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?