Chocolate Easter nests

Chocolate Easter nests

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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!

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Spiced cherry tea loaf

Spiced cherry tea loaf

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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.

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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

  • Heat your oven to 180°C
  1.  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.
  2. Make the cake by creaming the butter, sugar and vanilla together and then adding the egg.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Enjoy with a cup of tea.
Chocolate orange cupcakes

Chocolate orange cupcakes

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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!

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Blackberry and almond brownies

Blackberry and almond brownies

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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!

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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

  • Heat your oven to 180°C
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Put the sugar and chocolate in a large bowl and pour the butter over, then stir until everything has melted.
  4. Beat in the eggs, then sift over the flours and cocoa powder and stir together.
  5. Stir in the almonds and chopped chocolate until they are well dispersed.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin for AT LEAST half an hour, then eat!

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Carrot cake (vegan, sugar free and gluten free)s

Carrot cake (vegan, sugar free and gluten free)s

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I was a bit disappointed by the free-from episode of the Bake Off this week – it rather felt like the bakers were trying to overcome a problem by not using sugar in their cakes, or dairy in their ice-cream, rather than embracing the challenge and a different style of baking to make something interesting! Only Ugne and Nadiya really got into the spirit of the week I thought, although unfortunately Ugne’s sugar (and gluten) free cake didn’t go quite to plan – I felt so sorry for her when it was collapsing in the fridge. Nadiya’s jam made with basil seeds sounded really interesting, rather like a chia jam, and I’m definitely going to have to try it!

This carrot cake is sugar free, gluten free and dairy free, incorporating all three of this week’s tasks! The sweetness comes from maple syrup, as well as from the carrots themselves. Instead of wheat flour I have used a combination of ground almonds and buckwheat flour, and coconut oil instead of butter to make it dairy free. It is still lovely and moist like a non ‘free-from’ cake, and the spices make it a perfect autumnal treat.

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Mini Yule logs

Mini Yule logs

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Welcome to Day 11 of the 12 days of Christmas on Ellie Bakes, where I will be sharing a festive recipe every day until Christmas Eve. I think Christmas is the best time of the year for baking, and I have lots of great recipes to share!

These mini chocolate logs are so cute, just the right size to serve for tea on Christmas day, and look really effective with the markings and icing decorations. Make sure to cover the sponge with a tea towel after you have removed the baking paper, or it could dry out and become difficult to roll.

I used gingerbread coffee syrup in the filling to give it a spicy taste, but you could use rum or any other syrup in place of it. The decorations are really easy to make – we used icing coloured with gel food colourings rolled into balls and cut into holly leaves using a cutter.

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Christmas Cupcakes

Christmas Cupcakes

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Welcome to Day 7 of the 12 days of Christmas on Ellie Bakes, where I will be sharing a festive recipe every day until Christmas Eve. I think Christmas is the best time of the year for baking, and I have lots of great recipes to share!

These Christmas cupcakes are really cute, and a great alternative to a rich fruit cake.  They are great fun and really easy to decorate, perfect for making with children now the schools have broken up for Christmas!

We made some reindeer ones, using a red jellybean for the nose, mini marshmallows and writing icing for the eyes and pretzel sticks with flaked almonds attached on with icing for the antlers. We also made some adorable snowmen with marshmallow hats and pretzel arms.

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