Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ice-Cream Cone Cupcakes

It was Maddie's turn to take an interest in baking this week.  Usually, she's the sort who's more than happy to taste everything, but not so keen to make it, but she really wanted to learn how to make cupcakes and muffins.  I like new ideas for baking, but although this idea is not new, it is very effective, so Maddie had a choice between making traditional cupcakes or having a go at making ice-cream cone ones.  I'm glad the curious side of her won.

They really are very simple.


Your normal cupcake or muffin recipe mixture
Flat bottomed ice-cream cones
Buttercream in your favourite colour and flavour
Extra decorations

There really is no point putting quantities.  I bought a standard box of ice-cream cones.  Make sure they are flat bottomed otherwise you won't be able to stand them up.   Any leftover mix can be made into standard cakes and if there is buttercream left it can either ice the other cakes or stay in the fridge for a few days.

Spoon the muffin mix straight into the cones until about 3/4 full, place each one in a muffin pan to stop them toppling over, then bake them on the middle shelf for 20 minutes at Gas 6.

When they come out, the mix should have risen just above the cone.  Lift them onto a cooling rack, leave until completely cool then either pipe or spread on the icing and decorate.

They are best eaten within 24 hours as the cones go soft.  Miraculously the cones don't burn in the oven, so there is no need to foil them or cover them at all.  I think Maddie made a fantastic job of these and considering this was also her first time piping buttercream, she can be really proud of how they turned out.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Served with Barbari bread
Andy loves my sweet potato soup and he asked me last week to make another batch.  I sometimes make it with orange juice, other times just with plain stock, but this time round I wanted to give it a bit of a kick.  I have a few recipe books and I wanted some ideas so I found a Jamie Oliver recipe that used sweet potatoes and in it he used chilli, lime and cumin.  Well, I had chillies, cumin and lemon juice.  So, it was experiment time.  The first batch I made was too heavy on the fresh chilli and it overpowered the flavour of the sweet potato, so I made a second identical batch, omitted the chilli and then mixed the two together.  It's a nice combination.

2 onions
1oz / 25g butter
5 sweet potatoes
½ chopped red chilli (seeds removed)
2 tbsp lemon juice (or juice and rind of 1 fresh lemon)
3 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds (or 2 tsp ground cumin)
1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and chop the onions.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into even sized chunks

Melt the butter and cook the onions until soft.

Add the chilli, cumin and lemon juice and cook for a further minute to release the flavours.

Add the stock, and then add the sweet potatoes and seasoning.

Cook for 40 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Purée the soup, return to pan and reheat.

Curried Parsnip and Potato Soup

Served with Barbari bread
I've lost count of the times I've bought parsnips with every intention of roasting them, only to forget and find them a couple of days later in the fridge just starting to wrinkle.....I won't waste food and I believe that pretty much anything can be made into a simple meal.  Soups are perfect for using up vegetables that are beyond their best.  I've added potato to this recipe.  You can use just parsnips and then adjust the fluid and curry powder to taste.  It makes quite a thick soup, so when I've puréed it, I add a small amount of boiling water to thin it down a little.

1lb parsnips
1 large potato
1 large onion
1oz / 25g butter
1 level teaspoon hot curry powder
2 pints (1.1 litres) chicken stock or vegetable stock if you prefer to keep it vegetarian
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and chop the onion.

Peel and cut the parsnips and potatoes into even sized chunks.

Melt butter in a large pan and gently fry for five minutes until soft but not brown.  Add the curry powder and cook for a further minute.  Keep stirring or the spice will catch on the heat.

Stir in the stock and season with salt and pepper.

Add the parsnips and potatoes and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently, covered for 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Purée the soup and then return to the pan to reheat

This soup can be frozen.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Spicy Butternut Squash Cake

I had never heard of a butternut squash until I had my son Joshua.  When I was weaning him onto solids I used a recipe book by a children's cook, Annabel Karmel.  In it she stated that babies LOVED the taste of this weird and wonderful member of the squash family and so one day I cooked it for him.  She was right, he loved it.  Some days I mixed it with apple, some days with pear and other days with savoury ingredients and not once did he refuse it.  In fact, all four of my children loved this sweetly smooth vegetable.  Soups made with it are superb and it absorb flavours so well, right from curry spices through to pudding spices.  Sage is also an excellent flavour to marry with butternut.

I've been thinking about using puréed vegetables in cake mixes for a while now, after my son said he'd eaten courgette cake at a friend's house and how nice it was.  I had a butternut in my fridge and scoured recipes and came across this one.  It is stated as a bread, but it's a cake really - cooked in a lined and greased 9x5" loaf tin.

It is beautifully moist but definitely more likely to appeal to the adult palette.  My older two liked it, but didn't rate it as highly as other cakes.  The younger two did not like it at all.  It definitely needs to be left for at least a day before it is eaten as the spices are still very pungent and haven't had time to develop.  It is also nice spread with butter.

In this recipe, it is very important to roast the squash beforehand and to purée it.  It will give you an idea of the yield you have to determine how many cakes you can make. One cup of purée will give you one cake, so if your squash makes two cups, double the recipe, three cups, triple it and so on.  To roast, split the butternut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and put the two halves cut side down on a baking sheet and roast at Gas 4 / 350F / 180C for 45 minutes or until a knife goes through the flesh with no resistance.  Scoop out the flesh and put through a blender and discard the papery skin.  If you don't fancy making multiple loaves, then what's left can be made into a soup.

If you're not likely to eat this cake within 3-4 days, it is best sliced and either stacked with greaseproof paper between the slices, wrapped in clingfilm and placed in an airtight box to be frozen.


1½ cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 cup butternut squash purée
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup water


1.  In one bowl, sift flour, soda and all the spices.

2.  In another bowl mix the butternut purée, sugar, oil, eggs and water until well blended.  This will appear very sloppy and the oil will take a while to mix, but don't worry if it doesn't mix completely.

3.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

4.  Pour into loaf tin and bake at Gas 4 / 350F /180C for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

5.  Leave to cool in tin on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove from tin and cool completely.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Maple Syrup Muffins

I've always got a bottle of maple syrup in the larder and usually it's only poured over pancakes as I've often been wary of baking cakes with it as it has such a strong flavour.  But today my mouth has been watering at the thought of eating something cakey with it, so instead of heading for the chocolate muffin recipes I have, I decided to do a basic mix and then add in a bit of maple syrup.  I was still a bit hesitant about quantities, so I used half golden and half maple and I think the balance is just right.

4oz butter, softened
4oz caster sugar
4 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra for drizzling
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs
8oz self raising flour
4 tbsp milk
cinnamon and icing sugar to dust

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add all other ingredients and mix well.  Put into muffin cases and bake at Gas 5 / 190C / 375F for 25 minutes.


When the muffins are just out of the oven put two skewer holes in, drizzle over extra maple syrup, sprinkle with a tiny dusting of cinnamon and then a layer of dusted icing sugar.

These are so delicious warm.  Sam had just gone to bed by the time they were cool enough to eat, but he heard the Mmmmmms coming from downstairs and was allowed to come down to enjoy the first batch with us.  I only had enough mix for 11 muffins.  If I'd filled 12-15 cases I would have had enough room to put a really nice maple flavoured icing topping, which I'm really tempted to do next time.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Beer and Mustard Bread

Joshua's wanted to be a chef since he was four years old.  Whether he continues with that career choice remains to be seen, but he does like to be given opportunities to get in the kitchen as often as possible.  He doesn't err towards baking sweet things like I do, but savoury and side dishes.  Today he wanted to make bread.  An ordinary white loaf didn't appeal.  He wanted to make a cheese and onion loaf, but our meagre amount of cheese in the fridge soon put an end to that.

Undeterred, he found a recipe for beer and mustard bread and obtaining permission from his father to raid a tin of Boddingtons, he set about making his own loaf.  Also undeterred, he realised the recipe was for a bread making machine, but using a bit of common sense and some elbow power he realised his arm had to take the place of the dough hook.

His first loaf was quite intricately designed, he says, to be a 'sharing' loaf, having bits that people could pull off rather than slicing.  He served it on a wooden bread board with butter on the side with our main meal today and every single bit of it has gone.

Custard Dreams

The biscuit tin in my house empties way too quickly and I do get to a point where I refuse to buy more.  Partly because I'm all too often the guilty party dipping into it and whilst they're there for the eating.....!

Maddie made these biscuits for a homework assignment a couple of years ago and they were a great success, so I decided to make them again today.


250g/8oz butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2¼ cups plain flour
½ custard powder
1½ tsp baking powder


1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp soft butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp condensed milk

1.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

2.  Gradually add all other ingredients, chill for ten minutes.

3.  Break off pieces and roll into balls the size of a walnut and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  You can make them as big or little as you like.

4.  Press down balls with a fork to flatten slightly and then bake at 180C / 350F / Gas 4 for 15 minutes (shorter or longer depending on how big you make the balls).

5.  Cool on a wire rack.  When totally cool, mix all icing ingredients together, chill mix for ten minutes, then use to sandwich biscuits together.

6.  Find a willing volunteer to try out the first one!