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Campfire cupcakes

campfire cupcakeThe school holidays are here and the sun has got it’s hat on (well, some of the time) so we are heading out to enjoy ‘The Great Outdoors’ Whether it is music festivals, trips to the seaside, camping jaunts or simply just sunbathing in the garden with a BBQ you can add a little creativity (and cake) to your day.

Camping is a great childhood memory for many people, from Brownie and Scout camps toasting marshmallows on the campfire to family holidays. We wanted to capture all the fun memories of camping with a few kid-friendly baking ideas. The first, being our yummy chocolate campfire cupcakes (try saying that really quickly!)

We used a really simple classic chocolate cupcake recipe to bake our cupcakes. They only take 20 minutes to bake too, meaning that you won’t have to have your oven on too long, adding extra heat to your kitchen.

Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled the fun really begins. Whip up a basic vanilla buttercream by simply blending icing sugar, softened butter and vanilla extract, then colour orange to create the flames on your cupcake. A good quality food colour gel will give a really vibrant colour to your buttercream, however, if you cannot find any gel, liquid food colouring will also work. As orange is not one of the common primary colours that are sold in supermarkets you could create the desired colour by blending yellow and red food colourings. Add the food colouring in small amounts until you reach the colour you want. You might also find it easier add the yellow first then making it darker with drops of red. When stirring the colouring into the buttercream, only partially stir in to create a flame coloured effect.

Using a star nozzle in a piping bag held vertically, quickly pipe a small amount buttercream randomly across the top of your cake to create the flames. Then crush up some flake or grate some chocolate and carefully stick to the buttercream flames to create the firewood.

All that is left to do now is pack up the cupcakes for your camping trip!

The Scoop with Eric Lanlard

RED VELVET ERICWe caught up with master patissier, Eric Lanlard recently to get the ‘scoop’ and chat all things ice cream in celebration of National Ice Cream month.

Most of us have fond childhood memories of enjoying an ice cream in the sun, what has your favourite ice cream experience been?
It has to be visiting the ice cream parlour in Harrods. Simply the best combination & presentation, if you visit skip lunch and have ice cream!

What would you say your favourite ice-cream flavour is?
It’s got to be chocolate & “proper” pistachio (not the green one!)

How do you like to eat your ice cream – by itself or dressing up a dessert?
Hot French apple tart and vanilla ice cream is such a great combination.

We know that you love experimenting with different flavours, what’s the most inventive ice cream that you have created?
My Red Velvet ice cream! Ice-cream made with cream cheese and cream and big chunk of broken up red velvet sponge folded in … Red Velvet heaven!! red velvet ice cream

To watch how to make Eric’s Red Velvet Ice Cream click here.

Are you a one scoop or two man?
Always Two!

Do you prefer a cone or a pot?
Cone, a proper good quality waffle one is the best.

vanilla ice creamWhat is your top tip to creating the ultimate ice-cream?
As ever I believe it is all about using the best ingredients. A good long gentle churning is essential to and will make a huge difference to the outcome of your ice cream, so invest in a good machine.

To check out Eric’s Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Ice Cream recipe click here. There is also a great ‘how to’ video, found here.

Game, set, match

tennis racket Wimbledon is here and we know what we will be munching on over the next few weeks along with strawberries and cream (obviously) these delicious tennis ball cupcakes.

I used a basic vanilla cupcake recipe and gave it an alternative twist by swapping out the vanilla extract with a teaspoon of Nielsen-Massey lemon extract (one of my favourite flavourings at the moment) The lemon flavour gives the cupcakes a real summery flavour and if that wasn’t enough they were made even zestier with a hidden teaspoon of lemon curd in the centre.

Recipe ingredients lemon curd

For the cupcakes:
115g butter (softened)
115g Billington’s golden caster sugar
2 eggs
115g Allinson self raising flour
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey lemon extract

For the filling:
Lemon curd sugar paste

For the buttercream:
80g butter
160g icing sugar
1 tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract

Once the cupcakes were baked and cooled, I used a sharp knife to carve out a hole in the centre of the cupcake, this was then filled with a generous spoonful of lemon curd and the topped with the sponge that had been removed. To seal the sponge back in place a small amount of buttercream (I used vanilla, however, lemon flavoured buttercream would also work) was spread over the top. tennis cupcakes

I then thinly rolled out some yellow sugar paste and using a small circular cutter, stamped out 12 circles (enough for each cupcake) These became the tennis ball decoration.

Finishing touches were added by piping white icing on top.

And serve…. (no tennis pun intended!)

Lets get recycling!

watering can It’s National Recycling Week so we have been getting resourceful and recycling our unwanted kitchen junk into quirky household objects. Who knew our rubbish could be so useful??

We began with a simple milk carton. If like us, you get through carton after carton of milk per month, you are going to love this brilliant recycling hack. Summer is full swing now and our garden is full of a collection of vibrant flowers that need regular watering to maintain. If you don’t have a garden hose, constantly refilling your watering can sometimes become a bit of a chore, so why not transform your use milk cartons into additional watering cans, saving fewer trips back to the tap for refills?

Simply use a metal skewer to poke holes in the lid of your milk carton, give the bottle a few washes to get rid of any leftover milk and away you go.

askeys box Messy kitchen? Endless rolls of tin foil, cling film or baking paper? We have the solution, re-use old cardboard packaging – this Askeys ice cream cone box is the perfect size to hold 3 rolls. To beautify your tidy box, use up left over scraps of wrapping paper to decorate, or alternatively why not use pages from an old retro recipe book to cover your box to give it a lovely vintage theme.

ROSEWe get through a lot of eggs when baking so finding an alternative use for all our empty egg boxes seemed essential with this project. We managed to come up with two really useful solutions for both inside and outside the home.

Making sugar paste roses can be a fiddly and delicate process so the last thing you want to do is squash your beautiful creations. Why not store them in an empty egg carton until you are ready to decorate to keep their shape.

plantFrom sugar paste roses to homegrown roses – get green fingered and plant some seedings in your egg carton, the ideal size to start nurturing your little plants.

We would love to hear your recycling hacks – please share with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Happy Father’s Day!

“You only have one Dad…” (Lorna Slack)

“My husband is the best Dad…he has a giving nature and all the patience in the world” (Cate Burgon)

“He will always be my hero and hold a special place in my heart” (Jackie Heaton)

These comments from our Facebook members, show just how important Dads are to us all and why they should be celebrated this weekend on Father’s Day.

We have some fun and exciting BakingMad.com recipes designed just for Dad so why don’t you check these out for some baking gift inspiration. Click here for Father’s Day recipes.

Here are a few of our favourites:

fathers day cake

suits

Cupcakes

cupcakes 2

cupcakes 3

cupcakes 4

Gingerbread men are for life … not just for Christmas!

gingerbread When sorting through our kitchen drawers recently we came across our gingerbread cutter. It seems such a shame that this cutter only seems to get an outing a few times a year around Christmas time, so we thought we would buck the trend and bake some summer inspired gingerbread men (and women)

With summer holidays and bikini diets seemingly on everyone’s minds at the minute we decided to give our gingerbread family a revamp and what better than to decorate them with an itsy-bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini (apologies to anyone who was born after the 90’s who doesn’t understand the Timmy Mallett reference)

These biscuits would be really cute as an after dinner snack in the sun following a summer BBQ or maybe for a children’s summer party.

Tip: To make a real showstopper party display, position the gingerbread sunbathers on top of light muscovado sugar (it is a great substitute for sand)

Tip: We used food colouring gel when colouring our icing as we found that this gave a lovely deep rich colour, perfect for our yellow bikinis!

We would love to see the summer gingerbread families that you create so don’t forget to share them with us on Twitter @bakingmadUK and Facebook Baking Mad UK – you may even get chosen to feature as our BakingMad.com baker of the month in our monthly newsletter!

For a link to our gingerbread men recipe please click here.

5 ways to revamp your heart biscuits

ladybird Let’s face it unless you have a humongous kitchen (or two if you are a politician) Like us, you probably won’t have much space for endless cookie cutters and baking tools. We are always trying to cram just one more cutter into our kitchen drawers.

So we have a challenged ourselves to get more uses out of the baking kit that we currently have, starting with the old faithful ‘the heart biscuit cutter’

Now, don’t get us wrong, we love a cute heart biscuit, who doesn’t? It’s the perfect gift for valentines or Mother’s Day, but we wanted to experiment with what else we could create with this shape of biscuit and here is what we came up with, our ‘5 ways to revamp your heart biscuits’

1. Wedding favours – bride and groom biscuits bride

With an impending BakingMad.com wedding later this year, we have been on the overwhelming task of searching for the ideal wedding favours. Mini pots of jam, indulgent fudge, chocolate truffles – all good contenders but we also liked the idea of these personalised bride and groom biscuits. These are decorated using sugar paste icing however for those of you who enjoy a spot of piping and icing you could also decorate with royal icing, piping each guests name on the biscuit making them dual purpose as place settings too.

A super cute wedding favour that all you guests are sure to be talking about. Plus the best bit is you can bake in advance and freeze, saving precious time in the build up to the big day! (Phew)

2. Thank you gifts – bridesmaids bridesmaid

Keeping on the wedding theme, we also loved the idea of these adorable bridesmaid biscuits. Your loyal bridesmaids will be primping and prepping you and being at your beck and call for the duration of your big day. What better way to thank them with a sentimental, hand-baked gift? You can also personalise these, decorating them to match the colour of the bridesmaid dresses and even the flowers. Alternatively, these would be great favours for your bridal shower or hen party, spicing them up a bit with ‘L’ plates or matching them to your theme.

One batch of these biscuits serves 30, so there will be plenty to go around for all of your hens.

3. Ladybirds

School holidays are the best time to get creative with your little one’s in the kitchen, but keeping them entertained can sometimes be a challenge. These sweet ladybird biscuits are sure to catch their attention and are really simple to do. They would be a great addition to a children’s party or even to enjoy on a picnic alongside real life ladybirds. These biscuits are decorated by piping icing using these simple steps, just make sure that the icing isn’t too runny as it might escape over the sides. If it is, simply thicken with a touch more icing sugar. ladybird step by step

4. Strawberries strawberries

Summer is the season for strawberries and we love these vibrant strawberry biscuits, for an added touch you could add strawberry flavouring to the biscuit dough or secure the sugar paste icing to the biscuit using strawberry jam. The heart cutter can be used to cut out the red strawberry shape and the green leafage. Simply cut out a green heart then using a sharp knife cut off ¾ of the heart shape leaving the curve part at the top. Use the knife to the cut a zigzag pattern to form the leaves and finish by piping white icing dots over the red. The ideal summer snack.

5. Heart cupid heart

Ok, ok, we know we said we were going to stay away from the hearts, but these cupid style biscuits really do give an added something to the standard heart shape cookie. You can create these simply using a smaller heart cutter and stamping out a smaller heart from the inside of the dough or to make the cupid biscuits, cut out an arrow shape around the heart dough when baking. And what’s more cutting out smaller hearts means that you will be getting double the amount of cookies (more bang for your buck!)

Well there you have it our ‘5 ways to revamp your heart biscuits’ we would love to hear your suggestions or even any photos of your bakes. Get in touch with us on Facebook Baking Mad UK or on Twitter @BakingMadUK.

Step by step guide to make a showstopper cake

Anti gravity cake Making a showstopper cake really isn’t as difficult as you may think. If you follow our simple easy step by step guide you could be wowing your friends and family in no time.

There seems to be a whole host of anti-gravity cakes ‘flying’ around (get it?!) on the internet recently so I thought I would try our hand at making a sweet inspired cake using our favourite chocolate treats.

crumb coatI began with a basic chocolate sponge cake which was filled and crumb coated with a chocolate buttercream. Some of you may have heard ‘crumb coating’ mentioned in recipes or on baking shows. It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds, it is simply covering the outside of your cake with buttercream in order to trap the crumbs so that they don’t stick to your sugar paste icing (if you are covering your cake) or in this case the buttercream is used as a glue to stick the chocolate fingers and sweets in place.

A handy tip when crumb coating is to pop your sponge in the fridge briefly beforehand, this will firm up your sponge and prevent any pesky crumbs escaping into your icing. You must however, never try to crumb coat your cake whilst it is still warm as the icing was simply melt straight off, similar to those disasters that you might see in the Great British Bake Off tent!

choc fingersOnce the cake was baked, cooled and crumb coated I began to stick the chocolate fingers around the outside of the sponge. Remember to leave a gap at the front to stick your sweets giving the effect that they are spilling off the top of the cake. When all of the fingers are stuck on (and a few of them mistakenly popped into your mouth!) you need to begin to stick the sweets in place. I used Malteasers and M&M’s but any sweet (that comes in a packet) would work. Just don’t bin the empty sweet wrappers as you will need these later.

I divided the cake in half using the sweets as an outline; Malteasers on the left and M&M’s on the right and began filling in each side with the sweets. Before the top of the cake was completely covered I inserted the cake dowels which act as the support for the sweets being poured from the packets above. To hold in to place I dipped the bottom of the dowels in melted chocolate before inserting into the sponge. The remaining chocolate can be used later to stick the sweets to the top of the dowel.

melt choc I also smoothed some melted chocolate on to the front of the cake board so that I could add more sweets and keep them in place. This is important otherwise when you move your cake you will end up with Malteasers rolling all over the place like a game of Hungry Hippos!

Once all of the sweets are in place, use the melted chocolate similar to glue to stick the sweets on to the dowel. You may not need to go all the way up to the top as this will be covered by your empty sweet wrappers. It is worth placing these on top of your dowels early to give you an idea how far you need to go.

Once these are in place then your cake is complete. If your sweet wrappers won’t stay in place a handy tip is to fill them with marshmallows which will fluff up the packets making them look more genuine.

A slice of this cake may be more calories than you care to think about but believe me it is worth it. Go on give it a try!

Let’s play Dominoes

domino 2 Our basic biscuit dough is one of the most popular recipes on our website, so I though why not take this opportunity to get creative with fun ways to decorate these biscuits.

Following on from our Scrabble biscuit post, I have kept on the ‘games’ theme and decided to create some domino biscuits. These cute biscuits are incredibly simple to decorate, taste yummy and would make a beautiful gift, perhaps boxed up for a grandad or dad for Father’s Day in June.

biscuit dough I followed the basic biscuit dough recipe and sliced the dough into small rectangles before baking. Once the biscuits were baked, I left them to fully cool on the baking tray. In the meantime, I set about melting some dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. You could use milk chocolate for the decoration if you prefer, however I personally liked the darker colour that this chocolate gave to biscuits, giving a more authentic domino effect.

Once the biscuits were cooled I gently spooned a small amount of melted chocolate on top, using the back of the teaspoon to smooth in to place. You could alternatively dip the biscuits in to the melted bowl of chocolate however as you can imagine this can get rather messy!

domino I left the chocolate to set before piping the dots on to the domino. Once the chocolate had hardened I used a knife to make an indent halfway down the biscuit.

I melted some white chocolate in a bowl and then spooned it into a piping bag fitted with a small piping nozzle. Carefully I piped various dots on the biscuits, left them to dry and then we were ready to play!

Scrabble biscuits

scrabble biscuit Many of us will have grown up being told not to play with food, but I personally think this is half the fun!

If like me you are partial to the odd games night then I have the ideal game-time nibbles for you to try. Forget trying to get to the triple word score the most challenging part will be trying to finish the game without eating all the letters!

These Scrabble biscuits really are simple to make using our basic biscuit dough recipe. The biscuits have a lovely vanilla flavour due to the Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract that we used, however you could swap this with different extracts for an alternative flavour, lemon extract might add a nice taste.

biscuit To make the dough, the ingredients were all mixed together and then wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for approximately an hour. You can leave the dough for longer if preferred or even popped into the freezer if you are particularly in a hurry. Be careful that the dough doesn’t become too hard though. If it does, leave it to thaw out a little to make it a bit easier to roll.

The dough needs to be rolled out to approximately 0.5cm thickness. Using a sharp knife cut into small evenly sized squares, you could use a ruler if you want neatly formed shapes. These are then placed on a baking tray, lined with baking paper and placed back in the fridge.

By chilling the dough in the fridge before baking this will reduce the chance of the biscuits spreading in the oven. If they do spread a bit though you can always trim them back to shape whilst they are still warm.

Whilst the biscuits are cooling, roll out the white sugar paste icing and cut into small squares the same size as your biscuits. You could use royal icing to decorate the biscuits as an alternative, just make sure that you leave the icing to fully set before decorating otherwise you might smudge them.

I secured the sugar paste to the biscuits by lightly brushing with apricot jam. If you don’t have any apricot jam in your cupboard you could use a different flavour however this will give a more noticeable flavour to your biscuit. finished biscuits

I used an edible decorating pen to add the letters and numbers, however this would work equally as well with black royal icing or writing icing.

Once the biscuits were done all that was left was to set up the Scrabble board and it was ‘game on!’