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    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: French Martini cupcakes

    french martini cake
    When I started playing around with the idea of doing recipes I was determined that it wasn’t just going to be full of cake photos.  No offence to all those bloggers whose sites are populated by cake, but most of the time I’m pretty incapable of making my cakes look as good as they taste.  However, it’s National Cupcake Week so I wanted to share a cake recipe…mainly because the photos turned out alright, but also because it’s simple and kinda classy – in that it’s inspired by a cocktail.

    The French Martini sounds fancier than it is, in reality it’s a pretty simple drink; three ingredients, shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.  It was designed in the 1980s, during the revival of cocktail culture  – I highly recommend watching the gloriously trashy movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise for some historical background.  Be warned there’s a hell of a lot of flaring bottles and other such nonsense, but don’t let that put you off.

    Anyway French Martini cupcakes.  A while ago, I went through a phase of baking a load of alcohol-inspired cakes…because everyone needs a hobby right?  The French Martini’s three ingredients of vodka, raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice were pretty simple to recreate into a cake because you get rid of one of the ingredients straight away.  Light spirits are tricky to bake with and tend to be overtaken by other flavours, so basic sponge cake takes its place.  Pineapple jam filling is best; pineapple sponge would be too much and lets try and keep our cake balanced, okay team?  Finally raspberry liqueur is added to the buttercream icing to give it a pinkish colour, like the drink.  And sprinkles, because this drink was created during the glitzy 80s.  And there you have it, French Martini cupcakes.

    Recipe: French Martini cupcakes
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    Inspired by the 1980s cocktail, this is the recipe for a batch of French Martini cupcakes
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 12
    • 110g butter or margarine
    • 110g caster sugar
    • 2 eggs, free-range
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 110g self-raising flour
    • 1-2 tbsp milk
    • Pineapple jam
    • 140g butter, softened
    • 280g icing sugar
    • Raspberry liqueur
    • Sprinkles to decorate
    1. Pre-heat the oven to to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a muffin tin with pink paper cases
    2. Cream together the butter/margarine and sugar in a large bowl.
    3. Lightly beat the eggs together in a smaller bowl and then mix into the butter and sugar mixture until it's all combined.
    4. Add in the vanilla extract and milk.
    5. Sieve the flour and fold into the batter.
    6. Divide into the cupcake cakes and bake in the oven until the tops are springy and you can insert a fork and it comes out clean.
    7. Leave to cool.
    8. Once the cakes are cool,cut a small hole about the size of a 5p piece in the centre of the top of the cake - be careful not to go through the entire cake, and keep the top layer of the hole so you can reseal the cake (so it works like a lid).
    9. Spoon in a small amount of pineapple jam into the hole and add the cake-lid back on.
    10. Make the icing by combining the butter and icing sugar and slowly adding a little raspberry liqueur. Be careful not to add too much as you don't want it getting sticky or not being able to stay in shape.
    11. Fill an icing bag and pipe the icing onto the cupcakes or spoon on.
    12. Add sprinkles.

    cocktail inspired french martini cupcakes

    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: Chocolate Curry Cake


    So Travelodge were like hey, we want you to help us tempt people to Birmingham for a cheeky visit by telling them about the food.  And as part of their #TravelodgeFoodies they came up with this list of five Birmingham delicacies.  Sure balti, or curry in general, is definitely a Birmingham delicacy, but I was pretty miffed that chocolate had been missed off the list – being we’re the home of Cadbury and all (which I guess is more of an ingredient than a dish, but still).

    The whole plan was to tell people about the food by showing them an amazing recipe of something classically Birmingham.  But one of my favourite things about Birmingham is the people – we’re a pretty unconventional bunch.  With massive celebrations for St Patrick’s Day, Eid, Jamaican Independence and enough festivals in winter that one year the council created the ill-fated Winterval (they didn’t cancel Christmas, calm down), it’s a city where anything goes – as long as you’re good humoured about it.  So rather than cook up something sensible like a balti or a chocolate brownie, I thought what the hell I’ll make something interesting (like the architecture in the city centre).

    And so I bring you chocolate curry cake.  I know, this sounds a bit weird…but I’ve tested it out on some friends (one of which I bumped into on Colmore Row and demanded he eat cake – sorry George).  Ginger and cinnamon are fairly typical flavours in cake and they come across in this recipe, but the extra curry spices give it an extra depth to the flavour.  I used a supermarket medium curry powder because faffing around with minimal amounts of cinnamon, garam masala and the like would’ve been a nightmare; medium had a good flavour without there being any heat (a bit like our current summer).  To be honest I was tempted to leave these without icing, but thought a slight citrus would really bring it all together, so added a drizzle of glacé icing made with lime juice, which definitely worked.  I thought about a buttercream icing (which is why they’re a bit flatter in the photo) but I think this would’ve overpowered the flavour.

    Recipe: Chocolate Curry Cake
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 6
    • 100g margarine or butter
    • 100g vanilla caster sugar
    • 1 medium egg
    • 50ml semi-skimmed milk
    • 80g self-raising flour
    • 20g cocoa powder
    • 0.5tsp medium curry powder
    • 1tsp icing sugar
    • 2 drops lime juice
    1. Pre-heat your oven for about 180c or whatever the equivalent is on your oven. Prepare your cupcake tin with liners.
    2. Cream in the margarine (or butter) and sugar.
    3. Mix the egg into the sugar and margarine mixture until it's combined fully.
    4. In a separate bowl add the flour, cocoa and curry powder and mix together.
    5. Sieve the flour mixture into the main bowl and fold in (mix in a sort of figure of eight formation).
    6. Pour the batter into the cupcake cases or directly into the tin, if you prefer.
    7. Cook for about 20minutes or until the tops are springy and you can insert a skewer into the cake and it come out clean. Then leave them to cool.
    8. Once the cakes are completely cooled create an icing with a teaspoon of icing sugar, a few drops of lime juice and a little water - add the water slowly. Drizzle over the cakes.

    And there you have it, two of Birmingham’s delicacies…curry and chocolate, combined into cake!  Thanks to Travelodge for inspiring this slightly random recipe…and Birmingham, of course.


    Disclosure: Travelodge provided me with vouchers to pay for the ingredients to make this…I think they were thinking of a sensible recipe, but that would be far too simple now wouldn’t it?


    Recipe: Microwaveable Jambalaya

    Microwave meals don’t have a very good reputation.  But when you’ve agreed to house-sit and they’ve turned down their lovely Aga, there’s a choice between ready meals, take out or learning to cook in a microwave.  Having sampled several supermarket ranges and a couple of take outs, it was time to take matters into my own hands.

    Taking inspiration from the red jambalaya, this might not be the most authentic Louisiana cuisine you’ll ever eat, but it’s simple to prepare, tasty and doesn’t require a whole lot of laborious hovering over the stove waiting to stir.  The recipe I found didn’t require chicken or prawns and my altered version before doesn’t include it either, partly because I wasn’t sure how to cook chicken in a microwave and partly because I didn’t want to add more ingredients if it all went wrong and ended up in the bin. Lets just say I was incorrectly pessimistic.

    A few notes on the ingredients first.  I used easy cook long-grain & wild rice for no other reason that the supermarket I was in this was the cheapest, but any easy cook rice will do.  I also used four smaller chorizo sausages from The Bath Pig (who are RSPCA Freedom Foods affiliated and use British pork)  chopped into 2cm pieces, but so long as there’s around 200g-ish then using a large one is fine too.  Tomatoes with garlic added would be another timesaver, but garlic puree and a standard can of chopped tomatoes worked just as well.  Seasoning wise I used Schwartz cajun seasoning which saves a lot of time and is particularly handy if you’re not afforded with lots of spices to hand (I found that draw whilst washing up) – I like my jamba with some heat, but if you’re not keen then maybe add a little less spice.

    Microwaveable Jambalaya

    1 can of chopped tomatoes
    1 hefty squeeze of garlic puree or paste
    1 canful of (long-grain & wild) easy-cook rice
    1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
    200g-ish of chorizo, chopped into 2cm pieces
    198g can of sweetcorn
    2.5tsp Cajun seasoning


    1. In a large microwavable bowl, add the tomatoes, garlic puree, rep pepper, chorizo, sweetcorn and seasoning.  Using the empty can of tomatoes, fill it with rice and add to the bowl and then do the same with the water.  Give it all a good stir so it’s combined.
    2. Cover the bowl in cling film and piece with a knife.  Microwave everything for 12mins on 660W/medium or about 10mins on 750W.  Peel off the cling film and give everything a good stir.  Put back into the microwave for 5mins on 660W, take out and stir and then put back in for another 10mins.  By now the rice should be cooked, if not, give it a few more minutes.
    3. Take out of the microwave, give it a good stir and let some of the steam out.  Then serve.  Add a wedge of lime or a dollop of soured cream to serve if you like, I didn’t bother.



    Recipe: Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    I’m a big fan of this recipe for several reasons: it’s simple and easy to make; can be made with store-cupboard ingredients and whatever veg you have knocking around, and its origin.  Whilst looking for something my then-housemate and I would both eat and enjoy, I stumbled across Thug Kitchen – an expletive-ridden food blog which is mainly vegan, but doesn’t feel preachy.

    The original recipe is for Roasted Chickpea & Broccoli Burrito, and the first time I had it that’s what we did.  But this time round I decided to ‘pimp’ the recipe, and added more vegetables and doubled the spice mix.  It was already enough to make 6-8 healthy portions of burritos, but in an effort to get more veg into my diet I added mushrooms, aubergine and yellow courgette too – the latter of which was because a kind neighbour was giving them away for free.  The result is enough to eat as a decent lunch without the wraps…although I will warn you this is kinda spicy.  If that’s not your thing, maybe tone down the chilli powder or add a pinch of sugar.

    Roasted Chickpea and Vegetable Wraps

    2 cans of cooked chickpeas, drained
    1 large onion
    1 red pepper
    1 large broccoli
    1 small yellow courgette
    1 aubergine
    8 medium sized button mushrooms
    4 cloves of garlic
    1 lime
    Wraps and condiments to serve
    Spice mix:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    You’ll also need a roasting tin – the sort of one you use for roast chicken is ideal


    1. Heat the oven to about 200c
    2. Chop the onion, pepper, courgette, aubergine and broccoli so it’s fairly small – you don’t want it to be too much bigger than the chickpeas
    3. In a bowl add all the ingredients for the spice mix and combine.
    4. Add the spice mix to the vegetables and give it a good stir, it should give them all a reddish coating.
    5. Put everything in the roasting tin, if they’re not already, and roast in the oven for 20minutes.
    6. Whilst the vegetables are roasting, chop the garlic into small pieces and quarter the mushrooms…I’ve said about 8 but use however many you feel is best.
    7. Take the vegetables out of the oven, add the garlic and mushrooms, give it a good stir and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
    8. Once everything is cooked, juice half a lime over the mixture for some extra zing.  The vegetables should still have some bite to them, but the broccoli might look a little burnt.


    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: Blondies / White Chocolate Brownies

    I love this recipe, although I’m never really sure what to call them; white chocolate brownies sounds a bit silly, but blondies seem to require explanation.  Either way if you’re a fan of white chocolate these are delicious.  Below is the basic recipe for the blondies, but feel free to experiment; I’ve made this recipe adding 100g of cranberries or with a delicious Spanish liqueur, Licor 43.


    300g quality white chocolate, chopped

    200g butter

    3 medium eggs

    150g caster sugar

    ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

    200g plain flour, sifted


    1. Heat the oven to 180°C or equivalent.  Line a baking tin (18x28cm size is recommended) with greaseproof paper – trust me, this is a lot less messy than greasing a tin and trying to get the baked goods out later.
    2. Boil some water and then allow it to simmer.  In a bowl over the pan of simmering water, melt butter with 150g of the chocolate.  Once it’s all melted leave it to cool (trust me) and then give it a good, quick stir to combine it.
    3. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until combined and the mixture looks pale.
    4. Beat in the melted white chocolate mixture, making sure everything comes together.
    5. Chop the remaining 150g into chunks (I tend to attack mine with a rolling pin) and sprinkle the chunks into the mixture.  If you’re adding fruit (cranberries work well), add this now.
    6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or  until the top is firm but the insiders are still a bit soft.
    7. Leave to cool and cut into squares.



    Blueberry balsamic dressing makes everything better

    I’ve been convinced I dislike salad.  I have my reasons and they’re usually a combination of soggy, bland lettuce leaves which make you bored of chewing before you get full.  But it’s summer and after feeling a bit under the weather I thought I needed to inject a lot more veg into my diet, so it was time to revisit the dreaded salad.

    My plan was for tuna mayo with a rainbow assortment of colourful veg.  If the saying we eat with our eyes is true, I didn’t want to subject myself to a plate of just green.  So I added orange pepper (diced), a good measure of sweetcorn, cucumber (because even though it’s a salad staple, I love it), sun-dried tomatoes (which taste like pizza), and stripes of carrot to go with the insipid lettuce.  Already this was looking good.

    And then I remembered blueberries.

    I can’t remember where it was, but once I had blueberry vinaigrette on a side salad and though I’ve forgotten the place, the taste is one of those things I’ll remember for a while.  Sweet and zingy all pepped up with a nice light vinegar taste, it’s truly a wonderful dressing and why it doesn’t feature in more places I’ll never know.

    After reading a few recipes online I got bored of trying to convert cups and made up my own measures.  I’d give you the full recipe, but really I made this to taste and I’d recommend you do too.

    Blueberry balsamic dressing

    • Blueberries
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Olive oil
    • Juice from half a lemon
    • Sugar

    The main thing is use a food processor / blender, blitz the blueberries first and then add the rest of the ingredients sparingly until you get the taste you want.  The recipes I read online suggested honey in place of sugar, but I didn’t have any to hand and it’s just something to balance out the lemon and vinegar, rather than needing the honey taste.  I started with 30 blueberries, 3.5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, juice from half a lemon and a big pinch of sugar and went from there.  After adjusting the flavours I watered it down a little to make it easier to pour.

    The next day I took my salad to work and the tuna mayo stayed untouched in its container, where I ate my way through the rainbow.  And there’s plenty of ingredients left for tomorrow.


    Cake, Recipes

    Recipe: Gluten-free Chocolate and Cointreau Cake Recipe

    I recently(ish) managed to wander along to a Ladies Who Code event and being a woman who doesn’t really code but wants to learn I didn’t want to turn up empty handed.  So I made cake.  Jessica, the organiser, was on the lookout for gluten-free cakes for the event so I thought I’d have a go at making a flourless chocolate cake, mainly because I understand how much of a nightmare it is to have a food intolerance.

    I checked out a couple of recipes and in the end did what I always do, make up my own.  I find some chocolate cake a little cloying, particularly when very dark chocolate is used so I wanted to add another flavour.  I’m a big fan of adding alcohol to cake, and chocolate-orange is such a classic flavour that gluten-free Cointreau seemed like a perfect choice!


    Chocolate and Cointreau Cake

    150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids are ideal)

    150g butter or margarine

    6 eggs, separated

    250g caster sugar

    50ml Cointreau

    120g ground almonds

    4tsp cocoa powder


    1. Using a bowl of water which sits over a saucepan of boiling water, melt the butter and chocolate together.
    2. Whilst the butter and chocolate are melting, separate the eggs yolks from the whites – you’ll need both, but keep them apart.
    3. To the egg yolks add the Cointreau and sugar, and mix.  It’ll look a little lumpy at this point but it’ll be fine.  Add the ground almonds and cocoa together and then add in with the rest of the dry ingredients and mix together.
    4. Once the butter and chocolate have melted and combined together, add them to the yolk/sugar/almond mixture and beat well so everything is nice and combined.
    5. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they triple in volume and are nice and aerated – use an electric whisk.  This will prevent your cakes from getting too dense, and your arms from hurting too much.
    6. Carefully fold in the egg whites to the rest of the mixture, careful not to lose too much of the air you’ve just introduced.
    7. Add to your individual cake or muffins tray.  I made muffins with mine as they were for an event.  Fill up to about 3/4 of the tray which is more than usual, but they’ll puff up and then sink a little, so this ends up making a good size. The recipes roughly suggested this would make 12 but they made way more, so be prepared for that.
    8. Cook until you can poke them with a toothpick and it comes out clean.  About 40-45mins for a big cake or 15-20mins for muffins (although to be honest I use the toothpick test more than time).
    9. Once cooked either serve warm with berries and ice cream or leave to cool and enjoy at room temperature.

    Considering how little a fan of chocolate cake I am, these were really nice – and the people at the event seemed to think so too!  As with the perks of being a cook, I tried them when they were still warm and I think this recipe would be just as good as an warm dessert with fresh berries and cream, although they were still delicious as muffins.

    Definitely a recipe to go in the folder for a repeat!