Gingerbread Cupcakes

These were just lovely, but then I am a sucker for gingerbread. Once these cupcakes had cooled, they had that lovely sticky quality.

The lemon frosting I topped them worked really well with the ginger and I finished off the cupcakes with a few mini smarties and a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands. I wish I had thought to sprinkle some coconut over the lemon icing, instead of sweeties. Can you imagine how good that would be?

I ate one or two and then quickly passed them on to Graham to take to work, before I was tempted to eat any more. They were a big hit and my giant cake tub came back empty, so these are on my 'make again' list.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

150g unsalted butter
1 cup tightly packed soft brown sugar
¾ cup black treacle
¾ cup golden syrup
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, whisked
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
2 ¾ cups plain flour

Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/Gas Mark 3.

Place paper cases in your muffin or cupcake tray.

Melt together the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup, ginger and cinnamon.

Take the pan off the heat and add the milk, the eggs and the bicarbs.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and pour the liquid and fold in until well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases. They should be approximately three quarters full.

Bake for about 12 minutes if you are making cupcakes and a little bit longer if you are making muffins. Check the muffins after 15 minutes. They may need another couple of minutes. Use a skewer to see if they are ready. If it comes out clean, they are ready.

Cool in the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes are cool, you can frost them.

I frosted my cupcakes with Lemon Frosting, but they would also be good topped with a buttercream frosting.

If you need a bigger ginger hit, here are a few more recipes for you to enjoy.

~ Gingerbread Loaf - Tinned Tomatoes
~ Pear & Ginger Muffins - Tinned Tomatoes
~ Crystallised Ginger Oat Biscuits - Cakes, Crumbs & Cooking
~ Sticky Apple Gingerbread Pudding - The Caked Crusader
~ Ginger & Chocolate Flapjacks - Chocolate Log Blog
~ Guinness Gingerbread - Katiecakes
~ Candied Ginger Scones - Soap Mom's Kitchen
~ Rhubarb & Ginger Pancakes - Allotment 2 Kitchen
~ Chocolate, Hazelnut & Ginger Biscotti - Dana Treat


Applications are now open for Masterchef Professional 2013. Fill in an application form.

Follow MasterChef on Facebook:

Follow MasterChef on Twitter:

MasterChef  Champion 2013

photo: Telegraph
Natalie Coleman, a 29 year old, part-time DJ from
Hackney won the 2013 MasterChef Champion title. 

My own personal favourite to win, Natalie seemed such a down-to-earth and truly lovely girl, who had real skill as a chef.

Natalie's winning meal was a lobster tail starter accompanied with fennel, a main of roast pork belly with quail’s scotch egg, pomme puree and caramelised shallots and a vanilla panna cotta accompanied by a chocolate tuile, caramelised pears and a trio of hazelnut biscuits

You can follow and chat to Natalie on Twitter  
and facebook

MasterChef 2012

Professional MasterChef Joint Winners 2012

 For the first time ever we have joint winners claiming the title of MasterChef. Anton Piotrowski and Keri Mos.

Judges Gregg Wallace and Michel Roux Jr couldn't choose between the chefs and made them the show's first ever contestants to share the title.

Keri's winning menu was a starter of mackerel tartar served with crispy poached quails eggs, a main of Chinese five-spiced duck breast and a dessert of green olive and pistachio cake with a white chocolate parfait.

Anton's menu was elderflower marinated pollack with a brown shrimp and elderflower beurre noisette, cocoa-marinated loin of venison accompanied by a nettle ballotine and pan-seared ox heart, and a caramel-filled dark chocolate cylinder with a banana parfait.

You can follow and chat to Anton Piotrowski on twitter @antonpiotrowsk1

Celebrity MasterChef Champion 2012

45 year old actress and writer Emma Kennedy was announced this year's Celebrity MasterChef. 

Judge John Torode said Emma "propelled herself to absolute greatness through sheer tenacity - the skill, the touch, the finesse, the flavours!".

Her winning dish was a pan fried turbot and a dessert of poached meringue in creme anglaise.

You can follow and chat to Shelina on twitter
and on her website.

MasterChef Champion 2012

29-year-old Shelina Permalloo, whose family is originally from Mauritius won the title of MasterChef 2012.

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace praised her cooking, saying she brought "sunshine to a plate" and was a "very special cook".

Shelina with her love of Mangoes, Mauritian cooking and ready smile, won out against Andrew Kojima and Tom Rennolds.

Shelina is only the second woman to win this title.

You can follow and chat to Shelina on twitter
and on her website.

MasterChef 2011

Professional MasterChef 2011

Ash Mair, a 34 year old from Tasmania was crowned the winner of Professional Masterchef 2011. Competition was stiff and he beat Steve Barringer and Claire Hutchings to win first place. His winning menu was a starter of monkfish tail, a main course of lamb and a Spanish bread and butter pudding.

"This series of Masterchef: The Professionals, which saw Sean Pertwee replace India Fisher as the show's narrator, has attracted an average of audience of more than three million viewers."

You can follow and chat to Ash on twitter
and on his website.

Celebrity MasterChef 2011

"Former England rugby captain Phil Vickery won the 2011 BBC Celebrity MasterChef title.

The 35-year-old father of two was competing against journalist Kirsty Wark and actor Nick Pickard.

Judge Gregg Wallace said Mr Vickery had "serious" talent."

You can read about and contact Phil on his website.

MasterChef Champion 2011

26 Year old Tim Anderson won the 2011 title of MasterChef Champion. He is the youngest winner so far.

John Torode said: “I think all three were amazing but Tim was in a different world altogether. He had influences from Norway, Japan, America, Australia and the UK. That all coming together gave us the best culinary explosion that we've ever seen in MasterChef.”

Gregg Wallace said: “Inventive is one thing but inventive and delicious is nothing short of incredible.”

You can follow and chat to Tim on Twitter
You can also try out some of Tim's recipes from the BBC Food website. 

MasterChef 2010

Professional MasterChef 2010

Claire Lara was named the first female winner of MasterChef: The Professionals on 8 December 2010. 30 Year old Lara was pregnant when she took part in third series of Professional Masterchef and said her heightened sense of smell helped her to win.

You can follow and chat to Claire on Twitter

Celebrity MasterChef 2010

38 year old Lisa Faulkner won this year's Celebrity MasterChef. Lisa, ex-Holby City actress was joined in the final three by Coast presenter Dick Strawbridge, 50, and Christine Hamilton, 60.

Gregg Wallace said "Lisa elevates humble food into something beautiful. She's possibly the best celebrity MasterChef winner we have ever had."

You can follow and chat to Lisa on Twitter

MasterChef Champion 2010

34 year old Londoner Dhruv Baker was named the winner of this year's amateur cooking competition Masterchef.

"Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace described him as an ‘exceptional’ cook with the ‘palate of an angel’."


You can follow and chat to Dhruv on Twitter

If you would like to apply to be on Masterchef you can fill in an online application here.

You can follow Gregg Wallace on twitter:  @GreggAWallace
You can follow John Torode on twitter: @JohnTorode1
Follow MasterChef on twitter: @MasterChefUK

For those of you who are not familiar with the programme, here is a rundown.

Masterchef is a TV cookery game show aired on the BBC. It was first shown back in 1990 and has gone through many changes in it's lifetime with different formats and different presenters. It seems to have settled into it's stride now with presenters John Torode (an Austrian born British Chef and Restaurateur) and Gregg Wallace (writer and restaurant vegetable supplier).

This series features a host of celebrities hoping to win the coveted title of Celebrity Masterchef. It seems that the only qualification for this series is a willingness to join in, as many of the celebrities are rather clueless and admitted novices. However, if previous series are anything to go by, the celebrities really up their game as the show goes on and the final few could easily find a career in cookery.

Accompanying the show is a glossy cookbook simply called The Masterchef Cookbook. I love the series and I was very excited to be presented with a copy of the book by the lovely Gemma.

It is a beautifully produced book featuring 250 of the best recipes from the Masterchef series and has a foreword from the presenters. The recipes fall into the categories Starters, Vegetables & Fish, Poultry, Meat, Game and Desserts. It is full of glossy photographs (a must in my opinion), along with comments from the judges, mastertips and step-by-step photos showing techniques such as making puff pastry, sweet pastry, chocolate ganache, custard, meringues, pasta and preparing fish, vegetables and meat.

It is a great gift for carnivores, but I was more than happy with the selection of recipes and step-by-step techniques on offer to vegetarians.

Here are a few of the recipes that caught my eye:

Gazpacho with Mediterranean Scones (Peter Gerald - Personal Trainer and 2005 quarter finalist)
Goat's Cheese Fritters with Spinach & Apple Salad (Midge Ure - Musician and 2007 celebrity finalist)
Leek & Wild Mushroom Vol Au Vent (Christopher Souto - IT Consultant turned chef and 2005 semi-finalist)
Mushroom, Leek & Ale Pie (Richard Arnold - Presenter and 2007 celebrity finalist)
Strawberries with Sable Biscuits and Orange & Lemon Syllabub (James Nathan - Barrister turned chef and 2008 winner)
Blueberry Sponge Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream (Andi Peters - Presenter & Producer and 2008 celebrity finalist)
Hot Chocolate Cake with Whisky Vanilla Cream & Caramel Sauce (Andi Peters - Presenter & Producer and 2008 celebrity finalist)
Pineapple Tart Tatin with Coconut Caramel (James Nathan - Barrister turned chef and 2008 winner)

If you miss any of the episodes you can catch up on the BBC iplayer.

If you would like to apply to be on the next series of Masterchef you can fill in an online application here.

Finally, if you haven't had your fill of Masterchef yet, you can find over 200 recipes from the show here.

Disclosure Statement: I received this book free from the publisher to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Rhubarb & Custard Cake

It's rhubarb season and I just love the stuff, so I was very excited when I saw this cake which was dreamed up by The Caked Crusader. It is just glorious. Light and fluffy, but with a creamy richness courtesy of the custard and then sweet, but ever so slightly tart chunks of rhubarb. It is like the best of puddings made into a cake.

If you pop over to The Caked Crusader to view the original recipe in metric, you will be sure to notice the lovely pink streaks of rhubarb in her cake. My cake is distinctly lacking in this splash of colour because I used some rhubarb whipped from the garden. It was thicker and greener, but it still tasted glorious.

Love rhubarb? Try this Scottish Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb & Custard Cake


For the rhubarb:
400g rhubarb, washed and cut into chunks
2 tbsp orange juice
¼ cup caster sugar

For the cake:
250g/2¼ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup ready made custard
2 cups self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger (this was my addition)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups golden caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180˚c/fan oven 160˚c/350˚F / gas mark 4.

Wash and trim and dry the rhubarb. Cut into 2-3cm long pieces. Place in a small pan with the sugar and orange juice and cook on a high heat for about 5 mins (this will hold the colour. Drain off the juice and set the rhubarb aside to cool. (The Caked Crusader, bakes her rhubarb in the oven, if you prefer that method.)

Line a 2ocm round springform cake tin with baking paper or cake liner.

Set aside 3 tablespoons of custard for later.

Beat the butter, remaining custard, flour, baking powder,ginger, eggs, vanilla and golden caster sugar in a large bowl until smooth and creamy.

Spoon a third of the batter into the prepared tin and level.

Spoon a third of the rhubarb onto the batter and ensure it is evenly distributed.

Spoon a further third of the batter onto the rhubarb and spread out as best you can. Be gentle and it will be ok.

Spoon a further third of rhubarb and top with the remaining cake batter.

Scatter the remaining rhubarb on top and then dot the 3 tablespoons of reserved custard on top as well.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until risen and golden, then cover with foil and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack.

If you wish you can sieve some icing sugar over the top before serving.


Thanks to The Caked Crusader for allowing me to publish the recipe in cup measures.

Yoghurt Scones with a Trio of Cheeses

Today is the last day of Yoghurt Week.

The weather has turned and today the temperature has dropped, we have torrential rain and high winds. A day to stay home, if ever there was one.

Soup was on the menu for lunch, but there was a distinct lack of bread in the house and there was no way I was venturing out. I could have drowned! So, I thought it might be good to make savoury scones to serve with my soup. My internet connection has been down all day (I am piggybacking on someone else's just now), so a browse through my cookbooks was the order of the day.

I found a promising looking recipe in Delia's Vegetarian Collection. Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives. I used the basic recipe, but changed it into cup measures and used my own flavours. The scones were lovely, just the thing to dunk into some homemade soup while watching the rain battering down.

Yoghurt Scones with a Trio of Cheeses

1 ½ cups self raising flour
½ tsp English mustard powder
½ tsp salt
a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
25g butter, cubed
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
25g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
1 large egg
3 tbsp Total Greek Yoghurt

scone toppings

enough milk to brush over the top of the scones before baking
grated cheddar (optional)
a sprinkling of cayenne (optional)

Preheat oven to 220c/425f/gas mark 7.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Hold the sieve high for maximum airing of the flour. Sieve in the mustard and sprinkle in the salt, then mix thoroughly.

Rub the cubes of butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Lightly mix in the cheese.

Beat the egg and yoghurt together and add it to the flour mix, a little at a time, mixing it in with a knife. Once all the egg and yoghurt has been blended in, use your hands to bring the dough together. If the dough is too dry, you may add another ½ tsp of yoghurt. Do not over handle or the scones will lose their lightness.

Roll the dough until it is 1 inch/2 ½ cm thick. Use a wide glass or cutter to cut out 6 circles. You will need to re-roll the dough to achieve this.

Place the scones on a baking tray, covered with greaseproof paper and brush with a little milk. At this point if you wish, you may top the scones with grated cheddar and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes until golden and well risen.

Cool a little on a wire rack.

Serve warm with some homemade soup.

This is my entry for this month's No Croutons Required. This month it's Lisa's turn to host and she would like us to come up with a bread recipe that goes well with soups and salads. Quick breads, such as scones, biscuits and muffins, or yeast breads; whatever might go well with a favorite soup or salad. She would also like us to mention and link to a salad or soup that would go well with our bread. If you would like to bake a bread for this month's challenge, you have until the 20th of July. The rules are here.

I dunked my scones into the soup I made yesterday, so that is the soup I will be submitting with my entry.

Cheddar, Parmesan & Chilli Beer Bread

It's day six of Yoghurt Week and we are coming to the end of this mini series. I do hope you have enjoyed it.

Today I decided to use up some of the carrots sitting patiently in my salad drawer to make a carrot soup. Carrot soup is always great, it never disappoints me. Today I added cumin for extra flavour and yoghurt to make it lovely and creamy.

I also baked some quick beer bread to serve with it. When I say quick, I mean the preparation and not the baking. It is one of those no-knead breads, that is just thrown together in one bowl. I baked the bread first and while it was in the oven, I made my soup. I prepared the meal in this order so we could enjoy the bread while it was still warm. Lovely.

I used a recipe for the bread that I have used a few times, although I usually make rolls with it. I have made Cheddar & Dill Rolls and Crusty Garlic Rolls and several variations on these from this basic recipe, but this time I baked the bread in a loaf tin and I was very pleased with the result.

Cheddar, Parmesan & Chilli Beer Bread

3 cups plain flour
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp chilli powder
1 cup grated mature cheddar
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
300ml beer/lager

1 egg & 2 tsp water, beaten

Heat oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5. Sift the flour into a large bowl and then add the sugar, salt, baking powder, chilli powder, parmesan and cheddar. Gradually pour in the beer and mix until just combined, do not over mix. The mixture will be quite thick and stretchy.

Pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes until golden. The outside should be crispy and a skewer should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before moving onto a wire rack.

Best served warm.

Carrot. Cumin & Yoghurt Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely diced
2 tsp ground cumin
8 large carrots, finely diced
5 cups / 2 ½ pints vegetable stock
1 handful fresh coriander, chopped
½ cup Total Greek Yoghurt
salt & freshly ground pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the cumin and the carrots and cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, cover and simmer for half an hour. Whizz up the soup until it is smooth, then add the coriander and stir through the yoghurt. Season to taste.

Serves 4-6

Yoghurt Week - Day Five

It's day five of Yoghurt Week.

Today I have taken a chocolate cupcake recipe and added yoghurt and coconut. The cupcakes raised beautifully and the coconut really improved the flavour. I spoiled the frosting somewhat, because I was in a rush. If you follow the recipe the frosting will be beautiful, unfortunately I decided to cut corners and melt the butter, so while it does taste good, it isn't as smooth as it could be.

Chocolate & Coconut Cupcakes

¾ cup Total Greek Yoghurt
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cups caster sugar
1 ¼ cups self raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 ½ cups dessicated coconut
a pinch of salt
175g unsalted butter melted

chocolate frosting

50g (8 squares) dark chocolate
70g/1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar


12 white chocolate buttons with sprinkles

Fill a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Preheat the oven to 190c/fan oven 170c/gas mark 5.

Melt the butter and set aside.

In a jug, mix together the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla extract.

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the yoghurt mixture and the melted butter. Fold in, but don't over mix.

Pour the mixture into the paper cases. The mixture will come quite high up the sides.

Bake for 20 minutes. A skewer will come out clean once they are ready.

Leave to cool in the tray for a while and then move to a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, blend the softened butter with the icing sugar. add the icing sugar a little at a time. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and then add it gradually to the frosting. Spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and top with a button.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Yoghurt Week - Day Four

It's day four of Yoghurt Week.

After my first post, Helen from Fuss Free Flavours suggested I use some yoghurt, frozen banana and berries to make a smoothie. I thought it was a great idea, so here is my fruit bowl smoothie. More fridge and freezer smoothie really as the bananas were in the freezer and the strawberries and cherries were in the fridge, but you get the idea, don't you? Any fruit would do.

Fruit Bowl Smoothie

2 frozen bananas (chopped before frozen)
12 ripe strawberries
12 pitted cherries
juice of 1 orange
1 cup Total Greek Yoghurt
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour and serve.

Serves 4

The smoothie was lovely and gone in a flash.

Cooper enjoyed the smoothie too.
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