Archive for Recipes

Peanut butter plectrum biscuits

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , on 22/08/2011 by libbyplummer

Inspired by a guitar plectrum-shaped cake that my mum made many years ago for my brother’s birthday, I decided to knock up some plectrum biscuits (that’s cookies to you, American cousins). In a nod to Elvis, who died last week in 1977, I flavoured my biccies with peanut butter, famously one of his favourite snacks.

Fender plectrums

I recently procured the Biscuiteers Book of Biscuits, which I used as a basis for this recipe. It’s the first time I’ve used the professional method of separate line and flooding icing, hence the slightly wobbly results. The recipe is a bit long-winded, but it’s all worth it in the end. Here’s what to do…

What you’ll need:

250g plain flour (sieved)
100g soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
65g salted butter (softened and diced)
65g golden syrup
1 egg
1-2 tbsp milk
65g peanut butter

For the icing:
180ml cold water
1kg royal icing sugar/mix
Whatever colours you choose (in this case, yellow, blue and black gel colours)

Plectrum biscuit and plectrum

What to do:

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and crumble into the mixture using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. In another bowl, lightly whisk together the egg, syrup, one tbsp of milk and the peanut butter. Tip the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together until you get a soft dough. Add a dash more milk if it feels too dry. Divide the dough in half and mould each into a flat disc before wrapping in clingfilm and popping in the fridge for at least an hour.

Plectrums

Once chilled, unwrap the dough and place between two sheets of parchment before rolling out to 5mm thickness. Keeping the paper on, put the dough back in the fridge for about 20 minutes (on a baking tray or chopping board). While the dough is in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven)/350°F/gas mark 4. After chilling again, you’re ready to cut out your shapes, either using ready-made cutters or your own templates. To make your own, just draw or trace your design onto a piece of parchment and then stick this a spare piece of card and cut out. You can then bung this on top of you rolled-out dough and cut round it using a sharp knife. Place the shapes on a lined baking tray, leaving plenty of room between each biscuit. Cook for 14 minutes or so (you may need more time, depending on your oven). The biscuits are ready when they start to turn golden brown around the edges. Once out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack and make sure that they’re completely cool before icing, or it won’t stick.

Plectrum biscuits

For the icing:
Chuck the water in a large bowl, then add 900g of the royal icing sugar and whisk together until the icing is roughly the same consistency as toothpaste. You might need to add more icing sugar if it’s not thick enough. For this recipe, you’ll need to save three small bowls of icing at this stage – two for making the outlines and one of the Fender writing. Colour one blue, one yellow and one black, by adding tiny amounts of colouring at a time and mixing in with a fork until you get the colour you want. Take the first outline colour, bung in a disposable icing bag and snip the end to make a small hole. Pipe the outline of a plectrum around the edges of half of your biscuits, making sure that you join the ends up to create a tiny wall of icing. Do the same with the blue icing. Next divide the remaining icing from your original bowl into two parts. This will be your flooding icing, so you need to colour each bowl to match the yellow and blue outline icing. Once done, spoon carefully into the middle of each biscuit and smooth out to the edges using a cocktail stick. Leave to dry.

Colour the third tiny bowl (that you saved earlier) with black colouring, pop into an icing bag and snip of a small section at the end. You might want to practice writing the Fender logo in a piece of parchment before you have a crack at icing your biscuits.

Finally, return your biscuits to a baking tray and place in very cool oven – about 50-70°C/120-160°F/gas mark1/2-3. This may sound like utter madness, but it actually helps to restore the biscuits’ crunch, which can be softed by the moisture in the icing.

You might also like these Elvis peanut butter chip biscuits that I made earlier this year.

Space cupcakes for the final shuttle launch

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , on 10/07/2011 by libbyplummer

Space cupcakes 2I fully admit that I’m a bit of a space nerd (I own mission patches from all 17 Apollo launches), so the very last space shuttle lift-off on Friday 8 July 2011 was a pretty big deal, and certainly an occasion worthy of some themed baked goods (you’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t need much of an excuse).

I should probably point out these are space cupcakes only in the sense that they sport the red, white and blue of the NASA logo along with the starry sky effect icing. They’re not the kind of space cakes that contain illegal drugs. Just a touch of vanilla. Sorry.

Final space shuttle launch

You can read my ramblings on the space shuttle over at Pocket-lint.com or if you want to make your own space cupcakes (of course you do), then read on and get stuck in. In the meantime, if you want a laugh, check out this space shuttle-based post over on Cake Wrecks.  Although the comedy cake blog is always amusing, this is the only post that has ever had me guffawing uncontrollably (or LMFAO if you insist).

What you’ll need:
110g/4oz self-raising flour (sieved)
110g/4oz caster sugar (sieved)
110g/4oz margarine
1tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream icing:
225g/8oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar (sieved)
100g/3.5oz softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Black paste food colouring
Silver sprinkles
Edible silver glitter

Makes 12 cupcakes

Space cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases. Plonk the sifted flour, sugar, margarine and baking powder into a bowl and cream together with a fork. Next add the two eggs, mixing after adding each one, then add the vanilla extract. One it’s all combined, give it a quick go with a whisk to make the mix light and fluffy.

Distribute evenly between the 12 cupcakes cases and bung in the oven for 20 minutes (or until slightly golden brown and firm but springy to touch). After taking out of the oven, let them cool in the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Make sure they’re totally cool before you add the icing, or it won’t stick.

For the buttercream icing, sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and cream in the butter using a fork. Once it’s all combined and smooth, add the paste colouring using a cocktail stick, a little at a time. Each time you add some, mix it in with a fork until you get the colour you want. Once it’s ready, either pipe on with an icing bag or use a flat knife to spread onto the cakes. Swiftly add the sprinkles and edible glitter before the icing dries (it’s best to ice half the cupcakes then add the sprinkles before icing the rest to make sure that it doesn’t set in between).

4th of July cake balls

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , , on 04/07/2011 by libbyplummer

It’s been 235 years since the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress, marking the start of the United States’ official separation from Great Britain. Nowadays, this momentous occasion is marked largely with fireworks, barbecues and baseball. And of course, cakes. (Check out the hilarious gallery of disasters over at Cake Wrecks – the  “4 Jluy” is possibly the highlight).

Getting into the spirit of things (despite being British and living in London), I knocked up a batch of 4th of July cake balls, mainly to justify the large stash of red, white and blue sprinkles that I’ve been building up from numerous trips to Target when in the US. The recipe is adapted from Molly Bakes‘ excellent new Cake Pops book and uses Renshaw Simple Melt topping, kindly given to me by the manufacturer to try out. Read on and get stuck in, y’all.

What you’ll need:
For the cake:
120g margarine (or softened unsalted butter if you prefer) plus extra for greasing tin
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
180g self-raising flour (sieved)
4 tbsp milk

For the icing:
80g softened unsalted butter
40g cream cheese (not low fat version)
200g icing sugar (sieved)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
Yoghurt Simply Melts (or white chocolate or whatever topping you want to use)
Red, white and blue sprinkles

4th of July cake ball close-up

What to do:
Preheat oven to 180° C /160° C (fan oven)/350° F/ gas mark 4. Grease and flour a 20-25cm cake tin (round or square). I use Wilton cake release, which doesn’t need flouring – you just spread it round the tin with a pastry brush. Cream the margarine and sugar with a fork until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between. Add the flour, mix until combined and then gradually add the milk and mix again.

Dollop the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 35 minutes or so, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean with a couple of crumbs. Remove from oven, leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, cream the butter and cream cheese together with a fork, add the icing sugar and continue to cream until it’s all mixed in and as smooth as possible. Lastly, mix in the vanilla extract. Bung in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

Once the cake is cool, carefully remove the crusts with a bread knife and crumble the cake into a bowl. Once you’ve transformed your cake into a bowl of crumbs, take one tablespoon of the icing at a time and work into the crumbs with your hands (you might not need all of the icing). Mix together until you’ve got a fudge-like mixture that’s not too tough or too soggy. Wrap in clingfilm and stick in the fridge for at least an hour.

Once chilled, break off a chunk of the mixture and roll into a ball in using your hands. The size depends on how big you want your cake balls, but about the size of a ping pong ball is a good place to start. Pop them on a tray lined with baking parchment and stick back in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Next, remove the cake balls from the fridge, turn them over and insert cocktail sticks into the flat-ish side of the ball (the stick needs to go about halfway through). Now melt your Simply Melts according to the instructions (you can also use candy melts or melted chocolate if you prefer) and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Take one cake ball at a time and dip it into the mixture, swirling around until the ball is completely covered (use a spoon to drizzle the mixture over any bald patches if you’re finding it a bit tricky to get them totally covered). Now place them on a cooling rack with the cocktail stick pointing downwards, between the wires. If the cooling rack is too near to the kitchen worktop, rest it on a couple of glasses at either end to raise it up. As soon as you cover each ball with topping, swiftly add a few sprinkles before they dry. Leave to set (they only take about 10 minutes). Happy Independence Day!

London Baking Battenberg cake recipe

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food, Recipes with tags , , , , on 31/05/2011 by libbyplummer

London Baking BattenbergI first made my own version of Battenberg cake for the royal wedding back in April, but I didn’t post a recipe as I hadn’t quite perfected it – until now. This classic, British almond-flavoured cake was supposedly invented in 1884 for a royal wedding (for more info, see my previous Battenberg post).

Again, I haven’t opted for the classic pink and yellow colours, instead going for the pink and green from the London Baking logo (if you hadn’t already worked it out, this is inspired by The Clash’s London Calling album cover which was based on Elvis Presley’s first LP). Without further ado – here’s my recipe for London Baking Battenberg cake.

What you’ll need:
110g/4oz self-raising flour (sieved)
110g/4oz caster sugar (sieved)
110g/4oz unsalted butter (softened) or margerine
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Paste food colouring
Apricot jam
Pack of marzipan

If you use all of the sponge, then this should make a cake that’s roughly the same size as the Battenberg that you buy in the shops. If, like me, you don’t have a tin that’s the correct shape and size then you’ll probably end up trimming alot of the sponge away to get straight edges so your cake will end up being about two thirds of the size.

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line two tins with baking parchment. Unless you have two tins that are exactly the right shape, you might need to use some ingenuity here. I used one brownie tin with a makeshift divider made from foil running down the middle to make two seperate baking areas, one for each colour sponge. What you need to end up with is two rectangular pieces of sponge that are deep enough to form the cake when sandwiched together. Two loaf tins would also work well. As you can see from the picture, the layers are slightly wonky, but it doesn’t really matter. If you want it to look perfect then you’ll either need to get your ruler out or invest in some pans that are exactly the right size (or ones that come with adjustable dividers).

Once you’ve finished horsing around with cake tins and foil, it’s time to make the cake. Plonk the sifted flour, sugar, butter/margarine and baking powder into a bowl and cream together with a fork. Next add the two eggs, mixing after adding each one, then add the vanilla extract and almond extract. One it’s all combined, give it a quick go with a whisk to make the mix light and fluffy. Divide the mixture between two bowls and add your chosen food colouring. I use Sugarflair paste colouring, adding a tiny amount at a time with a cocktail stick and mixing in with a fork until the shade is right.

Dollop each colour mixture into a separate tin (or separate area of the same tin) and bung in the oven for 20 minutes (or until very slightly golden brown and firm but springy to touch). After taking out of the oven, let the two layers cool in the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

Battenberg close-up

Now, the tricky bit. You need two rectangles of sponge, so if your pans weren’t exactly the right size to start with, grab a sharp knife and carefully level the top of the pink cake so that it’s flat and and is twice as wide as it is high. Do the same for the green cake. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam onto the top of the pink cake and stick the green layer on top. Cut lengthways down the middle so that you end up with two strips. Lay one on it’s side so that you have a line of pink and a line of green. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on the top. Take the other strip and lay it on top the other way round so that the pink lays on top of the green underneath and vice versa.

Next, lightly dust a chopping board/worksurface with icing sugar, take a pack of marzipan and roll out until it’s about 3mm thick. You need enough to cover the four long sides of the cake, so try to roll it into a roughly rectangular shape (you can trim the excess afterwards). Rather than the usual yellow marzipan, I used white, which is much paler than the yellow, but not really pure white.

Next, heat a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan until it’s warm and slightly more liquid-like (being careful not to burn it). Using a pastry brush, cover the top and two long sides of the cake. Using the rolling pin for support, carefully lift up the marzipan and place on top of  the cake so that both sides are covered and there’s enough left on one side to cover the bottom. Smooth each side down and trims the ends of necessary. Once attached, paint the remaining melted jam onto the underside and fold the rest of the marzipan over so that all four sides of the cake and now wrapped in marzipan and trim the excess. Don’t worry –  it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Slice and serve with a nice brew (Americans – that means tea, not beer, unless you fancy an ale with your cake, of course).

Anarchy in the UK cupcakes for the royal wedding

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food, Recipes with tags , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by libbyplummer

Royal wedding cupcakesOk, so vanilla cupcakes aren’t going to topple the monarchy or ignite a revolution, but they are inspired by The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK AND they have a circled A on them. Anything to make my over-enthusiastic purchasing of Union Jack cake cases make me look slightly less like a royalty-loving pillock.

And for the recipe? Read on and get stuck in.

Will and Kate mural

What you’ll need:
110g/4oz self-raising flour (sieved)
110g/4oz caster sugar (sieved)
110g/4oz margerine
1tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream icing:
225g/8oz icing (confecitoner’s) sugar (sieved)
100g/3.5oz softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the royal icing:
1 large egg white
250g/9oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar (sieved)
lemon juice (if needed)

Whatever sprinkles/food colours you desire

Makes 12 cupcakes

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases. Plonk the sifted flour, sugar, margarine and baking powder into a bowl and cream together with a fork. Next add the two eggs, mixing after adding each one, then add the vanilla extract. One it’s all combined, give it a quick go with a whisk to make the mix light and fluffy.

Royal wedding cupcakes

Distribute evenly between the 12 cupcakes cases and bung in the oven for 20 minutes (or until slightly golden brown and firm but springy to touch). After taking out of the oven, let them cool in the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Make sure they’re totally cool before you add the icing, or it won’t stick.

Royal wedding cupcakes

For the buttercream icing, sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and cream in the butter using a fork. Once it’s all combined and smooth, add in any colouring that you require ( I use paste colouring). On these particular cakes, I added a few drops of icing whitener, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Once it’s ready, either pipe on with an icing bag or use a flat knife to spread onto the cakes.

Royal wedding cupcakes

Obviously you don’t have to pipe circled As onto your cakes (I don’t believe it’s a common move in the world of baking), but if you want to then read on. Whisk the egg white together with the sieved icing sugar until the misture is white and stands in stiff peaks. If it feels too thick to mix (or pipe), then add a couple of drops of lemon juice. Colour with paste colouring, pop into an icing bag and away you go.

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!

Star Wars shortbread recipe

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Scottish food with tags , , , , , , , on 11/04/2011 by libbyplummer

Star Wars shortbreadI’ve been patiently waiting for my cousin to perfect her shortbread recipe so that I could try it out for myself, and it was well worth the wait. There are very few ingrediants, so it’s very simple to knock up a batch of dough in next to no time. As I still hadn’t tried out the second set of Star Wars cookie cutters that I got from Williams-Sonoma last year (yes, I have two sets), I decided to knock up some Star Wars shortbread in the shape of the Millennium Falcon (pictured), Tie Fighters, X-Wing Fighers and the Death Star. As you do.

What you’ll need:
4oz/110g softened unsalted butter
2oz/50g caster sugar
4oz/110g plain flour
2oz/50g rice flour

What to do:
First, in a large bowl, cream the butter together with the sugar with a fork. Next, add the two types of flour and mix to form a dough. Once rolled into a ball of smooth dough, wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge for an hour or so to chill.

Preheat the oven to 180 °C (160°, fan oven)/350 °F/gas mark 4. Next, roll the dough out to about thickness of about 0.5mm/0.25in. The dough is quite crumbly so it’s a bit of a bugger to roll out. You’ll need to be very gentle and persevere, but I promise you it’s worth it. If the dough cracks while rolling, just gently push it back together and carry on rolling with care. The trick is to handle the dough as little as you can and to make sure that both your hands and the dough are as cool as possible.

Once you’ve cut the shapes out, put them on a greased baking tray (I just use a Teflon baking sheet) and bake at 180°C (160°, fan oven)/350° degrees F/gas mark 4 for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the biscuits begin to turn golden brown around the edges.

After taking them out of the oven, leave the biscuits to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Immediately after you put them on the wire rack, drench them with caster sugar (it’s best to put some newspaper underneath the rack to catch any stray sugar). Once they’re cool, you cake shake the excess sugar off and then you’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll.