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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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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Little Mermaid but not the Disney one, please

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This request for a bachelorette cake was changed approximately 5 million times. From cake to cupcakes back to cake back to cupcakes. From gentle pastel coloured flowers and a golden ‘Hen Party’ sign to ‘Little Mermaid but not the Disney one, please’. I was secretly glad we settled for cupcakes as they are, after all, my speciality and I very much enjoy doing even the fiddliest decorations. As it was a summer party, we went with a piña colada flavour – it was extremely difficult to resist eating all the pineapple cupcakes and the coconut buttercream frosting while decorating them. They were so much fun to make, and don’t they look pretty?

Little Mermaid Cupcakes 1 Little Mermaid Cupcakes 2

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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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Nutella Cupcakes [+RECIPE]

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There are very few people I know who do not like Nutella. And they’re not close friends. Now, let’s be honest – who would want to be friends with anyone who doesn’t appreciate the warm fuzzy feeling this lovely hazelnut chocolate spread provides? There are also very few people in my life who do not like cupcakes (ok, I get it, you have a savoury tooth. Now go gobble your pack of crisps and close this blog. Nothing for you here). So needless to say, I have now made these Nutella cupcakes twice and they have been a success both times. The first time I used the original recipe Jemma posted, the second time I had no hazelnuts so I made her chocolate cupcake base instead and smothered it in the Nutella frosting. Both worked a charm! So here we go:

Jemma’s Nutella Cupcakes
(makes 12)

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
50g of roasted skinned hazelnuts, reduced to fine crumbs + 36 extra whole ones  to decorate (optional)
100g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
125g caster sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
140g unsalted softened butter
2 large free-range eggs
1,5 tbsp of whole milk with a little vanilla extract

For the frosting:
100g softed unsalted butter
150g Nutella
225g sifted icing sugar
A few tbsp of milk to soften it up

Method:
To make the cupcakes, sift dry ingredients together (incl. blitzed hazelnuts) in a medium bowl (or the bowl of the stand mixer), then add butter and eggs and mix for about 30 seconds on medium. Add milk and vanilla and beat for another minute.

Scoop even amounts in a lined cupcake tin and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about 20-22minutes, depending on your oven.

In the meantime, you can make the frosting. Beat butter and Nutella together for 4-5 minutes on a high speed. Then add icing sugar in 2 batches, beating well inbetween (starting on a slow speed and increasing after). Add a few tablespoons of milk to soften it up if too stiff.

In order to make the frosting even better, add some of it in strikes to the inside of your piping bag with a palette knife (or a butter knife if you don’t have one). This will add nice stripes and extra flavour. Pipe as desired and pop a few whole hazelnuts on top to decorate.*

These did not last very long...

These did not last very long…

*The first time I added only 2 hazelnuts per cupcake. It was, however, my friend’s birthday and the restaurant added the candles in such a way that the ensemble did not look like 2 hazelnuts and a candle inbetween but… you know what I mean. So I strongly recommend using 1 or 3 hazelnuts each if you’d be adding birthday candles.

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Aloha, you luau cookies and cupcakes!

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For someone living at the sea side (and spoiled for choice between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean), beach themed parties are kind of… well, normal. But you add a Hawaiian twist to them and BAM! Success, right?

So maybe I didn’t get to attend a Hawaiian party myself but I did participate in its organising one by making adorable luau cookies and cupcakes on order. I chose lemon flavour for the cookies, and Pina Colada (read pineapple and coconut) cupcakes. They turned out fingerlicking good but also really pretty.

I used the Biscuiteer’s vanilla biscuits recipe but added 2 lemon zests. I now swear by it! Best one for icing cookies (other recipes I’ve tried soak up too much water from the icing and become soft). They didn’t go soft or break without me having to add too much flour or baking them longer. I mixed and matched for the cupcakes – this base with the pineapple filling, and this buttercream. However, Jemma has recently posted her recipe for Pina Colada cupcakes, and it involves Malibu rum, so you might want to use her recipe too. You might be tired after baking so I strongly recommend to sit with a cocktail in hand and enjoy.

cookies_luau cupcakes_luau

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It’s not simply edible lace, it’s magic! [+DISCOUNT CODE]

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Remember I moaned a while ago that I may have to convert to beauty blogging to get nice freebies? Well, it turns out I was wrong.

As luck would have it, the lovely people at Squires Kitchen Shop not only did read my blog, they also sent me an amazing package in the post (which was a nice change to the uninterrupted flow of various bills). You simply cannot imagine my excitement! I almost burst – not only does my favorite online shop for baking supplies read my blog, but they also want to collaborate with me!!! There is something in it for you too – keep reading.

So I received the following products to add to my ever growing collection:

The received goodies

The received goodies

Bridal Rose Sugarpaste
Baroque Pink Cupcake Cases
Silikomart Wondercakes Daisy Mat
Flexi-Ice Instant Mix

This meant I could now make edible lace! I was slightly skeptic at first – flexible icing? Which you can eat? But you bake it first? It sounded fishy. But behold: IT IS PURE MAGIC! Like unicorn magic, I’m telling you! Don’t be afraid to follow the instructions on the flexible icing. I was worried as the ratio icing to water is 1 to 1.5 – this didn’t sound right. But it is. These people really know what they’re doing – so trust them and simply follow what it says on the back of the package, and there’s no way you won’t succeed. I baked it for 25 minutes rather than 20 but this all depends on the oven. If you are operating a pre-war beast like mine, it is temperamental so times are always relative. And the lace doilies came out of the mold like a charm!

The silicone mould ready to go on the oven to dry

The silicone mould ready to go on the oven to dry

I put a thin layer of icing on the cakes, then rolled out the sugarpaste to cover them in it . For the cupcakes, I used CupcakeJemma’s vanilla cupcakes recipe, which I then topped with the Hummingbird bakery’s Kahlua mascarpone frosting. I recommend letting the frosting set in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before putting the sugar paste on. Especially if your kitchen, like mine, turns into a sauna in summer.

IMG_4569 IMG_4567Once this was done, I brushed a little edible glue so the lace sticks to the sugarpaste, and that was it. Et voila! I think I’m in love.

finished finished 2
I haven’t tried coloring the lace yet – this would be the next project, and I have some beautiful colors I had previously ordered from Squires. But I can definitely recommend the set to everyone. So simple yet chic, and super easy to make!

But the best part is yet to come. Squires Kitchen Shop is offering all my readers 10% OFF orders until 01.10.2014 if you also want to create lace magic or want to buy everything else they have in stock too (I know I would). Simply enter the code UNICORNS2015 at checkout to enjoy your 10% discount. Come on, off you go – the next order has your name on it. And they do classes as well – if you are based in the UK, get your butt over to Surrey! I promise I will only be jealous a little bit.

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4th of July dessert galore

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For a second year in a row, a few local businesses organised a 4th of July party in Gibraltar. And for a second year in a row, Cupcakes & Unicorns had a small dessert stall. Picture plenty of oreos, marshmallows, brownies, NYC style cheesecake. Luckily, this year I was able to spend less time on decorations (since I managed to recycle some from last year, plus the awesome Whitney and Alan just came back from a US trip and brought some fantastic goodies, including my little top hat) and more time on baking. This is what it looked like:

I loved my tiny top hat!

I loved my tiny top hat!

We had following desserts for sale:
– Sugar cookies with a royal icing flad drawn on each
– Lush fudgy chocolate brownie (which also came in a) gluten-free and b) egg- and dairy-free version)
– Vanilla and oreo cake pops
– Red and blue whoopie pies
– NYC style oreo cheesecake (oreo base, as well as crushed oreos in the actual cheesecake)
– Boozy cupcakes (Guinness chocolate cake with Kahlua mascarpone frosting)
– Funky marshmallow skewers

Here are a few more pictures from the stall:

Unfortunately, it turned out the Miss Gibraltar 2015 beauty pageant appealed more to the local audience so not a lot of people came to the event. It was still good fun though, and the local Nazareth House received a donation of brownies, cookies and whoopie pies to give out to the less fortunate amongst ones. Also, mine and G’s colleagues and friends did not mind devouring any left overs.

Here’s to you, America. Hope you all there across the pond had a lovely 4th of July weekend.

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And I quote: “Possibly the best cupcakes ever” [+RECIPE]

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Father’s day was not too long ago and as the designated baker in the family, it was my task to provide cake or cupcakes for the celebrations. I wanted to try a new recipe but wanted it to be a ‘manly one’ somehow. What do men generally like? Football, beer, cars. Luckily, I remembered a recipe Jemma posted not long ago for chocolate Guinness cakes – and it seemed really fitting!

I wasn’t sure what to expect – would you be able to taste the beer? Would it be weird. Little did I know that they will turn out to be amazing. Chocolatey but not overpowering, very moist and with an extremely velvety texture. It is like chocolate cake and fudge had a love child.

You can find the video recipe here but I have written it out below (easier to copy paste ingredients for a shopping list, etc.). Since mine were for father’s day, I had to write little messages with food coloring on a fondant plaque:

Father’s Day Hit

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
(makes 12)

Ingredients:
125ml of Guinness Original (from a bottle, not a can)
125g chopped unsalted butter
140g plain flour
35 g of cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
70g sour cream
1 large free range egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 batch of cream cheese frosting (or use Jemma’s recipe)

Method:
Melt butter in Guinness over low heat and set aside. Sieve dry ingredients in a bowl and give it a whisk to mix them all in. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, the egg and vanilla as well as the Guinness butter (cooled down). Add dry ingredients to wet ones and whisk until it is all incorporated.

The mixture will be runny so pour it in a jug. Line a muffin/cupcake tray with cases and split mixture amongst 12. Bake at 150 degrees Celsius (fan oven) for 22 minutes. While they’re in the oven, prepare the frosting.

Let cool and decorate with cream cheese frosting.

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Tarifa indulgence

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June’s agenda is so busy: One business trip down, two more to go. Needless to say all this travelling doesn’t leave much time for baking or blogging but oh boy, does it give me what to write about! But let me not get ahead and myself and let me start with last weekend.

We haven’t been fortunate with the weather this spring (I don’t dare call it summer yet – don’t want to jinx it). Normally this time of the year is spent on endless white beaches (or at least the weekends), sleeping in a tent and generally being out and about as much as possible before summer heat arrives in full blast. So last Friday, full of enthusiasm, we packed the tent and some essentials and headed to Tarifa, where we are happiest. The sun, it appears, had other plans and it didn’t make an appearance at all. However, we were still lucky:

That weekend, Tarifa was throwing it’s 3rd annual Ruta del Atun (or the Route of the tuna). The Strait of Gibraltar is famous for it’s tuna fishing and as part of the ‘route’ 41 bars and restaurants in Tarifa had prepared their own ‘tapa’ or small dish of tuna. You were given a map of the places with a brief description of their take on tuna – to try as many as possible in a more organised way. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to collect as many stamps as possible. Some were quite traditional, others rather exotic. I won’t describe all 15 or so tapas we tried but cannot not mention my favorite one.

The description simply read: Salmorejo de fresa con tataki de atun. Salmorejo is a summer soup (or pureee) served cold, traditionally prepared from tomato and bread with olive oil, vinegar and salt. We really didn’t know what to expect – would it be sweet or savoury? The waiter raised an eyebrow when I asked for red wine to go with it and kindly suggested I have a rose instead. I went with the flow and was really stunned: the salmorejo tasted like a strawberry mousse, had whipped cream on top and thin slices of tuna, barely cooked and sprinkled with sesame. It was the best! The light natural saltiness of the fish and it’s melt-in-your-mouth texture was complemented by the strawberry salmorejo and the cream in a fantastic way. We had left this for last seeing as it sounded like dessert, and believe me, the fact my belly was already pretty full was the only thing which stopped me of having 3 more of those. Pure heaven…

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Sweet and salty at the same time. Terrific!

However, one cannot survive on tuna alone. And we were lucky again. A small caravan unlike all the others was parked close to the entrance of our camp site. And it wasn’t just any caravan. It was a little mobile bakery! Now, if you are an avid baker like me, you simply cannot walk past and not stop by. Afternoon tea it is! Ok, more like afternoon wine but with a cupcake, sitting al fresco by the caravan bakery. It was the sweetest thing ever (no, I don’t mean the cake). Of course, I was dead curious to see it all and the nice owners let me inside to have a little snoop. They had a tiny pink oven and a pink fridge, and everything was adorable. Cakes were made fresh and I must say, even though I find my cupcakes better, the one I had was good too. It was the cream cheese frosting which is the best frosting, I tell you. We spent a most enjoyable afternoon there, G. indulging in his favorite ‘palmeritas de chocolate’ and me in dreams of my own mobile bakery. One day :)

One word: Adorable.

One word: Adorable.

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