Monday 30 December 2013

AlphaBakes "X" Round up

Welcome to the last AlphaBakes of 2013, the "X" round up. As you can imagine, it's mostly full of Xmas treats but there one or two imaginative entries for X. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to enter. The lucky winner of World's Best Cakes by Roger Pizey was selected at random from all eligible entries and is announced at the end. 

To kick things off, we have Jacqueline with her Xmas shortbread biscuits which contain ground almonds and poppy seed and are star and leaf shaped. 

Next is Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog with her Chocolate Log with a whipped boozy ganache.  This is perfectly seasonal and that whipped boozy ganache sounds divine.

Kate from Veggie Desserts made this gorgeous Pumpkin Mincemeat which is perfect to give as a gift or to eat yourself. It's so easy to make that it really is a crime not to make it yourself! 

Next we have Christmas Aero Bubbles Cookies from Laura from I'd Rather Bake Than ...  I love the combination of chocolate and mint and I think the colour is lovely and festive too. They are slightly crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside. 

Alida from My Little Italian Kitchen made this stunning Italian Christmas Cake inspired by her trip to  Trentino Alto Adige situated in the Italian Dolomites. It's called a Zelten cake which comes from the German “selten” which means “rarely” as this is a rich cake made only for special occasions. As Alida says, it was very rich, boozy, moreish and festive. 

Our first entry with a different use of the letter X is by Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. She used xanthan gum to make these gluten free cookies for her dance instructor who is gluten intolerant. She also incorporated ingredients that she had in her cupboards and came up with these Chewy Oatmeal Cran-Raisin Pecan Cookies (gluten free). The cookies are also dairy free as it contains almond milk. 

My co host Caroline from Caroline Makes sent in Chocolate Chip Biscotti which she made for a work colleague. It's lovely and festive and looks great with the drizzle of chocolate on top. 

Next is  my own entry with an XL Doughtnut Birthday Cake made with a giant donut silicone tin. It's a vanilla sponge filled with raspberry jam and freshly whipped cream. I decorated it with pink glaze icing and sprinkles to resemble a doughnut.

Olivia from Liv a Little Bakery made these cute Candy Cane Cupcakes which look really festive with the two tone piping and edible glitter. 

Laura from How to Cook Good Food made these cute individual Christmas Trifle which is a perfect alternative to Christmas pudding. It's a great way of using leftover Christmas Cake and it's wonderfully festive with flavours of dates, oranges, cinnamon and apricots. 

Kate from Veggie Desserts is back again with Mince Pies with Spinach Pastry. She used her pumpkin mincemeat and encased them in spinach pastry to make them healthier and greener. I think they look really festive and are certainly a good alternative to traditional mince pies.

Sarah from Maison Cupcakes made these Festive Mini Coffee Cupcakes with Aero. There's something about miniature desserts that make them extra appealing. I love the combination of coffee and chocolate and everything is better with a bit of Aero!

Another entry from me with Xmas Vanilla Cookies/Biscuits using a festive cookie mould I received as a gift from a friend. The mould does all the hard work and all it needs is some simple decoration or you can go all out and create really fancy biscuits. 

My co host Caroline is back with something a little different ... X-Rated Cookies (Bonking Biscuits) She was given these cookie cutters as a gift and has tried to artistically present her cookies so as not to offend anyone. She added some allspice to her cookies to make them spicy!

It's back to me again with Gingerbread Cupcakes with Golden Syrup Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. The frosting was absolutely divine and paired well with the spicy, sticky gingerbread. I made the same frosting using mixed spice and I think it was better than the cinnamon!

Louisa from Eat Your Veg had fun making these Chocolate Gingerbread Christmas Tree Decorations with her kids. They would also make good festive gifts and I'm sure anyone who receives these will be delighted. 

Next is White Chocolate, Cardamom and Cranberry cookies from Vanesther from Bangers & Mash. This is a lovely homemade gift which reminds us that Christmas is not about buying love and affection but demonstrating it. The flavour combinations are perfectly festive and I'm sure anyone receiving these will feel loved.

Caroline is back with a Chocolate Yule Log that she made for a bake sale at work in conjunction with Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day.  She uses a Mary Berry recipe which is available online.

Next we have a very festive Christmas Spiced Cranberry, Orange and Carrot Bundt Cake from Chinskitchen. Every year she makes a delicious cake incorporating Christmas spices and this is her offering this year. The decorations are edible too! 

Jean from Franglais Kitchen made a Christmas Cherry Bakewell Cake for a Clandestine Cake Club meeting. It was a three regions meeting including Chesterfield (Derbyshire), Sheffield (South Yorkshire) and Newark and Sherwood (Nottinghamshire) and the theme was “the taste of Christmas from your county”. She couldn't find a cake that was uniquely from Derbyshire so decided to make one of it's most popular puddings in a cake form.

How cute is this Xmas Village from Fiona from Let Them Eat Cake?  She used a mould from Lakeland to create this Xmas Village. I love the little details like the snowdrift by the doors and in the window panes.

Stuart from Cakeyboi made these Pine Xmas Tree Cupcakes which contain pine essential oil! Not recommended but Stuart has not suffered any ill effects from eating it so I'd be happy to give it a go too! It gives a subtle pine flavour that complemented the chocolate. He also made his own stars for the tree.

Vanesther from Bangers & Mash is back with Snowflake Tear and Share Iced Buns. They would make a fun teatime centrepiece particularly for the kids. It's flavoured with cinnamon and lemon and looks ever so festive.

Caroline is back again with some festive Christmas Cupcakes. She co-organised the yearly Christmas party held for employees' children and made these delicious cinnamon cupcakes as well as her other duties as co-host. 

The next few entries are from me. I was on a real baking spree this festive season and as they are all Christmassy, I've decided to share them with AlphaBakes. Firstly Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies with a hidden surprise. It's a stack of 3 gingerbread cookies with a hollowed centre filled with mini M&M's. These were a real hit especially with the children. 

Mini gingerbread house which is made to perch on your mug. They make great festive gifts and can be personalised by writing the recipient's name on the wall. 

Nigella Christmas Cornflake Wreaths which are really easy to make and require no baking. It's fun to make with the kids and they will love eating it too as it's basically cornflakes and melted marshmallows!

Moving on to some decadent Christmas Brownies which contain glace cherries and Brazil Nuts from Charlene from Food, Glorious Food. It's really quick and easy to make especially if you use a microwave.

My co host Caroline is back with Reindeer Cake Pops. She made these for a children's Xmas party at work and I'm not surprised to read that it was as popular with adults as with the children! She used a madeira cake for the cake balls, dipped in chocolate and decorated with a red M&M and some pretzel sticks.

We have a newcomer to AlphaBakes. Please welcome Kate from The Gluten Free Alchemist who made these very festive and sparkly Almond and Cherry Biscuit Trees. Almond and cherry is a classic combination and I love the way they've been decorated.

The next 4 cakes are from my mum. The first 2 are Mini Christmas Fruitcakes with chopped up dried apricots, dates, cherries, crystalized ginger and dried pineapple soaked in cherry brandy for 3 days. The 3rd photo is a Honey Saffron Christmas cake with brandy infused with saffron threads, mixed fruits, nuts and honey. The final photo is a Luxurious Mincemeat Christmas Cake with a combination of mincemeat and dried fruit mix soaked in medium sherry for a week .

Laura from I'd Much Rather Bake Than... is back with a Gluten Free Chocolate Christmas Cake. It's a moist almost brownie like chocolate cake with marmalade and Terry's chocolate orange for orange flavour and delicious fruits such as sultanas, glace cherries and apricots. It's topped with a white chocolate fudge icing and I'm sure there wasn't a crumb left of this delicious cake!

Clearly great minds think alike as I also used the same flavours of chocolate and orange which are a very festive combination in  my book. I made Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with a hidden surprise. The cupcakes have a gold coin hidden inside reminiscent of a sixpence in your Christmas pud.

Next we have a very exciting entry as it has the proper use of the letter 'X'! Alexandra from The Lass in the Apron made Xavier Soup, a genuine dish that is traditionally served on the feast day of St. Xavier (it takes place early in the Advent season).  It is a simple dish of parmesan-and-parsley dumplings floating in a clear broth, warming and hearty enough for a main dish, yet still light and elegant

Suelle from Mainly Baking finally got round to making her Orange Marzipan Cake or Alternative Christmas Cake after meaning to for years.  She tells us that the cake "consists of a shortbread layer, a madeira style cake flavoured with rum and dried fruit, and sandwiched between the two are layers of marzipan and marmalade. All this is topped of with a sprinkling of flaked almonds and pine nuts" However, she felt that it needed more marzipan and more orange but it was still a good cake.

Dom from Belleau Kitchen came up with a new creation called Jam Tartaroons. It's basically a jam tart with an egg white and ground almond topping which he had left over from making mince pies. They are really easy to make and tastes sublime. I can see this becoming a trend in 2014!

That's the end of the round up. The winner of this month's prize is Laura from I'd Much Rather Bake Than ... Congratulations! Please check your email for details of the prize. 

Just to confuse everyone, I will be hosting January's AlphaBakes as I'm away for most of Feb so I've swapped hosting duties with Caroline. She will therefore be hosting Feb's challenge. Do check back on Jan 1st to see what letter we will be using in Jan. There's only 3 left so you have a 33.3%  chance of guessing correctly.  Happy New Year and see you back in Jan!

Friday 27 December 2013

Random Recipes: Dare to Bare

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and that you are all ready for the New Year. I've officially 'closed' my kitchen as I've done far too much baking in the run up to Christmas but I do have a bake planned for early next week. This month's Random Recipe challenge hosted by Dom from Belleau Kitchen is "Dare to Bare".  Dom has decided to give us a break from cooking/baking and simply asked us to photograph our kitchen cupboards and tell us a little something about it. No baking involved. Well with a little trepidation, I'll open my (messy) cupboards to you. I actually have a lot of other baking related stuff in a small kitchen trolley and in a box under the table but I've not photographed those. I think this gives you a pretty good idea of what my kitchen is like! 

This is the main cupboard. The top shelf has my coffee extract and homemade vanilla extracts. I usually have 2 bottles - 1 ready to use and the second one maturing. There's also an assortment of other sprinkles and ingredients in the same shelf. On the second shelf I have a stack of cooking chocolate, more sprinkles and a box full of baking ingredients such as chocolate chips, nuts, ground almonds, decorations, sprinkles, dried fruit etc. On the bottom shelf is peanut butter, honey,  more sprinkles!, writing icing and an assortment of packaged goods in the back. The only non baking related item is my favourite oak roasted tomato balsamic vinegar - it's my favourite salad dressing which I buy from the tomato stall at Borough Market in London. 

 I have a box of spices at the far end on the bottom shelf, more baking related items and a tin of tuna which has been there for ages. I'm sure you're probably not surprised that I have very limited savoury items in my cupboards as I rarely cook. I do have some rice, cous cous and pearl barley in packets on the top shelf here on the left side. 

 This is the cupboard where I keep my plates and bowls but as you can see the top shelf has been taken over by even more baking goods! I have an assortment of flours, sugars and rolled oats in here. And a pack of pasta. Oh and a tin of caramel.

Monday 23 December 2013

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with a hidden surprise

It's been a whirlwind of festive baking here at The More Than Occasional Baker. I also made a lot of festive food gifts which I've not blogged about this time as I have mentioned them in previous years and I don't have time! So this is my last post before Christmas 2013 and I would like to take the opportunity to wish all  my readers a very Happy Christmas and hope it's full of love, laughter and cake :) 

Lots of things remind me of Christmas. One of these is Terry's Chocolate Orange. So this is the cupcake version - chocolate orange cupcake with orange buttercream frosting and a mini chocolate orange slice. It also has a hidden surprise which is reminiscent of a sixpence in your Christmas pud - a gold chocolate coin. Everyone loved the hidden surprise - I should have taken a video of people eating it and their faces when they saw the hidden coin! I have no doubt that kids will be absolutely delighted. I did have to warn everyone that there is something inside as I don't want to be responsible for broken teeth or accidental choking! 

I would also like to mention that this is the first recipe I ever posted on my blog when I started it in 2010. I've not actually made it since then and felt it was worth sharing again as it's just so good and the hidden surprise is brilliant. 


As usual, I'm sharing this with several blog challenges this month. 

AlphaBakes which I am hosting this month and co host with Caroline from Caroline Makes. The letter this month is X for this Xmas inspired cupcake.

Tea Time Treats hosted by Kate from What Kate Baked and co-hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage. The theme this month is Festive Food Gifts and I gave away quite a few of these as gifts.

Calendar Cakes hosted by Rachel from Dolly Bakes and co-hosted by Laura from Laura loves Cakes. The theme this month is Jingle Bell Rock.

 Treat Petite hosted by Stuart from Cakeyboi and co-hosted by Kat from the Baking Explorer. The theme this month is Happy Holidays.

Four Seasons Food hosted by Anneli from Delicieux and Louisa from Eat your Veg. The theme this month is Party Food and these cupcakes would be perfect for any festive party.

Family Fodies hosted by Louisa from Eat Your Veg and Vanesther from Bangers & Mash. The theme this month is Kids Christmas and I'm sure kids will love these hidden surprise cupcakes. They can also help to make the cakes.

Let's Cook Christmas Party Food hosted by Nayna from Simply Food.

Secret Recipe Club Holiday Treats Party

 adding finely grated zest to the buttercream 

 insert gold coins after the cupcakes have cooled slightly 

 pipe buttercream on top 

 finish with a wedge of chocolate orange slice 

 The hidden surprise! You can just see the gold coin under the frosting there.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
Makes ~ 15 cupcakes

For the cupcakes
115g good quality dark chocolate
90g unsalted butter, room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
75ml fresh orange juice
zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
185g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature

For the orange buttercream frosting
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
zest of 1 orange
350g icing sugar, sifted

For the filling and decoration
Gold chocolate coins
Mini Chocolate Orange Slices
  • Preheat the oven to 160C 
  • Melt the chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until the mixture is pale and smooth. 
  • Add the eggs and beat again briefly.
  • Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 
  • Mix the orange juice and milk in a jug.
  • Add the chocolate to the creamed mixture and beat until just combined. The batter will still be streaky. 
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mix and beat until it all just comes together. Add half of the juice/milk mix and beat again until the mixture just comes together. 
  • Repeat these steps until all the ingredients have been incorporated.
  • Carefully spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for about 25 mins until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  • Leave the cakes in the tin for about 10 mins before cooling on a wire rack.
  • To make the frosting, beat together the butter, juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the icing sugar and zest and beat again until smooth and creamy. You may need to add a few more drops of juice depending on the consistency of frosting required.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled slightly, push a gold coin into the centre.
  • Pipe frosting on top and decorate with a mini wedge of chocolate orange.