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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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.

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)

Triple Lemon Cupcakes

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.

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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!)

Lemony

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

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. While they are in the oven make the drizzle – mix together the lemon juice and sugar until combined
  6. When they are beginning to look golden and are springy to the touch they can come out
  7. Let them cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then poke them with a skewer and drizzle over the lemony mixture
  8. Now leave them to cool properly and the top to crisp up
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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)
  12. 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:

Rose Piping

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.