Starring Mrs Lovett’s Meat Pies – as Cupcakes!

mrs lovetts meat pies fom sweeney todd cupcakes made using chocolate chunks red icing and painted fondant topping in silver cupcake foil case

Last weekend Rob and I were invited to a fabulous “Musicals and Theatre” themed fancy dress party. You may have already seen the Sound of Music cake pops I made for the party as well. My biggest challenge, and on request from the hosts, was to create some ‘meat pies’ for Mrs. Lovett’s kitchen, from Sweeney Todd. Never one to refuse a request I spent the past couple of weeks scheming to come up with these baked beauties!

I wanted the base of the cake to be dense and chocolatey, with different textures to give the effect of a chunky pie filling. I started off with 2 whole bars of milk and white chocolate, bashed and broken into thick chunks.

milk and white chocolate chunks home baking cupcakes

The main sponge of the cupcake was a rich chocolate, and they baked up beautifully with chocolate oozing out of the top. (I coated the chunks in a little flour before mixing in so they didn’t all sink to the bottom).

chocolate cupcakes with white chinks freshly baked oozing

Next up – a gooey ‘meat juice’ – aka a thick, sticky red velvet buttercream, lightly flavoured with chocolate and vanilla, and coloured a gross blood red!

blood red icing buttercream meat juices for mrs lovetts meat pies sweeney todd

I used this to fill the cupcakes…

chocolate cupcake meat pie chunks oozing red red blood meat juice icing halloween

… and cover the tops:

chocolate cupcake in silver foil pie case blood red icing topping sweeney todd mrs lovett meat pies

Any good pie needs a pastry lid, and these were certainly no exception… or were they? This pie was covered in a coloured fondant, using a highly technical mix of yellow, orange, peach, ivory and even black food colouring.

making a cupcake look like pastry pies fondant topping silver foil case

To get the proper meat pie look, the edges were crimped with the edge of a fork, and little pastry leaves added to the centre.

mrs lovett meat pies from sweeney todd fondant pastry crimping edges with a fork leaf decoration

Fresh meat pies, ready to ‘bake’!

fresh pastry meat pies actually are chocolate cupcakes with fondant topping and silver foil case

And bake they did – with the careful help of my lovely painter and decorator Rob. He used brown food colouring diluted with water, and stippling with a paint brush to create a fantastic baked pastry crust to the pies.

meat pie cupcake for musical theme sweeney todd mrs lovetts meat pies entirely edible and sweet

Get them while they’re hot!

freshly baked meat pie lookalike cupcakes made with chocolate and fondant topping paint effects and pastry

And Mrs. Lovett’s pies wouldn’t be complete without a few (fondant) extras:

mrs lovetts meat pies from sweeney todd for musical theme party fondant topping and gory body parts eyes nose bloody finger halloween cupcake baking ideas

We arrived at the party to find the kitchen amazingly transformed into Mrs Lovett’s pie shop, completely bedecked with fake brickwork all around the normal white walls. And, as the birthday boy works down in Leicestershire, he’d picked up a huge haul of pork pies from Melton Mowbray. My how this confused people!

mrs lovetts pie shop musical themed party singing in the rain pork pies cupcakes that look like pies brickwork background

fleet street bloody sign against brickwork mrs lovetts pie shop sweeney todd musical theatre fancy dress theme party

We gave them half a chance by putting the cupcake ‘pies’ on cake stands, but there was still a lot of surprise when they bit in! I didn’t get to try one (don’t worry I stocked up on birthday cake), but received a rave review that they tasted “like a bite of a dream”. Result! Look gross but taste great 🙂

mrs lovetts meat pies kitchen baking cupcakes on stand fondant made to look like pastry nose

I couldn’t help but share some more photos from the party as so much effort had gone into decorating the house.

The conservatory morphed into The Little Shop of Horrors, complete with a handmade Audrey 2:

little shop of horrors front audrey 2 plant built at home musical theatre fancy dress theme party

Recognise the chandelier from Phantom of the Opera? Again, all handmade!

phantom of the opera chandelier built at home gold beading white half face mask and rose musical theatre fancy dress theme party

And the pièce de résistance – a giant Clock of the Time Dragon from Wicked. Complete with moving clock hands and smoke from the dragons mouth. AMAZING!

wicked musical clock of the time dragon built at home fancy dress theme party

To finish – my rock star and I in our costumes!

mamma mia abba and beatles costumes musical fancy dress theme party jen and rob electric guitar

The Sound of Music Lemon Cake Pops – with Handy Hints!

sound of music do re mi fa so la ti treble clef note lemon cake pops chocolate

This weekend just gone was largely centred around (another!) rather amazing theme party. This time – Musicals and Theatre. I have another bake to share with you but as time is tight I had to get the shorter one up first!

I’d been itching to try out the new cake pop stand that Secret Santa bought me for Christmas, and this was my first real opportunity.

First up – a quick lemon sponge cake, using 100g butter, 100g sugar, 2 eggs, 110g SR flour, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

lemon victoria sponge cake for making cake pops flavoured

It seemed a shame to break it up and put it into the blender but, as soon as the cake was cool, its fate was set!

cake pop instructions tips using a blender to make fine breadcrumbs

I picked up a surprisingly amount of tips during my quick cake pop session at the April Delights course back in December. It seems to me cake pops are a combination of luck, practice, patience and general confidence, but these tips certainly helped me get better results that previous attempts.

Tip 1 – ensure your cake is a very fine breadcrumb. A blender definitely helps with this, you can do it by hand but just be very thorough.

Tip 2 – go easy on the buttercream. You can see below it only really took a spoonful, again the blender is useful here. You want the mixture to just be at the balling up stage (second picture below) – i.e. the buttercream only just sticks the cake, it’s not too sticky or mushy. Clearly I made far too much buttercream, you can see the remnants on the Chocolate & Lemon Hearts post from last week.

cake pop mixture tips blender fine breadcrumbs and buttercream lemon flavoured

lemon flavoured cake pop dough thick consistency using a blender not too much buttercream

Next up – dividing the mixture into equally sized balls, laid out ready for their sticks and coating.

Tip 3 – try to avoid refrigerating your cake mix. It will be too cold once it gets smothered in the candy melts/chocolate, and the combination of heat differences and contracting on cooling can cause your precious cake pops to crack. If your mixture has a good buttercream to cake ratio, it shouldn’t be sticky so shouldn’t really need to go in the fridge anyway.

balls of cake and buttercream dough for lemon cake pops

Next up, prepare your chocolate or candy melt coating. Although I’m still a little unsure about them (what exactly ARE they?!), I can’t deny that candy melts work wonders when it comes to cake pops.

Tip 4 – prepare your chocolate/candy coating in a thin, tall mug. This will give you a good depth for dipping without having to prepare a lot of excess coating. (I found this one online but cannot remember the site at all, apologies).

I find that candy melts need a good teaspoon or two of vegetable fat (I use trex) to get them to a good dipping consistency. It makes the cooling/setting process a little slower but definitely helps them coat the cake pops better.

cake pop tips wilton white candy melts using a mug to dip into

Have your sticks and cake balls all ready to go so you can attach them together quickly and easily.

Tip 5 – dip your stick well into the candy melts, 2-3 inches at least. Let the excess drip off, and when you push into the cake ball this should create a good, firm base to hold the two together. Push the stick carefully but firmly in, to about 2/3 of the way into the cake ball (you don’t want it to reappear out the top!)

I love taking photos at this stage – they still look so uniform and perfectly cute!

cake pops tips attaching to sticks using candy melts instructions

Now, onto my least favourite part, dipping. Make sure the bases on the sticks are set firmly (you shouldn’t get chocolatey fingers if you touch them), and if notwait! They will only fall off… If you’ve added oil or vegetable fat to candy melts, or are using chocolate, you may find this takes a good few minutes.

I don’t really want to give tips on dipping as I’ve not quite perfected it yet. The cake obviously needs to be completely coated, followed by a combination of rolling and tapping lightly on the side of the mug to help the excess drip off.

cake pop dipping action shot in white wilton candy melts hints and tips

The one big Tip 6 is that it makes life SO much easier having a cake pop stand! Not having to fiddle around trying to balance your chocolatey sticks in polystyrene, mugs, or whatever else you may have to hand, means that you can keep the pop perfectly upright straight away, and has plenty of room to set whilst you make the others.

As I said – not as perfect as I’d like…

white chocolate and lemon cake pops in perspex cake pop stand present

With my basic cake pops finished I went onto decorations. To fit in with the party’s musical theme I was originally just going to do a combination of different notes, treble clefs, etc. But once the idea of the infamous “do, re, mi” song got into my head, I was decided!

Under close supervision from Chilli (cats do like chocolate, don’t you know), I piped some letters and notes onto greaseproof paper. These were made out of normal milk chocolate, I’d have liked some black candy melts but wasn’t going to buy a whole pack just for these little details!

chocolate sound of music decorations piped onto greaseproof paper kitten cat overlooking

After letting the chocolate set in the fridge, I carefully ‘glued’ the decorations to the top of the cake pops using a little more white candy melt, applied with a cocktail stick.

sticking musical chocolate decorations onto cake pops sound of music themed

And to finish – a good spritz of gold shimmer spray, and black edible glitter carefully applied to the chocolate detail.

gold shimmer and black glitter decoration sound of music cake pops

Hey presto- fabulous musical cake pops! Not perfect but I’m quite pleased how they turned out, and they certainly went down a storm at the party!

do re mi fa so la ti the sound of music cake pops instructions hints recipe theme ideas

musical note and treble clef cake pops sound of music theme party

Chocolate & Lemon Hearts

chocolate cupcakes egg and dairy free lemon icing yellow sugar sprinkles

Last night, amid a kitchen full of cake pops, I ended up with half a bowl of spare lemon buttercream. What to do…? I couldn’t throw it away; I shouldn’t eat it (although easily could have done!) so the only thing for it was to make some cupcakes to ice. It makes sense it my head.

I’ve got some more baking to do tonight – a good friend is having a big themed birthday party at the weekend – and haven’t got many eggs in the house. So, a quick look online found this super-quick, egg-free recipe. The cakes turned out so well I simply had to share it.

Recipe: (adapted from No Eggs!), makes 6 standard size cupcakes

75g self raising flour
10g cocoa powder
85g caster sugar
75ml milk (I used soya-milk, so dairy-free cakes too!)
40ml oil (the original recipe recommends corn, I only had olive, it worked fine)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt

Method:

Sieve the flour and cocoa. Add the other ingredients. Beat well until there are no lumps! (It’s quite a liquid mixture, it won’t look as thick as a normal sponge).
Bake at 180 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and spongy when pressed (your finger shouldn’t leave a dent when you press). To get the shape I used a silicon hearts mould sprayed well with cake release.

Cool, and ice! As mentioned I used a lemon buttercream, and finished the cupcakes by dipping in yellow shimmer sugar.

chocolate heart cupcakes with lemon icing and sugar sprinkles egg and dairy free recipe

Aside from the fact that you really couldn’t tell it’s any different to a normal cupcake recipe, the thing I love best is that they come out so moist and light – look at that sponge!

soft moist airy well-risen inside of egg free cupcake recipe no dairy chocolate and lemon

Definitely one to keep on the quick list – especially as they can be mixed up so fast, and in one bowl.

heart shape chocolate cupcake with lemon icing and yellow sugar sprinkles

Simple Strawberry Jam Swiss Roll

strawberry jam and buttercream swiss roll simple recipe sugared glass reflection artistic

Swiss roll is not something that I’ve made before, or had a huge desire too. But, I had to make dessert for dinner at a friends last night, and oddly enough had a dream my mum was teaching me to make a swiss roll (albeit a chocolate one) – well, simple things please simple minds, my decision was made!

On further investigation it turns out to be a delightfully simple dessert, quick and easy to make (less than hour from packets to plate) and so few ingredients! Would you believe the sponge is actually made without butter… so you could class it as fat-free or certainly low-fat. I vamped mine up a bit with some buttercream but the jam alone would have been more than sufficient.

The basic ingredients are as simple as follows: (adapted from Channel 4 recipe)

3 large eggs
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
Approx 1/3 jar of jam to fill

swiss roll ingredients recipe fat free strawberry jam eggs sugar plain flour

The method itself is also very simple – and vastly helped by having a stand mixer. If you haven’t a hand-held electric mixer would work but I wouldn’t recommend doing it all by hand unless you’re feeling very, very strong….

The eggs and sugar need to be beaten together on a high-speed for about 10 minutes, until they go from yellow and liquid…

kitchen stand mixer breville beating eggs and sugar for swiss roll recipe

… to thick, pale, light and around double the volume:

beaten eggs and sugar increased in volume and pale using stand mixer swiss roll recipe

If you are lucky enough to have a stand mixer (one of the best investments (ok presents from Rob) I’ve ever had, mine is a Breville and was only £50 from Tesco – unbelievably 2 years later it’s actually gone down in price and is now £44!) – then prepare your baking tray while the eggs and sugar are whisking. If not it doesn’t really matter if you have to let the mix set a few minutes once it’s made.

I really don’t see why you’d want to buy a special swiss roll tin. As you can see mine was an ordinary baking tray and turned out more than fine! The tray itself needs to be prepared as follows:

– oil the tray itself, base and sides (a pastry brush helps)
– place in some greaseproof paper, perfectly cut to size (even the rounded corners)
– oil the greaseproof paper, again with the pastry brush
– sprinkle well with sugar and flour

greased lined floured sugared baking tin for swiss roll no special pan needed

Back to the cake mixture – once your eggs and sugar are a good, dense volume, and leave thick trails when you pick up the whisk, it’s onto the flour. Simply sieve this and fold in slowly and gently with a metal spoon, so as not to destroy too much of the precious air your whisking has created.

sieving sifting flour action shot fold with metal spoon swiss roll recipe

Once well-mixed (and make sure it is or it will not bake evenly), carefully pour or spoon into the tin. As it needs to spread out over a large surface area, try to pour or spoon as evenly as possible. Smooth into the corners and flatten as gently and carefully as possible, remember it is a very aerated mixture.

swiss roll mixture in tin flattened spread with spatula

Bake at 180 – 200 degrees for about 8 minutes. Check it after this time as you don’t want it to over cook (or it may crack). The sponge should be light and springy when gently pressed. If your fingers leave dents then give it another minute.

While baking – another step of preparation. This time a damp tea towel (mine had just come out the wash), covered with a large piece of greaseproof paper (bigger than your tin), and doused in sugar. I don’t think mine had enough sugar at this stage as it did stick a little to the paper on rolling – so be generous!

swiss roll prepared baking sheet sugared on damp baking towel for cooling and rolling

As soon as the sponge is baked, take it out of the oven and work quickly! Run a sharp knife around the edge and ready…

baked swiss roll cake turning out onto sugared baking sheet

…flip! Turn it out firmly and quickly onto the prepared tea towel / baking sheet.

swiss roll freshly baked cake base ready to roll up

Remove the greaseproof paper backing that the sponge baked on. The oil/flour/sugar preparation should ensure it comes away smoothly and cleanly without tearing off any of the cake.

Trim the sides of the cake so the whole sponge is a clean rectangle, this will give your sides a good finished look as well. (Hint – the trimmed sides are a great taste test!)

trimming swiss roll sides for neat edges sponge cake fat free

If you are just using jam then you can skip this next cooling stage and you can go straight to jam. As I was using buttercream the sponge needed to cool first so the buttercream didn’t separate and melt when spread on.

Regardless of whether you are cooling or jamming, the cake needs to be rolled while it is still warm to prevent it cracking, so work quickly!

To allow mine to cool I placed another sheet of greaseproof paper in the middle, then gently used the tea towel and lower piece of paper to guide the sponge into a firm, tight roll. The dampness of the tea towel will also help prevent the sponge from cracking.

rolling swiss roll cake with greaseproof paper inner to cool and fill with buttercream

Once fully rolled, I tucked the end underneath and left the sponge to cool. Ok it’s very cold at the moment in our kitchen but it really didn’t take long to cool – perhaps 10 minutes.

In this time I made my buttercream. I only wanted quite a thin layer so used a mix of 50g butter to 110g icing sugar. This made quite a stiff icing, which spread on the cake but wasn’t too gooey too ooze out everywhere.

Once the cake was cool (you can tell just by gently putting your hand round the rolled tea towel), I very gently unwrapped and unrolled the sponge, before spreading with the buttercream and jam.

swiss roll sponge spread with buttercream and strawberry jam

The rolling was a little more tricky (and sticky!) when there was jam involved, and actually I seemed to have over-jammed, as I ended up with a tidal wave of strawberry near the end (sorry for the blurry action shot!).

I quickly scooped this off with a spoon so the end had only a very thin spread of jam, meaning it stuck well but didn’t ooze out everywhere.

rolling swiss roll action shot oozing strawberry jam

Once rolled, sit the swiss roll seam-side down and leave to rest for a little while. Gravity and jam alone will keep the roll tightly stuck together.

rolled finished swiss roll leaving to sit seam side down

And to finish – nothing more than a good sprinkle of sugar over the top:

sugared decoration on swiss roll finishing touches simple easy recipe

The finished product! I was very impressed by my “inspired” choice of dessert – thanks mum… in a roundabout way – and hopefully my friends were too. It is exceptionally good on its own but we had ours after Sunday dinner with lashings of custard – diplomatically and in a way that only good friends could, skipping small ‘polite’ slices and cutting it straight into quarters at the off!

strawberry jam and buttercream swiss roll simple fat free sponge low-fat recipe

Rice Crispy and Marshmallow House

christmas present gift rice crispy and marshmallow house decorated with royal icing and sweets snowman and penguin

So Twelfth night has passed and the decorations are all down – but that doesn’t stop us playing with our Christmas presents! Of all the lovely things I was lucky to get this is definitely one of my favourites. It’s actually for Rob and I to share – me to make and him to eat!

chocolate crispy house kit christmas present john  lewis baking gift

Inside it had everything needed to make a big sticky house:

ingredients in chocolate crispy kit marshmallows rice crispies royal icing

And instructions on the back! (And if you read the small print you can also see the kit came from John Lewis)

instructions reverse of box chocolate crispy house rice crispies marshmallow

First step was to melt the marshmallows (with a couple of tablespoons of butter, then only thing not included in the kit). At this stage I very nearly dug out a spoon and didn’t go any further!

melting marshmallows gooey pan

The melted marshmallows were not quite what I’d expected, very thick, sticky and gooey. It took a good bit of elbow grease to get the rice crispies mixed in.

melted marshmallows sticky and thick

Then it was a simple case of pressing the rice crispies into the plastic mould. I covered the back with a piece of greaseproof paper to press the mixture down firmly and evenly.

rice crispie marshmallow house firming and flattening pieces in mould

With the mixture so firmly together the pieces came out of the mould easily, with a little pushing through from the back.

crispy house walls coming out of mould marshmallows sticky

After repeating the marshmallow melting and adding cocoa for the roof pieces, I put everything on a baking tray and into the fridge to set firmly.

Next step was to stick everything together. The supplied sachet of royal icing was a good thickness and plentiful for everything I needed to do. Sticking bits together not so easy! I had to employ a few heavy kitchen items to support the sides while they set.

constructing a marshmallow crispy house for christmas using heavy supports to stick the walls together

Likewise when it came to the roof pieces – lucky I had another great present that was a perfect size to sit underneath and hold them up. Cupcake spoons I’m sure will feature again soon!

marshmallow crispy house chocolate roof holding up supporting while royal icing sets

While the house was drying I used up the remaining rice crispies to make up some occupants – a big, round snowman, and cute little penguin. Decorating the with the royal icing and suites supplied, I used an edible-ink pen to dot the penguins eyes as there were no more chocolate crispies left!

penguin and snowman made out of rice crispy and marshmallows decorated with royal icing and sweets jelly beans

And finally onto the most fun part – adoring the house with the rest of the sweets and royal icing.

I piped tiles and a sweet design onto the roof:

roof piece royal icing tiled with sweets jelly beans chocolate rice crispies and marshmallows

And topped the two roof pieces with some jelly hearts:

icing sweetie tiles on the roof of crispy house chocolate

For the front, I’d moulded a chocolate front door, decorated with yet more sweets!

decoration on the front of rice crispy marshmallow house front door jelly beans royal icing chocolate

The finished product! It was actually quite simple to assemble, as long as you have enough space in the fridge to chill the pieces first. And a lot quicker than baking all the pieces for my previous Christmas Gingerbread House!

rice crispy house marshmallows with chocolate sweets and royal icing penguin and snowman

The new occupants seemed very pleased with their new house :-):

rice crispy snowman and penguin chocolate outside christmas marshmallow house

The only downside I could find; the marshmallow never really sets firm so you have to work in a very cold environment. It wasn’t even warm in our house and 15 minutes of decorating was more than the construction could handle…

collapsing marshmallow and rice crispy house too warm

Rob was quite happy with this result as it meant eating the house straight away – if needs must!

A great afternoons entertainment and eating from a brilliant Christmas present, plus I’ll definitely be keeping the mould to use again next (this) year. Chocolate houses maybe…?

I did weigh the ingredients before putting the house together  so could easily recreate the recipe – 2x rice crispies at 85g each, 2x marshmallows at 100g each, and 10g of cocoa powder for the chocolate roof pieces. Melt the marshmallows 1 pack at a time with 25g of butter, stir in 1 pack of rice crispies, cool slightly and press into the mould. Repeat adding cocoa powder for the chocolate pieces).