Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas Cupcakes and Chocolate Reindeers (Treat Petite Entry!)

Readers, due to the madness of the festive season, it’s been near enough impossible to find the time to blog. But I’ve been spreading Christmas cheer recently… making festive gifts for the office.

I started my first batch of festive cupcakes using a standard vanilla sponge (can’t go wrong, recipe below) and then varying the toppings.

I made a series of red buttercream frosting cakes first and finished them with home-made chocolate reindeer.  The reindeer were really easy to make using two colours of Wilton Candy Melts and milk chocolate.  Firstly, I laid down the coloured candies using a fine paint brush to mark out the eyes and mouth.

I then let the colours set in the fridge, before pouring in the melted chocolate and letting the reindeers fully set in the fridge for several hours.  I used a silicone mould purchased at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham last month. The reindeer shapes then popped out of the mould really easily. They were a great talking point at our group Christmas Jumper Dinner!
Reindeers straight from the mould

Here comes Santa Claus... on a vintage saucer.

The finished article

Happy Holidays!

The second batch of Christmas cupcakes was produced for my colleagues. This time I went all out making Christmas trees. These were a bit of a challenge and I have to admit that some of my trees were more alpine like than others, but overall, they went down a treat.  I piped each one in green.  The biggest challenge was trying to bring the colour up… no matter how much colouring I used; they remained more mint green than tree green.  I then decorated each with coloured sugared balls and finished off with a chocolate star on top of the tree.  I used a selection of Dr Oetker chocolate stars and also their coloured candy balls.
Ready to be bagged up and given to colleagues!
Oh Christmas Tree.. Cupcake
So, these are really easy to recreate at home.  Here’s the fail safe recipe I use, taken from a magazine called Baked and Delicious (from Issue 1)

Basic Cupcake Recipe  

Ingredients-makes 12 cupcakes
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour, sifted
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk (I use semi skimmed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Approximate ingredients to pipe 12 cakes
125g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
Food colouring of your choice.
1 x disposable piping bag
1 x Wilton 1M nozzle (my favourite)

  1. Preheat oven to 190c/Fan 170c/Gas 5, then fill a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases.
  2. In a large bowl, cream softened butter and caster sugar.  I use an electric mixer for this part. Cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in beaten eggs a little at a time and a teaspoon of flour with each addition.  This helps to stop the mix curdling.
  4. Once all eggs are added, use a metal spoon and fold in remaining flour.  Add the milk and vanilla extract.  The mix should have a dropping consistency.
  5. Spoon the mix evenly into the 12 cases and put the tray in the oven.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden in colour and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  7. Remove from tray and cool on a wire rack.
Buttercream Method
  1. Beat the butter until smooth and slowly add in the icing sugar, creaming into the mix as you go.  Add a little vanilla extract if you wish.  I tend to taste as I go, to make sure it’s not too buttery.  You can add more icing sugar, to your taste, but make sure it’s still smooth enough to be piped (not too thick)
  2. Add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract if you like. This also loosens the mixture.
  3. Add your colouring of choice and mix to combine fully.
  4. Spoon the mix into a disposable piping bag, fitted with a nozzle. 
  5. Make sure cakes are cool, then pipe swirls over each cake, in an upwards movement, to create the tree shape.
  6. Decorate with further cake d├ęcor if required.
  7. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a couple of days

 Claire’s Tips

  • Make sure you buy unsalted butter, or the cakes will taste odd!
  • If your butter is too hard, grate into a bowl.  It makes it easier to cream and soften.
  • Be careful with food colouring – too much can leave an unpleasant aftertaste.
  • Don’t be afraid of store bought decorations.  They are a simple way to make your cakes look beautiful.
  • Buy disposable piping bags in bulk online if you pipe a lot.  It’s much easier to bin them at the end, than trying to clean them!

Treat Petite

I am entering my cupcakes into Stuart and Kat’s baking challenge Treat Petite this month, hosted by Cakey Boi, with the theme Happy Holidays!  Kat will host on alternate months at: The Baking Explorer.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Chocolate Banana Muffins


Winter has most definitely arrived.  Minus 2 degrees this evening and we even saw some snow today! Following on from the Florida trip, I’m still struggling to adjust to the cold. So, it’s definitely time to start the winter bakes.

I’m quite exited for the festive season and have some Christmas cakes and bakes being planned to pop on the blog in due course.

But firstly, I’ve been evoking memories of summer camping.  A few of us went up to the Scottish Highlands in the summer, for a wigwam weekend (ok, so glamping more than camping…) and indulged in the classic chocolate banana wrapped in tinfoil combo in the fire pit.

I’ve been longing to recreate this combo since we got back from the trip and try and work it into a recipe.  So here we go.  A classic chocolate banana muffin.

A really easy recipe which I adapted from Mumsnet

Chocolate Banana Muffins 


225 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150 g soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
125 ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
60 g chocolate chips
250 g bananas, ripe and mashed with a fork
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Cream the eggs, vegetable oil and sugar together in a bowl.
  3. Add flour, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder until well combined.
  4. Mash up the banana in separate bowl. Stir in the mashed banana and the chocolate chips.
    Mash banana in a separate bowl 
    Adding the chocolate chips
  5. Split the mixture evenly between 12 muffin cases and bake for 30-40 minutes.
    Muffins set for the oven
  6. If desired sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of each muffin towards the end of baking, for extra crunch on top!
  7. Muffins are ready when golden brown and skewer inserted comes out clean.
    Straight from the oven!
  8. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

All 12 may not have made it to the cooling rack...

Claire’s Tips

  • Don’t bother to sieve the flour as the mix should look lumpy and uneven.
  • Regular value vegetable oil will do the job – no need to buy expensive brands.
  • Keep the muffins in an airtight tin for up to 3 days.  After this, they start to become soggy, soft and cake like.