Rose and Pistachio Cupcakes

I love the flavour of rose. I first tasted it when visiting my aunts and uncles in Fermanagh several years ago; there was an old style sweet shop in Enniskillen town centre called Mrs. O’Malley’s, which sold hand-made chocolates, including rose creams. I remember the first time I tried one; the perfume-y sweetness of it was so different from anything I’d tasted before, and I fell in love with it. To this day, rose creams are one of my favourite confections; unfortunately, Mrs O’Malley’s is no longer in business, so I have to find my own ways of satisfying my rosy cravings!

 

I was lunching in Avoca this week with a friend, and while perusing the fabulous food and ingredients in their shop, I spotted a bottle of rose water. I pounced, bought it without second thought, then decided that pistachio and rose cupcakes would be a perfect addition to an afternoon tea I was preparing for two days later. And what a delight they are! They’re sweet and floral and delicious; you should definitely give them a go!

 

Rose and Pistachio Cupcakes

(adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery: Cake Days)

(makes 12-16 cupcakes)

 

For the sponge

  • 80g room temperature butter
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1tbsp rosewater
  • 240ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, toasted and chopped

 

For the frosting

  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g room temperature butter
  • 2tbsp rosewater
  • 50ml milk
  • 50g pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • pink food colouring (optional)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 190⁰C. Line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

2. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder, until you have a sandy mixture.

3. In a jug, combine the rosewater, milk and eggs and gently whisk together with a fork. Pour three quarters of this wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix on slow speed to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining milk mix.. Increase the mixer speed and beat until you have a smooth batter. Using a spatula, fold in the chopped pistachios.

4. Scoop the batter into the paper cases – fill two-thirds full. Bake for 18-25 minutes (depending on your oven – mine needed 25), until cooked through and golden on top. Allow to cool.

5. For the frosting, beat together the butter and icing sugar until well-combined. Mix the rosewater with the milk, then slowly add to the butter and sugar. At this point, also add your food colouring, if using. Increase the mixer speed to high and whisk until the frosting is light and fluffy.

6. Spread or pipe the frosting over the cooled cupcakes, then sprinkle over the chopped pistachios. Make a cup of tea and enjoy with your delicious cupcakes!

 

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Pretty Pastel Mini Doughnuts

Firstly, I must apologise profusely for my absence from the blog-sphere; I don’t know where the last few weeks have gone! Work has been super-busy, and the weather has picked up a bit in the last week or so, so rather than hiding myself in the kitchen and creating weird-and-wonderful concoctions, I’ve been getting the littlest member of the family, our adorable jackaranian pup, out for lots of lovely walks and enjoying the spring sunshine. So, many apologies for the lack of yummy goodies; however, I feel my latest offering might, just slightly, make up for my recent culinary laziness.

Doughnuts. And not just your boring, run-of-the-mill doughnuts. Mini, pastel-icing-topped doughnuts. They are the cutest doughnuts I have ever clapped eyes on, and I’m delighted to share them with you. Also, good news for the diet-conscious. They are BAKED doughnuts, not fried, so feel free to eat twelve of them and not worry about your waistline…
Pretty Pastel Mini Doughnuts

(adapted from “Peggy Porschen: Boutique Baking”)

You will need a mini doughnut tray, or, if you’re feeling impatient and don’t want to wait and bake twenty at a time, two. I got this one.

  • Oil spray such as Frylight
  • 110g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 5g vanilla sugar
  • 25g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 45g whole milk
  • 40g buttermilk
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 15g butter, melted
  • 500g fondant icing
  • 2-3 tbsp lukewarm water
  • assorted food colourings (paste if possible)

1. Preheat the oven to 160⁰C. Spray your doughnut mould(s) with the oil spray; this makes it nice and easy to pop them out when they’re baked.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in the sugars. In a measuring jug, combine the egg, milk, buttermilk, vanilla extract and melted butter.

3. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing until combined.

4. Put your batter into the moulds (you can use a piping bag if you like, but I used a teaspoon and found it worked well enough). Fill each one about halfway; if you put too much in, you’ll lose the lovely hole in the middle as they rise in the oven.

5. Bake for 10-12mins, until nicely golden on top and springy to the touch. Leave to cool, then pop out of the moulds.

6. For the fondant icing, sift your icing sugar into a bowl and add water slowly, stirring constantly until it becomes liquid and shiny. You want a pourable, but not too runny, consistency. Separate the fondant into four bowls (reserve a few tablespoons to drizzle on the top), and add a different food colouring to each one until you have the shade you desire.

7. Dip each doughnut into the fondant until about halfway, then set aside, dipped side up, to allow the fondant to set. Once the coloured fondant has firmed up a bit, put the reserved white icing into a piping bag and drizzle over the top to make a nice pattern. Leave to set fully, then munch away to your heart’s content.

 

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Tiramisu Layer Cake

It goes without saying that I love baking. I especially like baking cake – big cakes, little cakes, cupcakes, cake pops; you name it, I’ve probably tried it. It also goes without saying that I love to eat the cake creations; hence I always bake things that I like, regardless of other people’s opinions! Most of the time, when I decide to try a new flavour, the fam are relatively enthusiastic; however, when I told Dad I would be making a chocolate-coffee cake with a rum-flavoured mascarpone frosting, he gagged and told me it was an insult to cake. Boo.

Refusing to be disheartenend, I reminded myself why I had made the, ahem, controversial decision to turn the most famous of Italian puddings into a cake. My boyf has long made it known that tiramisu is his favourite dessert, calling it a “better, grown-up version of trifle” (I tend to agree, especially as I hate trifle with a passion!). I like to make us little romantic-stylee dinners every once in a while, and always do my best to make things he especially likes. This week is Italian week, and, rather than make yet another (admittedly delish) traditional Delia dessert, I thought I’d be innovative and combine my boyf’s favourite – the tiramisu – and my favourite – cake.

Tiramisu Layer Cake

(Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days, makes one two-layer cake.)

For the sponge

  • 240ml whole milk
  • 1tbsp good hot chocolate powder
  • 1tsp instant coffee
  • 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs

For the frosting

  • 400g mascarpone cheese
  • 25ml dark rum
  • 25ml coffee, cooled
  • 50g icing sugar

For decoration

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 2tsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 17o⁰C. Grease and base-line two 9 inch cake tins.

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Put the milk in a jug and heat it slightly in the microwave; don’t let it boil, just warm it. Then add the hot chocolate powder and instant coffee and stir well to dissolve them in the milk. Leave it to cool and get started on the dry ingredients.

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Sift the flour and baking powder together; this makes sure the two are nicely combined, and makes the flour smooth. Then add the salt, sugar and butter, and mix them together on low speed with a hand-held electric whisk. Alternatively, you can put them all into a stand-mixer and leave it to do all the work for you, but I like a hand-held whisk better; I feel like I’ve more control over the ingredients this way!

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You want to mix the dry ingredients until they are well combined and look like dry sand. When it gets to this point, turn off the mixer and turn your attention to the jug of chocolatey, coffee-y milk you made earlier. It should be nicely cool by now; crack your two eggs into the milk and whisk lightly with a fork to break them up a little. Then, turn your whisk/mixer back onto low speed and slowly add 3/4 of the milky mixture to the dry ingredients. Keep whisking until everything is combined, then add the rest. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 30 seconds, until everything is well-combined and you have a lovely, smooth and shiny batter.

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Pour or ladle the batter into your prepared cake tins, making sure there is an equal amount in each one. They should be filled half-way. Gently tap them on the counter to bring any bubbles to the surface, and pop them with a skewer or toothpick.

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Pop the cake tins into the oven – they should be on the middle rack to ensure the tops don’t burn before they’re baked through. These babies will need 30-35 minutes in the oven; don’t open the door until 30 minutes have passed, or they might sink in the middle. Patience is a virtue necessary for all cake-bakers, and it’ll pay off here, I promise! While you’re waiting for the cakes to bake, you can get on with your frosting.

You’ll need two mixing bowls for your frosting, and your electric whisk, with the whisks thoroughly cleaned of any batter from the cakes. In your first bowl, combine the double cream and icing sugar. Beat them together on medium speed until the cream forms soft peaks – don’t over-whisk! If you do, the cream will look thick and lumpy, but it’s easily rectified. All you need to do is mix in a little liquid cream, until it comes back to being smooth and shiny.

In your other bowl, combine the mascarpone, rum and coffee. Don’t worry about cleaning your whisks again, just go ahead and whisk together the cheese with the liquid until it’s nice and smooth. Set your mixer aside and grab a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Put the cream into the bowl with the mascarpone and fold it in – cut down the middle of the mix with your spatula, then rotate it clockwise in a half-circle and repeat until the cream and cheese are fully combined.

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Pop your bowl into the fridge to firm up the frosting a bit. When it’s time for the cakes to come out of the oven, check they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of each one. If it comes out clean, with no batter on it, they’re good to go. If not, put them back in for another few minutes. Leave them to cool completely – if you try to ice a warm cake, you’ll find your frosting will just melt off again!

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Once your sponge is nice and cool, take them out of the tins and peel the parchment off the bottom. If your cake is reluctant to leave the tin, just run a palate knife gently round the gap between the cake and the tin to loosen it.

Now I’m going to give you a little bit of advice regarding icing a cake. It has taken me some time to realise this myself, but now I have I’m a total convert. If you want a lovely smooth finish on the frosting of your cake, buy a turntable. You can get them really cheaply on the internet, and they make the whole ordeal of icing so much simpler. You don’t need to worry that the frosting is uneven on one side, or that the cake is tipping over because of a heavy hand, or any of the multitude of worries that come with icing a cake on a plate or board. All you need to do is put the cake on the turntable, roughly layer on your frosting, and hold your palate knife to the side of the cake as you spin it, giving you lovely smooth edges with no effort whatsoever. Fabulous!

Ahem. With that small promotion over, let’s continue with the recipe. Pop one of your sponges on the turntable (or plate, if I haven’t convinced you!). If you have a slight dome on the top of your cake, turn it upside down, so the flat underside is now the top. Pile about a quarter of your mascarpone frosting on top, and use your palate knife to smooth it over the whole layer. Gently pop your other sponge on top; again turn it upside down so the flat bottom becomes the top.

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Once the whole cake is roughly covered, leave it for five minutes to firm up slightly. Then start again, gently piling and smoothing the remaining frosting over your crumb layer. At this point, you can keep using your palate knife, or something called an edge smoother; it’s a rectangular bit of metal or plastict that makes smoothing your frosting a doddle. If you don’t have one, your palate knife will work just as well.

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Once you’re happy with the smoothness of your frosting, it’s time to decorate! Feel free to get creative with the rest of your frosting, if you have any; pipe a lovely pattern over the top of your cake if you like, or anything else you can think of. I’ve kept it simple; roughly chop 75g of dark chocolate and pile it in the middle of the cake, and dust with cocoa powder.

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If you have done as I did and used a turntable, the trickiest part will be transfering your finished cake to the plate you want to display it on. I slid two palate knives underneath the cake, parallel to each other and each one about a quarter of the way from the edge of the cake, and lifted slowly and gently. Once your cake is safely on the display plate, simply slide the knives from underneath and breathe a sigh of relief.

Ma’s Millionaire Marvels

Two years ago, I spent a fun-filled month in southern Spain with a couple of lovely ladies from my university course. Before we departed, we were casual acquaintances; by the time we left, we were close friends, and each of us had assumed a role in our strange, constant commune. One of our number, who we dubbed “Ma” for her frequent affirmations that she was the Mother of the group, has since requested that I come up with a recipe for her favourite tray bake, and, after last night’s disappointing start, I arose this morning with ambition and determination in my soul. I would create something fabulous today. I would create a caramel square for Ma.

For those who are unfamiliar with this tasty treat, they are a tray bake made up of a biscuit base, soft caramel centre and chocolate topping. I must admit, I’ve never made caramel squares before, but I enjoy a challenge! So, armed with my trusty kitchen scales and maverick sense of culinary adventure, I set to work, and came up with this (pretty nifty) version of the traditional caramel square, named for the lovely surrogate Mother of our Spain days.

Ma’s Millionaire Marvels
(Makes 12 – 16 decent sized tray bakes, depending on your sense of generosity.)

For the biscuit base
• 300g Digestive biscuits
• 200g unsalted butter

For the caramel
• 200g unsalted butter
• One 397g can of condensed milk
• 5tbsp golden syrup
• 1tsp sea salt

For the chocolate topping
• 350g dark or milk chocolate, dependent on your taste
• 100g white chocolate (optional)

Grease a baking sheet or swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment, making sure you leave an overhang of parchment on either side. This means the whole traybake will come out nice and easily at the end, and you aren’t left chiseling bits of biscuit off the bottom.

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Next, put your Digestives into a freezer bag and bash them to bits with a rolling pin. (You can whizz them in a food processor, but I find the bashing quite therapeutic). Keep going until they resemble fine sand.

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Melt the butter, either in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat. When fully melted, add the butter to the digestive crumbies and mix well, until all the crumbs are coated with buttery goodness.

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Put the crumbs into the parchment-lined baking sheet and press down flat with your fingers, ensuring the crumbs go all the way into the corners and there are no gaps. Put the pan into the fridge for 15 – 20 mins, until the base has hardened slightly.

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While the base is chilling, make the caramel. Put the condensed milk, butter, sea salt and golden syrup into a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring often to make sure the syrup doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan.

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When the mixture is boiling, let it bubble away for ten minutes. Keep stirring – this stuff burns easily – and watch it closely; you’ll see the colour change from the pale yellow of condensed milk to a lovely golden caramel colour. The mixture will thicken too, to become a cold custard-y consistency.

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When it gets to this point, quickly take your cooled base out of the fridge and pour the caramel over the top. As it is thick and sticks to EVERYTHING, don’t try to spread it with a palate knife or spoon; it won’t work, and you’ll end up with caramel everywhere but where you want it! Instead, lift the pan and tip it slowly from side to side, ensuring the caramel spreads into the corners of the pan. Make sure all the biscuit is covered and the caramel layer is nice and even across the whole surface. Pop the pan back into the fride for at least half an hour; it’s ready when the caramel feels cool, hardened and slightly springy when you touch it.

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For the chocolate topping, break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl – this will burn the chocolate.

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Let the chocolate melt slowly, and stir often to keep the chocolate at the bottom of the bowl moving.

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When the chocolate is melted and nicely smooth, take the baking sheet out of the fridge and pour the chocolate over the caramel. Use the same process of tipping the pan from side to side to cover the whole surface.

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At this point you can add some decoration with white chocolate. Melt 100g white chocolate in the same way as the milk/dark, and either pipe or drizzle it over the top. Put the baking sheet back into the fridge for another 15-20 minutes, until the chocolate is cooled and solid.

Once the chocolate is cool, it’s time to cut this baby into squares. Using the handy overhang of parchment, pull the whole lot out of the baking sheet and set onto a flat surface. Fill a glass or mug with recently boiled water, and get a nice big knife. You can measure out the size of each square if you like geometry; otherwise, just do what I do and run your knife lightly down the chocolate layer, leaving lines to guide you when you’re cutting.

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Now dip your knife into the hot water and dry off with a towel. The hot knife will make cutting easier, but make sure it’s completely dried – water and chocolate don’t make a pretty pair! Use your lines for guidance and cut your tray bake into squares. I did twelve, as my family like a big bun, but feel free to add another horizontal line and make sixteen if you prefer a more delicate delight.

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Enjoy your yummy square with a good strong cup of tea!