Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

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My brother invited me over for dinner at his new house this week and I thought… how better to celebrate the occasion but with cake?! So I did what I do best- put my apron on and got baking. He adores a good sticky toffee pudding, so I had a search and came across the perfect little recipe. Cupcakes with a soft, rich sponge and a sweet caramel icing. Just, yum.

The comments I received for them were equally as fab. On the back of these little beauties, my best friend is rooting for me to enter Bake Off 2016, and my toughest critic- the brother- praised them as the best cakes I’ve ever made him. The only negative I had was that I didn’t give him enough!! Not too bad if I say so myself 🙂 If you fancy a good ego boost, I suggest you make a batch!

Makes approx. 16 cupcakes

180g pitted and chopped dates

180ml boiling water

80g unsalted butter, softened

150g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

180g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1tsp vanilla extract

Put the chopped dates in a bowl and cover them with the boiling water. Set them aside to soak for about 30 mins while you get on with making the cupcake batter.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin tin (or two) with cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.

Break the eggs in one at a time and beat until they’re incorporated well.

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) into the butter and sugar mixture in a few batches, beating after each addition until you’re left with a smooth batter.

Finally add the vanilla extract to the date mixture and add the whole lot to the cake batter.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Once they’re cooked, leave them to cool before icing.

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80g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar

25ml milk

50g tinned caramel or dulce de leche

Using an electric mixer, mix together the icing sugar and butter until it has the texture of sand.

Gradually add the milk and whack up the speed until you have a light creamy butter icing.

Stir in the caramel.

Top your cupcakes with the icing and decorate as desired.

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Recipe from: Afternoon Tease

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Best Ever Brownies

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This is honestly my ‘go to’ brownie recipe, it always go down a treat. I first made them when I was stuck what to make for my sister-in-law’s birthday- we were holiday on her birthday and needed something that we could stash in the suitcase without being destroyed during flight. You’ll be pleased to know they survived and were DELICIOUS. They are everything you want in a brownie- rich, moist and chocolatey. Since then, I’ve had not so subtle hints to keep making them- it’s safe to say a lot of brownies have been consumed by my family and friends this summer. They love them though. In fact, I went round a friend’s house recently and took a tray of them with me. Next thing I knew, her mum had tracked me down and asked me what my secret was! Gotta say, I was pretty chuffed with that 🙂 The recipe is from BBC Good Food, and is definitely worth the effort!

185g unsalted butter
185g best dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
50g white chocolate
50g milk chocolate
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar

Cut 185g unsalted butter into smallish cubes and tip into a medium bowl. Break 185g best dark chocolate into small pieces and drop into the bowl. Fill a small saucepan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them. Now remove the bowl from the pan. Alternatively, cover the bowl loosely with cling film and put in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
While you wait for the chocolate to cool, position a shelf in the middle of your oven and turn the oven on to fan 160C/conventional 180C/gas 4 (most ovens take 10-15 minutes to heat up). Using a shallow 20cm square tin, cut out a square of non-stick baking parchment to line the base.

Now tip 85g plain flour and 40g cocoa powder into a sieve held over a medium bowl, and tap and shake the sieve so they run through together and you get rid of any lumps.
With a large sharp knife, chop 50g white chocolate and 50g milk chocolate into chunks on a board. The slabs of chocolate will be quite hard, so the safest way to do this is to hold the knife over the chocolate and press the tip down on the board, then bring the rest of the blade down across the chocolate. Keep on doing this, moving the knife across the chocolate to chop it into pieces, then turn the board round 90 degrees and again work across the chocolate so you end up with rough squares.
Break 3 large eggs into a large bowl and tip in 275g golden caster sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar until they look thick and creamy, like a milk shake. This can take 3-8 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is, so don’t lose heart. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume. Another check is to turn off the mixer, lift out the beaters and wiggle them from side to side. If the mixture that runs off the beaters leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second or two, you’re there.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Plunge the spatula in at one side, take it underneath and bring it up the opposite side and in again at the middle. Continue going under and over in a figure of eight, moving the bowl round after each folding so you can get at it from all sides, until the two mixtures are one and the colour is a mottled dark brown. The idea is to marry them without knocking out the air, so be as gentle and slow as you like – you don’t want to undo all the work you did in step 4.
Hold the sieve over the bowl of eggy chocolate mixture and resift the cocoa and flour mixture, shaking the sieve from side to side, to cover the top evenly. Gently fold in this powder using the same figure of eight action as before. The mixture will look dry and dusty at first, and a bit unpromising, but if you keep going very gently and patiently, it will end up looking gungy and fudgy. Stop just before you feel you should, as you don’t want to overdo this mixing. Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks until they’re dotted throughout. Now your mixing is done and the oven can take over.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping every bit out of the bowl with the spatula. Gently ease the mixture into the corners of the tin and paddle the spatula from side to side across the top to level it. Put in the oven and set your timer for 25 minutes. When the buzzer goes, open the oven, pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Take out of the oven.
Leave the whole thing in the tin until completely cold, then, if you’re using the brownie tin, lift up the protruding rim slightly and slide the uncut brownie out on its base. If you’re using a normal tin, lift out the brownie with the foil. Cut into quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares and finally into triangles. These brownies are so addictive you’ll want to make a second batch before the first is finished, but if you want to make some to hide away for a special occasion, it’s useful to know that they’ll keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks and in the freezer for up to a month.

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