Gastronomically Terrific

December 28, 2014

Christmas morning muffins

Filed under: breakfast, Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:18 pm

Christmas muffinsThe very first Christmas Day bake to be eaten. I made these muffins last year, not being entirely sure how suitable they would be for breakfast (as Nigella suggests in her recipe book). I thought they might be rather too heavy and not go well with a Christmas dinner a few hours later. However, it was just the three of us at home, so I thought I’d experiment and give it a try. I’m pleased to say that, at the time, I felt that I was wrong. The muffins were incredibly tasty and, more importantly, really light.

All of the above led me to decide that the muffins were worth making again this year (2014), when my family would be at our house over Christmas. I made them in advance and froze them, knowing I would have lots of other things to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then all that would be needed on Christmas Day was a simple defrost and reheat.

Making these muffins is easy. You basically put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it all together by hand, then add some dried cranberries before spooning the batter into individual muffin cases and adding a sprinkling of demerara sugar. The most complex thing about the whole bake is zesting and juicing a couple of clementines.

I’m also pleased to say that I was right about their suitably (and tastiness!) on Christmas Day morning. It took five minutes to reheat them in the oven, and they were nice and light, and tasty, for breakfast. So light, in fact, that even with some additional chocolate and nuts, we were all hungry and ready for our Christmas Day meal at 1pm.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 214-215


December 10, 2014

Candy cane cupcakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:29 pm

Candy cane and eggnog cupcakesFollowing on quite closely from my last blog post about cherry cupcakes, this week I made two more varieties – candy cane cupcakes and eggnog cupcakes (more about those later…).

All of these recipes came from my Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, I have wanted to bake all of them for ages (the pictures make them looks pretty amazing), I was testing them all (partially) to see if they would be suitable Christmas presents, and they all follow the same basic recipe – although the frosting for each is rather different. Here, it’s the frosting that truly makes the cake.

Both the candy cane cupcakes and the eggnog cupcakes really are a basic muffin mixture – they don’t even have the added cherries of the added cupcakes. So for these two cakes, I made the actual fairy cakes together, and then made two varieties of frosting.

The frosting for the candy cane cupcakes is a striped pink and white frosting, liberally flavoured with peppermint essence, which you pipe onto the cakes. You get the two-tone effect by placing the pink and white butter-cream side by side in a piping bag before piping it onto the cake. You then finish off the whole thing by adding some translucent sugar (or, in my case, some edible silver glitter – because that’s what I had). In the past I’ve used spray glitter, but recently I’ve bought some sprinkle-on glitter because spray glitter tends to send icing sugar flying. It worked well, although it may be that the spray glitter would have been fine to use as it was being added to butter-cream, rather than a much more fragile coating of icing sugar.

The one thing to say about these cakes is that they are very minty. They taste like eating a tube of toothpaste. Which is great if you’re me and love the taste of mint, but less positive if you hate the stuff. Of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t flavour the butter-cream with something you did like the taste of (lemon/ almond/ vanilla/ rum etc) – or just use less peppermint essence!

Oh, I was also rather pleased with how these looked when I made them!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Humming Bakery Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special, Tarek Malouf and The Hummingbird Bakers, pg. 208-209

December 7, 2014

Cherry cupcakes

Filed under: Cake, Christmas, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 7:51 pm
At last! A photo! Of a cherry cupcake.

At last! A photo! Of a cherry cupcake.

Another pre-Christmas bake, there were two reasons I made these cupcakes. Firstly, I kept seeing pictures of them in my Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and thought they looked rather tasty. Secondly, they were a bit of an experiment to see whether or not they would make it on my potential Christmas gift bakes. The fact that we happened to have cherries hanging around in the house that needed using up was just an added bonus.

Whilst the cupcakes weren’t hard to make (basically make a muffin mixture and add cherries), and they tasted fine, there wasn’t really anything special about them. Admittedly, this was partially my fault. I didn’t have quite enough cherries, so there were less in the cupcake batter than there should have been. I also used maraschino cherries rather than Kirsch-soaked cherries, simply because this is what we had lying around in the house. I would have preferred to use Kirsch-soaked cherries, know i would prefer the taste, but there’s nothing specifically wrong with maraschino cherries. However, even taking all of this into account, the cupcakes would still have needed something extra to make them special. Dan and I concluded that an orange or lemon curd-type mixture in the middle of the cupcake might have been the answer…

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special, Tarek Malouf and The Hummingbird Bakers, pg. 20-21

January 15, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:45 pm

Red Velvet Cupcakes

After my baking extravaganza this week, I think Anna was keen to show me up.  So she made these crazy cupcakes that don’t just taste awesome, the look awesome too.  I’m pretty gutted about it, since I was fairly pleased with my own efforts until now.  Or at least I would be gutted if I didn’t get to stuff my face on sweet sweet velvety goodness for the next week.

For those that don’t know, “velvet” cakes are basically just ordinary cakes with red food colouring.  But like all things, it’s not that simple.  There is some additional chocolately goodness to pay you back for picking the crazy coloured cake, and I think the consistency has been played with too as the ingredients involving mixing bicarbonate of soda with white wine vinegar! This gives it a very tight, slightly dense texture that does indeed feel velvety on the tongue.  Finally, the topping is cream cheese mixed with icing sugar, a really tasty combination that works really well here.

My only problem with them is that they are very, very rich.  Served in muffin cases, they are an awful lot of cake and a real challenge to get through… The second time we tried these, we had half each and used a fork to eat it which was a much better idea – I felt that I was in charge of the cake and not the other way around.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special, by the Hummingbird Bakery, page 178.

February 11, 2011

Vegan Blueberry and Apple Muffins

Filed under: pudding — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:43 pm

For Cake Club I decided to make Blueberry Muffins.  As we have a Vegan in our midsts it is always a good excuse to experiment.  I’m pleased I did – the normal muffins were something of a disappointment, but these quite made up for it.  Since I kind of made it up, I’ll give a full recipe (sadly no photo though).

The basic idea is that instead of eggs, the pectin from fruit can act as a setting agent.  Banana is a common option, but I opted for Apple since we had some.  Searching around on the internet, I found this recipe that was along the same idea – and didn’t require very many specialist ingredients.  I also didn’t have enough Blueberries for both recipes, so split them and made up the difference with cranberries, which worked really well.  They come out very moist, rich and delicately fluffy.

Clearly, you could replace the soy cream with real cream, and perhaps replacing a little oil with an egg would firm things up for non-vegans.  Saying  that, there really is no need – these are very tasty.

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 2 small apples
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 250ml soy cream
  • 200ml oil (vegetable, olive, sunflower, anything will work.)
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g blueberries
  • 50g cranberries (dried)


  1. Cook the apple in a saucepan with the sugar until soft (adding water to prevent it drying out).  When cooked, mash lightly.  (I forgot to do this…)
  2. Mix the sugar, flour and baking powder together with the apple.  Whilst mixing, slowly add the oil and then the soy milk.  Finally add the cranberries and blueberries and mix gently.
  3. Pour into muffin cases (it is OK to fill them at least 2/3rds full.  They do rise, but will not stay as risen as ordinary muffins – I underfilled them.
  4. Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe: Mostly my own, adapted from

Who made it: Dan

December 30, 2010

Merry Muffins

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , — thinkingdan @ 11:15 am

Otherwise known as Christmas Muffins, these guys are the result of a mad scientist’s experiment breeding mince pies with cute fluffy innocent muffins, and the result is tasty indeed.


Would you still get presents if you left Muffins and Latte out for Santa? I think so...


Looking at the ingredients, there is a lot to be worried about here.  Alongside innocent things like cranberries, raisins, mixed spice and brandy, there is apple, Greek yogurt, and mincemeat.  No, I don’t know why.  I’m guessing that the consistency gets all messed up by the mincemeat and the yogurt is needed to offset it.  It does result in a somewhat more solid muffin than the common or garden kind*but in a good way.  There is some slight resemblance to scones, although they are fluffier than that.  They taste like nothing else, but are definitely good fun for a change and the whole sordid mess works out beautifully in the end.

* My Granny had a muffin garden and would often have a good crop in August when we visited for the summer holidays.  Alas, modernisation and climate change have taken their toll and the muffin gardens and sponge-cake fields of the past are now a lost art and are becoming thing of legend.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Cakes, bakes, puddings and prayers by Susan Over, page 42.

October 30, 2010

Chocolate Orange Spider Cupcakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 11:51 pm

“Eeeuuugh, they’re all leggy!”


The chocoholics cure to arachnophobia.


These cupcakes are richly chocolatey, zested with orange and thoroughly creepy.  Sitting on the counter top they exude primal arachnoid fear.  Yet like a fly to the web you are drawn in….

The recipe came from a Morrison’s Magazine.  I don’t know how we found out that these were in it, and I don’t think I want to.  Sometimes the wise culinary wizard must overlook the evil of the mystic tome and the suspicious circumstances by which it was obtained, because the spells inside look and taste so good.  But it does bear repeating, because they look so good and because we tweaked their recipe ever so slightly.

Ingredients (Makes 4 large muffin-sized spider-monsters)

For the cakes: 1 egg, 60g butter, 60g golden caster sugar, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp orange zest, 25g chocolate chips

For the topping: 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tbsp water, 50g icing sugar, 30g butter, sugar strands

For the decoration: 2 boxes (64 pieces) Mikado dark chocolate sticks, 25g dark cooking chocolate, 8 white chocolate buttons


Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Sift in flour and cocoa powder into a separate bowl.  Add the egg  slowly to the butter mixture and beat, whilst slowly folding in the flour mixture.

Add the orange zest and chocolate chips; mix and put into muffin cases (filling to about two-thirds) and bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius, gas mark 4.

For the buttercream, mix the cocoa and water into a paste, beat the butter and mix in the sugar then the cocoa mixture.  Spread over the cakes and add chocolate sprinkles.

To make the legs, pierce the body with a cocktail stick or similar to make a hole.  Cut half the mikado sticks into long pieces (2/3rds length of the full piece) and the other half into shorter pieces (1/3-1/2 of the full piece).  You can extend the chocolate covered region to the whole stick if you coat them in melted chocolate but it is easier to use many mikado sticks.  Insert the shorter pieces at an angle; then dip the longer pieces into the melted chocolate and place on to make a joint.  Leave the legs to cool when all are added.

The eyes can be made by drawing a pupil with melted chocolate on the button.  Place as appropriate.

Its not posisble to reach past this monster to the fruit...

Who made it: Anna did the hard graft, Dan did much of the decorating

Recipe: See above, or look at Morrisons Magazine Sept/Oct 2010. may lead you there but we found it rather frustrating to navigate.

June 20, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , — thinkingdan @ 3:21 pm

This post is here as a warning: these were not that great.  We had some blueberries and thought muffins would be nice, but sadly they were not quite sweet enough, not quite cooked in the centre, and a little burnt on top.  The last two are obviously a problem with using our oven (it does that if you forget to take measures) but the first is a problem with the recipe.  I just like sweeter muffins.

No photos – we made these when I was very busy and I had no time.  They looked fine – more cupcake sized than muffins but otherwise as expected.

Who made it: Anna and Dan jointly.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, page 235.

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