Black Cherry Cupcakes. 

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Black Cherry Cupcakes- seriously indulgent and rich.

It seems like ages since I’ve baked cupcakes.  A couple of years ago they were everywhere and I was always being asked to make them.  I love making cupcakes, especially when you can put gorgeous decorations on them.  The only trouble is that I find the icing far too sickly sweet.  Doesn’t stop me baking for other people though.

Two weeks ago I had a much needed day off to catch up at home.  Of course baking always takes over my mind and all I can think of while I’m hoovering or dusting is baking. Why is baking seen of as fun but hoovering is not? At least it was an incentive to get me through the tedious bits.

I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugars and had a packet of their black cherry icing sugar to try out.  With this in mind a few weeks previously I had bought a tin of black cherries in syrup.  I had to de-stone all the cherries first. Can you imagine what a nasty surprise that would have been if I hadn’t have taken the stones out? I then thoroughly rinsed the cherries and patted them dry on some kitchen roll so that they weren’t covered in the sticky syrup.  I kept a dozen whole for decorating the top of the cupcakes and chopped the remaining ones up into quarters to go inside the mix.

It was a perfect excuse to use some pretty black and white patterned cupcake cases I had bought last year in TKMaxx and never used.  Thankfully they were great quality ones. Sometimes you buy pretty cupcake cases only to find they fade in the oven or feel greasy afterwards.  These didn’t and still looked perfect when they came out of the oven.

The recipe for these delicious cupcakes is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.  They were baked by creaming butter and sugar together, then adding eggs, plain flour and baking powder to the mix.  After this I folded in the stoned, rinsed and quartered cherries.

Not before long the cupcakes were in the oven and I was greeted with a delicious smell wafting throughout the kitchen.  Time for a cup of tea before starting on the icing.

If you read my blog regularly you will notice I use Sugar and Crumbs’ icing sugars and cocoa powders a lot.  I’m not working for them or connected to them in any way but I just love their products.  Every time they bring out a new flavour I’m always desperate to try it. The Black Cherry one isn’t a new flavour in their range but it was one I’d not seen before. As with their other flavours you could smell the aroma of the black cherries when you opened the packet.

Once the cupcakes had cooled down and I’d finished my cuppa, I made up the buttercream.  I find buttercream a bit sickly so I always add a splash of lemon juice to mine.  This is a tip I picked up from my late Nana Mary and also from my mum.  It takes the teeth tingling sweetness away if you don’t like it.  Just a splash of it, mind!

A few minutes later and my cupcakes were ready.  A stoned black cherry on top to finish!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mint Chocolate M&M Cupcakes.

So far so good with my Slimming World plan.  But I really miss baking.  And what I mean about that is proper baking without using rubbish ingredients to replace the sugar and the butter in cakes.  I’ll just have to be extra strict with myself and keep away from anything I bake.

I’ve had a large bag of Mint M&Ms in my baking cupboard for a few weeks now.  Every time my son comes in the kitchen he’s always asking me if he can have the packet of M&Ms as I hadn’t used them. I told him I was using them to bake cupcakes or cookies with but last Wednesday he’d asked again on his day off from college.  So I thought I would use the M&M’s as decorations on top of some  chocolate mint infused cupcakes which were finished off with a swirl of mint chocolate buttercream.  Those of you who know me well, know I have an addiction to all things mint flavoured and I’m also a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugars.  When they brought out a mint chocolate flavour icing sugar I was in heaven.

MINT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

 125g softened, unsalted butter.

125g caster sugar

100g self raising flour

25g cocoa powder (I use Green and Blacks)

2 large free range eggs

1 tsp peppermint extract

  • Prepare a 12 hole cupcake tin with your cupcake cases and preheat your oven.  I have an electric fan oven so my oven temperature is about 1600C.
  • Weigh out all the ingredients and mix together in a large mixing bowl. I use the all in one method for baking my cupcakes.  These can either be mixed with a hand held mixer or a free standing one.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. I usually get two large teaspoonfuls into each case, making sure they are equally divided. I have used a small ice cream scoop to help me in the past but it has broken!
  • Bake the cupcakes on the tray in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are well risen and spring back when touched.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the icing:

250g softened unsalted butter

500g pack of Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Mint Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar

Milk to mix.

  • Weigh out the butter and put into a large mixing bowl.  Whip it up with a hand held mixer so that it makes it creamy and easier to manage.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and mix carefully. Add in milk, bit by bit until the icing is smooth but not runny. It needs to be of a piping consistency.
  • Prepare a large piping bag with a large star shaped icing nozzle and fill the bag with about 1/3 0f the mixture. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

As the pictures of my cupcakes shows, I used mint flavour M&M’s to top my cakes. You could use anything with a chocolate mint flavour: After Eight mints or Aero Bubbles or Matchmakers.

These cakes always go down well with my family and it was torture not being able to eat one.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Anyone who knows me knows I have a terrible addiction to Maltesers.  I don’t know why I do, I just love them.  These big “sharing” bags are a big joke to me as they have resealable tops.  How can this be possible?  I’ve never resealed anything that has chocolate inside it!

I can't get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?
I can’t get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?

Last month my baking cupboard had many packs of Maltesers in it because they were supporting Comic Relief this year with their Bake Yourself Silly campaign. for Red Nose Day 2015. I always love to get involved with Comic Relief and baking is one of my ways of doing my bit.  The Maltesers website has some brilliant baking recipes to use for fundraising and I was keen to have a go.

I’m now working as a primary supply teacher in various schools in my area.  One of the schools I work in regularly was going to have a Comic Relief bake sale on the day after I was working there.  I brought in two dozen cupcakes and a batch of Malteser Rocky Road for the stall.  The school were over the moon with them and on the following Monday when I was next teaching there, they said all the cupcakes and Rocky Road sold out.  What a relief.

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I baked two dozen vanilla cupcakes for the bake sale. The cupcake cases and toppers came in a special pack from Sainsburys.

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I used Lorraine Pascale’s fridge cake recipe which is in one of her books. Unfortunately it was meant to have marshmallows in it. I found my kids had nicked my mini marshmallow packet to use in their hot chocolate!

I also tried baking some cheeky Red Nose Day Empire biscuits, which were shortbread rounds sandwiched together with jam. They were finished off with white glace icing, a big glace cherry red nose and funny faces piped on with melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

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My cheeky Red Nose Day Empire Biscuits.
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Mary Berry’s fantastic new book.

After all this baking I was still left with a whole packet of Maltesers.  Knowing me, this packet sitting there in the cupboard would be taunting me every time I went to get something else out.  What could I do with it?  I had recently bought a copy of Mary Berry’s latest book “Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites” and had already decided what I wanted to cook from it.  Although I love baking I was glad to see there would be lots of other delicious savoury recipes to try.  But one recipe I just had to try was the Malted Chocolate Cake.

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Mary Berry’s Malted Chocolate Cake was a perfect treat to serve on Mother’s Day.

I chose to bake the chocolate cake on Mother’s Day. Although I wouldn’t be seeing my Mum until the following weekend I was spending time with my own husband and two teenagers.  Normally they would bake a cake for me but both of them were busy with schoolwork so I baked it myself! After all you are meant to spend time doing things on Mother’s Day that you enjoy the most and baking to me is just that!

The Malted Chocolate Cake was very simple to bake in two 8″ sandwich tins and involves using cocoa powder and chocolate flavoured Ovaltine to get the malty taste.  The chocolate buttercream was the same.  I was also impressed that it wasn’t too sweet which both my daughter and hubby commented on when they ate some.

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The finished Malted Chocolate cake.

After the cake had cooled enough I made up the chocolate icing.  It did not need real bars of chocolate melted in the mixture but the chocolate flavour once again came from cocoa powder.  I always try to use a good brand of cocoa powder in my bakes, such as Green and Blacks.

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Oh, go on then, don’t mind if I do! The diet starts AGAIN tomorrow!

Now, you’re probably wondering what happened to the remaining Maltesers which were left over after adorning the top of the cake.  Well, I was a kind mum to my kids and shared them out equally between the two of them.  I don’t think they were expecting that to happen with my track record.  The cake itself got eaten over the next few days, it kept well in an airtight tin.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

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.

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White chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing.
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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!

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These cola cupcakes were a hit with the children.
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Iced Hidden Raspberry Cupcakes from Delia’s Cakes.

For this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge I’m a bit pushed for time as I have to concentrate all my baking into the first half of the month. The second half of the month I will be recuperating from surgery.  Even though it’s only a minor procedure I’m having I still won’t be wanting to think about any sort of cooking, let alone baking.  So I’ve chosen Delia’s Cakes as there are only nine recipes in this challenge and I can bake most of them for two local events which need cakes donating for a cake stall.

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Last Saturday afternoon I was busy in my kitchen baking four recipes from the challenge.  Our neighbouring village had it’s Spring Festival yesterday.  A cafe is set up in the school hall serving teas and cakes.  As my son used to go to that primary school and he had such a wonderful time in the two years that he went there, I am only too glad to support the school in any way I can even though he left in 2011!  So baking a few cakes for the school cafe is the least I can do.

The recipe I chose from the Small Cakes chapter had to be something quick and easy to make as well as something appealing.  In the end I chose the Iced Hidden Strawberry Cupcakes.  With it not being the season for strawberries I chose raspberries instead.

All I had to do was to sift some self raising flour into my large mixing bowl.  This was followed by adding all the other ingredients, such as some spreadable butter, caster sugar, eggs and some vanilla extract.  This was mixed together with my hand whisk.  But as I was whisking the mixture the motor suddenly made groaning noises and one of the beaters stopped spinning round.  This is just typical.  I have a large KitchenAid but my hubby doesn’t like it cluttering up the surface when it’s not being used so I have to put it away in a cupboard.  I end up using the hand whisk but as it’s such a cheapo one which I bought at Christmas (not even 5 months!) and it’s stopped working! I took the faulty beater off and continued with one beater for another minute or so.

When that was done I got out my cupcake cases and found some silver foil ones.  I thought I’d use silver ones as Delia had in the picture next to the recipe and it looked pretty against the pink icing on the cupcakes.  These ones were small for cupcakes but the standard “fairy cake” size ones. Half the mixture was put inside the cases, then I pressed a whole raspberry inside, finishing off with the rest of the filling.

Into the oven went the cupcakes for about 20 minutes and out they came later all risen and golden.  I let them cool and then I made up the raspberry icing.  This was made by pureeing some raspberries in my blender and sieving the pips out so I was left with the juice.  This was then mixed with some icing sugar.  The mixture was far too stiff so I added a little milk.  Then it was too runny so I added more icing sugar.  When it came to decorating the top of the cupcakes the icing was quite runny but I prefer that than it looking perfect to be honest.  The finishing touch was a whole raspberry and a dusting of icing sugar on the top of each cupcake.

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The finished iced hidden raspberry cupcakes.

The cupcakes were put into a plastic box ready to take down to the school the following morning but when I checked them I noticed the icing looked like it had lost its shine and was a bit wrinkly.  I was disappointed with their appearance and noticed when I was down at the school only one had gone from the plate.  I was concerned about whether people were put off by their appearance so when I bought my cup of tea I bought one of my cakes back so I could test it out.  We also chose a slice of delicious banana cake which my mum and I shared along with half each of my cupcake.  Both my mum and I thought it tasted fine and my mum said the sponge tasted nice and light.  I don’t know what happened afterwards but to be fair there were a lot of different and very yummy cakes to choose from there.  I just don’t know whether it was the milk which made the icing wrinkle like that, maybe I should have added water instead. Oh well, you live and learn!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Christmas Baking 2013.

It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Christmas.  Even though sometimes you feel as if you’re meeting yourself coming backwards and life is a whirlwind, I do love all the exciting lead up and all the baking I do.  I’ve put my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes business on hold for the moment until my son leaves school but baking is very much in my blood and I couldn’t imagine not doing it.  It would be like losing a part of me.   Instead, I turned to baking for friends and family making foodie presents as well as donating mince pies and other goodies to Christmas events at work.

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Mince Pies- these were made with a zesty orange pastry. I used Mary Berry’s mince pie recipe from her latest recipe book: They were filled with my homemade mincemeat from Delia Smith’s Christmas book. My late mother in law always used the recipe to make her mince pies and they always tasted delicious. She recommended the recipe and I have used it ever since.

I made several batches of these mince pies during December.  In previous years I’ve used various recipes, including Nigella’s Domestic Goddess recipe and the one featured in the very first Great British Bake Off cookbook.  Compared with shop bought mince pies they are smaller and the mincemeat is sweeter but they are how I imagine homemade mince pies to taste. I baked some mince pies to serve after our school Nativity performance and also for a grandparents’ Christmas tea party. Sadly, when I was baking for the first event I was carrying a rack of two dozen pies from the oven over to the worktop and knocked them all onto the floor.  Oh dear!  It didn’t help that my greedy but gorgeous Labrador ran in while I was getting the brush out and “hoovered” them up! We only had half the mince pies on that night! I can see the funny side of it now!

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A festive version of the Mocha Marble Cake as featured in The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook. I baked this as a pudding for after Sunday lunch.
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I baked a lot of cupcakes for foodie presents this year.

I love baking cupcakes at Christmas and although I don’t have much spare time to make my own toppers and decorations I was pleased that my local Sainsburys could help me out.  I got the gingerbread men and Christmas pudding toppers in special packs and the snowmen came from somewhere else.  I was also pleased to find TKMaxx selling sprinkles and found some great crushed peppermint pieces in a tub.

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Christmas Pudding Cupcake- all the flavours of a Christmas pudding within a sponge cupcake, including a dash of brandy in the frosting! Recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.
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Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. This time it’s the Candy Cane Cupcake recipe. I decorated the top slightly differently as I couldn’t find my two tone icing bag.
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These are the EggNog cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book. They were flavoured with rum!
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Finally, here are some gingerbread cupcakes. They provided a great spicy hit without being too overpowering and were topped with a lemon cream cheese icing. Another recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days cookbook.

For our school Grandparents’ Christmas Party during the last week of term I wanted to serve Christmas Cake but hadn’t left enough time to bake a traditional cake.  I found this ideal alternative in Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, a light fruit cake baked as a traybake.  You then ice the top with marzipan and sugarpaste and cut it into small squares.  I thought this was a brilliant idea and the cakes went down well even though some people don’t like the sweet icing, it was easily peeled off. I decorated the tops with snowflakes, trees, stars and other Christmassy motifs.

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The Christmas Cake Bites from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection.
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The remaining gingerbread men and the snowmen sugar toppers got used on these fondant topped vanilla sponge cupcakes made for the children in the school where I work. I love baking them cupcakes or cookies at the end of term.

When baking for Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes I made these gingerbread Christmas Trees to order.  Each one I made was unique and I loved putting them together.  This year I only made one which I donated as a raffle prize.  I originally bought the cutters from Selfridges as a set from Wilton when I was in London a few years back.  Now Lakeland Limited sell them and they are very popular.  For the recipe I use 2 batches of a gingerbread cookie recipe and bake two of each size of cookie.  Once these have been baked and cooled they are covered in roll out icing.  I used the white Renshaw icing for this project and added Skittles and Toffee bon-bons.

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The 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree.
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After baking the star shapes for the tree I had enough dough left to bake some gingerbread men. I added 4 cheeky gingerbread men to look like they were sitting on the branches of the Christmas tree.
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This is our family Christmas Cake this year. Usually I love to make my own decorations but I fell in love with all these pretty cake toppers and cake band when I was in John Lewis in Liverpool back in October. I just HAD to have them for my cake. What’s more as they’re not edible I’ve got them again for next year!
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Mary Berry’s Tunis Cake as featured on The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special
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More cupcake foodie presents. This time I made chocolate orange and chocolate mint cupcakes. The boxes were ones I found in Lakeland last year and kept them for this Christmas.
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My children helped me to decorate their Christmas pudding alternative- a chocolate Yule Log. I treated myself to the Nordicware Yule Log Bundt pan on sale in Lakeland. They covered the chocolate cake in ganache and piped royal icing on the top of it.
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I made gift bags of cookies for my step-nephews and nieces from a cutter set I bought from TKMaxx. The colours aren’t that Christmassy but it did spell out ho-ho!
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Two Mint Chocolate Cupcakes left over from all the baking. I was looking forward to trying one out but the kids got there before me!

Here’s hoping you all had a great 2013, fantastic Christmas and that you’re looking forward to what 2014 may bring.

Love Sam xx