Peanut Butter Cupcakes

When I was looking through my two Primrose Bakery cookbooks and planning what to bake next, I was spoilt for choice! Lots of delicious mouthwatering cupcakes with different tastes and colours, also different flavours some more unusual than others.

Then, one evening about 2 weeks ago my choice was made for me. A customer asked me if I made peanut butter cupcakes.  Up til then I hadn’t, to be honest it was something I had never got round to trying out due to being too busy.  I’m so glad I did and the customer loved them.  In the first book “Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery” is a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes and topped with a milk chocolate icing.  I looked through the recipe, looked at the picture and thought that it looked straightforward.

I like to make my own twists to recipes, to call them my own and I like to decorate my cupcakes differently. This wasn’t difficult with the peanut butter cupcakes as the picture in the book showed the cupcakes decorated with peanut butter chips.  I have never ever seen them in the UK, they must be American.  The nearest thing I had used to that was some butterscotch chips I had brought back from a trip to the US about 3 years ago.  I sourced some Reeses Peanut Butter Drops (like M&M’s) but I had a crap day and delved into them when I had a chocolate craving. After that I felt really sick and thought well if I felt sick I don’t want my customers to!   I then had an idea that I could top the cupcakes with peanut M&M’s.  At the moment, what with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics there’s some bags of red, white and blue ones floating about so they were perfect.  If I have to make them again in the future I’ll use the standard ones or the other limited edition ones.

So, read on to find out how I made them:

The notes in the recipe state that the cupcake is fairly rich and dense, I would agree with that, but I was assured they were moreish!

I mixed the cupcake batter using the creaming method in my KitchenAid mixer.  First I creamed the butter, peanut butter and the sugar together, then added the eggs carefully along with a spoonful of vanilla extract.  The dry ingredients were combined separately, then added slowly to the mixture.

To note: It states in the recipe to use smooth peanut butter.  Personally I don’t like the cheaper brands of peanut butter as they are full of added sugar which to my mind is totally unnessecary! I prefer spending a little bit more and buying a nicer brand, such as Whole Earth. Their peanut butter contains oil, but no sugar.

When it was time to spoon the batter into the cupcake cases I realised I had some American themed cupcake cases left over from a 4th July order beforehand.  As these cupcakes were American in style I chose to bake them in the remaining cases I had left. Usually the Yorkshire Bakery cupcakes are baked in whatever cupcake cases I have left in stock that co-ordinates well with the cakes.

Here are the cupcakes cooling on the rack. I found that they rose very well and smelled delicious when they came out of the oven.  My daughter, who loves peanut butter on toast sometimes for breakfast was very impressed with the smell. She was also worried I’d nicked her peanut butter for the following morning!

After a couple of hours cooling time it was time to make the accompanying icing.  The Primrose Bakery suggest using Milk Chocolate Icing as an accompaniment.  I had never made chocolate icing with milk chocolate before, probably because I was worried it would not melt as well as plain chocolate.  I decided to try it as a half and half.  I also found that this recipe did not need icing sugar but used double cream and butter as well as vanilla extract.  I looked in the fridge and realised I did not have any double cream left, so back to the drawing board it was.  In the end I chose to use the recipe I usually use on my luxury chocolate cupcakes and I’m glad I did as the icing came out exactly as I wanted it to.

Here are the finished Peanut Butter Cupcakes topped with the luxury chocolate icing and with the red, white and blue peanut M&M’s for decoration.

If you want to bake these for yourself you will find the peanut butter cupcake recipe on p72 in Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery.

Happy Baking!
Love Sam x

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Who else out there likes brownies? I don’t know many people that don’t. I would love to know what it is that brownies have that send people into raptures, is it the chocolate?  The fact that there’s rather a lot of sugar in them? Or that the chocolately gooey gorgeousness just melts in the mouth.  

At the Yorkshire Bakery we make lots of plain chocolate brownies to sell on our stalls. They are also popular as orders for family get-togethers and parties.  The brownies sell out really quickly along with all the other chocolate products, perhaps I should retrain as a chocolatier!  
I first started making brownies about 5 years ago when I developed a tried and tested foolproof recipe which I’ve used ever since.  I was delighted at one of the first stalls I had that a man came up to me and proposed to me after buying a bag of my brownies. He then bought another bag, no I didn’t take him up on his offer as I am already happily married to Mr Smith!  
Now, as I am having a go at this Primrose Bakery recipe book challenge I was interested to see that there was a recipe for brownies in their second book.  My mouth was watering looking at the accompanying photo.  Brownies, for me are so useful.  They are great for an afternoon tea, they make a fabulously indulgent dessert and you can also use them as gifts placed in a pretty tin.
Yesterday lunch time was the time to test them out.  My mum was staying with us for the weekend and I decided to have the brownies for dessert after roast beef with all the trimmings.
The information given with the recipe said that the Primrose Bakery didn’t often serve up brownies in their cafes.  I am most surprised about this, they would be popular.  I bet they would disappear very quickly.
I like to adapt recipes to suit what I have in the kitchen cupboard.  I had two bars of Lindt Mint Intense chocolate to use up. I usually make Mint Crackle cookies with them in the winter but I had a huge craving to bake mint brownies.  The recipe called for using 275g chocolate (I only had 200g spare!) and extra chocolate chips.  I used a bag of dark chocolate chunks as well.  Another substitution was that I used organic cocoa powder in place of expresso powder and peppermint extract in place of the vanilla extract. I was concerned that the mint flavour would be overpowering, but it was worth a try.
The method for making the brownies was exactly the same as I already do and I enjoyed the melting of the chocolate and butter in the microwave first. It was torture seeing the melted chocolate in the bowl, I just wanted to dive into it!  
It was also time to reuse a fantastic cake tin my mum had bought for me a few weeks back.  It is a special brownie pan with a loose bottom with a special rack which divides the brownies into 18 equal squares.  I was thrilled to bits with it as I am a sucker for new gadgets, this will definitely get loads of use!
The brownies were slightly deeper than the usual ones I make as the quantities of ingredients were bigger.  I was very nervous as they were baking in the oven as I had completely forgotten to set the timer.  
Finally the brownies were ready to come out.  The surface had cracked across the top and I let the brownies cool down before cutting them with the divider.  I then placed them on my white cake stand ready for dessert.
Mr Smith had bought some mint choc chip ice cream when he had gone shopping earlier, which perfectly contrasted with the brownies.  We had a tiny piece with a small scoop of ice cream and were very pleased with it.  I will definitely bake more brownies like these!
The remaining brownies were divided into two. I gave some to my Mum to share with her work colleagues and was intending to keep some for later in the week.  However, when I started to divide them I noticed we were four down!  My mum spotted telltale chocolate crumbs in the dining room near my son’s XBox!  He had scoffed the lot although as expected he denied it!  In the end we kept only 4 so we could have another piece at tea time with a sandwich.
Thankyou to the Primrose Bakery for such a lovely brownie recipe and we will definitely be making this one over and over again.
Mint Chocolate Brownies adapted from a recipe in  the Primrose Bakery CookBook.
Happy Baking!
Sam xx

Chocolate Labradors- "Charlies"

As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve been reading my previous blog posts is that along with my baking for customers I’m also attempting to bake my way through the two Primrose Bakery recipe books.  These two books are rapidly becoming cake mix spattered with sticky bits of icing sugar on the pages.  I am becoming addicted, waiting for my next baking fix.

Each time I look through the second book my eyes kept being drawn back to a cookie recipe.  As my business started out making cookies before the cupcake craze took over, I couldn’t resist the cute Sausage Dog cookie recipe.  In the book, the chocolate shortbread dog biscuits are shaped like sausage dogs because they are made to look like the owners’ dog Charlie!  Well I have my very own Charlie too at home, it must be a popular name for a dog!  My Charlie is an 8 month old black labrador puppy, who is the apple of my eye and my 3rd child!

My puppy Charlie at 6 weeks old when we went to choose him (or did he choose us?)

I needed to make some hand decorated cookies to sell on my stall last weekend.  I usually make very highly decorated cookies using royal icing or fondant icing.  However I did not have as much time last weekend to make them, so the idea of the Chocolate Charlies came about.

In my vast selection of cookie cutters I found two Labrador shapes, one was more detailed than the other and had thinner legs. I thought this might make the legs break so I found a more simple one from a set I bought in Lakeland about 5 years ago that had 101 plastic cookie cutters in it.  I think this cutter was used a couple of years back when I made dalmatian cookies for a friend’s son.

I made up the dough in my Kitchen Aid using the dough hook attachment then let the dough chill for about 1/2 hour in the fridge.  When it was chilled it rolled out much easier.  I got about 35 cookies from the mixture.

They baked well in the oven for about 12-15 minutes then once cooled I set about icing them.

According to the picture in the Primrose Bakery book you can use any decorations or sprinkles you have lying about.  I wanted to use a mixture too so that I could use up leftovers.  I had some mini heart sprinkles left, some lilac sugar sprinkles, some yellow sprinkles and finally some pink and white sugar balls.  I had fun decorating the biscuits, just putting some fondant icing on the top of the cookies around the neck to make a collar.  Then I tipped loads of sprinkles on, making a huge mess all over my work top and the floor!  My hubby always moans about this, he says it’s painful when you stand on a silver ball with no shoes on!

This is a rubbish picture as I’m always forgetting to get my camera out at the right time. I put the cookies into clear cellophane bags with 4 at a time.  The eyes were quickly piped on with a dot of royal icing.
The Chocolate Charlie biscuits worked out well in the end and I’ll definitely be baking these again! 
Happy Baking.
Sam x

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Who can’t resist the lure of chocolate? Me, me, me!  As I sit down typing now, the rain pouring down outside, the miserable dark sky is making me long for comfort. We shouldn’t be thinking of comfort food in July, we should be thinking of barbecues and salads!  Well this is the UK I suppose.

I’m just thinking about a couple of mint infused bars of chocolate in my cupboard that need to be used up, they will make fab brownies but in the meantime I found myself thinking of the chocolate cupcakes I baked last weekend for my RSPCA stall.

Once again I found myself looking towards the Primrose Bakery recipe book, this time the first one all about cupcakes.  I always find my chocolate items sell out first on my stalls, the Rocky Road is a winner, then the Brownies and followed by my chocolate cupcakes.  I don’t know why this is but I do know I love chocolate.

I baked my chocolate cupcakes in my usual way, using brown muffin cases from Morrisons.  I always find the supermarket cupcake cases do a fantastic job, they never come away from the side of the cake. They are not greasy and they do not lose their colour. Why pay loads of  money for cases with a fantastic design only to find they don’t do the job?

From stall to stall I try to vary the design on the top of the cupcake.  I always use the same type of chocolate frosting, the Primrose Bakery one is gorgeous. I always make double the quantity though and it tastes yummy because it uses real chocolate in the mixture, not cocoa powder.  At the moment I have a lot of mini fudge chunks which I bought from Lakeland in a tub.  They’re lovely to sprinkle on cupcakes or bake in cookies.  I’ve even caught my 12 year old son nicking some to put on top of his ice cream!

I was pleased that the chocolate cupcakes also sold out on my stall along with the carrot ones from my previous post.

 My chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate icing sprinkled with Lakeland Mini Fudge chunks.  I also put some sugar animals on the top of some of the other cakes, this was to fit in with the RSPCA theme of the stall.

The chocolate cupcakes on my stand along with some carrot cupcakes.  

Carrot Cupcakes With A Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes I find it really hard baking cakes for a living.  I agree it can be stressful meeting deadlines, hoping and praying that the hard work you’ve put into your project is appreciated by the customer.  No, what I mean is that there is temptation all around you!  The odd stray Smartie or Malteser, a broken piece of cookie that might have snapped in half as you take it off the oven tray….The list of tempting treats is all around you at all the time!

Take last week for instance.  I was baking for a stall at a local Summer Fair in aid of the RSPCA and found myself in the kitchen with all the usual attractions.  I had so much to do and cram in to the day that I did not find time to sit down and have a proper lunch, instead I ate two pieces of toast!  No wonder at 4 o’clock I was desperate to eat anything, even my dog’s IAM’s were beginning to look appealing.

Last Saturday I felt even worse as I attempted a real favourite of mine from the Primrose Bakery Cookbook – Carrot Cakes with a Cream Cheese Frosting!  I ADORE carrot cake and decided this was a great recipe to try out along with the other things I usually offer on my stalls.  It was a crying shame to not be able to sneak one!  I was pleased they sold out along with my chocolate ones.

The only time consuming part of making the carrot cupcakes is the carrot grating.  I usually do it with the grater attachment of my food processor but I couldn’t be faffed to get it out of the cupboard and to be cleaning it up afterwards!  I just used my hand cheese grater, it took ages and I nearly grated my fingers but it was worth it.
The rest of the mixture was easily combined: golden caster sugar, flour, free range eggs, sunflower oil, vanilla extract and raisins, then the carrots were folded in.  There was enough mixture to comfortably fit into a dozen large cupcake cases.  These orange ones were from a set of rainbow coloured cases bought from Lakeland. I thought they looked lovely instead of the usual brown ones I use for carrot cakes.
I was delighted with the result and the smell was heavenly.  My sister in law who was staying with us asked if there were any leftovers, sadly there weren’t in the end!  I’ll just have to make some more on her next visit!

The Primrose Bakery suggested teaming the carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing.  I usually do this as I find buttercream is a bit too sweet for my liking.  In the Primrose Bakery recipes they usually add their own swirl with a pallette knife but I prefer to do my own swirl with a star shaped nozzle.  I also added some ready made sugar carrot decorations that I had in the cupboard.

Et voila! Here are the carrot cupcakes on show at the Summer Fair along with some chocolate cupcakes I made to fit on my metal stand.
Happy Baking.
Sam xx

Chocolate and Banana Loaf

Today has been one of those days.  Up early to walk the dog though it was a massive massive effort this morning.  I’d slept badly and then as soon as the alarm went off I couldn’t muster the energy to get out from under the covers.  Once the dog had been walked I felt I hadn’t come alive until I’d had a massive cup of coffee and my bowl of cereal.
When I got home from work I had all my chores to do including hoovering and dusting.  All the boring mundane stuff that no one likes doing and what’s more I’d ordered the Fifty Shades Of Grey Trilogy to read, I so wanted to sit down and start reading.  Fat chance!
I cleared up in the kitchen and threw out about six small bananas that were very nearly black from my fruit bowl.  I find I buy bananas every week with good intentions and the children have stopped eating them, I just didn’t fancy eating them.  I decided to throw them in the bin as I couldn’t possibly have got the children to eat them when they were yellow so how could they eat them with black marks all over the skin?
Anyway, my sister-in-law who’s staying with us at the moment came in and put something in the bin. She said, “You’re not throwing those bananas out are you?”  I felt guilty about the waste but I didn’t think they would get used.  She said she made banana loaf with her ripe bananas. This gave me a massive brainwave.  Why didn’t I bake some banana loaf instead of chucking out the bananas?  I remembered that there was a Chocolate and Banana Loaf recipe in the Primrose Bakery Cookery Book and I was keen to try it.

Normally I don’t bake for the family during the week, only for customers, so it was a real treat to bake on a Wednesday. I just hoped the recipe would be as good as other banana loaves I’ve tried.

I looked at the recipe in the book and firstly was drooling over the accompanying picture with huge chunks of chocolate laced through the cake with the moist banana.  It was definitely going to be a winner if mine turned out like that.

The recipe itself was simple to make. You creamed butter and sugar in a bowl together, then added in beaten egg and vanilla extract. Then, you sifted in baking powder and plain flour.

 After that the fun part started.  I mashed the six bananas and as I did so I was immediately transported back 12 years to when I was weaning my son.  He loved mashed banana and always used to get excited when he saw me mashing one up for him at mealtimes.  Funnily enough though as soon as he could talk he developed a love of biscuits! In fact my son’s first word was biscuit though it came out as “git-git”!  Now, he would prefer the git gits to the bananas.

After I folded in the mashed banana I then added some chopped plain chocolate to the mixture and it went straight into a greased and lined loaf tin.  Over an hour later out came the most heavenly smell just as Mr Smith came home.  His first reaction was “Why are you baking again?”

The Chocolate and Banana Loaf Cake just fresh out of the oven and cooling on the wire rack.  I always use a cake tin liner when I make loaf cakes.

About half an hour later I cut the cake up into slices. My sister in law, daughter and I had a slice (diet down the pan AGAIN) for pudding, but Mr Smith said he would get indigestion!  He wants a slice for breakfast! Let’s hope there’s some left by then!
I can honestly say the Primrose Bakery recipe version was absolutely perfect. Easy to make and tasted delicious.  I hope to make this again and again and again!
Happy Baking.
Sam xx

My Idea of Summer- Strawberry Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook

I was itching to get started properly on my Primrose Bakery Recipe Book challenge and thought it is going to be a tough one to choose from all those delicious recipes.  I wanted something that was seasonal, would reflect this time of the year and be suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert.

The month of June, for me conjures up lots of sunny days, long evenings, Pimms, Ascot, Wimbledon, strawberries and eating salads.  This year nothing can be further from the truth!  I have never had chance to go to Ascot due to work commitments and having children of school age, the same goes for Wimbledon.  We have had just a little sun to remind us of what it can look like!  My flip flops and summer clothes have gone back in the wardrobe and out have come the wellies and the fleeces!  And who wants to eat salads when the weather is so cold and depressing?  Comfort food is in, salads are definitely out, out out!

Well, I didn’t want to entirely forget that we are in the month of June! Although as I type on this Sunday evening the sun is finally shining through my lounge window, I still wonder if it will still be there in the morning.

So, it had to be the Strawberry Cake from the second Primrose Bakery Book, a gorgeous pale pink buttercream topped layer cake finished off with whole strawberries.  It would be a lovely cake to serve at any occasion but I wanted a slice for us to have for our pudding after our roast chicken.

Here’s how I made it:

The ingredients: sifted self- raising flour, baking powder, cornflour, caster sugar, vanilla extract and free range eggs were mixed together as an all in one method in a mixing bowl with my electric whisk.  I then folded in the small pieces of strawberries.  

I greased and lined two sandwich tins (20cm or 8″ diameter) and divided the strawberry mixture between the two tins equally.

The cakes were baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.  I found mine needed slightly longer as they weren’t cooked in the middle.

 While the cakes were baking I made up the vanilla buttercream icing.  I personally thought the vanilla extract would make the icing very sweet and sickly.  My mum once told me that my Nana used to put lemon juice in her buttercream icing to tone down the sweetness, I decided to try this out.  Thankfully I wasn’t too heavy handed with the food paste colouring, I was worried my hand would slip and we would end up with Barbie shocking pink!

When the cakes had cooled I turned them out on the rack, they had ridges all over them from where the greaseproof paper circles had made patterns on the mixture.  Not a good look but it’s the taste that matters.

After sandwiching the cake together with Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve, more sliced strawberries, a thin layer of buttercream, I was allowed to decorate the top.  I just couldn’t get the famous Primrose Bakery swirl right, the knife seemed to make the icing go the other way!  In the end it looked a bit untidy but once I’d put a few whole strawberries on it looked ready.  I was proud of my pretty cake.
Then my husband came back from going to the supermarket.  I showed him the cake and he said “Oooh. it’s a blancmange cake!”  Thanks, dear!  When we were eating our pudding he scraped off the icing and said it was too sweet, think I need to try out a less sweet version for my family for next time.  When  my 12 year old son saw the cake he said it was “gay”.  It didn’t stop him eating it though.  I liked it, the strawberries held their shape throughout the cooking and it was perfect for a summer lunch dessert or celebration.

Showing a view of the cake from the top.  I tried to find equal sized strawberries.

Showing a view of the cake cut into with the layers, by this time we had eaten our pudding and the remainder of the cake was ready to be put away in a tin for later on in the week.

If you have an IPhone you can download a Primrose Bakery App which has the Strawberry Cake recipe on it.  I followed the recipe from the book but I have just bought the App as it has some useful videos and a couple of recipe variations not in the books.

Happy Baking!

Sam xx