Vampire Gingerbread Men

gbm 1

I love Halloween. And moreover I love creep chilling food that fits with the Halloween theme. My son this year attended his very first Halloween party and I sent along a few treats with him.

These are really easy to make (thanks to my cheating double cut) and as an added advantage they smell delicious all the way through the preparation and cooking.

gingerbread man 1

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Decoration

  • Writing pens: white, green, red
  • Gingerbread man cookie cutter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line 3 baking trays
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor
  3. Add butter and whizz until mixture is like breadcrumbs
  4. Add sugar, egg and syrup. Pulse until combines
  5. Chill for 15min
  6. Rollout to 1cm thick and cut out men shapes
  7. With the remainder make small balls and squash for cookies
  8. Bake for 15min
  9. When done, the mixture will have risen and spread – recut with cookie cutter to sharpen edges
  10. Leave to cool until hardened (about 30min depending on the heat of your kitchen).
  11. To decorate as desired.

Raspberry & Blackcurrant cobbler

c1 bERRIES

It is that glorious time of year again, when after putting in exactly no effort (baby, job, blog, new book, telly to watch, socializing… the list goes on) the garden is teaming with fruit.

In 2009 I bought special-offer, nearly-dead fruit trees in Aldi. They had lost their labels, so nobody was entirely sure what type of fruit tree they were, plus the bucket that was meant to be keeping them in water (and alive) fell over hours before I got there (I swear!) so the manager made my day and told me I could have the last few that were left for the price of one – otherwise he was going to throw them in the bin anyway.

One euro and one very-happy definitely-repeat-customer later, I brought them home to show my husband, who promptly laughed at me as though I had bought some magic beans. But undeterred I planted them anyway – what’s the worst that could happen – and like the beans, after a few days, out grew shoots and shoots of green saplings. These things were definitely not dead. And like Audrey II in the Little Shop of Horrors, they took on a life of their own. They grew tall, they grew strong, and my god, was there lots of fruit.

It turned out I had two raspberry, two blackberry and one black current plant, which I collectively called the Audreys.

Now, we had the garden landscaped this year (because, you know, the Celtic tiger is back and what else do yuppies do) and that claimed the two blackberry bushes which were out of control, but the black current and raspberry bushes survived. So on a sporadically sunny day a few weeks back I decided to harvest the fruit I did very little to earn and make a raspberry and blackcurrant cobbler using a recipe from BBC Good Food.

C1 Berries 2

This recipe was adapted from the BBB’s GoodFood

Ingredients

  • 200g blackcurrants
  • 500g raspberries
  • juice 1 orange (80ml)
  • 2-4 tbsp caster sugar

For the cobbler

  • 85g cold butter, cubed
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 150ml full-fat milk
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar

Method

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. If the redcurrants are still on their stalks, run each stalk through the tines of a fork to release them. If you have the time and inclination, pinch the little end stalks off – this will make them nicer to eat.
  2. Put the redcurrants and raspberries into a 1-litre baking dish, add the orange juice and shake over most of the sugar. Taste a raspberry first to gauge whether you will need all the sugar or not.
  3. To make the cobbler, whizz the butter, flour, soft brown sugar and a pinch of salt to fine breadcrumbs in a food processor. Mix in the buttermilk or milk to make a very soft, spoonable dough.
  4. Dollop the dough over the fruit in blobs and sprinkle with demerara. Bake for 55 mins or until the top is golden and cooked through and the berries bubbling.

C1 Berries 3

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

 Happy Friday everyone – I thought a little indulgence is just what this dull Friday needs – roll on the weekend! 

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Cocktail, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

If I am honest I would say that this is a coconut flavoured cupcake, where instead of using coconut essence I have used Malibu, but I’ve been taught to never let the truth get in the way of a good story, so instead I tell people that these are the ultimate in cocktail goodness.

The result from these cupcakes is so delicious, it feels almost like cheating, because they are so simple and quick to make. But again, I tell people it takes me hours in the kitchen, making sure I get the exact mix perfect for each individual cake. Some people will believe anything.

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Ingredients

Batter

  • 55g unsalted butter
  • 140g sugar
  • 120ml coconut milk (later add the rest of the can to a soup – yummy!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 140g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 can pineapple rings drained and chopped

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp Malibu

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4. Line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix cocnut milk and eggs together. Add to butter & sugar
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder. Mix well
  5. Add pineapple. Mix again
  6. Pour mixture into paper cases. Bake for 20 min
  7. For the icing: in a large mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy. The longer you beat it, the whiter it becomes.
  8. Mix in icing sugar and Malibu
  9. Spread over cupcakes & decorate

As you can see, these ones went straight to a Hen Party where they went down a storm teamed with a glass of champers!

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration
Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Topic: cupcakes, decoration, hen, bachelorette, party

I recently volunteered to provide cupcakes for a hen party. Now, it would have been possible to show up with a few butterfly buns, as my baking ability is not internationally renowned and the expectations were not high. But it was the hen party of my future sister-in-law and I thought it would be nice to put in a little effort and see if I could make something special.

Making the cupcakes was no problem. I cracked the spine on my favourite cookbook for alcoholic cupcakes and with a few modifications created Southern Comfort & Coke, Pina Colada, Margarita and White Maria cupcakes.

It can be sometimes tricky to get 40 women to eat cupcakes, especially if they are thinking of having to squeeze into their frock for the wedding which was only a few weeks away. I have found that the more appetising and interesting the cupcakes look, the more chance that they will be eaten. To help me with this I recruited Jean from Pretty Tasty Bakes to give me a tutorial on cupcake decoration.

The first thing Jean did was put a cupcake case in front of me. {Well, that’s a lie, the first thing she did was come into the house, unpack a suitcase worth of equipment and have a cuppa before getting started. But the first thing she did right after that was to put the cupcake case before me} so that I would keep scale in mind. There is no point making something with lots of detail that people either can’t see or that won’t fit on the top of the cupcake. Scale is very important.

I had trawled through Pinterest and picked out a few designs that I liked and saved them to a board. Jean reviewed this so that we were both on the same page. We started with the simplest design: black and pink hen party regulars.

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada
Cocktail Cupcake: Pina Colada

Required

  • Cutting/chopping board on which to work
  • Rolling pin
  • Circular cookie cutter
  • Craft knife
  • Gem mould if available
  • Letter stamp impressions
  • Non-toxic shimmer dust

Method

  1. To make the black base: Take a blob of black icing, tease until warm and flexible, and roll it smooth, on a cutting board to protect your table, with a rolling pin. Black icing is one of the few colours that should be bought premade, because of the amount of dye it takes to colour white icing to make it black, as opposed to grey (red is another one of these, it takes bottles to move it from being pink to being scarlet). Then take a circular cookie cutter about the size of the cupcake case you are using and cut out enough circles to place on top of each cupcake. Put these aside to dry and harden.
  2. To make the learner signs take a blob of white icing, tease and roll out. From this cut the white square for the L sign. Use a ruler or guide to ensure these are square. Place to one side to dry. Next take a blob of pink, tease and roll out. Use a craft knife to cut out the letter L (being careful of scale). Place to the side to dry.
  3. To make the rings, take a blob of white and roll between your hands to make a worm shape. Once the worm has started to take shape, put the roll on the board and using one finger only roll until a thin long snake is made. Using only one finger will help to keep the width of the snake consistent. Once the correct diameter has been reached, cut and make a circle from it. Place to one side to harden. To make the gem, Jean had a handy gem mould which we used. However, if you did not have this, using a craft knife, impress edges onto a small ball of white icing, until it has a cut diamond appearance. Dust with shimmer dust to give gleam. Place to one side to harden
  4. To make the flags, take a blob of pink icing, tease and roll. Use a craft knife to cut out the flag shape. Use letter stamps to impress message onto the icing. Use toothpick to decorate the edge of the flag with small dots. Dust with shimmer dust to give gleam.
  5. Once the cupcakes are ready to decorate, stack pieces on top of one another, holding in place with non-toxic baking glue.

Some little tips:

How to get lots of different colours without spending a fortune?

There is no need to buy lots of different coloured icing to get different colours, instead buy small bottles of food colouring and a large block of white icing. Add a very small, tiny, miniscule drop of colouring to a blob of white icing. Mix this in by pulling apart and resticking the icing together (as you would to warm up bluetack) until the colour is uniform. This will work for ever colour except dark ones such as red, black, purple, for those colours you will need to buy the pre-dyed icing.

What to do if the icing gets too sticky?

Add some icing sugar, this will dry up some of the moisture.

Leaving it to dry:

It is best to leave your decorations harden overnight, in a cool dark space if possible. I find the oven an excellent place to do this, plus it gives me the perfect excuse to order pizza!

Hen Party Cupcake Decoration
Hen Party Cupcake Decoration

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says “I have come to party, but in a controlled, safety-switch-on sort of way” like an alcoholic cupcake, but what says “I may even loosen my hair bun and unbutton my shirt collar” is chocolate alcoholic cupcakes.

One of my favourite recipes is an adaption of the Cookie Girls Jack Daniels from her Eat Me book. Jack Daniels is Cookie Girl’s hubby’s (say that three times fast!) favourite tipple, unfortunately I had an “incident” with Jack back in my college days and I now can’t stand the taste of it, so instead I use Southern Comfort. I think the Southern Comfort adds a smoothness which the dark chocolate compliments very nicely. And there is a bit of coke thrown in so people don’t realise I’m an alcoholic.

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

Ingredients

Batter

  • 200g plain flour
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 30g yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp Coke (full fat, this is no time for Coke Zero, we need the sugar)

Icing

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Coke
  • 3tbsp Southern Comfort
  • 5 tbsp of black food colouring
  • 100g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170/Gas 3 & line your 12 hole baking tray with paper cases
  2. Mix flour, sugar and bicarbonate in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl mix egg, milk, yogurt and vanilla.
  4. In a large pot melt the butter. Add the cocoa and Coke.
  5. Pour the butter mix into the flour mix and mix.
  6. Add the egg mix and mix.
  7. Pour into cupcake cases so they are 2/3 full, to allow space to rise
  8. Bake for 20-25 min
  9. Once the cupcakes are baked and cool, begin making the icing
  10. Sift the icing sugar and add the Coke, Southern Comfort and food colouring.
  11. Melt the chocolate and stir into the icing
  12. Working quickly before the icing solidifies, pour over cupcakes. Then decorate.

I was asked to bring some cupcakes to a sporting event recently, so I mixed these dark boozy cupcakes (for the grown-ups) in with a milk chocolate Nutella cupcakes (for the kids). They went down a treat. Although some of the kids were a little too partial to the Southern Comfort cupcakes – ones to watch in the future!

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Rolling into the Christmas Party season, with everyone praying for a White Christmas, I thought this little stunner might be a great addition to the festivities.

This is a variation on the White Russian, the famous cocktail which was named at the end of World War 1 after the anti-Bolshevik group,of the same name, so called because they stood against the ‘Reds’ which were the communists. The drink got its name because of its main ingredients Kahlua (for the White) and Vodka (for the Russians). However, vodka is one of those flavours that just doesn’t work well in cake, so this recipe does not call for any. Instead we have the creamy white coming from the white chocolate and sour cream, and the dark coffee flavouring of the Tia Maria, to give us the White Maria.

 

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

 

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp Tia Maria

Icing

  • 55g white chocolate
  • 110ml sour cream
  • 3 tsp Tia Maria
  • 225g icing sugar

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4 and line a baking tray with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. While still mixing add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder slowly.
  5. Mix in Tia Maria
  6. Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 min
  7. Leave to cool
  8. For the icing: melt the chocolate. Add the sour cream and Tia Maria
  9. Mix in icing sugar
  10. Allow to cool so that it gets tacky. Spread over cupcakes

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

 

“Can I have two shots of tequila, I’m baking.”

“You don’t need to make an excuse, if you want tequila at two in the afternoon you can have it.”

“No, you misunderstand. I would like two shots of tequila, which I will not drink, but instead put into this flask, so I can bring it home and bake with.”

The barman glanced at the three other punters in the place, who were sitting behind half empty pints watching the horse racing, to make sure he was not missing a joke of some sort here. They looked away from the telly in the corner to return his confused stare. He turned back to me.

“Tequila in a cake? That’s gonna be muck. What you want is brandy. Like at Christmas. I’ll get ya brandy.”

 

 

So before you even start these, let me tell you, there is no need to go out and buy an expensive bottle of tequila, but it might be quicker and raise less suspicion. By the time I left the bar, with two tequila shots safely in my pretty Cath Kidston flask, the barman had the feeling that I can only assume hardware owners have after selling rope, shovel and balaclava to known criminals who say they want to do a bit of gardening in the cold. He didn’t know what I was up to, but he was pretty sure it was not baking, and it probably wasn’t legal. I toyed with the idea of bringing him back one of these cupcakes to show that my intentions were pure, but I doubted if he would eat something he suspected had criminal intent.

 

 

The recipe I am using is an adaptation of Cookie Girl’s Margarita cupcakes. And by adaptation, I mean I’ve discovered a few short-cuts!

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp lemon essence

 

Filing

  • 85g butter
  • Juice & zest of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yokes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

OR (as I found out later) you can instead use

  • 1 jar of lemon curd
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

 

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1 lime – juice & grated zest
  • 1 tsp Triple Sec
  • Green food colouring

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180C/Gas 4 and line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, sift in flour, baking powder and lemon essence. Mix until smooth.
  4. Fill paper cases 2/3 full to allow rise.
  5. Bake in oven for 15-20 min
  6. Filling: take three or four large spoon of lemon curd and mix in lime juice and tequila to taste
  7. Once cupcakes are cooled, core and fill with filling
  8. Icing: in a large mixer mix butter and cream cheese. Add icing sugar and mix. Add lime juice, zest, Triple Sec and colouring. Mix well.
  9. Spread icing over cupcakes & decorate

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita