Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Wow, it’s been such a long time since I’ve written a post! It’s scary how life just runs away with you… I’ve had a lot less time to experiment with my cooking, but have a lots of little posts to write up. This is the first of many!

I work in the charity sector and we have amazing young people who volunteer their time to support those you are less fortunate than themselves. They travel to the UK from other countries; Germany, Armenia and Sweden, to volunteer for a year before they start their university degrees. During this time, they are full time volunteers and we get to know them very well. It’s always sad to see them go!

These muffins were made as part of their leaving celebrations. As I have been very busy at work, I hadn’t prepared in advance by shopping for the ingredients for some fancier cakes. I had a root around the cupboards and found some dark chocolate, so decided to make some chocolate ‘chip’ muffins.

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s been such a while since I made them, I have forgotten the exact recipe I used… but it went a little something like this:

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 175ml milk
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 125g dark chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. In a bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips and salt.
  3. In a jug combine milk, oil and egg, add to the dry ingredients all at once and stir until just combined.
  4. Fill cases 2/3 full  and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.
Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of this recipe, although it may be because I used dark chocolate and there isn’t much sugar in the batter do I found it all quite bitter. I’m also not a fan of dark chocolate! 🙂

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

However the muffin was light and it’s quite a straight forward and simple recipe to follow. I’ll have to try them again with come milk chocolate next time! 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Anyone who is familiar with my previous cake posts know I admit to being a terrible cake decorator! This cake is no exception… 🙂

It was my sister’s birthday in early June and I offered to make a cake. We were undecided whether to have a lemon drizzle cake or a carrot cake, so I made both! I also wanted to try out a new cake tin that I’d bought a while ago so ended up making a two tier cake of a strangely uneven size…

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting with Chocolate Drizzle and Gold Accents

Another recent purchase of mine has been a metallic gold edible ink pen. So just to add a little bling, I decided it was time to try it out. I quite liked the results, although my sister who is the least ‘blingy’ person I know thought it was a bit over the top! 😀

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

for both layers of the cake I used Mary Berry recipes from her book ‘Mary Berry’s Baking Bible’. I previously posted a post using the carrot cake recipe that I had used to make cupcakes and the lemon drizzle cake recipe is a firm favourite of mine. As the cake tin for the lemon cake was only 18cm, I used half amount of ingredients stated in the recipe.

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The cream cheese frosting worked very well with both cakes and the bitter dark chocolate drizzle on top was added a tiny contrast to counteract all that sugar!

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Drizzle and Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Let the experimenting continue… 😀

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

This ‘cake’ was an experiment that went a little wrong, so the final result turned out more like a ‘cheese cake’. However, it took me hours to make so I wasn’t going to chuck it out!

The original recipe came from Dan Lepard’s ‘Pear Mousse Cake’ in his book ‘Short and Sweet’ but can be found on this website too. I liked the sound of this cake as it uses a genoise sponge cake which is lovely and light.

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

This cake was intended to be a layered cake using the mousse as a frosting in between layers and around the outside of the cake. You get the mental image? Not exactly how mine turned out! 😦

The cake itself didn’t rise half as much I it was supposed to, but that’s because I added heavy ground sesame seeds to it and the cake wasn’t able to rise. So I only had one layer of sponge to work with and decided to make it into a cheese cake base! Waste not, want not! 🙂

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

I took the cake to the office and shared with colleagues but it wasn’t received very well. I guess because the black sesame flavour is new for most people and quite a savoury flavour so the little amount of sugar in the cake batter didn’t balance so well. The other thing was that the ‘mousse’ didn’t taste of pears! How disappointing! 😦

Despite there being 7 pears in this recipe, the mascarpone and cream completely wiped away the flavour of the pears… The mousse also didn’t set enough to spread onto a cake, so I added extra gelatine to make it more ‘cheese cakey’. Hence the results…

All in all, not a success but it wasn’t bad enough that I had to chuck it straight in the compost bin! Won’t be making that again then…

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Mousse Cake

 

 

Black Sesame and Pear Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Cake: Clandestine Cake Club meet No.3

Black Sesame and Pear Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Cake

This cake club comes around so quickly! But I love it! 😀

My ultimate pastime activity; baking, eating and talking about cake! If this is your first time hearing about the Clandestine Cake Club, you must visit their website and sign up to a local club immediately… This was my third meeting with previous bakes being the Spanish Orange and Almond Cake and the Pistachio, Cardamom and Yoghurt Cake.

Clandestine Cake Club Spread

Clandestine Cake Club Spread

The theme of this club meeting was ‘Think Outside the Box’ due to the lovely people of Selfpackaging.com sponsoring the event. When thinking about the type of cake to take along, I was really stuck with the theme. I’m not a fan of making cakes that taste strange and I’m good with sugar paste either… So I decided to go with my favourite or favourite ingredients: Black Sesame! 😀

Black Sesame isn’t widely used in cooking, unless you are Asian! So I thought that it would be a new flavour for most people. (Any excuse to use black sesame! :))

Black Sesame and Pear Loaf Cake

Black Sesame and Pear Loaf Cake

Luckily for me I came across a recipe for Black Sesame and Pear Cake which makes use of pears in a traditionally western way of baking, so it was a good way of introducing the flavour without being too ‘out there’!

What I learnt from this recipe was that it rises quite a bit (mine bubbled right over the sides of the tin all over the oven) and it is very dense so needs a long bake in a lower temperature. I also had to cover the cake part way through cooking with foil as it was browning very quickly.

Black Sesame and Pear Loaf

Black Sesame and Pear Loaf

Due to the long baking time, the edges became quite crisp so I snapped them off. The texture of the crisp sugary top and the moist cake was quite nice.

Pear and Black Sesame Cake

Pear and Black Sesame Cake

This cake went down quite well at the cake club meeting. Several people asked me where they could buy black sesame seeds from. (A good sign that!) There was also very little left at the end of the evening (Good sign number 2!)

It may not be pretty, but it tasted good! I think my forte is for flavour rather than looks in baking… 😀

I also wanted to share with you a couple of highlights of mine from the evening…

Pistachio, Polenta and Elderflower Cake

Pistachio, Polenta and Elderflower Cake (Looks gorgeous doesn’t it?!)

I may be a little biased as this cake was made by my cousin, but how beautiful is this?

Bento Box Cake

Pandan Cake with Lychee Butter cream

This cake was a work of art as well as being delicious! What amazed me was that the baker (Steven) had just bought some flavours that he’s never used before from a Chinese supermarket and baked a cake with it. He also made these adorable pandas out by making marshmallow from scratch! What a legend!

 

 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes to take to a friend’s house as she had invited me for a traditional Ugandan meal. I like to take some cake whenever I visit friends for dinner. Firstly because it means that the dessert is sorted out, and secondly because making the effort to bake is nicer than buying it from a shop! 🙂

So my friend had made some heavy hints that her favourite cake is carrot cake (she basically told me and said ‘hint hint’ afterwards! LOL!) I was intending on making a large cake to share but I ran out of time earlier in the day so decided to make cup cakes to save on baking time.

The recipe I used was one of Mary Berry’s from her cook book ‘Mary Berry’s Baking Bible‘. It’s the carrot cake recipe I always go back to as I always get amazing feedback from people, even those who ‘don’t really like carrot cake’. It’s a very simple ‘all in one’ recipe. I think the secret behind it’s success is the use of mashed ripe bananas, maybe it should be called a Carrot and Banana Cake instead?! 🙂

Carrot Cupcake

Carrot Cupcake

Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g walnut pieces, chopped
  • 100g carrots, coarsely grated
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil

Frosting

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 2 tps vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs icing sugar
  • walnut halves, for decorating

I used this exact recipe for making the cupcakes and its worked out fine. If making one large cake, then bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees C. I bakes the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes at the same temperature. Cupcakes also cool quicker so I could frost them quite quickly. I’m not a big fan of buttercream frosting for cupcakes, it’s usually far too sweet and really bad for the waistline! So a cream cheese frosting is a great alternative. 😀

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Afghan Cream Rolls

Afghan Cream Rolls

Afghan Cream Rolls

Afghan Cream Rolls with Cherry

Update: Afghan Cream Rolls with Cherry

This recipe is courtesy of Amalkitchen.com who posts the most amazing recipes via videos on YouTube. Her food always looks amazing and really inspires me to try new things. So When I saw this post for the Afghan Cream Rolls I decided to head down to the supermarket to buy the basic ingredients needed; puff pastry and double cream!

We had an Afghan guest visiting over the weekend and I wanted to make a dessert that would be easy but bring the flavours from home. This recipe is similar to ‘cream horns’, fairly straight forward, although a little fiddly!

Check out the video to see how simple this recipe is to make. The basic ingredients are; ready rolled puff pastry, icing sugar, ground cardamom, whipping cream.

Puff Pastry Rolls

Puff Pastry Rolls using make shift foil ‘cones’

The tricky bit of this recipe is using the aluminium foil ‘cones’ to shapes the pastry rolls. As you need to wrap thin pieces of pastry around the cones, and I had made the mistake of flouring the work surface to roll out the pastry a little thinner. This meant that the pastry did not stick to itself well and began to unravel! I also found it a little difficult to get the foil out of the cooked pastry without crushing the delicate cones… 😦

Pastry Rolls

Pastry Rolls

Once the rolls are cooled and the cardamom cream is piped in, the cones hold well. They should be filled just before eating to avoid soggy pastry, but they’ll still be fine after a couple of hours.

Afghan Cream Rolls

Afghan Cream Rolls

One packet of pastry makes quite a few rolls. I’d forgotten to sprinkle icing sugar on mine but I like that they weren’t very sweet! This is a simple dessert to make for when guests come around. Serve as a snack with a cup of tea..

Update

Afghan Cream Rolls with Sour Cherry

Afghan Cream Rolls with Sour Cherry

I tried this recipe again but added some sour cherry jam to the filling, yum! 🙂

Basically follow the recipe as above but use a teaspoon of sour cherry jam inside the cones before piping in the cream. With this addition in mind, there are no end of extra fillings to try! Enjoy… 😀

 

Honeycomb Brownies: Charity Bake Sale

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared some new baking with you all, not because I’ve not been busy in the kitchen but because I’ve been too busy write it up! This is the first of a series of uploads I’m aiming for this weekend…

These brownies were made for a charity bake sale for the British Red Cross. It was Red Cross Week (5th-11th May) and we were trying to raise £1 Million in a week up and down the UK. Most years I bake some goodies to sell in the office to raise a few pennies towards that massive target. This year I decided to make brownies, a straight forward recipe to follow after a long day at work and enjoyed by most people!

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Using this ‘Best Ever Brownies’ recipe, I made the basic brownie mix but hadn’t really thought of what extra flavours to add. So after a rummage around the baking cupboard I found some mini ‘Smarties’ and a tub of chocolate covered honeycomb that I’d bought and forgotten about. I also found some walnuts but decided against them as a lot of people don’t eat nuts and I didn’t want to narrow down my customer base too much! 😉

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It’s a shame that the honeycomb kind of disappeared as it melted but it added a little texture and additional flavour.

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The brownies were sold for £1 each and sold out within a few hours, so obviously very popular! 😀

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake Caramel top

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake (Gluten Free and Dairy Free): Clandestine Cake Club meet No. 2

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake with Almond Praline

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake with Almond Praline

I have previously written about the Clandestine Cake Club of which I am a proud member. The mission statement for the CCC is: Bake, Eat and Talk about Cake, so you can see where this post is going… 🙂

The last time I attended a CCC event, I took the Pistachio, Cardamom and Yoghurt Cake and the theme was ‘nouveaux’ -trying out a new recipe or using a new cook book or cake tin etc. This event theme was: ‘the Great British Bake Off! The ultimate baking-together experience. Whether you choose a recipe from one of the winners or something that was featured on the programme, even if you want to recreate the tent in cake, the choice is yours.’

I have to admit that I didn’t actually go with the theme as I forgot all about it! 🙂 The idea was to spend two hours baking a cake that could then be shared with fellow bakers and their friends/family later on. I loved the idea of spending the afternoon baking with people who love cake as much as I do, sharing tips and learning from each other. This is also one of the main reasons I write a food blog! 🙂

So that takes me to the inspiration for my cake. Wendy at Chez Chloe wrote about this recipe for Orange and Almond Cake, and I was absolutely hooked on the simplicity of the recipe!  The recipe if gluten free and dairy free (if you skip the caramel top!) Check out Wendy’s post for a simple step-by-step guide on how to prepare this cake.

With only having 2 hours to bake and decorate a cake, I wanted to go with something very simple but delivers on flavour too. The idea for the additional almond caramel top came from a pear and almond cake that I’ve had in a local coffee shop called ‘Teacup’. I generally love caramel and thought it would be a nice decorative feature that doesn’t rely on the cake being cooled before it can be added on.

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake

So here is how it was done:

Step one: Prepare the cake as Wendy suggests- I used one less egg and an 18″ round loose bottom cake tin. However this meant that the cake took a lot longer to bake, so I would suggest a 23″ round tin.

Step two: While the cake is baking make a basic caramel by simmering 125g butter, 125g butter, 50ml milk and 1/2 tsp sea salt in a saucepan until it is smooth and a deep caramel colour. Mix in 150g toasted almond flakes.

Step three: When the cake is cooked through, pour all the almond caramel mix on top of the cake and bake for another 10 minutes.

Almond Caramel Topping

Almond Caramel Topping

The cake should be served slightly warm, with a little cream if that takes your fancy! I think we could have done with letting it cool a little before cutting into it, however the extra baking time and hungry cake fans meant that this just wasn’t an option! 😀

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake Caramel top

Spanish Orange and Almond Cake Caramel top

The cake was super moist and the slightly bitter caramel topping did a great job of seeping into the top of the cake to create a lovely balance of flavours. Check out Helena’s official write up of the event!

I cannot finish this post without mentioning the amazing Sean from ‘Cook Manchester’ who provide fully equipped professional kitchen hire for small businesses. I had a good chat with Sean about his business and the kinds of people who have used the facilities. He’s a really inspiring guy who is passionate about  food and helping others to realise their dreams of starting their own food business. Please check out the website and share with friends who may be interested in finding out more about the facilities.

Bake-Along at Cook Manchester

Bake-Along at Cook Manchester

 

CCC-Bake Along

CCC-Bake Along

 

No Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Inspiration for this recipe came from Anna over at Anna’s Kitchen Table after she reposted this amazing recipe for ‘Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bottom Cheesecake’. Peanut butter is one of my guilty pleasures in life and the photos of the finished cheesecake instantly made me giddy with the excitement of tasting it and my baking fingers began to twitch!

When the occasion finally came along to give me an excuse to make this indulgent cake, I instantly bought a jar of peanut butter and got started! However on reading the recipe I found that I didn’t actually have enough time to make the original recipe since it is a baked cheesecake and requires at least 4 hours in the fridge! So I decided to make a ‘no bake’ version which is much faster and easier! 🙂

*WARNING* this Cheesecake contains a whole jar of peanut butter! 😀

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So the recipe I used wasn’t really written down anywhere, I tried to use two recipes and merge them together. However I have to admit that the ‘brownie’ bottom didn’t quite work out and I ended up with more of a ‘cake’ base instead…

 

Ingredients for the base

  • 1/4 jar of smooth peanut butter
  • 100g melted milk chocolate
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 100g flour (this is where I went wrong as this is far too much flour!)
  • two handfuls of salted peanuts

Method

  • Mix all ingredients together until just combined and bake in a spring form cake tin until just cooked- I think I baked it at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes- but this was too long…

 

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Cakey Peanuty Base

Once the base is taken out of the oven, add mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on top so they start to melt slightly…

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Ingredients for the filling

  • 2 tubs of full fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 tub of smooth peanut butter
  • 150ml milk
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

  • Put everything in a bowl and whisk it all together until blended well. Taste to see if it needs more sugar.
  • Once the base is cooled, spread the filling onto the base and level off
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Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Filling

 

The topping!

I used chocolate ganache, extra peanut butter cups and Maltesers…Go wild with your imagination! 🙂

 

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Apologies for another poor quality photo of the finished product! I served it this decadent dessert after a Mexican Night with friends.

The base of the cheesecake was slightly too thick, but not too heavy. The filling was very creamy and the peanut butter came through extremely well! I think I could have been a little more adventurous with the toppings, however I was bleeding quite heavily from cutting my thumb whilst trying to chop a Malteser in half, so finished off quickly so I could!

Overall, the cheesecake was very tasty if you love peanut butter, but I think it’s best reserved for special occasions! 🙂

I’ll be trying out Anna’s recipe next time…

Mexican Night: Guacamole, Refried Beans, Salsa, Nachos and Buffalo Wings!

Mexican Night

Mexican Night: Nachos, Guacamole, and Salsa

April 2014 has flown by with little blogging activity from me. Apologies for my absence, however it was my birthday at the beginning of the month and the Easter bank holiday came and went, all in all it has been incredibly busy but so much fun! 🙂

I’ve not cooking a huge amount, and when I have I’ve been trying to take photos for the blog but not always with great success! So this meal was prepared for a night in with some friends to go with a few drinks…

One of the many birthday treats I had was to go to a ‘Latin American’ style restaurant where we started off with nachos and spicy chicken wings. This was my inspiration for this collection of nibbles, full of flavour and easy to eat with your fingers over a long evening of chatter with good company!

Let’s start with the Guacamole! I’ve never made it before, as it is only recently that I’ve eaten avocado. I’ve been informed that this was the ‘best guacamole ever tasted’, so a pretty good recipe!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/guacamole-recipe.html

Guacamole

This recipe can be found here. I think the secret ingredient is the ground cumin which gives it a nice depth of flavour. Make it ahead so the flavours have time to melt into each other!

Then there is the Salsa!

Salsa

Salsa

This salsa recipe calls for one jalapeño chilli which I didn’t have but I only had pickled jalapeños so substituted that instead. My partner reliably informs me that this is similar to Afghan ‘Salata’. Another recipes that transcends cultures!

Cheesy Nachos

Cheesy Nachos

This is a fairly straight forward recipe for grilled nachos; tortilla chips topped with sour cream, jalapeños, refried beans and plenty of cheese!

Now for the chicken wings. I went with this recipe for Baked Buffalo Wings, as it was pretty straightforward and promised a crispy spiced finish.

Buffalo Wings Preparation

Buffalo Wings Preparation

The key to this recipe is leaving the coated wings in the fridge for at least one hour to dry out. I roasted them in two separate trays to ensure they weren’t over crowded.

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

Before baking, each piece is dunked into a an emulsion of butter and chilli sauce. Needless to say, they were delicious! Apologies for the terrible photo! 😦