Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Cupcake Christmas Tree

 I can't believe just how quickly Christmas has crept up on us! Not even just Christmas but the end of the yet at that, where has it all gone?! The last four months have been full of so much change, and exciting change at that, from moving back down South and in with Richard to a complete career change into something I never thought I'd be doing and I'm loving the new challenges I face every day. It's been a good turn of events to say the least and I'm excited to crack on with 2015 with all the exciting new things I want to get stuck into and doing that with the people I love close by.
 So to mark things feeling good, a pretty epic bake to end the year was in order and so the Cupcake Christmas Tree it is! Such good fun putting thing together even if I did stab myself well over ten times during the process, but pain is gain right!? In this case most certainly, everytime I got stung, I just ate a mini-cupcake to ease the pain, much to the despair of my mother on skype watching me stuff my face with lots of little cakes - I'm terrible I know. Don't let the notion of constant stabbing from the cocktail sticks put you off this though - you might actually pay some attention to sharp objects unlike myself and be alright!  
 When it all comes together it is seriously epic and you'll literally sit there in awe thinking, "dayum I did good, go me" and then eat a spare cupcake to celebrate your fabulous effort. It's one of those great little projects to get stuck into full of excitement to see the final piece come together. I brought this into work - woke up an hour early to create a sturdy box to transport this 25 miles across Hertfordshire in a car during the morning rush and in spending some much time creating a genius transportation device I actually forgot to bring my laptop into work - they don't call em facepalm Fenton for no reason.
These are super versatile so you really can make any ol flavours you fancy, I went for a simple vanilla cake base topped with an orange and cinnamon icing - nothing feels more like Christmas that the sweet smell of oranges and cinnamon and given that theres about 70 of these they'll fill any room up with that Christmassy smell.

The Cupcake Christmas Tree
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Cupcakes
160g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
340g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
225g Self-raising Flour, sifted
190g Plain Flour, sifted
180ml Milk, semi-skimmed, room temperature
2tsp vanilla extract
This recipe ought to make 70+ cupcakes - I made 96 and had a little batter leftover but ran out of cases. For a cone at 26cm H, 12cm D you'll need about 70 - I iced before counting and counting once icing is somewhat impossible, but I often got lost around the 64 mark.

Icing
200g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
750g Icing Sugar, sifted
60ml Milk
1 1/2tsp Cinnamon
Juice & Zest of 1 Orange
Green Dye

Equipment
Styrofoam Cone - I used one at 26cm H and 12cm D
Cocktail Sticks - 150+ I'd estimate 2 per cupcake
Mini-cupcake tin and cupcake cases
Mini flower pot or stand
Cello-tape 
Edible cake toppers - stars, gold dust, anything you've got in!
Green Tissue Paper - optional but helps fill any gaps
You'll want to use a mini-cupcake tin as the weight of normal sized cupcakes just won't stay up

Cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a mini-cupcake tin with cupcake cases - typically these will be 24 hole, so you'll probably be baking in three batches.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until its pale and then add the sugar and beat until light and smooth - about 4 minutes or so.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, only adding the next once the previous is fully combined.
4. Mix both the flours together in a separate bowl and in another jug or bowl mix the milk and vanilla together
5. Add in a third of the flour to the egg-butter-sugar mixture and beat well and then add in a third of the milk-vanilla mixture and continue to beat well. Alternate between the flour mix and the milk-vanilla mix until everything is well beaten and combined
6. Spoon the mixture into the mini-cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full and then bake for 15 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Once they're baked leave them to cool for a couple of minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack and then bake the next batch.

Icing
7. In a large bowl beat the butter until its light in colour and smooth
8. Add in the sifted icing sugar and half of the milk - using a fork to loosely mix this in so that once you start mixing again you don't find ourself in a cloud of icing sugar - then mix
9. Add in the cinnamon, orange zest and juice, green dye and add more milk as you need to get the consistency you want - ideally something nice and smooth but not runny so it can't support itself. Add as much dye as you want, I went for a lighter green colour rather than a dark colour.
Don't pipe the icing until you've put the cakes onto the cone, it'll be far easier to handle them without the icing than with.

Assemble
1. Take the flower pot or whatever you're using and about 10 cocktail sticks - you'll need to tape these onto the inside of the pot/stand - do be careful as the more that go on the more susceptible you'll be to nipping yourself.
2. Get the Styrofoam cone and press it into the cocktail sticks slowly and gently - if you go to hard you'll knock them off, so easy does it.
3. Start by placing a couple of cocktail sticks about 1.5cm apart from each other, one slightly lower and one slightly higher into the cone, you want to push these in quite far and have no more than 3/4 of the cake height sticking out of the stick, so about 2cm sticking out. The gently push the cupcake onto the cocktail sticks. I started out with 3 cocktail sticks per cake by quickly worked out that was overkill, 2 will be fine.
4. Continue the process of putting in 2 cocktail sticks, a cupcake into them, another set of cocktail sticks. Don't dart the cone in cocktail sticks as it's best to judge the space as you go along, it'll also only end up in pain if you try to work with a cone covered in cocktail sticks. A cone at this size (26cm H, 12cm D) will need roughly 70 cupcakes, so you will have some spare, but when you've got 100 mini cupcakes by your side, you will eat at least 5 of those, so extra is fine in this case.
5. Once you're done and you're at the top you can either place a star or angel on top or just plop a cake on, like my lazy self.
6. Take some tissue paper in small bunches and just start to push it into the areas that have gapping white areas, this'll help make it look more green and ensure you don't see the cone.
7. Then get your icing ready, fill a icing bag with a nozzle in - you can use anything you want, I used a small star nozzle so I could go for a 'bushy' tree look, but smooth or lined spirals will also look cool.
8. Begin piping, I found working up and down along a line and then turning to the next side worked out well for me, but whatever suits you best go for that method
9. Sprinkle and decorate with any goodies you've got and there you have it - an epic edible Christmas tree - like that song goes, "You'll go down in history".....

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Guest Post with The Olive Oil Hunters - Pumpkin Gnocchi


Something savoury! I know right, how unusual! I've got a lovely and exciting guest post for you this weekend from the wonderful Daniela Delli from The Olive Oil Hunters who specialise in tasty extra virgin olive oil! I absolutely adore Italian cuisine; it's so diverse and without fail, always delicious, so it was great when Daniela and I came into contact and I'm super excited to share with you a seasonal classic, Pumpkin Gnocchi! 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Tarte Bourdaloue - Frangipane Tart & Raspberry Infused Poached Pears


Having discovered that almond's are fabulous, I'm on a roll with exploring a world I've so along avoided and this week its frangipane! At that, a frangipane tart topped off with some beautifully tasty pears poached in raspberries. This tart is a flavour explosion of the utmost best! I promise!