Monday, 29 August 2011

Made in Chelsea Buns

I'm not normally the type of person who gets obsessed with television shows. Actually, that‘s a lie, I was a huge Sex and the City fan and have all the Buffy and Angel series on DVD! However, there hasn’t been any in a while that I’ve obsessed over, until now that is.

Made in Chelsea was shown on E4 (a UK “freeview” channel) a few months ago. Similar to the American show The Hills, it’s a “reality drama” about the young socialites of London’s most exclusive area, Chelsea. As E4 describes it, “beyond the posh accents, fast cars and polo parties, life isn't all champagne and canap├ęs. See the real-life rivalries and relationships that set tongues wagging and phones beeping behind closed doors on the Kings Road.”

So in celebration of South-West London’s socially elite I decided to make these delicious Chelsea Buns. As English and traditional as the cast themselves, these buns are sweet and decadent. Serve for afternoon tea with your most well-to-do friends whilst sipping copious amounts of Earl Grey…fabulous darling!

Find out more and watch episodes of Made in Chelsea at

Made in Chelsea Buns

500g strong white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mixed spice
400ml milk
50g unsalted butter
1 large egg
50g caster sugar
7g dried active yeast
a little sunflower oil


100g sultanas
3tbsp orange juice
100g soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
25g unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp caster sugar

Place the flour, salt and mixed spice in a large bowl, mix lightly, make a well in the centre and leave to one side.

Put the milk and butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and beat the egg, sugar and yeast into the milk mixture.

Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and beat with a knife to make a sticky, soft dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky so add more oil in small amounts as and when needed, also oil your hands to prevent sticking. Lightly grease a bowl with sunflower oil, place the dough in the bowl and turn it until it is lightly covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes to 1 hour to allow the dough to rise.

Meanwhile, place the sultanas in a small bowl and pour over the orange juice, leave to one side to allow the sultanas to soak up the juice.

Line a large square or round tin (or 2 smaller tins) with baking paper, grease lightly.
When the dough is ready lightly flour a surface and rolling pin. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 0.5cm thick. Use a pastry brush to coat the top of the dough with the melted butter. In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the dough until coated. Drain any remaining moisture from the sultanas and spread evenly over the dough.

Roll the dough into a tight cylinder shape and cut into 3-4cm wide slices, you‘ll have about 9-10 buns.. Place the slices, cut side up, in the prepared tin (or tins) leaving a little space between them. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 30-40 minutes, meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

Mix the milk and sugar together and glaze over the buns with the pastry brush. Place the buns in the oven for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Belle’s Top Tip
These buns take a lot of time, although they’re definitely worth it! Try and prepare as much of the ingredients as you can in advance and maybe make them the day before and store in an airtight container overnight.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Banana Split Cupcakes

Ummm…a dilemma.  Should I have a moist, sweet, delectable cupcake with a silky smooth buttercream frosting or a deliciously extravagant, mouth-watering Banana Split decorated with an array of sprinkles, cherries and lashings of chocolate sauce??  They’re both too tempting for words so why not have the best of both worlds and try my Banana Split Cupcake, problem solved!

The banana flavoured sponge is fruity, light and has a melt-in-the-mouth texture to die for.  Top that with a sweet buttercream frosting covered in delicious banana split toppings and what you have is a cupcake that isn’t just charming and fun, but also absolutely scrumptious too.

Banana Split Cupcakes


140g self raising flour, sifted
1tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
175g caster sugar
100ml milk
2 bananas, mashed
3 eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp yellow food colouring


100g unsalted butter, softened
170g icing sugar
Few drops of vanilla extract
12 whole glace cherries
chocolate ice-cream sauce

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and mix together. Make a well in the centre and leave to one side.

In a large jug add the milk, mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk together until thick and creamy.

Pour the banana mixture and butter into the dry ingredients and fold in quickly with a wooden spoon, being careful not to overwork the mixture. Add the food colouring to the mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then place the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting; place the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix thoroughly to form a thick, yet smooth frosting. Use a teaspoon to dollop the frosting in the centre of each cupcake, place in the fridge to firm.

Drizzle some chocolate sauce over each cake, top with a cherry and sprinkle over some sugar strands or hundreds and thousands. Place in the fridge for about 10 minutes to allow everything to firm and they’re ready!

Belle's Top Tip
For a more grown up, sophisticated take on this cupcake replace the vanilla extract with banana liqueur, drizzle with melted dark chocolate, a sprinkle of chopped mixed nuts and then place your cherry on the top.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Classic Victoria Sponge


I love experimenting with baking; trying new, unusual flavours and twists on traditional recipes, but sometimes only a classic will do and nothing is more classic than a Victoria Sponge.

Sweet, juicy jam and creamy vanilla frosting sandwiched between two moist, crumbly sponges and finished with a delicate dusting of icing sugar…delicious! The great thing about this particular recipe is that it also makes a great base for a celebration cake. It’s my go-to recipe for Birthday cakes; just cover in icing and decorate however you like (see my “top tip” for more!). This is definitely one of those recipes you’ll want to keep safe and use time and time again…a classic.

Classic Victoria Sponge


175g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
1½ tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs 
175g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder


100g butter, softened
140g icing sugar, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract 
3 tbsp strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 175C/gas 4 and line two sandwich tins with baking paper, grease lightly.

In a large bowl add the butter and sugar and beat together until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.

Sift over the flour, add the baking powder, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When cold place in the fridge whilst making the filling to allow them to firm up.

Meanwhile beat together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until thick and smooth. Remove the sponges from the fridge and on one sponge spread a thick layer of the jam on top. On the second sponge spread a generous layer of the buttercream.

Carefully lift the butter cream covered sponge upside down and sandwich on top of the jam covered sponge. The bottom of the buttercream sponge will now be the top of the Victoria Sponge and a smooth, even surface. Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve!

Belle’s Top Tip
To make the Victoria Sponge into a celebration cake; rather than thick layers of jam and butter cream use thin layers instead and don’t worry about dusting with icing sugar. Make another batch of butter cream and spread a thin layer all over the sponge, using it to fill in any gaps in the cake; place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if possible. Remove the cake from the fridge and roll out about 450g of royal icing in a circle to the thickness of a £1 coin and gently place it over the cake. Dust your hands with icing sugar and use to carefully smooth over the icing and there you have it, a blank canvas to decorate however you like!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fairy Cake Bites

Remember when you were a child and every Birthday party or school fair had those delicious little fairy cakes? You know the ones; decorated with hundreds and thousands, colourful sugar strands and always the first to be snapped up by sticky little fingers.

Well for my friend's Birthday I decided to make a slightly more grown-up version of those yummy little treats . These bite-size delights are soft and moist and drizzled with a creamy layer of velvety white chocolate then sprinkled with an array of sugar stars, glimmer sugar, desiccated coconut and good old fashioned sugar strands, but you can use whatever decorations you like!

Fairy Cake Bites


250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
110g unsalted butter
150g granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
120ml milk
200g white chocolate, melted
Sprinkles of your choosing

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a square cake tin with baking paper, grease lightly and leave to one side.

In a large bowl sift in the flour, add the baking powder and salt and mix together.  In a separate bowl beat the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy. Add 1 egg, beat well and add the other egg and vanilla extract. Mix until even and well combined.

Add a third of the flour to the egg mixture, mix together, then add a third of the milk and beat together; repeat until all the flour and milk have been used.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes; a skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the cake is cold cut into square bite-sized pieces and place in the fridge to firm.

Place a wire rack over a sheet of baking paper and place the cakes onto the rack. Spoon some melted chocolate over a cake (the baking paper will catch the drips) then sprinkle with your choice of topping; repeat until they are all covered. Allow them to set in the fridge for 5-10 minutes and serve!

Belle's Top Tip
You can make these super chocolatey by adding 80g of cocoa powder to the flour mix, drizzling with milk chocolate instead of white and sprinkling with chocolate sugar strands or grated white chocolate!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Frasier's Favourite Biscotti

I was curled up on the couch with a giant latte the other day and flicking through Sky when I stumbled across some re-runs of American sitcom Frasier! For those who haven’t seen it (you’ve been missing out!) it’s a spin-off from the TV show Cheers and follows the hilarious ups and downs of Psychiatrist Frasier Crane’s life in Seattle and is very very funny.

Frasier and his brother Niles love nothing more than a coffee and biscotti whilst discussing their trials and tribulations, but their biscotti experience isn’t always a good one;

Niles: Have you noticed there are fewer hazelnuts in these biscotti?

Frasier: So I'm not crazy. 
Niles: And yet they've gone up twenty-five cents. 
Frasier: Oh, fewer nuts, more money - something I've been aspiring to for my entire professional life!

And in another episode…

Niles: These biscotti represent an all-time low. Chalky aftertaste, inelegant aroma, spongy.
Frasier: And what is spongy biscotti but an unwelcome trespasser into Madeleine (French sponge cakes) territory.

With this in mind I decided to bake some biscotti that Frasier and Niles would love. Fewer hazelnuts? Not in my nutty recipe where there are hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds and almond essence which all work amazingly together. Chalky? Inelegant aroma? Spongy? Not here! My biscotti follows the authentic Italian recipes; no butter or oil and twice baked to make them sweet and crunchy and they smell as delightful as they taste. So try this delicious, simple biscotti recipe for yourself for biscotti that would make even Frasier proud!

Frasier's Favourite Biscotti


350g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2tsp cinnamon
250g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1tsp almond essence
100g mixed nuts, roughly chopped (I used hazlenuts, macadamia and almonds)

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 4 and line two baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar and mix well.

Pour in the beaten eggs and almond essence and stir until the mixture starts coming together, then use your hands to bring the dough together. Add the nuts to the dough and work them in until evenly distributed.

Lightly flour a surface and turn out the dough. Divide the dough in half and with lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a sausage about 30cm long. Place one on each tray and flatten slightly.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the dough has risen and feels firm. It should still look pale. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes, meanwhile turn the oven down to 130C/gas 1.

Use a bread knife to cut the biscotti into slices diagonally about 2cm thick and lay the slices flat on the baking sheets. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes then turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes until dry and golden.

Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. They can be stored in an airtight container for about a month or eaten straight away!

Belle’s Top Tip
Biscotti taste fantastic dipped in a steaming hot cappuccino or espresso, but if you really want to sample them Italian-style try serving after a meal with a glass of wine! Let the biscotti soak up some of the wine and take an indulgent bite…naughty and delicious!