Sunday, 27 April 2014

Strawberry & Vanilla Cake


I think I must be one of the few people in the world, or at least the UK, that doesn't like strawberries. That being said, my wonderful boyfriend loves them, so when he requested a Strawberry & Vanilla Cake for his birthday I was happy to oblige! Despite not liking the taste of strawberries, I think they look great and make the cake look very summery and fresh. He loved the cake and was very giddy when he saw the finished product, it got cut minutes after the photo above was taken! Making things for my loved ones is one of the best things about baking as I love how happy they get when you present it to them. If you want to make a strawberry lover very happy here's what to do...


I made a four layered sponge by firstly creaming together 350g butter and 350g caster sugar. I added 6 beaten eggs little by little and whisked in.


I split the mixture into two. In the first lot of mixture I added 2 tsp vanilla extract and 175g self raising flour. I split this into two again for baking. I baked each layer separately using an 8 inch cake tin, although you could do two layers and slice them in half.


Into the second lot of mixture I added 1/2 tsp LorAnn Strawberry flavour oil, SugarFlair food colouring in Baby Pink to colour the batter and 175g self raising flour. Again I split it in half for baking.


I baked each layer of sponge on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for around 20 minutes. When the four layers of sponge were cooked I left them to cool.


I made a vanilla buttercream from 300g butter, 600g icing sugar, 3 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp cream cheese.


I put the first layer of sponge on the cake stand and spread strawberry jam over it. I put strips of baking paper around the edges so no buttercream would get on the cake stand.


I continued sandwiching the layers together with strawberry jam until they were all piled high!


I spread the buttercream over the sponge using a palette knife. I tried to make it as smooth as possible, although I am not an expert at this!


After cutting the tops off the strawberries I arranged them on top of the cake. I sprinkled over some white chocolate chips as my boyfriend insisted they were a necessary element of the cake! I think they looked good too and were a good way of filling in the gaps between the fruit. There are lots of other ways you could arrange the strawberries on top - be creative!


I loved the effect of the layers when it was cut, and the cake was very much enjoyed by the birthday boy!



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Strawberry & Vanilla Cake
Ingredients
  • 650g Butter
  • 350g Caster sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 5 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 350g Self raising flour
  • Pink food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp Strawberry flavour oil
  • 600g Icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Cream cheese
  • 1 jar of Strawberry jam
  • Approx 26 Fresh strawberries
  • 1 bag of White chocolate chips
Instructions
To make the sponges creaming together 350g of the butter and the caster sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and mixing between each additionSplit the mixture into two. In the first lot of mixture I add 2 tsp of the vanilla extract and 175g of the self raising flour. Split into two again and pour into 8 inch cake tinsInto the second lot of mixture add the Strawberry flavour oil, pink food colouring and 175g of the self raising flour. Split into two again and pour into 8 inch cake tinsBake the sponge layers on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for around 20 minutes. Then leave them to coolMake the vanilla buttercream by mixing 300g of the butter, the icing sugar, 3 tsp of the vanilla extract and the cream cheesePut the first layer of sponge on a cake stand and spread strawberry jam over itContinue sandwiching the layers together with strawberry jam between each oneSpread the buttercream over the top and sides of the sponge using a palette knifeArrang the strawberries on top of the cake, then sprinkle over the white chocolate chips

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hot Cross Buns



Happy Easter everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the long weekend. I haven't done much myself as yet, but have plans to go to a farm tomorrow and I've got my fingers crossed to see some lambs and rabbits! Today my boyfriend made a delicious roast dinner for us, whilst I made these Hot Cross Buns. They did take a while to make, which makes them perfect for a lazy Sunday bake. The results are definitely worth the effort - warm, sticky, spiced buns, yum yum. I followed a Paul Hollywood recipe to make the buns as it was my first attempt at making them, but I did make a few changes along the way...


I started with 500g strong white bread flour, 1 sachet yeast, 1 tsp salt and 75g caster sugar in a large bowl. I stirred them together.


In a small pan I heated up 300ml plus 2 tbsp milk, I used semi-skimmed. Once it was hot I took it off the heat, added 50g butter and left it to cool until it was warm enough to dip my fingers in without saying ouch!


I made a well in the flour mixture, and poured in the milk and butter as well as 1 beaten egg. I formed it into a dough, tipped it out onto a flour surface and kneaded for 5 minutes. It was extremely sticky! Hence why there are no photos as my hands and fingers were completely covered in dough goo. After 5 minutes of kneading I put the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it with oiled cling film, and left it in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.


One hour later it had risen beautifully! I added 250g mixed dried fruit, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp all spice. I would have added more spices if I was at my flat, some nutmeg and ginger too for sure. I kneaded all the fruit it until mixed well, the recovered the oiled bowl with oiled cling film and returned it to a warm place for another 1 hour.


I removed the risen dough from the bowl and on a flour surfaced I cut it up until I had 16 pieces. I cut the dough in half, then each piece in half again and again until I had 16. You can weigh the pieces if you like. Paul's recipe recommends they are 75g each. I rolled them into balls and placed them on lined baking trays. I covered the trays again with oiled cling film, covered with a blanket (or you can use a tea towel) and left for 1 hour.


Just before the hour was up, I made the flour paste for the cross on the buns. I mixed 100g strong white bread flour with 5-6 tbsp water until a thick paste formed. I put it in a piping bag and snipped off the end.


The shaped dough had risen nicely! This is really the best part of making bread for me (well, except eating it).


I used the piping bag to draw the crosses along the shaped dough buns.



I baked the buns on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 - 20 minutes until dark golden brown on top. I almost forgot to take a photo of them as I was so eager to glaze them.


Just before they came out of the oven I warmed up some apricot jam on the hob, you can sieve it too if you want, but I didn't bother. When the buns came out of the oven, I brushed the jam on top to give them a lovely shiny and sticky sweet glaze.


The Hot Cross Buns turned out great, they were baked all the way through and tasted delicious! I scoffed one right after they came out of the oven and I'm looking forward to enjoying one for breakfast tomorrow. I really enjoyed making these and was really proud of how they turned out. It's nice to get the time to make a lengthy bake like this and enjoy the results. You could add different kinds of dried fruits, citrus zest, or even chocolate chips if you wanted, to this recipe for a variety of flavours!



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Hot Cross Buns
Ingredients
  • 600g Strong white bread flour
  • 1 sachet Dried yeast
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 75g Caster sugar
  • 300ml + 2 tbsp Semi skimmed milk
  • 50g Butter
  • 250g Mixed dried fruit
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Allspice
  • 5-6 tbsp Water
  • 3 tbsp Apricot jam
  • 1 Egg
Instructions
Stir together 500g of the strong white bread flour, the sachet of yeast, salt and caster sugar in a large bowlIn a small pan heat up the milk, once it was hot I took it off the heat, added the butter and left it to coolMake a well in the flour mixture, and pour in the milk and butter as well as the egg. Form into a dough, tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, then put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover it with oiled cling film, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 1 hourAdd the mixed dried fruit, cinnamon and allspice to the dough. Knead the dough until all the fruit is mixed well, then place back in the bowl and recover with oiled cling film, return it to a warm place for another 1 hourRemove the risen dough from the bowl and on a floured surface cut it up into 16 pieces, approx 75g each. Roll them into balls and place them onto lined baking trays. Cover the tray with oiled cling film, then a blanket or tea towel and leave to prove for 1 hourMake the flour paste for the cross on the buns. Mix 100g of the strong white bread flour with the water until a thick paste forms. Put it in a piping bag and snip off the endUse the piping bag to draw the crosses along the dough bunsBake the buns on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 - 20 minutes until dark golden brown on topWarm the apricot jam on the hob, and brush the jam on top to give them a lovely shiny and sticky sweet glaze

Friday, 18 April 2014

Simnel Muffins (Sugar Free)


Seen as Easter is a time of gluttony and chocolate gorging, I thought it would be nice to make a sugar free treat! These tasty muffins are packed with fruit, topped with crunchy flaked almonds and are flavoured with cinnamon, almond extract and nutmeg for a delicious Easter flavour with a few less calories! If you fancy a guilt free Easter treat, here's what to do...


I used Natvia to make these muffins, which is a 100% natural sweetener I was sent recently to try out. It has absolutely zero calories and is also suitable for diabetics. Natvia is made from the Stevia plant, and unlike other sweeteners, you can bake and cook with it. I've never thought of using a sweetener to lower the calories in my bakes so I was really interested to see what result I got!


I started by creaming together 185g Natvia and 185g butter. It looks and behaves exactly like regular caster sugar. Then I added 3 eggs and 1 tsp almond extract and whisked well.


I gently mixed in one medium sized grated apple, I used a gala apple as I think they are the sweetest. And 250g mixed dried fruit.


Finally I folded in 250g self raising flour along with 1 tsp mixed spice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp ground ginger.


I spooned the mixture info 12 muffin cases and sprinkled some toasted flaked almonds on top.


I baked the muffins on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes until golden brown.


These muffins went down a treat with my colleagues and despite being healthy they disappeared just as fast as anything else I've made because they were so tasty! I didn't mention they had a sweetener in until the end and no one commented or noticed any difference and neither did I. I would definitely use Natvia again if I was making a healthier recipe.


I am entering these into Natvia's Sugar Free Bake Off. Please check our their Facebook page and vote for my recipe!


I am also entering them into Simply Food's 'Let's Cook Sweet Treats for Easter'.



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Simnel Muffins (Sugar Free)
Ingredients
  • 185g Natvia
  • 185g Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Almond extract
  • 1 Apple
  • 250g Mixed dried fruit
  • 250g Self raising flour
  • 1 tsp Mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Ground ginger
  • A handful of Flaked almonds
Instructions
Cream together the Natvia and the butter. Add the eggs and almond extract and whisk wellGently mix in the apple, grated. And then the mixed dried fruitFinally fold in the self raising flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground gingerSpoon the mixture info 12 muffin cases and sprinkle the flaked almonds on topBake the muffins on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes until golden brown

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Creme Egg Cupcakes


As the first of two short working weeks surrounding Easter approaches, I decided that it was time this weekend to start baking some Easter treats. I've been wanting to make something involving Creme Eggs ever since I saw Creme Egg brownies all over the place last year. I decided on cupcakes and found a recipe on Good Food Channel, however I found that I needed to make more batter than the recipe suggested, and I also used my tried and tested buttercream to top them with instead. Here's how I did it...


First things first - put 12 Creme Eggs in the freezer. I left them in there for about an hour to make sure they were fully frozen. This will stop them from melting when the cupcakes are baked.


To make the batter I creamed together 175g butter and 175g caster sugar. I added 3 beaten eggs, 2 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and whisked well. Finally I folded in 150g self raising flour and 35g cocoa powder.


I put 12 cases into a muffin tin. I placed a teaspoon of batter into each case, then topped with a frozen Creme Egg.


I added about 2 more teaspoons of batter around the Creme Egg, then baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes. I left them to cool and made the buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.


When the cupcakes were fully cooled I used a pipingbag to swirl some buttercream on top and placed a mini Creme Egg, cut in half, on top.


When I cut a cupcake in half I was pleased to see the whole Creme Egg intact inside! These were a huge hit at a party I attended that evening, everyone was really impressed that there was a Creme Egg inside each cupcake. The cupcake was definitely a huge chocolate hit, but was very delicious and the vanilla buttercream makes sure the chocolate isn't over powering. A great Easter bake for the weekend and easy enough to make with the kids too!


Featuring such a classic Easter treat makes these cupcakes perfect for this month's Treat Petite baking challenge, run by myself and Cakeyboi, and this month hosted by Cakeyboi with a theme of "Spring into Easter".


I am also entering them into this month's Calendar Cakes challenge hosted by DollyBakes. This month's theme is Easter Bakes.



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Creme Egg Cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 12 Creme Eggs
  • 6 Mini Creme Eggs
  • 345g Butter
  • 175g Caster sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Milk
  • 3 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 150g Self raising flour
  • 35g Cocoa powder
  • 340g Icing sugar
Instructions
Put the 12 Creme Eggs in the freezer for an hourTo make the batter cream together 175g of the butter and the caster sugar. Add the eggs, milk and 1 1/2 tsp of the vanilla extract and whisk well. Finally fold in the self raising flour and cocoa powderPut 12 cases into a muffin tin. Place a teaspoon of batter into each case, then add a frozen Creme EggAdd about 2 more teaspoons of batter around the Creme Eggs, then bake on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutesMake the buttercream by mixing the icing sugar, 170g of the butter and 1 1/2 tsp of the vanilla extractWhen the cupcakes are fully cool use a piping bag and nozzle to swirl some buttercream on top and place a mini Creme Egg, cut in half, on top