Recipes

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

I love baking. It’s something I have a real passion for and love trying out new recipes as much as developing old ones.

Last year Mom bought me The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook which is full of delicious baking delights! One recipe in particular grabbed my attention right away, pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, but unfortunately pumpkin season had ended so I had to wait until this year to try it out.

The Hummingbird Bakery itself is in London and they do a variety of cupcakes – when I visit London for my visa interview (for moving to where my husband is stationed) I’ll be sure to pop in and gain a few lbs!

They say in the cookbook that they altered quantities of ingredients to make the recipes work for small, home baker, batches. I’m not entirely convinced the quantities are right for these cupcakes – I’ve made them twice now, once at Halloween and again last Sunday, and both times they’ve seemed very dense.

Another odd thing is that if you try to take the cupcakes out of the paper cases on the day you bake them (even after they’ve completely cooled) they won’t come out, they stick in there and you get mess everywhere. But if you leave them until the day after, they come out fine. I’ve never come across that before with cupcakes and am not sure how to combat that – any suggestions? Otherwise, just remember to make the cupcakes the day before you need them instead of on the day.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Makes: 12
Preheat oven: 170 ° C (325 ° F) Gas 3.

Ingredients:
120 g plain flour
140 g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
a pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature <—[50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature]
120 ml whole milk <—[120 ml skimmed milk, used both times]
2 eggs
200 g tinned pumpkin puree <—[200 g fresh pumpkin, used both times]

I made a few alterations to the cupcake recipe, I’ve shown those in the ingredients list in italics (and also in the instructions).

1) Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

[I did stage 1 by hand, first combining the sugar and butter, then adding the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon because our handheld electric whisk didn’t feel up to the job!]

2) Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until well mixed. [I added all of the milk here because it never tells you where to add the other half! So I took a wild stab in the dark and put it all in now.]

3) Add the eggs to the mix and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Stir in the pumpkin puree [fresh pumpkin] by hand until evenly mixed.

4) Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full…

…and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched [I poked mine with a skewer like normal – if it comes out clean then they’re done, if it comes out with cake goo on it then they need longer in the oven].

5) Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While they’re cooling, mix up your frosting 🙂

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
300 g icing sugar, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g cream cheese, cold

The recipe asks for you to beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer or with a handheld whisk, but I find that there is so little butter that you just end up with icing sugar clouds everywhere instead. So what I did is use the back of a spoon to mash the butter and sugar together for a while – the butter is so little in quantity that you won’t have enough to mash all the sugar into. Then add the cream cheese and mash that with a spoon for a while too, to reduce the risk of sugar clouds when you turn on the mixer.

Now use a freestanding mixer or handheld whisk to beat everything together until smooth, light and fluffy. This can take a few minutes but don’t overbeat it because it can become runny instead of the light and fluffy frosting we’re after 🙂

I decided to have a more traditional, rustic, finish with my frosting and used a knife to spread it on instead of a piping bag. If you’re not serving the cupcakes straight away, add the frosting and keep them in tins overnight, but don’t add the sprinkling of cinnamon until you’re ready to serve them. Or you can leave the sprinkle off completely, I did a mix of some with and some without.

Apart from the cupcakes being difficult to remove from the paper cases on the same day as cooking, I enjoyed this recipe. One downside is that you can’t taste the pumpkin (or at least, I couldn’t), they taste just like cinnamon cupcakes really but I love cinnamon anyway!

This will be my blog post for the Hearth And Soul Blog Hop, a recipe hop that happens every Tuesday 🙂

Recipes

Soup Season: Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

We are now definitely into “soup season” where everyone loves comfort, warm fires and hearty food. Soups are so easy to make and you really don’t need a recipe to follow – just throw a bunch of vegetables into a pot with some stock, cook, blend, et voila! Soup 🙂

But there are a lot of lovely soup recipes around and I love trying them out! My Mom is the homemade soup master..well, mistress, so today we made one together from a new cookery book that was a surprise find!

The book is called Comfort Cooking: Recipes To Warm Your Heart by Bay Books. It’s packed full of recipes I know I’ll love to cook just as much as I want to eat them – when I first found the book and flicked through I was ravenous by the end! I’ve searched online and not managed to find anywhere that sells it, I got my copy from a book man at work so it may be that they’re out of print. I’ll do a review of the book itself in a different blog post another time and try to find more details to help source it.

So yes, it is that time of year where a nice bowlful of warm soup is a real comfort 🙂 so I have decided to do a series of posts throughout the next couple of months called Soup Season! Today’s recipe is Pumpkin and Carrot Soup.

We changed a couple of things in the recipe, so I’ll indicate in the ingredients list which things we altered or removed.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
40 g (1.5 oz) butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) carrots, sliced
125 ml (4 fl oz / 0.5 cup) orange juice
750 g (1 lb 10 oz) butternut pumpkin (squash), peeled and roughly chopped. <—[we used actual fresh pumpkin, like you carve at Halloween, about 2 lbs]
1.5 litres (52 fl oz / 6 cups) chicken stock. <—[we used vegetable stock as Mom is vegetarian]
1 tbsp snipped chives. <—[we didn’t have any chives so we left this out]
herb scones or herb bread to serve. <—[we used seeded bread as we have that in the house]

1) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Pour in the orange juice and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the pumpkin, stock and return to the boil (the original recipe also asks for an additional 500 ml, which is 2 cups, of water to be added but we thought that would make it too watery so we left the extra water out completely…and are glad that we did!). Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the carrot and pumpkin are soft.

2) Blend the soup in batches in a blender (or with a hand held blender if you have one), until smooth – the recipe says to add a little more stock if you prefer the soup to be thinner, but we didn’t do this, it was just the right consistency in our opinion 🙂

3) Return to the cleaned pan and reheat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Divide the soup among the serving bowls and garnish with the chives (or without chives, as we did). Serve with herb scones or bread – we used Warburton’s Seeded Batch instead, because it’s the bread we have daily and love it!

This was a great recipe and so tasty. We’ll definitely be doing it again.

We only used 2 bowlfuls of soup today so the rest will be going into Pour And Store bags, when it’s cooled down, and stored in the freezer for a later date 🙂 These bags are great for freezing soups, sauces, marinades, etc and they stand open on their own making it easy to put the soup in them. I’m all for ease when it comes to cooking!

Life

‘Twas The Night Before Halloween…

Halloween is my favourite time of the year 🙂 Unfortunately noone in England seems to celebrate it… except for me!

I’ve been having a Halloween party every year for the past 7 years, with the exception of this year because of wedding plans, honeymoon and moving country I’ve just had too much going on to plan something big. I did see my best friend, my Mom and a family friend though and we had a lovely pre-Halloween dinner (on the Saturday) while watching Paranormal Investigation Live (which seems to be the replacement for Most Haunted Live). I have to say, we laughed more than anything but it was fun to have on in the background while we chatted and ate together 🙂

I decorated the dining room with orange lanterns, a candelabra that’s been in the family a long time, and some general Halloween decorations and cobweb tablecloth.

Here is the lounge (couldn’t get it all in one shot), I didn’t put all of my decorations up this year to keep it more “homey” and autumnal rather than spooky and cluttered.

Several years ago my Mom and I made some ghosts to hang around the house, and they’re still going strong now! Keeping an eye on the guests and having a good time 🙂

These are really simple to make and so effective! You can give them any expression you want and it’s a great project for children 🙂

To make the “floating” ghosts you will need:

White cloth (we cut up an old bed sheet)
Aluminium foil (kitchen foil)
Black marker or felt tip pen
Needle and white thread (adult supervision here!)
White tac (or blue tac…we ran out of white)

First tear off some aluminium foil and scrunch it into a ball. This can be any size you want, depending on the size you would like your ghosts to be. Then cut the white cloth into several circles – we used a dinner plate to measure each circle (use adult supervision with this, or have an adult do the cutting).

Next, draw on your funny ghost faces – one face on each circle of material, a little bit away from the center – if you put your aluminium foil ball under the cloth, in the middle, you can see exactly where the face should be drawn.

Next, place the aluminium foil ball under the cloth, in the center, and sew them together at the top (adult supervision or assistance here), making a couple of knots to hold it in place and leaving a length of cotton free to use as a hanging thread.

You now have a ghost! Attach him in doorways or on picture frames, or anywhere you like with white or blue tac (or tape if you prefer). They swing and twirl really nicely in doorways 🙂 You could give your ghosts a scalloped or zig-zag edge to the material instead of the clean lines of the circle too!

Last, but by no means least, is a discovery I made last year when my then-fiance (now husband) took me Halloween food shopping on the air base. What I found were Pillsbury ready-to-bake sugar cookies with cat shapes in them! We bought a box to try and they were delicious! So this year I went and grabbed a couple of boxes of the cat ones but also tried the pumpkin and ghost cookies too. They’re such an easy addition to a Halloween table and so tasty – I like them fresh from the oven when they’re still a little bit gooey in the middle. Yum 😀

The plate of non-cookies in the first picture are Marks & Spencer Wicked Whoopie Pies, which were new this year. I’ve got to say they were way too sweet for me, but my Mom loved them and ate almost a whole plate of them lol!

The cats got a bit stretched..well, I suppose cats do like stretching a lot!

Life

Blog Party Success!

On Saturday I took part in a Halloween Blog Party, hosted by Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist. I’d never been part of a blog party before so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Saturday came and I woke up (rather late, I must admit as I’d had a late night on Friday!), had some breakfast and began taking the photos for my own blog party post 🙂

My Mom kindly helped out and we got creative and took a lot of photos in the sunshine I was very thankful for! Just as we took the very last photo the first drop of rain fell, so we quickly gathered up all of the witches, cauldrons and candles and ran into the house for me to put my post online!

The poem I created as I wrote the post. I have to say I’m really pleased with it 🙂 I haven’t written any poetry for a few years but it’s always been something I’ve had a knack for, so I’m glad to see I wasn’t too rusty hehe.

I finally clicked “publish post” at 4pm (UK time) and went to visit Vanessa’s party post and to start visiting everyone else’s! Boy was that a mistake! Not the visiting, but the timing – I had no idea just how many there would be! 😮

When it got to 2am Sunday morning (…yep, 2am!) I had to call it a night and decided to finish off the rest after some sleep. I wanted to make sure I went to everyone’s party post and leave a comment on each one, as they had all taken so much effort to be part of the event 🙂 I did my best on Sunday to get around the rest of them but I wanted to spend some time with my husband too (he’s stationed abroad right now so we don’t get much time together other than weekends). After spending a lot of time visiting blogs on Sunday too, I called it a night again and today am making my way around the remaining few blog posts that I just couldn’t squeeze in with my sleep-deprived brain last night hehe.

There was easily 150 blog party posts that I visited (I lost count after 120). Everyone did a great job and they were all so varied! It’s been a really fun thing to be part of and I’m looking forward to take part again next year 🙂

Life

Something Witchy This Way Comes

Last night I heard small footsteps, running on the stairs.
But when I looked outside my door, nobody was there!

I crept along the landing, crouched down on the floor,
Do my eyes deceive me? I found a little door!

As I reached to touch it, something happened – strange indeed!
I started to get smaller, not much bigger than a weed!

Through the door I ventured, whatever would I see?
A row of lovely lanterns, to guide the way for me!

I went along the pathway and then into a wood,
There hung a sign to warn me, but it did no good.

Just like a little cat, curiosity did take hold,
So onward did I venture, feeling rather bold.

There I met some dragons, keepers of the way,
They looked me up and down again, then told me not to stray.

I walked around a mystic pool, with lanterns all around,

Then from my little vantage point, the Haunted House I found!

I met some other travelers, walking the same way,
They told me to come with them, to a party there that day.

In the Haunted House’s garden, some witches there were brewing!
I stepped a little closer, to find out what they were stewing.

The hostess came to greet me, with her guardian giant frog!
She said inside the cauldron was the party-goers grog!

We went along some fairy steps, that led up past the pool,
I dipped a toe into the water, it was so nice and cool!

The party then got under way, a Halloween witches ball!
We danced and laughed and made good friends, a fun time had by all.

It started to get very late and “I must be on my way”,
The witches and the little cats were so sad to hear me say.

The magic of the little door – a Halloween witches spell,
I raised my glass to toast new friends, then bid them all farewell!

I made my way back through the wood, along the twisting path,
Remembering good times I’d had, I gave a little laugh.

The tiny door came into sight and through it I did crawl,
As soon as I was home again, I then got very tall!

I hope you liked my story; this Halloween Blog Party post,
To all my new found friends on here, I give a welcoming toast!

Magic and laughter fill the air, as leaves do start to fall.
I wish you Happy Halloween! Best witches, one and all!

Life

Halloween Blog Party!

I missed out on a blog party last month because I’d been away on honeymoon and didn’t find out about it until too late. But I’ve just seen a poster for a Halloween Blog Party taking place this weekend, October 16th! 🙂

It sounds like a lot of fun so I’m going to take part 🙂 The host of the party is A Fanciful Twist and you can find all of the details for the Halloween Blog party by clicking the poster button below.

Even if you can’t write your own party post, come and stop by at my blog on October 16th for my Halloween Blog Party post, and take a look around everyone elses too – the more the merrier! 🙂