Chocolate Courgette Muffins & Cupcake Wrapper Reviews

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent a selection of beautiful cupcake wrappers from Cupcake Chic – a new business started by an ex-colleague.

Of course this meant I had to bake some cupcakes to go in them (it’s a hard life, I know), and wanted to try using some of the big, fresh courgettes that my dad had grown in his allotment.

I’d love to share my exact recipe with you, but it was one of those it’s-too-thin-add-more-flour, too-thick-throw-in-some-yoghurt type bakes. So I couldn’t tell you exactly what went into the mix, but it was loosely based on this recipe. My main adaptations were: omitting the chocolate chips; using all wholemeal plain flour (instead of the 2 different kinds); and using normal (sweetened) apple sauce as a substitute for some of the sugar (I tasted at length to make sure it was right!)

As the recipe is quite dense they don’t rise much – but you get cute little chocolatey muffins that are not only low-fat but also contain some of your five-a-day.

I topped them with low-fat caramel cream cheese frosting. If you haven’t seen my post on this recipe yet then be sure to check it out! It’s the stickiest, yummiest icing I’ve made in a long time; low-fat, and sets quickly so good for warm weather, long car journeys etc.
Plus, you get the fun of boiling up caramel  – just seeing this photo makes me want to make it (and eat it) all over again!

I piped the icing onto the muffins using a star nozzle, then topped with a sprinkle of chocolate flakes.

And with that the cupcakes muffins were done! A dense, fudgy chocolate base, topped with a sweet, creamy icing, and all amazingly low-fat.

Next step – cupcake wrappers! I had a couple of full packs (they come in sets of 12) to play with, plus a lot of other samples.

Basically they are intricately cut pieces of card, perfectly sized to fit around your cupcake. By far the best way is to assemble them  first, then carefully lower your cupcake in the middle.

The wrappers come flat packed as above – so they are great to have sent through the post and fit easily through the letterbox.

Assembling them is really simple – just tuck the small flap at the back into the pre-cut slot. They hold together really well so you don’t need to use any glue, they won’t fall off!

Then the world is really your oyster – I tried them out an a cupcake stand, on flat surfaces, against different backgrounds…

The good thing about these designs is that you can see the original cupcake case through them – so these red cases with gold wrappers would be great for a wedding colour theme. (This wrapper is Gold Ivy Vine)

The designs also come in a variety of colours, so you could mix them up this way. (These are Gold Ivy Vine and Plum Filigree wrappers, but both styles come in other colours)

As for the other wrappers – well, I really struggle to pick a favourite! These 3 are my wedding recommendations – how cute are the birdcages? But then the hearts… and the butterflies…

The coolest by far has got to be this halloween wrapper – can someone have a halloween party just so I’ve got an excuse to make some cupcakes for it? I’ve even planned on glow-in-the-dark cupcakes already!

So my verdict? As you can see, I had a lot of fun playing with these cupcake wrappers. They are a great way to jazz up displays, stands, stalls etc, and quite cheaply too. Definitely worth a try if you are making cupcakes for a wedding, birthday, christening or other party, as they will really look the part and tie the cakes into the event.
They’re a good thickness of cardboard so would last well, but I wouldn’t recommend having the frosting or cake touching the wrapper itself, as eventually it would probably start to go a bit soggy from the moisture.

Although I’ve not got much day to day use for them – they will still be safely stored to use for in future cupcake photo shoots – watch this space! Thanks to Cupcake Chic for introducing me to such a pretty (and simple) way to spruce up cupcakes 🙂

STOP PRESS: Low-Fat Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Stop what you’re doing. Make this. Eat it. All. Resume what you were doing.

Every now and then something comes out of the kitchen that is just too tasty to be kept to itself for long. (On the flipside, there are other things which really don’t that will never be made public…).

Yes it’s a Sunday afternoon and most people are making roast dinners, mowing lawns…, well I’m making cupcakes, and I don’t care who knows it!

I’d made the cupcakes last night (post to follow later this week) and wanted a frosting to complement them. I toyed between sticky caramel, and fluffy cream cheese. A thought occured that wait, maybe I could combine the two! But my online search failed to bring anything good up for “low fat caramel cream cheese frosting”. Low fat cakes with high fat frosting. Check. Caramel cakes with cream cheese frosting. Check. Using tinned or ice-cream topping caramel. Check. Making it yourself from scratch? FAIL!

So – I tried it out for myself. I promise you won’t be disappointed; it’s super easy and super yummy. So yummy that I’d recommend making this just after lunch, dinner etc, so you’re not tempted to eat too much of it. Really. But if you do, it’s low-fat, so not the end of the world!

It uses only simple ingredients (and no cream!) that you probably already have in the fridge/cupboard, and sets quickly into a crunchy outside, with a soft, creamy inside. A sugary, sweet caramel flavour, balanced with the creaminess of the cheese.

Ingredients (ices approx 8 cupcakes, generously, or fills one eight-inch round cake. Double to fill and cover the cake)

1 teaspoon low fat spread (e.g. flora light)
25ml skimmed milk
60g light brown sugar
60g extra light cream cheese
200g icing sugar (+ a bit more for consistency)

I didn’t say it was low sugar!

Method

In a non-stick saucepan, mix the spread, milk and brown sugar. Turn up to a high heat, stirring as the butter melts to combine everything together.
Once it’s all mixed, take your spoon out and let the mixture start to boil. It should quickly start to bubble round the edges, before boiling up into a gorgeous gooey mess. Let it boil and bubble for about 30 seconds, stirring once or twice.
After 30 seconds, take the pan off the heat, and give it another quick stir. Leave to rest.

In a mixing bowl, first put in the cream cheese, then cover with the sieved icing sugar. Drizzle half of the caramel on top and start stirring. The key is not to pour the caramel straight on the cream cheese, it’ll make it melt.

Keep stirring and add the rest of the caramel, before mixing really well until everything is combined. The consistency will depend on how thick your caramel was, so if you need to add more icing sugar to thicken it up (e.g. for piping), then add a tablespoon or so at a time.

And that’s it! I promised it was easy!
Do your non-stick pan a favour and fill it up straight after you’ve finished with warm water. The caramel should dissolve right off – but if you leave it you’ll have a bit more of a challenge getting it clean.

As it uses liquid caramel, it will start to harden on the outside pretty quickly. Keep it in the bowl and stir it occasionally, and work quickly to ice your creations.

I used it to ice my cupcakes – it pipes like a dream:

But also works really well spread and smoothed with a knife:

The possibilities are endless – carrot cake and caramel, chocolate, banana and caramel, apple, cinnamon and caramel… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bowl to lick out…

An Afternoon at White Rabbit

Yesterday, following last months meet-up mix-up I finally managed to get together with the lovely girls from kerrycooks and makedoandspend. We all live relatively locally, love and blog about similar things. It seemed only fitting we embraced two of these great loves – cake, and shopping!

After meeting at the lovely new Cath Kidston shop in Nottingham (if you haven’t been in yet it’s a real treat, certainly their biggest store I’ve ever been in, 2 whole floors of loveliness) , we chanced our luck on getting a table at White Rabbit.

If you have not been White Rabbit Teahouse before, I heartily recommend giving it a try! It is one Nottingham’s tiniest tea rooms, but well worth trying for a table. They won’t let you queue as such (although taking a seat on the bench outside is perfectly acceptable if the resident rabbit will mooch up a little), nor can you book. I’d recommend either going earlier in the morning, or, if they are busy, ask how long it will be for a table, then have a mosy around some of the lovely shops nearby before popping back.

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long for a table, and, as us bloggers do, immediately starting snapping away at all the cute decoration!

How cute are these rabbit salt and pepper shakers – complemented by a fresh floral sprig?

To drink – supporting the local economy – fresh Belvoir juice from a rabbit-themed glass…

…and to eat – oh the choice! Cakes all freshly homemade and absurdly different to pick just one.

So – between the 4 of us – we picked 4! All different, and all of us had a good taste of each one. I can heartily recommend their choca-mocha,  blueberry, chocolate orange, and the day’s special, sticky toffee cake served with a jug the most delectable toffee sauce (as modelled by the lovely E from Make, Do and Spend).

We had a delightful afternoon, the staff were happy to let us sit, chat, photograph, ask questions, and ask for continual refills of tea from the beautiful china selection.

To finish off the afternoon, we wandered down to Station Street, and spent far too long browsing endlessly around the newly opened Hopkinson’s Vintage & Antique store. A great find and veritable treasure troves of all things old, from records, to jewellery, furniture to kitchenware (I rather fell in love with a wooden Edwardian cake stand…) and well worth a visit, but with 3 floors to look round, leave yourself plenty of time!

All in all – a truly delightful afternoon. Great to meet some new friends, try some new places, and wash it all down with a good cuppa 🙂

Too cute a photo not to share but not sure where to fit in above. Spot the rabbits… the inside of a pretty, pretty glass!

Rob’s Lemon Meringue Pie Cheesecake

Is it called Rob’s because he made it, or ate it…? I’ll let you decide!

I roped Rob into the kitchen earlier in the week to help make this cheesecake. In theory, he should be able to make it by himself (the story goes, one day he was too impatient to wait for me to come home, so I text him the recipe and very detailed instructions from the gym). In reality, he was under close guidance (and reminder of the ingredients/method), and muggins here had to do the whole cooking and meringue bit.

So realistically lets call it “our cheesecake” – but I’ll let him have his moment of glory (he was too shy to have his photo taken with it!!)
The method and ingredients are very similar to the cherry and amaretto cheesecake I made a few weeks back. So much so, I’ll post the ingredients, but refer you back there for most of the method.

Ingredients

Base
15 low-fat digestive biscuits
1 tablespoon low-fat spread

Lemon Layer
1 pack extra light soft cheese (250g, we used Tesco’s)
200g low fat natural yoghurt (plain, if you can find it, vanilla works too. you can use a little more or less if your pack size isn’t quite 200g)
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
Grated rind and juice of one whole lemon
Sweetener or sugar to taste (I’ve not put in a quantity as it depends on the size and freshness of the lemon, when you get to the taste stage, add little by little until you’ve got a good, tangy lemon flavour, just sweet enough that it doesn’t make you pull a face like you’re sucking lemons! Remember the meringue layer will be very sweet to balance it out.)

Meringue
3 egg whites
150 g white sugar (recipes I’ve seen say you must use caster sugar. I only had granulated (which is coarser). It worked like a dream. Take that recipe books!)

Method

– make the base and cheesecake layer as per this post, in an 8-10 inch round spring-form pan. When making the base, try and build it up the sides a little to support this tall cheesecake better.

– as it’s a bit larger than the cherry one, cook for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees C (depending on your oven). If it’s not ‘just set’ after this time, give it 5 minutes more before checking, then another 5, etc, until it’s done

– When it’s near the end of it’s cooking time, start making your meringue. I cannot be greatful enough for my stand mixer in this step – it makes it beautifully simple and no aching arms (which I recall from the last time I made meringue, as a child)

I followed Delia’s meringue method, which is simple enough in itself, but to summarise:

> start with a sparkling clean bowl and whisks. Wipe them if you need to, to ensure there is no grease
> put your 3 egg whites in the bowl, ensure there is no trace of shell or yolk
> whisk at a medium speed, upping to high after a minute, until your mixture resembles a cloud (I didn’t think I’d get this at first either, but you will! You’ll know when you’ve hit cloud texture – quite thick, foamy, doesn’t drip off the whisks and holds it’s shape)
> keep your mixture at high speed, and sprinkle in the sugar, one spoonful at time, leaving a few seconds between each
> stop when you have shiny, thick, glossy white mix, that holds itself in high peaks

– Spoon the meringue over the top of the cooked cheesecake, adding swirls and peaks if you like, before returning to the oven for 8 – 10 minutes (depending how crunchy you want your meringue on top).

I have seen recipes that tell you to cool the cheesecake in the fridge before adding the meringue. I’m not sure of the point in this, the cheesecake is only going to get baked again when you cook the meringue! You have to spread the meringue pretty quickly so it doesn’t melt into the cheesecake, but I certainly had no problem with cooking it altogether).

– When it comes out of the oven, immediately run a knife all around the edge, ensuring you push it all the way down to the bottom. This is to loosen all the layers away from the tin, so they can shrink back slightly as they cool.
– Cool, chill, eat!

It’s not the prettiest cake I’ve ever made but boy was it yummy! If you’re a stickler for neatness, you could try spreading the meringue so it doesn’t touch the sides. It doesn’t help that I actually used a loose-bottomed pan rather than a spring form, it took all 4 of our hands to get it out of the tin in one piece!

I was very pleasantly surprised with first attempt at making meringue – not to blow my own trumpet but it was amazing! Crunchy on the top and soft in the middle (if you wanted it more crunchy all the way through, bake for longer, at a lower temperature). So now I’m plotting what else I could make… and with a massive glut of eggs at home (18 from costco + 12 from my boss’s chickens), now seems like as good a time as any. Watch this space!

The Final Strawberry: Low-fat Trifles

After birthday cake and tarts, I had just enough strawberries left for one more dish. I’ve never made it myself before, but my dad makes amazing ones, and everybody seems to love a good trifle!

As with a lot of my cooking for Rob and I, I wanted to make them as healthy as possible, so used low-fat & low sugar alternatives wherever possible.

Then, it was as easy as 1, 2, 3…

1: Layers of chopped strawberries and sponge cake, covered in no-added-sugar Hartley’s strawberry jelly (the ones that come in powdered sachets).
(I didn’t have any suitable sponge in the freezer (Guinness cake & strawberry trifle anyone?!), so whipped up a really quick microwave sponge in a mug – almost any plain cake will do – I remember my grandma experimenting with sultana sponge, coconut cake, whatever she had left… in my opinion, the simpler the better!)
Leave in the fridge to set then…

2: Layer of custard (I used Bird’s instant custard, made with low-cal sweetener & skimmed). Leave in the fridge to set then…

3: Layer of sugar-free strawberry Angel Delight, whipped up with skimmed milk, topped with sugar sprinkles.

And it’s that easy; look at those layers!

I decorated the glasses with a little patterned tape from dotcomgiftshop; the glasses and sundae spoons are both from Ikea.

A small aside – nothing’s ever simple in my kitchen! I have inherited incredibly bad custard making skills from my mum. Not the proper, egg yolk kind, no, just simple, bird’s instant, mix with milk and sugar and heat. As a child I remember my mum’s attempts at desserts being either thick, yellow blancmange, or pale, yellow milk. My attempts are never much better:

Add to this 2 cats wanting to try some of everything – they were particular fans of licking the angel delight jug & spatula:

And the empty glasses!:

Simple Strawberry Tarts

After making a delectable strawberry birthday cake on Friday, we still had a lot of strawberries to use up (thanks Costco, 1.5kg for £4!) Not that I’m complaining, they are big, juicy fruits, and so nice to enjoy in this lovely weather we’re having.

Of course this got me thinking – what more could I bake with them? In the sticky heat (it was 80% humidity yesterday, yuck!) I didn’t want something that was going to need a lot of time in front of the oven or even in the kitchen – I’d rather be outside with a cool drink (or giant ice cream sundae).

The pastry was made from Delia’s shortcrust recipe – she has such lovely simple steps on how to make it perfectly, I’m not even going to try and recreate them here. For my 2 small tart tins, I used 75g of flour, and 35g of fat (a mix of butter and trex).
After chilling in the fridge, it rolled out smoothly and easily, before blind-baking (with ceramic baking beads) at 180 degrees C in our fan oven.

And that was the hardest bit done!

At the same time as the pastry came out of the oven, I mixed up the Quick Gel – this is an essential – normal jelly will soak into your base and not set quickly enough at all. I picked mine up easily in the supermarket – on the same shelf as the normal jellies.

The name is a little deceptive, you do have to make it 20 minutes before you want to use it, and keep stirring as it sets. Still pretty simple though, as baking goes 🙂

When the 20 minutes was nearly up, I started slicing the strawberries and arranging in the pastry cases. After another quick stir, I simply poured the quick gel slowly over the tarts, making sure to cover all the strawberries, so they had a nice glossy finish. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat (around 15 minutes minimum).

And… that’s it! Simples! I told you so 😉 *

*That’s nearly it.

There were a few small offcuts of pastry which I used to make some jam tarts with fresh strawberries. I rolled the pastry thinly into a rough circle shape, pressed it into a paper cupcake case, and added a good dollop of jam.

They baked for 12 minutes (slightly less than the bigger tart cases), and as soon as they came out I pressed half a strawberry into the melted jam. A couple of minutes in the fridge to cool, and they were ready for a quick afternoon snack!

Pink Iced Strawberry Buttercream Birthday Cake

A summer birthday and a big punnet of strawberries… how could you resist this amazing strawberry buttercream filled cake?

The cake was a victoria sponge, sweetened with a few spoonfuls of vanilla yoghurt (also makes it extra light and fluffy.)

To fill, I pureed some strawberries, an amazing excuse to use my new mini blender 🙂 Expect to see more recipes that require fine chopping, ground ingredients, etc…!

To this I added some a couple of teaspoons of butter, then icing sugar. Because the strawberries were quite liquid after pureeing, it took quite a bit of icing sugar to get it to a thick consistency, which I then put into the fridge to harden a little more before spreading inbetween the layers.

To top off the cake – matching pink icing! I finally found a use for the alphabet sprinkles I bought in Bath, and studded the rest of the cake with little white stars.

A lovely, light, fresh cake, perfect for summer. It went in the fridge for a good few hours to set (and still melted a little on the way over!) but the birthday girl certainly loved it. Happy birthday to Rob’s mum!

 

Edit: forgive me for I have sinned.

In my strawberry and sprinkle excitement, I completely forgot to reference my inspiration for the polka dot (star) topping. My English teacher’s would be fuming!

Please take a look at at the lovely Geraldine’s blog – she made her own birthday cake which looks amazingly tasty and brilliantly simple!

Home Sweet, Sweet Home

This weekend we went down to Maidenhead to visit some friends in their lovely new home. I’d promised to make cupcakes – but couldn’t but add a little house warming gift in the form of these pretty biscuits!

The recipe was from my biscuiteers book – a yummy, sticky chocolate that made soft, easy to roll dough. I also followed their suggestion of refrigerating the dough, before rolling it between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Mess free! I’d found a house template online (here), and printed them off. Then it was a simple case of laying them on the dough, and cutting around with a sharp knife.

12 minutes baking (and an impatient amount of cooling time!) later, I covered them in ‘brick’ shades of royal icing. A different colour for the house base and roof, finished off with different tiling patterns – spots, stripes, and swirly tiles.

This is one street I’d be more than happy to live in!

A little birdie told me…

Oops. This afternoon I accidentally set up a twitter for my blog. Something else to glue me to my computer / iPad / iPhone. Yes, #firstworldproblems I know. Oops. It’s started already!

If you’re down with the birds too, you can follow me @BakearamaUK using the button on the right hand side (under the calendar). Bear with me, I’m a little rusty. This is my third twitter account (the others are lost in cyberspace, gathering dust, passwords forgotten) but I promise to do better with this one…

If you’re not a twitterer, I apologise. This is the last I’ll mention of it, promise. Normal service will be resumed shortly, and here’s a yummy cake picture to make up for it.

Image

Traditional British fruit scones with jam and cream, made with friends on a rainy day in Cornwall, circa July 2010. Must make these again soon!

Sticky Chocolate, Caramel and Fudge Chunk Muffins

I’m the first to admit that summer makes me more than a little lazy. Kitchen time has definitely lessened in the past couple of months; who wants to be slaving over a hot stove when it’s already sticky and warm out*.
(*I know it’s not that warm in the UK. But I need some excuse for my laziness!)

These muffins were made a couple of months back, and my poor brain struggles to remember why. I have a feeling that Rob was off road-tripping with the band several nights in a row, and in my boredom out of sheer niceness I made these the first evening, so he’d have something nice to take away the next day.

The observant among you may recognise the ingredients for these – yes – they currently feature as my blog header 🙂
Why oh why would you buy packets of pre-cubed chocolate and fudge chunks, at twice or even more of the price of a big block, when you could let loose and chop up your own. (If you were so inclined you could also make your own fudge, but that’s a little more effort than I’m prepared to put in…). It also means there’s plenty of opportunity for taste testing and quality control…

I chose to make muffins rather than cupcakes, simply because they would be more dense and suited to the chunky flavours and textures.

I threw some very generous handfuls of fudge and chocolate into the muffin mix, and they baked to perfection, looking and smelling like absolute heaven!

Inside was a gorgeous gooey fudge-y chocolate mess. They set a little as the muffins cool, just enough to have sweet stickiness with every bite.

Did they need frosting? No, not at all. Did I want an excuse to add more chocolate at gooey-ness? Yes, yes I did.

The icing recipe comes from the rather delightful Primrose Bakery. If you’ve not heard of them before, they are a London-based cupcakery, who’ve grown immensely in the last few years and now supply shops such as Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason, and also extended their product range to include larger layer and celebration cakes.

Although I’ve yet to visit either of their shops, I bought and can heartily recommend iPhone app.

With super-cute pictures, and simple, easy-to follow instructions, it is a great source of inspiration, and also serves as a good reminder for the more basic recipes you may forget the contents of.

This is where I discovered heavenly caramel buttercream, it’s one of the best icings I’ve ever tasted and rather fun to make as well (I love it bubbling up in the pan!)

Ingredients

90g butter
135ml milk
330g light brown sugar
360g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Melt the butter, milk and brown sugar in a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Allow to boil for one minute, keep stirring as it will bubble up! (See photo below)

Allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, before beating in the icing sugar and vanilla essence (at this stage I substituted 30g icing sugar for 30g cocoa)

Leave to cool until it reaches the consistency you want. If you want to pour it, then it’s pretty much ready straight away. If you want to pipe it, as I did, it’ll need a good 30 – 60 minutes in the fridge first. (If you’re in a hurry add a little extra icing sugar to help thicken it up).
If it over-hardens, you can easily stir it up again, or pop over a low heat for a few seconds at a time.

Left – boiling up; Right – runny and ready to go!

I cooled my icing down to a pipeable consistency, before adorning the cakes with big swirls and more fudge chunks.

Wickedly good – I’m quite glad Rob took them away with him before they all had a chance to add themselves to my waistline!