Archive for the Seasonal food Category

Chocolate biscuits for Halloween

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 16/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Halloween chocolate biscuitsApparently it’s Chocolate Week, so what better time to knock up some seasonal Halloween chocolate biscuits (or cookies, if you insist). I first made these last year, adapting a recipe from the Nigella Christmas book. They”re very easy to make and like many of the best recipes for chocolate cakes and biscuits, they, er,  don’t actually use any chocolate, instead sticking to the winning combo of cocoa and sugar (trust me, it’s much better). Don’t believe me? Try them for yourself…

What you’ll need:
125g unsalted butter (softened)
75g caster sugar
20g cocoa powder (sieved)
150g plain flour (sieved)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping:
1 tbsp (15ml) cocoa powder
90g icing sugar
30ml boiling water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Seasonal  sprinkles

Makes 12 biscuits

Halloween chocolate biscuits 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Teflon baking sheet.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, using a fork. Once mixed in, cream in the cocoa, then add the flour, bicarb and baking powder and mix until it’s all combined.

Scoop up a blob of the mixture in your hand and roll into a ball (around the same size as a walnut). Place each ball onto the baking sheet and flatten slightly using your hand. Make sure they’re well spaced apart otherwise they’ll fuse together in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for about 20 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. The biscuits will look and feel soft when they come out of the oven, but they’ll crisp up as they cool.

Halloween chocolate biscuits 3

Once they’re completely cool, you can crack on with the topping. Chuck the cocoa powder, icing sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and stir oven a low heat until combined into a shiny mixture. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Next, drop a tablespoon of the topping onto the centre of each biscuit and let it dribble down the sides. Use the back of the spoon to even it out a bit if need be. Swiftly add your sprinkles before the topping dries and leave to set and you’re all done. I got my sprinkles from Target on a trip to the US, but you should be able to find them online on various sites including Amazon.

The perfect snack for grazing on while watching a horror film. Today’s choice – The Orphanage:

The Orphanage

Smashing pumpkin cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Smashing pumpkin cupcakesIt’s nearly Halloween! Not only is this my favourite time of year, it’s also the best time for baking, largely because of the seasonal delight that is pumpkin. The fact that it’s a seasonal vegetable is however completely irrelevant seeing as this recipe uses the tinned variety (I used Libby’s pumpkin puree procured from The Stateside Candy Company).

Once upon a time, the Smashing Pumpkins were my favourite band in the whole world and they serve as the inspiration for these cupcakes. Not only are they pumpkin flavoured, but I’ve also used the band’s Bullet with Butterfly Wings track as a theme for the topping, which consists of gunmetal grey cream cheese icing and sugar butterflies, kindly sent to me by the nice people at Dr Oetker. Thankfully, the brand has recently designed its packaging  moving away from the pesky plastic bag and cardboard box combo to a more cupboard-friendly storage jar. But, enough on the riveting subject of kitchen storage, let’s crack on with the recipe, which is adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Watch the Pumpkins video below (that’s a suggestion, not an order), then get baking.

What you’ll need:
120g plain flour (sieved)
140g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, softened
60ml milk (doesn’t matter which kind, I used skimmed)
2 eggs
200g tinned pumpkin puree

For the icing:
300g icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
50g unsalted butter, softened
125g cream cheese
Black food colouring paste
Edible pearlescent spray

Makes 12 cupcakes

Smashing pumpkin

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 170°/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cake cases.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it in with a fork until the mixture looks like sand. Next, add the milk and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at at time, mixing after each addition then stir in the pumpkin.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases and bung in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops of the cakes start to turn golden brown and ping back when touched. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Make sure they’ve completely cool before you add the icing, or it won’t stick.

Smashing pumpkin cupcakes 2

For the icing, cream the icing sugar, butter and cream cheese together in a bowl, using a fork. It’ll look like there’s too much icing sugar to start with, but believe me, the proportions are correct, it just takes a bit of graft before they start to mix together. If you want to colour your icing, add paste food colouring, a tiny bit at a time, using a cocktail stick and mix in with a fork. If you want your icing to be dark grey like mine then you’ll need to add quite a lot of black colouring. Next spoon the icing into a disposable icing bag and pipe on using a large star-shaped nozzle. Lastly, add the sugar butterflies and a quick squirt of edible lustre spray for a shiny gunmetal finish and voila – smashing pumpkin cupcakes.

Here’s another Smashing Pumpkins video for your enjoyment – this time, an early performance from Japanese TV including a brilliantly awkward pre-song chat with the hosts. [Please take note: some of the lyrics might be a bit too salty for young ears].

Cadbury Screme Eggs for Halloween

Posted in English food, Gifts, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , on 01/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Cadbury Screme EggFans of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs will be pleased to hear that they’re no longer confined to Easter. The legendary chocolate manufacturer is selling a slightly more macabre version in celebration of Halloween. Renamed Screme Eggs, the sinister treats sport a suitably seasonal green, purple and black wrapper, while the traditional yellow yolk has been transformed into a toxic green.

After a Twitter-based tip-off from Miss Cakehead, I hotfooted it down to Selfridge’s on Oxford Street to pick up a few (half a dozen to be precise). In my defence – I’ve only eaten one so far.

Keep your eyes peeled in the shops or order direct from Cadbury – 15 notes for 24 eggs.

Easter brownies with smashed up Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, English food, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 24/04/2011 by libbyplummer

I considered making zombie Jesus biscuits for Easter but I didn’t have time (next year, readers, next year). Instead I decided on some less blasphemous brownies. I topped the whole lot with melted chocolate and covered one half in Dr Oetker citrus strands and edible glitter. Stumped for inspiration for a Easter-based topping for the other half, I finally decided to smash up some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, before adding some edible silver spray, just in case the brownies didn’t look quite camp enough.

Easter citrus brownies
The basic recipe (which can be used on its own, without the need to set about a bag of Mini Eggs with a rolling pin) is an old classic from my mum. As with most of the best chocolate cake recipes, the taste is accomplished with cocoa and sugar, rather than chocolate, which results in a tasty, moist cake rather than a greasy, sickly stodge, like many of the brownies that you get in the shops.

What you’ll need:
250g/8.82oz unsalted butter
325g/13oz caster sugar
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
100g/4oz plain flour (sieved)
75g/3oz cocoa (sieved)
0.5 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt

For the topping (optional):
1 big bar of plain chocolate
Citrus sprinkles
Edible glitter
Cadbury’s Mini Eggs
Edible lustre spray

Makes 12 brownies

Easter brownie

What to do:
Grease and line a square brownie tin (roughly 10 x 10 inches, but it doesn’t really matter) and pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C (fan oven)/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and pour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture with a fork in betweeen each one. Add the sieved flour and cocoa powder (actual cocoa, not drinking chocolate), baking powder and salt and mix it all together.

Easter brownies

Pour into the tin and spread evenly using a spatula, then bung in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Once the cooking time’s up, remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely.

For the topping:
As I mentioned earlier, you can leave the brownies plain, or if you require some comically over-the-top seasonal topping then read on. First, pour a small amount of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so that it’s simmering. Break the bar of chocolate into small pieces, drop into a heat-proof bowl and sit the bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that there’s some distance between the water and the bottom of the bowl. Stir the chocolate until it’s all melted then pour over the cake and spread out evenly with a spatula.

Easter brownies

Then add whatever decorations you require before the chocolate sets. I used citrus-flavoured sugar strands from Dr Oetker, edible glitter, Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (which I smashed up in a bag with a rolling pin), and edible lustre spray.

Here on London Baking, I do like a tenuous link, so in honour of my smashed up Mini Eggs, here’s Smash it Up by The Damned. Happy Easter!

Sweet potato cake for Mother’s Day

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 03/04/2011 by libbyplummer

Sweet potato cake for Mother's DayFirstly, if you live in the USA – don’t panic. You haven’t forgotten Mother’s Day. We celebrate it on a different day in the UK, always exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday. This year I decided to bake my dear old mum a sweet potato cake from Warren Brown’s splendid United Cakes of America book. I first went to one of Warren’s CakeLove bakeries in DC a couple of years ago while visting my Arlington-dwelling brother and sister-in-law, so I was extremely chuffed when they gave me his book as a present last year.

United Cakes of America

This compendium of mouth-watering recipes is broken down state by state, including everything from Maryland’s Smith Island Cake to Hawaiian Coconut cake, but most of my favourite recipes come from The South. Sweet potato cake is the recipe for Louisiana because, as ludicrous as it sounds, this bright orange tuber is the ‘state vegetable’ of Louisiana.

Teamed with canned-milk cream cheese frosting, this is one hell of a rich cake and it’s not the quickest recipe in the world, but it’s definitely worth the effort. If you haven’t got the book already, I highly recommend that you seek it out.

Whoopie pies for St Patrick’s Day

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Pies, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 13/03/2011 by libbyplummer

St Patrick's Day Whoopies PiesI’m not even remotely Irish, but any excuse to drink large amounts of Guinness and eat green-coloured cakes and I’m interested. Who cares about preposterous leprechaun-based stereotyping when you’ve got bright green icing? Not I. That’s why I decided to make my very first batch of Whoopie Pies, with obligatory green colouring, in celebration of St Patrick, whoever the hell he was.

St Patrick's Day Whoopie Pie

I used the basic chocolate pie recipe from the Whoopie Pies book by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell (last year’s birthday pressie from my aunt and uncle), and filled them with vanilla buttercream (coloured green, natch). It may be a tenuous link, but here’s a fantastic pic of aging Irish hellraisers Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole enjoying a sedate afternoon tea and probably trying to reminisce on a hedonistic past that neither of them can actually remember. I like to think that these green-tinged cakes would make the perfect addition to an Irish ex-boozers’ tea party. If you happen to be catering for one.  Cheers!

Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole taking tea

Harris and O’Toole in their hellraising prime:

Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole

Pancake Day recipe

Posted in Baking, English food, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , on 08/03/2011 by libbyplummer

English pancake

It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that today is Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. English pancakes are a doddle to make and are traditionally served with lemon juice and sugar. Here’s my simple recipe (actually it’s my mum’s recipe):

What you’ll need:

4 oz/115g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 a pint/285ml of milk
Oil/butter for frying
Lemon juice, sugar or whatever for topping

What to do:

Sieve the flour into a bowl, and beat together with the salt, egg and milk. Grab a frying pan and either melt a tiny bit of butter or spray with it with some oil ( I use olive oil) over a medium hot hob. Once the fat is hot, dollop a spoonful of pancake mixture into the pan – how much you use depends on how big you want your pancakes to be.

Tilt the pan in all directions to spread the mixture around. The first side should be done after a few minutes, once you can lift the pancake away from the pan with a spatula and it’s looks golden brown. Now the important bit.

You can either be boring and flip it over using a spatula or, as tradition dictates, you can toss it in the air so that it flips over and the lands the other way up in the pan. Once you’ve done that, and no doubt scraped a couple of failed attempts off of the floor, cook the second side of the pancake as you did with the first.

Serve with lemon juice and sugar, or if you prefer, mix the sugar with a little cinammon for some added flavour. You can also use savoury toppings, such as cheese, if you don’t have much of sweet tooth.

(The pancake in the picture isn’t mine – it’s from Google images, let me know if it’s yours and you want a credit!).

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King Cake for Mardi Gras

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , on 06/03/2011 by libbyplummer

King Cake with Elvis

Being a Brit, I hadn’t heard of King Cake until quite recently. Apparently, it’s a popular concoction from New Orleans that’s traditionally eaten during the Mardi Gras season between Twelth Night (6 January) and Ash Wednesday. This sweet treat is said to have been brought to the area by French settlers and is decorated with the traditional Mardi Gras colours of purple, green and gold representing justice, faith and power.

King Cake

Traditionally, and quite disturbingly, the cake contains a plastic baby (representing Jesus) and whoever finds the trinket in their helping wins the ‘honour’ of hosting the next party or making the next cake. As a decidedly non-religious type, my King Cake is of the secular variety, which is why I decorated it with a plastic Elvis instead – him being The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an’ all that…

I made my King Cake as part of Fairtrade Fortnight – an event run by the Fairtrade Foundation in order to promote ethical trade terms and local sustainability for farmers in the developing world. Made from as many Fair Trade ingrediants as I could get my hands on (including sugar and icing sugar), my cake has been entered into the Fairtrade Bake off. If you like the look of it, please do take a minute to visit the site and vote for my King Cake in the image gallery – it would be much appreciated.

Update: The competition is now over and I won a runner-up prize, so if you voted for me – thanks!

King Cake slices

I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com, although I halved the quantities.

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Best Valentine’s cakes in London

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Out and about, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/02/2011 by libbyplummer

Best Valentine's cakes in LondonIt’s nearly Valentine’s Day and that means more heart-shaped crap in the shops that any other time of year. Unless you’ve got the kind of partner who’s willing to splash out for a romantic trinket from Tiffany’s, then chances are you’ll be getting the textbook dozen roses or maybe a stuffed monkey toy proffering a heart emblazoned with a message like “You’re the one for me!”. Ahhhh, how sweet.

If you want something more practical, try dropping some hints for something you actually want – and what better gift than some baked goods. At least that way, you can get some enjoyment out of them and then move on to hemorrhaging cash on the next Hallmark day. Read on for some of the best cakes in London Town this Valentine’s Day…

Konditor and Cook
With six braches dotted around London, Konditor & Cook is offering plenty of special goodies for Valentine’s Day including a burning heart cake and anti-Valentine’s ‘Dodgy Jammers’, as well as its trademark Magic Cakes.

Konditor & cook Valentine's cakes

Hummingbird Bakery
Get yourself down to American-style cake shop, Hummingbird Bakery for a Box of Chocolates ( a selection of different chocolate cupcakes), a box of mini Valentine’s cakes or a heart-shaped red velvet layer cake.

Hummingbird Bakery Box of Chocolates

Lily Vanilli
Kooky baker Lily Vanilli is offering her red velvet Bleeding Heart cakes for people to send to their loved one this Valentine’s Day and the great thing is that 20% of the proceeds go to cancer charity Trekstock.

Lily Vanilli Bleeding Heart cakes

Primrose Bakery
Well known for its seasonal twists on cupcakes, the Primrose Bakery has pulled out all the stops for its Valentine’s collection with these awesomely kitsch cupcakes.

Primrose Bakery

Molly Bakes
Cake pop maker extraordinaire Molly Bakes will be offering a selection of handmade cake pops and cupcakes at Maiden in hipster central Shoreditch and you can even get a personliased message for just 50p extra.

Molly Bakes

Crumbs and Doilies
South London-based C&D offers boxes of cupcakes for all the big holidays and its Valentine’s selection is suitably covered in sugary lovehearts. Each box contains a mixture of vanilla, chocolate and vanilla rose cupcakes.

Crumbs and Doilies

Miss Cakehead
If you’re after something a little different, then get yourself down to the London Dungeon on Valentine’s Day where you’ll be able to get your mitts on a human heart cake, courtesy of Miss Cakehead who’ll be giving out hearty treats to the first 100 couples to turn up.

Miss Cakehead

Cox Cookies & Cakes
This edgy Soho bakery is a joint venture between shoe designer Patrick Cox and patissier Eric Lanlard. Its Valentine’s Day menu includes Lovelace cupcakes, A Dozen Red Roses (six triple Valrhona chocolate and six Red Velvet mini cupcakes in a presentation box), as well as Love Note vanilla cupcakes, decorated with a selection of romantic and slightly more-to-the-point messages.

Cox Cookies & Cake

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Lily Vanilli’s Bleeding Heart cakes

Posted in Cakes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , on 31/01/2011 by libbyplummer

Lily Vanilli Bleeding HeartsTop baker and author of A Zombie Ate my Cupcake Lily Vanilli is making her disturbingly realistic Bleeding Heart cakes available for people to send to their loved one on Valentine’s Day. And yes, I do want one.

The red velvet cakes will be iced with cream cheese frosting, and smothered in blackcurrant & cherry ‘blood’ and will set you back £7. They’ll be delivered in their very own perspex box, tied up with a pink or red ribbon and a note (or you can stay anonymous, if you’d rather).

A 20% donation for each cake sold will be made to Trekstock – the charity that raises awareness for and offers support to young people with cancer.

Get your skates on, as orders need to be placed by 12 February.

If you like the sound of this, you might also be interested in Miss Cakehead’s Valentine’s human heart cakes at the London Dungeon.

Via: Lily Vanilli

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