Not just for rabbits!

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Carrot Cake with walnuts

Carrot Cake with walnuts

Charlie is off on his travels again, so I decided a visit to my parents was in order and, of course, cake was requested!

So, on Friday afternoon I whipped up a carrot cake and I was mighty impressed with the results.

This cake is three layers and served around 14 decent slices. I think you would get 10-12 slices if you were having bigger wodges.

This cake is living proof that carrots are not just for rabbits!

Recipe

Ingredients
300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g carrots, grated
(100g shelled walnuts, chopped, to put in the mixture if desired. Plus extra whole to decorate)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 170c and prepare three 20cm tins, base lined with greaseproof paper.
Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all ingredients are well incorporated. I beat the eggs and sugar first and slowly poured the oil in a bit at a time. The mixture shouldn’t split then.
Slowly add the flour, bicarb, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed.
Stir in the grated carrots (and if you are going to use walnuts in the sponge add them in now) by hand, until they are evenly dispersed.
Pour the mixture into 3 prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife. bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly in the tins before turning out.
ICING
600g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter at room temp.
250g cream cheese, cold
Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium high speed. continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny. I added in some yellow food colouring too.
Ice the cake – between the layers as well, with the frosting and decorate with the whole walnuts.
If you want the cake to look like mine, I sliced the tops to make sure the cakes were flat and put the cakes into the freezer for 10 minutes before icing to limit the amount of crumbs. I also put a thin coat of icing on first, let it chill and then iced with the remainder of the frosting – adding the walnuts at the end.

Try this cake – everyone who had some at the weekend loved it. Despite the oil in the mixture, it’s not greasy and I am definitely going to make this again – and soon!

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Just Beat It!

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Beater blade - with added spatulas at the side

You’ll all know that after my family – just in case they’re reading – my next greatest love is my KitchenAid mixer.

I LOVE it but don’t love having to scrape the sides constantly when mixing mixtures or frostings. I stumbled upon the above blade yesterday and immediately had to have it.

It’s a beater blade with added spatulas at the side, which will beat and scrape at the same time. Well, I was sold straight away. I know, I’m a marketing team’s dream!

The UK sites all seemed really expensive so I looked in the US and found the one above.

Michelle, from Gay Frazeee – All Around The House, was really helpful and replied to the email within hours of being sent – considering the time difference, I was impressed.

She gave me a choice of shipping options and an invoice was sent out. Paid through Paypal and, voila, new blade on the way for me.

With the exchange rate, I have paid £22 in P&P for a KitchenAid beater blade – one that retails over here for around £37 with postage. I’m over the moon!

Here’s Michelle’s ebay link:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Beater-Blade-RED-4-KitchenAid-Tilt-Head-BeaterBlade-NEW_W0QQitemZ310280585314QQcategoryZ20642QQcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp5197.m7QQ_trkparmsZalgo%3DLVI%26itu%3DUCI%26otn%3D5%26po%3DLVI%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D6684106583753500226#ht_829wt_905

Now I can’t wait for it to arrive!

And here’s some I made earlier …!

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My blog isn’t even a week old but I’ve been baking cakes and cupcakes for yonks.

Here’s a selection of some of the treats and cakes I’ve cooked up over the last year. If anyone would like any of the recipes for the cakes pictured here, just let me know!

Canal tart ... otherwise known as Blackberry frangipane

We were lucky this year and there were literally hedgerow after hedgerow of blackberries near our house – and we took full advantage of the free fruit.

After making our collective family weight in jam, I came up with the idea of putting the berries into an almond frangipane and pastry crust.

I’ve called it Canal Tart as that’s where the berries were sourced from.

Lemon Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting

My mum's birthday cake

Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sugar flowers

The quest for the perfect 'rose' swirl

Just one of the four Barbie cakes made for birthdays

And, that’s one hell of a load of cake!

Glass bowl envy

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For as many years as I can remember I coveted a shiny, KitchenAid mixer for my worktop.

The problem was the cost. I didn’t know if I’d use it enough, what I’d use it for or even if I wanted to use one. I just knew I wanted one – badly.

Finally, earlier this year, my wish came true and now a beautiful red, Artisan mixer sits on the side.

I have used it and used it and LOVE it but I’m now hankering after this:

A thing of beauty ....

KichenAid have only gone and produced a thick, glass bowl that fits on its mixers and looks pretty darn good as well. At around £60, they’re pricey.

But how can anyone not want one?

My problem is that with a fully-working metal mixing bowl, I simply have no excuse or justification to buy one of these.

Maybe we’ll have to work on that!

Note: A little birdy over at KitchenAid tells me that you will get a FREE glass mixing bowl with every new KitchenAid Stand Mixer colour palette which will be released in April this year. Wow. Just wish I could get a new machine now!

Red Velvet and everybody smiled ….

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I defy anyone to look at these Red Velvet Cupcakes and not want to lick their computer screen.

Over the weekend, we had friends over for dinner and I thought I’d try the Red Velvets as an alternative dessert. Everyone bangs on about how good these cupcakes are but I’d never made them.

If I’m honest, the amount of food colouring – which is used to create the gorgeous colour of the sponge – has always put me off a little.

But – wow! These were the most delicious cakes I have ever made, I swear. And I can’t wait to make them again. In fact, I’m going for the three-layer sponge cake next time but I need a really special occasion first.

Again, I have used The Hummingbird Bakery (http://hummingbirdbakery.com/) recipe but there are literally hundreds of variations of this recipe around. Quite a few people have used the Magnolia Bakery method and say it is just as fab.

I think the key to these cupcakes are the chocolate sponge that is such a vibrant colour it’s hard to explain in words, and the divine cream cheese frosting.

The cupcakes went down a treat, nearly everyone had seconds and the guests took some home – an outright success!

A few tips for Red Velvets.

Make sure you buy cochineal colouring – ordinary red food colouring just won’t give the same effect.  Look at the colour of the mixed cake batter here:

Always use bicarbonate of soda and not baking powder – this would create an entirely different chemical reaction.

Be really careful with the food colouring, it can get everywhere and in a split second the kitchen worktops could be ruined.

Depending on the quality (and density) of your cocoa powder, the chocolate and red ‘paste’ can differ in consistency – it either becomes a crumbly mixture or a thick paste. Mine came out a crumbly mixture. I didn’t add more colouring to loosen and the colour was just as intense.

This mixture is quite thick and although the recipe said I could get 12 cakes out of it, I only managed 11. Maybe my cases were larger or I had just slightly overfilled each one. Be frugal with the spooning of the mixture and then top up at the end.

Finally, don’t overcook the sponges. My oven is fan assisted and I checked them just after 20 minutes and the sponge was springy when touched. I also used a skewer in the largest cupcake and it came out clean.

Recipe

60g unsalted butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

1 egg

10g cocoa powder

20ml red food colouring (preferably Dr. Oetker brand)

½ tsp vanilla extract

120ml buttermilk

150g plain flour

½ tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1½ tsp white wine vinegar

For cream cheese frosting

300g icing sugar

50g unsalted butter, at room temperature (I actually used about 60g)

125g cream cheese, cold and always Philadelphia as other alternatives are too runny.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Prepare muffin tray with cupcake cases.

Beat butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed.

Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Turn the mixer up to slow speed, slowly pour in half the buttermilk.

Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again.

Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.

Transfer the mixture into cupcake cases and bake for about 20 mins or until done.

Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

For cream cheese frosting:

Beat the icing sugar and butter together on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes to gether and is well mixed. Mine formed crumbs instead.

Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.

Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy (at least five minutes). Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

Banana and chocolate cupcakes

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Sprinkles .... balls ..... Sprinkles ..... Balls

A nightmare happened in the Morton household this afternoon.

We were invited to a friend’s house after the school run and my husband pipes up that they’re expecting cakes! After rushing around and making sure I had ingredients, I look up to see him grinning.

It was all a ruse and I’d been well and truly ‘done over’! Anyway, they were half-made by this point and I was quite excited about the prospect of a new post to populate my latest obsession – this blog!

These cakes are easy-to-make and tasted yummy. They went down a treat with the adults and kids alike – check out the picture of one of them being devoured below!

These delicious cakes are from a recipe inside The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook . This is the first offering from the London-based company. Their American cupcakes have gone down a storm in the UK and they have three shops in the capital. Check out their website: http://hummingbirdbakery.com/

This was my first-ever cupcake book and I have read and reread it, splattered it with buttercream from my over-zealous beating and even licked it when I’ve dropped some of my cake mix on the directions!

Even better news is that there’s a second book coming out in March. I’ve pre-ordered mine from Amazon. The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days: recipes to make every day special is currently a bargain on there £10, instead of the usual £20. Get over there now!

 

Banana and chocolate cupcakes

Makes 12

Ingredients
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
2 eggs (medium)
120g peeled banana, mashed 

Chocolate Frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40g cocoa powder, sifted
40ml whole milk
40g dark chocolate, grated with a cheese grater into shavings or sprinkles of choice

A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

 
Preheat the oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture, beating well until all the ingredients are well mixed. Add the eggs and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Stir in the mashed bananas by hand until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the Chocolate Frosting on top and finish with chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

Frosting instructions
Beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
Turn the mixer down to slow speed.
Add the milk to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
Decorate with sprinkles – the gaudier the better!

Toby eating chocolate and banana muffins

Simple Syrup Sponge

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It's a hug in a bowl

Nothing reminds me of cold, winter days when I was a child more than a steamed sponge pudding.

It’s also the dish that sparks vivid memories of the mid 80s when my Mum bought her first-ever microwave and that was the only pudding she could make – sorry Mum!

Subsequently we ate it nearly every week. By December, I remember pushing away a bowlful and vowing never to eat it again. I lied, obviously!

Today was bitingly cold. I hadn’t planned on pudding this evening but a friend mentioned strudel and I was mentally scouring my kitchen cupboards to see what I could make.

Steamed (or microwaved, if you want to be pedantic!) sponge it was. Here’s my easy recipe cobbled together from a few different recipes sourced over the years. It works a treat!

Oh, and you could adapt this and use jam instead of syrup, maybe sub some of the flour for cocoa for a choc sponge – why not try something and let me know if it works?

So Simple Syrup Sponge

100g butter

100g sugar. I used golden castor sugar as I had some handy but ordinary granulated will do just fine.

2 eggs

85g plain flour

1tsp Baking powder. I always use a heaped teaspoon.

A little milk to loosen the mixture

Golden Syrup. As much as you want to scoop into the bottom of the pudding basin. I put about 3 or 4tbsps.

1tsp lemon zest. Only if you have it, the pudding doesn’t suffer if you leave it out.

A greased pudding basin and some cling film.

Put the golden syrup into the bottom of the pudding basin. As this is going in the micro, I have used a stoneware one, but if you’re planning on steaming the traditional way then you can use a metal one.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and then add in the eggs, beating away to make a smooth liquid.

Add in the lemon zest, if you’re using it, and then add in the flour and baking powder.

Mix well. The mixture will look quite thick. Thin it out a little (I used about 1tbsp) with some milk.

Add about 1tsp of the golden syrup from the base into the mixture. This gives the sponge a caramel-sweet taste. Mix in and scrape the batter on top of the syrup in the basin.

Cover with cling film, prick a few holes with a fork – not slits with a knife as I have done in the past and then had to clean the microwave plate!

Blast for 3minutes and check. I usually then give it another 30-45 seconds for luck.

Make some thick custard and pour over huge wodges of sponge.

It’s a hug in a bowl!

Before cooking

 

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