A Chocolaty Suprise

I always seem to end up baking for other people, dinner parties or as birthday gifts to friends and family.  My brother however, always seems to get the runts of the cakes, you know the ones I mean – the oddly shaped cupcakes that there wasn’t enough icing for?  Well he complains a lot, especially as he loves my cookies and never gets many.

Unfortunately this week, I only had enough ingredients for the chocolatiest of cookies and he isn’t the biggest fan of chocolate anything.  Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers right?

I started off by melting the butter and half the chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water.  I’ve done this a thousand times with my plastic cake bowl and never had a problem.  This time, I used the new and fancy saucepan, turned around for a minute to chop up some more chocolate and turned back round to find a hole in my bowl… Aaarrghhh!!!

Luckily it the hole was above the chocolate so none of it was ‘contaminated’.  I quickly changed bowls and left the mess to cool and to deal with later.   I held the bowl over the heat this time to make sure it didn’t touch the metal surface of the pan and finished heating the chocolate.

I then whisked the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract and mixed in the chocolate. No catastrophes there thankfully.  I figured, you only get one catastrophe per baking job right? Right?!

Wrong.  When I went to mix in the flour, salt and baking powder, I realised the dough was still really gooey.  I triple checked the recipe to make sure all the ingredients were right and was stumped.  I even put a bit more flour in to no avail.  I finally gave up and convinced they were going to be a wreck anyway, put them on the baking tray and into the oven to cook.

They came out huge but this was because I couldn’t get small amounts onto the baking tray without making a mess.  They were also really gooey inside.  I left them to cool completely and attempted, and generally failed to get them off the greaseproof paper without breaking them in half.  Oh dear.

I couldn’t even be bothered to taste one, and promised I’d try again in the morning if they were that bad.  My dad tasted one and said it was great, although it was really chocolaty.  I thought he was just being nice and put them in the fridge to hopefully harden them up.

I finally built up the courage to try one in the morning and…. WOW! It tasted really nice – really chocolaty – but actually good.  The outside hardened overnight and the inside stayed soft and gooey.  Apart from the fact that the majority of them were broken in half and huge, it could have been shop bough it tasted that great!  My brother came home the next day and ‘tasted’ the rest of the cookies and although he’s not a chocolate fan, he managed to eat them all.  I guess you could say it wasn’t a complete wreck?!

Another Reason Why Nutella is The best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Everyone’s had it with a slice of toast and butter, it is the nations (or should be) favourite chocolate spread: Nutella.  This week, I found yet another reason why it’s amazing: Chocolate and Hazelnut cupcakes.

Oh yes. Just the thought makes the tastes bud’s go crazy.  So, while I’m sat here with my cuppa and cheeky cupcake; I’ll tell you why/how I made it.

It was my first week officially back at work and I thought I’d be nice and bake something to take in (other than a few left over oat and raisin cookies).  I’ve been trying to avoid making these cupcakes to date because I knew I’d want to eat all of them but finally gave into temptation.

The cupcake recipe is your typical chocolate cupcake recipe, which is just your normal vanilla cupcake recipe with cocoa powder replacing vanilla essence.  These got spooned into the cases and put into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Once out and cooled a small hole is cut out of the middle of each cake and filled with Nutella.  The recipe doesn’t say whether you should put the cut out bit of cake back on top but I did anyway; as I’d eat them otherwise.

It was when I made the icing that I encountered my first problem; the icing consists of the typical buttercream icing recipe but again replacing the vanilla essence with Nutella.  I didn’t realise until I had started icing the cupcakes with my Wilton nozzle that the icing was very thick; it wouldn’t come out of the nozzle easily!

In hindsight I probably should have taken notice of how thick the icing had gotten; I would probably suggest making the buttercream a bit lighter than you normally would so that when you add the Nutella it comes to the perfect consistency.

 

I gave up with the nozzle and attempted the Hummingbird swirl, which was again quite hard because of the consistency of the icing.  Once I made them look acceptable I packed them away to take to work the next day.

The first taste test was by me at work on Monday Morning and oh my what a cupcake!  It was very chocolaty and sweet however and I had to eat it slowly even though I have an extremely sweet tooth.  It is a must for any chocolate or Nutella lover!

Yumminess in the Form of Brownies

I’ve been quite famous among my friends for baking great brownies for a while so I was interested in how the Hummingbird version would taste in comparison to mine.  I also thought it was about time that I started baking the biscuits and bars etc so I went out, bought me a new baking tin (any excuse!) and started on the recipe.

This recipe is different from all the others because you don’t whisk anything.  The chocolate and butter are put over a simmering pot of water and melted.  The sugar is then stired in, followed by the flour and finally the eggs.

When stirring, I’d probably suggest folding the mixture rather than stirring.  Using a spatula, you gently ‘fold’ half of the batter onto the ingredient you just added.  You work in a figure eight motion and work your arm more than you work your hand.  If you still didn’t get that then youtube it, there are plenty of examples of how to fold.

The tin went into the oven for 35minutes and came out smelling moorish. Once cooled, they were cut into squares, split in half and taken to two different people as an ‘aren’t you a brilliant friend’ present.

I had a sneaky little taste before delivering the brownies and they tasted amazing; I could even say they were on par if not better than mine.  There was a mixed reaction as to which brownie recipe was better.  These are definately a good recipe to try, especially fresh from the oven with a bit of icecream.

Stand Back Mint, Chocolate Officially Has A Newer, Better Partner!

Yeah it does!

So, I’ve been looking at something to bake for a get together I was having this weekend with some school friends, one of which has FINALLY come back to London after travelling the world for Lord knows how long.

I finally decided on the Chocolate and Lime Cheesecake for two reasons: 1.) it screams ‘make me’ ever time I look through the recipe book; 2.) I wanted to make it when I could have as much as I want without looking like a complete pig; and 3.) for some reason I relate it to chocolate and mint (one of my favourite partnerships ever).

I think its safe to say this baking session would, in my own geeky way, be very exciting for me.  I started by battering some double chocolate cookies, mixing it with some melted butter and squishing the mixture into my prepared tin to go in the fridge for 30mins.  I’ve found an even better way to deal with the cookies: using a pestle and mortar.  A lot more fun than blitzing and less dangerous than banging it in a plastic bag.

While the base was cooling I prepared the cheesy topping.  Now this recipe wanted me to grate and juice six limes… SIX!!! My nails always suffer, so I found a helper (my lovely dad) and begged him to help, which he did because he is amazing. I started mixing the cream cheese with sugar and eggs and finally added the lime juice and zest.  Once mixed properly I poured it into the tin.


The recipe calls for a 20cm diameter tin so I was a bit suprised when my 23cm diameter tin was filled to the top. Even though there was no logical reason for it happening, I said a teeny little prayer that the cheesecake wouldn’t rise and put it in the oven for 35 minutes.

Thankfully the cake didn’t rise and to my delight there were no cracks…for all of 5 minutes! When I came back there was a huge crack down the middle. Ah well; it was magnificent while it lasted.  I left the cake to cool to room temperature and then left it overnight in the fridge, ready to decorate the next day.

Sunday brought with it more grating but this time I did it, as my dad more than deserved a break.  I managed to grate the lime and chocolate over the cake with only one injury, which I assure you is a huge achievement for me.  The cheesecake got wrapped up and shipped over to my friends ready for dessert.

Now in pretty much every post I talk about the smell of the cakes; how they are moorish and lovely. I feel I have to warn you,  nothing compares to the smell of this cheesecake. You can almost taste the tanginess of the lime; the smell is no match for the taste however.

This is officially on the top of the list with the Pecan cheesecake as my absolute favourite recipe.  It tasted amazing! It was a big cake and over half of it was consumed by four women, that just says it all really.

You think mint and chocolate go together well? Then you absolutely have to try this.

Chocolate Cupcake Madness

I’m not quite sure why but I always seem to end up baking late on Friday nights (not from a lack of social life, however!).  This week I was baking chocolate cupcakes for a birthday picnic on Saturday.

The recipe was easy enough to follow: whisk the dry ingredients together, mix the liquid ingredients together and then whisk it all up to make the batter.  The recipe always says to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder etc. together as the first step.  I tend to do it a different way to make sure I don’t over-mix the flour. I mix the butter and the sugar together first before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The cakes went into muffin cases and cupcake trays (a deadly mix).  I didn’t want the cakes to blend together again from lack of support, so I put a little less batter in each case than I would normally do.  They came out perfect but hadn’t risen to the top.  One day I will be able to get it right with muffin cases… or just buy a muffin tray.

Then came the icing.  I’m sure I halved the icing as usual but am not sure how I managed to put double the amount of milk in.  Luckily this didn’t actually affect the icing and it came out well.  To be honest I may have just made a whole batch in my sleepiness and thought I had made half.  Who knows?!

The best part of baking for me is decorating the cakes.   Lot’s of blogs I read have beautifully piped roses etc. and I have become slightly envious; so I will be ordering some Wilton nozzles a.s.a.p. For now I made do with some nozzles that I found at home.

When icing frosted roses; you should apparently hold the piping bag directly above the cake, start from the middle and work your way outwards in a circle.  Sound easy? Not so much.  Some just didn’t seem to want to work, so I swirled them in the Hummingbird Bakery style instead.  Most did sort of work but it’s clear that I need a lot more practice!

I took the cupcakes to the picnic the next day and kept the box straight (so they wouldn’t get squished).  Because of the hot weather however, the icing got a bit, for lack of a better word, gooey.  Seeing my friends attempt to eat them was very funny to watch though.  They were enjoyed by every one and gobbled up.  I normally don’t like chocolate cake and these were very sweet but still yummy.

A Last Minute Bake-A-Thon

It’s midnight.  I have no idea why I decided to start writing up this blog post at this time of night, but I do know that after 3 hours of baking I’m still on a bit of a baking high.  Yes there is such a thing as a baking high!

On my way home from work on Friday, I was asked to bake something for a barbeque on Saturday and decided on a Guinness chocolate cake, which I naturally had no ingredients for.  After a very speedy trip to the supermarket, I got hold of all the ingredients I needed and finally started baking at 9pm.

The recipe was simple enough to follow; even my tired self could cope.  Half of the ingredients went onto the hob with the Guinness and were later mixed with the flour and other dry ingredients.

According to the recipe, I didn’t have a cake tin big enough, so I used two and halved the batter.  Instead of greasing and dusting the cake tins, I tend to cut out a circle of greaseproof paper to fit the bottom of my cake tin and grease the sides.  To be honest I’m not quite sure how I came about this method of preparation but it’s worked perfectly for me so I stick to it when dealing with these types of cakes.

35 minutes later I whipped the cakes out of the oven and in a moment of panic, I almost chucked both cakes in the bin thinking that they had burnt. Thankfully I saw the picture in the cookbook just before, realised they’re meant to be very dark and stopped myself just in time.

I’m not very good at icing cakes properly; I can never seem to get the cake to stand straight and the icing to look smooth.  As I made two halves, I cut the top off one of the cakes (to straighten it out) and put a layer of cream cheese icing on top.  The second cake went on top of this and the 15 attempts to get the icing on straight and smooth started to commence.  Twenty minutes later I gave up and dusted the top with cocoa powder.

Second tip of the day; don’t put a lot of cocoa powder in the sieve and practice on an empty plate to figure out how gently you should shake it.  I got a bit excited and went crazy so had to mix the cocoa powder in with the icing and try again.

At 11pm I managed to turn out a slightly wonky and definitely not smooth Guinness Chocolate cake. You have to love the homemade feel of it though.  The cake got the official seal of approval at the barbeque, was loved by all and sneakily taken home by others.  It was a bit too rich for myself but the cream cheese frosting complimented it nicely.  Definitely one I’d tell everyone to try for the sake of saying you made a Guinness cake.