Trick or Treat? ….TREAT I hear you shout!


Halloween Treat

With Halloween only a week away, it felt only right to come up with a ‘Spooky Treat’ for those little (or BIG) trick or treaters….and this is what I came up with. Vanilla Cupcakes with a Gooey Gory Jammy Centre, Piped with two-tone Vanilla Frosting and topped with a handcrafted chocolate decoration.

Again the sponge base is my all time favourite cupcake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery…it never fails

Sponge

80g (3oz) Unsalted Butter, softened

280g (10oz) Caster Sugar

240g (8 1/2 oz) Plain Flour

1 tbsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Salt

240ml (8 1/2 fl oz) Whole Milk

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

2 Large Eggs

Frosting

500g (1lb 2 oz) Icing Sugar

160g (5 1/2 oz) Unsalted Butter, softened

50ml (1 3/4 fl oz) Whole Milk

1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence

Orange Food Colouring (or whatever colours you want to use)

Filling

Good Quality Strawberry Jam

Chocolate Decorations

Large Bar of Milk or Plain Chocolate

Makes 12-16 Cupcakes

Firstly melt the chocolate for the decorations, in a bowl. Either in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water (whatever you feel comfortable with – just don’t burn the chocolate).

Whilst this is melting, cut a sheet of baking parchment (large enough to cover a flat baking sheet) and secure to the tray with 4 blobs of melted chocolate.

Now take the melted chocolate and pour into a disposable piping bag, making sure it’s not too hot to handle and not too cold so that its start setting before you pipe it.

Squeeze all the air out of the bag and twist the opening to seal it. Now snip a small amount off the end to create a small opening.

Time for some confidence and remember your first few are bound to be a little shakey…practise and once you get the feel and flow for the chocolate, start to pipe spider webs, Boo or whatever takes your fancy, onto the parchment.

Once you have created your little works of art, pop them into the fridge to set.

Pre-heat the over to 190C (375F) Gas Mark 5 or for fan assisted ovens 180C and line the deep cupcake tin with cases.

Using a hand-held electric whisk (or if you’re lucky enough to own a freestanding electric mixer with paddle attachment) gently beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, until the ingredients are well mixed and look like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla essence in a jug, with a fork. With the whisk or mixer on slow, add three-quarters of the milk mixture into the bowl and make sure all the ingredients are mixed together completely, using a spatula to scrape down the sides. Turn the whisk/mixer up to medium speed and add the rest of the milk mixture and beat again until the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the cake cases until two-thirds full.

Then pop them into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are golden and spring back when touched.

Leave them to cool in the tin for 10 mins, before transferring to a cooling rack.

Meanwhile make the frosting by mixing the icing sugar and butter on low-speed (otherwise you’ll end up with a dust cloud bigger than that famous Icelandic Volcano) until it reaches a sandy consistency. Add the vanilla essence to the milk and pour into the butter and icing (still on a low-speed). Once it is all combined turn the speed up to high and whisk until light and fluffy.

Now split the frosting. Add half (uncoloured) to a disposable piping bag and leave to one side. With the remaining frosting add the colour of your choice, I opted for orange, but green, purple or red would work equally well. Use paste colours though as it doesn’t make the frosting too soft and you get a much deeper, more vibrant colour. Mix the colour in until you get the depth of colour you want.

Time to pop the coloured frosting into another disposable piping bag (I highly recommend Lakeland Limited’s disposable piping bags) and set to one side.

Take another disposable piping bag and fit the nozzle you want, I went for a plain wide nozzle.

Once you have got this set up, snip the ends off the other two filled bag’s and twist the top to remove any air bubbles. I then added a bag clip to both, to stop them coming open when I started piping.

Pop both filled bags into the nozzle fitted bag and put it to one side.

The cakes should now be cool and ready to handle. Using a sharp paring knife cut out a circular plug in the middle (as per the Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Frosting I posted last month) and add a blob of Strawberry Jam. To avoid the jam being pulled out by the piping, I sliced the sponge off the plug I had removed and placed the crisp top back over the jam centre (so it looks like nothing has been done to the cakes).

Gooey Gory Jammie centre

Then for the fun part, the piping. Make sure you’ve got all the air out of the bags by squeezing a bit on to a plate/bowl, have a practise if you need to. Then begin to pipe onto the cupcakes in a spiral motion. I start from the outside and work my way into the middle, finishing with a little peak. This gives a great two-tone effect and varies depending on the nozzle shape you use.

Two Tone Frosting

Head back over to the fridge and take the tray with your chocolate creations out. Gently remove them from the parchment paper (use a thin palette knife if you need to) and pop them onto the piped cakes.

All that’s left now is to stand back and enjoy your creations….oh and keep little fingers from picking at them 😉

BooSpiderweb

Happy Baking and have a treat filled Halloween.

(I promise I won’t take as long to do my next post!!)

Again, feel free to e-mail me with your creations/versions and I’ll pop them into a gallery on the blog.

E-mail me at lottie.thesnowdropbakery@gmail.com

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It’s Damson Season…time for a bit of Gin and Jam


During the summer holidays, we were lucky enough to visit friends who moved down to a farm in Gloucestershire, 5 months ago.

We all had a great time and hadn’t realised what a beautiful part of the country it is…the other great thing was that it was Damson season and there we plenty to be picked.

Now I know this is meant to be a baking blog, but when it comes to Damson’s the two best things to make with them are Damson Jam and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas with out a nice tipple of home-made Damson Gin.

So here are the recipes for both and I’d like to add that these recipes are taken from my dearly missed Grandma, who was the queen of baking, preserving and most of all the Queen of Meringues.

Damson Gin

500g Damsons

750ml Gin

250g Sugar

Method:

Start by sterilizing a large ‘Kilner’ Jar or Demijohn (the neck must be wide enough to get the Damsons in and out). Now take your Damson’s and discard any over-ripe or bruised ones. Once you have discarded the bad ones, start to prick each damson once. Place all the pricked Damson’s into the jar and then pour in the sugar. Now top up with Gin…how easy can it be.

Give the jar a gentle shake and leave it to take in a cool dark cupboard, making sure that you shake it once a month.

You may also want to taste it once a month and add more sugar according to your taste.

It will be ready for drinking in 3 months, but can be left a little longer…it’s just perfect by Christmas

Now it’s time to strain the Gin and this is best done through a cheesecloth, or if you’ve had little ones a muslin square (minus the baby goop) is perfect. Pop the strained gin into bottles and either share or hoard it over Christmas.

It’s worth the wait….

Damson Jam

Makes: 7 x 225ml Jars

1.25kg Damsons

500ml Water

1.5kg of Sugar (granulated or preserving)

Method:

Again start by sterilizing all the jars. Now wash the Damsons and remove any stalks and pop them into a large pan or preserving pan, with the water. Cook slowly for about 30 minutes until the Damsons have broken down. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until dissolved.

Increase the heat and boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. Remove the stones as they rise to the top. My Grandma used to check the set point by dropping a blob of the hot jam into a saucer of cold water, but I am a gadget freak and I prefer to use a sugar thermometer to make sure it has reached the setting point. The setting point is when the mixture reaches 105c (220F). If necessary, boil for a further minute, then test again. Once you are happy it has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat, skim off any scum and allow to cool briefly.

Carefully pour into the hot sterilized jars and seal them. Allow the jars to cool before you label and store them.

Well that’s if for Damson season, just enjoy the fruits of your labour.