Oreo Cupcakes

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Rich chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream, stuffed with Oreo cookies throughout. From a hidden cookie at the bottom of the cake, right through to crushed Oreos in the buttercream, it seems that the only thing to make a chocolate cake even better is a cookie!

Yes… I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and continued this trend. I was too intrigued not to try! What’s not to like about the idea of combining cookies and cake?!

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I still remember when I found out Oreos were dairy free. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel smacked me in the face! Because not only did it mean I could actually eat Oreos… but I also started checking other biscuit types to see what they were made of. And lo and behold, quite a lot of surprising biscuits are dairy free! Take the classic, chocolate bourbon biscuit. Most of them are dairy free! So if you ever want to butter me up (not literally of course), a sneaky dairy free Oreo or bourbon biscuit is the way to do it.

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However, getting back to the point of these cakes – I really was intrigued by the idea of combining biscuits and cakes. Like a good mash-up song, it seemed like something that should really work, and great news – it did! The cakes are typically moreish, and with a soft, vanilla flavoured buttercream, it would have been hard to go wrong. But then add in a crunchy, surprise oreo hidden at the bottom of the cupcake. And add some crushed oreos to the cake and buttercream for little, crispy nuggets of flavour and you are on to an absolute winner!

 

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I can by no means claim to be the genius who first came up with this idea… however, it has left me with a lot of thoughts of what else could we make a hybrid out of…. watch this space!

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Salted Caramel Ginger Cake

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A devilishly dark and sticky cake, made all the better with a considerable amount of crystallised ginger for a bit of fiery kick. It’s even better the day after baking, if you can hold off eating it all at once!

I love ginger. It’s one of those things that appear on our shopping list each week without fail. We cook a lot of asian inspired food, and it’s a quick and guaranteed way of packing a punch quickly. However, despite having it around, I’d never really thought before about using it as a baking ingredient. Having researched ways to use ginger, I found a recipe for a caramel and ginger cake. It sounded too good not to try, and despite being a little bit dubious, I’m so glad I did! It was just delicious.

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This cake is simple to make, with an amazing quick caramel sauce used as both an ingredient in the sponge and a topping. I will definitely be using this caramel sauce again! It gave the sponge a real depth of flavour that can be hard to achieve in quite a plainly flavoured sponge, and the extra wet ingredients kept the it perfectly moist. Then the ginger – crystallised ginger in this case – is roughly chopped and just folded into the cake batter. It is the ginger flavour that benefits from being left an extra day. It wasn’t necessarily stronger, just more consistent across the cake, and the ginger chunks in the sponge had almost melted away.

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Although you could definitely tell this was no diet cake, it’s a treat I can’t wait to have again. For a simple recipe, it packs quite the flavour-filled punch!

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

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A surprise success, you wouldn’t know these chocolate cupcakes have no eggs or dairy in them! If you need a reliable vegan chocolate cupcake recipe, look no further.

I’ll be honest – I was very sceptical of these. How can you have a cake with no eggs? Eggs are an absolute staple in baking, they underpin the structure of everything (deep, I know!) and you’re often taught not to play around with egg quantities and temperatures in concern of a recipe failing. So how on earth can you have a cake without eggs?

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Well, it turns out you can quite easily and without any funky, hard-to-track-down ingredients. I can’t really explain how the below ingredients make up for the lack of eggs, but they do and these cakes still come out delicious, light and fluffy. It’s magic!

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If you, like me, are new to the world of vegan cakes, I will warn you about two things. 1 Vegan cake batter is wetter than a usual cake batter. Don’t be afraid and think you’ve done something wrong! 2 Because of this, you need to make sure the cupcakes are properly baked. Something I would rarely advise, but err on the side of caution and bake them for another minute if you’re not sure if they are ready. As delightful as they are when they are fully baked, when under-baked they can get a little bit pasty. Imagine the texture of a very under-baked cookie… you know how it can have a bit of a mushy texture, and it hangs around in your mouth a little too long? That’s what can happen to these. So – you have been warned. Now… BAKE!

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Orange Polenta Cake

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A delicious, no-comprise allergy friendly bake free from dairy, gluten and wheat. This different texture cake is made with polenta and ground almonds, which really does make an impressive replacement to wheat flour, with the added benefit of tones of flavour. Full of orange zest and topped with crushed pistachios, this is a wonderful light cake perfect for the welcoming the warmer weather.

So, custard season is over! I hear a bit of a sigh of relief all around 🙂 This week, we’re onto something far less risky, although something people will equally question. This is a fantastic, very different, cake recipe, that just happens to be dairy, gluten and wheat free. The texture is incredible; slightly crunchy from the polenta, lighter than you would expect given that it is full of ground almonds, and of course it is packed full of zesty orange flavour.

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This cake would be perfect served for afternoon tea or as a dessert (tell you the truth… we ate it for both!). If I’m honest, I would really have liked a little dollop of creme fresh on the side… but ok… you can’t have everything! If you are not dairy free though, I really would give that a try – it complements both the flavour and the texture perfectly. If you are dairy free, do like me and have a small scoop of ice cream. Sounds weird, but trust me it works.

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I also thought this cake was perfect for this season, for some reason it made me feel so summery – perhaps because of all the pretty bright colours on top – but also the zesty orange hit really made me feel like I was on holiday.

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This cake is incredibly simple to make; pretty much a one bowl mix, pour and bake recipe. I’ve added some chopped pistachios and extra zest on top – it is definitely worth the extra minute of effort. The pistachios are a lovely little pop of nutty sweetness and cut through some of the zest-iness of the cake flavour.

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Hazelnut Meringue Cake

 

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What on earth is a meringue cake?! Keeping all the best features of meringue, but add in a dark, sticky,  hazelnut-y chewiness, lightened by a sweet creme patissiere filling, with refreshing thin orange slices scattered through the middle, and you sort of get the jist… As an added bonus, this dessert is gluten, wheat and dairy free!

This is not a pretty dessert. Despite its fluffy and delicate appearance, it deserves to be smashed to pieces with a fork and gobbled up in seconds. Or at least – that was how we did it! The few lucky ones who got to taste test this recipe quoted it was their favourite bake of mine ever – and coming from them, that’s something! This is especially surprising as this recipe really came about in a funny way; driven by the desire to use up 4 egg whites and half a carton of hazelnut milk, I began really having to search hard for a recipe. Turns out that recipes do not often combine egg whites and milk, but then the wonders of the hazelnut meringue cake came back to me.

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I think this was something I first saw on bake off – and I loved the idea of turning a meringue into something other than a sweet, crispy treat. Although this still retains those things we love about a good meringue, it is also darker, slightly heavier and more chewy – and therefore ever so slightly more like a cake- because it is packed full of very finely chopped hazelnut pieces.

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I have filled the meringue cake with creme patissiere – which is a fancy name for a custard thickened with cornflour. So, as we’ve been practising our custard over the last few weeks, it will be an absolute doddle (which I can promise it will be…as it’s actually easier and much harder to get wrong than custard – the cornflour stops the eggs curdling, so unless you burn it, you’ll be hard pressed to ruin it!)!

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Lastly, buy the best oranges you can and very very thinly slice the segments. By layering these onto the creme pat, before sandwiching the second meringue on top, you’ve created a light, refreshing, fruity cleanser that balances the sweetness of the rest of the dessert. It’s this secret which will keep you coming back for more until it’s all gone in one sitting!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

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A smooth, sweet and rich chocolate ice cream, designed to kill those Ben and Jerry’s cravings. With hazelnut chunks throughout, and a simple make at home recipe, you’ll be wondering why you’ve not tried to make your own ice cream before!

Last summer I was lucky enough to be asked to hold on to my Mum’s ice cream machine whilst she packed up her house, preparing to go and teach abroad for a while. I could not have been more excited! Homemade ice cream is just the best; if you’ve never tried it, the best way I could explain it is like this – imagine unlimited flavour options, in a sweet, thick, creamy gelato style ice cream.

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Then, really soon after came the Bake Off episode all about ‘free from’ baking. I was so excited! They were making a dairy free Artic Roll, and I began thinking of all of the different flavour combinations they could do… and to be honest, I felt slightly disappointed that almost all of them used coconut milk, and one of the biggest ‘challenges’ they had was trying to cover up the coconut flavour!

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In this ice cream, we’re using hazelnut milk to full effect; it perfectly compliments the rich chocolate, and we’re adding some chopped hazelnuts for crunch. The end result is perfect – as smooth and creamy as a real Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and as rich, chocolatey and sweet too. We cheat slightly by strictly making a frozen custard; full dairy ice cream is made by adding whipped cream to a custard, but in the interest of getting a thick, rich, and smooth ice cream at the end, we’re simply going to just churn it as it is.

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The ice cream can be made either with or without an ice cream machine. I would definitely advise you all to go out and buy a cheap (£20!) machine, where you freeze the container, then pour in the custard, and turn on the motor. However, if I can’t convince you to do that, then you can make this the old fashioned way, stirring the ice cream vigorously every hour for 3 hours as it freezes up. The results are still good, but you will get more ice crystals then you would in a machine.

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Now I’m just waiting for summer; think strawberry and honeycomb, or eton mess ice cream…At least summers not too far away now!

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Steamed Chocolate Pudding

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A delicious, retro classic. Perfect for feeding a crowd after a meal, this chocolate sponge pudding is sure to delight with it’s rich, chocolate flavour. Serve with hazelnut custard or ice cream.

I often find myself day dreaming about food. I used to think everyone did this (but apparently not?!), and it was during a particularly chocolate filled thought that this recipe came to mind. When I was a child, Cadbury’s steamed chocolate pudding used to be a real treat. Not because they were anything special, but it felt like a treat as they were one of the few puddings we ate that were not homemade.

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Sadly, but expectedly, Cadbury’s steamed chocolate puddings contain rather a lot of dairy goodness, and so it has been a really, really long time since I’ve had one. But I knew that steamed sponge puddings were not meant to be that hard to make… so I thought I really should give it a go. I’m so glad I did; not only was the recipe an absolute triumph, it also inspired the Hazelnut Custard recipe which I posted two weeks ago, which has become a real favourite in our house.

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The hardest thing about this pudding, honestly, was tying up the handle on the pudding basin. If you haven’t got a pudding basin, you can use any heat proof dish – the reason it’s good to use a basin is they have a lip round the top, which is ideal for tying the string round it. My handle turned into some engineered feat of brilliance (read: a lot of unnecessary knots caused by string cut too short!) but worked none the less, and made getting the pudding out of the pot a lot easier!

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If you can handle making the handle, you’re sorted. This is a mix it and go recipe, where all the ingredients get put into a bowl and whizzed together. It would be perfect to make for pudding after a roast or other big family meal. It has universal appeal (who doesn’t love a bit of chocolate?!) and can calmly cook away as you get on with other things.

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And for such a simple recipe, the results are tremendous. Rich and dense chocolate sponge, with a decadent and thick chocolate sauce dripping over the top – an ever so slightly more grown up version of the Cadbury’s favourite. The pudding is perfect served with this hazelnut custard, but would work just as well with ice cream. Along with the custard, this is sure to be a repeated recipe in our house!

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Hazelnut Custard

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Thick, creamy, hazelnut custard. The perfect accompaniment to any chocolate dessert, or simply poured over ice cream. 

Ok, so before I gave up dairy, making custard from scratch seemed like a completely pointless exercise. Why make it when it’s so readily available, in all it’s thick, vanilla-y, custard-y goodness?? And then I realised how much I had taken this for granted when suddenly these options were gone!

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It’s not that you can’t buy dairy free custard – you can, it’s quite good and I eat a lot of it, but sometimes it just doesn’t go with everything. Custard is also a wonderful ‘base’ ingredient that has lots of different uses (ice cream, creme patisserie, the list goes on…), and the dairy free shop bought stuff just doesn’t always cut it.

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I started by trying to make a good vanilla custard, however I have to admit that this recipe is still in development – soy is a strong flavour to try and cover up! But it was in the midst of these failed custards that I found hazelnut custard… Here, there’s no covering up; this is all about letting the hazelnut flavour shine.

The next few week’s recipes will focus on using this hazelnut custard in a different ways; there’s an ice cream coming up that is a particular highlight. So use this week to get perfecting your custard. It’s really not difficult to make at all, and a great excuse to have a few sneaky puddings – try it warm, poured over these classic brownies to start with.

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Coconut and Rum Cake

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For grown ups only! This dark caramel cake is soaked in black, spiced rum making it wholly inappropriate for children and very appropriately delicious. Offset with a sweet caramel and coconut buttercream icing, this cake really is a naughty treat, perfect for curing those winter blues.

This cake just takes me back to Australia. One of the highlights of our holiday was sailing around the Whitsunday Islands on a small sailing boat – it was strictly BOYB (a common phenomenon in Australia that I really wish they’d start over here!) so we casually brought onboard a bottle of Kracken black spiced Rum. I mean… we were on a boat. What else were we going to drink?!

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We still had a bit of rum left in the bottle a few weeks ago, and I just knew this cake would blow these wintery cobwebs away. Full of tropical flavours and spices, it brought the sunshine back in every mouthful.

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The sponge is a slightly denser than normal; when you drizzle the rum on after baking only some evaporates leaving you with a very moist and soft sponge. To go with the heavy scents of the spiced rum, I’ve used light brown sugar rather than white caster. It gives a much deeper flavour to the sponge, bringing out the caramel notes in the rum.

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The coconut comes in many forms in this cake – using desiccated, milk, and coconut caramel – but the flavour is not overwhelming. The caramel is something I found on a recent venture round Marks and Spencers – it’s one of those places I like to casually peruse for unusual dairy free finds. This was one of them, and it’s an absolute triumph. As an aside, the caramel is perfect used as a topping – think ice cream or pancakes – but use it sparingly. Like every good caramel, it is certainly sweet, which makes it the perfect base for the icing!

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Apple Dessert Pancakes

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A perfect dessert pancake; light and fluffy yet more indulgent than something appropriate for breakfast. This recipe would be ideal for Pancake Day which is now just around the corner on February 9th!

I really do love Pancake Day; maybe it’s because I’m very non discriminatory – I love all food related holidays!- but a day dedicated (sort of) to pancakes, what’s not to love! That being said, I almost always do the same two types of pancakes on pancake day. A good old crepe and these Blueberry Pancakes. This year, I thought it was time to branch out, so, voila – Apple Pancakes!

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These are as deliciously easy as the blueberry variety; a simple store-cupboard ingredient list, grated apple, and a pinch of cinnamon. To top them, I’ve made some caramelised apple slices which are more than a little bit naughty. The thin slices of apple are gently caramelised in golden caster sugar and butter and by letting them cook gently, the apples get very soft, and almost jelly like. Sounds odd, but trust me it works!

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I drizzled mine with maple syrup – I’ll use any excuse to add a bit of maple syrup wherever it can go, so these pancakes were of course not going to be an exception! A small scoop of ice cream didn’t go amiss either, but this really is entirely optional. Although the pancakes themselves are sweeter than I would make for breakfast, I need the ice cream to really make it feel like dessert.

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The other great thing about these pancakes (just in case I haven’t already given you reason good enough!) is that you can do them easily for a crowd. These pancakes keep really well once baked; just put in a foil covered oven proof dish to reheat again when needed. And if there’s something I like even more than eating the pancakes, it’s sharing the day with a big group of people, all huddled round a small table, stuffed to the brim, but begging for just one more pancake!

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