Dark Chocolate & Morello Cherry Loaf Cake

Dark Chocolate & Morello Cherry Loaf Cake

  This is a decadent one… After a request from friends for something darker, I decided to adapt one of the lovely Nigella’s recipes, the original of which you can see here. This was meant to be cupcakes originally, but … Continue reading

Winter spice/ginger cupcakes with mulled wine buttercream

Oooooh, sparkly!

Oooooh, sparkly!

My love of baking originally started with cakes, and cupcakes in particular (oh, you little lumps of sugar/heaven, get in my face). At Christmas parties for the last few years, it’s been my unofficial job to supply the cakes. Last year was chocolate cakes with chocolate orange buttercream, and vanilla sponge with white chocolate buttercream adorned with little snowmen, and I thought they went pretty quickly. This years contribution broke all records though, with all of the cakes disappearing in about five minutes flat! After making the mulled wine jam, I decided to create something that would work with those flavours, and so the winter spice/ginger cupcakes with mulled wine frosting/buttercream came about.

Normally I use Hummingbird Bakery’s recipes for my cakes, but I decided to make my own. I still used their method (an  example of which can be found here:) starting with their standard vanilla cupcake recipe as a basis but then went from there. For this I used the mulled wine, plum and blackberry jam that you can see the recipe for here, but if you don’t have time for that you can omit it or replace with a different jam, or maybe even marmalade!

My first attempt at these saw me add wayyyyy too much ginger/nutmeg/cinnamon, to the extent it made me cough when I ate it. Oops! Don’t be afraid to experiment though, you can always make more! My main oven is also broken (disaster!) and my cupcake tray wouldn’t fit in my emergency mini oven, so I resorted to silicone cupcake cases on a baking tray, which worked surprisingly well.

You will need:

For the cakes:
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
40g butter
100ml orange juice (with bits)
20ml whole milk
One large egg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
One jar mulled wine/plum/blackberry jam (or any other jam you like)

For the frosting:
250g icing sugar
80g butter (room temperature)
20ml mulled wine
Teaspoon mulled wine jam/replacement jam.

1) Pre-heat oven to 170c/325f.


2)Sieve the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl, with the butter.  Mix on a slow speed until everything is combined and is a sandy consistency.

3)Gradually pour in half of the orange juice/milk , and beat until it is just combined.


4)Whisk the egg and remaining orange juice and milk briefly. Pour it into the flour mixture and contunue beating until just incorporated, being sure to scrape in any unmixed ingredients! Keep mixing until smooth.


5) Divide the mixture between the cases, this normally makes 12 cupcakes, fill them two thirds of the way.


6) Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until they spring back when touched and have turned a light golden. These smell amazing due to the spices!

Golden! Sadly you can't smell the screen.

Golden! Sadly you can’t smell the screen.

7)Allow to cool, then using a sharp knife remove a small section of the cake. Keep in a bowl to one side. Spoon in a small amount of the jam, then replace the bit you cut out.


8) Make the frosting/buttercream! In a large bowl, sieve the icing sugar into the butter. I usually cover the bowl with a tea towel for this bit else the sugar goes *everywhere*. Mix on a slow speed until sandy. Slowly add the mulled wine a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the mulled wine has been incorporated, add the jam. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy. If the mixture is too runny, add a little extra icing sugar.


9) Ice the cakes! Don’t worry if you don’t have a piping bag, I used to spoon the icing on then swirl it around with a teaspoon. I then added red and green edible Magic Sparkles for a festive touch but feel free to decorate as you see fit! The cases had little snowmen on too.


Let me know what you think!

Chambord ganache filled white chocolates.


After the success of the Baileys chocolates (I’ve made several batches since!) I decided to try different options, and the other popular combination has been white chocolate with strawberry patterning, and a chambord and white chocolate ganache filling. I’ll be trying these with dark chocolate as well after a special request.

For the detailed instructions, please see the “Baileys ganache filled chocolates” guide, however this is a little different!  Instead of milk chocolate, use white, and use Chambord liqueur instead of Baileys.

For the pretty pink pattern I used Silver Spoon strawberry flavoured chocolate drops, however you can also use any pink candy melts from other companies. I melted them in the microwave for 10 second intervals as it wasn’t important for them to maintain a shine, it’s quicker than tempering, then using a spoon flicked the melted strawberry chocolate across the mould. It doesn’t have to be organised, in fact the more slapdash the better! (Maybe one for the kids to do?)


For the ganache heat the butter and cream until just boiling, remove from the heat, add the white chocolate and Chambord. Stir until the chocolate melts and the Chambord has combined.


After you have filled the chocolates, added the final layer of chocolate and allowed it to set, it should end up like this!



Baileys ganache filled chocolates

To me, love from me.x

To me, love from me.x

This is my first foray into the world of making chocolates, and I’m pleased to report it has been a resounding success! Loved ones were the recipient of early Christmas presents as I was far too excited to wait for the big day, oops! I really must work on my patience, but I’m sure if you make these and can bear to give them away then you won’t want to wait either. These also work without the Baileys as a chocolate ganache, you could always experiment and make the ganache with white chocolate and the case with milk  chocolate and vice versa. Prepare to become very popular…

If you’d rather start off a little simpler, forget the ganache and follow the stages for the cases, but instead of thin layers, fill some festive moulds to make solid chocolate shapes which are just as tasty!



I would recommend doing some research into tempering chocolate (that is, the technique of melting the chocolate so that it remains glossy with a nice ‘snap’ when you bite into it, avoiding the unsightly white bloom that you sometimes see when chocolate has got too warm in summer), there are some excellent details guides floating about but I will do my best to explain what I have learned.

The #1 golden rule: Don’t let any water come into contact with your melting chocolate, not even a drop. It will cause it to ‘seize’ and form a solid lumpen mess, and it’s a crying shame to waste good chocolate.

Chocolate chips should also be avoided, as they are formulated to hold their shape during baking, when you want the opposite! Some people find success by microwaving the chocolate, but I prefer to temper it in an improvised bain marie set up, with a pyrex/heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, just enough so that it doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, complete with my trusty thermospatula to keep an eye on the heat.

For this recipe, because the ganache can sometimes take a while to thicken  in the fridge (an hour and a half the first time I made these!) I prefer to make the ganache first and then make the shells while it sets, but you can do it the other way round if you like.

You will need
Pyrex bowl
Tea towel
Silicone chocolate mould (I got mine from http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16442/Silicone-Chocolate-Box-Shapes)

For the outer shells/cases:
200g milk chocolate (I use Tesco Finest milk chocolate for cooking, as I’ve had excellent results without breaking the bank. You can use any good quality chocolate though.)

For the ganache:
35ml Baileys  (or 50ml if you want a stronger flavour)
120ml double cream
60g unsalted butter
140g milk chocolate



For the ganache:

1) Chop up the 140g milk chocolate for your ganache into small pieces.


2) In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cream and heat until it just reaches boiling, stirring all the time.


3) Remove the pan from the heat. Add the Baileys and chopped chocolate, stirring while it melts.


4) Place in a bowl in the fridge with cling film over it to thicken (this can take an hour or so, you could even do this overnight if you like but it might make it a bit harder to distribute evenly.) Check every half hour or so and stir.

For the casing:

1) Chop up the 200g milk chocolate. Set 50g to one side.

Resist. It's worth it!

Resist. It’s worth it!

2)Pour about 2 inches of boiling water into a saucepan. Set a heatproof/pyrex bowl over the top, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add 150g of the chocolate to the bowl, and stir until it melts, until it reaches 110f/43c for milk or white, or 115f/48c for dark.

Trust me, it smells amazing.

3) Remove from the heat, wrap the bottom of the bowl in a tea towel. Add the remaining 50g of chocolate, the heat of the existing chocolate will melt this down. Keep stirring until the temperature drops to 28c/82f.

4)Heat again slowly to 32c/88f. Do not let it exceed this. Using a spoon or a silicone pastry brush, spread a thin layer around the moulds. You can do two or three thin layers if you like, so don’t worry if the first one looks a little thin. Put in the fridge to set  for a few minutes between layers.

Don't worry if it's a little messy!

Don’t worry if it’s a little messy!

5) Pipe (or spoon if you don’t have a piping bag) the ganache until each mould, ensuring it doesnt go all the way to the top.

Ganache time!

Ganache time!

6)Spoon the remaining melted chocolate over the top to form a ‘lid’. Place into the fridge to set.

See? Messy! Chocolatey, tasty mess.

See? Messy! Chocolatey, tasty mess.

7)Ideally after an hour minimum, the chocolates should pop out of the mould easily. You can trim any of the excess chocolate from the edges for a neat appearance.

Trimming any excess from the edges. Note the nice shine from the tempering.

Trimming any excess from the edges. Note the nice shine from the tempering.

Lonely truffle. It'll be sad if you don't eat it.

Lonely truffle. It’ll be sad if you don’t eat it.

8) Enjoy! I put this into bags of five for gifts, you could mix these with solid chocolate shapes or other flavours of truffles.



Once you’re feeling a bit more confident, you can experiment with different flavour combinations/decorations. Next up is white chocolate truffles with chambord liqueur filling! Check back soon.

Mulled wine, plum and blackberry jam – ideal for presents!

I love it when inspiration strikes from nowhere, or through a happy accident. After making the mulled wine crumble from one of the earlier entries, upon returning to do the washing up I noticed the fruit pan had what looked like jam left in it. Tasty jam at that!

I’d never made jam before – deliberately, anyway – but I was surprised how easy it is.

The main components of jam are fruit, jam sugar, and achieving a rolling boil until it reaches the magical setting temperature of 104c/220f. Whatever you do, do not spill it on yourself! My new favourite item is the amusingly named Thermospatula, you can get these from Lakeland and it’s been absolutely amazing for jam and chocolate making, allowing you to stir and monitor the temperature, without worrying about the thermometer touching the bottom of the pan (a Very Bad Idea). Don’t worry if you haven’t got the Thermospatula, but you will need a candy/cooking thermometer to make sure your jam reaches the setting point.

I bought 12 small jam jars in varying shapes, so I reckon this makes enough for 6 ‘regular’ jars. It’s a beautiful colour though due to the mulled wine, and I’ve decorated mine with festive ribbons to give as part of a home made gift set. I tried it yesterday spread on American style cinnamon pancakes, they were lovely!

You’ll need to sterilise the jam jars, either straight out of a hot dishwasher cycle, or as I did, wash in hot soapy water and then dry them in the oven. Be sure not to touch the insides of the jars after you’ve sterilised them, to prevent mould growing on your jam!

700g plums, sliced and stones removed
300g blackberries
400ml mulled wine (I used M&S mulled wine again, or you can make your own!)
1kg jam sugar (the added pectin ensures the jam sets)
1/2tsp butter
High sided pan (as the jam will bubble up quite a lot)
Teaspoon and saucer
Potato masher
Sterilised jam jars – they must be warm/hot. Adding hot jam to cold jars could cause them to shatter.
1) Prepare the fruit. Place the teaspoon and saucer in the fridge/freezer.
2) Add the fruit to the pan, pour the wine over. Cook on a low/medium heat until the plum skins have softened, about 15/20 minutes or so. I used a masher to separate some of the skins and took them out, left about half in but that’s purely personal preference.

3) Add the sugar, keep simmering on a medium heat. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved, you can test this by coating the back of a wooden spoon with the mixture, if you can still see grains of sugar, continue stirring. Increase the heat, until it reaches a rolling boil for 10 minutes or so, until it reaches 104c/220f. If any ‘scum’ forms on the surface, you can either skim it off, or add the small amount of butter which will disperse it and ensure a glossy colour.
4) Take the teaspoon/saucer out of the fridge/freezer. Carefully spoon a small amount of jam onto the saucer, and it back in the fridge. After a minute or two, press your finger across the jam. If the surface wrinkles, it is setting as it should do. If it doesn’t, keep boiling and try again in 5 minutes.
5) Prepare your sterilised pots. They must be hot/warm..If you put hot jam into cold jars there is a risk of them shattering. Carefully add the jam into pots. I used a ladle to start with, the realised it was easier scooping it into a Pyrex jug and pouring it into the jars.
It will probably be messy!
The finished result. I bought some festive ribbon to wrap around them.

Winter cider crumble

After seeing my nearest and dearest practically inhaling the mulled wine, blackberry, plum and apple crumble from earlier in the week, I decided to experiment further and see what else I could come up with. After wracking my brains (and raiding my cupboard) for other boozy Christmas combinations, inspiration struck after a trip to Brighton where I sampled a hot spicy cider, which I decided would be perfect for an apple version. (Don’t worry, I can make things other than crumble…more to come next week!)

Rekorderlig Winter Cider

Rekorderlig Winter Cider (and my beloved pink saucepans)

A limited edition cider by Rekorderlig, described as spiced apple with vanilla and cinnamon, this was just crying out to be teamed with apples in another version of the crumble. Somewhat the shy little sister of the mulled wine beauty, this ended up being surprisingly subtle, with the vanilla notes and cinnamon slowing coming through, offsetting the sharpness of the cooking apples. Is it Christmas yet?

4 cooking apples, peeled and cut into quarters or smaller.
350ml Rekorderlig winter cider (although feel free to try other ciders!)
2tbsp caster sugar
1tsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the crumble
175g/6oz Flour
75g/3oz Butter (room temperature)
75g/3oz Sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1) Pre-heat the oven to 170c/350f/Gas Mark 3 (adjust for fan oven).

2) Peel, core and chop the apples, at least into quarters. Place into a mixing bowl and cover with water and a squeeze of lemon if you have it to prevent the apples from turning brown.

3)Melt the teaspoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

4)Drain the lemon/water, add the apples, stirring with a wooden spoon to coat with the melted butter. Cook for a minute or two.

5)Pour in the winter cider and add the caster sugar.

Gently simmer the apples in the winter cider/sugar mixture.

6)Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the apples have softened (but not mushy).

7) Pour the apples into your crumble dish/bakeware, sprinkle cinnamon on top if desired. (I use a Le Creuset rectangular 26cm dish, in pink of course!).

Pour the apples into the dish, add more cinnamon if desired.

8)Sift the flour, sugar, and cinnamon into the softened butter in a mixing bowl, and rub together using (clean!) fingers until combined in small lumps. Alternatively, combine in a food processor if you have one.

9)Spread the crumble mixture over the top.

11) Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden on top. Serve with custard or cream if you so wish!

Insert into face!