Saturday, 28 July 2012

Birthday Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes with Oreo Swiss Meringue Buttercream

There was only one reason I whipped these cupcakes up: Oreo swiss meringue buttercream - doesn't that just sound amazing! Although I'm not the biggest fan of plain vanilla swiss meringue buttercream by itself, it's too buttery for my tastebuds, I do love flavoured swiss meringue buttercreams and I love how silky and glossy they are and how beautifully they pipe! So I couldn't pass up giving this frosting recipe a try when I spied it on pinterest! 

I made these on my birthday.  I decided to use my classic chocolate oreo cupcake recipe for the base and I forgot just how much batter it produces! I got 24 regular size cupcakes and 18 mini's so be sure to make this recipe when you have a lot of time on your hands! I was literally baking the whole day, right up until half an hour before we had to leave for the zoo, hence why these photos were a bit of an afterthought! 

I know that usually it's typical on someones birthday that other people make cakes for them but I decided it would be fun to turn up laden with cupcakes for all my friends when I saw them that evening! so I didn't mind baking the day away...after all it is my happy place! 

So we busted them out after the very disappointing penguin show where instead of seeing cute penguins do tricks we had to watch two people from the crowd dress up as penguins! 

The oreo cupcakes were a pretty good consolation! 

and made up for the lack of penguin action! 

If you are swiss meringue buttercream fans, you are absolutely going to love this! so try it out next time you're baking up some oreo cupcakes! You'll thank me for it!

Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes:
Makes 24 regular and 18 mini

170g unsalted butter
150g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
225g dark chocolate (Valrhona 66%)
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
 365g semi-skimmed milk
100g Oreo chunks

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Line your cupcake pans with cases.
In each cupcake case place half an Oreo, the half with the cream filling still on it.  Put the other half to one side to be used later in the frosting.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in egg yolks.  Mix in vanilla and melted chocolate.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.  Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the butter/sugar mixture.
Crush Oreos in a blender, or a zip loc bag and a rolling pin if you don't have a blender.  
Stir in Oreos.
 In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until peaks form.  
Fold the batter into the egg whites.
Fill cupcakes cases 2/3 full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes (regular) and 10-15 minutes (mini) or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Leave to cool in pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Oreo Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
Makes enough to frost the above

5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
450g unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
20 reserved Oreo halves, crushed in a blender
Oreo cookies, cut in half for decoration

Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, beat unti stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter two tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Once all the butter has been added, whisk in the vanilla.  Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all the air bubbles are eliminated, about two minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.  Add crushed Oreos and fold in well.

Pipe the frosting on to your cupcakes and decorate with Oreo halves.

I'm sharing these for Cupcake Tuesday over at Hoosier Homemade.

Hoosier Homemade - Cupcake Tuesday

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

White & Milk Choc Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread

My second batch of banana bread in a few wasn't planned but a bunch of black bananas sitting in the kitchen forced my hand in this! My husband told me it was time to make banana bread, and I remembered this recipe that I had pinned to my 'to bake' list on pinterest forever ago! 

and then I found myself gifted with some white choc Reese's cups from my sister for my birthday (yes you may have noticed that over half of my birthday presents consisted of American confectionary! doesn't everyone know me well!) and coupled with a bag of mini Reese's cups that I picked up in Brighton this weekend and I was ready to go! 

I had also been saving this creamy Reese's peanut butter for a special occasion.  I picked it up from TK Maxx a few months back and was waiting for a special bake before I used it.  I might be making it up but in my head it tastes far superior to any other type of peanut butter! 

I'm pretty sure that I'll never be able to just make regular banana bread ever again because this variation was SOOOO super delicious! The peanut butter gave it a great depth of flavour and those melting pools of peanut butter cups were amazing, my only complaint is that I wished there was more of them so if I made it again I'd definitely up the amount of cups I added in!

and of course we all know there's only one way to eat it...zapped in the microwave for 25 seconds and slathered in lots of butter which melts into the bread beautifully!

Be sure to give this bread a try - you'll be SO glad you did!

White & Milk Choc Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread:
Serves 10
Adapted from Cookies and Cups

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
150g mini Reese's milk chocolate cups
75g Reese's white chocolate cups

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Grease the loaf pan with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt, set aside.
In a bowl of a freestanding electric mixer, beat together the bananas, peanut butter, oil, egg and sugars.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat until just combined.  The batter will be lumpy, do not over stir.
Dust the Reese's cups with some flour, and fold them into the batter with a spatula.
Spread batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for approx 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges of the pan with a knife and remove from loaf pan, transferring bread to a cooling rack.

I'm entering this into Alphabakes this month being hosted by Caroline Makes as the letter is 'W'.  If you want to check out all the other W entries, check her blog at the end of the month and check The More Than Occasional Baker's blog next month for the new letter if you want to join along!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Peanut Butter Oreo Pretzel Brownies

It's hard to believe that I'm a recent convert to peanut butter! but in true Gem style once I'm into something I usually take it a little overboard (moderation is not really my style!) So these brownies have three peanut butter components to them:

1 - the peanut butter Oreos that are sandwiched between the brownie (and that were gifted to me by my husband on my birthday! Luckily we got sent 2 packs by mistake so we have been enjoying them for weeks now!)
2 - the peanut butter frosting
3 - the double dipped peanut butter and chocolate covered pretzels for decoration...

and not only for decoration but I added them on top of the brownie for serious tastiness to take these brownies over the edge! Let's just go back and revisit that description for a moment - double dipped peanut butter and chocolate covered pretzels! that's right, they are a pretzel smothered in peanut butter and if that wasn't good enough they are then finished off with a generous coating of chocolate! 

These brownies were lucky that there were any pretzels left for decoration by the time the end of the baking session came, because I'd been snacking on the whole bag throughout! American Soda sent me these amazingly tasty Flipz pretzels and before then I had only come across the regular milk and white chocolate covered pretzels before so these were like a revelation to me! an amazingly tasty revelation! I urge any pretzel lovers to give these a try...they will make your day - and make you want to add them to the next tasty treat you make! 

Trust me, these were so delicious that the brownies didn't even make it to the photography stage pre eating.  The smell that spread throughout the house was so peanut butter-y and delish that as soon as I'd slathered the frosting on top (and yes, we couldn't wait so the brownies were still slightly warm and the frosting became a melting runny mess!) everyone had made their way into the kitchen to claim their piece! So I managed to save back one piece to photograph later that evening once our peanut butter fest had subsided! 

Peanut Butter Oreo Pretzel Brownies:
Makes 15
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

113g dark chocolate; coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain flour
15 Peanut Butter Oreo's

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line an 11x7" baking pan with tin foil and grease with butter.
Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwaveable safe bowl at medium power for 3-4 minutes, or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until butter is melted.
Stir until chocolate is melted,  Whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt.  Gradually add in flour and stir until just combined.  

Spread half the batter into the prepared pan.  Add an even layer of Peanut Butter Oreo's and cover with remaining 1/2 of the brownie batter.  Bake for 30-35 minutes (do not over bake). 

Leave to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Frosting:

2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup semi-skimmed milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend everything together until smooth.  If you require a thicker consistency add more sugar, or if you want it thinner add more milk.

To decorate:

15 double dipped peanut butter and chocolate pretzels

Frost the brownies generously.  Cut into 15 portions (that's how many I got from my brownie pan) and stick a cute little pretzel on top of each individual brownie.

Serve with generous scoops of vanilla ice cream and don't think about the calories! 

Disclosure: American Soda provided me with these complimentary products.  However my participation was voluntary, and all opinions and views expressed are my own.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Raspberry M&M Banana Bread!

Well that was a mouthful! This recipe came about after I drooled at this Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Banana Bread and bookmarked it away for a rainy day...and then a few weeks ago I was gifted these awesome Raspberry & Dark Chocolate M&M's from American Soda and I knew what had to be done! 

Bananas? check...Fresh Raspberries? check....Raspberry & Dark Chocolate M&M's? check! 
Could this banana bread be any better?! I think not

The M&M's made lovely little gooey pools of melting chocolate surrounded by bursts of red and pink colour from their candy coating, and then the raspberries swirled their way through the banana bread mixture - it made for a quite a visually pleasing loaf as well as being a taste bud pleaser!

My mother in law declared it the best cake she had ever eaten! 

It certainly made a very delicious after dinner treat, and of course just like any banana bread it is best served warm with lashings of butter! 

Raspberry & Dark Chocolate Raspberry M&M Banana Bread:
Serves 12
Adapted from Recipe Boy

2 cups plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed over ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low fat yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate raspberry M&M's
1 cup halved raspberries, tossed in 1 tbsp plain flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Grease loaf pan with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until well blended (about a minute).  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the banana, yoghurt and vanilla; beat until blended.  Stir in the flour mixture with a spatula - do not overmix.  Stir in the M&M's and then gently stir in the raspberries so they don't break up.  

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.  If you want to sprinkle additional raspberries and M&M's over the top of the batter before putting it in the oven you can.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  

Eat, and enjoy!

I'm entering this into bookmarked recipes hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and initiated by Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Disclosure: American Soda provided me with these complimentary products.  However my participation was voluntary, and all opinions and views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

United Bakes of America Round Two...and a Smith Island Cake for the state of Maryland!

Apologies for the delayed round up of United Bakes of America! I have been away in London all weekend and have only just been reunited with my macbook! Fear not, I was still doing challenge related things like supporting America on the courts at Wimbledon! yeah I painted American flags on my cheeks and waved my flag cheering on Mardy Fish on Court no.2...and the BBC commentators even zoomed in on us in the game and started talking about what a big week it was for Americans this week with July 4th as well (I, of course, loved the fact they were referring to me as an American - if only they knew!)

So back to the cake! This month I baked up the Smith Island Cake which comes from the state of Maryland.  It became Maryland's official state dessert in 2008 and is meant to be made up of multiple very thin layers of yellow cake with chocolate buttercream filling and dark chocolate frosting on the outside.  I say meant to be because although in the recipe it stated you should get 5 or 6 layers I only got 4.  Perhaps they used 9 inch tins and I used 8 inch many layers you made in the end really didn't matter because the amount of frosting the recipe made was only enough to cover 3 layers so in the end it became a 3 layer cake! Not quite as impressive but still delicious! 

Smith Island is the state's only inhabited off-shore island with a population of less than 400, most of whom make a living through crabbing or oystering.  Frances Kitching, a born-and-bred Smith Islander ran an inn and restaurant for 30 years and was one of the island's most celebrated inhabitants.  In 1981 she published a cookbook titled 'Mrs Kitching's Smith Island Cookbook' which included a recipe for Smith Island Cake, although it's not known who first made the local speciality.

The yellow cake recipe called for icing sugar as one of the dry ingredients and evaporated milk as one of the wet ingredients.  I've never used either of those in a cake I've made before and was intrigued as to how it would turn out.  The cake itself is one of the best vanilla/yellow cakes I have ever tasted - I really think the icing sugar gives it an added sweetness and there was an added fluffiness too which I loved! I think it could be to do with the use of a mix of shortening and butter rather than all butter, it makes the cake more delicate and fragile and in my opinion more delicious! 

The frosting was a whole other story! It also used a method I have never encountered before which consisted of boiling the butter and milk on the hob, and then whisking that mixture into icing sugar and cocoa powder.  It was meant to come out looking like a fluffy light chocolate buttercream (that's what the picture showed).  Mine came out more like a chocolate glaze icing, very sugary with a slight crust to it once cooled.  It still tasted good, and was different to the usual creamy frostings I whip up so it made a change but I think in the future I would use a proper tried and tested chocolate buttercream for this cake. 

Warren Love (the author of United Cakes of America) says purists would never stray from the original of yellow cake and chocolate frosting, although he had heard of crushed up candy bars being used as decoration.  So I decided since one of my favourite Americans, Milah, comes from Maryland and one of her favourite candy bars is Butterfingers that it would only be appropriate to decorate my Maryland state cake with her favourite chocolate! If you've never tried a Butterfinger they are sort of like peanut butter brittle, crunchy on the inside with lots of layers of crisp peanut buttery goodness and then a coating of chocolate around the outside - you can find them here.

Smith Island Cake:
Makes 4 8" layers

For the cake:
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz unsalted butter
2 oz vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
5 eggs

For the frosting:
4 cups icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup whole milk or evaporated milk
1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Grease your cake pans.

Measure the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients into separate bowls.  Whisk each to combine.  
Measure the butter, shortening and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Combine on medium to low speed for about 5 mins.  Add the eggs, one at a time, to the well creamed butter mixture.
Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  
Pour about 1 1/2 cups of batter into each prepared pan.  
Bake the cakes for approximately 12 minutes or until the top surfaces have slightly browned edges (Mine took about 20 but I was cooking in a different oven so don't be surprised if they take longer).
Leave cakes to cool in tins for 10 minutes, then insert a knife all the way around the edge and flip out each cake onto a piece of parchment paper.  Once cooled, wrap in cling film whilst making the icing to ensure they don't dry out.  

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl and set aside.  
In a large heavy bottom saucepan set over medium heat, bring the butter and the milk to a rolling boil, stirring often.
Reduce the temperature to low and whisk the boiling liquid into the icing sugar.  Scrape this back into the saucepan and bring to a simmer for about 15 mins.  Add more milk if the mixture thickens too much.  It should not get pasty.  
Scrape the hot mixture into a large bowl.  Fold in the melted chocolate with a flexible spatula unti the frosting takes on a deep even colour.
Allow it to cool to room temperature.  Give it a few stirs with a flexible spatular to smooth it out.
* At this point, mine was not resembling anything near a spreadable consistency so I added about 2-3 tbsp evaporated milk and beat it with the paddle attachment for about 3-4 minutes to make it fluffier and more spreadable.  

Assemble the cake by spreading a 1/4 inch layer of icing between all the cake layers and swirling a good amount of icing around the outside of the cake.  I found that using a knife dipped in hot water helped to smooth out the frosting nicely.  
Finish by chopping up mini Butterfingers and placing in the middle of the cake.

Now on to what everyone else has been baking this month! 

Susie from Fold in the Flour made this rather grand looking Chocolate and Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream.  The original recipe she used was an American one but she has very kindly converted it into metric measurement for all you UK bakers out there! The flavour of the cake is also very appropriate to UBA as statistics suggest that whilst British people drink about 3.9 million cups of coffee per week that Americans drink somewhere around 339 million cups per day, so it seems Americans really love their coffee! 

Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker made these very inventive Maple and Pecan cupcakes! The maple cupcakes were baked using a recipe from Paula Deen and the maple syrup frosting came from Martha Stewart - you can't get any bigger than those two American baking legends! so I can only imagine how amazing these tasted! and a sprinkling of pecans on top just finishes them off beautifully! 

Speaking of pecans, my sister Mara whipped up this huge Hummingbird sheet cake for refreshments at a church activity she went to.  I love the cinnamon stenciled butterfly on top! and the cute little flags! and she finished off the sides of her cake with some sprinkled pecans too.  Hummingbird is a traditional  American cake hailing from the south (North Carolina) and is made from pineapple, banana and pecans and always has cream cheese frosting as an accompaniment.  

and finally moving a little further down south, you get to Mississippi and what is Mississippi famous for? Mississippi Mud Pie of course! so Laura Loves Cakes made these super cute mini Mississippi Mud Pies! In my opinion, everything looks and tastes better when it's mini or is that just me?! and what's better than a chocolate pastry and a chocolate filling finished off with a nice dollop of cream! yum! 

A huge thanks to everyone who entered this month! I know with it being Jubilee and Olympics this last little while most bakes have been focusing on England but I'm glad to see some of us are still keeping the American baking going! I love to see what you come up with! 

Remember, if you'd like to join along you can with any recipe that involves an American ingredient or where the author is American or where the dish is inspired by a state! Email me your entry by the 30th to be included in the roundup, there's a recap of the rules here if you're visiting for the first time :)

This month I will be baking the Apple Butter Cake from West Virginia! 

Oh yeah...and HAPPY 4TH OF JULY everyone!! Hope you all have an amazingly delicious day!

Disclosure: American Soda provided me with these complimentary products.  However my participation was voluntary, and all opinions and views expressed are my own.


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