Red Velvet Cupcakes

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I remember a time when I used to despise making cupcakes. It was the only thing that I would actually refuse to bake. I’m being serious guys; you’re looking at a girl who will take up any opportunity to bake, but ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that my exact words were “cupcakes aren’t even a baked good, they’re stupid little dry bricks with no flavour”… boy, was I wrong. If you make a cupcake right, you could find yourself eating the entire batch.

Which is exactly what almost happened with these cupcakes. Red Velvet Cupcakes are probably the most popular cupcake flavour out there, so you’re probably thinking: what makes yours so special?! 

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Alright, I’ll tell you. I used beetroot in mine. Right, before you completely freak out and run away from my recipe, hear me out. Traditionally, Red Velvet Cupcakes were always made with beetroot as the deep, unforgiving purple colour taints the batter to a beautiful deep maroon. Do no panic, there will be a hint of earthiness in your cupcakes but you won’t be like eating a cakey salad… ew.

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In addition to the glorious colour, the taste and texture of the cake is divine. I’ve had bad experiences with cupcakes, and I’ve always hated them due to their dryness. The beets make the cupcakes so moist and soft, so reconsider your judgement!

Here’s my recipe (yields about 15-18 cupcakes):

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 50g good quality cocoa power (I use Cadbury’s Bournville)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps red food colouring
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 medium beetroots (with their stems cut off)
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil

For the cream cheese frosting =

  • 300g full fat cream cheese
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Start off by preheating your oven to gas mark 5/180/375 and lining your baking tray with your cupcake cases.

Drizzle your oil over the two beetroots and coat each one well. Wrap them up in tin foil, sealing them tightly in. Pop them into the oven and roast them for an hour (or until they are tender when pierced with a sharp knife). Take the beetroots out of the oven and leave them to cool completely. Once cooled, cut off their root and peal away all of the skin (don’t worry, it’s easily done). Finely grate the two beetroots and place into a small bowl then remove a 1/2 cup (about 85g) of the beetroot from it.

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Doesn’t that look attractive??

Beat your butter with a spatula until soft and smooth (but not runny), then cream together your butter with the two sugars until the two are light and fluffy.

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Crack in your eggs one by one, beating in between each addition. With your second egg, add two tablespoons of your weighed out flour to prevent the mixture from splitting.

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Then throw in that beetroot and fold it in!

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Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bi-carb then add half of the dry ingredients to the batter along with half of the measured out milk. Fold everything together until just combined, then add in the other half of the flour and milk. Fold everything until combined then add in your red food colouring; fold that in too.

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Divide the mixture between your cupcake cases using an ice-cream scoop (ensuring even distribution).

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Pop them into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of each cupcake comes out clean. Take the cupcakes out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

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In the meantime, make the frosting. Cream together the cream cheese, the butter and the vanilla extract until soft. Add your icing sugar in three additions, beating the three ingredients together until combined in between each addition. When all the icing sugar has been incorporated, put the frosting into the fridge for an hour to set before frosting the cupcakes. When the frosting has firmed up, transfer it into a piping bag fitted with a normal tunnel nozzle and swirl your frosting onto the top of the cupcake. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use an offset spatula and do your own swirly, creative patterns.

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There ya go kids! A strange secret ingredient, I’ll admit, but I can promise you this: it works! 

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Lemon Meringue Pie

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So, my exam’s start next week (the first is on Friday) and this weekend has been a tough one. I’m stressed out (as are other people in my life) and so I took comfort in pie because I couldn’t find it anywhere else [insert violin solo audio].

I know what you’re thinking: Fabienne, it’s pie time you showed us how to make Lemon Meringue. I can’t believe I just made that joke. Forgive me.

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This pie has forever been my arch nemesis. For some reason, I have always found it ridiculously hard to make and I’ve gotten so frustrated in the process countless times. My presentation with this pie is not perfection, I’ll admit, but damn does it taste good. The pastry is sweet and flaky, the curd is smooth and tart and the meringue is fluffy and delicate… Let me just go grab another slice, I’ll be right back…

*pie eating intermission*

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But seriously now. Back to business. This pie is seriously good. Fair enough, it’s a bit of a long process to make, but it’s so worth it at the end and you’ll be thanking me profusely for sharing this beautiful recipe (you’re welcome fellow citizens). Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll absolutely love it.

For the pastry:

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 125g butter, chilled and cubed
  • 35g icing sugar (what?!)
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp milk

For the filling:

  • 4 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 450ml water
  • The zest of 2 lemons and the juice of 3
  • 260g caster sugar
  • 5 eggs

Let us begin. Grease a 10 inch pie tin with butter. Throw 2 tablespoons of flour (not the flour you’ve just weighed out) into the grease tin and shimmy it about to coat the whole thing in a thin layer of flour.

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In a large bowl combine your flour and butter. Rub the two together in-between your finger tips. When you’ve achieved a fine bread-crumb like consistency add in your icing sugar and the zest. Using a fork combine all of the ingredients together. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the milk. Add the two to the dry bread-crummy mixture. With a rounded edged knife, cut through the pastry mixture combining the two gently.

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Check me out with my 4 frame pictures! When you see the mixture begin to come together, switch to your hands and gently kneed with your hands just until all is combined into a beautiful ball of doughy goodness. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF and pop a baking tray in there to heat up. When you blind bake the pastry, the hot tray will prevent the pie from having a soggy bottom.

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Once the dough has been chilled, turn it out onto a floured sheet of grease proof paper. Do your best to roll it out into a circle about 5 mm in depth. The pastry will be very short due to it’s sugar content; if the dough cracks and you find it tough to roll out, butter your fingers and massage the cracks until they join again.

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Place the pastry into your prepared pie dish and peel off the grease proof. Pinch in the sides of the pastry into the pie dish fitting the pattern of your dish. Roll your rolling pin over the top of the dish to get rid of the excess pastry. Prick the surface of the pastry all over to allow the steam to escape. Place your grease proof paper back into the pastry case and fill with ceramic beads ready for a blind bake (yes, I used ceramic tiles. I ran out of beads. Don’t judge, it worked!) Pop it into the oven for 20 minutes. When it’s done, take it out of the oven, remove the grease proof and allow to cool whilst you make the curd. Decrease the oven temperature to gas mark 3/160°C/325ºF.

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To make the filling, combine the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of your water. In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice, the water and the cornstarch paste. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Allow to cool. Separate all of your eggs and in a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks together with 7 tablespoons of the weighed out sugar. Combine the egg yolk and the lemon/cornstarch mixture together and beat until lusciously smooth. Pass the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any cornstarch lumps and the zest in the curd.

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Beat your eggs whites in a clean, metallic bowl until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar until you’re left with a ribbon like meringue mixture. Pour in your curd into the blind-baked pastry case and then top with the meringue. Swirl your meringue fancily until you obtain your desired swirly appearance.

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Bake for 45 minutes until the top of the meringue is a toasted brown colour. Allow to cool at room temperature for 2 hours before chilling it in the fridge for a further 2 hours. Pop it out of you tin et voila!!

I know what you’re thinking “Fabienne, the process is far too long!” but c’mon… wasn’t worth it?

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Orange Scented Carrot Cake

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I’ve been suffering from a severe case of bloggers-block recently. It’s been a while since my last post, and that’s not because I haven’t been baking, it’s just because I haven’t made anything worth blogging about. For weeks I’ve been pestering my friends and family, asking them what I should bake next with no prevail.

Then suddenly, on a cool spring night as I was lying awake in bed tossing and turning over my troubles, it hit me: something simple, something homely, something that succeeds at being light yet rich simultaneously… carrot cake.  

I’m exaggerating, of course. My sister actually gave me the idea because I was practically crying on my kitchen floor, rocking back and forth in the midst of all of my recipe books while stroking my whisk.

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Although I do love a good old fashioned carrot cake, I felt like jazzing mine up a little, and so, this particular carrot cake is “orange scented”. I added orange zest to both the batter and the creme cheese frosting in order to cut the sweetest of the cake with a tang and give it that extra “wow” factor. It tastes ah-maze-zing (“amazing” – for those of you who need a translation).

Here’s my recipe:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg (finely grated)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 200g grated carrots
  • 75g chopped pecans
  • 1/2 large orange (only the zest)
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 25g caster sugar

And for the frosting:

  • 200g full-fat cream cheese
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1/2 large orange (only the zest)

Start by preheating your oven to 190ºC/375 ºF/gas mark 5. Grease and line a 10 inch spring-form cake tin and set aside for later usage.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, carrots, cinnamon and nutmeg, salt, baking powder and bicarb, the pecans and the zest of your orange. Mix all of these ingredients together until you can see that everything is nicely coated in flour (this is done so that when you bake the cake, the filling doesn’t sink to the bottom of the pan but is rather distributed evenly, and beautifully throughout the entire cake).

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Crack open all of your eggs into a separate bowl and whisk together until smooth and frothy. Add the oil an the two sugars and beat together until well combined.

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Add all of your dry ingredients to your wet and fold together until combined. Don’t over work the batter, beating in the flour like a maniac will develop the gluten in the flour and give your cake a tougher, bread like consistency (you don’t knead that).

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Transfer the batter into your prepared cake tin and pop it into your oven for 45-50 minutes. It took me 55 minutes to bake my cake because my oven is a old fart  because my oven is antique, so just make sure that when you check on it by inserting a skewer or toothpick into the centre of the cake it comes out clean; if it does, you’re good to go. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking it out and allowing it to cool on a wire rack for a further 40 minutes.

In the meantime, you can make your frosting! Combine the cream cheese, butter and orange zest in a large bowl and cream together with a spatula to achieve a smooth consistency. Sift in your icing sugar and fold together gently; when the majority of the sugar is combined, switch to a whisk and beat until gorgeously smooth. Put your frosting into the fridge to firm it up before icing the cake.

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When the cake is completely cool, take the frosting out of the fridge and ice the cake generously, but delicately with your tangy, creamy frosting. To decorate, take a few chopped up pecans and scatter over the top.

TA-DAH! A beautiful, sweet, rich but light carrot cake with a orange-y kick!

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