Monthly Archives: February 2014

Double Chocolate and Raspberry Vanilla CupcakesWhere do you stand in the great Valentine’s Day war? Are you an advocate, bursting with excitement for a meal at a fancy restaurant or  thrilled at the thought of your loved one opening the card you lovingly pick out for them in Paperchase? Perhaps you are a hater, preparing for an epic night of horror movies and popcorn, hibernating from the pink hearts and overpriced chocolates or maybe you’re hitting the town with your mates – it is a Friday after all. Wherever your heart lies on February 14, I think we can all agree on one thing – we love cake.

I have a funny little relationship with cupcakes. Everyone seems to adore them, all pretty and precise with perfectly piped buttercream. But they are kind of awkward to eat – I normally end up with frosting on my nose. If it were my choice I would happily accept a slice of cake any day, but as I made these cupcakes for one of my many Valentine’s (lol) for her flatwarming, I thought I would indulge her love for all things pretty in pink. Don’t say I’m not good to you Nicola.

Double Chocolate and Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes

You might be surprised to know this post falls under my Frugal February project, in which I use up baking odds and ends in a bid to reduce waste in my household. In this recipe, it’s the double chocolate ganache that has been given a second coming after I froze the leftovers from frosting a ‘Sorry You’re Leaving’ cake a few weeks ago. Rather than throw the surplus away, I scooped it up and placed in a freezer bag, smoothing out all the air and freezing. So simple and yet so convienient for frosting a batch of fragrant vanilla cupcakes – simply defrost overnight in a bowl. See, cupcake making isn’t all perfect piping – it can be really easy.

These cupcakes are so utterly romantic that they would make the perfect gift for your sweet toothed sweetheart this Valentine’s. The milk chocolate just takes the edge off the bitterness of the dark ganache and the sweet nubs of raspberry give little bursts of colour and flavour – like little edible rose petals. And of course, with a great hunk of vanilla sponge underneath, these cupcakes are enough to slay even the most hardcore Valentine’s hater. And even if you don’t have a Valentine, make them anyway and enjoy them with the friends you hold dearest before you paint the town loveheart red. Make cake and don’t declare war on Valentine’s just yet.

Cupcake close up


Cupcake recipe from Red Magazine


You Will Need

For the cupcakes

175g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

175g caster sugar

175g self raising flour

3 eggs

½ tsp vanilla paste

½ tsp baking powder


To finish

300g leftover ganache from this recipe, having used ½ 70% dark chocolate and ½ good quality milk chocolate

2 tbsp freeze dried raspberry pieces

Tip: If using frozen ganache, unwrap and place in a bowl covered with clingfilm and leave to defrost overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan and line a muffin tin with 12 cases. Place all of the cupcake ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (or if using a hand held mixer, a large bowl) then beat together until smooth – about five minutes. Divide equally between the 12 cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in the tin then remove each cupcake and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Double Chocolate Ganache

Place the now defrosted but cold ganache in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. This will help to bring back the shine of the ganache as it will have gone matte in the cold. Warm through until the bottom begins to melt then remove from the heat and whisk vigorously until you have a smooth and shiny ganache. Leave to cool for around 10 minutes.

How to frost cupcakes with ganache

To frost your cupcakes, take a spoonful of ganache and blob it onto the top of a cupcake. Using the back of the spoon, smooth the ganache right to the edges of the case. To finish, use the back of the spoon to firmly swoop around the cupcake, twisting as you go to create a rustic swirl. Sprinkle with the frozen raspberry pieces and then serve to the one you love.

Valentine's Cupcakes

Date and Pecan Buttermilk Scones

I get a quiet satisfaction out of using up every last scrap of an ingredient. There is nothing worse as a baker than throwing eggs in the compost bin or pouring cottage cheese milk down the drain. Ambient foodstuffs like flour and sugar can last a lifetime (or until my next baking project) but there are so many odds and ends that can turn quicker than it takes to make a batch of scones. It’s a frustrating fact of life.

I mused over this for a while, and came up with the idea of Frugal February. Dedicated to making the most of surplus ingredients and showing you how to store all those odds and ends, it’s the perfect way to keep your bank balance intact, your fridge clear of opened and unused cartons and more egg yolks than you can deal with. But equally, it’s about using these things to the best of your ability; lest you end up with a tetris of food parcels in your freezer that you have no idea how to use. I hope that for the next month, I can help you get rid of those little bits and pieces to turn them into delicious treats without throwing anything away.

I thought I would first turn my attention to buttermilk. Although you can make your own by souring regular milk with lemon, I buy almond milk for my morning breakfast so never have it in the fridge. But by buying a carton, you inevitably end up with around 100ml that will have you scouring the internet for a use-it-up recipe. I’ll save you the bother – it’s rather difficult.

cutting scones without a cutter

After baking my favourite chocolate fudge cake for my friend Andy who parted for London a few weeks ago, I had around half a carton of buttermilk to use and some dates from my no-bake brownies. Thus, the first Frugal February recipe was born – Date and Pecan Buttermilk Scones.

This is back to basics baking. The kind you can do in your pyjamas, without your contact lenses in and sporting a top knot on a lazy Sunday morning. Butter is fed through fingertips to resemble breadcrumbs, then sugar and spice and all things nice (namely dates and pecans) are added to the mix. Stir with your hands – it’s a Sunday after all. With half a carton of buttermilk, these sweet scones come together in a flash to create a lightly brown dough speckled with sticky dates and pecans. I patted into a square and cut into nine scones because it’s easiest. If you are a rolling pin and cutter kinda person go for it, but the nature of these scones are more rustic than perfect. A quick brush of buttermilk and a smattering of chopped nuts send these scones off to the oven in style. In just 15 minutes you will have a warm plate of scones to take back to bed, coffee in hand and the February rain dripping down the window. It’s February, be frugal.


You Will Need

200g self-raising flour

55g cold unsalted butter, cubed

2 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar

50g pecans, chopped

50g dates, pitted

A grating of nutmeg

140ml buttermilk, retaining the carton to use to brush the scones


Preheat an oven to 200oc/180oc and line or grease a baking sheet. Place the flour and the butter in a large bowl and rub together, feeding the butter through your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.

butter and flour


Stir through the sugar – you can do this with your hands – and add the pecans, reserving around a tablespoon’s worth to top the scones. Using kitchen scissors, snip the dates into chunky pieces and add to the bowl along with the nutmeg, giving the contents a good mix. Add the buttermilk and stir with a spoon then bring together to a shaggy dough with your hands.

pecan topped sconesTip the contents of the bowl onto a clean, floured surface and bring together gently with your hands. Pat into a square shape around 1.5cm thick and cut into nine squares using a sharp knife. Place the scones on the prepared tray and brush with the buttermilk from the container. Sprinkle over the reserved pecans and bake for around 13-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack, eating slightly warm with coffee.

Date and Pecan Scones with Brown Muscovado Sugar