The pinkest cake ever!

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When you have a few picky eaters to please but want a show stopper cake, you need to get creative. No chocolate, no fruit (or in particular berries), no cream cheese frosting. So what do you do? You create a vanilla ombre pinata cake full of jelly beans, of course. It’s that simple – if the flavor must be rather plain, you just go all out on decorations.

I started by preparing three quarters of the batter for Jemma’s Rainbow Cake – I wanted 4 layers instead of 6 as it was to be a small family celebrations and I didn’t want any cake to go to waste. But instead of colouring them in rainbow colours, I created 4 shades of pink.

cake1

Once the cakes were baked and cooled, I used a round cutter to cut holes in the 3 darker shades, leaving the palest layer untouched. Once I had those 3 layers arranged on my cake board (using vanilla buttercream between them), I filled the gap with jelly beans all in pinks. I applied the top layer and did the crumb coat (a thin layer of icing meant to lock all crumbs). I left the cake to chill in the fridge for the icing to set and in the meantime I coloured the rest of my buttercream in 3 shades of pink. Using a large petal nozzle I then created a dark pink rose for the top and then created ruffles on the side of the cake for extra lush. You can see how to make the ruffles in this video (of course, again by Jemma – it also shows how to create the pinata effect).

cake2When you’re done with this and it’s time for the party, sit back and enjoy the faces of the crowd as they cut into the cake and the jelly beans spill out!

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My GBBO challenge

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2016 so far has been a year of many changes. On a personal level, I started a new job, we moved to our own apartment (I have my dream kitchen, yay!) and adopted a new furry four-legged child (you can follow his adventures on his Instagram). On an international level, Britain decided to leave the EU and the US didn’t chose their next president too wisely. But probably the biggest change for those interested in baking was the news that The Great British Bake Off as we know it is over! As of next year, it will be broadcast on Channel 4 instead of BBC1. Mel and Sue will no longer be presenter. And wait for it… Mary Berry will no longer be a judge. Paul Holywood is staying – but I do wonder who they’d find to soften his blows constructive criticism.

Which is why I simply had to buy this year’s GBBO book (even though the last 2 have been quietly sitting on a shelf for a while) – it will be the last one with Mel and Sue on the cover after all! The idleness of said books however had me thinking I should use those books more. This is why I have decided to challenge myself and bake as many recipes until next year’s Great British Bake Off.  This will not be a standard challenge of 100 recipes in 100 days or similar – with an anyways very busy schedule I would never be able to stick to it. But I do want to try and go through as many bakes as possible and aim mainly for things I have never made before. Like puff pastry – ain’t nobody got time for that when you can buy it in the shops, right?

I am looking forward to putting my baking skills to the test – what are your goals for next year?

I will miss Mary, Sue and Mel!

I will miss Mary, Sue and Mel!

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Nadia vs. Tarte Tatin

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Now, I am known for baking until late, late at night. Baking and frosting cupcakes at 2am? No problem. Decorating cookies with royal icing at 3am? Bring it on. But if I am not one thing, that is an early bird.  So why did I end up waking at 6am to make a tarte tatin? Still a mystery to me too. Although it may have to do with the fact that I cannot miss a baking challenge and when my co-workers said I should make this dessert, I didn’t realize it’s best served warm. That is one mistake I will not be making hastily again: before promising another fiddly bake, I will check if it can be baked the day/night before.

So I set on to finding the best recipe. The New York Times promised theirs is fool proof but it used ready puff pastry (and I like to make my own pastry). BBC Good Food didn’t make any empty promises but it did sound like more work than the NY times one. So as one does, I combined the 2 recipes to produce the famous apple tart and here we go:

Tarte tatin
(makes one 10-11 inch tart – please note it takes a while to prepare if you do it ‘by the book’ and let the apples dry overnight in the fridge)

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Ingredients for the filling:
6 large apples (I used Braeburn but apparently you can use Granny Smith mixed with Cox or Honeycrisp) – just make sure they’re firm so they don’t fall apart while cooking
80g salted butter
100-130g light brown sugar (to taste)

Ingredients for the pastry:
250 g plain flour*
50 g soft light brown sugar
A pinch of salt
125 g unsalted cold butter
1 large free-range egg

*You can make the tart gluten free if you replace the regular flour with a GF one and add ½ teaspoon xanthan gum)

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Method:

I like to prepare my pastry in advance. So let’s start with that. Sieve the flour (and xanthan gum if going GF) into a large bowl (the shallower, the better), then stir in the sugar and salt. Cut the butter into cubes, then use your hands or a pastry blender to rub it into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, then add it to the mixture. Use your hands to bring it together into a rough dough, but don’t knead it too much. If for some reason the dough is too crumbly, you can add some milk on order to bring it all together but mine came out fine with just the egg, in fact it was still a little sticky which is totally fine since you will be using a little flour later when rolling it out to prevent it from sticking to your worktop and rolling pin. Form the dough into a flat round, roughly 2.5cm thick, wrap in cling film and let sit fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour before rolling it out.

Slice the apples and place in the fridge for a few hours (ideally overnight so they can dry up a little bit). You can add some lemon juice to prevent them from browning but they will go brown when cooking anyways so you can skip the lemon juice.

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The next steps are ideally done right before you want to serve the tart. Cover an oven proof frying pan (I have an IKEA one which has a metal handle) with the butter (it needs to be a thick layer) and sprinkle most of the sugar over it and arrange the apples nicely on top, making sure the whole surface is covered. Add the rest of the sugar on top. Roll the pastry to the size of the pan and cover the apples. Place the pan on a medium to high heat on the hob. Cook for a few minutes until the juices around the edges of the pastry begin to bubble, and spoon some out of going over the pastry. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the juice starts going darker and starts to caramelize. Then place the pan in a preheated fan oven at 170 degrees Celsius (or 180-190 if using a regular, non-fan oven). Bake for another 45-50 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes (around 5) once you take it out of the oven, then place a serving dish on top and carefully tip the tart over. Serve while still warm – add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like!

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Always eat your vegetables [+RECIPE]

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I have very early memories from my childhood singing a song about vegetables and how you’d never grow up to be big and strong if you didn’t eat them. I also don’t remember ever being refused dessert for not finishing my veggies – I must have been lucky. To this day I do like (most) vegetables but then again, I also like cake. So why not combine both?

We have all heard about the almighty and oh-so-good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. But let’s face it – carrots are so sweet they barely classify as a vegetable in my books. Which is why I like to use other, less popular veg. I am yet to make a beetroot chocolate cake but I now have 2 great courgette recipes in my ‘Let-me-amaze-you’ arsenal. I have admittedly omitted to mention the presence of courgette a time or two before the cake has been tasted but again, luckily no one has spat cake in my face yet either. So all in all – my attempt to incorporate one of your 5 a day in dessert is working well so far.

So here a recipe I discovered and already tested on my office guinea pigs (who luckily for me never say no to cake).

Lemon courgette cupcakes
(makes 10 or 12 – see below)

Ingredients:
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
115g caster sugar
150g courgette (peeled and coarsely grated)
2 free range eggs
60ml sunflower oil
1tsp lemon extract

For the frosting:
200g full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (cold – straight from the fridge)
3 heaping tsps of icing sugar (approximately – add more or less according to taste)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method:
Line a muffin tin with either 12 fairy cake cases or 10 muffin ones. I prefer using muffin cases in this case as the frosting is a little runnier than buttercream so it sits nicely in the cases without spilling over. Sift the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl (oil, eggs and lemon extract). Add the courgettes and the wet ingredients to the dry ones and whisk well till all incorporated. Bake at 160 degrees Celsius (fan) or 180 degrees for non-fan ovens for around 23 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let to cool on a rack completely.

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In the meantime prepare the frosting. Mix the cream cheese frosting, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest using a wooden spoon – don’t overmix so it doesn’t go too runny but make sure it’s nice and smooth. I recommend to then pop it back in the fridge for a while (at least until the cupcakes are completely cool) so it can firm up.

Once the cupcakes  are completely cool, spoon frosting on top and smooth out a little. I did like those looking a little bit rough around the edges to add to them even more home-made flair. If you have time or patience, you can even shave longer pieces of lemon zest to decorate. I was lazy 😉 Then serve with a cup of tea and coffee and enjoy!

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A love letter to a cake

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Recently I have been experimenting a little more with gluten free baking. I have done loads of gluten free cupcakes before but had my first go at GF pastry which turned out to be a success. But then I saw this recipe on Jemma’s YouTube channel and it really made me curious – no xanthan gum needed (a powder which acts like gluten to bind the ingredients together), no flour – just polenta and ground almonds. So I decided to make it. Admittedly, it didn’t turn out quite as fluffy as Jemma’s (it was nice and moist though) so it does need tweaking – maybe play a bit with temperature or baking time (after all, my current oven isn’t the best to say the least). But it still tasted good and I shared with some friends, not omitting  to mention the shortcomings of it. And then something unexpected happened. I got this:

Needless to say, I was happy to hear that the cake was liked so much but I was also a little disappointed. The actual creator of the cake has to this date never received such a letter. At least it’s good to know that the things I create provoke such deep feelings, isn’t it? Have a look at the cake yourself:

Whole

Before we cut it

The inside

The inside

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Seriously lush Cookies & Cream brownie cupcakes [+RECIPE]

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I really don’t like letting any food items go to waste. It just seems too unfair considering there are so many people in the world less fortunate than me who would appreciate any leftovers. So when I have more eggs than I can eat, half a packet of double stuffed Oreos (which wouldn’t go to waste but would most likely get eaten in one go resulting in days of self-loathing for it), some butter and half a tub of double cream, I bake. Like any self respecting baker, I am rarely out of flour, sugar and dark chocolate, which of course helps.

As if by request, Smitten Kitchen had just posted a recipe for lush brownies with only 5 ingredients which I automatically decided to pimp with the cream and Oreos. I crushed the Oreos and put them on the bottom of the paper cases, and the cream I whipped and piped on top. I have so far made them twice and even the pickiest brownie eaters were impressed with the part brownie, part muffin creation.

These babies disappeared shortly after

These babies disappeared shortly after this picture was taken

Seriously lush (leftover) Cookies & Cream brownie cupcakes
(makes 12)

Ingredients:
200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
200g sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt (fine sea salt preferrably)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (20 grams) plain flour
1 packet of Oreos (around 130g)
250ml double cream
1tbsp icing sugar

before 1

The mix is just chilling out

Method:
Preheat the oven to 165 degrees celsius. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper cases.
Melt the butter and the chocolate. I prefer doing it over bain marie (over simmering water in a heat proof bowl) but you can do it in the microwave. Just be careful not to burn it in the microwave – put it in for 15 to 30 seconds, stir well and repeat till all melted. Add the sugar which will cool it down. Then whisk in the salt and the eggs, one a time mixing well between them. Stir flour in and then cover with clingfilm and let is rest for about half an hour, this will thicken the mix. While it’s sitting in the bowl, crush Oreos (I bash them in a ziplock bag with a wooden rolling pin) – but not too finely, make sure you have small chunks and not just breadcrumbs. Split the crushed Oreos in the muffin cases (it’s about a tablespoon in each). Whisk double cream with icing sugar till soft peaks form (you can do it by hand but I recommend using an electric mixer so that your arms are not sore after).

When the mixture has sat for 30 minutes or so, scoop it into the muffin cases. Bake for around 25 to 30 minutes, but make sure you don’t overbake as you want them to be a little gooey still. Look for no batter on a toothpick but wet crumbs! Let them cool completely, then pipe cream on top and enjoy!

Before they went into the oven

Before they went into the oven

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Cookie making

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I admire cooking and baking blogs which have beautiful photographs but often struggle with photographing my own creations or the process of making them. The kitchen is normally a mess so finding a good spot is a struggle, the natural light at my current home is pretty awful, I often bake late at night, the camera isn’t charged. And often not even the fanciest filter on Instagram (long live iPhone photography) cannot help. So it is a rare treat when someone is willing to take photos of me or my baking. These photos are well overdue – my wonderfully talented sister took them of me a year ago and I’ve been dying to share them but one thing led to another… Anyways, I am a strong believer in ‘Better late than never’ so here we go. Thank you, Vanina, I  love those shots almost as much as I love you!

Cookies & hands Tools Baked Cookies Decorated cookies

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Autumn is here: pumpkin cupcakes [+RECIPE]

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Jeans, rainy weekends and Halloween planning means Autumn has arrived. As sad as this makes me and as much as I am going to miss my bikini, I am also looking forward to days spent under the duvet, hot chocolate, soups, and of course: pumpkin! Pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin, pumpkin cake – it is all so very exciting :) And since sharing is caring, you can find below a delicious autumn recipe to whip up when the weather is too miserable to be outside!

Pumpkin cinnamon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
(makes 18, includes about 2 hours to prepare pumpkin)

pumpkin cupcakes

Ingredients:
400g pumpkin
2 cups of plain flour
1 cup of light soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

75g soft unsalted butter
120g cream cheese
420g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp whole milk (if needed)

Method:
Sprinkle pumpkin with allspice and roast for about 1 hour in a preheated oven, wrapped in alum. foil. Let it cool, then blitz the flesh in a food processor until it forms a smooth puree. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Mix the pumpkin puree in the bowl of a stand mixer with eggs, oil and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and make a well. Add wet ingredients and and mix gently. Scoop in a lined cupcake tin until 2/3 full, then bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While cakes are in the oven, you can prepare the frosting. Mix the butter and cream cheese for a few minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand one, until it’s all well incorporated. Add the sifted sugar in 2 batches, mixing really well between additions. Add a few spoons of milk if it’s too stiff to pipe – this will loosen it up.

Frost cupcakes in any way you like and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee or tea!

cut cupcake

I love the colour pumpkin gives to cakes

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I present to you: ‘Mum on the Rock’

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This blog post is well overdue but I am a strong believer in ‘better late than never’ so there you go. I am proud to be part of the team of Gibraltar’s new online magazine ‘Mum on the Rock‘ and, you guys, I have the BEST title in the world: Baker Extraordinaire!

profileMOTR
The first issue came out in the beginning of September and I produced National Day inspired Rice Krispies cake pops, you can find the recipe here. If all goes well, every month you will be able to read another exciting article written by yours truly!

I have been extremely excited about this project and this is the place to thank Polly who is behind ‘Mum on the Rock’ and who so warmly encouraged me after the revival of ‘Cupcakes & Unicorns’. At the time we were just fellow bloggers who followed each other on Twitter and it was great for me to receive such posotive feedback from someone who isn’t a close friend or family! She gave me the confidence I needed to believe a little more in myself and what I do. And this is a debt not easy to repay but thank you for everything, Polly! Thank you for your encouragement and for giving me the chance to be part of this amazing team of ‘Mum on the Rock’. Looking forward to what the future has in stock!

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Decadent brownie cookies with posh sea salt [+RECIPE]

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Following the 6th season of the Great British Bake Off closely has made me realise a few things. I am not posh, nor do I endeavour to be. I don’t use anything as fancy as rosemary in sweet bakes, or elderflower cordial. Hell, I can’t even pronounce cordial properly. But what I do, I usually do well, even if it’s more classic and has simpler ingredients. So I myself was really surprised by my recent splurge of 125g of Maldon Sea Salt flakes at the outrageous price of £2*. The recipe did call for it, though. And since I have now baked the same thing twice in 2 weeks for no particular reason (highly unusual for me) using these salt flakes, I am confident to say it was worth it. I hope this doesn’t make me a posh baker. Or does it? Eeeek.

In any case, I now feel obliged to share with you why you also need this salt in your life. Because it is used for sprinkling over the most decadent chocolate brownie cookies (and also good quality steak, but you know… it’s all about baking here). Trust me, you have subconsciously dreamt of these your entire life. So go ahead and indulge. You will want to thank me after (and please do so in the comments, if you like).

You can find the video tutorial here but I have written out the recipe for easier planning and shopping.

Jemma’s Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies
(makes approx. 24, depending on your scoop size)

Ingredients:
395g dark chocolate bars or chips (at least 70% cocoa)
50g unsalted butter, chopped
120g rye flour (I couldn’t find it so I just used plain flour)
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large free range eggs
270g light soft brown sugar
Maldon sea salt for sprinkling

Method:
Using a Pyrex or metal bowl over a pot of water (also known as bain marie), melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Set aside to cool down a little. Crack eggs in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand held one), add sugar and beat for 5-6 minutes with the whisk attachment until it is all very fluffy and has almost trippled in size. Add the chocolate and whisk on on low speed until it is all incorporated. Then add the sifted dry ingredients and mix very slowly (as if you’re folding it in).

Leave the mixture in the fridge for about an hour so the mix can set a little and can be scooped. Don’t even think of baking in straight away as it is sticky and liquidy like a brownie batter.

Once it is firm, scoop these on a baking tray lined with parchment and leave plenty of space inbetween. Flatten them out a little and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 8 to 10 minutes, the center should be still a little soft to give them the chewy texture they deserve once they’ve cooled down. Let cool and try not to devour them all in 5 minutes. Or do.

brownie cookie raw

Before: Do not panic. Looks improve with baking time!

brownie_cookie_baked

It is difficult not to eat 3 or 5 at a time. Or, you know, all of them.

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