Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Good Friday Feast: An Easter Dessert Bar!

Don't you just love blogging! This weekend I got left this rather lovely anonymous comment on a previous blog post:
'aren't you a bit fat to be eating cupcakes and drinking milkshakes all day long - get a life'

Way to give someone a complex! if my cupcake eating and milkshake drinking offends you so much, then don't follow my blog, no-one is forcing you to look! and the cupcake eating and milkshake drinking will only continue so I'm not sure what you hoped to accomplish with that comment! 

As you can see the cupcake eating certainly continued this weekend with my Easter dessert bar I gave you a sneak peek of last week! Quite a few things changed from my initial plan due to lack of time and not being able to find half my baking supplies/cake stands that are still somewhere in boxes in my parents cellar! but I was still pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Here are my coconut cupcakes with yellow coconut frosting and a hand made little chocolate easter egg on top! 

I also made a few mini's, topped with what egg's and thought this little egg box was a cute substitute since most of my stands and cake plates were m.i.a! These lovely little striped egg toppers you see were a gift from my friend Jade.

One of the stars of the shows had to be this Cadbury's Creme Egg chocolate fudge cake which my sister designed for her company as part of their Easter range and she was kind enough to make us one too! 

You can see from this angle the egg in the middle of the cake, made from liquid fondant, even has a golden egg at it's centre! fancy! 

She also baked up some delicious lemon bars...

and my mom knowing my love of polka dots and that our colour scheme was going to be yellow and green bought these cute little bunnies too! 

My sister Mel came up trumps with these flower shaped butter cookies.  You can find the recipe for them here

and one of my cupcake hating brother in law's favourite additions to the table were these oreo pops! It also comes in handy when you have a dad who has his own spraybooth and paint mixing machine and can turn vases and buckets into any colour you want to tie in with your dessert bar - thanks Dad! 

We were slightly disappointed by the Rabbit whoopies, the wilton bunny whoopie pie tin I bought especially should not be recommended to anyone, but they still tasted good! 

My very talented mom helped with the staging of the table and she hand picked these flowers from our garden to make this lovely little arrangement.  

My sister Mara made this lovely bunting which helped tie the table together, and she also saved the day when our Macbook died just as we were preparing the snazzy little labels (yes we forgot the charger cable...which is also why I couldn't blog this little delight for you before Easter Sunday which is what I intended to do!!) and so she made some scrapbooking style ones for us instead.

I realise I am a bit of a perfectionist and like things to be 'just so' and was accused of being a 'dessert bar-zilla' this weekend! so maybe it's time to give them a break for a while! thanks to my awesome family for helping make our Easter one such a success and putting up with me being a stress-head in the lead up to it! 

I hope you all had as lovely an Easter as we did, and were able to spend it with your families too! 
If you want to check out what we got upto you can see it here.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A sneaky Easter peak!

Just a little taster of what's to come this weekend...check back soon for pictures of the real thing!
How I love dessert bars!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Get That Friday Feeling....with Cadbury's Crunchie Cupcakes!

I was so disappointed with these cupcakes...I almost didn't take a picture of them, I didn't feel they were blog worthy! but now I am unemployed I don't know how often my funds (or lack thereof!) will let me get around to baking so I decided they'd have to do! 

Don't get me wrong, they actually turned out rather delicious! but you know when you have one of those baking days where everything seems to go had just put me in a bad mood and I didn't feel proud enough to publish them! 

This cupcake exploit actually started out pretty well! It was my sister's birthday and her very favourite chocolate bar is Cadbury's Crunchie! so I decided I would bake her up some birthday cupcakes as a tribute to her fave chocolate bar.  I busily began researching online and came back with a big fat zero on the number of actual Crunchie cupcake recipes I could find.  Sure there were chocolate cupcakes that just had a Crunchie broken up on top or perhaps some Crunchie in the frosting but I wanted more than that! 

So I took it upon myself to design my own! There were going to be decadently rich with big crunchy pieces of honeycomb strewn through the batter.  My first problem came when my husband got a last minute call from an agency for a day of work so off he went with our car, the car I was going to use to go and buy the ingredients in! so I had to throw the chocolate cupcake recipe I was planning to use out the window and make do with the limited supplies in my parents kitchen! and the limited utensils - I discovered I hate baking in an unfamiliar kitchen! I couldn't even find a spatula...luckily I remembered I brought one back in my suitcase from the Caribbean but all the rest of my kitchen and baking utensils are packed away in boxes in my parents garage that are all precariously balanced one on top of the other, so it will be a while before I'll be able to get my hands on them! 

One of my other triggers of stress was that some of the cupcake cases peeled away from the I hate that! Of course my hundreds of perfectly adequate and non 'peelable' cases are in those packed up boxes previously mentioned! so I had to settle on these 'fairy cake' size ones from Morrison's and along with peeling away from the cakes they also stained my cupcake baking tray red! 

I guess in the end all that matters was that the birthday girl enjoyed them, as did the rest of my mom ate 3 in one night! and I quite liked the cute little candles we put on top too! 

I guess I'm also learning not to be such a perfectionist, I'm pretty sure I haven't made a cupcake I'm completely happy with yet! 

Cadbury's Crunchie Cupcakes
(Makes 24 small sized cupcakes)

For when you only have cocoa powder in your cupboard....

Chocolate Cupcakes:

1/2 cup (50 grams) cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling hot water
1 1/3 cups(175 grams) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 Cadbury's Crunchie chocolate bars

Preheat oven to 190 degrees c.
In a small bowl stir the cocoa powder and boiling hot water together until smooth.  Let it cool to room temperature.  In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. 

In a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time beating until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour mixture and beat until just mixed in.  Finally add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Chop up the Crunchie into bite size pieces, toss it in flour and add to the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

and what better way to top off your 'Cadbury's' cupcakes then with some...

Cadbury's Dairy Milk Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
200g Dairy Milk

1. Break up the Dairy Milk into pieces and throw it into a jug, microwaving in spurts of 30 seconds until it is melted.  Leave to cool
2.  In an electric mixer, beat the sifted icing sugar with the butter, the milk and the vanilla until it is smooth and fluffy.
3.  Add in the chocolate and keep beating until it is the consistency you desire.  
4.  Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes and add a chunk of Crunchie on top.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A Cupcake round up!

So you knew it was coming...I'd been out of the country for 8 months and on a cupcake-less Island so you knew when I returned to England I would be cupcaking it up to the max! Here's a little roundup of what I've been indulging in....

Fresh off the plane the day I arrived back in sister, Mara, and I headed straight for Selfridge's.  Lola's has always been a London favourite of mine.  It was the 1st April, we were eagerly anticipating what their flavour of the month would be.  Mara had not been overly impressed with their peppermint hot chocolate flavour for March so we were excited to see what April had to offer.  On the underground we were all guessing what we thought the flavour would be, I said it would probably be coffee or something like that since we don't eat anything with coffee in for religious reasons and of course it turned out it was espresso flavour so we didn't try that! I went with an Oreo one and Mara went with the Red Velvet.

We decided to eat them with a little view of Big Ben in the background (courtesy of a Selfridge's window display!) I was actually quite surprised, Lola's used to be one of my go to cupcakes that I knew would always taste good but I was disappointed, the frosting was so sweet!! Perhaps I've just been spoilt since I was able to try the amazing cupcakes of Crumbs bakery whilst in the Caribbean and now nothing will ever compare! 

After that we headed to Covent Garden.  I had wanted to go and check out Sweet Couture, but I got as far as the front door and it wasn't very inspiring - the flavours were pretty normal and nothing really looked too amazing so we gave it a miss and decided Ella's Bakehouse would offer something far yummier.  I got the banoffee, by this point of the day jetlag had set in and I was so tired I forgot to take pics! 

A few days later, we headed to Cheshire Oaks (an awesome outlet shopping centre about 45 minutes from where I'm living in Shropshire).  Mara had said at Christmas she'd remembered seeing a cupcake stall so I was pretty excited.  When we came across The Cupcake Compartment, it was located across from a Krispy Kremes stand.  

My advice to you would be choose a Krispy Kreme every time, the cupcakes were really uninspiring, the majority were just chocolate or vanilla sponges with different coloured frostings on top.  

For example Mara opted for the Rolo cupcake which was just a straight forward chocolate sponge with chocolate frosting and a Rolo on top! I would have at least expected a caramel filling or something that would tie the cupcake to the actual name rather than just a Rolo on top! I went for a mint cupcake which again was pretty standard - chocolate sponge, mint flavoured frosting with a bit of an after eight style chocolate on top which was rather tasteless. 

After a few days of cupcakes not really hitting the spot, I was excited to roadtrip to Oswestry (about an hour from where I am now) in search of two cupcakeries I had read about online.

My first mistake was underestimating how big Oswestry is! I was expecting it to be some little village where I could easily stroll down the street and spot some cupcake shops! but it's actually a pretty big town so we walked around for about 20 minutes before we came across either of the shops.  

The first one we came to was Icing on the Cake.  The shop was very modern and nicely done out inside, with cake stands all over the place full of goodies, however they were mostly tray bakes, cake slices, loaves etc... and their cupcake range wasn't really the star of the show.  They do a whole range of baked goods such as rocky road, millionaire shortbread, carrot cake, shortbread etc but they just had one main cake stand in the middle of the shop filled with chocolate, vanilla and some lemon cupcakes.  

I must say at £1 a cupcake it was definitely the cheapest I've ever purchased! but they were just really standard cupcakes, the chocolate frosting did have a lovely rich taste but I felt they could have done more with the decorations rather than just throw a sprinkling of white choc chips on.

I was more excited about the second place we were planning to visit, Crumblicious - they actually have a proper website and I had read up about them.  My mom and sister have also visited them before and said I would like their cupcakes.  My husband was going to visit them for me on my behalf last Saturday when he popped to Oswestry but they close at midday on a Saturday so he wasn't able too.  I even called them before we left the house today to check they would still be open when they arrived and they said they would.  I knew the second I walked through the door something was wrong, there was not a cupcake in sight! They are not solely a cupcake business,  they do occasion cakes too and as luck would have it they were baking a fruit cake for a 50th wedding celebration at a low temperature and so that had prevented them from doing any more cupcake baking this afternoon! so they didn't have any cupcakes left! I explained how I'd travelled for an hour just to visit them and was planning to review them on my blog so the lady quickly offered to post me some to try if I left her my address - I was pretty impressed with this offer and will wait next week to see what materialises! 

Just when I was about to give up hope on the West Midlands' offerings in cupcakes...we paid a visit to The Little Round Cake Company.  They have a cupcake stall in the Darwin Centre in Shrewsbury High St but I was also excited to learn they have a storefront known as The Little Round Bakery.  

It was in a residential area and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  So I was relieved when we walked in to find a counter filled with a whole variety of cupcakes...I knew we were in for a treat! 

There were so many I didn't know how to narrow down my selection! We shared a carrot and a banoffee cupcake.  The carrot cake was the most moist and delicious cupcake, even with raisins in (and we're not really raisin fans at all) but they somehow added to the moistness.  It also had a delicious cream cheese frosting which tasted like it could have been flavoured with orange too.  The banoffee cupcake was a banana flavoured cake with banana frosting topped off with a trickle of toffee and some toffee chunks! 
At £1.50 a cupcake they certainly don't break the bank, but for someone who is currently unemployed two was all I could afford! I had my eye on the white chocolate and raspberry...I guess it's a good reason to return soon! 

So after this week of cupcake hunting my verdict is if you happen to find yourself Shropshire way the only cupcakery I can recommend to you is The Little Round Cake Company, and Queenie's has always been a firm favourite...I just haven't managed to justify a special trip to Ironbridge yet but I'm sure we'll find ourselves there soon enough - with my cupcake loving family it won't take us long! 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Homecoming Dessert Bar Deliciousness!

So last Friday I landed back on UK soil! and my amazing family had planned a homecoming dessert bar in my honour! 

If there's one thing I love (dare I say it) more than is dessert bars! and so I was beyond excited! 

Check out the cute theme too....'Home Sweet Home' - wasn't it perfect! 

These malteser cupcakes were made by my sister Mel, and were absolutely delicious! She's been creating quite the cupcake stir up North recently and has narrowly missed out on winning Iron Cupcake Leeds several times now, every time I taste her cupcakes they get yummier so I've no doubt she'll win 1st prize one day soon! 

All the other goodies and the dessert bar set up were done by my sister Mara.  I love details! and look at these cute little straws and cups of Schloer! 

She is so extremely thoughtful, she had even somehow managed to find a comment that I had posted on Ice Cream Before Dinner's blog about how I wanted to bake these Brown Butter Brownies and so she baked them for me! 

She also baked these Lamingtons, since she is actually a native Aussie - she was born in Canberra! 

and if you follow my blog regularly you will know she works at The English Cheesecake Company, so of course no Jones Family dessert bar would be complete without cheesecake! This was a delicious strawberry and flake topped cheesecake...complete with exploding candle! 

and there were some totally chocolate cookies to finish it all off! 

I loved the polka dot tablecloth (since I am a huge polka dot fan!) and the blue and red colour scheme were a great way to welcome me back in a rather patriotic way! 

Look at this gorgeous cake server! 

and tying the patriotic theme together were these cute serviettes...

Mara even made this little bunting that was strewn across the table! How cute is that! 

I realised, after we'd scoffed most things up, that I needed a picture taken with my dessert bar! so here it is looking a little diminished...

and here I am with Mel and Mara and my lovely mom...the 3 people who gave me the best homecoming with the most delicious dessert bar! It was so good to be welcomed back in such a tasty way, and so good to be back spending time with the people I love most in the world! 

Home sweet home - indeed! If you want to see how we spent the rest of my homecoming weekend you can check it out here.


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