Christmas Peppermint Cupcakes
Last weekend I ventured down to London for a jolly wee holiday. It was great to catch up with good friends, family and enjoy the warm southern climate. I swear it is always at least ten degrees warmer down in London than up here in Glasgow, also known as the frozen north! One of the highlights of this particular trip was a visit to the Country Living Christmas fair. I will pause whilst you stop laughing and recover… It truly was extraordinary. The lovely Alice and I were able to the soak up the magic of the festive season by browsing stalls of hundreds of exhibitors from all over the UK in a festive extravaganza. The Islington design centre was awash with sparkling reds, greens and golds. They had every decoration and gift imaginable – the good and the bad. It was almost too much excitement for a Christmas fanatic like me. So, inspired (albeit in a rather cheesy fashion) by the spirit of christmas, when I got home I made these little cakes. You are looking at chocolate cupcakes topped with peppermint buttercream icing, sprinkled with crushed candy canes and festive mint sweets.
It might be too early to be posting about Christmas but what the heck! Enjoy!
You will need:
15- 20 regular chocolate cupcakes
110g unsalted butter at room temperature
60ml Semi- skimmed milk, at room temperature
½ teaspoon good quality peppermint extract (or more or less, depending on how minty you want your icing)
500g icing sugar, sifted
Few drops of green food colouring
In a large bowl beat the butter, milk peppermint extract and half the icing sugar. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and beat again until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. Have a wee taste at this point to see if you need more peppermint extract.
Add a drop of green colouring and beat thoroughly. Only one drop is needed to achieve a very pale pastel hue.
Use icing to decorate chocolate cupcakes. Top with some peppermint sweets and crushed candy canes.
Baked Banoffee Cheesecake
I am a sucker for bananas and would probably go as far as naming them my favourite fruit. I went through a period of religiously having a banana sandwich in my school packed lunch. There was something quite marvellous about squashing the banana in between two thick slices of bread, an even more wonderful feeling if the bread was slathered in oozing peanut butter. The combo of bread, banana and butter all stuck to the top of my mouth was one of the highlights of lunch time. To be honest I only really elected to bake this cheesecake because it had bananas in it. That, and the fact it came with an inordinate amount of toffee sauce.
This recipe I used is taken from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen recipe book. I’m with Nigella when she (albeit in a totally O.T.T fashion) says “… I love the way a handful of mournfully overripe, positively unprepossessing bananas have given rise to this vulgarly triumphant cha-cha-cha of a cheesecake”. I can’t really fault the recipe but I have included a few top tips below.
The blacker the bananas you use the better. Not only do they strengthen the banana flavour of the cheese cake, it is a perfect opportunity to use up those wizened over ripe bananas languishing at the bottom of your fruit bowl.
Take Nigella’s advice and make sure your cream cheese is at room temp before you start. By doing so you will achieve the wonderful aerated mousey texture which is one of this cheesecakes best features.
This cheesecake serves 10, there is plenty cake to go round but if you are serving that many I would double up on sauce.
Poached Pear Galettes
I have a multitude of childhood memories that involve me sitting down at the dinner table to a roast, then being offered a taste of red wine. My response would be to screw my face up in disgust, and exclaim “no way!” Or on the off chance I wanted to demonstrate how grown up I was, I would take a gulp, recoil, then splurt it back into the glass. This was then followed by a chorus of ‘just you wait…give it ten years and you will love the stuff’ from all adults present. I don’t know whether it was due to the maturing of my taste buds or the forcing down of surplus red wine at various teenage house parties (inevitally nicked from various parents drinks cabinets) but they were right! Without sounding too much like an alcoholic I have developed a bit of a penchant for vin rouge and an even bigger one for cooking with it.
If you love a bit of boozy fruit then this recipe (courtesy of Delia Smith) is for you. The smell of wine drenched pears, cinnamon & vanilla drifting through your home is simply wonderful. Imagine Christmas come early. You can serve them with the red wine sauce that comes as part of the recipe but I have found that melted dark chocolate or double cream go just as well.
Whether you are using them as a posh pud or taking them out on a picnic I do hope you enjoy them!
Lemon Meringue Tartlets
What do you do if you have a surplus of lemons after a ‘Mad Men’ themed cocktail party? If you are like me, you first recover from the inevitable hangover, then make mini lemon meringue pies!
You will need:
For the Pastry
8oz plain white flour
4oz cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tsp caster sugar
1 medium free-range egg yolk
For the Lemon Curd
5oz caster sugar
7 tbsp cornflour
4 large lemons, zest and juice only
6 free-range egg yolks
For the Meringue
4oz unsalted butter, melted
6 medium free-range egg whites
11oz caster sugar
. Begin by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
. Add the butter to the flour and then rub between your fingertips until the mix resembles a fine breadcrumb consistency.
. Add the sugar, Using your hands, mix to a firm dough with the egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
. Wrap the dough in cling film and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.
. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and grease 6 fluted loose-bottomed tart tins. Place them onto a baking tray.
. Roll out the pastry until it’s big enough to generously fit each little tin, leaving excess pastry falling over the sides of the tin onto the baking tray underneath the tin – don’t trim at this stage.
. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Now trim the excess pastry using a sharp knife.
. Bake the pastry case blind for about 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is pale golden and dried out – remove the paper and beans for the last five minutes. turn the oven heat down to 150C/300F/Gas.
. Meanwhile, for the lemon curd, mix together the sugar, cornflour and enough water to make a paste, in a large bowl.
. Bring 50ml/2fl oz water and the lemon zest to the boil in a small pan.
. Gradually pour the hot liquid onto the cornflour and sugar, whisking all the time until smooth.
. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon juice and butter. Return to the pan.
. Cook over a low heat, stirring all the time, until thickened. be careful it will thicken rapidly all of a sudden. Pour into the baked blind pastry case and leave to cool slightly.
. For the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric whisk until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking well and at a high speed between each addition. Transfer the meringue into a piping bag (nozzle plain or otherwise) and pipe the meringue on top of the lemon curd.
. Bake for about 35-45 minutes until the meringue is crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallow-like underneath.
(adapted from BBC food.)
Festive Fruit Cake
I have discovered that the majority of foods I disliked as a child I actually love as an adult (eg. broccoli). As a result I have made a point of trying previously dismissed foods for the second time. Much to my surprise I do like salmon and tomatoes and have found that Thai curry is delicious, yet Indian food is still something I still don’t enjoy. Anyway, this Christmas provided me with the opportunity for me to give fruit cake another chance. Usually the Milne’s have chocolate cake at Christmas as my sister and I never ate the fruit cake my mum baked. So relishing the challenge of baking for my harshest critics (me & my family) I set to work.
I chose Delia Smith’s recipe (for I believe no one does Christmas recipes like Delia) and although it seems like a lot of ingredients it really is worth while spending that much money on a cake. The recipe has been in print since 1978, so you know it’s reliable. You can find it here. You need to be an early bird when you make Christmas cake. I made this one 6 weeks before Christmas (although I know some people start as early as January). I poured Brandy over it every Friday afternoon and it matured beautifully. Instead of the usual marzipan coupled with rolled icing, I topped it with whipped double cream and fresh fruit. Be warned that unless they are eaten quickly the berries do tend to go mouldy. My parents are still munching through the cake in Edinburgh as we speak albeit sans berries. Om nom nom…
And the verdict? Well, I still am not biggest fan of Christmas cake, but I have been told that this one was particularly delicious and it was a joy to bake.
I know this entry was all about Christmas cake but before I go, as it is January 1st, I would like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May 2011 be everything you want it to be! x
My Meringues have become something of a Christmas family tradition. Most of us pass on the Christmas pudding for these oversized sweet treats. It doesn’t matter how much you have had to eat all ready, the Milne motto is ‘there is always room for dessert!’. My 96 year-old Grandfather couldn’t be a bigger fan, even though he demolished a bowl full yesterday, he still requested that I pop down to his nursing home with some cream & meringues today! I now understand where my unrequited ‘little fatty’ gene comes from… Meringues are my all time favourite dessert and they are really simple to make. The best recipe I have found is in Nigella Lawson’s book Feast (under wedding meringues). This recipe consistently makes wonderfully light meringues that are beautifully crisp on the outside yet gooey and chewy on the inside.
Because it’s Christmas, sod your arteries and serve with a big dollop of whipped cream!
Honey Bee Cupcakes
Ever since I was little I have wanted a bee hive. I don’t really know why. I feel like I may have somewhat glamorized the role of being a beekeeper, but I quite love the idea of donning one of those hazmat suits, lifting off the roof of a picturesque white wooden hive, then scrapping glorious golden honey out of the comb network inside.
I remember when I was little (about seven or eight). A queen bee decided to make her nest in a hole at the foot of our swing set. Being the curious little idiot that I was, I poked a stick down that deep dark hole. As you can imagine all I managed to achieve was the provocation of some very angry bees. Angry bees that certainly did not appreciate a blonde barbarian destroying their nest. Naturally they promptly launched an attack. Using my stick as a pitiful defence weapon, pigtails flapping, arms flailing, I ran shit-scared into the house, some how remaining sting free. Once recovered, feeling incredibly stupid, I vowed to pretend this event never happened and that I would never tell a soul. Which I haven’t until now…
The sad fact is that bees are disappearing. They help to pollinate many of the crops we rely on for essential food around the world, but due to climate change, pesticide use, disease and other factors their numbers are dwindling. No bees means no fruit, no veg and no honey! Tragedy! Really we should all get planting and boost their numbers next year.
As a little tribute to the Bee and their most delicious output. I give to you the Honey Bee Cupcake. The recipe is a simple variation on the vanilla cupcake filled to bursting with yummy honey.
You will need:
110g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
225g caster sugar, golden preferably
2 large free range
150g self-raising flour, sifted
125g plain flour, sifted
90ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven 160 C, 180 C, 350 F, gas mark 4.
2. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with the appropriate size of cupcake cases (UK muffin cases are best).
3. Begin by creaming the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and smooth with an electric hand mixer.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mix for a few minutes in between each one.
5. Combine the two flours in a separate bowl.
6. Add one-third of the flours to the creamed mixture and beat well.
7. Pour in half the milk and beat well.
8. Add another third of the flour and beat again.
9. Beat in the remaining milk.
10. Your mixture should be lovely and light and creamy.
11. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, fill them about half way full. Note that these cupcakes rise quite a lot.
12. Bake in the oven for about 25 mins until lightly golden brown.
13. Insert a skewer or knife into one of them, if it comes out clean and mixture free then the cakes are done.
14.Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in the tins for roughly 10 mins before placing on a wire rack to cool.
15. Once completely cool, use your skewer and poke 6-8 holes in each cupcake. Be careful not to tear the outer casing.
16. Spoon roughly 1 tbsp of runny honey into every cupcake, tilt the cake to make sure the honey runs into each hole.
17. leave for about 10 mins until the honey has been absorbed and repeat.
18. Ice as you wish. If you want to make little bees, use either marzipan or rolled icing for the body, pipe on the stripes and face, use almonds for wings.
I am super excited to announce that this weekend, for the first time, Zoe Makes Cakes is coming out of the digital world into reality! I have acquired a vendor stall at the Made In The Shade Supermercado! Woopah!
The Supermercado is a Saturday market featuring vintage, fashion, homewares, thrift, handmade, craft, music and FOOD! Run by the lovely Made in the Shade gals, this unique Barra’s market will be the first time that you (my lovely readers) can sample my tasty treats! I very much hope that you can come down and visit the stall. Even if it is just for ten minutes I would love to see you there! Perhaps you can stay and chat awhile whilst you sample some of my delicious delights!
Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.