Toffee Frosting

As I acknowledged in my Birthday Time! post a couple days ago, my housemate’s toffee frosting for our Banoffee Cupcakes was so good I felt I should share the recipe for the betterment of bakers everywhere. It has a lovely smooth texture; because you melt the sugar in the butter there’s no grainyness. It’s not really pipeable as buttercream usually is, but a teaspoon spread on top of cupcakes looks just as good, as it has quite a shiny, inviting finish. Other things I think it would go really well with are chocolate cupcakes, vanilla or chocolate cakes, carrot cake perhaps…as I always say, be creative! This frosting should keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container.

For the ‘toffee’

  • 50g soft dark brown sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the buttercream

  • 75g butter
  • 150g icing sugar

Step 1: Make the ‘toffee’. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan slowly over a low heat. Remove from the heat and add the milk.

Step 2: Make the buttercream. Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a bowl til light and fluffy.

Step 3: Mix the toffee part into the buttercream until the colour is consistent and there are no lumps.

Done! Easy peasy. Thanks to my housemate for giving me the recipe. Enjoy 🙂

Birthday Time!

A birthday is not a birthday without some form of cake. It is just one of those things – an integral part of the celebration, the cue for everyone in the room to start singing Happy Birthday to You each in a different key, and maybe as many candles as the birthday-ee has years if they’re lucky/the cake is giant. So when planning how best to a) welcome the rest of our friends back to the house and university in general and b) celebrate their missed summer birthdays, my housemate and I turned to baking.

Cupcakes seemed the ideal gift – easier to take away (and to scoff all at once) than a whole cake but with more than enough room for experimentation and personal touches for each of the three girls whose birthdays had recently passed. What is so special about 9 months before September I just don’t know, but it makes for a hectic start of term when the vast majority of your friends all turn 21 at once. Just to forewarn you, these ‘recipes’ are more like ideas for combinations and decorations, and a bit of showing off of myself and my housemate’s hard work, rather than methods and ingredients lists – they are all pretty standard cake batters and frostings. If you do want to know any particular recipe though, please just ask in the comments and I’ll post about it 🙂 Otherwise, be inspired – scout through baking blogs, cookbooks and/or recipe sites and create your own birthday treats!

 

Banoffee Cupcakes

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Banana cake with toffee frosting, decorated with silver balls and baked in some cute pink gingham cases my housemate had. These rose really well, despite us never having tried banana cake in cupcake form before! All credit to my housemate for the frosting, which was really REALLY good – in fact I think it deserves its own post with a recipe, so that will be up shortly. If you or your friends are fans of banoffee, as the 21-er to whom these now belong is in a big way, definitely try these – the moist banana cake and deliciously toffee-y icing are a great combo.

 

Ginger and Chocolate Tribute Cupcakes

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Chocolate cake with ginger flavoured buttercream swirled on top, decorated with dark chocolate chips and baked in pretty floral cases. One of my friends has ginger hair and is (rightfully) very proud of that fact #primflick (little bit of an in-joke there for the benefit of anyone who knows said auburn-haired queen of sass), so we went with buttercream flavoured with ground ginger  to represent this. She found it funny, and thankfully they also tasted good – what is a better partner for ginger than dark chocolate, after all?

 

Catty Cupcakes

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How cute are these??!! I was so pleased with the decoration – our cat-loving friend did actually squeal with delight when we surprised her with them. We were struggling to think of a favourite flavour for her, so after discarding the possibility of a catnip cupcake, we played it safe with vanilla cakes, vanilla buttercream piped flat onto the surface and then cat faces made out of sweets. The eyes are chocolate chips, the noses are pieces of red fruit pastille cut into triangles, the ears are blackcurrant fruit gums cut into halves (they made perfect ear shapes all by themselves), the mouths are strawberry laces cut in two strands halfway along to make the smile, and the whiskers are strands of liquorice wheel. Loads of fun to create, and you could definitely adapt the sweets depending on individual tastes – liquorice isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, for example. A purrfect birthday gift for anyone who loves cats. Yep, I had to say it. 

Sources: Various recipe sites, suggestions from friends and a bit of guesswork all contributed. As I said, recipes are easy to find for any/all of the frostings, buttercreams and cake batters featured here, but if you are desperate for the exact recipe we used I will be more than happy to post it for you – just ask in the comments 🙂 Many thanks and high fives to my baking partner in crime, and once again Happy 20th/21st to my three very deserving friends, and to the other millions of September babies – I hope you all get cake for your birthdays.

They’re not Terry’s…they’re mine!

You may have already gathered that I like to bake on special occasions (birthday bash baking bananarama coming up – if that doesn’t sound exciting I don’t know what does), and these Chocolate Orange Brownies are no exception. Last Sunday marked one very happy year of being in a relationship with my boyfriend, and he is currently a fan of Terry’s chocolate oranges…you can see where I’m going with this. They turned out quite well and really do taste a lot like a chocolate orange, which was the ultimate goal really, so mission accomplished!

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Ingredients:

  • 200g butter (real or margarine, but bearing in mind margarine will make the mixture runnier)
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 50g Terry’s Milk Chocolate Orange
  • zest of 1 large orange (2-3 tsps approx)
  • 4 eggs
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g Terry’s Milk Chocolate Orange

Step 1: Melt the zest, butter, dark chocolate and orange chocolate together in a bowl over a pan of boiling water (a bain-marie). Obviously the zest won’t actually melt but heating them together infuses the chocolate with the zesty flavour and aroma.

Step 2: While the melted chocolate mixture is cooling, whisk the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl until they are thoroughly combined and a pale colour. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix gently.

Step 3: Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold. Chop up the 100g of chocolate orange and stir in.

Step 4: Pour the brownie mixture into a tin lined with baking paper. Bake for around 40-50 minutes – do check them if you know your oven is quite fierce (mine isn’t) but be patient, as these take a while to cook through! They should have a slight wobble, be crisp on the top and have risen a little. Cool completely in the tin then cut up and keep in an airtight container. Yuuuuuuuuuummmmmmm.

These brownies are incredibly rich, slightly chewy round the edges and nice and crispy on top – what’s not to like? A VERY indulgent but wonderfully chocolaty gift or rainy day treat. If you like you can use dark chocolate, or maybe even white chocolate/with popping candy/bacon flavoured (that one is made up) Terry’s oranges – experiment or just use the one you like best. Even though I’m a huge dark chocolate fan, I love the original milk chocolate, but then the popping candy is fun…and the white chocolate version would be pretty awesome in these brownies I reckon…in short, they’re all delicious. Many thanks, Terry.

Source: BBC Good Food, ‘Chocolate Orange Brownies’, with a few of my own alterations based on personal preference and comments from other bakers on the page, so thanks reviewers of the world for those. And of course thanks to my wonderful boyfriend, who effectively inspired this post by hanging around long enough for there to be cause for celebration – and therefore baking! Who says you have to choose between love and chocolate?!

Honeycomb Ice Cream!

Its the one you’ve all been waiting for…FINALLY, not only a second ice cream experiment (as promised in my first ever post) but the big reveal of the last bake in the Great Friday Bake-Fest! Tah-dah! I realise that in my ‘Really minty mint choc chip ice cream’ post I hinted that the next flavour in the ice cream department would be ginger, but after shopping around and discovering just how expensive stem ginger in syrup seems to be, I decided I might put that one off until the old student loan comes in. Ginger is one of my favourite flavours in baking, and I had a fantastic ginger ice cream on holiday in France this summer, so if our heating decides to start working and the mere idea of eating ice cream stops making me shiver, look out for that.

You’d think that after roughly six hours in the kitchen baking, I would fancy a bit of a break, but no – I didn’t want to stop! Once the edible gifts for the family were done, I rounded up the day by making use of an ingredient I had originally planned to incorporate into the brownies – honeycomb. I couldn’t find any recipes for ‘honeycomb brownies’, but I did think they’d add a lovely crunchy texture and complement the chocolate. However, I did have qualms about the wetness of the brownie mixture, in that I thought it might just dissolve the honeycomb whilst baking in the oven. So I turned to the more conventional white chocolate chunks for the brownies, and the honeycomb met its frozen fate that evening.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that it might be possible to make your own honeycomb at home, until I came across a recipe for it on one of the food blogs I follow (I’ll cite this as a source for the recipe and also might pop in some links to blogs I like for other foodies out there – they’re much more established and professional than mine, and generally a joy to read!). Its actually very simple, and feels a bit like  when you got to do blowing-things-up practicals in science at school as the bicarbonate of soda is added. So, firstly, the recipe and method for making honeycomb, adapted very slightly from the original. Get your goggles on!*

*You don’t actually need protective safety equipment for this bake – the hot sugar is dangerous so please use oven gloves and take care when handling it – but unlike in science class there’s nothing explosive here.

Two things to be aware of as you’re making the honeycomb: Don’t boil your honeycomb past the deep amber stage, as it can turn from lovely and golden to dark and burnt in seconds. This is what happened to my first batch, and like overcooked toffee or caramel, it tastes bitter and quite unpleasant. Also, don’t overwhisk. When the bicarbonate of soda is added, the mixture will froth up immediately and in a big way. Don’t panic, but do try and whip up the mixture as fast as possible so that there aren’t big lumps of bicarb left, but you don’t deflate all the bubbles created by adding it. Sifting the powder into a small bowl beforehand helps.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp good quality (with a nice flavour because this will come through in the honeycomb) runny honey
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda

Step 1: Line a baking tray (preferably with sides at least a couple of centimeters high, otherwise you’ll have to take extra care when pouring out the mixture) with baking paper.

Step 2: In a high-sided saucepan (this is necessary for when it gets frothy, trust me), melt the sugar, golden syrup and honey together over a low heat. Once all the sugar has dissolved you won’t be able to feel any grainy-ness on the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Now turn the heat up and bring to the boil.

Step 3: Boil the sugar, honey and syrup until the mixture turns a deep amber colour – the colour of honeycomb you buy in the shops, basically. AS SOON AS it reaches this point, tip in your bicarb of soda and very quickly whisk to combine. Then pour out onto the baking tray to make a sheet of honeycomb. This will set fairly quickly, which is why you shouldn’t hang about after adding the bicarb.

Step 4: After about an hour and a half, two hours at the most, your honeycomb should be set and ready to bash up into bite-size pieces. Coat in chocolate, crush and sprinkle over desserts, or even add to ice cream…It will get chewier and stickier the longer you leave it out in the air – this needs to be either used (in whatever form) on the same day you make it or kept in an airtight tupperware box. Once coated in chocolate it will last longer as this stops the air getting to it.

Brilliant, so now you’ve made the honeycomb, you can leave it to set whilst you make the ice cream. Its very similar to the mint choc chip, so if you’ve made that one already it’ll be a piece of cake.

Ingredients:

  • 300ml double cream
  • 300ml milk (whole if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod with seeds scraped out, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Step 1: Whisk the sugar and yolks (and vanilla extract, if using) together in a bowl. Pour the milk and cream into a pan (add the vanilla seeds and pod, if using) and heat to just below boiling point. You can tell when this is as the surface of the mixture will just start to froth and roil.

Step 2: Pour the milk and cream slowly into the yolks and sugar (remove the vanilla pod from the pan before you combine them, if using) and whisk well. Pour the custard mixture into the pan.

Step 3: Stir the mixture constantly over a low heat, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cool before pouring into a chilled container, and freezing for 1 hour.

Step 4: After an hour, take out the ice cream and stir well to dislodge all the ice crystals that will have built up. Fold in the honeycomb (about 100g for this amount of ice cream) and put back in the freezer til set.

I really like the flavour and texture of this ice cream; the honeycomb is obviously affected by the liquid in the mixture, but it turns gooey and ripples through the ice cream which I think makes it taste and look fantastic. I will note that this ice cream was a little icier than the mint – that sounds daft I know, but I think it was to do with the amount of crystals that formed in the ice cream before stirring, so don’t leave it too long before checking and adding the honeycomb. Otherwise, delicious!

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Sources: The Little Loaf, ‘Real Homemade Honeycomb’ and BBC Good Food, ‘Honeycomb ice cream’. Thank you to The Little Loaf blog for inspiration!

Mum’s Lemon Meringue Pie

Last post today, I promise – and this one is really really short because you already have the recipe in a previous post! Thanks for sticking with me throughout this baking marathon. So, after I made the first pie – that’s lemon meringue attempt #2 – I had almost half the recipe quantity of sweet pastry, lemon curd, and egg whites for meringue left in the fridge – this stuff just will not let me be! A third instalment in the lemon meringue saga was thus on the cards, and I think it was possibly the best one of all, though not without a few flaws of course.

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I think I did mention this in my second lemon meringue post, but let me reiterate the importance of cooking the curd right through til its thickened considerably. I didn’t do this enough, hence the soggy bottom. My mum said that when she makes it the curd almost forms a soft ball that can be dropped, rather than poured, onto the pastry after a certain amount of heating, and also that its best to assemble the pie all at once and get it straight into the oven so the layers don’t start to meld into one another. She did say my meringue was perfect (smug face) but some time in the distant future there will be a Lemon Meringue Pie Take #4, and #5, and so on until its FAULTLESS! Perfectionist, me? Not at all. 

And that was the end of the baking fest. But not for long! (to be read in the manner of Bob Hale, for any Horrible Histories fans out there) Keep a weather eye on this patch ‘o blog and the final delicious treat made on that fateful Friday shall be revealed to ye…

Littlest (but not so little) Brother’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Let me keep this one short and sweet, just like my youngest brother. He has a fetish for anything peanut-butter related, and actually said to me whilst we were out at the mini-golf yesterday, before I told them about the surprise: ‘Remember those cookies with peanut butter you made for me for my birthday? They were so nice!’ Which was lovely and a good omen for these ones – I heard that they went down well and that my brother wanted to know how they were different from the birthday lot and what ingredients I’d put in. I may have another follower and fellow baking enthusiast soon!

  • 90g crunchy peanut butter (do NOT get the horribly sugary smooth stuff, at least for this recipe. Yes, peanut butter snobbery does have its place)
  • 50g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 100g plain flour
  • 10g baking powder (seems like a lot but they won’t rise too much, honest)
  • 1 tsp approx of grated orange zest (optional – I didn’t add this in)

 

Step 1: Cream the peanut butter, sugars and butter together until well combined.

Step 2: Add the egg and beat in well.

Step 3: Sift in the flour and baking powder, and add orange zest is using. Mix til you get a typical cookie dough texture.

Step 4: Using a tablespoon, divide the mixture into even-sized balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper (you can grease it but I always find that cookies especially rarely come off trays as well as they do off paper). Space them quite well apart as they do spread outwards when baking. I got 10 normal sized cookies out of this mixture, Paul Hollywood must like tiny ones as this is his recipe and it says ‘makes 20’!

Step 5: Bake for 25 minutes until set – they will obviously be soft straight out of the oven so do’t leave them in too long. They catch easily around the edges (this is my recurring mistake with cookies) so trust that they will firm up as they cool. Leave them on the trays until cold, then store in an airtight box or tin.

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Source: Good Food Channel, ‘Peanut butter cookies’ by Paul Hollywood. Thanks to my peanut butter-loving youngest brother for being so enthusiastic about my baking 🙂

N.B. Paul’s original recipe calls for 45g of smooth peanut butter and 50g chopped unsalted peanuts, but I can’t really see the point of this to be honest, unless you get a less wet dough by using less peanut butter perhaps. I liked it this way anyway, and its less faff and doesn’t encourage the evil of buying smooth peanut butter. As with the flapjack consistency though, its whatever floats your boat.

Middle Brother’s White Chocolate-Chunk Brownies

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My second oldest brother is quite the opposite of the eldest – he is not at all fussy where food is concerned, has a truly enormous appetite (what is it about teenage boys that allows them to eat like their stomachs are bottomless and stay as skinny as beanpoles?!) and loves all things chocolatey and/or cakey. Double chocolate brownies it is! These are not complicated but they do take a little more care and effort to make…Oh my goodness they are worth it though. Comments on these delights have so far included ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’ and simply ‘Oh My God’. Clearly this is a recipe to impress and who doesn’t like brownies? The flapjack connoisseur doesn’t actually, but I have yet to meet any other skeptics. Here are the ingredients before you burst with anticipation:

  • 185g unsalted butter (I tend to only use real butter in pastry or shortbread where it really does make a difference, otherwise margarines or spreads can make bakes lighter, less fatty and generally cheaper) 
  • 185g decent quality dark chocolate
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275g caster sugar 

 

Step 1: Melt the butter and dark chocolate together either in a bain-marie (a bowl or pan set on top of another pan of boiling water) or in a  bowl in the microwave. Be careful not to overcook the mixture; it should be just smooth, glossy and one colour like in the delicious picture above. Leave to cool at room temperature.

Step 2: Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a separate bowl and set aside. You can also line a tin with baking paper* and preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4 at this point while you wait for the chocolate to cool.

*The original recipe says to use a 20cm square cake tin, but whatever not too shallow tin you have (within reason) should work – I’ve used all sorts of containers before and its been fine. Just remember to think about how deep the tin is and adjust the baking time to more or less accordingly.

Step 3: Whisk the eggs and sugar together in another bowl (a fair bit of washing up with this one, don’t be put off though – get your boyfriend or similar to do it in return for a sample of the finished product. This is NOT what I did…). Use an electric mixer if you have one, or a balloon whisk if you don’t, and keep going until the mixture is ‘thick and creamy, like a milkshake’. Or for as long as you can by hand, because apparently this stage can take 3-8 minutes to reach with an electric mixer. Mine was fairly frothy and worked fine, I think the longer you whisk it the more rise you get during baking though. Ideally the eggs and sugar should turn a lot paler and double in size.

Step 4: Carefully, and with patience, fold the melted chocolate and butter into the fluffy egg and sugar mix. I did this by making a figure of eight with the spatula, starting at one side of the bowl and scooping across to the other, and turning the bowl at the same time. Sounds tricky I know, but once you get into a rhythm its actually quite relaxing. The second photo down from the top shows this stage of mixing. When they stop looking like two separate mixtures, shake in your sifted flour and cocoa powder, and fold in the same way again, nice and gently, until the magic happens and your mixture gets a lovely gooey texture and you can’t wait to bake it.

Step 5: Chop your white chocolate into chunks (the BBC recipe adds milk chocolate as well, in which case do 50g white and 50g milk chocolate chunks) and stir in. Everything should be just combined now, so resist the temptation to do any more mixing as you want to keep the air in so the brownies will rise in the oven.

Step 6: Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven (best on a middle shelf for even cooking) for 25 minutes, at 180C/Gas Mark 4 as preheated to earlier. Check that there’s no wobble when you shake the tin gently after the 25 minutes – if there is, give it another 2-5 until the top has a nice crust (papery is how Good Food described it, a nice fitting word) – and leave to cool completely before cutting into squares and devouring.

Brownies keep well for up to two weeks in an airtight container, and they also freeze okay for up to a month. Useful to know, if they ever last that long… 

Source: BBC Good Food, ‘Best-ever brownies’. Thanks to my middling brother for eating and appreciating, and all the others who tried and enjoyed them – they’ve got a pretty good rep thanks to some very eager taste-testers.