Posts Tagged With: christmas

A Year in Cake – 2016

As I’m currently tucked up in bed with a rotten cold on New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d do another blog post like I did this time last year looking at my top bakes of 2016.

I won’t bore you with the details but this year has been the worst one for a long time for many reasons and has left me a bit emotionally battered to say the least. I’m hoping with all my strength that 2017 is an improvement and that the changes I’m desperate to make in my life will come about.

Still, baking is a part of my life come rain or shine and I’ve managed quite a few successful bakes this year, including several celebration cakes which I was really pleased with. My creations will never be up there in the showstopper stakes, but I think my presentation skills have improved and I’ve been a bit more daring with decoration.

One new thing I’ve tried this year is meringues. I’d always been a bit nervous to try them as I got the impression they’d be very temperamental and difficult to pull off, but happily I was wrong. My piping skills are still as dire as ever, but they were surprisingly easy to make and tasted absolutely delicious – crispy on the outside with a gooey marshmallow-like interior. And so SO much better than the brittle, chalky shop-bought ones. I was hoping to make a chocolate or cappuccino pavlova for NYE dessert and unfortunately being ill has put paid to that, but I’m keen to make something meringuey again soon! Like an idiot I forgot to include the fruits of my labour in the collage below so here’s a snap of my cute little ghost meringues from Halloween:

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I’ve decided to make on culinary resolution this year, and I’m sure I’ve made it before. I would really like to have a go at making proper bread, i.e. using yeast (not soda bread!) I’m a very impatient cook which is what’s put me off trying this previously but the effort would be worth it in order to create a nice big tear-and-share centrepiece, either a delicious chocolatey monkey bread or a mouth-watering sundried tomato and cheese number. I also fancy having a go at brioche, which is my all-time favourite bread, with its indulgent melt-in-the-mouth buttery sweetness and cloud-like texture. Watch this space!

So anyway, here’s a wee compilation of my personal favourite bakes from 2016:

collage-2

  1. Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cake (recipe here)
  2. Spiced Tea & Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Ganache Icing (recipe here)
  3. Banana, Peanut Butter & Caramac Loaf (recipe here)
  4. Honeycomb & Chocolate Flapjacks with Marzipan Bees (recipe here)
  5. Raisin Spice Christmas Cake with Fondant Sealies (base recipe from the 1000 Cakes & Bakes cookbook)
  6. Moomin Lebkuchen (base recipe from the Bake Off Christmas cookbook)
  7. Lady Baltimore Cake (recipe here)
  8. Ducky Custard Cream Cake (base recipe here)
  9. Cheese & Sundried Tomato Quiche (recipe here)

I’ll sign off now by wishing everyone in the Bakeosphere a very happy and healthy 2017! 🙂

Cloud9.1 x

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Mince Pie Flapjacks

Hurray! The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again! 🙂 Christmas is my favourite time for baking, and each year I have to meticulously plan when I want to make what as I always have so many bakes I want to try – both old seasonal favourites and new recipes that I haven’t tried before.

This festive season I intend to make another batch of my yummy stollen biscotti from last year, the spiced fruitcake with fondant seal decorations that has become a Christmas tradition, and also have a go at creating my own lebkuchen. I’ve also recently been experimenting with different gingerbread recipes so no doubt there’ll be a repeat performance of some of those too before the year’s out.

After the success of the aforementioned stollen biscotti last year, I wanted to have a go at conjuring up another Christmas recipe of my own, and these deliciously spicy and fruity flapjacks are the result.

I made my flapjacks using my mum’s marvellous homemade mincemeat which is lovely and fruity and not too boozy, but use whatever kind you like, be it homemade or bought. Like their traditional pie counterpart, they’re delicious served warmed with some cream (preferably accompanied by Christmas songs and a festive jumper).

This would also be a good recipe for the new year when jars of mincemeat are being sold off ten-a-penny in the shops and you’re in need of something sweet and warming to distract you from the fact that Christmas is over, you’re cold, skint and have already broken all of your new year’s resolutions.

This may be my final blog post before the big day so I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone in the Bakeosphere a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

P.S. If you’re looking for other easy festive baking ideas, why not take a look at my recipes for chocolate gingerbread cake, low fat Christmas pudding brownies and red velvet star biscuits?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 large or 20 small flapjacks

  • 280g/10 oz oats
  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 80g/3 oz mincemeat
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Half tsp mixed spice
  • 40g/1.5 oz raisins or sultanas (optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Put the butter/margarine, sugar and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth, stirring at each interval. Alternatively, melt together in a pan on the hob over a low heat, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir the oats, mincemeat, cinnamon, mixed spice and raisins/sultanas into the liquid mixture until thoroughly coated.

    20161204_113016

  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until firm and slightly golden at the sides
  5. Leave the flapjacks to cool on a wire rack and then slice into squares with a sharp knife. Scoff in front of the fire or crappy Christmas TV.

    20161204_131159-1

Categories: Festive, flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Low Fat Christmas Pudding Brownies

I’ve recently been compiling a ring binder of print-outs of healthier recipes that I’ve found online so that I can easily look them up when I feel like cooking something that’s not too chock-full of calories, fat and sugar.

One Google result that caught my attention was the original chocolate version of this recipe, which I came across here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/1107/i-can-t-believe-they-re-low-fat-brownies.aspx. It included the genius idea of adding mushed prunes in place of butter or margarine to create a gorgeously moist but less fatty cake.
I don’t understand why prunes are so neglected as a fruit. I know they’re infamous for being used as a means of ‘keeping you regular’ and carry metaphorical connotations of wrinkles, shriveling and general lifelessness, but they’re so underrated as a food in their own right. I bought some for the first time in forever recently and had forgotten what a deliciously rich, almost caramelly, flavour they have.

Anyway, I digress (I swear I’m not being paid by some kind of Prune Advisory Board) – I’m in the grip of full-blown Christmas fever at the moment as the end of November rapidly approaches, so I decided to add a festive twist to the original recipe by incorporating some extra fruit and nuts and a dash of warming winter spice. When both my dad and I sampled them, our immediate thoughts were of Christmas pudding, hence the title!

I also reduced the amount of sugar used in the original version as it annoys me when recipes are labelled as ‘healthy’ due to low fat content but include an obscene amount of the sweet stuff. I wouldn’t say these taste identical to regular brownies but they’re utterly delicious – rich, moist and full of flavour – and I really don’t think people would know they were low fat and lower sugar if you didn’t tell them.

I also like the fact that they’re a healthier alternative that don’t require expensive and/or obscure ingredients. I love the new wave of inventive vegan/raw/generally all-round-saintly treats but coconut oil, agave syrup and near-industrial quantities of cashew nuts don’t come cheap.
The final cherry on the proverbial cake is that these brownies are dairy free so they’d be ideal for lactose-intolerant friends.

I’ll definitely be making them again very soon!

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12

  • 55g/2 oz plain flour
  • 110g/4 oz pitted prunes
  • 130g/4.5 oz brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 55g/2 oz raisins
  • 55g/2 oz chopped mixed nuts (e.g. pecans, almonds, walnuts)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 12 walnut or pecan halves, to decorate (optional)
  • Silver shimmer spray, to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, mixed spice and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly snip the prunes into pieces with scissors and place them in a separate heatproof bowl with the water, then microwave on a medium setting in two blasts of 1 minute until soft and mushy.
  4. Squish the prunes with a potato masher to form a paste and add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir in the cooking oil, eggs, raisins, chopped nuts and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 12-15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the mix comes out mostly clean – err on the side of caution and make sure you don’t over bake them as the brownies will be dry and crumbly!
  7. When baked, leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into 12 squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Push a walnut or pecan half into the top of each square and finish with a festive spritz of edible silver shimmer spray, if you fancy.

    20171112_153930-1

Categories: Chocolate, Festive, Healthier, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Originally posted 20/12/2014

WARNING: this stuff is highly addictive!! Seriously, I made a batch with the aim of taking half into university to share with my classmates but it somehow all disappeared in a number of freak scoffing accidents before I had the chance…

The recipe below is adapted from one found in an old winter issue of Good Food magazine – I thought the original batter lacked a chocolatey flavour and didn’t really taste much different from normal gingerbread cake so I added cocoa to the mix which resulted in the perfect marriage of chocolate and spice. I also cut down the amount of treacle and syrup used as I felt the previous quantities were a bit excessive.

This cake is definitely my new festive favourite as it’s so deliciously moist, smells incredible and is super simple to make. It also keeps really well and, if anything, tastes better after a couple of days (if you can make it last that long…)

I finished this batch off with some sprinkly chocolate rings from Aldi.

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12 large squares

  • 255g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 155g/5.5 oz butter/margarine
  • 115g/4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 115g/4 oz black treacle
  • 115g/4 oz golden syrup
  • 115g/4 oz milk or dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz milk

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Place the butter/margarine, sugar, treacle, syrup and spices into a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave until smooth or melt in a pan over the hob.
  3. Roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in another heatproof bowl then melt in the microwave in blasts of 30 seconds-1 minute or over a pan of hot water.
  4. Stir the melted chocolate into the butter mixture then fold in the flour, cocoa powder and milk.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin then bake for 20-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  6. Transfer (with the baking parchment) onto a wire rack to cool then cut into squares with a sharp knife. Top with festive decorations of your choice if you wish.
Categories: Chocolate, Festive, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

White Christmas Rocky Road

Originally posted 19/12/2014

I’ve not been great at keeping my blog updated over the last few months due to being busy with uni but now we’re officially into the festive season it’d be wrong not to post some recipes! Being a loan-less student in London means money is pretty tight so I’ve been doing Christmas on a budget this year by creating as many homemade edible/crafty gifts as time and ability allows. This snowy white rocky road is a twist on the traditional kind and so ridiculously easy and cheap to make. The ruby red glace cherries look beautifully festive and the spicy ginger of the biscuits contrasts wonderfully with the creamy white chocolate.

You could also add nuts (e.g. pistachios or walnuts) or experiment with other goodies like dried cranberries for an equally authentic yuletide taste.

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15-18 squares

  • 500g/1 lb 1oz white chocolate
  • 150g/5.5 oz ginger nut biscuits
  • 200g/7 oz glace cherry halves (1 standard tub)
  • 2 handfuls mini white marshmallows

METHOD

  1. Line a standard rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in blasts of 30 seconds in the microwave (no longer or it’ll seize!) or over a pan of hot water.
  3. Roughly break the ginger nuts up by hand into pieces no bigger than a 50p piece and add to the chocolate then stir in the glace cherries and marshmallows until thoroughly coated.
  4. Pour the mixture into the cake tin then allow to set in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours before cutting into squares with a sharp knife.
Categories: Chocolate, Festive, No-Bake | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red Velvet Star Biscuits

Originally posted 08/12/2013

I haven’t updated my little blog in a while due to being busy but now we’ve officially entered the most wonderful time of the year for cooking I’ve been squeezing in lots of festive baking.

These decadent biccies have got to be one of my favourite cookie recipes and more than make up for my first (and so far only) attempt at red velvet cake being a disaster. They contain quite a large amount of red gel colouring and icing sugar, plus buttermilk and egg, so they’re not the cheapest cookies to make but they look and taste fantastic and are a perfect luxurious treat for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion, or as a gift. I wish I’d taken photo which showed their beautiful dark red colour better as it makes the cookies look very distinctive even without decoration, although I added Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray for an extra festive sparkly sheen. These would also be delicious sandwiched together with some cream cheese frosting for an even more authentic red velvet experience!

If, like me, you don’t want to buy buttermilk (it’s not very widely available here in the UK), I found a great tip online showing you how to make your own by simply adding a dash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice to milk and leaving it to curdle for a few minutes. Et voila – bona fide red velvety goodness in biscuit form!

This recipe is an adapted version of an American one I found here: http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/02/red-velvet-roll-outs-recipe/

You can’t see from this photo but they’re the most wonderful deep red colour inside!

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 40 biscuits depending on size of cutter

  • 115g/4 oz butter/margarine
  • 170g/6 oz icing sugar
  • 255g/9 oz plain flour
  • Half a beaten egg
  • 55g/2 oz cocoa
  • 3 tsp buttermilk (or 3 tsp milk + 1 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tbsp red gel food colouring (NOT the liquid kind as this won’t work!)
  • Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray, to finish (optional)

METHOD

  1. If making buttermilk as outlined above, pour the white wine vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two large flat baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the butter/margarine and icing sugar until combined.
  4. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract and buttermilk, then add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix briefly.
  5. Add the gel food colouring a teaspoon at a time and mix until the mixture turns a deep blood-like red shade (it will be dazzlingly vivid!) then squash together with your hands to form a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.
  6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm or a freezer bag and chill in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes until fairly firm.
  7. Place the ball of dough on a large clean sheet of baking parchment then place another sheet over the top and roll out with a rolling pin until about 1cm thick.*
  8. Cut out as many biscuits as possible with your cookie cutter of choice (I used a star shape) and place onto the baking trays (they don’t spread out much when cooking so they can be placed fairly close together). Squish the offcuts of dough together and re-roll and repeat the process until all the dough is used up.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits start to colour slightly then transfer onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. If you want a gold sheen effect as in the photo, hold the Shimmer Spray can about 10cm away from the biscuits and spray each one, then leave to dry.

*You could just sprinkle flour onto the surface to prevent the rolling pin sticking but this ruins the bold colour of the dough when baking.

Categories: Biscuits/Cookies, Festive | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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