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Lemon meringue cupcakes

We’re in the middle of National Cupcake Week and I haven’t eaten nearly enough cupcakes!

When I was thinking about some different cupcakes to experiment with for this week, I kept thinking about the desserts I like and whether I could make a cupcake version of them. Lemon meringue pie was one of those at the top of my list. Doing some quick online research (I try not to do this very much when I’m experimenting to avoid being influenced too much rather than going with my own ideas), people were making lemon flavoured cupcakes with some kind of meringue on top, or spreading lemon curd on top of a cupcake. I was thinking something different.

My cupcakes have a surprise – a gooey centre of lemon curd under the fluffy meringue. In an ideal world (where I can spend as much time as I like experimenting in the kitchen while someone else does the day-to-day cooking) I would make my own lemon curd. But living in the real world, I used ready-made lemon curd from the supermarket.

My meringue topping is a fluffy airy meringue rather than a stiffer marshmallow texture as I prefer my cupcake toppings to melt in your mouth. I also like seeing other people with my food all around their mouths! And anyway, cupcake eating should be messy. Did you ever see Carrie Bradshaw in ‘Sex and the City’ eat a cupcake without getting the icing all over her fingers and sometimes also on her chin?!

The vanilla cupcakes are the same recipe I used to make my lamington cupcakes. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

I’ve used an Italian style meringue (using a sugar syrup rather than mixing sugar directly into the egg whites) because it holds its shape much more easily. I’ve erred on the side of being very generous for the amount of meringue topping. I would hate to think of anyone running out or a twelfth cupcake being left with a meagre amount, and you can always use any leftovers to bake mini meringues.

LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

Prep time: 25-30 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 12 cupcakes
Unfilled cupcakes without the topping can be frozen for up to a month

Vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd filling

125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
150g lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Beat the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer, or in a food processor, until creamy and a paler colour.

At a slower speed, add the vanilla, eggs (one at a time) and milk.

Put the creamy mixture into a bowl and carefully fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix it.

Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases (the mixture should fill the cases about two thirds full).

Bake for 12-15 mins until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, with a sharp knife cut a small circle in the centre of each cupcake. Use a teaspoon to take it out, keeping the extra piece of cake (no, you can’t eat it).

Dollop one teaspoon of lemon curd into each hollowed out cupcake. Cut off the bottom of the extra piece and place it back on top to close the cupcake up. (If your top no longer completely covers the hole, you can crumble the extra piece you cut off and lightly press the crumbs in.)

Meringue topping

3 egg whites, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
75ml water

In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar and water over a low heat.

Whisk the egg whites until they’ve doubled in volume and have soft peaks (2-3 mins).

Very slowly pour in the sugar syrup while you keep whisking, avoiding pouring the syrup over the beaters. Keep whisking until the mixture has turned glossy and thick and has firm peaks (about 5 mins).

Using a large metal spoon, dollop the meringue mixture on top of the cupcakes (you can use a piping bag if you want it to be less free-form).

Place the cupcakes under a grill until the meringue has just started to turn brown (keep a close eye on them) or use a blow torch to lightly brown the meringue.

Lamington cupcakes

Today is the first day of National Cupcake Week! Yes, a whole week devoted to celebrating those morsels of cakey goodness. What better excuse to get into the kitchen and then relax with your baked efforts?

I’ve been experimenting with cupcakes for the last couple of weeks to try to come up with some different ideas. Some of my experiments haven’t worked, but mistakes are the best teachers. I came up with the idea for these ones after feeling disheartened by an idea I just couldn’t make work and had to give up on. I wanted something that definitely wouldn’t fail and would be very simple.

Australia doesn’t have a lot of unique cuisine. When people ask me what dishes are particularly Australian, I usually find it difficult to give a good reply. But one of the things I most love about my homeland is its eclectic mishmash of cultures and cuisines.

Lamingtons are definitely uniquely Australian. They make me think of my childhood and are perhaps one of the reasons I love coconut so much. Their simplicity is probably their biggest selling point – cubes of light vanilla sponge, covered in runny chocolate icing and finally dipped in desiccated coconut. Sometimes they’re cut in half and cream (sometimes also jam) is spread inside, but it tastes much better in its original form.

My cupcake version of lamingtons omits the messy dipping into chocolate icing stage. What could be better? You still have the wonderful taste combination, but without all the fiddly work!

LAMINGTON CUPCAKES

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 12 cupcakes
Uniced cupcakes can be frozen for up to a month

Vanilla cupcakes

125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan).

Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Beat the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer, or in a food processor, until creamy and a paler colour.

At a slower speed, add the vanilla, eggs (one at a time) and milk.

Put the creamy mixture into a bowl and carefully fold in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix it.

Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases (the mixture should fill the cases about one half or two thirds full).

Bake for 12-15 mins until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate buttercream icing

140g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
30g good quality cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp milk
1 cup desiccated coconut

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together.

Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft and creamy.

Add half the icing sugar and cocoa powder mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the remaining icing sugar and cocoa powder, and the milk, beating until creamy.

Once the cakes are cool, spread the buttercream icing liberally on top. Sprinkly generously with coconut.

Variations:

  • ย  use 30g of melted chocolate instead of the cocoa powder in the buttercream for extra decadence

Banana and butternut squash loaf

One of the last things I did before running out the door before our holidays (amazingly the first time I wasn’t running like a lunatic due to being so late) was to throw the remaining (very ripe) bananas in the freezer. It gave me a (silly) sense of pride to know we weren’t wasting them. It’s the little things after all!

While we were away I came across an unusual recipe for banana bread from Simon Rimmer with the added ingredient of butternut squash. I’m always looking for different ways to use up bananas and this recipe definitely piqued my interest.

I made some changes to the original recipe. I reduced the sugar and used chopped walnuts instead of pecans. I also reduced the amount of nuts as hubby isn’t a huge fan and it seemed an excessive amount also for me too. The original recipe is topped with a cream cheese icing which would work wonderfully, but I wanted to keep my loaf dairy-free and simple so just drizzled the cooked loaf with honey. It also means I feel no guilt eating it for breakfast ๐Ÿ˜‰

The end result is a lovely dense and very moist cake with a subtle taste of banana. If anyone guessed this cake has a vegetable ingredient, I’m certain they’d never guess butternut squash. Another way to sneak some veg into your children’s diets perhaps? And if you have any pureed butternut squash in the freezer leftover from your munchkin’s earlier weaning days, I can’t think of a better way to use it.

BANANA AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH LOAF

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 50-60 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

120g sugar
1 egg
150ml vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
225g butternut squash, cooked and mashed
275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g walnut pieces
drizzle of honey to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg and vegetable oil. Fold in the mashed banana and butternut squash.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Fold this dry flour mixture into the wet banana mixture. Stir through the walnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool.

Drizzle honey over the top of the loaf before serving.

Variations:

  • add sultanas or raisins for added sweetness
  • omit the walnuts if putting into a child’s lunchbox

Tip: If you have the time, it’s much better to peel your bananas before freezing them, as peeling a frozen or defrosted banana takes some skill. Just peel, throw in a ziploc bag and freeze.

Sugar-free berry bread pudding

I’m very lucky not to have a fussy eater. Nicholas not wanting to eat is usually a sign he’s not feeling well. However he has a mixed response to berries. Strawberries were amongst the first fruit he ate and he loved them (I read after that the recommendation is to introduce them to babies later), but after a few months he started spitting them out even when I mixed them in other things. I now mush them up as much as I can and put them in yogurt and he’s ok. He likes blueberries and loves squeezing blackberries. Is it just a boy-thing wanting to squeeze stuff? He grits his teeth and strains with the effort of testing his strength. Food is the most fun to squeeze because all the juice comes out down your hand and arm and papa’ says ‘Why are you making all that mess?! Don’t do that!’ It’s so much fun! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, back to eating berries. I wanted to make Nicholas something with berries for dessert apart from just mushing them up into yogurt. I thought why not add them to a simple bread pudding; their sweetness plus some honey would mean I could leave out the sugar. And the great thing about bread pudding is that it can also be served cold, cut into fingers for a snack or even for breakfast. It also freezes well and it’s a great way to use up stale bread.

This really is a dessert for the whole family and you can use pretty much any fruit you have on hand. For babies, use fruit they’ve already been introduced to. Mashed banana or grated apple would work well. A grated sweet apple or some applesauce/apple puree adds more sweetness if you think the fruit you’re using isn’t sweet enough. Sultanas and raisins are also a great addition, but they need to be softened for babies (soak them in warm water for about half an hour before adding them).

I used a small casserole dish and cut my bread in half diagonally to spread it over the bottom of the dish a bit more. You could also make individual puddings in ovenproof ramekins. You need the bread to soak in the custard mixture to get all soft and gooey so choose a dish not much bigger than your bread slices.

SUGAR-FREE BERRY BREAD PUDDING

Prep time: 10 mins plus soaking time (30 mins or overnight)
Cook time: 30-40 mins
Makes 4 toddler servings (or 1 toddler and 2 adult servings)
Freezable

2 slices of bread, crusts removed
3/4 cup mixed berries, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp honey
Small piece of butter

Butter a small ovenproof dish and lay one slice of bread in the bottom. Sprinkle the berries over the bread and then sprinkle over the cinnamon. Top with the second slice of bread.

Lightly beat the egg, milk, vanilla and honey together. Slowly pour over the bread soaking it all over. Leave to rest for about 30 mins for the bread to soak up the liquid (or overnight).

Cook at 170C for 30-40 mins until the egg mixture has set (you’ll still have some liquid from the berries) and the top is a light golden brown.

Variations:

  • try different fruit such as mashed or sliced banana, grated or sliced apple, cubes of pear, etc.
  • add a grated sweet apple or some applesauce/apple puree for extra sweetness
  • add sultanas or raisins
  • try different types of bread (white, wholemeal, raisin bread, brioche etc.)
  • add a pinch of ground ginger or nutmeg
  • add some chopped chocolate to be more indulgent (and not sugar-free!)

Other uses:

  • cut into fingers and have cold for breakfast

Tip: use the leftover bread crusts for French toast skinny fingers or toast them to dip into hummus as a snack. If you’re not going to use the crusts immediately, just pop them in a bag and freeze them for later.

Olympic fruit platter

If youโ€™re loving watching the Olympics and can tear yourself away from the television, why not make this easy fruit platter for your munchkin? I can imagine having fun with older kids, first finding fruit in the five different colours and then preparing it together. Iโ€™m sure youโ€™ll be better than me at linking your rings (I just gave up!).

The five rings represent the five continents. The five colours of the rings (blue, black, red, yellow and green) plus the background colour of white, come from the colours of the flags of the countries which competed in the first modern games.

I used blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, bananas and kiwi, but of course there are lots of other possibilities. You could also try a mixed fruit and vegetable platter.

For a less healthy treat, you can try my Olympic biscuits using coloured sugar on Mindful Mum; a nice cooking activity to do together with older little ones.

Lemon posset – adult recipe

Being an Aussie living in Britain, I don’t experience that many cultural differences (I even say ‘flip flops’, rather than ‘thongs’, without really thinking now, although I always have a little chuckle inside!). And British cuisine isn’t that much different to the food I was brought up on (lots of meat and three veg, and always a roast for Sunday lunch). But there are occasions when I come across something I’ve never heard before, let alone tasted, and I’m reminded that of course there are cultural differences.

A couple of years ago at a friend’s birthday party as we were deciding on dessert from the set menu, hubby leaned over and asked me ‘What’s lemon posset?’ I didn’t have a clue. And neither did our friends sitting around us, none of them being British. Hubby was happy to take the risk while I opted for something chocolatey (sorry, chocolate versus lemon? No contest!).

The lemon posset looked very simple when it arrived, accompanied by some berries and shortbread. Then we started eating it. It was divine! Creamy heaven. I had to find out how to make it!

A quick search on the Internet and I quickly understood why it tasted so good. Cream. A lot of cream. Oh and sugar and lemons, but it’s basically just sweetened flavoured cooked cream.

Aside from only having three ingredients, it’s also super easy to make and it’s a dessert you can make ahead of time. Being a lover of rich food I tend to make my servings quite large, usually too large for other people. In reality a little lemon posset goes a long way. A small bowl or even a shot glass of it is plenty when accompanied by some fruit and/or biscuits. It can also be a homely dessert or easily transformed into something rather posh (use espresso cups or wine glasses, top with crystallised lemon peel or icing sugar-dusted berries). Your guests will think you’ve been slaving in the kitchen all day.

LEMON POSSET

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: less than 10 mins plus 2-3 hours to set
Makes 6 adult servings
Keeps in the fridge for a day

600ml double cream
140g caster sugar
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Put the cream and sugar in a large saucepan. Over a medium heat, slowly bring it to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it starts to boil, drop the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Take the saucepan off the heat.

Whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Add the juice gradually (you might not need it all) and keep tasting it until you’re happy with the flavour.

Pour into 6 serving bowls and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until set.

Sugar-free clementine jelly

I’ve wanted to try making jelly for Nicholas for a while. I wanted to experiment using pure fruit juice without any sugar to see how sweet it could be without adding any sugar (or as little as possible).

The other day at the supermarket I saw some cute individual jelly moulds and they were also super cheap (six moulds for a pound!), so I bought them and decided to experiment immediately.

I used gelatine leaves rather than gelatine powder. Supposedly the leaves produce a smoother texture than the powder; they’re also easier, for some reason, to find in British supermarkets. Whether you use leaves or powder isn’t important. What is important is to check the directions on the back of the gelatine packet in order to work out how much gelatine you need to use for the amount of liquid you need to fill your jelly mould/s.

I wanted to make one small jelly. I filled my mould up with water and then measured the amount of water I needed to fill my mould (about 150ml). My gelatine packet said to use 4 leaves for 1 pint of liquid (that’s about 570ml) so I decided to use 1 leaf for the 150ml of liquid I needed.

I was very happy with the results – a soft wobbly jelly that was definitely sweet enough, and it dissolves in your mouth so it’s also perfect for babies. I was assuming hubby and I would get a spoonful each at the end. I was wrong. Nicholas devoured his dessert in a couple of minutes, not much more, licking his plate clean!

You can use any freshly squeezed juice (orange, apple, pineapple, etc.) or buy good quality unsweetened pure juices. Just make sure you get a taste of it before you give it to your munchkin!

SUGAR-FREE CLEMENTINE JELLY

Prep time: 15 min plus refrigeration overnight
Cook time: 0 mins ๐Ÿ™‚
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 gelatine leaf (about 1.5g)
2 tbsp cold water
4 or 5 clementines, squeezed to produce about 150ml of juice

Cut up the gelatine leaf into small pieces (about 1cm) and put in a small heatproof bowl. Add 2 tbsp cold water and leave for 10 mins.

While you’re waiting, bring a small saucepan of water to the boil then drop the heat to low.

After 10 mins, melt the gelatine completely by putting the bowl over the saucepan of hot water (if your bowl is small, use a heatproof colander over the saucepan and place the bowl inside the colander). Stir until completely dissolved.

Remove from heat and pour into the clementine juice, stirring to mix. Pour into your jelly mould and refrigerate overnight.

Serve on its own or with some chopped pieces of fruit.


 

 

 

 

Variations:

  • use any unsweetened fruit juice or combination of juices
  • to add a minty flavour, soak 1 or 2 mint leaves in 2 tbsp of hot water and leave to cool, then use the water to dissolve the gelatine
  • for a toddler, add some small pieces of chopped fruit to set in the jelly