Star Wars Chocolate Cup Cakes

Star WarsA few weeks ago I was asked to bake some cup cakes for a wedding I was going to…. the theme, just for the cupcakes, was sci-fi – it was a nice little wink to a small obsession that the bride has.  I love how weddings are an expression of who you are, not just a celebration of your life with someone you love.

I went for good old chocolate cupcakes; and they seemed to go down a treat!

Chocolate Cupcakes

To make the cupcakes:

  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 20g Cocoa Powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g Stork  (or unsalted butter)
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

 Into a Kenwood Chef mixer bowl, place the ingredients in this order: sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, eggs, stork, salt. Mix for 1 minute.

  1. Slowly add the milk, and mix for another 30 seconds.
  2. Add the vanilla essence, and mix for another 20 seconds. Remembering to scrape down the sides of the bowl every time you stop, to make sure everything is well incorporated.
  3. Place paper-cups into your cup cake tray, and distribute the mixture evenly into the paper-cups.  I use an ice-cream scoop, which seems to give a perfect amount.
  4. Bake at 170C Fan oven, or 190C non-fan for 20 minutes.  Although, after 12 minutes, turn the tray around.
  5. Place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 500g Icing Sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 2tbsp whole milk
  1. In a large bowl (it is easier in a kenwood chef, although you can do this by hand with a lot of muscle power) cream together the butter and vanilla.
  2. Blend in the sugar, and cocoa a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy.
  4. Keep icing covered with cling film until ready to decorate.

To decorate:

For the Star Wars Wordings: I piped on Chocolate Buttercream, and carved out “STAR WARS”, from plain white fondant icing.  Leave the letters to dry, then carefully place them onto the Buttercream.

For the Star Wars Characters:  I first flat-topped the cakes with chocolate buttercream (an explanation of how to do this can be found here).  Then I rolled out some plain white fondant icing, and using a pastry cutter, about the same size as the cupcake, I cut out circles, and placed them over the top of the buttercream.  This ensures a smooth finish, and makes it neat and ready to add your character.  Each character was each created differently and with a bit of artistic licence and imagination:

  • Princess Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker: Using pastry cutters cut a small circle out of flesh coloured fondant icing.  For the hair, again I used fondant icing pressed on.  First leave this to dry, then draw a face using a black edible ink pen, and red colouring and a cocktail stick for the lips.
  • R2-D2, Darth Vadar and Storm Troopers:  I am afraid these were mainly carved free hand on the relevant colour of fondant icing.  Any colours that appear on them were either done by a black edible ink pen or colouring drawn on using a cocktail stick.
  • Yoda, Boba Fett, and Jabba the Hutt: these were carved out of the different coloured fondants, and quite a bit of artistic licence…
  • C-3PO: Make small balls of white fondant icing, slightly flatten the ball, then pinch one side of it, to get a rough skull like head shape.  Create the eyes and the mouth using a cocktail stick.  Leave to dry fully.  Then mix a little of high% alcohol (I used 40% vodka), with edible gold dust, and paint this on to get the gold face, and again leave to dry.  While it is drying the alcohol evaporates.
  • Chewbacca: First cut a small disk of black icing.  I used chocolate fondant icing for the brown, and rolled long thin strips, which I then placed, and pressed onto the small black disk, into roughly the shape and figure of Chewbacca.  I then added small black dots of fondant icing for the eyes.

Buttle’s Great Bake Challenge: Chocolate Mud Cake

Chocolate Mud Cake

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of taking part in the Brussels Buttles Great Bake Challenge, courtesy of the great organisation of whyaminotskinny.

It was a wonderful afternoon, with 8 ladies putting forward their chocolate delights, and even more people turning up to do the ‘judging’.  It was a hard afternoon, tasting 8 chocolate cakes, but, it was worth it for such a good cause.  Buttle is a charity which supports young people through education, training, and into work.  If you want to find out more about this charity, and some of their initiatives, you can check them out here.

And the results?  I came second, with my Chocolate Mud Cake, below is the recipe.  I got some wonderful comments though:

“Technically perfect”

“Emma’s cake epitomises the theme of CHOCOLATE,  more than any of the other entrants.  Clearly it was a labour of love too.”

“I loved the strong chocolate flavour.  You fed my eyes, not just my taste.  Also, teh consistency was perfect:  melted in my mouth but did not crumble when cut.”

“Moist, chocolatey, moreish, yum.”

If you are in Brussels on Sunday 22nd September and you want to take part in the next event (the theme is Scones and Jam), then don’t hesitate to let us know.

Chocolate Mud Cake

Makes 2 x 7inch (3 inch deep) tins

For the Mud Cake:

  • 440ml oil (one that has no flavour, like Soya Oil)
  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 320ml full fat milk
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 800g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 200ml buttermilk

Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

In a saucepan place the oil, chocolate and milk, and place over a low heat.  Melt the chocolate, stirring continuously.  Once the chocolate has melted and everything is well combined allow to cool.

In a Kenwood Chef Mixer bowl, Sift all the dry ingredients.  Add all the wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk and chocolate mixture),and mix until it is all combined.

Chocolate Mud Cake and prepared tinPour the mixture into two 8inch prepared tins. Tap the tin hard a couple of times on the work surface to take out the air.  Bake on the middle shelf for approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes to 2 hours.

Remove from the oven, and place on a wire rack, and leave to cool.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

  • 300ml Cream
  • 800g Dark Couverture Chocolate (I used Callebaut).

Heat the cream until boiling.  Pour over the chocolate and cover for 1 minute.  Stir until well combined.

To Decorate:

  • It is really important that the cakes are totally cold before you cut them, otherwise the chocolate ganache will not set, and you will have a lot more crumbs, which will make it more difficult to get a professional finish.
  • Cut the tops off each cake, until they are even.  Then cut each cake in half.
  • Place a little ganache on the bottom of the plate you want to use, and place the first layer on top.  This will help to fix the cake to the plate.  Cover the top of the first layer with a little ganache and add the second layer.  Repeat, for the second and the third layer, ensuring that the last layer you put on the cake, has a bottom side of one of the cakes facing up at the top.  This will ensure that you have a flat top.
  • Layer the cake with chocolate ganachUsing a palette knife, cover the sides of the cake, trying to make it as smooth as possible.
  • Once all of your cake is covered, and smooth, place int he fridge for a little while, to allow it to set.
  • Place a little of the ganache into a piping bag, or make your own piping bag using greaseproof paper.  Ensure you have a small hole, and pipe a design around the side.  I did this freehand, copying a design from a napkin.

TIP: start to collect designs that you like, from napkins, wrapping paper, lace.  This will give you lots of ideas for designs that you can pipe.

  • Chocolate RoseTo make the chocolate flower, I used chocolate icing sugar, and created the flower, using the techniques found in a previous blog post here.

prepare the petals for the roseServe and Enjoy!

Chocolate Mud Cake with Chocolate Rose

Blackcurrant and Ginger Jam

Blackcurrant and Ginger JamI got a phone call from a friend the other day saying ‘Emma – what are you doing tomorrow night?….. I am at a friend’s and he has a Blackcurrant bush which is full of Blackcurrants ready to be used… do you fancy making Jam?’

I LOVE those types of calls!  YES!  And here are the results:

Blackcurrant and Ginger Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 1.8 kg of Blackcurrants
  • 1.7 litres of water
  • 2.7 kg of sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 small balls of stem ginger in syrup, chopped into small pieces.
  • a small knob of butter

Method:

  • Place the Blackcurrants in a large sink full of water.  Pull the stalks off the blackcurrants, and place the blackcurrants into a large Preserving Pan.
  • Cover the Blackcurrants with the water, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for about 40 minutes, uncovered, until the fruit is soft, and the  water reduced.
  • Blackcurrant JamWhile the jam is simmering, prepare your jam jars.  Ensure they are all washed, and rinsed, and once rinsed put them into the oven at 150oC.  This will ensure the jam jars are sterilised, and will also help when putting the jam into the jar, as it will mean you are putting hot jam into a hot jar.
  • Add the sugar, and stir frequently, until all the sugar has disolved.
  • Add the ginger, lemon zest and juice.  Bring to a hard boil, and boil for about 10 minutes.
  • Lemon and GingerSkim the jam to remove any scum that appears on the top.
  • Test the jam to see if it will set.  To do this, keep a saucer in a freezer, and once cold, put a small tablespoon of jam on it, and place in the fridge for 5 minutes.  While testing, put the heat down to low on the jam.  The jam should set to a jam like consistency. If it has not, re-boil the jam for another 10 minutes and re-test.
  • Add the butter, stir until dissolved, and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Ladle the jam into the prepared jam jars, and ensure they are tightly covered.

Batman Cake

Iwo's Batman Cake I recently have not written many posts in my blog.  That is not because I haven’t been thinking about it, nor because I haven’t got a lot of recipes (in fact I have a whole folder of them ready – albeit not many with photos), but its mainly because life has just been a bit manic.  True to form, the other weekend, I had a packed weekend including going to a festival and other such delights, and two day’s before the festival (with an already tight agenda) my friend asked me to bake her a cake for a friend’s son.  Not wanting to disappoint, I said yes!!  I ended up baking the cake at midnight, going to bed at 2am, getting back up at 7.30am, finishing the cake for 11am, and going straight to the festival.  The things you do for the love of what you enjoy doing!  However, for a ‘quick’ cake, I think its not bad!

The boy’s name was Iwo, and he was 6 years old. The photos show a very happy boy with his face lit up with such delight  – the boy’s smile made it all worth it!

To make Iwo’s Batman Cake:

Use my basic vanilla sponge cake that I use for cupcakes, and double the recipe.  For each tin I baked (I cooked 3 x 9inch cakes), they took about 30minutes in the oven at 180C.    Let them cool completely (overnight) on a wire rack.  Make some butter icing, place a small dollop onto the middle of your cake board, and center the first layer onto the board.  Heat up 2 large tablespoons of raspberry or strawberry jam, with a touch of water.  Layer the first cake with the jam.  Then cover with a thin layer of butter icing.  Position the second layer of cake, and repeat with the jam and butter icing.

IMG_8463When you add your third and final layer, cover the whole cake with butter icing. Make sure you use a palate knife, and keep the palate knife in hot water, to help you smooth out the butter icing.  Make sure it is as smooth as possible, with no lumps,and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.

IMG_8466For the decoration, I used three colours.  I used a bought packet of black icing (1kg), because it is quite hard to make decent black icing.  I then coloured two pieces of white fondant icing about 400g each, one with Americolor Electric Yellow with a touch of Americolor Electric Orange, and the other with Americolor Super Black, to create the grey.  To colour icing, you essentially have to warm the icing up first, by kneading.  Then flatten it out a little with the ball of your hand.  Place a small dollop of the icing gel into the middle of the fondant icing, fold the edges over, and knead and pull the icing apart, eventually, you will get an even ball of colour.  In terms of how much colouring to use – will depend on you, so it is a bit of trial and error.  If it becomes too dark, you can always add more white fondant icing, to lighten it.

Once you have created your colours, keep them in plastic bags wrapped up at all times, because they dry out very easily.

Dust your table and rolling pin with Cornflour (this is silkier and better than Icing Sugar), and roll out the black icing.  Measure the cake length ways across the top and down both sides to find out what size you need to roll out the icing to.  Once you have rolled it out to the correct length, brush the cake with warm water, this will help the fondant icing to stick.  Cover the cake with the black icing, and carefully fold it down the sides.  Knead the remaining black icing into a ball and keep to one side wrapped up.

Then roll out the grey icing, and cut into strips of all different heights and widths.  I used a ruler and sharp knife to do this.  Very lightly score the back of the grey icing using a knife, do the same for the area of the cake that you want to stick the grey block to, rub the scored icing with water, and stick the scored areas together (i.e the back of the grey block onto the black icing).

Roll out the yellow icing, cut an oval shape and stick to the top of the cake, in the same way I explained for the grey blocks.  Cut small squares, and stick them on randomly onto the grey blocks, to look as if the lights from the buildings are on.  I free-hand carved Iwo’s name – if you wanted someone’s name on it, you could also do that, or use letter stamps.

For the batman sign, find an image of it on the computer and print it.  Cut the symbol out, position it onto the rolled out black icing, and trace around it using a sharp knife.  Stick it to the center of the yellow oval, using the same technique as the grey blocks.

Iwo's Batman Cake 2

Sunshine and Fruit Salad

Fruit SaladIt is a beautiful blue sky, sun shining, kind of day, in Brussels today.  It is a Saturday, and unusually I have absolutely nothing planned until this evening. The weather has been so bad this year, that I thought I would take this rare opportunity to soak up the sun, while catching up with some Blog writing.  I have set myself up on my small terrace, I am  listening to some brilliant live African music play in a festival in the square outside my flat, drinking iced cool mint tea, and eating fruit salad.  Eating a lovely fresh fruit salad, always gives me that feeling of being on holiday.

So why don’t you join me?  Set yourself up outside, enjoy some of the sun, and eat a fruit salad – better still, invite the friends round, and share it with them!

Ingredients:

  • A selection of fruit
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Mint
  • lime

Make the Syrup: In a small saucepan, make a basic syrup.  This is essentially half and half sugar and water.  Depending on how much fruit you have, will depend on the amount you need.  I was only making a small amount, so I used about 50g sugar, and 50ml of water.   Add the grated zest of half a lime, and the juice of half the lime.  Add a handful of finely chopped mint.  Bring to the boil.  Leave to cool.

Prepare the fruit:  Buy a selection of fruit.  I used Melon, Raspberries, Blueberries, and Nectarines, but you could use anything that is ripe and takes your fancy.   Chop the Melon and Nectarines in small chunks.   Place in a bowl.  When the syrup has cooled, pour over the fruit, and leave to marinate further.

Enjoy!

In search for The Perfect Brownie

The Perfect BrownieFor some time now, I have been trying to perfect The Perfect Brownie.  To start my quest I did three things:  1) I asked friends to send me their recipes, 2) I searched my cook books, and 3) I did what any modern day person would do… I surfed the net.

What became apparent, was that for such a quick and simple recipe, Brownies could yield so many different results.  Even more perplexing than that, was defining the word ‘Perfect’ especially when everyone had their own idea of what made The Perfect Brownie.

After many recipes, and many tastings, I have decided that I like my Brownie slightly gooey, with a thin crackly crust on the top.

Here is the winning recipe:

Brownies:

  • 2 eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 240g dark chocolate (64% minimum)
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeded
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 60g plain flower
  • 100g dark chocolate (71% minimum), chopped finely
  1. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale.
  2.  Melt the 240g chocolate with the butter, then add the vanilla and fold into the egg into the egg mixture.
  3. Sift together the cocoa powder, baking powder, and flour, and fold them into the mixutre as well.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate and transfer the whole mixture to a lined 12 x 36 x 4 cm baking tray and place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes. The brownie should be just cooked, but still soft in the middle. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

So now that you have the basic recipe – the fun can begin!  Brownies are great for adding flavours to:

Raspberries, Baileys, Espresso, Orange Zest, Butterscotch Chips, Kahlua, Cream Cheese Icing, White chocolate, Macademia nuts, Walnuts, Black Cherries, Coconut, Beetroot, Hazelnuts, Smarties, M&Ms, Raisins, Peanut Butter, Cacao Nibs, Pecans, After 8s, Salted Caramel, Chilli, Lavender Drops, Sugared black olives, Oreo Cookies, Pistachios, Rose Water, Matcha, Blueberries, Caramel, Coca-Cola, Sweet Potatoe, Amaretto, Cardammon, Pistachio… the list goes on….

How do you like your Brownies?  And what is your favourite flavouring?

Brownies

Grilled Steak with Beurre Maître d’Hôtel, Onion Rings, Tomato Fondue, and Chips

Diary of a wannabe Chef: Day 8 of my Chef Diploma at Ceria School in Brussels

When a steak is done well, you just can’t beat it.  This recipe is simple, and yet, if you get it wrong, it can go very wrong, but when you get this right, it is one of the best meals you can have!

Ingredients: for 4 people:

  • 4 large potatoes (Maris Piper, or similar potatoe that is good for making chips with)
  • Oil
  • 4 Steaks – get the best that you can afford – you really can taste the difference when simply grilling it.
  • 2 onions
  • 100g flour
  • 50ml milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • 25-50ml wine
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • bouquet garni
  • 100g butter
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • a large handful of parsley

To prepare the chips:

The best chips are always cooked twice.  You can do the first cook a couple of hours in advance, and then finish them just before you are about to serve.

  1. Peel the potatoes, and rinse them in water.  Cut them into strips, for making chips.
  2. Heat a deep fat fryer (or a large pan of oil), until it is 160C.
  3. Add the chips, and cook them until you can easily squash the chip between your thumb and forefinger.

TOP TIP: depending on the size of your fryer, and the number of people you are cooking for, you may need to do this in batches.  If you have too many chips in the fryer at any one time, they could all stick together, and end up as one gooey mess.

TOP TIP: move the chips around in the pan.  This also ensures that the chips do not stick together.

  1. Once cooked, leave the chips to one side in a colander.  Place the colander onto a plate, in order to get any of the grease that may come out.
  2. When you are ready to serve, heat the oil up to 180C, and place the chips into the pan, until they are a nice golden colour.  Again, you may need to do this in batches.
  3. Scoop the chips out, and place them into a large bowl with kitchen towel.  Immediately add some salt, and shake the chips to ensure they get a good covering of the salt, and that you take some of the excess fat off.

To prepare the Tomato Fondue:

  1. Using a small sharp knife, lightly score the top and bottom of tomatoes with a cross.  Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and cover with boiling water.  Leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for about a minute or so, until the skins start to peel over.  Remove the tomatoes from the water, and remove their skins.  Chop the tomato into quarters, and remove the seeds.  Roughly chop the tomatoes.
  2. Finely chop the shallots.  In a large pan, sauté the onions in a little olive oil, until they are nice and soft, but not coloured.
  3. Add the tomatoes, a splash of white wine, salt, pepper, garlic, and Bouquet Garni.  Cover with a lid and sauté for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Take off the lid, and allow it to lightly boil off the liquid until you get a nice thick fondue.

To prepare the Beurre Maître d’Hôtel:

  1. Ensure the butter you are using, is at room temperature.  Roughly chop the butter, and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the juice of 1 lemon, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and a handful of finely chopped parsley.
  3. Mix until everything is well mixed.  Check the seasoning.
  4. Place the mixture onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper, and roll until it is a sausage shape.
  5. Keep covered, and place into the fridge until hard.
  6. Using a warm, sharp knife, cut the butter into large slices.
  7. You can do this in advance, by keeping them in some cold water, in the fridge.

To prepare the crispy onion rings:

  1. Peel the onions, and cut them into rounds about 0.5cm in breadth.
  2. Prepare a dish with some milk, and another dish with some flour that has been generously seasoned with salt and pepper. Prepare a large dish with some kitchen towel in it.
  3. Heat up a large pan of oil (deep fat fryer), up to 180C.  Quickly dip the onions, a small batch at a time, into the milk, then into the flour, and directly into the hot oil.  Once the onions are a nice golden colour, remove and place them onto the kitchen towel.

To prepare the Steak

  1. Heat a large grill pan until smoking hot.
  2. Lightly rub the Steaks with oil.
  3. Place on the grill pan, being careful how you place them, in order to get the grill cross pattern on them.

TOP TIP: Do not press the meat down onto the grill, as this releases some of its juices, and thus some of its flavour.

4. Depending on how you like your steak, will depend how long you cook them for.  Here is a rough guide:

  • Rare:  cook them only on the grill a couple of minutes on each side until you have a nice colour.
  • Medium: cook them on the grill until you have a nice colour, and then place them in an oven at 180C, for about 8 minutes.
  • Well Cooked: cook them on the grill until you have a nice colour, and then place them in an oven at 180C, for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how ‘well cooked’ you like your steak)

To Serve:

On a warm plate, add a handful of chips to the top left of the plate.  On the top right of the plate, add a small handful of cress, with the Maitre D’Hotel butter on top. In the centre at the bottom of the plate (the area closest to the person being served), place the steak. On top of the steak, add a tablespoon of Tomatoe Fondu, and some of the crispy onion rings.