Tag Archives: baking with kids

Recipe: Microwave Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings

A couple of years ago I made a bit of a breakthrough in making quick puddings for my family. I made a jam sponge in the microwave and that’s been our go to speedy pudding at home for a little while. As much as we all love jam sponge (and we really love jam sponge) I thought it was time to ring the changes. This weekend I made Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings in the microwave and they were really rather good. Good enough to give to guests who think you’re more Mary Berry than you actually are. 

Easy Recipe: Microwave Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings

These fab little puddings are great to throw together in a hurry and take just 3 minutes to cook in the microwave. We have a Panasonic microwave oven which is just the thing for cooking these speedy puds. Just make sure you cook the Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings one at a time and maybe check how your pudding is doing after two minutes or so. 

I’ve used fresh thyme in these sponge puddings, which I admit is fairly unusual. We have fresh thyme in the garden and it is one of my favourite herbs. Don’t be tempted to used dried thyme in these puds, I don’t think dried would work. If you don’t have fresh then just leave the thyme out altogether.

Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings

Ingredients (serves four)
4oz butter or margarine
4oz sugar
2 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves, picked from the stalk
1 teaspoon baking powder
4oz self raising flour

To top the puddings –
Lemon curd
Thyme leaves
Custard

Method
With an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme leaves and combine. Tip the flour and baking powder into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and beat together.

Lightly grease four microwave proof ramekins. Fill each one 3/4 of the way full with the sponge mix. Loosely cover with cling film, allowing some extra room for the sponge to steam and rise. Microwave each one individually for three minutes. You might want to check how they’re getting on after 2 minutes or so. Your sponges need to be cooked through but not overdone.

Once cooked, run a knife around the edge and tip them out onto a plate. 

Put two heaped dessert spoons of lemon curd into a microwavable dish and warm through for 30 seconds. Stir until it is the consistency of a sauce and drizzle over the top of your sponge, scatter some fresh thyme leaves over and serve with custard. Delicious!

Easy Recipe: Microwave Lemon & Thyme Sponge Puddings

= This is a collaborative post =

Recipe: Halloween Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

Every year I carve a pumpkin at Halloween and every year without fail I’ve guiltily tipped the insides of the pumpkin into the compost bin. I tell a lie, one year we did try and make something but it was so inedible we tipped that straight in the bin. 

This afternoon as my son and I sat around the kitchen table carving the pumpkin and scooping out the gloopy insides, I felt really bad about tipping the pumpkin innards into the bin, so I decided to try and bake a pumpkin cake of our own. 

I consider myself to be a bit of a safe baker, I can do 100 variations of sponge cake but anything more complicated I’ve always shied away from for fear of failure. I sat at the kitchen table and puzzled over what to do, in the end I came up with a slightly experimental recipe for a pumpkin cake and a hope that it would work, it did and it was delicious.

pumpkin cake

This pumpkin cake recipe does make quite a lot of cake batter and there was enough to make one decent sized cake and 12 yummy cupcakes. We used the flesh, the firm pale bit, not the slimy gloopy bit. We cut our chunks of the flesh and grated them. We found we had 300g or so, though I think if you found yourself with more pumpkin than that, then the recipe is quite forgiving and would accommodate another 100g or so with no problems.

The pumpkin kind of melts into the cake when it’s cooked and you’d never, ever know what the spooky surprise in your cake really is. I suspect if you wanted to make this cake outside of pumpkin carving season a grated butternut squash would work just as well.

pumpkin cake

Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Icing

If you’ve carved your pumpkin and you don’t know what to do with the leftover flesh, here’s a cracking recipe for a cake which you can decorate as Halloweeny as you want.

For the cake…

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 200g butter or margarine
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp mixed spice, ground
  • 5 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 300g pumpkin flesh, grated
  • splash of orange juice if the latter needs loosening

For the frosting…

  • 80g unsalted butter, soft
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 4 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 200g cream cheese
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 190.

  2. Cream the golden caster sugar and butter together.  Once light and fluffy stir in the beaten eggs, mixed spice and cinnamon. Add to bicarb of soda, salt and sifted flour and fold in until the batter is smooth. If the batter seems a little stiff add a splash of fresh orange juice to loosen it. Stir in the grated pumpkin.

  3. Put a dessert spoon of the batter in 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

  4. With the remainder of the batter, pour into a lined 8 inch cake tin. For ease I used one of the paper cake tin liners you can buy and my tin was quite deep (4 inches). Bake this cake in the oven for 50 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for a further 10 minutes, then remove and cool on the rack.

To make the frosting…

  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together until smooth, add the cinnamon and stir thoroughly. Beat in the cream cheese until the mixture is well combined. Put in the fridge to firm up for 20 minutes.

  2. Once your cakes are cool they can be iced, you can either pipe on the frosting or smooth it on with a knife, decorate however you want, I sprinkled some spooky sprinkles on top of mine.

The result was a surprisingly light pumpkin cake, full of autumnal spice and not at all pumpkiny. I urge you not to tip your pumpkin innards in the bin, but to try this instead. You won’t regret it. I promise!

pumpkin cake

Casa Costello

Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile.

Voucherbox.co.uk have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Baking: Make Your Own Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

October is one of my favourite months, I love the autumn colours and Halloween is always a good excuse to get the mixing bowls out to create something spooky to celebrate the occasion. We don’t do trick or treating, but we usually have a party for some of the small boy’s friends, or a little Halloween tea party of our own. I tried my hand at making some spooky Halloween cupcakes for the occasion and I was quite pleased with how they turned out.

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

The cupcakes were really easy to make (you can read my fail-safe sponge cake recipe here) and take very little time to knock up with a food mixer, though I sometimes mix my cakes by hand if I can’t be bothered washing the mixer afterwards.

Once my little cupcakes had cooled, I made a buttercream. I made quite a lot of buttercream because I had several batches of cakes to decorate for various occasions. To make my buttercream I put 500g of soft unsalted butter in the food mixer and beat it for a minute or two to soften it up properly. I then added 500g of sifted icing sugar and beat them together until they were thoroughly combined. As you can see it’s just equal amounts of each ingredient, so depending on how much buttercream you need you can make more or less.

I then put half of the buttercream in a tub in the fridge to use at a later date, I put a quarter in a piping bag with a piping nozzle (I use a large star) and popped that in the fridge to firm up a little. With the remaining quarter of icing (still in the food mixer) add orange food colouring, just a few drops at a time until you get the Halloweeny orange colour you want. Once you’re happy with the colour, pop it in the fridge to firm up a little – though not so much that you can’t pipe it.  I always find freshly made buttercream is too loose to pipe with until it’s had half an hour in the fridge.

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

I had been sent some spooky decorations by Cake Angels. I really like using Cake Angels decorations, they’re simple to use, are often quite fun and look great. The Halloween decorations are no different.

I made three different kinds of spooky Halloween Cupcakes…

With the orange buttercream and using a palette knife, I smoothed the buttercream on top of the cupcake (choose cupcakes which don’t rise above the edge of the paper case for this). I then took a Cake Angels Halloween cake topper and placed it in the middle of the cupcake, then sprinkled some of the Cake Angels Halloween sprinkles on. The small boy enjoyed helping to decorate the cakes like this, almost as much as he enjoyed eating them.

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

Using my large star piping nozzle I piped icing onto the Halloween cupcakes and topped them with a cake topper, some I added sprinkles too. I used both the plain white buttercream and the orange buttercream for this. 

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

These Witches Hat Halloween Cupcakes were a bit of an experiment. I’d spotted some ice cream cones in the reduced section in a local shop. I bought some black get food colouring and spent some time the night before carefully painting my ice cream cones black, leaving them to dry overnight.

When it came to icing my witches hat cupcakes, I piped orange icing (for hair) onto the cupcake, then carefully pressed the hat/cone onto the icing. To decorate, I dabbed some buttercream onto the back of one of the Cake Angels decorations and stuck that to the hat. If I’d thought it through a bit more I would have made a buckle and belt for the hat out of royal icing. I will next time.

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

These spooky Halloween cupcakes were lots of fun to make and would be a great centrepiece for a Halloween party. They were tasty too – too tasty. They didn’t last long before they were spirited away into our bellies!

Cake Angels decorations are available from a wide range of supermarkets (I’ve seen them in Tesco and Co-op) and from specialist shops.

I was sent some Halloween cake decorating goodies by Cake Angels, all images and opinions are our own.

My top five best bakes (for Christmas)

I was chatting about baking to a mum in the playground yesterday, we discovered a shared love of fairly unusual continental recipes, the kind Paul and Mary would give to Bake Off contestants to try and baffle them into submission. It got me thinking about some of my favourite things I’ve baked and blogged, so I thought I’d choose my top five best bakes and give them another airing.

I promise you they’re all easy, I lack the patience, time and skill to do anything too fancy and time consuming; but they’re all delicious. 

Lebkuchen Cake 

Traditionally a moreish soft biscuit, I decided to attempt a German Lebkuchen Cake with considerable success. The recipe is easier than it looks to make and the results are truly scrumptious!

Lebkuchen Cake

Joulutorttu

Traditionally Joulutorttu are made with puff pastry and a special Finnish prune jam. However I made mine with a Christmas preserve, but it does need a good firm set jam. Try plum or prune conserve for authenticity. They look a bit tricky to make, but it’s ready-roll puff pastry and jam and  a bit of arty twisting of the pastry.

Joulutorttu

Birnenpfannkuchen

Birnenpfannkuchen is a German Pear & Ginger Pancake. This is a brilliant store cupboard standby, and a real family favourite when you need a quick pud. It’s a bit like a fruity toad in the hole, only better!

Birnenpfannkuchen

Cinnamon & Raisin Shortbread

I originally created this shortbread recipe in 2013 in celebration of the Great British Bake Off and it’s still popular today. Cinnamon and raisin are a great combination and this lovely crumbly shortbread is a great bake.

shortbread

Microwave Jam Sponge Pudding

I’ve always hated the thought of “baking” in the microwave, but I’ve cracked it with this delicious sponge pudding. From mixing bowl to table in under ten minutes – perfect for busy families.

jam sponge

So that’s my little round up of my five best bakes. What would you have in your top five?

Easy Recipe: Microwave Jam Sponge

In the early 1980s my Grandma (who was a professional cook) got herself a microwave and dedicated her retirement to figuring out how to use it. Her microwave cheffing was never considered a success. You could break your teeth on her sponge cakes and her scrambled eggs bounced. Everything which came out of her microwave was a disaster, which was enormously disappointing for someone who could make patisserie that would make French Chefs weep with jealousy.

I have shied away from microwave cookery, bar reheating leftovers, pinging ready meals and giving jacket potatoes a head start; the thought of baking a cake in the microwave sends me straight back to 1985 and I was resolved never to try it. That was until I was sent a jar of Duerr’s Rhubarb and Custard Homebaking Jam, the jam has been formulated to behave itself when heated, so it doesn’t go chewy like other jams might. Additionally it tastes just like those rhubarb and custard sweets I used to be addicted to as a child.

We decided it would be best to make a jam sponge and custard with this really lovely yummy jam (I had already liberally smeared some on a croissant for quality control purposes). I love steamed puddings, but who has the time? So I decided it was worth me tentatively experimenting with a microwaved version, what’s the worst that can happen?

I made my usual sponge recipe and popped it in the microwave for four minutes, checked it, decided it needed another two minutes and it was perfect. It was by far the lightest, fluffiest sponge pudding we’ve had in a long, long time. It took ten minutes from weighing the ingredients to pouring custard over the finished pudding and filling our faces. It is in short the perfect pudding if you need something quick, warming, universally popular and drowned in custard.

jam sponge

Microwaved Jam Sponge Pudding (serves 6)
Ingredients:
4oz Sugar
4oz Butter or Margarine (I always use Stork)
2 medium eggs
4oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Half a jar of Jam (I used Duerr’s Rhubarb and Custard Homebaking Jam)

Method:
1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir through the eggs.
2. Sift in the flour and baking powder and gently combine.
3. Dollop your jam on the bottom of a large microwavable bowl, gently (very gently so as not to disturb the jam) dollop the sponge mixture on top of the jam and smooth it so it’s fairly evenly distributed.
4. Microwave for six minutes (check this often as it’s really easy to quickly overcook things in the microwave).
5. Once cooked, remove carefully from the microwave and eat while it’s still warm.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream, or whatever takes your fancy.

This is ridiculously quick and easy, incredibly tasty and really, really popular. I think my Grandma would be really proud that I finally cracked the mystery of microwave baking.