buyagift: Christmas Carol Hamper

   I'm starting to feel a little festive. Tell a lie, I started to feel a little festive in September when my brother bought me a new Christmas jumper. And yes, I have worn it already. It's never too early. Unless you're scrooge.

   The lovely James from buyagift sent me this amazing box full of treats from their Christmas hamper range. Not only am I now thoroughly in the mood for festivities, I've started planning some Christmas gifts. Who wouldn't love to receive something like this. Perfect for those friends and family members who live a little further afield.

   This box includes a good mix of luxury treats like mince pies, fudge, Guylian chocolates and a Christmas pudding. One of my favourite items in this is the Ahmad Breakfast tea, which is my favourite breakfast time blend.

Find their full range of festive fancies here.

*buyagift kindly sent me this hamper, but all views are my own.

Spiced Pumpkin Mini Cakes

Spiced pumpkin mini cakes
(From Martha Stewart, makes 24)
     2 cups plain flour
     1tsp bicarbonate of soda
     1tsp baking powder
     1tsp salt
     1tsp ground cinnamon
     1tsp ground ginger
     1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
     1/4tsp ground allspice
     1 cup packed soft brown sugar
     1 cup caster sugar
     1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
     4 large eggs, lightly beaten
     1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease trays and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, caster sugar, butter and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  • Divide batter evenly among the trays, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, or a cake tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
I had some chocolate custard left over from my Brooklyn Blackout cupcakes, which goes perfectly with the spicy pumpkin cake. Recipe here. Then topped with some blitzed cake crumbs and a pecan half.

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

   As it's Chocolate Week I made some super chocolatey Brooklyn Blackout cupcakes. These cupcakes were made popular by Ebinger's Bakery in Brooklyn, New York. A rich chocolate cake filled with rich chocolate custard and frosted with the same rich custard and covered in cake crumbs. 

   These cakes were named after the blackout drills in New York in World War II performed by the Civilian Defence Corps. All lights in the city were turned off and windows were covered with black material to practice so that ships sailing off to battle could not be spotted by enemy planes.
Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes
(Adapted from Hummingbird Bakery, makes 12 cupcakes)
     100g unsalted butter, softened
     260g caster sugar
     2 eggs
     45g cocoa powder
     1/4 tsp vanilla extract
     3/4 tsp baking powder
     3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
     a pinch of salt
     170g plain flour
     160ml whole milk

For the chocolate custard:
     500g caster sugar
     1tbsp golden syrup
     125g cocoa powder
     200g corn flour
     85g unsalted butter
     1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • Heat the oven to 170 degrees and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • Slowly beat in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt until well mixed.
  • Add half the flour, then all the milk, and finish with the remaining flour.
  • Mix well until everything is well combined.
  • Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack.
  • For the chocolate custard, put the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder and 600ml of water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, whisking occasionally.
  • Mix the cornflour with 120ml of water, then whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan. Bring back to the boil, whisking constantly. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.
  • Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill until very firm.
  • When the cupcakes are cold and custard cooled, use a pairing knife to cut out a cone shape from each. Put all 12 into a food processor and blitz to make fine crumbs.
  • Fill each cupcake with a piping bag (I didn't use a nozzle for this) and then finish with a swirl on top. 
  • Sprinkle the cake crumbs over each cupcake to decorate.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sometimes you just need to bake a cake. A really indulgent one!

Salted caramel chocolate fudge cake
(Adapted from Great British Chefs)
     125g caster sugar
     100g soft brown sugar
     4 large eggs
     1tsp vanilla extract
     240ml vegetable oil
     200g self raising flour
     75g cocoa powder
     1tsp baking powder
     1tsp bicarbonate of soda
     a pinch of sea salt
     2tbsp plain, natural yoghurt

For the salted caramel buttercream filling:
     250g unsalted butter, softened
     500g icing sugar
     3tbsp Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel
     a pinch of sea salt

For the chocolate fudge topping:
     200g dark chocolate
     125ml double cream
     2tbsp Bonne Maman Confiture de Caramel
     chopped fudge pieces to decorate

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter three sandwich cake tins and line the bottom of each with baking paper.
  • Using a mixer or electric whisk, beat the caster sugar, soft brown sugar, eggs and vanilla together for about four minutes until creamy. Slowly add the vegetable oil and mix again well.
  • Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and stir together well with a metal spoon or spatula. Add a pinch of salt and stir in the plain yoghurt, mix well.
  • Divide the mixture equally between the prepared baking tins and bake for 30 minutes. Once a skewer comes out clean, take the sponges out of the oven and leave to cool in the tins.
  • To make the filling, beat the butter until soft and a little fluffy. Carefully add the icing sugar a little at a time and keep mixing until the whole amount is added in. Add the caramel sauce and a punch of sea salt and mix well.
  • Once the sponges are completely cool, sandwich them together with equal amounts of buttercream.
  • To make the chocolate fudge topping, melt the chocolate and stir in the cream and caramel once slightly cooled. Leave to cool entirely, before spreading the fudge topping over the entire cake. (I found it easier to do a crumb coating, although the second layer was a lot cooler and a lot less spreadable). Decorate with chopped fudge pieces.

Mini Caramel Coffee Cakes

   I thought I'd share a quick recipe of one of my midnight bakes this week. These mini cakes were a little experiment with a jar of caramel that's been sitting patiently in the cupboard. Of course they were waiting for a little java buzz and some chocolate caramel buttercream.

Mini caramel coffee cakes
(Makes 6 mini cakes)
     85g unsalted butter, softened
     55g soft dark brown sugar
     1tbsp golden syrup
     1 large egg, lightly beaten
     100g self raising flour
     1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
     2tbsp espresso coffee

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a bun tray with 6 cases.
  • Beat together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy. 
  • Gradually beat in the egg.
  • Sift in the flour and nutmeg and, with a spatula, gently fold in with the 2tbsp espresso coffee.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes. Until golden and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool before topping.
For the topping,
     150g unsalted butter, softened
     1tsp vanilla extract
     280g icing sugar
     2tbsp caramel sauce
     115g milk chocolate, melted
  • Place the butter and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat until the butter becomes pale.
  • Gradually sift in the icing sugar, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the melted chocolate and caramel and continue to beat until well combined, light and fluffy.
  • Pipe swirls onto the cooled cakes (I used a Wilton favourite!)
Find me on Instagram, @S_LovesFood.