Pink to make the Boys Wink Cupcakes & My first attempt at buttercream swirls!

This weekend I was supposed to be participating in another fondant cake decorating course but unfortunately it was cancelled so I decided to make these pink cupcakes instead. Also my husband was away on a course so I had the morning to myself and time to kill! The recipe for these cupcakes is from my cupcake calendar and is very simple:

Ingredients (I halved the recipe to make between 8-9 cupcakes)

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

about 1/2 cup butter (I used salted butter so didn´t add any salt but if you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt)(I added a bit more butter as it seemed to be very dry so was probably about 2/3 cup maybe!)
1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, sifted
a few drops of red or pink food colouring (I used 3 drops of red food colouring)
Silver balls/sprinkles or other to decorate


1. Preheat oven to 175º C (350ºF) and place cupcake cases in cupcake tray.
2. Place all the cupcake ingredients in a large bowl and stir then using an electric hand whisk, whisk till well combined.
3. Place batter into cupcake cases and bake for 20 mins, then leave to cool.
4. To make the buttercream, whisk butter and icing sugar till it has a creamy texture (I´m not sure but seemed to take awhile, about 10 mins maybe)
5. Add food colouring and stir till blended and all the buttercream is the same colour.

When I took the cupcakes out of the oven, they had risen to a peak or dome in the middle (but apart from that they looked yummy!) Why is it that some cupcakes/muffins come out perfectly smooth and flat and others tend to rise in a peak or a dome? I think that maybe it´s because I put too much batter into each cupcake case and as this recipe contains a lot of rising agents, this caused the peaking!

I decided to have a go at piping buttercream swirls to improve my piping skills and because I´ve never done it before and I have seen how professional your cupcakes can look with this method on other people´s blogs. I used my new Wilton 1G icing nozzle although I had read that the Wilson 1M is the best for piping buttercream swirls. After filling a disposable icing bag with the buttercream, I set to trying to pipe the swirls from memory of what I´d read about buttercream swirls. They didn´t come out too badly but not as perfect as I´d have like so then I printed out the instructions from Cake Journal, which is a fantastic blog full of tips and tutorials about decorating cakes and tried following them. I didn´t have enough buttercream to complete the whole swirls and didn´t even have enough to decorate two of the cakes! Then I sprinkled some silver balls on just to finish them off nicely. They certainly aren´t as perfect or professional looking as I´d like but I think they aren´t too bad for a first attempt! They can only get better!


La Viña Restaurant, Ciudad Real

When my parents come to visit, we like to take them to different restaurants and my mum´s visit during Carnival was no exception. We discovered this restaurant by accident as due to my timetable I had to eat early and it was one of the only restaurants near the university that I could eat at before 2pm! Needless to say we really enjoyed it and ended up going every Thursday after that!

The restaurant, situated near the University on Rosalia del Castro 1, is half cafe/bar, half restaurant so the restaurant part itself is fairly small but is adequate. One of the things I like most about this restaurant is that the Menu Of the Day has quite a few options which is great for a picky eater like me as I can usually find something I like!However, the day we went with my mum, I found it a little disappointing. I didn´t like any of the starters, Mum had a fish stew and Andrés had fideua, which they both really enjoyed. For our mains, I had lamb chops and chips, which were really tasty, Mum had churrasco (pork fillets) and Andrés had fish with salad.

For dessert I chose homemade yoghurt in an effort to be more healthy and Mum and Andrés ordered this chocolate sponge cake thing. Unfortunately the yoghurt turned out to be banana flavoured and as I can´t stand anything that tastes of banana, I ended up swapping desserts with my mum. I wasn´t that impressed with the sponge cake dessert either so dinner was not a success for me! Serves me right for being such a fusspot!

Despite not having had the best of meals this time, I would reccomend this restaurant as the food is clearly homemade, well-cooked food and the Menu of the Day is quite a reasonable price at 12 euros per person. I have had lovely starters such as stuffed courgette and their white chocolate panacotta is to die for!


Bangers & Champ Mash for St Paddy´s Day

As tomorrow is St.Patrick´s Day and I´m actually part Irish, in fact my surname should be O´Brian but my Grandmother changed it, I wanted to try out an Irish recipe and settled on Champ as the ingredients are easy to find and it is a fairly quick and simple dish to make. Champ is basically mashed potato with spring or green onions added to it. I used James Martin´s recipe,the only changes being adjusting the amounts so it was suitable for two people and leaving the skin of the potaoes on to add more fibre and save time.

As Bangers & Mash is a very typical dish in Britain and Champ is basically mashed potato, I served it with some pork sausages, which I cooked on a grill (plancha)....that´s why they are very thin and long...I think I squashed them a bit! Anyway, it makes for a simple but tasty dinner, reminscent of pub grub and homemade comfort food. Traditionally Bangers & Mash is associated with the working -class and you can just imagine them coming home from a hard day´s work and tucking in to this hearty dish! Happy St. Patrick´s Day to you all!


Quick & Easy Hot Milk Sponge Cake with Lemon Glacé Icing

I like to try out new recipes or different recipes for the same thing and decide which recipe I think is the best and I came across this recipe for a Hot Milk Sponge cake in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I wanted to make a cake for my friend´s birthday so I thought I´d give the recipe a try.

The recipe was really easy to follow and very quick, ideal for when you need to whip up a cake but don´t have much time to spare. It also looks like the resulting sponge cake is very light and fluffy and it gave off a lovely aroma as it was baking. What´s more it´s only 180 calories so it´s fairly low fat.Here is the recipe for the cake as given in Better Homes & Gardens:


2 eggs (it is better if they have been left at room temperature for around 30 mins as apparently when you whisk them, they will have more volume)

1 cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tbsp butter


1.Grease a cake tin (I used a 22/23 cm round cake tin) although the recipe called for a 9x9x2 inch square tin). Mix flour and baking powder together.

2. Whisk eggs together till thick, gradually add sugar and continue whisking till light & fluffy.

3. Add egg mixture to flour and stir till combined.

4. Heat milk and butter in a pan until butter has melted. Add to flour mixture and mix well.

5.Pour mixture into cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 350º (180ºC) for 20-25 mins.

I decided to decorate the cake with a simple Lemon Glacé icing (adapted from The Dairy Book of Home Cookery)once it had cooled:

Lemon Glacé Icing

225g sifted icing sugar
roughly 1tsp grated lemon peel
2 tbsp of lemon juice ( It seemed a bit stiff so I added a dessertspoon of hot water and about another 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
2-4 drops of yellow food colouring (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together till all ingredients are blended and you get a stiff(ish) but spreadable icing. I only added two drops of food colouring but as you can see on the photo, the icing is a very pale yellow (so pale that it even looks white!) so next time I will double the amount to end up with a stronger yellow. I wanted to use up some of the decorations I already have so I used my chocolate and pink icing pens to write "Happy Birthday" and draw flowers using silver balls as the flower centres. I thought the pink flowers and pale yellow would reflect the colours of spring. It´s quite cute but fairly amateurish....don´t think I would win the Great British Bake Off just yet! I really need to brush up on my piping skills!


Traditional Pancakes for Pancake Day

This year Pancake Day fell on the 8th March and this year my mum happened to be visiting so we also invited my Spanish in-laws so they could experience this British tradition. Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday in other countries, is celebrated in Britain by eating pancakes as a way of finishing off all the fats such as eggs, milk and sugar before the 40 days fasting period of Lent. In some cities and towns pancake races are held!

Although the pancake batter is fairly easy to make, it takes a little practice to perfect them (or at least it did with me!). I usually use Delia Smith´s recipe taken from the Complete Cookery Course which always turn out delicious. The secret to making a perfect pancake is to have a good frying pan (preferably non-stick). Heat the fat (I usually use lard) till it´s smoking hot, then drain off the excess fat, then pour in the batter as thinly as possible, tilting the pan till the batter covers all the bottom of the pan. If you have any gaps you can fill them in with extra batter. It´s important to have the pan and the fat very hot otherwise the pancake will stick. After a few seconds flip the pancake over either traditionally tossing the pancake up in the air (v.difficult especially if you don´t want to end up cleaning bits of pancake that have stuck to the ceiling!)or with a wooden spatula and cook the other side till the pancake is a pale golden colour! The traditional way is to squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle sugar over the pancake and then roll it up but you can serve them with golden syrup, maple syrup, raspberry or chocolate sauce, Nutella..the choice is yours!

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