Pig Cupcakes

Pig cupcakes with raspberry jam icing

This will be a very short post.  When I made the marshmallow flower cupcakes the other day I actually started out planning to make pig cupcakes.   Little Miss Spice had a pig cupcake on holiday in summer and it was the most memorable exciting thing (for her) that happened on that particular day.   She still remembers that pig cupcake and so it was only a matter of time before we ended up making them together.

To see the recipe for the cupcakes and the raspberry jam icing have a look at my post for Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes.  For the ears I just cut mini marshmallows in half.  I used chocolate chips for the eyes and writing icing to draw the dots on the noses.   Very very easy and your children will love them.  And anyone else’s children too!

Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes

Vanilla cupcakes with raspberry  icing and marshmallow flowers with sparkly coloured sugar

Little Miss Spice loves cupcakes and so most of the cupcakes I make have animal designs on or are aimed at children in some way.   I don’t get much chance to make more sophisticated ones.  It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that my little helper has other plans.

In fact, when I started out making these cupcakes they were all going to be pigs as I had some mini marshmallows, but I started to think about what else I could do with them.   A quick flick through pinterest showed lots and lots of marshmallow flower designs and I began to think maybe I could get away with decorating some of the cupcakes with flowers. If I’d been a little more organised maybe I could have added a hidden pink raspberry heart inside the cupcakes to make them a perfect Valentines treat.

To make the marshmallow flowers I cut the marshmallows in half horizontally and then pressed the cut side into the coloured sugar, which is slightly sparkly.  You can buy coloured sugar but it’s very easy to make your own.   I used  a tiny bit of gel food colouring and rubbed it into the sugar with my fingertips.  You then leave it to dry and when it’s dry, crumble it up to make the coloured sugar.   Apparently it keeps for quite a while in an airtight container so if you make than you need you can just save it for another day.

I have made quite a lot of cupcakes recently and so have been experimenting with slightly different recipes and oven temperatures and this one from Annabel Karmel’s Children’s First Cookbook is my current favourite – or maybe I just managed to bake them perfectly this time.   The cupcakes are very moist and have a lovely vanilla flavour.   They also didn’t rise up in the middle so were perfect for decorating as they had a flat surface.

Using jam to flavour the raspberry icing was an idea inspired by The More Than Occasional Baker.  She used it on an incredible looking chocolate and raspberry layer cake and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to have a go at some similar icing.

Ingredients – Makes 9

125g self-raising flour

125g butter or margarine, softened

125g sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing

50g butter

50g icing sugar

50g seedless raspberry Jam

For the Decorations

Mini Marshmallows

Sugar

Food colour

How to Make Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes

1. Put all the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon.   Beat well for a couple of minutes.   Spoon the mixture into a cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases.

2. Bake in a preheated oven at 160C for about 20 minutes.  Leave the cupcakes to cool on wire racks.

3. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the coloured sugar.   Put a couple of tablespoons of sugar in a bowl and a few drops of food colour.   Mix together well with your fingers and then leave it to dry in a thin layer on a baking tray.

4. Beat all the icing ingredients together and spread onto the top of the cupcakes.

5. When the sugar and food colour has dried, roll it between your fingers to break up the lumps and get  coloured sugar again. Put the sugar in a bowl.

6. Cut the mini marshmallows in half diagonally and put them in the sugar.   Press the cut sides into the sugar so it sticks and then place them on the cupcakes to make a flower shape.

marshmallow flower cupcakes I am linking these to Bunny Eats Design’s Our Growing Edge, hosted this month by Love, Live, Life by Kim , and to Treat Petit, hosted by The Baking Explorer and on alternate months by Cakeyboi. The theme is Love is in the Air.  These cupcakes are also my Bake of the Week, hosted by Casa Costello.

Our Growing edgeTreat PetitBake of the Week

Chocolate and Strawberry Valentines Heart Cake

Chocolate and strawberry valentines heart cakeMy husband has a habit of accusing me of always making the cakes I want to make and never making the ones he would have chosen.   He does have a fair point, but then again, some partners don’t get any cake at all!  He’s one of the lucky ones.

Even though he may have a case, I decided that with Valentines day coming up I really should design his ideal cake.   After all, he is my Valentine.  He loves chocolate and he loves chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache.   He also likes strawberries.  He does not like me to add dried fruit, apples or marzipan to cakes, but luckily those ingredients are not my first choice for Valentines day either.

If you are wondering where the strawberries are, I will admit that there are no real strawberries in this cake, just strawberry flavouring in the heart shaped layer.   However, if I was making it again I would be tempted to coat some strawberries in chocolate and place them around the bottom of the cake.   I would also be tempted to add a layer of strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream in the middle of the strawberry heart cake.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that as my lovely husband thought this cake was fantastic.  I don’t want him to think it wasn’t as good as it could have been.   I also have to think about the future.   As I get better at making cakes, he may start to expect more, I might then have to try even harder.   I may never be able to get away with making a plain chocolate cake ever again.

Ingredients – Serves 10-12

350g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g softened butter or margarine

210g caster sugar

4 eggs

2tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp strawberry flavouring

For the dark chocolate ganache

150g dark chocolate chips

180ml double cream

For the white chocolate ganache

100g white chocolate chips

120ml double cream

For the chocolate flavour buttercream

40g butter

120g icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa

How to Make Chocolate and Strawberry Valentines Heart Cake

1. Sift the baking powder and flour into a large mixing bowl.   Add the sugar, butter and eggs.   Mix and beat together with a wooden spoon.

2. Take out about 1/3 of the mixture.  Add the strawberry flavouring to this third and beat in with the wooden spoon.   Spoon the mixture into a small 15cm cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper.

3. Add a spoonful of hot water to the cocoa powder and mix to form a paste.   Add this to the remaining cake mixture and beat in.   Spoon this mixture into a slightly larger cake tin that has also been greased and lined.  I used an 18cm tin.

4. Bake the cakes in the oven at 160C for about 50 minutes.   Check they are done by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cakes.   It should come out clean.

5. Cool the cakes in the tins for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely on wire racks.

6. When the cakes have cooled, use a bread knife to slice off the top part of the cake as they will have risen in the middle.   Turn the cakes upside down so they have a smoother top.

7. Make the buttercream by beating together the butter and icing sugar.   Then add the cocoa powder, dissolved in a little water, as above.

8. Slice the chocolate cake in half horzontally.   Before you separate the halves, put a little blob of buttercream on the side so that when you put the cake back together you can see exactly where to put the top layer.   This stops the cake looking wonky if it hasn’t been sliced evenly.   Spread the buttercream over the bottom layer and then put the other layer back on top.

9. Make the ganaches one at a time by putting the cream and chocolate in the microwave together.   Heat for a minute. Stir and then keep heating for 20 seconds at a time then stirring.   Stop as soon as the chocolate has melted and forms a smooth ganache.   Leave to cool and thicken.

10. When the ganache has cooled to a thick pouring consistency, pour over the cake and spread down the sides using a palette knife.   Put the chocolate ganache on the round chocolate cake and the white chocolate ganache on the heart-shaped strawberry cake. Keep the cakes on the wire racks while you do this so any extra ganache drops below the cake and doesn’t pool around the bottom.  Leave to set.

11. Pour some of the leftover chocolate ganache onto a baking tray lined with clingfilm.  Put it in the fridge to set.

12. Put the heart shaped cake on top of the round one.  Cut out a heart shape from the chocolate ganache and place it in the middle of the heart cake.

Chocolate and strawberry valentines heart cakeI am linking this to Love Cake at JibberJabberUK and Alphabakes, hosted this month by Caroline Makes and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. This is also my Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too.

Love CakealphabakesRecipe of the 'Week

 

Chicken Anise

Chicken cooked with Chinese five spice

For my first Secret Recipe Club assignment of the new year I was given Dena from Oh! You Cook! Dena is a librarian and food blogger who has even published a recipe book so as you can imagine there were literally hundreds of fantastic recipes on her blog.   As it was January when I made this, I was trying to avoid too many sweet things and so focused on the savoury recipes.   I love spicy food and luckily there was lots of choice.   I could even say too much!  Would it be pulled brisket sliders, Korean-style chicken wings or even one of the soups?

In the end I chose this Chicken Anise as I hadn’t made anything with five spice powder for a while and as soon as I read the recipe I was tempted.   It sounded like a tasty midweek meal, even a little too simple.  I thought I would make something else too so I’d have a choice of what to post.

That’s right, I didn’t know this was going to be so delicious although Dena did describe it as, ‘one of those recipes that seem ho-hum, nothing special … until you try a forkful‘ so I really should have known!  I promise you, this so tasty you will be licking the plate clean afterwards.

Ingredients- Serves 2

Chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts (enough for 2 people)

100ml water

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp Chinese five spice

1 onion, chopped

100g mushrooms, sliced

How to Make Chicken Anise

1. Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the chicken on all sides.

2. Mix together the water, soy sauce, sugar and five spice powder. Pour over the chicken. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

3. In another pan heat a little more oil and cook the onions gently until they soften and then add the mushrooms.  Cook for 5 minutes and then add to the pan with the chicken.

4. Cook the chicken for another 5 minutes and then serve with rice and some more vegetables.

If you’d like to see what other Secret Recipe Club participants have made then click on the link below:

 

Cucumber and Noodle Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing

cucumber, carrot and noodle salad with peanut butter dressing

It’s good to eat healthily.   It feels good and you know that it’s doing you good but sometimes it’s hard to stick to all those good intentions.  It’s easier to eat salads in summer when the weather is warm.   In winter I often feel like eating something a little heavier, something creamier, something to warm me up.   Well, this salad won’t exactly warm you up but it does have that creaminess that I for one often crave in winter.

Using peanut butter in a salad dressing is a great way to make a  salad really tasty and moreish, especially with the addition of lime juice and toasted sesame oil.  The chillies in the salad also liven it up while adding a nice bit of heat.  It may not look the prettiest side dish but it tasted delicious.

The peanut butter I used was from MyProtein.com and is made with 100% peanuts with no added oil, sugar or salt, which so many other peanut butters have.  I loved the dressing and although I used it on a salad this time, it could also be used on a warm noodle dish to provide a sauce as well.

Ingredients – Serves 2

1 nest of rice noodles

1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 carrot, grated or thinly sliced

3 spring onions, sliced

1 chilli pepper, thinly sliced

Dressing Ingredients

1 tbsp peanut butter

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2-3 tbsp water

How to Make Cucumber Noodle Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing

1. Put the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.   Leave to stand for 5 minutes or cook according to the pack instructions.   Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water.

2. Mix up all the ingredients for the dressing and toss together with the noodles and chopped vegetables.

I am linking this to No Croutons Required, hosted this month by Lisa’s Kitchen and on alternate months by Tinned Tomatoes. I am also linking to Extra Veg, hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food for Families and Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra VegNo Croutons Required

 

Disclosure:  I was sent a free sample of peanut butter from Myprotein.com. You can find discounts and voucher codes for their products here.

Coconut, Apricot and Sultana Snack Balls

apricot and sultana energy balls with coconut oil

The Christmas chocolates and crisps have now finally all been eaten but I’ve got used to eating lots of snacks and it’s hard to give up the habit.  Instead, I’ve decided to try and swap the unhealthy snacks for some healthier options like these coconut, apricot and sultana snack balls, sometimes called energy balls.

I’ve seen snack balls online before but never attempted any.   Usually I make slightly less healthy options.  However, new year, new healthier me.  That’s the plan anyway.  I was also hoping to make something my two children could enjoy as a snack and as these snack balls are full of dried fruit they make a great healthy snack for kids.  You can shape them into small bars instead of balls if you want too.

This was also one of my first experiments using coconut oil, which is thought of as being one of the healthiest multi-purpose cooking oils. You can read about the health benefits here.  Although it’s called ‘oil’ it is actually solid at room temperature so it’s perfect for making this type of snack as it helps to hold all the ingredients together as it sets.   It tastes of coconut too so it’s great in recipes where you want the oil to add flavour, not just be something to cook your food in.

So, if you like coconut and you like dried fruit then you will definitely like these.  They are one of the easiest snacks to make as there is no cooking involved and as long as you have a fococonpure oilod processor, you can make them in minutes.   I used sultanas and apricots as I had a lot leftover from making my Christmas cake but you could use any dried fruit. The coconut oil, as well as the desiccated coconut gives the balls a lovely coconut flavour without them being oily.

I used 100% virgin organic coconut oil, Coconpure Oil from MyProtein.com. Click here to find offers and discounts.

 

Ingredients – Makes about 15

100g sultanas or raisins

75g dried apricots

25g desiccated coconut

1 tbsp (15g) coconut oil

How to Make Coconut, Apricot and Sultana Snack Balls

1. Put the sultanas, apricots and coconut in a food processor.   Blend until it is quite broken down and sticky.  Put in a mixing bowl.

2. Melt the coconut oil in a microwave and pour over the dried fruit and coconut mixture.   Stir well.

3. Roll small amounts of the mixture between your hands to form balls then put them in the fridge to set a little.

I am linking these to Treat Petit, hosted by Cakeyboi and on alternate months by The Baking Explorer.  I am also linking to January’s Family Foodies, hosted by Eat Your Veg, and on alternate months by Bangers and Mash.  The theme is healthy kids

Treat PetitFamily Foodies

 

Disclosure:  I was sent a free sample of the Coconpure Oil but the recipe and views are my own.

Chicken Marrakesh

ras el hanout chicken

One of the things I love to do at this time of year is look through all my new cookbooks and decide what to make first.   Sometimes I go for something challenging, sometimes it’s something I know I’ll love because it’s got all my favourite ingredients in and sometimes it’s just something that grabs me because it’s simple as well as tasty.

That was the case with this chicken Marrakesh.   I wanted something quick to prepare on a weeknight, something not too unhealthy after all the excesses of Christmas and something I knew we would love.

Admittedly you could argue that it is not healthy at all as the chicken is stuffed with butter. However, a lot of it runs out in the pan so you don’t actually eat all that butter,  it just keeps the chicken deliciously moist as it cooks and of course the ras el hanout spice mix fills it with flavour on the inside and outside.

The recipe is slightly adapted from Fresh Spice by Arun Kapil.  With my love of spices, this was a perfect Christmas present for me and a book I hadn’t looked at before which makes it all the better a discovery.   I haven’t had time to read all the recipes in the book yet but I know it’s going to be used a lot over the coming months.

You could serve this with flatbreads and salads or rice but I chose to make a couscous salad also flavoured with ras el hanout for an easy North African accompaniment.

Ingredients – Serves 4

4 chicken breasts

100g butter at room temperature

1 tsp ras el hanout

1 tsp lemon zest

How to Make Ras El Hanout Chicken

1. Put the butter, ras el hanout and lemon zest in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Put the butter on a piece of cling film and roll it up into a sausage shape and then put it back int he fridge to solidify.

2. Slice a cut into the side of each chicken breast.  Cut the butter into 4 equal pieces and insert one into each breast.   Use a cocktail stick to close up the gap in the side of the chicken breast.

3. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and put the chicken breasts in.  Cook for about 8 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum and Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too.

Tasty TuesdaysRecipe of the 'Week

Chilled Matcha and Banana Smoothie

Chilled Matcha and Banana Smoothie

l don’t make smoothies often enough.   Maybe it’s that I don’t like to clean the blender.   Maybe it’s that I just don’t think of making them.   If I want fruit I just eat it as it is.   This wasn’t the case for a short time about 8 years ago when we first got our blender.   We made loads and loads of smoothies.   We were making them constantly for, well, for about 2 weeks.

But, along comes a New Year and suddenly I’m thinking of ways to add healthy habits to my daily routine.   One thing I would like to do more of is make more smoothies. I recently got some organic matcha for the first time and as a smoothie is such a simple thing to make it seemed a great way to first try the matcha.

I love the combination of coconut and banana and just by itself the banana and coconut milk makes a great smoothie, but the matcha just adds an extra dimension of flavour.   I’m not a tea drinker but I do like weak green tea and the teaspoonful of matcha added to this smoothie complements the banana and coconut without being too strong.   You could add a little more or less depending on how much you like it.

As I wanted a chilled smoothie I put the banana in the freezer before making the smoothie and the coconut milk in the fridge.   You can do this with most fruits before making smoothies and it means you don’t need to use ice and so don’t dilute any of the flavour.

As I said, this was my first experiment with matcha but as it’s a really healthy ingredient with even more antioxidants than a cup of brewed green tea, I would like to do a little bit more experimenting with it.   Cupcakes next maybe or possibly a matcha and chocolate mousse?

Have you used matcha and if so how do you use it?

Ingredients – serves 2

300ml coconut milk

2 bananas

1 tsp matcha (I used Kiss Me Organics Culinary Grade Green Tea Powder)

How to Make Chilled Matcha and Banana Smoothie

1. At least 30 minutes before making the smoothie slice the banana and put it in the freezer.   Put the coconut milk in the fridge.

2. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.   Serve immediately.

matcha uk image

Disclosure: I received a free sample of the matcha but the views here are my own.

Fillet Steak with Bois Boudrin

Fillet Steak with Bois Boudrin

In the last few years I’ve gone from not liking or eating steak to eating it well-done to loving it pink.   There is sometimes just nothing better for dinner than a plate of steak, chips and a good sauce.  I often make a creamy mustard and mushroom sauce but this time I wanted to try something new.

I had 2 beautiful pieces of fillet steak from MyProtein.com and as I don’t often get fillet steak I wanted to make the most of them.   I wished I had some fresh herbs to make a chimichurri type sauce but that part of the fridge was empty.  I read online that Gordon Ramsey’s favourite sauce for a fillet steak was a bois boudrin.   I’d never  heard of it but it sounded good.   And the best thing about it was that it didn’t need any fresh herbs. Well, none except tarragon.   As I’m not a fan of tarragon and it was so full of other strong flavours I decided missing it out would be just fine.  Maybe I could have added few fennel seeds as a substitute, but to be honest it didn’t need them.

Just look at these ingredients: balsamic vinegar, Worcester sauce, mustard, lemon juice…

It’s fair to say that you do have to love punchy flavours to enjoy this.  It is a big bold sauce and if you do prefer things to be a little more subtle it might not be for you.   However, if you do like your meals to have a bit of a kick to them then I’m sure you’ll love it as much as we did.

Some people may say that fillet steak is the most tender and and least strongly flavoured cut of steak and so it’s best not to serve it with something that will overpower it.  Well, I could definitely still taste my steak as well as the sauce and it cooked absolutely beautifully.   I often just estimate the cooking time and I am guilty of sometimes overcooking steak.   Well this time I did not want that to happen.  I carefully timed it for 2 minutes on each side and after it had rested it was lovely and pink in the middle.  Perfect.

Bois Boudrin was apparently first created by Michel Roux but I slightly adapted a Gordon Ramsey recipe from BBC Good Food.

Ingredients – Serves 4

1/4 onion, finely diced

2 tomatoes, diced

3 tbsp tomato ketchup

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

4 Fillet steaks

How to Make Fillet Steak with Bois Boudrin

1. Mix all the ingredients together except the steak.   Put in the fridge until you need it but take it out 30 minutes before serving.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan.   Cook the steaks for 2 minutes on each side or a bit longer if you want them more well done.

3. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes before serving with the sauce.

 

My Xmas Cake 2014

Christmas cake with rudolph and christmas tree design around the side

Hello Rudolph!   This is my Christmas cake.   It’s only the second year I’ve made a Christmas cake.   Last year was the first and I’ve played safe by sticking with the same cake recipe as it worked so well.   It was just what I wanted from a rich fruit cake – moist, fruity and just a bit gooey from all that dried fruit.   If that’s how you like your Christmas cake then look no further.

Most Christmas cakes are fortified with sherry, rum or some other rather strong spirit. The only alcohol in this cake is cider.   You may think that’s a bit unusual for a Christmas cake but it goes perfectly with all the dried fruit.   Well, maybe I shouldn’t say it goes perfectly as you can’t actually taste it, but the cake  is good and if the cake is good then all that goes into it must be good too.

Actually I hope this cake is good.   I haven’t properly tasted it yet, not the cooked cake anyway.  Eating the cake has to wait until Christmas, but I’m posting it now because if I wait to eat it and then blog, everyone will be so full up of their own Christmas cakes no-one will want to read about mine.

As I said at the start, this is the second time I’ve made this Christmas cake.   It was so good last year and I’m confident it will be this year too.  After all, I’ve stuck to the same recipe, with just one or two small changes.   Maybe next year I’ll try the hard alcohol route but for now I’m sticking with what I know.

The recipe is slightly adapted from Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton.

Ingredients

200g sultanas

400g raisins

250g prunes

100g dates

150g dried apricots

200g glace cherries

2 dessert apples, peeled and diced

600ml cider

4 tsp mixed spice

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

175g soft dark brown sugar

3 eggs, beaten

150g ground almonds

280g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

To Decorate

400g marzipan

3 tbsp jam (I used raspberry)

500g royal icing sugar

Tubes of designer icing (black/brown, red, green, yellow and blue)

How to Make My Christmas Cake

1. Put all the dried fruit, mixed spice and cider in a large saucepan.   Simmer for 20 minutes.    Leave in the pan overnight and the fruit will absorb the rest of the liquid.

2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

3. Put the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy.   Use an electric whisk if possible.    Beat in the eggs, one at  a time.

4. Fold in the fruit and the ground almonds.   Sift in the flour and baking powder and then fold in too.

5. Put the cake batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven at 160C for 2.5 hours.  Test the cake with skewer and if it comes out with sticky batter still on it then return it to the oven.   My cake needed 3 hours.

6. Let the cake cool a little in the tin and then turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

7. If you want to keep the cake for a while before eating it then wrap it up well in foil and keep it in an airtight container.   You can keep it for up to 8 weeks.

8. When you are ready to decorate the cake, put the jam in a small bowl and  heat in the microwave or a small saucepan until runny.  Brush it over the cake.

9. Roll out the marzipan and cover the cake with it.

10. Make the royal icing according to the pack instructions.   I just needed to whisk mine with a little water.   When it begins to form stiff peaks then spread it over the cake with a palette knife.   I chose a rough snow effect for the top by tapping the palette knife up and down on the icing.   I smoothed the sides carefully with the knife so I could draw on them

11. I used the designer icing to draw reindeer and Christmas trees on the sides of the cake but of course you could draw anything you wanted.

I am linking this to Alphabakes, hosted by Caroline Makes and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. The letter this month is X. It is also linked to the Christmas Foodie Friday link on Casa Costello and Romanian Mum.  I am also linking to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and to Love Cake December Delights, hosted by Jibberjabber UK. Finally I am linking to Festive Family Foodies hosted by Banger and Mash and on alternate months by Eat your Veg.

alphabakesBookmarked RecipesFamily Foodiesfoodie fridays