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

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Coconut Magic Bars. 

I’d had a manic few days at work so to come into the kitchen and bake was a great tonic for me.  I feel guilty every time I bake at the moment though.  I shouldn’t be doing it as eating the sugary stuff is not good for my health. But at the same time I love the process of making it. Why does baking always feel so much more exciting to me than cooking a casserole or a roast dinner?

It was a cold, damp and foggy Thursday morning last week and I was very tired.  I’d taken my son to the bus stop three miles away and gone out and walked the dog.  My warm, cosy and inviting kitchen beckoned. As I was walking across the muddy field with my dog, all I could think about was getting back home and into my kitchen.  I was thinking about some ingredients I had in the cupboard left over from Christmas. These included two bars of white chocolate and some dried cranberries.  It was a miracle that the chocolate hadn’t been nicked by the kids but then one of them is away at uni! My son has been trying to eat sensibly too.

Looking through one of my favourite cookbooks The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, I found the perfect recipe on page 49 for Cranberry Magic Bars.  There wasn’t a picture to accompany the recipe so I had to guess what they might look like. From looking at the ingredient list it said what I needed for the base and for the topping. So that meant it was baked in two parts. Nothing explaining it in the recipe introduction either.  I had to go on my own instincts here and worked out that the bars were made up of a shortbread type base and topped with a condensed milk, chocolate, dessicated coconut and dried  fruit concoction. Sounded scrumptious to me.

Luckily I had a tin of condensed milk in my baking stash from Christmas. Bought with the intent of using it to make fudge with, it never got used.  I also needed white chocolate, cranberries and pecans.  I didn’t have any pecans. The only nuts I had left was some flaked almonds so I put those in the recipe instead of the pecans.

I lined and greased my well loved Alan Silverwood Traybake pan and then put the made up base into the bottom of it.  This was quite a challenge.  The base had to be extremely thin and I ended up pressing it down with the back of a spoon to make it even.  It only just covered the bottom of the tin.  Into the oven it went at 150oC (fan oven) for about 15-20 minutes. I wanted the base to be a gentle golden brown.

While the base was being baked I made the topping.  This was simple enough. The condensed milk, white chocolate, cranberries, desiccated coconut and the nuts were mixed together.  I used a whole 100g bar of white chocolate chopped up instead of a bag of  white chocolate chips. I had two bars but I thought I’d save the other one for another time. The mixture was spread onto the base and back into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

Being as I wasn’t sure what the bars were meant to look like, it was confusing. When they came out of the oven they looked a bit boring. So, to make them more enticing to eat I melted my other bar of white chocolate and piped on a lattice pattern onto the cooled bars. They smelled absolutely gorgeous and I was tempted to grab at one and eat it there and then.

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I will definitely be making these again.  I usually have a stall at my village’s Open Gardens event every May selling my cookies and cupcakes so these might end up on the stall. You never know!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coffee Bundt Cake.

A couple of weeks ago it was my last event as joint organiser for the Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon Clandestine Cake Club.  I have a lot on my plate at the moment but I felt that I had to step down as organiser to create more time to deal with everything else going on in life!  I have had a great time organising the events and have met some fantastic people, not to mention sampling some incredible cakes along the way.  I am still going to be a Clandestine Cake Club member and will attend as many events as I can fit in as I have made some lovely friends who I think the world of.

Ironically, the cake club event that was my last as joint organiser was exactly a year to the day after my first event. It was held in exactly the same place, the gorgeous Wellington Inn, in Darley a village in the heart of beautiful Nidderdale. The theme was “Happy First Birthday” so my cake had to be worthy of something you would bake for a birthday cake, yet not something that would be too sickly sweet to eat.

I chose to bake a Coffee Bundt cake based on a recipe I had in the very first Hummingbird Bakery cookbook.  I had not made a coffee Bundt before but I know whenever I’ve made coffee and walnut cakes they always go down well.

Pure Dairy Free Baking spread, caster sugar and coffee essence were whisked together.
Pure Dairy Free Baking spread, caster sugar and coffee essence were whisked together.
I used my handheld whisk to cream the ingredients together as I couldn't be bothered to get my KItchen Aid out of the cupboard.
I used my handheld whisk to cream the ingredients together as I couldn’t be bothered to get my KItchen Aid out of the cupboard.
I then added eggs one at a time, followed by flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixture.
I then added eggs one at a time, followed by flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixture.
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The mixture was spooned into my prepared tin. I greased it using Dr Oetker Cake release spray and a soft sprinkling of flour.

The cake was left to bake for about 40 minutes.  Only my cake decided that it didn’t fancy staying inside the pan and it spilled out over the top and onto the bottom of my oven!   I was not a happy bunny and the cake looked a right mess on the top of it.  I wasn’t sure how it had happened, maybe it was just too full.  I had to get the cake scrapings out straightaway before my hubby noticed though.  Once the cake was out, I let it cool in the tin and then it slid out perfectly onto the rack. At least it looked fairly presentable for Cake Club!

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The finished Coffee Bundt Cake.

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The top of the cake ended up looking like a large sunflower!

To decorate the cake the recipe calls for a vanilla frosting flavoured with coffee essence.  I had made up some strong expresso coffee essence according to the recipe instructions.  Instead of spreading it on the cake I chose to pipe it on using my large star nozzle.  It only just had enough icing to decorate the top.  I then added some chocolate cocoa beans which I had bought in Waitrose.  It only used half the jar so I hope no one in my family nicks the rest or they won’t get used for cupcakes!  Poor lighting in my kitchen made the icing look a lot more yellow than it really was, well it was about 7 o’clock on a dreary November night I suppose!

I enjoyed my slice of coffee cake as it was not too sweet and sickly.  It had a great coffee hit and went down well at cake club and at home too!
I enjoyed my slice of coffee cake as it was not too sweet and sickly. It had a great coffee hit and went down well at cake club and at home too!

This Coffee Bundt was a definite winner and one I would love to bake again and again.  My hubby loves Coffee Cake so maybe he might want one for his birthday?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pumpkin Bars from The Hummingbird Bakery

Several months ago I was given a copy of the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book_ Home Sweet Home from The Hummingbird Bakery. When I first had it I baked several of the recipes but then got sidetracked by other recipe books.

The other week I was shopping in Northallerton on my day off.  I always head to Lewis and Cooper for cake decorating supplies and for other foodie treats.  These usually end up being Shepherd’s Purse cheese which my hubby and I adore.  This last time though as well as the cheese stash I spotted some cans of Libby’s unsweetened pumpkin pie puree.  I have bought this in the past to make Pumpkin Muffins with and have also used it at school when baking Pumpkin Pie towards a Thanksgiving celebration.  You can’t often find it in the shops, though Waitrose sometimes has it if I’m lucky.  So, I grabbed a tin thinking it would be useful for pumpkin muffins.  But, looking through my recipe books I spotted a delicious sounding recipe for Pumpkin Bars in the Hummingbird Bakery book.  The bars were baked like a massive rectangular traybake and topped with a cream cheese icing and sprinkled with desiccated coconut.  It sounded too delicious for words.

So, finally last Sunday I decided to have a go at making the Pumpkin Bars and would take them into school to share with my work colleagues.  Here’s how I made them:

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For this recipe you need a 400g can of LIbby’s unsweetened pumpkin puree.
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This is what the contents of the pumpkin tin look like! No, it is NOT cat sick as my 13 year old son said.
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The puree was whisked up with 4 large eggs, some sugar and some sunflower oil in a large mixing bowl.
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In another bowl all the dry ingredients were weighed out- plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ground mixed spice. It smelled heavenly and autumnal.
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All the wet and dry ingredients were folded in together.
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The mixture was poured into my large traybake tin which had already been greased and lined.
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After about 1/2 hour baking time the traybake came out of the oven and sat cooling on the rack until it was completely cold. It had risen well.
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The frosting was made by whisking together softened butter and full fat icing sugar.
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I then added some icing sugar to the mixture so it was sweetened slightly.
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This made a lovely, creamy frosting with an easy spreadable texture.
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The frosting was spread onto the traybake and dessicated coconut was sprinkled onto the top of it. I then cut the traybake into 16 large bars!
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One of the bars close up!

I was pleased with the way the pumpkin bars had turned out but I have yet to try one as I am trying (but not doing very well) to lose weight.  I kept four of the bars and put them in a container for the freezer to try out next weekend.  The rest went into work to share with my colleagues.  They seemed to go down well because I looked in the box on the Tuesday morning and only 2 out of the 12 were left!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx