Gin and Tonic Macarons

The other day, probably late in the evening on my commute home when I was wishing it was summer, I was thinking about gin and tonic icing/frosting again. I was thinking about how although tasty, my previous incarnation was low on tonic flavour because you need quite a lot to get a strong enough flavour but too much liquid makes the buttercream curdle. And then an idea hit me, what about using tonic concentrate, like the Soda Stream stuff?  So a plan was hatched and successfully carried out. And here it is the recipe for Italian Meringue Gin and Tonic buttercream filled macarons!

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For the shells see my last post and use some green food colouring in the mix! Leave them to cool completely before filling.

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For the filling:

Basic Buttercream Recipe (makes enough for 4 lots of macarons but freezes really well)

  • 375g white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100ml water
  • 6 egg whites
  • 500g soften unsalted butter in 2cm-ish chunks

For gin and tonic buttercream – this is the amount of flavour for 1/4 of the buttercream above

  • Zest of 2 limes
  • Juice of two limes
  • 1 tsp of Soda Stream gin and tonic concentrate (you can buy it in Ocado and most big supermarkets)
  • 3 tbsp nice gin (I used Sipsmith’s this time)

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. Take 3/4 of the mixture out of the bowl (I freeze it in 1/4 mix portions and then defrost in the fridge overnight and re-whip when I need them – if the mix curdles when you do this just keep going, it will eventually come together) Add the flavourings and mix until incorporated
  4. Pipe it into the macaron shells and sandwich together

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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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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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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.

Jammie Dodger Cupcakes

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:

The Originals

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.

Jammie

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.

Cupcake Corer

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:

The Innards

Anyway, on to the recipe. Makes about 12-16 (I use fairly big cases because I like putting people in to insta-sugar-coma)

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:

  • Jar of seedless raspberry jam

Icing:

  • 210g butter soften
  • 400g Icing Sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp Milk
  • Mini Jammie Dodgers (one for each cake)
  • Seedless Raspberry Jam

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. 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.
  3. Scrape in the vanilla seeds (or put in the essence) and add the eggs whizzing well between each egg
  4. Add the flour and fold into the mixture
  5. 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
  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 raspberry jam into the middle of each one. Make sure you save some jam for the tops of the cake.
  8. 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)
  9. 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
  10. Finish with a mini Jammie Dodger.

Ta da!

The finished thing