Monday, 31 December 2012

RECIPE: Easy Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky toffee pudding with ice cream (I think so!)
This is an absolute classic British winter pudding, and often my choice if I'm ever out for a pub lunch (which, quite frankly, isn't that frequent an occurrence in student life). Somewhat shockingly, I'd never actually tried to make my own before a few days ago, but I am so very glad that I did.

Adapting an extremely highly-rated recipe from trusty old BBC Good Food, I had high hopes, and I was not disappointed. Very easy to make - and even easier to eat! - it went down a treat at our big family party yesterday.


I baked my cake in a large brownie tin the day before, and after it had cooled, cut it into squares and wrapped in foil. Then while we were all eating our main course, I whacked the foiled up package in the oven to warm through, and it was as if it was freshly baked. I also made the super yummy sauce in advance and just kept it in the fridge - a quick zap in the microwave is all it needs before being drizzled on top of the sponge (and preferably topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!)

This really is delightfully sticky, and the sponge would be delicious by itself, perhaps with afternoon tea. If fussy children don't like the sound of dates, they needn't fear, as you can't actually pick up either the texture or taste of them in this. They're just like little fudgey morcels of deliciousness (and who wouldn't want that?)

I kid you not, I would eat the sauce with a spoon by itself. But then again my sweet tooth is beyond ridiculous. It's also yummy over ice cream, just don't tell any weightwatchers the ingredients! Or maybe just tell them to go easy. It's a deliciously decadent pudding, no-one should deprive themselves.

I used a 25x33cm tin, making 18 squares, but they weren't very deep pieces so you could always use a smaller tin, just be careful not to over-bake it. And don't forget to take your eggs and butter out of the fridge well in advance.

Freshly baked and cut into squares

Ingredients - Sponge:

200g dried dates, stoned and chopped
250ml black tea (not too strong)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g unsalted butter, softened
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs

Sauce:

150g light muscovado sugar
150g unsalted butter
200ml double cream

Pre sauce smotherage

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line your tin or ovenproof dish. Put the dates and tea in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes to soften the dates, stirring as you go. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda - it will fizzle and turn into a bit of a mush.

2. Beat the butter and caster sugar together with electric beaters until pale and creamy, then beat in the egg, flour and mixed spice. Fold in the date mixture and pour into the tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is just firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Once out of the oven, go round the edge of the tin with a palate knife and leave to cool completely before turning out of the tin.

3. To make the sauce, put the sugar, butter and cream in a pan over a low heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cook until the sauce is a lovely toffee colour.

4. Cut the pudding into squares and serve with the warm sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmm... A comfort pudding at its best.

PS. Have a happy and healthy New Year everyone!


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Friday, 28 December 2012

Tackling a food obsession



Hi. My name's Rachel, and I seem to be a bit obsessed with food. I want to make one thing very clear from the start: I know I’m not fat. Got that? Good. I’ve ummed and ahhed for a long time about whether to post this blog or not, and it’s quite personal, so please be nice, OK? Not that many people talk about this kind of stuff.

For anyone who doesn’t know me, let me catch you up quickly: By my mid-teens, I’d got a bit chubby. By my late-teens, I’d successfully slimmed down (which you can read about here), purely by healthy eating and exercise – I never skipped a meal or cut out carbs or anything drastic like that. Then at one point, I decided I was actually a little thinner than I wanted to be (yes, really), so I let myself put on a bit of weight and all was great in the world. I was slim, and – I’m not going to lie – really happy with my figure, which gave me a real sense of confidence.

Then I went to uni. Classic error in the quest to remain slim. By the end of my fresher year, I’d put on a little weight. Obvs. ('Freshers 15' anyone?) ‘No big problem’, I thought to myself, ‘Now I’m home I can get everything back on track’. But by the end of the summer holidays I’d put on yet more weight. Oops. ‘Oh, well now I’m going back to uni, and as I’ll be cooking for myself this year, I’m sure I can curb this weight gain’. Only I didn’t. I’ve come back home for Christmas bigger still, but this time I didn’t even try to tell myself I won’t gain weight this holiday, because it’s Christmas, after all. *pauses to think whilst munching a Quality Street*

It was pretty depressing a few weeks ago when I tried to put on a dress I hadn’t worn for a few months, only to find it no longer fits. We've all been there though, haven't we? I know it’s not all about what the scales say, but I went on the Wii Fit for the first time in a few months the other day, and it told me I’ve gained 11 lbs. Not ideal. This was pre-Christmas feasting too.

The scary thing is that time and time again I’ve told myself ‘This is it. C’mon Rachel, get it under control’ and yet I haven’t. I know I’m not fat or overweight at all, but I don’t want to keep gaining weight. Not only is it unhealthy, but I worked so damn hard to slim down in the first place that I don’t want it all to have been for nothing (if for a couple of years being slim). Quite frankly, I have no bloody idea how I lost the weight at all a few years ago. Oh, to have the metabolism of a 17 year old again, eh?

Part of the problem, I think, is my thrifty mindset. Damn you, student lifestyle. I have it drilled into my brain that if food is free, I mustn’t say no. So whenever I’m offered anything, I take it. (Please, never take me to a buffet. They are fatal.) Mostly, I tend to eat pretty healthy meals, but then I’ll graze, snack and binge on chocolates and sugary treats. Curse you, sweet tooth.

Here’s another factor: because I’m not actually overweight and I used to be slim, most people are all too keen to feed me up. If I’m in a group, they will nearly always encourage me to keep eating, and shove the bag of Maltesers under my nose, even when they know we’d all feel better if we didn’t eat our 100th one. But quite frankly it really annoys me when people are like this (encouraging others to do what’s not best for them), and I think they just do it to feel better about themselves for eating/not going to the gym/procrastinating with an essay.

In most areas of my life, I’m really proactive and I take control. If there’s something I don’t like, I’ll set my mind to it and sort it out. I’ve always hated people (OK, hated is a bit of a strong word) who moan about something – often their figures – and then don’t do anything about it, even when  (as Paddy McGuinness would say) the power is in their hands. Now I’m one of those people.

There are people who will be reading this thinking ‘Why do you even care? God, it’s not a big deal! Why obsess so much about what you look like?’ But the fact of the matter is that being in good shape and healthy is important. Not only that, it’s about feeling good in yourself. It’s not for men or to try and get a boyfriend, it’s for myself. And I think every woman (and man for that matter) should have control over their bodies. Quite frankly, if I can’t be in the shape I want to be in aged 20, what hope is there for the rest of my life? Older people always say that it’s so much harder to lose weight when you’re old. Depressing.com

I’m not going to deprive myself of anything (after all, this is basically a blog about cake half the time!), but I think the trick is to eat in moderation and develop some willpower again. We’ve still got all sorts of yummy Christmas goodies in the house, Quality Street everywhere, and big family parties coming up over the festive season, so obviously I’m not going to miss out on such yumminess, I just need to be sensible. For example, maybe I should try to have three chocolates a day instead of six. Easier said than done though... *tries oh-so-hard not to reach for the Quality Street tin again*

At this time of year, a lot of us try to make these healthy resolutions. We need to show food who’s boss. It’s not like I don’t know a lot about nutrition, fitness and how to lose weight. I just need to put it into practice again. But it’s bloody hard, isn't it?

Word on the street is that willpower is like a muscle – the more you use it, the easier it becomes to resist further. From my experience, I’d say that sounds about right. I just need to start building up that muscle again, which is the hardest bit.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s good to enjoy delicious food, but it’s not right to obsess. We need to find the balance. All I really want is to have a healthy relationship with both food and my body, and I know I’m the only one who can take control, make the change and do it.

Hopefully there are other people out there who can relate to all this, as I’ve kind of laid myself bare. Tomorrow I’m going to buy my annual post-Christmas copy of Zest magazine for some healthy inspiration, probably eat some Stollen/Pfefferkuchen/chocolate flapjacks, but hopefully not too many, and try to remember what will make me happiest in the long run. LET'S TAKE CONTROL AND BE HEALTHY AND HAPPY, YEAH!?
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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

This is actually from 2011, but it's basically the same as today. I'm just a bit chubbier now.
Right now I am sitting in the living room with my whole family, including the dogs. We have a gently roaring fire on the go, Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special on the TV, and newly unwrapped presents all around. We've changed out of our nice clothes into our slobby (expandable waist) gear, and are happily stuffed with mince pies, a full Christmas roast, trifle and chocolates. And I'm loving it.

I've been thoroughly spoilt today - not only by the presents I've received, but also just by having such lovely people around me on this special day. So on this December evening, I'd like to wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope everyone has had a wonderful day surrounded by friends, family and loved one, full of lots of love, joy and peace (oh, all right, and presents and food too.)

It's so easy to take what you have for granted, but if there's one day on which to appreciate the lovely people in your life, it's today. So don't forget to do it. Seriously. Go on. Before you watch Downton, make a turkey sandwich or start shopping the sales online, take a moment and count your blessings.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.

PS. I'm totes sad about how long it is until next Christmas.
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Friday, 21 December 2012

VIDEO RECIPE: Christmas chocolate orange cupcakes

Getting my bake on for the camera
Well then. This is exciting (or potentially should be embarrassing but I'm going to go with exciting). I have done my first little show for my uni TV station, UBTV, and - quelle surprise - I am baking!

Any avid blog followers will recognise the cupcakes I'm making for you all in the video as I wrote the recipe up a few weeks ago: Christmassy chocolate orange cupcakes. But if that wasn't enough you can now watch me make them too. And laugh at my posh TV voice. And witness the awesomeness that is this year's vintage Christmas jumper. Quite frankly the jumper is probably reason enough to watch.

And let me know what you think, lovely blog readers.


Nigella, eat your heart out.
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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

50 reasons why Christmas is the best


I can't quite believe it's less than a week until Christmas. The build up to the festive period seems to have been going on for ages, and despite the commercialisation of it all, this is my favourite time of the year. I recently read something that said Christmas isn't a day, it's a state of mind. And I have been well and truly in that state of mind for a good few weeks now. Loving Christmas 2K12.

Yup, I'm the girl who wears tinsel in her hair, glittery eye-liner and jingle-bell earrings from 1st December. I'm the girl who walks down the street with a huge grin on her face because she's listening to her Christmas playlist. And I'm the girl who gets a little bit sad around about now every year because the festive period is almost over. No, really. Even though we've not even had actual Christmas Day yet.


Most people like Christmas. I love it. I know it's a hard time of year for some, and others find it very stressful - I'm not going to name this person for fear of the backlash they would receive, but a certain someone I know suggested we have Christmas once every two years, or "Christmas Lite" every other year. Just no. Don't even get me started.

But I digress. I LOVE Christmas. And here's why:


  1. Everything is sparklier
  2. Christmas TV
  3. Christmas films
  4. Mince pies are everywhere
  5. Finding the perfect present for someone
  6. Singing carols
  7. Harmonising in a carol
  8. Belting out the descant of a carol (final verse of Hark The Herald, anyone?)
  9. People offer you chocolate. All the time
  10. Beautifully wrapped presents under the tree
  11. Putting up a Christmas tree
  12. The smell of a real Christmas tree
  13. Decorating your Christmas tree with the same decorations as every year
  14. Going to Church for (probably) the only time each year
  15. Bumper Christmas editions of magazines
  16. CHRISTMAS LUNCH
  17. Leftovers from Christmas lunch
  18. Writing Christmas cards
  19. Getting actual nice post (in the form of Christmas cards)
  20. Hearing from and seeing old friends
  21. Family traditions (as weird as they may be. Yes, Hosies, I'm talking about us)
  22. Glitzy Christmas parties
  23. Sparkly Christmas dresses
  24. Seeing your boss get drunk at the work party
  25. Festive specials at Starbucks and Costa and the like
  26. Christmassy carrier bags and packaging (loving Costa's takeaway cups this year)
  27. Christmas adverts that actually bring a tear to your eye - it's not just me, right?
  28. It being acceptable to have chocolate with breakfast for 25 days
  29. It being acceptable to have chocolate and Champagne for breakfast on actual Christmas Day
  30. It being acceptable to eat as much as you want on actual Christmas Day
  31. Seeing relatives
  32. Hanging out your stocking
  33. Going to see a panto
  34. Everyone is jollier
  35. People are generally kinder
  36. Getting presents (c'mon, it's true)
  37. Christmas lights around city streets
  38. Christmas lights on houses
  39. Christmas wreaths on front doors
  40. Seeing Christmas trees in front rooms from outside
  41. Shops' window displays
  42. Stollen
  43. Christmas-themed baking
  44. Reminiscing about Christmases past
  45. Waking up to see a bulging stocking
  46. Everything smells good (I'm thinking cinnamon, ginger and spices...)
  47. Nativity shows
  48. Christmas spirit
  49. There's a magical feel in the air
  50. Christmas jumpers
Boom. Am I right or am I right? What have I missed? YAY CHRISTMAS! 
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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Viva Forever the musical: A fan's view and why the critics were wrong

pic from popbytes.com
On Tuesday this week, the long-awaited musical written by Jennifer Saunders and based around the songs of the Spice Girls, Viva Forever, opened in London's West End. Despite an all-star turn-out with appearances by all five of the original Spices (in some highly questionable outifts, but that's by the by) on opening night, Viva Forever was absolutely panned by the critics. The Daily Telegraph gave it one star, and Christopher Hart of the Sunday Times said the musical is "Three hours of tedious clichĂ©, amateur dramatics and endless yowling". Ouch.

However, I was fortunate enough to go and see the show myself last night, and feel the need to explain why the critics were wrong.

For starters, Christopher Hart (and probably the majority of the critics) is a middle-aged man - hardly the target demographic of the show, am I right? Viva Forever is a show predominantly aimed at young women who were fans of the Spice Girls way back when, and I think the critics need to bear that in mind when they write their reviews.

What's more, the stuffy theatre critics probably love their high-brow culture, so naturally weren't going to get any of the hilarious popular-culture references that had us in fits on Saturday night. The story of Viva Forever is set around a reality TV show, and we had judges making clear caricatures of Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne, another one who claimed a performer had "spunk" (Nicole Scherzinger on this year's X Factor, anyone?), and a host who was clearly the love child of Dermot O'Leary and Ant & Dec (I realise that's three people, but you get my drift), who even did Dermot's signature pointy twist to open the show. There was TOWIE speak, Twitter hashtag jokes and fit topless men. Obviously, the show was never going to be your standard theatre critic's cup of tea.

And the thing is, I highly doubt the atmosphere in the theatre on opening night was anything like it was yesterday, when it was full of Spice Girls fans. It was almost like a panto really, and the show lent itself very well to that. We were singing along, doing the dances, whooping, and even calling back to the performers. And because we were having so much fun, the actors will have undoubtedly lifted their energy and performances as a result. I think my favourite moment of the whole show was in Two Become One when two of the performers were singing "I need some love like I've never needed love before", and pretty much the whole audience sang back "Wanna make love to ya, baby". It was brilliant. I highly doubt that happened on opening night.

Sure, Viva Forever isn't the best musical I've ever seen, but by no means is it the worst. I feel like it needed some more hit songs earlier on, and the storyline isn't the strongest, but it's a lot better than the critics have made it out to be.

I highly hope that it's one of those shows which - just like with a lot of films - proves the critics wrong and does really well with the public. We don't always want to come away from a performance questioning the meaning of life and feeling depressed, sometimes we just want to leave singing the Spice Girls and with huge grins on our faces. And after seeing Viva Forever, we all did.


Viva Forever is on at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.
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Friday, 14 December 2012

Simple homemade foodie presents - studentbeans article


Yes I've been rather busy powing out articles for studentbeans.com recently, and here's my latest one:

"5 simple homemade foodie Christmas gifts"

The recipes I've selected are perfect for showing just how much you love your friends and family (or how broke you are.) The trick is to package your foodie creations up with cute bags and ribbons to turn them into a really special gift. Here's an extract for you all:


"No money? No problem. These gift recipes are perfect for the broke student. Or just the Scrooges of the world who refuse to splash out on their nearest and dearest.

All of the following recipes are much easier than most people would think, which means minimal effort on your part, but maximum impression on your friends and family.

If anyone judges your DIY approach you can always say that the reason you haven't bought presents is that you don't want to fuel a consumerist society (but we won't judge you if you're just broke).

1. CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TRUFFLES



Everyone thinks truffles are difficult to make, but these are really very simple (and utterly delicious). They're essentially Ferrero Rochers. But cheaper. A treat for your loved ones and your wallet.

Ingredients

175ml double cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g hazelnuts, chopped into pieces
Icing sugar, cocoa powder, more chopped nuts or sprinkles to decorate

Method

Put the cream in a small saucepan on the hob. When it starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir until smooth, then add the hazelnuts and vanilla. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill the mixture until it’s thickened but not solid (about 30 mins in the fridge). Scoop out teaspoons of the mixture and roll into balls using your hands. Put your chosen decoration on a plate and roll each truffle over until coated, then chill again to firm up.

2. CLASSIC VANILLA FUDGE




Fudge is another lovely present that is a lot easier to make than people think. Try adding nuts, mini marshmallows or butterscotch if you fancy something a bit more exciting.

Ingredients

300ml milk
350g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Grease an 18cm square cake tin. Put the milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Heat gently, constantly stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted. Bring to the boil and boil for 15-20 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Leave to cool for a few minutes then beat the mixture with a spoon for a couple of minutes until it starts to thicken and lose its gloss. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and leave to set at room temperature. Once set, cut the fudge into small squares and store in a sealed container.

3. CRISPY CHEESE BISCUITS



These are great for those (strange) people who don't have a sweet tooth, and also make for great party nibbles.

Ingredients

25g Rice Krispies
70g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, softened
115g grated Cheddar cheese
½ tsp paprika

Method

This recipe should make about 14 biscuits. Preheat the oven to 190C. Bash the Rice Krispies in a sealed bag with a rolling pin. Rub the butter and flour together in a bowl using your fingers until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese, Rice Krispies and paprika. Shape the mix into about 14 balls and flatten slightly on a greased baking tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden."


And of course I'd love for you all to click through to my article on studentbeans, so for the whole article and the other two recipes - apple chutney and hanging stained glass window biscuits - follow this link.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

Easy and cheap DIY Christmas decoration ideas - studentbeans article


It's nearly 1am as I write, I've just finished working on an essay about the German Democratic Republic in the 1950s and I'm rather tired, so I'm going to keep this opening spiel pretty concise.

My latest article for studentbeans.com is up, in which I reveal a load of ways to make your own Christmas decorations and jazz up your home without having to splash a load of cash - "15 cheap DIY Christmas decoration ideas." And c'mon, who wouldn't want that? Exactly. You would. In fact, you do. I can tell. There's more to a student-friendly Christmas than Primark's finest tinsel, that's for sure, so don't let a limited budget stand in the way of a festive few weeks of joy!

Here's a cheeky lil extract for my lovely blog readers:


"So, it’s Christmas time, and you’re at uni. All the beloved decorations from your childhood Christmases past are at home with the rest of your family. What’s a broke student to do?

Well, having a decorationless Christmas isn't even an option, that's for sure! Just look at all the simple ways in which you can Christmasify your house/hall without breaking the bank…

Crank up the Mariah Carey, whack out the mince pies and get all your mates involved. Aww. Students making Christmas decorations together - I think we all know what next year's John Lewis Christmas ad should be, don't we?


1. Paper chains

Minimum effort. Maximum Christmas impact. You can buy special paper chain-making kits with pre-prepared strips of paper if you’re feeling extra lazy, but why not save money by making your own: cut strips of paper (Christmas wrapping paper is perfect) about 2cm wide and as long as you like - the longer the strips, the bigger the loops will be, obviously. Curl one strip into a loop and secure with sellotape, then do the same with the next strip but loop it through the first one before sellotaping, then just keep going like this. With all your housemates involved, you’ll have enough to cover the whole house in no time.


2. Pinecones

Pinecones have a really festive feel to them. You could buy some from a shop, but why spend the money when you can find perfectly good pinecones for free in the good old outdoors (bird poo can totally be washed off, after all)? Give them a wash if needs be, and whack some in a nice bowl as a pretty table centrepiece. If you’re feeling particularly keen, dip the tips of the pinecones in gold or silver paint or glitter for an extra festive touch.


3. Christmas cards draped over ribbon

Or if you’re feeling like a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to splashing out at Christmastime, string will do the job. Use pins or blue tack to stick it to your walls, then proudly display all your Christmas cards (hang them sideways). Not only are you adding Christmas cheer, you’re also letting everyone know just how popular you are. Or not, as the case may be. It’s probably because you’re a Scrooge.


4. Paper window stencils

These are surprisingly easy yet really effective. All you have to do is draw a silhouette of a festive shape on to a piece of paper, cut it out and stick it on to your window with a little blue-tack. Particularly pretty when it’s dark, these are lovely for passers-by to look at (and any visitors will obviously be impressed.) If you’re lacking in artistic talent, find a picture online and either print it out or copy it.


5. Tree branches

The whole tradition of Christmas trees started off with the ancient Egyptians bringing palm leaves into their homes to mark the winter solstice, so if you can’t afford an actual Christmas tree, why not take a leaf (see what I did there?) out of their book and find a spare branch outside to bring in. Cover it in tinsel and no-one will know the difference."


So for ten (yes, TEN!), more fabulously innovative ideas of how to turn your home into a Christmas wonderland this December, I'd be honoured if you'd click on through to read the rest of my article here. The above ones will also make more sense with the pictures on the website as well. 

PS. If you like this type of thing, you may very well like my previous blog post in which I reveal the 20 best ways to decorate a student room.
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Friday, 7 December 2012

Easy chocolate no-bake fridge cakes - studentbeans article


Being the end of term and all (essays and deadlines galore!), I'm unfortunately not finding as much time to blog as I'd like to (boo!). However, I have managed to write another article for studentbeans.com: "12 simple chocolate fridge cakes".

All the recipes can be made without even turning the oven on. Yes, really. So, do you like the sound of chocolate peanut butter granola squares (which are also on my blog here), super chocolatey cheesecake, classic chocolate fridge cake, Mars Bar Rice Krispie cake, sweetie rocky road, Maltesers cheesecake, chocolate cornflake nests, chocolate custard biscuit layer cake, chocolate tart, rocky road cheesecake, jazzed up chocolate biscuit cake, or chocolate orange mousse cake? Phew! Anyone craving chocolate now? 

And if you like what you read (and it would seem my cake-related articles always do get the most "likes"), why not click on through and read the whole article here.

""What's that you say? I can make cakes without actually baking?" Yes my friends, yes you can.
The following recipes don't require you to go anywhere near an oven (although it's likely that you will be if both your fridge and oven are in the kitchen), so you don't have to worry about forgetting your cake while it's cooking and ending up with a sad, blackened mess. We've all been there. It's tragic.
These easy chocolatey cakes will go down a treat with everyone and are merely set in the fridge. Simples."
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Saturday, 1 December 2012

RECIPE: Chocolate orange Christmas pudding cupcakes

Chocolate orange Christmas pudding cupcakes

Oh, there's nothing like a spot of Christmas-themed baking! With festive tunes to set the mood, I had a blast concocting this recipe today.

Essentially, they're chocolate orange cupcakes, and you could leave them at that at any other time of the year. But now that it's December, why not go that little bit further? Not that many people actually like Christmas pudding (children in particular), but I think it's highly unlikely that anyone won't like these yummy chocolate orange cakes!

Everyone eats more chocolate at Christmas time, and oranges are also a traditional favourite (well, you've got to balance out all the chocolates somehow, haven't you?), and together, they make a distinctly festive flavour combo. With the orange glacé icing too, these cakes have a lovely intense flavour.

Chocolate orange Christmas pudding cupcake

What makes these cupcakes extra special is the cheeky chunks of Terry's Chocolate Orange inside - from the outside they look like plain chocolate cakes, and then you bite in and WOAH! Hello, chocolate orange. You are a pleasant surprise.

These mini Christmas puds make a lovely change to the usual cakey offerings at festive parties, and are guaranteed to go down a treat with all ages.

In order to make them look like Christmas puddings, I didn't use muffin cases, so it's crucial to grease your muffin tray reeeeaaally well. I mean really well. Of course you could use muffin cases, but they would look less like Christmas puddings (but would still be delicious!) And don't forget to take your egg and butter out of the fridge well in advance. It makes nine cupcakes.

Chocolate orange cupcakes - delicious just like this
UPDATE: You can now watch me explaining how to make these yummy cupcakes here! I'm basically Nigella. Or maybe Mary. I'll take either.

Ingredients - Cake:

50g dark chocolate
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
40g softened butter
The zest of 1 orange
1 egg
125ml milk
1/2 a Terry's Chocolate Orange

Icing and decoration:

250g (ish) icing sugar
1 tsp custard powder
1 tbsp (ish) orange juice or water
9 dried cranberries/red smarties/red sweeties
A few little green leaves (washed)


Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a muffin tray (really well!)

2. Melt the chocolate - either in the microwave on low power, stirring frequently, or in a bowl over simmering water. Leave it to cool slightly while you carry on with the recipe.

3. Measure out the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa and orange zest in a bowl and mix together with a handheld electric mixer, gradually increasing the speed until there are no lumps of butter and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

4. In a jug, whisk the milk, egg and melted chocolate together by hand. Don't worry if the chocolate doesn't completely combine and it's not perfectly smooth.

5. Stir the wet mix into the dry until just combined, then spoon it into the muffin tray until each is about 2/3 full. Break each segment of Terry's Chocolate Orange into about three bits, and lay them on top of each cake (one segment's worth for each).

pre-baking
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and go round the side of each cake with a palate knife. Leave in the tin until completely cool and then place them on a drying rack (trying to remove them early will probably result in broken cakes. Which is jolly sad.)

7. Once cool, make the icing: sift your icing sugar and custard powder (to thicken it), then add orange juice in tiny bits until the desired consistency has been reached. It should be quite thick so that it will droop down the sides a little bit, but not completely run off. Spoon a bit on to each cake, and top with a red sweetie and leaves to look like holly.

There you have it - Chocolate orange Christmas pudding cupcakes!
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