Happy Birthday Me!

I’m another year older and for the first time, I actually feel wiser! I’ve done so much over the last year, started and new job AND started researching for my dream of having my own teashop.  No doubt the next year of my life will be just as busy and exciting. Whatever happens, I can guarantee that there’ll be cake along the way!

So what better way to celebrate than by making my own birthday cake.

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Chocolate Celebration Cake

Ingredients:
200g good-quality plain chocolate, chopped
200g butter
100ml water
125g self-raising flour
125g plain four
25g cocoa powder
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
75ml/2½fl oz crème fraîche

For the vanilla buttercream icing:
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
vanilla
milk, to loosen

For the topping:
200g dark chocolate
100g butter
40ml tblsp water
1 punnet of strawberries

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Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 8in sandwich tins.

Melt the chocolate, butter and water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift the flours and cocoa powder into a bowl and mix in the muscovado and caster sugar.

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Beat the eggs and crème fraîche together in a separate bowl, then beat in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until smooth.

Divide the cake batter between the tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, for the vanilla buttercream, beat the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla  and add a few drops of milk if the mixture is a little stiff.

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For the ganache I used the recipe on the back of the Dr Oetker Extra Dark Chocolate pack.

Put 200g chopped Dr. Oetker 90% Chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml water. Put over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until melted. Remove from the water and cool for about 20 minutes to thicken.

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Put a cake on a wire rack over a large plate. Spoon ganache over the top, letting it run down the sides. Tap the wire rack to smooth the surface.

Finally, I covered the top of the cake with a punnet of fresh strawberries.

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I’ve been spoilt rotten with cards, presents and flowers. I’m truly blessed.

Melissa xx

Cupcakes galore!

The last few weeks have been cupcake crazy, so this post is a look back at all the wonderful goodies that were produced!

Last weekend I made a gorgeous box of lemon meringue and strawberry purée cupcakes.  They were AMAZING! They were the nicest cupcakes I’ve ever had; nice and light with a not-to-sweet icing.

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Strawberry Purée Cupcakes
Based on Rachel Allen’s recipe from ‘Cake’

125 g butter, softened
200 g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
300 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the icing
150 g fresh strawberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
175 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar, sifted

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Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. I actually got 18 out of the mixture.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.

Beat in the milk, followed by the vanilla extract, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in gently to combine.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each case about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen, lightly golden in colour and springy to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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For the icing: Place the strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor and whiz for about a minute to purée them. Push through a sieve into a bowl, then set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar until combined, then gradually add the fruit purée, beating slowly.

Pipe the icing onto the cakes and decorate each cake with half a strawberry.

In mid August I made these scrumptious sparkling chocolate cupcakes for my Godson’s birthday. Find the basic sponge recipe here.

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Finally, I made these gorgeous girly strawberry-in-the-middle cupcakes using Dr Oetker Easy Swirl Pink Cupcake Icing and Heart Marshmallows!

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Right, I’m off to start planning cupcakes for my own birthday…. 6 days to go! Before I go, I’m bringing these goodies over to Fiesta Friday

Melissa xx

Apple and Blackberry Oaty Muffins

Sometimes I do try to bake a little cleaner, I don’t always use tonnes of sugar and chocolate! These little Apple and Blackberry Oat Muffins are based on an a Rachel Allen recipe in which she uses apples and sugar to make a fresh apple sauce.

400 apple sauce- puréed apples in a jar!
100ml Sunflower Oil
75g Porridge Oats
225g Plain Flour (sifted)
3tsp Baking Powder
36 Blackberries

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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. Pour the apple puree into a bowl and stir in the oil and oats. Sift in the flour and baking pour and fold gently.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and place three or four blackberries on top of each muffin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and lightly springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for five minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.

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So they didn’t rise very much and the texture was a bit odd but otherwise they were delicious!

Melissa xx

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

It’s been a whole month since I last wrote or posted anything.

Life has been extremely busy.

The new job is taking up my time- far too much of my time, if I’m honest. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but I seem to have abandoned everything else. That’s not ok. So, sitting at the kitchen table, with a cuppa and a pile of books… I’m back!

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August was bonkers. We had lots of visitors, so in between work I managed to do a bit of baking. I wish I had time to bake more often. I find myself commuting to work dreaming of baking. Life is so hard!!!

One of the quick, easy recipes I used this summer was from the Cooks Academy in Dublin. Their White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake has been a favourite recipe at the school for the last ten years. It’s the perfect dessert for entertaining and thanks to Tim, Vanessa and Darina I pulled it off!

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

Ingredients:
180g ginger nut biscuits
50g butter, melted
400g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
½ lemon, zested, and juiced
300g good quality white chocolate, chopped
300ml fresh cream, stiffly whipped
250g fresh raspberries

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Method:
Crush the biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Stir the melted butter thoroughly into the biscuits.  Press into the base of a greased 20cm tin and chill in the fridge for 10 mins until the base is slightly hardened. 

Using an electric whisk, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and juice, until smooth.  

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Once melted, slowly pour the chocolate into the beaten ingredients, whisking as you do so.  Fold in the whipped cream. 

To assemble the cheesecake, scatter half the raspberries over the biscuit base and pour half the cream filling over.  Repeat with the remaining raspberries and filling and level the top with the back of a spoon.  Leave to chill in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

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If you fancy doing a short course at the Cooks Academy too, they are offering 20% off on their website until Friday 4th September.

Melissa xx

Black Garlic Seafood Pancakes

Elaine from Foodbod wrote about how she’d used black garlic in a blog post a few months ago… BLACK garlic? What?

So it turns out the black garlic is just normal white garlic that has been aged for ages! And hey presto you have sweet balsamicky garlic.
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I contacted Balsajo Black Garlic and they sent me some to try! I received a couple of bulbs of black garlic and a tub of peeled garlic. Here’s a recipe that Dr Doolittle came up with based on an idea for Korean Seafood Pancakes…

Makes 4 pancakes.

Ingredients:

1 cup plain flour

1 cup water

1 egg

1 clove black garlic finely sliced

1 bunch spring onions finely sliced

1 sweet pepper finely sliced

1 red chilli finely sliced

Rapeseed oil

Seafood of your choice (I used prawns but this works great with any mix of seafood)

Dipping Sauce:

¼ cup soy sauce 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I used apple wine vinegar on this occasion) 1 spring onion, finely chopped 2  cloves black garlic, finely chopped (or minced if you prefer) ½ tsp chili pepper flakes (optional) good dash of honey. Mix the ingredients for the dipping sauce and give it a really good stir to combine the flavours and set aside.
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In a large bowl, mix the flour and water together, then beat in the egg. The batter should have the same consistency as pancake batter. Add the black garlic and half of the spring onions and sweet peppers.
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Heat a frying pan over medium high heat and add a thin layer of rapeseed oil to the bottom. Pour a ladle of batter into the pan in a circle and cover with the seafood, chilli and remaining spring onions and sweet pepper.
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Cook for 6 minutes or until the top stops bubbling and the bottom is browned. Flip over and cook another 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the rest of the batter.

Cut all pancakes into quaters and get dipping! These are AMAZING and so quick and easy to make. The black sqidgy, sweet garlic gives them an extra edge (the the dipping sauce was great with a omlette the following morning too).
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Melissa xx

Tribute to Selma-Ambassador Cupcakes

This is the post from December last year that was inspired by Selma. She inspired and helped me a lot. When I first joined Twitter she gave me LOADS of advice with what to do and how to get notice. She was like a blogging Mummy. I’m going to miss her. I’m posting this, along with lots of others at the special addition of this weeks Fiesta Friday and to Selma’s blog .

Back in October, Selma made ambassador cupcakes using Ferrero Rocher chocolates for her son’s birthday. They looked so luxurious and elegant, that I tucked the idea away for Christmas….

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So fast forward two months and armed with Selma’s idea, two boxes of chocolates, some gold cupcake cases and some shimmer spray, I’m ready! I’m using my trusty chocolate cake mix instead of Selma’s, but I’ll use hers next time.

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Chocolate cupcake Ingredients:
100g butter
150g brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
180ml milk
1 box of Forrero Rocher

Topping:
1 can of chocolate icing
1 can gold shimmer spray
Toasted Hazelnuts
1 box of Forrero Rocher

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Line a cupcake tin with foil cases. Preheat the oven to 190°/ gas mark 5 or turn your Rayburn off! Cream the butter and sugar, then add in the eggs. Sift in all the dry ingredients and then add the milk.

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Spoon the mixture into the cases until half full. Pop a chocolate in the middle and spoon a small amount of mixture on top. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes.

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Once cooled, pipe chocolate icing on top of the cake. Then, depending on how high your icing is, place a whole chocolate on top (or a half like I did). Sprinkle with hazelnuts and spray with shimmer!!!!

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I’m bringing these delights to Angie’s for a festive fiesta friday!

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Melissa xx

A Special Fiesta Friday Tribute to Selma

I heard the awful news this day last week… My blog Mummy Selma has lost her flight with cancer. Fiesta Friday will explode this week with tributes to her, and so it should. She was a rock in our blogging community and will be missed. xx

The Novice Gardener

Selma badge

Some of you have heard of the unbearable news. Nonetheless to the rest who haven’t, it’s no less painful for us to be the bearers of the sad news of a dear friend’s passing. Selma of Selma’s Table, whom we have the honor of calling a sister in spirit, passed away on Saturday July 4th, after losing her battle with cancer.

In losing Selma, we at Fiesta Friday have lost an encouraging supporter and co-host, a loyal advocate, and a true friend who was generous with her time and knowledge.

Selma touched many lives. We know you share the same sentiments about her. We understand that you, too, want to show your appreciation for all that Selma had brought to our community as a whole and to your blogging experience personally.

So amidst our collective grief, but with love and deep admiration, we would like to dedicate a special Fiesta…

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In My Madeira Kitchen

So, you all know that I had a fantastic time in Madeira. It goes without saying that I brought a few goodies home. Thanks to Celia from Fig jam and Lime cordial for gathering us all together.

In My Kitchen…

… Are three small bottles of rum. I thinking that they might be good in this year’s Christmas cake.

I also brought home three bottles of Poncha! Poncha is a traditional alcoholic drink of Madeira; made with sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind and with other fruit juices.

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In My Kitchen…

… Stands a bottle of Madeira, suprise suprise! I tried the sweet version, the medium sweet version and the dry version but I came home with a bottle of medium dry. I think I’ll be baking with it…

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits a jar of homemade passionfruit and banana jam, which was bought from a little market in Funchal.

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In My Kitchen…

… Is a piece of honey cake. Madeira Sugar Cane Honey Cake is the oldest and most traditional pastry cake in Madeira. The influences include spices from the East Indies and even influences from Britain, given its strong resemblance to English traditional Christmas cake.

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In My Kitchen…

… Stands a rather beautiful bottle of Portuguese olive oil!

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In My Kitchen…

… Sits this stunning teapot that Dr Doolittle bought me. In the middle of Funchal, up a side street was this cute little tea shop!

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Melissa xx

Cupcake Centres

A few weeks ago I can home to a lovely suprise from the people at Dr Oetker. The parcel contained their new Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres in rich, indulgent flavours of Rich Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Zingy Lemon.

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“Our innovative Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres add a delicious, gooey surprise to the inside of your baking. Simply insert the nozzle into the middle of your cupcakes just after baking and squeeze into the heart of your cake. Cut open your cupcake to reveal an indulgent centre that oozes deliciousness. ”

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The new Cupcake Centres gave me another idea, i’d use Dr Oetker popping candy as a cupcake centre too!

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I started my making lemon cupcakes, with the Zingy Lemon Cupcake Centre, topping off with Lemon Meringue sprinkles (these are sooooo tasty)…

125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
2 Dr. Oetker Baking Powder Sachets
1 pouch Dr. Oetker Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres Zingy Lemon

To decorate:
125g lightly salted butter, softened
225g icing sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of lemon

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Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted oven, 350°F, gas mark 4). Put the cake cases into tins.

Put the butter, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together until creamy and pale. Whisk in the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder on top and then gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

Divide the mixture between the cake cases. Smooth the tops and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until risen, lightly golden and just firm to the touch.

As soon as the cakes are cooked, generously inject each one with Lemon Surprise Inside Cupcake Centre, making sure the nozzle goes right to the centre of each cake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, put the butter in a bowl and beat until smooth, glossy and pale. Gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar until creamy and soft. Mix in the Lemon juice.

Spoon the butter icing onto the cake and smooth around. Decorate each cake with lemon meringue topping.

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For the Rainbow Cupcakes:

65g Butter softened
65g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Dr. Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Extract
Large Egg , beaten
75g Self-Raising Flour

To Decorate:
Dr. Oetker Rainbow Popping Candy
Dr. Oetker Vanilla Easy Swirl Cupcake Icing

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Preheat the oven to 180°C and pop some cake cases into a cake tin.

Put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and egg in a bowl. Sift the flour on top and then beat all the ingredients together using an electric whisk until well blended.

Divide the mixture between the cake cases. Smooth the tops and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes until risen, lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, using a small spoon, scoop out a piece of sponge from the centre of each cake and fill with Rainbow Popping Candy. Replace the scooped out cake on top, trimming if necessary, to snugly fit the top of the cake again.

Follow the directions on the can of Easy Swirl. Starting in the middle of a cake, pipe the icing round in an anti-clockwise direction to cover the top of the cake then continue piping round to form a swirl on top.

Just before serving, sprinkle the cakes with a few more pieces of Rainbow Popping Candy. Eat these straight away, otherwise the popping candy loses its pop!

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So tasty, so yummy!

Melissa xx

Marvellous Madeira

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I’ve been absent from my blog for a while, only managing to post every now and then. Life seems to have run away with itself, but in a good way. I have a new job and I love it! It’s not that I’m working really long hours, i’m just commuting a little longer each day.

However, it was time for a break…

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Dr Doolittle and I decided to head to the beautiful island of Madeira. This archipelago, which is part of Portugal, is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 978km southwest of Lisbon. It comprises of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens. Only the first two islands are inhabited. The latter two are nature reserves. Thanks to its magnificent location, Madeira remains warm all year round.

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The climate really helps produce some amazing fruit and vegetables. The market in the old part of Funchal was full of the stuff. Every meal we ate was accompanied by salads.

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Tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas, avocadoes and passionfruit were used in a great variety of puddings, mousses and ice creams. Oh the ice cream! I had to try a peach melba…

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Owing to their proximity to the sea, most restaurants specialised in fish and shellfish dishes; there was octopus and shrimp dishes, tuna steaks and black scabbard fish fillets. I’d never heard of scabbard, but it tasted and looked like cod. As well as the fish, I also had one of the best ‘meat’ meals of my life (more about that next week).

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There were plenty of fresh natural fruit juices such as passionfruit, papaya, pineapple and mango, as well as the famous “poncha”, made with white rum, bee honey and lemon. I tried a fair bit of the stuff and have brought some home to experiment with!

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So to celebrate my holiday adventure I’m bringing my favourite sweet treat to Fiesta Friday. I haven’t been to the online party for a while, so I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends!

Portuguese Custard Tarts
Ingredients:

250ml double cream
150ml milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
115g caster sugar
150g chilled ready-made puff pastry
Flour, for dusting

Method:

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Preheat the oven to 190c.

Put the cream, milk, and lemon rind in a saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the saucepan and drop in the empty pod too.  Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a bowl until it comes together in a paste.  Pass the milk mixture though a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of egg paste and mix together quickly. Return it all to the saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until it thickens but don’t let it boil!

Then roll out the pastry on a lightly floured worksurface as thin as you can.  Roll it up into a long sausage shape and cut 12 discs.  Roll out each disc to about 9cm and put into greased muffin tins. Prick the bottoms with a fork androfill just over halfway.

Bake in the preheated oven for about  for 18/20 mins until browned on top.

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Melissa xx