Very Easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes.

This year I was lucky enough to to get two useful calendars for Christmas. My Dad and step mum bought me a “his and hers” cupcake design calendar which is where I write down all mine and my husband’s work commitments. I work as a supply teacher so my work patterns and locations can vary from week to week. Hubby isn’t always in the office but can be out and about or can be away overnight. So a calendar showing one another’s whereabouts in full view in the kitchen is very helpful.  I was also given a Great British Bake Off Family planner.  This is where I put all the family and home commitments. Even the dog, cat and horse have a slot! The bonus with the planner is that each month features a delicious recipe. 

The recipe for January was for some easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes. They use cocoa powder to create the chocolate flavour instead of real chocolate. I was glad as I didn’t have any chocolate in the house. Well I’m MEANT to be doing Weightwatchers but all this cold and wet weather has made me want chocolate all the more. So I’ve made sure there wasn’t any in the house! But I really miss baking and I knew that my son was having friends over to help him with a film project the day after. I didn’t want to go out buying more ingredients so I wanted to use up what I had.

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s simple enough to be mixed up in a food processor. My food processor kicked the bucket last year and I haven’t got round to replacing it yet. You can use an ordinary stand mixer or a hand held mixer instead. I used my hand held one as I couldn’t be bothered with getting the big mixer out of the cupboard just for baking one thing! 

The fat content comes from using sunflower oil instead of butter.  First I weighed out and sifted the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl: self raising flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. These were then mixed together. In another bowl I weighed out the sunflower oil, a beaten egg, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some caster sugar. Once this was combined, some milk got added to the mixture. Finally the dry mixture was folded into the wet mixture to create a delicious fudgy and gooey brownie like batter. It was slightly runnier than my standard chocolate cupcake mixture so I poured it into the prepared cupcake cases rather than spooning them in with a teaspoon. 

The cupcakes rose beautifully in the oven and took roughly about 20 minutes to bake. I took them out of the oven and made the most of the gorgeous sunny day by going out for a four mile walk with my dog. It was a rush for me to get the cupcakes iced before I went out to pick my son up from school. The icing is a flavourful one with this recipe. It was a buttercream but instead of all icing sugar in the mixture it also contained caster sugar. I’ve never made icing with anything other than icing sugar in it before so that was a new one on me. The icing apart from containing cocoa powder to give it its chocolatey flavour had some strong coffee in it. Not sure how strong the coffee flavour would come across but I thought it was an interesting addition. 

Easy Double Chocolate Cupcakes from the 2016 Great British Bake Off calendar.
  
The cupcakes had a simple but delicious coffee chocolate icing.
 
I chose to bake my cupcakes in red cases because red looks great with chocolate and I had a pack of red, white and blue sprinkles to use up. The picture on the calendar showed mini Smarties or chocolate beans on the top but anything goes with these babies.

Surprisingly none of the cupcakes got touched until my son’s friends arrived. I don’t know how that happened. They went down well and my daughter said she preferred them to cupcakes swirled with a heap of buttercream on top like a Mr Whippy ice cream. Trouble is they look better. 

This recipe is perfect for baking with kids if you want to encourage them into the kitchen.  

Happy baking! 

Love Sam xx

Afternoon Tea at the Great Victoria Hotel, Bradford.

A few weeks back I was contacted by the Marketing Team at  The Great Victoria Hotel in Bradford asking if I was interested in visiting their establishment and then writing a review about my experience.  I jumped at the chance and found out the Great Victoria did Afternoon Teas.

My lovely friend Sharon from Cake Club and I meet up for afternoon tea regularly so when I had the chance to try out the Great Victoria I asked Sharon if she would like to go with me.  I don’t know Bradford that well, whereas Sharon does and knew that the Great Victoria was conveniently located opposite Bradford Interchange station.

The building itself was very grand and the interior did not disappoint either. High, ornate ceilings and classic decor harking back to the heyday of rail travel in years gone by.  The reception area looked very pretty with an enormous Christmas tree which nearly reached the ceiling!

205

When we arrived at the hotel we knew that the Afternoon Tea was to be held in Bertie’s Bar. We didn’t know where it was as there weren’t any signs as to where it was. As the hotel was busy with a couple of Christmas functions, we had to wait in the queue at Reception to find out where the bar was.  Once we did find out where it was we were shown to a table for two.  The surroundings were pleasant and the staff were very friendly and welcoming.

On our table was a large wooden box containing a selection of Rington Tea Bags. We were allowed to choose as much tea as we wanted and the staff brought along some hot water and some milk.  Although the tea was lovely the large wooden box was a bit of a pain being on the table and we had to put it on the next table so it didn’t take up space. This wasn’t a problem but could have been a bit cumbersome if the restaurant had been crowded at the time.  Both Sharon and I opted for Earl Grey tea even though there was a mouthwatering array of flavours including fruit ones. As a traditional person I went for Earl Grey.  The other problem with choosing the tea bags was what to do with them when we had mashed the tea.  Both Sharon and I agreed we love loose leaf tea and a tea strainer when we go to afternoon tea. We both felt that either a big table would have been better to put the wooden box on or perhaps to serve the tea in pots already.

The Afternooon Tea itself was absolutely delicious- a huge selection of sandwiches first. The bread was fresh and the fillings varied and delicious.  We had a scone each which was fresh and came with a huge pot of cream but there was only one pot of jam between the two of us so we had to eek it out!

There was a mammoth selection of fresh cakes which we really enjoyed. It would have been nicer to have had two of each cake instead of one of each so you are not “fighting” over who gets the chocolate eclair, etc.

We both really enjoyed our afternoon tea at the Great Victoria. Although ours was complimentary I felt it was tremendous value for money at only £9 for one or £17.  It was busy with it being near to Christmas but I can recommend the hotel. It is also centrally located for the Interchange and the brand new shopping centre.

For more information visit : www.victoriabradford.co.uk

Address: Great Victoria Hotel, Bridge Street, Bradford, BD1 1JX.

Telephone: 01274 728706

Email: info@victoriabradford.co.uk

Twitter: @GreatVictoria

Facebook :https://www.facebook.com/TheGreatVictoriaHotel

All thoughts and comments about this review are my own.

Sticky Gingerbread Traybake.

IMG_0452
Sticky Gingerbread Traybake- an absolutely delicious recipe from the latest Great British Bake Off Book –The Great British Bake Off Celebrations.

Happy New Year to anyone who might be reading this. I’m determined to get back into my neglected blog this year.  It’s been so long but you know what it’s like leading up to Christmas, things just go crazy. Here’s another recipe I had a go at a few weeks ago.  I just love anything with ginger in it and was keen to have a go at baking the Sticky Ginger Traybake from the latest Great British Bake Off cookbook. The recipe introduction made it sound even more mouthwatering: “..this dark, almost black, sticky toffee gingerbread with a crunchy topping.  Dark muscovado sugar and black treacle give it a rich bitter sweetness while stem ginger adds fire and heat,”

The traybake is a sticky gingerbread base with a crunchy topping and just speaks of Autumn and Bonfire Night to me. The base is baked separately from the topping.

First of all I put butter, treacle and dark muscovado sugar into a pan and heated it gently.  Then I chopped some stem ginger into large chunks and added it to the pan with some reserved syrup from the stem ginger jar.

As this was melting, I sifted plain flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and some bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl.  Once this was done I then mixed in two medium eggs. The melted ginger mixture was also added to the bowl to make the gingerbread. This was then poured into my prepared traybake tin and baked in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While the gingerbread base was in the oven I made the topping which was made up of plain flour, ground ginger, light brown muscovado sugar, unsalted butter and stem ginger.  It was a rubbed in mixture.  When the gingerbread base came out of the oven I sprinkled the topping onto it and then put it back into the oven for another 25 minutes.  The aroma of spicy gingerbread was just gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to try a piece.

IMG_0451
The Sticky Gingerbread Traybake was cut up into sixteen generous sizes.
IMG_0452
One spare for me to taste, the rest went into work to share out!

I was really pleased with how the gingerbread traybake turned out and it will be something I’d love to bake more of in the future.  The flavour of the gingerbread was very spicy and intense so it might not appeal to those who love strong flavours.  It did to me though, in fact if I’d not stopped myself I would have eaten more slices.  I put them in a box and took them to the school I was teaching in the following day to share out in the staff room.  I’m not sure whether they went down well or not, I forgot to ask!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

 

Pumpkin Slices

143
Pumpkin Slice from the Primrose Bakery Christmas book.

I can’t believe I haven’t updated my blog for weeks and weeks.  Time has just slipped by. Even during the Christmas holidays I didn’t have time to log on and update on what has been baking in the SmartCookieSam kitchen.

A few weeks ago one of my Cake Club friends very kindly bought a couple of cans of Libby’s Pumpkin Puree when she was shopping for some herself. I was grateful as I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get hold of some myself. I’ve bought it in Waitrose before. My family think pumpkin tastes disgusting but I love it so any excuse to bake something that wouldn’t get troughed before I manage to get a slice!

Anyway, what to bake? I wanted to try something different so I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an interesting looking bake in the Primrose Bakery Christmas.book. I don’t really associate pumpkin with Christmas, more with Autumn and Thanksgiving but I was keen to try it out.

The recipe introduction states: “This spicy and slightly alcoholic pumpkin slice would actually make a great dessert served with some whipped or double cream or vanilla ice cream on the side,” 

So, with an afternoon to spare out came my traybake tin and on went the oven.  The pumpkin slice has two parts to it, an unusual crumble base and a mousse like topping which are baked separately.  The base comprised of sugar, oats, plain flour and butter which were rubbed in together just like you do when you make a crumble.  Once the mixture looked like breadcrumbs I had to press the mixture into the base of my greased traybake tin.  The crumble base was baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While the crumble base was baking I prepared the mousse topping.  I was meant to put rum in the mixture but I didn’t have any so I used some leftover brandy instead.  To make the topping I simply mixed together a whole can of Libby’s Pumpkin Puree, three large beaten eggs, some caster sugar, self raising flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon. ginger and nutmeg.The mixture was a bright orange colour and reminded me of the purees I used to make for my children when they were babies!

The mousse like topping was then spread over the cooked crumble base. To finish off I sprinkled over some flaked almonds before putting the slice back into the oven for another 20-25 minutes.

The pumpkin slice came out of the oven and looked a bit unappealing to me.  It wasn’t a very deep slice but it looked claggy and stodgy.  I thought I would try a piece when it had cooled down. I was disappointed. I ended up eating a couple of mouthfuls and the rest went in the bin. It was revolting and the topping wasn’t the texture I was expecting at all. What a shame.

143

Happy New Year to you and Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx