Chocolate orange brownies

If you’ve been reading the Baking-Joy for the last few months, you will know that I love peanut butter and chocolate.  But sometimes (for like 5 minutes) I have a break for the holy grail of all baking combinations for another combination I love…chocolate orange 🙂

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Did anyone else always get a chocolate orange at Christmas?  That chocolate orange was the inspiration for these delicious, fudgy brownies.  I adapted my peanut butter swirl brownie recipe, but substituted half of the dark chocolate for pieces of chocolate orange.  Awesome 🙂

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These brownies do honestly taste like fudge.  They may as well be fudge with this texture 🙂  You’ll notice the very small amount of flour in this recipe, which gives the brownies their soft, dense texture.  The addition of the chocolate orange pieces (which contain orange oil) and orange zest give them a fresh taste which goes brilliantly with the dark chocolate.

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I want to finish this rather short post on this thought…why oh why didn’t I put Cointreau in these? 😉

Ingredients (makes 16 brownies):

  • 100g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 100g orange chocolate
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 50g dark chocolate chips
  • 50g milk chocolate chips
  • Zest of 1 orange

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 3/170C.  Line a 20cm x 20cm brownie tin with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together (not the chocolate chips) gently in the microwave.  Stir in the sugars, making sure there are no lumps in the brown sugar.  Stir in the orange zest.
  3. Fold in the flour, then beat in the eggs (do not panic at this point, it will look as though it’s going wrong!  Keep mixing and you’ll be fine!)  Mix in the chocolate chips.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes (check after 25).  The brownies should be slightly wobbly in the middle  (this is important, as overbaked brownies are not happy brownies :-))
  5. Let brownies cool in the tin, remove and cut into 16 squares.  They are best stored in the fridge.

 

Banana Nutella Cupcakes

I’ve just had an idea…if banana + peanut butter are good on toast and banana + nutella are good on toast, how about all 3??  Breakfast is sorted for tomorrow!

I will admit now to slathering extra nutella and peanut butter on top of one these cupcakes…don’t judge 🙂

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I have a nutella banana treat for you today, in the form of banana cupcakes with a nutella swirl.  You all know how much I love peanut butter & banana (and apple & cinnamon. And peanut butter & jam. And…you get the picture :D), but banana & nutella is definitely in the top 3 favourites (ok, maybe top 5 :-)).

Anyone notice the heart swirl in the picture below?  I’d like to say I did it on purpose…

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These cupcakes start with a straightforward cupcake base, with a few delicious add-ins 🙂  Start in the regular way by creaming butter and sugar until pale and soft (about 3 minutes, I used a handmixer).  Beat in your eggs, one at a time.  The mixture shouldn’t curdle, but if it looks like it’s going to, add in a small amount of the flour.  Next, fold in the dry ingredients, which include cinnamon.  I freaking love cinnamon.  Particularly in any sort of banana cake 🙂  The baking powder and self raising flour makes these little cakes amazingly light, even though they contain banana.

Now.  I’m going to make a suggestion that I didn’t actually do when making these cupcakes (but it’s a good idea, promise!)  Slightly warm the Nutella before swirling it into the top of the cupcakes.  As the kitchen was pretty cold when I made these, the Nutella was solid.  Solid Nutella + swirling = not such a good idea 🙂  These cupcakes still taste great though and will keep for 2-3 days (but are best enjoyed soon after baking!)

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Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes):

  • 175g unsalted soft butter
  • 175g caster sugar (superfine)
  • 175g self-raising flour (or all-purpose)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder (or 2 tsp if using all-purpose flour)
  • Nutella (enough for 12 teaspoons)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C.  Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes using a handmixer)
  3. Beat in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.  Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the mashed banana.
  4. Fill the cases 2/3 full with the cake batter.  Place a teaspoon of Nutella on top and swirl gently with a toothpick or knife.  Bake for around 20 minutes or until well risen and golden.  Try not to eat straight out of the oven 🙂

Victoria Sponge

I have an English classic for you today…Victoria sponge cake 🙂

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Along with vanilla fairy cakes, this is one of the first recipes I ever made.  I have my Granny, Mum and Mary Berry to thank for teaching me!  This recipe is quite straightforward, however they are many ‘discussions’ as to the best way of making it!  Today, I’m going to give you the recipe that I use, but also talk you through some of the tweaks you can make for your own recipe. 

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Traditionally, Victoria Sponge is made with raspberry jam, no buttercream and caster sugar sprinkled on top.  However this cake is equally delicious with strawberry jam and buttercream filling.  It’s also beautiful as a summer dessert with fresh strawberries. raspberries and lightly whipped cream in the middle.  Take your pick! 🙂

My personal preference is for strawberry jam and caster sugar as the topping (I know, I know.  I used icing sugar for my photos.  It looks prettier :-))  A bit of a controversy with this cake is whether you use butter or margarine in the cake batter.  I personally use margarine.  Butter provides excellent flavour in certain recipes and for most baking I will use butter, however using margarine in this case means the ‘all-in-one’ method can be used.  As margarine will not cause the eggs to curdle, all the ingredients can be quickly beaten together in one bowl.  As soon as they are combined, stop mixing, as overworking the flour can cause a heavy cake.  I’ve tasted the Victoria sponge using butter and then margarine and it really doesn’t affect the flavour.  Try it and see!

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Ensure that you bake both halves of the cake on the same oven shelf, as this should mean that they rise evenly.  Don’t worry if one looks more perfect than the other, just pick this one to be the top 🙂

My recipe makes one 7 inch cake (2 layers), if you’s like an 8 inch cake, simply increase the 4 main ingredients to 225g and the baking powder to 2 teaspoons.

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Ingredients (makes one 7 inch cake):

  • 175g soft margarine (or butter)
  • 175g self-raising flour (or all-purpose)
  • 175g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 3 eggs (about 175g)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder (if using all-purpose flour, increase the baking powder to 2 teaspoons)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C.  Baseline and grease two 7 inch sandwich tins.
  2. If using butter: Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes with a handmixer).  Mix in the eggs one at a time, with a small amount of the flour (to prevent curdling).  Fold in the flour and baking powder.
  3. If using margarine: Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together (with a handmixer) until just combined.
  4. Divide the cake mix evenly between the two tins, smooth the top and bake for 20 minutes until well risen and golden.  Do not be tempted to open the oven door whilst the cake is baking, as this could cause it to sink in the middle.
  5. Leave the cakes in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. When cool, sandwich together with plenty of jam (strawberry in this case) and sprinkle the top with icing sugar or caster sugar.

Do you ever use margarine rather than butter in baking?

Banana peanut butter chip muffins

I try to eat a healthy breakfast.  Really I do.  I absolutely love porridge, fruit and yoghurt for example.  But more often than not, during the week, that extra 15 minute lie in wins over 🙂  That’s why I keep a variety of quick (and fairly healthy!) breakfast options up my sleeve.  Like today for example…

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Bananas are the ’emergency breakfast’ that I always have in the fruit bowl.  They taste great and are cheap (why are bananas so cheap?  I often wonder this, when some fruit grown in the UK is more expensive!)  However the bananas I used in today’s recipe I wouldn’t even consider eating (I’m one of those slightly strange people that eats green bananas :-)).  For bananas to be used in cake, they have to be practically rotting away, which gives what ever you are making the fantastic sweet taste.  It’s the reason that not a lot of sweetener is needed in my Peanut Butter Banana Oat Bars and it also means the muffins will keep for a lot longer.

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Today’s muffin recipe is based on my Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins, but with the addition of…peanut butter chips!  Ever since getting hold of these in the UK, I’ve been keen obsessed with using them 🙂  When making these muffins, fold the flour in really carefully, as overmixing muffin batter can cause it to become really stodgy.  As soon as the dry ingredients are incorporated, stop mixing.  This should ensure you have a lovely light texture in the finished cake.  These are divine straight out of the oven, when the chocolate  and peanut butter chips are all gooey, but will also keep well for a few days (particularly good at breakfast :-))

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Ingredients (makes 10 muffins):

  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g plain (all purpose) flour)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 50g peanut butter chips
  • 50g dark chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C.  Line a muffin tin with muffin paper cases.
  2. Beat the eggs and oil together in a jug.  Mix all dry ingredients (apart from the choc and peanut butter chips) in a bowl.  Pour the eggs and oil into the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix carefully together.  DO NOT OVERMIX.
  3. Fold in the mashed banana, followed by the peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. Fill the muffins cases nearly to the top (this ensures the muffins are tall).
  4. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and well risen.

Peanut butter swirl brownies

It’s brownie Friday 🙂

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I’ve been looking for a really dense, chocolatey, fudge like brownie recipe for ages and I think I’ve hit the jackpot!  These brownies taste like chocolate fudge and are totally delicious.  Of course, there’s only one thing that makes brownies better…peanut butter 🙂

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I’ve made these brownies twice in the last 2 weeks, so it’s safe to say they’ve been well taste tested 🙂 And this is one recipe that didn’t make it into work!  The 1st time I made these, I used 70% dark chocolate and they came out beautifully.  The 2nd time (and what you see in the photos) I could only get hold of 50% cocoa solids.  They came out well and tasted good, but I’d highly recommend using the very dark chocolate for these 🙂  These brownies call for some light brown sugar as well as white, which adds to the general fudginess.  It also means they are so soft and dense, they must be stored in the fridge.  This is a very dangerous thing…these brownies will stare at you every time you open the fridge door…

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You’ll also notice that this recipe calls for relatively little flour compared to the other ingredients. Less flour = a more fudgy brownie.  The addition of swirled peanut butter and peanut butter chips…Oh my word.

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Ingredients (makes 16 brownies):

  • 200g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 70g smooth peanut butter
  • 100g peanut butter chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 3/170C.  Grease and baseline a 20x20cm brownie tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave (carefully, in short bursts).  Stir until smooth.
  3. Stir in the sugar until incorporated and then fold in the flour.  Mix in the eggs until smooth.
  4. Fold in the peanut butter chips and pour batter into the tin.  Melt the peanut butter in the microwave, dot on top of the batter and swirl with a knife.
  5. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until set on top but slightly wobbly in the middle.  Do not overbake, otherwise the brownies will become crunchy.

Vanilla fairy cakes

It’s time for fairy cakes 🙂

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This is a recipe that brings back very happy memories of baking with my mum & sister and also my food technology course at school.  It’s one of the first recipes I ever made and I’m sure fairy cakes were around long before their bigger cupcake cousins were on the scene 🙂

Fairy cakes are essential cupcakes in small form.  The recipe I’m showing you today is incredibly light, thanks to the combination of self-raising flour and baking powder.  If you don’t have self-raising flour available, you can safely use extra baking powder instead.

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The addition of vanilla extract in the cake batter gives these little cakes a wonderful sweetness and warmth.  You’ll also notice I’ve used margarine rather than butter in this recipe.  I find you don’t really miss the butter flavour in these cakes and it also means you can use the ‘all in one’ method, rather than creaming the butter and sugar first.  They are topped with a simple water icing, made with water and icing (powdered) sugar).  You can top these with whatever you like…sweets, chocolate or in my case, hundreds and thousands!  I made the rather silly mistake of sprinkling the fairy cakes with said decoration on the worktop.  This resulted in a hundreds and thousands explosion and resulted in the ‘hoovering through a straw’ method of cleaning 🙂

These cakes are perfect for a party (children love them) or when you perhaps want the taste of a cupcake without the calories!

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Ingredients (makes 12 fairy cakes):

  • 4oz self-raising flour
  • 4oz caster (superfine) sugar)
  • 4oz margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar
  • Sprinkle decorations
  1. Preheat oven to Gas 5/200C.  Line a shallow bun tin with 12 small paper cases.
  2. Using an electric hand beater, beat together all ingredients (apart from icing sugar and sprinkles) quickly, until just combined.
  3. Fill cases 2/3 full and bake for around 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
  4. Whilst cooling, mix together a small amount of icing sugar and water, until it reaches a thick consistency.
  5. Smooth icing over the cakes and sprinkle on decoration of your choice!

What are your favourite sprinkle decorations?

Blueberry Bakewell cake bars

Now.  The problem with having lots of jam sitting in the cupboard is thinking of recipes to use it.  Who am I trying to kid? 🙂  The whole reason I made the blueberry jam in the first place is so I could use it in this recipe I’m sharing with you today!  I’m a massive fan of Bakewell tart (or Bakewell pudding, depending on who you ask!)  It’s a delicious cake/dessert that involves lots of almond flavour and raspberry jam.  It’s been the inspiration for my blueberry bakewell cake bars today.

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These cake bars are a combination of delicious almond flavour, my homemade blueberry jam and fresh blueberries.  Having never tried blueberry and almond as a flavour combination, I’m very pleased with the results 🙂

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The cake itself is quite dense and moist, as it uses both flour and ground almonds.  I also added some almond extract to amp up the almond flavour.  The swirls of blueberry jam add a welcome sweetness and the fresh blueberries add freshness.  I have to admit, I now think that buying fresh blueberries in January is a big mistake 🙂  The first batch used for the cake were fine, however eating the blueberry ‘props’ you see in the photos was like eating damp cotton wool.  I therefore ate some more cake to cheer myself up 🙂

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Ingredients (makes 16 squares):

  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder (use 1 1/2 tsp if using plain flour)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g fresh blueberries
  • 40g blueberry jam (for swirling)
  • Flaked almonds (for sprinkling)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4/180C.  Baseline and grease a 9 inch square cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs thoroughly with the almond extract.  Fold in the baking powder, flour and ground almonds.
  3. Fold in the fresh blueberries.  Add the mixture to the cake tin and blob the blueberry jam over the top.  Swirl gently with a knife.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the cake springs back when pressed.