03 August 2009

Carrot Cake

(*Arrghhhhh! I actually made and wrote in a draft this months bake a couple of weeks back as I knew I'd not be around this weekend - then promptly forgot to post it! :( Ah well, better late than never.)

Wow, time flies and I can hardly believe that it's already my 2nd Sweet & Simple Bake event!
Carrot cake was the order of the month and while I've made Carrot cake before this was a different recipe and I've never made with frosting so I was quite excited to make this tried, trusted and - yet again from S&S bakes - winning formula.

This is a wonderfully dark, moist and gently spiced cake and the cream cheese frosting makes for a nice, creamy light contrast on top. It went down a storm with my workmates alongside our 11 o'clock cuppa - I think the guys are coming to enjoy the monthly bake as much as me ;)

I didn't adapt the original recipe too much overall. Like last month's bake, I did substitute a very small amount of the sugar for sweetener. 200g=approx a cup so I filled it around 4/5th of the way with the brown sugar then topped off with the substitute. I never use a lot of sweetener just in case it affects texture and taste but it's nice to just take the edge off some of the naughty stuff if I get the opportunity.

I opted for individual cakes. A couple of months back I picked up an awesome giant muffin pan from Sainsbury's which I've been trying to find excuses to use at every turn. Did I say it made giant muffins? I really meant to say they're MONSTER SIZE MUFFINS!

You get a LOT of batter from this recipe so I was able to make 12 individual cakes.

I also made 25% extra of the cream cheese frosting than the original called for. I'd love to say this is because I remembered from my last experience that making things in multiple pans rather than 1 big cake creates a larger surface area to cover. The sad reality is I plopped too much cream cheese into the bowl and I couldn't be arsed to take it out again (I'm not even joking, haha!) That said, I still didn't have quite enough frosting to properly cover the last cake so I erm, *cough* well I ate that one. I had to destroy the evidence of my failure to calculate frosting quantities, obviously!

Amazingly, I've actually never made cream cheese frosting before, and I ended up a whisker away from messing it up terribly. I knew that the butter needed to be soft so I left it out the fridge most of the day and I took the cream cheese out about an hour before. I whipped it all up and it looked beautiful and silky smooth so I loaded my piping bag and popped it in the fridge for 20 minutes (not long enough but it was getting late in the evening and I was impatient) to firm up again to make it easier to put on top of my cakes.

When I started to pipe the frosting though I noticed it wasn't as smooth anymore but had a little bit of 'texture' to it. On looking it up on the web afterward I found out that the butter should only be taken from the fridge 2-3 hours prior so that it's soft, but still cool to the touch and the cream cheese should be the one left out all day. If not then the frosting is likely to curdle...I didn't even know it could curdle, meep!

My frosting may not be quite perfect but at least it didn't completely separate and unless you're specifically looking for it then chances are you'd not even notice the texture. I never mentioned it to my workmates and I certainly didn't see them take so much as a pause before woofing it down at any rate, hehe.

Another tasty success and a lesson in frosting learned. That said I'm not a huge fan of frosting and these cakes really are so delicious and moist that next time I'll probably just revert to leaving them plain, or possibly try it as a layer cake with the frosting in the middle making for a more subtle compromise.

So, without further wibbling, here's the recipe I ended up with.

Carrot Cake

180g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten
150 ml vegetable or sunflower oil
200g soft light brown sugar
300g grated carrots
100g sultanas
75g walnuts, chopped (optional)

1 Mix the eggs, oil, brown sugar, grated carrot, sultanas and chopped walnuts together in a large bowl.

2 Mix together all the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and then gently fold into the wet mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

3 Pour mix individual cake papers and place in a pre-heated oven gas mark 2/300 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting

90g room temperature cream cheese
90g softened butter
125g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Walnut halves for decorating

1 Beat the cream cheese and butter together.

2 Add the vanilla extract, icing sugar and mix well until it gets a smooth and silky texture.

3 Using a palette knife or a piping bag spread or whirl the frosting evenly over the top of the cooled cakes. If it's a warm day then you may wish to place the frosting back in the fridge for a little while after you've mixed it to allow it to firm up and be easier to work with.

27 July 2009

Nutella, Kinder Bueno & white chocolate cupcakes

What do you do when you are given a ton of free chocolate at work that's literally about to hit it Best Before date? That's the dilemma I faced last week when my office received in the region of 60+ LARGE boxes of Kinder Bueno's from a left over promotion we had run previously. I know, I know, I can almost hear you crying "Oh no, poor poor Wonk!".

Now, we're a fairly big company but even for us that was no small challenge, especially when half of them are women on diets (Ha! Their loss is my hips gain). Fortunately I have no such burden and as a responsible adult I knew the seriousness of the situation - I mean, my god, we were faced with actually having to toss some of them away *panicks* - and so I bravely stepped forward and scooped up a whole bunch of the little buggers.

However, now that I had them, what was I to do with them all? Enter stage left - our old friend Mr Cupcake.

I used a basic sponge cake recipe for these, in fact, almost identical to the one I used for the Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake. I then added the chopped up Bueno's and divided the mix in two before adding melted white chocolate to one half, and melted Nutella to the other portion.

While the name of the cupcakes might sound like a total choc-fest, the quantities of chocolate I used were fairly low as I don't really (very often at least) go for mass chocolate overload so if you want a more in your face chocolate experience you'll need to up the quantities because these babies are a more subtle prize.

I also didn't know how much of an effect the Bueno's would have on the mix. I have to be brutally honest here, if I hadn't seen them go in I'd have no idea they were present taste-wise - the hazelnut flavour just didn't survive the baking. I've left the recipe below exactly how I made it but it's either choc chips next time or maybe try 3 packets of Bueno's. They did add a nice speckle to the mix at least, haha!

Talking of which I am exceptionally chuffed with the effect these produce. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I'm a total sucker for novelty stuff and so this 2 tone effect pushes all my buttons. I just can't help but look at these and keep thinking about how cute they are.

What do you mean, a cupcake can't be cute? I beg to differ my friends, I beg to differ.

Nutella, Kinder Bueno & white chocolate cupcakes

175g caster sugar
175g butter or margarine
175g Self Raising Flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2xpack (86g) Kinder Bueno's, chopped
75g white chocolate, melted
75g Nutella, slightly warmed

1 Cream butter & sugar together till pale and fluffy

2 Mix in the egg, milk and Vanilla

3 Add chopped Bueno's and stir well

4 Gently fold in the flour and baking powder

5 Split the mix in half and stir in the melted white chocolate into one, the warm Nutella into the other.

6 Using different spoons to keep the colours from mixing, pop small amounts of both mixes into the bottom of each side of your cupcake papers. The batter moves across the cases fairly quickly so I alternated loading each one up with small amounts rather than just 2 big single dollops of mix. ie. small spoon of dark, then white beside, then added more dark, then more white.

7 Place in a pre-heated oven on Gas mark 4/350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until they spring back to the touch.

20 July 2009

Fly me to the moon...

1969 was a monumental year for the world. I was born! Oh yeah, and I heard some guys landed on the moon or something too.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first manned moon landing and NASA are doing a couple of cool things in honour of the occasion.

The most high profile thing they've done is re-release digitally enhanced film footage which is pretty nifty to watch. Unless you're a conspiracy theorist, then you're probably suffering from a frenzied bout of hypertension right now. Sucks to be you, huh?

Would be great to have seen new footage too...except some spoon in NASA managed to tape over it all. Seems the tapes were just considered a backup for the all important live broadcast and no one thought to love them and hug them for being something special. Come on guys, it's not exactly rocket science...oh, erm...

That's not all they've being doing though. NASA for the last few days have been tweeting live the entire mission & landing. Check out @apolloeleven on Twitter to join in on the action. Ok, maybe action isn't exactly the best word but it's good, clean geeky fun at any rate.

Google are getting in on the act too. You've heard of Google Earth? Pah, that's nothing! Google Moon is the future. Find out just how small an area was actually explored by the Apollo missions. No wonder they want to go back.

The photo above is one of the Crew Earth Observations Team top ten pictures taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Just one of many free photo's available from the NASA website. Well worth checking out.

19 July 2009

Fruit Scones

Baking is such fun. I mean, what else can you do that lets you play with soft squidgy dough, work with all sorts of different shapes and sizes and generally run riot with loads of flour and a rolling pin...and nobody raises so much as an eyebrow at you! How can anyone possibly resist that kind of simple, almost childlike liberation that making a bit of a mess gives you? Certainly not me at any rate.

Yesterday I made some scones. Scones are brilliant. No, they're better than brilliant. They taste good on their own, with butter, with jam, with clotted cream, warm or cold...and best of all, they're dead easy and quick to make. In fact the only real way to mess up scones is by trying too hard and over-working the dough. The lazier you are at combining the ingredients the better and lighter they are. Scones were put on this earth for people like me to make.

What makes these even more fun is that you don't need a mixer or anything to make these, but rather you mainly combine everything with your hands/fingertips. I'm not sure why it's such a joy sticking your mitts in a bowl and getting a bit gooey, but it is.

I had a little bit of buttermilk in the fridge and when poking around for ideas I found a Delia Smith recipe which I adapted.

I used soft light brown sugar instead of caster as in general I just prefer working with that, I love that things come out the oven with just a little bit of a deeper colour. I also slightly upped the amount of fruit used as when I made these before I thought it just needed a wee bit more. Finally, I dusted with a sprinkle of brown sugar before putting in the oven instead of flour.


Innocent, pale looking rounds sitting on a tray.


Golden brown fluffy scones.

There is of course only one thing remaining to do...and that's to take one still warm from the oven and spread with a little butter.

Mmmmmmm, delicious. Nom nom nom!

Fruit Scones

225g self-raising flour
40g soft light or caster sugar
75g butter or margarine, soft and cubed
pinch of salt
60g mixed dried fruit
1 egg, beaten
3-4 tablespoons buttermilk (can use normal milk)
Sugar for dusting

1 Sift Flour, add salt and sugar and mix. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mix until it turns fine and crumbly.

2 Add dried fruit making sure there are no clumps all stuck together and stir.

3 Make a well in the middle of the mix and pour in the beaten egg and 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Using a knife, 'drag' in the edges of the flour mix from around the outside of the bowl into the middle. Keep doing this until it starts to come together into a dough. Your dough should be moist but not sticking to the edge of the bowl anymore. If it's too sticky dust very small amounts of flour into the mix at a time, if it's too dry and not coming together, add the last spoon of buttermilk.

4 Take your dough ball and roll out into a circle on a floured surface to around an inch depth. Scones do rise in the oven but not by a crazy amount so if you like really fat ones then take this into account when rolling your dough.

5 Using 2 inch cutter, cut out scones as close as possible to each other as you can. You want to avoid re-rolling the dough too much from the scraps.

6 Put on a tray and sprinkle with brown sugar. If you prefer 'shiny' scones like you can get in supermarkets etc, brush with some beaten egg and they will come out glazed.

7 Place in a pre-heated oven on gas mark 7/425 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till brown.

8 Pinch one while still warm and gobble it up!