Lemon and blueberry cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for Mother’s Day for my Mum and my boyfriend’s Mum. I’ve been looking for tasty sounding cake recipes that aren’t chocolate because my boyfriend and I (Rien for those of you that don’t know him) have given up chocolate for lent. I have a rule that when I can’t eat chocolate, no one can – well not that I bake anyway!

We went to Rien’s parent’s house on Saturday and I had decided to take everything I needed to make the cupcakes with me as I didn’t have time to make them before we went. I couldn’t get the blueberries when I did my weekly shop so we were going to stop and get them on the way. After we’d got the blueberries I realised I’d forgotten the lemons and my ice cream scoop I use to fill the cases with so we had to stop at another shop. It was then a few hours later when I came to ice the cupcakes when I realised I was 50g short of icing sugar so had to go out again! I don’t think I’ll be baking somewhere other than my own kitchen for a while!

All the messing around was worth it though, these cupcakes are really tasty. I think it must be the soured cream in the mix that makes the texture of the cupcake different to normal cakes. However the icing does have a strong lemon flavour  – if you like lemon you will love them; if lemon isn’t really your thing you might want to tweak the butter cream slightly (details below).

For the cupcakes:

500g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
225g butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
490g soured cream
120g fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and leave to one side
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs 1 at a time mixing after each then add the vanilla and lemon zest
  4. Add the dry mix in 3 parts alternating with the soured cream making sure you end with the dry mix. Stir in the blueberries

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  1. Spoon mix into cases making sure they are two-thirds full. Bake for 16-20 mins – test with a cocktail stick to see when they are cooked The cupcakes will look quite pale so do not leave them in longer expecting them to turn light brown
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  1. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack

For the frosting:

225g unsalted butter
225g full fat cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
950g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring (optional)
Blueberries to decorate (optional)

  1. Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth
  2. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice and stir until combined
  3. Add the icing sugar a little at a time making sure all is combined before adding more
  4. Add yellow food colouring if you are using it. I wanted a pale yellow colour but this is up to you.

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If you would prefer the icing to have a more subtle lemon taste, add just the lemon zest and not the juice. Instead add 1- 2 tbsp of milk until you get the right consistency – should be smooth and shouldn’t run off a spoon.

Original recipe can be found at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/lemon-blueberry-cupcakes-with-lemon-cream-cheese-frosting-recipe.html

Chicken with veg in a creamy sauce

As you can tell by it’s name, this is a dish I have made up. It takes inspiration from a number of recipes I have seen over the years.

Serves 2
6 chicken thighs – bones and skin removed
1 leek
2 carrots
4tbsp plain flour
450ml chicken stock
2tbsp (heaped) crème fraîche
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 calorie cooking spray – you can use any type of oil you like
1 tsp salt
1tsp pepper

  1. Debone and remove the skin from the chicken thighs if this has not already been done. Slice the carrots and leek.  Preheat a non stick pan with a small amount of oil on a medium – high heat
  2. Put the chicken on a plate and sprinkle with half of the flour, salt and pepper. Add to the pan and leave for a few minutes until they start to brown and then turn over

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  1. Once the chicken is browned on both sides, remove from the pan. Add the carrots and leek, you may need to add a little bit more oil if the vegetables look like they’re sticking.
  2. When the vegetables have started to soften, remove from the pan. Add the butter to the pan and once it has melted, add the remaining flour and stir to combine making a roux. Keep stirring it for a minute or so and then gradually add the stock. Make sure all of the stock is absorbed before you add more. Turn up the heat and let this bubble away for 5 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the crème fraîche and thyme, stir to combine. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan, cover and leave to cook for 15-20 mins stirring a couple of times if needed.

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You can serve this with whatever you like, I chose potatoes and green beans.

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Vanilla Cupcakes

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Fluffy cupcakes with a delicious vanilla flavour. A simple cupcake but one of the best!

This recipe is very simple and produces tasty cupcakes every time. As the recipe is easy to follow, it is great for baking beginners but they also make a perfect base cupcake to decorate and create something special. They are so versatile and you can create so many different fantastic looking cupcakes. With this recipe I have made jam filled vanilla cupcakes; pinata vanilla cupcakes and hidden heart vanilla cupcakes. You then have the buttercream which you can add other flavours to, use different piping nozzles and add colouring.

I have lost count of how many times I have made these cupcakes over the years as they are my go-to cupcake. I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t like a vanilla cupcake (even I like them and I’m not a fan of buttercream!).

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This recipe makes 12 large cupcakes, but you can obviously make more smaller cupcakes. Whatever size you use, make sure you don’t fill the cupcake case right to the top. You’re aiming to have cupcakes that are flat across the top of the cupcake case so you need to fill the cupcake case roughly 2/3 full. If you use smaller cupcake cases the cupcakes probably won’t need as long to bake so make sure you check then after 10-12 minutes.

You can use either vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, depending on which you prefer. I really like the flavour vanilla bean paste gives the cupcake and I like the little black flecks it leaves in the cupcake. You can also add some vanilla to the buttercream for even more vanilla yummy-ness.

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For the cupcakes:
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3 eggs
175g self-raising flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add the vanilla extract and eggs (I always crack eggs into a different bowl so you can spot any shell in the egg and also if you have a bad egg it doesn’t ruin your whole mix)
  4. Add the flour and mix until it is combined. Spoon into cupcake cases filling each 2/3 full

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  1. Bake in the oven for 14 mins check they are cooked by piercing them with a cocktail stick, if the stick comes out clean they are cooked

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  1. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely

Once the cakes have cooled completely, make the buttercream

For the buttercream:
140g softened butter (has to be butter not margarine)
280g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk

  1. Beat softened butter and icing sugar together
  2. Gradually add the milk until it becomes smooth and quite thick – you may not need all of the milk
  3. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes. Finish with any decorations

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