Friday, 3 October 2014

Marbled Muffins

I love baking muffins, they're so quick to make and they double up both as a snack or even a quick breakfast. Sometimes I make healthier muffins filled with fruit, other times I like to make more indulgent muffins. These certainly fall into the latter category.

I made a marble cake for a bake sale in my department recently and I loved how pretty the swirls of chocolate and vanilla cake looked together and that is what influenced these marbled muffins. I was recently invited by Steenbergs to choose a selection of spices to try out in my baking and I've used a couple of them here to flavour these muffins. The chocolate part of the muffins is flavoured with mixed spice and the white part of the muffin is flavoured with tonka bean, an ingredient new to me that I was keen to play with. When swirled together you get a wonderfully fragrant sweet spicy flavour that complements the chocolate very well.

Tonka beans are the dark wrinkled seeds of a flowering tree (Dipteryx oderata) native to Central America and the northern part of South America. They look a bit like almonds in size and shape and they have an amazing fragrance. When I first opened the jar I couldn't stop sniffing it. It's a complex fragrance that initially smells like vanilla and pear drops. Taste wise it is also quite similar to vanilla but much more fragrant and almost slightly floral.

Before baking with it I decided to try a little grated tonka bean over some sliced nectarines, cocoa nibs and yoghurt and my tastebuds were singing. It seemed to somehow enhance the flavour of the fruit and the cocoa nibs and add an extra layer of sweetness. I knew then that I wanted to have a go at baking with this in something chocolatey. I decided mixed spice would work well in this recipe after reading a bit more about tonka beans on the Steenbergs website and seeing that their tasting notes mentioned hints of cinnamon and cloves. The flavours in these muffins certainly complement each other very well and they smell great even before you put the tray in the oven. I'm looking forward to using the organic fairtrade mixed spice in my Christmas cake this year as it smells so good.

The method for making these muffins is nice and easy, it just requires making 2 batters instead of 1 and then giving them the briefest of mixes to swirl the light and dark batters together. If you can't get hold of tonka beans then you could use vanilla instead and get a similar flavour though it won't be quite as heady and aromatic as using tonka.

Ingredients - makes 12

For the spiced chocolate batter:
100g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
100g golden caster sugar
150g plain yoghurt
50ml milk
45ml sunflower oil
1 egg

For the tonka bean batter:
200g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g golden caster sugar
1/2 tonka bean grated
150g plain yoghurt
50ml milk
45ml sunflower oil
1 egg

  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tray with paper cases and get out 2 mixing bowls.
  • In the first bowl make the spiced chocolate batter by first of all mixing together the yoghurt, milk, oil and egg with a fork and then adding the remaining ingredients and mixing until just combined. 
  • In the second bowl make the tonka bean batter by first of all mixing together the yoghurt, milk, oil and egg with a fork and then adding the remaining ingredients and mixing until just combined. 
  • Add the chocolate batter to the tonka bean batter and fold 2-3 times, no more than this as you will lose the marbling in the muffins. 
  • Spoon the marbled batter into the muffin cases and then bake for 25-30 minutes until risen, golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. 

Here's a few more baking recipes from around the blogosphere using Steenbergs spices. 

Speculoos cupcakes from Maison Cupcake
Za'atar & olive focaccia from Fab Food 4 All
Roasted mushroom flatbread pizzas with lemony garlic sauce from Kellie's Food To Glow

I've got a few ideas in mind for using the other goodies Steenbergs sent me and no doubt some of those will end up on here at some point once my thesis is over. I'm loving the green chai tea I selected, excellent fuel for writing in the evenings.

Thank you to Steenbergs for letting me choose a selection of products to try out, as always all opinions are my own and I was not paid for this post.  

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Boozy Bramble Cake

Last week I went to a Clandestine Cake Club event in Reading. This was our first event for a few months as everyone had been busy over the summer. The theme was cocktails and the organiser of our group chose a cocktail bar (Cerise at The Forbury) as the venue for our cakey get together, this meant we had lots of fun sampling all of our boozy cakes along with some delicious cocktails. Apologies for the photos, the lighting in the cocktail bar was not good for getting a good shot and I didn't have time to get the camera out at home before heading out for the evening. We were sat at a shiny table with an overhead light and I've just realised you can see my reflection in this picture as I took the photo.

Once the theme had been announced I knew that I wanted to use blackberries to attempt to recreate a fabulous cocktail I had at a friend's hen party in London last year. Due to being a permanently skint student I hadn't planned on staying out for the cocktails after a meal that night, but my other friend persuaded me by offering to buy me a cocktail and after much deliberation over the menu (my first time in a proper cocktail bar and I was amazed by the number available), I chose the bramble cocktail. For those not in the know, this is delicious cocktail made with blackberry liqueur, gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup. You may remember that I froze a batch of stewed blackberries a little while ago as I didn't know what to do with the bounty I foraged from my local park. I defrosted the stewed blackberries to use for this cake, and to top my porridge for a few days afterwards (minus any gin of course).

The cake is flavoured with gin and lemon, filled with stewed blackberries and decorated with a gin, lemon and blackberry spiked icing. Not the booziest cake in the world, around half the amount of gin compared to my recent elderflower gin drizzle cake, but very delicious. The cake is lovely and moist and the icing is very zingy, I just wish blackberry season hadn't ended so I could bake this again.


For the cake:
225g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
zest 1 lemon finely grated
60ml gin

For the filling:
4-5 dessertspoonfuls of stewed blackberries with vanilla

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
35-40ml gin
juice of half a lemon
1.5 tsp juice from stewed blackberries
  • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line 2 x 8 inch sandwich tins.
  • Cram together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the lemon zest and the gin. Fold in the flour then divide the batter between the 2 tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen, golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave until cold.
  • When the cakes are cold, place one layer on a plate and then spread over the stewed blackberries and sandwich the second layer on top.
  • Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and add the lemon juice and 25ml of the gin to start with. Mix to a thick paste consistency (add the rest of the gin if it is too stiff) and then mix in the blackberry juice, don't worry if a few seeds end up in there, and you should get a lovely pinky purple colour. 
  • Spread the icing thickly over the cake and leave to set for about an hour before serving, 
I didn't choose a bramble cocktail at cake club, instead I went for something different and purposefully not sweet so I wouldn't completely overload on sugar. I went for a French blade which was made with bison grass vodka, absinthe and elderflower cordial and it was rather potent!

For more boozy cake inspiration have a look at these recipes:

My boozy cakes are sloe gin cupcakes, creme de cassis cake and elderflower gin drizzle cake.

A few more cocktail inspired cakes from the blogosphere:

Chocolate Baileys cupcakes with chocolate baileys buttercream icing - from Maison Cupcake
Cider punch drizzle loaf cakes - from Feeding Boys & Firefighter
Peach bellini cake - from United Cakedom which I enjoyed at cake club last week
Strawberry daiquiri traybake - from I'd Much Rather Bake Than...
Pina Colada Swiss roll - from Supergolden Bakes

As I want to share my love of gin in cakes around a bit I'm linking up with the following blog events. Cook Blog Share, Bake of the Week and Recipe of the Week.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Cinnamon Bun Week At Nordic Bakery

Who doesn't love a cinnamon bun? All of next week (29th Sept - 4th Oct) the Nordic Bakery in London are celebrating cinnamon bun day on 4th October with 5 brand new cinnamon bun flavours. They will be showcasing a different flavour each day starting with the raisins and lemon glaze bun. The other 4 flavours are blueberries, custard and almonds, apple jam and finally chocolate buttons.

I was invited along last night to taste the new bun flavours with a few other bloggers. This was my first time visiting the Nordic Bakery as I don't get chance to go into London very often and I loved being surrounded by the scent of cinnamon as soon as I arrived. As well as sampling each of the buns, I had the chance to try a couple of their naturally sugar free fruit cordials. I can highly recommend drinking the blueberry cordial with a blueberry cinnamon bun, 2 of my favourite flavours perfectly matched.

I loved all of the cinnamon buns (and can't wait for another chance to visit London to buy some more) but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the raisins and lemon glaze, packed full of raisins and cinnamon with a zesty lemon glaze, absolutely delicious! Which one would be your favourite?

I was invited to attend a tasting event at the Nordic Bakery, all opinions are my own and I was not paid for this post.