French Macarons Inspired by Persian Love Cake

Macarons used to terrify me. Not eating them… that was easy enough. Making them though scared me so much that I very rarely attempted them. My very first attempt, shockingly, was a success. Others after that were a disaster, with nothing but cracked macarons, very unelegant!

There are 2 methods of making macarons, French or Italian. A lot of my friends advised me to try the Italian method as that seemed to make the shells more stable. That method involves boiling sugar and water and adding it to the egg whites. I can be a real stickler for detail though, which can be a real pain in the backside. The stickler in me decided that as macarons are a French treat, I wanted to be able to make them the French way. I found a wonderful book in a set of 3 published by Love Food. This book is called Macaroons and has lots of different recipes. I’ve tried a few now and each time they’ve come out perfectly. My Persian Love Cake Macaron recipe is based around the recipes I picked up from this book.

The story of the Persian Love Cake is a beautiful tale of love and romance, which really appeals to me. Depending on which version you follow, it shows that the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach! A lady fell in love with a Persian prince and baked him a beautiful cake as a symbol of her love. In the version I like to believe, the prince fell in love with her and they lived happily ever after. In the other version, the prince was allergic to one of the ingredients and died. Boo hiss. I don’t like that version! There are nuts in these macarons though so make sure the person you give them to doesn’t have a nut allergy!!!

The macaron shells are flavoured with cardamom and rosewater. You can buy ground cardamom but the very best flavour and aroma comes from grinding them yourself. For baking purposes, you need green cardamom pods. Black ones are much more savoury and not suited for sweet bakes. The pods are quite hard, but break them open to reveal the cardamom seeds. It is these that you need. Grind them as finely as you can using a pestle and mortar. You can buy them in the spice section of supermarkets, or a great online seller for all your spice needs is The Spiceworks. They also sell dried rose petals in various sized bags, which are used to decorate these macarons.

Another ingredient in Persian Love Cake is saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. It is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, and is handpicked as there is no machine capable of such a delicate job. I use saffron from The Persian TraderThey only use the most superior grade of saffron from farms in North Iran, with the most intense colour, flavour and aroma. Cheaper versions can be bought but they are sometimes artificially dyed or mixed with less superior grades. As saffron is so expensive, you may as well make sure you’re getting the very best for your money. And believe me when I say you only need to use the tiniest amount, so a jar lasts forever!

Persian Love Cake is also flavoured with pistachio nuts. As macarons already have ground almonds I didn’t want to add extra nuts but wanted the flavour of the pistachio. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Monin syrups and had a bottle of pistachio syrup already. This was perfect to make a pistachio buttercream. The flavour was all there but the texture was beautifully smooth.

Enough waffling… here’s the recipe.

PERSIAN LOVE CAKE MACARONS

FOR THE MACARON SHELLS

115 g icing sugar

75 g ground almonds

Seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground very finely

2 large egg whites, must be at room temperature

50 g caster sugar

Half tsp rosewater

Pink food colouring, gel or paste but not liquid

FOR THE FILLING AND DECORATION

115 g icing sugar, sieved

55 g unsalted butter, softened

1.5 tbsp Monin pistachio syrup

dried rose petals and saffron to decorate

  • Using a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, blitz the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom until it is like powder, around 20-25 seconds. Sift this into a small bowl using a fine-meshed sieve. If there are any bits left in the sieve, throw them away.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form but the tips of them will fold back over. I find it is best to use an electric handheld whisk for this, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer. Add the caster sugar very gradually, whisking well each time you add any. The meringue mix will become glossy. Add the rosewater and enough food colouring to give the meringue a beautiful pink colour, and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form and will not fold over.
  • This next part is the stage that is most likely to cause problems if not done right, so be extra careful at this point. Tip a third of the almond mixture in with the meringue and use a flexible spatula to very gently fold the dry mixture in to the meringue. I scrape around the bowl, then lift the mixture from underneath and fold it over, occasionally cutting through the middle. When it is all combined, tip another third of the almond mixture in and repeat. At this point it will start to firm up a bit. Finally add the last third of the almonds, and fold as before until fully incorporated in to the mixture. It will be quite firm now. Keep folding gently until the batter loosens a bit. When it is ready to pipe, it will be glossy and smooth, and when you lift the spatula out of the mixture and let some fall off, it will lie in a trail on top of the batter for around 30 seconds without losing it’s shape. If you over-mix at this point allowing the batter to go too runny, your macarons will not hold their shape when piped.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. (I have a fan oven, so to make sure the breeze from the fan doesn’t lift the paper, use a tiny bit of the meringue mixture left on your electric whisk to stick the corners of the paper to your baking sheets). Spoon the mixture in to a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Or if you are using disposable piping bags, just snip the end off to make a 1cm opening. Pipe 16 macarons on to each sheet, around 3 cm wide. To do this, just hold your piping bag vertically almost touching the paper, and squeeze until the mixture spreads to around 3 cm. Lift and repeat to pipe 4 rows of 4 shells on each sheet.
  • Hold the baking sheet with one hand and very firmly tap all along the underside with your other hand. Or gently tap the sheets on to your worktop. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles. The macarons will spread very slightly as the action flattens them a bit and gets rid of any peaks from the piping. If you do still have any peaks, lightly wet your finger and gently smooth them down. Carefully place a rose petal and a few strands of saffron on to 16 of the macaron shells. Saffron tastes very strong so don’t put too many on!
  • Leave the macarons on the side at room temperature to stand for around 30-40 minutes. They need to dry out a bit so that they bake evenly without cracking. They are ready to go in the oven when you can gently touch them without any mixture sticking to your finger. They will also lose their shine as they dry. While they are standing. preheat your oven to 140C fan, or 160C conventional oven.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. (They take 10 minutes in my oven). Check them after 5 or 6 minutes and if they look like they are browning, turn your oven temperature down slightly.
  • To test if they are ready, gently nudge one of the macarons. If it wobbles on its base, it needs a little bit longer. If it has a crisp shell and doesn’t move, it is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cover a wire cooling rack with a piece of baking paper, gently peel the macarons off the baking sheet paper and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
  • While they are all cooling, make the buttercream. Place the icing sugar, butter and pistachio syrup into a bowl and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  • Use a piping bag with a small nozzle or cut a small opening on a disposable piping bag, and pipe buttercream on to the macaron shells which don’t have the rose and saffron on them. Then place a decorated macaron shell on top and gently press together.

 

As these are based on a royal story, I wanted to make them extra indulgent, so brushed some gold lustre dust around the tops of them. You don’t have to though if you don’t want to.

Eagle eyed readers will notice I said pipe 32 shells but I only have 15 complete macarons in my photos. I couldn’t resist instantly sampling one before the photos were taken. My willpower is sadly lacking!!!!!

These would make beautiful gifts for loved ones, or wonderful wedding favours. What better way to celebrate a union of love than with these romantic treats. Whoever you make them for, I’m sure they’ll be very gratefully received.

 

Cinnamon Sauce and Cream Cheese Icing Recipes for Fluffy Pancake Toppings

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This time last year there was a huge amount of excitement in our house as we were just a couple of weeks away from flying out to Orlando to see Mickey Mouse and friends. Half of me was dreading it (I imagined it would be just like a jam-packed Alton Towers for 2 weeks) and the other half of me was excited for the Disney magic. I have to say now though it was absolutely fantastic! The people were so friendly and fun, the weather was just glorious, the whole atmosphere was laid back, and the magic was definitely there. I had been kind of dreading the food too. I’d imagined just fried chicken and burgers for 2 weeks. Isn’t it funny how wrong our preconceptions can be? Three particular meals will always be remembered as some of the best food I have ever eaten. A Mexican feast in a gorgeous restaurant called Chuy’s on International Drive. A delicious meal in a restaurant called The Plaza, in Magic Kingdom. And a humungous breakfast in Denny’s Diner on International Drive. For this breakfast I chose pancakes with egg, hash browns, bacon, sausage and I think there were beans too. Can’t quite remember that part so well.  It was all soooooo good but the best part by far was the pancakes. They arrived on a separate plate and they had a cinnamon sauce and cream cheese icing drizzled over them. (Cinnamon seems to be a very big thing in Orlando).

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You can’t tell from the picture but these beauties were enormous! Actually you can tell…. the plate they are on is a dinner plate! I can honestly say these were divine! The pancakes were super light and fluffy, and the sauce and icing were… it’s hard to find a word to describe how amazing these were. You know the extremely famous scene with Meg Ryan in the diner in “When Harry Met Sally”? Yes, THAT scene? Well I think she had just tried a mouthful of this dish when she filmed that! Enough said.

I have craved these pancakes ever since returning home but had no idea how to go about making them. Two days ago it was Pancake Day and I was determined to recreate the only pancakes I have thought about in the last year. It took a bit of trial and error to get the sauces right but I was deliriously happy to eventually sit at the table with a stack of fluffy pancakes and two squeezy bottles full of the 2 most delicious toppings in the world. And as I would feel selfish keeping these recipes to myself, I’m going to share them with you. These taste EXACTLY like the ones I had a year ago in Florida. I am so happy now I can enjoy them every day!!!

You can use your favourite recipe for fluffy pancakes if you already have one. I used THIS RECIPE and it made 5 good sized very light and perfectly fluffy pancakes. Some people use buttermilk but these were just perfect as they were. I actually made 2 batches so had 10 pancakes. They were just as good the next day warmed quickly in a dry frying pan. I should imagine you could warm them quickly in a microwave too in around 15 seconds. Or eat them cold! Here are the recipes for the sauces:


CINNAMON SAUCE

200 g granulated sugar

25 g plain flour

1 level tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

140 ml water

30 g unsalted butter

  • Put all of the ingredients except the butter in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sauce starts to bubble and thickens. Let it boil gently until it is the thickness you prefer. I boiled mine for around 5 minutes, still stirring it.
  • Take the sauce off the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and is thoroughly combined.

 

This sauce is at its best served slightly warm or room temperature. It is perfect for pancakes, waffles, churros, or glazing cakes. It would make a delicious dipping sauce for fruit too.


CREAM CHEESE ICING

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

50g cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tbsp milk

half tsp vanilla extract

220g icing sugar, sifted

pinch of salt

  • Using a handheld electric whisk/beater, mix together the butter and the cream cheese until combined.
  • Add the milk and vanilla extract and beat until creamy.
  • Finally add the icing sugar and salt and continue to beat until very smooth and any lumps have disappeared.

This icing is perfect for pancakes, waffles, to use as a dipping sauce, or drizzling over cakes. Leftover icing will need to be kept in the fridge and ideally used within a few days.


I had 2 squeezy bottles which I used to put mine in and they made it so easy to drizzle the sauce and the icing over my pancakes. They also make them very easy to store. Both of these recipes made enough to fill 1 and a half bottles of each, so if you don’t want that much, just halve the recipes. Although I am absolutely certain that when you try them both, especially together, you will be wanting a permanent supply of them!

As you can tell from the photo of the ones I made, I put quite a bit more sauce and icing on them than the ones I ate in Denny’s Diner. When you try them, you’ll understand why. I have no shame in saying I could even eat them on their own straight from the bottles!!! I hope you love them as much as I do. I’d love to hear what you use them for if you make them. Enjoy! 🙂

2…4…6…Ate! Easy Shortbread Hearts, Baked with Love

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As many of you will know, my mother sadly passed away when I was still a child. It wasn’t just my mother that died that day, it was also a whole host of experiences that many people take for granted. I’d never get to tell her about my first boyfriend, or go wedding dress shopping with her, or hand a precious grandchild to her to hold for a while. Those things fill me with sadness, but strangely enough the one thing I never got chance to do but really wish I had was to bake something for her. When my son makes or bakes something for me, it fills my heart with so much joy and pride, and I wish I could have done that for her. The look of pure satisfaction and happiness on my son’s face as he watches my face light up… well that’s a look that will stay with me forever.

I always loved baking and loved making things at school in Home Economics, as it was then called. Those lessons taught me so much. How to make shortcrust pastry, how to make a Victoria sponge. The methods and quantities used always stick in my head. One thing I was taught which I remember well was shortbread. The easiest shortbread ever to remember. In those days (the 1980s) we measured ingredients in ounces not grams, and for shortbread my teacher used to write on the board “2-4-6-Ate”. Easiest ingredient quantities ever, right? It stood for 2 ounces of sugar, 4 of butter, 6 of flour, and that would make them good enough to eat. It is such a simple recipe, my 9 year old son knows it by heart too, and he makes scrumptious shortbread!

With Mother’s Day approaching I wanted to write a blog post of a recipe that would be easy enough for children to make, with supervision, to give to their Mums as a gorgeous little gift. Baked with love. A wonderful cookware and bakeware shop called The Little Cook Shop very kindly sent me a beautiful Eddingtons loose-based mini heart pan to try, and I decided this would be perfect for this recipe.

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The pan has 12 small heart-shaped cavities, and each has a removable base so you can get your bakes out so much easier. Push up from underneath and your bake just pops out. It is also non-stick for extra easiness. There is a scrumptious looking recipe on the back of the box to make strawberry and chocolate cheesecakes with this pan. I shall definitely be trying those at some point!!! This pan costs £9.99 and is well worth it at that price as the quality is fantastic. However, The Little Cook Shop have given me a code to pass on to you so you can have 10% off any order, making this pan just £8.99! I can’t recommend it highly enough. I will be using mine A LOT! It will be perfect for savoury bakes such as quiches as well as so many sweet bakes. Have a look around their website and enter the code CONFARREO10 at the checkout to redeem the discount offer. You can use it on anything you order, not just this pan.

Back to the recipe. I normally only really use unsalted butter in my baking, but I was taught that shortbread is best when made with salted butter. It also is best made with butter that is slightly softened but still cold. Too warm and it affects the texture. Too cold and it’s hard to mix in properly. This is where a fairly new butter in the shops is just perfect.

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The Softer Butter Co. has produced a delicious butter that tastes exactly as you’d expect from a quality 100% natural butter, but it has one big difference. It is, as the name suggests, softer! No need to leave this one out of the fridge for a while to soften up, it is the perfect softness straight from the fridge. If you want to try it yourself, you can find it in Morrisons and in some Tesco stores. It is perfect for this recipe as it is softer but still cold.

EASIEST SHORTBREAD EVER 2-4-6-ATE!

2 ounces of caster sugar

4 ounces of salted butter slightly softened, or the Softer Butter Co straight from the fridge

6 ounces of plain flour, sieved

a knob of butter, melted for greasing

extra caster sugar for sprinkling on after baking (optional)

  • Use a pastry brush to grease the heart cavities with melted butter.
  • Cream together the sugar and the butter, until pale and fluffy. You can do this with a wooden spoon or an electric hand whisk. Obviously the electric whisk is quicker, but children love mixing with spoons.
  • Tip the flour into the butter mixture, and use a wooden spoon to mix well until you have a fairly stiff paste/dough and everything is combined thoroughly.
  • Use your hands to gently press the mixture together and then divide into 12 equal sized balls, about the size of walnuts.
  • Place one ball into each greased heart cavity, and use your fingers to press them down until they fill the bottom of the cavities and are level. Use a fork to prick them all over, making sure you don’t go all the way through them.
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  • Place the pan with the uncooked dough into the fridge. While it is chilling, turn your oven on to 170C or 150C if using a fan oven.
  • When the oven has reached the temperature, place the pan on to the middle shelf and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the shortbread with caster sugar, if using. Leave in the pan for 5-10 minutes.
  • Using a clean tea towel to protect your finger from getting burnt, push up each heart shortbread from underneath, and place them on a wire rack to cool completely. They will pop up so perfectly and cleanly.
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You can keep them plain like this, and they will be delicious served with a cup of tea. They are perfectly crumbly and melt in the mouth.

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Or you can decorate them by dipping half in melted chocolate or icing, and sprinkling decorations on. I love the different ways you can present them so I decorated 4 with melted white chocolate and dried rose petals, 4 with melted ginger dark chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, and 4 with icing and sprinkles.

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Beech’s Fine Chocolates make 60g bars of various flavours of the most delicious chocolate, and I used their bars for the melted chocolate decoration on these hearts. Their chocolate tastes so luxurious and smooth. The white chocolate was so creamy and the ginger dark chocolate had a beautiful gentle warmth. Of course, you can use any chocolate, but these bars make the shortbread so indulgent. Melt the chocolate either in a microwave (being very careful not to burn it) or in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Dip each heart into the chocolate and then place back on the wire rack. Sprinkle with whatever decorations you fancy.

If using icing, mix a few drops of water into 2 ounces of icing sugar, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but runny enough to dip. Dip the shortbread into the icing and return to the wire rack. Decorate with sprinkles. I used the stunning Unicorn Sprinkletti available from Scrumptious Sprinkles. The colours in this are so feminine and magical, and the shapes are so pretty.

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My son said you could decorate them to show what you think of your mother. You love her so you make them heart shaped with this beautiful pan. Then if you think she’s pretty, you decorate with sprinkles or flowers. If she’s daft and nutty, you use chopped nuts. I asked him how he would decorate mine and he said with plenty of nuts! Charming!

I hope you enjoy baking these oh so easy treats. And if your children will be making them for Mother’s Day I’m sure there’ll be some very happy mums.

Don’t forget, if you head over to The Little Cook Shop you can buy anything you want and get a 10% discount if you use the code CONFARREO10 at the checkout. You could even pick up some presents for Mother’s Day there! If you particularly want to buy this gorgeous mini heart pan click HERE to go directly to it. Happy shopping and happy baking!

BakedIn Baking Club…. Autumnal Spiced Blackberry Muffins

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I really look forward to my BakedIn Baking Club box arriving each month. The chance to bake something delicious using a recipe created exclusively by Michel Roux for BakedIn is just so exciting, and I love the anticipation of what each recipe might be.

The October box was a beautiful Spiced Blackberry Muffin recipe. The eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have noticed I used blueberries instead. Here’s why. I had gone with a friend and my son to pick some blackberries not long before this kit arrived, and had found a perfect place with an abundance of big juicy berries. As we were about to start picking them though, an elderly gentleman approached us and told us we should leave them. We thought he was joking but it quickly became apparent he wasn’t, as he proceeded to go on and on about how they were food for the birds. We did tell him there were more than enough for the birds and for us and if we didn’t pick some they’d just go rotten there were so many, but he just wouldn’t leave us alone, saying “Birds can’t go to Tesco”. He was so rude and his manner was so unfriendly, he was actually making us feel very uncomfortable, so we decided to abandon our berry picking. I went to Tesco to buy some the next day, only to find they weren’t selling them any more! I searched for any bushes locally as the perfect place we had found was miles away on a nice day out, but sadly the berries had all gone. Luckily the helpful BakedIn team told me that this recipe would work with blueberries too, so that is what I had to use. I will be making these again next year though as soon as I spot ripe blackberries around!

The Baking Club kit arrived as always in a box that fits perfectly through the letterbox. It contained all the dry ingredients needed for the recipe, already weighed out and placed in numbered packages to make following the recipe card simple. It also contained a handy butter measure guide, the recipe card, a skewer, and squares of baking paper.

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The baking paper squares were to make muffin cases out of, which I thought was wonderful. They ended up looking like the lovely tulip muffin cases you can buy, but were so easy to make! I just needed a glass that was the same width as the cups in my muffin tray, which I had, and then it was a simple task of folding the paper around the bottom of the glass. It didn’t take long at all to get them all made and placed in the trays ready for the mixture.

The instructions were, as always, very clear and easy to follow. You really can’t go wrong with these kits. I would say they are completely foolproof. The kitchen had the most amazing aroma of cinnamon and almond while I was preparing and baking these. It felt very Autumnal and cosy. The recipe made 20 muffins, which was great as they were so delicious they disappeared rapidly!

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The addition of cinnamon pearl sugar on the top added a beautiful sweet and spicy crunch. They really were scrumptious!

I don’t believe in giving much away about these recipes as they are exclusive to the Baking Club, but I can say in the months I’ve subscribed there hasn’t been a single recipe I haven’t loved. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut of just baking the same things for convenience, so this Club is a great way to try new bakes you might not otherwise have come across. It is ideal too for those days when you really want to bake but time is short. The fact the ingredients are weighed out for you cuts out so much preparation time, so you can just get on with the fun part. I tend to do mine with my 9 year old son, as the recipe card is so easy to follow. A perfect way to spend quality time with your family, and a great way to bring everyone together to enjoy the end results!

Christmas is fast approaching, and if there’s someone you are struggling to find a gift idea for, why not buy them a Baking Club subscription? It would make  a beautiful gift for any occasion. How about a house warming present? Give someone the smell of home baking to fill their house every month, along with a sense of pride and achievement when they have created something delicious.

The Baking Club subscription costs £7.99 per month, including postage. That is already a fantastic price, but the lovely BakedIn team are so sure you will love their Club, they are letting you have your first box for the crazy price of just £1.99!!! You can cancel at any time should you want to (although I doubt you will).

To get your first box for the ridiculously low price of £1.99, click HERE to join the Club using the discount code they will provide on that page. Happy Baking!

Baking with Vimto Mini Jelly Beans

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I was recently very lucky to receive a parcel full of Vimto goodies, including their new Mini Jelly Beans. Strawberry, Cherry and Original Vimto flavours all in one packet. They are dairy free and made with real fruit juice, and are suitable for vegetarians. These were absolutely scrumptious. We all love Vimto in my house so this was a wonderful parcel to receive!

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With the Great British Bake Off in full swing, the nation has gone in to baking frenzy. One of my favourite things to do is bake with my 9 year old son Luke. I’m a firm believer that baking with children is a vital activity. It gives them skills that will be so beneficial to them later in life and also is an unbelievably fantastic bonding pastime. When I was a child my Mum was too ill to bake, so I missed out on this. I was determined I would bake with Luke and he really enjoys it. I think too of a BBC film I saw that has really stuck in my head since watching it: Toast, which is a biography of the famous chef Nigel Slater. The scene that haunts me is when, as a child Nigel kept asking if he could bake mince pies for Christmas with his Mum but she kept saying no. Then a couple of weeks before she usually made them she took him into the kitchen and made some with him, as she knew she was dying and this would be her only chance. That memory has stayed strong with him, and the scene has stayed strong with me. I don’t mean this post to be sorrowful, I just want to express how something as simple as baking with family can have such a lasting impression on their lives.

One of the first things I ever made with Luke was good old rock cakes. These were the first thing I ever baked at school and were so easy but tasty. If you have never baked with your children before, these are the perfect place to start. Luke now makes them on his own (apart from the oven part) and loves them with either cherries or sultanas in. I decided to see what they would be like with Vimto Mini Jelly Beans in instead of fruit. I have to say I think I actually preferred them! The Jelly Beans went beautifully soft after they were baked and they tasted so good. Here is the recipe…

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VIMTO MINI JELLY BEAN ROCK CAKES

225g self raising flour, sifted

110g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

75g caster sugar

110g Vimto Mini Jelly Beans

1 egg, beaten

2 dessertspoons milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan. Line 2 baking sheets/trays with baking paper.
  • Place the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add the caster sugar and Jelly Beans and stir it together.
  • Pour in the egg and milk and mix well together, making sure the Jelly Beans are evenly distributed. The mixture will be very stiff.
  • Use a spoon to place 10 heaped mounds on to the baking sheets, 5 on each. Place them well apart as they do spread out! Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and nicely risen. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

 

As you can see, they really are easy to make and your children will love them. They will also feel so proud that they created something so yummy. Most children love getting a bit messy, so their sticky hands from rubbing the flour and butter together will be so satisfying for them. And believe me, they’ll remember the experience a lot longer than you could imagine!

 

We also used the goodies to decorate a delicious cake. Use your favourite sponge cake recipe to make the cake of your choice (we made a vanilla cake) and mix Vimto cordial into stiff buttercream to taste. The Vimto will make it go lovely and fluffy. Fill your cake with it, smooth some round the side, and pipe a circle on the top edge. Pour some Mini Jelly Beans on to the top to cover. If you want you can mix icing sugar and a small amount of Vimto together until it coats the back of a spoon nicely. Put this into a disposable piping bag and snip off the very tip. Pipe a small blob of icing on to the top edge and let it run down the side. Repeat at regular intervals all around the cake. I have to say, Vimto buttercream is now a favourite in this house! Not too strong but enough to taste it. Perfect.

 

If you want to try Vimto Mini Jelly Beans for yourself (and I strongly recommend that you do as they are moreishly addictive) you can buy them in individual serving packs or in family sized packs,from Nisa, Poundland, Home Bargains, some Tesco stores, among other shops.

TOP TIP… Buy more than you need. It is impossible to not eat a whole packet one or two extra as you make the rock cakes.

Have fun!

 

DISCLAIMER: I received the Jelly Beans and Cordial for free to use in baking. All ideas and views are my own and I am always honest in my opinions. 

No-Bake Rose and Pistachio Cheesecake

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With Christmas already becoming a distant memory, thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you just can’t escape it. The lovely people at Monin UK asked me if I would like to come up with a recipe suitable for this romantic day, and I immediately knew what I would make. People often say that oysters are the food of love. Well they’re wrong. It’s cheesecake! Fluffy, creamy, indulgent cheesecake. Not the baked ones either. You just can’t beat a no-bake cheesecake. And if you’re going to make something so heavenly, you don’t want to settle for a thin, easily crumbled base and an inch of cheesecake topping, oh no! You need a thick base you can taste, and you need lashings of creamy topping. If this looks too much for you, you can just half the ingredients to make a more delicate version, but I’d recommend going the whole hog and trying it this way. Or you could just use a bigger tin than I used.

As you all know by now, rose is my absolute favourite flavour and perfect for Valentine’s day. Don’t give someone a single red rose. That’s too cliché! Make them a beautiful rose cheesecake instead. Decorate it with rose petals, and you’ve just won my heart 🙂 I didn’t just want rose on its own though. I wanted another delicate taste, and pistachio pairs beautifully with rose. I’ve included pistachio nuts in the base and the topping but you can leave them out if you want. The pistachio syrup flavour is gorgeous. I only added the actual nuts for a bit of yummy texture. You could make this cheesecake using different flavoured syrups if you prefer but be careful if you do… not all are suitable as some of the more sour ones (such as pomegranate and cranberry) can curdle the mixture. I was toying with the idea of delicately colouring the layers (green for the pistachio and pink for the rose) but decided that if you accidentally add too much you’ll be left with a very garish looking dessert. So I’ve kept it simple this time, but feel free to colour the layers gradually if you want.

NO-BAKE ROSE AND PISTACHIO CHEESECAKE

FOR THE BASE

250g digestive biscuits

110g unsalted butter

30g pistachio nuts

FOR THE TOPPING

2 x 280g tubs full-fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)

100g icing sugar, sifted

300ml double cream

50g pistachio nuts

3 tbsp Monin Pistachio Syrup

3 tbsp Monin Rose Syrup

Rose petals, to decorate

  • To Make the Base: line a 7 inch loose-bottomed deep cake tin or springform cake tin with foil, carefully making sure you press as many bumps out as possible. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan, making sure it doesn’t burn. Blitz the biscuits and pistachios in a food processor until they become crumbs. Alternatively, place them into a ziplock bag, and bash them with a rolling pin.
  • Pour the crumb mixture into the pan with the butter and mix until well combined. Tip this mixture into the cake tin, cover the bottom completely, and then use the back of a spoon to press the mixture down firmly. Place into the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.
  • To Make the Topping: Place the cream cheese into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and gently whisk it to loosen it up a bit. Add the sifted icing sugar and whisk until combined.
  • In another bowl, whip the double cream until it reaches soft peak stage. (When you lift the beater or whisk,  the cream will form a slight peak but the tip of it will fold back down).
  • Add the cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold in with a spatula until well combined. Place half of this mixture into another bowl (or back in the bowl you whipped the cream in to save dishes).
  • Place the pistachio nuts into a food processor and blitz until roughly chopped. Alternatively chop by hand with a sharp knife. Tip these into one of the bowls of cheesecake mixture, along with the pistachio syrup. Fold in well with a spatula until completely combined. You’ll notice it thickening as you fold it. Pour this on top of the cheesecake biscuit base, and smooth it down until level. Place into the fridge until the next part is ready to use.
  • Pour the rose syrup into the bowl with the remaining cheesecake mixture and fold in well with a spatula. Again, you’ll notice it thickening. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and gently spoon this layer on top. Spread until it has covered the first layer and is smooth and level. Place back into the fridge for at least 5 hours to set (overnight would be perfect).
  • Remove from the fridge. Gently remove from the tin and peel off the foil very carefully. It should hold it’s shape easily by now. Place onto a serving plate and scatter rose petals around the top. Serve and enjoy!

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I used a range of large and small petals but you can use whichever you prefer. Or you can use pistachios or even chocolate curls if you prefer. Although I made this with Valentine’s Day in mind, it is perfect for any occasion really.

I’d recommend buying Monin Syrups either from Udal Supplies Ltd or from Next Day Coffee. Just click on their names to go straight to their websites.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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Black Forest Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake

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I have 2 addictions in life… Nordic Ware bundt tins and the Costa Coffee Festive menu drinks, in particular the Black Forest Hot Chocolate. The Nordic Ware addiction is an all year long one, but sadly the Costa Coffee one is limited to one month a year when the Festive menu appears. Or at least it was! Tassimo coffee machines were selling ridiculously cheaply in the Black Friday sales online a few months ago so we bought one. As soon as my sister found out, she went online and bought me the exact syrups that Costa use in my favourite drink so I could make them at home too! (She bought me the rose one too as everyone knows I adore rose in all forms… flower, scent, and flavour). She even bought me the bottle pourer as well to make drizzling the cherry syrup easier!

Anyway I’m waffling. In case you’ve never tried one this is what the Black Forest Hot Chocolate looks like:

Picture courtesy of Costa

A delicious hot chocolate mixed with blackberry syrup, topped with slightly sweetened fresh cream, drizzled with a yummy cherry sauce and chocolate curls sprinkled on top to finish. Sheer indulgent heaven! I was making one at home and the idea came to me to make a cake version of it! I had the syrups so started planning. I decided to make it as a bundt and thought a flat-topped tin would be best so that I could pipe cream on top, so I made it in the Star shaped tin. Until now THIS has been my favourite bundt recipe that I have created, but I have to admit the Black Forest one has knocked it off top spot for me.

I was asked once why I use buttermilk in my bundts whereas other people use yoghurt. It is just personal preference. Both serve the same purpose but I always have buttermilk in the fridge. Buttermilk, like yoghurt, reacts with bicarbonate of soda, causing harmless carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps bakes to rise and makes them light and fluffy. I use it in scones all the time for that reason too. Enough science, here’s the recipe. It looks like a huge list of ingredients but most of it is store cupboard essentials.

BLACK FOREST HOT CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

FOR THE CAKE:

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

190 g golden caster sugar

190 g soft light brown sugar

340 g plain flour

half level tsp bicarbonate of soda

half level tsp salt

1 level tsp baking powder

25 g cocoa powder

4 large eggs, beaten

200 ml buttermilk

200 g milk chocolate (or a combination of dark and milk chocolate), broken into pieces

8 tbsp (120 ml) Monin blackberry syrup

FOR THE DECORATION:

250 ml fresh double cream

1 level tbsp icing sugar

Monin Cherry syrup

extra chocolate

  • Grease a 10-12 cup bundt tin well with Cake Release, or melted butter and flour. (Or you could try this in normal cake tins). Preheat the oven to 170C.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy.
  • Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and leave until almost completely melted, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat and stir until totally smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
  • In another bowl, sieve together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa). I like to quickly mix with a spoon after sieving cocoa and flour together to make sure it is thoroughly combined and there are no white powders left.
  • In a large jug mix the wet ingredients together (beaten eggs, buttermilk, melted chocolate and blackberry syrup).
  • Add half of the wet ingredient mixture to the butter and sugar and beat well until combined. Add half of the dry ingredient mixture and gently fold in with a large spoon or spatula. Fold in the last half of the wet ingredients, followed by the remaining dry ingredient mixture until completely combined. (This was the perfect amount of blackberry syrup flavour for me and tasted the same as how Costa serve it. However, taste a bit of the mixture and if you like it stronger add an extra tbsp of syrup now).
  • Pour into your prepared tin until no higher than three quarters full, then place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. (Don’t worry if the top has cracked, it will be on the bottom when served). Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • When it is completely cool, place on to a serving plate.Whisk together the cream and icing sugar until it forms very soft peaks. (When you pipe cream it thickens rapidly in the piping bag so don’t over-whisk it now). Spoon into a piping bag and pipe on to the top of your bundt however you prefer. I just did simple rosettes. Nothing fancy. Pipe more around the bottom as well. (If your bundt tin design allows, pipe extra cream around the sides too).
  • Drizzle Monin cherry syrup all over the cream letting it come down the sides too. Use a potato peeler to make curls of chocolate (just “peel” down the side of a row of chocolate) and sprinkle them on top to finish. Or you can crumble a Flake on top.

And there you have the cake version of the famous drink. Obviously it is EXTREMELY calorific so probably best just to make it for special occasions!!! My Other Half ate 2 slices straight after each other, and said it tastes just like the drink. My son polished off a slice in record time too and said it was delicious. I put a picture of it on Twitter and have to admit I was overwhelmed by the response to it, so I hope you like it as much as we do.

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Obviously as there is fresh cream on top, this cake needs to be stored in the fridge. Remove it for a while before serving so the cream isn’t too cold. It is best eaten on the same day as cakes in fridges tend to go hard quickly. Or you could make the cake and only put the cream and decorations on individual slices when you serve them. That way you can keep the cake in an airtight container.

The best place to buy Monin syrups is from Next Day Coffee. You can find the blackberry syrup HERE and the cherry one HERE. If you want the bottle pourer for easier drizzling of the cherry one on top, that can be found HERE.

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I have contacted Costa and asked if they would mind me making cake versions of more of their best-loved drinks, so this one will be the first in a series. Let me know in the comments what your favourites ones are 🙂