Lemon poppyseed meringue cupcakes

I love lemon curd. Nothing is better than biting into a cake, tart or pie and getting smacked around the face by a big zing of lemon – right?!

Part of the reason I was so disappointed with the lemon meringue torta I had at Pizza Express recently was that earlier in the week I’d been making my own lemon curd for these cupcakes, and, without wanting to sound too arrogant, the bland version they used jut couldn’t come close to it.

These cupcakes were for a friend’s birthday, and combine the best of both (lemon) worlds; lemon poppyseed cake and lemon meringue pie.

I wanted to bake something that was relatively light, as somewhat of an antidote to all the heavy Christmas food and stodgy winter puddings that having been wreaking havoc with my waistline over the past few months.

Not that I can exactly claim these are healthy, but they are light in flavour and texture, and the meringue frosting is certainly a little less bad for you than a buttercream or cream cheese icing would be.

They went down well with everyone who sampled them, and although the meringue would have looked better if I’d had a blowtorch to finish it overall I was still very happy with how these turned out.

Lemon poppyseed meringue cupcakes (adapted from BBC Good Food and Baking Mad)

  • 150g self raising flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • zest of a large lemon
  • 1tbsp poppy seeds, toasted
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 65g natural yoghurt
  • 120g butter, melted

Sift together the flour and sugar and stir in the lemon zest and poppyseeds. Beat the eggs and whisk in the natural yoghurt and melted butter, then add this to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Divide between 9 large cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and springy (but still quite light in colour).

For the filling and icing:

Once the cupcakes are cool, cut a hole in the centre of each and fill with 1 tsp of lemon curd, then replace the bits you’ve cut out so the top is level again. Heat the caster sugar in a saucepan with 25ml water. For the best results, use a sugar thermometer and take it off the heat when it reaches 230 degrees fahrenheit.

While the syrup is heating, whisk the egg white until stiff peaks start to form, then once the syrup reaches the right heat slowly pour it in down the side of the bowl, while you have the mixer running. Keep whisking until the bowl, and the meringue, completely cools. Then you can spoon the meringue into a piping bag to frost the cupcakes. At this point, if you have a blow torch you should absolutely use it, but if you don’t you can do what I did and either put them back in the oven on a low heat for a more cooked meringue, or blast them under the grill for brown tops and a marshmallowy inside. Both ways are good!

tea time treats

As these cupcakes star egg yolks in the curd and egg whites in the meringue, I think they’re perfect for this month’s Tea Time Treats, hosted for the first time by Jane at the Hedge Combers. Eggs is the theme, and as much as I love them scrambled, poached or in an omelette, in cakes they’re even better…

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Hazelnut and salted caramel bûche de Noël

When I signed up for the Plymouth Chamber Christmas Bake Off, all I really wanted was to do well enough to get to the final week, as the theme was cake and I much prefer baking cakes to biscuits, bread or pastry.

However, by the time I got there, down to the final three contestants, I’d be lying if I said a bit of competitiveness hadn’t started to creep in.

I had to create a festive-themed showstopper cake, and knew straight away that I wanted to do a bûche de Noël – the question was, how would I make it stand out against the other two entries?

Decoration was one of the judging criteria, so I knew I had to go over the top. Giant cake board, covered in green sugarpaste, meringue mushrooms, holly leaves and berries, a fondant robin, gold almond pine cone and even a little ladybird, added at the last minute to fill a gap in the forest floor.

I struggled more deciding on what flavours to go with, but fate intervened when I had to go and meet with a chef for work – the fantastic Tom Milby from the Pandora Inn at Restronguet Creek, on the south coast of Cornwall.

I told Tom one of the options I was considering was salted caramel, and he suggested pairing it with something nutty – and then gave me a tub of the most beautiful Callebaut hazelnut praline paste, which is what turned a good cake into an amazing one.

I folded the praline into whipped cream for the filling, and made a salted caramel chocolate ganache to cover the cake. The two flavours complimented each other perfectly, and I was very happy with the outcome.

The judging of the final round of the bake off was led by Chris Tanner, one half of the Tanner Brothers who own two excellent restaurants in Plymouth and are cookery tv show regulars.

So, how did I do? Well, I won!! Amazing! Apparently my cake was ‘the clear winner’, and Chris said he loved all my detailing and decoration as well as the taste.

My prizes are a bread baking masterclass at the Devonport Column Bakehouse, and tickets to see Paul Hollywood when he brings his tour to Plymouth next year. Aside from the prizes though, I’m just thrilled to have won, and for an actual proper chef to say he likes my baking! Such an awesome Christmas present 🙂

Hazelnut and salted caramel bûche de Noël (loosely adapted from a Mary Berry yule log recipe and a Hummingbird Bakery chocolate ganache)

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 65g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder

For the filling:

  • 200ml whipping cream
  • 100g hazelnut praline paste

For the ganache icing:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 180ml double cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250g dark chocolate, chopped

For the sponge, whisk together the eggs and sugar until really light and fluffy and tripled in volume – at least 4-5 minutes of whisking. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and fold in gently, taking care not to knock the air out of the mixture. Spread into a 14×10″ baking tin, lined with baking paper, and bake at 200 degrees (180 fan) for 8-10 minutes,  or until springy and pulling away from the edges of the tin.

Lay out another piece of baking paper and dust liberally with icing sugar. Turn out the sponge onto the paper, and peel off the backing paper from the underneath of the sponge. Score a line along one of the long edges of the sponge, about 1″ from the edge, then starting from that side tightly roll up the sponge and leave to cool.

To make the cream filling, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold a third of it into the hazelnut praline to loosen the mixture, then fold in the rest.

For the ganache, heat the caster sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan with 60ml of water. Heat the cream and salt in a separate pan and set aside. Keep the caramel pan on the heat and simmer until it turns a lovely deep golden colour, then quickly whisk in the heated cream mixture, stirring until it stops bubbling.

Pour the caramel over the chopped chocolate, and stir until all the chocolate melts. Leave to cool to room temperature, when it should be a spreadable consistency. If it seems too thick, you can reheat and add a little more cream, then leave it to cool again.

To assemble, unroll the sponge and spread the hazelnut cream all over. Re-roll as tightly as you can, then trim the two ends to neaten it. Cut the log a third of the way down at a 45 degree angle, to create a piece to use as the branch. Place the two pieces on whatever cake board or serving plate you’re using, then cover with the chocolate ganache. To get the bark-like effect, I just used a butter knife to roughly spread the icing lengthways down the log, then swirled it on the ends of the branches.

Dust with icing sugar and serve!

If you want to make meringue mushrooms, there’s a great tutorial over on Sprinkle Bakes – they’re easier than they look, but they are very fragile – at least a third of mine broke before getting anywhere near the cake!

Eton Mess

Meringue. Berries. Cream. How could anyone possibly not like that combination?!

I think Eton Mess might be one of my favourite summer desserts. That’s why when I had a couple of leftover egg whites, and I found a punnet of blueberries reduced to 50p, I knew exactly what to make.

The blueberries were the best I’ve tasted all summer, and the British strawberries were equally delicious. The fact that they survived long enough to make it into the dessert is down to some severe self restraint!

This barely counts as a recipe as it’s so, so simple.

Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff, then whisk in 110g of caster sugar a spoonful at a time. Blob on to a baking sheet and bake at a low temperature, 130-140ish. 30 mins will give you white meringues with a soft marshmallowy centre, an hour will produce crisper, golden meringues, it’s really down to your personal preference but I went for golden crispy.

Break up the meringues into small-ish chunks. Whip 300ml double cream with a little icing sugar, then pile into glasses with the meringue and whatever berries are available. That was my slight attempt to make it look nice, but really all mixed in together and chucked into a big bowl is equally as good!

I also kept one meringue back to make a mini pavlova, as the friendly pony had never have one before. Talk about deprived culinary upbringing!

Strawberry meringue roulade and other baking disasters

This week has not been a good one for baking in the hinny house.

I started the week with enthusiasm, ready to bake chocolate coconut profiteroles. It’s been a few years since I last made choux pastry, and I’ve never made creme patissiere, but I was still fairly confident – how hard can it be?

Well the answer to that is very.

The choux pastry was too thin,  so the profiteroles came out as domes rather than balls – although they did have the right taste and texture, so they could have been used were it not for the creme patissiere…

Attempt 1 completely burnt onto the bottom of the pan – immediately thrown into the bin.

Attempt 2 I thought was going well, until I went to pour it an discovered the rather unappetising lumps at the bottom – a moment’s consideration, then into the bin.

Following this massive failure (which i was too traumatised by to take photos) I was left with 4 egg whites – so naturally my next baking attempt was meringue.

Pavlova seemed a bit easy (I know, the previous disaster taught me nothing…) so I decided to go for a meringue roulade. A strawberries and cream meringue roulade, to be precise.

The above picture shows said attempt at a roulade, but as you can see what I actually got was a sloppy strawberry mess.

I’m really annoyed, because I knew before doing it that I was making a mistake, but decided to place my trust in the original recipe… error!

The recipe called for the roulade to have the fillings put in and be rolled up straight away. The fillings inlcuded whipped cream, which predictably melted on contact.

As i rolled it, the cream flowed out, taking several strawberries with it.

Despite it’s slightly unconventional look, it did actually taste ok, and the friendly pony thinks ‘sloppy’ is the best thing a food can be, so it wasn’t an absolute failure.

The recipe works, as long as you dont try and put cold cream on hot meringue straight away!

Strawberry meringue roulade (loosely based on this one)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 150ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar (estimate)
  • 100g strawberries (estimate)
  • 3 tbsp strawberry jam

Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until thick and stiff. Whisk in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, until glossy. Line a 30 x 20 cm baking tin with greaseproof paper and spread the meringue to fill it. Bake at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until crisp and lightly golden on top.

Turn the meringue out onto another piece of greaseproof paper, dusted with icing sugar. LEAVE TO COOL!!!!

Whip the cream until thick, then fold in icing sugar, a bit a time, to taste. Spread a layer of jam on the meringue, followed by a layer of cream, and then scatter the strawberries all over before rolling up from one of the long edges.

Your slice of delicious meringue roulade should look far neater than this one!