Fondant Christmas Cookies

Ingredients (makes approx. 25 large round cookies)
125g butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking powder

Approx 200g white fondant icing
Icing sugar
Vanilla essence
Red and green food colouring

Method
Cream butter, sugar & vanilla using electric beaters until well combined. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy.

Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, mix sifted dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a dough forms. Knead gently for 1-2 minutes on a lightly floured bench and then divide into 2 roughly equal pieces, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin until you reach your desired thickness (I like mine around 5-6mm) and cut out circles using a large round cookie cutter. Repeat until you have used all the dough.

Place onto a baking tray (they don’t have to be spread out much as they don’t really expand) and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

While the cookies cool, make your vanilla glaze by combining vanilla essence and icing sugar until you have a thick syrup consistency.

Divide your fondant icing into 3 roughly equal parts. Colour one red, one green and leave the other white.

Roll out your fondant using a rolling pin on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until 3-4mm thick. Use the same round cutter as for the cookie to cut out circles of fondant.

Brush each cookie with a small amount of the vanilla glaze and the top with fondant. Press down gently to ensure the fondant has adhered completely to the cookie. Stamp with a ‘Merry Christmas’ cookie stamp or decorate as desired. Repeat until all cookies have been decorated. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘The Best Valentine Sugar Cookies’ on Alice & Lois.com

Lavender Cupcakes

I’ve always been intrigued by floral desserts and these cupcakes, inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery, have been on my to-bake list for years. With socially distanced spring picnics all the rage at the moment, I thought now was the perfect time to give them a try. I admit, I was a little worried that they might taste like Grandma’s soap, but I’ve made sure the lavender flavour is subtle, resulting in a delicious vanilla cupcake with a floral back note. If you’re keen to up your picnic game and try something new, give these a go!

I bought my dried lavender flowers from the Essential Ingredient online store, but it’s available at many gourmet and specialty food stores.

Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)
1 cup milk
1½ tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2¾ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Icing
¼ cup milk
¼ tablespoon dried lavender flowers
100g butter, softened
¾ tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
A few drops of purple food colouring
24 small sprigs of fresh lavender (to decorate)

Method
Put the milk and dried lavender in a jug, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours. Repeat with the milk and dried lavender for the icing (in a separate jug/bowl).

Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan forced). Line two 12-hole muffin trays with patty pans. Strain the lavender infused milk (for the cupcakes, discarding the dried lavender) and allow the milk to reach room temperature.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a different bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes. Add the caster sugar about a third at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. After the last of the sugar has been beaten, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined.

Add approximately a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Add half of the infused milk and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all of the flour and milk is just combined.

Spoon mixture into the patty pans (filling each about ¾ full) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the top springs back when touched. Remove the cupcakes from the trays immediately and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, strain the remaining lavender infused milk (once again discarding the dried lavender). Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the infused milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the icing is a spreadable consistency. Add the purple food colouring a tiny bit at a time until the desired colour has been achieved. Add extra milk (plain/not-infused is fine) if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a spatula to apply a generous layer of icing to each cake and top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery. Flavour inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Café Style Baked Beans

These rustic, café style baked beans are perfect for a hearty breakfast or easy dinner and are a great way of incorporating more beans in your diet. They’re full of rich tomato, garlic, bacon and herb flavours and are so delicious that even a traditional canned baked bean hater, like myself, will enjoy them.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
100g bacon, chopped*
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, rinsed
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Thick-cut bread (I like pane di casa), to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan-forced).

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the bacon and cook for a further 5 minutes or until crisp. Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook for a further minute.

Add the tomatoes and half a cup of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the rinsed beans, season with salt and pepper and transfer into a large casserole dish with a lid. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

While the beans are baking, toast the bread.

To serve, top two pieces of toast with the beans. Add further salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Adapted from Bill Granger’s Everyday

*Omit to make it vegetarian

Lemon Meringue Sponge Cake

Light as a feather sponge cakes sandwiched with tangy lemon curd and enrobed in pillowy torched meringue – what’s not to love?! I made this cake for my 26th birthday and it has become a favourite. It is best to make the lemon curd the day ahead and the meringue just before serving.

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Ingredients (serves 12)
Lemon Curd (makes 2 cups)
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 4-5 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
115g butter, melted

Sponge Cake
4 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
10g butter
1/3 cup boiling water

Meringue
3 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Kitchen blowtorch (optional)

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To make the lemon curd, whisk together the sugar and eggs in a large microwave safe bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, zest and melted butter. Cook in the microwave on full power for 50 second intervals, whisking after each interval. You will know your lemon curd is ready when it coats the back of a metal spoon (approximately 3-5 50 second intervals). Pour into a sterile jar or container and allow to cool to room temperature before covering it with a lid and storing it in the fridge.

To make the sponges, line and grease two deep 20cm round cake pans. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).

In a large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until thick and foamy. Gradually add sugar, about a tablespoonful at a time, beating until sugar is dissolved between additions (total beating time approx. 10 minutes). Sift flour and cornflour together over the egg mixture. Gently fold to combine. Combine butter and water and gently fold through egg mixture.

Divide mixture evenly into prepared pans. Bake sponges about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. As soon as the sponges are baked, turn out upside-down onto wire racks covered with baking paper to cool.

Once the cakes are completely cool, glue one sponge to a cake stand or serving plate using lemon curd. Spread a generous layer of lemon curd over the top of the cake and gently place the second sponge on top, taking care not to squeeze out too much of the curd from the middle (scrape away any excess from the sides).

To make the meringue, use electric beaters to whisk the egg whites and sugar in a large heat-proof bowl until frothy. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over a medium heat. Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. Whisking constantly with the beaters, heat the egg white mixture until the sugar dissolves completely and it is warm to the touch. Take the bowl off the saucepan, add the vanilla and mix on high until you have medium-stiff glossy peaks.

Working quickly, heap the meringue mixture onto the top of your sponge cake and gently spread down the edges with a metal spatula until the cake is completely covered. Create some texture with the meringue on the sides and top of the cake (this is one time where you don’t want it to be perfectly smooth). Use a blowtorch on low-medium to toast the meringue until it is your desired colour. Serve immediately.

Note: the cake is best eaten on the day it is made as the meringue changes texture, however it is still good the following day. Store covered at room temperature.

70EE0982-1FB5-4191-8F81-B888612A48AB_1_105_cLemon curd adapted from My Baking Addiction microwave lemon curd.
Sponge cake adapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Best Ever Sponge Cake’.
Meringue icing adapted from The Cake Blog lemon meringue cake.

Pumpkin & Spice Cupcakes

Hints of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice combine beautifully with the natural sweetness of roasted pumpkin and, when topped with a light and airy cream cheese icing, make these the Autumnal cupcakes of my dreams. Try and stop at one!

Note: it is best to make the pumpkin puree the day before.

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Ingredients (makes 12)
½ a butternut pumpkin (approx. 550g)
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing
225g full-fat cream cheese, room temperature
115g butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon

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Method

To make the pumpkin puree, preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Peel and de-seed the pumpkin and cut into 3cm pieces. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until pumpkin is golden and tender. Once cooled, blitz in a blender until silky and smooth. Refrigerate until required.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and spices together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 cup pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a silicone spatula until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 patty pans. Bake for 18-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes bounce back when touched. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before transferring to a cooling rack.

To make the icing, add the cream cheese and butter to a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla, cinnamon and icing sugar and beat on low speed until just combined. Switch to high speed and beat for 2 minutes until light and airy. If the icing is too runny, add extra icing sugar.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a large star piping tip (I use Wilton 1M). Ice the cupcakes in a circular motion from the outside in for a softserve look. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from ‘Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting’ from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Speckled Egg Easter Cakes

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Happy (almost) Easter everyone! Today I’m sharing my super simple recipe for these adorable miniature chocolate cakes topped with a Flake nest and speckled eggs. To make it even easier, feel free to use a packet mix cake (I like Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food Cake mix).

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Ingredients (makes 2 10cm cakes, 1 10cm cake and 12 cupcakes, or 24 cupcakes)
125g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup self-raising flour
½ cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup (160ml) water

90g dark chocolate melts
30g butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons hot water

1 packet Speckled Easter eggs (I used Darrell Lea)
3 Flake bars, lightly crushed

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Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Spray a 10cm round cake pan with cooking oil and line the base with a baking paper. Fill a 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans*.

Place the butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, sifted flour and cocoa, and water into a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are just combined. Beat the mixture for a further 3 minutes on medium speed until smooth and pale in colour.

Fill the round cake pan about 2/3 way full and divide the remaining mixture evenly among the patty pans. Bake the cupcakes for approximately 18-20 minutes and the mini cake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Place the chocolate and butter in a small heatproof bowl. Half-fill a small saucepan with water; bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Put the bowl of chocolate mixture on top of the saucepan and stir until smooth. Add a little of the sifted icing sugar and some of the water; stir until mixture is smooth. Keep adding the sifted icing sugar and the water, a little bit at a time, stirring, until the icing is spreadable.

When the cakes are completely cold, spread with chocolate icing using a metal spatula. Shape the Flake pieces into a nest on top of the cakes and top with speckled eggs. Enjoy!

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*Alternatively spray and line a second 10cm round cake pan, or prepare two 12-hole muffin tins with patty pans.

Cake and icing recipe adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Quick Mix Chocolate Cake’ and decoration inspiration from taste.com.au

Santa Hat Cupcakes

Christmas is just around the corner which means one thing…

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….Bailey is being forced into a whole range of ridiculous but adorable costumes :’)

It also means that our kitchen is filled with the delicious scent of Christmas baking – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger are being added to just about everything!

These cupcakes are no exception with a rich Christmas spiced mocha flavour. I’ve topped them with a vibrant red buttercream and a white mini marshmallow to look like Santa hats, but decorate them however you like.

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Ingredients (makes 12)
Christmas Spice Cupcakes
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
100g butter, softened
160g brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons sour cream
125ml boiling water
75g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon instant coffee

Frosting
100g butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
Wilton colouring gel in Red
12 white mini marshmallows

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Method

Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan-forced. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with patty pans.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, bicarb and mixed spice. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each, and then beat in a third of the flour mixture followed by a tablespoon of the sour cream, repeating until all used.

Put the water, chocolate and instant coffee in a pan and heat gently until the chocolate melts. Fold this into the cake batter, being careful not to over beat.

Pour the batter into the patty pans and put in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until each cake is cooked through but still dense and damp.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool, cut the domes off the cupcakes until you have a flat surface.

To make the frosting, cream the butter for 1-2 mins in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 mins (until the mixture is light and fluffy). Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 mins or until of a spreadable consistency. Add extra milk if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet. Add colouring and beat in until combined and the desired colour has been achieved.

Spoon the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large, plain nozzle. Pipe frosting onto the cakes in a circular motion from the outside in until it looks like a santa hat. Top with a white mini marshmallow.

Enjoy!

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Cake recipe from Nigella Lawson ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’
Frosting recipe adapted from the ‘Crabapple Cupcake Bakery’ cookbook.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

It should be no secret by now that I love lemon meringue. I already have recipes on the blog for a traditional lemon meringue pie and for mini lemon meringue pies, but until now I haven’t had lemon meringue cupcakes.

Luckily, today is the day I rectify that sad scenario. This recipe is a combination of my butterfly cake recipe with my lemon curd and a lightly toasted meringue topping and the result is delicious!

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Ingredients (makes 12)
Cupcakes
1 cup (125g) self-raising flour
⅔ cup (125g) caster sugar
125g butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Lemon Curd
½ cup white sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
½ cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 2-3 lemons)
Zest of 1 lemon
55g butter, melted

Meringue
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 egg whites

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Method
Preheat oven to 200ºC and line a 12-hole muffin tin with yellow patty pans.

Put all of the ingredients except for the milk into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among the patty pans (I know it doesn’t look like much batter, but they will rise a lot).

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Transfer immediately onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are baking, start making the lemon curd. Whisk together the sugar, egg and yolk in a large microwave safe bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, zest and melted butter.

Cook the curd in the microwave on full power for 50 second intervals, whisking after each interval. You will know your lemon curd is ready when it coats the back of a metal spoon (approximately three 50 second intervals). Allow to cool completely.

Once the cakes and curd are completely cool, use a teaspoon to dig a hole in the centre of each cupcake. Fill the holes with the lemon curd and set aside.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form. Continue whisking, gradually adding the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whisking until sugar dissolves.

Use a piping bag with a star or plain nozzle to pipe meringue over cupcakes. Use a cook’s blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Enjoy!

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Notes:
– If you don’t have a blowtorch, simply bake the frosted cakes on an oven tray at 220ºC for 3-5 minutes or until the meringue is toasted.
– Any extra lemon curd can be stored in a sterilised container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Cupcake recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess
Lemon curd recipe from My Baking Addiction
Meringue recipe from Taste.com.au

Giant Cookie Cake

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For my birthday this year, I decided to bake something a little different. As much as I have enjoyed making (and eating!) my layered drip cakes (here and here) over the last couple of years, this year I was after something simpler. Enter the cookie cake.

I have admired the brightly coloured array of delicious looking cookie cakes on Sally’s Baking Addiction (my baking porn website of choice) for years, and finally got around to making it. Boy, am I glad I did! As promised, this ‘cake’ is so quick and simple to make and produces a deliciously chewy and flavoursome giant cookie. The recipe is also very easy to adapt – you could use M&Ms, or mix up the choc chips depending on your taste.

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Ingredients (serves 12-14)
170g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + an extra yolk
5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
Chocolate frosting for topping (optional)

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Method
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Spray a 23cm (9-inch) pie dish or cake pan thoroughly with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes until light and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for about a minute or until combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla on until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours and baking powder. On a low speed, gradually mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Add in 1¼ cups chocolate chips and mix for until evenly dispersed.

Gently press the cookie dough evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown (use a skewer in the centre to check it’s cooked). Remove from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, use a sharp knife or metal spatula to loosen the sides of the cookie cake from the pan and transfer to a cake stand or serving plate.

Decorate as desired (I made a quick chocolate buttercream using butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder and piped it on using my Wilton 1M tip), top with the remaining chocolate chips and serve with vanilla ice-cream. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from ‘Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake’ on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Lemon & Raspberry Muffins

I love Nigella recipes because they’re consistently quick, easy and delicious. These muffins are no exception, taking under 40 minutes from start to finish. The recipe is also incredibly flexible – you can use fresh or frozen raspberries (or any other fruit for that matter) or try switching the lemon for another citrus fruit of your choice. Happy baking!

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Ingredients (makes 12)
60g butter
200g plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
150g caster sugar
Juice and z est of 1 lemon
Milk (approx. 120ml)
1 large egg
150g raspberries

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Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a muffin tin with 12 patty pans.

Melt the butter in a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar and lemon zest.

Pour the lemon juice into a large measuring jug and add milk until it comes to 200ml (don’t worry about it curdling). Add the milk mixture to the melted butter and then beat in the egg.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients until just combined (don’t overmix it as your muffins will be tough). Gently stir through the raspberries.

Spoon the batter into the patty pans and bake for 25 minutes or until the muffins spring back when touched. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Nigella’s ‘Lemon-Raspberry Muffins’ in How to Be a Domestic Goddess.