Sometimes you just need some chocolate in your life, and these squidgy, swirled cupcakes with cream cheese icing are the perfect way to get it. The use of plain flour instead of self raising, with just a bit of baking powder and bicarb, mean that the cakes are dense and moist, but also rise enough.
It’s important that you use a good quality peanut butter for the swirl, if you use a cheap one with lots of added sugar, the cake will be too sweet, and will lack a real peanut butter flavour. We had a 1kg tub of Meridian crunchy peanut butter in the cupboard which I used, Meridian is a really good brand to use because they don’t add sugar to their peanut butter, and it’s also made without using palm oil.
Chocolate nests are a staple recipe for Easter time, and something I’m sure everyone can remember making (or eating!) when they were little. I remember first making chocolate nests when I was about six, with my mum and sister, and trying my best to eat all the mini eggs before they could make it as far as the actual nests! So when I was thinking about what Easter presents I could make for my friends this year, I decided to go for a new take on this classic, and make giant chocolate nests, with lots of eggs inside, and a little sparkle of glitter.
You can use whatever chocolate you want for these nests, I went for a mix of milk and dark, but anything would work, even chocolate orange. Make sure you crush your shredded wheat quite finely, as you want it to all get evenly coated in the chocolate mixture. They make perfect presents, simply wrap in tissue paper or cellophane and tie with an Eastery ribbon and you’re done!
Do you ever get the feeling that you really want to bake something, but you don’t really have any time to spare? For me baking is the perfect distraction (some might say procrastination…) from my dissertation, but it does mean I have to have some quick recipes to make during a break from work. Enter this amazing tea loaf.
This cake is literally the easiest cake you’ll ever make. Normally making a tea loaf would require you to be organised the night before, and remember to leave your dried fruits to soak in tea overnight, but with my microwave method you can have this ready for the oven in 10 minutes. You can also swap the dried fruits if you don’t fancy glace cherries, dried sour cherries would also be really good, or even some mixed peel for a citrus twist.
Spiced cherry tea loaf:
- 200g raisins
- 100g glace cherries
- 225ml boiling water
- 1 tea bag of your choice – I used Pukka Star anise and cinnamon tea
- 50g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- 225g plain flour
- 1 egg
A large loaf tin, greased and lined with baking paper
- Put the raisins into a bowl with the tea bag and the boiling water, then microwave for 3 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and leave to stand for 10 minutes before adding the cherries to the mixture.
- Make the cake by creaming the butter, sugar and vanilla together and then adding the egg.
- Add half the flour, and beat in well, before adding all the fruit mixture, and any liquid left in the bowl. Stir well, then add the rest of the flour and mix until you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then bake in the oven for about 1 hour, checking with a skewer to see if it’s cooked.
- Enjoy with a cup of tea.
So it’s January, and 2016! I’m excited for this year, because in September I will be starting my PGCE, but also terrified, because before I start that PGCE I need to pass my current degree, and that involves writing 8000 words on the lyrics of the Reformation…! But January also tends to inspire people into eating a bit more healthily and doing more exercise, but while I am no help at all with the latter, I have come up with an amazing healthy muffin recipe, which is perfect for breakfast on the go.
I think oranges are THE most Christmassy fruit – whether it’s the smell of them drying in the oven, tangerines in the bottom of your stocking or eating a Terry’s chocolate orange on Christmas morning, something about them just screams Christmas. These cupcakes are amazingly fudgey, but because they don’t use the creaming method, but instead rely on baking powder for their rise, they are really light at the same time.
If you have any chocolate orange left over after the festive season (although let’s be real, when does that ever happen?!) you could decorate these cupcakes with segments, or go all out for Christmas and sprinkle on a bit of edible glitter!
Now, I know what you’re all going to say… it’s past Halloween, so why are you only just putting up a recipe for Halloween biscuits Ellie?! In my defence, these were meant to go up before Halloween (obviously haha!) but I’ve been really busy at uni and didn’t get round to writing up the recipe. However, they were very kindly made for my blog by my sister and her friends, and they’re too beautiful not to go up, so you’re getting them now! The biscuit recipe and basic icing ideas would also work really well with autumnal themed cutters, or indeed Christmas themed ones (if that isn’t getting too festive too early!)
For the biscuit dough:
- 150g softened butter
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- 225g plain flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Orange and black ready roll icing
- Vanilla buttercream
- Red, green, white and black writing icing pens
- 10 marshmallows
2 large baking sheets, lined with baking paper
- For the biscuit dough, put the butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until they form a smooth, creamy mixture.
- Sift in the flour and cinnamon and combine until you have a soft dough.
- Form the dough into a ball and wrap with clingfilm before putting in the fridge to chill.
- When the dough has chilled for half an hour, sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, then roll out the dough to a thickness of 2 cm.
- Use your Halloween or Autumn themed cutters to cut shapes out of the dough, scrunching up and re-rolling the leftovers.
- Transfer your cookies onto the baking sheets and cook for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and put them on a wire rack to cool before you start decorating.
- When the biscuits have cooled, it’s time to decorate! Use your coloured icings to decorate your biscuits however takes your fancy. I also melted marshmallows in the microwave and drizzled them over a round biscuit to make a cobweb, before adding a black piped spider which looked really effective.
These brownies are literally the best brownies I have ever eaten. They are dense, chocolatey and squidgy, but with a sharp hit from the blackberry layer and a crunch from the almonds. They are a perfect dessert brownie: ideal served warm with a scoop of icecream and some fresh blackberries, but would not survive so well in a lunchbox…! The only slightly annoying thing about these brownies is that you have to wait at least, AT LEAST 30 minutes before cutting them up and diving in, otherwise they really don’t hold their shape. But that is the only annoying thing… apart from that they are absolute heaven!
Blackberry and almond brownies
For the brownies:
- 4 eggs
- 240g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 240g salted butter
- 320g caster sugar
- 70g cocoa powder
- 100g self-raising flour
- 60g plain flour
- 100g dark chocolate, chopped
- 50g toasted almonds, chopped
For the blackberry layer:
- 150g blackberries
- 30g caster sugar
30 x 20cm brownie tin
- Make the blackberry layer by putting the blackberries and sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heating until the sugar is dissolved, the cook until the blackberries are soft, but not mushy.
- For the brownies, first brown the butter by melting it in a saucepan, and then continuing to heat it until it bubbles and turns a golden brown colour, with a nutty smell.
- Put the sugar and chocolate in a large bowl and pour the butter over, then stir until everything has melted.
- Beat in the eggs, then sift over the flours and cocoa powder and stir together.
- Stir in the almonds and chopped chocolate until they are well dispersed.
- Spoon half the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Spoon over the blackberry mixture, then top with the rest of the brownie mix and smooth the top.
- Bake the brownies for 25 minutes, until they still have a bit of a wobble in the centre, but have a bit of a crust.
- Leave to cool in the tin for AT LEAST half an hour, then eat!