Category Archives: cupcakes

Easy Easter Nest Cupcakes

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Easter is just around the corner and to get you in the mood, I have some inspiration for some easy Easter nest cupcakes that children can easily decorate themselves.

The chocolate cake is actually Nigella Lawson’s Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake recipe. The version I used is here. The recipe makes a massive quantity of cake mix and easily makes 30 cupcakes. I adjusted the cooking temperature to 175 degrees as I have an electric fan oven and baked them for 20 minutes until a knife comes out clean. The mix is very runny and it is easier to pour it into the cake cases before baking. I let the mix stand for an hour before baking and it thickened up slightly, making it easier.

Once cooled, I made up some chocolate buttercream (250g unsalted butter, 500g icing and 100g dark chocolate melted) and decorated the cupcakes using a grass/hair nozzle to give it a twig effect. The grass nozzle is very forgiving and you are almost given permission to not be perfect for the nests as the messier the better! This nozzle is perfect for children to learn basic piping techniques as they can hardly go wrong. This method of decorating does not use as much buttercream as you think and I ended up with some leftover for use another day. I finished the decoration off with my favourite Easter chocolate, Mini Eggs. I am impressed with myself that all the Mini Eggs made it onto the cakes! Where I found the willpower from not to eat them all, I do not know!

What are you baking this Easter? I would love to find out :-)

PS: I am taking these to Blue Door Bakery’s Cake Club tonight. I am looking forward to talking about cake, cake and even more cake!

spring carnival

Festive Baking

It is the season for excess especially in terms of eating lots of sweet things and this year for me as been no exception. I have made two Christmas Cakes. One for myself and my family and one for some friends. I made my first Christmas Cake last year but did not blog about it as I used Delia’s kit from Waitrose. This year I have made and decorated both cakes completely all by myself.  I used Delia’s recipe which is here and used the techniques I learnt at the cake course I went to at the start of the year to cover the cake. The decorations for both cakes and some of the icing/marzipan was kindly supplied by Dr Oetker.

This Christmas, I have also been busy making cupcakes. I made some vanilla and mince pie cupcakes for a family gathering we had this week. To make the mince pie cupcakes, I added some mincemeat and extra spices to the usual cupcake mix and added some brandy into the buttercream. The idea was inspired by my friend and Cupcake Queen of the Cotswold’s, Louise of Cirencester Cupcakes. My family loved them and I will be making them again soon.

That’s it for my Christmas baking. Please let me know in the comments what you have been making and add links if you have done a post about it. I am always looking to try something new for next Christmas.

I will be back soon with my New Year resolutions post, a cookbook review of the year and a new monthly blogging challenge for everyone. Hope you have a great party tonight, whatever you are doing.

Happy New Year! :-)

Cupcakes by Chrissie Competition Winner

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a children’s cupcake decorating workshop that I went to with Cupcakes by Chrissie. I had a fantastic time. Over the last two weeks, I have been running a competition to win a workshop with Chrissie and learn how to decorate fabulous cupcakes yourself.

In total, there were 16 entrants to the competition:  Cupcakes by Chrissie Competition Entrants who gave the correct answer to the following question:

What is the number of the Wilton piping nozzle used to make the grass on my cupcakes?

A) 244

B) 211

C) 233

The answer is C – 233. Well done to everyone who got the answer correct. The winner was selected by Random.org and I am pleased to announce that it is Natalie Cullip. Well done to Natalie. I will be in touch soon with what you need to do next. Thanks to everyone for taking part.

Happy Cooking! (or Baking!) :-)

Cupcakes by Chrissie Review and a Competition!

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited to review and take part in a Children’s cupcake decoration class run by Chrissie of Cupcakes by Chrissie in her Birmingham home. Chrissie started baking cakes for her son and his friends in 2005 and the business grew from there. After a trip to New York, where she was introduced to the American cupcake, Chrissie decided to use her home economist background to teach students how to make pretty, sophisticated and elegant cupcakes for all occasions.

I arrived at 9.30am to be greeted warmly by Chrissie and taken into her lovely home. All the classes are run from her beautiful kitchen and I was soon joined by five other ladies, all of whom had taken classes with Chrissie before. Our first task, after we had drunk our cup of coffee, was to learn how to make the perfect ball out of sugar paste. This would be the base for all our models as the day went on and it was a technique we all needed to master. It took me a little while but I got there in the end! We started making a racing car as our first model, where we took our balls of sugar paste and make them into flat sausage shapes to form the basis of the car. We used the end of a piping nozzle to make the wheels and another ball of sugar paste, with a flattened bottom to make the helmet.

After finishing the racing car, we moved onto a cow, a pig and a rabbit. All of which we made in a similar way. You started off with a ball of sugar paste for the body and another for the head. The heads were all shaped slightly differently depending on the animal involved. We made ears using leaf cutters or freehand with a craft knife. The arms and the legs were all sort of flat sausage shapes with pads made for their paws and feet. Everything was stuck together using edible glue and detailing was done either by using a small paintbrush or tiny bits of black sugar paste.

We spent approximately 30 minutes on each model. To give us a break, we used a mould to make a tatty teddy, which is made by pushing grey sugar paste into the mould and leaving it to set in the freezer for a couple of minutes. We then used  silver lustre dust and black sugar paste to bring out the detail. To finish, we could either make a brown teddy in the same method as the other animals or we could make a caterpillar. I decided to make the caterpillar as it was just different sized balls of sugar paste. To finish, we used a grass piping nozzle to pipe grass on 3 or 4 of our cupcakes and used buttercream/ sugar paste circles to top the rest.

We left after 5 hours of cake decorating fun, leaving Chrissie with a messy kitchen, clutching our goodie bags containing cupcake cases and full instructions to make cupcakes ourselves at home. We all had a fantastic time and I cannot wait to make cupcakes like these again soon. Thank you to Chrissie for her excellent tuition and patience.  It was great fun! :-)

Many thanks to Beth from Jam and Cream PR for arranging it for me to attend the class :-)

About the classes:

Cupcake classes cost £50 per person and include all equipment and 12 cupcakes to take away.

Classes are held in Castle Vale, Birmingham 9:45am – 1:30pm.

For a full list of upcoming classes please see here for details.

You can find Cupcakes by Chrissie on:

Twitter:  @CakesbyChrissie

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cupcakes-by-Chrissie/252159928841

Contact Details:

By email: info@cupcakesbychrissie.com

By phone: 07701025647

Its Competition Time!

If you would like a chance to win a cupcake class of your choice from Chrissie, all you need to do is answer the question correctly below:

What is the number of the Wilton piping nozzle used to make the grass on my cupcakes?

A) 244

B) 211

C) 233

Please email your answer to joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk by 12 noon BST on Monday 1st August 2011 and leave a comment in the comments form below (with a Twitter username, if you have one) telling me you done so. All the correct answers will go into a draw and the winner will be selected using Random.org. The winner will be informed via email and/or Twitter as soon as possible after the competition has closed.

This competition has now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered

Terms and Conditions

  1. The winner will select a class of their choice to attend from the list here.
  2. Competition is open to UK Residents only.
  3. The winner must be able to make their own way to Birmingham (just off J6, M6 near Star City and Fort Shopping Centre) for the class.
  4. The same competition is also running on the Midlands Food Bloggers blog but there will be only be 1 winner picked from all entries from both blogs. 
  5. The judges decision is final.
  6. Any questions, please email joskitchen@hotmail.co.uk

A Postcard from Harrods: The Food Hall

Stuart and I recently had a weekend in London. There will be more to follow from this trip soon but for now, please enjoy some pictures that I took in the fabulous Harrod’s Food Hall. (I would live there if I could!) :-)

Cookbooks Crazy!

I am a great lover of cookbooks as I am sure many of you know. I have so many that we are considering moving house so that we have room for the baby when it arrives. I was recently sent a bumper collection of books from New Holland Publishers to review.

The first book they sent me is ‘The Food Lovers Guide to Europe’  by Cara Frost-Sharratt. This is an informative travel guide to the best places to eat, the best farmers markets and the best foodie treats that Europe has to offer. I thought this was quite useful, especially if you are touring around Europe, however in some areas, the book is limited to only the major cities or towns so if you go outside of that area, there are no recommendations. On the other hand, if they did include everything, it would be a very large book! This is perfect size for travelling and is easy to read on the plane or coach heading to your destination.

The second book they sent me is ‘Special Cupcakes‘ by Wendy Sweetser. I love cupcakes and cake decorating so this seemed perfect for me. This book has cupcakes in it for most occasions, including Baby Shower Lemon Cupcakes that I made to tell my work colleagues about my impending arrival.

One issue with this book is that it is American so some of the quantities may seem quite large to what we are used to. Some of the flavour combinations are a bit strange too. Caribbean mango and palm sugar cupcakes anyone? However the book is very good for inspiration and you never know some of the more stranger combinations may taste good!

The third book they sent me is ‘One More Slice’ by Leila Lindholm. This is a follow up to her first book, ‘A Piece of Cake’ and featured recipes for pizzas, bread, pasta, pancakes, waffles and desserts. I have made the basic pizza dough recipe out of this book three times and each time, it has been perfect. I love this book and I cannot wait to get my hands on the first one. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. I highly recommend this book.

Jo’s Kitchen readers can get 25% discount off ‘The Food Lovers Guide to Europe’, ‘Special Cupcakes’ and ‘One More Slice’ from New Holland Publishers. Enter the discount code Jos to get 25% discount plus free P&P when ordering the books through the New Holland Publishers website. (Offer valid until 30th September 2011 to UK residents. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with other offers!)

Many thanks to Iain from New Holland Publishers for sending me the books to review and giving the exclusive offer for Jo’s Kitchen readers. :-)

Happy Cooking! :-)

Cookbook Review: Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass and a Dr Oetker Giveaway

As most of you know by now, I love baking and decorating cakes and I am always on the look out to learn new techniques and get inspiration from everywhere. Therefore, I was very happy when I asked if I would like to review Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass: The Ultimate Guide to Cake Decorating Perfection.

 Mitch Turner is the owner of The Little Venice Cake Company which she set up in 1999 after leaving Harvey Nichols where she worked as a Patisserie Buyer. She has made cakes for Gordon Ramsay, Pierce Brosnan, Cheryl Cole, David Beckham and Her Majesty The Queen. Cake Masterclass is her fourth book, following on from her three previous international best-sellers including Spectacular Cakes and Fantastic Party Cakes.

My first impression of the book was how pretty and detailed the cover was. Its beautiful. The book is divided into six sections, Essential Equipment, Cake Baking, Fillings and Frostings, Careful Covering and Stacking, Masterclass and a Cake Gallery. The most useful sections for the amateur cake baker are the equipment section, covering and stacking and the masterclass section, where Mitch reveals some of her decorating secrets such as how to do run outs, make flowers and hand piping. The cake gallery is useful for inspiration, however I think most of the ideas are slightly beyond the average amateur cake decorator despite Mitch’s detailed instructions.

To test out the recipes in the book, I decided to make Cinnamon and White Chocolate Cupcakes. I am not usually one for making flavoured cupcakes, I prefer simple vanilla however these sounded quite good so I gave them a go.  The making of the cupcakes was easy. The recipe was spot on. However, I had some concerns with the white chocolate buttercream. Normally I use 250g of unsalted butter to 50og of icing sugar to ice 12 cupcakes. This recipe called for 175g of unsalted butter to 300g icing sugar, with 100g of white chocolate melted to ice 24 cupcakes.  As it was quite late on a work night when I was making these, I decided to palette knife the icing onto the cakes, as piping was a bit beyond me at this point. It turned out that there was enough icing in the end, however I think if I had used my normal Wilton 1M nozzle, there would not have been enough icing for the cakes.  I took the cakes to work and everyone loved them. The cinnamon was not overpowering and the white chocolate icing complimented it fantastically.  I decorated the cupcakes with decorations I have recently received from Dr Oetker: Wafer Daisies and Polka Dots.

Overall, I was very impressed with Mitch Turner’s Cake Masterclass. I think it is useful addition to any cake bakers bookshelf as it has the perfect mix of techniques and inspiration.

Many Thanks to Melissa from Jacqui Small for sending me the book to review. It is much appreciated.

Dr Oetker Giveaway!

Dr Oetker have given  me lots of goodies that I can giveaway to one lucky Jo’s Kitchen reader. You can win a Bunny Cookie Kit, a Cupcake Kit, an Egg Decorating Kit, Chocolate Writing icing, Chocolate Chips and Fun Baking Cases. Everything you need to get busy in the kitchen with the kids this Easter holiday. To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post by 8pm on Tuesday 19th April. The winner will then be chosen using Random.org and the items will then be posted out to you, hopefully in time for Easter weekend. The giveaway is open to UK residents only as although Dr Oetker supplied the goodies, I am paying the postage to get the items to you. Any questions, please contact me at joskitchen@hotmaiil.co.uk.

Until next time,

Happy Cooking (or Baking!) :-)


Severn Hospice Tweet Up

Last Saturday, I was very fortunate to be involved in the Severn Hospice (@severnhospice) Tweet Up. (#shtweetup) The event was organised in honour of the memory of Val Higgins (@valdary), a well known and well loved Shropshire tweeter who passed away in December 2010 after a long illness. She was looked after regularly by the Severn Hospice and she wrote a blog for them about her experiences. As the Severn Hospice did so much for Val and Val, in turn gave so much to the Twitter community, it only seemed right to give her a proper Twitter send off and raise lots of money for Severn Hospice in the process.

The event was organised by Jude (@jabberingjude) and Amanda (@eventsbabe) with help from Mike (@daddyperry) and many other people. Lots of people donated stuff for the raffle and everyone brought something for the buffet. Marie (@Maries_Cakes) and I (@Jos_Kitchen/@Jo6789) both made giant cupcakes and 12 small cupcakes each. The lovely Eleanor (@violetbakes) made a wonderful unicorn cake dedicated to Val as they were her favourite creatures. Sarah (TheSaz85) and Teresa (@thedinnerlady) made wonderful treats as well including red velvet cupcakes, brownies, sausages rolls and Eccles cakes. There were many more people who baked for the event, and unfortunately I cannot list them list all here. You all did a fantastic job. The food was all amazing. :-)

Alan (@AlanLeGrand1) read Jabberwocky which Val had read to us at the Severn Hospice Tweet Up last year and Sarah (@Sazchik) read a section from Val’s blog called ‘Who are my friends?’.  After this, it was time for raffle prizes to be drawn. Everyone went home a prize or two. Soon it was time for it to come to an end. It was a fantastic day, meeting new people, eating lots of lovely food and just having a great time. I would like to thank everyone involved. You all did a tremendous job. I am sure Val would have been proud. I am honoured to have taken part in the event and cannot wait for next year’s Severn Hospice Tweet Up! :-)

New Year Resolutions 2011

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good time whatever you were doing. About this time last year, I spoke to you about my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Well, I thought I would do the same again this year but before we look ahead to 2011’s New Year resolutions, I thought we could back at last years and see whether or not, I achieved them.

Last years New Year’s Resolutions were:

  1. Try and post on the blog more often (at least once a week) > This was generally achieved most of the time but not all. Will be worked on again in 2011
  2. To get more people doing guest posts and guest post on other people’s blogs > I got lots of people doing guest posts on my blog, including Linda, Charlene, Louise, Helen, Gary and Nora but I only did one guest post myself on Nora’s blog. Will be worked on again in 2011
  3. To be more adventurous in my baking and make more bread > I joined the Fresh From The Oven challenge and was quite active for a few months in 2010, so this was partly achieved. However, I think I can do better and will work on it in 2011
  4. To arrange meeting(s) with Midlands Food bloggers on UKFBA. < There were two meetings of the Midlands Food Bloggers in 2010 and I am hoping in 2011, there will be more, especially if I get help from fellow bloggers to organise them
  5. Meet other foodie bloggers from the UK and hopefully, beyond < I met many UK food bloggers in 2010 including Kavey, MeemaleeBron, Pippa, Helen and Edd. I hope in 2011 to meet more especially some from outside of the UK
  6. Go to my first Michelin starred restaurant < I achieved this when I went to Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor
  7. Make cupcakes < I achieved this by going to two cupcake making/decorating classes at Kiss Me Cupcakes and Cirencester Cupcakes. I now make cupcakes on a regular basis
  8. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own < I did not really achieve this. I brought even more cookbooks! I must stop buying and start using the ones I have already got
  9. Expand my cooking repertoire < I achieved this objective as I made paella for the first time and a variety of breads including Kringel and Croissants
  10. Get better at food photography < This was not achieved and will be worked on in 2011

Overall, I did fairly well on my 2010 resaolutions but think I could do better on some of them. So here are my New Year’s resolutions for this year:

  1. Post on my blog at least once a week
  2. Get fellow bloggers to get post on my blog and do some guest posts for people in return
  3. To create a regular series of events for the Midlands Food Bloggers (with help of fellow Midlands based bloggers)
  4. To set up a blog for the Midlands Food Bloggers with a list of members, people/companies who support us and get people to regularly contribute
  5. Make more use of the lots of cookbooks that I already own
  6. Expand my cooking repertoire – I now know how to make pasta so want to start making it regularly and cook more seafood dishes
  7. Get better at food photography – my Dad is making me a food stage with a white background so that I have something to put my dishes on to take a photo of them. Stuart and I have just purchased a second-hand Canon EOS 400D Digital SLR Camera, so with practice I am hoping that the images on the blog will improve.
  8. Meet Sarah and her goats at Brockhall Farm
  9. Go to The Wild Garlic Restaurant in Dorset
  10. Take part in more blogging challenges especially Fresh From The Oven and Forever Nigella

These are my foodie New Year’s Resolutions for 2011, what are yours? Can you help me with any of mine?

Happy Cooking! :-)

Review Of The Year 2010

2010 was my first full year of blogging so its seems right that I should look back and reflect on what an amazing year it has been.

In January, I did my first Fresh From The Oven Challenge, making Chocolate Buns. This formed part of my New Year’s resolution’s to be more adventurous in baking and make more bread. I also made cottage pie and did my first ever guest post on Nora’s blog.

In February, I made Valentine’s Cupcakes (that looked like boobies!) for English Mum’s Best Valentine Cupcake competition.  I reviewed my first cookbook, Skye Gyngell’s My Favourite Ingredients and Nora did a guest post on the blog.

Image by Wendy from Peters Yard

In March, I celebrated completing my first year of blogging. The first meeting of the Midlands Food Bloggers was held at Loaf’s HQ in Birmingham, where we cooked pizza’s and tasted Peters Yard’s Crispbreads and Brock Hall Farm’s Goats Cheese for the first time. I went to my first Cupcake workshop at Kiss Me Cupcakes and I hosted my first Fresh From The Oven challenge, Kringel

.

In April, I entered and won the Easter Cake Bake and made cupcakes for the Mad Hatter’s Shropshire Tweet Up. Helen did a guest post on the blog and I made croissants for the first and last time!

May started by making the ultimate spring time brunch and a crumble. Pizza Napoletana was the Fresh From The Oven challenge.

In June, Jo’s Kitchen was invited by Miele to do the Masterchef Invention Test at the BBC Summer Good Food Show. Marie and I took on a Giant Cupcake Challenge and I went on an archaeological dig and left my blog in the care of Gary, Linda, Louise and Charlene.

In July, I made my favourite childhood dinner of Fish Fingers, Mashed Potatoes, Peas and Parsley Sauce. I entered my second English Mum’s Big Bake Off and held a competition to win a Masterchef Apron.

In August, I made a sweet version of Fish Fingers, Mash and Ketchup with Mat Follas’s help and went on a foodie trip to Ludlow visiting the Ludlow Food Centre and Ludlow itself. Brioche was this month’s Fresh From The Oven Challenge.

September was a busy month so I only made some cupcakes and garlic and basil focaccia.

In October, I made some spooky Halloween cakes for English Mum’s Autumn Bake Off, went to my first 24 Carrots Farmers Market and attended the second Midlands Food Bloggers Meet Up.

In November, I made Coca-Cola Marinated Steak, with Wedges and Cool Beans, and I went to Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden, London. I also reviewed the Findus Fresher Taste range of ready meals.

In December, I was invited back to the BBC Good Food Show Winter by Miele. I took part in two cookalongs and met lots of fantastic producers. I went to the new Jamie’s Italian in the Bullring, Birmingham. I learnt how to make pasta for the first time at Loaf and shared my Christmas wishlist with you. Finally, for a late seasonal treat, I shared my Mincemeat Flapjacks recipe.

Overall, 2010 was an amazing year. I met so many fantastic people, ate lovely meals, made lots of new recipes and I was lucky enough to review some great products. I cannot wait to see what 2011 will bring. Thank you to all my readers for being along with me for the ride. I hope you will stay with me for 2011. I hope you all have a great night tonight, whatever you are doing. I will see you early in 2011 with my New Year’s resolutions.

Happy New Year! :-)

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