The sun is here! Quick, make some ice lollies…

Over the past two days in England it’s been BOILING. I know that compared to a lot of other countries, 30C is a laughably low temperature to be claiming that it’s too hot to function but, trust me, us Brits go to pieces when it’s this sunny. We’re just not used to it. All this sun makes working in the library nearly unbearable (it’s a million degrees in there and all I want to do is take a nap!), which means that I’ve been really fancying something cool and refreshing. Luckily, last week I took a trip to Ikea with my mum and sister and happened upon some ice lolly containers, which, because it was Ikea, I bought. I’d love to claim that it was through some amazing foresight and that I sensed hot weather coming but, realistically, I was in Manchester and it rained all day.

The idea for these ‘recipes’ is simple- there couldn’t be anything easier! You simply make a drink, then pour it into a container and stick it in the freezer! Below are two recipes: one which is more of a party/ adult lolly (as it contains alcohol) and one for you more relaxed and sophisticated people, which is an iced-tea ice lolly. Either would be great to sit outside with, whether you’re in the garden sunbathing, walking about in search of Pokemon, or having a garden party or barbecue with friends. So, make some room in your freezer and enjoy the good weather while you can!

Party Pops

(please excuse the cringe-worthy name)

Ingredients
(for one ice pop)
1 shot Peach Schnapps
1 shot Vodka (optional)
Cranberry Juice

Ice lolly moulds, such as these or these.

Method
1. Add one shot of peach schnapps and (optionally) one shot of vodka into a measuring jug/ mug per ice pop.
2. Add cranberry juice to taste.
3. Give the mixture a stir to distribute the alcohol a bit.
4. Pour into the lolly moulds and freeze.

Tea Pops
(makes 3 ice pops)

Ingredients
4 tea bags (I chose Blackcurrant and Elderflower)
Cold Water
Berries (optional)

Method

1. Boil 100ml of water and add all the teabags to it. Let them stew for at least 5 minutes.
2. Let the tea-infused water cool.
3. Add some cold water to top up the amount of liquid needed to fill the moulds.
4. (optional) add some berries into the mix (mushed up)
5. Pour mixture into the moulds and freeze.

Handy Hints- Party Pops
Cocktails- this recipe is modelled on a Woo Woo cocktail, but you can pretty much make any cocktail you like this way. Add orange juice to make Sex On The Beach.
Alcohol- The alcohol concentration can’t be too high, as the alcoholic ice pops won’t melt as well as non-alcoholic ones.

Handy Hints- Tea Pops
Tea blends- You can try this with any tea bags you have: experiment with different flavours! Add a little squeezy/ runny honey for a bit sweeter ice lolly.
Creamy ice pops- Try adding milk instead of the cold water for a creamy ice lolly rather than a more fruity one.

Ice Cream Cake

Summer is here!! For all you students and year 13s out there, that means you’re finished with exams- congrats! Take advantage of your time off to go and do fun stuff (maybe even bake something new…) I feel like I actually have a right to say that now that I’m working on my dissertation through summer. And yes I know, I brought that upon myself by doing a Masters degree, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sit here and feel sorry for myself, ok? But anyway,from the midst of my pity-party came a great idea- a combination of my favourite thing (cake) and summer (represented here by ice cream).

Although summer seems to be manifesting itself largely in the liquid sunshine form here in the UK so far, I feel that it’s summer-y enough to start consuming large quantities of ice cream.  I briefly toyed with the idea of making a baked alaska for my first summer post, but quickly realised that a) although it’s impressive, it seems like far too much effort and b) I don’t have the freezer space for a cake like that. Also, we all know how making baked alaska in the summer goes- especially if you’re in a very warm tent with other bakers… (too soon?!) The idea behind my ice cream cake seems to me to be much simpler, and also fit better in my shared freezer shelf! It has a brownie base, ice cream middle and chocolate ganache topping, which makes for a nice combination and isn’t too rich.

Ice Cream Cake

Baking time: 20 mins

Preparation time: 30 mins (not including cooking time)

Ingredients

200g Dark Chocolate
100g Butter
250g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
60g Plain Flour
60g Cocoa Powder
900ml tub of Vanilla Ice Cream
100g Milk Chocolate
200ml Double Cream

I baked this in my 23cm diameter springform tin.

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Break up the dark chocolate and melt in the microwave until smooth. Set to one side.
2. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, mixing a little after each one, then add the vanilla essence and mix until the eggs are fully combined.
3. Add the melted dark chocolate to the mixture and stir until combined. Next, add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into a greaseproof paper-lined cake tin and spread evenly. Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
5. Remove the brownie base from the oven and set aside to cool. Once it is cool, take the ice cream out of the freezer to melt slightly.
6. Once the brownie base has cooled completely, spread the slightly melted ice cream onto the brownie base, spreading as evenly as possible and making sure to cover the brownie base. Once the ice cream has spread, place the cake tin in the freezer.
7. Whilst the ice cream re-sets in the freezer, make the chocolate ganache. To do this, first break the milk chocolate into pieces, then heat up the cream in a saucepan until boiling.
8. As soon as the cream reaches boiling point, add the cream to the broken up milk chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and combines with the cream.
9. Once the cream and chocolate are combined, take the cake from the freezer and pour on the ganache. Spread the ganache evenly over the ice cream layer. It is important to do this quickly as the ice cream will start to melt due to the heat of the ganache, so as soon as it is spread, place the cake back in the freezer.
10. Store in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy it!

Handy Hints
Ice Cream- Although I made this with vanilla ice cream, I think it would also be great with other flavours, such as mint or cherry (two of my favourites!) I would avoid anything too sweet though as it may make it too rich overall!
Cooking- These brownies are quite fudgy, but should still pass the knife/ cake tester test (i.e. the knife should come out clean after sticking it in the brownie)
Spreading Ice Cream- This process can be a little tricky. You want the ice cream to have melted enough so that you can (roughly) spread it, but not so much that it becomes soup! If it’s easier, cut chunks of ice cream and fit them together like a jigsaw on the brownie base!
Ganache- When making the ganache, keep stirring the cream and chocolate at all time until they’re combined. If you let it cool too much, it’s still fine but it will have a thicker consistency, if you want a smooth, glossy finish then you’ll have to add the ganache whilst it’s still quite warm.
Serving- If you are serving the whole thing at once, then defrost for 5-10 minutes before serving. If you want to cut a slice or two, this is more difficult but I found that for the most part it cut ok, even when I’d just taken it out of the freezer. Don’t leave it too long or the ice cream will melt everywhere!

 

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P.S. The apples totally offset the huge slice of cake, right?!

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

The other week, I introduced my international friend to the concept of Jaffa Cakes. Ironically, they asked the age old question: is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? People have debated this a lot and I’m sure that there’s food-y people out there who can tell me, but I can tell you now the true answer: Who cares?! The more you debate about it, the more other people can eat while you talk about it!

Not to sound too British, but I do love a good biscuit (/cake), especially with a cup of tea! However, I have felt for a while that some snacks of this description should be incorporated into a pudding of some sort. This is the thought that created the idea, whilst food shopping, of Jaffa Cake cupcakes. They’re easy to make into cupcakes, because they’re essentially three elements: chocolate, orange curd and sponge. Even if you’re a beginner to baking, you’ll see that this isn’t a conversion that’s hard to create! And what better than a cake and a Jaffa Cake on top (that’s two puddings in one!!)

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Baking time: 10-15 minutes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients
For the sponge:
110g (4oz) Butter
110g (4oz) Caster Sugar
2 eggs
110g (4oz) Self-raising Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Orange Marmalade (or see this recipe for 10-minute orange curd)

For the Icing:
130g Butter
500g Icing Sugar
170g Cocoa Powder
3-4 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

12 Jaffa Cakes for decoration

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until the mixture is fluffy.
2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mixture until combined.
3. Add the flour and vanilla essence and mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
4. Spoon the mixture and divide evenly into the cupcake cases. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the sponge is golden and springs back when pressure is applied to it.
5. When the cupcakes have baked, set them aside to cool.
6. To make the icing, soften the butter in the microwave, then beat together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter until combined. Add the vanilla essence. Add the milk a little at a time until the icing is a good texture.
7. Once the cupcakes have cooled, using a teaspoon, hollow out a small section from the top of the cupcake and fill with orange curd/ marmalade. Replace most of the sponge back on the top of the curd/ marmalade (as if you’re putting a lid over the orange). Repeat for all the cupcakes.
8. Cover the cupcakes with the chocolate icing.
9. Cut 12 Jaffa Cakes in half, and using two halves, create a butterfly effect by placing one half on each side of the cupcake.

Handy Hints
Icing texture– this matters more if you choose to pipe your icing onto the cakes. If you do, it needs to be firm enough that the mixture holds on a spoon (i.e. it doesn’t drip off the spoon), but not too stiff that it doesn’t mix easily.
Adding the orange– for more tips on this, see this recipe.
Adding the icing– Piping the icing gives a more neat effect (and possibly adds more icing), but this works just as well with a knife and using the back of a spoon to shape.

Jaffa cake cupcakes

Jaffa cake cupcakes3

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Flapjacks

I’ve realised recently that I take baking for granted. Baking is such a normal occurrence in my house and I’ve been baking it since I was little (under strict supervision of course in the earlier years!). I never really thought anything of this until I talked to my flatmate, who is relatively new to baking. It seems perfectly normal to me to not have to look up how to bake a Victoria sponge cake and to know what it means when a recipe says something like ‘whisk to soft peaks’, but not everyone has this experience. This can make it difficult to know where to start with recipes, especially if you’re starting with no-one to guide you along the way, as my family have done. I’m really glad that my flatmate joins me when I’m baking, even if it turns out that it’s all been a scheme to get free food! I hope that, if he can overlook me being a bit bossy occasionally, he might learn some things about baking in order to be able to enjoy baking by himself. But for people who do want to try baking by themselves, and who don’t have a friend to guide them, it occurred to me that some recipes aren’t all that suited to beginners and that maybe more recipes about the simple stuff need to be out there. And so came the idea for this post.

I was talking about what to bake next for my blog with the aforementioned flatmate, and he asked me ‘what’s a really easy thing to bake for a beginner?’ My immediate thoughts were all things that I’ve written up recipes for at some point or other on this blog: brownies, cookies, cupcakes; but one thing in particular came to mind- flapjacks.

Flapjacks used to be something of a signature bake of mine and I’ve been baking them for a long time. They’re a nice easy bake that I used to make on my own before I built up the courage to bake things that were a little more complicated. Once you’ve got the hang of the simple base recipe, you can be creative in adding whatever extra flavours you like! This recipe adds two of my favourites: cherry and dark chocolate. If those flavours aren’t your cup of tea, simply swap them for something else (more advice on this in the Handy Hints section).

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Flapjacks

Baking time: 45 mins- 1 hour (Oven time 30-35 mins)

Ingredients
170g Butter
70g Soft Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
340g Porridge Oats
100g Dark Chocolate
150g Glacé cherries

Bakes in a greaseproof paper-lined brownie tray

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Melt the butter in a pan, over a low heat. Stir in the sugar and golden syrup until combined. Take off the heat.
2. Add the oats and stir until the butter mixture coats the oats.
3. Chop up the chocolate and cherries into small chunks (I’d recommend cutting the cherries in half)
4. Stir in the chocolate and cherry chunks until evenly distributed.
5. Place in the lined baking tray and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the oats are golden coloured.
6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. The flapjacks will continue to bind together a bit after they’ve been removed from the oven, so don’t panic if they look really crumbly.
7. Cut into squares and serve!

Handy Hints
Ingredients Swap- If you don’t want to add chocolate to this mixture (why not?!) then use 225g of Butter instead. If you’re swapping dry ingredients, use the same quantity as the cherries. If the ingredient you’re adding isn’t as sweet, add a little more sugar to the mix.
Other flavours- the classic dry ingredient to add would be raisins, but I would recommend maybe white chocolate and cranberry or topping normal flapjacks with toffee, chocolate or caramel.
Baking- Make sure to press the mixture into the tin when you transfer it from the pan. This will help it to come together a bit better.

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Na-na-na-na Na-na-na-na… Pancake!

So it seems to be that a huge baking trend lately is pancake art. These sort of trends always get me- it’s the sort of thing that you see on Buzzfeed or Facebook that looks really easy and makes me think ‘I could do that’. The idea, if you’ve somehow missed this, is that you draw a shape with pancake batter, let the outline cook, then fill in the middle. The outline should then cook more than the filled-in middle, making the lines defined. This is made to look very easy, so the other day I invited some friends round and we gave it a go. Needless to say, it was a disaster. Here’s the best attempt we came up with:

Flower fail

I think the problem is that our mixture was a thinner pancake mix, rather than the thicker batter used for more American-style pancakes but I’m not sure! If any of you know how to stop getting the patterns on the pancakes, please comment and let me know!

Now you might think that given the disasters that we’d created so far, we’d have just given up (the picture above is honestly the best one we managed), but we weren’t giving up that easy. We still had half a batch left so, driven by a stubborn determination to create something worthwhile (felt more strongly in some of us than others it must be said), we adapted our technique to creating pancakes in the shape of things instead. This we had a lot more success at! If you’re looking for something easy and fun to do then this couldn’t be better, even for those who may be more artistically-challenged! The trick is to pipe the outline quickly, then fill it in with batter from a jug and, as long as you’re careful not to pour too much on and spill it over the outline, you’re good to go!

Pancakes are perfect for anyone who wants to bake something easy and doesn’t have much time, or patience, to wait for things to cook/chill. They need three ingredients, no fancy equipment (if we can make something at guide camp, you can make it in a student kitchen) and taste nice with any number of toppings. If you’re not feeling artsy, or just don’t fancy faffing about making your food look pretty before you demolish it, then just follow this recipe ignoring the bits about separating the mixture, and just pour your batter into the pan- simple!

If you do want to be artsy, you’ll need an empty sauce bottle- you can buy these online or from lots of shops, an example of one is here.

Pancakes

This recipe makes about 10 small pancakes.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
125g (41/2 oz) plain flour
250ml milk
Butter
Toppings

Method:
1. Add the eggs to the flour. Add a little milk.
2. Whisk gently until the mixture becomes thick, then add a little more milk and mix again.
3. Making sure to mix in all the flour from the sides, add the rest of the milk and whisk until all the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture is smooth. Separate the batter between the bottle and a measuring jug.
4. Melt a small amount of butter in a frying pan on the hob (medium heat) and tilt the pan until the melted butter covers the pan.
5. (to make pancake shapes) Using the batter in the sauce bottle, draw onto the pan the outline of your shape. Fill the inside of the shape with batter from the jug, making sure not to pour too much at once (or it’ll spill over the edge and ruin your shape!)
6. Let the pancake cook until it starts to come away from the pan, then flip it over (whether you use a spatula or your awesome pancake-flipping skills is up to you) and let the other side cook.
7. Serve and add toppings!

Handy Hints:

Shapes- Create away! Let your imagination run free- anything is possible! (well actually there are some limits, my friend did attempt the Sistine Chapel, which I think is taking it a little too far.)
Cooking time- Pancakes cook quickly, so you shouldn’t be waiting long. It’s cooked on one side when it starts to come away from the pan- wiggle the pan and if it moves without sticking, it’s cooked on that side.
Batter- If you’re using a bottle to make the shapes, make sure that there aren’t any chunks of flour in your mixture, as they’ll get stuck in the nozzle!

Batman pancake

 

Candy Cane Cupcakes

It may seem a little too soon for some of you to be reading a Christmas recipe, but it’s definitely acceptable now because it’s December!! I love it when it reaches December because no-one can complain about me getting excited for Christmas. I love Christmas (just in case you hadn’t picked that up!) It’s such a good time of year, and I really enjoy the build-up through December. I love Christmas jumpers, hot chocolates, and most of all, Christmas puddings! We always have family over to stay for Christmas in my house, which is great because me and my mum get to bake whatever we want to, and know that it’ll be eaten quickly so we can bake something else! It’s a great excuse to bake all the things that I deem too expensive when I have to pay for the ingredients myself (ta mum!), or simply too fancy for everyday life. And what better way to spread a little Christmas spirit than by sharing some bakes?!

So, because it’s now December, I wanted to come up with a recipe that was Christmas-y but also would be good to make at uni. I actually made these cupcakes for my flatmates and also to take in for one of my lecture groups, so they’re great for spreading the Christmas joy! The idea for these cupcakes came from the leftover candy cane segments I had after making Candy Cane and chocolate lollies. These cupcakes have a mint chocolate truffle centre, and a minty buttercream topping so are not only decorated with candy cane bits, but have the great sweet mint flavour too.

Candy Cane Cupcakes
Preparation Time: 30 mins (total)
Baking Time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: £3.62

Ingredients
For the cupcakes:
165g Butter, softened
165g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
165g Plain Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Baking Powder

For the mint truffle centre:
225g Icing Sugar
30g Butter
25g Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract

For the mint buttercream:
140g Butter
Icing Sugar (at least 200g)
A dash of milk
Peppermint extract (to taste)
Crushed pieces of candy cane/ Christmas-coloured sprinkles to decorate

(makes 12)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and mix until combined and smooth.
2. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined- scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to make sure it’s all combined properly.
3. Line a cupcake tray with cupcakes cases and fill the cases, spooning in the mixture until the case is about two-thirds full.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the sponge springs back when pressure is applies, or until a knife or cake-tester comes out of the cupcake clean. Leave on one side to cool.
5. Whilst the cupcakes are cooling, make the mint truffle centre mixture. First, melt the butter slightly in the microwave until soft. Then, add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix until fully combined.
6. Add a dash of milk if needed to soften the mixture slightly, then add the peppermint extract to taste.
7. Once the cupcakes have cooled, taking one at a time, spoon out a small circle from the middle of the cupcake and extract the sponge from beneath it until you have a small hole in the middle of the cupcake. Don’t spoon too much mixture out- there should still be plenty of sponge surrounding the dip, and it shouldn’t go to the bottom of the cupcake case.
8. Once the holes have been cut in all the cupcakes, spoon a little of the mint truffle mix into each hole until it fills it to a level top.
9. Put these to one side to make the buttercream icing (preferably covered and in a place that isn’t too warm!)First, soften the butter in the microwave. Then, add the icing sugar and mix until combined. Start with equal quantities, then keep adding icing sugar until you reach a slightly stiff consistency. Add a dash of milk to create softer icing, then add some more icing sugar.
10. Add peppermint extract to the icing to taste, and mix to incorporate. Ice the cupcakes, then add crushed candy canes/ sprinkles to decorate!

Handy Hints
Even cupcakes- to get cupcakes that are the same size, try using an ice-cream scoop to make sure you have an even amount of mixture in each cupcake case (you can tell I didn’t do that!)
Filling the centres- You may have to use a teaspoon to gently press down the truffle centre into the cavity in the cupcake. Fill the hole to the top to make it an even top when you’re adding the buttercream.
Buttercream- If you’ve used margarine instead of butter to make your icing, don’t add the milk, as this will require a lot of icing sugar!

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Maleficent Chocolate Apples

Hi everyone! It’s nearly Halloween- yay! This year I’m using Halloween to combine two of my favourite things- baking and Disney. Because who doesn’t love a bit of Disney? (if you don’t, you’re lying. I don’t believe you.) I feel like Maleficent is a great Halloween character- she’s pretty bad-ass and let’s be honest, she has a pretty dramatic look. This bake is also great for those of you that are students looking for a good Halloween creation, mainly because it’s a way of sneaking some fruit into your diet (I mean these are basically healthy, right?) Maybe give one to a friend who never eats fruit or veg? (is that a trick or a treat??)

The idea for this bake came from a great new Youtube channel I’ve discovered, with a series called ‘Nerdy Nummies‘. If that doesn’t entice you, then it probably isn’t your thing, but it contains great and really easy-to-follow recipes for all sorts of nerdy bakes from Harry Potter to Divergent to Pokemon- I already have loads of them bookmarked in my to-bake list! I’ve changed the recipe quite a lot, using more accessible, and less expensive, ingredients, but by all means have a look at hers here.

Maleficent Chocolate Apples
Preparation Time: 1- 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients
3 Apples
400g Dark (Plain) Chocolate
100g Marshmallows
Rice Crispies
Purple lace sweets*
10g Butter
Icing Sugar
Dash of Milk
Green Food Colouring

Toffee Apple Sticks

Method
1. In a pan, melt the marshmallows on a medium-low heat. Add rice crispies until you have a firm texture of crispies, but not too dry. Transfer the marshmallow-crispies mixture to a brownie tin and flatten out. Leave to cool.
2. Remove the stalks from the apples, then place a toffee apple stick into the top of each one.
3. Break up and melt all but 20g the chocolate. Holding the bowl of melted chocolate at a slight angle, dip each apple into the chocolate and turn until the whole apple is covered. Use a spoon if necessary to cover the top of the apple next to the stick. Place the apples onto a plate and leave to cool.
4. Either using a template, or free-hand, cut the rice crispies mix into the horn shapes, then cover with the melted chocolate. Place on the plate with the apples to cool (put in the fridge to cool more quickly.)
5. Whilst these are cooling, mix the butter, milk and icing sugar (start off with 25g) with a hand mixer to create a thick and creamy texture. Keep adding icing sugar until you have the right consistency (it shouldn’t be runny, but should be spreadable.)
6. Add a few drops of the food colouring and mix in thoroughly (there’s nothing worse than streaky icing!). Keep adding colouring until you reach the desired colour.
7. Once the chocolate has cooled on the components of the apples, wrap the purple lace sweets around the horns (in 2 circles), fastening them at the back using a small amount of buttercream.
8. Melt the leftover 20g of chocolate and use to stick the horns on to the apples.
9. Once the horns are stuck on, spread the butter icing on to one side of the apple in a heart shape- this should come up to about 3/4 the height of the apple.
10. Leave the assembled apples to cool for 5 minutes in the fridge, then enjoy! (or store them in the fridge for later if you can wait that long!)

Handy Hints
* Purple lace sweets- we peeled the purple bit off some rainbow belt sweets, then cut them to the right size. You can also buy blackcurrent laces in some shops, which would work equally as well. Or, make some purple royal icing and pipe thin bands on the horns.
Covering the crispie mix- This is messy! There’s not really a neat way to do this, you just have to dip them in and try not to get chocolate everywhere!
Shaping- If you don’t trust your free-hand cutting, draw a template on paper, cut out and place on top of the crispies, then cut around it.
Sticking the horns to the apples- This requires a bit of a steady hand so try to keep as still as possible. Anchor your hand on the plate so create a more steady frame.

Maleficent

Please excuse the messy plate and very uneven horns (guess which cutting-out technique I used?!)