Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Move over jam, baking just got a sexy new friend! The biscuit spread.

Don't get me wrong, you really can't beat a generous slathering of jam in-between a Victoria Sponge, but with the creation of biscuit spreads it would seem that's there a tasty new baking alternative on the market, and one that's been causing quite a few flutters of excitement in the kitchen.

At first it seems curiously unusual, biscuit spread, surely that's got to be a typo.. but no, biscuit spread is one of those tasty new food trends that's taken over supermarkets thanks in part to the delicious invention of Lotus spread. But what is this curious creation, and just how has it been infiltrating our tasty bakes.

We all know and love (well most of us do..) the classic chocolate or peanut butter spreads so why should it stop there. Lotus spread isn't exactly new, the idea first came about in 2007 when this curious culinary creation was whipped up by Els Scheppers, who wanted to create a creamy sweet spread with the unique taste of Lotus Biscuits, and so Lotus spread was concocted as part of a Belgium tv show featuring inventive new recipes, her recipe was snapped up as one of the show's finalists and Lotus worked on creating the perfect biscuit spread with her (1).

A sweet spread that has all the taste of the heavenly, caramelised biscuit, made in both smooth and crunchy forms with the former being perfect for baking. Best described as being 'crack-like'(2), it's no wonder that this dreamy spread has been snatched up by fond bakers to create some truly delicious recipes. It's perfect for buttercreams and cake fillings, could you just imagine how delicious a Lotus spread buttercream would be?! From tasty cupcakes dreamed up by Baked Bree, to even a yummy no bake cheesecake by Bake Happy, there's no end to the tasty treats that you create with this.

Although it's only been in the past year that Lotus spread has really took off over here, and it's no surprise that a few inventive supermarket chefs have been following suit by creating their own biscuit spreads. Essentially, if you can break a biscuit down into a creamy paste then it can be turned into a spread. Tesco have really took a shine to this formula with their recent addition of not just one, but several biscuit spreads. Turning traditional British biscuits into spreads with their Bourbon biscuit spread which keeps the tasty chocolate flavour of the tea dunking treat, to a Custard cream spread that's spot on for taste and deliciously creamy. Following suit Asda have also snapped up the Bourbon biscuit spread with their own take on this crushed biscuit spread.

And why should it stop there? Tesco's range of new biscuit spreads also includes a curious cookie spread, and a cookies and cream spread, for the extravagant biscuit spread connoisseur. Admittedly, I've yet to try these two curious biscuit spreads, but if they're as good as their sister spreads, they'll be delicious.

It's certainly an easy way to add the taste of these traditional biscuits to your bakes, so why not try whipping up some custard cream cupcakes with a Custard cream biscuit spread buttercream, or a tasty chocolate cake with a yummy Bourbon biscuit spread filling, there's countless delicious recipes that you could concoct in the kitchen with these new biscuit spreads.

Images: Tesco & Asda

References: (1) Lotus.

Chocolate and salted caramel bundt cake.

Now this is a decadent cake, combining the rich flavour of chocolate, with the sweet taste of salted caramel for one rather delicious bake. Making perfect use of the bundt tin's shape to finish it off with a decadent drizzling of salted caramel flavour icing, oh my!!!

Ingredients (for a 6 cup bundt tin)
  120g butter
  220g caster sugar
  2 large eggs
  150g plain flour
  30g cocoa powder
  1 tsp baking powder
  75ml milk
  1 tsp salted caramel flavouring

For the icing
  150g icing sugar
  3 tbsp milk
  2 tsp salted caramel flavouring

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and prepare your bundt tin, the best way to do this is to grease your tin first, use a piece of kitchen towel (paper) and work the butter into the tin's many curves and shapes to make sure it's fully covered. Then dust with cocoa powder, tapping the tin and moving it around to ensure it's all covered, tap any excess cocoa powder out.

Then set the tin aside whilst you prepare the cake mixture. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time and beat.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and fold into the mixture until evenly mixed. Add in the milk, I slowly poured this in to mix, stopping along the way to make sure that I didn't add too much milk, you want the mixture to be smooth and rich, but not too thick, if you feel it needs more milk at this stage, add it in bit by bit, to blend to your preferred consistency.

Finally add in the salted caramel flavouring, I used Beau's concentrated Salted caramel flavouring, which is thicker in texture than you may be used to, but it certainly adds a strong flavour to the bake. Blend in well to mix.

Spoon the mixture into the tin to ensure that it is evenly layered throughout, then place in the middle of the shelf in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes. In my fan oven this took 30 minutes, it will look well risen on the base when it's nearly done, so it's safe to test it with a cake skewer at this stage to ensure that it's fully baked.

Remove the tin from the oven and leave it to cool for 10 minutes, gently wiggle a rubber spatula around the edges of the cake to loosen it, then turn it upside down on a cake stand to cool. The cake should easily slide out of the tin once you turn it upside down.

Set aside to cool for an hour then work on your icing. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp of the milk to bring it together, add another tbsp of milk to loosen the mixture, it should feel slightly stiff as you mix, and as you take the spoon out of the bowl it should drizzle off slowly, if it looks too runny simply sift in more icing sugar and mix. The milk helps to give this icing the perfect consistency to drizzle over the cake, whilst keeping a firm hold. Then add in the salted caramel flavouring, you can do this to taste if you prefer a subtler flavour, but I found that 2 tsp was enough to give it a good caramel taste.

Drizzle the icing mixture on top of the bundt, do this one spoonful at a time to cover the entire cake. Then finish off with optional decorations if you like.

Recipe adapted and downsized for a smaller bundt tin from The Pink Whisk.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Chocolate cake wars : the ultimate taste test of coffee shop bakes

For comfort food you really can't beat a generous portion of chocolate cake, a universally adored traditional cake flavour and one that you can usually find at most cake shops across the country. Yes, for this round of cake wars I'm tucking into a tasty batch of chocolate cake all in the name of research..

Sometimes you find yourself with the nearest option to satisfy your cake appetite being a Starbucks or a Costa, where you can pretty much guarantee that no matter where you are in the country will have the same selection of treats. I've done the gruelling, tasking, cake eating work for you as I put the nation's chain coffee shop bakes to the test!

To test out the nation's Chocolate cake selection I visited a few different coffee shops and cafes across the country in order to crown a delicious winner.

The first place I visited was Starbucks, their take on the chocolate cake is an incredibly sweet dark chocolate chocolate cake with a generous layer of chocolate buttercream, ganache and a pretty topping of chocolate and gold stars. But does it taste as lovely as it looks?

On first bite it's a rich, moist cake with a very chocolatey flavour, the buttercream filling is rich and sweet and the ganache on top is just heavenly, it's definitely hit the spot.. 4/4

After that delicious a slice of cake I'd hate to be the cake following it.. Next up was John Lewis's cafe, their chocolate cake is one of the many favourites you can find rotating on their cake menu. Closer to a traditional sponge cake than Starbucks offering, with layers of chocolate sponge filled with chocolate buttercream.

A little less generous on the buttercream than Starbucks effort, with a dainty filling between the sponge layers and on top leaving it a little dry towards the edges of the cake. Still tasty and chocolatey but could do with much more buttercream. 2/4

Next up was Caffe Nero, somewhere I'd yet to visit for the cake testing round with their baked offerings staying closer to their Italian roots, so I was surprised to find a chocolate fudge cake on their menu amongst the panettones.

Their chocolate fudge cake is as you'd expect, rich and chocolatey with a delicious fudgey taste, a moist bake with generous layers of chocolate fudge buttercream and chocolate pieces, a very indulgent cake. My only faulting is that it was a little too rich, otherwise, perfect! 3/4

Last stop was another new cafe to the cake wars rounds, Debenhams cafe, with a similar take on the chocolate cake in chocolate fudge cake form. A chocolate sponge cake with chocolate buttercream, ganche and chocolate shavings on top.

A lovely, sweet chocolatey flavour, carried through in the buttercream, with a rich chocolate ganche, tasty but a little dry towards the edges much like John Lewis's effort, it could have done with a little more buttercream to help the bake along, but still much moister than John Lewis's take. 3/4

The overall verdict, despite happily wanting to eat more chocolate cake in the name of research, the overall winner has to be Starbucks, their chocolate cake was spot on, if I wasn't so full I could have happily gone back for seconds.. or thirds..

Images: Debenhams via Pinterest & Starbucks.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Scrumptious coconuty bounty cupcakes

Inspired by the classic coconut sweet, these cupcakes are choc full of coconuty goodness, with a delicious chocolate and coconut base, and a sweet coconut buttercream on top, it's a tasty cupcake tribute to the delicious Bounty bar.

  100g self raising flour
  40g cocoa powder
  140g caster sugar
  40g butter
  1 tsp baking powder
  1 egg
  30g coconut milk block*
  100ml boiling water*
*if you have coconut milk you can substitute these with 120ml of coconut milk

For the buttercream
  70g butter
  190g icing sugar
  30g grated coconut milk block

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line a cupcake tray with 12 cases.

If your using the coconut milk block, fill a jug up with boiling water and add the coconut milk block, stirring to mix together and break it down. Leave aside for later.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and butter to a fine sandy consistency.

Whisk the egg in a jug and add to the dry mixture, along with some of the coconut milk mixture - or coconut milk if you have it. Blend them together, and gradually add the remaining coconut milk, mixing it to combine to a loose, smooth mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling each around 2/3 full. To create the perfect flat top for decorating, turn the oven down a notch (i.e 150c for a fan oven), and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Leave the cupcakes aside to cool, then start to prepare your buttercream. Beat together the butter with half of the icing sugar until well combined, add the remaining icing sugar and bring it together. Next, add in the grated coconut milk block and blend this until well combined. Add the milk, and the mixture should start to loosen, you'll have a slightly stiff but smooth buttercream, that tastes very sweet thanks to the coconut milk block.

Spoon the mixture on top of each cupcake, using a palette knife to swirl it around the top of each cupcake until evenly covered. Top with a little grated coconut milk block to finish off.

Best eaten: These cupcakes are deliciously light and sweet, so they'll go down rather quickly. To give your cupcakes a boozy grown up touch try adding a shot of Malibu to the cake mix, you really won't want to share them then..

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Tea room exploration: Home sweet home

49-51 Edge street, Manchester, M4 1HW. Open Mon-Thurs 9am-10pm, Fri-Sat 9am-11pm & Sun 9am-9pm | www.homesweethomenq.com

A place that's known for it's infamous bakes and delicious eats, Home sweet home's delightfully quirky tea room has been brightening up Manchester's Northern Quarter and helping to curb many a cake craving..

Nestled on Edge street their delightful tea room has been serving up perhaps some of the most inventive, colourful and outlandish bakes you'll ever lay eyes (and teeth) upon. Of course it's not just about the sweet eats and treats inside, their quirky tea room is laid out with kitsch finds (Star Trek novel's, vintage placards and cow head plaques anyone?!) and homely seating for a cosy experience, making it a delightful stop off in the city.

The decor matches the feel of the place perfectly and the stealthy sized cake counter that's recently been added in certainly catches your eye, the selection is deliciously tempting almost to the point that you'll stand there resisting the urge to hug the counter whilst attempting to shuffle it out of the door to take all that cake home with you... is it just me that wanted to do this? Joking aside, the selection of cakes is really rather impressive thanks to the baking team who concoct these delicious treats in store. Their infamous bakes may have already caught your eye online from pie filled cakes, to dayglo sweet adorned rainbow bakes and even Bowie face cakes, is there anything that they can't do with cake?! And with a ever changing menu of cakes your bound to find something different every time you visit.

On my visit there was a jaw droppingly delicious selection of freshly baked cakes, from gummy bear adorned bakes, chocolate smartie cakes, bubblegum disco sponges, glittery black forest cake and delicious donuts, it really was hard to whittle the choice down but I eventually went for a rather exquisite sounding Amaretto carrot cake. A stealthy sized slab of cake with plenty of buttercream, the amaretto flavouring was deliciously sweet and went really well with the carrot cake base that was deliciously moist and sweet with an additional thick layer of tasty buttercream filling in the middle, if you need a sugar fix this will do the job rather nicely!

As it was a rather warm day on my visit I skipped the usual cuppa for a soft drink, but if you prefer a brew you'll find a rather generous menu of teas and coffees to choose from, alongside some rather tasty looking milkshakes and tipples if you prefer a boozy cake visit.

Most definitely worth the visit to sample their cake, you can order to take out if you'd rather take a massive wedge of cake home with you to over indulge; in fact I'd highly advise upon take out even if you are eating in, to curb those cake cravings the following day.. Certainly cakes that are as delicious as they look, and you won't mind maiming the pretty cake decoration to eat it...

Cake rating:
5/5 | Free from options available.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

The rise of the Great British Bake Off : A blessing or a curse?

Over the past five series I've seen The Great British Bake Off rise from a quaint chosen few franticly icing away at bakes and kneading the perfect dough, to a full blown frenzy of macarons and biscuit structures. It's come a long way since that first tent gallivanting about the country with a small army of baking enthusiasts.

As the shows naturally grown in popularity so has it's interest online, where once a select few of us would be giggling at our smartphones tweeting about rigid, firm bakes and macaron nipples, there's now thousands of users hurling their opinions about on social media. From their version of that week's star bake, to nit picking at how they could have done it better, it's certainly causing a storm online.

It's this new-found constructive criticism on the perfect bake, to the contestants themselves, that's caused a rucus over the last couple of series. Who'd have thought that the gender of a contestant, or the way that they handle their feedback from Paul and Mary, would cause such a huge reaction online. Everyone appears to have an opinion on how the perfect florentine should be constructed, or how they could have done it better, when in hindsight that person complaining about the week's bakes on twitter may have barely attempted to rustle themselves up a batch of macarons, let alone a sandwich cake.

But it's not just the constructive criticism from newly found master bakers online, the speed with which each bake has to be perfected in the tent can cause many a near fit of panic as we empathize with the bakers. How many of us have sat watching in horror through their hands as the bakers rushed fondant fancies together, or sat reeling in horror at the infamous Charlotte Royale challenge as the bavarois started to seep through, we'd certainly break down trying to create such perfect bakes in such tight time slots as the bakers do week after week in the tent. Often giving some the impression that perfection can be rustled up in a mere few minutes, compared to the several hours that it may actually take you to create those delicious macarons or swiss rolls.

What we need to remember with The Great British Bake Off, is that it's only a TV show, yes, a bakers dozen of keen amateur bakers are put through grinding challenge after challenge each week, that they may have barely seen beforehand, but what we often forget is that key word with each of the bakers, 'amateur'. No one of the bakers involved claims to be an artisan baker, each one bakes at home for the sheer joy of it, whether it's as part of their local WI or for family and friends, they haven't spend years perfecting their craft like many of the professionals that we see on TV, or at our local bakery. Whilst many of the bakers involved later go on to publish their own books, or open cake shops, they've spent time perfecting their craft after the show's finished, not just anyone can throw themselves in the kitchen and come out a master baker.

I guess it's down to the vast growth of the show at the end of the day, as any show grows in popularity it's going to ruffle up a few feathers along the way. Whilst it may be the brunt of raised eyebrows on social media, and the press, it's also helped to create a new wave of keen amateur home bakers, swearing away in the kitchen as they try to perfect that week's challenge, and that's not exactly a bad thing at all.

Post originally published at cake-porn.co.uk in 2014.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A scrummy malteaser and chocolate cake

Why have just any chocolate cake when you can cover it in a topping of delicious Malteasers.. a deliciously cheeky bake that certainly will hit the sweet spot, just try not to eat all of the Malteasers during the baking process...

  225g butter
  225g caster sugar
  3 eggs
  175g self raising flour
  50g cocoa powder

For the icing
  85g butter
  175g icing sugar
  2 tbsp cocoa powder
  3 small bags of Malteasers to top

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line two round 6" sandwich cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add in the eggs one at a time and whisk together until blended.

Sift in flour and cocoa powder and give it a good mix. Then divide your mixture between the two tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool. Whilst the cake cools start to break your Malteasers into pieces, you can opt to either cut them in half for perfectly pretty pieces, or go for a full smashing and give the bags a good bash with a rolling pin to make some delicious Malteaser crumbs.

Next, mix your icing, whisk together the butter and icing sugar until smooth, add in the cocoa powder and milk and blend to a smooth consistency. Spread half of the mixture on top of the bottom layer, then place the second half of the cake on top.

Use the remaining icing to smother on top of the cake then sprinkle your Malteasers crumbs, or perfectly cut halves on top. Then you'll have a perfectly delicious cake!

Best eaten: When freshly baked on the day, if baking beforehand remember to leave the Malteaser topping till the day that your ready to serve to ensure a crunchy topping.

Recipe inspired by Good to know.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The surprisingly delicious custard cake

Just a few simple ingredients makes this rather delicious cake, it's the kind of custard treat that you'd actually want to be made for a birthday. Using the traditional saucey treat to make a rather tasty buttercream on top, who's for seconds?!

  225g self raising flour
  225g caster sugar
  225g butter
  2 tsp vanilla essence
  2 eggs

For the buttercream
  120g butter
  150g icing sugar
  50g custard powder
  a drop of milk

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line two 6" round sandwich tins.

Whisk together the sugar and butter in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, add in the eggs and beat together.

Sift in the flour and mix together until well blended, then add in the vanilla essence and give it a good stir to mix in.

Divide the mixture between the two tins then bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the bases cool, mix your buttercream. Sift together the icing sugar with the custard powder then give it a good stir to mix together. Add in the butter and whisk the mixture until it starts to come together, like me, you may experience a lovely cloud of custard icing sugar powder as you begin to blend, don't worry it'll all come together in a couple of minutes, but you may need a good dusting down afterwards.. the kitchen will however, smell rather sweet as a result..

Once the mixture has come together, it will resemble an orange, thick buttercream, add a little drop of milk to loosen this mixture and achieve a golden yellow custardy colour.

Place half of this mixture on top of the first layer of your cake, top with the second half of the cake and place the remaining buttercream on top. If you like you could finish it off with sprinkles to add a finishing touch.

Recipe inspired by: The pretty blog

Monday, 16 May 2016

A tasty classic : Lemon drizzle cake

A tea time essential as any, you can never go wrong with a tasty slice of Lemon drizzle cake. This take on the classic stays true to the original recipe with the extra addition of ground almonds to really add to the moist texture, you'll need a generous slice of this one!

  225g butter
  175g caster sugar
  175g plain flour
  2 tsp baking powder
  3 tbsp lemon juice (+ 2 tbsp to pour over when cooked)
  3 eggs
  50g ground almonds
  icing sugar

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line a 6" round cake tin.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add in the 3 tbsp of lemon juice and whisk. Add the eggs and whisk together until it starts to look slightly curdled.

Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Once out of the oven poke holes in the cake with a skewer and spoon 2 tbsp of lemon juice on top, this will sink in adding even more to the moist texture and lemon flavour.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool. Next, make a water icing, you can choose to add a spoon or two of lemon juice to this if you like. Flick it across the cake with a teaspoon to create a drizzled pattern. You'll have one rather tasty cake once the icing has set!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Fuss free ways to turn that bake vegan!

Sometimes you just want a dairy free cake, whether your restricting your diet and keeping that dairy content down, your lactose intolerant or you simply follow a vegan diet. Thankfully free from options are easier to come across today than they were a few years ago and you may even find yourself pleasantly surprised at the dairy free substitutes that you can use for your baking, lets take a look...

Going egg free.
Sometimes even if you don't follow a strict diet you may find yourself opting for an eggless bake, you don't have to go for powdered substitutes or nasty tasting concoctions, the choice for egg substitutes is actually quite surprisingly easy.

Eggs are primarily used to add moisture to a bake, alongside binding the ingredients together and as a leavening agent. Knowing this makes it's easier to substitute the eggs in your recipe, for example a simple choice would be to add baking powder or baking soda to the bake as your leavening agent.

Now you know what you need to replace what do you substitute the eggs with? One of my Cake Porn favourites that is surprisingly easy to use is mashed banana, that's right, 1/2 of a mashed banana will substitute for 1 egg, so if the recipe calls for 2 eggs use a whole mashed banana. Another fun fruity alternative is apple sauce, this will act as a perfect replacement, 1/3 of a cup of apple sauce will replace 1 egg, so again increase this dependant on the number of eggs needed (i.e a full jar for 3 eggs).

Other substitutes include a 1/4 cup of yogurt or a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil to replace 1 egg, just adjust the quantity as needed to replace the eggs in the recipe. It's much easier than you'd initially have thought, and most of the time you'll already have these substitutes to hand!

Replacing butter
This one can be easily replaced using vegan substitutes such as vegan margarine in place of the butter, but you can also choose to go for other alternatives in your bake if you find them a little easier to use. With margarine of course, you can use the exact same measurement as you would with butter, just remember to soften it beforehand.

Oil is another obvious substitute to go for, whether it's olive, coconut or vegetable. Many U.S recipes tend to use oil instead of butter like us brits do, so you may not even need to alter your recipe at all.

When substituting with oil you may not necessarily need to use the same measurements as you would with butter, thankfully coconut oil is a straight substitute so this one doesn't require any messing about, just use the same measurements as you would with butter in the recipe. Though when it comes to other oils it may require a few baking experiments to find the right quantity for your recipe, with some recipes like cookies you may need to reduce the measurement down to just half for vegetable and olive oils (so 100g instead of 200g for instance), then for other recipes you may find that closer to 2/3 of the quantity is needed and this is where a good maths head comes in handy to alter those recipes!

Another oil substitute you could try is Canola oil, of which you'll need to use 2/3's of the quantity needed. Personally, when it comes to oil, I find coconut oil is the easiest substitute, and it makes for a rather deliciously moist bake too.

Swapping milk.
Not all recipes require milk but it's an additional ingredient that some U.S recipes and American style bakes tend to use to add extra moisture to the bake, but you can easily substitute this with a dairy free alternative such as soya milk. If you fancy adding a touch of flavour to the bake with your substitute why not try using almond or coconut milk.

Of course for all of these suggestions there are numerous more alternatives that you could go for, there's an endless choice of substitutes that you could use, but these ones suggested here are some of the most common ingredients that you'll find day to day in your cupboards to use. So why not try a few of these alternatives out and bake up a delicious storm in the kitchen!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

A tasty classic : Cherry madeira cake

Madeira cake may often go overlooked, it may be a simple cake but it's rich, buttery taste certainly makes for a delicious slice of cake, add in some glace cherries and you've got an even tastier cake. A surprisingly simple, yet incredibly delicious bake.

  125g butter
  125g caster sugar
  2 eggs
  125g plain flour
  1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  100g glace cherries
  1 & 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Pre heat oven to 190c/170c fan/gas mark 5 and grease a small loaf tin (for this I used the 10cm Jane Asher loaf tin from Poundland which is a bit smaller than my usual loaf tin).

Mix together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add in the eggs one at a time and beat well.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture until combined.

Chop the cherries in half then dust with flour, then fold them into the mixture along with the lemon juice.

Spoon into the tin then bake for 30-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Recipe adapted and downsized from: allrecipesco.uk

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Not just for Wimbledon : Strawberries and cream cupcakes

You can never go wrong with a bowl of strawberries smothered in cream, so why not turn the British summer snack into a delicious cupcake?! A dollop of cream and a handful of strawberries finish these tasty cupcakes off perfectly, besides a spot of fruit can make any cake healthy, right?!

  125g butter
  125g caster sugar
  125g self raising flour
  2 eggs
  2 tbsp single cream
  4 tbsp strawberry jam

For the icing
  60g butter
  170g icing sugar
  1 tbsp single cream
  6 strawberries halved to decorate

Pre heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and place cupcake cases onto your tray.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs in one at a time and beat well.

Fold in the flour with the cream and beat together. Spoon half of this mixture into each case then add a blob of strawberry jam in the middle, place the remaining mixture on top of each cake to cover the jam.

Before placing the tray in the oven turn it down a notch to around 170c/150c/gas mark 3 to create the perfect flat top and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm, then leave to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

To make the buttercream mix together the butter and half of the icing sugar to a fluffy mixture, add the remaining icing sugar and beat well. Add in 1 tbsp of cream and then whisk this mixture together for a good few minutes to create a perfectly creamy buttercream.

Pipe on top of each cupcake then finish off with a strawberry half on top, yum!

Best eaten: Since these tasty cakes require a dollop of fresh cream & fruit you'll want to eat them as soon as you can, why not try them with a glass of Pimms for a truly decadent treat!

Recipe adapted from Fortnum & Mason's "Tea at Fortnum & Mason" book.

Tea room exploration : Willow tea house

23 Milner Road, Heswall CH60 5RT. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm | www.facebook.com/Willow-Tea-House-Bistro-136343819774543

A lovely find along the West of the Wirral, Willow tea house is nestled just off the busy Heswall high street. A delightfully vintage inspired tea room that's naturally choc full of tea and cake to tempt.

Willow tea house is a must visit tea room in the Wirral, home to an abundance of traditional treats that's made it a firm favourite. Tea is obviously their specialty and they certainly enjoy their cake too, with a menu bursting to the brim with tea time treats and sweets.

Inspired by vintage and shabby chic their tea room is delightfully sweet, plenty of vintage inspired decor adorns the walls matching their pretty patisserie print tables, the settings certainly suit the tea room down a 'T'.

As you enter the tea room the first thing that greets you is their cake counter which is enough to send any cake aficionado into overload with choice. From traditional treats like Victoria sandwich to Carrot cake, and seasonal bakes like ginger cake, they even have gluten free options to choose from so you won't be left out.

On my visit there was plenty of delicious cakes to tempt, you were certainly spoilt for choice.

I decided to try their chocolate cake, a choice you can never go wrong with.. Their take on the chocolate cake was delightfully sweet with a creamy generous layer of frosting in between the cake and on top, with the crunchy chocolate nibs it almost reminded me of a lovely chocolate gateaux.

To accompany the cake I choose their house blend, described as an Irish breakfast blend of black teas, certainly very tasty. You'll find a full menu of tea blends to choose from alongside coffees, hot chocolates and soft drinks.

A welcome stop off on the way to the wirral coast and certainly a lovely find, if you like your tea and cake you'll certainly want to visit.

Cake score:
4/5 | Free from options available.

Monday, 9 May 2016

A gorgeous little bit of a cake : Nutella cupcakes

These are so good you won't want to share them... gorgeously indulgent little bits of cake that make for a perfectly decadent treat. They're like a party your mouth that nobody else is invited too... chocolate and Nutella fanciers will simply HAVE to bake these.

  100g self raising flour
  20g cocoa powder
  140g caster sugar
  40g butter
  120ml milk
  1 egg
  Nutella to fill the cakes once baked

For the icing
  250g icing sugar
  80g butter
  20ml milk
  70g nutella (around 3 spoonfuls)

Pre heat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas mark 3 and place cupcake cases onto a tray.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and butter until well combined to a sandy consistency. Pour in the milk and gradually beat together. Add the egg and beat the mixture together until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the cases to around 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes-1 hour.

Whilst the cakes cool mix your buttercream, beat together the butter with half of the icing sugar until combined, then add in the remaining icing sugar and mix together.

Pour in the milk and mix to combine, the buttercream should start to loosen. Then add in the nutella and give it a really good mix to blend, as tempted as you will be, don't eat it all just yet.

Leave the buttercream aside whilst you fill the cupcakes, using a cake corer take a small section out of the middle of each cupcake and fill it with a teaspoon of Nutella. Place the cored out section back on top and do the same for the remaining cupcakes.

Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag and pipe on top of each cupcake, don't feel to bad if you eat some of the 'leftover' frosting....

Best eaten: Why as soon as you've assembled them! These taste scrumptious when freshly baked and they're certain to be eaten up rather quickly.

Recipe adapted from Renshaw baking.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Honey and whisky cake

Fancy something a little delicious and cheeky, then this honey and whisky cake is for you. A delightfully moist and fluffy bake with the deliciously cheeky flavours of honey and whisky, a truly grown up bake!

  175g self raising flour
  175g caster sugar
  175g butter
  2 eggs
  4 tbsp Jack Daniels honey whisky

For the filling
  175g icing sugar
  55g butter
  2 tsp honey, plus extra to drizzle on top

Pre heat oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and line two round 6" cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add in the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.

Sift in the flour, then add the whisky and beat together to a light mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two tins then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the tins to cool for 10 minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Mix the butter with half of the icing sugar to combine, add the remaining icing sugar and blend, adding in the honey and beat well. If needed add a drop of whisky to loosen the mixture.

Spread 2/3 of the buttercream on top of the base layer of the cake then place the second half on top and spread the remaining mixture on top and drizzle a spoonful of honey over.

Best eaten: Leave the honey to sink in for 12 hours, the result is a deliciously rich and soft buttercream that makes for a rather tasty slice of cake.

Recipe adapated from Rampant Scotland.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Lemon drizzle cake wars : the ultimate taste test of coffee shop bakes

Sometimes you find yourself with the nearest option to satisfy your cake appetite being a Starbucks or a Costa, where you can pretty much guarantee that no matter where you are in the country they will have the same selection of treats. I've done the grueling, tasking, cake eating work for you as I put the nation's chain coffee shop bakes to the test!

For my second round of cake wars I've chosen a trusty favourite, the Lemon drizzle cake. A tasty moist sponge with plenty of lemon flavour, sometimes in loaf form, sometimes in layered form with a sweet lemon flavoured frosting, but one thing that's always consistent is that rich lemony flavour.

To test out the nation's Lemon drizzle cake selection I visited a few different coffee shops and cafes across the country in order to crown a delicious winner.

The first place I visited was Starbucks, their take on the Lemon drizzle cake, simply named Lemon loaf, is a simple yet humble loaf shaped cake decorated with a strands of lemon peel and a sugar glaze.

Described as being 'hand drizzled in lemon juice', you can really taste the lemon flavour, the resulting bake is a moist and light cake that's certainly rich in flavour. The sugar and peel topping adds a bit of texture to the cake that's overall a rather delicious cake. 3/4

Next up was Marks and Spencer's cafe, their food hall's Lemon drizzle cake is just one of the many tasty bakes you'd expect to see making an appearance in their cafe, always a good way to sample a slice before you buy the full cake to take away. Their version of the classic cake is a layered sponge cake finished off with lemon buttercream.

A lovely moist sponge with plenty of lemon drizzled over, there's an abundance of rich lemon flavour to the buttercream layered between the sponge and a generous helping slathered on top too. A very light but rich tasting bake that's certainly tasty, the only downside is that the cake is a little on the small side. 3/4

John Lewis cafe's take on the Lemon drizzle cake is a gluten free version of the classic in the form of a Lemon polenta cake. Similar to the Starbucks take this is a loaf cake with a simple drizzling of lemon, the polenta adds a crumbly yet crunchy texture to the cake that's certainly different.
The lemon flavour is subtle compared to the others but it's still a rich and moist bake and a rather generous portion size too, a great gluten free option on the high street. 3/4

And the final stop on the Lemon cake tasting was Costa, similar to the M & S take on the Lemon drizzle cake, theirs is a delicious sandwich cake with a hint of lemon, a generous slathering of buttercream between the layers and on top, finished off with strands of lemon peel.

A deliciously sharp yet sweet cake, nicely balanced out with the addition of the buttercream layers. The buttercream is rich and sweet and certainly balances out the sharp flavour. A rather tasty take on the traditional Lemon drizzle cake, my only faulting is that it could have done with a little more buttercream. 3/4

The overall cake verdict, it's pretty hard to choose when all these bakes are so different yet just as delicious. If it's a deliciously sweet, lemon bake that your after you really can't go wrong with Costa's Lemon cake, an indulgent take on the traditional Lemon drizzle cake that certainly won't disappoint. But if it's a traditional bake that your after then you'll want to pay Starbucks a visit for their Lemon loaf.

Images: Marks & Spencer, Costa & Starbucks.