Saturday, 9 February 2013

A bit of an experiment: Victoria Sponge Cupcake

Many many apologies for the long break from the blog! I've been fortunate to be able to take up a Masters Degree in recent months and its kept me very busy. I do however now have a regular baking guest column over on so please do check it out.

I was in a baking mood today and wanted to try something I'd had at my Student Union coffee shop. There is a fantastic baking company in Sheffield called Fancie and as I'm up there for my course on an almost daily basis I've become a fan. The first one of their's I tried was a Victoria Sponge Cupcake. However my baking brain kicked in as I ate it and started thinking that I could probably make something similar myself. 

Luckily Santa brought me things at Christmas to stock up my baking drawer and one of them was a cupcake plunger (this one to be exact) which allows you to take a round section out of the middle of the cupcake to put in a filling. So I used my 'go to' vanilla cupcake recipe, filled them with strawberry jam and topped with buttercream. Delicious!

The finished product!
Here's how to make them yourself:

You will need

  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tsps baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g margarine
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Strawberry Jam
For the icing:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
To make:

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

Use a handheld whisk or a mixer with a paddle attachment to beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until all ingredients are well mixed. When the mixture has a sandy consistency then you're done. 

Gradually add in half the milk and mix.

Separately, mix together the other half of the milk, the vanilla essence and egg in a jug. Add to the dry mix with the mixer set on slow speed. Once all is added, set mixer to medium speed until batter is smooth.
Adding the jam

Spoon the mixture into the cases, no more than two thirds full. This quantity should make 12 cupcakes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and until fully cool before adding the jam and icing.

Once cool use your cupcake plunger to remove the centres and spoon in strawberry jam until level.

Mix your buttercream icing and pipe on with a piping bag with a star tip. Start it the centre then curl round to cover the top, ending in the middle.

For a bit of colour, add some hundreds and thousands!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Shortcakes Guest Column!

Very pleased to say that I had a column published on last week. Just a little bit about how I got interested in baking and the lemon loaf recipe which has been the most popular post on the blog since it started.

Check it out!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Double Chocolate Muffins

Ok so you may have noticed that the recent posts have all involved chocolate.... What can I say, I'm going through a major chocolate phase at the moment. I'm usually not a chocaholic, but something's just clicked recently and I can't get enough! Particularly dark chocolate.

These muffins are fantastic. As with the chocolate chip cookies listed below, the ones you get from supermarket bakeries are difficult to replicate at home. But these beauties come out fluffy and delicious and are easy to do at home. Impress your friends!

Look great. Taste great.

You will need:
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 160ml milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 160g unsalted butter, melted
  • 120g dark chocolate, chopped roughly

To make:

Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees centigrade

Line your muffin tray with paper cases. This recipe makes 12

Cream together the sugar and eggs in a mixer, or using a handheld electric whisk

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl

In another bowl, or measuring jug, combine the milk and vanilla extract

Gradually add these two mixtures to the eggs and sugar bit by bit, alternating between the two

Beat the mixture until well incorporated

Stir in the melted butter with a wooden spoon until well incorporated

Then stir in the chocolate until well incorporated

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full

Bake for around 30 minutes

Leave the muffins to cool slightly in the tray before turning them onto the wire rack to cool completely

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

All the women in my family are big fans of the American style soft and chewy cookies you buy at supermarket bakeries. And yet, we've always had problems replicating their texture when baking our own. They always seem to come out crispy rather than that delectable chewy texture we all love. So you can imagine my delight when I found the PERFECT recipe for re-creating my favourite cookies. Not only do they taste wonderful, they're surprisingly quick and easy to make! When they're this easy, you wonder why you bother buying the packets from the supermarket!

How can you resist!?

You will need:
  •  225g unsalted butter
  • 350g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2.5 tsps bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g dark chocolate, chopped roughly
To make

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade

Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or a handheld electric whisk)

Add the egss one at a time and mix well. Make sure to scrape down mixture from the sides to incorporate everything

Beat in the vanilla extract on a slow speed

Add in the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Keep mixing until a smooth dough is formed

Stir in the chocolate chunks by hand until well dispersed

Arrange small amounts of the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Ensure they are well spaced as cookies will expand in oven

Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown

Allow to cool a little on the baking sheet before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely

This recipe will make approximately 24 cookies. But they won't last long! Trust me.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Guest Post: Of Cookies and Cakes

So as you're all well aware, the online baking community is massive! Every day I find a new blog with new delights. However I'm happy to tell you all that I'm honored to introduce Shortcakes' first ever guest post.

Of Cookies and Cakes is a new blog run by one of my all time favourite people, my effortlessly beautiful, stylish and talented best friend Korlin. She shares here her guide to creating a fabulous (yet easy to make) gift. If you love this as much as I do, then check out her blog here for impressive bakes and home-made goodies.

Isn't she lovely?


Easy hostess/host gift: self-made chilli vinegar or chilli oil

Self-made chilli vinegar

Ok, so this one isn't about baking and doesn't involve an oven in any kind. But, meh, who cares.
I was invited for dinner to a friend's place and usually I don't like turning up to stuff like that empty-handed, especially if I suspect the person may have put some effort in having me over (she did, it was delicious and a lovely evening - so I was very glad I had prepared something for her).
So this time I turned to Martha for inspiration. I like looking at Martha Stewart's website, I like the style and sometimes they have nice ideas. Yes, sometimes I like to browse the crafts pages, the wedding etiquette pages, the hostess gifts section... Does that make me older than I am? Well, I always suspected that I am a little bit 1950s housewife on the inside.

Anyhow. So. I decided on making chili vinegar, simply because it looked nice, I like spicy stuff myself and, most importantly, I figured I could get the needed ingredients on such short notice (I decided upon a hostess gift some 4 or 5 hours before I was supposed to be there).

It is quite simple. You'll find the original recipe here - it only talks about infusing vinegar but I suspect that chili-infused oil might be just as big a hit.

What you need:
  • pretty bottles
  • enough white vinegar, rice vingar or oil to fill the bottles
  • red, yellow and green chilis - Martha says 20 per half litre, but I used much less, just as many as I could fit in each bottle (six big red ones for the bigger bottle and 4 smaller yellow ones for the much smaller bottle - I think even the bigger one was less than half a litre) (I couldn't find any green ones)
  • decoration as desired
Oh-oh, careful, hot! ...not just on your tongue, but also on your eyes, nose, and other sensitive body parts.  
  •  and, secret tip: one-way gloves! Otherwise: ouch. Trust me.
There you go. Much better.

 How to do it:

1. Sterilize the bottles by placing them into hot water for ten minutes (make sure the water goes inside the bottles).

2. Contrarily to Martha, I decided to cut the chillis in halves, along their length. Ok, not so much "decided" as "was forced to", since otherwise they wouldn't have fit through the bottle neck. Plus I figured that the infusion would get much hotter this way, because of the sliced cells and the seeds.

3. Once all your chillis are safe and snug in the bottles, bring the vinegar to just boiling, then use a funnel to fill the hot liquid into the bottles.

4. Let cool and cork the bottles. Wait a few days for the flavour and spiciness to unfold. Not sure how long this will keep, but probably quite a while.

So, now the question that is burning (tehehe... burning... pun!) under everyone's nails, I'm sure. Which peppers are hotter - red or yellow? I decided to sacrifice myself in a self-experiment in order to be able to warn my friends who I would present this later to.

In this case (and I'm sure it depends on the different chillis used, etc.), surprisingly, the yellow ones were much,
much hotter.

I needed quite a bit of milk to get over it.

Always go for milk or yogurt (or bread) to fit nasty spice heat pain. Why? I've heard it's because the stuff that makes chili taste hot is lipophilic, i.e. soluble in fat, not in water. This means that water cannot "wash the pain away", the stuff that hurts stays put. Something that contains fat does a much better job.

If you've tried infusing things, I'm interested to hear your comments - I think I will go garlic crazy for my next infusion...

Next time there will be some baking, though. Promise.

Bailey's and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I first tried these at a craft fair and knew then that I had to find out how to make them myself! For those of you who aren't too keen on the sickly sweetness of Bailey's, do not fear! The Bailey's gives an added richness and kick to the mixture rather than making it overwhelmingly sweet.

I've had to use someone else's photo here as my batch were all eaten before I'd managed to get the camera out! Again the recipe uses cups, so either use your own or do some online conversions.

Only word that fits here is *gargle*

You will need:
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup soft light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Original liqueur
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
To make:

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees centigrade
Cream the butter and brown sugar at high speed, until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

Add the egg, vanilla and Bailey’s to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well.

Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until smooth.

Stir in the white chocolate chips, making sure no pockets of flour remain.

Drop the cookies in 1-inch balls onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until all the edges are golden.


Sinful Treat: Slutty Brownies

I apologise for the long silence bakers! I've been busy with all manner of personal things which has meant taking a break from baking for a while.

However missed writing and so am making a return with something truly sinful. Slutty Brownies. So called for their three layers, cookie dough, Oreos and brownies. My sister, a big brownie fan, found the recipe online and challenged me to make it. Their novelty value has gone down immensely well with all who've tried them and I find they make you very popular when bringing them to a friend's house.

A friend of mine sent me an alternative recipe which uses box mixes for the cookie dough and brownie layers. Whilst it would save a lot of time, this is by no means a quick bake, I feel it's taking the easy way out. Not only does it taste better when everything is made from scratch, the feeling of satisfaction is much greater when people enjoy them!

The recipe comes from an American blog and so all measurements are in 'cups'. This can be frustrating but you can convert all measurements online. Alternatively get these beautiful measuring cups from Lakeland!

Heaven on a plate!
You will need:

For the brownies
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
For the cookie dough 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup soft light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (alternatively chop up cooking chocolate)
For the oreo layer
  • 1 pack of Oreo (regular stuffed or double stuffed) N.B. I have found that 1.5 packs is more realistic for a good covering layer
To make: 

For the Brownie layer:

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder once the butter is melted. Whisk to combine and remove from heat.

Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and continuously whisk until the eggs are combined. Add the flour and continue to mix. Set batter aside. 
For the Cookie Dough layer: 
Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. 
Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix on low until everything is incorporated. 
Fold in the chocolate chips. Set dough aside. 
Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees centigrade. 
Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan with tin foil and then spray the tin foil with a layer of baking spray. 
Layer the cookie dough on the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan, pressing down to form the bottom of the slutty brownies. 
Layer as many oreos that will fit on top of the cookie dough. No need to overlap. One single layer will do. 
Pour the brownie batter on top of the oreo layer and make sure it's evenly layers on top. 
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Test with a knife to see if the center is done. If the knife comes out clean, let the brownies rest before serving. If the knife comes out with batter still on it, allow the brownies to bake about 5 minutes more. 
Best served warm with ice cream! These heavenly things are actually even better the day after they're baked.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Something Beautiful for your Spoons

So my other half is very particular about certain things. One is the what we do with spoons whilst cooking in the kitchen. I used to be happy just to leave them on the clean worktop or lean them against a pan. However this used to really bother him (and looking back I can see why!). So he always uses a side plate as a spoon rest.

For those of you with a similar preference but who would like something a little more special and pretty, look no further! Here are a few special spoon rests that will look beautiful in your kitchen.
This beauty can be bought for £14.50 from The House Gallery

Stiletto Spoon Rest, £8.95 from Gordon Smith
A little more expensive, £38 by Jonathan Adler
Talavera Spoon Rest, £10.40

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Happy Easter All!

Hope you're all having a relaxing Easter weekend, however you're spending it. The other half and I have headed back to my family home in Wales to spend it with my siblings. My parents are off celebrating their 30 year anniversary (*round of applause*) and so my sister has tasked herself with doing the lunch (see below). Mustn't keep the food waiting. Yum yum yum,

Emma x
Lunch courtesy of my younger sister!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

TFG (Transport for Goodies)

I always try to bring something baked to any sort of social gathering. However carrying everything in my limited collection of cake tins and tupperware proves to be problematic.

Saw someone had posted about this fantastic cupcake carrier on another baking page and you can get your own from Asda for £6! Problem solved.