Birthday Cake….

I love cake. I love baking it, I love eating it and I LOVE decorating it. Of course this can be very challenging when you have small children “helping” and imposing time limits based on their ability to entertain themselves. However I have managed to decorate 3 birthday cakes so far this year; one for each of my children and one for my lovely husband whose birthday is, in fact, today….

Today’s “pigs in mud” chocolate fudge cake;

Pig cake

A Spiderman/ Hulk/ Bob the Blob themed cake for my little boy…

Spidey & Hulk cake

And  Merida for my daughter. (this one was made while looking after a very poorly little boy and the marzipan sank somewhat making Merida look rather porky!!)

Merida cake

 

Do you enjoy cake decorating or would you rather buy one decorated? My sister and her fiance have asked me to make and decorate their wedding cake when they marry next year, which will be the biggest baking challenge I have encountered by a great deal!

How about you?

Zesty lemon tart

OK this is not so festive as it could be but since I am still working on the finishing touches of my advent calendar this is what I have to offer…!

I am often disappointed by lemon based recipes because they are so frequently not lemony enough! So when I call this “zesty” please take that to mean “if you don’t like a tart tart then do please add half again the amount of sugar and/or reduce the number of lemons. ” that said it is, in my humble opinion, delicious and just lemony enough with an almost cheesecake texture…

Lemon Tart

 

Ingredients
A block of shortcrust or sweetcrust pastry.
6 large eggs
300g caster sugar
zest and juice of 6 lemons
200ml double cream

You will also need a pie or tart dish of some description, mine was 25cm diameter

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C

1. roll out the pastry thinly, dust with flour and use it to line your dish. You can pretty up the edges a bit here if you like.

2. blind bake the pastry case until the bottom/ middle is just cooked. (I line the pastry with greaseproof paper and pop a 20cm cake tin inside to keep the bottom flat.)

3. meanwhile beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice together. Beat in the cream.

4. when the pastry case is ready decrease the oven temperature to 180°C

5. pour the filling into the case, leaving about 1/2cm – 1cm gap at the top. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until just set in the middle. Leave in the dish to cool.

6. enjoy! Delicious served with cream to tone down the tartness

 

Mmmmm… Brownies!

Who doesn’t love chocolate? If you don’t there must be something wrong with your neural pathways relating to taste… Sorry but it’s true!! This brownie recipe is super easy, quick to mix up and will get you oodles of, well, brownie points. I like to get the children to help, though thy means I can’t lick the bowl out by myself (drat) as they consider that to be their perks….

Ingredients

100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
200g SR flour
Around 100g of a selection of chocolate chips/ chopped nuts/ marshmallows/ fudge pieces/ dried fruit/ lumps of nougat/ small pieces of Mars or Snickers bars…. You get the idea!

Preheat the oven to 175°C
Line and grease a 20cm x 20cm baking tin

Break the chocolate into pieces and chop the butter into squares – put in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir thoroughly, return to the microwave for another minute. Repeat until the chocolate is mostly melted then stir until the last of the chocolate has fully melted.

Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and beat in thoroughly.

Sift in the flour and stir in gently.

Add the selection of “chunks” and fold in.

Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the middle is only just set.

Leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

I like to sift icing sugar on the top and add a pinch of edible glitter but you can just scoff the lot!

The Ultimate Cookie Recipe

I have shared this recipe before on my old blog but do feel it deserves to be revisited on this new, improved page as it has been so successful and has a devoted following among my friends; It was passed to me by a friend who got it from one of her friends and I have passed it on to many of my friends in turn. Frankly it’s amazing and I don’t think anybody could dislike the cookies that it makes; gorgeously generous, crisp on the outside yet soft and slightly chewy on the inside.  It is perfectly acceptable to make the dough as below and freeze half before cooking… I like to freeze individual balls of the dough on a tray so that I can have the next batch of cookies ready in a flash with minimal washing up. Of course they are so delicious that they disappear rather quickly when given half a chance. I wouldn’t bother halving the mixture unless you only have one egg in the house; the cookies will all find a good home.

Ingredients (makes 24 great big squidgy cookies…..)

 

170g (6oz) softened butter or margarine
170g (6oz) caster sugar
170g (6oz) soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
340g (12oz) SR flour
a 200g bar of chocolate chopped into chunks. I usually use 250g for luck **

 

**NB you could replace some of the chocolate with dried fruit, fudge or similar. The fudge will melt & spread but I think we can live with slightly messy looking cookies can’t we. You could use chocolate chips but they seem a bit on the small side to me; I like my chocolate chunky! When I’m chopping my chocolate I find it easiest to leave the bar whole, lie it on a chopping board and cut the bar lengthwise then along the width of the bar like this;

 

 

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 *C, grease and line your baking trays

 2. Beat butter/ marge & sugar together until creamy;

 

 

 

3. Beat in the egg and vanilla thoroughly;

 

 

 

 

 

4. Sift in flour & fold in until combined;

 

 

 

5. Stir in the chocolate chunks (I used white chocolate & strawberry and milk chocolate this time around!);

 

 

 

6. Bake heaped dessertspoonfuls 6 to a tray for 10-12 minutes (they spread out quite a bit and should be only very slightly golden when they are done. they will sink down & go flat but that’s the plan;

 

 

 

 

7. Leave the cookies to cool a little bit before lifting them onto a cooling rack or they will break apart.

 

 

  

8. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea… or maybe a lovely ice cold glass of milk.

Pumpkin Pie for Halloween

 

Pumpkin Pie is not commonly made in the UK, which I personally think is a pity. I first made it a few years ago at Halloween because I had surplus pumpkin flesh left over from lantern carving and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; sweetly spiced, very seasonal and rather reminiscent of egg custard tarts.

Today I am making mini pumpkin pies because I will be taking them to a Halloween party this afternoon and thought that I would share my own, UK friendly recipe. Enjoy!

Mini pumpkin pies

Ingredients

The flesh of one medium sized pumpkin (approx 500g/ 1lb when cooked & drained)
50g (1.5oz) soft dark brown sugar
30g (1oz) butter
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of finely ground white pepper (optional)
A few drops of vanilla extract
200g (half a can) of condensed milk
3 large eggs
Shortcrust pastry (I used shop bought to save time)

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C

1. Grease a mini muffin tin / tart tin and line each hole with a shortcrust pastry for the case.

2. Cook the pumpkin flesh (either in a pan with a small amount of water or in a steamer) for 10 minutes or until very soft and tender.

3. Cool slightly then press the cooked flesh in a colander to remove any excess water.

4. Add the butter, brown sugar, spices and vanilla and blend or mash well. Leave to cool.

5. Beat in the condensed milk, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

 

6. Use a ladle to fill each case with the pumpkin mixture. You will have a lot left over! I like to put the leftover in silicone cake cases and make little pumpkin pie filling bites.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the filling is slightly golden.

8. Use a butter knife to run around the edge of each mini pie to loosen them then use it to carefully lift them onto a cooling rack. When they are cool enough put them on a plate in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

I like to sift a mixture of icing sugar and a dash of cinnamon over the top before serving.

You could, of course, make a full sized pie with all of the filling. Increase the cooking time appropriately and remove from the oven when the middle is just set.

I baked my leftover filling in heart shaped cases….

If you try it, let me know what you think!