Victoria Sponge Traybake

With the sad news of the Queen dying last week, my thought turned to regal bakes, something to cook in honour of the amazing dedication and duty she showed to our country. There can’t be much that is more royal than a Victoria sponge, and i’m sure it must have been a cake the Queen particularly enjoyed.

There’s something about a traybake that’s both enticing and homely, it’s like a friendly version of a sandwich cake and makes the perfect teatime treat. So to honour and show my respect to Queen Elizabeth II, here is my Victoria Sponge traybake (with a marbled raspberry sponge variation). It may add to the process to fill with dollops of raspberry jam but it is a fantastic addition and really cuts through the sweetness and also makes the bake even more reminiscent of a proper Victoria sponge. If you prefer you could spread a layer of jam onto of the sponge and then top with the buttercream, but it may be best to pipe on the buttercream to make sure you keep the layers distinct.

Victoria Sponge Traybake

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

makes 1 20cm square traybake, serves 9

185g self-raising flour

1 tbsp custard powder (or cornflour)

110g caster sugar

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp dairy-free yoghurt

50g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp raspberry essence, optional

1/2 tsp natural red food colour, optional

1 tsp freeze-dried raspberry pieces, optional

9 tsp raspberry jam

sprinkles/decorations of choice

for the buttercream:

60g dairy-free butter

140g icing sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 20cm square cake tin with parchment

2. In a large bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, custard powder, caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted margarine, and yoghurt.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine to form a smooth batter. Either pour straight into the lined tin and level off.

5. Or, if you would like a raspberry marbled sponge, divide the batter into two bowls. Add the raspberry essence, food colour and freeze dried raspberries to one of the bowls and mix to make a bright pink batter. Place alternate dollops of the batters into the cake tin and marble together with a blunt knife.

6. Place into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cake has risen and turned a little golden. Check it is cooked through but testing with a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.

7. Cool on a wire rack

8. Once cool, make 9 little insertions into the cake (i used an apple corer), fill with the jam and then place the little cake lids back on top.

9. Make the buttercream by whisking together all the ingredients until you have a light and fluffy icing.

10. Spread the buttercream over the traybake, sprinkle with decorations and cut into 9 equal squares.

Holidays in Greece with allergies

View over Nidri, Skorpios and Meganisi

We’ve considered Greece as a holiday destination for years but usually opted for the safer (for us) option of France (D is fluent in French), but this year Greece it was, specifically Lefkada, one of the Ionian Islands. It was a long awaited holiday, postponed twice due to Covid and so we had high expectations. In fact, Lefkada delivered exactly what we’d hoped for from a Greek island holiday – wonderful sunny weather, stunning crystal blue sea, fun on beaches and boats and hillsides adorned with ancient olive trees and vibrant green Cypress. It was relaxing, restorative and just perfect, but……

It really wasn’t the easiest destination in  terms of allergies, and remember we’re concerned about milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame seeds. The different alphabet and our inability to understand Greek was a real problem. We self-catered in a villa (as is our choice even without allergies factored in) so had to visit plenty of supermarkets. The main Lefkada town had a couple of bigger supermarkets which were well stocked and had an impressive selection of some free-from products. There were plenty of dairy-free cheeses, butters, a few Alpro yoghurts and lots of dairy-free milk choices.

Bread was really difficult, as we’d expected. Luckily, I’d packed lots of wraps, pittas, bagel thins and focaccia as we only found some safe pittas on the last few days. As you might imagine with Greece, sesame was the biggest issue. We did find one loaf of Scar gluten-free bread, but only in the bigger AB Supermarket in Lefkada Town. The other supermarkets we visited were much smaller and certainly had no suitable bread, yogurts or cheese. We even found the selection of safe crisps was limited, no safe biscuits and even most sweets were not an option as European Hairbo now all seem to have a may contain milk warning. I’d definitely recommend making a trip to the bigger supermarkets and taking a list so you don’t forget anything!

Lovely quality fresh fruit and veg were available in all small scale shops but far more limited in the availability of more ‘specialist’ items.

The biggest problem was definitely having little understanding of the language. On the first day the girls saw a pina colada juice that looked tasty. They compared the highlighted ingredients with the words on our Equal Eats cards and it looked fine. Little S, being a cautious type took a small sip when we were at the villa, she thought it tasted odd. I tasted it and thought it was fine, so she had another sip and her allergy-senses went into overdrive – something made her stop and download a photo translation app to check the ingredients. This is when we noticed a little asterisk and an additional note saying the ‘powder’ contained 3% milk. Our hearts dropped as the villa was miles up a winding mountain road. Little S felt pretty bad, her throat tightened and she felt extremely uncomfortable. Luckily a double dose of anti-histamine was all that was needed, but it was a close call and a nasty start to the holiday. But we learnt a lesson, never presume, always double check, especially when you don’t fully understand the language.

The next tricky incident was in a restaurant when we wanted to order some chips and drinks to go along with our sandwiches. We asked what oil was used and the waitress looked bemused and said ‘the usual oil’, we pressed her further, again she said ‘the usual one’. So we had to get her to check in the kitchen, where she returned saying ‘the classic oil’. We did some google research and it turns out that olive oil in Greece is called classic oil – makes total sense in the land of the olive, but you have to check and it still didn’t feel comfortable!

We ate out twice, both in more touristy locations. The first was an Italian restaurant in Nidri called Pomodoro – we chose this one because Trip Advisor had rave reviews about how helpful the waiter Spiros was, and also we tend to find Italian restaurants generally have something the girls can eat. Indeed Spiros the waiter was extremely friendly and accommodating; he double checked items and made sure we had a really tasty and safe Italian meal. The pizza was a no-go because the base contained milk, but there were a few pasta options, or grilled meats the girls could choose from. Big S had simple pasta pomodoro and Little S when for the l’amatriciana, the same as the pomodoro but with the addition of ham and bacon. They both declared their meals delicious, so it was a big hit. If you’re in Nidri I’d really recommend Pomodoro as a restaurant worth visiting.

We also had lunch at Nikiana Beach club – again it was more touristy so English was widely spoken and the chicken souvlaki and chips was entirely safe once the tzatziki was removed.

Safe souvlaki

Maybe we could have been more adventurous with eating out, but we like to play it safe and stuck mainly to good old packed lunches and eating in the villa. In fact, one day I had a complete allergy-parent fail. I’d made our picnic to take to the beach and had left it in the fridge until the last moment to try and keep it fresh. What did i do? Yep, that’s right, half-way to the other side of the island I remembered it was still in the fridge. It was too far to go back, so we went via the bigger supermarket and cobbled together a just about ok lunch!

 

Ice cream didn’t feature at all – we didn’t see any suitable and the only ice lollies we saw were Calippo which are may contain milk and so off the menu for us. Luckily fresh, delicious fruit juices seem to be a big thing so we opted for nice drinks instead of icy treats.

What would I do differently? Well, definitely download a photo translation app and double check all ingredients on packs. Although, even some products looked safe but when we double checked (extra cautious after day 1!) the may contains hadn’t been added to the English ingredient list. (Such as this choc cereal).

I’d also pack even more bread, as well as spices and sauces which we found in short supply in Greek shops. I’m pleased I took some breads, biscuits, chocolate, and things for sandwich fillers (Tartex vegetarian pate, marmite, Oatly creamy spread, chocolate spread and violife cheese slices) as none of the cooked meats were safe.

So all in all it wasn’t easy on the food front, we definitely needed to cook ourselves and bring plenty of food, but it was worth it for the idyllic scenery and sea. Greece, you are a stunning holiday destination 🙂

West coast

Eating at The Ivy with allergies

I’ve often thought that it might be nice to go to The Ivy as a family. Our local one is so beautifully decorated, and whilst it is just a brasserie chain, it feels a bit more special than most restaurants. We recently had reason to celebrate (end of exams) and so I contacted them directly to see if they could cater for us and was very happy to receive a positive response saying that they’re be extremely happy to cater for our needs and to speak with the waiter directly. Once I’d found it, the allergen menu online looked quite good and we were surprised that there was a variety of dishes that looked suitable. We still felt that familiar low level anxiety of trying somewhere new, but that’s not uncommon!

 

Well, it was a superb experience, well beyond our expectations and is definitely a restaurant we will return to. The waiter was fantastic, he immediately said he knew what everything contained, he took down our requirements seriously but without fuss or the wise-cracks that Little S in particular has to deal with. We’d checked the allergen menu and the sourdough bread looked safe so we ordered some, the waiter came back a few minutes later to say he’d been concerned that the information was not correct, had checked and found that it contained milk. Whilst it wasn’t reassuring that the allergen menu online was incorrect, we were pleased that the waiter clearly knew what he was talking about and had been extra vigilant.

We could see our order on the screen with a big allergy order alert which made us feel confident that the kitchen was aware of the order, and the message had got through. Big S ordered a minute steak with chips and watercress. She was given a red wine jus rather than the usual peppercorn sauce, and it came adorned with an allergy flag. The waiter said that they normally cook the steaks in garlic butter, hence why none appeared as options on the allergen menu, but Big S’s was cooked separately and safely. Little S had an option of three choices just from the children’s menu and more from the adult – this is almost unheard of! She chose grilled chicken with chips, tomato sauce and tender stem broccoli. Again it was a great option, came with the allergy flag, the portion size was huge for a kids meal. It was tasty, well cooked, well presented and it was wonderful she could order something off the menu without any alterations. Also, the chips were amazing!

 

I had a rather delicious halloumi dish with fregola and herb sauce – for a veggie option, care had been taken to give a really well thought out, interesting and tasty dish, rather than the usual afterthought that the veggie choice often is!

 

We didn’t order any puddings so didn’t check if any were possible, but the waiter did bring Big S a complimentary little raspberry compote with coconut yogurt and toasted coconut flakes to celebrate the end of her exams which was a really lovely touch.

 

It turns out that we vaguely know the head chef and have since passed on our thanks for a really good and safe experience. He was so pleased to get good feedback, and gave us a full run down of their allergy procedures. Everything is cooked separately, it’s checked three times, the manager takes responsibility to check again and it is even served on a separate tray. He seemed proud of their processes and I can see why, it made us feel confident and relaxed which is a very rare experience in a restaurant. 

 

So top marks and a big allergy applause for The Ivy – we will return with cautious (only because we’re an allergy family and it has to be that way!) confidence the next time we have something to celebrate.

 

Savoury Herby Soda Bread

It seems to me that savoury bakes and snacks can be harder to make and source if you avoid things like eggs, milk, sesame and nuts. Maybe that’s because I’ve become more and more adept at creating interesting sweet dishes, and there’s so much variety when you take into account cakes, biscuits, breads, chocolates and sweets. Or maybe, you miss those ingredients even more in savoury items – there is certainly a reliance on cheese, nuts and seeds when you look at savoury offerings.

For savoury items, there always seems to be a point where you want more than crisps or plain crackers (of only certain varieties mind), but you want something interesting and appetising. This might be a quick snack or an exciting addition to a soup or salad for lunch, and if it can be made in a flash then that’s always a bonus.

Thinking of quick, soda bread came to mind. Bread can be the highlight of a meal or a wonderful snack to graze on whilst waiting for the main event.

This version uses curdled soya milk to replace the buttercream which gives superbly authentic results, plus a super savoury ‘cheese’ and chive vibe to fit with my craving for more savoury bakes in our repertoire. If you’ve ever made my equally delicious savoury scones you’ll be familiar with the flavour profile. 

If you like other herbs then just sub them in; rosemary and thyme would be rather nice, as would the softer parsley or chervil. The beauty of this bread is that it really is quick – you can have it made, baked and ready in about 40 minutes – perfect for those times when you find the bread bin empty!

We ate this loaf, fresh from the oven with a spicy lentil and coconut soup (a delicious Ottolenghi recipe) and then warmed up the next day as a tasty addition to a picky bits lunch. Do you have those, or is it just us when we’re trying a use up the contents of the fridge but still have an interesting lunch!

Savoury ‘Cheese’ and Chive Soda Bread

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

 makes 1 loaf

210g soya milk

15g vinegar (white wine or cider)

1 tsp marmite

300g plain flour

20g oats (plus a few more to scatter on top)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp chives

1 tsp dried oregano

30g dairy-free butter/margarine, cubed

40g dairy-free cheese, cubed (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. Pour the milk into a jug, add the vinegar and marmite and leave to ‘sour’
  3. Place all the other ingredients except the butter and cheese into a bowl or stand mixer.
  4. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips, or using the paddle attachment.
  5. Stir the soured milk and pour into the dry mix. Bring together to a very soft dough. Stir in the cheese cubes, if using.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead to form a smooth ball, you’ll probably need a fair amount of flour
  7. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and sprinkle over a few more oats. Cut a deep cross in the top (this will help let the carbon dioxide created by the bicarb and cream of tartar escape in a controlled fashion). Let sit for 20 minutes, uncovered on the worktop
  8. Place in the prewarmed oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170 degrees Centigrade and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and crusty. (30 minutes baking time in total)
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

Isn’t it tradition that you should eat hot cross buns on Good Friday? Well, it might be tight but you may just get these done in time!

I love making hot cross buns, i think it’s the warm spices that make the house smell heavenly whilst they’re baking. Besides, I think there is also something a bit special about seasonal bakes. You need to make the most of them whilst they’re around, so it’s hot cross buns for breakfast and tea all weekend! Ok, I know you can probably buy hot cross buns all year these days, but somehow that feels wrong – why not make them special and only make and eat them at Easter time, then you’ll appreciate them far more.

All of my hot cross bun recipes are great, have you tried the sticky toffee ones or the vanilla and spice, they’re both super special. But this recipe takes the texture and longevity up a notch. I’m using a technique i’ve recently learnt about creating a moister, brioche type dough. I’ve adapted the recipe to give a good double dosing of spice, easy measurements and an option of chocolate or sultanas (for some reason my family hate sultanas so I always have to make a choc chip version instead!) The resulting texture is so perfect, i’d definitely recommend giving these a go. Besides, the added fat gives a better shelf life and they keep loosely covered for a good 4 or 5 days (and they also freeze brilliantly). I know it’s already Good Friday, but i won’t tell anyone if you want to keep having these for the next few weeks too 😉

Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

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

Makes 18

500g strong bread flour

7g instant dried yeast

75g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

340ml dairy-free milk

75g dairy-free butter (the one in paper rather than a tub)

75g chocolate, chopped or 75g sultanas

25g dried mixed peel.

  1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices into a bowl or a tabletop mixer bowl. Add the milk and bring to a dough. Knead for 10-20 minutes until you have a lovely elastic dough.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and gradually knead into the dough. Make sure each bit is fully incorporated before adding the next bit. You should end up with a glossy elastic dough.
  3. Add in the chocolate/sultanas and mixed peel, make sure they’ve evenly spread.
  4. Cover with cling film and prove in the bowl for 30 minutes.
  5. Then line two baking sheets with parchment. Knock back the dough and divide into 18 even sized pieces. Roll into balls and place well spread on the baking sheets.
  6. Cover and prove at room temperature for 4-5 hours until about doubled in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan/170 degrees non-fan
  8. Make a batter for the crossed (equal flour and water) and pipe onto the top of the buns.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with a hot sugar syrup (equal sugar and water, briefly brought to the boil)
  11. Enjoy fresh or keep loosely covered for up to 5 days.

Pain Perdu aka French Toast

Pain perdu, French toast, gypsy toast, eggy bread – whatever you call it, this dish is a brilliant one to have in your repertoire. Basically, it’s a batter soaked stale bread made into a sweet or savoury dish, perfect for a quick breakfast, brunch, lunch, pudding or snack. Plus it’s a great way to use up some state bread, you can’t argue with a recipe that does that!

I’ve been attending a plant-based patisserie course to extend my knowledge and I’ve learnt so much, it’s been just brilliant and it’s really going to enhance my recipes 😊 

Last week we made brioche with no butter or eggs – I’ve made a brioche before but the techniques I’ve recently learnt give a much improved rich, but light result and it was the perfect bread to turn into a platter of pain perdu. Like many home baked breads, it went stale fast – making it the perfect vehicle for this new improved recipe.

Dairy-free and egg-free brioche

Don’t worry if you don’t have homemade plant-based brioche on hand (I’m sure not many people will!), any slightly stale sliced bread will do. You’d think you might miss the eggs in an ‘eggy bread’ recipe, but as the principle is soaking the bread in a batter (and pancakes work pretty well being egg-free), this recipe is equally successful. In fact, this recipe just uses some leftovers (stale bread) plus a few store cupboard essentials to combine to make a rather superior dish. If you don’t have any stale bread, just cut some slices an hour or so early and leave out to air dry and you’re good to go.

I’ve flavoured my batter with cinnamon but you don’t have to if you’d rather no spice, or vanilla would be rather lovely too. Serve your pain perdu with berries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a squeeze of honey or syrup for a delightful quick and easy sweet treat.

Pain Perdu

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

30g flour

20g cornflour

30g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Pinch of salt

120g dairy-free milk

6-8 slices of slightly stale bread

  1. Sift the flour and cornflour into a shallow bowl, stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon (if using).
  2. Pour in 1/3rd of the milk whisking together to make a paste, then add the rest in two further additions. This helps avoid lumps forming in the batter – you can of course add the milk in one go if you’re not so bothered about a few small lumps! Let the batter rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Place a frying pan on the heat to warm up.
  4. Place the bread slices in the batter, letting them soak up the batter for a couple of minutes before turning over and making sure both sides are drenched in batter.
  5. Melt a knob of vegan butter or 1 tsp of oil in the pan. Drop in a drip of the batter, if it sizzles then you’re ready to add the batter soaked bread
  6. Fry the slices until golden on each side.
  7. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with syrup. A garnish of berries is also rather nice.

Browns Brasserie

I’d always imagined that brasserie style restaurants would be no-go’s in the UK. This probably stems from a disastrous meal in a Brasserie Blanc when the girls were tiny and the allegedly safe meal came with a pile of buttered green beans sitting on top! That was an experience that scarred us!

Anyway, Browns Brasserie had been recommended by a fellow allergy mum and as we were having a day out in Oxford it seemed like the perfect opportunity to be brave and give somewhere new a go. Well, we were pleasantly surprised and will definitely return for another visit sometime.

 

The waiter was exceptionally good – as soon as we mentioned allergies he brought out the allergen menu and didn’t seem at all phased. He also confirmed that anything grilled would be cooked in a separate pan to ensure there was no cross contamination – this came from him, not from us asking. It was really impressive service.

The allergen info is on the glass onion app so it’s easy to peruse at home, and also simple to categorise via allergen. We’d spent a long time checking it out at home (as is often our way!) and discovered that while the menu was more limited for Little S, she could still have a variety of dishes (she avoids milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame seeds). Out of the adult mains she could have had a steak, a couple of fish dishes or a vegan curry or salad. On the children’s menu there was grilled chicken breast or tomato pasta. She opted for the grilled chicken, plus chips and peas. Big S (allergic to milk only) had the burger with no cheese. 

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the food was tasty and well presented and it felt a little bit more special than one of the usual allergy-safe destinations. I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a nice meal out. 

 

The only downside was that there weren’t so many choice for me (the vegetarian) but that’s a small price to pay for a safe allergy-friendly, family-friendly meal out. A big allergy-applause to browns Brasserie from us. 😊

 

Sensational Scones

You’ve got to love scones; light, fluffy, just sweet enough and the perfect carrier for a delicious topping. No proper afternoon tea is right without a batch of warm scones, and this recipe always goes down a storm. You can even freeze them, defrost, pop into the oven for a couple of minutes and then you can have an elegant afternoon tea in a flash.

When we had our stressful tea at Pan Pacific we met Cherish Finden and she said that scones were the most difficult thing to recreate free-from. Now these aren’t gluten-free (but I know others who make them gluten-free), but I can assure you that these are just as good as a traditional scone. Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think?


The most crucial part of scone making is a light touch – you must add air whilst rubbing in the margarine and definitely no kneading! Just very lightly bring together the dough and you’ll have some sensational scones. Just add some jam and dairy-free whipped cream and you can have a sensational tea at home.


Sensational Scones

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

  • makes 10-12
    • 450g plain flour
    • 3 tsps baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 75g dairy-free margarine
    • 70g soft brown sugar
    • 300ml dairy-free milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
    • 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the salt. Stir in the sugar.
  3. With your fingertips, gently rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and vanilla essence (if using).
  5. Bring together to a very soft, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and very gently bring together to a soft, smooth dough.
  6. Pat out with your fingers until 3 cm thick.– Cut out with a well-floured 6cm cookie cutter (or whatever size you choose)
  7. Place on an oiled and floured baking sheet. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with Demerara or granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.– Cool on a wire rack.

Tropical Granola Bars

 There’s something so handy about a cereal or granola bar, the can fit into so many situations – breakfast on the run, a quick pre-lunch snack, a picnic staple, or a post-workout refuel. As people are heading back into offices, these could be the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich in a packed lunch.

 When I used to go into an office regularly I always felt super pleased if I had a homemade packed lunch addition, rather than an additive filled less superior shop bought bar; hopefully these will make you just as pleased too 😊

This recipe is loosely based upon Yotam Ottolenghi’s Granola Bar recipe form the original ‘The Cookbook’, so you know they have good pedigree, and they have to taste delicious.

 

Tropical Granola Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan, can be gluten-free if use gluten-free oats)

 Makes 8 large bars

 

22g dried cranberries or sultanas

22g dried mango, chopped

22g dried pineapple, chopped

120g oats

22g sunflower seeds

15g desiccated coconut

50g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup or honey

50g demerara sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

 

  1. Place the dried fruits into a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Then drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, drained dried fruit and coconut and set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan melt together the margarine, syrup and sugar until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  6. Fold in the oat and fruit mixture, adding the salt and cinnamon. Make sure the mixture is well combined.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined loaf tin, press down and level off.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Remove from the tin and cool completely before cutting into bars.
  10. These bars keep well for up to a week if placed in an airtight container.

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

These are not just any cupcakes, these are the very best chocolate cupcakes. A deep chocolate flavoured light and fluffy sponge, topped with a rich and intense chocolate buttercream, even Marks & Spencer’s would market these as the best! If you’re stuck a home today due to the massive storm, you might want to make these (you’ll likely have all the ingredients in) and cheer everyone up.

I’ve got out of the habit of making cupcakes; I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I don’t so often cook for whole classes of children anymore. I used to bake a sweet treat for the girls classes every Friday when they were in junior school, now it’s more like once a term and cookies often trump cupcakes because they’re so much easier to transport. But there is nothing like a good cupcake, and these double chocolate delights are a class above. 

This recipe serves 6 or so, just the right amount for a houseful on a Friday night after school, but you could easily multiply the recipe if you have more to feed – after all, no-one would want to miss one of these!

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

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

 

Makes 6-8 cupcakes

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dairy-free margarine, melted

140g self-raising flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a jug combine the milk, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and bicarb. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine, set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in the sugar
  5. Pour the melted margarine into the milk mixture and give it a good stir. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together to form a smooth batter. 
  6. 2/3rds fill each cupcake liner and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

 For the chocolate buttercream:

enough to generously cover the 6-8 cupcakes in the recipe above

75g dairy-free margarine

250g icing sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tbsp dairy-free milk

 

  1. Whisk the margarine until it is light and fluffy
  2. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and dairy-free milk and whisk until you have a light buttercream.
  3. Pipe or spread a generous amount onto the top of each cooled cupcake