FUCK cake

Hurrah! It was my birthday on Friday. Happy Birthday to me and what a very happy birthday it was. I had some friends over on Friday night to christen our new house and celebrate. I am still recovering – best night ever and all that. I don’t think I have had a birthday cake since I lived at home 15 years ago so I decided this year that I would make my own (with help from A on the washing up). And, if I have to make my own birthday cake I am going to make it both amazing and offensive.  I give you the amazing FUCK cake.

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I used this chocolate, caramel and vanilla ombre cake recipe from BBC Good Food but sandwiched it with homemade salted caramel sauce (the usual Nigella recipe) – it was pretty tasty and I think the ground almonds made it particularly moist. Also when you cut it, you get impressive layers. Yay!

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The biggest challenge was finding the multicoloured strands/sprinkles – weirdly everywhere was out of stock. I could find metallic ball ones and pink ones (because baking is only for little girls or something – URGH) but not the basic kind. Found them eventually and used letter cookie cutters placed onto the chocolate ganache to make the letters.

The best endorsement of this cake came from a Christian school friend who said: “I’m offended by a chocolate cake. Well this is definitely a first!!!!” – My work here is done, people. Done.

Stroopwafel Cupcakes

For part 2 of my Dutch cupcake series, I made stroopwafel cupcakes. Stroopwafels are those delicious biscuits with caramel in the middle that come from the Netherlands or Starbucks or a corner shop in Mile End.  Sainsbury’s in Tooting sell them. They are usually best served warmed over a cup of coffee or made into a cupcake. I made a cinnamon sponge, with a caramel core and cinnamon and caramel icing topped with a mini Stroopwafel. Served in a Delft blue cupcake case – very Dutch, ja?

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Anyway, on to the recipe (makes 12 big-ish ones)

For the sponge:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1tsp cinnamon

For the caramel filling:

  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel sauce making it with just enough salt to cut away the sweetness but not enough to be fully salted caramel (hold some back for the icing and decorating)

For the icing:

  • 80g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar, sieved
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 100g of the salted caramel
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

To decorate:

  • Mini stroopwafels or chunks of the big ones

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and line a muffin tin with 12 good size cupcake cases
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat really well after each one. Pro Tip: making sure the eggs are at room temperature will stop it curdling but if it does add a tablespoon of the flour to bring it together
  4. Sift together the flour and cinnamon and add this gradually and fold in until just combined
  5. Fill your cases to about two-thirds full
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Leave to cool slightly before putting on to a cooling rack.
  7. When the cakes are totally cold  core out the middle and fill with the caramel.
  8. For the icing cream the butter and caramel until it is really really soft and add a small amount of the icing sugar and the cinnamon (taste as you go to see if you need more). Keep adding icing sugar slowly, adding milk in between additions to moisten the mixture if you need to.  Add more icing sugar if it is too sloppy or buttery.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.
  9. Pipe it on to the cakes
  10. Get a disposable icing bag and add a few tablespoons of caramel, cut the very tip off and drizzle over the cakes and finish with a mini-stroopwafel

These got really good reviews in my office and lots of happy noises.

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Speculaas/Speculoos Cupcakes

The week before last I was in Amsterdam. I was mainly working but I did manage to visit a supermarket and stock up on some amazing Dutch delicacies. I have a bit of a thing about Speculaas biscuits (or Speculoos, depending on your country) and I have been hankering after a jar or three of Speculoos paste for ages although I hear you can buy it in Waitrose. So I came back with a suitcase full and OMG it is so tasty. It is like Nutella but make of ground up biscuits, I am not sure you are supposed to just spoon it out of the jar but yeah… it happened.

 

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Anyway, to stop myself just scoffing the lot, I decided to make Speculoos/Speculaas cupcakes. I had seen a few recipes online (mainly in French) but in the end just made something up.  They turned our pretty well:

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So here we go (if you want to bake along at home)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 100g softened butter
  • 150g Speculoos paste
  • 200g sifted self-raising flour
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs

For the icing:

  • 100g butter softened
  • 100g Speculoos paste
  • 400g icing sugar
  • drop of milk (if needed)

To decorate:

  • Speculaas/Speculoos biscuits

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160c and line a muffin tray with about 12 large cupcake cases
  • Cream together the butter and Speculoos paste until totally combined
  • Add in the sugar and cream together until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs in one at a time mixing thoroughly after each one
  • Add in the sifted flour and fold in until just combined
  • Fill the cupcake cases about 2/3 full (I use an ice-cream scoop for this to make sure they are all the same size)
  • Bake for about 18 – 20 minutes or until they are springy to the touch
  • Allow to cool properly before icing or it melts or slips off
  • For the icing, cream together the butter and Speculoos paste and add the icing sugar in batches. Add a drop of milk if needed to keep it smooth.
  • Pipe on to the cakes and add a shard of speculaas biscuit to decorate.

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So tasty. I also made Stoopwafel cupcakes! Post to follow.

 

Clover Club Cupcakes (Raspberry, Lemon and Gin)

I invented a new cupcake – a totally new one, I think, that no-one has ever done before. I present to you the Clover Club cupcake. A clover club is a delicious cocktail first given to me by an amazingly lovely woman called Kat. It is made with gin, raspberries, lemon and egg white and tastes like summer, alcoholic summer. So for Kat’s housewarming I thought Clover Club cupcakes needed to be a thing. I made a raspberry sponge and then put a gin and lemon drizzle on top, with lemon cream cheese icing and a very alcoholic raspberry and gin coulis.

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If you want to try this at home here is the recipe (don’t eat them all – you will get a hangover)

For the cake:

  • 200g unsalted butter softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 small punnet of raspberries washed and patted dry with kitchen paper

For the drizzle

  • 80g sugar
  • juice of 1.5 lemons
  • 2 tbsp gin

For the icing

  • 200g full fat Philadelphia
  • 200g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp gin (feel free to use more and add more icing sugar)

Coulis:

  • 1 punnet of raspberries
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp gin (or much more if you want to knock people out)

Method:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 175˚C/gas 4. Start with the icing, beat butter until creamy and then add the cream cheese straight from the fridge and mix in the  bowl until smooth.Add in icing sugar, lemon juice and gin and beat until smooth. Do not over beat because cream cheese icing can split. Put it back in the fridge to chill until a bit set.
  2. For the cupcakes, cream butter, sugar in a bowl. Whisk in beaten eggs on by one mixing thoroughly after each addition, sift in flour and fold it in carefully until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin cases in a muffin tray. Drop 3 raspberries into each cupcake. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
  3. For the coulis, put the raspberries, sugar, water and gin in a small pan over a low head. Cook until the raspberries breakdown and it is nice and thick. Strain the coulis through a sieve to remove the seeds. I then added more gin and reduced it again, for funs.
  4. For the drizzle, combine the lemon juice, sugar and gin and mix well
  5. Once the baked cupcakes have cooled for 10 minutes, spoon sugar syrup while over the top while they are still slightly warm and allow to cool totally.
  6. Pipe the icing onto each cupcake. Put the coulis into a plastic bag and remove the very corner and drizzle over the top. Finish with a raspberry.

I also made some more gin and tonic ones for the party – the recipe for those is a few blog posts back.

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Coming soon – I spent the a couple of days in Amsterdam so I have speculoos paste and biscuits and stroopwafels to turn into cupcakes.

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

I love rhubarb – I love rhubarb so much that I have been fantasising about rhubarb vodka for months. Finally, I have some and an equally rhubarb obsessed friend to enjoy it with. As an accompaniment to our rhubarb vodka drinking this week, I thought I would make some rhubarb cupcakes (thankfully rhubarb is still just about in season) and the obvious accompaniment was custard.  These have two flavour (Rhubarb/Custard) swirled icing, with compote in the centres and a drizzle of rhubarb syrup on the top which really cuts through the sweetness.

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Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 200g unsalted butter softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod seeded (or 1tsp vanilla essence)

For the compote

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 4tbsp golden caster sugar

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence
  • Rhubarb vodka (2 tbsp) Optional
  • Rhubarb syrup

To decorate

  • Rhubarb syrup

Method:

  1. To make the compote Put the rhubarb in a pan with 4 tbsp sugar and heat gently, covered, until tender. Uncover, turn up the heat slightly, and allow some of the juice to evaporate. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if necessary, then drain the rhubarb, reserving the juice (this is the rhubarb syrup). Allow to cool.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 cases
  3. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy making sure you use a spatular to clear down the sides
  4. Add the eggs one at a time whisking in and making sure each one is fully combined before adding the next
  5. Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
  7. Bake for approximately 20 mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
  8. Remove from tins and place on cooling rack
  9. When they are completely cool, core the cupcakes and spoon in the compote to the centres and replace the sponge circle.
  10. For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
  11. Divide the icing between two bowls equally. In one bowl add the vanilla essence and a couple of drops of yellow colouring and in the other add a few tbsp of the rhubarb syrup and vodka plus a couple of drops of red food colouring
  12. Pipe on to the cakes (see tutorial below for how to do two colour icing)
  13. Drizzle some of the syrup over the cupcakes (I had to reduce the syrup down a bit more to make it more jammy)

They taste pretty good (Adrian – my fiance – says these are his new favourites)

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Inside shot:

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Also if you fancy trying this at home – I found this great tutorial for doing the two-tone icing:

Gin and Tonic Cupcakes

For the last month or so I have pretty much only been making salted caramel brownies because they are everyone’s current favourite and they freeze well and they are easy to convert to gluten free by just switching the flour and they taste so good. Anyway, finally I have made a new and exciting thing: Gin and Tonic cupcakes. Gin and tonic is by far my favourite alcoholic drink and with a friend’s party coming up I thought it was a perfect excuse to try something a bit more grown-up.

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It was based on a recipe I found on Katie Cakes but slightly modified in places:

Ingredients:

For the cakey bit:

  • 175g unsalted butter softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 4 tbsp tonic water (I used Fever Tree – yum)
  • 2tbsp gin (I used Hendrick’s)

For the icing

  • 250g unsalted butter softened
  • 500g icing sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 4tbsp gin

To decorate

  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 lime halved and thinly sliced

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 cases
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and creamy making sure you use a spatular to clear down the sides
  3. Add the eggs one at a time whisking in and making sure each one is fully combined before adding the next
  4. Sift in the flour and fold in being careful not to over stir it
  5. Stir in the tonic water
  6. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases but don’t fill more than 2/3
  7. Bake for approximately 20 mins until they are golden and spring and a skewer comes out clean
  8. Remove from tins and place on cooling rack while they are still hot pierce each one with a skewer half a dozen times and brush as much gin as you think you can get away with
  9. For the icing, soften the butter with your whisk, add in the icing sugar and whisk fully batch at a time
  10. Squeeze in the juice of lime into the icing and add the gin. Whip again until soft and light and fluffy
  11. Pipe on to the cakes and add a slice of lime and some lime zest to decorate.

Enjoy and careful if you lick the icing bowl. I got a bit tipsy.

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Salted Caramel Popcorn Cupcakes

I have created a monster. Genuinely, I think there are some things that are probably best left in my imagination for the sake of people’s dental and pancreatic health and this is definitely one of them. I have been thinking about doing a popcorn cupcake for a while and then that morphed into a toffee popcorn cupcake and then finally I thought that actually salted caramel is way nicer than toffee so… yeah.

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It is a vanilla sponge, with a salted caramel core, salted caramel buttercream icing, Butterkist toffee popcorn and salted caramel sauce drizzled on top.

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Here, have a recipe:

Sponge:

  • 175g Softened Butter
  • 175g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Pod deseeded or scraped or whatever you call it or you can use 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Essence instead
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 175g Self-raising Flour

Filling:

  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel sauce (hold some back for the icing and the drizzle)

Icing:

  • 80g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar, sieved
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 100g of the salted caramel

Decoration:

  • Butterkist Toffee Popcorn (or similar)
  • Few tbsp of salted caramel

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C
  2. Put the butter and sugar into bowl and mix until light and fluffy. You can’t over mix it, so when you think it is done enough, do it a bit more.
  3. Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg and scraping the sides clean
  4. Add the flour and fold into the egg/sugar/butter mixture
  5. Bake for about 18minutes but keep an eye on them from 10 minutes. They are done when they are all springy and your skewer comes out clear
  6. Leave on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so until they are totally cool
  7. Next, take the corer or use a sharp knife to take out the centres. Push a bit of the caramel sauce into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some caramel left for the icing and for the tops of the cake.
  8. For the icing cream the butter until it is really really soft and add a small amount of the icing sugar. Keep adding icing sugar slowly, adding milk in between additions to moisten the mixture if you need to. If the mixture is too hard or looks like it is cracking when you make peaks with it, add a splash more milk. Add more icing sugar if it is too sloppy or buttery. Next add the caramel you will probably need to add bit more icing sugar was needed to stiffen it up again. Beat until fluffy and smooth.
  9. Pipe it on to the cakes starting at the outside and working in and up – you don’t have to be very neat about the icing as the popcorn covers it.
  10. Cover the top with as much popcorn as will fit and then a bit more.
  11. Get a disposable icing bag and add a few tablespoons of caramel, cut the very tip off and drizzle over the cakes to finish

And there we have it. Sorry, world.

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Dairy-Free Carrot Cupcakes with Orange ‘Butter’ Icing

Success! The lactose free/dairy free cupcakes came out absolutely fine and passed the taste test – phew!

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I made a pretty standard carrot cake sponge with all spice , orange zest and pecans which uses sunflower oil instead of butter anyway. I think it would probably be quite easy to convert this to a vegan recipe too (although I am not sure how well egg substitutes work). The ‘butter’ icing was made using Vitalite (Oooh, oooh, oh, oh Vitalite!) which I was really unsure about before I did it – I was worried it would taste funny (artificial?) and be very runny. I didn’t really find any conclusive information or success stories on the internet either, other than it was possible and better than other alternatives (except perhaps Trex but I couldn’t get that at Sainsburys) It was actually pretty easy to work with although it needs more icing sugar than normal and it tasted nice (a bit like the butter icing my mum used to make us as kids – I am now assuming she used to use marg rather than butter) to make it taste a bit more grown-up I used orange essence (I like the Nielson-Massey one) which also went well with the orange zest in the cake. I think the icing needs a bit of time to dry out (which is the opposite of what you normally want) so I am leaving them overnight and I am going to take them to the party straight from the fridge tomorrow because it is due to be super hot and I am not sure how they will do in the heat given the icing is a bit less stable than usual.

On to the recipe

The cakey bit:

  • 175g Light brown muscovado sugar (make sure it is all separated, if you put it in the microwave for 10 seconds it will help it be less clumpy)
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • zest 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 200g grated carrots

The icing bit:

  • 150g Vitalite dairy free margarine
  • 300g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons orange essence

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.
  2. Zest the orange and chop the pecans
  3. In a big bowl combine together the sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest.
  4. Whisk together the eggs and oil
  5. Stir the wet stuff into the into the dry ingredients and add the orange juice, grated carrot and pecans.
  6. Put the mixtures in the cases and bake for 20-22 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean and they are nice and bouncy on top.
  7. Make sure they are cold before icing them
  8. For the icing, whip up the Vitalite  straight from the fridge with an electric whisk until it is soft and fluffy, add the orange essence and then add the icing sugar a 100g at a time until it is holding its shape (not too soft). If it is a hot day I would put the icing in the fridge for half an hour before trying to pipe it. Pipe on to the cakes. I did rose piping today because it felt like a pretty, summery thing to do.

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Salted Caramel Brownies

This evening I did some advance baking for some friends’ birthdays at the weekend. I baked some lactose-free carrot cupcakes that I will ice on Saturday – I will share those next week assuming it is not a massive disaster. Also if anyone has any Vitalite butter icing tips, I would really appreciate them. I also made some gooey salted caramel brownies – not lactose free but you can easily make them gluten free by switching the flour. Mmm… Salted Caramel. These brownies are amazing, seriously. They don’t look as pretty as some of the other stuff I make but they taste so good.

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Again, these use Nigella’s salted caramel sauce recipe, which is super easy – no sugar thermometer required. Just remember to use decent salt.

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The caramel is added to my failsafe brownie recipe. I use this brownie recipe all the time and add in whatever I fancy (chopped up Bounties, finger of fudges, Dime Bars, pecans etc)

  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 200g decent chocolate (I use one bar of Green and Blacks dark and one milk)
  • 85g plain flour (regular or gluten-free Doves Farm)
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275g golden caster sugar
  • 2 quantities of Nigella’s salted caramel (make it with slightly less cream to make sure it is thick enough) made in advance and totally cooled (although in an emergency the freezer works – don’t let it actually freeze)

Method:

  1. Cut butter into cubes and put into a pyrex type bowl with the chocolate (broken into small pieces) Melt them together by putting the bowl over a pan of simmering water but make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir occasionally until they are combined. You can also do this by shoving it in the microwave but watch it really closely because chocolate burns easily. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160c. Line your tin with tin foil or baking parchment. I use a tin that is about 6 x 12 inches.
  3. Break the eggs into your bowl and add in the golden caster sugar whisk on high until light and thick and creamy – it should become pale and double in volume. It takes a while and is the most important step, this is what makes them light.
  4. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture in, then gently fold together with a spatula.Be careful not to knock the air out.
  5. Add in the sifted cocoa and flour mixture and fold in really gently until just combined. If you are making regular brownies, now would be the time to add in chopped up chocolate bars and whatever else you fancy.
  6. Pour the half the mixture into the tin and push it out into the corners making sure it is even. Then add the caramel. Try to avoid getting it too close to the edges if you can. Then add the other half of the brownie mix and smooth it over.  Pop it in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or so. To test if it is done shake the tin a bit, it shouldn’t wobble like jelly. I find the skewer test a bit redundant for brownie making because if it comes out clean you have probably over cooked them or missed a caramel seam.
  7. Leave them until they are totally cold. In this case, I mean it, they firm up and become manageable when cold. You can always reheat them later if you like.

So there you go… Enjoy!

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Piping Bags and Nozzles

A friend on Twitter has just asked what piping bags/nozzles I use so I thought I would blog about it because the question has come up a few times.

I have this ‘Professional’ piping set from Lakeland (you can order them online)

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I mainly use the top left nozzle and the first and second left on the bottom row. The bottom right makes something like looks like cowpats and I haven’t found a use for the top middle one yet. The top right is probably handy for drizzling stuff but I find a disposable piping bag with the corner cut off easier (and less washing up)

The top left is a classic swirly one that I use for most standard piping – the set comes with two of these, one big, one smaller. The bigger one looks like this:

The Originals

The bottom left is the one I used for rose piping like this because it creates thinner edges on the icing:

Rose Piping

The middle on on the bottom row is kind of in the middle between the other two and gives a more distinct edge and a bit more overlap – it always looks a bit more ‘fun’ than the others. Like this:

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But depending on the piping angle, speed and wiggle, this one can also come out like this:

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The bag that comes in with the set is absolutely rubbish and I prefer disposable bags anyway because they are less messy and feel more hygienic. I used the Tala ones from Amazon – they are only a few pounds, they are quite thick and grippy and you can use them without the nozzle with the very tip cut off to drizzle stuff (jam, caramel, lemon curd)