This Easter Andrew is at an age when he has just enough of an attention span to have a go at some simple crafts. Of course if it involves chocolate he’s very keen to help, and his attention span is somewhat increased when it comes to edible molten gooeyness – I wonder why?! But he’s also very into stickers and sticking, so I knew we could also have a go at making some cards that involve sticking.
Chocolate mini (or pinny) eggs
Andrew has been calling mini eggs ‘pinny eggs’ since he first had one a couple of weeks ago when we baked these cupcakes. I’m not quite sure why, given that he can say ‘m’ (as in mummy) and I’ve only ever called them mini eggs, but he’s obviously just got it into his head that they are pinny eggs. The ‘p’ sound is made with the same part of the mouth as the ‘m’ sound – the lips coming together and then opening again – but the ‘m’ also involves air being let out through the nose (it’s a nasal consonant). Anyway, that’s enough of a linguistic digression!
I was given some moulds for making chocolate mini eggs a few years ago. This year we made some white chocolate ones with Green and Black’s lovely vanilla white chocolate, and some dark chocolate ones with Asda Extra Special 75% cocoa dark chocolate with cocoa nibs which give a lovely crunchy texture (we made these as presents but had to sample them of course!) The moulds create half eggs when you pour molten chocolate into them, and then we sandwiched each pair of halves together using some milk chocolate. We left them to set in the fridge overnight between each stage and also before packing them up into presents.
We used cupcake cases to put a few of each type of egg in. Here they are all ready to give to Andrew’s grandparents (who have been told not to read this until tomorrow!)
Egg collage cards
These were really simple to make. First I cut an egg shape out of some yellow card – my tip for getting a nice even and symmetrical shape is to fold a rectangle of card in half lengthways and cut a semi-oval around the opposite side to the folded edge, then unfold it and you have an egg. I then stuck strips of double-sided tape all over the egg and removed the backing to the tape, which left a sticky surface all over the egg. We chose various scraps of paper, tissue paper, felt and mesh from my craft stash, in nice bright and spring-like colours, and I cut them into small squares and rectangles. Andrew then had fun sticking them all over the egg, with a bit of help from me. He found it ‘really funny’ (his words) that his finger tips kept sticking to the egg as he stuck bits on 🙂 When it was all covered, I stuck it onto the front of a pre-folded white A6 card with double-sided tape. It was a simple as that.
You may remember that back in February I introduced a new monthly feature on the blog – Cupcake of the month – inspired by a calendar I was given for Christmas with a different cupcake recipe each month. This month the recipe was for vanilla cupcakes, with a slightly more unusual order for combining the ingredients than I had come across before. It’s not exactly the same recipe as appears on the calendar (I always adapt recipes!), mainly in that I halved all the ingredients, used marg instead of butter, missed out the salt, and doubled the amount of vanilla. I bought vanilla ‘flavouring’ instead of ‘essence’ last time I went shopping for it because they didn’t have any essence, and I knew that flavouring wasn’t as strong, so put twice as much in; disappointingly though, they still don’t taste strongly of vanilla, so I won’t be buying that again!
The decoration suggestion on the calendar was a swirl of buttercream icing with mini eggs on top. Although they look very creative, I thought I’d go one step further and combine these relatively plain cakes with another of my favourite things to make and eat at Easter – chocolate egg nests! You can’t beat a bit of shredded what covered in chocolate and honey, shaped into a nest with a couple of mini eggs in it 🙂 Andrew loved helping me make these too, not least because I let him lick the spoon! He was fascinated by the mini eggs and interested to learn about nests and count the eggs into them – he’s very into numbers and counting.right now. We made some small nests (I would make them bigger if we were eating them on their own) that fitted nicely on the top of the cupcakes, held on with a blob of buttercream (that was the ready-made stuff left over from Andrew’s birthday cake).
If you’d like to have a go at these treats for Easter, here’s the recipe……
Ingredients – makes 10
130g self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
150 dark chocolate
1 tbsp honey
chocolate mini eggs
buttercream icing (I had some ready-made stuff left over – or you could mix 25g butter/marg with 50g icing sugar)
Put 10 fairy cake cases in a fairy cake tin and 10 cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, then add the milk and vanilla and stir until smooth.
Beat in the margarine and egg until well combined and smooth.
Pour the mixture into the cupcake cases until they are about half to two thirds full.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the nests…. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
Stir in the honey.
Crush shredded wheat in your hands over the bowl and keep doing this, stirring it now and then into the chocolate, until the shredded wheat is nicely covered and the mixture is thick enough to spoon into the fairy cake cases.
Spoon a small amount into the bottom of each case, and press two mini eggs into the centre.
Chill in the fridge until set.
Once the cakes are baked and cooled, and the nests are set, assemble by putting a small blob of icing in the centre of each cake and pressing a nest down on top of it.
Store in an airtight container and eat as fresh as possible.
I’ve been thinking about baking a beetroot cake for a while now, since I saw the idea somewhere online – I can’t actually remember where exactly I saw it, but the picture looked good and I didn’t hang around long enough to look at the recipe in detail as I think I was looking for something else at the time. We’ve had beetroot a few times in the veg box, but as it’s usually just the right amount of veg for a week of meals, I haven’t felt like using some of it in a cake. However, since I was ill last week and didn’t eat anything for a couple of days and then moved on to a plain toast diet for a couple more, we had a bit of a glut of veg, including some beetroot, so I seized this opportunity now that I’m feeling better to have a go at what I’d wanted to do for a while.
From my googling, I figured out that there were 2 ways in which people recommend using beetroot in cake: 1) similarly to carrot, by grating it raw and baking it in a fairly light sponge; or 2) pureeing it when cooked and adding it to chocolate cake to make a very moist and dense sponge. I thought the second option looked the most yummy, so I went for that. The recipe I came up with is loosely based on Nigel Slater’s recipe which I found on the BBC Food website.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the finished cake, though I’d seen it written online that this kind of beetroot cake doesn’t have much, if any, traces of beetroot taste, rather it’s a fudgey chocolate cake in taste but the beetroot gives it a lot of moistness. And now that I’ve made one myself, I concur with this description – it is incredibly moist and dense without being greasy like some fudge cakes. If I didn’t know it had beetroot in, I wouldn’t have guessed that it does, though the slight red tinge in the right light gives it away a little.
You could try and argue that this is a good way to get kids (or adults) to eat some veg, but I’m not sure whether the almost equal quantity of chocolate to beetroot really makes it that ‘healthy’ (‘everything in moderation’ is my approach to a balanced diet). I personally love beetroot simply roasted in some olive oil, though I can’t sand it pickled in vinegar (*shuddering at the thought*). Andrew has been known to eat it and refuse it, and in general we can’t complain at how much fruit and veg he eats, so I’m not about to give him this cake just because I think he needs a veg top up…. he can have a slither as a treat anyway.
Here’s the recipe. It’s not the simplest cake I’ve ever made, with quite a few stages and techniques, so make sure you give yourself enough time if you have a go yourself.
300g raw beetroot
250g dark chocolate
4 tbsp milk
150g plain flour
5 eggs, separated
225g golden caster sugar
120g icing sugar
few drops vanilla essence
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan). Grease 2 medium cake tins (I have silicone moulds so I didn’t grease).
Cut the beetroot into small chunks and boil for about 8 minutes until just tender.
Blend the beetroot with the milk in a food processor to a rough purée.
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over a pan of hot water on the hob.
Cut the margarine into small chunks, and stir into the molten chocolate until it too melts. Leave to cool slightly.
Separate the eggs.
Beat the yolks in a bowl, then stir them into the chocolate and margarine mixture.
Add the beetroot, flour and sugar to this mixture, and mix until well combined.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed.
Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, being careful not to over mix and lose all the air you whisked into the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely and remove from the tin/mould.
Meanwhile, make the icing by beating the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
Spread the icing over the top of one cake, and place the other cake on top to make a sandwich cake with icing in the middle.
Eat! You can also freeze this – it makes quite a big cake, so you might have to!
I wanted to bake something special for Tom this week. Partly because it’s Valentine’s day coming up, though we don’t usually go in much for this over-commercialised excuse for card shops and chocolate manufacturers to make a killing, and mainly because I wanted to show him that I appreciate all his help this week whilst I’ve been poorly and he’s done even more around the flat and looking after the boys than usual. When I asked him a while ago what kind of cake he likes the most when I bake, he said ‘anything chocolatey…. well, anything at all, but anything chocolatey in particular’! So chocolate was on my mind when deciding what to bake this week.
I hadn’t made brownies for a while, and I’d also bought some white chocolate recently (some of which I used on the Thomas the Tank Engine cake), so I came up with the idea of making some classic brownies with dark chocolate and some blondies with white chocolate. As I looked in the cupboard for flour, I realised that I still have some wheat-free self-raising flour that I bought a while ago when I baked some cupcakes for my mum-in-law who came to stay (she is wheat intolerant) and it really could do with being used, so that got added to the mix rather than the usual wheaty variety. I find the wheat-free stuff has quite a distinctive flavour but when you mix it with plenty of strong (particularly dark) chocolate, this is less noticeable. Another thing about wheat-free cakes is that they tend to be stodgier and less light and airy than their wheaty counterparts, but brownies are supposed to be stodgy, so they work well with wheat-free flour.
Cutting the brownies and blondies into hearts was slightly tricky and I didn’t get that many which came out in a clear heart shape because they were so soft and gooey – as they should be in my opinion – even after some chilling in the freezer. The blondies turned out even gooier than the brownies – maybe something to do with the consistency of white chocolate compared to dark chocolate, or maybe the different tins that I used to cook them in. I used some of the very gooey trimmings from the blondies to shape into hearts using the biscuit cutter as a mould. But we ate all the trimmings so none of it went to waste.
If you fancy having a go for Valentine’s day, or any other day, here’s the recipe…..
70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
100g dark chocolate
50g chopped nuts
70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
100g white chocolate
50g dried strawberries
Method – the same for both types
Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan), and prepare a cake tin – for the brownies I used I rectangular swiss roll tin lined with greaseproof paper and for the blondies I used a round silicone cake mould as I wanted to compare how both turned out.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
Mix in the sugar and flour until well combined.
Stir in the chopped nuts / dried strawberries until evenly distributed.
Melt the margarine and chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, then add it to the rest of the mixture and stir until smooth.
Pour into a cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Ideally you want them still gooey, if you like them that way at least, so don’t overdo it in the oven – there’s a very fine line between being raw and overdone for brownies.
Allow to cool to room temperature in the tin, then use a heart-shaped biscuit cutter to cut some hearts; before removing them from the tin, place in the freezer for about half an hour to firm up the brownie/blondie a little so that the hearts are easier to get out in one piece.
Eat as fresh as possible, or leave in the freezer until you want to eat them at a later date (as if…!)