Cupcakes – so 2007, right? Depends who you ask. Personally, I’ve made about 50 in the last month, so I think they’re quite 2015 too. They’re brilliant if you’re doing any kind of baking for charity because they’re so easy to portion and transport. And children, who are less affected by trends, love them.

Cupcakes are also the flavour of the month for June’s We Should Cocoa and Tea Time Treats blogging events, so perhaps they’re not quite out of fashion yet.

Secret citrus and cream cupcakes
This is my go-to, all-time, never-fail chocolate cake recipe, upcycled with a touch of cream cheese and marmalade to make chocolate cupcakes with a secret gooey middle. Imagine something like a dark sticky chocolate cake wrapped around a citrus cheesecake filling and you’ve got the idea.

1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
100g butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup cream cheese
2/3 cup thin-cut marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180C and put cupcake cases in 18 muffin tin holes.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the butter, milk and eggs and beat furiously with a wooden spoon until well mixed (you can also do this in the processor or in a mixer).
Fill each cupcake case until it is about a third full, then put a teaspoon of cream cheese and a teaspoon of marmalade on top. Top with more cupcake batter, until each case is about two-thirds full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cakes are springy and a skewer plunged into them comes out clean.
Remove to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

It has become very fashionable for recipes to appear in the post-Easter sugar haze exhorting ways to use up excess chocolate eggs. But because I usually give up chocolate before Easter – or at least try to – and I’m a bit fussy about the chocolate I eat, any nice Easter eggs are usually cracked and dispatched pretty quickly. This year, with a 5am wake-up call from the youngest member of our household, I spent the day eating any chocolate I could get my hands on in a bid to stay upright. By Easter Monday, I couldn’t bear the sight of it.

I got fairly sick of hot cross buns this year too – spending a day making endless batches will do that to a person – and so by the time the weekend was over I wanted something light and non-fruity, but with a hint of real chocolate (not the Easter egg kind).

These fluffy brioche buns were the result. They’re most excellent with a generous splodge of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade – and with a long weekend coming up, you should think about adding them to your repertoire.

Chocolate Brioche Buns
The instructions below detail how to make these with a stand mixer – it can be done by hand, but it’s a bit more labour intensive.  I’ve designed this recipe so the buns are ready for breakfastIf you don’t want the buns for breakfast, the dough will rise in about an hour at room temperature.

275ml milk (I use Zany Zeus ‘blue’)
500g high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, soft but not melted, diced
80g good quality dark chocolate, melted (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)
100g good quality dark chocolate, smashed into little bits (I use Whittaker’s 60 per cent cacao)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk

Sugar glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar

Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Add the eggs and stir to mix.
Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and stir until combined, then pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well.
Using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed (about 3 or 4) until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (turn the mixer off first!).
Keeping the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. When it has all absorbed, start add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all mixed in.
Cover the bowl with plastic and put in the fridge overnight, during which time it will double in size.
In the morning, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop. knead in more choco
Cover with a cloth for 15 minutes, while you make a cup of tea and heat the oven to 180C.
Shape the dough into 10-12 balls and place on a lined baking tray. Brush each one with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Brush with the hot sugar glaze and remove to a rack to cool (though they will probably all be eaten before that happens).

The chocolate and egg component make this the perfect opportunity to link up with two of my favourite bloggers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Dom of Belleau Kitchen. This month both Karen’s Tea Time Treats and Dom’s latest invention, Simply Eggcellent, have a chocolate theme. Click the links to find more chocolatey, eggy goodness.

Delusion is a wonderful thing. It’s why dress shops have flattering mirrors, why cosmetic counters have soft lighting and why a whole industry has sprung up around ‘healthy’ baking.

There are two ingredients required for ‘healthy’ baking – either fruit and vegetables (hello, carrot cake) or oats (to whit, the entire British flapjack industry). Now, few people will dispute the merits of vegetables or whole grains, but they’re not enough to mitigate the ingredients needed to turn them into cakes or biscuits. Far better, I think, to concentrate on the deliciousness imparted by a couple of juicy beetroots to a trayful of chocolate-studded cakes than angst about whether they’re good for you or not.

Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes With Cream Cheese And Honey Frosting

Double chocolate and beetroot cakes
This is a good school holiday activity for idle hands – especially if you can get them involved in the dishes afterwards. This recipe makes around 18 cakes, which keep well in an airtight tin and can be frozen very successfully for lunchboxes or unexpected visitors.

It’s also a fitting entry for October’s Tea Time Treats, a blogging event run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of The Hedgecombers. This month, they’re looking for recipes containing fruit and vegetables. If you subscribe to the theory that chocolate is derived from a fruit, then this fits the bill on both counts.

2 cups wholemeal flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4Tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup yoghurt
3 cups finely grated raw beetroot (about 2 medium beetroots)

Heat the oven to 160C (fanbake) and line 18-muffin pans with cupcake liners (not essential, but makes for easier cleaning up and no anxiety when it comes to getting them out of the tin).
Sift the flour, cocoa, spices and baking soda into a bowl. Stir in the coconut and chopped chocolate and set aside.
Beat the eggs, sugar, yoghurt and oil together until thick and pale. Fold in the dry ingredients, then the beetroot. Divide between the prepared tins – each one should be about two-thirds full – and bake for 20-25 minutes.
I like these just as they are, but they’re also very good with a simple cream cheese icing (beat together 1 cup soft cream cheese with 2 Tbsp honey and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla) and a scattering of chocolate. (That does make them less ‘healthy’ though!)

What’s your favourite ‘healthy’ baking treat?

Easy Beetroot And Chocolate Cakes

I’m calling it now: I think marmalade is about to have a moment. I’ve reached this conclusion via a highly scientific process involving the fact that the Paddington Bear film (starring Colin Firth!) is out later this year and marmalade is sure to be a key marketing tool.

Paddington, in case you’re not familiar with the tale, is passionate about marmalade and never goes anywhere without a marmalade sandwich about his person. If the thought of marmalade sandwiches leaves you cold, then I think one of these chocolate-studded, marmalade-filled bars might persuade you that the bear from Peru was onto a good thing.

Marmalade Chocolate Bars Easy Recipe Recipe/Photo: Lucy Corry

Chocolate Marmalade Bars
With rolled oats, butter and marmalade all key ingredients, you could just about get away with calling these sticky, chewy bars breakfast if it weren’t for the nuggets of dark chocolate and crystallised ginger. This recipe is inspired by these jammy flapjacks, created by the ever-talented Choclette. The combination of thin-cut orange marmalade and chocolate makes these taste like a more wholesome Terry’s Chocolate Orange. If you’re a grapefruit marmalade fan, try some white chocolate chunks instead.

120g butter
400g thin-cut orange marmalade
220g rolled oats
50g dessicated coconut
150g crystallised ginger, cut into small dice
150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Heat the oven to 180C and line a brownie tin (measuring around 19cm x 27cm) with baking paper.
Put the butter and marmalade into a large saucepan and set over gentle heat,  stirring occasionally until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool for five minutes, then stir in the oats, coconut, ginger and half the chocolate until well mixed.
Press into the prepared tin, then scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before cutting. Makes about 20 small bars. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

This easy recipe is exceptionally timely – not only does the Wellington On A Plate Bake Club kick off next week with a slice challenge, but Karen at Lavender and Lovage, along with Janie of The Hedgecombers, have put a call out for flapjack and traybake recipes for this month’s edition of Tea Time Treats. Check out Janie’s link for more great traybake recipes if you’re needing some #BakeClub inspiration.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Chocolate Spelt Cookies

Who came up with the expression ‘as much use as a chocolate teapot’?

Can you tell me? The internet can’t, and when you think of all the things the internet knows, that’s saying something.

In the meantime, I can tell you how to make some very useful chocolate teapot biscuits. You don’t have to make them teapot-shaped, but if you happen to find a very beautiful teapot-shaped cookie cutter while your kitchen is being torn apart, then here’s what you should do with it. If you don’t have a teapot-shaped cutter, you can make them into rounds sandwiched together with raspberry jam. Both are recommended.

Chocolate Spelt Biscuits With Raspberry Jam

Chocolate Spelt Biscuits
I remember making a version of these with my mother more than – gulp – 25 years ago. They were quite plain to me then, but lately I’ve had a mad taste-memory craving for them. I like to think of them as the Coco Chanel of cut-out cookies; thin, brown and quite elegant.
Don’t think of making these without the chocolate coating unless you like your cookies to be very plain. They taste quite austere alone, but the chocolate brings everything into balance.
Given the teapot and the chocolate, these are the perfect entry for February’s Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted with effortless style by the amazing Karen of Lavender and Lovage Fame.

1 1/4 cups wholemeal spelt flour
2/3 cup self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
120g cold butter, diced
60ml milk
100g good quality dark chocolate (about 60 per cent cocoa is about right, any higher and it will be too bitter)

Heat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.
Put the flours, salt, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and whiz to combine.
Add the butter and process until well blended. Keep the motor running and pour in the milk. Process until it forms a dough.
Turn out onto a piece of cling film or baking paper and gather into a ball, then roll out to about 4mm thick (you can do this in two batches if you’re working with limited space). Cut out shapes – even rectangles will do, if you don’t have an arsenal of cookie cutters at your disposal – and divide between the two prepared trays. Prick each one with a fork and bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove to racks to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate (I do it in a heatproof bowl in the cooling oven) and spread or drizzle over each biscuit. Don’t be mean about it. Estee Lauder once said that wearing perfume was ‘like loving – you can’t be stingy’ – and the same applies to chocolate.

With that mixed visual metaphor fresh in your mind, I wish you a very good weekend!

Lavender and Lovage