Thursday 31 December 2015

2015: Year in Review

For the past couple of years I've written new year's resolution blog posts but then not really looked at them again, so I've ended up ticking a few things off the list but not many. I thought that this year instead I would look back over some of my favourite recipes and blog posts from 2015. If you didn't see these first time around I'd encourage you to take a look!

As of the end of December, page views on my blog had reached more than 1.16 million. The most popular post ever on my blog is still my pigs in mud cake from 2013, followed by this strawberry and cream fraisier and thirdly jap cakes - which I am being contacted about by people from all over the country even three years after writing this post.

In terms of posts from 2015, here are some of my highlights:

This Konditor & Cook Curly Whirly cake was amazing - and is on the front cover of their cookery book. I also posted this Bertie Basset Liquorice Allsort cake which I made a few months previously for a family birthday.

In February I finally cooked a salmon in the dishwasher which I'd wanted to do for ages, I made this (fake) wedding cake on a cake decorating course, some chocolate hearts for Valentine's day. I also made a memory jar which I plan to open on this new year's eve; and took my fiancé to Cambridge for the first time for dinner at my old college. I hosted Alphabakes this month and the letter was V.

In March I learned how to make marshmallows from scratch, made this amazing floating malteser cake for comic relief - which won the work bake-off and has led to complete strangers knowing who I am because of it! I also launched a new blog challenge, Formula 1 Foods, which never had many people take part but was fun for me to do.

April saw these gooey caramel filled chocolate brownies which I made for my then boyfriend's birthday (he's now my fiancé!) and threw him an Aston Martin themed party complete with car cake. I also made a very light and moist lemon cake for a work colleague's baby shower and various things for Easter including this carrot cake shaped like a carrot! I hosted Alphabakes this month and the letter was B.

In May I took part in a Food n Flix challenge to make something inspired by the movie The Goonies, and my own creation of these Babe Ruth cupcakes were some of the best I have ever eaten. I also made doughnuts for the first time.

In June I finally got a chance to use my ice cream van cupcake stand for these cupcakes; I made this shirt and tie cake for Father's Day and a Louis Vuitton handbag cake which I thought looked a lot like the real thing. I hosted Alphabakes this month and the letter was O.

In July I discovered you can cook pizza on the BBQ, got into spiralizing, celebrated summer with this Pimms cream cake and wrote a long step-by-step blog post on how to make a wired sugar flower.

August stood out because I got engaged! I also threw a strawberry-themed baby shower for a friend, went to a BBQ event with Quorn, I discovered that you can make a vegan meringue and cream without using eggs or dairy; Ros from the More Than Occasional Baker came across this great trick to make a watermelon cocktail; I  also made this family photo word collage which has pride of place in my living room. I hosted Alphabakes this month and the letter was Z.

I love Singapore Sling cocktails and in September recreated the flavours of the drink in cake form! I made a beautiful sugarpaste rose in a cake decorating class and this Sonic the hedgehog bas-relief; I also shared several recipes and ideas from an Italian themed buffet I did earlier in the year and showed my readers the birthday cake that my sister made for me (also much earlier in the year!).

Halloween gave me lots of baking opportunities in October including this haunted gingerbread house and toffee apple cupcakes, while I did some crafting and made my mum and mother-in-law-to-be these decorated notebooks for wedding planning notes. I used some mini Reese's Pieces I got in America to make this amazing chocolate peanut butter bundt, and best of all - easily my baking highlight of the year -I made the wedding cake for my good friend Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker. I finally got around to posting another wedding cake on my blog - actually a fake cake but I did the decoration myself in a cake decorating course earlier in the year. I also spotted the ultimate cheese toastie, wrapped in bacon, on the internet and had a go at making it myself - it's definitely more of an occasional treat and in fact I haven't made it again but it was very good! I hosted Alphabakes this month and the letter was W.

November's blog posts included this Ferrari Formula 1 birthday cake I made for my dad, French toast stuffed with cream cheese inspired by a breakfast I had on holiday in America, and I created a new twist on a Christmas pudding for Waitrose, with a melting caramel middle and salted caramel sauce.

And finally December saw a lot of Christmas baking: this chocolate fondue cake was inspired by The Pink Whisk, and is a great dessert for a party; I made a chocolate gingerbread house, some chocolate Christmas tree cakes filled with homemade mincemeat; a chocolate igloo cake complete with polar bear, and these chocolate santa lollies. It sounds like I ate nothing but chocolate in December but I assure you that wasn't the case - I didn't even try any of the igloo cake myself and everything else was made for sharing! I also hosted the Alphabakes challenge this month and the letter was N.

So that just leaves me to wish all of you a happy new year; thanks for reading, commenting and taking part in the Alphabakes and Formula 1 Foods blog challenges. I wonder what next year will bring?

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Alphabakes Roundup December 2015: N

I hope you all had a happy Christmas and a restful holiday season and did plenty of baking! I spent most of Christmas away from home – we went to my parents on the 23rd and 24th and were at three different houses on the 25th and 26th with my fiance’s family. I had wanted to bake various things to take on each visit but I just wasn’t home! Still, I did do a fair bit of Christmas baking earlier in December. As the letter chosen for Alphabakes this month was N, we decided we would accept Christmas – or Noel – recipes as well as things actually beginning with N!
The first entry came from Dom at Belleau Kitchen who made this very festive Christmas blend tea cake bundt though he didn’t eat it himself – he donated it to a charity bake sale. It contains dried fruit and candied peel, orange, cinnamon, grand marnier and all sorts of Christmassy flavours as well as a special blend of tea.
 Suelle at Mainly Baking made this Norwegian apple cake which she said worked best as a dessert, served warm with cream or custard - it consists of a vanilla flavoured sponge base with thin slices of cinnamon-sprinkled apples baked on top. Sounds great!

I love the idea of these festive pretzel melts from Stuart at Cakeyboi; he’s coated pretzels in candy melts and arranged them in a wreath shape which is simple but really effective.
festive pretzel melts
I made a mincemeat tart – instead of mince pies. I used a Delia Smith recipe for the mincemeat, which I baked into a tart with a lattice top – I found the lattice a bit tricky as I still haven’t quite got the hang of it, but my fiancé said it tasted really good, which was the main thing!
Now for some proper Ns from Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker, who made these Nutella nanaimo bars which look incredibly chocolatey. A Nanaimo bar is a Canadian treat with a wafer base, a layer of custard flavour butter icing and covered with melted chocolate, but Ros made hers with Oreo cookies and Nutella. Just the thing for a Christmas treat!

 Kate aka the Gluten Free Alchemist was sent a Christmas cake mix to try by Delicious Alchemy (I've made some of their cookies before) but added some extra ingredients (including nuts) and once she had baked the cake, cut it into four to decorate each one as a small parcel (with her daughter getting creative on the fourth which is very clever!). They look like they turned out perfectly!

 Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker made these spinach, tomato and mushroom mini fritttas when she invited her neighbours around for Christmas drinks. She said the recipe is very versatile as you can add whatever ingredients you like.

Kat, aka The Baking Explorer, certainly moved into uncharted territory with these stollen muffins - I've never come across this idea before. If you don't have the 2 hours spare that stollen needs to prove, these muffins are much quicker! They are full of Christmas spices, fruits and marzipan and look really good.
I was sent a really cute silicon cake mould to review which lets you bake mini cakes in the shape of Christmas trees! I made chocolate cakes with some of my leftover mincemeat in the middle, a cake combination I haven’t come across before but it tasted great! I decorated the trees with buttercream and candy melts and coloured edible balls- I think these would be great fun for kids to make!
 These cheese and walnut biscuits from Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe would be great for a cold Boxing Day supper and also to give as edible gifts. The N stands for nuts as the biscuits contain walnuts.

Elizabeth at the Lawyer’s Cookbook made these caramelized onion and red wine naan pizzas which sound delicious. Using a ready made garlic naan as the base you add the toppings and bake it in the oven for 10-12 minutes, which is a great idea for a quick lunch.
FullSizeRender 2
Here are some more edible gifts: Kate at the Gluten Free Alchemist made chocolate-covered marzipan stars - the marzipan is of course made from almonds (so N is for nuts). There's also some useful info on her blog post about tempering chocolate so do have a read!

Finally we have a variation on a nut roast - something probably enjoyed by many vegetarians on Christmas day - from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen. She made sausages using a nut roast mix and a tin of chestnut puree, which makes for a great meal at this time of year but something that isn't as heavy as a full nut roast.
Thanks to everyone who found time to take part given how busy we all are over Christmas! I'm looking forward to finding out which letter we are cooking and baking with in January (and hoping it fits into my healthy eating plan!) so visit Ros's site on January 1.


Tuesday 29 December 2015

Chocolate Fondue Bundt Cake

This recipe is from an idea I saw on The Pink Whisk and I want to give a giant nod to her and encourage you to visit her site. It’s such an original idea I can’t claim any credit for it, but it was so good I wanted to make it and share a picture with you all. This is a great recipe to share with friends particularly if you are having a dinner party on new year’s eve.
The idea is relatively simple but something I would never have thought of! Bake a bundt cake – a ring with a hole in the middle – make a chocolate ganache, and pour the liquid chocolate into the hole in the middle of the cake. Slice off chunks of cake and dip into the chocolate, fondue style!
If you cut around the cake working from the outside in, you can leave a ring of cake that will keep the chocolate ganache contained. I also added marshmallows for dipping which looked pretty around the cake as well.
I used my own recipe for this and following a friend’s suggestion did a marble cake; I had some oranges to use up so decided to make a chocolate orange bundt cake. I can't quite remember where I got the recipe from but these are the quantities I used:
Chocolate orange fondue bundt cake
3 1/2 cups self-raising flour
pinch of salt
225g butter, softened
2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
zest and juice of 3 mandarin oranges (as I had some that needed using up - you could alternatively use one large orange)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
To make the chocolate ganache:
150g milk chocolate, chopped
200ml double cream
To serve: marshmallows

Grease and flour a bundt tin and preheat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and the sugar, and beat in the eggs.

Fold in the flour and sat and then the sour cream.

Separate half the mixture into another bowl and add the orange zest and juice to one and the cocoa powder to the other; mix well.

Place a spoonful of each mixture in turn around the bundt tin and repeat until all the mixture has been used.
Bake for around 45 minutes, checking with a skewer to see if the inside is cooked through. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool then turn out of the tin.


Make the fondue by bringing the cream to a simmer in a saucepan and adding the chocolate. Stir until it melts and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile find a flat serving plate that the cake will sit on neatly and trim the bottom of the cake if necessary so it sits flat. Arrange marshmallows around the base of the cake along with anything else you want to dip into the fondue such as strawberries.

 Pour the chocolate ganache into the centre of the cake and serve!
 Dip the marshmallows into the fondue and slice the outer ring of the cake, leaving enough of the cake to form a ring to keep the fondue in the middle, and dip the cake in the chocolate as well.
This makes a great talking point and sharing dessert and is a great idea from The Pink Whisk!
I think this cake would be perfect for new year's eve so I'm sending it to the Food Year Linkup, hosted by Charlotte's Lively Kitchen.
Food Year Linkup December 2015

Monday 28 December 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2016 Week 1

Happy new year! Well, almost - 2016 starts on Friday but this is officially the first meal plan of the year. I'm determined to shed the Christmas weight I'm sure I have put on (I haven't actually checked!) and then I do need to lose some more weight as I'm getting married in June!

Monday – bank holiday – going to see my sister in Southampton then staying the night at my parents'
Tuesday- day off
Lunch: any more Christmas leftovers
Dinner: I'll have chilli, garlic and lime salmon with prawns from this recipe and he can have chicken.
Wednesday – day off
Lunch: tuna nicoise tortillas based broadly on this recipe
Dinner: at my fiancé's mum's
Thursday- day off. New year’s eve
Lunch: leftovers from yesterday
Dinner: steak and chips (with prawns as surf and turf for me)
Friday – day off (bank holiday)
Lunch: naan bread pizzas
Dinner: sausage ragu with spiralized butternut squash (I've had this on the meal plan for ages but keep not doing it)
Lunch: on the train to Cheltenham
Dinner: with my school friends in Cheltenham
Lunch: with my school friends in Cheltenham
Dinner: burger and chips as I'm not sure what time I will be back

Sunday 27 December 2015

Decorated Salted Caramel Arctic Roll

Arctic Rolls were very exciting when I was a child - a rare combination of ice cream and cake that we had as an occasional treat. I haven't eaten it for years - possibly since I was a child - and I've never tried to make one before. But after seeing some beautiful and elaborate arctic rolls on the Great British Bake Off this year I decided I wanted to have a go at baking a cake with the decoration on the outside.

I was also sent some vouchers for Haagen Dazs ice cream recently and made this amazing dessert; I had one voucher left to use and an arctic roll seemed the perfect idea.

Making the Swiss roll part was very easy; I then looked up online how to do the decoration on the outside which I changed slightly and then used a much better alternative than the traditional jam between the sponge and the ice cream - dulce de leche caramel! So I guess I can call this

Decorated Salted Caramel Arctic Roll - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

For the cake:
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g self-raising flour

For the decoration on the outside:
1 egg white
20g cocoa powder
20g plain flour
30g caster sugar
30g softened butter or marg

For the filling:
half a tin of Carnation caramel or dulce de leche
500ml tub Haagen Dazs salted caramel ice cream

First prepare the decoration to go on the outside of the cake. Mix all the ingredients together to make a thick paste and spoon into a piping bag (you don't need a nozzle). Line a Swiss roll tin or baking tray with baking paper. Snip the end of the piping bag off so you can pipe a thin line and pipe swirls or whatever patterns you like all over the baking paper.

Put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile cream the eggs and sugar together for the cake and fold in the flour. When you are ready to take the decorated baking parchment out of the freezer, pour over the cake mixture and bake in the oven for about 15 mins.

Allow to cool; meanwhile take the ice cream out of the freezer. I took mine out a bit early and it melted more than I expected which made it a bit messy when I came to assemble the arctic roll so you are better off leaving the ice cream solid frozen.

One reason I used Haagen Dazs is that the ice cream comes in a carboard tub - you need the ice cream to be a tube shape and there are various recipes online showing how you melt the ice cream, fill a metal tube with the ice cream and refreeze it, but that all looked very complicated. With a cardboard ice cream tub that is a cylinder shape, you can just cut it off and the ice cream is ready to use!

Normally you would spread jam inside the arctic roll but I used Carnation Caramel from a tin which went perfectly with the salted caramel flavour ice cream.  I wrapped the cake spread with the caramel around the ice cream - you can see the pretty decoration on the outside - and sliced it up to serve. A lovely festive dessert!

This recipe uses eggs so I'm sharing it with Simply Eggcellent hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Slow Cooker Ham and Potato Soup

Just before Christmas I made slow cooker ham in Cherry Coke which was delicious. I deliberately cooked too much ham so I would have some left for another recipe the next day; if you have leftover ham from Christmas this is a great way to use it up (and any leftover potato and veg you have as well).

The quantities are easily adjusted depending on how much leftovers you have to use and how many people you are serving so my recipe is more of a rough guide.

I used:
2 cups leftover cooked ham, chopped
1 pork stock cube (you could also use chicken or vegetable)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped (I used a raw carrot but you could use leftover cooked veg)
1 cup leftover mashed potato, cooked (you could also use leftover boiled or roast potatoes, or raw potatoes cut into small cubes)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream (you could also use leftover single or double cream)

Place all the ingredients in your slow cooker apart from the milk and cream, and add enough water to cover the veg.

Cook on high for 3 hours or medium for 5-6 hours.

When ready, take about half the soup out of the slow cooker and blend until smooth in a food processor.

 Return to the soup and mix in so it still has some chunks of meat and veg. Add the milk and cream and serve. You can add more water if you want the soup to be thinner but I liked it as it was.

I'm sharing this with the Slow Cooker Challenge, hosted by Lucy aka Baking Queen 74 as the theme is Christmas.

I'm also sending this to the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Jen's Food as this recipe uses all sorts of leftovers.
Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary