One of my friends, Hollie, asked me if I would be willing to make them a cake for her Mum’s 50th birthday party. She showed me a photo of the sort of cake she had in mind – a square 2 tiered cake covered in fondant. I haven’t used fondant before and I didn’t want to experiment with a cake for such a special occasion. I wanted to find a cake that I thought I would be able to do well but that still had a bit of a wow factor. I saw this cake on a blog I have featured before called Sunday Baking (http://www.sundaybaking.co.uk/really-easy-chocolate-rainbow-smarties-cake/) and thought it looked really pretty. I showed it to Hollie and she said it would be perfect. We started talking about it more and she asked if I could make a red velvet cake instead of the chocolate cake in the recipe. She also asked if I could use white chocolate fingers instead of the milk chocolate fingers. Challenge accepted!
I started looking for red velvet cake recipes – there were so many to choose from! I have a twitter account set up so I can tweet about food and talk to other people with the same interests (@Curlyscooking). I tweeted asking if anyone had a recipe they had used and would recommend. Food Network UK tweeted me back with an Anna Olsen recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/red-velvet-cake.html-2) which looked really good, so I decided to use it.
I hadn’t made a red velvet cake before (ignoring the red velvet cake balls) so I wanted to try it out before I made it for Hollie’s Mum’s party. Also, Hollie hadn’t tried red velvet cake before so it was important that she actually liked it and thought her Mum would too. The cake is very dense with a subtle chocolate taste which makes it different to any cake I have eaten before. Hollie really liked it so that was the cake sorted!
It does take some time, but I think I was definitely able to create some wow factor.
For the cake:
190g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp red food colouring gel
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line two 20cm loose bottomed cake tins – I used round tins but the original recipe used square tins
- Beat the butter until smooth and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat again
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add this to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk – start and end by adding the flour
- Add the colouring and vinegar to the cake and then divide the mix evenly between the two tins
- Bake for 35-40 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean
- Cool the cakes in their tins for 20 mins and then cool completely on a wire rack
For the icing:
190g unsalted butter, at room temperature
340g cream cheese, at room temperature
450g icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the cream cheese. Mix until smooth
- Add the icing sugar in stages, making sure it is all mixed in before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla
- Put one of the cakes on your serving plate and spread with a generous amount of the icing. Place the other cake on top and spread this with the icing. I start with the top and then spread the icing on the sides
- You can leave the cake as it is, but if you want to decorate it like I did line the sides of the cake with fingers making sure there aren’t any gaps. Tie with ribbon
- Carefully starting in the centre, place the smarties in rings using a different colour smartie for each ring. Don’t worry too much about making it even, as you go you get the hang of it
- Make sure you keep it in the fridge
The original recipe says to stir the gel colouring into the vinegar and then add it to the mix. I did this the first time I made the cake and somehow I got the colouring everywhere when pouring it into the mixer. It stained my work surface which made me panic because my landlords are very strict and would shout at me (for those of you that don’t know, my parents are my landlords!). A little bit of Cif worked wonders and my work surface is now stain free but to avoid this happening to you, just put the colouring and vinegar straight into the mixer and don’t faff around mixing them beforehand.
Soft, melt in your mouth biscuits with a dollop of jam in the middle, perfect with a cup of tea.
I’m not really a fan of biscuits; I think it’s the crunchiness I’m not keen on. These are my ideal kind of biscuit because they they are soft and almost cake like. They are so simple and really quick people of any baking ability will be able to make them, especially as you don’t need a mixer. They won’t last very long so I recommend doubling the quantities. The quantities below will make approximately 10 good sized biscuits.
Use whatever jam you like but use a good quality jam if you can because you really can taste the difference. I’ve made these with raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrent jam and all are delicious. When adding the jam, try not to get too carried away and add too much because it could run out over the biscuits., as you can see below!
These biscuits aren’t the daintiest or prettiest but I really like how home made and simple they look. What they lack in appearance, they definitely make up for with taste. They are the perfect biscuit to make with children because of how simple and quick they are.
200g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
4 tbsp jam
- Heat the oven to 170ºC. Rub the flour, sugar and butter together until you have a breadcrumb texture
- Add enough egg to create a stiff dough – you may not need the whole egg
- Shape the dough into a tube and cut into slices approximately 2cm thick
- Put them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment make sure you leave enough space between each biscuit for them to expand when they bake
- Make a small indentation in the middle of each biscuit with the end of a wooden spoon and drop a small amount of jam in the centre
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until they are just golden brown
- Cool on a wire rack
You can find the original recipe at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1752/simple-jammy-biscuits
This recipe was Rien’s idea. I wanted to bake something that wasn’t a cake and Millionaire’s shortbread are one of his favourite things. I was most nervous about the caramel layer because I’ve never made this before and it’s a little scary.
There were lots of different recipes to choose from but I used a BBC Food recipe by Emily Angle (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/millionaires_shortbread_76712).
I was really happy with how they turned out, especially as people said they looked and tasted as good as shop bought ones. I will definitely be making these again.
For the shortbread
225g plain flour
175g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 150ºC and line a tin with baking parchment. You need something like a swiss roll tin
- Put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until you have a fine breadcrumb texture
- Add the caster sugar and mix again
- Tip the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly making sure you cover the whole tin. Use a back of a spoon or your fingers to do this making sure you press down to compact the shortbread
- Bake the shortbread for 30 mins, it should be a very light colour. Set aside to cool
For the caramel
379g condensed milk (1 can)
100g golden syrup
- Heat the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup in a pan, stirring until the butter is melted
- Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously. Keep stirring until the caramel until it thickens and becomes golden brown. This can take a good 10 – 15 minutes
- Set aside to cool slightly and then pour over the shortbread. Spread to make an even layer and leave to cool completely
350g milk chocolate
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Stir occasionally until you have a silky smooth sauce
- Pour the chocolate over the caramel and spread out
- Leave to cool completely and then cut into squares. I put mine in the fridge overnight
Fluffy savoury muffins with onion chutney – the perfect snack. If you are a cheese fan, these are definitely for you!
I made these muffins to take into work quite a few months ago because they are all cheese fanatics. To say they went down well is an understatement! Since then, one person in particular (yes I’m talking about you Hollie!) has asked me every few weeks when I am going to make them again. I have finally caved in and made them again. Rien is not very happy that I’m taking them into work and has asked a couple of times if there are any spares so it looks like I might be making them again pretty soon!
One of the things I like about these muffins is that you don’t need any fancy equipment like a mixer and they are so quick. The most strenuous task is grating some cheese! How easy they are makes them a perfect muffin to whip up if you have guests coming (or if you fancy a treat!)
You can use whatever chutney that you would usually like to eat with cheese. In mine I like to use my homemade onion chutney – who doesn’t like the flavours of cheese and onion? Don’t get too carried away and put a huge amount of chutney in the middle of each muffin because it will just spill put and could burn.
The mix is enough to make 12 muffins even though it may not look like it will. Put roughly one tablespoon of the mix in the bottom of each muffin before you add the chutney and then divide the remaining mix. These don’t make the biggest muffins so you can always make a few less, but larger muffins. I like to keep a small amount of cheese back to sprinkle on top because it makes them look nice and also adds a tasty toasted cheese flavour – yum!
Makes 12 muffins
175g plain flour
120g cheddar cheese, grated
80ml semi-skimmed milk
60ml sunflower or vegetable oil
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp mustard powder
your chosen chutney
- Preheat the oven to 190ºC and line a muffin tin with cases
- Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in the grated cheese
- In another bowl, beat the egg, milk, oil and wholegrain mustard together
- Stir the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until just combined – don’t overwork it
- Spoon a tablespoon of mixture into the muffin cases and spread it out so it completely covers the bottom of the cases
- Put a small amount of chutney in the centre of each muffin case – no more than a level teaspoon
- Spoon the rest of the mixture in the muffin cases, taking care to try and keep the chutney in the centre
- Bake in oven for 18 minutes until golden brown and they have a nice crust on top
- Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before eating – hot chutney burns!
Soft and fluffy buns filled with delicious pulled pork make a fantastic treat.
These steamed dumplings are definitely a favourite recipe in my house. Rien loves them and nags me for weeks (sometimes months) until I finally give in and make them. To make life easier, I usually cheat and don’t make the pulled pork from scratch. You can buy some really good packs that you put the pork in the oven pull it apart and then finish it off with BBQ sauce for the last few mins. They are really tasty and make this recipe quicker, but feel free to make your own pulled pork.
I think these steamed buns look quite professional and like they would be quite a lot of effort, but they are so easy (especially if you don’t make the pulled pork yourself!).
I originally saw the recipe on Jamie Oliver’s ‘Save With Jamie’. The recipe is simple and easy enough it just takes some practice. Don’t worry if they don’t turn out perfect the first time. You are bound to get carried away and over-fill some like I did the first time and they will explode slightly. Just try to control yourself and add a small amount of filling! Also if after 12 minutes they still look a bit doughy, just let them steam for a few more minutes. If you don’t eat them all at once, just put them back in the steamer and steam them again when you want to enjoy more.
For the steamed buns
300g Pulled pork (approximately)
500g self raising flour
400ml semi-skimmed milk
2 – 3 tbsp sesame seeds
You will need
36 muffin cases
You do need a bamboo steamer and a wok for this recipe. I bought my bamboo steamer at a Chinese supermarket but I did see one in Waitrose the other day so I think they are fairly easy to find.
- Put the flour in a bowl and add the milk. Combine until you have a sticky dough
- Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape
- Cut into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a circle approximately 5cm in diameter
- Spoon a teaspoon of pulled pork into the centre of each circle. Fold one side of the dough over to the other and pinch to close. I then twist the dough slightly to help ensure it is tightly closed
- Put each dumpling upside down into a double layer of muffin cases (2 cases) and put in your steamer. Repeat for all 16 dumplings – you should get 8 dumplings on each layer of the steamer. They will fit quite snugly
- Pour a couple of centimetres of boiling water into a wok. Put the steamer over the water and steam for 12 minutes (please admire the world’s smallest wok)
- Once steamed, sprinkle the dumplings with sesame seeds
Partly for my birthday and partly just for a girlie day out, my sister, Mum and I went to London. As I said in a previous post, I wanted to go to have a burrito which was initially the reason I wanted to go to London. I thought if we were going for a foodie trip, we might as well go all out and go to Borough Market too. Both my sister and Mum have been before but I have never been a massive fan of London so have avoided it. This trip completely changed my mind – London isn’t just Oxford Street and theaters which is what I had previously thought of it. Borough Market was fantastic, the smells were amazing, the displays were beautiful and most importantly the food was delicious.
We also went to a cake shop which I had heard about through twitter – Konditor & Cook and had a very tasty gluten free mount hazelnut cake. This goes to show how Twitter is a great way to find places of interest and like minded food lovers.
We went to a restaurant called Benitos hat which I really liked. I had their special pork belly burrito which was very tasty. The menu wasn’t big or fancy, but it was exactly what I was looking for as I got to pick what went in my burrito. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, tasty burrito.
As soon as I got home, I was asking Rien when we could go again. My thinking was surely he won’t mind shopping if it’s for food? If I lived in London, I would find it very hard to stay away!