Ginger Christmas Cake

Get your spoons ready, it’s time for ‘stir up Sunday’!

Fruit cakes are surprisingly easy to make dairy and egg-free and I guarantee the resulting cake will be hoovered up in no time. Last year we left a whole cake (only uneaten due the overkill of other options) with the in-laws and it had completely disappeared two days later! That’s pretty good going for a large fruit cake. 😉

Every year I seem to make multiple types of Christmas cakes to please the various factions of the family (and because I enjoy it): some like chocolate yule log, some like gingerbread biscuits and some love a slice of fruit cake. I’ve never been overly keen on fruit cake myself but my Christmas cake recipe has won me over – it’s fruit heavy but also light and delicate, the kind of fruit cake where you could almost have another slice.

This year I felt like making a change to my usual traditional Christmas cake and had the idea of combining a family favourite of ginger cake taste with a fruit cake base. It turns out it’s a genius combination; who could resist the spicy warming heat of ginger with the comforting hug of a traditional Christmas cake? The ginger is added in three ways for different dimensions and interest: crystallised ginger chunks, plenty of ground ginger and then a regular feeding of ginger wine for added oomph.

Let the Christmas preparations begin 🙂

Ginger Christmas Cake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 1 12″ cake

200g sultanas

200g currants

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

100g dates, stoned and chopped

2 tbsps brandy (or ginger wine or apple juice)

350g plain flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

70g dairy-free margarine

zest of 1 lemon

170g light Muscovado sugar

250ml dairy-free milk, warmed to hand hot temperature

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Grease and line a 12″ cake tin
  2. Pour the brandy/apple juice over the dried fruit and leave to steep for at least a couple of hours, or preferably overnight
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger and mixed spice. Add the lemon zest.
  5. Rub in the dairy-free margarine and then stir in the sugar, and the dried fruits.
  6. Add the bicarb to the warm milk and stir until dissolved. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough.
  7. Turn into the lined cake tin and bake for 1 hour. Then turn the oven down to gas mark 3/160 degrees Centigrade and continue to bake for a further 20-30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. Keep wrapped in baking paper, in an airtight container until ready to decorate (if desired) just before Christmas
  9. For added moisture and flavour, pour 1 tbsp of ginger wine (or apple juice or brandy) onto the cake each week until ready to use.

Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Topping

There’s something so inspiring about the run up to Christmas for cooking and baking, it just makes me want to get into the kitchen and recipe develop like crazy! Maybe it’s the dark days, or maybe it’s the Christmas spices and thoughts of sharing with friends and family.

I haven’t spent enough time creating in the past few months – I’ve been doing a new job which has taken far too much of my time and energy (even on days when I’m not meant to be working), and I’ve decided that has got to stop. I need to get baking again, to test myself with new recipes and challenges because that is when I’m most energised. This week alone I’ve created three new recipes, so expect lots more posts coming up soon 🙂

Unbelievably our local Christmas lights turned on last night (it was only the 15th November!), so it suddenly felt Christmassy and I had to go a little festive and introduce some warm spice into the mix.

This is a knock out recipe for warming spiced muffins, with all the scents of Christmas rolled into one irresistible fluffy muffin topped with a crunchy crumble topping. This particular muffin recipe gives a great, authentic texture and rise which is perfect for the subtle spice. I particularly like the contrasting texture of the crumble topping, and think it really does add to the whole effect. Do add more spice if that is your preference, I kept mine subtle to please all members of the family!

These were delicious warm straight from the cooling rack, but I’m also thinking they’d make a fabulous Christmas breakfast or brunch.

Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Top

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 12 large muffins

85g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

115g dairy-free margarine, melted

150ml dairy-free milk

150ml dairy-free yogurt

75ml golden or maple syrup

for the crumble topping:

1 tbsp oats

3 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp margarine

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

  1. First make the crumble top: rub the margarine into the other ingredients to make a lumpy mix. Set aside
  2. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade.
  3. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You want not clumps of raw flour but do not overtax, lumpy is good.
  5. 1/2 fill the liners and then sprinkle over the crumble top
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

img_0829Have you ever tried my Devil’s Food cake aka the best chocolate cake in the world? If you haven’t you are seriously missing out, it is so delicious that everyone asks for more! It’s deep, dark and chocolatey with an out of this world silky yet fudgy icing. Honestly, it’s totally divine 🙂

Anyway, these cupcakes are inspired by that cake and also by a fond childhood memory. We didn’t often have shop bought cakes at home, but sometimes I’d go to a friend’s house and they would serve up these little shop bought chocolate cupcakes with this fudgy, set icing. The kind of icing that was way nicer than the cake and also when you peeled off the liner, you were left with a zigzag imprint in the edge of the icing. There was something really pleasing about that! For some bizarre reason I was thinking about that icing the other day and how it would be really convenient for when you need to transport cupcakes; buttercream is just a nightmare if you’re putting the cakes in a box to take elsewhere. I’d always wondered how to make that icing and then it came to me – my wonderful Devil’s Food Icing sets beautifully and would be pretty awesome on a cupcake. Who’s going to say no to a rich chocolate cupcakes topped with out of this world fudgy icing?

So here they are, little Devil’s food Cupcakes ready for cake day, the first one of the school term, so I do hope they go down a storm. I so miss my weekly baking for Little S’s class that I’ve gone to town and made cinnamon swirl buns too. Hopefully that’ll keep everyone happy 🙂

Devils Food Chocolate Cupcakes

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 12-18

150g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

200ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, vanilla and oil. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the bicarb to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix to thoroughly combine.
  6. 2/3 rds fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Devils Food Icing

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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enough to cover 12 cupcakes

2 tbsp dairy-free spread

1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1/2 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup

1/4 cup icing sugar

50g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt together the icing ingredients and simmer for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Let cool.
  2. Spread over the cupcakes and leave to set.

Savoury Pretzels

Snacks – I don’t think we’d get through a day without snacks and that’s always particularly apparent at the weekend or in the school holidays. Biscuits and cakes are all well and good but sometimes savoury is the only way to go. Crisps are great, everyone loves crisps right? But they’re not exactly filling and nutritious.

I have a small repertoire of interesting savoury options: sausage rolls, savoury scones, cheesy crackers etc but I’m always on the look out for new ideas which are not only suitable but pleasing to everyone. Then I spied some big pretzels for sale – now that looks like a good idea. Chewy, bread based and certainly filling. I’ve never really delved into the wonderful world of pretzels before but in doing some research it seems they’re often served with mustard. Bingo! Inspiration! So here’s my take on savoury pretzels, topped with a mustard glaze and because dips make everything better, served with a sweet mustard sauce. These certainly keep those hunger pangs at bay with a satisfying snack. They also make great tasty sandwich rolls 😋

Savoury Pretzels

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, can be vegan) contains mustard

makes 8-10

500g strong bread flour

7g dried fast action yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

300 ml warm water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (for the boiling water)

for the glaze:

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda to form a dough and knead well until smooth silky and you can feel the gluten and firmed up the dough. Cover and leave to prove for at least one hour.
  2. Knock back and cut into 8-10 even sized pieces. Roll each one into a sausage shape with slightly tapered ends, then tie in a lose knot. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the over to 200 degrees centigrade
  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling tip in the bicarbonate of soda and drop each knot into the boiling solution for about 5 seconds.
  5. Remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  6. Brush with a little of the glaze and bake for 15 minutes until deeply golden
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and bush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave to cool.
  8. Serve fresh with a dip of equal parts honey/syrup and mustard pepped up with a dash of hot sauce.
  9. These pretzels also freeze well. Defrost thoroughly and then refresh in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Trail Mix

 

I’ve always found the concept of ‘trail mix’ rather intriguing and tempting. It’s not something you come across often in the UK but I’ve read about it so many times that I really wanted to recreate a friendly version for the family to enjoy. The concept is a pick and mix type snack to delve into a long walk or day out.

Trail mix is usually a mix of cereal, dried fruit, often nuts and sometimes chocolate, all combining to make it a nice portable energy giver on long hikes. It sounds yummy but certainly not ideal for us with all those nuts. The photos I’ve seen often contain Smarties, and whilst some dairy-free versions do exist they have never been completely trace-free therefore not safe enough for us. But colourful chocolates make such a cheery addition to the dry mix that they needed representation so I’ve replaced them with homemade ‘Jazzies’ (chocolate drops coated in colourful sprinkles) and they generally do make the mix look a lot more tempting and fun. Rather than using dried cereal I’ve added salty pretzels to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and dried fruit. I’ve also added mini spiced cookies even more variety and added energy, and well, they look rather cute too.

For some reason, dried fruits are unpopular in this household; I don’t really know why as I really like them but the girls will avoid them at all costs. So this recipe included freeze-dried berries to please the troops, but raisins, dried mango or any other dried fruit would work just as well.

Mini Spiced Cookies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Cream together the dairy-free spread, caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Sift in the cinnamon, ginger, salt, bicarb and plain flour and mix to a soft dough, adding the oat milk to make the mixing easier. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 4 and line a cookie sheet with parchment
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out. Cut out cute little shapes and place on the lined baking tray and cook for 6 minutesCool on a wire rack

Jazzies

These are simply melted dairy-free chocolate with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top! Nothing could be much easier 🙂

Lemon and Raspberry Crumble Bars

Here’s a fabulous recipe for using up the end of the summer raspberries, or just finishing off the jam to make a new batch come the autumn. Boo hoo, is summer really starting to draw to a close? 😦

These bars are a crisp lemon shortbread base, topped with jam and raspberries (slightly squishy is just fine) and topped with a lemon and cinnamon scented crumble. This gives a perfect three layer texture of crisp, sticky and crumbly.

These rather delicious raspberry and lemon crumble (or streusel if you like) bars are inspired by some fruity crumble bars my lovely grandmother used to buy. My grandparents used to live in a ‘granny annexe’, so just next door, and often when my mother was at work I’d spend the day with them. They were lovely, kind grandparents and we’d have fun, but they were also the older generation at a time when older people seemed to prefer a calm orderly lifestyle. So the days would have some predictability with a cooked lunch folllowed by some ‘quiet time’ while my grandmother read her book and my grandfather would sleep in front of the snooker on television (how come snooker was always on I have no idea!). Then we’d walk the dog and return home for tea and a cake or biscuit. She often had these fruity crumble bars in the cupboard and I particularly liked them. So here’s a recreation of that memory, made in honour of some easy, happy times – probably nothing like the original but rather tasty and tempting nonetheless!

Lemon and Raspberry Crumble Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 9

for the base:

100g margarine, melted

50g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

pinch of salt

125g plain flour

  1. Stir all the ingredients together and then press into a lined, square baking tin
  2. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 mins until golden
  3. Leave to cool

for the filling:

1/2 cup raspberry jan

handful of raspberries

  1. Spread over the cooked shortbread base and dot with halved raspberries

for the topping:

40g oats

60g soft brown sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

zest of 1/2 a lemon

40g flour

50g margarine

  1. Rub the margarine into the ingredients together to make a rough crumble
  2. Sprinkle over the jam covered base
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees Centigrade until crisp and golden
  4. Leave to cool and then drizzle with water icing (if desired) and cut into squares