Cupcake, Sweet

Liquorice Allsort Cupcakes


As I said in my last post, this unfortunate baker is on a diet so I had a good idea of baking some cupcakes with a flavour I really don’t like but other people do – liquorice!

I had this cupcake idea a while ago so I had already bought a bag of liquorice allsorts in preparation to use as decoration.

I tried not to make the decoration too girly. This time I went for the ‘dog poo’ swirl on the top instead of my usual rose shape and didn’t use a single bit of glitter.

Liquorice Cupcakes


For the cakes
4.5oz Self Raising Flour
4oz Margarine (you can use half/half butter and marg if you prefer)
2oz Dark brown sugar
2oz Caster sugar
2 Medium eggs
2 tsp Anise extract

For the icing
In a bowl add a extremely generous tablespoon of Margarine (I always use Stork as I’ve found other brands split) Then add approx 5-6 tablespoons of icing sugar and beat together until very light and fluffy. Add a teaspoon of Anise extract and a small amount of black gel food colouring. Don’t use liquid food colouring as this will cause the mix to be too runny. Mix in another tablespoon of icing sugar and beat until combined. This can be stored in the fridge until needed and either piped on or use a flat knife.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180oC

In a bowl mix the margarine with the two sugars and beat until it looks lovely and has changed into a paler colour. You can’t over beat at this stage.

Add an egg and a tablespoon of flour and mix until just combined. Do the same with the second egg and another tablespoon of flour.

Add the remaining flour and Anise extract and gently mix together. You don’t want to over beat the eggs in the mix, just to combine them.

If the mix looks a tad dry (this can happen due to variations with the size of the eggs or the different brands of flour) then add a small dash of milk.

Spoon the mixture equally between your cake cases. I used cupcake cases and these made 8 cakes.

Bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes before opening the door to see if they are done. Larger cakes will need 25-30 minutes but very small fairy cake cases will cook in 20 minutes.

To check they are done they should look a light brown colour and should spring back when you gently press on the top.

Once cooked, remove and cool before decorating with the buttercream icing and adding a liquorice sweet to the top.

Cake, Sweet

Mary Berry’s Easter Simnel Cake

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you’ve all had a lovely day today.

Easter was and is one of my favourite holidays of the year, after

I added the marzipan topping, 11 balls for the faithful disciples - I actually made 12 so I ate Judas.

Christmas.  As a kid there was so much to love about it, chocolate eggs, egg decorating contests at school, Easter egg hunts, films on TV… Did I mention the chocolate?

As an adult I still love it!
I love all the family getting together for a lovely meal and there is something very special about eating chocolate and not feeling guilty which you don’t seem to get much in your adult life. 

This year was the first Easter with my little daughter and although she is too tiny to understand any of it yet it was still a great day to spend with my family as my sister and brother in law came up to.

Yesterday, me and my mom decided to do some baking together and made a Simnel Cake after watching The Great British Bake Off Masterclass program.  We used the wonderful Mary Berry’s recipe.
Unfortunately, I think our cake was a little overbaked and drier than it should have been but who can resist a fruit cake with marzipan on it!? Well, except the half of the family who don’t like marzipan, or fruit cake.

Mary Berry’s Simnel Cake

Cupcake, Sweet

The gift of cupcakes

Sorry I haven’t written anything in a while, but although I haven’t been blogging, I have been baking…I’ve been baking cupcakes!

I was going to be going to my friends hen a couple of weeks ago but due to having a small baby and all the demands which comes with that – I couldn’t go.
So I decided to pop along to wave everyone off and bring some cupcakes along.  I decorated them with pink glitter and hearts that I spray painted silver, obviously the theme of love, although from the sound of the night they had it might have been better to decorate them a little more rude.  hehe.

The next cupcakes I made as a gift was for my cousin who is training to be a tattooist.  She tattooed my husband and as she can’t be paid yet, I made her some cupcakes.  My husband said it might be a little bit strange taking a box of cupcakes into a tattoo studio but I thought they would go down fine.

I’ve never really thought about cupcakes much as they are very common nowadays but I have to say that because of the amount of different flavours or styles you can decorate them with that I am sure I will keep making them for people.  They look very pretty when you have them all together in a box, especially since I bought some boxes and my husband designed me some labels for them.  I should have really taken some photos of them but I didn’t really think to, I promise I will next time.

If you want to try making the cupcakes that I make as gifts for people then please have a look at the recipe here that I made for my sister’s wedding.  The cupcakes I always make use muffin size cases so that everyone has a good sized little cake.

Quiche/Flan, Sweet

Home made Anise (aniseed) extract

A few months ago I was reading through my Italian cookie cookbook and found there were quite a few recipes which use aniseed extract.

Great, my husband loves aniseed and liquorice flavoured things so I thought it would be a lovely treat for him to make him something with these flavours and I began to look about in shops for aniseed or anise extract to use.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be a very elusive product to buy in a store, so much so that the only way I was going to get it was to buy online or make my own.  Usually I’m a big fan of online shopping as you can always get what you need at a cheap price, but this time I found I was having difficulty. There were two problems: there weren’t many shops selling and the shops that did sell it only sold in bulk orders.  I was left with only one viable option and that was to make it myself.  Luckily I had bought some star anise a while ago from Stratford upon Avon which I always thought would come in handy (but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it).  Making it was very simple just add star anise and vodka and ta-dah, you’re own extract after waiting just 3 months.  What?! 3 MONTHS! I’m not exactly the most patient person but I had no choice so in July I bottled it up and waited…until October.  If you’ve been following my life you’ll realise that October was a pretty eventful month as my baby decided it was time to make her appearance into the world.  Unsurprisingly, I never got round to using my extract until now, 6 months after I started it.

I decided to make some Italian anise cookies with it for my husband and I’m really pleased with it. I’m glad after all that time it was worth the wait.

Anise/Aniseed extract Half fill a small air tight jar with Star Anise then pour enough good quality vodka to cover them completely.  Put the lid on and leave for at least 3 months.  Every week (ish) give the jar a gentle shake but do not open till its ready. Its useful to write the date on you started it so you don’t forget.

Anise and Almond CookiesItalian Anise and Almond cookies I used this fab recipe to make the cookies –   Anise and Almond Cookies  They are very authentic Italian in their taste and look very home made when finished, but I think that’s what gives them charm.  I made the cookies without the flavour, then split the batch into two and added the aniseed extract to half and flavoured the other half with Almond. The pink ones are Anise and the purple ones with glitter are Almond.

Pastry, Sweet

Crumbly sweet shortcrust pastry – my mom’s recipe.

I think I have said before but my mom is the person who makes the best pastry in the world so when I helped my dad out with some Christmas baking, I was pleased to see my mom had left the recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry.

I looked online this morning for a good recipe but I couldn’t settle on one that I felt was right.  Pastry is one of them things that either works really well and is lovely and crumbly, or it tastes of rubber.

My mom’s recipe isn’t suitable for everyone as it contains lard, but I think this is what makes it taste so good.  I remember my mom being really worried a couple of years ago that there was going to be a lard shortage near Christmas so she panicked and we ended up having loads in the fridge.  I think it took her ages to get through it all and the great lard shortage didn’t seem to happen on such a grand scale as my mom worried about, probably because she is one of only a few people who actually buys it!

Anyway, with the pastry I made both mince pies and apple pies.  The apple pies are for my little sister (little being 25 years old) who doesn’t like mincemeat.  I used a mincemeat jar I have been saving for a while, it has dark chocolate in.  My dad, being “the official mince pie straight out of the oven tester”, said he couldn’t taste any different to normal – maybe it wasn’t really worth saving.

My mom’s crumbly sweet shortcrust pastry

8oz plain flourMince and Apple Pies
8oz Self raising flour
6oz Margarine
2oz Lard
3tbsp Sugar
1 medium egg beaten
1tbsp Milk
1-2tbsp Water (if needed)

In a bowl put the flour, margarine, sugar and lard and mix until looks like bread crumbs.
Beat the egg and milk together in a separate bowl and combine to the other mix. It should start to hold together as a dough, if a little dry add a couple of tbsp of water.

To use, try not to ‘play’ with it too much, by rolling it out over and over again, as this adds extra flour and can make it a little tough but it is a pretty durable pastry so great for kids to use.

*I use mom instead of mum as I am from a place near to the Black Country which tends to have a little bit of the accent in there without having a complete ‘Yam Yam’ accent.

**Not sure what a Yam Yam is… Understanding Yam Yam