURING FONDANT. (It may seem complicated, but this one works for me!)

Work from lightest colour to darkest colour (plain white fondant to precoloured fondant)… then it’s literally just a case of dipping your donuts in the fondant. You can mix in food colour gels to get other colours, adding more fondant as needed

& then voila! Valentine-y coloured diddy donuts!

You can pipe on whatever messages you want using royal icing.

Nothing says HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY like diddy-donuts :-)

And there you have it… three different ideas for Valentine’s Day bakes, made with just a few ‘leftover’ ingredients. Enjoy!

IL FLOTTANTE: Meringue Roses & Vanilla Custard

Sunday January 20 2013

This is a great way to use 3 large eggs: whites for the meringues & yolks for the custard.

FOR THE MERINGUE ROSES (recipe yields approximately 20 roses)

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons egg white powder (I used Dr. Oetker)
dash of vanilla extract or a few squeezes of lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 80 degrees Celsius, rack in the middle.

Add caster sugar + egg whites + egg white powder into a glass bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water.  Use your hand blender and mix on low until everything dissolves together & there are no lumps, about 3 minutes.  Remove the glass bowl from the saucepan and place on your work surface.  Use your hand blender on high to whip the mixture to achieve stiff peaks, about 8 minutes.

A great way to use both the egg whites & egg yolks. AND the meringues are a one-bowl wonder :-)

Use a large piping bag + 2D piping tip to pipe roses onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 90 minutes, then turn oven off & allow cooked meringues to dry out in the oven for a further hour.

You can also create other shapes/designs with this meringue mix & different tips…

EASY VANILLA CUSTARD RECIPE (makes about 1 1/2 cups of custard)

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup caster sugar

Add milk + vanilla pod (cut down the middle with the beans scraped out into the milk) into a saucepan & cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, and allow just to boil, then remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks + caster sugar & whisk until thick and fluffy, then pour yolk mixture into the pan of hot milk.

Allow the milk & yolk mixture to simmer on medium heat for up to 10 minutes until thickened. Do not allow the mix to boil.

Once thickened, pour mix through a sieve into a bowl and serve immediately (hot!) or allow to cool & enjoy!




Cookies Decorated with Fondant AND Royal Icing

Saturday January 5 2013

Cookies for a bridal/wedding shower. My homemade wedding cake cookies made out of brown sugar cookies, fondant (sugarpaste), royal icing, white chocolate roses & displayed on a fab cake by Cake Land by Nivia. My cookies in the “yumm-brellas” beneath are gingerbread decorated in all royal icing.

Cookie-making is a special process, & I have found some fab tips/tricks to make it a little easier for me… like this JosephJoseph rolling pin with “training wheels” to ensure even/level cookie dough. Also, the cookie dough MUST be totally cold & firm. Even once you cut your shapes out & place them onto your cookie sheet for baking, pop them back into the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour to make them extra firm, so they keep their sharp edges once baked. These umbrellas are made out of gingerbread dough, which I have found bakes “flatter” & more uniformly. (I used Martha’s gingerbread cookie recipe & rolled them 1/4 of an inch thick.)

But what do you do when your cookies rise a little too much, or bake unevenly? These are brown sugar cookies, which did not bake as flat as the gingerbread umbrellas. I blame myself for these results because I thought I could just “tweak” a regular sugar cookie recipe by adding brown sugar. Anyway… this 1st batch was too good to throw away, so had to think about another way to decorate them.

I had previously made champagne cookies with a layer of coloured fondant, so thought I’d have a go at using a thicker, white version for the wedding cakes.

I used my JosephJoseph rolling pin again to get an even layer of 4mm fondant.

Then you simply use the same cookie cutter you used to cut out your cookie to cut out the shape out of fondant. ** Note: metal cutters achieve a much cleaner cut than plastic ones

Once your shape is cut out, use a fine knife to trim the edges.

To adhere your fondant shape to your cookie, moisten the fondant (or the cookie) with a little water, then carefully move the fondant shape to fit perfectly onto your cookie. It’s important NOT TO press down on the fondant, so you can retain a smooth, flat finish. I then lightly dusted them with a little edible pearl lustre dust. Allow to dry until fondant is dry to the touch, about an hour.

I saved a few extra fondant shapes to practice my design & my royal icing piping before I went to work on actually decorating the cookies. These roses are actually coloured white chocolate. I use Wilton’s oil-based candy colour to achieve the colour. Info on royal icing can also be found here: * I used a no. 1.5 tip.

Once I was happy with my practice versions, I decorated the fondant-covered cookies. & Voila! But was this actually easier than piping & filling with royal icing? Actually NO! can you believe? You do save on some drying time, but it’s the same amount of effort in cutting & trimming the fondant shapes. The time-consuming part is in the detailed piping, which would take the same amount of time whether you use fondant or royal icing as the base. In this case, the fondant layer did produce a much smoother/flatter base that made piping the details much easier, in my opinion.

Cruffles: { the Other Kind of Cake Balls }

Sunday December 16 2012

Ahhh, CRUFFLES!  Where do I begin?

Well, this was one of my 1st “Cruffle encounters” … I won’t name & shame this time, though, coz I do love this spot in California, but these were definitely “just” cake balls, or cake pops without the sticks & I don’t even think they has any buttercream or frosting in them :-(

So, what’s my definition of a CRUFFLE?  Well, they shouldn’t be just cake balls, otherwise, why call them cruffles at all? Just call them cake balls.  In any case, I have come up with an easy-ish way to make homemade cruffles, which I believe should be a proper cross between cakes &  truffles, & even with an optional yummy filling.  I hope the photos & links to my previous recipes are pretty self-explanatory, so here you go…

So you start with baking up your moistest cake, and crumbling it up. My recipe can be found here:  ** If you use this recipe, you should be able to make about 30 cruffles.

Then, make some ganache. I used 200g of Green & Black’s burnt toffee dark chocolate + 200 g double cream, per the usual method.


I then added the ganache whilst it was still runny, into the crumbled cake: about 75% cake + 25% ganache. Mix together well with your hands until the mix feels like chocolate truffle mixture, or until it binds together easily.

Roll your cake crumb & ganache mix into balls (mine are approx 1.5 inches in diameter), and place on a cookie sheet or other non-stick pan/parchment paper. Put into the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Whip up some caramel. This time I used burnt-salted-whiskey-caramel.  (my easy recipe is here:, or you can use store-bought. Put it into a small piping bag.

Once your cruffles have set in the fridge, use a small fruit corer to remove a bit of the centre; hold the cruffle securely so it keeps its shape. Be sure to save the bits you remove.

They should look like this.


Fill the cruffle holes about halfway with caramel.

Use the centres you cored out to fill the holes back up, then reshape the cruffles back into round balls.  Place them back into the fridge for a further minimum of 30 minutes.


Dip your cruffle into chocolate & allow to cool on your non-stick baking tray or parchment paper.

Allow the chocolate to completely set, then place your cuffles in petit four or mini-cupcake cases to serve (& enjoy!)

PS: Other versions I have made include red velvet with cream cheese buttercream filling, dipped in white chocolate, or chocolate-Guinness cruffles, filled with whiskey or baileys buttercream :-)