Gluten-Free S’mores Cupcakes

fullsizeoutput_3b4aThese sweet and sticky cupcakes bring me back to the summer, when I made my first real s’mores with friends on camp. We had a bonfire night in the forest, the stars above us as we danced around the flames in the gathering dark. It may be approaching winter now, but with this new recipe, you’ll be able to savour your sweet summer memories all year round. Unfortunately, we don’t have graham crackers in the UK, so I’ve substituted the classic ingredient with digestive biscuits (much to my American friends’ disgust).

Ingredients (makes 22 cupcakes)

For the cake batter:

300g butter

300g caster sugar

300g gluten-free self-raising flour

5 eggs

2tsp vanilla essence

To decorate:

250g butter

425g icing sugar

75g cocoa powder

100g dark chocolate chips

1 pack mini marshmallows

4 gluten free digestive biscuits

edible glitter (optional)

fullsizeoutput_3b4bMethod

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays with cupcake cases
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl
  3. Add the eggs, flour and vanilla essence and mix well
  4. Put one and a half ice cream scoopfuls of batter into each cupcake case and put in the oven for 18-20 minutes
  5. To make the chocolate frosting, cream the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder together until smooth and fluffy (add 2tbsp water to loosen if necessary)
  6. Once the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting in a double layered ring on each cupcake using a star tipped piping nozzle
  7. Melt the dark chocolate chips in the microwave at 20 second intervals, mixing in between, until smooth
  8. Pipe the melted chocolate (using a small piping bag or ziplock bag) on top of the frosting ring, gently guiding it down the sides so that it drips
  9. Top the cupcakes with mini marshmallows and crushed biscuits (and edible glitter, of course)
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Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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Ingredients (makes 17 cupcakes)

For the cupcakes 

  • 225g plain flour
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp spice mix
  • 1tsp ginger
  • 50g honey
  • 115g golden syrup
  • 50ml cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 80ml orange juice

To decorate

  • 250g Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel icing sugar
  • 50g regular icing sugar
  • 150g butter
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 1 pack Renshaw dark brown, chocolate flavoured fondant
  • gold edible dust
  • edible glitter

Special equipment needed

  • Fondant decorating stencils
  • Paintbrush
  • Scone cutter
  • Star piping nozzle
  • Palette knife

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Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC and line a baking tray with cupcake cases
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, caster sugar and spices
  3. Add the honey, golden syrup, cooking oil and eggs
  4. In a small bowl, stir the bicarbonate of soda into the orange juice (it will fizz), then add this to the main batter and beat well
  5. Fill the cupcake cases with 2 ice cream scoops of batter and put in the oven for 20 minutes (until they look golden brown and feel springy on top)
  6. Let the cupcakes cool on a rack while you prepare the frosting
  7. For the frosting, cream the butter until fluffy and gradually sift in the icing sugars
  8. Add 2tbsp milk to make the frosting light and smooth, and cream the ingredients with an electric mixer for several minutes for the best results
  9. Pipe the frosting in a ring on top of each cupcake, dragging the piping nozzle inwards to complete the circle
  10. On a clean and dry surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the fondant to the thickness of a £1 coin and use a scone cutter to cut out 1 disc for each cupcake
  11. Line up your discs and cover them with a stencil, pressing it firmly into place on the fondant
  12. Paint the gold edible dust onto the discs, being careful not to move the stencil out of position
  13. Carefully lift the stencil off the discs and use a palette knife to place one on the centre of each cupcake
  14. Sprinkle some edible glitter on top of the cupcakes for an extra sparkle!

Captain Of The Night

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Love the Words competition:

  • Download the opening paragraphs of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” (click here), print them out and cut up the words
  • Re-arrange the words to create your own poem in either English or Welsh
  • Take a photo and share your poem on Twitter, using the hashtags #DylanDay and #LovetheWords
  • The competition is open to anyone aged 7-25 from anywhere in the world, and it closes on 5th May 2017 (for more information, see The Poetry Library website)

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes

img_0286Delicate and delectable, these cupcakes have an exquisite balance of sweet vanilla, fragrant raspberries, and a white chocolate surprise that will melt in the mouth. These cupcakes are easy to make… but even easier to finish eating… 

 

Ingredients:

For the batter…

200g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

200g butter

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 box of frozen raspberries

100g white chocolate chips

To decorate…

500g icing sugar

250g butter

1tsp vanilla essence

2 drops raspberry extract (optional)

1 handful freeze-dried raspberries

Method:fullsizeoutput_301c

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  • Cream the butter and caster sugar together
  • Mix the eggs and vanilla essence together before adding to the sugar and butter
  • Sift the flour into the batter and combine well
  • Add a couple of raspberries to the bottom of each cupcake case
  • Spoon in the cupcake batter until the cupcake cases are 2/3 full
  • Add a generous sprinkle of white chocolate chips on top of the batter before putting in the oven for 20 minutes (take out when they’re a light golden brown colour)
  • To prepare the frosting, cream the icing sugar and butter together with vanilla essence (you can also add a couple of drops of raspberry essence but this is optional)
  • When the cupcakes have cooled, pipe the frosting in a swirl and finish with a sprinkle of freeze-dried raspberries (and edible glitter!)

Marble Monogram Cookies

In need of some sugar and spice? Treat yo’self to these aromatic gingerbread-esque cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, and are great as homemade, personalised gifts this winter. Will you save these as late-night snacks with a cup of tea, or gift them to a friend with pumpkin spice withdrawal symptoms?

Ingredients (makes about 20 discs):IMG_0353.JPG

  • 175g plain flour (plus extra to roll)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 85g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup or honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 2 colours of fondant
  • icing sugar to roll
  • gold piping gel
  • glitter to decorate

Method:IMG_0352.JPG

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C 
  • Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and sugar) in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the wet ingredients (golden syrup or honey, vanilla essence and egg) to the mixture and combine well
  • Soften the butter in the microwave and use your finger tips to rub the butter into the mixture as best as you can – you’re aiming for a squishy crumb-like consistency
  • Use your hands to gather the crumbs in the mixing bowl and pack together to form a dough
  • Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin
  • Use a round cutter to cut out discs of the dough and place on a lined baking tray
  • Bake for 10 minutes and check, but they’ll likely need an extra 2 minutes (they should be golden brown in colour and shouldn’t be rock hard – they’ll harden as they cool)
  • Warm up the fondant in your hands to soften it – use 2 shades of the same colour
  • Roll the two colours into sausage shapes and twist them together before rolling them out (on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar) to create a marble effect
  • Use the same cutter to cut out discs of the marble fondant
  • Make a simple icing to glue the fondant discs to the cookie discs (add a drop of water to some icing sugar) when the cookies have cooled
  • Use gold piping gel to monogram your cookies – if you have a fine nib you can probably do 2 initials on each cookie, but I could only fit 1 letter on each
  • Dust your monogram cookies with glitter (obviously)

Circus Meringues

These soft, gooey meringue drops are a fun way to add colour to your dessert! Piped in a gorgeous rainbow swirl and topped with Funfetti sprinkles (and a generous dusting of glitter, of course), these meringues are sure to brighten your day. 

IMG_0277.JPGIngredients: 

  • 4 egg whites
  • 160g caster sugar
  • vanilla essence
  • food colouring
  • Funfetti sprinkles
  • Edible glitter

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 100°C
  • Ensure all of your equipment/utensils are free from grease/oil
  • Measure the weight of the egg whites
  • Whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until you get stiff peaks (you’ll know it’s ready when you turn the bowl upside down and the mixture stays put)
  • Measure out double the weight of the egg whites in caster sugar (approx. 40g per egg white, so I’ve suggested 160g of caster sugar)
  • Keep the electric mixer on and add the caster sugar spoonful by spoonful (it’s a slow process but it works)
  • Keep mixing until all of the sugar is combined and you have stiff, glossy peaks (turn the bowl upside down again to check)
  • In a piping bag, drip/paint your chosen food colourings down the insides, all the way round (I used red, green, yellow and blue, and they merge as you pipe to form a rainbow), then cut the end off and insert a round piping nozzle
  • Put your meringue mixture into the piping bag and pipe a blob in each corner of a baking tray to glue down your grease-proof baking paper
  • Pipe the meringue onto the baking paper (leaving room around each one for them to expand in the oven) by squeezing down and lifting up quickly to get a delicate point on your meringue drops
  • Add Funfetti sprinkles before baking
  • Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes (you’ll know they’re ready when you can pick the meringue drops off the baking paper without the bottoms collapsing)
  • Dust with edible glitter for the finishing touch!
Recipe adapted from ‘Cupcake Jemma’ on YouTube

My Final Flag Raising {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #19}

My Final Flag Raising {Sar-El 🇮🇱 Day #19} | Thursday 28th July 2016 |

It felt so special to complete my 3 weeks of volunteering by raising the flag on the last day. I self-consciously walked over to the rostrum and stood opposite a soldier, waiting for the commander to lead the ceremony. There are 2 commanders who usually call out the standing positions – one guy who half-heartedly calls out a few and then it’s over before you know it, and a girl who thinks she’s the bee’s knees and shouts at us for about 5 minutes before our aching arms can rest. Today we had the moody girl, so the ceremony lasted a while – typical! I let the other soldier lower the flag so that I could have the honour of raising it.

We spent the morning packing, cleaning our dorms, cleaning the common room, returning our uniforms (I was quite reluctant to let mine go…), and I finally went to the “shekem” (tuck shop) to stuff my hand luggage with Doritos and Sappé (the delicious aloe vera drink). The commander of the base came to thank us for our work, and I couldn’t believe that 3 weeks had passed since he first welcomed us here!

We went to the warehouse for a final goodbye, and the lovely workers threw us a leaving party. One of the soldiers made us a huge banner that read: “Dear Volunteers, thanks for everything like warehouse Hhizzit”. We felt bad because they’d obviously gone to a lot of trouble, but we had no idea what the banner actually meant… Oh, and there was an abundance of Bamba, so I had to stay well away! We took loads of group photos (I thought we weren’t allowed to take photos in the work place…) and thanked our favourite managers. Some of them made speeches to thank us for our work. They said they were genuinely surprised that young people actually wanted to work here and didn’t complain about the tasks. They want us to return as volunteers some time in the future, and I might consider it (despite the fact that it would be a completely different experience with a new group). They sounded sincere when they thanked us, and it really meant a lot to me because you can never be sure whether you’re making a difference or whether anything matters in the grand scheme of things. (I also got to speak a bit more to Soulja Boy, and everyone was teasing us as we got a photo together and said our goodbyes.)

We all got on the coach and made our final journey out of the base towards Tel Aviv. We departed at the usual meeting point, and it was really sad to leave the friends we had volunteered, messed around, drank chocolate milk and complained with for the past 3 weeks. A group of us ventured on to Tel Aviv, and my Canadian friend and I checked into a trendy boutique hotel where we’d spend our last night. Before we grabbed a much-needed Aroma iced drink and met up with the Australian boy, Canadian boy and the girl from Calgary, I received a surprise message from Soulja Boy! For the rest of the afternoon, as a group, we were all crowding round the phone trying to reply to his messages. As much as I wanted to meet up, I much preferred spending my last afternoon and evening with my Sar-El friends – he’ll just remain a cute inside joke from my time in the warehouse.

The group of us went to a beach closer to the main stretch of hotels, and the sea there had far bigger waves to ride. We wanted to borrow a surf board from a randomer we named Raoul, and for some unknown reason I screamed “Raaaouuulllll!!!” at the top of my lungs whilst we floated about with the Australian boy’s Go-Pro and got swallowed by the waves numerous times. When I started to get a bit of motion sickness, I managed to find a solitary spot of shade on the sand: the shadow from a swimming rules sign. For dinner, we went to Neve Tzedek. There was such a buzzing atmosphere and I loved wandering around the cute artists’ market, food stalls and shops. We found the one Kosher restaurant there and tried some traditional home made food. It was hilarious when the Australian boy (who was trying SO HARD to be Kosher) asked if he could have chocolate milk with his schnitzel!!!

After our meal, we soaked up the awesome ambience and headed to the military hostel to visit our madricha whilst she was on guard duty. We finally got to see her with a gun! It was so nice to spend time with her off-base. When 2 hours had passed after the meal, we walked to Yafo in search of some ice cream (I had a chocolate soufflé with cookies and cream ice cream); Yafo has a completely different feel to Tel Aviv, for example: it’s so… Middle Eastern! We then returned to the military hostel and stayed there until the curfew (midnight) when we got kicked out. It was a long but fun evening, and I especially enjoyed the hour’s walk back from Yafo to Tel Aviv. I couldn’t believe how busy the parks were by the sea, how peaceful it was to stroll along the promenade, and how alive I felt in that moment.

The girl from Calgary didn’t manage to catch a train to her couch-surfing hosts, so she stayed with us in the hotel, and I had a good rest before arriving early at the airport the next morning. In the arrivals hall, I watched the Genesis trip highlights video before checking in, and I cried a little. I just felt a whole range of emotions all at once; I was so happy about the amazing experiences that I’d had in Israel, but I was devastated to have to go home! I stocked up on snacks before my flight – Doritos, obviously – and actually had a really pleasant flight. The plane was quite plush and the food was great (we were served ice lollies – I didn’t know that was a thing). But enough about the food… arriving in London was, by far, the most miserable moment of the summer. Why does England have to be so… GREY?! I guess I’ll have to start looking into booking another trip to Israel some time soon, because I’m already having severe withdrawal symptoms…