New York Cheesecake

Baked cheesecake is good, really good. It is pretty simple and it always goes down well at social occasions. It is easy to adapt by adding whatever toppings you like (fruit, sauces, a pint of caramel and 16 smashed up Dime bars etc) which means it is a good thing to take to birthday parties or barbecues. Anyway, I recently make a salted caramel and dark chocolate button one for a Eurovision Party.

 

Cheesecake

 

The recipe here is for the basic recipe but you can add whatever you like to the top.

 

Base:
100g butter melted, plus extra for tin
200g digestive biscuits smashed up with a rolling pin or whatever

Filling
3 x 300g Full-Fat Philadelphia cheese, or other full-fat soft cheese
250g golden caster sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tsp lemon juice
3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
200ml soured cream

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 170C. Cut out a circle of baking parchment and line the bottom of a 9 inch tin. This makes quite a deep cheesecake so in needs to be quite a deep tin. For the base, melt the butter in a medium pan then in the biscuit crumbs and mix until it is moist. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan with the back of a spoon and bake for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and cool on a wire rack while preparing the filling. Sometimes I find the base can go a bit soggy, so if you like you can use a brush of egg white before you bake it to create a bit of a barrier from the filling.
  2. For cheesecake bit turn the oven up to 220C. In a  stand mixer (I use a KMix) use the paddle attachment to beat the Philly fairly slowly creamy for a minute of two. Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, then the flour making sure you scrape down the sides of your bowl a couple of times during baking.
  3. Switch the paddle attachment for the whisk and with the mixer on medium add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, one at a time scraping down the bowl from time to time. Stir the soured cream and whisk until smooth.
  4. Grease the sides of the springform tin and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 120C bake for 40 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and leave the door closed. Allow to cool for two hours in the oven. The top may crack but don’t worry, it is a good excuse to add more topping.
  5. Put it in the fridge for least 8 hours or overnight.

 

EXTREME CLOSE UP! Served with salted caramel sauce and homemade buttons (dark chocolate poured into a button mould)

 

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Finally, a non-spread biscuit recipe that works

It took a while and batches and batches of fail biscuits but finally I found a recipe that mades a non-spread sugar biscuit. You can add lemon zest or different essences for different flavours but I sort of like vanilla. I used these to make edible draughts which looked like the love child of iced gems and PartyRings.

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Ingredients:

  • 220g softened butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg, large
  • 425g plain flour

Method:

  1. Cream together the butter and the sugar – the key is to not over cream, just make sure it is all combines and smooth
  2. Add in the beaten egg and vanilla essence and mix
  3. Finally, add in the flour and combine into a dough (probably with your fingers)
  4. Divide into 4 portions.  Working with one at a time lightly flour the worksurface and gently knead the dough until it is smooth and workable.  Sprinkle on some more flour if it feels too sticky
  5. Roll out on a floured surface and cut of biscuit shapes

If you want to decorate them like I did, I used royal icing sugar and water plus paste food colouring and the flooding technique, outline the biscuit using a fine-ish nozzle on a piping bag and then fill in and tap to smooth out the icing.

The results were totally playable and pretty tasty.

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Best ever scone recipe

I haven’t been baking so much recently – life and work have been stressful and busy and finding the time for new complicated recipes has not really happened. I have been working on perfecting some old favourites though. Most recently my scone recipe. I love scones but until now everytime I made them it seemed they were tough and too flat. This recipe makes the most light, risen scones even plus it is super easy (using mainly store cupboard items) and goes perfectly with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

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Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 85g butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • squeeze lemon juice (it can be the bottled stuff)
  • beaten egg, to glaze or use milk but it will be less shiny
  1. Heat oven to 220C Put the flour and other dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, then rub in with your fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs or whiz it in the food processor (I do this because I tend to over rub) Stir in the sugar.
  2.  Heat the milk in the microwave for about 30 secs until it is warm but not hot and then add a squeeze of lemon juice – the lemon juice is not for flavour, it is to activate the baking powder more quickly giving them a bigger rise
  3. Put a baking sheet in the oven.
  4. Make a well in the flour mix, pour in the milk and lemon and combine it with a regular dinner knife. Dredge some flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour, then fold the dough over 2-3 times until it’s a little smoother. Flatten gently into a round about 3cm deep.
  5. Take a 5cm cutter, dip it into some flour. Plunge into the dough, then repeat, reforming and re-flattening the dough once or twice if necessary. Brush the tops with beaten egg, then carefully place onto the hot baking tray.
  6. Bake for 10 mins until risen and golden.
  7. Serve with jam and cream – AMAZING!

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Hazelnut Praline, Nutella and Salted Caramel Pavlova

Quite often I am asked to bake stuff that is gluten free. My tendency until now has been to use GF flour mixes and hope for the best. Results have been pretty mixed. Then I started thinking about meringue and how yummy it is obviously it doesn’t contain gluten.  So I decided to make a pavlova for a Thanksgiving potluck I was going to (and a cheesecake, forgot to take pictures so will blog that next time I make it) It turns out Nutella and salted caramel go really well together. I had been thinking about the combination but it was only when I doubled them up on a spoon, I realised they are REALLY GOOD. The pavolva was topped with fresh cream, Nutella sauce, salted caramel and homemade hazelnut praline crushed up and sprinkled over.

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The recipe:

For the meringue

  • 210g free-range egg whites (about 6 large eggs)
  • 420g caster sugar – I used golden for a more caramelly taste.

(weigh the egg whites and then do 60g of sugar per 30g egg white)

  1. Draw a 10 inch circle on a sheet of baking paper (to serve as a template for you meringue) and turn it over so the pencil mark is on the other side
  2. Line a roasting tray with baking paper and heat 420g caster sugar at 200C until the edges are just beginning to melt. Heating the sugar helps it to dissolve in the egg white more quickly, creating a glossy and more stable mixture. Now, turn the oven down to 110C.
  3. Add egg whites a bowl (you will find this much easier if you have a stand mixer). At first whisk slowly allowing small stabilising bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks (and you could hold the bowl over your head – if it starts to go cotton wooly stop – it is becoming over whisked)
  4. Using a large spoon, add the sugar spoon by spoon while continuing to whisk. It is ready once you have a full bodied, stiff and glossy mixture (about 5 minutes). Don’t put in the melted edge clumps
  5. Spoon onto a lined baking tray making sure it is slightly higher around the edges to hold all the filling.
  6. Bake for around 3 hours at 110c. Its good to keep our meringues mallowy and soft in the middle, so take them out of the oven as soon as they lift off the baking paper with the base intact

Toppings:

  • 100g Nutella with 3 tbsp cream or milk stirred in to make a sauce
  • 1 quantity of Nigella’s salted caramel
  • 300ml of double cream whipped
  • Hazelnut Praline

For the hazelnut praline:

  • 200g white caster sugar
  • 50g toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 pinches of salt
  1. Put the sugar in a smallish heavy bottomed pan and cover with 75ml water and stir gentle so the sugar is wet
  2. Heat the sugar until is is 105c – use a sugar thermometer and watch it like a hawk
  3. While the sugar is heating, line a baking tray with baking paper and put a thin layer of the hazelnuts on the tray and sprinkle salt evenly over them
  4. When the sugar is ready pour it over the hazelnuts
  5. Allow to cool and smash up two-third fairly finely and leave one-third in larger pieces to decorate.

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To assemble:

Put half the caramel and Nutella sauce in the centre, top with the cream and then drizzle the remainder of the sauces over the top using disposable piping bags if you want it to look neater, sprinkle with the crushed up and larger praline pieces

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream

Toffee apples are an amazing thing but I find them rather too sweet so I got to thinking that salted caramel apples should totally be a thing (I know, I know, I am obsessed) I made a spiced apple sponge with salted caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream. The sharpness of the apples was a good contrast to the salty/sweet icing.

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For the cakes (makes between 12-16):

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 80 ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 5 medium apples (750g) – I used Granny Smiths
  • 100g saltanas soaked in 100ml boiling water and allowed to cool (I did mine in half rum, half boiling water)
  • 25g butter, extra
  • 1/3 cup (75g) soft brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180°C and put cases in a 12 hole muffin tin – I usually do a few extra in a second tray just in case
  2. Peel and core apples. Cube into little cubes (no bigger than 0.5cm). Sprinkle cubed apples a bit of lemon juice to avoid browning. Melt the 25g extra butter in a large frying pan; cook apple cubes until browned lightly (about 5 minutes). Add brown sugar and saltanas (including soaking rum if used, if not drain the water off); cook stirring until it goes nice and thick (about 5 more minutes). Allow to cool completely.
  3. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add flour and milk in 2 batches folding in gently.
  4. Fold in the apple mixture into the cake mixture until totally combined.Fill cases to about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (till golden brown springy).

 

For the buttercream (this makes enough for about 24 cakes; it is worth making lots and then freezing the rest if you are doing less cakes)

Basic Recipe

  • 375g white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 600g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks
  • 2 quantities of Nigella salted caramel sauce (totally cooled – use it from the fridge ideally)

 

Method

  1. Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined.  Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C.
  2. Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
  3. Add in caramel and whisk until fully combined
  4. Pipe on to cakes and drizzle with a bit of caramel

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I used the left over icing a week later on a version of these cupcakes: https://bakeitinstinct.com/2013/07/08/salted-caramel-oh-salted-caramel/ and added sugar glass for some slightly Halloweeny decoration.

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Salted Caramel and Apple Chelsea Buns

I am really into cooking with apple and toffee-ish flavours at the moment because it is all autumny and lovely. I have also been baking a lot of cakes using old recipes lately so wanted to try something new. I bake bread quite often, I just don’t blog about it because it is usually less fun than cake but these Chelsea buns were a bit too lovely to not talk about.  I made them for my team at work to have for Monday breakfast.

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I used the a recipe I found here  but used a batch of my preferred Nigella salted caramel recipe. I also found it needed about 50ml more milk than stated and I doubled the proving time on both prove and used one large baking tray.  Amazing!
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Lemon cupcakes with lemon Italian meringue buttercream

Ever since I ate a cupcake with  Italian meringue buttercream, I knew I had to learn to make it. It was so creamy and light and grown up – less like icing and more like the nicest mousse in the world. The thing is, it really difficult to make – it uses Italian meringue (boiling sugar poured and whisked into egg whites to cook them), you need a sugar thermometer and to handle boily sugar without melting your skin off.  On the surface of it, these cupcakes look pretty simple but actually the icing has taken a lot of fiddling and practice to get them right. The first test I did, there seemed to be too much butter in the recipe I used and I poured in the boiling sugar incorrectly so it clumped at the bottom. The second attempt (this one) was much better.

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To make the buttercream you are going to need a stand mixer – I think you might be able to try it with a hand whisk but I needed two hands to get the boiling sugar in safely whilst whisking all the time. I have a Kenwood KMix (a beautiful white one which goes with my shiny white kitchen) which is probably my most used kitchen item, I turn it on at least 3 or 4 times a week. We do bread, pizza dough, biscuits, cake, brownies etc. in it.  It had been a toss up between that and an Artisan but I think the Artisan looks a bit twee, it is much more expensive for almost no additional benefit and my granddad worked for Kenwood his whole life so I have some deeply rooted brand loyalty,  Isn’t it beautiful? I still tell it that I love it from time to time.

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Anyway on to the cake – I made lemon sponge with a lemon curd centre, lemon italian meringue buttercream and homemade chocolate buttons on top.

For the buttercream (this makes enough for about 24 cakes; it is worth making lots and then freezing the rest if you are doing less cakes)

Basic Recipe

  • 375g white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 600g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks

For lemon curd buttercream add:

  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 3 tbsp of Lemon Curd

Method

  1. Put sugar, golden syrup and water in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan and stir until totally combined.  Brush the inside of the saucepan with clean water on a damp pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains. Set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. When the sugar mixture has come to the boil add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking until it reaches will into soft ball stage, 121°C.
  2. Meanwhile put the carefully separated egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer (with a whisk attachment) and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks – be careful not to over whisk. Then slowly pour a steady stream of sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk while doing so – I find pouring down the side of the bowl is the easiest way of doing this. Continue whisking until sides of the bowl feel cool. Add the softened butter chunk at a time one by one at a time and whip until fully incorporated and smooth
  3. Mix in zest, juice and lemon curd for lemon flavour icing.

For the cake (makes about 16)

  • 250g unsalted softened butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon

For the filling

  • Jar of Lemon Curd

For the buttons

  • White chocolate

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180c (I have always used an oven thermometer to check because most ovens are way out – except my brand new oven. That is perfect) and put some cases in a muffin tin or two
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Sift in the flour and then add the lemon zest and the juice of one lemon and mix until well combined.
  3. Spoon it into the cupcake mix into the cases for about 2/3 full. I use an ice-cream scoop (I have 3 in different sizes and this ensures they are all exactly the same)
  4. Bake for about 15 – 18 ish minutes but keep an eye on them from around 12 minutes
  5. When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
  6. For the filling, core out your cupcakes using either a corer or a sharp knife, put a teaspoon of lemon curd in each one and replace the tops
  7. To make the chocolate buttons, gentle melt the white chocolate and pour into silicone button mold like this one from Amazon 

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Speculoos Cheesecake Brownies

I still have a couple of jars of Speculoos paste left from my trip to Amsterdam so I have been looking online for recipes. I have come across a couple of cheesecake recipes using it but nothing really grabbed me. It has been ages since I did anything exciting with brownies so then the thought hit me – cheesecake marbled brownies are something I have been meaning to make for ages, but what if that cheesecake was Speculoos/Speculaas paste based? So it happened:
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On to the recipe, if you fancy making these at home.
Ingredients.
For the brownie bit:
  • 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

For the cheesecake bit:

  • 400g full fat cream cheese
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g Speculoos biscuit paste (optional – these are pretty good as just cheesecake brownies, if you prefer)

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. While it is cooling – put all the ingredients for the cheesecake bit into a bowl and whisk until fluffy and fully combined. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to use it
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture in, then gently fold together with a spatula.Be careful not to knock the air out.
  6. 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.
  7. Pour the three-quarters mixture into the tin and push it out into the corners making sure it is even. Then add the cheesecake mix on blobs with a spoon. Add the remaining brownie mix in dollops with a spoon and then bang the tin hard a couple of times on the kitchen side to level it out. Use a skewer to marble the mix.  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
  8. Leave them until they are totally cold and the cheesecake sets properly
  9. Store in the fridge because the cheesecake bit.

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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.