Today I’m sharing my “go-to” recipe for chocolate cupcakes. This recipe has never left me down. My oven can be really temperamental when it comes to cake baking, but these cupcakes always turn out perfectly. They’re light, fluffy and deliciously moist.
I’ve made them numerous times for fundraisers and they always sell in a flash. None of the children at our local school are vegan, but they choose these cupcakes simply because they love them. It also makes me happy to know that the children with dairy allergies are able to join in. I often spot their mums making a beeline for me as I step through the school gate with my cake tin.
Next Friday is the annual Macmillan coffee morning here in the UK, which has now gained the status of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year, the event raised a wopping £25 million for people affected by cancer.
I love this time of year when the British hedgerows and allotments are laden with berries. Whenever I’m out on a run along the river and canal paths, I can never resist pausing to grab a handful of blackberries. If you see someone running round Bath with purple stained hands, that’ll be me!
In today’ post, I’m sharing a recipe that showcases another glorious summer fruit – the raspberry ♥
Each month, I eagerly anticipate the delivery of The Vegan Kind subscription box. I love the diversity of products included in the boxes. There’s usually a sweet treat (this month we were spoilt with two high quality chocolate treats), a savoury snack, as well as a fab new vegan beauty, toiletry or cleaning product.
In addition to these goodies, I always get very excited when I see ingredients in a box. My brain immediately starts whizzing with new recipe ideas and I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and start creating.
This month we received a package of Coconom ginger coconut sugar. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I love coconut sugar and though I use it all the time, I’d never tried this particular sugar before. It’s infused with real ginger and tastes amazing! My family are huge ginger fans so this product was spot on for us.
As soon as I spied the sugar, a recipe sprung to mind that I knew it would be perfect for – Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I often make these cookies as they’re a family favourite, but this week I decided to add an extra dimension of flavour by adding in some orange zest. Not only did they taste delicious, but they smelt wonderful too. As they baked, the kitchen was filled with the most beautiful orange aroma.
These cookies got a big thumbs up from the family and my Tuesday night study class. I’ve already baked four batches this week and I’ve still got plenty of ginger coconut sugar left for more recipe experimenting. Next up, I’ve got my eye on The Vegan Cookie Fairy’s Banana Ginger Butterscotch Muffin recipe (featured on the TVK recipe card). They sound really yummy!
Makes 9-10 cookies
Hands on time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 12 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes
45ml / 3 TBSP soya (or almond) milk
35ml / 3 TBSP organic rapeseed (canola) oil (or other neutral-flavoured oil)
40g / ¼ cup coconut sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ TBSP zest from an organic/unwaxed orange
47g / 1/3 cup fine wholemeal (wholewheat) or chapatti flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
70g / ¾ cup rolled oats
45g / ¼ cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line a large baking sheet with non stick baking paper.
Using a strong fork, whisk together the milk, oil and sugar until fully combined. Whisk in the vanilla extract and orange zest, then set to one side.
Place the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined. Sift the flour into the wet ingredient bowl. Stir in the oats, and lastly the raisins.
Scoop slightly rounded tablespoons of dough and spread them out on the prepared baking sheet. Press the dough balls into cookie shape (these cookies don’t spread much). Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden in colour. Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes (they firm up as they cool) then transfer to a wire rack.
These cookies will keep for about a week stored in an airtight container. They also freeze really well. I often make a double batch and freeze half for lunchboxes and after school snacks.
So far, I’ve had one attempt at a gluten-free version of this cookie. I subbed the wheat flour with oat flour and added 1/2 TBSP ground flaxseed to the wet ingredients. Sadly I found them a bit too dry and ‘claggy’, so I’ll need to try a different GF flour. Lil’ L and M didn’t mind them so much though. They scoffed the lot.
Did you get this month’s TVK box? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. What was your favourite product? Impossible for me to choose a favourite this month as I loved it all!
Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great Easter. I’ve finally plugged back in after my extended break. It did me the world of good to have some time out but I missed you guys! Thank you so much to everyone that’s emailed or left me feedback on the blog about recipes you’ve tried these past few weeks. You guys have made me smile so much!
To kickstart my return, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favourite baked treats…
For banana bread, you want to use very ripe bananas – the blacker the better. So, if you’ve got some bananas languishing in the fruit bowl, this recipe is a great way to use them up.
Since banana bread can be a bit plain looking, I like to dress up our loaves by adding toppings or extra ingredients into the batter. In this loaf, I’ve sprinkled a handful of pecans on top which impart a delicious flavour and crunchiness when baked.
In the centre, I’ve added some chopped dates for a touch of caramel-like sweetness. If you wish, you could sub some of the dates for chopped nuts in the batter. Pecans or walnuts work especially well.
Since Lil’ L is currently at primary school (where nuts are banned), I tend to leave the nuts out of the banana bread batter so that he can take a slice in his lunchbox. I simply slice off the pecan top and he eats it when he gets home from school :o)
Though I’ve given this loaf the traditional name of ‘banana bread’, it’s so sweet and moist that it’s definitely more cake-like than bread. I find it makes a lovely afternoon ‘pick me up’ with a cuppa. Kids love it too and it makes a great after-school treat.
Hands on time: 15 minutes Ready in: 2 hours
3 over-ripe medium bananas, sliced
50ml / ¼ cup organic rapeseed (canola) oil or other neutral flavoured oil
80g /⅓ cup unrefined caster sugar or coconut sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
210g / 1½ cups fine wholemeal (whole wheat pastry) or chapatti flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
90g / ½ cup dates, chopped
45g /⅓ cup pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with non-stick baking paper or use a non-stick loaf liner.
Place the sliced banana, oil, sugar and vanilla extract in a food processor and whiz until smooth (alternatively use a bowl and hand blender).
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Tip any remaining wheatgerm from the sieve into the bowl. Stir to combine. Make a well in the middle and pour in the banana mixture. Gently stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in the dates. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the pecans on top and lightly press them into the batter.
Bake for 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean. Leave in the tin for at least 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled. The loaf will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.
For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I though I’d share one of my latest treat obsessions – Vegan Florentines ♥
I’ve been dreaming about Florentines ever since I saw them on display in the patisserie shops of Venice and Florence a few years ago. I’d never seen anything quite like them before. They looked so dainty yet totally decadent with their dark chocolate bottoms! I was pretty sure that they’d be full of dairy and off limits to me, but I was excited about the thought of creating a vegan version one day.
This week I finally got round to a little Florentine experimentation in the kitchen.
After a quick internet search, I discovered that Florentines are typically made with cane sugar, honey, butter, candied cherries, candied citrus peel and almonds. Since I’m not a fan of the first 4 ingredients, and I know a lot of my readers aren’t keen on candied peel, I ended up subbing 5 of the 6 ingredients. The almonds stayed 😉
The cane sugar and honey was swapped for coconut sugar and maple syrup, which gave the Florentines a wonderful golden hue and caramel-like sweetness. Instead of candied cherries and citrus peel, I used dried cranberries and orange zest. This gave the Florentines a fresh, citrussy flavour which I absolutely loved. The butter was exchanged for non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter.
I’ve done 6 trials so far this week, playing around with different ingredient ratios and combos. All have tasted delicious, but I was striving to bake a Florentine that was super thin with the traditional ‘lacey’ texture on the underside. By the 4th trial, I’d cracked it.
Once cooled, I then added the classic Florentine wavy chocolate bottom.
These Florentines are my new treat obsession. I absolutely love their texture – crisp on the outside, chewy in the centre with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bottom. Plus the flavour combination is so lush. The citrus zest gives them a wonderful lift while the dark chocolate makes them feel decadent.
Another great thing about this biscuit is that each one only contains 1 tsp of mixture which, in my eyes, makes it totally acceptable to go back for a second or third 🙂
‘M’ and Lil’ L seem to love them as much as me. I’ve made 72 so far this week, and there are very few left in the biscuit tin! I also took along a sample to my Tuesday night study class and they were a big hit!
If possible, I recommend weighing the ingredients rather than using tablespoons as it’s more precise. I find that the shape and ‘lacieness’ of the Florentines varies depending on the size of the fruit and nut pieces, and the type of flour or fat used. Regardless of their shape, all are totally delicious!
27g / 1 oz / 3 rounded TBSP flaked almonds
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP dried cranberries
Zest of ½ unwaxed / organic orange
27g / 1 oz / 2 TBSP dairy-free spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP coconut sugar
27g / 1 oz / 1½ TBSP maple syrup
18g / ⅔ oz / 2 TBSP fine wholemeal (whole wheat), chapatti or gluten-free flour mix
80g / 3 oz dark chocolate or ½ cup dark choc chips
Method Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line two large baking sheets with non stick baking paper.
Place the almonds in a frying pan (skillet) and dry fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly. As soon as they start to brown and become fragrant, tip them onto a plate and leave to cool. Once cool, finely chop the nuts or scrunch them in your hands to break them up.
Finely chop the cranberries. Zest the orange.
In a small pan, gently heat the non dairy spread / coconut butter. Once it has melted, whisk in the sugar and syrup. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. Stir in the nuts and fruits. You want to get the mixture as uniform as possible so that the Florentines spread evenly as they bake.
Drop six rounded teaspoons of mixture onto one baking sheet. Be sure to space them out well to give them room to spread. Add another six teaspoons to the second baking sheet. Using damp fingers, press down on the Florentines to flatten slightly and shape into circles.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges of the Florentines have browned. Leave to cool. (They will be very soft when they come out the oven, but they firm up as they cool).
Once the Florentines are completely cool, prepare the chocolate coating. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl set over a pan with an inch or so of water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl). Gently heat the water and stir the chocolate until it has fully melted. Remove from the heat. If the chocolate is very runny, keep stirring it until it has thickened slightly. Using a knife, coat the bottom of each Florentine with chocolate, then wiggle a fork along the chocolate to form a wavy pattern. Leave the chocolate to set.
The Florentines will keep for a week or so in an airtight container. In warm houses, it’s best to store them in the fridge. They also freeze really well so it’s worth making a double batch and freezing some. That way, you’ll have a stash ready for coffee mornings, surprise visitors or whenever a sweet craving strikes.
Unwaxed Citrus Fruits Unwaxed lemons are widely available, but unwaxed oranges are a little harder to come by. In the UK, they are currently available in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. If you’re only able to find waxed oranges, you’ll find tips online on how to remove the wax. The wax on citrus fruits often contains shellac (from the lac beetle) or beeswax, making them unsuitable for vegans. Organic citrus fruits are unwaxed, which makes them vegan friendly 🙂
You’ll find Suma products available to purchase in UK independent health food shops. You can also bulk buy many of their products from Amazon.
The recipes I most often share are firm family favourites that I’ve been refining over a number of years. So when I get inspired to create a new recipe that I want to blog now rather than in 5 years time, I end up obsessively testing it again and again over the course of a week or so to play catch up with the tweaks and refinements.
This week, the obsession has been these little guys…
When Amy mentioned gingerbread under my waffles post, it reminded me that I hadn’t made gingerbread men in years. I decided it was high time I dusted off my old recipe notes and gave them another whirl.
So far this week, I’ve made 72 gingerbread men! Family and friends have kindly been helping me out with the testing. Lil’ L’s taken them to school, Mark’s taken them to work, and I’ve shared them with friends over coffee (not the classiest of cookies but hey it made them smile).
All the batches got great feedback, but Mark thought they could be a bit ‘gingerier’ so the next batch had an extra ½ tsp of ginger. I’ve tested different thicknesses (the thicker men were the winners), different sugars and different oils/butters. All worked fine, so I’m guessing the recipe is pretty adaptable. I also tested different cooking times and I personally preferred the longer time as it made them firmer and crunchier round the edges.
Readers have also had great success using gluten-free flour to make these gingerbread men. Check out the Comments section below to see their feedback.
Even though I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of gingerbread men this week, I’m still totally in love them and will be happily munching my way through more this weekend. Fortunately, as cookies go, these are pretty healthy as they’re wholegrain, plus they’ve got an extra boost of iron from the molasses. As well as coffee, they’re delicious with a cup of ginger tea. This has got to be the ultimate winter warmer. I can literally feel myself warming up from the inside out as I sip a cup ♥
Makes about 18 cookies (depending on cutter size)
Hands on time: 20 minutes Chilling time: 1 hour (can be left up to 2 days)
Cooking time: 10-12 minutes Ready in: 1 hour 35 minutes
Place the oil/spread/butter in a pan with the sugar, molasses and milk. Gently heat over a low heat. As it warms, whisk to combine.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Give it a mix to make sure it is combined. Pour in the contents of the pan and stir until it comes together to form a dough. This will take some elbow grease as it’s a stiff dough. (If you’re using coconut butter, you may need to add 1-2 TBSP more milk to form a smooth non crumbly dough).
Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill for 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for up to 2 days but, if left for more than 1 hour, remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before rolling.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.
Place the dough on a silicone mat or lightly floured work surface. Place a sheet of non stick baking paper on top and roll to a thickness of ½ cm (just under ¼ inch). Press out the dough using a metal cookie cutter and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Combine the dough scraps into a ball and roll out again. Repeat until all the dough is used.
Place in the oven and bake for 10-14 minutes. (I check mine after 10 minutes and then bake for another 2-4 minutes as I like mine firmer and crunchier). Leave to cool and firm up for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. The cookies will last about a week in an airtight container, or for weeks in the freezer. If freezing, place in a single layer in a freezer bag. Press out all the air before tying or zip locking.
Freshly baked, these gingerbread men are crispy round the edges with a soft centre. Over time, they become softer and chewier, but delicious nonetheless.
If you try the recipe and make any adjustments, do let me know. I always love to hear your feedback!