Food: Vanilla Cupcakes with Bake Box

With me and W catering a good chunk of our engagement party (though thanks of course goes to my dad for his Malteser Blondies, my mum for her vast amount of scones, and W’s parents for providing salads, cheese, sandwiches and a massive pork pie), we knew we couldn’t go over complicated. So we made homemade quiches, a lot of sweet treats, and a macaron tower…

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes_zpsjdk3n6hm.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 9_zpsh76cegk2.jpgThese were some of the easier bakes. Yes, we ‘cheated’ and used the KitchenAid for the cupcakes and their icing but when it turns the endless beating and creaming into a sixty-second job, why not?! And the final results were damn yummy. In fact, these were some of the best cupcakes I’d made… Super popular with the children at our engagement party, I was also a big fan of these. The vanilla flavour really comes through, making them rich and flavourful without being too sweet. It’s also one of those recipes I’ve memorised, making it my go-to cupcake recipe. You’ll see what I mean when you read the ingredients…

We decorated them in a vaguely floral theme, which was in fact the vague theme I was going for throughout the whole day. I think I managed it, with my dress, the bunting, the garden. A few cute-sy bakes (including the slightly mishapen jam tarts, though they tasted bloody good!) finished it off – all inspired by Bake Box. If you’ve not read any of my other posts about them, Bake Box* is a subscription box with a difference. Think GlossyBox for bakers! It includes recipes, and some more specialist equipment. So far I’ve had a multitude of different moulds, both for bigger cakes and more delicate single serving tarts and jellies. I’ve had biscuit cutters (including the flower shapes used in aforementioned jam tarts), piping outlines, and even edible glitter (in a stunning rose gold shade), food colour and other so-cute-I-audibly-gasped decorations. And it all comes wrapped in an Instagrammable box too, what more could you want? Here we used their flower-themed piping nozzle and edible glitter to decorate – whilst our piping possibly needs a little more polishing (W is far better than I am), I do like the effect. More glitter would definitely have been a good thing though!

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 1_zps73c5kpat.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 2_zpsucpoh15s.jpgIngredients

  • 175g each butter (at room temperature), self-raising flour and caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp each baking powder and vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • Icing: 175 g butter (at room temperature), 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract, 2-3 tbsp milk, 350 g icing sugar

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat  until smooth and evenly mixed – around a minute if using a stand mixer, I’m afraid it will take a bit longer by hand. Divide the mixture evenly between 12 paper cases in a muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 175C. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency – it should hold a peak, but still be spoonable. Carefully spoon the icing down one side of a piping bag fitted with a number eight star nozzle (this gives the rose effect). Twist the end of the bag to seal the icing in, then pipe swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Scatter with the edible pink glitter and enjoy.

 photo Vanilla Cupcakes 3_zpsixc4iuva.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 6_zpsevehhqll.jpg photo Vanilla Cupcakes 4_zpslsxmkayh.jpgThe perfect party addition, the moist cupcakes topped with the creamy frosting in this classic flavour just can’t be beaten. Whilst I may not be a fan of ‘trendy’ cupcake flavours, something like this will have me saying “yes please” every time!

What is your go-to bake? Are you a fan of classic combos or do you like to mix things up a bit?

Baking: Hot Toddy Cupcakes

Yep, I’m on a diet. Nope, I shouldn’t be eating cakes. Especially not moist stick cupcakes, slathered in zingy sweet alcoholic icing, drizzled with tangy, spiced ever more alcoholic syrup.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.14.24_zpsc05yoh56.jpgBut these are SO DAMN TASTY.

Just the right amount of spice to warm, the right amount of lemon to make you feel energised, and enough sugar to add some life back in…these are wonderful winter bakes. With or without the whisky (I love the stuff) these are enough to chase away a cold, brighten up a miserable afternoon, and put a smile on anyone’s face. They’re like a hug in a cupcake.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.14.18_zpsjxfdtogb.jpg photo 2015-01-03 18.13.36_zpstsbxnxwo.jpgI like to avoid cupcake and proper cake mixing, as they are so much better when made with an electric whisk. I refuse to add to my kitchen equipment with one yet – my parents will undoubtedly disown me if anything else gets purchased. These were made using my boyfriend’s electrical items…and now he has a shiny purple KitchenAid (when are we moving in together?!) I’m hinting that he really doesn’t need a hand-held one too…BUT anyway, if you fancy making these by hand, have two as you’ll have burnt off enough calories!

 photo 2015-01-03 16.01.18_zpsf74tpdmm.jpgNow, there’s a lot of ingredients here, but the recipe is simple, many of them are easily found in the average cupboard (I had everything but the cloves). The amounts make 11 generous cupcakes – I reckon they’d be great as mini fairy cakes too!

Ingredients (sponge)

  • 120g self-raising flour (the advantages of a well stocked kitchen, I normally stick to plain!)
  • 115g caster sugar (again, I usually use ordinary granulated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 big teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • 140g very soft unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon, along with two tablespoons of juice
  • Splash of milk, if the mix looks too dry

Ingredients (icing)

  • 150g butter, again very soft
  • 325g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of whisky

Ingredients (syrup – makes a little more than you need, add some to hot water for a warming drink!)

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons whisky
  • 3 cloves

 photo 2015-01-03 15.33.34_zpsthefjgq2.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.00.14_zpsofburr7y.jpgStart by making the sponge. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.03.53_zpstjrjfvzx.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.07.33_zpscribqyil.jpg photo 2015-01-03 16.08.59_zpsnasm0tcd.jpgAdd everything else (not the milk) and beat until combined. Add the milk if needed.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.09.07_zpsjqrikkdq.jpgDivide between cupcake cakes and bake for around 18 minutes at 170C.

 photo 2015-01-03 16.09.15_zpsfaq64jff.jpgWhilst the cakes are baking make the syrup; it needs plenty of time to cool. Put all the ingredients into a good saucepan and heat, slowly and on a low heat, until simmering. Simmer until you have a syrup-y consistency, but you don’t want the mix to darken – it will taste burnt if it does. Try not to stir (or it will crystallise) but instead swirl the pan from time to time. Pass through a sieve into a jug and let cool.

 photo 2015-01-03 17.26.40_zpszsl83aph.jpg photo 2015-01-03 17.26.49_zpssxzsmp80.jpgAnd while the cakes and the syrup cools, make the icing. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the icing sugar in stages. Yep, this causes the kitchen to suffer a bit of a ‘snowstorm!’

 photo 2015-01-03 17.29.27_zpsf9kohue6.jpg photo 2015-01-03 17.29.54_zpstpe4h6gh.jpgOnce the icing sugar is all mixed in, beat in the honey, lemon juice and whisky. Taste and adjust if necessary.

 photo 2015-01-03 17.47.07_zpshtorltno.jpgAdd the icing to the cupcakes – I had a lovely boyfriend ready with his piping bag but otherwise I’d have just piled it on with a spoon. Drizzle over the syrup, and there you go.

 photo 2015-01-03 18.15.52_zpsuvxpdbwi.jpgZesty, spicy, warming cupcakes with the most delicious whisky kick. One of my best bakes.

Have you baked anything recently, or are you trying to be ‘good’ too? I promise I’ll be back to more healthy recipes soon! 

Baking: Carrot Cupcakes

Happy Saturday everyone! I’m rather happy as I have Monday-Wednesday off work (celebrating my birthday, if you haven’t guess from my previous posts!), it’s my first days off since I started way back in July, so I’m looking forward to quality time with friends and family, and a few good lie-ins. Now, to today’s recipe;I moaned in this post after my influx of carrots. ASDA somehow sent me 5kg of the things, despite me only ordering and paying for 1kg. Hence soup making and cake mixing. It probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world for me to do those two things simultaneously. Whilst the soup came out unscathed, the first batch of these carrot cupcakes went in the oven lacking eggs and sugar. I thought the mix looked a little oily. Luckily I still had 2.5kg of carrots left at that point, so more grating happened, and these lovely little cakes were bought. Almost a traditional carrot cake in miniature, these are moist and slightly less sweet than the traditional version. The icing is a lot lighter than normal, and almost sharp, whilst the cakes are heavily spiced.

 photo b95e2038-df50-4078-9ff0-538a34de2377_zps2a36ae48.jpgAnd it’s a simple recipe too! When I was researching, so many asked for expensive ingredients. Or ones I just didn’t have. Six eggs in a cake mix is also excessive if you ask me! Tinned pineapple is unnecessary. As is sorting out the spices from whole. This is a dream in comparison to some, yet it is still insanely delicious. I had one with every cup of tea until they were gone (I drink a lot of tea). Even one for breakfast, as I reckon they are healthy enough to justify morning eating.

 photo 002445db-6644-4a65-b666-45da6a486dec_zps101b0f89.jpgThe bad point about this recipe? Grating a load of carrot is really…grating on the nerves sometimes.

Ingredients

  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 150g sugar
  • 150-160ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 175g carrot, grated – I would take 250g carrots, peel them, top and tail, then that should be enough!
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (double up on the cinnamon if you don’t have any)
  • For the topping: 125ml mascarpone, juice of 1 orange, 1 tablespoon of sugar, pinch of cinnamon (I forgot this and it was still fine)

 photo ba40e98a-958e-43ea-9f58-e0b4cb37796f_zps52af0474.jpg photo 69b49467-01fd-4926-b86a-add80d5c34dc_zps6e066fa0.jpgNow, this is a super easy recipe to mix up. Finely grate your carrots and orange zest into a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar and spices. Mix together.

 photo 2f7c8c72-3794-4b92-a774-af57503e8d0b_zpsd7e8fec2.jpg photo efaa19d0-2764-45a7-8ead-3f235a5d0e67_zps36ee432b.jpg photo aeb61cce-6575-4447-8e48-d25ca461efea_zps04174b8b.jpgAdd the eggs and the oil. Mix until just combined. Spoon into cupcake cases (fill generously – this amount made 11 for me) and bake for 15 minutes.

 photo 7b47ebf9-4f17-42da-acc9-2198445fa832_zps1c4464cd.jpgLet cool completely before making the topping, which is also super simple. Simply beat together all of the ingredients, adding more sugar if necessary. Spoon onto the cupcakes and swirl as attractively as you can. These need refrigerating ideally – and the topping does crack a little unattractively. But they taste great, so I’m more than willing to forgive them.

 photo 03785d27-8357-47ec-8515-5067581cbc1b_zps3dd3ffa8.jpgThese are great for this time of year. The spices add a festive touch, without being so Christmassy that you forget it’s November. I have a rule, and that’s no Christmas until after my birthday. So on Wednesday I’ll be decorating! When’s your tree going up?

Any more ideas about what I can do with carrots? Admittedly the 5kg is now down to two single carrots, and I’m turning orange…carrot cake was definitely the least virtuous option I went with!

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Modern Street Food and a Traditional Village Show

It’s no secret that both me and my boyfriend are massive foodies, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some part of our weekends always revolves around food. Whether it’s a trip to a farmer’s market or cooking a nice meal together, food is a big part of relaxing together. These past two weekends have been no different, though we’ve done completely different things!

 photo 2014-09-13093105_zps8795a740.jpg photo 2014-09-13150354_zpsb756f772.jpgThis past weekend was his village’s first “annual” show, and my it was very traditional. Lots of classes to enter (I was unfortunately unable to enter due to not living in the parish), an old-fashioned tombola, and lots of lovely cups of tea being handed around. I was quite taken with the vegetable classes, until I noticed the table with all the dahlias on. These are my absolute favourite flower, so I got a bit snap-happy. Definitely prettier than the ‘funny shaped vegetable’ class!

 photo 2014-09-13150222_zpscf8356a1.jpg photo 2014-09-13150145_zps6a3c57b6.jpg photo 2014-09-13150111_zps368cabb0.jpg photo 2014-09-13150039_zps437ef433.jpg photo 2014-09-13150001_zpsace7f21f.jpg photo 2014-09-13145910_zps54dc8b87.jpgOf course we also spent plenty of time near the Cakes and Bakes classes. My boyfriend actually entered two – the Victoria Sponge, and the Decorated Cupcakes. Now I personally think the sponge class was a bit of a con – it was a set recipe, but not one of them worked. Very little rise to the sponges, though I’m sure they tasted delicious. Cupcakes, now they are more my thing. Turns out they’re my boyfriends thing too, as his Caramel Apple Cupcakes won first prize! And don’t they look delicious?

 photo 2014-09-13093140_zps2fc9557c.jpg photo 2014-09-13093226_zps98ea998f.jpg photo 2014-09-13093125_zpse195806e.jpgMaybe if you all ask nicely he’ll share his winning recipe?!

 photo 2014-09-13144744_zps78bc8f5d.jpgOutside we were impressed by the ‘Heaviest Pumpkin’ class – look at the size of that beast! Though take a look at the perfectly round orange one in the corner; we suspect this was a bought-in specimen!

 photo 2014-09-13150654_zps2250ba99.jpgThe weekend before was significantly less traditional. In line with my aim of getting out more during my placement year, when I found out about a Street Food festival in the next town/village from me there was no question about what we’d be doing. Reigate Street Eats it was! Now I didn’t take many photos, for the simple fact that it took place in a tunnel, it was dark (and slightly smoky, thanks to the pub who set up a BBQ and clearly didn’t know quite how to use it). We also didn’t eat much, only (horror!) sampling one vendor. We did have a massive curry planned for that evening after all!

 photo 2014-09-06131702_zps93760273.jpg photo 2014-09-06131832_zpsbdcbefdd.jpgHaving spent much of the summers of my young teenage years in Turkey, I was excited to find out that The Tinderbox were doing Lahmacun. I immediately sent out a tweet pretty much begging for a tomato-free version, and after a bit of a mixup at the van I had my hands on something I’d been craving for over four years.  Spicy mince pressed into excellent dough, served in a wood burner, then scattered with lemon, pine-nuts, herbs, seasoned yoghurt and pine nuts before being folded. What could be better?!

 photo 2014-09-06131754_zpsf6eaf407.jpg photo 2014-09-06131740_zps67dfa056.jpg photo 2014-09-06130328_zps650b30cc.jpgStreet food at its finest – fresh, hot and tasty, easy to eat, quick to make, relatively healthy and extremely tasty. Thanks for making a tomato-allergic girl very happy Tinderbox! And just look at the woodburning van too – we want one! Having experienced one street food festival I’ve got my eyes set on some of the London ones now – where’s best to go?

Have you been a foodie lately? Would you like to see a recipe for Caramel Apple Cupcakes? Trust me, they were delicious!

Baking: Easy 17/170 Cupcake Recipe (with a Sprinkle of Glitter)

A little bit late perhaps, but I couldn’t resist sharing what is one of my favourite recipes with you! I think a good basic cake recipe is something everyone should know, and this is mine. I like it because it is easy to remember, always works, and tastes delicious no matter how it’s decorated – I’ve had it topped with nutella and covered in a simple runny icing. I have to admit though, that this is my favourite way! Topped with a simple vanilla buttercream, they taste delicious and (as long as your piping skills are okay) look impressive. And if your piping skills are similar to mine, just claim they are meant to look rustic…and sprinkle with some edible glitter.

2013-12-24 15.48.45

Ingredients

  • 170g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs (should weigh around 150g)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Some milk, if needed, to loosen the mixture
  • For the buttercream – 125g unsalted butter, and 250g icing sugar (again, you may need a little milk to loosen)

2013-12-23 14.55.47

Method

Preheat the oven to around 170C.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, light, and fluffy. It’s easier to use very soft butter and an electric mixture (though I did use the old-fashioned combination of wooden spoon and elbow grease!).

2013-12-23 15.08.01Add the vanilla extract in. I used about a tablespoon…but I like my vanilla flavour to be strong. Most recipes use about 2 teaspoons.

2013-12-23 15.08.42Beat in your eggs until smooth. I would suggest not doing what I did, and instead beat them in one at a time. My mix curdled and split everso slightly.

2013-12-23 15.10.47Then slowly mix in the flour until it is just combined. Don’t overmix or your cakes will end up dry and tough.2013-12-23 15.21.05As you can see, my mix was a little thick, so I added a little milk. Then spoon your mixture evenly into 12 cupcake cases (this amount should make the perfect amount for perfect sized cakes).

Now put in your preheated oven for 17 minutes (note: there is a lot of 17/170 in this recipe – hence why it is so easy to remember!). After 17 minutes they should be lightly golden, and still a little sticky looking on top, but should spring back when pressed lightly. Take out and leave to cool completely.

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Now time to make the buttercream! Beat the butter until soft, then beat in half the icing sugar. Add vanilla extract, followed by the rest of the icing sugar. Thin with milk if needed.

2013-12-24 15.43.11

Now time to decorate. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can just use a knife to smear the buttercream over. I got lucky and was given my boyfriend’s piping bag to play with – it was my first time, so please bear that in mind when dismissing these shoddy results!

2013-12-24 15.48.28

And there we have it – creamy, not-too-sweet, vanilla cupcakes that don’t look too bad! I then added a sprinkle of edible silver glitter (the cheapest I have found this is in Tesco). I had also used a Festive Cupcake set which included pretty cases, and stickers on cocktail sticks, which I used to adorn my cupcakes. Along with birthday candles, for a Christmas birthday.

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What’s your favourite simple bake?

Baking: Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes

I came out of a two-and-a-half hour exam earlier. Knowing I had another (4 hour!) exam on Monday, what did I do? Put my head down and revise? Drown my sorrows in alcohol? No, I turned to baking.

 

I’ll be completely honest with you, I have no choice but to bake at the moment. For one thing, both the making, the eating and the giving away to friends is a great stress reliever. But the main reason is that it’s coming to the end of the year and I have a LOT of food to get through.

I currently have just under a kilogram of flour, lots of various different sugars, and a selection of flavourings. Last week I made brownies (not as successful, so they don’t get a blog post – my halls oven is failing rapidly). This week I wanted something fresher, to reflect what I thought was sunnier weather – again something that is also failing rapidly. I knew I had a bottle of lime juice and a bottle of lemon juice to use up. I recommend always having some lemon juice – I love it. Over pancakes, as a simple salad dressing, or over fish fingers (hey I’m a student!) it’s really useful at perking things up. Lime juice is less of a necessity. I only have it because of my addition to Mexican food, which I have street-food restaurant Wahaca to blame for. I make refried beans a lot of the exam period, and they always benefit from a splash of lime juice. But anyways, lots of lime juice to use up.

I decided to make citrus cupcakes. I have a cupcake ‘recipe’ I use, that I’ve used for years, that I don’t know where it came from, and that I usually flavour with vanilla. I decided to use that, but ditch the vanilla in favour of a citrus mix. I then swapped out my usual buttercream  icing for a drizzle type concoction. It seemed to work. I definitely over cooked the cupcakes, but I had enough mixture left over for a ‘cake’ in my Le Cruset baking dish. This isn’t so dry, and is much better – so keep an eye on these little cakes, especially if you have a dodgy student oven.

 

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Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes

Here’s the recipe. It made 12 cupcakes and a reasonable size cake – I’d guess you’d get at least 18 cupcakes out of it. Note that in the picture one is missing. Someone had to sample it didn’t they…

Ingredients;

  • Oil (vegetable) – 6 tablespoons
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup of sugar – I used standard granulated for this
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (or just use 1.5 cups of self raising flour)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Lemon and Lime juice – good splashes of both, preferably to taste though I take no responsibility for any illness from eating raw cake mixture (it’s not a good idea, but just about everyone I know does it)
  • For the drizzle – more splashes of lemon/lime juice, and granulated sugar, just enough so it stops dissolving and feels grainy

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Beat together the oil, sugar, and the salt, until fully mixed.
  3. Add the eggs gradually, the mix should go light in colour, and reasonably fluffy.
  4. Sift together (I’ll admit I didn’t do this – due to lack of a sieve) the flour and baking powder. Add this to the mixture, alternating between a cup of flour and some milk. Mix until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Stir through the lemon/lime juice – again, use your own judgement as to how much.
  6. Add to muffin cases in a tin (fill about 2/3 full) and bake for 15-18 mins, probably towards the shorter end of the cooking time.
  7. While they’re cooking, prepare the drizzle mix as specified in the ingredients.
  8. As soon as they’re out, spoon the drizzle mixture oven. Let cool, and eat! Simple as that!