Friday, 5 July 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I know it's been a while since I posted but a combination of lack of inspiration and a bust electric whisk have put me off for a while but I now have a shiney new mixer to play with and seem to be getting my baking urge back!

We recently had yet another school holiday and during the half term BabyBear and I made the journey up to Cheshire to visit our Northern family.  It had been my younger sisters birthday a few weeks earlier and as a late birthday cake she requested that I make her red velvet cupcakes.

I've had limited success with red velvet cakes before - I tried them once and while they tasted Ok I was distinctly underwhelmed - they turned out brown rather than the vivid RED! that they appear to be in pictures.  So I did what any one would do and hit the internet to find out exactly where I went wrong.  It turned out that the food colouring that you can buy in most supermarkets is unsuitable for red velvet cakes.  The Hummingbird Bakery cook book specifically says to use Dr Oetkar red but since that was published the EU guide lines on food colouring have changed.  Rather than the incredibly artificial colours that you used to be able to get most supermarkets stock 'natural' colours which just aren't strong enough.

I was knew that the best thing to do was use a gel rather than a liquid colouring but was unsure which one to go for (there are a bewildering amount of colours available) when I saw a tweet from Lorraine Pascale recommending Sugar Flair's Red Extra (available here from Amazon)

The first recipe I tried was from The Hummingbird Bakery's book and while I was happy with the results it didn't taste very chocolatey.  The recipe called for 40ml of food colouring.  Instead I used 1 teaspoon of gel and made it up to 40ml with extra water.  If you have a particular red velvet recipe that you prefer then this technique should work.

the next recipe I tried was from Ed Kimbers book.  This one was much more to my taste - it used more cocoa powder so actually tasted like a chocolate cake.  It was incredibly moist and went beautifully with the cream cheese icing.  I've now a red velvet convert and am very tempted to see if the same technique can be used to make diffent coloured cakes (I'm particularly tempted to make a pink velvet cake)

The Ed Kimber recipe was actually for a 3 layer cake but as I was making cupcakes I decided to reduce this by a third.  This made way too much mix and we've been in the unfortunate situation of having too much cake! (a terrible situation to be in I know) The mix made 12 large cupcakes, 8 bite size ones that BabyBear has been taking to school with him in his lunch box and a loaf tin sized cake that I've frozen to make cake pops with in the future!

Red Velvet Cakes - makes a 2 layer cake or 24 cupcakes (ish) - from Ed Kimber's The Boy Who Bakes

150g softened butter
235g caster sugar
1 tsp red food gel
2tb boiling water
30g cocoa powder
160ml buttermilk
2 eggs
235g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp white vinegar

1 Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line your tins with cupcake cases or grease your cake tin.

2 In a jug mix together the boiling water, cocoa power, buttermilk and food colouring.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.

3 Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  In another bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.  Add 1/3 of the flour mix and half the buttermilk mix to the creamed butter and sugar and mix thoroughly.  Repeat until all the mix is added.  Finally add the vinegar.

4 Spoon into your prepared tins/cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

160g unsalted butter, softened
330g icing sugar
260g cream cheese (not low fat, it goes really runny)

1 Beat the butter to soften it then add the icing sugar and beat until smooth.  Add the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy.  I find that putting the icing in the fridge for a little while before using makes icing the cakes a lot easier.

Friday, 17 May 2013

How to adjust a cake recipe for different sized tins

Picture from the awesome web comic

Picture this - you've got a recipe for a gorgeous sounding cake, you've got the ingrediants to make it, the time to give it your full attention, the burning desire for something sweet.... the one thing you don't have is the correct sized tin.  So what do you do?  Do you give up on the idea or do you have a go at reducing the recipes quantities?  But how much by?  Do you use an educated guess or do you go for something a bit more precise?  It may seem a bit of a daunting task but by using Science! (or at least maths) it's one that's surprisingly easy to accomplish.  All it needs is a tape measure, a calculator and a piece of paper.

For this example I'm going to use a simple Victoria Sponge recipe.  This recipe calls for the use of two round 20cm sandwich tins.  However seeing as it's just going to be myself, my husband and our son who'll be eating it I don't want to make that much cake.  I could use the recipe to make cupcakes I suppose but it's just not the same.  Instead I'm going to use a couple of very dinky little cake tins that I picked up in our local pound shop.  The recipe calls for

225g caster sugar
225g butter
4 eggs
225g self raising flour

but obviously that's going to be way too much mix for the little tins I have.  So how do I go about reducing the recipe?

The first thing to realise is that it's all about volume.  If that recipe is meant for two 20 cm tins then the first thing to do is work out the volume of the tins.

1 Measure the inside of your cake tin.  This is the diameter.  Half it and you'll have the radius (r) of the tin

2 Measure the depth (d) of the tin.

3 Now comes the maths.  First you need to work out the area of the tin.  To do this you need to use the basic formula of 3.14 x (r x r) which in the case of a 20 cm cake tin is 3.14 x (10 x 10) which gives us an answer of  314.

4 You then need to multiply this by the depth of the tin to work out the volume of the cake tin needed.  So it'd be 314 x 4 which is 1256.  Because the recipe calls for 2 cake tins the total volume of the cake is 2512

5 I repeat this process with the smaller cake tins I will be using.  These are 12 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep.  So the maths is

Area of the circle - 3.14 x (6 x 6) = 113

Volume of the cake tin - 113 x 4 = 452

Volume of 2 cake tins - 452 x 2 = 904

6 Since 904 is approximately 1/3 rd of 2512  I will need to use 1/3 of the amount of mixture (in this case I'd have a bit of mixture left over which I'd probably turn into a couple of cupcakes)  The new recipe is thus

75 g caster sugar
75g butter
2 eggs (it'd be nearly impossible to get 1/3 of 4 eggs so I'll use two)
75g self raising flour

This method can not only be used to scale down recipes but also scale up.

Now that's all very well and good for round cakes but what if you only have a square tin?  Well that can be worked out fairly easily as well.

1 Measure the height (h) depth (d) and width (w) of your tin.  Now all you have to do is h x d x w.  Which in the case of my 18 cm square tin is 7.5 x 18 x 18 = 2430

Hope that wasn't too scary and if you have any questions about the maths please ask!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The 5 2 diet 4 weeks on

Today marks my fourth week of following the 5 2 diet and I thought I'd put up a little update.  After four weeks I've lost a grand total of 10 lbs and I'm really happy about it.  While I haven't lost that much since my last diet related post I know the reasons why (Wetherspoons rack of ribs I'm looking at you)  My clothes feel baggier, I can tell that I've lost weight and most importantly I don't feel like I'm on a diet!  I've found that I'm eating healthier, probably because I'm eating a lot more vegetables than I used to do, in fact on my fasting days I find the easiest thing to do to keep the calories down is simply to go vegetarian.

One of the nicest dinner recipes I've come up with is roasted veggie cous cous - it's packed full of good things and uses spices to keep the flavours interesting.  It's not a tricky recipe but because it uses oven roasted tomatoes it takes a while to prepare.  If you don't have time then you could simply use de-hydrated sun dried tomatoes, Merchant Gourmet do some really nice ones.  The beauty of doing it at home though is that you can take a cheap punnet of not very interesting tomatoes and turn them into something wonderfully flavourful.

Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous (serves 2)  138 calories per serving according to

200g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper, chopped into bite size pieces
1 courgette, chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
chili to taste
pinch of salt
100g cous cous

1 Pre-heat the oven to 150C.  Put the halved cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet cut side down.  Roast in the oven for 3 hours.

2 Take the tomatoes out of the oven and turn the heat up to 200C.  In a small bowl mix together the spices and salt - how much chilli you put in is entire down to personal taste.  Put the rest of the veggies on a large baking sheet and add the spice mix.  Use your hands to mix everything together so that the veggies are covered with the spices and them pop in the oven for 20 minutes.

3 After the veggies have been in the oven for 10 minutes prepare the cous cous following the instructions on the packet - I find that 100g of cous cous needs about 100ml of boiled water.  After the cous cous has been allowed to soak for 10 minutes the veggies should be down.  Take them out of the oven and stir into the cous cous along with the roasted tomatoes.

This cous cous is lovely on its own but is also good served as a side dish to chicken.  If you're not dieting then it could be made more substantial by adding chunks of feta cheese.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Amazing Disney World Inspired Cinnamon Rolls

My husband and I are currently planning a family trip to Walt Disney World in a couple of years time (we're hoping to go in February 2015 but it all depends on whether or not BabyBear's school will let us take him out for a week during school time)  Naturally as a food obsessive a lot of the research I've been doing into the trip have focused on what noms we can get.  One of the things that immediately leapt out to me is warm cinnamon rolls from Main Street Bakery.

The recipe used the basic en-riched dough that I used for the hot cross buns back in March.  As I don't want to repeat myself I'll just put a link up.  I used half the dough that recipe made so while the pictures show 7 buns if you use the whole mix it'll make 14.  Once the dough has proven for the the first time rather than turning it into buns it needs to be rolled out and the cinnamon/sugar mix spread on top.

In addition to the dough you'll need -

30g of softened butter
100g brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

50g icing sugar

Mix the three ingredients together.  Spread over the rolled out dough.

Now it's time to roll up the dough; working from the shorter side roll it up like you would a swiss roll.  Once rolled cut it into slices about 3 cm thick and put on a baking sheet.  Allow to rise for 1 hour and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 25 minutes.  Word of warning here - the dough rises a lot and will need to be put on fairly large baking sheets for its second prove.   Alternatively they can be left to rise over night in the fridge and baked fresh in the morning for an amazing breakfast treat.

While the rolls are baking mix together the ingredients for the icing.  Mix the icing sugar with enough enough water to make a thin icing.  Once the rolls are baked pour the icing over the top and allow to cool slightly before eating.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Unicorn Poop Cookies!

As you probably know this weekend is a bank holiday and that can mean only one thing; the Bear family is off LARPing!  LARP for the uninitiated is short for Live Action Role Play - think historical re-enactment meets amateur dramatics meets Dungeons and Dragons.  It basically means that we get to spend the weekend camping in Wales with friends (nerd alert - the site is next to sand dunes that were used in Torchwood for the planet of Boe) while dressed up in costume, pretending to use magic and getting hit with foam swords.

I asked BabyBear what if he thought that I should bake some of my famous brownies to take with us but he said no he wanted me to bake unicorn poop!  Now before you leave in disgust I should mention that unicorn poop are simply biscuits that have been dyed with food colouring.  They're known as unicorn poop cookies because if the Internet has taught us one thing it's that unicorns poop rainbows.  Oh and you can never have enough cat pictures.

I used the same basic biscuit recipe that I used to make the Dr Who biscuits a couple of weeks ago recipe.  There were however a few extra ingredients, namely the food colouring.  You can use as many different colours as you like but I like to stick with four.

Once you've made the dough separate it out into four balls.  Using a tooth prick put a tiny amount of food colouring on one of the balls and kneed it in.  Once the right colour has been achieved wrap the ball in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  Repeat with the other three balls.

Once they're chilled take the balls out of the freezer and split each ball four again.  This will make the shaping process a lot easier.  The balls will probably look a lot like Play Doh now and it's time to get in touch with your inner child and treat it like it!  Roll one of the the dough balls out on a lightly floured surface just like you would if you were back at school and making plasticine snakes.  Repeat with the other three colours until you have something that looks like this

Now cut your snakes into quarters and begin curling them round so that they look like snail shells.  It doesn't matter if they're not perfect or if the dough breaks while you're bending them, they're meant to
look irregular.  Squish them slightly so that the colours all mingle together.

Repeat this process with the rest of the dough balls and eventually you'll have beautifully colourful poop!  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

My verdict on the 5 2 diet two weeks on

I've been following the 5 2 diet for two weeks on and thought that I'd write a little post about how I'm doing on it.  Well so far I have lost 8 lb's!  Not bad considering that I only diet 2 days a week.  I've found the diet easier to follow than I thought it would be; I've been eating three meals a day but have drastically cut down on the amount of snacks I eat through the day.  Following the diet has made me realise just how many snacks I eat over the course of a day and that there's times that I'll just grab a little something because I'm bored or out of habit when I'm having a cup of tea.  Unfortunately those little something's tend to be of the sweet variety and have no doubt added to my weight slowly creeping up and up.

The meal that I've struggled with the most is lunch.  I'm used to just grabbing a sandwich but because white bread is high in calories I'm having to find tasty alternatives.  Miso soup with lots of veggies in is good (I tried it with tofu in but have decided that it's a total waste of calories)  Vegetable sticks with low fat soft cheese were also a good lunch but so far my favourite has been this home made tomato soup.  According to it comes in at just 53 calories per serving.

Tomato and oven roasted red pepper soup - serves 4

1 red pepper, quartered
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
350ml vegetable stock
60g extra low fat soft cheese

1) Roast the red pepper at 200C for 20-25 minutes.

2) Fry the onion and celery until softened then add the tin of tomatoes and stock.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

3) When the pepper's done blitz in a blender or with a stick blender.  Once pulped add half the soup and blitz.  If you prefer a smoother soup then blitz all the soup.

4) Add the soft cheese and re-heat.  Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Iron Man inspired billionaire's shortbread cupcakes

Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
(The Avengers, 2012)

Today sees the return of Iron Man to our screens and I've been inspired to bake!  Now what could be more perfect for everyones favourite genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist than millionaires shortbread inspired cupcakes?  

To make these just that little bit special I'm playing around with the usual millionaires shortbread layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate and reversing them - I've baked a rich chocolate cupcake, filled it a with sticky salted caramel centre and topped with vanilla butter cream liberally studied with pieces of shortbread.  There's quite a few elements to these cakes so it's a recipe to do when you've plenty of time!

Billionaires Shortbread Cupcakes

The cupcake (recipe taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days available here)

80g softened, unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
400g plain flour
40g cocoa
pinch of salt
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
240ml milk

1) Cream together the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.  
2) In a jug lightly whisk together the eggs and the milk then add 2/3's to the dry mix.  Once incorporated add the rest.
3) Put into cases and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

Salted Caramel Sauce

150g caster sugar

120ml double cream
1tsp salt

1) In a non-stick pan gently heat the sugar until melted.  You need to keep an eye on it as it can easily burn and become quite bitter.  You need to be a bit careful when melting sugar as it gets incredibly hot and personally it's not something I do while Babybear is about as I wouldn't like to leave it alone too long if he needs my attention.

2) Once the sugar has all melted and gone a golden colour add the cream.  I find that if I take the cream out of the fridge about 15 minutes before I start the sauce it doesn't spit as much.  Give the stir a sauce to make sure that the cream is all incorporated.

3) Start adding the salt; it's best to do this in small amounts as it's easier to add more than it is to take away too much.  You can test how the caramel tastes by dropping a small amount in cold water and then tasting it.

4) When it's ready take off the heat and set to one side.  (Top Tip - Fill the sauce pan with very hot water immediately after using the sauce, this will make it far easier to clean.  If you do find yourself with a pan with bits of rock hard caramel caramel stuck to it just pour in very hot water and bring to the boil; the caramel will dissolve in the water making it far easier to clean)


60g caster sugar
110g soft, unsalted butter
110g plain flour

1) Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the plain flour and mix until it forms a dough - I find it easiest to use my hands here.
2) As it doesn't need to be any particular shape I didn't bother rolling it out, just put it on a baking tray and flattened it with my hand.
3) Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.

Butter cream

250g Icing sugar
80g Butter
25ml Milk

1) Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until light and fluffy.

Assembling the cakes

1) Once the cupcakes are cooled you need to slice the top off and scoop out some of the inside to create a hole for the caramel sauce to go in. (The tops aren't needed again so go ahead and eat them!)

2) Put a teaspoon of the caramel sauce into each cupcake.

3) While the shortbread is still slightly warm cut half of it into 1.5cm X 1.5 (ish) squares.  These will go on top of your cupcakes.  Crumble the rest into smallish pieces and gently fold into the butter cream.

4) Spoon the butter cream on the cupcakes and make them pretty! (This is the bit I normally struggle with)  Top each with a piece of shortbread and enjoy!

So have any of you been to see Iron Man 3 yet?  What did you think of it?