Monthly Archives: August 2017

Rhubarb & Vanilla Cake

Rhubarb is a quintessential British fruit. I don’t know any nation that seems to love it as much as us Brits. This could possibly be because it is something that grows so well in our less than sunny climate. Both my Mum and Mr Curly’s Nan grow rhubarb so I am very lucky to receive lots of home grown rhubarb during the summer months. This year has been a particularly good year so I have bagged some up and frozen it to use later in the year. 

As I have so much rhubarb, I didn’t want to just save it for crumbles as although they are delicious and comforting, I wanted to try some new bakes. That is where I came up with this cake!

The yogurt in this cake means it is quite a dense cake, but really moist. The rhubarb adds a little sharpness to the sweet cake and makes a delicious combination. It may not be the prettiest cake, but it is tasty!

I made this cake to take to Mr Curly’s family’s house and although there were 8 of us, the cake didn’t last long at all with people going back for seconds! Even Mr Curly couldn’t get enough of it and he will be the first to admit he’t not a big cake fan.

I do love a cake that doesn’t need anything further doing to it once it has cooled. Don’t get me wrong, cakes with buttercream etc on them are delicious, but from a lazy point of view I have to be in the right mood to make them because once they’ve baked you then need to wait for them to cool before icing them. This cake is fantastic because when it’s out of the oven you just need to wait for it to cool and then you can enjoy! 

I think this would be a great cake to have later in the afternoon after a lovely roast lunch. It is great as it is, or you can eat it with ice cream, cream or custard if you want to make it more of a dessert. 

Making this cake also coincided with the new series of The Great British Bake Off which is a extremely popular baking show here in the UK. There has been a lot of anxiousness around the new series due to the change to Channel 4 and the new presenters, but for me it is about the baking so I still enjoyed the show. 

So with the start of the new series comes the opportunity to bake along! A couple of years ago I baked something inspired by the show along with others or the Great Bloggers Bake off hosted by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps. I was very pleased that Jenny is hosting it bake along again this year and can’t wait to see everyone’s bakes. 

Roasted rhubarb
400g rhubarb
50g caster sugar

For the cake
250g butter or margarine
150g non-fat yogurt 
250g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
250g caster sugar

  1. Begin by roasting the rhubarb – heat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan). Rinse the rhubarb and dry of any excess water. Trim the ends and cut into pieces roughly one inch in length
  2. Put the rhubarb in a baking tray and sprinkle over the sugar. Toss together making sure all of the rhubarb is coated and then make sure the rhubarb is in a single layer. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes before removing the foil and giving the rhubarb a quick stir. Return to the oven without the foil for a further 5 minutes

  1. Using a colander, allow the rhubarb to drain as it cools

  1. Reduce the oven temperature to 180ºC (160ºC fan) and line a 9 inch loose bottomed or spring form tin
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together before adding the rest of the cake ingredients and mixing until combined
  3. Spoon half of the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly. Then add the rhubarb and spread out. Add the remaining cake mixture on top of the rhubarb and smooth out the best you can. Don’t worry if the rhubarb mixes with the cake mix 

  1. Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes then cover with foil and bake for the last 15-20 minutes. You’ll know its ready when a cocktail stick comes out clean 

  1. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely 

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Courgette Cupcakes with Lemon Curd & Cream Cheese Frosting

 

Fluffy cupcakes filled with sharp lemon curd and covered in delicious cream cheese frosting. These cupcakes are far too tasty to get put off by the fact they have courgette in them!

Courgette or zucchini, whatever you like to call them, they seem to be in abundance at the moment. My parents have an allotment which appears to have the perfect courgette growing conditions because they have grown more courgettes than we could eat this year! They also grew one particularly huge specimen which was so big I made 24 cupcakes, a two layer cake and also a chocolate loaf cake. It really was a beast! 

When I tell people the cakes have courgette in them, you can see a lot of people instantly get put off. Personally I am not a huge fan of courgettes, but in a cake they are delicious. It really isn’t any different than using carrot in cake – and we all know how good that tastes! 

These cupcakes are so summery in taste. The lemon curd in the middle is so bright and zingy which along with the lime in the frosting makes them so incredibly delicious. I add the lime to my favourite cream cheese frosting which could be why I love these cupcakes so much. 

Usually when I am making cupcakes, I fill the liners two thirds of the way which means your cupcake isn’t too much taller than the liner. With these cupcakes, I fill them around half way because if you fill them more than that they seem to rise up and look more like muffins. Muffins aren’t a bad thing, but it makes them harder to frost as you ideally need a nice flat surface. If you do get a bit carried away and they are quite domed, you may want to level them off with a knife before you add the lemon curd. This will all be hidden later when you frost them, and it also means you get to eat the off-cuts! 

If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, I would definitely recommend using this. As well as making it far quicker and easier, it also creates very defined gratings of courgette unlike a hand held grater which can make it more mushy. If you only have a hand held grater this is still absolutely fine, but your mix may be slightly wetter. If the courgette is particularly wet once you have grated it, I would allow it to sit in some kitchen paper so it can absorb some of the excess moisture.  

When you are making the frosting, add enough lime juice to get the right consistency. You don’t want it too think so it drips off the cupcake so don’t add all of the lime juice at once; keep adding small amounts until you have it right. If you do put in too much lime juice, just add a little bit more icing sugar to help thicken it up slightly. 

Makes 18 cupcakes 

For the cupcakes:
250g courgettes
2 eggs
125ml vegetable oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:
70g lemon curd (approx)

For the frosting:
200g full fat cream cheese
75g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lime 

Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp chopped pistachios (not the salted kind)

  1. Preheat then oven to 170ºC and line cupcake tin with liners
  2. Rinse the courgettes and then grate them using a coarse grater – if the grater is too fine, the courgette will turn to mush

  1. Put eggs, oil and sugar into a bowl and mix until creamy. Fold in sifted flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and then stir in the grated courgette

  1. Split the mixture between the cupcake cases make sure you only fill them half way. Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean

  1. Leave to cool for around 10 minutes and then remove from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack
  2. To make the frosting, beat the butter until softened and then add the cream cheese and icing sugar and mix until completely smooth
  3. Add the lime zest and juice. If you have a particularly juicy lime, start by adding the juice of half of it and adding more if needed. Mix until combined and set aside

  1. Once the cakes are completely cooled, make a a hole in the centre of each cake make sure you don’t go all the way to the bottom. I do this using an apple corer but you could use a small knife, just mind your fingers

  1. Fill each hole with the lemon curd – about ½ teaspoon per cupcake

  1. Frost each cupcake and decorate with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios

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Giant Couscous, Tomato & Rocket Salad

 

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Fresh, light and summery, this makes the perfect salad as part of a BBQ or a tasty lunch.

Like a lot of people, I tend to eat a lot of salads in the summer, especially for lunch. After a while, I start to get a little bored of the standard  involving variations of lettuce, cucumber and tomato. That is why I came up with this Mediterranean inspired alternative.

I really love tomatoes marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt. I sometimes just mix these together to add to a normal salad because it makes the tomatoes even tastier and acts as a dressing at the same time. If you can leave them to sit for at least ten minutes, the flavours will really develop. Another reason for marinating the tomatoes is it acts as the dressing in the final salad which I was looking for as I think that couscous can sometimes be quite try. The olive oil in the marinade also helps keep the couscous from clumping together in the way that couscous likes to do!

I sometimes find that salads aren’t as filling as you would like because they don’t tend to include any carbohydrate. So I wanted to include something that would give the salad some substance so it would keep you fuller for longer, but also not something too unhealthy. Couscous is a great because it is low in calories but really helps bulk up a dish. I use normal couscous a lot, but wanted to use giant couscous in this recipe so it really stood out as one of the main ingredients. It is slightly softer than normal couscous really absorbed some of the marinade.

I would class the salad as being relatively healthy. The only aspect which is higher in calories is the olive oil which you can always reduce, as long as you reduce the balsamic vinegar as well. This would mean the salad may be slightly drier, but still tasty.

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Serves 2

100g giant cous cous
1 tsp concentrated chicken stock

230g plum tomatoes
1 large pepper
4 tbsp olive oil (plus ½ tsp)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic, crushed
10 basil leaves, shredded

A couple of handfuls of rocket
A few shavings of Parmesan

  1. De-seed and cut the pepper into large slices. Cook them in the oven on 200ºC for 15-20 mins until they have softened and coloured slightly. When cool enough, dice the peppers
  2. Cook the giant couscous as per the packet’s instructions with the addition of the concentrated chicken
  3. Cut each tomato in half and add to a bowl along with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, pepper, garlic and basil. Stir and leave to marinate

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  1. Once the couscous has cooked, drain and toss with ½ tsp olive oil and using a fork, stir through. Leave to cool slightly
  2. When all ingredients have cooled so they are warm, add the couscous to a bowl along with a couple of generous handfuls of rocket, the peppers and the tomatoes with their olive oil mixture
  3. When ready to serve, garnish with a few shavings of Parmesan

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Baked Nutella Doughnuts

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Fluffy doughnuts with a rich chocolatey nuttiness – heaven.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’m Nutella obsessed. I’m also a pretty big fan of doughnuts too, so this was an obvious recipe choice for me!

Baked doughnuts are so much easier to make because you don’t need to worry about frying them. This also means that they’re healthier, and I’ll take any excuse to make myself feel like baking is healthy! They are just as easy and versatile to make in my opinion as cupcakes. If you were making these for children, you could leave off the hazelnuts and decorate with sprinkles. Or even get the children involved with icing and decorating them as dunking in Nutella is a bit easier for children than frosting cupcakes.

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The only slightly tricky part of doughnut making is filling the doughnut pan with the optimum amount of mix. Too little and you’ll have a thin doughnut, too much and when it cooks the mix with cover the hole. Don’t get me wrong, if you overfill it is by no means the end of the world, but you just don’t get the iconic doughnut hole through the middle.

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If you don’t have the chocolate hazelnut essence, you don’t have to add this as you will still get the delicious chocolate nutty flavour. I use the Foodie Flavours brand.

As with all doughnuts, these are best eaten on the day you bake them.

Makes 12 doughnuts

140g plain flour
70g caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder 
¼ tsp salt
125ml milk
1 egg
30g Nutella
30g butter, melted and cooled
Approx 6 drops of chocolate hazelnut essence
Spray oil

For the glaze
90g Nutella, melted
20g toast hazelnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC if fan assisted) and spray two six hole doughnut pans lightly with oil
  2. In a large bowl or your mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  3. In a large jug whisk together the milk, eggs, melted butter and Nutella
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is just combined; it will be quite wet

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  1. Divide the mix between each doughnut mould. I find the easiest and less messy way of adding the batter to the moulds is by using a piping bag – remember not to overfill!

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  1. Bake the doughnuts for 13-15 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean

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  1. Allow to cool in the pan until they are cool enough for you to transfer to a wire rack

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  1. Dip the doughnuts in the melted Nutella making sure they are thoroughly coated
  2. Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts

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