Friday, August 31, 2012

Pretty Pink Birthday Cake

My mum recently visited England and returned with a plethora of baking supplies!! I was so excited by the look of this pink food colouring I just had to use it ASAP! Luckily it was her birthday so I had an excuse! I also used shimmer sugar, mini marshmallows and non-edible confetti to create this pink masterpiece!

I followed the traditional, foolproof sponge recipe from the Odlums website (as used in other posts!) and it worked a treat! It stayed fresh for a couple of days after and it was neither heavy nor bland. Definitely a go-to recipe that took mere minutes to prepare.

Although I wasn't not a fan of jam I used Strawberry Preserve here to humour the other members of my family- and it tasted amazing! I'm officially converted! :)

For the icing I copied the Magnolia Bakery Traditional Vanilla Buttercream Icing, from the book The Complete Magnolia Bakery. I'd advise not to use the milk as indicated in the recipe as the icing really never sets because of it (and it's a constant worry as to the Best Before date of the milk afterwards!) Because of the runny consistency of the icing the top layer of the cake looked treacherous, however the cake didn't last long enough for the construction to be tested! The food colouring was bought in the Morrison's in the UK and is a fantastic product! Much better than trying to guage the pinkness while using red dye! It also has a built-in dropper which makes measuring much easier!

I used miniature marshmallows to spell out "MUM". I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of this before! They were perfect to use for writing as they stay stable after and for short words are big enough so that the message isn't lost atop a large cake! I wanted to pipe "Happy Birthday", however Mum came home early, so I downgraded to some cute (unfortunately non-edible) confetti I had... I think the shimmer sugar (Dr. Oetker, available at all good supermarkets) made up for it though!

A truly sweet cake which I think would be wonderful for a fairy princess-themed party!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cheat's Treats

A few weeks ago I had friends over for a good ole fashioned slumber party!! There was chocolate, sweets, crisps and some homemade treats too! My contribution was modest to say the least... Caught for time I relied on Mrs. Betty Crocker to pick up the slack! The results were delicious!

Betty's double chocolate chunk muffins (with my addition of a splash of orange juice!) were a huge hit, but didn't hold a flame to her brownies.

My sister had made these for my birthday and the Smarties act as chocolate chunks *note to self, they are a scrumptious substitute!* 

I have made brownies using chocolate chips, Dutch processed cocoa powder, melted chocolate, you name it I've tried it, but Betty's are without a doubt, the easiest, least stressful, cheapest and most delicious option!

The brownies were gooey with crispy edges and the surprise of the sunken Smarties made every bite amazing! Patrick Swayze and Richard Gere may have had something to offer us, but these brownies were in a league of their own!

Oooey Gooey Chocolatey Deliciousness!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Empire State of Mind

These cupcakes are a great depiction of how to decorate for a theme. Instead of trying to encapsulate everything related to the theme, simply divide and conquer. Pick a few iconic symbols (bonus points if they are easy to pipe!) and display in an area which also reflects the theme.

Here I used an American Beanie Baby as the companion to the cupcakes (a cowboy hat, tiara, stuffed animal or handbag would work equally as well for such themed parties).

I mixed different food colouring with icing in individual bowls (a lot of mess!) and the piping was time consuming, but so worth it!

I Heart NY
For this I used regular buttercream, and piped the writing and heart using Easy Writing Pens from Dr. Oetker.

I mixed a good amount of blue food colouring to get the right shade and then piped the logo mostly seen on hoodies and tourist paraphernalia rather than attempting the intricate official shield. The golden yellow coloured pen reflected the colour used on said shield.

5th Ave.
Truthfully, my inspiration here was Seasame St.! I mixed the green until just right, then piped the rectangle to act as a border and then the writing.

New York Yankees
This is the most intricate yet the easiest to make. I had drawn out the logo of the baseball team ahead of time so I knew I was able to get the dimensions right. Really proud of how this turned out!

This is exactly how I wanted the cupcakes, not showy, yet you know what it represents. The yellow took some mixing, then I spread on a rectangle of buttercream, let it set and piped on TAXI.

This was done the same as the I Heart NY cupcake. The key here is to use an asterix for an apostrophe, as seen in the Macy's logo. Also, as per the logo, use only lower case letters. 

The Statue of Liberty
This is probably the most conceptual of the images, and also the prettiest. The cupcake isn't over-complicated by text and has a wholesome, non-commercial feel. I swirled one drop of blue food colouring through unbleached buttercream icing, the essential part here is to swirl once, not mix, as it then gives a cloud-like appearance. I then piped the crown outline and filled it in using the pen. If you were to extend the range I would definitely do a Torch cupcake!

I had a Tiffany's box cupcake prepared but the shade of Tiffany blue just wasn't good enough! So if anyone knows the perfect product to achieve this please let me know! The bow was straightforward, but the iconic colouring has to be just right! Mine didn't make the cut! These would be great for a Breakfast at Tiffany's party!!

Another way to personalise these cupcakes, while in keeping with the theme would be to add in some variations, for instance you could pipe "I Heart 21" for an American themed 21st Birthday, or pipe 21 in a horse shoe for a cowboy themed party, or inside a cocktail glass for a Sex and The City party, the list goes on! 

Enjoy piping, but more importantly, enjoy eating these DELICIOUS cupcakes!
The nitty gritty.....

I used the Odlum's sponge recipe, as seen here
The icing was a basic buttercream with no specific amounts, just mixed to taste! 

  1. Sieve icing sugar into a bowl.
  2. Add a knob room temperature butter.
  3. Beat together.
  4. Add a drop of hot water from the kettle to make the mix more spreadable.
  5. Add more icing sugar to taste.
  6. Beat until there are no lumps and it reaches a desired consistency.
  7. Frost cupcakes using a spoon dipped into a cup of hot water.

Copy Cat Cookies

One of my many weaknesses are Subway's chocolate chip cookies!! They have to be warmed, either in store, or at home in the microwave and eeeeeek at €2 for 3 let's just say obesity is on the horizon! I love love LOVE these cookies! I think I'm one of the only people who visits Subway and doesn't buy a Sub, only a cookie! :) 

Anyways, in my quest to copy the cookie I happened upon this recipe... I forewarn you, these are alas, not near as perfect as the fast-food variety but the heartwarming satisfaction of them being homemade makes up for this! 

The best thing about these is that the dough makes literally thirty cookies, and even better the cookies taste even yummier when made with yesterday's dough. So, when that loneliness hits after someone savages the last cookie, never fear! You can whip up another batch in a few minutes! 

If entertaining I would make the dough the night before and scoop out the cookies on the day, however they keep well in an airtight container so freshness isn't an issue either!

The recipe can be found here.

I still haven't found the perfect homemade recipe of the glorious Subway cookie... Watch this space!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bank Holiday Brunch

Some mornings cereal just doesn't cut it, toast is too meagre and fruit far too healthy!! Mornings like this call for pancakes!! Bank holiday weekends are the best times for this, as you can have a lie-in and then impress everyone at home, who would normally be at work, with your fantastic culinary skills! Plus they keep you feeling full all day long, so you're free to go for a walk, take a trip or simply lounge around for the day without having to worry about lunch! Pancakes are the ultimate bank holiday brunch feast!!

I like my pancakes big enough to hold a whole lotta filling, and thick enough that the filling isn't too overpowering! The fluffier the pancake, the nicer, so watch them intently while cooking! As long as they're golden, that's long enough! If making small, thick, American-style pancakes, make sure to cook until more brown to ensure that the egg is cooked. 

A good tip is to grease the pan (by melting a knob of butter) every second pancake, if cooking a few at a time. This way they are less greasy! Also, don't try to spread the butter evenly by tilting the pan- this is how the pancake sticks to the bottom :( Instead, make sure the centre is covered and the butter drizzles off randomly to the side. This way, you can use your spatula to lift up the sides of the pancake as it cooks, ensuring it doesn't stick, while the middle can be picked up when you're ready to flip!

A mess-reducing way of measuring the batter into the pan is to use a ladle! They are usually deep enough to fill a large pan and (I find) are a more accurate means of measuring than a jug.

I use Darina Allen's savoury pancake recipe (because my Mom used it every Pancake Tuesday since I can remember!!) and it never fails! The recipe says it makes 12 pancakes, but you can reduce this to six at the minimum, depending on how thick you want your pancakes to be.

6oz white flour
Pinch salt
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk (I usually throw in three eggs)
3/4 pint of milk (I use fat free milk so the pancakes are a little lighter, and more crispy!)
3-4 dessert spoons of butter for melting

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat with a mixer until the batter is covered with bubbles.
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or longer (I usually put it in the fridge while cleaning my workspace and cook the batter straight away, although if you can wait a few hours you will have better pancakes!) 
*Add the melted butter into the batter just before cooking so you can cook the pancakes without greasing the pan each time...Disclosure: I have never been brave enough/been too excited this late in the game to try this, so I usually lob a knob of butter onto the pan!

I like to enjoy these pancakes with Nutella, golden syrup, sugar, strawberries, ice cream, chocolate chips, bananas, I've even tried marshmallows! Absolutely anything I can get my hands on tastes delicious with pancakes so enjoy!!

Go on, have a flip! ;)

My gazillionth pancake (as you can see from the plate!)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Fave: Tiramisu

One of my all-time favourite desserts is tiramisu!! I love everything coffee flavoured... From mochas to the old Cadbury Roses coffee sweets! If it's chocolatey and gives a coffee kick, I'll devour it! 

One of my favourite comfort foods which doubles as a sophisticated dessert is Dunnes Stores' delicious version for under €5 in their chilled food section!

Recently I decided to try to make a tiramisu from scratch- the Italian way! 

I couldn't find Kahlua so I substituted it with Bailey's Irish Cream. The addition of icing sugar acted as a thickening agent and sweetener. To garnish I used hot chocolate powder instead of the usual cocoa and it made the dish all the more sweet!

You will need:

250g carton of mascarpone cheese
25 piece pack of lady finger sponge biscuits
Strong Coffee
Bailey's Irish Cream
~30g Icing Sugar
Hot chocolate powder/ Cocoa powder

  1. Brew coffee and leave to cool slightly in a large Pyrex dish (put a spoon in there to make sure the glass doesn't crack). Add a dash of liqueur, Kahlua or Bailey's. Once tepid, place the lady fingers in the liquid so they soak the liquid. [If you put them in piping hot coffee they will dissolve into mush!]
  2. Beat the mascarpone in another bowl with sieved icing sugar. Add more icing sugar, to taste. Add a dash of liqueur and beat again until mixed evenly through.
  3. Line a (preferably rectangle) dish, with the coffee-soaked lady fingers.
  4. Spoon the mascarpone mixture on top, smooth with a spatula or back of spoon.
  5. Repeat steps three and four.
  6. Cover dish with cling film and chill for between four and twenty-four hours; the longer it's left the more intense the flavour of the dessert.
  7. Before serving dust the hot chocolate or cocoa powder over the top of the dessert.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Banana Crumb Muffins

I love muffins. I also love bananas. When I saw three increasingly ripening bananas in our fruit bowl I immediately thought those babies needed to be baked!! Usually I’d make banana bread, but I didn’t have the time to grease tins, measure out a ton of ingredients and wait for the loaf to cool. Up until now I couldn’t find a straightforward banana muffin recipe that is until I asked old reliable, Mr. Google. He did not disappoint!

The recipe (found here) can be converted into metric quantities so it doesn’t take too much arithmetic for an Irish baker. These really are as simple to make as they sound. The mashed banana acts as a binding agent and is durable so everything else can be mixed in until batter is formed. Melting the butter is the crucial part, definitely a job for adults! It really does add to the flavour of the muffin though, so don’t skip the step!

I had never made a crumb topping before, but I had binged on crumb muffins in Boston last year and was looking for a good recipe everywhere since! Don’t skimp on the butter, as the crumb will be too floury and unpalatable.

All in all these muffins were delicious, absolutely scrumptious. Plus the guilt factor is lower, as you can justify the banana constitutes part of your twelve a day! 

I made these early on a gloomy July morning in Ireland, and they were the ultimate comfort food which made the day feel a whole lot better! 

They kept for three days in a sealed container (thanks to the moisture from the bananas).They are really impressive looking (the power of the crumb!), you’ll be deemed a domestic god/goddess after one bite! 

P.S. Recently I made these with the adition of chocolate chips! Milis ar fad! x