Tuesday October 8 2013
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:
- 1 cup of packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup double cream
- 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)…
- 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!
For the cake, you will need:
- 2 shots of espresso, brewed, then add enough water to equal 1 cup
- 1 cup soured cream
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (the lighter the better)
- 2 large eggs @ room temp
- 1 vanilla bean pod (that’s pretty fancy, so you can use 1 tbsp good vanilla extract)
- 2 cups super fine sugar (caster)
- 1 cup good / dark cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup melted dark chocolate @ room temp (I used Lindt salted caramel)
- 2 cups fine flour (cake flour or ‘premium’ flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat your oven(s) to 350F/180C
Now here’s the easy part:
- Add all of the wet ingredients into your mixing bowl first & mix till all blended
- then add all of the dry ingredients: sugar / cocoa powder / flour / baking powder & soda
- Mix altogether until all ingredients are incorporated
Then I filled the cupcake cases about 3/4 full… & then bake for 18-20 minutes on the lower shelf.
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:
- about 1/2 cup double cream to an equal part of the salted caramel chocolate (I used Lindt’s dark choc/salted caramel bar, about a bar 1/2, which I think is 150g)
- heat double cream til it just comes to a boil, then remove from the heat & add the chocolate
- let the chocolate melt into the cream for a few minutes, then use a spatula to blend the mixture until smooth
- allow to reach room temperature
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: http://www.food.com/recipe/mr-browns-italian-meringue-buttercream-217454
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.
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…
Monday May 27 2013
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.
- 1 cupcake pan
- 12 cupcake cases
- choc-chip cookie dough (or 1 bag of chocolate chip cookie mix)
- brownie mix (or 1 box brownie mix)
- 12 Reese’s peanut butter cups
- some extra dark & white chocolate chips, or marshmallows, or whatever else you prefer to add to your brownies
Pre-heat oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
Monday May 6 2013
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 CUPBOARD – you 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.
TO MAKE THE COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM
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.
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
- about 3 tablespoons of soft/room temp unsalted butter
- about 1/3 cup of sugar (I used the Tate+Lyle Golden Syrup Sugar, which was YUM!)
- 2 large eggs
- about 1/2 cup of self-raising flour
- dash of vanilla
- dash of salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- any fruit you wish – I used canned pineapple, mango, and black cherries
- dark brown (or muscovado) sugar for the caramel topping
- some more slivers of butter for the caramel topping
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…
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:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened/room temp
- 1 cup brown sugar (I used a mix of dark & light soft brown sugars)
- 2 1/4 cups plain flour
- 9 x 9 inch square baking pan, lined with parchment paper
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Farenheit
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:
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups pecans, whole or chopped, your preference, but take the time to toast them for a few minutes
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 3/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 tspn vanilla paste or extract
- 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- Sea salt / fleur de sel
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…
Thursday January 24 2013
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.
& 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.
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.
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
- 1 cup caster / superfine sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup whole / full-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste / or extract to taste
- 3 tablespoons dulce de leche (mine was the runnier variety made with Carnation condensed milk, but I suppose you could just use the condensed milk)
- here’s how you can easily make dulce de leche
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Bourneville)
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
Mix the wet ingredients until fully incorporated & then sift in the dry ingredients.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.
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…
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.
Then I remembered my new iddy-biddy-hot-diddy-donut moulds from Lakeland for DONUTS!
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).
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- dash of vanilla
- dash of salt
- dash of nutmeg & cinnamon
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup milk
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.
Once the donuts are cooled, you can use this recipe/process for POURING FONDANT. (It may seem complicated, but this one works for me!)
You can pipe on whatever messages you want using royal icing.
And there you have it… three different ideas for Valentine’s Day bakes, made with just a few ‘leftover’ ingredients. Enjoy!
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.
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!
Saturday January 5 2013
Sunday December 16 2012
Ahhh, CRUFFLES! Where do I begin?
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…
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
Thursday December 13 2012
I ate an amazing flourless chocolate cake at the fabulous Cocomaya in London recently, & I loved it so much that I decided to make my own version at home. A co-worker, Rob Douglas (sales manager extraordinaire!) gave me his (or his wife or mum’s?) recipe for flourless chocolate cake years ago & I’ve kept it & tweaked it a bit… but it’s how I first learned how easy & delicious flourless chocolate cake can be! This only took about half an hour & the recipe yields about 12 mini-cakes.
So here’s my revised recipe:
- 285 grams of dark chocolate (callets, or chopped up)
- 150 grams unsalted butter
- 30 grams fine, sifted cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg whites
- 60 grams caster or superfine sugar
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. You’ll be using the lower half of the oven.
& here are the instructions & pictures…