Posts Tagged With: vanilla

Vanilla Chai Polar Bear Cupcakes

I have been doing oodles of baking over Christmas, as I’m sure many of you have, but all my creations have involved using existing recipes and I haven’t ventured into conjuring up any of my own recently.

My efforts for edible gifts this year included meringue cookies, chocolate macaroons, dairy-free fruitcakes, iced lebkuchen and my own failsafe stollen biscotti – all delicious and fun to pack up cosily in little starry cellophane bags.

I also finally got round to attempting proper bread – with actual yeast! – after writing it down as a new year’s resolution the last two years, and made a no-knead tear & share garlic wreath. It was super simple to put together and my family and I enjoyed liberally dunking it into a big oozy baked Camembert cheese for Boxing Day lunch (after a nutritious breakfast of Quality Street, naturally).

Anyway, I have managed to come up with a new recipe to blog, just in the nick of time before 2017 draws to a close, and I have my culinary idol, the wonderful Nigella Lawson, to thank for the inspiration.

I made a batch of her delicious chai muffins from her book Simply Nigella a few weeks ago, which are one of my (many) favourite recipes of hers. One of the key ingredients is milk infused with the gorgeously aromatic contents of spicy chai teabags, and the result is like a warm hug in cake form. They’re filling, subtly sweet, and the perfect tummy pleaser on a dreary winter morning.

These gave me the idea of trying something similar in cupcake form; a soft, spiced sponge with a light vanilla frosting. A liberal sprinkling of desiccated coconut and a few chocolate buttons completed the transformation into polar bears, as I wanted something fun to serve for a girly night in with my two best friends. By happy coincidence, the combination of the marshmallowy meringue topping and coconut shreds is reminiscent of those divinely gooey chocolate snowball cakes you can get in the supermarket.

I am currently nibbling the plain cake offcuts as I type, which have been sat in a margarine tub for 24 hours, and, if anything, they taste even better than when they first came out of the oven! I therefore think I’ll give this sponge another go without the frosting and decorations, as it’s certainly capable of standing on its own two feet unadorned as a wonderfully moist and fragrant cake in its own right.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 9-10 large cupcakes

For the cakes:

  • 155g/5.5 oz self-raising flour
  • 40g/1.5 oz ground almonds
  • 170g/6 oz butter or margarine
  • 70g/2.5 oz brown sugar
  • 85g/3 oz caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk (or almond milk if you prefer)
  • 2 x vanilla chai teabags (I used Pukka brand ones)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting/decorations:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 85g/3 oz caster sugar
  • Half a tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Half a tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp (approx.) desiccated coconut
  • 18-20 white chocolate buttons
  • 9-10 milk or dark chocolate buttons
  • 18-20 milk or dark chocolate chips

METHOD

For cakes:

  1. Tear open the chai teabags and tip the contents into a heatproof jug or saucepan, then pour over the milk and stir briefly.
  2. Heat the milk and tea together either in the microwave on a medium heat for about two minutes, or over a medium heat on the hob, until it is warm and fragrant but not boiling. Leave to cool slightly.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  4. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs and tea-infused milk mixture.
  5. Fold in the flour, ground almonds, cinnamon and vanilla extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  6. Pour the mixture into the cake cases until they’re each about two thirds full, then pop in the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  7. When baked, leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack. At this stage the they can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.
  8. When cool, use a serrated knife to saw off any domed tops from the cakes so you have a flat surface to add the decorations (don’t bin the offcuts – put them in a sealed container and munch them later!)

For the frosting/decorations:

NOTE: Only add the frosting a maximum of a couple of hours before serving as it doesn’t keep well.

  1. Place the desiccated coconut in a wide-rimmed bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk until white peaks form.
  3. Add the cream of tartar, cinnamon and vanilla extract, then add the sugar gradually while continuing to whisk until you have a stiff, smooth mixture that holds its shape and stays put when you turn the bowl upsidedown.
  4. Using a palette knife, generously and evenly spread the mixture over the top of each cupcake.
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  5. Turn each cake upsidedown and dunk the tops in the desiccated coconut so they’re evenly coated.
  6. Add two white chocolate buttons, two chocolate chips and one milk/dark chocolate button to each cake to create a bear face, as in the photos.20171228_180536
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Categories: cupcakes, Festive, Icing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neapolitan Cake

Originally posted 10/03/2015

I’ve been sticking to lower fat/sugar bakes for the last couple of months as part of my new year (mostly) healthy eating regime but last weekend while back home at my parents’ I was desperate to just go nuts and make a proper double decker sponge with lashings of scrummy frosting. I’ve wanted to try a tri-colour Neapolitan ice cream inspired cake, with layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, for a while so this was the perfect time to give it a go. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and think it looks really pretty and cheery!

The frosting I used in this recipe is just egg white beaten with icing sugar plus flavouring and food colouring and this makes for a lovely light, almost marshmallow-like texture which is less sickly than buttercream. However, a word of warning: it starts to shrink and evaporate after 24 hours or so so if you’re making the cake in advance I’d recommend using buttercream icing instead as it will last much longer.

INGREDIENTS – makes 2 sponge layers of 8in/20cm diameter

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-rasing flour
  • 225g/8 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g/2 oz chocolate chips (optional but very yummy)

For the icing/jam filling:

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp strawberry extract
  • Few drops of red food colouring
  • Handful of coloured vermicelli
  • 4 tbsp (approx.) strawberry jam

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line the two baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour and vanilla extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Separate half of the mixture into a second bowl and and fold in the cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the mixtures one each into the prepared cake tins.
  6. Pop in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean.
  7. When baked, place on a wire rack and leave to cool before turning the cakes out of the tins. At this stage the cakes can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the icing & filling:

  1. Spread the strawberry jam generously onto the top of the cooled chocolate sponge and sandwich the vanilla sponge on top.
  2. Separate the egg white into a clean bowl and whisk with the strawberry extract until stiff peaks form while adding the icing sugar a few teaspoons at a time.
  3. Add the food colouring a couple of drops at a time and whisk again until you have your desired shade of pink.
  4. Spread the icing over the top of the cake using a palette knife – tap roughly with the palette knife to achieve the fluffy effect in the photo – and then sprinkle with rainbow vermicelli as a colourful finishing touch.
Categories: Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Ever Blondies

Originally posted 06/05/2014

My first attempt at blondies were a sickly, sticky mess but these are ridiculously good! I was reluctant to reveal my secret ingredient to my eager samplers but I shall share it here for the benefit of the baking community at large (ahem). And that secret ingredient is…*drum roll*…custard powder.

This idea came about when I was simply too lazy to look up a blondie recipe and decided just to go by my failsafe brownie recipe and substitute the milk chocolate for the white variety. It then dawned on me that I had no idea what to add in place of the cocoa powder. There’s no such thing as white cocoa powder (to my knowledge?!) and I was worried that making up the cocoa quantity with more flour would affect the flavour and make them too plain so, in the absence of butterscotch Angel Delight, I reached for the vanilla scented custard powder. And hey presto! The rest is scrumptious cakey history.

The lovely golden blondies pictured with their darker chocolate bretherin, pre-cutting… 

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15

  • 200g/7 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g/3 oz self-raising flour
  • 120ml/4 fl oz cooking oil
  • 130g/4.5 oz white cooking chocolate
  • 4.5 tbsp custard powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Few drops of Lakeland buttery caramel flavouring (optional but really makes the butterscotchy flavour pop!)

METHOD

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  • Briefly whisk the sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla extract and caramel flavouring together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Chop the chocolate into small chunks and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of hot water or place in the microwave and heat in blasts of about 1 minute until smooth, then pour into the mixing bowl.
  • Fold the flour and custard powder into the mixture then pour into the prepared tin.
  • Pop in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the cake comes out pretty much clean, then leave to cool.
  • Cut the blondies into squares using a sharp knife and marvel at their deliciousness as you dive in.
Categories: Chocolate, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheat’s Creme Brulee Cupcakes

Originally posted 18/05/2013

I adore creme brulee so I leapt at the chance of transforming this silky, creamy dessert into a cupcake. However, after much Googling and continuously seeing the words ‘separate egg yolks’ and ‘blow torch’ I immediately decided they were too much effort. Because I’m lazy like that.

I then stumbled across an American recipe where the cupcakes were filled with vanilla flavour ‘pudding’ which sounded like minimal faff but, sadly, what the Americans refer to as ‘pudding’ (a kind of creamy dessert usually served in individual pots if I remember rightly from watching Scrubs…) is not widely available here in the UK. Luckily I discovered the perfect substitute in the form of vanilla flavour Alpro soya dessert! This can be bought as a pack of four individual pots from most major supermarkets and can usually be found among the gluten/dairy-free products (they’re also available in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and toffee which are all yummy too, just FYI). I decided to take the plunge and attempt some cooked sugar decorations for an authentically crisp but refreshingly blowtorch-free creme brulee-esque topping. Rounded off with a simple vanilla buttercream icing, these little beauties went down a treat, with many ‘ooh’s of admiration 🙂 And they’re so ridiculously easy to make!

You’ll only need to use a small amount of the soya dessert for the cakes but any that’s left over is delicious poured over sponge puddings, brownies, other warm desserts etc as a tasty alternative to custard (or of course you could just eat it straight out the pot if you haven’t fallen into a sugar coma brought on by sampling icing like me…)

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 10-12

For the cakes:

  • 115g/4 oz self-raising flour
  • 115g/4 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 115g/4 oz margarine/butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling/icing/sugar decorations:

  • 12 tsp (approx.) vanilla flavour Alpro soya dessert
  • 225g/8 oz icing sugar
  • 115g/4 oz butter (unsalted if preferred)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 55g/2 oz caster sugar

METHOD

For the cakes:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a baking tray with 12 paper cake cases.
  2. Whisk the margarine/butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, baking powder and vanilla extract until batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Drop the mixture into the paper cases using a teaspoon until they’re each about three quarters full.
  5. Pop in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean.
  6. When baked, place on a wire rack and leave to cool. At this stage the cakes can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the filling, icing & sugar decorations:

  1. When they have cooled, use a teaspoon or small sharp knife to carefully cut out a hole (about 2cm in diameter and 1.5cm in depth) in the top of each cupcake, being careful not to cut too deep into the sponge. Don’t discard the sponge bits you’ve cut out!
  2. Put about a teaspoon of the vanilla soya dessert into each hole and gently push the sponge part that was cut out back into each one.
  3. Add the caster sugar to a small pan over LOW heat until it has turned brown and melted to a thick, sticky consistency – DO NOT STIR! Be patient and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process as it will burn horribly, trust me!
  4. When all the granules have disappeared, scoop the melted sugar out of the pan using a spatula and spread onto baking parchment or the opened-out clean inside of a cereal packet (sounds odd but works really well for this kind of thing, and it’s always good to recycle!) Do this quickly as the sugar will begin to set rapidly.
  5. While you’re waiting for the sugar to cool and set, place the butter and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk while gradually adding the icing sugar until a thick, fluffy mixture has formed.
  6. Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice attached (I used a large circle one) and squeeze onto the top of each cake, or simply spread the icing on using a palette knife.
  7. Break up your sheet of cooked sugar into randomly sized shards and place some on top of each cake just before serving. Any leftover shards can be stored in an airtight container for about a week or so.
Categories: cupcakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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