The Nostalgia Edition: My First Attempt at Cake Decorating!

‘Ello there fellow losers and singers alike!

If you have had a flick through my previous posts, you may have realised that I really like baking. It calms me and infuriates me in equal measure. Like everything I love I guess. I like to test my limits and see what I can do, since actual keep-yourself-alive cooking is not my strong point.

I was looking through some old files and found a few pictures of my first ever “fancy bake”… or sculpted cake. This was when my interest in baking and cake decorating peaked and I started to get creative.

That year I was told to sort my own birthday cake and I may or may not have had a teeny, tiny obsession with just a small, little, indie programme called Glee (translated: just call me the mega fangirl of one of the most groundbreaking TV series in modern history). 

Well, that was that sorted then.

Throwback to when my birthday cake became a Glee cake!

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I started off buying the actual big cake (I was only really experimenting with cupcakes at that time, so the actual cake was a step too far) which was covered in stars, because we all know Rachel Berry is a star.

I then trawled the internet for ideas. This was before Pinterest was big, so you can imagine the man hours and google power I spent on this thing. I wanted something simple I could just try out, but everything was a little bit out of my league. I wanted something that looked pretty, and different too, but it wasn’t too tough for me to be cracking on with in between party planning. I stumbled upon a few cakes shaped like the iconic slushy cups and I had a brain wave.

I had a few smaller, polystyrene cups hanging around in a cupboard, so I found some “big quench” labels online, fitted them to the cups and stuck them on  (with pritt stick, PVA did not work).

I stuffed the bottom of the cups to give some height and popped a cupcake in the top so it domed out ever so slightly.  I then used buttercream to ice them into the cup, covering the icing with neon sugar strands.

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My favourite one was the blue one, since the sugar stood out so much, so that one took pride of place on top of the cake with some good old sparklers in it (oop, showing my age there a bit!)

The others became the slushies of lurrrrvvve. I found a few photos of my favourite character couples, printed the pictures twice (once as it is and once reversed), stuck them back to back with a cocktail stick sandwiched between them and popped them in the top of the other slushies.

Simple pimple and it looked relatively impressive to the people who knew who they were or what the hecky a Big Quench was!

Sometimes it is the simple things. Things don’t always need to be difficult to make an impact. Just do your research , persevere and give things a go. You never know what it could lead to!

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Vegan Chocolate Brownies!

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Hello, hello, hello and welcome to another episode of bake with Kate!

(If there are any producers from Blue Peter reading… was that not a fabulous entrance?)

I was brave and tried something different. Incredibly different to what I usually do: Gluten free, vegan, sweet potato chocolate brownies.

I decided to have a go at something raw and vegan just to try new things and attempt to eat the odd healthy treat… or healthier at least. After flipping through Deliciously Ella’s blog, bookmarking and dribbling over recipes, I finally found her cook book. A beautiful, hardback, physical edition of all the things on her blog, that could live under my salt pig and get covered in kitchen muck (aka ingredients that didn’t make it into the bowl).

However, I clearly didn’t look too far into my sweet potato stock. I made more sweet potato fries than I initially thought and this meant I had to actually use my maths skills to halve the brownie recipe.

I think I might have done it wrong.

So if you would like to have a go at it yourself and probably be more successful than me, the link to the full recipe, ingredients and even a youtube video about it is HERE.

Now this was incredibly out of my cooking comfort zone, but I was determined to have a go at something completely different.

It was definitely a challenge. It was difficult to work with food you have never used in that capacity before, for example using sweet potato to make brownies! No flour, no eggs, not even oil. It was odd, and I leaned on the recipe heavily, but now I have attempted it once, I know what I liked and didn’t like and can adapt the recipe next time I make it.

I like to give all recipes a second chance, unless they really are foul.

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The first thing you need to do is peel and steam your sweet potatoes until they are falling apart.

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Then, chuck them in the Hulk of all the kitchen implements: a food processor. Add your pitted dates too and whizz it up until it forms a smooth paste.

Tip: make sure you have the right blade in. Whilst the potato is soft, the dates might be harder and need a blade that will chop them rather than smash them. Can’t you tell I use food processors all the time. Yes, chop and such are technical terms for the blades.   

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Combine everything else in a bowl and then add your potato-date mix and stir it all up.

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Pop it into a lined/silicon tray (I have a silicon one and it works wonders) and stick it in the oven at 180°c for around 20-25 minutes. Make sure you can poke it with something sharp and it comes out clean (I recommend a fork or toothpick, rather than a meat cleaver or something just a silly or weird). Once cooked, take out of the oven and let cool for at least ten minutes so it all sticks together properly. Last thing you need to brownie grunge everywhere!

Tip: Make sure your tin is deep rather than wide. Strike a good balance. These brownies don’t have any raising agent, so they won’t rise in the oven, they will be as thick as the mixture is when you lay it in. My instincts told me this, but as you can see int he picture, I didn’t listen. (I also went crazy with the fork. Get your mixture even so it cooks evenly too).

I made a chocolate-maple glaze to go on mine, since I found it was no where near chocolatey enough and I found it a little bitter if I took a large bite, however that could have just been the dates… which aren’t bitter, I just don’t like them all that much. The glaze definitely helped. Just raw coco powder and maple syrup. That’s it.

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American Pancakes!

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‘Ello lovely people!

I have 3 words for you. 3 words that change lives. Are you ready?

Pancakes for lunch.

That’s right, I said it. Pancakes for lunch is a winner.

Now there are two types of pancake in the UK: Traditional pancakes (more like crepes) or American pancakes (or Scotch pancakes… I think they’re slightly different, but I’m not sure there’s much between them).

However, I went with the fluffy, stackable kind. I followed this recipe, from the BBC Food website, and it’s the best one I have found so far (although I am always open to new ones. Gotta keep an open mind on the pancake front). So if you would like a proper recipe, just click the link above or right here, and it will take you on over to their website, where everything is listed in a much more helpful form I’m sure.

If you are like me and want the fool proof version, with my odd little tweak here and there, I shall list it bellow for you!

The food you will need to turn into another food is:

135g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of caster sugar

130 ml of milk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons of melted butter.

Vanilla Extract

Cinnamon Sugar (optional)

Method:

Step 1: MELT THE BUTTER!

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If you haven’t already, make sure you do this way before everything else. It needs to cool so it won’t scramble your eggs, so do this first and maybe even stick it in the fridge for a short amount of time (maybe 5 minutes?). Just make sure it doesn’t all start to harden again!

Step 2: Put all the dry stuff together.

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Give it a sift if you want. I don’t always sift it all, only if it looks like it needs it.

Step 3: Put all the wet stuff together.

Mix it all together in a separate bowl or jug… or just in the same pot/pan/bowl that you melted the butter in. SAY NO TO WASHING UP!

Step 4: Put the wet stuff in the dry stuff.

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You could do it in steps or just could just bung it all in and mix, mix, mix. Stir it all together until it’s relatively smooth. Once smooth, add your vanilla essence, as much as you would like.

Step 5: Heat up a frying pan.

Or skillet or something, I always use a frying pan. Just something to cook your pancakes in. Melt a little bit of butter in there to lubricate (haha lubricate). The butter will help the batter to cook and the crisp up the outsides of your pancakes.

Step 6: Cook your pancakes!

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I have a mini ladel (because I’m so fancy) but you can use a tablespoon (how’s about that one you measured the caster sugar with, eyy?) Pour it into your pan and make sure it lays evenly. In my experience it should do this by itself. Here’s where you can add a little cinnamon sugar is you fancy.

Wait until you see bubbles form on the top of your pancake, that means it’s ready to flip! Use a metal spatula (or fish slice, the fancy way of saying metal spatula) to ease the cooked side up off of the bottom of the pan and flip!

Step 7: Stack ’em up.

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Once you’ve cooked all of your pancakes, stack them up on a plate! You could drizzle them with maple or golden syrup, add butter if you really want to, squirty/whipped cream or fresh fruit.

All of it is good and nothing hurts!

If you guys are looking for a super filling, sweet treat, give these a bash. They’re so yummy!

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Following the Yellow Brick Road| ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Themed Cupcakes!

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‘Ello lovelies!

What an absence that was, but it was all for a good reason, as I was whisked off down the yellow brick road and when I wasn’t in the merry old land of Oz, I was asleep!

Honestly, I enjoyed being in the Emerald City everyday but it left me with less energy than a sloth! However, I did muster up enough energy to indulge myself in my favourite past time: baking.

I decided to bake some cupcakes for all those involved but of course I can’t just make cupcakes, I had to go the whole hog and engineer some decorations to go on top of them.

I raided my supplies to see what tools I had for a touch of inspiration and managed to come up with four designs, which I sat up at one in the morning executing. I like to experiment and play around with stuff. I like to get creative and use my imagination to make fun additions for my bakes, but, with these, I pushed myself a little. Considering my lack of actual taught skill (I’m completely self taught or I learn from watching youtube and the like), my lack of cake decorating tools and the fact I like to give myself as little time as possible, from start to finish, to bake and decorate anything, I was quite proud of them!

The first design was the ‘poppies’.

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The poppies are the Wicked Witch of the West’s creation. Laced with an eternal sleeping potion, she plants them all around the Emerald City in order to literally stop Dorothy and her friends in their tracks.

I had a poppy mould, but it took too long and didn’t even work, leaving me stuck with an idea and no way of making it reality! So I sat and had a good, old think. I used some ready to roll, red icing and cut three circles out of it. Using a sharp knife, I cut a pointed tip on each of them, so they became tear drop shaped. I then used a tool (that you can pick up in Tesco) that looked a little like a clam, to make the indentations on the petals, adding a little texture. I then layered two petals at an angle on top of each other, pinching the bottom points together to draw them in in the centre, before adding a third petal at the back to seal them all into a flower. I them added some edible, black glitter to the centre of the poppy, ragging the excess out onto the petals a little. I trimmed the back and popped them on the cake!

The ‘OZ’ letters were cut out of ready to roll, black fondant icing and them dusted with a few coats of gold edible glitter. I meant for them to be two separate designs, but as I put them to the side on the same plate, they looked so pretty I changed my mind!

The second design was the ‘Glinda’.

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Glinda is the Good Witch of the North, the protector of the Munchkins and later of Dorothy.

This was the simplest design to do as I didn’t have to make anything for it! I used some edible, neon pink sugar strands, along with some baby pink shimmer sugar strands to make a base (as Glinda’s dress is pink, silver and incredibly sparkly). I then used a pink Dr. Oetker sugar butterfly as a centre point and made a delicate curve out of pastel pink and white shimmery sugar pearls.

The third design is the ‘Wicked Witch’.

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The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most famous literary baddies of all time. With green skin, a hooked nose, a pointed black hat and a gnarled broomstick, she is the ultimate baddie (or not, if you have seen Wicked.)

Much like Glinda’s cupcakes I used a neon sugar, this time green, to create a base. I then layered another delicate curve of edible, shimmery pearls around the cake, following the curve of the icing, this time in green and purple. I then made some teeny witches hats to sit on the top.

I cut some small circles (using a small piping nozzle as a cutter) out of ready to roll, black icing and then used my fingers to flatten them out, making the edges slightly curved and wobbly. These will act as the brims of the hats. I then cut out some slightly larger circles and wrapped them around the same piping nozzle, to create a cone. Once it had stuck together, I eased it off and squidged the top together, bending it over a little to create a bent and battered tip of the hat. I then stuck the top cone to the bottom circle of the hat with a little water, blending the edge as much as I could without denting the cone. I covered the entire thing in some edible, black glitter and popped them on top of the cakes!

The final design was the ‘Ruby Slippers’.

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The Ruby Slippers are at the crux of the story (well, the silver slippers until MGM got their hands on it). Magical shoes, worn by the Wicked Witches sister, which give the wearer great power. Glinda gifts them to Dorothy to stop the Wicked Witch having them for herself. Dorothy clicks her heels together three times in these babies and they send her right to where her heart is: home.

Much like the witches cupcakes, I started with neon sugar, but this time yellow to represent the yellow brick road. Then I did a swirl around the entire cupcake, following the movement of the icing, in white and blue edible pearls. I chose these because they are the colour of Dorothy’s traditional gingham dress.

I made the shoes from ready to roll, red icing. I played around with a small ball of icing until I had the desired show shape. Then, using a small ball tool (again, which I got from Tesco), I pushed down into the centre of it, making an indentation in the shoe to create the inside. I added a small blob of icing to the back of the show to create a heel and dusted them all over with a very light pink, holographic glitter. I used this simply because I didn’t have any white or red glitter, but it worked out fine!

The cupcakes I used were a simple vanilla sponge, which I cored and filled with a salted caramel sauce. The icing was a Betty Crocker vanilla style buttercream (because ‘aint nobody got time to make buttercream at 1 am!)

I hope you guys like this and feel inspired to get creative and unleashed your inner artist! Enjoy your week and don’t forget that imagination wins out!

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3 Ingredient Nutella Brownies!

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‘Ello my loves!

 

Yes, this sounds too good to be true, but for once it isn’t! I saw this Buzzfeed video…

 

 

…and thought “looks good, but it probably won’t work.”

 

Then the sugar munchies came upon me and with nothing in the house it was baking time. However, it was 10 o’clock at night and I didn’t really have the ingredients to bake. Then I remembered Nutella brownies and if I have a plentiful supply of one thing, it is Nutella.

I looked up a recipe online and found this beautiful blog: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com, which has quickly become one of my favourite blogs to browse! Georgia’s blog is lovely, it’s easy to navigate, the content is well written and helpful and above all, everything looks yummy!

Here is a link to Georgia’s recipe, which is the one I followed: http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2014/09/incredible-3-ingredient-nutella-brownies.html

It does, however, use American measurements, so for those in the UK here are my approximate conversions (I say approximate because sometimes there are no exact conversions and some have a ridiculously long line of decimals after, so I have rounded them to the nearest whole number for ease):

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370g Nutella

2 Eggs

68g Plain Flour

160º fan oven 

It is as easy as it sounds; chuck it all into a bowl, mix it up, dump it in a non stick or greased pan and stick in the oven for 25 minutes or until you can stick a knife in it and it comes out clean.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that these actually work! I mean, the entire batch went in one sitting… not just by me… ok mostly by me, but not entirely! They really are yummy, but you do need to let them cool before eating otherwise they can be a bit gooey in the middle.

Or just eat them when you can no longer restrain yourself.

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So if you are looking for a super quick and easy sweet treat, head on over to Georgia’s blog ‘The Comfort of Cooking’ and get making these bad boys! I can’t explain how good they are.

Happy baking!

 

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Easter Nest Cakes!

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Whether you are religious or not, Easter is a great time to spend with your loved ones and to count your blessings, so to speak. Crispie cakes, or rather Easter nests, pop up every year around Easter time in the UK, but why buy them when making them is a) more fun b) more chocolatey and c) super easy!

It is a great treat to whip up in a hurry or to make with kids because there is no baking involved. The only thing that needs a sensible adult’s supervision, notice the sensible there, is the Bain Marie. So, without further ado, let’s go make a mess and call it cooking!

For this you will need:

300g Milk Chocolate

300g (approx) of Rice Krispies, Rice Snaps, Something else that is essentially the same cereal.

Cupcake pans.

Cupcake papers.

Decorations of your choice.

Alternatively you could make one big one and cut them into squares, meaning you will need a pan/tray/mould instead of cupcake pans and papers. You can also just use the cupcake papers on a normal tray, completely up to you. I just like to use a cupcake tray to keep them looking neater.

You can also make this with Weetabix/Shreddies etc, for a more traditional look (it looks more like twigs, but in my opinion tastes like them too) or Cornflakes.

My version made 24 Easter nest treats.

Step 1: Break up your chocolate into squares and put them in a heat safe bowl. Sit the bowl OVER not IN a pan of boiling water. This is the Bain Maries technique to melt chocolate. It stops the chocolate from burning or curdling. Gentle melting is key. If you were chocolate you would probably want to be melted gently too instead of incinerated.

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Step 2: Melt the chocolate on a medium heat. If the water gets a bit vicious and boils, just adjust the heat until your chocolate is all melted. 

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Step 3: Take your bowl off of the pan and set it down on a steady surface. Add your cereal. In the ingredients I said 300g-ish of cereal. I, however, must confess that I did not measure my cereal out, I just used around 3/4 of a 400g bag. The great thing about this recipe is that it is not fiddly. You can do it all by sight. If there is a lot of melted chocolate left in your bowl, just add more cereal until everything looks evenly coated.

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Step 4: Lay out your cupcake papers onto your tray and separate the mixture into the cases. They can be as big or as small as you want. If you are planning on using mini eggs or the like to decorate, a good tip it to make a small well in the centre so the eggs will fit in and stay still!

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Step 5: Put in the fridge for around 10 minutes to set, but keep checking them as they could need a little more time if they have extra chocolate or are bigger.

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Step 6: Once they are have set and won’t move around when you try to decorate them… well… DECORATE. I decided to put a small blob of marshmallow fluff in the centre and then some mini eggs to finish. Yet, when questioned by a seven year old about the reasons behind the marshmallow fluff, taste alone was not good enough. So I told them it was bird poo. What else do you find in nests?!

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Have a wonderful weekend!

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Off the Cuff Cake| Love Heart Cake

Out of boredom and a cupboard baking supplies, a beautiful thing was born. I started out just baking what I know and it turned into something I was very proud of. The entire bake bloomed out of nothing, just bobbing along and going with whatever the baking fairies popped into my head!

This Love Heart Cake is perfect for any special occasion (especially since Mother’s Day is fast approaching!) And really, it’s all in the heart… literally! It is something that is made with love and can be decorated to your loved ones tastes, likes and desires.

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I started off with a vanilla cake but then went on to add cinnamon, to give it a warm kick. It was simply a cake using the basic ingredients I had stocked in the cupboard. Usually, I bake cupcakes (I always feel odd calling them that, as my whole life they have been fairy cakes) but today I thought I may as well put all my eggs in one cake tin and go for a big’un. I have a heart shaped, silicon cake tin/mould that I decided would be good in order to get the height I wanted, as my other, circular, pans would have given me shape but too much width and not enough depth. Oh the joys of baking! Hardcore decision making at it’s finest.

To decorate, I used what I had laying around. I used left over salted caramel sauce to create a thick glaze that covered the top of my cake and then tried to be all whimsical and posh with some mini marshmallows and some teeny tiny silver balls. Everything was done by hand, which explains the homemade, wibbly – wobbliness, but also adds to it’s charm. I attempted to make a falling effect with the silver balls at the top, which I think is my favourite part of the entire cake!

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I hope everyone is having a scrummy week!

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Opening Night Bake-a-thon| Themed cupcakes

For the opening night of ‘The Witches’, I thought I would make a pick-me-up and calm-me-down batch of cupcakes for the cast, crew and company. Obviously, to commemorate such an occasion, I wanted to attempt to make a few cakes that relate to the show and that Roald would be proud of. I also experimented with a few new flavours too!

I baked these the morning of opening night and used my basic vanilla sponge recipe for the base. Once measured out into cupcake papers in my baking tin, I placed a miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in the centre of half of them, making sure it was completely covered by the mixture.

Once baked and cooled, I cored the plain cakes. At first I attempted to use a specifically designed cupcake corer, but it seemed to just wreck the cakes, so I then tried a small circular cutter, which had the same effect, so ended up using a knife. By using a sharp knife, I did gain more control, but it wasn’t nearly as neat! Once finished I filled them with a thick, salted caramel sauce.

To decorated my now completely filled batch of cupcakes I split the two fillings into two designs. The chocolate/peanut butter fillings would have a circle of fondant icing on top and the salted caramel filled cakes would have a vanilla butter cream top.

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The decorating was what I antagonised over the most. I wanted to add a hint of magic to the cakes, making them fun to eat, whilst still making them relate to the show. That is why I opted for little chocolate mice, sticking their heads out of the icing and a little shard of chocolate atop the fondant. For those that are not familiar with Roald Dahl’s tale, the evil witches inject a magic formula into chocolate which turns anyone who eats it into a mouse!

In our production, the potion bottles were all blue, hence the blue sprinkles on top of the icing the mice are peeking out from, as if potion has been poured on them. There was a thin layer of salted caramel sauce between the cake and icing, and I then used a star nozzle to pipe the buttercream into a swirl. With a sharp knife I chopped the heads off of a pot of chocolate mice and placed it snuggly into the buttercream once I was satisfied with the icing.

The piece of chocolate atop the others I dusted with some edible shimmer, the glitter in it coarser than the silver shimmer powder I used to highlight the printed words surrounding it. I wanted these pieces of chocolate to look a little less ordinary and laced with magic. To achieve the lettering I used a set of small plastic letters designed to print each figure individually, almost like a stamp. Each cupcake topper is hand printed.

To adhere the fondant and chocolate, there was only one thing that could be used. Of course, it was Nutella!

 

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Fancy pants hot chocolate|Nutella Hot Chocolate.

Ah, the woes of the evening cravings. You’re not hungry but you want something sweet. I was having Nutella cravings but didn’t want some sort of breaded implement to put my Nutella on, so I thought ‘drink it instead’.

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This is super simple and easy to do and doesn’t take much, just around 2 teaspoons of Nutella and 250ml of milk. You can use more or less Nutella depending on your tastes and any kind of milk you have, I guess. I just used regular ole semi skimmed.

Pop your ingredients in a pan, heat until the Nutella is melted and the milk is hot. Pour into your favourite mug, adorn with fabulous toppings (optional), drink the remaining mixture straight from the pan (just me? You call me crazy, but I avoided extra washing up) and then relax with your nutty, chocolate beverage.

Ooo fancy.

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Microwave Turd!|Chocolate Mug Cake.

Today I attempted something I have seen floating around on social media for a long time, and no it’s not those secret, miracle pills that helped a UK Mum lose 10 stone in a week (or something just as unbelievable). It was… A CAKE IN A MUG!

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I have seen recipes floating around and always wanted to try it but never got around to it (or could be bothered), but today the sugar cravings were talking to me and I had nothing sweet in the house. Then I thought, cake in a mug! Quick, easy, and no actual baking required, just a microwave! I didn’t have the highest of hopes, since I was skeptical of how effectively a microwave could bake a good cake, so I added a Disney mug for good measure. Make sure to use a BIG mug, as this recipe seems to go a long way.

I have to say, it turned out a bit like a poop in a mug, as it grew in the microwave into some sort of chocolatey monster and was quite dry. However, I added a little butterscotch sauce to the finished product which definitely helped the texture and consistency. Yet, it did the trick, as my sweet tooth was mightily satisfied. It was a simple recipe, as it was pretty much just 3 tablespoons of this, four of that, stick it in a mug, stir and microwave! If you want to give this cake a go, the link I used is right here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2405644/microwave-mug-cake

I followed it completely, without any changes apart from chopping some plain chocolate instead of using chocolate chips. Not sure I would do it again, and I definitely wouldn’t want to present it to someone as a desert, but for an ok, quick fix, it worked fine!

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