Spiced Mocha 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.

Festive Chocolate Ginger Nut Cookies

These cheat’s festive cookies are cheap and easy, but look a million bucks! Choose your favourite decoration option, or make some of each.

Option 1: Mini Christmas Puddings
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
20g white chocolate, melted
Original M&Ms (red & green)
Mini M&Ms (red)

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and let harden. Using a butter knife, spread the melted white chocolate onto the top of your cookies to look like custard. Top with M&Ms.

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Option 2: Glitzy Gold
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
Gold cachous
Gold sugar crystals

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and top with gold cachous and sugar crystals.thumb_img_2750_1024

Option 3: Strawberry, Pistachio & Almond
1 packet Arnott’s Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g dark chocolate, melted
Slivered almonds
1 tablespoon pistachios, finely chopped
Dried strawberries, finely chopped

Spread the melted dark chocolate onto your biscuits and top with dried strawberries, almonds and pistachios.
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Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, Christmas 2015

Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

These gorgeous stained glass cookies are as fun to make as they are to eat! You can use any shaped cutters you like and could even join the cookies together to make a stained glass cookie wreath.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 50 cookies)
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 small egg
½ teaspoon water
1 ½ cups flour
¾ teaspoons baking powder

Hard/boiled lollies (I used Melbourne Rock Candy Bo Peep collection)
White chocolate, melted

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

Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, mix sifted dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a dough forms. Divide into 2 roughly equal pieces, cover with glad wrap (or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for an hour.

Line 3 large trays with baking paper.

Roll out dough using a rolling pin until it is approximately 1cm thick. Use assorted cutters to cut out shapes from the dough, and carefully place them on the lined trays (no need to leave room for spreading as they don’t). Then line up the smaller cutter of the shape in the centre of each, and cut out the centre dough.

Preheat oven to 190-200°C  (180°C fan-forced).

Divide the hard lollies into colours and blitz them, one colour at a time, in a blender until they are fine crystals. Using a teaspoon, carefully sprinkle the crystals into the empty centres of the cookies ensuring that the centre is fully covered. Brush away any crystals not in the centre as these will discolour the cookies.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Leave to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes, before gently transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once they are cool, decorate by piping melted white chocolate onto the cookies.

Enjoy!

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Sugar cookie recipe adapted from ‘Alice & Lois.com’ – ‘The Best Valentine Sugar Cookies’
Design idea from Pinterest

Christmas Light Cupcakes

These adorable cupcakes are very easy to decorate but look great! Just pipe white buttercream in a swirl on your favourite flavoured cupcakes, pipe a dark chocolate swirl as the wire and attach mini M&Ms.

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Ingredients
24 cupcakes of your desired flavour (red velvet, flourless chocolate or Christmas spice would work well)
250g butter, softened
3 cups icing sugar
4 tablespoons milk
Optional: 1-2 drops peppermint essence
Dark chocolate melts
1 pack mini M&Ms

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Method
Beat butter in a medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in icing sugar and milk and, if desired, 1-2 drops of peppermint essence.

Using a piping bag with a wide circular nozzle, pipe frosting in a circular motion on each cupcake, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle, gradually building it up to a peak in the centre. Repeat with remaining cakes.

Melt the dark chocolate and spoon into a zip-lock bag. Cut just the very corner of the bag and pipe a thin line of the chocolate on each cupcake in a swirl to make the ‘lighting wire’. Place M&Ms vertically along the dark chocolate lines ‘to make the lights’. Enjoy!

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Design adapted from Pinterest.

Xmas Reblog: Easy Chocolate Yule Log

Today I’m sharing with you an incredibly easy yet delicious cheat’s version of the classic French Christmas dessert – Bûche de Noël.

For a traditional pudding-hater like myself, Christmas dessert has never brought much joy. Sure, you can smother your piece of pudding in custard (which I do) and that helps a bit, but somehow the fruity-boozy flavour that I hate so much still overpowers it. Anyway, fortunately I’m not the only pudding-hater in my family and so last year Mum made this Bûche de Noël (chocolate yule log) in addition to the pudding for dessert. This yule log is sweet (but not overly so) and very light – perfect for a hot summer’s day. It proved so popular last year that we’ll be making it again this year 🙂

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Ingredients (Serves up to 12)
1x 250g packet Arnott’s chocolate ripple biscuits (or equivalent)
600ml thickened cream
1 tspn caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
20g cocoa powder
Grated chocolate, to decorate
Spearmint leave lollies, to decorate
Raspberries, to decorate

Method
Using an electric mix, mix cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff.

Fold in the cocoa until combined.

Spread a small amount of the cream along a long, rectangular serving plate to make a base. Spread 1 biscuit with 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then top with another biscuit. Top with another 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then place biscuits on their side onto the cream base on the serving platter.

Repeat until all biscuits have been used, to form a log.

Spread remaining cream over entire log, reserving a small amount for the branch.

Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set.

Just before serving, cut cake diagonally about a quarter of the way in and use that piece as a branch off the main log.

Patch it up with the remaining cream so it looks attached.

Use a fork to make some lines along the branch to look natural and then sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Decorate with some raspberries and spearmint leaves and serve. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Arnott’s ‘Bake and Create’ Recipe booklet.

Bûche de Noël (Chocolate Yule Log)

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Today I’m sharing with you an incredibly easy yet delicious cheat’s version of the classic French Christmas dessert – Bûche de Noël.

For a traditional pudding-hater like myself, Christmas dessert has never brought much joy. Sure, you can smother your piece of pudding in custard (which I do) and that helps a bit, but somehow the fruity-boozy flavour that I hate so much still overpowers it. Anyway, fortunately I’m not the only pudding-hater in my family and so last year Mum made this Bûche de Noël (chocolate yule log) in addition to the pudding for dessert. This yule log is sweet (but not overly so) and very light – perfect for a hot summer’s day. It proved so popular last year that we’ll be making it again this year 🙂

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Ingredients (Serves up to 12)
1x 250g packet Arnott’s chocolate ripple biscuits (or equivalent)
600ml thickened cream
1 tspn caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence
20g cocoa powder
Grated chocolate, to decorate
Spearmint leave lollies, to decorate
Raspberries, to decorate

Method
Using an electric mix, mix cream, sugar and vanilla together until stiff.

Fold in the cocoa until combined.

Spread a small amount of the cream along a long, rectangular serving plate to make a base. Spread 1 biscuit with 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then top with another biscuit. Top with another 1 ½ teaspoons of cream and then place biscuits on their side onto the cream base on the serving platter.

Repeat until all biscuits have been used, to form a log.

Spread remaining cream over entire log, reserving a small amount for the branch.

Cover loosely with foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set.

Just before serving, cut cake diagonally about a quarter of the way in and use that piece as a branch off the main log.

Patch it up with the remaining cream so it looks attached.

Use a fork to make some lines along the branch to look natural and then sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Decorate with some raspberries and spearmint leaves and serve. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Arnott’s ‘Bake and Create’ Recipe booklet.

Red Velvet Christmas Cupcakes

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Wow! Only a week and a day until Christmas 🙂 It’s warming up around here which means that having the oven on and heating the house isn’t ideal and so I’ve had a couple of organised baking spells to try and minimise the amount of oven time.

I made these cupcakes yesterday for an afternoon tea with friends and they’re easy and delicious (and still soft & moist today).

For decorations, go as crazily festive as you like. There are plenty of cute Christmas sugar icing decorations that are cheap and readily available, you could make up a range of different coloured icings and pipe a wreath on them or something along those lines (if you can be bothered), or do as I did, and cut out some holly out of ready-made fondant icing.

Of course, these cupcakes aren’t reserved just for Christmas time, they would work equally well as birthday cupcakes with piped icing and candles!

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Ingredients (Makes 24)
Cupcakes
150g softened butter
⅔ cup caster sugar
2 tspns vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 ⅓ cups self raising flour, sifted
4 tblspns cocoa, sifted
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tblspns of good quality red food colouring (I use Wilton’s, you may need to adjust the amount depending on the brand you use)

Cream Cheese Icing
500g cream cheese, chopped
100g butter, softened
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 ½ cups icing sugar
2 tblspns milk

To Decorate
Ready made white fondant icing
Red food colouring
Green food colouring
Holly leaf cutter (or stencil)
Sharp Knife

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Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Place butter, caster sugar and vanilla into a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, beating until well combined. Add the flour, cocoa, buttermilk and food colouring and beat on a low speed until just combined.

Divide mixture into cupcake tins lined with (green) patty pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the largest cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

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While the cupcakes are cooking and cooling, divide half of the fondant icing into 2 and colour one lot vibrant red, and the other a deep (holly-ish) green. Roll out the green fondant with a rolling pin and cut out 48 holly leaves. Then, using a sharp non-serated knife, mark out a leaf pattern by running the knife through the centre so that it leaves an incision but does not cut through. Then cut diagonal incisions from the centre out so that it looks like the veins of a leaf (see picture below).

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Pull small pieces of the red fondant off and roll into 48 small balls to make the holly berries.

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Once the cupcakes are almost completely cool, start making the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and butter into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat for a further 5 minutes or until completely smooth. Add the milk and beat until just combined.

Ice each cupcake with a generous amount of icing and top with 2 leaves and 2 berries. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Donna Hay’s recipe ‘red velvet cupcakes with sugared cranberries’.

Chocolate Reindeer Tartlets

Only 12 days until Christmas!! I LOVE Christmas time (and I mean LOVE) and have been madly baking and decorating along to Christmas tunes ready for the big day. I have also been joined by a little puppy, Bailey, who has made baking more of a challenge but has by no means curbed my enthusiasm for it.

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These adorable reindeer tartlets are delicious and so easy to make – a perfect recipe to involve the kids in and to take to the multitude of Christmas functions where you need to ‘bring a plate’. If you don’t want all the reindeer to be Rudolphs, feel free to swap the jaffas for brown m&ms 🙂

image1-6Ingredients (makes 20)
1 packet Butternut Snap Biscuits (or equivalent)
65g butter, chopped
⅓ cup cream
200g dark chocolate melts
Approximately 10 white marshmallows, halved
20 jaffas or equivalent red lollies
20 white mini marshmallows, halved
Chocolate writing icing (or black icing pen, or additional melted chocolate applied with a toothpick)
1 packet of pretzels

Method
Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Place 1 biscuit per hole in a 12-hole, round-based tartlet tin. Bake for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven. Carefully press softened biscuits into tin to mould into a cup shape (use a spoon to make it easier if you like). Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a plate and repeating with remaining biscuits.

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Heat butter, cream and chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat. Stir constantly for approximately 5 minutes or until melted and smooth. Pour into a clean, dry bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until cool but not set.

Fill biscuit cases with 1 heaped teaspoon of chocolate mixture. Refrigerate until set.

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While the ganache is setting, carefully cut pretzels in half and trim so it looks like a lower case ‘f’ for the antlers (I seem to break as many as I successfully cut so that’s why I recommend allowing a full packet!!)

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Gently press 1 marshmallow half, sticky side up into each tartlet.

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Attach 1 jaffa to each marshmallow.

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Attach 2 mini marshmallow halves above nose, cut-side up, to form eyes. Use an icing pen/or a spot of chocolate ganache applied with a toothpick to create the pupils.

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Place 2 pretzel pieces above eyes. Press to secure. Serve & enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Arnott’s ‘Chocolate Butternut Snap Tartlets’ recipe.

Gingerbread House

Every Christmas I construct a gingerbread house for the holiday season. They look so cute, taste delicious, can be decorated however you like and everyone is always so impressed when they find out you made it from scratch. The baking itself is very simple with this recipe, but the construction work is a little more difficult so I would definitely advise that you have an extra pair of hands to help stabilise it during the early stages.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

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Ingredients
Gingerbread :
90g butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup honey
2 tspns finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs, lightly beaten
5 cups flour
1 cup self raising flour
1 tspn bicarb soda
2 tspns ground ginger
1 ½ tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground  cloves
½ tspn ground nutmeg
1 tspn mixed spice
Assorted lollies (to decorate)

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
4 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
½ tspn lemon juice

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Method
Combine butter, sugar & honey in a medium pan; stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cool for 10mins. Transfer mixture to large bowl; stir in rind, eggs & sifted dry ingredients. Turn dough onto floured surface, knead gently until no longer sticky & refrigerate, covered for 1 hour.

Cut paper patterns for gingerbread house: one rectangle 20cm by 15cm for the roof panels, a rectangle 15cm by 10cm for the 2 sides & one rectangle 16cm wide by 19cm high for the front/back. Then from this final rectangle, mark 10cm high & draw a line across. Then rule from the middle of the top of the rectangle, down to edges of the 10cm rectangle part (these diagonal lines should be approximately 12cm long). Cut out shapes.

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface until 1cm thick. Cut out shapes carefully around the patterns, using a serrated knife. Place shapes on lined baking trays and bake for 15mins or until firm & golden brown. Stand gingerbread on trays for 5mins and then transfer onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the royal icing, beat egg whites in a small bowl with electric mixer until just frothy; gradually beat in enough sifted icing sugar for mixture to form very stiff peaks then stir in lemon juice. Keep the surface of the icing covered with a damp tea-towel to prevent it from drying out.

Using a cake board as the base and a helper to hold the pieces in place, pipe a thick line of icing on the bottom of the two side pieces and the front/back pieces. Hold in place until icing has hardened and it stands without assistance. Pipe icing between sides and front/back pieces both inside and out to strengthen. Leave for 10-15mins.

Pipe icing onto the tops of the sides and front/back pieces. Hold on roof pieces and pipe between them (hold them in place for at least 10mins). Add more icing around the edges of the roof panels to look like snow/icicles and decorate as desired.

Enjoy!

ImageBased on the ‘Gingerbread House’ recipe in Australian Women’s Weekly ‘The Christmas Book’

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I love Christmas, and I particularly love Christmas baking. Whether it be for friends, teachers, family or just as a special treat for me, baked goods around Christmas time seem to taste extra delicious. I have long wanted to make these cookies and finally had the time today – and boy are they good, a perfect way to celebrate the end of the school year for my sister and my first year uni results which were released today 🙂

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Ingredients (makes approx. 36 cookies)
100g butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g dark chocolate, melted
1 ¼ cups flour, sifted
2 tspns baking powder, sifted
¼ cup cocoa, sifted
1 tablespoon red food colouring (depending on strength & desired colour, mine could have been a bit redder)
150g extra dark chocolate, roughly chopped
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup icing (powdered) sugar

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Method
Place butter, brown sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-5mins or until light and well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour, baking powder, cocoa and food colouring and beat until a smooth dough forms.

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Fold through the chocolate chunks and refrigerate, covered, for an hour.

Preheat oven to 160°C fan-forced. Roll dessert spoons of the dough into the white sugar, shape them gently into balls and then toss in icing sugar. Place them on lined baking trays allowing plenty of room for spreading.

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Bake the cookies for 12-14mins or until the surface is cracked and the edges are slightly crispy. Don’t worry if the centre of the cookies looks undercooked, it will harden while cooling and be deliciously chewy. Enjoy!

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Adapted from the Red Velvet Crackle Cookies recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine Dec/Jan 2014