University of Birmingham graduate with a passion for food & cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle

Twitter: @EatRainbowLove
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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cupcake inspiration and frosting recipes

I LOVE baking cupcakes and decorating them. I am going to invest in some new piping bags and nozels so I can pipe my butter-cream properly though, because it never turns out as good as I want! This post will provide you with some inspiration through my pictures (above), and some ideas and top tips of what to decorate your cupcakes with.

1. Firstly, use some cute cupcakes cases - I have so many different designs (not many actually shown in the pictures above, sorry) that I love to use. Plain white always looks good and simple as well though (see first 2 pictures). You can also use cupcake moulds for a more interesting shape, for example I have heart and star moulds, which is perfect for occasions such as valentines day or birthdays.

2. Colour schemes - one of the best things about cupcakes aside from the taste is that they look good. I like to decorate half a batch with plain vanilla butter-cream, and the other half with chocolate butter-cream, it makes them look really luxurious; well, I think so anyway haha...

3. What icing shall I use?
I nearly always use butter-cream (butter, icing sugar, milk, flavourings) because it is fairly simple and tastes divine! I will post my butter-cream recipe at the bottom of this post.

4. What other types of icing are there?
- I also quite like just melted chocolate drizzled on to the cupcake which then solidifies; this makes a nice change in texture as it will be crunchy, but the chocolate can crack so be careful.
- GlacĂ© icing is also simple (icing sugar and water) and usually has a nice sheen to it. I used this in the last picture - the christmas pudding cupcake.
- Cream cheese frosting - this is, hence the name, a much creamier frosting.
- Chocolate fudge icing - mmmm, the dark chocolate and egg makes this frosting really rich and glossy!
(I will put recipes for each of these at the bottom)

5. What can I add to icing to make it more interesting?
Food colourings, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, flavourings like vanilla, strawberry, peppermint or lemon, coffee, orange or lemon zest, chopped nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, jam etc.

6. How do I put the frosting on the cupcake?
- Use a piping bag and nozel. Experiment with the different nozels and decide which you like best. Most commonly is just piping in swirls (see the first 2 pictures) but you can also make flower patterns (see the 3rd picture) - this is perfect for mother's day!
- Spread it on using a palette knife (see the vanilla butter-cream in picture 4). This is a better technique for runnier icing like chocolate fudge icing.
- Glace icing and melted chocolate can simply just be drizzled on with a spoon - it should spread the surface of the cupcake on its own.

7. What can I top the frosting with?
- Grated chocolate (see chocolate mousse cupcake recipe - check sidebar)
- Pre-bought cupcake decorations from the supermarket - chocolate balls, white chocolate stars, silver balls, sugar flowers, chocolate letters, sprinkles or anything like that.
- Any sweets like jelly tots or chocolate buttons
- Royal icing (see christmas pudding cupcake picture above) - you can make all sorts of shapes with this icing, which you can buy in the shops.
- Crystalised flowers or leaves. This is what I did on the other christmas pudding cupcake. It looks really delicate and shimmery - so pretty.
- Dried fruit, chopped nuts etc.
- Chocolate lattice - see mocha cupcake recipe - check sidebar
- Dust with icing sugar or coca powder depending on the colour of the icing
- Inedible decorations like plastic/tin/cardboard hearts or stars or balloons on cocktail sticks. You can hand-make things like this or buy them in specialised cake shops - see picture at the bottom of this post!
- I have this edible shimmer spray in a clear/silver colour which gives icing a beautiful, but subtle, sheen. See picture of star cupcake at the bottom of this post.

Ta-daaaaaa! You now have some beautiful cupcakes :)
Hope you enjoy - read on for the frosting recipes that I use...

Vanilla butter-cream:
- 150g unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp hot milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Beat the butter until light and fluffy, beat in the icing sugar, milk and vanilla.

Chocolate fudge icing:
- 125g dark chocolate
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 175g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate, whisk in the egg with the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth and glossy - leave to cool and thicken before spreading.

Cream cheese frosting:
- 50g unsalted butter
- 300g icing sugar
- 125g full-fat cream cheese
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, add the flavourings/colourings if necessary, whisk in the cream cheese.

GlacĂ© icing:
- 225g icing sugar
- 2-3 tbsp boiling water
- flavourings & colourings of your choice

Sift the icing sugar and gradually stir in the water until the right consistency. 

Berry smoothie

Smoothies are so simple to make at home, deliciously healthy, and so much cheaper than buying cartons from the supermarket like Innocent Smoothies.
They are perfect for breakfast, a snack/drink, or for dessert!

- Skimmed milk
- Natural yogurt
- Banana
- Fresh berries (I used strawberries)
- Frozen berries (I used blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
- Honey
- Oats

- Make sure you add the wet ingredients to the blender first (milk and yogurt) so nothing gets stuck. I will usually add milk, yogurt and banana, and blend until mixed, then add the berries and mix, then add honey to taste until it is sweet enough.
- Oats can be added to make the smoothie more filling and thick, but can often change the flavour so they are optional depending on what you like.
- The good thing about smoothies is you don't need exact quantities - you can add as much of each ingredient as you like depending on the texture or flavour that you want! I usually use 1 medium-large banana and then work the other quantities around it. That should make 2 smoothies - like in the picture.
- If you aren't using any frozen berries then add some crushed ice so it's nice and cold!

Other smoothie ideas:
- To alter the flavours, most ingredients can be kept the same (banana, milk and yogurt) and you can just change the fruit, for example using kiwis or pineapple etc.
- You can also buy flavoured yogurt, which I try and stay away from as it tends to be higher in sugar/sweeteners, but it is good occasionally. I used Onken peach yogurt once which was delicious with strawberries!
- Pretty much anything can be blended - all fruits which is obviously the healthy option, but other ingredients like chocolate and nuts could work, and try adding different things to change the sweetness/flavours like jam.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Balsamic chicken and peach salad

- Spinach leaves
- Tinned, sliced peaches
- Chicken breast
- Balsamic vinegar
(Haven't put exact measurement because salads are pretty simple to decide how much you want!)

Simply marinade sliced, raw chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar and grill until cooked through. The balsamic should be a sticky glaze.
Toss spinach leaves with the peach slices, and add the chicken. Serve and drizzle with balsamic.

Deliciously simply, perfect for Spring!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Classic victoria sponge cake

This is always a winner and looks so classic and cute, perfect for any birthday or other party celebration, particularly in the summer seasons. I made this for my boyfriend's birthday last summer as he loves a good old victoria sponge! I always use raspberry jam for the filling because I just prefer it, it isn't as sickly as strawberry... for some reason I decided to top it with a strawberry though haha.

For the sponges:
- 225g margarine
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- dash of vanilla essence
- 225g self-raising flour
- dash of milk (I always add milk when making sponge because it gives it a smooth and silky texture)

For the filling:
It's up to you what you fill it with, I think the classic is just strawberry jam, or jam and whipped double cream, but I like to use raspberry jam with vanilla butter-cream! You can also chop up strawberries for the filling.

For the topping:
It is tradition just to top it with a dusting of icing sugar and a cut up strawberry, but you can use whipped cream or buttercream or anything you want! I again, have used vanilla butter-cream. Flavoured butter-cream would also be good, like chocolate or raspberry/strawberry.

So... for the butter-cream:
- 150g unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp hot milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar (for the sponge) until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs, adding the odd bit of flour to prevent curdling.
3. Add the vanilla essence, fold in the flour and stir in the milk.
4. Fill two 7 inch baking tins (which should be greased and lined with baking paper)
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes on 180C/Gas 4, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle. Place on a cooling rack.
6. For the butter-cream, cream together the butter and sugar and milk, and add the vanilla extract.
7. Once the sponges are cooled, spread one with jam and the other with the butter-cream and sandwich together. Top with the remaining butter-cream, add a strawberry and ta-da!

Hope you enjoy :)

Chocolate mousse cupcakes

I made these for my Dad's birthday last year - they are so much nicer than regular chocolate cupcakes (apart from the amazing mocha ones of course - check sidebar for recipe!) which can often be a bit dry and heavy. These are so light, as it involves a lot of egg white whisking like making chocolate mousse. I love how you use 1/4 - 1/2 of the mixture to frost the cupcakes as well, for a rich icing, so no need to use any different ingredients to make a frosting. 
Makes 12 cupcakes (I halved the recipe when I made them and it made 8!)
- 4 heaped tbsp plain flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt, plus a pinch for the egg whites
- 300g dark chocolate
- 250g unsalted butter
- 6 eggs, separated
- 200g sugar
- grated chocolate for decoration (I used dark and white chocolate for this)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter (in a pan, or bowl in microwave), until just melted - do not cook!
4. Beat egg yolks and sugar in another bowl until light yellow and foamy. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture until blended.
5. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Divide this into two parts and put one in the fridge to be used later to frost the cupcakes. Gently whisk the flour mixture into the other half, until completely absorbed.
6. Fill cupcake cases about 2/3 full with the batter, and bake for 15-20 minutes - the cupcakes should be just cooked and moist in the centre. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.
7. When they are cool, frost with remaining chocolate mousse and garnish with grated chocolate, or chocolate sprinkles.
Enjoy :)

Mince and rice

This is one of my favourite things to cook at uni!
It's quite simple, and uses a lot of store-cupboard ingredients which is always handy
Ingredients: (serves 2)
- 15g butter
- 250g beef mince
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 rashers of bacon (preferably smoked), sliced
- 50g mushrooms, sliced (I usually use more than this)
- 100g rice (I use wholegrain)
- 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes (I use a whole tin otherwise it would go to waste...)
- 1/2 beef stock cube, dissolved in 200ml of water
- 1 tsp mixed herbs
- Handful of grated cheddar

1. Brown the mince in the butter, then add the bacon and onions.
2. Once cooked, add the mushrooms, then stir in the rice until coated in the mince mixture.
3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and the stock cube mix.
4. Add the herbs and season to taste.
5. Stir, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked (no crunch).
6. Don't forget the grated cheese!

Simple as that! Enjoy :)

Baked raspberry cheesecake

This cheesecake was divine! I had never baked a cheesecake before this; only ever whacked together some cream cheese and mascarpone and put it on top of a biscuit base - and the conclusion is that it really doesn't taste that good this way, you might as well be eating cream cheese out the tub! And we all know that feels far naughtier than one slice of this crunchy, creamy, soft, juicy, sweet cheesecake. Or maybe not...
I got this recipe from the Comfort Food recipe book I have (which I linked and put a picture of in my baked carbonara post). The recipe was for a Manhattan Cheesecake with a blueberry topping - basically just a syrupy coulis drizzled on top. I had seen so many pictures online, however, of marbled cheesecakes, and so I really wanted to try this. The majority of the recipes were from American writers, however, where cups are flying at you in all directions - I don't think anyone has the time or effort to convert those! So I followed the recipe from my cookbook for the vanilla cheesecake, but I didn't do a soured cream topping which is typical of a Manhattan style cheesecake. I then made a raspberry coulis and marbled it in and the outcome was fab. It didn't really sink that much in the middle which was brilliant as well. So this cheesecake is perfect if you're trying to impress (as the marbling technique looks great and is fairly simple to do) and if you want a naughty, comfort food.
- 85g butter
- 200g digestive biscuits, crushed
- 400g cream cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- raspberries (can't remember how many I used, but probably a punnet)
- icing sugar (couple of spoonfulls)

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5 and brush an 8-inch springform tin with oil.

2. Melt the butter in a pan and add the crushed biscuits, stirring until coated in all the butter. Spread in the bottom of the tin, pressing down with your knuckles to check it is firmly covering the surface.

3. Place the cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla essence in a food processor and process until smooth (I did this by hand, may take longer though). Pour over the biscuit base and smooth the top.

4. Crush the raspberries through a sieve (doesn't have to be particularly fine), and stir with some icing sugar. Spoon the raspberry liquid on top of the cheesecake in patches - basically blob it on in various places. Next, using cocktail sticks or a small pallette knife - depending on the effect you want - gently swirl through the raspberry patches. The picture below is what mine looked like at this stage, before I baked it.
5. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until set. It should be a bit wobbly in the middle, but not liquid. Leave to stand for 20 minutes, then chill in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight. (I think mine was only chilled for about 6 hours and it was absolutely fine so don't worry too much, as long as it is set enough to cut slices!)

6. Serve on its own or with extra raspberries, or cream, or a chocolate truffle.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Simple tomato and mozzarella tarts

All you will need is puff pastry, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, dried italian herbs, and a beaten egg.

You can use ready-made puff pastry, I use Jus-Rol pastry. Simply roll it out and cut into circles, or any shape, with a cookie cutter or something similar. 
Brush the outsides of the circle with beaten egg, and place a slice of mozzarella in the middle, topped with a slice of tomato. Sprinkle with herbs and bake in the oven for around 10-15 mins on about gas mark 4 or 5 (180-200 degrees)

I made these to take to a buffet once, they were easy to re-heat in the oven and tasted delicious.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Marbled meringue nests (Valentine's Day dessert)

Marbled Meringue Nests
Served with whipped cream, raspberry coulis, raspberries and blueberries, and a chocolate lattice

Mmmmmmmmmm is all I can say. I haven't made meringues in years but this was a success! I made everything from scratch; even whipping the cream, and it was all worth it. The raspberry coulis was particularly excellent.

Meringues (makes 4): 3 egg whites, 165g caster sugar, pink food colouring
- Whisk the egg whites until stiff, gradually add the caster sugar still whisking, until stiff and glossy
(Make sure you have an electric hand whisk or mixer because my hand even started to cramp with one; can't    imagine what hand whisking it would have been like!)
- Dollop the meringue mixture on to a baking try lined with grease-proof paper.
- Using a cocktail stick, swirl pink food colouring into each meringue to give a marbled effect.
- Cook for 40 mins on gas 1/2 and leave to cool in the oven once turned off (always cook more than you need because meringues are very fragile, they will crack!)
I also made my own raspberry coulis (just raspberries pressed through sieve with icing sugar), whipped some cream, added raspberries and blueberries, and made some chocolate decorations (i'm improving!.. i think) but you can do whatever decorations... this is what it looked like, I was so pleased :)
Oh and this is what the table looked like in the end:
Hope you enjoy the recipes! x

Beef Stroganoff (Valentine's Day main)

Beef Stroganoff served with pappardelle pasta

I got this recipe from here:

I love this recipe, this is the second time I have used it - most people would think stroganoff is best served with potatoes or rice but I love it with this thick, herby pasta. It sounds silly but I find that pasta can often make things more luxurious, so it's brilliant for a special occasion, and it is just more filling and satisfying too.
 I also add more parsley and soured cream than it says - I guess this is just personal taste though!
Enjoy :)

Goats cheese and caramelised onion tart (Valentine's Day starter)

Goats cheese and caramelised onion tart
(As seen on Masterchef Celebrity 2010 - Lisa Faulkner won with this as part of her 3 course meal)

I previously used ready made puff pastry to make this starter, but making shortcrust pastry makes this more rewarding and rich in taste and texture :) I would definitely recommend this for any special occasion!

Pastry preparation and cooking - make sure you have some baking beans or something similar as this pastry is cooked blind before the filling goes in!

I love making the caramelised onion filling (onion, sugar, butter, balsamic), it smells divine when it's cooking, and tastes even better! I made the goats cheese filling (goats cheese, egg yolk, cream) with spreadable goats cheese instead of crumbly, although I think crumbly would have worked better for texture...
I garnished with spinach leaves, a dash of balsamic, and dried thyme!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentine's Day table setting

Cooking a meal for someone special on Valentine's Day?
Then you better start planning your table setting!

Mine is nothing too special, and as I live at home with my mum it is not my choice of furniture etc.

First of all, choose a colour scheme (mine is black, white and pink). Try not to use more than 3 colours, and one or two of those should be neutral shades so it doesn't look too complex or messy. As it is Valentine's day try to incorporate a pink, red or deep purple colour.
Things you should definitely use: tablecloth, centrepiece decoration, candles
I have used a linen feel tablecloth in white from Tesco, a sheet of wrapping paper from Paperchase as the centrepiece/colour/main decoration, and various candles. 
The white, engraved heart candle holder is only £1 from Tesco, an absolute bargain and must have for Valentine's Day celebrations! The black, vase-like candle holder is from Ikea (they have an amazing range of modern, chic decor). The middle candle holder is from a local gift shop that my mum manages; Temptation gifts. All the actual candles are simple tea-lights that you can get pretty much anywhere for a good price (supermarkets, garden centre, gift shops etc.)
I have had this wrapping paper for a couple of years now because I love the patterns and colour scheme and have decorated my room accordingly! Wrapping paper is great for centrepieces (I have stuck the corners down with some blu tac) and I might even consider cutting it up soon to use for various things; put in picture frames to decorate my room, use as decoration on home-made cards, or laminate and use as place mats.
The table obviously looks a little bare because I am not cooking this Valentine's meal until Wednesday ( the day after V day), so it has not yet been properly set. I don't actually have any place mats that match, what I need really is some plain black, square leather place mats that would perfect this modern look. A vase of pink roses would have also worked perfectly as a centrepiece instead of the 3-part candle holder. But I absolutely love candles so once they are all lit it will look amazing! The twig tree in the corner with the fairy lights will add to the romantic tone; I adore that decor!
Happy Valentine's day everyone :)
Check back in a couple of days time to see the 3 course meal I cooked my boyfriend.
(all pictures taken by me)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Mocha cupcakes

I made these today for my dad's birthday celebration, but I think they would be more fitting for Valentine's day!

They taste absolutely delicious; moist sponge, creamy frosting and strong chocolatey coffee flavour, what more could you want from a cupcake!?

I am aware some of my decorations look a bit naff - I was going for the chocolate lattice effect but I didn't have a piping bag, so had to make do with a teaspoon and a cocktail stick haha...

They would look amazing with the frosting piped through a nozel and a cocoa or coffee bean placed on top - simple and sophisticated! Or for Valentine's day a chocolate heart placed on top, as suggested in the recipe.

I got the recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery book 'Cake Days', which I would highly recommend.

I can't wait to make the apple crumble cupcakes and their famous whoopie pies so watch this space!

- 240ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
-15g hot chocolate powder
- 5g instant espresso powder (or coffee granules)
- 80g butter
- 280g caster sugar
- 240g plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs

Heat oven to gas 5 (190c) and line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cases.
Warm the milk and mix in the hot chocolate powder and coffee powder until dissolved.

Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients, apart from the eggs, together by hand or using an electric whisk.

Whisk the eggs into the mocha flavoured milk and combine with the other mixture, until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 18-20 minutes or until well risen and springy to the touch.

<--- they should look something like this (cupcake cases from Ikea)
 - 50ml milk
- 30g hot-chocolate powder
- 500g icing sugar (Only used about 400g)
- 160g butter (It only needed about 120g)
- anything you want to decorate (I used milk and white chocolate)

Mix the warm milk and powder together until dissolved. Cream together the icing sugar and butter, then stir in the chocolate milk until smooth. Simply spread on top of the cakes or pipe.

 <--- This was just about the only successful chocolate lattice I managed to make!

This is what the cupcakes looked like - they look even better when bitten in to!

Hope you enjoy :)
(all of these pictures were taken by me apart from the cookbook)