Thursday, September 21, 2017

Caramel Cupcakes with a Hidden Centre

 I’m a bit of a mad cat lady (and proud) even though I only have one cat. So when I saw the local cat rescue was having an open day, I definitely wanted to go. It’s a private rescue run by one amazing lady out of her house – she finds fosterers and new homes for rescued kitties and also keeps several herself, including ones who are too traumatised to be rehomed elsewhere after they are rescued. The first time I went there, for a bric-a-brac sale she was doing to raise money, she told me she had 11 cats currently living there!
This time, as well as stalls selling everything from cat toys to CDs, a raffle and tombola and various cats wandering around, there were refreshments and I’d offered to bring some cakes. I really wanted to decorate cupcakes to look like cats, along the lines of the ones in Hello, Cupcake, but just knew I wouldn’t have time for fiddling around.
I decided instead to make something I thought would have mass appeal – and have the added benefit of using up an open tin of Carnation caramel in the fridge. Caramel cupcakes are easy and always popular, especially when they had a hidden centre.
I used a simple, fairly basic cupcake recipe for the cake itself, using brown sugar as well as caster sugar to give a more caramel flavour, but to let the caramel flavour really be driven by the hidden centre and the icing. Here’s what I did
Caramel cupcakes – an original recipe by Caroline Makes
For the cupcakes (makes about 12)
150g butter or margarine, softened
75g caster sugar
75g light brown sugar
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour
For the filling:
397g tin Carnation Caramel
For the buttercream:
The rest of the Carnation Caramel
150g butter or marg, softened
300g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Cream the butter and both the sugars then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour, and spoon into the cupcake cases.
Bake the cupcakes in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and spongy to the touch, but test with a skewer to make sure they are not raw in the middle.


Allow the cupcakes to cool, first in the tin then on a baking rack.
When the cakes have cooled, use a teaspoon to remove a small piece from the centre of each cupcake, setting the piece you have removed to one side. Place half a teaspoon (or more depending on the size of the hole you have made) of Carnation Caramel into the hole in the cupcake and replace the piece you have removed on top. It won’t sit flat and will be slightly higher than the top of the cake.

To make the buttercream, sift the icing sugar over the butter or marg and gently cream together. Add a few spoonfuls of the Carnation Caramel to taste, making sure the buttercream doesn’t become runny as you will need to be able to pipe it.
Fit a piping bag with a star nozzle or your favourite nozzle, fill with buttercream and pipe swirls onto the top of each cupcake. I decorated mine with silver chocolate balls though in retrospect they would have looked better with gold!

Either way they seemed to go down well at the cat rescue open day, and I came home with a box of notelets I’d bought, a teddy bear I’d won in a teddy tombola (where every ticket won a cuddly toy) and a Wet Wet Wet CD from 1992 I won in another tombola!

I'm sharing these with Treat Petite, hosted by Kat the Baking Explorer.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Naked Dough Cookie Dough, Old Street, London

When I was a bit younger I often used to drag my husband to new and unusual places in London, like a pop-up ice rink at Christmas, or the ice bar, where you are given furry capes to wear and drink from glasses made of ice. We haven’t done that sort of thing in ages as we are more likely to just go out to dinner or the cinema these days, but when I read about a pop-up cookie dough café I really wanted to try it.
My husband loves that sort of thing and it wasn’t far from where we both work, within the underpass at Old Street tube station. Called Naked Dough, the pop-up has now been extended until the end of 2017 and it’s well worth a visit if you are in the area – be aware though that if you are coming here just for this, it’s basically a takeaway dessert place.

Naked Dough serves raw cookie dough, but crucially it’s made without eggs so there is no risk of salmonella from eating it raw. They also have a vegan version which sounds really nice – cookie monster, stuffed with Oreos. You can have your dough in a cone or tub, and eat in or take away – and even take it home and keep it in the fridge for up to three weeks (if you can manage not to eat it for that long!).

Their flavours include Cookie Monster (Oreos),  Unicorn Food (marshmallows and sprinkles) and Nak-Ed Sheeran (salted caramel and honeycomb) plus more. You can combine flavours so my husband had Cookie Monster and I had the other two I just mentioned.

Yes, it's tooth-achingly sweet and after eating a tub I wished I'd been sharing it with someone else - I don't think we ended up having any dinner that night - but it was really good. Like when you're baking cookies and want to eat all the raw dough, but know you shouldn't - only better! I'd love to know the recipe and how they get the taste and texture just right - and it's made me want to experiment with cookies if not cookie dough. Salted caramel and honeycomb sounds pretty good to me whether it's baked or raw!


Monday, September 18, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 Week 38

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Restaurant review: The Lamb at Hindon, Wiltshire

As part of our wedding anniversary weekend in Wiltshire, I'd booked dinner on the Sunday night at a country pub. I used Trip Advisor to find a few in the vicinity of our hotel and then looked at websites to check menus – some pubs will only do a roast dinner on a Sunday, which would be perfect for me, but not so good for my husband!
I chose the Lamb at Hindon which turned out to be a great choice. Hindon is a small village with the Lamb at one end; we drove straight past it before we realised, continued through the village thinking we would find somewhere to park but all the spaces were full, so turned around and managed to get a space in the Lamb’s own car park as someone was leaving! We realised later the pub actually has two car parks on either side of the road, but my husband didn’t fancy trying to manoeuvre his Aston Martin into the smaller one immediately adjacent to the pub.
What we originally thought was a park across the road from the pub is actually their pub gardens, with wooden tables where you can drink or even eat – we saw staff carrying food from the pub across the road. It was a lovely evening in June and we were tempted to sit outside but there wasn’t much space and we thought we would be more comfortable inside.

Despite the sunny evening I really fancied a roast dinner, so that’s what I had! The Lamb is a Young’s pub so I was expecting the food to be good quality; there was also plenty on the menu for my husband. It was a shame we couldn’t have the ‘cote du boeuf’ menu – you get beef with roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, greens, cauliflower cheese and gravy, or beef with triple cooked chips, tomatoes, mushrooms and a peppercorn sauce. Along with a sharing board starter (either meat or seafood) and a cheeseboard to finish, the menu has to be pre-ordered for a menu of six people.
So instead I had the roast 21-day aged Aberdeen Angus rump beef with a giant Yorkshire pudding and veg, which was really good; we were too full for dessert.
I was a little amused when the cocktail I ordered came in a sort of carved tiki cup – it seemed rather out of place in a Wiltshire village, particularly a pub that offers a specific ‘shoot lunch menu’, presumably to follow a morning of grouse shooting!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 37

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford - Take 2

I reviewed the Beckford Arms  last year and don't normally review the same place twice but I had a unique experience last time as I stayed there the night before and the night of my wedding. My husband and I went back for our first anniversary and had a much more normal experience so I thought I'd share.

We had booked a two night stay in the same lodge as last year, which is away from the main building - about a 5 minute drive or 15 minute walk. It was great having exactly the same accommodation though of course my husband didn't see much of it last time as he stayed elsewhere before our wedding at the Larmer Tree Gardens and we got back very late on our wedding night and had to leave early the next morning.

The décor in the lodge hadn't changed at all and it was lovely seeing it differently - last time it was full of people and I was remembering the make up lady was there, our dresses were hanging there, and I got ready and came downstairs.... this time it was just the two of us and we made ourselves right at home, sitting outside for a while in the sunshine - it didn't appear as if there was anyone in the other lodge when we arrived, though the next morning their car was parked right across the front of the lodge, totally spoiling the view, and not in the parking area around the side!

We'd booked dinner in the Beckford Arms that night and since it was such a sunny day (late June) they had tables on the terrace as well as in the garden and a barbecue in the top part of the garden. We didn't fancy the barbecue as there were so many other tempting things on the menu; I had a whole grilled fish with potatoes, broccoli and watercress, accompanied by a glass of rose wine, which was delicious. To follow, I had what I think was peanut butter cheesecake - unfortunately I didn't write down at the time what it was and have already forgotten!

You have the option of having breakfast items provided to cook in your lodge or eating in the main hotel; since we were staying two nights we decided to do both. On the first morning, our wedding anniversary, we didn't want to go out right away so I cooked the sausages and bacon (we left the mushrooms, tomato and black pudding), cut up the fresh loaf of bread and poured the orange juice for a lovely home cooked breakfast.

The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel and I ordered Nutella pancakes. The pancakes were light and fluffy but only had a thin coating of Nutella spread between them - I would have liked more chocolate!

We had a lovely stay and it was fun finding our message in the guest book from last year where I'd written we had stayed here for our wedding night and were already thinking of coming back for our first anniversary - and to be able to add a new message saying that we did!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

American MidWest Chocolate Cream Pie

My parents came to stay over the bank holiday weekend which was perfect timing for my husband and I to share our news in person. We had my husband's parents over for lunch and told them all at the same time; for that reason I didn't want to be cooking anything where I would have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen!

I made enchiladas for lunch which I was able to prepare that morning then just put in the oven, and my mum and I made dessert the night before.

My husband loves all things chocolate, and doesn't particularly like many other kinds of dessert, so I simply googled chocolate desserts, and came across a website of Mid-West American desserts. My mother in law is a frequent visitor to the US and loves the South, so I thought she might enjoy a dessert from the Mid-West - particularly this one!

It's a chocolate cream pie with a chocolate crust, a custardy chocolate filling and cream on top. The recipe is here on

I would say this was easy to make but really I have to say it looked easy to make, as my mum did most of it! She made the crust, rolled it out and put it in the tin; you part bake it lined with foil, then remove the foil and finish baking.

The filling takes a bit more effort - you have to be careful not to boil the milk, whisk together the other ingredients and mix it with some of the milk then the rest of the milk. You need to have your chocolate and butter ready to pour the hot mixture over the top and then time it while you stir.

After that it's pretty simple -pour the filling into the pie crust and refrigerate overnight. To serve, top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate - I was going to grate some chocolate but forgot in all the excitement of our baby news and ended up serving this as it was!

I'm sharing this with the We Should Cocoa chocolate baking blog challenge hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme and with CookBlogShare hosted by Everyday Healthy Recipes.