Monday, 27 June 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting

To set the scene for today's post, I must tell you two very important things about me.
  1. I am addicted to Twitter
  2. I know very little about children. In my defence, I just don't have very many in my life. Please do take this as a HUGE hint my married sister and friends :)
So when I invited a friend and her two kids over for lunch one Sunday after church, I had a bit of a dilemma. And naturally, as with all important life decisions, I decided to ask for help on Twitter.  Here is the conversation I had with one particularly helpful friend of mine.

Me: Forgive my ignorance but do kids eat the same food as full grown people??
T: No. They eat specially created food from specially created specialist children's shops
Me: Dammit. That's what I was afraid of. Where are these shops ;p
T: There is one near Hogwarts and another half way up Jack's beanstalk. Next to the pub called the white nosed rhino.
Me: Hogwarts is way too far. I might have to feed these kids some adult food. Thanks for your help though!

To this day, I can't rid myself of the niggling feeling that he was mocking me. So yeah, thanks for nothing Trey! 
All by myself, I came up with a menu of meatballs cooked in tomato sauce in the oven with pasta, salad and these cupcakes for dessert.

It all went down pretty well even if I do say so myself. The kids wanted to come round again the following Sunday. That's good huh? But I think the highlight were these cupcakes. Yum! The cake itself is moist, soft and not too sweet at all! And the frosting ... wow! Brown butter frosting is a revelation. It tastes ... it's difficult to describe the taste, it's a fusion of subtle spice and it's a bit nutty and a bit caramelly and a whole lot of incredible! Thank you Brandy for submitting this recipe to 'Frosting for the Cause'!
Makes 20 cupcakes

Ingredients - for the Pumpkin Cupcakes

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
113g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (In the UK, you can buy this in Waitrose)

1 - Preheat oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4 / 350F
2 - Combine the dry ingredients (Except for the sugar) together in a bowl
3 - Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; about 4 minutes
4 - Add eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition
5 - Add the flour mixture, milk and pumpkin in the following order - 1/3 flour, milk, 1/3 flour, pumpkin, last 1/3 flour - mixing after each addition until just combined. Scrape the bowl after the last addition of flour to make sure all the ingredients are well combined
6 - Line the cupcake tins with liners and fill each liner until 2/3 full with the batter. 
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
7 - Leave cupcakes to cook on a rack and make the browned butter frosting in the meantime

Ingredients - Browned Butter Frosting
1 cup of brown butter (Instructions to make follow)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup of whipping or double cream (more can be used depending on the consistency you want)

To make the brown butter
1 - Start with 1 cup of unsalted butter, cut into chunks. Put it in a small saucepan and boil on medium low heat until it slowly cooks and boils and results in a golden/brown colour
2 - Let the brown butter cool. Once cooled add to the mixer with the cinnamon and vanilla. Mix until just combined
3 - Add the icing sugar one cup at at time. Once it is all added, it will be very dry and crumbly
4 - Add the whipping cream while mixing on low until combined and smooth - about 4-5 minutes. If still too thick to frost, add whipping cream one tablespoon at a time till you reach your desired consistency
5 - Frost cupcakes

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Cook Book Review and A Giveaway!! James Ramsden's 'Small Adventures in Cooking'

Before I started writing this review, I Google-imaged James Ramsden's name.

"Why?" you might wonder. Well, because I wanted to see a photo of him.
"Why is that?" you might again ask. And the answer to that is that I had an image of him when I finished reading his 'Small Adventures in Cooking' and I wanted to see if I was correct.
In my head, James Ramsden looked not unlike a young(er) Jamie Oliver and I pictured him pottering around a (rather small) kitchen in surfer shorts and flip flops (yeah yeah I know they're not appropriate kitchen footwear). Because his food philosophy seems to be chill out. The only rules of cooking are there are no rules. Oh except for have fun. And if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.
In his debut cookbook, Ramsden demystifies cooking. With eight sections ranging from 'Corner shop capers' (Fare for when you've been drinking and/or are hungover) to 'Surfing the stumbling blocks' (recipes for those foods that can give even experienced cooks slight heart palpitations - souffle anyone?), 'Small Adventures' is a guide that will see you through most cooking scenarios.

His recipes are interesting yet not too complicated, impressive but totally achievable. And best of all, they're for me and you; people with jobs who don't have hours to spend cooking a meal which will be devoured in minutes. People who can find their way round a kitchen but don't have culinary school training. And it is food that covers all sorts of food genres - there are curries and chicken livers, English muffins and meringues. On my 'To make ASAP' list are the Thai pork patties, cheese toast with a twist, goat curry, 6 cheese and ale fondue and the chocolate, chili and cardamom tart!

One of my qualms with this book is not to do with the content but rather the design. Don't get me wrong, it is very cool. But that's exactly it. It feels too much like a boys book. I like my cook books with a huge picture of some glossy, mouthwatering dish on the cover that makes me want to lick it because I know that my version will never look that good. But perhaps that is the point, that the book isn't intimidating. Like the content, the cover and design isn't setting standards so high that the reader can't fail but fall dismally short of.

Oh, you're probably wondering if the picture of James Ramsden looked like the surfer my imagination produced. He didn't. Which is a good thing - my surfer dude probably couldn't string two sentences together (he's wearing flip flops in a kitchen after all!); much less write a very good cook book.

Now for the GIVEAWAY!

I'm giving away the copy of James Ramsden's 'Small Adventures in Cooking' which the lovely people at Quadrille Books sent me. There is one mandatory way to enter and additional ways to gain entries into the giveaway:

CLOSING DATE - Midnight on FRIDAY 1st JULY (Giveaway now closed)

Rules and How to Enter
1) Giveaway is open to everyone with a UK mailing address 
2) For the mandatory way to enter, leave a comment below telling me what your speciality dish is. Y'know, that dish you cook when you're trying to impress, or on short notice?
3) For another entry, follow my blog using the Google Friend Connect 'Follow' button on the right of my blog. Leave a separate comment to tell me you have done this or if you are already following
4) For yet another entry, follow me on Twitter @vickii373 and leave a comment here to tell me you are following me on Twitter and what your username is. Let me know if you're already following me.


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecakes

Hey hey. Guess what I've got on my mind today?
Did you guess yet?

Books. And Crushes. 

Lemme explain. I am an avid reader. That's how I know how to use words like 'avid' ;p And today, I was tweeting about the book I'm currently reading when I thought that I'd really like  to start incorporating book reviews into my blog. Which means you guys are going to be subjected to my opinions about some of the books I read. If you don't like to read, well ...  then ... you're missing out big time. And no! You can't just watch the movie. It is never as good!

On a related note, the lovely people at Quadrille books have sent me a new cook book to review which I'll do next week, as well as run a giveaway for a copy of the book. My very first giveaway! Are you excited? I am!

On to crushes. I was thinking that I have a blog crush on the creator of today's recipe; Lauren's Latest. And it got me thinking of the other blog crushes I have - Annie's Eats, How Sweet it is and Gingerbread Bagels to name a few.  
Y'all already know about my chef crush on Nigella Lawson right? Well did you know I also crush on the lesser known though equally talented Jo Pratt? And the Caribbean food god Levi Roots? Oooh and the Ace of Cakes. Though I don't know his name.
I have clothes crushes on dresses and playsuits. 
Hollywood actor crushes on Josh Hartnett and Joshua Jackson - *swoon* wasn't Pacey Witter just the best character to ever grace our TVs? 
Halle Berry, Nicole Richie and Rihanna are my girl crushes, Kathryn Stockett (have I raved about her debut novel 'The Help' yet?) and Chimamanda Adichie are my author crushes ... I think you get the message, I have crushes just about everywhere.

Everywhere, that is, except in real life. If my work's HR department is reading this, it is upon your weary heads I lay the burden of  hiring me a real life, everyday crush. Thank you.

Till then, peace, love and cookie dough cheesecake. 

Makes 12


For the cookie dough
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp icing sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp chocolate chips

For the cheesecakes
12 Oreo cookies
227g cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Chocolate chips (to decorate)

1 - Preheat oven to 170C /Gas mark 3/ 325F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners and set aside
To make cookie dough:
2 - Place softened butter into a medium sized bowl. Stir in sugars until well incorporated
3 - Stir in vanilla, salt and flour. It may seem too dry at first but it should all mix in
4 - Once flour is no longer visible, mix the dough with your hand. The heat of your hands should help keep things sticking together. 
Mix in chocolate chips and form dough into a log with the same diameter as the Oreo cookies
5 - Score the top of the dough to get even pieces and then slice
6 - Place dough rounds on top of Oreo cookie and press down lightly to help it stick. If the dough circles are a little too big, just press the overlapping dough to be flush with the side of the cookie, and then smooth the top
7 - Place these into the prepared muffin tins and set aside
To make the cheesecake filling
8 - Whip cream cheese in a large bowl
9 - Slowly pour in sugar and flour. Scrape down sides and mix again briefly
10 - Whip in vanilla extract and egg until incorporated. Scrape sides and whip again
11 - Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of cheesecake mix over each cookie stack and spread on top and around cookie. (This recipe makes just enough cheesecake to cover these, so start with smaller amounts covering the tops and adding extra spoonfuls from there)
12 - Bake for 20 minutes or until cheesecake is set completely. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until completely chilled. Once ready to serve, remove paper liners and top with chocolate chips

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Last week was kinda tough for me - I made the decision to let go of someone in my life. Letting go is difficult at the best of times - especially for me as I'm a natural hoarder. I hang on to books, clothes, letters, CDs; pretty much everything - but it's even harder to let go of someone that I've fought to keep in my life in the past and if life was perfect, someone I'd never have to let go of. Anyway, c'est la vie... and enough about me. Let's talk about my baking as I intend to bake my way through my funk! Hang on, that's about me too ... ah well, we'll talk about it anyway.

I made these cookies for church. I go to this great Church called 'Equippers' and for the first time ever, I can say I actually really enjoy church! I can't wait to go on a Sunday and I feel like I've missed out if I miss one Sunday. It is a church where everyone pitches into the life of the church and for a long while, I wasn't contributing anything till recently when I started baking. We have a break between worship and the sermon for tea and coffee and whenever I can (I'm aiming for every week), I make something to eat with our teas and coffees. So far I've made Rocky Road and brownies and I'm constantly on the lookout for suitable recipes as it has to be stuff that is already portioned or easy to portion and also easy to transport. So there will be a LOT of cookies and bars in my church's future!

I love cinnamon and bookmarked these cookies as soon as I saw them. Now, I have to admit that I wasn't expecting great things from these cookies as y'know, they don't contain chocolate, or peanut butter, or Oreos (all the staples of a great ... anything) in them ... but they are AMAZING! They're soft and each mouthful is choc-full of cinnamon roll taste. And the slightly coffee flavoured icing is a stroke of genius! Thanks to Sing for your Supper for the recipe!

If I had a big enough freezer, I'd have a roll of this dough always in it, ready to cut and bake wonderful cookies!


For the cookies
226g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup golden caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla
2 tsps cinnamon
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt

For the filling
57g unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the icing
2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 - 4 tablespoons milk

To make cookies
1 - In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt
2 - In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. 
Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl
3 - Add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined, scraping the bowl as needed
4 - Scrape the dough into a ball in the centre of the bowl, cover with cling film and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the fridge for at least an hour.
5 - Once the dough is chilled, divide it into two equal halves. Place one half back in the bowl and put it back in the fridge. On a large piece of cling film, pat the first half of the dough into a rectangle about nine inches by 12 inches and about half an inch thick
6 - Place half of the butter on the dough and spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar evenly over the buttered dough and press the sugar into the dough using the back of a tablespoon. Finally, sprinkle half of the cinnamon evenly over the dough.
7 - Use the plastic wrap to tightly roll the dough into a log.Place the log in the freezer for 30 minutes or the refrigerator for at least an hour. 
8 - Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling ingredients.
9 - Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F/ Gas Mark 4. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper
10 - After the dough has chilled again, slice each log into one inch slices (about 20 per log). Place on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. 
Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing
To make the icing
 11 -  In a medium bowl, combine the butter and instant espresso powder. 
 12 - Add the icing sugar and vanilla and whisk until it just comes together. 
 13 - Next, add the milk, one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. It should be thin enough to drizzle, but thicker than a glaze.
 14 - With the cookies on a wire cooling rack set over parchment paper, drizzle the icing over the them with your whisk. Allow the cookies to set up for a few minutes before stacking or storing.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Triple Layer Oreo Cake (Warning: You might put on weight just LOOKING at this cake)

It was my mum's *cough* 40th *cough* birthday on the 27th of May and as I told you in this post, she's LOVES chocolate. So I knew I had to make her a cake that was loaded with chocolate. This cake came to mind pretty quickly because it was love at first sight as soon as I saw it but as it's such a big cake, I wanted to save it for a special occasion. And what better occasion than my amazing mum's birthday eh?

This recipe has been adapted slightly from Beantown Baker's. She's one of my favourite baking bloggers and I want to make layer cakes like her when I grow up!

I won't lie to you - this is a very involved cake. It took me about 7 hours to make but it is totally worth it in the end! I also had a few issues with the chocolate layers - my cake mixture was too watery and they rose unevenly making for very ugly uneven cakes; I'm amazed at the multitude of sins I was able to hide with the frosting! I've adapted the recipe slightly to try and resolve the issues I had but I haven't tested it yet. I'll update you guys when I do.

However, the time it takes is totally worth it. Even with their problems, the chocolate cake layers were wonderfully moist cake - I think they might be my favourite chocolate cake recipe (after Guinness chocolate cake) and the Oreo filling ... wow. It's creamy and vanilla-ey and not too sweet but still full of flavour. Yum. Yum. Yum. I'm using it to frost every cake I ever make EVER! Well. Okay. That is an exaggeration but this filling is that good! The whole cake is rich and decadent and incredible. It's just an amazing cake! And I'll stop now because I'm gushing. But you try it and see if you don't gush too!
Steps it takes to put this cake together
1 - Bake the cake layers. The cake layers can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen. Layers should be completely cooled prior to assembling the cake
2 - Make the Oreo filling
3 - Stack the cake - Place 1 chocolate layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or spatula, spread the top with half of the Oreo filling. Place the Oreo cake layer on top and spread with the remaining Oreo filling. Place the last chocolate cake layer on top.
4 - Make the chocolate frosting
5 - Frost and decorate the cake. Spread frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake and decorate with Oreo cookies and reserved filling. I used mini cookies.
Chocolate Cake Layers
Butter for greasing the cake tins
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsps vanilla
1/2 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used instant)
1 1/2 packs of Oreos (about 21 cookies), cut  into quarters

1 - Preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F.Grease and flour 2 (8 inch) round cake pans
2 - Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt
3 - In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla
4 - With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure it is all combined
5 - Stir in the Oreo chunks and pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
6 - Cool in the pans for 30 minutes and then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely

Oreo Cake Layer
57g unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup milk
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup + 2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 egg whites, at room temp
1 pack Oreos (14 cookies), cut into quarters

1 - Preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F.Grease and flour 1 (8 inch) round cake pan
2 - In a large bowl cream the butter until lighter and fluffy, about 3 - 5 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
3 - In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt
4 - Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the milk. Start and end with the flour mix. Each time, beat only just combined
5 - Add the egg whites and beat for one more minute
6 - Fold in the quartered cookies, pour batter into prepared cake tin and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. 
7 - Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely

Oreo Filling
113g cream cheese, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup whipping or double cream
7 Oreos, cut into quarters

1 - Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, vanilla and icing sugar until light and creamy. 
2 - Add half of the cream and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the cream and beat until it has the consistency of whipped cream.
3 - Reserve 1/2 cup to use to decorate top of cake (I forgot to do this) and place the rest in the fridge until ready to use
4 - When ready to use, stir in the Oreo chunks

Chocolate Frosting
170g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
227g unsalted butter, at room temp
1 egg yolk, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp instant coffee

1 - Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
2 - Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium high speed until lighter and fluffy, about 4 minutes
3 - Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes
4 - Stir in the icing sugar (so that it doesn't go everywhere) and then beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the bowl as necessary
5 - Dissolve the coffee in 2 teaspoons of very hot tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Spread immediately on the  cooled cake