Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Shortcakes Guest Column!

Very pleased to say that I had a column published on HugoFox.com 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.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Add colour to your kitchen: Colourworks Measuring Cups

I often find that American baking blogs can offer up some fantastic recipes. However, the major issue is decoding their measuring system. With everything listed in 'cups' it means that instead of leaping straight into making whatever delicacy I've found, I have to spend ages converting all the measurements.

My mother must have been having the same problem as she sent me a link to these beauties from Lakeland. They make measuring easy and brighten up your kitchen!

Great piece of kit for £5.99

£5.99 from the Lakeland website or in store.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Kitchen Design: Bistro Board

I'm someone who loves my flat to be full of little knick knacks and trinkets. I think the little touches are what make a difference to a home. And I'm always looking out for something unusual and reasonably priced to add to my collection.

I only left university in June 2010 so am still in the process of putting together my 'home'. I live with my other half and his 'stuff' focuses more on games consoles and computer parts. So I've been working on making the flat more homely.

I love browsing craft fairs and whilst working in a high street accessories store temporarily over Christmas I met a colleague who has her own small crafts business. Whilst she primarily sells via local craft fairs she's building an online presence for her company Bumbleblue.

One of the items she's selling which I've fallen a little in love with is this recipe blackboard, similar to what you'd find in a bistro.

Perfect for writing up recipes or food related messages to hang in your kitchen and a steal for £6!

Check out Bumbleblue!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Kitchen Cuties: Retro Aprons

Now aprons are a necessity for any domestic goddess who wants to keep her outfit looking fabulous whilst whipping up something sweet. But who says function can't join with fashion?

Now I love browsing Etsy.com. For those of you not familiar with it, it's an online marketplace for small businesses and individuals to sell their crafts and products. It's a great way to find a one of a kind item. I did a search for retro aprons and found a fantastic seller named Rosie Ann.

Retro apron, Cath Kidston-esque non? - £22

Half apron, 50's style - £14

Check her out and browse other sellers on Etsy for a great find!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Baking Drawer Must Have: Colour for Cakes

Since discovering a love of baking, my birthday and Christmas presents seem to have taken on a distinct theme. My designated baking drawer in our kitchen is getting fuller every time there's a special occasion.

One of the recent additions was a Christmas present from one of my sisters. Wilton food colouring gels. I've previously used the Dr Oetker liquid colourings you can buy in supermarkets but sometimes have to use a seemingly massive amount to get the colour I want.

The gels come in small pots resembling paint pots. A set of 8 colours will set you back somewhere between £14 and £18. Shop around online and see what price you can find.

When making the rainbow cake I posted about a couple of weeks ago I used the gels, having read that they would give a much more vibrant colour than their liquid counterparts. I have to admit I was very impressed. A small amount produced a bright and rich colour. I'm someone who likes to use colourful frostings so these suit me perfectly. Highly recommended!

Wilton 8 Icing Colour Gels

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Easy Peasy Quick Cook Cupcakes

Recently we had my sister and her boyfriend to stay with us. We've not really had any time to get to know him and so they visited for a weekend. Great time all round. However my other half had gone to pick them up from the station and I realised that - shock horror - I had no baked goods to offer them!

So I went to my 'go to' cupcake recipe. Simple but delicious vanilla cupcakes. And to avoid having to spend time whipping up frosting I used an old trick of my mothers. Using chocolate spread. This time I topped them with crushed Maltesers which I had left from a Christmas gift box. But you could use anything. Another way to make them a little more exciting is to use a variation on the chocolate spread. My other half brought some home from Sainsbury's the other day which has popping candy in it. A great treat for the kid in you!

Easy Peasy!

You will need:
  • 80g softened unsalted butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 240ml milk
  • 1/2tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs
  • Chocolate spread (whatever brand or variety you have available)
  • Something to decorate with
To make: 

Preheat the oven to 190 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.

Separately, mix together the milk,vanilla essence and eggs 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.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, no more than two thirds full. This quantity should make between 12 and 16 cupcakes.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and until fully cool before icing.

Use a knife or icing spatula to spread on chocolate spread and top with your choice!

Saturday, 18 February 2012


I've been wanting to make a rainbow cake forever and finally managed one this week! It'll take a little while to make it but it's worth it just for the 'wow factor!'

Just. Fabulous!

You will need:

4 eggs
8oz self-raising flour
8oz caster sugar
8oz margarine

For the icing:

300g icing sugar
50g margarine
125g cream cheese

To make:

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees

Mix the eggs, self-raising flour, caster sugar and margarine together to create the sponge mix

Divide into six equal portions and mix with your food colourings/gels

Grease and line six sandwich tins (if you have that many! I did it in two rounds of three tins) with coloured mixes

Bake for around 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on the cakes

Leave in the tins to cool for a while before turning them out onto wire racks

Once they're cool, layer the cakes and secure with the cream cheese icing

Top the top layer with icing, and, if you have enough, the sides too!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Somerset Stew and Cheddar and Parsley Mash

We're on a health kick here! And still going as February draws nearer. We just had this for dinner and as well as being super tasty, it left us feeling like we'd eaten healthily too. Which is always a good feeling to accompany being full! Give this a try, it's a nice winter warmer.

Not the most artistic photo, but trust me it's TASTY!

You will need:
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200g tin of butter beans, drained
  • 400g tin flageolet beans, drained
  • 200ml dry cider
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • Sprigs of thyme, leaves only
For the cheddar and parsley mash
  • 850g potatoes
  • Splash of milk
  • 25g butter
  • 75g cheddar cheese
  • Chopped parsley, handful

To make

Heat your oil in a large pan and add the carrot, onion, garlic and leek

Fry until soft

Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes, butter beans, flageolet beans, cider, vegetable stock, thyme and simmer for 15-20 mins until the stew thickens and the vegetables are tender

For the mash: peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Boil in salted water for 15 mins

Drain, put back in the pan and mash with the milk, butter, cheese and parsley

Season and (if you like) decorate with lumps of butter and place under the grill for a golden and crisp finish

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Snickerdoodle anyone?

So I've heard snickerdoodles mentioned in American books and on tv and always wondered what they are. They have such a great name! So when I found a recipe in one of my baking books the other day I had to try them.
For those non-Americans reading this, they're cinnamon biscuits and sooo good!

Here's how to make them at home.


You will need

For the dough
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 1/4tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 large egg
  • 240g plain flour
  • 3/4tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/8tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp cinnamon
For the coating
  • 1 1/2tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp ground cinnamon
To make

Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together

Once the mixture is fluffy, add the egg, making sure to scrape all the mixture from the sides of bowl to incorporate

Sift the flour, cream of tartar, bicarb, salt and cinnamon together in a separate bowl and add to the creamed butter and sugar in two or three portions

Mix well until the dough forms a smooth bowl

Place the dough in a bowl, cover it with cling film and place in the fridge to cool and rest. Leave it for approximately 40minutes

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 170°c and line two or three baking sheets with baking parchment

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together for the coating

Once the dough is ready, break off walnut sized pieces, roll them into balls and coat in the cinnamon sugar

Place the dough balls on to the prepared baking sheets, about five or six per sheet and making sure they're well spaced to allow for expansion whilst baking

Pop them in the oven and bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden colour

Allow them to cool and set on the sheets for a few minutes before putting them onto a wire rack

Monday, 2 January 2012

Before the diet starts: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Apologies for the lack of posts these last few weeks! I hope that you all have had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I also hope that there were a lot of lovely things to eat and drink.

We (the other half and I) spent Christmas with my family in Wales. None of us really like Christmas pudding so I offered to bring something baked that we could all have with a post lunch cup of tea. I thought it was probably best to do something I'd made before so did a batch of Red Velvet Cupcakes. A bit of indulgence and a chance to use my edible red glitter!

Fantastic colour mixture!

Beautiful colour sponge!

And the finishing touch, edible glitter!

You will need:

For the cupcakes

  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 40ml red food colouring (I recommend Silver Spoon or Dr Oetker)
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 240ml buttermilk
  • 1tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the icing
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • 250g full-fat cream cheese
  • To decorate: edible glitter, coloured sprinkles...anything you'd like!
To make

Preheat the oven to 190°c and line a muffin tin with cases

Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until you reach a fluffy consistency. Break in the eggs one at a time. Beat thoroughly after each egg and make sure to mix in the mixture from the sides of the bowl.

In a small separate bowl, blend together the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence until you get a paste. Then add the paste to the mixture, mixing thoroughly until everything is incorporated.

Sift the flour and salt together in a separate bowl and add to the cake mixture in two portions, alternating with the buttermilk. Ensure you mix thoroughly after each addition. 

Finally, mix together the vinegar and bicarb (watch for the fizz!) and add it to the mixture and do a final mix (ensure you get in all the mixture from the sides of the bowl).

Spoon the batter into the paper cases so that they are two thirds full. The recipe makes 12-16 cupcakes. 

Place in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a short while in the tin, cool on a wire rack before you ice them.

To make the icing:

Using your whisk or mixer, beat together the butter and icing sugar until there are no big lumps of butter left. Add the cream cheese and mix on a slow speed until well blended. Then turn to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy.

Cover all but one of the cupcakes with 2 tbsps of the icing, smooth down with a palette knife and make a swirl in the middle for a decorative finish.

Place the remaining cupcake in a food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs. Sprinkle the frosted cupcakes with the red crumbs. Or use sprinkles. Or glitter. Or whatever you prefer!