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A busy start to the 2012!

8 Jan

Happy New Year !

Oh wait I already said that right? We are only 8 days into 2012 and I already feel like 2011 was so long ago. The first week of January are always busy in our house, but the best kind of busy – the fun kind.

Being a January baby is clearly very cool – all my adult life I have always been surrounded by friends that have a birthday at the beginning of January, just like me! And this only means one thing – lots of parties, gifts and of course Cake!

This amazing cake was part of my baking buddy’s surprise Masquerade Ball! I had every intention of taking a picture of the amazing inside of the cake, but my slice was gone before I even thought about it, it was delicious!

Birthdays also mean one other great thing – Presents! And this year I was lucky enough to get some amazing gifts (my hubby and friends know me faaarrr to well)

Including The Cake Book & Mini – Pies – So look forward to a post about my first attempt at mini pies in the future.

And not baking related at all, but something I need to share, the most amazing shoes in the world:

So with everything starting to calm down, I cant wait to get back to baking and decorating again, and sharing it all here! So watch this space!

Here’s a sneak peak at my first 2012 project…

…can you tell what it is yet?

My #ClearAmerican Cupcake Experiment

11 Dec

Walmart!

Source

It’s the one big American supermarket known the world over, yet despite living in the US for nearly 2 years, this weekend was only the second time I have ever set foot in a Walmart. On a Saturday? In December? Yes I think I may be slightly crazy. This was all for a good reason though. To find and try this:

Source

Clear American Water is a brand I had heard a lot about but had never tried, as they are only sold exclusively in Walmart, and sadly I don’t live as close to a Walmart as I would like. I have always been a fan of Flavoured Sparkling Waters, as I really struggle to get enough water during the day and find plain water really boring. After being introduced to Clear American via friends, I was amazed at the variety of flavours offered, and a bottle is ZERO calories!

So one busy Saturday afternoon in Walmart, I came up with a great idea. Could I use one of these flavours in a new Cupcake recipe?

Well the short answer was YES!

Black Cherry isn’t the most typical flavor for Christmas Baking, but for me it always reminds me of the winter season and Christmas time. Every year I would remember the amazing Black Forest Gateau’s as part of the Christmas day deserts, and this was always my favourite!

BlackCherry, Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Cupcakes!

Makes 24 Cupcakes

(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

  • 1 pack Chocolate Cake mix (my favourite to use in Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge)

  • 1 pack of instant chocolate pudding mix

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 4 eggs at room temp lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Clear American Water

  • 24 Maraschino Cherries

Frosting

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter (for stiffer frosting, use Shortening instead)

  • 1lb of Powdered Sugar

  • 5 tbsp liquid from a jar of Maraschino Cherries

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 2 tbsp Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Clear American Water

  • 24 Maraschino Cherries

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    2. In a large bowl, mix together cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and Clear American Water until well combined

    3. Line 24 cupcake liners into a cupcake tin, and evenly distribute the mixture between them. Roughly each liner should be 2/3rds full.

    4. Gently push a Maraschino Cherry into the center of the batter, making sure that the mixture completely covers the cherry.

    5. Bake for approx 22-25 minutes. You should be able to insert a toothpick into the cake and it come out clean.

    6. Leave Cupcakes to cool for about an hour on a wire rack.

For the Frosting

  1. Whisk together butter/shortening and powdered sugar for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is well combined and looks like frosting.

  2. Add in Cherry Liquid, Vanilla and American Clear Water, and mix for a further 2 mins, until combined

  3. Pipe Frosting onto the Cupcakes and top with a Maraschino Cherry.

When I initially planned out this recipe, I had planned on using the Clear American Wild Cherry flavor, to get a fully cherry effect on these cupcakes, however I was unfortunate in the fact my local Walmart had run out of stock. So to improvise, I decided to opt for the Pomegranate Blueberry Acai flavor. However, in this swap, I think it added a unique flavour to the cakes. The cupcakes had a subtle hint of Pomegranate, which complemented the cherry frosting without ruining the two flavours.

The hubby liked them too! When asked for his opinion, he said the flavour reminded him of a Bakewell Tart.

I would definelty like to try the recipe again with the Wild Cherry flavour in the future, so I am keeping an eye on my local Walmart! Also I will definetly heading back to try some of the other flavours for general use, as the Pomegranate Blueberry Acai was a refreshing compliment to the cupcake!

You can find out more about Clear American Water, and a lot of great recipes using it at their website clearamerican.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias, which is a vendor for Cott Beverages Inc., the manufacturer of Clear American® brand beverages. However all opinions expressed and recipes developed are my own, and you can Follow Collective Bias on Twitter (@CollectiveBias). #collectivebias#CBias

Happy Thanksgiving!

24 Nov

An English girl hosting a Thanksgiving dinner? Why Not! Thats how I will be spending my day today!

Its that time of year when we should all remember the things we should be thankful for. This year, I have afew special mentions, mainly people, that I am thankful to have in my life:

  • My amazing hubby! AKA the taste tester of all my crazy kitchen adventures! He also ridiculouly tolerant of my kicking him out of the kitchen and baking into the small hours.

  • My amazing Friends and Family. Moving around so much has meant some of them are round the corner, and some are thousands of miles away – but whenever I see them, it feels like the last time I saw them was minutes earlier. My Aunty also thinks my cupcakes look better than some of the ones on ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ !

  • My Twitter Friends – A special Thanks to @KCbakes and @startupprincess for the amazing Start Up chats every Wednesday afternoon! Its provided alot of great and insightful information

  • My two little monsters – They drive me crazy but I would have them any other way!

Its such a hard life, isnt it?

So back to Thanksgiving. Or in our case this year, Friends-giving! With our families being so far away, and Thanksgiving not being celebrated outside of the US this week, we are having a ‘Friends-giving’ dinner!

(NB:This post was written last night, as today will be spent cooking, alot of eating and maybe some drinking with Friends.

Dinner will be the full all-American deal, with Turkey and all the trimmings.

Hopefully this years Turkey will look just as good as this!

Then we get onto my favourite thing – Desserts! I may have gone alittle over board! But Thanksgiving is only once a year right?!

On Tuesday I completed my final Wilton Class, so I already had one desert down! So 1 Gluten Free Chocolate Cake – done!

Next was something I have never actually made before, but I have always wanted to try, Apple Pie. Later in the week I will post up the recipe for this particular pie, but I was happy with the outcome – if I do say so myself!

Finally, It wouldn’t be desert without the classic Cupcake! To give them abit of a Autumn/Fall theme to them, I turned to my copy of Hello Cupcake! for inspiration, and it did not let me down! Volia – Chocolate flavoured -Pumpkin themed Cupcakes!

I just hope everyone has room for these after dinner! I will let you know how they go, as so far they are just tempting me from the other side of my kitchen!

So to all my readers, I hope you have had a great day, and you have plenty to be Thankful for this Holiday season! Thank you for sticking with me!

Shelter Staff Appreciation Week

14 Nov

Last week was all about appreciating those who give time for others. Across the world we remembered our Veterans on Friday. Last week was also National Shelter Staff Apperication Week (Nov 6th – 12th). I have been volunteering for my local Animal Shelter for nearly 18 months now, and have been lucky enough to see first hand the amazing work that the staff at the Irvine Animal Care Center do for the community and all those pets looking for their new forever home.

Both of my kitties have been rescues, one in fact from the Irvine Animal Care Center, and both have been the most loving, cutest pets I could possibly have, and I know this has alot to do with the care and love these animals receive at Shelter organisations. So this week, a group of us volunteers decided to get together and provide some treats for all the staff to show our appreciation. Everyday, one or two volunteers would bring in treats of many varieties.

Aren't they just too cute!?!

So my contribution, of course, Cupcakes!

These started as simple Vanilla and Chocolate Cupcakes.

As I knew I would be making the puppy, kitten and rabbit faces for the tops, I didn’t want to go to over the top with Frosting, so I simply topped them with a Vanilla or Chocolate Fudge frosting.

The idea for the animal faces came from finding a very cute candy mould in Micheals. These were originally made for Candy lolly Pop’s – but perfect are they as CupCake toppers!


So early Saturday morning, I made my delivery down to the IACC, before alot of the staff were at the Shelter, or were out working with the animals. When they came back to the office this is what they would find:

From the feedback I got, the cupcakes, along with all off the treats brought in throughout the week went down really well. Sometimes the staff at animal shelters get over looked for all the hard work they do, especially here at the Irvine Animal Care Center, providing a loving temporary home for these homeless pets whilst they wait for their forever homes. If you are in Irvine over the Holiday Period, you should go and visit the Center for their annual ‘Home for the Holidays‘ Event on Dec 3rd!

So if you happen to be visiting a local Shelter (of any kind, not just animal!), but sure to say Thank you to the staff and volunteers there for all the time they give. If your thinking of a pet for you or your family, please think about Adoption first – there are so many loving pets in shelters and rescues all over the country, just looking to be your new furry best friend.

Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids #SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

3 Nov

#SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

When I was first asked about being involved in helping promote the Smart & Final campaign for the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids”, I thought “Am I the right person for this?” I mean, I don’t have kids, so I haven’t been very involved in the ‘schooling’ community in my local area.

However I am a very big believer in making school the best experience it can be for all kids. I loved school when I was younger, and was very lucky to have great teachers and surroundings to help make it a great experience. Also, as a baker, I use Dairy products everyday, so how could helping the local school community be a bad thing!

Smart & Final are taking part in the amazing campaign from the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids“, with all of its participating First Street products. All Students and families need to do is simply collect Real California milk seals from select First Street products, as seen on these participating products:

Students then give these to their teachers, and then teachers submit seals. Each seal counts as one sweepstakes entry. Teachers who submit 100 seals get 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supply gift card. Each teacher entrant gets one Scholastic book.

The California Milk Advisory Board is going to announce winners in February, BUT Smart & Final is so awesome that they’re doing a separate sweepstakes!

Entrants who go to FirstStreetSupportsSoCalSchools.com and tell why their SoCal school should win will be entered to win $500, $300 or $200 to be donate to the school of their choice EVERY MONTH! So that means that there will be a total of NINE winners, 3 per month, from those that enter at the site! Now I think that’s good odds!

SO utilizing some of the great products as part of this amazing campaign, and with Thanks giving on the way, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite recipes for this time of year. As a Brit who only arrived in the US last year, 2010 was the first all American Thanksgiving we celebrated. My first introduction was through the tradition ‘Pot-Luck’ Lunch at my office. I decided to stick to something safe, as I had no idea what was ‘traditional’ – and deserts have always been my thing.

I’m going to be honest as well here, and please don’t hate me for this people, but I really dislike Pumpkin. Fall is filled with Pumpkin flavoured everything, and I just can’t stand it. So with this in mind, I chose other classic fall flavours, like caramel, apple and cinnamon.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Food Network & Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski

For cupcakes

1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs (one whole egg, and one you will just need the egg white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

For caramel apple filling

4 apples
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

To make cupcake

  • Preheat oven to 350F, and line cupcake pan with paper liners.

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside for the time being.

  • Beat together the sugar and butter until combined smoothly. Once smooth, add in the egg and 1 egg white and vanilla, and beat on a low speed for 2-3 minutes.

  • Add the flour mixture and milk in alternately. I spilt the flour mix into 3 portions, and the milk into two, making sure to end on the flour mixture. Then mix until the batter is smooth.

  • Fill cupcake liners, to about 2/3rds full and bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire cooling rack whilst to make your filling.

To make filling

  • Peel your apples and slice them up into small chucks, about the size of a small nut. To stop your apples going brown during this time, add a small amount of lemon juice over them.

  • Combine together all of the dry ingredients, then combine these with your apple chunks in a large bowl, making sure to evenly coat all your pieces.

  • Add the vanilla and heavy cream to the coated apple pieces.

  • Using a pan over low heat, melt your 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the apple mixture in the skillet for about 10mins, to allow the apples to soften, but not too mushy.

The final touches to fill your cupcakes:

To remove the center of your cupcake, you can use multiple methods. I used a great little tool from Bed Bath and Beyond, a Cupcake Plunger. This a great little tool to remove even patches of cake from the center. Don’t have one of these? You can simply use a small cookie cutter, or using a sharp knife, cutting a small circle. Note: You only want to insert to go down about 2/3rds of the way through the cupcake, allowing the cupcake to look like a pie crust.

Then fill each cupcake with approx. 1 tsp of your caramel apple filling.

If you happen to be serving these out the same day that you make them, I strongly suggest adding s scoop of Dulce de Leche Ice Cream (which is included as part of the California Milk Advisory Board campaign –yay!) to enhance the caramel taste. However these little treats work great on their own, or topped with alittle whipped cream.

Show your support and find out more about Smart &Finals amazing program by following them on Facebook and on Twitter !

NB: This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias#CBias , however all opinions expressed and recipes developed are my own. Follow Collective Bias on Twitter (@CollectiveBias).