Success! The lactose free/dairy free cupcakes came out absolutely fine and passed the taste test – phew!
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
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.
- Zest the orange and chop the pecans
- In a big bowl combine together the sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest.
- Whisk together the eggs and oil
- Stir the wet stuff into the into the dry ingredients and add the orange juice, grated carrot and pecans.
- 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.
- Make sure they are cold before icing them
- 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.
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.
Again, these use Nigella’s salted caramel sauce recipe, which is super easy – no sugar thermometer required. Just remember to use decent salt.
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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour the cooled chocolate mixture in, then gently fold together with a spatula.Be careful not to knock the air out.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
I rarely make the same cake twice, but this week I revisited the Jammie Dodger Cupcake. It has been really sunny here and Andy Murray won Wimbledon – the first Wimbledon winner since Virginia Wade won in 1977 (and to all those who seem to have forgotten that women exist – fuck off) so it felt right to do something a bit British.
When I made them last time, they were a big hit in my office and got lots of smiles on the tube:
This time, they turned our pretty well. I had some issues with the piping because the kitchen was boiling hot so the buttercream was both melting and drying out at the same time and because I used the wrong piping nozzle, but the sponge and filling were definitely better.
I recently bought a cupcake corer thing from Amazon, which was just the job for filling the centres with raspberry jam. I really recommend it if you are into stuffing your cupcakes with lovely stuff.
So they looked much neater and I could put the cake plug-bit back in the back. Also the new oven is much more consistent so they were moister and more consistent in size and colour than before. See:
Anyway, on to the recipe. Makes about 12-16 (I use fairly big cases because I like putting people in to insta-sugar-coma)
- 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
- Jar of seedless raspberry jam
- 210g butter soften
- 400g Icing Sugar
- 1-2 tbsp Milk
- Mini Jammie Dodgers (one for each cake)
- Seedless Raspberry Jam
- Preheat the oven to 170 C
- 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. I never remember to defrost the butter in time so I cube the butter and put it in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes and it comes out at perfect ‘softened’ consistency. Thanks for the tip, Mary Berry.
- Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg
- Add the flour and fold into the mixture
- Bake for about 15minutes but keep an eye on them from 10 minutes. They are done when they are all springy and your skewer comes out clear
- Leave on a cooling rack for 30 minutes or so until they are totally cool
- Next, take the corer or use a sharp knife to take out the centres. Push a bit of raspberry jam into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some jam for the tops of the cake.
- For the icing: Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar bit at a time and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. If it looks too dry add more milk. It is ready when it holds a shape (i.e. drag your spatular over it and see if it stays put and doesn’t sink back)
- Pipe the icing on to each cake, then to decorate fill a disposable piping bag with a couple if tablespoons of jam and cut off the very tip (leaving only a tiny hole) and drizzle the jam over the icing
- Finish with a mini Jammie Dodger.
I have a bit of a fetish for sweet/salty combinations. I love chocolate covered Pretzels, I like peanut buttery chocolate things and I practically worship at the altar of salted caramel. Last week, my lovely lovely (paid) intern got taken on a permanent member of staff after 11 months (what an interview) and to celebrate I decided to bake Sticky Salted Caramel Cakes.
The sponge was made with dates so had the consistency and taste of sticky toffee pudding, then I added a salted caramel core and topped them with salted caramel icing and decorated with Dime Bars.
I used the Nigella Salted Caramel Recipe and doubled it up but cut down the amount of cream a bit to make it a tiny bit thicker – you will need to let it get cold and thicken up before trying to shove it in the cakes. I actually made a whole jug of it the day before and ate it out of the jug so I had to make it all over again (massive self-control fail)
Anyway, on to the recipe (makes 12 huge ones) – please serve with a health warning and advise recipients to use a fork:
For the sponge:
- 180g chopped dried dates
- 180 ml boiling water
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 180g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the caramel filling:
For the icing:
- 80g butter, softened
- 400g icing sugar, sieved
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 100g of the salted caramel
- 2 Dime Bars
Preheat the oven to 190c
- Chop the dates up small and then pour over the boiling water and leave them to soak in
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale brown in colour and fluffy in consistency – remember to do this bit really thoroughly – it makes a big difference to the end result.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and beat really well after each one
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add this gradually into the wet mix (about a third at a time and fold in being careful not to over mix)
- Add the vanilla and date mix. Pour all of this into the rest of the mixture and gently fold in by hand until the dates and water are totally combined. This is a fairly wet mixture compared to usual so don’t panic too much.
- Fill your cases to about two-thirds full
- Bake for 18 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Leave to cool slightly before putting on to a cooling rack.
- When the cakes are totally cold (trust me, I did this when they were still a bit warm and the caramel sank in. I rescued it with double helpings of caramel – no one complained) core out the middle and fill with the salted caramel.
- 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.
- Pipe it on to the cakes starting at the outside and working in and up
- 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 shard of Dime Bar.
Intern (now Former Intern) was very happy (nawwww!) ate two and slumped on his desk making happy noises.
Me and MrStarmoose (my fiance) rarely keep biscuits in the house, mainly because we are both liable to eat the whole lot and feel sad about it afterwards. But sometimes you just want a cookie (a warm chocolately gooey cookie) and a glass of cold milk.
So I have cookie dough on standby in the freezer (it can just be stored in freezer bags), ready to pop in the oven. It stops us eating loads of them because they feel a bit special. Frozen dough make really good presents for birthdays and stuff if you put the recipients favourite chocolate bars in them or shove them in a nice tin.
The recipe (makes about 12 medium ones or 8 huge ones) is quite Millie’s cookies-ish but I think the darker sugars make it more chewy and caramelly. Also I use 2 bars of Green and Blacks which means they taste a bit more grown up:
Grown-up? Who am I kidding? I have also made them with a whole range of chopped up chocolate bars: mini-Rolos, Caramacs, Snickers etc.
- 125g butter, softened
- 175g light brown soft sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 225g self-raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- 200g chocolate (chopped up chocolate bars, chips, fudge cubes, biscuits, whatever you like… raisins, nah, too healthy!)
- Cream butter and sugars together and then add the egg and the vanilla. Sift in the flour and salt and mix with spatula – it will be fairly dry, add a drop of milk if it is too dry.
- Ball it together than then divide it into two. Place a sheet of clingfilm flat on the kitchen surface, roll one ball into a sausage shape and them wrap it in the cling film and roll it a few more times to make an even shape, pull in the ends like a Christmas cracker and repeat for the other ball.
- Place the two cookie sausages in the freezer and allow to cool for about 40 minutes then take them out and with a sharp knife cut them into even slices (6 per roll or 4 if you want huge ones) and then you can store them in a freezer bag until you are ready to eat them
- To bake them pre-heat your oven to 180c and place the cookie rounds on ungreased baking paper spaced far apart (I usually do four on a big tray), half way through cooking give them a pat down with a fish slice to spread them out a bit. If you want to have a really squidgy centre then bake for about 12 minutes from frozen. Otherwise cook for 15 minutes until just golden round the edges – keep an eye on them they will cook quite fast at the end.
- Take out of the oven and leave to harden for 5 minute before transferring to a wire cooling rack or your mouth. They are really amazing warm with the chocolate still molten.
Sometimes on a Friday I get free over-ripe bananas. Hurrah! At work we get a big box of bananas delivered each week and some weeks they are just not as popular as other weeks and I can grab some before they get chucked away. Banana bread is amazing and there is something really cute about banana bread in little mini loaves.
I got my little tins from TK Maxx of all places (actually there baking stuff is pretty good – as long as you aren’t looking for anything in particular). They look a bit like these ones from Amazon but mine are green.
It is a pretty simple recipe (makes 8 mini loaves or one big one)
- 250g plain flour (I use 100g wholemeal and 150g white flour)
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- pinch salt
- 115g butter
- 115g light brown soft sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 500g mashed over-ripe bananas
- few tablespoons of maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 170c and lightly butter the little tins
- In a large bowl, combine sifted flour, bicarb of soda and salt
- In a another bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar really well until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then mashed bananas until well blended. Stir the wet mixture into flour mixture; fold together until totally just mixed together – don’t over do it else it will be heavy. Pour mixture into the little tins to about 2/3 full.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into centre of the comes out clean. Leave to cool in tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack and spoon over the maple syrup whilst they are stuff warm.
There is nothing nicer than lemon drizzle cake, except lemon curd filed lemon drizzle cake with lemon curd icing (I am saying icing here rather than frosting because, you know, I am British and we say icing) – Triple Lemon.
Having said I rarely make the same cupcake twice, I have made this one 3 times probably because it is less sickly sweet than some of the others and it is really good for using up lemons (and they look pretty!)
The recipe (makes about 16)
For the Spongey bit
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- finely grated zest 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 225g self-raising flour
For the Drizzle
- Juice of about 1½ lemons
- 85g caster sugar
For the filling:
- Jar of Lemon Curd (save some for drizzling over the top to decorate and some for the icing)
For the icing:
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 250g sifted icing sugar
- 100g Lemon Curd
- 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
- 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.
- 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)
- Bake for about 15 – 18 ish minutes but keep an eye on them from around 12 minutes
- While they are in the oven make the drizzle – mix together the lemon juice and sugar until combined
- When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
- Let them cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then poke them with a skewer and drizzle over the lemony mixture
- Now leave them to cool properly and the top to crisp up
- 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
- To make the buttercream, beat the softened butter in a big bowl and add the lemon curd and combine. Add the icing sugar gradually until it is at the right consistency. Use more icing sugar or a couple of drop of milk if it needs to be dryer or wetter
- Pipe on to the cakes. I have done them with both a ‘rose’ piping (start from the inside and work your way out) and standard icing (work from the outside in and up)
- I like to finish mine with a bit of lemon curd drizzle. Stick some lemon curd into a disposable piping bag or small plastic bag and cut the very tip off the corner and swish it over the top.
Rose piper variation:
I thought rose piping would be really tricky, but it isn’t. There is a good tutorial on how to do it here:
Also I always fill my piping bag up using a large glass (kind of like they do in the video), so if you find you end up getting messy – fold the top of the piping bag over the lip of the cup so it holds it out for you and fill it that way so you can use both hands to get the icing in the right place and out of the bowl.