Friday, 14 December 2012


He's having a jolly old time on our Christmas tree! I made him using rowan tweed and the pattern in Mini Christmas Crochet.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Mini Mince Pie Cupcakes

Hooray! Christmas is coming! It's mince pie season and I've perfected my recipe for mince pie cupcakes just in time for the festivities. These are a light and fluffy alternative to the mince pie. I baked mini cakes and topped them with a wicked brandy buttercream icing and some fondant holly leaves and berries. I used homemade mincemeat - every year I make a batch of Delia's Mincemeat (omitting the yucky candied peel of course!). If you use shop bought mincemeat use a good quality one, as it will have both a better consistency and flavour.

Mini Mince Pie Cupcakes (makes 30)

115g unsalted butter, softened
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125g good quality mincemeat
100g self raising flour
15g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the brandy buttercream icing:
125g butter
325g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp brandy

1. Put on some festive music and preheat oven to 180°C (fan 160°C) and line a mini muffin tin with mini cupcake cases.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the mincemeat.
3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cornflour and baking powder. Then sift this into the wet mixture and gently stir through until combined.
4. Fill cupcake cases two thirds full and bake for 10-12 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven.

5. Now make the icing. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and icing sugar until smooth, then add in the brandy and mix well.

6. Pipe or spread onto the cooled cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles or fondant shapes.
7. Put your feet up, turn up the Christmas tunes and enjoy a cupcake or two.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Colourful Crochet Scarf

I  thought I'd share a recently finished project, which was a belated Birthday pressie for my good friend Amy. I used a pattern from Ravelry. It's called the Isar Scarf and is really easy to follow. It's also free! I used King Cole Splash double knitting wool and made cute little pom poms to finish it off. I love the rainbow of colours, and I hope Amy does too! I'm hoping to make another one or two of these (in different colours) for Christmas pressies, so I'd better get my crochet on! Are you making any gifts this year?

I should also mention that Amy writes fantastic film reviews - check out Movie Writing!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Making Christmas Cake

I've been baking Christmas cake for a fair few years now. This is the cake I made last year. At Christmas I love nothing more than a slab of fruitcake with a glass of sherry, and decorating the cake a few days before the festivities never fails to make me feel jolly. I love this recipe for Sherry and Almond cake on BBC Good Food. Naturally, I've made a few changes to the recipe to suit my preferences. It makes a deliciously moist and nutty cake.

Recently a few people have told me they thought Christmas cake was difficult to make - it's really not! It does require some preparation and a little drink every couple of weeks, but the effort is really worth it! To inspire you to make your own, I thought I'd share my tips for fruitcake success!

Feeling Fruity!
Many recipes call for mixed dried fruit. The problem I have with mixed fruit is that is contains yucky mixed peel, of which I am most definitely not a fan - I find it tough and bitter. To avoid it I buy separate packets of raisins, sultanas and currants. Other dried fruit works well, such as cranberries and cherries. I have to say I think the separately packaged fruit is of a better quality than the mixed, but that may just be me.

Be prepared!
Measure your dried fruit out at least a day before you are going to bake, and soak it overnight. The recipe below uses sherry (a deliciously thick and syrupy one - yum!), but you could use brandy, whiskey, rum, or if you'd prefer to skip on the alcohol, orange juice or even black tea. The important thing is that you give the fruit enough time to absorb the liquid and become plump and juicy. This will help to keep your cake moist and prevent it from drying out.

Go nuts!
I like to use nuts in fruitcakes. Whole nuts are a bit too chunky for my liking, so I pop them in my mini chopper and whiz them down to size, but still leaving a few bigger pieces for a bit of crunch. If you use a recipe that requires ground nuts, I recommend buying whole ones and processing them until you have a reasonably fine texture. This is another thing that can help to keep your cake lovely and moist. The reason for this is that ready ground nuts are dried out during the manufacturing process, and as a result contain less natural oil than whole nuts. 

Use protection!
Fruitcake is baked for a number of hours and although the heat is relatively low, there's always a risk that the outside of the cake could over bake. To help prevent this, line your tin with baking paper and wrap several layers of newspaper around the outside, using bakers twine or string to tie in place. I didn't have any handy so I used a spare shoelace instead!

Flip it 'n' feed it!
To keep your cake in tip top condition, give it a swig of its favourite drink. Use a skewer to make a series of holes about an inch and a half apart and about a third of the way through the thickness of the cake. Carefully pour a few drops of tipple into each hole. Do this every couple of weeks, and flip your cake over each time so that you alternate between feeding the bottom and top of the cake - you don't want one half of your cake to be completely sozzled!

I hope you find these tips helpful! Here's the recipe for my cake...

Sherry & Almond Christmas Cake

375g sultanas
375g raisins
150g currants
100g glace cherries
zest and juice of 2 large oranges
225ml sweet sherry (I use Sainsbury's Pedro Ximenez - about £7 a bottle, but seriously good stuff)
250g butter, softened
250g light muscovado sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste/1 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
150g whole almonds, roughly chopped 
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. In a large bowl mix the fruit with the zest juice and sherry. Cover with a tea towel and leave to soak overnight.

2. When you're ready to bake preheat the oven to 160°C (that's 140°C fan).

3. Line a deep, 23cm round tin and wrap several layers of newspaper around the outside.

4. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, along with the flour, ground almonds and spices. Beat again until well combined.

5. Finally, add the chopped nuts, fruit and any juices. Stir through before transferring to the prepared tin.

6. Bake for one hour. Then turn down the oven to 150°C (130°C fan) and bake for a further 2 hours, or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.

7. When the tin has cooled enough to handle, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack. Once completely cool, wrap in baking paper and then foil. Keep in a cool place and feed with sherry every couple of weeks.

Once we get a little closer to the festive season, I'll share some decorating ideas. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about any festive baking you've been doing or are planning. Have you made a Christmas cake? What did you put in it? Happy Baking!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chocolate Owl Cupcakes

These chocolate owl cupcakes were so much fun to make... I had a hoot! Tee hee! I made them using gluten free flour and they went down a treat at my office. You could even add some chocolate chips to the cake batter to make them even more chocolately!

Chocolate Owl Cupcakes (makes 12)

150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
40g ground almonds
40g cocoa
125g self raising flour/gluten free self raising flour
4 tbsp yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate icing:
150g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2-3 tbsp milk

To decorate:
3 packets cadbury milk chocolate buttons, chop each button in half
2 packets giant chocolate buttons (for eyes)
2 packs white chocolate buttons (for eyes)
milk chocolate chips (for eyes)
3 cadbury fudge bars (for nose and ears), cut into triangular shapes
white chocolate stars

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
2. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.
3. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and ground almonds. Then add the yoghurt and sift in the flour and cocoa. Stir through until you have a smooth chocolately batter.
4. Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes.

5. Meanwhile make the icing: combine butter and half the icing sugar until smooth, beat in the remaining icing sugar and cocoa, then finally add the milk to loosen the consistency slightly.
6. Once the cupcakes are cooled, spread the chocolate icing on top. Keep aside a teaspoon of icing for adding some of the chocolate decorations.
7. Layer the halved chocolate buttons on one half of the cupcake, leaving a small space in the centre for a piece of chocolate fudge for the nose. Place two smaller pieces of chocolate fudge on the top side for the ears.

8. Add two giant chocolate buttons for the eyes. Use a toothpick or the end of a spoon to dab a tiny splodge of icing onto the centre of the buttons, then gently press two white chocolate buttons into place. Add the milk chocolate chips on top of the white chocolate buttons with another small dot of chocolate icing. Pop a couple of white chocolate stars onto the side. Ta da!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Mini Pumpkin Pies

Autumn is well and truly here and that can only mean one thing... pumpkin and squash time! What could be better than some yummy pumpkin pies with maple syrup and a hint of gingery mixed spice? Why, mini ones of course! Mr Makes said they're like pumpkin and maple flavour custard tarts. So if you're a fan of the custard tart I think you're going to like these!

Mini Pumpkin Pies (makes 24)

180g plain flour, sifted
45g icing sugar
90g butter, diced
1 egg yolk
1-2 tbsp milk

Filling (note: this makes around 300ml, of which you'll only need half, so freeze the rest for another time!):
250g diced pumpkin
2 tbsp double cream
1 egg and 1 egg white
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp ginger
pinch mixed spice

1. First of all steam the diced pumpkin (I don't have a steamer, so I put the pumpkin in a colander set over a pan of gently simmering water) for around 15 minutes until tender.
2. Pop into a blender or food processor with the double cream and wizz into a puree. Leave to cool a little while you make the pastry.

3. In a bowl mix the flour and icing sugar. Use your fingers to rub in the butter until it has a breadcrumb-like texture. In a separate bowl mix 1 tbsp milk with the egg yolk to combine, then add this to the flour mixture and use a knife to mix it through. If a dough doesn't form, add a further tbsp of milk. Use your hands to bring  the dough together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

4. Now mix the egg, egg white, maple syrup, ginger and mixed spice into the cooled pumpkin puree.
5. Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
6. Roll out the chilled pastry to 4mm thickness and cut out 24 rounds (I used a 5.5cm cutter) and line a 24 hole mini muffin tin. Use the remaining pastry to cut out stars (tip: use a tooth pick to ease the pastry out of the corners).

7. Spoon/pour the pumpkin mixture into your pastry cases and set a star on top of each.
8. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool in the tin before removing and sprinkling with caster sugar.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Learning to knit

Over the past couple of months I've been learning to knit and now my first project is complete! These hand warmers should keep my hands toasty over the coming months.

I went to a couple of knitting classes at The Sheep Shop, where the lovely Sarah taught me the basics. If you live in the Cambridge area and want to learn how to knit or crochet this is the place to go. In addition to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, it is yarn heaven! A little while ago fellow Cambridge blogger Claireabellemakes posted about learning to crochet at The Sheep Shop, including an interview with Sarah and lots of lovely photos, check it out.

At the moment I can cast on/off, knit, purl, increase and decrease. I also learned moss stitch, which I used to make cute little bows for my hand warmers. This was a great project to start off with. If you'd like to keep your hands warm this winter, here's how to make your own:

Knitted hand warmers
Supplies: 5mm needles, 50g worsted weigh yarn, small amount of contrasting yarn.
Cast on 25 stitches. Knit 60 rows, cast off. Repeat for second mitt. Block and sew each
rectangle into a tube, remembering to leave a space for thumbs. 
For the bows - moss stitch: Cast on 12 stitches. Knit 1 purl 1 to the end of each row,
repeat for 8 rows (so that you knit the purl stitches and purl the knit stitches of the previous row),
cast off. Repeat for second bow. Wind some yarn around the
middle of each rectangle, pulling reasonably tight to create the centre of the bow,
fasten off and stitch on to the front of each hand warmer.

I'm already making more for Christmas pressies! I think I'm ready to move onto something a little more challenging now though - any ideas for my next project?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lovely Lemon Layer Cake

Last weekend was a busy one! I baked a whole load of my lovely lemony cupcakes along with a lovely lemon layer cake for my Mother-in-law's Birthday celebrations.

I whipped up some of Delia's lemon curd for the filling. It tastes much better than shop-bought and I have two jars left over to make yet more lemony delights over the next few weeks! I also made some small roses for decoration.

Everything survived the car journey and the Birthday girl loved her cakes. If you'd like to make a lovely lemon layer cake, here's my recipe:

Lovely Lemon Layer Cake

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tbsp ground almonds

For the filling:
lemon curd
Lemony icing:
100g unsalted butter, softened
350-400g icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon extract
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
few drops yellow food colouring
sugar flowers

1. Grease and line two round 20cm sandwich tins, and preheat your oven to 190 degrees or 170 for fan ovens.
2. Use an electric mixer to beat together all the cake ingredients until smooth and creamy.
3. Divide the mixture between the two tins evenly and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-30 minutes.
4. To make the lemony icing beat the butter for a minute. Gradually add the icing sugar and continue to beat. Add the lemon extract, juice and a little yellow food colouring. Beat again until smooth and creamy.
5. Once the cakes have cooled slice each of them so you have four layers of cake. Spread lemon curd and/or lemony icing between each layer and slather the outside with icing.
6. Prettify with a few sugar flowers!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Mini Schokogugelhupf (Austrian Chocolate Cake)

A gugelhupf is an Austrian ring-shaped tea time cake. I've been wanting to bake a schokogugelhupf (all together now - shock-o-google-hoff!) ever since I saw the Hairy Bikers make one in a car park in Austria, high up on the Glossglockner High Alpine Road, during their mammoth Bakeation. When I popped into Lakeland and came across these silicone mini bund moulds I knew just what to make in them - mini schokogugelhupf of course! I adapted the Hairy Bikers' recipe for schokogugelhupf to make a smaller quantity as I only had 8 moulds.

Mini Schokogugelhupf (makes 8)

75g butter, plus extra for greasing
75g dark chocolate
25g ground almonds, plus extra for moulds
75g icing sugar
2 eggs, separated
65g self raising flour
¼ tsp baking powder
For the icing:
65g dark chocolate
20g butter
½ tbsp golden syrup

1. First of all grease the moulds with butter and coat with ground almonds. Then melt the chocolate and leave to cool for 15-20 minutes.
2. Preheat your oven to 190°C (170°C fan).
3. Cream the butter and icing sugar until light and smooth. Beat in the egg yolks and then the cooled chocolate, ground almonds, flour and baking powder.
4. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Then, using a metal spoon, carefully stir into the chocolate mixture.

5. Spoon into the prepared moulds and bake for 12-15 minutes.

6. For the icing melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup and leave to cool for around 10 minutes until it has thickened slightly. Spoon on the cooled cakes.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Viennese Whirls

Viennese whirls are now offically my favourite biscuits. I think of them as a clever combination of shortbread and butterfly fairy cakes - rich buttery biscuits with a lovely light texture sandwiched together with raspberry jam and buttercream. Best of all, they're dead easy to make!

Viennese Whirls (makes 10)

125g unsalted butter, softened
25g icing sugar
25g cornflour
125g plain flour
couple drops vanilla extract
For the filling:
50g unsalted butter, softened
100g icing sugar
couple drops vanilla extract
5 tsp raspberry jam

1. Pre heat oven to 190° (fan 170°) and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2. Put the butter, icing sugar, cornflour, plain flour and vanilla extract into a food processor and pulse until you have a smooth mixture.

3. Pop it into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe 20 whirls around 4-5cm in size.

4. Bake for 10-14 minutes until they start to turn a light golden colour.

5. To make the filling beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread half a teaspoon or so of jam onto half of the biscuits and pipe or spread buttercream onto the other half. Gently press together and finish with a light dusting of icing sugar.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Crochet Daisy Cushion

This week I finally finished my crocheted cushion cover. If you follow me on Instagram you'll know I've been working on this for a fair few weeks now. Well, here it is...

I love the pretty little daisy granny squares and how they've brightened up the living room. I found some great instructions for making them here on Bunny Mummy. They're dead easy to make and - I'm sure my fellow crochet lovers will agree - super addictive!

I made 50 daisy grannies in total, 25 for each side of the cushion. I joined them together with an invisible stitch (see this helpful tutorial) and added a border before stitching around the sides. My cushion is now sitting pretty on the sofa.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Pink Raspberry Spice Cake

Last week I made a special cake for a very special lady. Mr Makes' Nan turned 98! She is a truly amazing woman and she deserved an amazing cake. I pinned this Raspberry Spice Cake a while back. Oh yes! It has SIX layers of cake, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice (I skipped the cloves), sandwiched together with Tiptree raspberry jam, and covered with creamy cream cheese icing. I left my raspberries in the fridge at home (ooops!), but luckily I had some bright candles and pink sugar hearts to hand.

I tinted my sponge pink for an extra wow factor! I was going for pink ombre, but didn't quite pull it off and ended up with just pink! In case the trend has passed you by, ombre is a french word meaning shaded and ombre cake has layers tinted to go from light to dark.

This is one of the most delicious cakes I've made (even if I say so myself!). It received great reviews and I will most definitely be making again. The spice isn't overpowering and goes oh so well with the jam and cream cheese icing. I must say that the BBCgoodfood recipe made too much icing - I used about half on the cake and the rest to ice 16 chocolate cupcakes! Here's my adapted recipe...

Pink Raspberry Spice Cake

250g unsalted butter, softened
450g plain flour
140g golden caster sugar
140g light soft brown sugar
5 large eggs
4 tbsp honey
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp buttermilk
pink food colouring
For the filling and icing:
200g good quality raspberry jam
120g unsalted butter
120g cream cheese
120g icing sugar
raspberries to decorate (don't leave them in the fridge like I did!) 

1. Preheat oven to 160° (140°fan). Grease and line 3 x 20cm tins.
2. Pop all your ingredients into a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. 
3. If you want to attempt ombre you can divide your mixture and tint. I used pink food colour paste. 

4. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 25-35 minutes (mine needed 35 minutes).
5. Cut each cake in half and spread raspberry jam between the layers. 
6. For the icing, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar until smooth. 
7. Spread the icing all over. You can make it look pretty with some raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Cheese & Chorizo Muffins

These cheesy delights would be perfect for a picnic. Oh how I love a lazy afternoon at the park with a basket full of nibbles... Unfortunately this Great British wash-out of a summer doesn't look like it'll improve anytime soon. So it's just as well that these muffins taste just as good indoors!

Cheese & Chorizo Muffins (makes 12)

300g self raising flour
1 tsp paprika
80g butter, diced
170g medium cheddar, grated
30g parmigiano reggiano , finely grated
1 egg
250ml semi-skimmed milk
70g sliced chorizo
around 6 spring onions
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 190°C (170° fan) and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Sift flour and paprika into a large bowl. Add butter and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour until you have a fine breadcrumb-like texture. 

3. Stir in chorizo, cheeses and spring onions.

4. Beat the egg with the milk, then stir into the dry mixture.
5. Divide between the muffin cases and bake for 16-20 minutes.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Feltie Friday

I love making felties - they're small, perfectly formed nuggets of cute. These lovely creatures are characters from Animal Crossing, one of my favourite video games. Maple and Rosie live in my village. Yep, that's right folks, I'm a bit of a nerd!

I made these sun lovin' fellas a while back and I'm hoping to make more Animal Crossing villagers soon, so look out for future Feltie Friday posts.