Cupcakes from Primrose Bakery Celebrations.

I wanted to get started on my latest Cooking The Books Challenge so what better excuse was to bake for my school’s Summer Fair?  This month’s book is the third Primrose Bakery Book- “Primrose Bakery Celebrations” and I have had it for several months now and not tried any of the recipes out of it.  After all that’s the reason why I set myself this monthly challenge, to get myself baking from the books I buy and then put on the shelf to look pretty, then forget about them!

I had four different cupcake recipes to try out from Celebrations and I chose flavours which were going to be the easiest to create with ingredients I could easily get in my local supermarket. I didn’t have time to go to my local American candy stockist or even to order online.

First up were the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Young Girl’s Party Chapter of the book.  I found these simple to make even though the weather was very hot and sticky on the day I made them.  The chocolate melted really easily and I found that there was not enough white icing to cover the cupcakes using the piping method that I like using when baking cupcakes.

White chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing.
The cupcakes were finished off with some small chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips. I would have liked to have grated the chocolate but it was melting in my hand as I was holding it to the grater.

Second to be baked were the Cola Cupcakes in the Boy’s Party chapter.  I’d already wanted to bake Cola Cupcakes but never got around to it. I’m surprised as I love fizzy cola bottles but when I went to our local Morrisons all I could find was a pack of large ones.  I didn’t want to buy a multipack because I’d be nibbling the remaining sweets I didn’t need for the cakes!  When I opened the large cola bottle pack I found there were only 8 in there so the remaining 4 cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy!  In the recipe introduction it says “we found that using a cola concentrate rather than real cola is much more effective” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bottle of SodaStream cola concentrate so a real can of “full-fat” coke had to do!  The matching cola icing turned out very runny and just would not thicken up.  Instead of swirling it on it was spread on just as it seemed to get warmer and warmer in my kitchen!

These cola cupcakes were a hit with the children.
Some of the cola cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy.

When the cola cupcakes were finished I got on to bake number three.  This time I had a go at Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sounded incredibly rich.  The cupcakes were vanilla flavour but were topped with the rich caramel icing.  They did have a hidden surprise in them though- half a chunk of Galaxy Bar!

Galaxy chocolate inside the cupcake filling, put more on top after the photo was taken!

 I cheated and instead of making my own caramel I used a jar of salted caramel sauce  bought from a local deli.  The icing for these cupcakes came up a bit thicker and spread on the cakes much easier.  My daughter came into the kitchen as I was making these and asked if she could help.  So she had the fun job of bashing a packet of Werther’s Original caramel sweets with the end of a rolling pin so they could be sprinkled on the top of the cupcakes.

Salted caramel cupcakes topped with crushed Werther’s Originals!

The final bake for the summer fair was some Eton Mess cupcakes.  I love Eton Mess pudding so I wanted to see if I could recreate it in a cupcake.  I baked them slightly differently to the way they were in the recipe.  The recipe called for making a hole in the baked cupcake and poking in a fresh raspberry and some mascarpone cheese.  I didn’t bother with the mascarpone but put the raspberry into the mixture before it baked. When the cakes cooled I got ready to make the creamy frosting.  I needed to add pureed raspberries to cream to make it pink but I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t got enough raspberries.  In the end I had to use artificial pink food colouring in the cream.

Eton Mess Cupcakes.

To finish off the Eton Mess cupcakes I had bought some ready made mini meringues.  I could have made them myself but I just ran out of time.  My daughter enjoyed crushing them for me and then sprinkling them on the cupcakes.

But… disaster struck when I got the cupcakes to the school fair the day after.  I had boxed the cakes and put them in my garage which was the coolest place in the house being as I didn’t have a fridge which worked!  The other cupcakes were fine but the Eton Mess cupcakes were a mess!  The meringue melted into the topping and looked horrible.  So they went in the bin.  I was gutted but I will try and bake another batch on a cooler day in the future so that I can see what they should taste like!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Cooking The Books Challenge for July 2014.

Another month= another book in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  Now it’s July I needed to think of another book that would have recipes I would enjoy baking yet my family would eat them!

This month it’s going to be Lisa Thomas and Martha Swift’s third book from the Primrose Bakery, this time their Celebrations book.  Although I’ve never had chance to go to one of the Primrose Bakeries I have loved using the previous two books  particularly at the height of the cupcake craze.

Here are some previous Primrose Bakery Cupcake recipes I have baked and loved over the past four or five years.  My children loved the Peanut butter ones the most!

The Primrose Bakery's Strawberry Cupcakes Peanut Butter Cupcakes Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This time, the Celebrations book features around eight different types of celebration and I am hoping to try out recipes I’ve never attempted before.  So what am I going to bake?

In the Young Girl’s Party chapter there is a recipe for White Chocolate Cupcakes.  This doesn’t sound that unusual but my school is holding a Summer Fair in the middle of July and I know these will be great to go on the cake stall as one of my contributions.

Following on from this, into the Young Boy’s Party chapter there is another cupcake recipe, this time for Cola Cupcakes.  To get the intense flavour needed I will need to buy some cola Soda Stream concentrate.  I remember having a Soda Stream when I was a child!  These can also go along to the Summer Fair!

The third chapter is the Teenage Party and all the recipes here are based on a Mexican theme.  We all love Mexican food in our house so this time we’re going for two savoury recipes the Cheese Quesadillas and the Guacamole.  Sounds delicious to me!

Picnics is the title of the fourth chapter and although I love picnics I don’t fancy eating it in the car as the rain lashes down in true British style.  But I do love the sound of the Eton Mess Cupcakes which are also going along to my school’s Summer Fair!

Another popular celebration is a Baby Shower and that is featured in the fifth chapter of the Celebrations book.  I’ve never been into things like Baby Showers, well we didn’t really have them when my children were born.  It’s one of those American customs that have slipped over the pond! All the recipes in this chapter are Moroccan inspired so I am baking the Date Bars. Date Bars remind me of my Nana Margaret.  She used to buy them from her local bakery in Scarborough when she was on holiday there.  I remember being forced to eat them as a child and hating the filling.  Recently I ate one from our local bakery when my hubby bought one and it tasted delicious.  I would love to try some out myself!

Chapter six is called Afternoon Tea Party and all the recipes are Japanese inspired.  I must admit I struggled with this chapter as it calls for specialist ingredients which I won’t necessarily be able to find locally.  However I did find the Jasmine Cake looked pretty and although I might not be able to get hold of some jasmine essence, I might adapt the recipe to suit.

My favourite chapter in the book is the Cocktails and Cupcakes one.  As I’m a huge gin and tonic lover I would like to bake the Gin and Tonic Cupcakes to take along as a gift for a dinner party I’m going to at the end of July.  I’m going to use my favourite local artisan gin in it, Mason’s which is made in Yorkshire and it is wonderful.

Finally and although it is totally the wrong time of year for this being July but there is a Christmas and New Year chapter!  A lot of the recipes don’t suit this time of year obviously but I was tempted by two recipes here the Salted Caramel Cupcakes and because I’ve never baked for my dog before, the Cheese Dog Treats!  Being a Labrador, I’m sure my dog will like them whether they taste good or not!

Watch this space to see how I get on with these recipes!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Strawberry Yoghurt Bundt and Muffins.

Strawberry Heaven.

Last Sunday afternoon I wanted to bake our usual pudding but was keen to try out my latest bundt pan to add to my collection.  Lakeland are selling two genuine Nordicware Bundt pans at the moment, the Jubilee Bundt pan and a 6 cup Traditional Bundt Pan.   I have bought both because not only do they look fabulous I know they will last a lifetime.  The traditional bundt pan is a little bit smaller, so with the remaining cake batter I made them into half a dozen matching muffins!

If you are looking for a foolproof bundt recipe then I suggest you look no further than Rachel McGrath’s website Dollybakes.  She has a wonderful array of bundt recipes and ideas on her website.  Just look for Build A Bundt and Bundts On The Brain.  I’m always looking on her website as I can’t wait to see what Rachel will create next!

I used Rachel’s “Build A Bundt” recipe to make my Strawberry Yoghurt Bundt.  I used two pots of Longley Farm Strawberry yoghurt, some chopped fresh strawberries and flavoured the batter with some strawberry extract from Lakeland.  To make the icing I made a simple glace icing, tinted pale pink with food colouring and once again flavoured with strawberry extract.

The baked strawberry yoghurt muffins- naked!
So impressed with the bundt pan. As ever the cake slid out of the pan easily and without trouble.
The mixture had enough batter to bake half a dozen matching muffins to go with the bundt.
The finished bundt cake. I piped the glace icing on using a piping bag but without a nozzle.
View from the top. The strawberries are British but not home grown. I’ve only had about 4 strawberries that size from my meagre crop so far!
A slice of Strawberry bundt. Mega diet fail here, just couldn’t resist!
Showing the cake cut up. Half stayed at home, the other half went to work with me the next day!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Let’s Bake (Cathryn Dresser)- Pitta Breads.

About a month ago I was really excited to buy the lovely Cathryn Dresser’s book “Let’s Bake”.  It is a fabulous book but then I always knew it would be as Cathryn has been one of my favourite contestants on The Great British Bake Off so far.  I think she owns the expression “Oh my giddy aunt!” now.  So when her book aimed at baking with children came out, I just had to have it.  Although my own kids are now teenagers  I knew they would enjoy using it just as much as younger children.  And as I work in a primary school we tend to do a bit of cooking now and again when it fits in around curriculum demands.

About two weeks ago I chose to make a chicken curry for tea but thought about having chapatis or naan bread with it instead of rice.  My hubby and son aren’t that keen on rice but love their bread so I thought I’d have a go at baking something to go with the tea.  I found Cathryn’s recipe for her perfect Pitta Pockets would go down well and they were much easier to bake than I thought they would be!

Here’s how I got on:

Flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl ready to be mixed in with some warm water.
Now combined to make a ball of dough. This was kneaded for about 10-15 minutes on my floured worktop.
The ball of dough was put into a mixing bowl which had been lightly oiled. I put it in my utility room and covered the bowl with some cling film.
After two hours the dough looked like this thankfully!
I split the dough into 8 equal pieces and rolled each one out thinly so that they were flat.
Here are two of the pittas after they had been baked in the oven. They were puffed up but soon deflated!
All ready to serve with our Chicken Curry.!

We absolutely loved the pitta breads and as they were so easy to make I know I will be making them time and time again.  They were so much better than shop bought ones.  My hubby would have eaten more if he could.    Cathryn says that “any homemade bread is best eaten fresh on the day but these will keep for 2-3 days wrapped in cling film”  No cling film needed here, they were so delicious it wasn’t needed.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

John Whaite Bakes At Home- Update on my June Cooking The Books Challenge.

Unfortunately things have gone a bit pear shaped in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  It got to the end of the month yesterday and I realised I’d not baked two of the recipes I wanted to for the challenge.  I missed out on baking some Utterly Nutterly Shortbreads and some Wedding Party Rings!  Oh dear, well not to worry.  Instead I have had other baking to do, including a Labrador shaped cake for my friend.  I’ve also been working some extra hours, so time has been precious.  Not only this but I rejoined Weightwatchers two weeks ago.  I lost 6lbs the first week but last week I didn’t follow it properly as I was too busy.  I can feel all those lost pounds creeping back on and I haven’t had the guts to weigh myself….

So this post is really to show what I did get around to baking.  A week last Sunday the village where I go to WI (when I can get to the meetings, that is!) had their Open Gardens.  I baked three things to donate to the WI tea and cake stand.  I was meant to help at the end of the day but I ended up having to say no, after all hubby was out and I needed to be the children’s taxi service!

First up was the Aussie Crunch.  Rather moreish and Gilchrists, the bakery in my nearby town of Boroughbridge makes delicious Aussie Crunch.  It’s quick and simple to make and John includes it in the Family Bakes section of his book.  Great for all the family to eat and to have a go at baking too!  Though John says “Why it is called Aussie Crunch when it comes from Bolton is a mystery to me!”  I was glad in a way it was heading up to the WI stall, if I’d even tried one bite, the whole lot would end up being scoffed!

To make the Aussie Crunch it was simple.  I put butter and sugar into a saucepan and let the butter melt and the sugar dissolve.  In a large mixing bowl I mixed together dessicated coconut and cornflakes, then tossed in some cocoa powder and self raising flour. This was all mixed together with the melted butter and then put into my greased 8″ square tin ready for baking.  It only took 20 minutes to bake and smelled fab.

While the Aussie crunch was still cooling in the tin, John suggests adding the chocolate topping by breaking it up into squares and putting it on top of the crunch. The chocolate melts from the heat of the warm cake.
I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
The finished Aussie Crunch cut up into 12 large heavenly pieces.

While the Aussie Crunch was setting in the fridge, I got on with the next bake.  As I love baking bundt cakes so much I was really keen to try John’s Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake in the Friendship Feasts chapter in the book.  I’m not really keen on figs and even though I wasn’t going to be baking the cake for myself I still fancied putting something else in the cake instead!  So I plumped for chopped, dried dates.  I wanted to use my Jubilee bundt pan again as it has such a pretty lattice design on it and hoped that it would encourage people to try it.

Butter and sugar was creamed together, then I added in grated orange zest. After this, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract were added in carefully, followed by plain flour, baking powder and some ground cinnamon. After everything was folded in, I added in chopped pecan pieces and the dried dates.
The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
View from the top! It looks like a flower when you look at it this way too!

I was very impressed with the results I had with the bundt.  I will definitely be baking this again.  John says “This makes for perfect toast, toppped with some boisterous Stilton cheese!”  Sounds good to me!

The final bake for the WI Open Gardens Stall was John’s Lemon Sherbet Cake.  It contains the sherbet (not the lollies though!) from Sherbet Dip dabs!  I’d never thought to put them in a cake before and it was funny buying Dip-dabs in the shop, haven’t done that since I was about 10!  I also added my own slant to the cake by decorating it with sherbet lemon sweets instead of handmade lemon peel. I just felt a bit lazy by then and wanted to cut a few corners to save time!

Lemon Sherbet candy heaven!

The lemon sherbet cake is from the Family Bakes chapter of John Whaite Bakes At Home and is definitely one to avoid if you are on a diet but perfect for a family get-together or celebration.  John’s version involves vertically slicing the two cake layers so you have four altogether.  I find this dead fiddly so I kept the two and had all my filling in the middle of the cake.  The filling was absolutely gorgeous: whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, the Dip dabs, lemon juice and zest whipped together.  I piped it in the middle and on the top of the cake using my large star shaped nozzle.

The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
Sherbet Lemon sweets on top of the cake. I put whole ones around the edge and then got the remaining ones in the packet and crushed them up to sprinkle them in the middle.

Again, I was really pleased with how the cake turned out and thought I would love to try this with different flavours and sweets.  Very retro.  I took the three cakes around to my friend’s house as I couldn’t help at the stall myself.  She was pleased with them but I haven’t had chance to ask her how they went.  I hope they tasted ok.

As I type this, it is now July 4th.  I’m meant to be thinking about July’s challenge.  I’d better get my bum into gear or else it will be August!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Fruit and Macadamia Nut Cookies from John Whaite Bakes At Home.

A variation on John Whaite’s Apple, Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Cookies.

Last weekend my village had a yard sale and I usually bake a couple of batches of cookies and flapjacks to sell on a stall. I had my eye on the Apple and Macadamia Nut Cookies in John Whaite’s latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home and wanted to bake them from the Breakfasts chapter at the beginning of the book.  This was part of my latest Cooking The Books Challenge for June 2014.

I read the recipe and realised that the recipe needed dried apple, not fresh apple chopped up in chunks.  I hadn’t got any dried apple so I found a bag of mixed, dried fruit which I thought I’d use instead.

John says “These inelegant cookies are nothing short of heaven sent.  The dried apples are chewy, the macadamia nuts are crunchy and the oatmeal adds great texture in between the two”  I could imagine me scoffing a whole plateful of these!  So I thought I’d try them out on visitors to our Yard Sale.

First I creamed butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, then added vanilla and egg. After this I tossed in some oats, plain flour and baking powder.  Once this was brought together into a dough, in went some mixed dried fruit and some chopped macadamia nuts.

The ball of dough was then formed into a long sausage on a piece of cling film and wrapped carefully to chill in the fridge for about half an hour.  When it was chilled enough, I cut the cookie sausage into 1cm slices and arranged them on a baking tray, baking them for about 10 or so minutes.

The finished cookies piled up on the cooling rack ready to be boxed up for our yard sale.

The Yard Sale started off well and all my chocolate flapjack and my white chocolate fudge cookies sold.  I was left with about six out of twenty of these beauties.  Many people who realised they had dried fruit in said “Oh no, I don’t like raisins” or “My kids won’t eat those,”  The people who did buy them said they were delicious.  I would love to bake the recipe again but will buy in some dried apple especially!

Here are a couple of pictures of the other two bakes for the Yard Sale:

White Chocolate and Fudge Cookies.
Chocolate Covered flapjacks.
Bakes laid out on the table ready for the customers.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx