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.
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!
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.
Jam Making at Cookie for NVA Harvest
Last Sunday whilst feeling rather stuffed (having demolished a Chicken Roast with all the trimmings). Myself and my friend Christina headed to Cookie on the Southside of Glasgow for a little Jam making fun! We rocked up with blackberries, raspberries and apples aplenty. It was free event run by NVA as part of the Glasgow Harvest.
Billed as the beginners guide to Jam making we got to learn the all the basics whilst being taught by the pros in the Cookie restaurant kitchen. You all know I have Jam making experience but for Christina it was the first time she had ever made Jam. She wasn’t the only one, eight others had turned up to learn a little about preserving. (Images below courtesy of NVA).
Even though we were few in numbers we had plenty fruit; Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Oranges, Plums and Greengages (delicious cousin of the plum). Doesn’t it all look divine! We set to work washing and hulling the fruit, then the appropriate weight of sugar and lemon juice was added and before we knew it the jam was bubbling away on the stove.
As we finished our Jam first, we started on the label making. Note the Chillies on the left, they added a feisty kick to the strawberry and chilli Jam we made. Scrummy pancakes lay in wait for the fresh jam still warm from the preserving pan. Yum!
All of this Jam was jarred for the Glasgow Harvest which will be held on Saturday the 28th August. (See previous post). It is going to become part of the Jam Wall. The Jam wall will be added to throughout the day and will be a communally created sculptural installation, imagine a 3D pantone colour chart. Here’s a mini version just to whet your appetite, featuring spiced orange, greengage & almond, raspberry and strawberry & chilli jams.
To round off the evening cookie had a couple of musicians drop by for a jamming session (haha… sorry!). The music, plus scones and jam tarts made a delightful end to a lovely Sunday.
A huge thank you to NVA and Cookie. I really enjoyed myself! And everyone else, I hope to see you all at Harvest with your Jam or home grown vegetables. If not, I definitely want to see you round mine for a spot of tea and jam on toast!
Wham, bam, strawberry jam!
On Saturday the 28th of August the lovely people at NVA are holding Glasgow’s first harvest. As they put it “Glasgow Harvest will celebrate the social gardening movement and encourage and applaud the city’s growers. Glasgow Harvest will be Glasgow’s biggest open air home-grown meal. Harvest is an opportunity to share knowledge and produce and have a great day out.” Whether you are a grower, wannabe gardener, cook or humble baker like me or even if you don’t grow or cook, there is free meal up for grabs. So you should definitely get yourself along!
Now, one of the features that will star at the event is the Harvest Jam Wall. “The Jam wall will be added to throughout the day and will be a communally created sculptural installation, imagine a 3D pantone colour chart.” How awesome does that sound! I totally love this idea! I instantly thought it would be a fantastic personal challenge as I had never made Jam before, I would get to design my own labels AND it would be such a blogging opportunity. I mean… how could I resist!
For those of you fellow Jam making first timers! Don’t be worried! I tell you something, jam making is SO easy! It is literally fruit and sugar boiled for about 10 mins and BOOM you have your jam! I went for the traditional option of strawberry Jam (mainly due to the fact that I had drastically under estimated how difficult jam making would be!). It is a Delia Smith recipe and you can find it here. But there are so many other options including vegetables, wild garlic and herbs jams, I am itching to try more! I have so many label designs planned and I am working on a fabric design which I will get printed to cover lids. Yes, it has been pointed out to me that sometimes I am far too keen!
Obviously the point of this exercise is to make Jam and donate as many jars as you can to the Glasgow harvest. The main motivations are to encourage home grown food and create something delicious with it. However, if like me and you don’t have a garden or suitable window box and can’t do this, NVA have created a brilliant service in the form of the jam dating agency! You can source all your jamming needs from produce to jars and lids. Find your perfect Jam partner. Really guys there is no excuse!
Banana Loaf & the magic of comfort food.
I am currently staying in temporary accommodation due to an unfortunate week-long gap between the lease of my old flat and soon to be new home. The current flat in which I am living is rather lovely. It is a MASSIVE old tenement that has views of Kelvingrove park and is practically on the banks of the river Kelvin. The downside is that it is empty, completely devoid of people and their possessions. My sister and her chums (the proud tenants) have yet to move in. To be perfectly honest it is rather lonely being in such a large space by myself. I am used to the hustle and bustle of flatmates and their friends and family coming in and out. There is always someone to talk to (read pester) if you are bored. As well as this I can’t find anything because all my stuff is packed and stacked in boxes in the hall. So annoying! There is no doubt it will be lovely when it’s tenants move in and show it a little love by making it their own. I am just gutted that it is not my final destination and that I have to move again on Saturday. Urgh!
In an attempt to make the flat feel a that little bit more like home, and to get out of this I- feel- like- a-lonely- nomad slump. I decided to make Banana loaf. There is nothing quite like the incredible smell of something yummy wafting through from the kitchen to warm the cockles of the most miserable of hearts. This recipe is the best I have found so far and is pure unadulterated comfort food. It did cheer me up and I hope one day it will make you feel better too.
Please use the blackest, most over ripe bananas you can find for this recipe.